Friday, September 30, 2005

I Heart Barack Obama

With all the handwringing and over-the-top dogma that has gone on lately on blogs, the words of the Junior Senator from Illinois posted on DailyKOS today are a breath of rhetorical Febreze.

So I'm just going to link to them here - there is simply too much common sense in it for me to try and "interpret" anything:

Tone, Truth and The Democratic Party

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What is your Political Compass?

Today's fluff with a message is this website I stumbled upon after seeing a whole bunch of bloggers with numbers in their signatures. Since I'm nothing if not a curious cat, I went to the underlying site, Political Compass, and took the test.

The point of the exercise seems to be to highlight and combat an issue that I've discussed more and more over the years: the fracturing of national unity, and hardening of political positions to the point where there is only black-white, left-right, liberal-conservative, and no shades of grey anymore. According to the creators of the Political Compass, despite all the hard and fast dichotomies we use to discuss political viewpoints (left-right, liberal-conservative, red-blue) the truth is that most people's political views are far more complex. We are all points on a grid, unique in our beliefs in the aggregate. At the site, one takes a short survey of political views, then one is "plotted" on a grid created by two axes: The Left-Right (subtitled Communism-Neoliberalism) axis, which is the X axis, and the Authoritarian-Libertarian (subtitled Fascism-Anarchism) scale as the Y Axis.

The site's authors also attempt to discuss/debunk some assumptions about historical leaders and where, based on their stated policies and conduct, their views truly lie on the grid (as opposed to where we are told they lie.)

Of particular interest: Although this is totally non-scientific, and therefore of no real value in assessing his character, according to the site based on his publicly-stated views John Kerry lies in the exact same quadrant as George W. Bush (the Right-Authoritarian quadrant), although a little closer to the midpoint of the axes than Dubbya. In contrast Ralph Nader is in the Left-Libertarian Quadrant. This result makes perfect sense to those of us who actually were paying attention to what John Kerry said last year, instead of trying to make him out to be the progressive he clearly was not (although, increasingly, just about anyone looks progressive compared to George W. Bush).

All in all, an interesting exercise. My own personal political compass is pointing steadily is -7.38, - 5.23. This puts me in the "left libertarian" quadrant, where Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama rest according to the creators of this little toy.

That's not too a bad place to sit, not at all.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Steve Gilliard Nails It

There's no point in me even bothering to say anything - the brother says all that needs to be said, in response to a Handkerchief Head named "Z. Dwight Billingsley" who has stepped up to defend Massa Bush's performance -- through his cronies at FEMA -- in response to Katrina.

You have to wonder what crack his parents were smoking when Mr. Billingsleys' parents named him; a ponderous name like that is almost child abuse to lay on a young Black man unless he's growing up in one of those neighborhoods where he was the *only* Black child; perhaps this is why he himself has now become an abuser, referring to his own people trapped in poverty as flotsam.

Steve Gilliard's smackdown is here:

The Gollums Among Us

As I said, no point me bothering to say anything (other than You Go, Brother.) He came correct far better than I ever could have.

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Bill Bennett's Declaration of War

Listen to it yourself:

Bill Bennett's Call to Abort Black Babies to "Reduce Crime"

I take these remarks, in light of the Wall Street Journal's choice to publish that eugencist asshole Charles Murray's equally sick screed (which conveniently can't be found online right now due to "technical difficulties" - yeah RIGHT, WSJ) so here's a link to the best available alternative (you might have to scroll down a bit) as a declaration of war.

A declaration of war against the interests of African-Americans.

For my brothers and sisters who are proud of their Republican registrations: I look forward to your tearing Messrs. Bennett and Murray (as well as the corporate sponsors of their animalistic voices, the Wall Street Journal and Salem Radio Network) new assholes by the morning.

For my brothers and sisters who are sick and tired of this bullshit going down and the only response from those so-called "caring" whites is to whinge, rather than to go nuclear, ask yourselves:

At what point have we reached a place where "The Fire Next Time?" is an appropriate, justifiable response? Are we there? Lord knows it feels like it. Seems as if nothing else gets through to some people.

(Yes, this post is very angry. The Sapphire in me is not only burning brightly, it will immolate in all likelihood. But right now my patience with all pontifications white (in political spirit -- whether the rabid right or the pansyass excuse-making left --not in literal flesh) has now, in light of Katrina and the degradation of our people by our own government, officially run out.

No doubt I'll feel better later. Right now? You just don't want to know.

Dr. King, I know that you are rolling over in your grave right now, and not just because of the violence of my emotions. But even you, I know, are asking: Brothers Malcolm, H.Rap and Huey; Sister Joanne and Angela, where are you now that your people really need you?

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Coalition Ain't Pretty (aka ANSWER, Anti-War Marches, and Hullabaloo)

This started as a comment in response to one made in a diary thread at Street Prophets about Meteor Blades’ post on DailyKOS (a post with which I agreed) asking folks (nicely) to stop with the carping over this past Saturday’s Anti-War March in Washington and the role of ANSWER. In response to a comment that nobody really listens to the podium speeches at these marches, someone raised the possibility that in the ideal world there would be just a few speakers to "inspire" people, a la March on Washington, and suggested that nobody would have admitted to having not thought it important to listen to Dr. King's speech that day.

I found that comment interesting, both in light of what actually happened that long-ago day in August, 1963 and what happened just this past Saturday and the resultant hullabaloo over ANSWER's role. To me, both what happened then and what is happening now merely reflect the ugly downside of coalition work - a downside that it seems folks really don't want to accept as part of making meaningful change.

So here are my thoughts on it, starting from the past.

It makes me smile that anyone would hold up the 1963 March on Washington (properly called the March for Jobs and Freedom, which should tell you something right there) as an example of ideal for a single-issue march whose "few" speakers were selected to "inspire people".

The March on Washington was, in fact, a compromise event of the highest order, that its organizer A. Philip Randolph (an organization all by his himself when it came to effective activism), agreed to allow to be less revolutionary than it was originally planned to be for one reason and one reason only - obtaining a critical mass of Black persons in Washington DC and putting the kibosh on what was a veiled threat by JFK to allow J. Edgar Hoover’s CIA to turn DC into a police state while the march was in effect. To accomplish this, Randolph (along with his mentee Bayard Rustin) was ultimately was forced to share "equal billing" with 5 Black organizations, all of which had slightly different emphasis and different approaches to the problem: the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE – pacifists that emphasized Ghandi-like racial reconciliation until post 1954; SCLC – Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. King’s organization, founded after Rosa Parks’ sit down, comprised of ministers and those with a religious approach to the problem); SNCC – Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; and A. Philip Randolph’s group; NAACP – we all know what that is; and the National Urban League probably the only truly grassroots organization in the bunch, formed in the ghettos of the North following the great Black migration, with access to capital and jobs as their primary mission.

