[ Random Image ]
Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Archive for September, 2013

Deliberate Fiscal Crisis 2013

Monday, September 30th, 2013

imagesizer
“Governing by Near-Death Experience” and Other Observations

*

“This is all about stopping a law that increases taxes on rich people and reduces subsidies to private insurers in Medicare in order to help low-income Americans buy health insurance. That’s it. That’s why the Republican Party might shut down the government and default on the debt. . . .

Imagine if the Republican Party had won the 2012 election and Senate Democrats threatened to breach the debt ceiling and cause a financial crisis unless Republicans added a public option to Obamacare. Does anyone think a President Mitt Romney would find that position reasonable? Does anyone think that position would be reasonable?” —Ezra Klein, “Don’t Forget What the Shutdown Is Really About,” at Wonkblog

In reply, a reader writes in to Wonkblog:

“There might be an even more instructive analogy. In May 2007, 140 Democrats in the House of Representatives voted to defund the Iraq war. In September of the same year, Congress voted to increase the debt limit. Imagine if Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats had threatened to breach the debt ceiling unless Republicans agreed to defund the war. At that time, approval of the Iraq war was polled at 33% in favor and 64% against.”

*

capitolupsidedownYou cannot have this reckless, nihilistic, fundamentalist, ideologically driven governance. . . . Ultimately, advocacy can’t trump governance.” —Paul H. Stebbins, executive chairman, World Fuel Services Corp., and member of Fix the Debt

*

“For all the ubiquity of political polarizing and heightened partisanship, no honest observer can deny that the rise of crisis governance and various forms of legislative hostage taking comes entirely from the GOP. . . . This is the reality that finally brought Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, two of DC’s most fastidiously sober, even-handed and high-minded arbiters of political standards and practices, to finally just throw up their hands mid-last-year and say ‘Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.’ ” —Josh Marshall, “Broken Windows, Broken States,” Talking Points Memo

*

“There is no need to watch Gone with the Wind to grasp the American South’s taste for lost causes. Just watch Congress . . . [A]s Obamacare’s socialist, secular machine gradually mows down what remains of civil society, diehards can comfort themselves they were brave enough to lie in its path. It will be a glorious defeat.” —Edward Luce in The Financial Times

*

“Against the backdrop of a government-shutdown deadline, Karen Tumulty noted yesterday the ‘cumulative effect of almost three years of governing by near-death experience.’ It’s phrasing that rings true for a reason—since Republicans retook the House majority in January 2011, no major legislation has become law, but we have endured quite a few crises.

“In April 2011, congressional Republicans threatened a government shutdown. In July 2011, congressional Republicans created the first debt-ceiling crisis in American history. In September 2011, congressional Republicans threatened a government shutdown. In April 2012, congressional Republicans threatened a government shutdown. In December 2012, congressional Republicans pushed the nation towards the so-called ‘fiscal cliff.’ In January 2013, congressional Republicans briefly flirted with the possibility of another debt-ceiling crisis. In March 2013, congressional Republicans threatened a government shutdown. And right now, in September 2013, the odds of a government shutdown are quite good once again.

“That’s eight self-imposed, entirely unnecessary, easily avoidable crises since John Boehner got his hands on the Speaker’s gavel—a 33-month period in which Congress racked up zero major legislative accomplishments.

“ . . . great nations can’t function this way. The United States can either be a 21st-century superpower or it can tolerate Republicans abandoning the governing process and subjecting Americans to a series of self-imposed extortion crises. It cannot do both.” —Steve Benen, “A Series of Near-Death Experiences,” at Maddow Blog

*

“Listening to the Republicans lie outrageously on the Sunday shows about the catastrophic effects of a program that isn’t even in effect (while denying that climate change exists!) is enough to give me a headache. It reminded me of . . . [Rick Perlstein’s] fascinating article for The Daily Beast about what he calls our ‘mendocracy’—which means a society ruled by liars.” —Digby, “Exchange Grate,” a Hullabaloo

*

WDC_at_dawn.DougMills.NYT

*

Photo credits: Top: White House photo; upside-down reflection of Capitol by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg; Washington at dawn by Doug Mills for The New York Times



Debt Limit Hostage Crisis 2013: House Republicans Demand Goodies

Friday, September 27th, 2013

crybaby-300x300

There are some basic notions that undergird the operation of a democracy. When there’s an election, the candidate who gets more votes is the one who takes office. When a bill is passed through Congress and signed by the president, it’s now the law. And when you lose, you don’t get to demand that your agenda be enacted, for no reason other than that you’d prefer it that way. If you want a bunch of policy changes, you have to win an election, then pass that agenda through the legislative process. That’s how it works. Baseball players who strike out don’t get to just demand that they be given a triple or else they’re going to set fire to the stadium.

