Sep 14, 2005

Good Faith

I wrote here that we should have some faith-based action against the "National Day of Prayer" set up by Prez Bush for Friday 9/16. Though it isn't the same day, this press conference this afternoon is a really good thing. I didn't know anything about these folks, and while I'm sure that there are more progressive churches and other faith-based institutions throughout the nation, this one seems closer to radical. Right on!


Press Conference
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
National Press Club, Zinger Room

Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice joined a broad
coalition of activists calling for Congress to bring charges to
reprimand and/or censure United States President George W.
Bush for the handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. At a
press conference on Wednesday, September 14 at the National
Press Club, the coalition will outline President Bush’s
incompetent and ineptitude leadership that has resulted in
hundreds of deaths and unbelievable human suffering of United
States’ citizens...

“More and more lives are being lost –both in body and mind--in
the aftermath of the insensitive, racist, and incompetent way
the Bush Administration has handled the devastation of
Hurricane Katrina. This is, to say the least, criminal negligence
to the highest degree. The president in his negligence of old,
poor and Black American people in the Gulf Coast has
committed a serious breach of official duties as head of state
and it begs the question whether he should continue to lead this
country”, says national president of the group, the Rev.
Graylan S. Hagler.

Last week members of Congress said they were outraged by
and ashamed of the government’s response to the Hurricane
Katrina disaster. The coalition of ministers and social justice
activists say that Congress should formally reprimand and
censure the president.

The ministers also charged the Bush administration with overt
racism. “Many of those suffering are black and poor and we
cannot deny that race played a factor in the slow,
uncoordinated and incompetent response of the government,”
says Rev. Luther Holland of Chicago’s Congregational Church
of Park Manor.

About Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice
The Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice is a
historic organization of the United Church of Christ that
encompasses other clergy from other denominations and
movements. Our purpose is still to address racial justice,
within the structure of the church and within the world, to focus
on economic justice, noting that economic denial is one facet of
racism, and to give voice and power to the many social issues
where people are denied justice. MRSEJ, standing upon rich
history will utilize that history to reach from our past into the
future. MRSEJ will continue to grow and reflect the diversity
within the church and society with an eye, voice and action
toward affecting change that will bring into being racial justice,
social wholeness, and economic equality.

[click here for more information about MRSEJ]

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Sep 13, 2005

Mark Fiore's New Animation

Wow. I've heard the real audio that Mark Fiore uses in this animation [audio/video], but it's just that much more striking when you're looking at something... we cannot allow this administration, and the others who turned their backs on the people of New Orleans. I just wish there was more that I could do.

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Karmacy Video is Ticku!

Just saw the video and listened to a track from Karmacy's debut album, The Movement. I knew they were desi, and I knew that they were hip hop, but I didn't know that they rap in Gujarati too!! That was a total trip, and they're actually good. Must check out the CD. Must find some way to collect money so that I can check out the CD. Must beg readership for donations. It's okay. I have some credit somewhere that I can use for it, once it's more widely available. But definitely check it out.

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Sep 12, 2005

The Boondocks May Be Back on Track

After months (or maybe years?) of boring mediocrity, I think that Aaron McGruder may be returning to his post-9/11 form. It's still early to tell, but here's today's comic. I'm hoping that it's okay to post it like this - I received it from UComics in my email, and assume that there are copyright restrictions that disallow me from posting it like this, but if there's a complaint, I'll be happy to take it down. If you're interested in keeping up with the 'Dockses, you can check it out online here. Especially if he gets pulled from the center-right papers that make up the bulk of media nowadays...

What I'm hoping is that McGruder goes for the jugular in a way that reporters can't won't. Maybe this is also a good time to check back into Doonesbury too.

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Sep 9, 2005

National Day of Prayer

President Bush, in his wisdom, stated that Friday, September 16th should be a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance. Day of Prayer, huh? I think that we should all pray that things blow up around the response, the appointment of horseman Brown as the head of FEMA, the blatantly disrespectful and flippant actions of top government officials like tourist Rice, invisible Cheney, and even the President's mum.

Actually, I think that a National Day of Prayer would be a great time for a National Day of Protest from the progressive faith-based organizations around the nation. We could call it "Not in Our Faith" or "God's Eyes Are Watching You" or something similar.