I think it's instructive to compare both the list of diverse organizations that form International ANSWER with this list. Maybe it's just me, but they don't all look like communist fronts.....they indeed look like a list of groups for who either war or racism/ethnic conflict is a mobilizing principle.

Going back to 1963, Randolph had more problems he had to handle trying to hold what was otherwise a cornucopia of different folks with different agendas together for the single event. For example, he had to address the fact that many of the footsoldiers on the ground fighting for Black equality were women and yet they were excluded as speakers (in the end, we got to sing, and have a separate tribute to our womanness, but that's it.) But more importantly, he had to add some more folk in order to accommodate the fierce pressure on the event brought to bear by JFK, to avoid Hoover turning D.C into an armed police state for the weekend. As a result, the list of speakers was pretty long (not counting all the musical acts) and when you look at it, some of the connections are rather hard to see:

Program for the March for Jobs and Freedom

The March on Washington certainly was not a "single issue march," even though again historical revisionism has made it so for most people today because all they know of it is the last 20% of Dr. King’s speech. As you will see below, there were lots of “issues”. The list of demands for the March was rather omnibus, but ultimately whittled away in favor of the Civil Rights Bill in no small part because the “leaders” insisted that the larger concerns of the grassroots give way in order to pacify JFK and the "mainstream" politicians, who IMO were scared shitless about the prospect of hundreds of thousands of angry Black folk descending upon Washington DC demanding anything .

(I probably would have been angry, too but I was only 2 and still in diapers, my mom and dad said I had a good time at the march though, probably because I was then just a round-faced happy baby with no concern for anything other than my bottle and my dollies. How 42 years changes things…….)

The March on Washington was the ultimate brainchild of a socialist revolutionary (who had already terrified the government twice before by threatening a similar march, only to have both Roosevelt and Truman capitulate to his demands rather than run the risk that JFK chose to run until it became clear what was about to happen whether he liked it or not, and how the US would look internationally if it did). The March was ultimately made a success, however, by a coalition of folks who really did not agree with each other about much, substantive or methodological, when it came to establishing priorities. Including with the socialism of A. Philip Randolph, the March's leader and organizer. But nonetheless, all agreed on one thing: Black people were entitled to better. And wanted it - right now (then.)

The crowd that ultimately appeared in DC was recruited by all these organizations. Each had their particular constituencies, with their particular emphasis, represented. Yet despite these differences and the rivalries between the organizations, the intended audience for these different constituencies voted with their feet - they showed up - because there was at least *one* thing they all agreed on.

When you realize what the true intent of the organizers of March on Washington was (to put heat on people high and low oppressing black folks, north, south, east and west, with sheer numbers) it seems clear that it probably *didn't really matter* too much from the perspective of the original organizers and most of the actual participants what Dr. King had to say about the details of the struggle from his perspective. He was just a very popular young minister whose religiously based approach, while different than the other approaches of the other organizing groups and concerned about moral issues to a larger degree than other groups, was still related to the bottom line goal that they all shared despite their differences in priorities, membership and message: black empowerment. Without regard to some thought Dr. King was an accomodationist or a communist, or whether women were or were not allowed to be speakers, or whether whites were welcome participants, or whether the Labor Movement was really relevant to folks who were getting waterhosed and dog-chewed in the south trying to get lunch or register to vote. There certainly were only some who cared about whether DC was a state. In the end, everybody got a little piece of their "say."

(That Dr. King ended up giving the last few famous paragraphs of his speech that day spontaneously at the behest of the late Mahalia Jackson is who asked him to “Tell them about your dream, Martin!”, as they say, history. Since it is that part that arguably made him a national hero as opposed to what he was called most of the time back then, a communist who hated America. Especially after he started the next year injecting another highly “off-message” subject into speeches and marches and rallies focused on empowering Black people - the immorality of the Vietnam War.)

While the beloved "I Have a Dream" excerpt was lovely oratory, it really was largely "off message" with the stated purposes of the march. Dr. King's own advance-prepared words confirm this. Black People simply did not descend on Washington D.C. in those numbers to feel good; they came to demand what they believed they had a right to demand right then, right nowfrom their government. As Dr. King said, they came to demand that the nation make good on the bad check it had given its Black citizenry. Right then, right now. Or else. Imagine if, today, what we were taught as most important was the speech probably closest to that viewpoint, shared by the lead organizers and most of the folks who traveled far and wide to the event: the censored speech of now Congressman John Lewis, who advocated nothing less than “scorched earth” (albeit nonviolent), against Jim Crow that would would “fragment the South into 1,000 pieces.” Even though that was a far more “on message” speech than Dr. King’s from the perspective of many who had traveled far and wide, do we today accuse Dr. King of having “hijacked” the March merely because of his own deeply personal and religious take on the problem, and exhortation for us to be spiritual people united in our humanity, even in our anger? Obviously, we don’t do so, even though his historically-preserved message ending message was just a small snippet of his words that day, the entirety of which history now calls the "I Have a Dream" speech even though that message was definitely not about his dream, which was, if you read the entire speech) clearly only tangentially related to the goals and objectives of the March.

Like International ANSWER, a group that clearly and publicly bills itself as being against "war and racism" as equal priorities, the organizers of the '63 march had different priorities. Compare ANSWER's many issues with the long list of demands put forth by the organizers (A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin) for the March on Washington:

One, passage of a meaningful civil rights legislation at this session of Congress with no filibustering.

Two, immediate elimination of all racial segregation in public schools throughout the Nation.

Three, a big program of public works to provide jobs for all the Nation's unemployed, including job training and a placement program.

Four, a Federal law prohibiting racial discrimination in hiring workmen, either public or private.

Five, $2 an hour minimum wage across the board Nationwide.

Six, withholding of Federal funds from programs in which discrimination exists.

Seven, enforcements of the 14th amendment, reducing congressional representation of States where citizens are disenfranchised.

Eight, a broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to include currently excluded employment areas.

Nine, authority for the Attorney General to substitute injunctive suits when any constitutional right is violated.

(This was expanded to include a demand for D.C. statehood, on the grounds that the City was 57% Black – at that time).

As one can see just reviewing the above list, and remembering precisely how much of a success "public image" wise the March was, it seems clear that the lack of a “single message” does not automatically sound as the death knell of a protest march.

