Friday, August 31, 2007

Katrina Crimes against "People of the Dome"

During this Katrina week, I’d like to share this essay I received from community activist Mitchel Cohen. I have followed his writing for a number of years, finding him always reliable and conscientious.

In this essay, he mentions Les Evenchick and Malik Rahim. You may have heard Malik on Democracy Now!, where he’s been a fixture of Katrina coverage. Amy Goodwin interviewed him a couple of weeks after the storm, and the two passed a body that had been left in the street to rot; the resulting radio moment was seared into my memory. I also personally know both Malik and Les and consider them reliable sources.

An online friend of mine often questions the government. The other day he asked me if the situation was so bad that it’s too late to start shooting the people in charge. I’m a pacifist, but I flippantly replied, “It’s never too late.”

The aftermath of Katrina was an unpardonable crime perpetrated on the people of New Orleans by various people at different governmental and civilian levels. I believe many should face criminal charges for what happened, and since so many people died, perhaps some of those charges could be considered capital crimes. Louisiana does have the death penalty, after all. (I would be in favor of commuting the sentences to life in prison.)

Enough from me. Here’s Mr. Cohen:

People of the Dome

by Mitchel Cohen

"I'm sick to death of hearing things from uptight narrow-minded pigheaded politicians. All I want is the truth. Just give me some truth." - John Lennon.

As Hurricane Katrina ravaged the gulf states, many organizations kicked into high gear to send relief to local groups in Mississippi and Louisiana, with no help from the government or formal relief agencies. Among them was the Malcolm X Grassroots movement, with whom the No Spray Coalition shared an office. Tons of donated supplies poured into the office and were trucked to Jackson, MS, where they were distributed through community-based efforts.

Katrina Victims

I spoke daily with Les Evenchick, a Green who lives in the French Quarter of New Orleans. I was also in touch with New Orleans residents Malik Rahim and Mike Howell; the areas in which they live were dry and they were holding out as long as they could. The story they tell is shocking: U.S. and local government officials ordered the local drinking water turned off and refused to allow water or food relief into New Orleans. Hundreds of people died unnecessarily as a result.

And yet, there was no shortage of water or food being sent -- it was just not allowed into the City! When Green Party activists tried to donate a large amount of water for the people in the SuperDome a few days after the levees broke, armed soldiers pointed rifles at them and prevented them from delivering supplies. Even three Wal-mart trucks loaded with drinking water were denied entry and turned away. No water was allowed into New Orleans. Evenchick says that "this was a brazen attempt to starve people out."

There was no health reason to turn off the drinking water at the time, as the water is drawn into a separate system from the Mississippi River, not the polluted lake, and filtered through self-powered purification plants separate from the main electric grid. If necessary, people could have boiled their water -- strangely, the municipal natural gas used in stoves was still functioning properly as of Thursday night of that first week! I emailed Governor Kathleen Blanco (a Democrat) asking, "Who ordered the turn-off of the drinking water?" I have not received a response from Gov. Blanco.

A commanding officer of a police squad complained that his 120 cops were provided with only 70 small bottles of water. Hospitals were supplied with nothing. Could FEMA, Homeland Security and local officials have forgotten to store bottles of drinking water in the Superdome, Convention Center and hospitals?

Convention Center during Katrina

The only FEMA official on the scene in the early stages, Marty Bahamonde, has testified to Congress that he begged FEMA director Michael Brown for water, food, toilet paper and oxygen, saying that "many will die within hours." Brown's press secretary, Sharon Worthy, responded that the FEMA director needed more time to eat dinner at a Baton Rouge restaurant that evening. "He needs much more that [sic] 20 or 30 minutes," Worthy wrote. "Restaurants are getting busy," she said. "We now have traffic to encounter to go to and from a location of his choise [sic], followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc." Let them eat gumbo.

Green activist and former Black Panther Malik Rahim, who lives in the Algiers section -- which, like the French Quarter and several other areas above sea-level, remained dry -- points out that the government could have and should have provided water and food to residents of New Orleans but did not do so intentionally, to force people to evacuate by starving them out. This is a crime of the gravest sort.

French Quarter resident Mike Howell adds that the capability had been there from the start to drive water and food right up to the convention center, as those roads were clear. "It's how the National Guard drove into the city," he said.

The evidence is overwhelming that the government intentionally did not allow food or water into New Orleans.

These were the people, after all, who had twice voted in huge numbers against the candidacy of George Bush, the only area in the state to have done so. In recent years they also

  • Fought off attempts to privatize the drinking water supply,
  • Battled Shell Oil's attempt to build a Liquified Natural Gas facility, and
  • Tried to prevent the teardown of public housing

These were all battles in which Mayor Ray Nagin sided with the oil companies and millionaire developers. Nagin had contributed funds to George W. Bush's presidential campaign and was a registered Republican until just prior to the Mayoral election in 2002.

