Wednesday, September 14, 2005

New YDS Organizer

Democratic Socialists of America and it youth section, Young Democratic
Socialists are pleased to announce the appointment of Elizabeth
Rothschild as the new National Youth Organizer. She began working right
after Labor Day. We also wish to publicly acknowledge the dedicated
service of Lucas Shapiro for the last two years, who is remaining active
in a volunteer capacity and assisting in the transition. Here is an
excerpt from her first message to YDS'ers:

"I can't wait to begin working with all of you -- now let me tell you a
little bit about my background in politics:

The last two summers I have spent teaching in a program called Freedom
Schools in NYC, which is run by the Children's Defense Fund and modeled
after the Freedom Schools from the Civil Rights Movement Freedom Summer
of 1964. The program integrates reading, conflict resolution and social
action in an activity-based curriculum that promotes social, cultural,
and historical awareness. Working with the Freedom Schools has helped
me develop ways to connect large macro-level ideologies informed by my
socialist vision, to a micro-level (classroom) experience. But the
Freedom Schools were more than a classroom experience, they were about
building a movement - linking schools across the nation together,
creating an alternative educational institution, and engaging in
political struggles for progressive change (we participated in voter
registration in the community last year, protested at City Hall against
Bush's tax cuts, and worked with an ex-felon rehabilitation program
learning about the cradle-to-prison pipeline).

I have also worked with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and
did extensive Affirmative Action organizing around the Michigan case
several years ago. I recently graduated from the University of Virginia
where I majored in African American Studies and Sociology with a minor
in Politics and was involved in anti-racist organizing through both
leadership in groups such as the NAACP and Sustained Dialogue. I worked
as a liaison between many different groups and coalitions on campus as
we tried to bring structural changes to the rather minority-unfriendly

I believe deeply in the importance of political education,
self-criticism and constant re-evaluation to the movement for social
justice. There is a lot of work to be done to build a stronger Left in
this country, especially towards connecting anti-racist, feminist,
labor, queer rights, environmental, community and electoral activism in
a much more meaningful and effective way. I'm definitely looking
forward to working with many of you, traveling to campuses and
communities around the country, and working to strengthen YDS and the
democratic socialist movement. Onward!"

Elizabeth Rothschild, the new YDS National Organizer, can be reached at: or at 212-727-8610 ext. 24


With the beginning of the new semester YDS is launching a campaign to
expand and increase its presence on campuses. DSA'ers (and others),
particularly those who are campus based, can help this campaign in a
number of concrete ways.

1. Keep yourself informed about YDS and its activities by signing up
for their regular email blasts (sent every 1-2 weeks) which contain
excellent articles written by DSA and YDS members, action items, and
lots of information YDS' projects and political priorities. For
archives of the YDS email blasts and instructions on how to join the
list, visit:

2. Refer student activists to YDS. Have them check out the YDS
website, (, hand out YDS literature materials to them
(, and put them in touch with the YDS
National Organizer (see below).

3. Sign up as a campus contact. If you are on campus and want to
assist in developing a new chapter, mentoring an existing one, or just
to act as information resource for interested students, we need to know.

4. Organize a visit from a YDS organizer to your school or community.
You can help arrange for someone from YDS to come speak at a teach-in,
to conduct an activist training, to organize a debate, or to meet with
students interested in working with YDS.

We all believe that building a new generation of smart and effective
activists is every socialist's responsibility. To act on any of these
important items simply send an email to:

Visit our Web Site: WWW.DSAUSA.ORG

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Mexican Army aids victims of katrina

Mexico Army Brings Aid to Katrina Victims

Filed at 9:54 a.m. ET

LAREDO, Texas (AP) -- A Mexican army convoy began crossing into the United States on Thursday to bring aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Carrying water treatment plants and mobile kitchens that can feed 7,000 people daily, the convoy bound for San Antonio is the first Mexican military unit to operate on U.S. soil since 1846.

The first green tractor-trailers, with Mexican flags attached to the tops of their cabs, crossed the international bridge at Laredo at about 8:15 a.m. The rest of the 45-vehicle convoy was in a staging area on the U.S. side in about 15 minutes.

The convoy will be escorted by the U.S. Army and the Texas Department of Public Safety. It was scheduled to leave after the leader of the convoy, Gen. Francisco Ortiz Valadez, greeted the head of the U.S. Army unit in charge of the escort, Brig. Gen. F. Joseph Prasek.

Military engineers, doctors and nurses are among the 200 people headed to San Antonio.