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Sep 8, 2005

Rage Against Rage.

In the aftermath of the disaster in Katrina's wake, and the looming anniversary of September 11th, I'm faced with the dire reality that I have suppressed a number of things from my childhood, my intermediate adulthood, the past 4 years, and that these individual events, experiences, and conditioning have fermented into a seething, unbalanced, spiralling mess that threatens to topple the sane and relatively reasonable person behind the persona. I have to work through this, and I have to find answers outside of myself to confront and control my demons. It is with this realization that I begin to focus internally, pick up the pen and write longhand again, and withdraw from the daily pattern of commenting on external issues at the cost of recognizing my own weaknesses.

I have to find ways to deal with my pain, confusion, fear, doubt, grief, and anger in some way that allows me to heal, and to become once again whole.

I cannot allow 'rage' to win over 'reason'.

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Sep 7, 2005

Refugees for Refugees

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Library Plans to "Lend" People in Netherlands

Though I'm now morally opposed to just posting up articles and weird things that are forwarded to me all the time, because as responsible and original bloggers, we try NOT to do these things and pass them off as witty or innovative, I'm still feeling that I have to break the rule for this one, for the sake of sharing something a little lighter than what I'm feeling at this moment:

Library that's having a lend of us

"A public library in the Netherlands has been swamped with queries after unveiling plans to "lend out" living people, including homosexuals, drug addicts, asylum seekers, Gypsies and the physically handicapped."
For the rest of the article, click here. [tx again, A!]

Okay - so what do you make of this? I want to borrow a Luxembourgian, just because. Or maybe a Leichensteinian. Wait, is that the spelling?

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Sep 6, 2005

A Prayer Band - Suheir Hammad

Powerful words from Palestinian American poet/activist Suheir Hammad can be found here... not sure what the restrictions are on reproducing it here, but I got it through email (thanks A):

a prayer band

every thing

you ever paid for
you ever worked on
you ever received

every thing

you ever gave away
you ever held on to
you ever forgot about

every single thing is one
of every single thing and all
things are gone

every thing i can think to do
to say i feel
is buoyant

every thing is below water
every thing is eroding
every thing is hungry

there is no thing to eat
there is water every where
and there is no thing clean to drink

the children aren't talking

the nurses have stopped believing
anyone is coming for us

the parish fire chief will never again tell anyone that help is

now is the time of rags
now is the indigo of loss
now is the need for cavalry

new orleans
i fell in love with your fine ass poor boys sweating frying
catfish blackened life thick women glossy seasoning bourbon
indians beads grit history of races
and losers who still won

new orleans
i dreamt of living lush within your shuttered eyes
a closet of yellow dresses a breeze on my neck
writing poems for do right men and a daughter of refugees

i have known of displacement
and the tides pulling every thing
that could not be carried within
and some of that too

a jamaican man sings
those who can afford to run will run
what about those who can't
they will have to stay

end of the month tropical depression turned storm

someone whose beloved has drowned
knows what water can do
what water will do to once animated things

a new orleans man pleads
we have to steal from each other to eat
another gun in hand says we will protect what we have
what belongs to us

i have known of fleeing desperate
with children on hips in arms on backs
of house keys strung on necks
of water weighed shoes
disintegrated official papers
leases certificates births deaths taxes

i have known of high ways which lead nowhere
of aches in teeth in heads in hands tied

i have known of women raped by strangers by neighbors
of a hunger in human

i have known of promises to return
to where you come from
but first any bus going any where

tonight the tigris and the mississippi moan
for each other as sisters
full of unnatural things
flooded with predators and prayers

all language bankrupt

how long before hope begins to eat itself?
how many flags must be waved?
when does a man let go of his wife's hand in order to hold his child?

who says this is not the america they know?

what america do they know?

were the poor people so poor they could not be seen?

were the black people so many they could not be counted?

this is not a charge
this is a conviction

if death levels us all
then life plays favorites

and life it seems is constructed
of budgets contracts deployments of wards
and automobiles of superstition and tourism
and gasoline but mostly insurance

and insurance it seems is only bought
and only with what cannot be carried within
and some of that too

a city of slave bricked streets
a city of chapel rooms
a city of haints

a crescent city

where will the jazz funeral be held?

when will the children talk?

tonight it is the dead
and dying who are left
and those who would rather not
promise themselves they will return

they will be there
after everything is gone
and when the saints come
marching like spring
to save us all

- suheir hammad

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Sep 5, 2005

you, too, feel the eyes
of the young - peering keenly
into your deep fears?

