Saturday, October 29, 2005

Hurricane Beta? and Happy Birthday!

The world continues to break records relating to hurricane season with Tropical Storm Beta threatening to become a hurricane and slam into Nicaragua. For those who do not understand what this has to do with global warming, I will try to oversimplify what is going on.

As the world heats up, so do the oceans. Around the equator, this causes the waters to be especially hot, leading to more evaporation. At the poles, more of the polar ice melts. This creates two very strong gradients within the oceans, one based on heat and the other on the fact that the increasing evaporation at the equator causes higher salinity while the influx of fresh water at the poles makes that water much less salty than water at the equators. In addition to the intuitive conclusion that increased evaporation will create more rainclowds and precipitation, those gradients wil cause strong currents within the water as the seas will tend to balance out the gradient.

As we know from flushing the toilet, water does not move along gradients based on a straight line, if not in a swirling motion that lessens resistants. Add to this increased precipitation and increased swirling the complex math equations of Chaos Theory, and you have an increased likelihood of drastic storms and increased flooding because of global warming. (as far as i can tell anyway).

And finally, wish my girlfriend and lover a happy birthday. She is celebrating by going on a date with the founder of Narco News Al Giordano. (Way to go baby!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Happy Hurricane Season: From Katrina to Wilma to... Alpha?

Its official! This year there were so many hurricanes and tropical storms that, for the first time, we ran out of names and had to resort to the Greek Alphabet. Tropical Storm Alpha comes with 5 weeks still left in the hurricane season. Can we please not only admit that this epidemic of flooding might be related to global warming, but also actually work to remedy this present and gathering danger?

Note: The link leads to a Netscape News story that describes rural Haitians as "dirt-poor farmers." For some reason that doesn't quite seem profesional to me.

Also, Havana saw serious flooding because of Hurricane Wilma. 250 people had to be emergency rescued out of flooded neighborhoods along the coast as the storm surge sent water for blocks inward. By the way, don't bother trying to watch the news for information on this. Despite the fact that Havana is one of the most cultured, interesting and historically rich cities in this hemisphere, all of the major networks only have correspondents in the resort city of Cancun. While some file footage is being shown of Havana, these correspondents go on and on about "looting" and damaged windows of hotels. Not even a word is mentioned about the deaths in Haiti due to Alpha. Furthermore, the preparedness of the Cuban response system should be a lesson to Chertoff at the Department of Homeland Security and the disgraced former head of FEMA Michael Brown.

This capitalist myopia reminds me the American media and government's preocupation with shooting looters in the late days of this past August, while the elderly were still drowning in their homes in East New Orleans and the Ninth Ward and those who could swim to safety suffered hunger and dehydration in the Convention Center and the Superdome.

Where is our international network of justice based journalism? I'm starting to feel ill because of the twin sicknesses of capitalism and militarism. We are obligated now to articulate an alternative vision of interpersonal and international relations. More importantly, we must fight with those marginalized communities, from Gonaives to Havana to the New Orleans diaspora for respect and dignity. AND WE MUST DO IT NOW!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Cal Thomas: Black people poor cause they immoral

I was extremely impressed by the arrogance and disrespect of Cal Thomas' recent column.

Not only is Thomas so pompous as to tell the black community what perspectives are even "worth considering," but by consistently using quotes around the word 'leaders' to describe everyone who spoke at the Millions More Movement march, he assumes he can decide who is a legitamate leader for a community that he is not part of. Furthermore, in the sentence after attacking those who spoke at the march, he suggests that the real leaders should be from the "middle and upper classes." This exposes the attack not so much as a racist attack, though it definitely takes advantage of racist stereotypes and comes from a racially privileged perspective. Rather, Thomas is reacting to the growing realization that something has to be done about the dramatic poverty in the United States that was brought to the surface by the Katrina disaster. He wants to pre-emptively silence those financially poor individuals who demand to speak for the themselves (Never mind the fact that many of the speakers at the march seemd to actually be from the "middle class").

Indeed, Thomas then hopes to innoculate himself against criticism by launching the most vicious attack at poor black people in the form of a quote by a black leader. However these words, spoken first by Jesse Lee Peterson, that "it was blacks' moral poverty- not their material poverty- that cost them so dearly in New Orleans," form the most bizarre and baffling passage of Thomas' column.

Please Mr. Thomas, answer me this (and CC the question to Peterson for his response), was the levee breached by the black's moral povery? Or did those 1,000 or so people who died in New Orleans drown because of the historic and continuing neglect of the more wealthy politicians at every level of government? Perhaps Thomas believes all of those who lost their homes were ignored by government, from Bush on down, because they were immoral, rather than the fact that they have few economic resources, little lobbying power, and very poor political representation.

While many of the earliest dramatic reports of violence in New Orleans seem to be exaggerated, it is clear that people died because they did not have the means to leave New Orleans, and no one in a position of power thought it urgent enough to send in supplies during those critical days of isolation.