When I think of the 1963 march in light of all the hand wringing that is underlying the ANSWER/ABA (Anybody but ANSWER) debate, it puts me in mind of a real Catch 22, the same one faced back in the day by those who wanted to be “on board” with the struggle of African-Americans but who *really* couldn’t handle all those revolutionary demands for power *right now*, and so demanded that the event organizers change their event to soothe their worries. It is the people who organize the marches and mobilize the masses who are most often those with the most revolutionary message. They also possess the most zeal to speak to the largest audience - their very passion drives them to do so. Their voices are more often the "loudest" and least tired, which makes sense when the energy and commitment it takes to put together mass marches is vast compared to that which most folks are willing to display day-to-day.

Yet the vast majority of their allies in coalition have absolutely no stomach for genuinely revolutionary protest. Because they are not revolutionaries, more often than not. They just have a pet cause -- antiwar, antiracism whatever it is -- and that's all that is on their radar. The larger, more global messages intertwined with their pet cause are felt as discordant, disagreeable and downright distracting. Even more so when you ask folks to, in the name of protest, let go of their own comparatively narrow way of viewing the problem.

As was ultimately the case with Dr. King himself, as this summary of Dr. King's evolving views nicely demonstrates.

Finally, just as was the case this past weekend, folks attending the 1964 march decided they were tired of standing around waiting too, and started marching on their own (but ahead of schedule), leaving the “leaders” to play catch up. That's always the case with marches based on coalition: the participants are going to do what they are going to do, no matter what their leaders tell them to do. That's just the nature of mass protest. There is nothing disorganized about that.

All that history matters as an objective backdrop, IMO, to those who are presently up in arms about ANSWER, "message dilution", and hijacking because supposedly too many "crazies" got leave to express the details of their thinking underlying their beliefs about the war, got to give voice about something besides the "one thing" about which they all agree. Well, that's the devil in the details of political action known as "coalition."

In coalition, you hold your nose and you march side by side, knowing that in other circumstances you wouldn't be caught dead within 50 feet of the person next to you. You find the slender thread of commonality, you impose a temporary brotherhood/sisterhood, get the job done, and move on.

(Just as was the case in '63; the march grounds were deserted within an hour of Dr. King's last speech, indicating that folks weren't hanging around trying to make new friends when it was all over).

That’s sort of the truth about coalition events that I see underlying the at-times quite nasty debate about ANSWER’s role in Saturday’s marches now taking place in the blogosphere. Except that it is informed by one other thing: a backlash grounded in the hard-core socialist, if not outright communist, principles that undergird ANSWER’s parent (for want of a better term) organizations. I am feeling a real sense that if ANSWER just wasn’t so “red”, so “anti-American”, folks might not be as reticent to walk behind their banner for an anti-war cause.

But back in the day, Dr. King's remarks were also considered -- gasp! -- "anti-American". One could argue that the evidence of how seriously folks took the “communist” charge against Dr. King is that the vast majority of his words during the March on Washington have been lost to all but scholars of Black history, and only the most religious, yet least relevant to the march, part of his speech is taught today. In contrast, scheduled speakers whose messages were more directly "on point" with the actual stated purposes of the march according to its creator had their speeches eliminated, watered down, and/or edited almost unrecognizably -- most notably, James Baldwin and John Lewis -- to create a palatable "vision" for those who were not 100% on board with all the actual demands for Black equality that the march was intended to make.

Imagine if we'd held Dr. King to the "too communist" standard as a nation.

Bernice Johnson Reagon made a point 20 years ago that is valid today: you do not go into coalition looking for "home". It is not a place to feel comfortable. You will not feel safe. And you may not even feel liked. But you do it because that's how you get the job done. And afterward, when you're done, you flee back into your safe space, your boarded up room, your "home" with those who think just like you and look just like you and feel just like you, and you build up the energy to go out in coalition again.

Because you can't succeed without it.

Just for the record I am not a fan of ANSWER, largely because it is not honest about its relationship with the World Workers Party and the larger, hard-core communist, goals of that organization. If it were honest, I’d have far less of an issue with ANSWER, since in the end I'm not a communist and frankly anyone who assumes I am just because I go on an anti-war march has a problem with projection. But either way, if you don't find commonality in their larger vision of war as part of an interconnected struggle against imperialism in all forms, don't go to their events -- because their website makes plain that there is no such thing as a distillable "single issue" in their larger world view. Everything is connected. About that part, at least, they've been honest from Day 1 from what I can see. Until others step up and take on that same type of passion, it seems that folks can learn from the March on Washington, and those who ultimately became bodies in history not because they were socialists like A. Philip Randolph, but because in the end furthering the larger goal meant, sometimes, getting in bed with folks you otherwise don’t think too much of. Knowing that at the end of the day, getting the job done is more important than whether somebody likes you when it is all over.

Anyhow, as usual lots of rambling. But my honest opinion.

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Less is More!

I've finally figured out these "Stay the Course" warmongers. More than that: I could have never come up with a brilliant political strategy such as that being shown by supporters of the Iraq War to prove how much support exists for their views.

For example, it appers that Republithugs really are anti-hand-out.......especially when the hand-out is going to be used to fix the toy that they encouraged their President to break - the country of Iraq. After a month-long private fundraising appeal led by none other than the President Dubbya himself for the reconstruction of Iraq he has set a new record:


It is also clear that public demonstrations are beneath them; solely for the rabble, not for those who *really* represent the majority of citizen opinion in the United States. Although at least 100,000 folks who clearly had nothing better to do were roaming the streets of Washington D.C. yesterday complaining about the Iraq War, including a Kossack who was campaigning for Bill Clinton as First Lady in 2008, those who *really* represent the grassroots chose to emphasize the power that is their (ir)rational thinking using just 400 carefully selected voices, not including the more than 1/2 dozen (that's 6, for those who don't do math) that carried the majority voice for the President into our local den of inquity here in San Francisco's Dolores Park against the unwashed proletariat, whose 20,000 strong really need to get a job.

Really, who needs 120,000 voices to represent the majority when only 406 (give or take a few) and $600 do just as good a job for the President??

There's fiscal responsibility in action, make no mistake. Less is indeed more.


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Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Color of Change

I'm not big on on-line petitions, usually. They are too anonymous, too safe, normally to have any meaning.

But this one, I signed. Because the message is straightforward, simple, and a needed one - targeted to African Americans:

Kanye was Right

So click on the link, sign and pass it on if you agree after what you say in N'awlins (forget what's going on in Texas, despite the carefully released images of the Defense Department who suddenly found C5's that were totally absent from New Orleans to fly our folk out of Beaumont tied in like slaves on a slave ship; an image which I will write about at some point).