—Paul Waldman, “Memo to Republicans: You Lost. Now Deal with It

*

Set This House on Fire

A continuing resolution funding the U.S. government expires Monday, Sept. 30, and without new funding legislation, federal agencies will be forced to shut down. The Treasury secretary has notified Congress that if the federal debt ceiling is not raised, then by Oct. 17 the United States will be unable to borrow to pay its bills. (For more detail, see “Shutdown vs. Default: The Relative Impact” [NYT 9/23/13].) For months, and still, at this late hour, Republicans in Congress have been threatening to refuse to vote for any debt ceiling increase unless all federal funding for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is stripped away. Republicans are divided over how hard to push the issue, but so far the hard-liners have refused to yield.

The White House and congressional Democrats say the Affordable Care Act, passed in March 2010 and upheld in a 2012 Supreme Court decision, is the law of the land and is nonnegotiable. “This is it. Time is gone,” warned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Sept. 27. “Here’s a president who less than a year ago won election by five million votes. Obamacare has been the law for four years. Why don’t they get a life and talk about something else?”

20 Treats Now!

Now get this: In an effort to win agreement from hard-line House Republicans to vote to raise the debt limit, GOP leaders have put forward a tantalizing wish list of just about everything they (that is, their campaign contributors) have ever wanted. The Republican caucus is still some 15 members away from enough votes to support a debt limit measure. If the reluctant representatives were to agree, the Republicans would be sending to the Senate the following list of demands in exchange for votes on what used to be, in olden tymes—say, before January 2009—a fairly routine legislative procedure. (Congress raised the debt ceiling 7 times under George W. Bush, 18 times under Ronald Reagan.)

Roll Call reports, “According to a document obtained by CQ Roll Call, that ‘wish list’ contains 20 ‘additional options’ for the debt limit bill, on top of four principles in the ‘Core Package’—a one year debt limit increase for a one year delay of Obamacare, the agreement of tax reform instructions and the Keystone pipeline.

“The 20 additional options, according to the document, are:

Budget ClashEconomic Growth

1. Offshore Energy Production

2. Energy Production on Federal Lands

3. Pipeline Permitting Reform

4. Coal Ash

5. Prohibit EPA from Regulating Greenhouse Gases

6. REINS Act

7. Regulatory Process Reforms (APA)

8. Consent Decree Reform

9. Regulatory Flexibility Improvements

10. Block Net Neutrality Regulations 

graphicNon-Health Care Reforms:

1. Federal Employee Retirement Reform, which Republicans estimate will save $20 to $84 billion.

2. Eliminate Dodd-Frank Bailout Fund, which they estimate will save $23 billion.

3. Eliminate Mandatory Funding for CFPB, with estimated savings of $5 billion.

4. Require SSN to Receive Child Tax Credit, with estimated savings of $7 billion.

5. Eliminate Social Service Block Grant, with estimated savings of $17 billion. 

Health Care Reforms:

GOP descends1. Increase Medicare Means Testing, which Republicans estimate will save $56 billion.

2. Reduce Medicaid Provider Tax Gimmick, which Republicans estimate will save $11 billion.

3. Medical Liability Reform, with estimated savings of $49 billion.

4. Disproportionate Share Hospitals, with estimated savings of $4 billion.

5. Eliminate Public Health Slush Fund

 

Well, that’s not asking much. Anything else we can get you?

Paul Waldman at The American Prospect comments, “I’m sure that if you asked them the logical question—Are you people insane?—they’d respond that this is an opening position for negotiations, and we can go from there. Sure, maybe we won’t get everything on the list, but maybe we could bargain it down to, say, delaying the ACA for a year, handcuffing the EPA, the Keystone XL pipeline, and cutting money for public health.”

Once There Was a Surplus

Remember, America, George W. Bush inherited a budget surplus when he succeeded Democratic president Bill Clinton in January 2001. Projections released by the Congressional Budget Office in January 2005 showed that “changes in law” enacted since January 2001 had increased the federal budget deficit—which, again, had not existed, when Bush took office—by $539 billion. By January 2005, tax cuts along with defense and homeland security expenditures accounted for 85% of that deficit. Only six months into Bush’s first term, after Congress (with help from Democrats) passed a $1.35 trillion, 10-year tax cut, the Associated Press reported that “the Treasury Department was tapping $51 billion of credit in order to pay for the budgetary cost of the first round of Bush tax cuts’ rebate checks.”

