Lying Media Bastards

September 30, 2005

Doing Crime All Wrong

I’m glad to hear about Tom DeLay’s indictment, what with his lifetime of evil and all. And the less power he has (he’s stepped down as Majority Leader of the House of Representatives), the less harm he can do us.

What is he accused of? “Enter[ing] into an agreement” with co-defendants “to engage in conduct that would constitute the offense of knowingly making a political contribution in violation of subchapter D of Chapter 253 of the Texas Election Code” “with intent to commit a felony.” So what the hell does that mean? I think there are two ways of looking at it.

1) Money Laundering. Some corporations wanted to donate money to some Texan Republican political candidates in a 2002 election, but couldn’t legally do so. So they sent their money to the Republican National Committee, who could legally give money to those candidates, and did so, hiding the money’s original source. Just like a drug cartel.

2) Improper bribery. Let’s face it: every campaign contribution is a bribe. Every one is an attempt to have your legislative say in the form of dollars. But for some reason, if these bribes are done in a certain manner, following arcane rules that you and I (or at least I) are completely unfamiliar with, then these bribes are okay. So that’s why DeLay must be punished, not for selling out democracy, but because he didn’t sell out democracy in the dictated fashion.

In other words, he’s guilty of the only political sin: getting caught.

Posted by Jake on September 30, 2005 9:58 pm

Marching Backwards is Progress

This seems worth remarking upon:

The number of Iraqi army battalions that can fight insurgents without U.S. and coalition help has dropped from three to one..

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who oversees U.S. forces in Iraq, said there are fewer Iraqi battalions at “Level 1″ readiness than there were a few months ago. Although Casey said the number of troops and overall readiness of Iraqi security forces have steadily increased in recent months, and that there has not been a “step backwards,” both Republican and Democratic senators expressed deep concern that the United States is not making enough progress against a resilient insurgency.

Okay, so… there fewer Iraqi batallions (groups of 1000 soldiers) ready to take over the country’s security today than there were a few months ago… yet that’s not a step backwards. I’m not entirely sure how that works.

This seens to be the only rhetoric keeping the American people placated about the continued occupation of Iraq, “we need to stay until they’re ready to provide their own security.” What happens when the American public starts to believe that Iraq will never get a new army going while we’re there?

[crossposted at New Noise]

Posted by Jake on September 30, 2005 8:14 am

September 29, 2005

LMB Radio 09-29-05

LMB Radio 09-29-05

On this show:
- science opens a beaker of whoop ass on religion
- love and cars
- Tony Blair embraces punk and kills it
- corrupt Republican lawmakers face the music
- ruined jokes about Brazil and introductions of LMB’s all ape research staff
- gore for porn
- American sadist corps
- “cross my wooden leg and I swear on my glass eye”
- ethnic cleansing in Baghdad

Unfortunately some sort of glitch erased a chunk of the middle of the show, when I was playing a set of neo-gypsy music. Amazingly, it segued nicely into Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart”.

Musically, we’ve got the White Stripes, Folk Implosion, Sham 69, Danger Doom (the new MF Doom & DJ Dangermouse collaboration), the aforementioned Crue, Juan Esquivel, Nouvelle Vague, Slipknot, Tom Waits, the Coup, Against Me, Tiger Army, Damian Marley, Johnny Cash, and more.

Shame about the gypsy music.

Posted by Jake on September 29, 2005 10:49 pm

God, WhyHaven’t Thou Forsaken Us?

For some years now, religion has waged a relentless war on science, to such an extent that some days I’m just thankful that fundamentalists aren’t denouncing the wheel. But now, science takes the offensive:

Religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems…

In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

So you gotta wonder, if there is a God, and he sees all and knows all, why would he inflict himself on us? You’d think he’d say “shit, I’m causing these folks some real damage” and fuck off.

Reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw the other day, “Why Be Born Again When You Can Just Grow Up?”

Posted by Jake on September 29, 2005 12:03 am

September 27, 2005

Weird Tales of Despair

You can read plenty of first-hand accounts of the New Orleans floods, but here’s one from one of my favorite journalist/writer guys, Matt Taibbi. Somehow he went along with the strange Sean Penn rescue mission into New Orleans, and stayed behind for a while afterwards. Fortunately, it’s not any kind of puff piece about how Penn is a Noble Actor. Actually, Penn doesn’t show up that much in the article at all. What does? Taibbi tries to get the lay of the land, so to speak, who’s doing what, what’s going on, how people are getting along or not getting along. A taste:

Everyone by now has seen the video and knows what much of New Orleans looked like that week. But it’s worse than it looks on television. What you miss on TV is the panoramic view, the dead stillness on the edges of the horizon in all directions, the whole sky filthy with helicopters. The vast scale of death and ruin is something that’s impossible to grasp until you’re in the middle of it. The black water sitting on top of New Orleans itself feels like a living thing, like a sci-fi creature that has swallowed a whole country and throbs faintly with malevolent life. It sends a chill up your spine to be out on top of it; it’s as if you can feel it breathing…

The centers of the streets are mostly still; the edges ripple slightly with floating things. In all directions the houses and buildings are smashed and every nook and cranny is fouled with garbage, sewage and debris. The first body we see is an older man facedown on the edge of a narrow street lined with crooked houses; we later see a woman bobbling in a parking lot, her skin bursting with huge gas bubbles. Most of the houses still contain the family dogs, who sit on the porches, keeping guard. This adds to the impression that these battered, broken-down neighborhoods have not been destroyed at all but have simply changed form, like an animal with two sets of skin — that these neglected, pissed-on city blocks have really looked like this underneath all along.