There are 39,000,000 of "Us" in this country. Getting 250,000 of us to sign a petition should not be all that difficult. And this message is one that Black folks need to carry their own water on.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Lord, Can We Please Have a Break Now?

Jesus. I haven't even had time to write all the many words of stupidity or wisdom I was planning to following Hurricane Katrina about its aftermath and its larger meaning for our country before God comes in for a second pass.

This time, a pass at the space near Houston and Beaumont, Texas being made by a lovely (not) lady named Rita. Adding insult to injury, just in case Louisiana and Mississippi and didn't get enough the last time, Ms. Rita also plans to bat her eyes at them as she heads out to her date with Texas, sending tropical storm warnings to both states while saving what looks like her Category 4 knockout dress for her ultimate landfall destination.

In just 24 days, we are seeing two reality checks, in the form of uncontrollable unbridled rains, winds and water - a natural fury that our government has made clear it cannot stand up to, let alone clean up after (given that decomposing bodies are still rotting in the street in New Orleans.) Just 24 days - when previously, Category 4 storms to hit the United States had averaged decades apart.

In light of this, any wingnut or rightwing nonthinker that still wishes to insist that the increased intensity of storms in Atlantic Ocean has nothing at all to do with global warming trends may feel free to do so. But I ask that if they are going to pontificate, they do so in Houston, Texas, where we have numerous friends who are trapped, despite trying valiantly to heed the mandatory evacuation order issued yesterday, even leaving before the order in 2 cases only to have to turn back after they'd spent hours trying to move out at more than a snail's pace, to no avail. Trapped, and although they are speaking with the obligatory Texas "Bring it On" attitudes and insisting they will be fine, afraid.

And to think that hurricane season does not end until November 30........

Lord, please help Houston, Beaumont, and anywhere else that has the misfortune of coming to face with Rita. As of yesterday, when she held the position of the third most intense hurricane ever recorded, Ms. Rita made clear that Katrina was just her pre-adolescent baby sister. Believe me, we get the point - it is Your weather. Your oceans. Your storms. And our hubris, because we allowed ourselves as a country to become complacent about our own helplessness in the face of it all by building our metropolises without regard for the destructive power of inevitable nature and pretending our lifestyle could have no possible impact on it all. Let alone the impact of two devastating Category 4 hurricanes in a single season.

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

From the Rains, Sunshine

The circle of life, to hear it told, is one of death and renewal. From the depths of despair, God willing, one finds hope. If we didn't hope, after all, too many days folks simply could not go on.

So, out of the horrors of New Orleans and Katrina, here's a link to a story of hope, springing eternal as it always does, through love that I found in the Times Picayune:

Katrina Double Wedding Today

No matter how down and out we feel, Life indeed goes on. And that is a blessing, since we are indeed not promised tomorrow. So even as we continue to rant and rail at the jackbooted incompetence of our leadership's loss of New Orleans for the forseeable future, let's raise our cyber glasses to the newlyweds, who clearly have seen hell, come back and realized that together they can face whatever life throws at them stronger together than they can face it alone.

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A Law Graduate's Worst Nightmare

Obviously, when so many have lost their lives, and have lost everything, it seems almost petty to Sweat the Small Stuff.

But this lawyer still feels the blood running from her veins in horror seeing this tiny article this week from the Times Picayune:

Case Far From Closed for Law School Grads

Every lawyer who has gone through the nightmare known as the State Bar Examination knows that it is not, I repeat, NOT an experience that anyone wants to do twice unless one absolutely positively has to. Root canal? Far easier and at least when it's done your teeth don't hurt.

On the other hand I know lawyers who have been practicing for 20 years who still, at moments of extreme stress, wake up in cold sweats from nightmares in which they relived the Bar Examination. I never had those, myself, but 14 years later I still can recreate with not much memory effort the sense of disembodied shock I faced when I realized that despite all joking reassurances of our bar class instructors that it was almost certain not to happen ever again, my class faced the first pure Remedies question asked by the California State Bar in 11 years - and that neither I nor the 250 odd other people in the room were even remotely sanguine about our ability to answer it.

I can't go on. It's just too much horror for an early Saturday morning.

So, even though this article is hopeful that most of the exams have been recovered or are recoverable, in the spirit of empathy, I shall send at least a few of my prayers to the 700 law graduates who sat for Louisiana's bar examination who are now playing the waiting game.

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Karl Rove in Charge of N'awlins?

It's going to take me time (which I don't have; work is kicking my behind something fierce) to truly parse everything that Our Leader said last night in his not-too-bad speech about New Orleans and why despite it being rhetorically just what the nation wanted to hear, there is a lot of reason to be afraid for both New Orleans and the country contained in it (elevation of the military's powers in times of national emergency? Entrepreneurship as the solution for poverty grown from racial discrimination? Yikes.....)

But here's something from today's New York Times that we didn't hear: the identity of the person who is to shepherd the recovery effort.

Karl Rove.

At least, it's Rove according to today's Times:

Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort, which reaches across many agencies of government and includes the direct involvement of Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development

Now, last time I checked, Karl Rove had spent his entire life as a political hack. He's never been in charge of housing development. He's never been in charge of environmental projects. He's never been in charge even of the one things right-wing Republithugs do best: investment projects.

Yet somehow he's qualified to manage a $60+ (at least) billion dollar reconstruction and relocation project affecting a million people? More qualified than the people who have actually done some of the stuff required to be done?

If there is any "proof" that last night's speech is all a bunch of political hooey intended to sooth Bush's "base", and that it is business as usual at the White House where cronyism and incompetence are concern, Karl Rove's elevation into Katrina Czar is it.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Roberts Bug-Eyed Angry on Civil Rights but Smooth as Silk on Privacy

It's quite interesting to me.

To the extent that Roberts' facade "cracked" at all, it was when he was being questioned about his views about race and civil rights. He got testy, did push-back - in other words, he let a bit of who he really is show through.

Shame that these issues have been largely shunted aside by the majority of folks who put energy into opposing Roberts.

In contrast, from what I am watching, Roberts more than handled the questions about privacy -- perhaps because there is far less of his own writing to slap him around with than there is on the issues relating to people of color and discrimination, so we have to largely take his word for it. Either way, Roberts was smooth as silk (his careful discussion of the limited value of stare decisis when it comes to the high court reviewing constitutional decisions should make crystal clear where he stands) and I predict that his detractors folks have now lost even the tenuous traction his prior work left them on this issue. Indeed, some of the comments above make clear that folks are already buying into his new "I've changed my mind" story.