Think Progress observed in 2011, “The opponents of the tax cut turned out to be right. The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts combined have blown a $2.5 trillion hole in America’s budget and created deficits stretching on for years.”

See “2001 Bush Tax Cuts: Where the Deficit Began” (LNW 7/20/11)

 

AP.borrow1

*



Ready for Burlesque Fest, New Orleans?

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

burlesqueTime for the 5th Annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival, Sept. 19–21

Of course New Orleans is ready for another burlesque festival. A good warm-up for Halloween, perhaps. Or just a good warm-up for its own sake. If you’re ready—or might be ready, as we totally are—for Coco Lectric, Dinah Might, Honey Touche and the Touchettes, Cora Vette with Dames D’lish, Ray Gunn, Jett Adore as Zorro (yes, dudes too), Miss PetitCoquette, Trixie Little & Evil Hate Monkey, and the Cheesecake Burlesque Revue, then the Burlesque Festival has the shows for you.

Opening night features the Strut at Harrah’s: “Award-winning male burlesque stars deliver pure prime beef, emphasizing the masculine side of the tease with their sizzling surprise reveals, and tongue-in-cheek exploits! Starring world-renowned super troupe The Stage Door Johnnies!” You’ll want to come for the Siren of the South (“Athena, the Goddess of the Bodice”), Mondo Burlesque (“A variety of burlesque entertainers perform acts that have driven audiences wild at clubs and theaters around the word. Sexy, funny, naughty, and très amusant!”) and Bad Girls of Burlesque (“Luscious and lascivious ladies of burlesque entertain you in this rowdy, standing-room-only show . . . a celebration of the wicked, the wayward, and the wanton”). Click here for the schedule.

Classes and Instruction

Workshops, held at the Hilton Riverside, 2 Poydras Street, are sponsored by the Ruby Room of Dallas (that sounds scary). “We know y’all want to sleep late, so all workshops are scheduled between 12 noon–5pm!”

BURLESQUE BODY WORKOUT: In this high-energy workout class taught by the 2013 Miss Viva Las Vegas, Missy Lisa, you will use the most popular techniques from fitness and dance to strengthen and condition your body. You will easily break a sweat with moves specifically chosen to tone hips, thighs, buns and abs. Appropriate for all skill levels.

BUMPS & GRINDS: Perfect your bump and refine your grind with the 2011 Queen of Burlesque, Ginger Valentine. This class focuses on quality of movement and sensuality in classic burlesque, while burning calories and toning muscles. Before you take it off, learn how to tease and tantalize like a pro.

GirlsGirlsTHE ELEMENTS: Taught by Ray Gunn of the famed Stage Door Johnnies (Best Boylesque–2013 Burlesque Hall of Fame, Best Group–2011 Burlesque Hall of Fame), this lecture and discussion class for both men and women will cover the basic components of constructing, focusing, and editing a successful burlesque act. Participants will focus on refining composition, identifying the four main elements of an act, analyzing the thirteen types of ‘teases,’ and more.

SECRETS OF STAGE PRESENCE: How do you mesmerize an audience? What is stage presence and how can you achieve it? Unlock the tools to combat self- consciousness and stage fright, learn about “Active Intension” onstage, and find the burlesque superstar within you! Jett Adore of the acclaimed Stage Door Johnnies outlines his “Five S’s of Burlesque,” vital components to achieve the full potential of your own star quality. Bring a rehearsal boa if you have one and note-taking materials.

*

Cold shower time. We’re all worked up just writing about it . . .

*



Live-Blogging from Rising Tide 8 in New Orleans

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

RisingTide

Live-streaming of Rising Tide conference here.

*

Keynote Address: Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré on leadership and environmental justice

New Orleans Advocate publisher John Georges introduces Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, augmented by video footage from CNN.

Standing ovation for Honoré. Honoré thanks audience for being an active community sharing respect for environment, the place where we live, for sharing a common purpose to be able to live in a place where you don’t have to worry about the quality of the water and air. I like my oil in the engine of my truck, not in the water or on the ground. “We can do better.”

Honoreleadership“I want to talk a little about leadership (and to shamelessly promote my book, Leadership in the New Normal).” You have to be able to get people to willingly follow. For instance, for the goal of environmental justice and social justice. There’s a purpose to teaching children how to read; part is to prevent these same children from later being in the prison system.

If you think you have it hard, think about how hard Gen. George Washington and his troops had it in the winters of the Revolutionary War. We are now in a kind of fight like the one during the 1770s. The elected officials in Washington with their air conditioning think they’ve got it hard, but we do not have it hard like the soldiers in Washington’s volunteer army had it. This war that we are fighting [for environmental and social justice] is a war we can win, because we are on the right side.