Posted by Jake on September 27, 2005 9:34 am

Wherefore Art Thou, Jake?*

I’ve been rather AWOL with this site lately, and as there’s always been a slight journal tangent on this blog, I figure I’ll clue you all in. Chronologically, no less.

First, I suppose I write a little less cuz I talk a little more. Sometimes I don’t spend the time spitting at the keys cuz I know that Thursday afternoon I’ll be snarling at the mic. I do my radio show almost every week, and ranting out loud to an invisble audience is satisfying in a different way than ranting in type to invisible readers (by the way, if you don’t listen to the show, at least listen to the radio theme song I made, the link’s over on the right, under “Jake Jake Jake”). So some of that writing is done sonically, so does not appear in letters on this page.

Secondly, I had a bad week about a month ago which has pushed me in new directions. I was so overwhelmed with the number of duties, projects, tasks, responsibilities and chores piled up around me, that I pretty much spent the entire week in a daze. Not only did I manage to accomplish almost nothing, but I spent that week feeling a unsettling combo of confusion, irritation, anxiety and sadness. Nothing overwhelming, mind you, but just a disjointed, unpleasant funk that kind of melted into everything.

So I resolved that I could not let this happen again. I couldn’t let a whole week get away from me, I couldn’t spend all that time feeling confused and powerless. I needed to get Organized. My usual modus operandi of making it up as I go along was finally starting to fail me**, and I was going to have to join the real world of calendars and lists and goals and sticky notes.

So I made up some pretty large lists of do’s and don’t’s for my future, covering a vast array of actvities, including work, exercise, eating, shopping, leisure, finances, etc. Which sounds anal, but I figured that since I’d only fully absorb a fraction of this list, the more in-depth the list, the more habits I was likely to change.

So far, the List has done me good. More exercise, more focus at work, slightly healthier eating, mild cuts in video game play, more time spent re-learning Spanish (1 hour a week instead of no hours a week). And the List will evolve, of course.

So there we are. Jake Making Life Changes. Probably not enough of them, but it’s a start.

Third, I now have another job. Which, by my count, brings me up to five part-time jobs, three of which pay (up from the former 4 and 2). I am writing for a subdivision of Amnesty International USA called Music for Human Rights. It’s funny, the opportunity dropped into my lap just as I was thinking of giving up the whole “get paid to write” thing.

(Of course, this does exacerbate the previously mentioned “so many projects Jake gets confused and doesn’t know what to do” problem)

Fourth, I just got a new computer (with my Writing Advance Check. Look at me, I’s a professional). And since I’m a big geek, this means I’ll spend way too much time exploring it, tweaking it out, rubbing it with fragrant oils, that sorta thing. So I might stay missing a little while yet.

I also have several other schemes sizzling in the old brainpan, but I dare not speak of them just yet…

Not entirely sure why I wrote all this (or why you read it). I guess it’s good to chronicle some things, and sometimes telling people your plans helps you stick to them.


*Yes, I’m aware that that “wherefore art thou?” does not mean “where are you?”, but thanks for making the joke less funny, jerkass.

**Well, to be honest, I really got very little sleep that week. It’s entirely possible that I’m making these life changes for all the wrong reasons, and that going to bed earlier would sort me out just fine.

Posted by Jake on September 27, 2005 12:12 am

September 25, 2005

Debt ReCalculations

If you use credit cards and often only pay the minimum amount every month, you might want to talk to your credit card company.

As the result of some arcane, behind-the-scenes stuff, many credit card companies will be changing your minimum payment amount from around 2% of your balance to around 4% of your balance. As I understand it, if you’ve had your credit card for a while, this change probably won’t go into effect until January 2006 (the changes are already in effect for people who signed up after July 2005).

Allegedly, these changes are to help credit card holders pay off their debt in a “reasonable amount of time” (apparently the former rate would not). Sadly, I imagine an awful lot of folks who only survive by paying the minimums on their credit cards are gonna have to fight even harder to get by.

Posted by Jake on September 25, 2005 5:41 pm

Clean Slate

Here are a bunch of photos from the anti-war protests in Los Angeles yesterday. But let’s focus on two in particular.

This one is a picture of some chalk drawings done at a public park during the rally.

This one is a picture of Sam, the fellow who did the chalk drawing, being arrested for doing so (in the background).

You might be saying “wow, that’s ridiculous that it’s against the law to draw on the ground with chalk in Los Angeles.”

And you’d be wrong. Because it’s not against the law to draw on the ground with chalk in Los Angeles. This according to a friend of mine who has researched chalk laws in Los Angeles (no, really). She says that there are two legal precendents here, cases tried by both the ACLU and National Lawyers Guild which found that drawing with chalk on public grounds is not illegal in that city.

The story as told to me by a witness is that Sam was leaving the event, got into his car, and was told to get out by three police officers. They told him to empty his pockets, and he showed them the chalk. There were now eight cops. One cop examined the drawing on the ground and said “oh, it’s only chalk”. And one of the other cops said “so what, we’re gonna arrest him anyway”.

