In Solidarity with those protesting in NOLA

MSNBC: Demolition of New Orleans housing approved — Protests precede City Council vote on racially charged controversy

New Orleans IMC: Police Attack Protesters With Mace, Tazers to Keep Them Out of City Hall

First locked out of their homes for more than 2 years, and now locked out of the very City Council meeting in which the city’s politicians are set to vote for tearing down their homes, residents and activist today were attacked by police to keep them from entering the City Council chambers.

I wish I could be there in NOLA with my brothers and sisters from the National Lawyers Guild who are fighting back against this injustice.

As for the violence inflicted by the NOLA police, I understand that their defenders will say that it was necessary to preserve order. However I’m reminded by a line from the movie Cool Hand Luke, “Saying that it’s your job doesn’t make it right.” I don’t support violence by protesters but I do support disruption by protesters, and I think the cops shouldn’t be striking back with unnecessary force.

What is interesting to me is how the AP described the violence. They make it sound like the protesters were inflicting violence on the police, and yet if you read the story closely the only violence used by the protesters was that they tried to push through a gate. That’s it. Yet the police used pepper spray and tazers. That is not a proportionate use of violence and is indefensible in my opinion. Pepper spray and tazers are one step away from lethal force and shouldn’t be used for something as mild as this.

Anyway though, my heart and prayers are with those who are continuing the struggle for justice in NOLA.

Back from NOLA


I got in this afternoon from my trip to New Orleans, which turned out to be very enjoyable.

I’ll be posting pictures and more stuff later on, but I’ll tell a few highlights now…

  • The NACBA convention was very good. I learned a lot, both about the mechanics of bankruptcy law practice in the post-BARF (Bankruptcy Abuse Reform Fiasco) era, as well as the work of NACBA to challenge the most onerous of BARF’s provisions through litigation.
  • One of the coolest parts of the trip was being in NOLA during the Mayoral campaign. In fact (I’ll post pictures later), my Dad and I got to see Mayor Ray Nagin when his entourage was driving through the French Quarter and we later went to his victory party (which we luckily happened in our hotel), where I heard possibly one of the best political speches of my life. I know Nagin is controversial and has shot off his mouth too often, but I do like the guy and am very glad that he won.
  • Portland, OR may get all of the attention (which it certainly deserves), but I almost think that New Orleans has the potential of being the #1 bicycling city in the US. There are few bike lanes (which are over-rated anyway… read Forrester’s Effective Cycling on this point), but much of the old-part of the city (I mostly biked in the French Quarter and Mahiqny) is as flat as a pancake, with narrow roads and slow traffic (in most case the bikes can go faster than the cars actually). But more than that, there is a huge bike culture there. Bikes were everywhere, old clunkers, lots of cruisers, re-habbed department store Mountain bikes (most purchased by locals on the cheap from a local organization that is getting bikes into the hands of folks who need transportation), and especially lots of bikes with cargo capabilities. — And my favorite part (what bliss) was all of the cute alternative-type girls on bicycles. I swear, I fell in love several times with dark-haired women who were riding old clunkers with a milk crate basket for cargo. There is nothing sexier than a bicycling woman.
  • Bourbon street reminded me a lot of Sixth street in Austin, except you could buy drinks to go (and carry them around as you walked on the street) and there was less live music. It also reminded me of Austin in that it was infested with way too many frat/sorority whitebread types.
  • But, the one exception to the overrated decadence of Bourbon Street was an awesome brass band that played on most nights at the corner of Canal & Bourbon. The guys in the band were all young Black men. There were I think 3 trumpets, 2 trumbones, a tuba (oh yeah!), a baritone, a sax (don’t remember if it was an alto or a tenor), a snare drum, and a bass drum with a cymbol on top. And boy were they good, playing with such fervor and energy which was punctuated by a really solid bass drum foundation.
  • The best part of the French Quarter was along Decatur Street — with Crescent City Brewhouse, Cafe du Monde (home of the famous chicory&coffee brew & their incredible beignets… btw, K. if you are reading this — thanks for introducing me to beignets back in Austin), the French Market area, the Cathedral, etc. This area definitely was far more enjoyable to hang out in that Bourbon Street (well actually, I liked buying a beer on Bourbon and then riding my bike over to Decatur to then hang out)
  • Speaking of beer, most of the crap served on Bourbon was macros. However, Abita was available quite a bit (mostly their Amber, but also occassionally the nicely roasted Turbodog), and Crescent City had a good selection of German-styled beers (my favorites were the Red Stallion and the Black Forest)
  • As for the state of the city post-Katrina, things are in pretty good shape in the old parts of town that were spared of the worst flooding, but the rest of the town is still in pretty bad shape. Like all fiascos, there are few easy answers and no single scape-goat, but I will say that from what I saw NOLA is screwed if another hurricaine hits and the federal government really doesn’t care. Given the massive resources of the federal government (and especially how much is being wasted in the lost-war in Iraq), it is inexcusable that the levees are still in such bad shape and that real flood gates haven’t been built yet where they are most needed.