My public school teacher in Pointe Coupee Parish told me we know you’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so let me tell you three things that will help you in the future: (1) Learn to do routine things well. Brush your teeth, be respectful, do your homework, etc. (2) Don’t be afraid to take on the impossible. This came back to me when we landed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. (3) Don’t be afraid to act even if you’re being criticized.

If oil and gas are so good for Louisiana, why are we one of the poorest states in the union? Why don’t we all get to go to private schools? Just speaking critically of oil and gas industry and its effect on our state will get you criticized. We want tourism and visitors, and oil and gas industries can be here, but they can’t destroy the place. “You can’t trash the place.” We’re not saying they can’t be here, but they have do it the right way, responsibly. Too many public officials will say, any time there’s a chemical leak, or several employees die at the plant, that the chemical release was minimal, or the loss of life was minimal. This is not acceptable.

We have a hard task, but through the power of connectivity, we can succeed. In a democracy, you can turn the situation around. We have to show it to people in other countries. If you grew up in Louisiana, you grew up smellin’ stuff. Maybe the sugar cane burning, or something from an Exxon plant or a paper mill. It’s a part of the culture, and it doesn’t mean much as we’re growing up, but people from other places ask, “What is that?” • I was on CNN and I said I’m not going to call this the “Gulf oil spill,” this is the BP oil spill. The Gulf of Mexico didn’t cause this. This was created by a company. Same with the sinkhole, or the Jefferson Island salt dome collapse.

How is that the EPA is prevented from coming into a state to take action against a violation of the Clean Water Act unless the state government invites it in. If there’s a violation of a drug smuggling law, the federal forces can take action. But it was written into the Clean Water Act that the EPA is limited from enforcing the law. Self-regulating is not an option. These companies messing up this state don’t even have their headquarters here. We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to use our voice to influence our legislators. We have a serious water problem. The aquifers are depleting seriously because of the industries’ use. Why aren’t they using the Mississippi River? Because the aquifers, which should be reserved for the local people’s drinking water, are easier for the companies to draw from. And what are we going to do with the orphan wells? These abandoned oil wells have been abandoned. Streams of oil all over the place, just leaking. You can see them all over Plaquemines Parish, still lying knocked over by Hurricane Katrina, and the companies have been allowed by the Louisiana legislature to leave them abandoned. We have to make it visible. This is your war. This is our time. This is a great cause. How are you going to get your nieces and nephews and neighbors involved? The way we’re going in the state of Louisiana, this place will not be fit to live in. What we have going on off our coastline is like what they have going on in Nigeria. How many of you could make a list of 10 people you could bring on the team for environmental justice, for social justice?

Sandy Rosenthal of Levees.org asks Honoré about the SLFPA-E lawsuit and Gov. Jindal’s attempts to have control over the membership of the Flood Protection Board. The governor may be forgetting that he will not always be governor. How is he going to explain to his children or grandchildren that they can’t go out and play because the air is too polluted? • Audience member commends Honoré for speaking out about environmental issues. You have some of the best guerrilla fighters in the state in this room now, but we need leadership. Please run for governor. [Applause.] • You have to get busy on the college campuses and get the students mobilized. You’ve got to be prepared to do civil disobedience; that’s the only thing that will get these people’s attention. It’s likely going to look foolish to the rest of the country, but it’s got to be done. It’s going to take the voice of the people speaking out. It’s going to take some community organizing. Get the restaurateurs involved; they need clean seafood, so it affects them too.

Magnus & WilderAshley Award Presented to Greg Peters

Received by Greg’s sons, Magnus and Wilder, after introductory remarks by Alli de Jong about our late friend Greg Peters (1962–2013).

Charter Schools: Access & Accountability

11:30 Moderated by Scott Sternberg. Panelists: Nikki Napoleon, Marta Jewson, Jaimmé Collins, Aesha Rasheed, and Steve Beatty.

Questions posed to the panel include: Are charter schools in New Orleans more or less responsive to democratic principles than our old School Boards, and how can we address the access and accountability issues for the present and future of New Orleans?

Eighty percent of New Orleans schools are now charter schools. Questions of accountability, transparency. Because the school or school system is not strictly a public entity in the traditional sense of the public school, its administrators are not accustomed to requests for public records, or have different understandings of accountability—they may be quick to comply with requests for information, or they may say “that’s none of your business.”