Near as I can figure, the cops saw a guy drawing on the ground, tried to arrest him for graffitti, and then realized that it was only chalk. This made them feel stupid, to save face and get “revenge”, they went ahead and arrested the “perpetrator”. What did they charge him with exactly? I don’t know, but I’m guessing it’s be some bullshit like “resisting arrest” or littering. Last I heard he was getting bailed out late last night. $1000, and he’ll probably have to go to take time off of work to go to trial for, y’know, not breaking the law.

Your tax dollars at work.

I’ll keep y’all updated on this one.

[Update 3]

Sam posted his own version of events on LA Indymedia, I’ll repost em here:

I had been wanting to ask people to lay down so i could trace them but i realized people wouldn’t want to get that dirty so i made a cardboard deadguy and traced it like a crime scene then filled it with things like… “Raytheon”,”Boeing”,”Northrop Grummond”, and “No War”… after the anti-imperialism party all the orgs were taking down their booths… and I wrote a breif line on a pillar protruding from the public sidewalk, it read… “buy less crap”…. we got in the car and before i closed the door, three officers ran over and held my car door from closing… told me to step aside and began sticking thier metaphorical thumbs up their you know where until the lead moron decided to not only cite me but arrest and detain me without opproutunity of O.R. The one smart thing i managed to do is hit the record button on the MP3player i was wearing at the time… so i have everything recorded, even a socond file of when i was being held in a cell briefly…

ps- i had about 4 pieces of chaulk but 2 of them were the size of an m&m and the other two where broken… so they seized technically 7 pieces of chaulk which they now hold as evidence of this event…

It’s sad to think that they would waste 8 officers on this… im’ sorry, aren’t there real crimes happening in Downtown LA… like the tyranny of the suits sitting in skyscrappers making decision that will gentrify and further subjugate the last remaining culture of the communities…..

my court info:
div 83
429 Bauchet St
Los Angeles, CA
Oct. 19th 2005

this should be a good one…
i look forward to hearing my case be dismissed or heard by a jury of my peers. IF ANYONE HAS CASE NOTES OR HISTORY OF CHALK RELATED VANDALISM PLEASE LET ME KNOW… THE LAW IS TRICKY AND I CANNOT AFFORD TO PAY THE LEGAL OFFICES OF LUCIFER AND SONS LIKE SOME PEOPLE SO I MAY BE REPRESENTING MYSELF OR PERHAPS MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE N.L.G.

Amusingly, Sam had some sort of mp3 player hanging around his neck at the time, and managed to record his arrest, you can here it here in .wav format (about 16 min). Sam isn’t particularly polite to the police, but he doesn’t need to be. He’s not doing anything wrong. I imagine the only crime here is Sam’s lack of “proper” deference to the police.

[some edits were made to this post as photo URLs changed and new info became available]

Posted by Jake on September 25, 2005 3:52 pm

September 23, 2005

LMB Radio 9-22-05

LMB Radio 9-22-05

A lot of this show is dedicated to the Top Ten Most Censored Stories of 2005 (as judged by Project Censored). It’s not actually a list of “censored” stories, just a list of important topics that got very little coverage in the mainstream. So I talk about that, the progress of the AOL-MSN merger, crazy anti-abortion oppression in Ohio, memories of fictional places, the Jet Blue near-crash, racist cop pirate radio, and the bizarre tank-aided prison break of British undercover agents in Basra.

Musically, we’ve got Eminem, KMFDM, the Black Keys, the Exploited, Jay-Z, Damian Marley and Nas, Beck, Busdriver, Harry and the Potters, White Zombie, Flogging Molly, Qbert, Giant Drag, Lightning Bolt, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and more.

Posted by Jake on September 23, 2005 12:02 am

Project Censored 2005

Project Censored has released its list of the “Top 25 Censored Stories” of 2004-2005.

Every year, the folks at Project Censored comb the news media for important stories, and at year’s end, figure out which stories were the most important that received little or no coverage in the mainstream media. These stories are rarely “censored” in the usual sense of the word, but for whatever reason, they were reported in the “alternative” press, and rarely anywhere else.

I’ve seen criticism which wonders whether or not Project Censored is a good idea, as it sort of revels in the impotence of alternative journalism. “Look at all this great reporting we did that no one read! Yaaaay!!” And they’ve got a point. Bottom line though, I look at the yearly Project Censored reports as a list of important news stories, period. So let’s look at it. Or just read em all on your own here.

#1 Bush Administration Moves to Eliminate Open Government
The Bush Administration has made it harder to gain information about government and law enforcement by stymying Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, expanding the limits of what can be deemed classified, and even legally contesting Congress’ right to see what the federal government is up to.

#2 Media Coverage Fails on Iraq: Fallujah and the Civilian Deathtoll
The US has laid siege to the Iraqi city of Fallujah twice in 2 years, resulting in the deaths of thousands, the homelessness of far more, and the destruction of one-third of the city’s buildings.
In addition, the press does not seem to attempting to count the number of Iraqi civilian casualties in the war. The best guess seems to be between 17,000 and 100,000.

#3 Another Year of Distorted Election Coverage
Allegations that the voting in the 2004 presidential election was tampered with, or systematically skewed in racist/classist ways, got little to no coverage in the mainstream media, and was dismissed as conspiracy theory or partisanship, even in cases when there was evidence.

#4 Surveillance Society Quietly Moves In
Increased funding, broader powers, and looser restrictions for intelligence agencies. And just when new computer surveillance were starting to sound too scarily like something out of The Matrix, the Pentagon proposed a new program called The MATRIX (Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange). Do these guys have their irony glands surgically removed once they get the job?