Attempts to starve civilians into leaving an area is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. Who gave the order to block water and food from entering New Orleans? Who ordered the drinking water inside the city to be turned off? No one has yet answered those questions.

On Thursday of that first week, volunteers who had rescued over 1,000 people in boats were ordered to stop, under the pretext that it was too dangerous. The volunteers wanted to continue rescue operations. They said there was little risk, that desperate people had been welcoming them with open arms. The military "convinced" the volunteer rescuers at gunpoint to "cease and desist." They did the same to a state senator who had led a flotilla of hundreds of boats and rafts all the way from Mississippi to rescue people.

Who gave the order to block the volunteer rescue teams in New Orleans? No one has yet answered that question.

Officials claimed that people were trying to shoot down the rescue helicopters. In actuality, there were a couple of people shooting into the air to signal helicopters to pick them up. Yet officials repeated the lies about people shooting at helicopters over and over, as justification for shutting down voluntary rescue operations and sending in thousands of fully armed military troops, along with private Blackwater mercenaries fresh from Iraq under orders to "shoot to kill."

(Blackwater, Inc. billed the federal government $950 per man, per day -- at one point raking in more than $240,000 a day. At its peak the company had about 600 contractors deployed from Texas to Mississippi, reports Jeremy Scahill in his pathbreaking book, "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army," published by Nation Books.)

Two U.S. military helicopters spent a few days plucking 110 people from the roofs of their flooded houses. We saw them on T.V. and cheered. When they returned to base they were called into the commander's office. They thought they were going to be given medals. Instead, as reported in the NY Times, their commanding officers reprimanded them and removed them from helicopter duty for "violating orders."

Who gave the order not to rescue people? No one has answered that question.

For more than two weeks, hundreds of volunteer doctors and fire personnel -- including a squad from New York City -- were denied entry to New Orleans. They were dispatched, instead, to provide backdrop for Bush's photo-ops in other areas. The medical personnel were kept twiddling their thumbs as people were dying.

Who gave the order not to allow rescue workers into New Orleans? No one has answered that question.

In an interview with WWL-TV, Mayor Ray Nagin complained vociferously that Louisiana National Guard Blackhawk helicopters were being stopped from dropping sandbags to plug the levees soon after the breech. No repairs were allowed on the levees until long after the poor areas of New Orleans were totally flooded.

Who gave the order not to allow National Guard helicopters to drop sandbags to plug the levees soon after the breech? No one has answered that question.

Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez and Cuba's President Fidel Castro offered millions of dollars and hundreds of doctors to help save lives in New Orleans. They were turned down.

Who gave the order to turn down the aid offered from Venezuela and Cuba? No one has answered that question.

Millions of concerned citizens wanted to send assistance as well. FEMA recommended that they send contributions to "Operation Blessing," a front group for rightwing evangelist Pat Robertson. Robertson had recently televised a speech calling for the assassination of Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez.

Who gave the order to divert tens of millions of dollars in contributions sent to help the people of New Orleans by outraged American citizens, to rightwing Christian zealots? No one has yet answered that question.

The Saudization of New Orleans

Les Evenchick is an independent Green activist who lives in the French Quarter of New Orleans in a 3-story walkup. He points out that people were told to go to the bus depot to evacuate, but the bus station had closed down the night before. Unless you owned a car, Les told me, FEMA and state police would not let you leave.

Hundreds attempted to walk out of New Orleans; they were forced off the road and ordered back to the Coliseum or Superdome, where no water or food was available.

As a consequence the vast majority of the so-called looters were simply grabbing water, food, diapers and medicine. "It's only because of them that old people, sick people, and small children were able to survive," Les says. "The 'anti-looting' hype was just an excuse to militarize the area, place it under martial law and evict the population, mostly Black people, mostly the poor."

On August 30, Yahoo front-page news showed two pictures of people wading in water carrying supplies. The caption under the picture of the Black person read: "A young man walks through chest-deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans." The caption under the picture of a White couple wading through the water pulling supplies reads: "Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store." Got that? Whites "find," Blacks "loot."

MSNBC interviewed dozens of people who had managed to get out during the first few days. Every single one of them was white.

Some tourists trapped in the Monteleone Hotel pooled their funds and paid $25,000 for 10 buses to get them out. The buses were sent (there was no shortage of available buses -- why didn't the government use them?) but the military confiscated all ten of them for its own use. The tourists were not allowed to leave the city and were ordered to the Convention Center.