The best that Roberts could say about his anti-civil rights views when being asked directly about his own words was "you misrepresented me" and "that was my job." He never ONCE said that he'd "changed his mind" "didn't believe personally" in what he was arguing. Nothing. Because it wasn't important enough to anyone for him to have to front, as he had to do on privacy rights.

Yet the issue of civil rights is of so little political value to the vast majority of progressives that we chose to fight harder on Roberts' ambiguous privacy record than we did on his fairly unambiguous civil rights record, which should have made him just as unacceptable but clearly is relatively meaningless to those deciding what is "most important" to progressives.

Oh well, it's only 39,000,000 people.


Of course, I predict it will be completely lost on everyone that had we crafted the right primary message of opposition -- which did not shunt away civil rights issues in favor of a singular, completely reproductive rights message -- we might have been able to actually make a dent into the "smooth sailing" that this bug eyed man (bug eyed because when he's angry, his eyes get as big as saucers, in case you haven't noticed) who is about to ascend to the role of Chief Justice is now facing.

But as we all now know, it is not the job of the court to solve society's problems. Your new Chief Justice makes clear. Indeed, the Court has no right to step in to fix these things, according to him.

So it's business as usual again in America at least about some things. And we as progressives let it happen, because of our own tunnelvision about what mattered most.


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John Roberts, Major League Umpire

On Monday morning, John Roberts, hopeful candidate for the most prestigious legal job in the United States, pondered life, the universe and everything about his judicial philosophy and came up with this gem inspired, no doubt, by Bull Durham: Judge as Major League Umpire:

Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don't make the rules; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.

This is true, as far as it goes. But I have seen a lot of baseball games. And thus, have seen a lot of umpires who behave as if they are God. Perhaps because, at least on the field, they are. The anecdotes of umpires whose judgment calls made or broke a game unfairly, are legion. Certainly they are far too numerous to list, because they happen every day.

Unlike God, however, if an umpire allows his view to stray from the truth on the ground too frequently on the job, he can and most likely will be fired. True lovers of the game recognize that such partisan conduct, regularly shown, sullies the very art that they love.

In contrast, however, a sitting Supreme Court justice cannot be fired. Ever. No matter what he or she says or does. Thus, at least as far as the law of the land is concerned, a Supreme Court justice is indeed like God. Not just an umpire who serves only at the pleasure of the lovers of the game.

His use of this particular metaphor to describe his judicial philosophy is one of the reasons that John Roberts is of such concern to me, and should be to everyone. The analogy of a Supreme Court justice to a baseball umpire is both brilliant and disingenuousness. It is brilliant because, indeed, in the ideal world, an umpire is fair. He is impartial. He merely calls it as he sees it. It is disingenuous because, by evoking the stereotype of the ideal umpire, Roberts deftly avoids speaking about real live umpires and the many unhappy players and fans -- from little league to the major leagues -- they can and regularly do leave behind in the game.

Just as rogue umpires do, rogue judges can and (especially in the Fourth Circuit) do regularly exercise the power to say what the rules "really mean", and we all know that this judgment call is informed by the umpire's larger "game philosophy". Similarly, John Roberts took the opportunity to wow his detractors by likening judges to umpires who make sure "everyone plays by the rules", while deftly sidestepping the inarguable truth that justices of the United States Supreme Court do not merely enforce the rules, they *create* them, based upon the perspectives they bring with them about the role of the Constitution in how the game of life is played.

But most dangerous for the country, the power of a sitting United States Supreme Court justice fears no practical limitations -- whether legislative enactment or the Constitution itself - since they alone determine what the Constitution really means -- as umpires in the game of life.

The Constitution, in John Roberts' view, is not a living document. To hear him speak, the Constitution instead provides us with a a set of "rules" to be applied versus "standards" to be interpreted (The lawyers reading this will no doubt remember the billion "rules" versus "standards" we engaged in during law school.) The Constitution therefore can be handed out to each and every jurist much the way an umpire receives a copy of the rules of baseball, I guess.

Yet the Constitution, if it is anything, was most clearly intended by its framers to be a document of standards, not rules. Its design was and remains elegant and sparse, for a reason: it was intended to be a living framework for the law, reflecting the changes in American society itself over the millenia. Were it not, much of the law would be invalid because precedents going back to the Slaughterhouse Cases have routinely used contemporary thought and reasoning to construct rational and practical interpretations of the Constitution. Certainly, much of the Constitutional jurisprudence establishing the human rights of Black people and women would be invalid, since an express grants of rights for both groups are notably absent from that document, by design of the framers themselves.

Thus, if I assume that what Roberts said about how he views his role on the Supreme Court is true, his way of thinking is simply not the stuff of a Supreme Court justice. It lacks the expansive vision required to understand that a Supreme Court justice has the ultimate duty to define what the Constitution *means*. Writing the timeless words of Marbury v. Madison, 202 years ago, Chief Justice John Marshall that clear:

It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.

By speaking of umpires and baseball, John Roberts clearly states an intent to retreat from his duty to interpret the Constitution, to say what it is. And therefore he legitimately deserves critical scrutiny from us all before being appointed to the exalted role of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

There will no doubt be much wailing and gnashing of teeth from various constituencies this week as they fight for what they contend will be the "death" of their pet set of rights if John Roberts is confirmed. From the abortion-rights groups, who continue to pretend they didn't lose arguments grounded in boundless personal liberty 30 years ago. From the environmental groups, who rightfully perceive a Lochner type mentality underlying Roberts' earlier decisions relating to endangered species. To even the parents of delinquent children, who no doubt see his willingness to uphold the arrest of a twelve-year old for eating a french-fy as the ultimate assertion of paterfamilias power from the bench.

But all of this gnashing of teeth and rending of garments appears to miss one of the strongest coalition arguments for not confirming Roberts, IMO: he is already promising to be derelict in his duty to say what the law is, unless it is written in crystal clear terms in the "rulebook", i.e. the Constitution itself. His baseball analogy is most fairly interpreted as a carefully-worded promise for strict constructionism, a return to original intent as much as possible to the extent that he humanly can accomplish it.

Well, as the framers including James Madison made clear, their original intent was to protect the fledgling country from what was, at that time, the only perceived threat: the threat of a government that impeded the private property and contract rights of individuals, and the presumption that the state was the most sure guardian of individual, personal rights. Even James Madison originally saw the Bill of Rights as merely a "parchment barrier" completely unnecessary to combat what *he* perceived to be the real threat of government. While to our benefit Madison's views evolved, as he saw the impact of the original system from the overreaching of politicians grasping for power, the school of legal thought grounded in original intent nonetheless remains convinced that the federal government is a usurper, an intruder, into "rights".