Indeed, Thomas' attack must also be seen as an attempt to blame the survivors of the New Orleans flood so that their poor voices can more easily be ignored by the "middle and upperclass" politicians and politically connected companies that dominate the discussions and decisions regarding relief, recovery and reconstruction in the Gulf Coast.
Author's note: This editorial will soon be published on the Blogger News Network here and in the Baltimore Sun.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

One more thing about Baltimoreans killed in Iraq

One point I want to add about the previous post. This hit me in a personal way because a friend of mine that was deployed in Iraq as a Marine reserve recounted a story where the Humvee he was riding in was damaged by a roadside bomb. It only managed to shatter the windows and blow out one passenger's eardrum, but the Humvee had been filled with C-4 explosives. The lucky coincidence that their explosives didn't ignite from the IED kept them alive, unlike the three unfortunate men I talked about below. My friend also cited the financial aid for college as a central reason for enlisting.

In short, this war must end. It may take a long time before that happens. If so, a lot of innocent civilians will be killed. More Iraqis will be tortured, and more Americans caught up in this madness will lose their lives or have them forever altered because of the trauma of war.

Pour a libation. May it quench the thirst for power that sends so many to their death at a young age.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Baltimore loses two more sons to war in Iraq

An accident between a tractor trailor and a humvee killed two young Baltimore men in a military convoy in Iraq this past weekend. Specialist Bernard Ceo, 22, from Waverly "joined the military to help pay for college. He dreamed of being a teacher," according to Baltimore Sun reporters who interviewed his family. His father added "that's what he really wanted to do - is go to college. And he ... didn't want to put that type of [financial] strain on myself and his mother."

Sgt. Brian R. Conner from Gwynn Oak worked as a firefighter at a station on West North Ave in Walbrook until being deployed to Iraq two months ago. According to the Sun, he prepared by "bringing his personal body armor."

Both men were members of the Maryland Army National Guard. A third member of their unit. Spc. Samuel M. Bosman, 20, from Elkridge was also killed in the accident which occured when "the tractor trailor struck the rear of their Humvee... 'The Humvee caught fire and the ammunition aboard detonated."

All three men were from the 243rd Engineer Company from the Melvin H. Cade Armory in West Baltimore, a part of the Maryland National Guard which traditionally responds to emergencies domestically and does not fight in foreign wars. "They were the first Maryland National Guardsmen to die while deployed overseas since World War II," according to Maj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill.

This suggests that these three men may have joined the National Guard without intending to volunteer for combat, though they were willing to do so when called upon. Furthermore, the case of Bernard Ceo is a classic description of "Economic Conscription" which causes disporportionate army recruiting, deployment and fatalities among the less fortunate economic classes. This has also been called the poverty draft.

However, with deaths like these happening from all over the country while the incompetence and corruption of the ruling administrations highlights the moral bankruptcy of this war and foreign policy (as well as domestic policy) have started to send recruiting numbers plummeting, especially in the traditionally easy recruiting of working class Blacks and Hispanics/Latinos.

Notes: experiencing continued technical difficulty posting links

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

New Orleans Update

The NOPD is realing once again this week. Jordan Flaherty has described how strained the relation between the New Orleans community was before the hurricane. Since then police have been accused of looting, hundreds did not show up for duty, two high ranking officers committed suicide, other officers have been living on a docked cruise ship because they are homeless including the former cheif of police who (according to the New Orleans Times Picayune) was just forced out of office by mayor Nagin.

Now a videotape has surfaced showing four officers beating a 64 year old black man who appears non-violent in the film and is only charged with public drunkenness. He claims he was sober. This comes on the heals of reports by others such as MayDay DC activist Bork (who is living in Algiers) that the New Orleans police are functioning as a force of front-line gentrification soldiers to push poor people out of the city.

The wonderful Bill Quigley, a law professor from Loyola in New Orleans whose reporting from Haiti has appeared on this blog, has written a piece on the other New Orleans residents who have not been able to return. His analysis is much in line with that of Bork, claiming that the very same people who were abandoned to fend for themselves as the city of New Orleans drowned are now being abandoned in the shelters far from New Orleans without jobs, aid, or respect from the various players in New Orleans "reconstruction."

In the words of an anonymous DC Indymedia poster. This is why we talk about "occupied" New Orleans like we talk


New Orleans:  Leaving the Poor Behind Again!

       By Bill Quigley.  Bill is a professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans where he directs the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center and the Law Clinic and teaches Law and Poverty.  Bill can be reached at

       They are doing it again!  My wife and I spent five days and four nights in a hospital in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  We saw people floating dead in the water.  We watched people die waiting for evacuation to places with food, water, and electricity.  We were rescued by boat and waited for an open pickup truck to take us and dozens of others on a rainy drive to the underpass where thousands of others waited for a bus ride to who knows where.  You saw the people left behind.  The poor, the sick, the disabled, the prisoners, the low-wage workers of New Orleans, were all left behind in the evacuation.  Now that New Orleans is re-opening for some, the same people are being left behind again.