#5 U.S. Uses Tsunami to Military Advantage in Southeast Asia
I was skeptical about this one at first, but it does seem that in the wake of the Asian tsunami, the US re-opened an old military base in Thailand, restarted military cooperation with Thailand and the Philippines, is looking to restart military training exercises with Indonesia, and spied on Chinese shipping lanes.

#6 The Real Oil for Food Scam
Conservatives pushes this “oil for food scandal” as a means of discrediting the UN. But in the fine print, the US was a part of the UN which did the approving of all of Iraq’s purchases with this oil/food money, so seems as culpable as everyone else.

#7 Journalists Face Unprecedented Dangers to Life and Livelihood
2004 was the deadliest year for journalists since journalists started keeping record of their own fatality rates. Most of this comes from the Iraq war.

#8 Iraqi Farmers Threatened By Bremer’s Mandates
One of the most despicable efforts of the biotech industry is the movement to turn seeds into software. You can buy their genetically engineered seeds to grow crops, but if you try to save some of your crop to plant the next season’s harvest, then you’re a software pirate, illegally copying their intellectual property. No, I’m not kidding. Save seeds and you’re a criminal.

Apparently before the US handed sovereignty over to it’s Iraqi puppets, the US enacted laws to make that biotech dream come true.

#9 Iran’s New Oil Trade System Challenges U.S. Currency
One of the things that keeps the US dollar strong is that oil is bought and sold in US dollars worldwide. But this year Iran made a break with tradition, and is accepting Euros for oil. Uh oh.

#10 Mountaintop Removal Threatens Ecosystem and Economy
Among coal miners, it’s all the rage these days to simply blow up the top of a mountain to get to the creamy coal nougat center. This fucks up local ecosystems and the human communities that have to live in them.

And there are 15 more to go. Go read em.

Posted by Jake on September 23, 2005 12:02 am

September 21, 2005

Get Your Cataclysm On

New Katrina-oriented comic strips from Get Your War On.

I’ll write and post stuff soon, I swear.

Posted by Jake on September 21, 2005 9:26 am

September 20, 2005

Removing All Doubt

The problem with making factual statements is that people can write them down.

Posted by Jake on September 20, 2005 8:39 pm

September 16, 2005

KAMP Up and Running

Not sure how I missed this one, but apparently the microradio project to help the evacuees at the Superdome that was stymied by bureaucratic nonsense is up and broadcasting. Started three days ago, with a new license from the FCC and are trasmitting from a trailer in the parking lot (I can relate).

95.3FM.

Posted by Jake on September 16, 2005 12:17 am

Be Very Afraid

Time Warner and Microsoft Ponder AOL-MSN Merger

In a deal that would unite two of America’s corporate giants as partners in the Internet business, Time Warner is in advanced discussions to sell a stake in America Online to Microsoft…

According to two sources familiar with the matter, Time Warner is in talks with Microsoft about selling the stake in AOL and then combining it with Microsoft’s Web unit MSN.

Posted by Jake on September 16, 2005 12:09 am

Grassroots Katrina Aid

I mentioned this on the radio show today and said I’d post the links. So here ya go.

Emergence Broadcasting System will be heading down to New Orleans with satelite phones and wireless computer devices to set up mobile communications centers for the folks still in the area. This will allow the hurricane survivors to call family and friends, get access to information, and check out all of the various generous aid offers made online (like CraigsList and HurricaneHousing and such).

Southern Partners Fund is raising money for local, grassroots aid, with an eye towards the long-term and community renewal.

Activists from May Day DC packed up a van with donated and purchased supplies, drove down to New Orleans, and started directly handing them out to people. They also set up their “Mayday Mutual Aid Medical Station”, a tent where emergency medics are providing free medical care to the survivors.

Bay Area Radical Health Collective sent a team of medics down to New Orleans, and report that they are treating 50 people a day.

Food Not Bombs is setting up kitchens to serve free food to the community in Baton Rouge, Algiers (across the river from New Orleans), Covington, and Houston.

A group of guerrilla media types have set up a pirate radio station at 94.5FM and community media center for folks to share their stories and get information about what’s going on. I don’t have any info for you to donate to them, however.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, of course. More information on these direct aid efforts:

Grassroots/Low-income/People of Color-led Hurricane Katrina Relief
Hurricane Katrina Mutual Aid Relief

If you have any other links or information to aid projects, please post them in the comments section.

Also, a friend of mine in Houston is asking if there are any aid groups out there that will help evacuees with rent money till the red tape clears. Anyone have any ideas?

Posted by Jake on September 16, 2005 12:05 am

Lying Media Bastards Radio 9-15-05

Lying Media Bastards Radio 9-15-05

I talk about that fired FEMA guy, the potential AOL-MSN merger, newspaper conspiracies, a sleazy anti-PETA smear campaign, the evils of San Diego’s NPR station, “the time has come to say fez feh”, and grassroots Katrina aid efforts. I also accidentally play a mini-goth set and a country/rockabilly/train song set.

Musically, we’ve got, Tom Waits, Gogogo Airheart, Reverend Horton Heat, Missy Elliott, Lamb, Old Crow Medicine Show, Outkast, Midnight Oil, the Immortal Lee County Killers, the Clash, Bright Eyes, MC5, Spearhead, the Legendary KO, Ministry, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Love Like Blood, and more.