Of course, as those in the historically tyrannized minority will tell you, the states have proven themselves poor guardians of the rights of the dispossessed who were never intended to benefit from "original intent". And that it is the federal government, through the federal courts, that saved them from the "rules" set down by "original intent". Roberts' chosen approach to jurisprudence and constitutional interpretation creates the very real chance of destroying, if it ever finds itself in the majority, many of the rights all of us have taken for granted since Lochner v. City of New York was overturned, that case having confirmed early in the 20th century that there really is only one truly sacred cow in the United States Constitution: the right to unfettered profit through contract and property, even at the expense of human suffering.

Unfortunately, the damage already wrought on individual American lives through the similarly corporate elevation of the value of money and property over human needs that has been regularly engaged in by the other two branches of government (the Legislature and the Executive) since the ascention of George W. Bush is extreme. It leaves most real people facing a 3-2 pitch. They simply cannot afford to "strike out" merely because the court is umpiring against them based on a narrow, unrealistic view of Constitutional rights of individuals to protection from the tyranny of the hunger for power that even framers like James Madison realized, in the end, are not a game at all.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

A Succinct Description of the Problem

I was wondering when Aaron Magruder was going to weigh in on Katrina. He finally has, and has made plain why "buyer's remorse" should exist for anyone who voted for George W. Bush as President over John Kerry in the November election. Without further ado, today's Boondocks:

Not sure you can say it more plain than that.

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Follow the Katrina Money - Especially if You're a Black Preacher?

Lord have mercy.

From today's New York Times, the White House letter that makes clear why Bush is scrambling so hard to show his face in N'Awlins after he let it drown -- his party's entire "Nigra strategy" is falling apart. Well, except for that part of the strategy that involves bribing our ministers, all of whom should quake in fear at the prospect of having to answer to the Almighty for whoring out their own people in a time of crisis.

The money quote:

One of Mr. Bush's prominent African-American supporters called the White House to say he was aghast at the images from the president's first trip to the region, on Sept. 2, when Mr. Bush stood next to Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama, both white Republicans, and praised them for a job well done. Mr. Bush did not go into the heart of New Orleans to meet with black victims.

"I said, 'Grab some black people who look like they might be preachers,'" said the supporter, who asked not to be named because he did not want to be identified as criticizing the White House. Three days later, on Mr. Bush's next trip to the region, the president appeared in Baton Rouge at the side of T. D. Jakes, the conservative African-American television evangelist and the founder of a 30,000-member megachurch in southwest Dallas.

Notice the advice: It wasn't to "grab preachers". It was to "grab" black folks who look like they might be preachers. I wonder if I should break out my old choir robes and go stand at the pulpit next Sunday to see what happens? Since clearly Black folks are too dumb to recognize the difference between a real preacher and somebody who just looks like one?

The entire NY Times article is a load of fun: Bush's Status With Blacks Takes Hit

I wonder if the Right Reverend Jakes has read the Bible's proscriptions against temple prostitution? If not, he should. Because anyone who thinks that the good Reverend is coming to Bush's defense against the accusation of passive genocide just because he thinks Bush is a good person should think again:

Last week, the White House continued its political recovery effort among African-Americans through its network of conservative black preachers like Bishop Jakes. Many of them have received millions of dollars for their churches through Mr. Bush's initiative to support religious-based social services - a factor, Republicans say, in Mr. Bush's small increase in support among black voters, from 9 percent in 2000 to 11 percent in 2004.

I guess one could find ironic celebration in the fact that for some Black folks, the fundamental rule of politics (Follow the Money) is now just as applicable as it is for everyone else playing the game. Recognizing that white politicians are usually clueless when it comes to knowing what Black folks think and need, do Black preachers and Black conservatives really think Black people are so stupid that they will en-masse buy the complete bullshit of "Republicans care" just because it is uttered from someone claiming to be a so-called man of the cloth (as opposed to "a graduate of the Reverend Ike School of Cash Theology?") If so, they are in for a rude awakening if they actually hit the pavement in the ghettos right now. While Black folks do indeed hew to much religious teaching (including homophobic teaching, to our own shame) they can see and have seen with their own eyes what happened in Louisiana and Mississippi last week -- and, more importantly, what didn't happen until someone mentioned clearly that race was an issue in the world's conscious processing of the Katrina disaster.

I truly fear for the safety of any Black person, preacher or no, that comes into the communities right now trying to preach the gospel of Republicanism and goodness of George W. Bush, and do hope that the same anonymous "negro" that gave Bush the advice to "grab some Black people" also advised him to send in some advance undercover men/women first. Because right now the mood on the street is *FUGLY*, and no doubt Bush's anonymous friend is well aware of that. As he is well aware of the fact that except for the handful of Black people who are bought and paid for, self-deluded and completely self-hating, Bush *has* no "status with Blacks" - except as the person who we all wish would hurry up and be done being President. Especially now: I've spent a lot of time post-Katrina talking to Black *conservatives* who are none too happy. Actually "none too happy" is an understatement.

Or perhaps it's all a set up and this so-called anonymous friend is trying to send Bush into the lion's den? The world may never know.

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

OK So Bush isn't *Completely* Stupid

I have a billion diaries to write about the events of the last two weeks, but fiercely overwhelming emotions combined with body-slam work levels has prevented them all. But I couldn't overlook this gem buried in today's NY Times story ("Casualty of Firestorm: Outrage, Bush & FEMA Chief") about the shitcanning (banishment is a more accurate descriptor) of Michael D. Brown aka Brownie aka So-called FEMA Director:

Behind the president's public embrace of Mr. Brown was the realization within the administration that the director's ignorance about the evacuees had further inflamed the rage of the storm's poor, black victims and created an impression of a White House that did not care about their lives.

One prominent African-American supporter of Mr. Bush who is close to Karl Rove, the White House political chief, said the president did not go into the heart of New Orleans and meet with black victims on his first trip there, last Friday, because he knew that White House officials were "scared to death" of the reaction.

"If I'm Karl, do I want the visual of black people hollering at the president as if we're living in Rwanda?"
said the supporter, who spoke only anonymously because he did not want to antagonize Mr. Rove.

Rove Envisions Rwanda

Assuming that the feelings attributed to Karl Rove are both fairly ascribed to Dubbya himself, I don't know whether to feel complete outrage or the refreshment of a spring breeze of truth when I read the bolded quote.