How simple it would have been for the government to have provided buses before the hurricane hit, and throughout the week. AMTRAK says it offered free rides out of town but that City officials never got back to them to finalize arrangements. Evacuating the 100,000 people trapped in the city should not have been that difficult. Even without AMTRAK or private cars, it would have taken at most 3,000 buses to get them out, fewer than come into Washington D.C. for some of the giant anti-war demonstrations. Even at $2,500 a pop -- highway robbery -- that would only be a total of $7.5 million for transporting out of harm's way all of those who did not have the means to leave.

The people who are poor (primarily Blacks but many poor Whites as well) who were trapped in the city as well as those thousands who were refusing to evacuate, not wanting to leave their pets or their homes and who had neither money nor places to go, were locked in the Superdome and not allowed to leave -- five days of hell. Those who survived the first dome were then -- finally! -- bussed out of the area to another stadium, the AstroDome in Houston. Call them "People of the Dome."

The Grassroots Organizes Itself

Gulf Coast resident Latosha Brown reports that the first group to send emergency supplies was TOPS, The Ordinary Peoples Society, a prison ministry in Dothan Alabama founded and staffed by ex-offenders. They organized food, pooled their money for additional goods and brought the supplies to a second organization of former prisoners in Mobile who distributed them, while they went back to Dothan for more. "That's why we tell everybody now that it was felons who were the first to feed, the first to respond to need, the first to get up and do something. They didn't wait for permission or for a contract. That's real leadership." ("Rescue Came from the Grassroots: The People, Not FEMA, Saved Themselves," by Bruce Dixon, in The Black Commentator.)

Volunteer medics established free clinics with the Common Ground Collective ( in defiance of governmental edicts and machine guns. Common Ground has also mobilized thousands of young people from all over the country to come to New Orleans and help with the rebuilding, while using non-toxic alternative methods of mold removal and prevention in their efforts. Others, working in solidarity with tribal leaders, have created a dedicated relief effort for Native American communities ( Food Not Bombs volunteers have been feeding people all over the region, with no help from the government or the Red Cross (

On the other hand, from day one huge war profiteering corporations such as Halliburton, Bechtel and other private contractors began descending on the region, their pockets stuffed with billions of dollars in government handouts. Currently, thousands of poor homeowners and rental tenants -- including those unable to return to New Orleans just yet, having been evacuated to the far away domes -- are being evicted, says Mike Howell, who is organizing tenants to resist eviction. The phony "reconstruction" of New Orleans begins with the land grab, and with Mayor Nagin proposing gambling casinos, which he says would "rescue" the city, while destroying the remaining wetlands (Wetlands are nature's way of protecting large areas from floods; their destruction prior to Katrina contributed to the devastation of New Orleans and the Mississipi Delta.) and spraying massive amounts of cancer-causing pesticides over the entire flooded areas.

Many people are resisting this blatant confiscation of their lands and homes. As the resistance grows, New Orleans may soon become known as the first battle of the new American revolution.

Mitchel Cohen is co-editor of "G", the newspaper of the NY State Greens, and the coordinator of the No Spray Coalition ( Write to Mitchel directly at If you'd like to donate funds and be sure the money is going to a good purpose, donate to

ROCK FIGHT! 08/31/07 KSCL 6 to 8


Hello again, inner space pioneers!

Friday starts a long Labor Day weekend. Kick it off right with ROCK FIGHT! tonight from 6 to 8 on KSCL 91.3 FM!

M.I.A. has a fantastic new album out called “Kala.” It’s even better than her first, “Arular.” Diplo still does some of the production, but Timbaland also shares that role. The result is awesome, and we’ll hear three (!) tracks from it.

There’s also two tracks from Interpol’s latest, “Our Love To Admire.” They’re my two current favorites, “Pioneer To The Falls” and “The Scale.”

Plenty of other great jams, too. Check it:

Song                                Artist
Wicked Gil                          Band Of Horses
Hotwax                              Beck
Young Men Dead                      The Black Angels
Harmony In My Head                  Buzzcocks
Scream Team                         Deerhoof
Hit It And Quit It                  Funkadelic
We Need More Power                  Geza X
Standing By The Sea                 Husker Du
Pioneer To The Falls                Interpol
The Scale                           Interpol
North American Scum                 LCD Soundsystem
Birdflu                             M.I.A.
Boyz                                M.I.A.
Paper Planes                        M.I.A.
Out Of The Tunnel                   MX 80
Public Image                        Public Image Ltd.
The Tourist                         Radiohead
Gone West                           Rain Parade
T Bone                              The Rakes
I Want To Be Sedated                Shonen Knife
Wild Life                           Shonen Knife
Hallowed Be Thy Name                Sonic Youth
Tips For Teens                      Sparks
Pulled Up                           Talking Heads
Dirtywhirl                          Tv On The Radio
I Can't Stand It                    The Velvet Underground
No Guilt                            The Waitresses
The Rat                             The Walkmen
White Girl                          X

Thursday, August 23, 2007

ROCK FIGHT! 08/24/07 KSCL 6 to 8


Hello again, scholastic prairie schooners!