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Sep 4, 2005

New Zealand Billboard

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New Orleans is Burning

The tragedy, devastation and resulting human suffering in the South in the wake of Hurricane Katrina has been heavy on our minds this week. I had been living in relative isolation from the incident until D told me how bad it was. After reviewing some reports, I realized that I've been nonchalant about something far more significant even than what was being reported on the evening news. I'm completely overwhelmed by what I'm seeing and hearing, and what's frustrating is that I don't feel like I'm getting enough information, and I'm sitting safe and sound in a neighborhood far away from the disaster sites. I can't begin to imagine what people in the midst of this disaster are going through, with no information at all.

I can't believe that I was just there last year on a wonderful surprise birthday trip planned solely by D, for which I am so thankful now. She fell in love with the city, and vowed to return. I remember feeling like there was so much to the city, but not taking full advantage of it because I was hot and it was humid. I remember going to the Voodoo Museum, which was more like a living cultural center, in the French District. I remember, of course, Cafe DuMonde. I remember picking up Ward Churchill's "From A Native Son" in a used bookstore and later meeting James Carville in a local record shop. Well, being near D when she introduced herself and expressed her condolences for the 2000 election. "We'll get it right this time," the Louisianian said in his trademark deep voice.

I remember the feeling that this was a different place, a unique place, especially in the relative quiet of early August 2004. Echoing what many people must be saying, I think to myself "at least I saw it once... before."

Perhaps that's what people say about the World Trade Center, though just visiting the buildings was not to understand their place in personal geographies of the City. Gazing upon their height did not do justice to the otherworldly feeling of peering out of Windows on the World at twilight, over the shimmering elegance of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, to the curved edge of the world.

But New York wasn't destroyed. New York was not the new Pompeii. Is NOLA? Or can it be equated with Galveston, Texas, a booming metropolis before it was virtually destroyed by a hurricane on September 7, 1900. It is estimated that between 6,000 - 12,000 people lost their lives during that disaster, which was the single largest natural disaster recorded in United States history.

I am absolutely appalled at what I saw on the news at home today, about the dire situations at the Convention Center and the Superdome in New Orleans. It's absolutely scandalous that so many people were corralled into these sites and then JUST LEFT THERE. Where is the accountability? I heard "we're witnessing modern-day genocide" and "it was like being in a refugee camp in a third-world country." There were no cops there. There was no food or water there. There were thousands of people in a very small space, who didn't have a lot to begin with, and had lost all of it. There were people dying, and others taking advantage of the chaos. It was crazy. And five days later, the water and the troops came, and perhaps they are starting to bus more folks away. But why did it take so long?

I saw that one-third of cops in New Orleans abandoned their posts immediately after the levees broke. I saw, for the first time, a cop go off on screen, deliberately, calling out all his fellow cops who left as not being worthy to have the badge. I saw cops crying, as they saw the despair and lawlessness take over the streets that they'd guarded, and even a cop who made a statement to just tell his wife that he loved her. He didn't say it, but the desparation in his voice and the tears on his face made it seem that, perhaps, he wasn't sure if he'd make it through the next weeks. It was very moving, very scary, and very haunting.

And what about the rest of the world? I heard that Cuba moved nearly 2 million people out of the destructive path of Hurricane Ivan without losing a single life, and they have a system for dealing with this kind of natural crisis. Castro has offered doctors and medicine from Cuba to assist in the aftermath of Katrina, and has refused to comment on the preparedness or response from the White House, stating "this is not a time to kick an adversary, when he is down." Venezuela's populist President, Hugo Chavez, the subject of an assassination rant from Pat Robertson a couple of weeks ago, offered increased gas supplies and donations from Citgo, the nation's retail outlet in the United States [1].