Rove/Bush was "scared to death" to visit the Black victims in New Orleans.

Rove/Bush was scared to have "black people if we're living in Rwanda".

Well, if nothing else, we have confirmation of two things:

Rove/Bush ain't stupid. He (when we're talking about Bush and Rove, we're talking about only one brain, as everyone knows) is well aware that Black folks have absolutely, positively, nothing to lose by letting him know exactly what they think and that most are not beggars for their rights, but demanders for their rights who really have no patience for platitudes when the shit is hitting the fan.

Rove/Bush ain't stupid. He knows that he would have been in real danger of an asskicking had he said even 1/2 of the stupid shit he said last week directly to the faces of these folks in the midst of their suffering. After all, most of them have never heard of that federal law prohibiting threats to the President. And, to teh extent that he didn't know it before, he certainly knows now that he cannot control what Black people say or do, and they don't care who he is (as Bush's little tete-a-tete with the two Black women from Mississippi showed most attentive viewers).

Which is why he hid, for the most part, safely behind the doey appreciation of white victims who think more like he does and would never "embarass him" (or give him a verbal ass-whuppin) before the cameras.

Now, if we can just get Bush that scared of the American people at large - we might just get something done.

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Friday, September 02, 2005

Oh NO She Didn't

No she didn't no she didn't NO SHE DID NOT.

Condoleeza Rice did NOT actually think that pulling out that she was from Alabama actually made up for the fact that here it is, the end of the 5th day of horror in New Orleans for citizens largely comprised of her own people, and she is JUST NOW (at 4:15 Central) showing up on television to talk about the fact that:

a)  She was going to talk to the CBC and the NAACP before their public tearing the federal government -- including her -- a new asshole but didn't get around to it until "right around the time they were having their press conference".

b) She was going to get around to accepting all those foreign offers of immediate assistance to help the tens of thousands of her own people dying -- but still hadn't actually because the offers "need" to be "evaluated".

c) She was deeply concerned about what was happening and working all week long on the issue of getting help for the victims when folks have seen her on vacation this time and foreign governments are literally telling the press that they want to help, but can't because they can't get the "go ahead" from State?

(Of course she hasn't yet said that she was going to carry her Black ass down to Alabama, her own state, as soon as it was clear that Mobile taken a hit -- God knows, maybe to check up on her own family? -- but somehow her flight accidentally landed her in New York City on a vacation instead).

This woman is SHAMEFUL.  She shames her own people.  How DARE she wrap herself in the mantle of an Alabama past that she's been running from like the wind on all fronts after she thought it was more important to be in New York shopping and on Broadway than to be out there publicly doing her job and sicced her security dogs on a woman who called her out on it? How dare she deliberately side step the blunt questions put to her today about the fact that the vast majority of the victims are Black and whether there was "even a kernel of truth" that the emergency response might have been more quick had this not been the case (to her credit, she didn't actually come out and lie and say "No"; but that may have been because she knows she has to run into Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, Maxine Waters, Carolyn Kirkpatrick in the bathroom sometime.)  How dare she show up even 1/2 day after her Boy and yet make statements about how much she cared?

Lord have mercy.  The only good thing that came out of Condi's press conference is that it appears that she finally found somebody Black to do her hair correctly.  

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Mayor Nagin Remembers Who He is - And Goes Truth to Power

Listen to this - all 12 minutes of it. It is an interview with Mayor Nagin of N'Awlins, on his local radio, this morning:


And ask yourself the same questions he is:

Why the hell are FEMA heads doing press conferences while there are still not enough resources helping folks?

Why is it that there has to be a formal "process" to request help for what Mayor Nagin rightly calls "the biggest crisis in our goddamned country" when we could get 8 billion "lickety split" for Iraq and they didn't even ask us to be there?

Why is it that our government is LYING TO US, saying that they are doing things and fixing things that the Mayor of New Orleans -- the man on the ground, who knows better than anyone -- says have not been done, have not been fixed?

And why it is that the Mayor of one of the greatest cities in the United States is reduced after 5 days to the weary rage he demonstrates in this interview? What does it say when a man, a leader, is reduced to going to the well and breaking down in tears because he knows he cannot save his own people without help that seems to be taking the slow boat around the world at the same time that at least a dozen countries have said they can be here and can help in 24 hours?????

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Almost Official - The Trapped in NO Are Slowly Being Abandoned to Survive or Die

I have just heard two things that have left me so angry that I am shaking as I type this.

The first is that FEMA has suspended all boat rescue operations, citing the dangerousness of the situation on the ground in New Orleans.  The same source hinted that all local and state based boat rescue operations are either imminently being ceased, or already have been,for the same reason.

The helicopers lifting out folks are almost certainly next, as there are reports of gunshots being fired upon the craft as they hover to lift folks out of the Superdome.

The second is that sheltered pasty faced SOB Scott McClellan lecturing folks stealing survival items that "help is coming "soon"....looting is not needed."

What the fuck are we watching????????  While we still can, that is - I assume everyone has noticed that the media is now turning to repeat footage, since the media is either fleeing or cannot get its footage out and on the air.  

When I read these two things together, looking at what is now 72 hours after the City of New Orleans began to flood on Monday night, here is what I see:

1.  The faces of those who in their desperation are waving sheets, teeshirts, signs made out of cardboard and shingles, trapped at home, saying "Help Us."

2.  Virtually the entire police force of New Orleans being diverted to "stop" looting - and Dubbya's zero tolerance looting policy so aptly re-articulated by his minion Scottie just a few moments ago.

3.  The disintegration of what is left of people's humanity as days go by with no news, no information and increasingly no hope.  To the point where it is now kill or be killed, survive by whatever means necessary, or die, because the ongoing absence of help means that you are on your own.

4.  My disabled next door neighbor, whose daughter, grandchildren and most of his immediate family are (were?) in his hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi, sitting on his back porch where he has been since Monday night, on the phone to everyone and everwhere, trying to find his family - occasionally putting his hands in his head in sheer fatigue - who he has not heard from yet, who nobody has heard from yet.

5.  The dead or dying faces of thousands as the brutal sun finishes, one life candle at a time, what the rains started days ago.

6.  And the slow federal boats from China (or DC, this case) loping majestically under our flag through the seas to "help" knowing full well that a ship that sails two days too late is a ship that arrives too late to really save anyone (even Frank Zappa's infamous drowning witch) who hadn't already done what it took to save themselves.