The Mexican government was already planning another 12-vehicle aid convoy for this week. It has sent a Mexican navy ship toward the Mississippi coast with rescue vehicles and helicopters.

Mexico has sent disaster relief aid missions to other Latin American nations, but not to the United States.

In 1846, Mexican troops briefly advanced just north of the Rio Grande in Texas, which had then recently joined the United States. Mexico, however, did not then recognize the Rio Grande as the U.S. border.

The two countries quickly became mired in the Mexican-American War, which led to the loss of half of Mexico's territory in 1848.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Class and race in New Orleans

from The New York Times

September 4, 2005
What Happens to a Race Deferred

THE white people got out. Most of them, anyway. If television and newspaper
images can be deemed a statistical sample, it was mostly black people who were
left behind. Poor black people, growing more hungry, sick and frightened by the
hour as faraway officials counseled patience and warned that rescues take time.

What a shocked world saw exposed in New Orleans last week wasn't just a broken
levee. It was a cleavage of race and class, at once familiar and startlingly
new, laid bare in a setting where they suddenly amounted to matters of life and
death. Hydrology joined sociology throughout the story line, from the settling
of the flood-prone city, where well-to-do white people lived on the high
ground, to its frantic abandonment.

The pictures of the suffering vied with reports of marauding, of gunshots fired
at rescue vehicles and armed bands taking over the streets. The city of quaint
eccentricity - of King Cakes, Mardi Gras beads and nice neighbors named Tookie
- had taken a Conradian turn.

In the middle of the delayed rescue, the New Orleans mayor, C.Ray Nagin, a local
boy made good from a poor, black ward, burst into tears of frustration as he
denounced slow moving federal officials and called for martial law.

Even people who had spent a lifetime studying race and class found themselves

"This is a pretty graphic illustration of who gets left behind in this society -
in a literal way," said Christopher Jencks, a sociologist glued to the televised
images from his office at Harvard. Surprised to have found himself surprised,
Mr. Jencks took to thinking out loud. "Maybe it's just an in-the-face version
of something I already knew," he said. "All the people who don't get out, or
don't have the resources, or don't believe the warning are African-American."

"It's not that it's at odds with the way I see American society," Mr. Jencks
said. "But it's at odds with the way I want to see American society."

Last week it was how others saw American society, too, in images beamed across
the globe. Were it not for the distinctive outlines of the Superdome, the
pictures of hovering rescue helicopters might have carried a Somalian dateline.
The Sri Lankan ambassador offered to help raise foreign aid.

Anyone who knew New Orleans knew that danger lurked behind the festive front.
Let the good times roll, the tourists on Bourbon Street were told. Yet in every
season, someone who rolled a few blocks in the wrong direction wound up in the
city morgue.

Unusually poor ( 27.4 percent below the poverty line in 2000),
disproportionately black (over two-thirds), the Big Easy is also
disproportionately murderous - with a rate that was for years among the
country's highest.

Once one of the most mixed societies, in recent decades, the city has become
unusually segregated, and the white middle class is all but gone, moved north
across Lake Pontchartrain or west to Jefferson Parish - home of David Duke, the
one-time Klansman who ran for governor in 1991 and won more than half of the
state's white vote.

Shortly after I arrived in town two decades ago as a fledgling reporter, I was
dispatched to cover a cheerleading tryout, and I asked a grinning, half-drunk
accountant where he was from, city or suburb. "White people don't live in New
Orleans," he answered with a where-have-you-been disdain.

For those who loved it, its glories as well as its flaws, last week brought only
heartbreak. So much of New Orleans, from its music and its food to its
architecture, had shown a rainbow society at its best, even as everyone knew it
was more complicated than that.

"New Orleans, first of all, is both in reality and in rhetoric an
extraordinarily successful multicultural society," said Philip Carter, a
developer and retired journalist whose roots in the city extend back more at
least four generations. "But is also a multicultural society riven by race and
class, and all this has been exposed by these stormy days. The people of our
community are pitted against each other across the barricades of race and class
that six months from now may be last remaining levees in New Orleans."

No one was immune, of course. With 80 percent of the city under water, tragedy
swallowed the privilege and poor, and traveled spread across racial lines.

But the divides in the city were evident in things as simple as access to a car.
The 35 percent of black households that didn't have one, compared with just 15
percent among whites.

"The evacuation plan was really based on people driving out," said Craig E.
Colten, a geologist at Louisiana State University and an expert on the city's
vulnerable topography. "They didn't have buses. They didn't have trains."