    The locals are pretty antagonistic towards the government (and I don’t blame them). Some of the t-shirts said…

    FEMA — The new 4-letter F Word

    FEMA Evacuation plan — Run m—–f—-, run

    Make Levees not war (I bought this shirt)

    But despite this antagonism towards the government, I didn’t really sense much racial tension to speak of. Folks there seemed to understand that everyone was suffering from the governmental ineptitude and that race wasn’t really the primary issue (probably class is a bigger deal).

    Of a more light-hearted statement about governmental leaders, one shirt I saw had Mayor Ray Nagin’s face super-imposed on the body of Willy Wonka (of Chocolate Factory fame), with the words “Willy Nagin and the Chocolate City — Semi-sweet and a little nutty”

    Overall, I loved New Orleans and relish the thought of going back soon (maybe to do some pro-bono work). NOLA has plenty of problems, but I think they have enough pluck and passion to make it (particularly if their glorious bicycle culture continues to flourish… they may end up being better off than the rest of us when gas prices are $10/gallon)

  • In honor of George Bush’s coming visit to Oklahoma

  (reprinted from NewsDay): Our Modern-Day ‘Grapes of Wrath’ – by Les Payne

    . . . President George W. Bush was introduced to the film “The Grapes of Wrath” as a student at the Harvard Business School, where he got admitted on his family’s name. “I wanted to give the class a visual reference for poverty and a sense of historical empathy,” macroeconomics professor Yoshi Tsurumi told a researcher for Kitty Kelley’s book, “The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty.”

    “George Bush came up to me and said, ‘Why are you going to show us that commie movie?'” Tsurumi recalled. “I laughed because I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t. After we viewed the film, I called on him to discuss the Depression and how he thought it affected people. [Bush] said, ‘Look, people are poor because they are lazy.’ A number of students pounced on him and demanded that he support his statement with facts and statistics. He quickly backed down because he could not sustain his broadside.”

    The incident and a semester of exposure burned into Tsurumi’s memory a disturbing view of the future president. “His strong prejudices soon set him apart…. Most business students are conservative, but they are not inhumane or unprincipled. George Bush came across as totally lacking compassion, with no sense of history, completely devoid of social responsibility and unconcerned with the welfare of others.”

    This is why I oppose ever letting rich people into public office. Bush is far from unique in having such ignorant and prejudiced views, but he is the president and supposedly represents us all, so that is why I’m highlighting this.

    Thanks to for link.

    Protests planned in Gretna, Louisiana

    I go this message forwarded on the email discussion list for the Green Party of the United States National Committee and thought it was worth sharing here (one thing I really dig about this statement is this part – “NEVER AGAIN WILL PROPERTY RIGHTS TRUMP PEOPLE’S RIGHTS!” as this is the motto of the NLG and is my own personal philosophy, that property rights should never be used as a justification for oppression)

    Subject: [usgp-dx] March on Gretna, La., Nov. 7 — Blacks evacuees were barred from Gretna (fwd from the Hip Hop Caucus)


    First and foremost, it is with great sadness and respect that the Hip Hop Caucus extends deepest
    condolences to Mrs. Rosa Parks’ family and friends. We hope it is a comfort to them that the
    entire country mourns their loss and are praying for them at this sad time.

    The Hip Hop community will never forget that Mrs. Parks sat down so others could stand up.

    So with this in mind we ask everyone to join us for the MARCH ON GRETNA in Louisiana on Monday, November 7, 2005!


    Come March with Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. (Hip Hop Caucus), Kim Gandy (NOW), Van Jones (Ella Baker Center for Human Rights), Ron Daniels (Center for Constitutional Rights/Institute for the Black 21st Century), Curtis Muhammad (Community Labor United), Rev. Tony Lee (Ebenezer AME Church), Cousin Jeff Johnson (BET/People for the American Way), College Students, Community Activists, led by People of New Orleans displaced by Hurricane Katrina; join the People’s Committee for Relief & Oversight, NOW, UP for Democracy, & the Hip Hop
    Caucus, as we March on Gretna!!!!!!