I raged in tears last night with the DAH, who is frankly in shock.  He asked how it is that folks can be *raising prices* for gas, for food, for everything? He asked how it is that there can be EMPTY hotel rooms that are not teeming with refugees because folks can't pay for them? How is it that Houston can TURN away refugees who made it there through hook and by crook merely because they didn't happen to have previously taken up residence in that hell otherwise known as the New Orleans Superdome? Why aren't we seeing every single private hotel/motel business, every single grocery chain, every single provider of clothes, NATIONWIDE, not fighting in line to be the first to *give* free, without charge, without profit motive, what is needed to help those still fleeing?  Why are we seeing images of private (white) citizens who are obviously -- unlike those teeming the flooded streets around them -- well fed and well drunk enough to now be able to stand guard over their property with their own guns, instead of the police hustling them out telling them that their sense of property ownership is fundamentally misplaced right now and it's not all about THEM and their material possessions? It's about the dead and dying at the Superdome, in the Convention Center, in the flooded cities.  From the heat, from shock, from hunger, from disease.  They are dying.

And yet FEMA is suspending the most efficient form of rescue operations.

The DAH swears that it is different where he comes from.  He swears that his country's citizens would never tolerate what we are seeing here in terms of the response of our so called benevolent business community and so called protective government.

He probably sees this through the lens of one who is loyal to country, but I honestly don't know - I'm not convinced that anything but the most base third-world government could be doing a worse job than we are seeing done right now.  The DAH demands to know why.  I have no answers for him, other than the trite ones:  our country cares nothing for the poor; our government cares only for the rich.

How can those answers possibly be enough? God help them all.  God help US.  What have we become???  Who are we?

Fuck politics.  I don't give a shit right now about the blame game if it detracts a nanosecond's energy from what this is supposed to be about:  Saving people.  Feeding, clothing and housing people.  We can raise holy hell later - and MUST raise it later or we have failed.  

And we all know what the press will be:  "THOSE PEOPLE" are at fault.  The ones shooting.  The ones stealing.  The ones who didn't get out.


It will never be said.  But that's what I bet Middle America will be thinking even as it beats itself up with guilt for doing so.

Let me pass on something about many folk living in abject poverty, and about many Black people.  For the first group - the abject poor - life itself is defined in terms of SURVIVAL.  It is every day, day in, day out.  This is true even though it it is now being presented in far more stark terms than it ever has been before, even for the poorest of the poor.  When you've raised up tens or hundreds of thousands to view life only in terms of their own personal day-to-day survival, lecturing them about the rules of "civilized society" are meaningless. Telling them to wait is meaningless.  Telling them that help is coming "soon" is more than meaningless - in some places, it's a recipe for getting your head blown off for sheer ignorance.

So no wonder reporters are being told not to be seen eating, or drinking, in front of those whose faces we see on TV.  Not because it's "insensitive" as some claim, but because those folks would be risking their lives, at some point.  If it were you or I, and we were parched and hungry for days and saw no evidence that this condition would do anything but worsen, we would likely respond exactly the same way.  Because it's all about survival - everything else comes later.

Now, something about Black folks:  contrary to racist myth, we ain't stupid.  Black folks, even the poor and uneducated, know that the government and most of the citizenry of this country really don't see them and their needs as priority.  And that has left many in the ghettos, urban and suburban, living in a state of suppressed rage.  You can see it coming out now, the rage, in the interviews being done in front of the Convention Center.  They are getting louder, angrier, more "in your face."  You can see it even in the faces of the few who are still sitting on their roofs - who two days ago looked hopeful and optimistic, but now look increasingly frustrated as they still hold up signs that are increasingly brief, but stark, in their messages:



The anger, in many Black folks, is usually first expressed by the youth, most who do not have the maturity to know that suppression of Black rage is a necessary survival tactic in this country.  They will, left to their own devices, transpose that rage no matter what their parents and grandparents say to them - because they are young, and we all know the young are foolish.  It plays out by looting, by fighting, by territorialism.  By the AK-47 and the Glock, if available, by the machete and the switchbade, if not.  Because they are youth, who are not idealists, and who don't have a sense of future because they are too young to understand the past.  After all, for them, the images of racial harmony that we all reminisce about are history.  All they know is that they are the have nots in a sea of haves.

You take those two, very different, ways of seeing life and mix them together, and you have a pretty good idea of what is beginning to happen in New Orleans (and, I imagine, those parts of Mississippi that are being almost completely ignored by the media right now; they too are suffering and we mustn't forget them.)

Thus, I am willing to bet that the vast majority of folks still trapped know that they are likely to die if they don't save themselves - by any means necessary.  Nobody is telling them differently, are they?  Where are the folks whose job it is to keep them informed? To keep them hopeful? Since the most basic human instinct is survival, they will fight, more and more as time goes on.  Yes, even if it means using guns, killing for cars, for boats, for food.  Killing to survive.

And to a man and woman, I bet they would tell you this:  the hell with what they "look like" to those of us with the luxury not to be in their shoes.  Stand in their shoes first, and then tell them that what they are doing to survive is "wrong."

Will we judge them, safe in our worlds shielded by nice wallpaper, cars, computers, when they do?

If we do, instead of ourselves as a nation largely composed of the spoiled and privileged, God help us all.  

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Political Handwringing Later, Open Hearts NOW

The devastation wrought upon New Orleans and the Gulf of Mississippi is apparent to everyone. There will be months and years of recriminations, blame, rage - rightly or wrongly.

But now is not the time. Now is the time to help, something that no matter how selfish we get when things are good, individual Americans are really good at when things are not. Here are some sites to show that the lost are not alone - for each of us to help in whatever we can - particularly to donate money and a place to stay for the millions being displaced for God knows how long:

Wiki Katrina Portal: a central repository for information about everything from where you can donate, to where you can volunteer to help, even to man phone lines as those still trapped try to let folks know they need rescue. Bookmark it.

Red Cross - for once Dubbya got it right. The Red Cross needs CASH, all that you can spare. I spared all my birthday money since at least I know I still have a home to see my next birthday. God knows how many don't, and who are wandering in the dark, or sitting in the dark, hungry and alone.

Katrina Home - homesharing registry that appears to be extremely well organized. For those that have the space to take in a boarder, or a family, or even pay for a motel room once they open back up. Do it.

Nola Homes' List - another homesharing registry, more local to the region although folks are posting offering their homes as far away right now as Costa Rica.

And, for those who are not up for donating by phone or online, there is my hero store, Costco, friend to the working class all over America. Costco is matching, dollar for dollar, every donation that is made in one of their stores for the foreseeable future. Buy Costco. And give what you can.

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