Posted by Jake on September 16, 2005 12:02 am

September 15, 2005

Republicans [heart] Racist Classist Incompetence

This is pretty astounding. Well, sorta.

The US Senate killed proposal for a bipartisan investigation into the flaws of Katrina aid.

54 against, 44 for.

I guess I’m surprised that anyone would vote against this for their own political careers. I mean, the “government fucked up on this one” position is fairly popular around this country.

But the vote numbers are a bit jaw-dropping:

Every single “NO” vote was from a Republican.

I’m not surprised they’re against it, just that they’d go on record with it. Maybe they’ve forgotten how to be subtle. Republicans used to just knife people in dark alleys, now they shoot guys in the face on Good Morning America.

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Posted by Jake on September 15, 2005 11:41 am

September 13, 2005

Connection

A friend of mine is working on a grassroots Katrina aid project y’all might be interested in.

Emergence Broadcasting System will be heading down to New Orleans with satelite phones and wireless computer devices to set up mobile communications centers for the folks still in the area. This will allow the hurricane survivors to call family and friends, get access to information, and check out all of the various generous aid offers made online (like CraigsList and HurricaneHousing and such). Seems like a great idea to me.

Click on the link above to get info or send them money.

Posted by Jake on September 13, 2005 11:46 am

September 12, 2005

The Other 9/11

As the US “celebrates” the 4th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, it might be good to make note of another tragic 9/11 anniversary.

In Chile, they commemorate 9/11 as the day that dictator Augusto Pinochet took power, suspending the constitution, dissolving all labor unions, banning all political parties, burning subversive books, censoring the media, massacring thousands of political dissidents, kidnapping and torturing thousands more, imprisoning hundreds of thousands, and sending almost one million fleeing into self-imposed exile. Pinochet gripped the country in his iron fist for 17 years.

And as with most Latin American coups, the US seems to have played a role in Pinochet’s success.

This Chilean columnist explains (somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I think) his country’s traditions regarding its own 9/11. Every year, he says, some people solemnly light candles for the dead, while cops and protesters exchange volleys of molotovs and tear gas bombs.

And in the US, we commemorate with sorrow, light shows, and marching where the Pentagon tells us to.

Posted by Jake on September 12, 2005 11:34 pm

September 9, 2005

Lying Media Bastards Radio 9-08-05

Lying Media Bastards Radio 9-08-05

On today’s show, I finally unveil my new theme song (roughly equal parts Howard Beale fury and Venetian Snares synocpation), talk about Dick Cheney’s health and real estate, recount a thrilling tale of the Superfriends, affirm the intrinsic value of all human life, harp on FEMA’s control freak nature, discover the riot potential of apples and milk, update y’all on the Houston Superdome indy radio project, recommend the Teenage Liberation Handbook, and get yelled at by goofy listeners. You might ask, “how did those people call you if you never announced the station phone number?” And I can’t lie to you. The answer is voodoo.

Music-wise, this show features Probot, Sonic Youth, Ozomatli, Violent Femmes, Ghostface, Nightingale, Le Tigre, Green Day, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin (never thought you’d hear that name again, did you?), Good Riddance, The Cult, Gorillaz, and more.

Posted by Jake on September 9, 2005 12:41 am

September 8, 2005

Just a Bill

Ever since I heard about the big “billions of dollars for New Orleans” spending bill that is headed through Congress, I figured that someone is going to really need to go through it carefully. I imagine any Congressman who sees it will sign it, which makes it ripe for secret riders and pork and back-scratching.

But apparently, the Republicans have written the bill, are refusing to show it to the Democrats, and have voted to prevent Congress from discussing or amending the bill.

Who knows what thrilling nuggest of evil are buried in there? I’m betting that there are riders that deny aid to anyone who’s ever heard of evolution and nominate Halliburton as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Posted by Jake on September 8, 2005 12:44 am

Escape from New York Orleans

I’ve already posted a link to this article, but it’s fucking astounding.

It’s the story of a couple of tourists caught in New Orleans during the hurricane and their attempts to survive and get home. When they ask the cops what they should do, the cops tell them that they can’t go to the Superdome or the convention center shelters.

“If we can’t go to the only two shelters in the city, what was our alternative?” The guards told us that this was our problem–and no, they didn’t have extra water to give to us.

Oh, but it gets worse.

To get rid of these hundreds of stranded folks, a police commander tells them to go to the New Orleans Bridge, where there will be buses waiting for them.

As we approached the bridge, armed sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions.

As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and the commander’s assurances. The sheriffs informed us that there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the six-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans, and there would be no Superdomes in their city. These were code words for: if you are poor and Black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River, and you are not getting out of New Orleans.

That last sentence is a bit of a stretch, but I feel that it’s probably an accurate one. I mean, can you think of a good reason that a line of cops would send refugees back into the floodwaters at gunpoint? Sounds like racist hostility to me.

So this wandering band decides to build a make-shift camp on the bridge. They find food and water and try to take care of each other, and from the sound of it, do a pretty good job… until the police showed up again.

Just as dusk set in, a sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces and screamed, “Get off the fucking freeway.” A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of “victims,” they saw “mob” or “riot.” We felt safety in numbers. Our “we must stay together” attitude was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of eight people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements, but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

At this point, this Group of Eight (irony intended) manage to get airlifted to a local airport and catch a flight to San Antonio. Once there, and in the grip of the “official relief effort”, things continue to blow:

We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses didn’t have air conditioners. In the dark, hundreds of us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport–because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly and disabled, as we sat for hours waiting to be “medically screened” to make sure we weren’t carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heartfelt reception given to us by ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome.

Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept and racist. There was more suffering than need be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

Granted, the authors of this piece are “contributors to the Socialist Worker”, which means that they might have slanted their piece somewhat in the “The People United vs. The Man” direction. But even taking that into account, it seems that these folks did okay on their own, but every time they came in contact with authorities, it fucked them up.

Or, as a friend of mine put it, “welcome to black life.”

Is it possible I’m not cynical enough?

Posted by Jake on September 8, 2005 12:14 am

September 7, 2005

Rebels to the Rescue

In a rather shocking development, Houston Indymedia and the Prometheus Radio Project received permission from the FCC to run an emergency low-power radio station inside the Astrodome for the benefit of the Katrina refugees housed/interned there, KAMP (Katrina Aftermath Media Project)- Evacuation Radio Services, 95.3FM.

But apparently that wasn’t enough. Local bureaucrats decided that KAMP needed to obtain 10,000 walkman-sized radios to give out to the refugees before they could broadcast a single syllable. Which was actually acheived in record time.

Now, some military guy on-site has decided that he can’t allow the station to broadcast because the stadium couldn’t spare the electricty. John Anderson, guru on all things LPFM tells us that “A 30-watt transmitter draws less than a third of the power of your average incandescent light bulb”. When the would-be broadcasters offered to run the broadcast entirely on battery power, they were again rejected.

More than anything, the continuous red tape, road blocks, and fuck-ups in helping the Katrina victims seems to be a need by authorities to have Control. Victims who try to feed themselves by looting are threatened by cops. People who try to get out of the city themselves get stopped by sheriffs with guns. Thousands of folks try to volunteer their time or donate supplies and are stopped… Actually, this point is such a huge deal I’m going to interrupt my train of thought to demonstrate:

(Maybe Michael Brown isn’t the incompetent horse lawyer we thought he was. Maybe he’s a fucking supervillain)

And finally, when we get activists trying to provide free radio (and radios) to refugees to keep them updated with news and info, and they face seemingly pointless barriers (although one report suggests that officials in Houston are afraid that the station might play gangsta rap and cause… I dunno).

This radio project seems extremely useful to me. So many folks are sharing information and making offers of personal aid, donations, or places to live via the internet, yet these refugees don’t have any internet access. KAMP could be a huge help by simply reading temporary housing offers off of HurricaneHousing.org or CraigsList.

In some disgusted blog post I read lately, someone wrote “why do we even have a FEMA, anyway?” They had meant it as “they should be doing a much better job”, but I took a very different message out of it. So many folks are willing to help out on their own, and FEMA only seems capable of getting in their way or fucking things up. When the government gets this corrupt, maybe we’re better off fending for ourselves.

Oh yeah, if you’re interested in helping out KAMP, click here.

[thanks to DIYMedia.net and throwingstardna]

Posted by Jake on September 7, 2005 11:44 pm

Correct Change

The San Francisco Municipal Railway (”Muni”) runs the city’s buses, trolleys and streetcars that folks use to get to and from work. Muni recently decided to cut some of their commuter lines, raise fares by 20%, and lay off some of their drivers.

In a unique move, the transit riders and the transit drivers have joined together to oppose these policies by organizing a “social strike”. Participating riders won’t pay the fares and participating drivers won’t charge. The commuters get to where they’re going, the drivers keep their jobs, and hopefully, the Muni management feels the pinch.

If you are in SF and want to participate, the strike organizers suggest the following

Riders: When you board MUNI, acknowledge the driver, and let them know that you are participating in the fare strike. Be polite, don’t antagonize or fight them. If you can’t board for free, consider paying a partial fare (a few nickels or dimes). If you can get a transfer, give it to another passenger when you get off the MUNI.

Drivers and Station Agents: you know the system best. Talk to other drivers about the strike. Help riders strike by refusing to collect.

Legal Support: If you have any legal difficulties, we have a legal team that can help: contact 415-285-1011 and make sure you leave your information. Someone will call you back and well help fight your ticket.

Good luck SF!

[update]

Report from Day One (September 1) of the fare strike

[/update]

Posted by Jake on September 7, 2005 11:18 pm

September 4, 2005

Katrina

I’ve completed overdosed on news and discussion about Hurricane Katrina. There are several tales in there of heroism, sacrifice, and beautiful human compassion that just make you want to hold somone tight, bury your face in their shoulder and not let go. But sadly, these stories are drowned in a river of stories of corruption, neglect, bigotry, malice, greed and arrogance, so diseased and foul that they won’t wash away.

To steal a line from one of the countless sites I’ve scoured for information: these people need food and water today, they’ll need food and water tomorrow, and they’ll need food and water the day after that. I’d love to tell y’all where to donate and how to help, but I have some new doubts about that. I’ll try to talk about this at the end of the article. Also, I think we should remember that while New Orleans gets most of the attention, large swaths of Lousiana, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida were also hit.

Let’s start off with some links to photos and first-hand accounts of the disaster:

Eyeballing Katrina 1, 2, and 3 (photos)
Flickr photos
Survival of New Orleans blog
Email from Rescue Worker
Cheryl’s letter

Now let’s take a brief look at FEMA, the government agency that’s supposed to take care of Americans during disasters like this.