As if to punctuate the divide, the water especially devastated the Ninth Ward,
among city's poorest and lowest lying.

"Out West, there is a saying that water flows to money," Mr. Colten said. "But
in New Orleans, water flows away from money. Those with resources who control
where the drainage goes have always chosen to live on the high ground. So the
people in the low areas were hardest hit."

Outrage grew as the week wore on, among black politicians who saw the tragedy as
a reflection of a broader neglect of American cities, and in the blogosphere.

"The real reason no one is helping is because of the color of these people!"
wrote "myfan88" on the Flickr blog. "This is Hotel Rwanda all over again."

"Is this what the pioneers of the civil rights movement fought to achieve, a
society where many black people are as trapped and isolated by their poverty as
they were by legal segregation laws?" wrote Mark Naison, director of the urban
studies program at Fordham, on another blog.

One question that could not be answered last week was whether, put to a similar
test, other cities would fracture along the same lines.

AT one level, everything about New Orleans appears sui generis, not least its
location below sea level. Many New Orleanians don't just accept the jokes about
living in a Banana Republic. They spread them.

But in a quieter catastrophe, the 1995 heat wave that killed hundreds of
Chicagoans, blacks in comparable age groups as whites died at higher rates - in
part because they tended to live in greater social isolation, in depopulated
parts of town. As in New Orleans, space intertwined with race.

And the violence? Similarly shocking scenes had erupted in Los Angeles in 1992,
after the acquittal of white police officers charged with beating a black man,
Rodney King. Newark, Detroit, Washington -all burned in the race riots of the
1960's. It was for residents of any major city, watching the mayhem, to feel
certain their community would be immune.

With months still to go just to pump out the water that covers the city, no one
can be sure how the social fault lines will rearrange. But with white flight a
defining element of New Orleans in the recent past, there was already the fear
in the air this week that the breached levee would leave a separated society
further apart.

``Maybe we can build the levees back," said Mr. Carter. ``But that sense of
extreme division by class and race is going to long survive the physical
reconstruction of New Orleans."

Open military bases to refugees

"They've Got to Open the Base"
By Stephen Elliott

Saturday 03 September 2005

Louisiana black leaders, along with Maxine Waters and Jesse Jackson, want to take Katrina victims to a shuttered Air Force base instead of shelters. And I'm going with them.

People walk near a helicopter after being rescued in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans Sept. 2.
(Photo: Unknown)
Baton Rouge, LA - I got on a bus with California Rep. Maxine Waters Saturday afternoon, not sure where we were going, just knowing we were headed to New Orleans to pick up Hurricane Katrina victims. Even as television news is showing pictures of people being rescued by military helicopters and chartered buses, local and national black leaders are seething at the mismanaged evacuation, as well as the haphazard way even the rescued people are being handled. So they've come up with their own plan: to load the remaining residents on buses they've chartered and bring them to England Air Force Base, a shuttered military installation in Alexandria, La.

"My soul wouldn't let me sit and watch this on TV," says Waters, who represents South Central Los Angeles. "I'm just shocked that people have been living for five days, and dying, on the streets of this country. So I came down here, and my friend Cleo Fields came up with this wonderful possibility."

That wonderful possibility, hatched by state Sen. Cleo Fields and the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, is to house the displaced residents at the Air Force base instead of shelters and sports stadiums like the Astrodome, many of which are full anyway. They haven't gotten permission to do that, but that's not stopping them. The black leaders say racism is behind both the late response to the emergency and the dispersal of rescued residents far away from New Orleans.

This morning I saw City Council President Oliver Thomas near tears at the Federal Emergency Management Agency office. He'd just heard the story of a bus of 200 refugees that had been turned away the night before, because all of the city's shelters were full. "So what if the shelters are full?" Thomas asked. "What do you mean full?"

Thomas complained that many people had been turned against New Orleans refugees because of media emphasizing stories of looting and violence, and he asked why they couldn't be housed closer to home. "Texas is being neighborly, while Louisiana is rejecting people. Why do we have to send our people to Texas?"

"The people in Jefferson Parish," Thomas continued, referring to a mostly affluent and white area to the northwest of New Orleans, "have been very clear; they don't want them here." Jefferson and other neighboring parishes were also hit hard by Katrina, and many have no electricity and little or no water pressure. But while Thomas acknowledged that Jefferson had its own problems, "they wouldn't even allow their parish to be used as a staging area."