An official from Germany was more direct, citing environmental irresponsibility by the United States as one of the reasons that there were more big storms - and this was even before the storm hit the Gulf Coast. His higher-ups have since offered aid, but have not distanced themselves from the comments. I anticipate more comments like this, that it takes a slap in the face for the United States government to realize that they are part of something larger than just their own power games. But this is not the time to focus on this. People are still dying.

I heard the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, reply angrily to questions from the press:

"I don't want to see anybody do anymore goddamn press conferences. Put
a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference
until the resources are in this city. And then come down to this city
and stand with us when there are military trucks and troops that we
can't even count.

Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here. It's
too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let's
fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country."
[full interview]

Some more information that I've picked up:
*More than 100,000 poor people in New Orleans did not have cars or access to cars to get out of the city. How are you supposed to leave if you don't have the means to do so? How can you expect people to leave whatever they have without a clear indication of the danger?

*FEMA ran a drill in 2004 to see what would happen if there were a category 4-5 storm in the vicinity of New Orleans. The simulation revealed that there was a distinct possibility that the city could have been partially or fully flooded. They had a year to plan, and they didn't. There was no deployment of troops, there was no help coordinated and brought to those who needed it as quickly as possible. They said that they were having communication problems (and then later, CNN, to their credit, had a former FEMA director on who said that there should be at least 3 - 4 alternatives to cell phones, which was Standard Operating Procedure).

*FEMA should have been at the heart of the response to the disaster. There's no question of that, as witnessed in many other natural disasters, and even in New York after September 11th. What happened? Why was the response not coordinated? Why is the Dept. of Homeland Security, which is now in charge of FEMA, dodging the bullet on this? I've heard the Mayor blame everyone, the Governor blame the Feds, the Feds blame each other. But I'm blaming FEMA right now. We need some answers.

I want to focus on FEMA for a little bit, since I saw some of their work as one of the many people who working on relief in New York City after September 11th. During that time, we saw FEMA come in, set up shop, and begin the multiple tasks of managing the disaster recovery efforts at the site of the World Trade Center and distributing rental assistance for affected residents and workers. FEMA drew a line across Canal Street that cut Chinatown in half and iced out affected folks north of the "frozen zone," until community advocacy changed the requirements. FEMA offered rental assistance to folks who could prove either that the events of Sept. 11 directly affected their housing, or in the much larger group, that it affected their income. There were tens of thousands of folks who received rental assistance for 12 months, and then 18 months upon renewal. It was a critical program, replete with many problems in initial implementation (taxi drivers were shut out of the system for months until the direct advocacy of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance turned this around for the industry of 30,000+ drivers who had been hit so hard by the disaster, a social security number was necessary to actually qualify, which shut out a lot of people at the bottom of the economic food chain).

I worked with a number of community groups and community members who qualified, and the program really helped them, but in a housing market like NYC, where rents are always rising, having an income that was still only a fraction of its modest state before the disaster was cause for concern. Add to that the possibility that business was not going to get better, and the prospect of a clear end date for FEMA benefits and the clear indication that economically affected folks were not going to be the recipients of the massive reserve that the American Red Cross had collected in the name of September 11th[2]. Many people weren't able to recover financially after the tragedy in NYC, even with the rental assistance from FEMA, and they either left the city, or the nation altogether. And these were folks who, on the most part, either lost their jobs and couldn't find gainful employment, or had a significant dip in monthly income. Those members of the greater NYC community, four years later, are not the same. And many of the stories were heartbreaking, but deemed far less important than many other interest groups, who took up most of the bandwidth about who was hurt by this tragedy.

Now take the still unfolding situation in New Orleans. Regardless of who messed up where and when concerning the warning, planning, evacuation, and rescue of this city without parallel, when the waters recede, and the lost have been estimated, we will face a recovery effort the likes of which this nation has not seen since Reconstruction. And let's face it: New Orleans is years from coming back to where it was, if even then. So what is going to happen to all of these evacuees and refugees from a city with deeper roots than most of the places in this young nation? Where will people who have lived nowhere else, whose family is tied to this place, whose ancestors have been buried there for generations, whose loved ones may still be there now, stolen from them without a proper goodbye, where will they go? What will happen to them, without homes, without jobs, without anything save for broken hopes and broken dreams of what once was? Without a registration program, a rolling database, or any way to track the living, the dead, or the relocated, how are we going to find these folks that have been moved to so many states around the nation already?