Here’s a brief chronology of how the agency was defunded, crippled, and used to reward political cronies during the W administation.

Here’s a longer article about the woes of FEMA written last year.

Here’s a piece about how Bush’s funding cuts for FEMA and the financial needs of his Iraq war directly contributed to the flooding of New Orleans.

And here’s a piece about how the Bush-appointed head of FEMA is unqualified for the post, and generally incompetent to boot. Mike Brown had zero experience dealing with disasters or emergencies when he got the position. And what was his prior job? For 11 years, he was in charge of judges for horse shows for the International Arabian Horse Association. And he apparently fucked that up so badly that he was forced to resign.

A man who couldn’t hold down a job supervising horse shows is in charge of disaster relief for millions.

How did he get the job? He was friends with Bush’s 2000 campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh. Who was the head of FEMA just before Brown. Who was, incidentally, also totally unqualified for the position. Who quit FEMA to start an company to help corporations exploit the new Iraq.

I’m pissed. This guy got the job because he’s a faithful Republican operative, and now thousands of people will die because of that corruption.

And here’s Brown’s boss lying to the public saying that Homeland Security (which now houses FEMA. Because we should be worried about terrorist attacks but not hurricanes or floods or tornados) that they never saw this coming. Even more galling, he tries to act as though this was a freak combination of torrential hurricane storm AND a flood. Which is sort of like saying you never expected anyone to give you milk to go with your bowl of cereal.

Now you’ve got some conservatives, and even FEMA head Brown blaming the hurricane victims for “choosing” to stay in the area. True, some folks did choose to stay. I heard an interview with a hurricane survivor who said that people didn’t take the threat seriously; there had been a full-fledged evacuation for Hurricane Dennis some years before, and that had only resulted in rain, not cataclysm. So some folks figured that this hurricane would likewise be mild.

And of course, there were also plenty of poor folks who “chose” to stay in the city the same what that you and I “choose” not to live in fancy mansions on the shore of Maui: cuz we could never, ever afford it. Plenty of the poor folks in New Orleans live paycheck to paycheck (if that), and at the end of the month, those paychecks were pretty much gone. And even if they had cars, which many of them don’t, where were they gonna go? Go stay in a hotel with money they don’t have, away from their jobs where they earn the little income they get? Or as another radio interviewee said, “you’ve got 20 dollars left, are you gonna spend that on a bus ticket or food for the kids? We chose food.”

So you’ve got tens or hundreds of thousands of people stranded, many locations in deep water. There’s no electricity, no running water (and the water you’re treading in is pretty filthy), no law, no commerce. You want food or drinking water, guess you’ve got to get it yourself. And since you’re in downtown New Orleans or Biloxi or wherever and not in an orchard or wildlife preserve, that pretty much means you’re getting your food and water from grocery stores or abandoned homes. If someone else wants to call it “looting,” fine, I’d gladly loot for survival. The pundits who look down their nose at this don’t want to admit it, but they’d probably do the same.

And some folks took larger, less necessary items. I saw a couple fellows on the news taking some matresses out of a hotel, which at first, seemed sort of frivolous or selfish. Until the “looters” showed the reporters that his family had been sleeping on the concrete floor of a parking garage for three straight days. “I can handle it, but my wife, my kids and my grandkids, they just can’t. I wanted to get them something to sleep on.”

Then you hear stories about people stealing Nikes, or plasma TVs or whatever. Some of these folks have lost everything that they had, and maybe they feel entitled to take whatever they can find to help them rebuild their lives. Maybe they’ve been poor so long that they’re willing to take this chance to have something nice for once. Or maybe they are being selfish (greed is not limited to any one income bracket). Most of that, stealing for survival or for gain in this destroyed city, I have very few qualms about. However there were cases of people stealing from other survivors, taking what someone else needed for themselves, and that’s pretty despicable. But then again, I don’t know what I would do if I was in their shoes.

There was talk of survivors shooting at cops and helicopters, but I never got much verification of that. I saw some first-hand accounts saying that it was a huge problem, others saying that this rarely happened at all. But this article argues that the New Orleans PD has a history of corruption and violence towards African-Americans, so maybe there was necessary or paranoid gunfire going out.

At a certian point, the city went insane and decided that is was more important to try to stop the looting than it was to save lives. The mayor ordered 1500 New Orleans cops to stop their search and rescue efforts so that they could focus on stopping theft. Which was doubly effective, I suppose, because without anyone to distribute food and water, all the survivors die, and there’s no one left to loot. At the pinnacle of scary, we see that when the National Guard arrived, they talked about “combat operations” and “taking this city back”, and “fighting the insurgency”.

Then, apparently, after collecting all kinds of food and supplies to give away, the Red Cross was stopped from entering the area by the National Guard. The excuse given was that bringing supplies into the city would discourage people from evacuating and encourage people to come back into the city. Which the NG had decided should be emptied. I also suspect that the NG feared that the civilians of the Red Cross might get attacked by looters and roaming gangs or whatever other violent figures they assumed were left in the city.

Which brings us to the issue of race and class in all this. New Orleans is predominantly African-American. And since race and income are so frequently joined together in this country, most of the poor folks in New Orleans were African-American. Which ends up meaning that nearly all of the stranded survivors in the city were African-American.