Thomas' complaint is part of why the Legislative Black Caucus, headed by Fields and state Rep. Cedric Richmond, announced they would bring three buses to pick up those still stranded in New Orleans. The base has not been opened to admit people, but Fields says, "it's better than what they have now. People were airlifted from their homes four days ago and left on the highway. They've got to open the base to these people. It's ridiculous in America that people are sitting on a highway for four days without food and water." Fields reportedly appealed to federal officials to open the base Friday but didn't get an answer. The Rev. Jesse Jackson will also reportedly accompany the bus caravan to England Air Force Base.

I decided to get on one of the buses headed for New Orleans, even though our exact destination wasn't certain. As we left there were reports that people were still stranded along Highway 10, and I was told the intention was to go get them. But Waters was under the impression we were headed for the New Orleans convention center. After we'd driven a few miles we got word that both the highway encampment and the convention center had been evacuated, and it was decided that we'd head to the airport, where thousands of people had been moved from downtown.

"I hope to get people on this bus, and also to see for myself where people are being sent," says Waters, who's the ranking member of the subcommittee on housing of the House Financial Services Committee. "This is Labor Day weekend and it's normally time for a little R&R, but my conscience would not allow that." The feisty Waters almost sounded like she was enjoying herself, though.

But nobody could enjoy themselves once we got to the airport. We were not prepared for what we found. Though it has been touted as a solution to the squalor of the convention center and the Superdome, Louis Armstrong International Airport is on the way to re-creating it. Already there's a huge pile of stinking garbage, and thousands of people outside who can't get in. They're being promised that planes and buses will evacuate them yet again, but they're still waiting. There's no violence because police and soldiers are everywhere, but there's filth and despair.

Our buses filled up quickly, and most people aren't even asking where we're headed.

Stephen Elliott is the author of four novels, including Happy Baby.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

New Orleans damage

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Bush administration funding cuts forced federal engineers to delay improvements on the levees, floodgates and pumping stations that failed to protect New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters, agency documents showed on Thursday.

The former head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that handles the infrastructure of the nation's waterways, said the damage in New Orleans probably would have been much less extensive had flood-control efforts been fully funded over the years.

"Levees would have been higher, levees would have been bigger, there would have been other pumps put in," said Mike Parker, a former Mississippi congressman who headed the engineering agency from 2001 to 2002.

"I'm not saying it would have been totally alleviated but it would have been less than the damage that we have got now."

Eighty percent of New Orleans was under water after Katrina blew through with much of the flooding coming after two levees broke.

A May 2005 Corps memo said that funding levels for fiscal years 2005 and 2006 would not be enough to pay for new construction on the levees.

Agency officials said on Thursday in a conference call that delayed work was not related to the breakdown in the levee system and Parker told Reuters the funding problems could not be blamed on the Bush administration alone.

Parker said a project dating to 1965 remains unfinished and that any recent projects would not have been in place by the time the hurricane struck even if they had been fully funded.

"If we do stuff now it's not going to have an effect tomorrow," Parker said. "These projects are huge, they're expensive and they're not sexy."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the administration had funded flood control efforts adequately.

Tensions over funding for the New Orleans levees emerged more than a year ago when a local official asserted money had been diverted to pay for the Iraq war. In early 2002, Parker told the U.S. Congress that the war on terrorism required spending cuts elsewhere in government.

Situated below sea level, New Orleans relied on a 300-mile (483 km) network of levees, floodgates and pumps to hold back the waters of the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain.

Levees were fortified after floods in 1927 and 1965, and Congress approved another ambitious upgrade after a 1995 flood killed six people.

Since 2001, the Army Corps has requested $496 million for that project but the Bush administration only budgeted $166 million, according to figures provided by the office of Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Congress ultimately approved $250 million for the project during that time period.

Another project designed to shore up defenses along Lake Pontchartrain was similarly underfunded, as the administration budgeted $22 million of the $99 million requested by the Corps between 2001 and 2005. Congress boosted spending on that project to $42.5 million, according to Landrieu's office.

"It's clear that we didn't do everything we could to safeguard ourselves from this hurricane or from a natural disaster such as Katrina but hopefully we will learn and be more prepared next time," said Landrieu spokesman Brian Richardson.

The levee defenses had been designed to withstand a milder Category Three hurricane and simply were overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina, said senior project manager Al Naomi.

"The design was not adequate to protect against a storm of this nature because we were not authorized to provide a Category Four or Five protection design," he said.

A study examining a possible upgrade is under way, he said.

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