    Date: Monday, November 7, 2005

    Time: Rally starts at 10:00 a.m.

    Location: Convention Center, 900 Convention Boulevard, New Orleans

    March over Crescent City Connection Bridge to Gretna’s Oakridge Mall

    PRESS CONFERENCE for this event will be held in Washington, D.C. on November 2 with
    representatives of sponsoring organizations (details forthcoming)

    We will march over the Crescent City Connection Bridge to Gretna’s Oakridge Mall where buses were to transport evacuees to safety – a destination people from New Orleans never reached.

    In the aftermath of Katrina, New Orleans authorities directed people to evacuate the city by crossing the Crescent City Connection Bridge which spans the Mississippi River linking New Orleans to the west bank city of Gretna.

    However, if you were black or in the company of blacks, you were blocked from evacuating New
    Orleans by armed Gretna police with guard dogs. Under orders from Gretna Police Chief Arthur S. Lawson to seal off the bridge and deny safe passage to evacuees, Gretna police officers fired
    shots in the direction of the crowds and held others at gunpoint. It should be noted that the
    people of Gretna had been evacuated, the Gretna officials were concerned about the protecting the property of their suburban community.

    On Monday, November 7, 2005, the Hip Hop and progressive community will cross that bridge!

    We march with our fellow citizens displaced by Katrina to reclaim the right to cross that bridge
    to Gretna, and in crossing that bridge in the name of the rights to safety and self-determination, to racial and economic justice – we March in support of the People’s control of the reconstruction process in the Gulf Coast. And we will keep marching until we reclaim this democracy nationwide in the elections on November 7, 2006! NEVER AGAIN WILL PROPERTY RIGHTS TRUMP PEOPLE’S RIGHTS!


    The Hip Hop Caucus and UP for Democracy will also be organizing a work brigade on Sunday, November 6, 205 to assist New Orleans families in the “recovering and retrieving” – assisting in the clean-up efforts now underway.

    This march is endorsed by Black Leadership Forum, Center for Social Justice, Cities for
    Progress/Institute for Policy Studies, Clergy & Laity Concerned About Iraq, Code Pink,, Common Ground, Community Labor United, Ella Baker Center for Civil Rights, Global Crisis Coalition, Global Exchange, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Healthcare
    NOW!, Hip Hop Caucus, Independent Progressive Politics Network, League of Pissed Off Voters,
    National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, New Orleans Network, National Organization for Women, People’s Alliance for Community Empowerment, People’s Hurricane Relief & Reconstruction Oversight Committee People’s Institute for Survival & Beyond, Progressive Democrats of America, Project South, Rainbow Push, National Progressive Youth & Student Organization, Quality Education as a Human Right, Rebuild Green, Rebuilding Louisiana Coalition (NOLA), Rebuild Hope NOW, Saving Our Neighborhoods, Southwest Workers’ Union, TransAfrica Forum, United for Peace & Justice,
    United Houma Nation of Louisiana, Urban Heart.

    For more information: or call Charles
    Young at (202) 545-0113 or Diane Shamis (845) 661-3754.

    Also Police Chief Arthur S. Lawson, Jr. is still in power as police chief there. I think the HipHop caucus should demand that he resign from office as well. (interestingly there is no email address contact for Chief Lawson…)

    In Memory – Rosa Parks (1913-2005)


    MSNBC: Rosa Parks, matriarch of civil rights, dies at 92 — Catalyst of U.S. drive for racial equality lived in Detroit

    CNN: Parks remembered for her courage, humility — Civil rights pioneer dead at 92

    . . . At the time of her arrest, Parks was 42 and on her way home from work as a seamstress.

    Years later, Parks said “When I got on the bus that evening I wasn’t thinking about causing a revolution or anything of the kind. …

    “But when that white driver stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.” . . .

    NYT: Rosa Parks, 92, Founding Symbol of Civil Rights Movement, Dies

    Shy and soft-spoken, Mrs. Parks often appeared uncomfortable with the near-beatification bestowed upon her by blacks, who revered her as a symbol of their quest for dignity and equality. She would say that she hoped only to inspire others, especially young people, “to be dedicated enough to make useful lives for themselves and to help others.”

    She also expressed fear that since the birthday of Dr. King became a national holiday, his image was being watered down and he was being depicted as merely a “dreamer.”

    “As I remember him, he was more than a dreamer,” Mrs. Parks said. “He was an activist who believed in acting as well as speaking out against oppression.”