Re: parent engagement, Jaimmé Collins says that all of us should be more active about attending the board meetings. This would begin to change things. We could each commit show up to at least one board meeting per year. Set an example and become a more engaged member of the community. Steve Beatty, editor of The Lens, says that the boards should schedule meetings at a time of day when parents can actually attend, not during the workday. If a school is not giving satisfactory performance or accountability, parents can “vote with their feet” by withdrawing their child and going somewhere else. In Q&A, a teacher says that that is often not a realistic option. Nikki Napoleon did pull her child from one school and placed him in another.

Jaimmé Collins says that school administrators should pick two or three things on which they are willing to engage in particular with parents to help the school improve in a more focused way for students. Started a parent-school review to design a process by which parents could evaluate how well the school is performing, but getting five or six parents to commit and attend meetings is sometimes a challenge. A good idea but sometimes a challenge to execute.

Steve Beatty says the city of New Orleans doesn’t have a charter school system; we have a lot of different charter schools operating independently.

 

CharterSchoolPanelCharter Schools panelists, from left to right: Nikki Napoleon, Marta Jewson, Jaimmé Collins, Aesha Rasheed, and Steve Beatty.

*

MelaNated Writers Collective: Creating Community for Writers of Color

10:05 Jarvis Q. DeBerry introduces MelaNated Writers Collective panel, Jewel Bush, David Thaddeus Baker, Kelly Harris, and Gian Smith. Young writers of color in New Orleans seeking a community of other writers of color, seeking support, fellowship in what is by its nature a very solitary pursuit.

MelaNated1

 Jewel Bush speaks at Rising Tide’s MelaNated Writers Collective panel. From left to right: Jewel Bush, David Thaddeus Baker, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Gian Smith. 

*

Discussion of the importance of not caring about—not being held back by—what white people think, or would think, of what I’m writing. Part of the necessary self-liberation for a black writer is to (try to) be free of these considerations. Reference to a famous essay by Langston Hughes (cite:TK). • The effect of Hurricane Katrina on these writers’ work. Gian Smith says it took being separated from New Orleans to realize how important the city and its people are, and to make me determined to represent what is not known to the rest of the world. Partly in reaction to the television representations of New Orleans, of black people of New Orleans. • How has being in New Orleans affected your writing? Kelly Harris-DeBerry: being in N.O. has made me more playful in my poems. Gian Smith: I think it’s a distinct advantage to be in New Orleans. Just as all of Stephen King’s novels are set in New England, mine are definitely set here. The settings for the action are local. Question about how the memory of the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina affected your writing? Jewel Bush says the storm is there as a background to the present action of a story. It’s always there as a presence, an internal chatter that’s always on. David Thaddeus Baker says he has written two poems relating to Katrina, but he cannot let the storm dominate his focus or overpower what he is writing. Kelly Harris-DeBerry says she is hesitant to write about the storm because she is not from here and she was not here at the time of the storm (2005).

Q&A

Pat Armstrong asks if writers feel pressure or expectation to “cross over” and serve as a “tour guide” to New Orleans and to the community of color for readers outside New Orleans. Jarvis DeBerry says there is sometimes an indifference among New Orleanians about whether outsiders get what we’re about or not. Lance Vargas asks, How do you get into that contemplative space needed to start writing? David Thaddeus Baker: I go for a walk and think about things. Jewel Bush: I like to listen to music; gets me in the mood. Gian Smith: I try to clear my schedule so that I am not distracted by other obligations. Kelly Harris-DeBerry: I don’t really have a ritual, but I try to write with pencil or pen. I feel I’m more thoughtful and concentrated when I’m writing by hand rather than by typing. I seem like I take my time and I’m more thoughtful.

*

10:00 Introductory remarks by RT secretary Patrick “Cousin Pat” Armstrong. Thanks to Xavier University of Louisiana for hosting this conference, and to sponsors The Lens, WWNO, and WTUL. Welcoming remarks by Xavier Univ. Student Council president Javon Bracy. Emcee is George “Loki” Williams. T-shirts and posters designed by Greg Peters for sale.

*



Honoré Speaks for La. Flood Protection Authority Lawsuit Against Big Oil

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

 

FixTheCoastYouBroke“Put our coast back like you found it”

Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, the keynote speaker for this coming weekend’s Rising Tide conference in New Orleans, has added a further distinction to his already impressive curriculum vitae: He adds his voice to a full-page advertisement published in the Times-Picayune, paid for by Levees.org and the Natural Resources Defense Council, in support of the historic lawsuit filed July 24 in civil district court in Orleans Parish by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East against some 100 oil and energy companies active in Louisiana.