Friday at freakin’ last. Tune in ROCK FIGHT! on KSCL 91.3 fm from 6 to 8 this evening!

A tool once asked about me, “Does he play anything that anybody who knows most everything about music, ever heard of??”

Err, yeah!

Sometimes I feel guilty about playing something someone has heard of, but not this week. It’s all hand-picked, fresh from the Zen garden. Check it:

Song                                        Artist
Rock Lobster                                The B-52's
Because                                     The Bird And The Bee
Luno                                        Bloc Party
Spring And By Summer Fall                   Blonde Redhead
Everybody's Happy Nowadays                  Buzzcocks
Shake Break Bounce                          The Chemical Brothers
Watch                                       Controller.Controller
Drive My Car                                Cristina
Sex Me Up                                   Datarock
Everything's Goin' On                       Dead Meadow
Go Home, Get Down                           Death From Above 1979
Punch Buggy Valves                          Deerhoof
Wiggly World                                Devo
Almost Forgot Myself                        Doves
Stars Are Stars                             Echo & The Bunnymen
Epitaph For A Head                          The Fuzztones
Re-Hash                                     Gorillaz
Get Down                                    Groove Armada
Homewrecker                                 Hellogoodbye
PDA                                         Interpol
Rio Seco                                    Juana Molina
Texas                                       Machine And The Synergetic Nuts
Lost                                        Meat Puppets
The Stone Age                               OMD
Astronomy Domine                            Pink Floyd
Susan's Strange                             The Psychedelic Furs
Where I End And You Begin                   Radiohead
Strasbourg                                  The Rakes
Nothing Means Nothing Anymore               River City Tanlines
X-French Tee Shirt                          Shudder To Think
Who Is It?                                  Talking Heads
Two Days Short Tomorrow                     Two Gallants
36-24-36                                    Violent Femmes
Don't Lose Your Temper                      XTC
A Day                                       Xymox

Friday, August 17, 2007

ROCK FIGHT! 08/17/07 & Roy Gerritsen


Hi again!

I sheepishly apologize for not blogging more. The heat has really sapped my motivation.

It’s a good show tonight. Tune in to KSCL 91.3 FM from 6 to 8. Check it:

Song                                                    Artist
Double Dare                                             Bauhaus
Black Grease                                            The Black Angels
Shooting                                                Chicks On Speed
Ivo                                                     Cocteau Twins
Casper                                                  Daniel Johnston
Fa-Fa-Fa                                                Datarock
Spirit Ditties Of No Tone                               Deerhoof
Saran Wrap                                              Dengue Fever
Jocko Homo                                              Devo
Then She Remembers                                      Dream Syndicate
Karma Police                                            Easystar All Stars
Lotion                                                  Greenskeepers
Gimme Some Skin                                         Iggy & The Stooges
Leave Me Alone                                          Johnny Thunders
Bird Song                                               Lene Lovich
Neon Lights                                             Luna
Shield Your Eyes, A Beast In The Well Of Your Hand      Melt-Banana
Let's Impeach The President                             Neil Young
Holland, 1945                                           Neutral Milk Hotel
Boy Void                                                Weirdo Rippers
Heaven                                                  The Rapture
Drag U Down 2 My Level                                  River City Tanlines
Out Of The Blue                                         Roxy Music
The Road Leads Where It's Led                           Secret Machines
Behind The Wall Of Sleep                                The Smithereens
Big Bottom                                              Spinal Tap
Suspect Device                                          Stiff Little Fingers
Artists Only                                            Talking Heads
Bunkers                                                 The Vapors
Sex Beat                                                Gun Club
Mexican Radio                                           Wall Of Voodoo
Don't Lose Your Temper                                  XTC

Roy Gerritsen

Roy Gerritsen

Also, here’s a Roy Gerritsen update. At his last court appearance, Gerritsen’s attorney received the chat transcripts. If the case goes to trial, those transcripts will be public record. The D.A. is trying for a sentence of two years hard labor. Gerritsen’s next appearance concerns jury selection on Sept. 4.

Roy, the former GM of Red River Radio, was arrested last October in a sting operation accusing him of soliciting sex from a juvenile over the Internet. He faces charges of computer-aided solicitation of a minor and attempted carnal knowledge of a juvenile. Bossier City police said Gerritsen arranged to meet who he thought was a 14-year-old girl for sex but who was actually a police officer posing as the girl. He was arrested when he arrived at a pre-determined location in Bossier City.

Gerritsen’s docket numbers are C149466, attempted carnal knowledge of a juvenile, and C149467, computer aided solicitation of a minor.