I have to wonder to what extent the molasses-quick emergency response was due to the fact that these victims were just a bunch of poor people. Or because they were black. I’m not saying that Bush and Cheney were cackling and rubbing their hands together on Air Force One saying “let’s kill all the Negros!” I’m saying that there seemed to be such a lack of urgency, that no one in government seemed that concerned, that they barely even registered the problem. It’s hard to imagine the president acting this way if thousands of middle-class white folks were stranded and starving. The only potential explanations for all this are incompetence, racism, and inhuman indifference.

I also worry that the “guns first, aid later” response was based at least partially on stereotypes. Did media reports of looting and gunshots make the authorities on the ground think “yeah, those blacks, they’re so scary and violent, it’s too dangerous to go in there with supplies till ‘law and order’ are re-established.” Hell, was there even much shooting and violence, or was that played up because it fits into stereotypes and past storylines (e.g. riots in LA or Watts)?

Some people say that race was not a factor, “Bush doesn’t care about black people because Bush doesn’t care about ANY people.” Fair enough.

And now we see apalling racism in the aftermath. I hear that Houston-ites are worried about all those black looters coming to their town. Neo-nazi scum are using the chaos of New Orleans to spread their claims of racial superiority. And a white, female Seattle activist finds that when she goes downtown with her homemade protest signs calling for the end of the “racist genocide” and for the impeachment of President Bush, about a half dozen white men threatened to physically beat her. No one from any other racial group threatened her with violence. Again, not many comfortable ways to explain that one.

Not surprisingly, the government tried to cover up their abominable efforts with a cornucopia of lies, which the media actually decided to cover for once. CNN posted an article about the “disconnect” between what politicians and FEMA officials were saying vs. what other sources were saying was actually happening. CNN anchor Jack Cafferty denounced the relief effort as a “disgrace”, that he had never seen anything as “bungled and as poorly handled” as FEMA’s response to Katrina. Anderson Cooper interupted a politician guest who’d been thanking other politicians for their hard work on relief to essentially say “shut up. I’m here in New Orleans and just saw a dead woman in the street being eaten by rats. I’m pissed, and the people who live here are furious.”

But my favorite critical media moment was from Fox News. Anchor Shepard Smith is usually an arrogant, smarmy fratboy who forcefully reads the news and tosses in conservative accusations no problem. But in this clip, Smith seems to have been broken. He’s been covering a single bridge in New Orleans, where hundreds or thousands of refugees are gathered, and they have not received food or water or any help for days. He’s being interviewed by fellow smarmy Fox bastard Sean Hannity, who’s trying to get Smith to say “The supply trucks are on the way, everything’s going to be okay.” But Smith can’t. He explains that the folks on the bridge aren’t getting food, no one’s telling them where to go, and he doesn’t know why or even who to ask to find out why. He just seems at a loss, he’s depressed, he doesn’t have any answers. Maybe seeing some real human suffering up close has put a crack in his stony black heart, and I hope he does a little soul searching about the evil he does everyday.

And speaking of black hearts, if this story is true, it’ll make you wonder what exactly circulates blood through Bush’s body. It claims that Bush had a photo op in New Orleans where he stood in front of an outdoor food distribution center, and that as soon as the media left, the center was dismantled. In other words, they packed up their set and went home, and hungry people kept on being hungry.

So things are bad. I don’t even know what to tell you if you want to help. I mean, I dropped some money on Red Cross and apparently the National Guard wouldn’t let them in. So if you donated money to them too, maybe none of our aid is actually getting to people that need it.

In alternative aid methods, the bloggers at Blondesense are raising money and buying supplies for refugees and taking them to shelters in Baton Rouge and Mississippi. Some DC activists and indymedia folks are raising money for supplies that they’ll load up into a rental truck and drive down south to distribute (and provide independent news reporting, I presume). And Food Not Bombs is organizing donation drives and planning to caravan out and start kitchens in Houston and Baton Rouge. And there’s this list of Grassroots/Low-income/People of Color-led
Hurricane Katrina Relief
. These all sound like good projects, but I have no idea if the authorities will try to thwart them in some way.

One final note.

On 9/11, I was working for Rage Against the Machine. After the planes hit, our webmaster put a link on the front page to the Red Cross and urged people to donate money. Our messageboards were soon hit by comments accusing us of ignoring all other catastophes in the world, and only putting up these links now that America was hit.

And they were completely right.

We didn’t put up such pleas for help when other countries faced crisis, and despite the band’s “let’s all fight The Man together” philosophy, this was an example of a distinct focus on just our own country. However, I wasn’t about to say “okay, we’ll take the link down in the name of fairness; we didn’t help the Bangladeshis so we shouldn’t help anybody”. I just had our webguy add a link for the International Red Crescent so that people could donate to help the New Yorkers, or could donate to another foreign site where help was needed.

But that experience reminds me of Katrina. Some of the first descriptions of the destruction in New Orleans said “it looks like the Third World”. You know what else looks like the Third World? The fucking Third World! Millions of people live like this all the time, and we Americans don’t usually do much about it.

It is my sincere hope that after facing this catastrophe, that Americans might start to look a bit beyond our own shores and realize that other people have it just as bad or worse that the new American refugees, and that maybe, maybe they’ll want to help these other people out as well. I’d like to see global cooperation from people all over to try to improve the lives of people all over. We already can see the tremendous power of well-meaning people getting together to help each other in the new Louisiana floodlands, maybe we can get a broader outlook and try to work with other folks struggling to face other rough conditions.

Posted by Jake on September 4, 2005 4:33 pm

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