In the ad, Honoré, a native of Pointe Coupee Parish, says:

I wish we could count on our government officials to hold the oil companies resposible. But after more than 100 years of oil operations in our state, our governors and legislators have failed to hold the oil companies accountable. As citizens, the only recourse, you and I have left is the courts. The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East has filed suit against 97 oil companies. The law suit is just asking them to do what our mothers told us growing up: “If you make a mess, you clean it up.”

Honoreleadership

“I don’t do politics,” Honoré said in an interview Monday quoted by InsuranceJournal.com. “But I do believe in environmental justice.”

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East has been under intense pressure from Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal to drop the lawsuit, even though the Authority was authorized to proceed with the suit by Louisiana attorney general Buddy Caldwell. Jindal, who has received some $1 million in donations from oil and energy interests, called the lawsuit “nothing but a windfall for a handful of trial lawyers.”

An August 31 feature in The New York Times focused on the lawsuit and the political force being pressed upon SLFPA-E, including its vice president, John M. Barry, historian and author of Rising Tide, a bestselling book on the great Mississippi River flood of 1927.

Levees.org founder Sandy Rosenthal said that Lt. Gen. Honoré was not compensated in any way for the ad or for his support of the lawsuit.

Read All About It: For more about the lawsuit, see our post “Louisiana Flood Protection Agency Sues Big Oil to Repair Wetlands” (7/25/13) and read the New York Times article “Facing Fire Over Challenge to Louisiana’s Oil Industry” (8/31/13).

*

The photograph below was taken by our friend Jeffrey of Library Chronicles. Thanks to Jeff for the tip.

 

Honore_ad

*

 



Rising Tide Update: “Category 5 General” Russel Honoré Is Keynote Speaker

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans SaintsThree-star general hailed as “John Wayne dude” by former N.O. mayor Ray Nagin

The  annual Rising Tide conference has been ramped up to a whole new level: the keynote speaker will be Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, the no-nonsense “Category 5 General” who took command of Joint Task Force Katrina that coordinated military relief efforts following the August 29, 2005, hurricane and resulting “federal flood” of the city of New Orleans.

The 8th annual Rising Tide conference will be Saturday, Sept. 14, at Xavier University in New Orleans. Please see below for details about panels and other conference attractions. Registration (only $20) is still open; all are welcome. Click here for a map to Xavier University.

Honoré, a Louisiana native (born in Lakeland in Pointe Coupee Parish) and graduate of Southern University, was designated commander of Joint Task Force Katrina by President George W. Bush two days after the storm. Amid official incompetence from local to federal levels, Honoré exhibited decisiveness and a gruff management style, but also restraint and a local’s understanding of the people he had been sent to assist. He knew that the task force was on a relief mission, and barked at one soldier who had flashed his weapon at a New Orleanian in a threatening way, “We’re on a rescue mission, damn it!”

“Now, I will tell you this—and I give the president some credit on this—he sent one John Wayne dude down here that can get some stuff done, and his name is Gen. Honoré. And he came off the doggone chopper, and he started cussing and people started moving. And he’s getting some stuff done.” —former New Orleans mayor C. Ray Nagin

Rising Tide is delighted to welcome Lt. Gen. Honoré. Copies of his new book, Leadership in the New Normal, will be available for sale.

An Aug. 29 interview with Lt. Gen. Honoré by WWNO ’s Jim Engster on the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, including remarks about the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, can be heard here. See also the expansive Washington Post profile, “The Category 5 General” (Sept. 12, 2005), CNN.com’s profile., and Lt. Gen. Honoré’s impressive curriculum vitae. • Historical note: In his interview with Jim Engster, Honoré mentions in passing that at the time he went to Rosenwald High School in New Roads, La. (class of ’66), the school was segregated: all-black. (As Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead; it’s not even past.”)

[ Because of health issues in her ongoing recovery from a gunshot wound in the Mother’s Day parade shootings in the Seventh Ward on May 12, 2013, the previously scheduled speaker, Deborah Cotton of Gambit Weekly, will not be able to appear. We wish Ms. Cotton well—and the other victims of that shooting, too—with a full and speedy recovery. (Contributions to a fund to help Deborah Cotton with her medical bills can be sent here.) ]

Rising Tide panels

Click here for more schedule details.

•  Creating Community for Writers of Color: MelaNated Writers Collective

•  Beyond Tourism Beyond Recovery

•  Charter School Access & Accountability

Second Stage: Tech School

•  Working with Bloggers

•  Personal Branding: When You Are What You’re Selling

•  Using Visual Tools in Online Promotion

•  Content Marketing

*

More about Rising Tide

Past featured speakers have included David Simon (co-creator of HBO’s Treme and The Wire); the actor and activist Harry Shearer; N.O. geographer and historian Rich Campanella; Treme-born writer Lolis Eric Elie, director of the documentary Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans; former Tulane professor of history Lawrence N. Powell, author of The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans; Mother Jones human rights and environmental reporter (Ms.) Mac McClelland; and authors John Barry, Dave Zirin, and Chris Cooper and Bobby Block.