       When those in power close the public schools, close public housing, fire people from their jobs, refuse to provide access to affordable public healthcare, and close off all avenues for justice, it is not necessary to erect a sign outside of New Orleans saying “Poor People Not Allowed To Return.”  People cannot come back in these circumstances and that is exactly what
is happening.

       There are 28,000 people still living in shelters in Louisiana.  There are 38,000 public housing apartments in New Orleans, many in good physical condition.  None have been reopened. The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimated that 112,000 low-income homes in New Orleans were damaged by the hurricane.  Yet, local, state and federal authorities are not committed to re-opening public housing.  Louisiana Congressman Richard Baker (R-LA) said, after the hurricane, “We
finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans.  We couldn’t do it, but God did.”

       New Orleans public schools enrolled about 60,000 children before the hurricane.   The school board president now estimates that no schools on the city’s east bank, where the overwhelming majority of  people live, will reopen this academic school year.  Every one of the 13 public schools on the mostly-dry west bank of New Orleans was changed into charter schools in an afternoon meeting a few days ago.  A member of the Louisiana state board of education estimated that at most 10,000 students will attend public schools in New Orleans this academic year.

       The City of New Orleans laid off 3,000 workers.  The public school system laid off thousands of its workers.  The Archdiocese of New Orleans laid off 800 workers from its central staff and countless hundreds of others from its parish schools.  The Housing Authority has laid off its workers.   The St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office laid off half of its workers.

       Renters in New Orleans are returning to find their furniture on the street and strangers living in their apartments at higher rents – despite an order by the Governor that no one can be evicted before October 25.  Rent in the dry areas have doubled and tripled.

       Environmental chemist Wilma Subra cautions that earth and air in the New Orleans area appear to be heavily polluted with heavy metal and organic contaminants from more than 40 oil spills and extensive mold.  The people, Subra stated, are subject to “double insult – the chemical insult from the sludge and biological insult from the mold.” Homes built on the Agriculture Street landfill – a federal toxic site – stewed for weeks in floodwaters.

       Yet, the future of Charity Hospital of New Orleans, the primary place for free comprehensive medical care in the state of Louisiana, is under furious debate and discussion and may never re-open again.  Right now, free public healthcare is being provided by volunteers at grassroots free clinics like Common Ground – a wonderful and much needed effort but not a substitute for public healthcare.

       The jails and prisons are full and staying full. Despite orders to release prisoners, state and local corrections officials are not releasing them unless someone can transport them out of town.  Lawyers have to file lawsuits to force authorities to release people from prison who have already served all of their sentences!  Judges are setting $100,000 bonds for people who steal beer out of a vacant house, while landlords break the law with impunity.   People arrested before and after the hurricane have not even been formally charged by the prosecutor.  Because the evidence room is under water, part of the police force is discredited, and witnesses are scattered around the country, everyone knows few will ever see a trial, yet
timid judges are reluctant to follow the constitution and laws and release them on reasonable bond.

       People are making serious money in this hurricane but not the working and poor people who built and maintained New Orleans.  President Bush lifted the requirement that jobs re-building the Gulf Coast pay a living wage.  The Small Business Administration has received 1.6 million disaster loan applications and has approved 9 in Louisiana.  A US Senator reported
that maintenance workers at the Superdome are being replaced by out of town workers who will work for less money and no benefits.  He also reported that seventy-five Louisiana electricians at the Naval Air Station are being replaced by workers from Kellogg Brown and Root – a subsidiary of Halliburton

Take it to the courts, you say?   The Louisiana Supreme Court has been closed since the hurricane and is not due to re-open until at least October 25, 2005.  While Texas and Mississippi have enacted special rules to allow out of state lawyers to come and help people out, the Louisiana Supreme court has not. Nearly every person victimized by the hurricane has a price-gouging story.  Yet, the Louisiana Attorney General has filed exactly one suit for price-gouging – against a campground.   Likewise, the US attorney has prosecuted 3 people for wrongfully seeking $2000 FEMA checks.

No schools.  No low-income apartments.  No jobs.  No healthcare.  No justice.

A final example?  You can fly on a plane into New Orleans, but you cannot take a bus.  Greyhound does not service New Orleans at this time.

       You saw the people who were left behind last time. The same people are being left behind all over again. You raised hell about the people left behind last time.  Please do it again.
Author's note: Due to technical difficulty, links will be added shortly.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

2 weeeks and Update from Kevin Pina

Its been over 2 weeks since I last posted. There are two reasons for that. First, as Riverbend likes to say (By the way she has just posted links to several other Iraqi bloggers so check her site out), "I just didn't feel like blogging." However, I have tried twice in the last week to update my blog and then found myself unable to because of technical difficulties. The contents of my posts were lost and so was my motivation.

However, back to business, Kevin Pina was released some time ago, though my blog has not reflected that fact. Today is International Solidarity with Haiti Day, and Pina has published an update on his situation called "Seething in Haiti." Everyone should check it out. This first installment is about the powerful judge who had Pina arrested, but then had to release him in the face of international pressure.