    Wikipedia: Rosa Parks

    Don’t give money to the Red Cross (but the Salvation Army is ok)

  New Orleans to D.C. and back again

    . . . Everywhere in D.C. we saw places collecting money for the Red Cross and so took it upon ourselves to break it to all these well intentioned individuals that sending the Red Cross money is as good as putting a match to it. Just in case you haven’t caught this bit of info yet, here is what the Red Cross is doing in New Orleans: feeding the National Guard and the police and site seeing. We have not seen one Red Cross person doing one thing for any citizen of New Orleans. They do not bring us food or water (the Salvation Army has done this, tho, and we give them many kudos for being the ONLY official disaster relief doing ANYTHING in the city of New Orleans) or medical care or anything. I have only seen two Red Cross vehicles in New Orleans – one perusing our Toxic Art exhibit outside our house (Jeffrey asked them where they’d been all this time and then told them in no uncertain terms to get lost) and one by the levy break in the lower 9th ward taking pictures. That’s it. So please, people, spread the word – DO NOT give the Red Cross your money if you really want to help. They already have millions, and I’m sure that is plenty enough to feed the National Guard.

    On top of the lack of services provided by the Red Cross, I’ll tell you about Jeffrey’s latest experience with the Red Cross shelter we were staying outside of in Covington (the one we were buying toiletries and over the counter medications for the residents as the Red Cross does not provide such things) as registered ‘guests.’ We left the shelter to do relief work with the Vets for Peace while waiting to get back into the city. Before we left, we’d signed up for our Red Cross debit cards, the little amount of money they give you to get by on. These cards took over a week to arrive. Jeffrey went back to the shelter to get our card and check on Daniel who was still there and look for our two missing cats that escaped out of the tent and into the woods. Upon driving up to the shelter, he was stopped by a sheriff who informed him that he was not welcome on the property. Apparently someone forgot to inform us when we left that once you leave the shelter you can not return, and that if you set foot on the property you will be arrested. That’s the kind of thanks you get for leaving to help take care of others. And a very nice way to keep people victims – we’d been trying to help some of the shelter residents get back home – they have FEMA checks to go pick up, but no gas money to go get the checks so they can cash them and buy gas to get home. But they aren’t allowed to leave the shelter. It’s a disgusting and abhorent Catch-22 situation designed to keep people victims and prevent them from helping themselves or others.

    I have thought for some time that the Red Cross is incompetent and badly managed, but this story confirms it. But while I’m at it, let me share another story about how the Red Cross operates….

    Back in I think 1999 there was a huge tornado that hit in Newcastle, OK (my hometown) as well as in Bridge Creek & Moore. The damage was pretty devastating with many folks having their homes completely flattened. So in response to this my parent’s church did a massive fundraising initiative with other churches of their religious tradition from all over the nation, and used the funds to buy appliances and other necessities for those who lost everything and were rebuilding.

    Well after all was said and done there was some funds left, so the plan was to send the funds on to a disaster relief orgnanization that worked in that religious tradition (I forgot its name) but about that time the local Red Cross chapter showed up to see if the church would give the money to them instead. (I’m not making this up)

    So as far as I’m concerned, don’t give money to the Red Cross. The Salvation Army seems to be doing a much better job in NOLA according to those on the scene and I think their opperation has much lower overhead than the Red Cross.

    I’m also pretty partial to Mennonite Disaster Services, but their focus is more on long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts, an area that is often neglected by other disaster relief organizations… for instance, the last issue I received of the MDS newsletter is telling of how the organization is currently working on rebuilding and repairs homes damaged in the 2004 Florida hurricaines.

    I did feel sorry for the dude


    Yahoo/AP: Former FEMA Director Blames Others

    I really was feeling sorry for ex-FEMA Director Brown, but I gotta say now that those feelings have passed after this. I know that he wants to make sure that the congressional hearing understands that it was not only the federal response that failed NOLA, but to put the blame solely at the feet of the local and state authorities is appalling and dead wrong.

    Abita release Restoration Ale to raise funds for Katrina relief Fleur-de-lis restoration ale to be out soon -a wonderful gesture from this New Orleans area brewery (they were luckily on the otherside of Lake Pontchetrain, so they were able to start brewing again as soon as power was restored in their area), that is donating $1 from every 6-pack of restoration ale to the relief efforts.

    (I know this is pretty small compared to all of the folks who have suffered so much, but I’m glad that Abita is still is business. Their Turbodog is my favorite dark beer of late. It truly is the elixr of the gods.)