Click here for a listing of previous Rising Tide programs, with links to videos and more.

Like Rising Tide on Facebook (don’t forget to share!), follow Rising Tide on Twitter (remember to retweet!), and check for programming updates on the Rising Tide Conference Blog or Rising Tide website. Visualize Rising Tide at the RT Flickr site.

*

For more information, please see our earlier post, “Rising Tide 8 is Sept. 14 in New Orleans: Register Now!

*

 

RT_blog_masthead



Congress, Now Is the Time to Vote “Hell No”

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

NoWar

Wrong War, Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Not out of indifference to the plight of the Syrian people, and not from an automatic rejection of any and all military action, but rather out of grave concern about the uncontrollable consequences that a U.S. missile strike upon Syria could trigger—such as, quite possibly, a war between Iran and Israel—we urge the members of Congress to vote No—even “Hell No,” if you like—on President Obama’s request to authorize the use of force against the Assad regime in Syria.

Although this blog has long supported Barack Obama for president, and we are pleased that John Kerry, whom we supported (and campaigned for) for president in 2004, is secretary of state; although we generally trust their judgment in both domestic and international affairs; and even though we’ve been thankful for the judicious restraint that Obama has shown until now during the Syrian civil war, and we’re grateful that this past weekend he averted what appeared a rush to arms and decided to seek congressional authorization—

Despite the foregoing, this is one vote we want Obama to lose.

See Where Senators Stand  |  Contact Congress  |  Contact White House

*

They Can’t Tell Us How This Would End

US-SYRIA-CONFLICT-CONGRESSAfter a day of testimony by Secretary of State Kerry, Defense secretary Chuck Hagel, and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey, on Tuesday night the Senate Foreign Relations committee worked out a resolution that would set a 60-day limit on military action in Syria, with one 30-day extension possible. In the House, Democratic representatives introduced a resolution that would limit any military action to no more than 60 days. The Army Times reports that the House resolution “also specifically prohibits any American forces on the ground in Syria and restricts the president from repeating the use of force beyond the initial punitive strikes unless Obama certifies to Congress that the Syrian forces have repeated their use of chemical weapons.”

[ Update: On Weds., Sept. 4, the Senate Foreign Relations committee voted 10–7, with nay votes from both parties, to authorize the use of force against the Syrian regime. The full Senate is expected to vote next week. ]

The United States is seriously considering unilateral military strikes against a nation whose chief ally and arms supplier is Russia? Against a nation that says If you fire on us, we’ll fire on Israel? (Syria has already been in wars with Israel in 1967, 1973, and 1982.)

But let’s think about this a moment.

If the U.S. fires on Syria—a deliberate escalation of a highly complicated civil war—how could the U.S. keep the conflict from escalating further?

If the U.S. attacks Syria, can we be assured that Assad will not use chemical weapons again? The U.S. claims that he flouted international law once; why not again?

And if Assad were to use chemical weapons again, what would the U.S. do then? Escalate in order to not “lose face”?

And, just supposing the U.S. were to be opening confidential, “back-channel” talks with representatives of the newly elected moderate president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, as perhaps we might be, what effect might American missiles on Damascus have on those talks?

The British parliament voted last week against participating in military action against Assad, sidelining our usual closest ally. If the U.S. Congress votes no, will Obama say, as Prime Minister David Cameron said, “I get it,” and desist from a military strike?

Does the Obama administration really think it is wise, or even sane, for the U.S. to “go it alone” if necessary and use cruise missiles against yet another Arab nation? We know that military force against Arab nations only validates anti-Western propaganda, fuels al Qaeda’s recruiting efforts, and increases the likelihood of terrorist retribution here in the U.S., in London, and elsewhere in the West.

If it is true that forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians—U.S. officials say that more than 1,400 were killed in an attack near Damascus on Aug. 21, and keep mentioning some 400 children among them—then that is indeed a sickening atrocity, but still, we do not agree that that requires unilateral action by the U.S. (The UN chemical weapons inspectors are expected to produce a report in late September.)

Syria is simply too dangerous, too interconnected with live wires and explosives—what’s called in international diplomacy a mare’s nest, a snake pit, or a death trap, among other technical terms. Look at the neighborhood: Syria borders Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and is very close to Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Too many things could go wrong. Let’s not, for God’s sake, go there.