Let's break it down:

1) Folks have lost family members to this disaster.

2) Folks have lost their homes, possessions, and jobs.

3) Folks are not familiar with their new surroundings, don't have money or prospects, and haven't any idea of what comes next.

4) It's going to take a long time before NOLA can take people back, and when they rebuild, they won't be rebuilding low income housing. So will the poorest of the city ever return to their home city, reborn from the refuse?

5) How will this massive a population of folks with nothing be supported through this transition?

You can't just write rent checks for a year and wish them well. You can't even find them all. There will be a massive identity verification issue, as folks realize that they don't have valid identification on them, or they don't have or know their Social Security numbers. Without a driver's license, a permanent address, or a social security number, with these folks really be able to collect anything from the Federal Government? At least people in New York, if they had status, still had their paperwork safe in their homes. Katrina's wake will leave so many people without any proof of identification, and while they are grieving for personal and collective loss, they will not simply be able to start over. It's a lot more complicated than that.

I'm really just so worried and frustrated about what this means, a month, a year down the line. And to think about all those kids - where will they go to school? How can they focus? What does that mean for their future?


[1] Did you know that Chavez offered gas at cheaper prices for America's poor before the storm hit, to be distributed by the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA's Citgo stations? Did you know that Fidel Castro has been offering free medical education for America's minority population, provided that they return home and work for impoverished communities for at least 5 years? While neither is a perfect picture of what leaders should be, I find their attention to the gaps in the American Dream to be more astute than that of our own leaders, whatever side of the aisle they are on.

[2] Let's not forget: the Red Cross does not use all monies raised at the time of an emergency for that particular emergency. They keep at least some percentage in the bank for future calamities. After coming under harsh fire for this in the wake of Sept. 11, they revised some of their policies. On the other hand, the United Way created the September 11th Fund, and they gave everything away.

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Sep 2, 2005

Apple Care is FAST

I got my iBook back already, which means that the turnaround from sending it out to getting it back was less than 48 hours. That's amazing. Aside from the logic board, they also replaced the Bezel brace and the top case, which is basically the part of the laptop that supports the keyboard (and includes the track pad, which is brand spanking new). I'm really impressed. Let's just hope that this time it lasts.

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Sep 1, 2005

Show Daily Candy NYC Your Love

Got this from a friend (a lot of good email in the past couple of days!). It's nice to see something positive once in a while. Take a minute and email these folks. They should know that they're doing something right. Incidentally, it's a great site, even before I knew about their cool politics.

"Do check out today's email from Daily Candy NYC,
a daily nyc email about cool events, trends and shopping.

The first tip reads:
"DO Be Generous (and not just this weekend, you stingy bastard)
What: Tip your cabbie an extra buck or two.
Why: Gas prices. Plus, they're working so you don't have to.
When: Anytime you flag one down.
Where: From your wallet to your heart. Aww."

If you want to contact the staff to congratulate them
on making such a smart suggestion to their audience,
I'm sure they'd want to know people appreciated it.
The contact page can be found at this link."
[rage note: thanks pepsi patel!]

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More Thoughts on NOLA in Katrina's Wake

I got an email from a contact who's very involved in the relief effort being staged in Northern Louisiana at this time. That's where the refugees from NOLA are headed, and she wrote (quickly, I'm sure) of some additional things to keep in mind. I don't want to write endlessly about this subject - just thought that some of the things that I'm seeing via email, especially those that are more personal, are very compelling:

"Some things that do not readily come to mind during a disaster of this magnitude include:

1. the evacuees cannot work at their jobs and earn money for the foreseeable future

2. pay day did not come for these people at the end of this month because there was no one at the office to issue checks or carry out direct deposit instructions

3. Gas is hard to come by for people trying to make their way north

4. People with Oschners Clinic health insurance cannot get certified for medical procedures because Oschners is in New Orleans and not operational

5. State retirement checks and Social Security checks cannot be mailed to the affected areas.

More unanticipated impacts of Katrina continue to unfold. "

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