And, as we have said over and over from the very first days of Levees Not War (in 2005), the U.S. simply cannot afford endless war and habitual reliance on military solutions to crises overseas, but instead must redirect its resources to rebuilding our own crumbling national infrastructure and to augmenting social services, including jobs programs, education, unemployment relief, and health care. National security begins at home.

 

syria.map

Work through the United Nations

A complex and dangerous situation like this, one that requires fact-finding and deliberation and negotiation by a council of nations, is what the United Nations was founded to handle. If would-be interventionists are frustrated that the UN Security Council’s member nations Russia and China would not go along with Washington’s view that “something must be done” and would use their veto in the Security Council, that does not give Washington the right to bypass the UN.

(Russian president Vladimir Putin has told the Associated Press that Russia might vote for a UN resolution on punitive force against Syria if it is proved that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people. In the same interview, he warned that the West should not take “one-sided” action against Syria, that is, without the backing of the UN Security Council.)

The Arab League has called on the UN and the international community to take “necessary measures,” though the League did not specify what those measures might be. The secretary general of the Arab League did say, however, that there should be no military action without backing from the United Nations.

Some 100,000 have died in the Syrian civil war, which began with a pro-democracy uprising in March 2011. Some two million Syrians have been forced to flee to other countries. (Click here for a BBC News timeline of the Syrian civil war.)

Yale Law School professors Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro write in a New York Times op-ed that the choice of military force or nothing at all is “a false one.”

Most of international law relies not on force for its enforcement, but on the collective power of nations to deprive states of the benefits of membership in a system of states. Mr. Obama can cut off any remaining government contracts with foreign companies that do business with Mr. Assad’s regime. He can work with Congress to do much more for Syrian rebels and refugees—including providing antidotes to nerve agents, which are in short supply. He can use his rhetorical power to shame and pressure Russia and China.

*

“Real Men Go to Tehran”

It’s a matter of public record that this war with Iraq is largely the brainchild of a group of neoconservative intellectuals, who view it as a pilot project. In August a British official close to the Bush team told Newsweek: “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.” In February 2003, according to Ha’aretz, an Israeli newspaper, Under Secretary of State John Bolton told Israeli officials that after defeating Iraq the United States would “deal with” Iran, Syria and North Korea. 

—Paul Krugman, “Things to Come” (New York Times, 3/18/03)

What concerns us is not only the concerns raised above or the prospect of yet another U.S.-led war in the Middle East, but also the fact that neoconservatives and other hawks have been salivating for a war against Iran, and Syria could be an entry into just that. In early May, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, told Rachel Maddow that the same folks who brought us the Iraq war are pushing for a fight with Iran, and they see Syria as a backdoor entry into that war.

I think as Yogi Berra once said, it’s like déjà vu all over again. I see us walking down the same road with the same characters singing in the choir, the same people off the same sheet of music with a few changes trying to get us into war with Iran. The new momentum with respect to Syria is not just because of the brutal civil war there, it’s also because of people like Lindsey Graham and John McCain from my party and Bob Menendez from the Democratic party would like to use Syria as a back door to get us in a war with Iran. It’s another catastrophe brewing . . .

See “Syria Seen as a Backdoor to War with Iran” (LNW 5/2/13).

*

Recommended Reading:

belle-syria-008-450x270New York Times updates on Syria

BBC News: Syrian civil war timeline and Syria profile

Jeffrey Frank at The New Yorker (9/4/13): “Eisenhower 1954, Obama 2013: Echoes of Vietnam in Syria

Amy Davidson at The New Yorker (9/4/13): “Kerry and the Senators: Unanswered Questions

Steve Coll at The New Yorker (9/9/13): “Crossing the Line: How Should Obama Respond to Syria?

On Syria, a U.N. Vote Isn’t OptionalNYT op-ed by Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro

Natasha Lennard at Salon (9/4/13): RAND study finds that to destroy Syria chemical weapons, “boots on the ground” would be needed

New York Times editorial (9/3/13): “Debating the Case for Force

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo (9/1/13): “A Skeptic’s Guide to the Syria Mess

Ed Kilgore at Political Animal (Washington Monthly): “The Road to War with Iran Runs Through Syria

Washington Post map of likely strike targets in Syria

Levees Not War (6/14/13): “Here We Go Again

Think Progress (4/29/13): “What You Need to Know About the Syrian Civil War

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note (8/20/12): “Syrian Conflict Not Just a Battle Against Assad

*

Against-Next-War-T-Shirt-Northernsun