People Get Ready

[ make levees, not war ]

Archive for the ‘Category 5 Storm Protection’ Category

A change is gonna come

Posted by schroeder915 on March 11, 2007

Not that I mind people seeing ol’ boneless chicken when they visit, but I truly am falling behind. The Times-Picayune’s Mark Schleifstein, Bob Marshall, and Dan Swenson get enormous accolades for adding kindling to the fire by underscoring how important it is that Louisiana reverse the destruction of coastal wetlands in the next ten years! I may have more to say about that at another time, because I also have some great NASA imagery and reports on global warming and sea level rises that I’ve been holding on to.

Yep, after months of plotting, tweaking, evaluating, and screwing around, PGR is about to make the last move to a new host. Get ready to update those links, because a change is gonna come! This week! Bear with me, and then I’ll put all those juicy sidebar links back that used to be in the Blogger PGR.

I’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do. For now, I’ll just say I’ve been busy aiding other projects vital for the recovery of New Orleans. I ask everyone to join in these efforts to make a difference for a city we love, and which deserves our love in return.

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Posted in Category 5 Storm Protection, Coastal Restoration, Crime Mapping, Hurricane Protection, Louisiana, Media Democracy, New Orleans, Wetlands Restoration | 6 Comments »

Still a boneless chickenhawk

Posted by schroeder915 on March 2, 2007

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AND WORST! PRESIDENT! EVER!

What an absolutely pathetic boneless bucket of sh*t for a president.

How could any human being visit New Orleans and not recognize that, notwithstanding the challenges, the city is one of the most unique in the world. How could anyone come to our city and not commit to restoring the coastal wetlands destroyed by dredged oil company shipping lanes and by the Mississippi River channeled to accomodate shipping. These factors are largely responsible for the subsidence of the coast and saltwater intrusion which made New Orleans vulnerable to Hurricane Katrina. A Hurricane Katrina sized storm 50 years ago wouldn’t have caused as much destruction as we saw in 2005 because the coastal wetlands have been shredded.

How could any human being witness the misery caused by the failure of the shoddily-constructed federal levee system, and not commit to raising them to a sturdy Category 5 level.

All we heard from our pathetic president was some off-the-cuff trite remark about how, like The Saints, New Orleans residents are fighters. Hey asshole — some of us are losing the fight! Some of us have seen our insurance rates triple or quadruple by gouging private insurers who shouldn’t be allowed to sell policies in any state if they don’t fairly treat policyholders in Louisiana. Hey asshole, some of us, a year and a half later, still don’t have enough money to rebuild our homes! You quip that $110 billion ought to be enough. Well, hey asshole — it ain’t enough! After your Shaw Group, Halliburton, Bechtel, Parsons Brinkerhoff buddies ran their little plantation scheme to siphon billions in taxpayer dollars for themselves while paying immigrants to do all the work for pennies on the dollar, there wasn’t much left for rebuilding.

The Times-Picayune:

The $110 billion in federal assistance for the Gulf Coast is widely misinterpreted. First, the money was divided among the five Gulf Coast states and covers damage from Katrina, Rita and Wilma, which hit south Florida. The LRA figures that Louisiana’s share of that was about $59 billion, but even that is misleading.

About $18 billion came in the form of disaster relief, which includes the kind of post-crisis assistance — health care, evacuee assistance, business loans — the federal government routinely extends in a major crisis. An additional $14.7 billion was in payouts from the National Flood Insurance Program, for which Louisiana policyholders had paid premiums.

By the LRA’s calculations, the state has received $26.4 billion in genuine federal help, including money to rebuild levees, homes, schools and community infrastructure.

“A lot has been said about the $110 billion,” said Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge. “We just haven’t seen it.”

That leaves $26 billion remaining for Louisiana for all of its financial needs, which include far more than the $7 billion allocated for housing rebuilding grants, far more than the tens of billions to rebuild the levees to Category 5 strength, far more than the $14 billion needed to start a vigorous coastal restoration plan, and far, far more to rebuild the shattered sewerage and water system which pumps twice water as goes to the tap thanks to subsidence breaks throughout the city.

There are so many needs unmet by your pathetic leadership, Mr. President, that the imagination staggers to comprehend how you couldn’t see them, or how you could ignore them. Of course, it would help if you actually left the Isle of Denial and visited the remaining 80 percent of the city devastated by flooding to see what the hell is going on there. Maybe you ought to stand with a megaphone on top of the breach in the 17th Street Canal (which still doesn’t have a working pumping facility at the canal gates), as you did in that photo op on the rubble of the World Trade Center towers, and announce that you will do whatever it takes to rebuild this city. Your message would echo across vacant neighborhoods — bouncing back-and-forth against a bleak landscape of still-shattered homes.

It’s no use for you to declare — as you should — that you will work to “break through” the bureaucratic “logjams” to get the money flowing. Thank you, but we’ve heard those platitudes before, as when you stood in Jackson Square and announced you would do whatever it takes for New Orleans to rise again. That was a year and a half ago. Tell us HOW. Tell us what your PLAN is to break through the bureaucratic logjams. Tell us you will waive the 10 percent local share for federal recovery grants as has been done for every other federal disaster in the last quarter century. Give us the details of a specific plan to address our needs.

Since you didn’t have anything new to offer, it was probably a relief for you to be able to mention the proposed $450 million in federal money to help the devastated schools of New Orleans, but … er … that’s a proposal being offered by the Democratic Congress. Oops!

Mr. Bush, don’t you dare return ever again to New Orleans until you have an adequate response to ALL of our needs.

Posted in Category 5 Storm Protection, Coastal Restoration, Hurricane Katrina, Katrina Dissidents, Louisiana, New Orleans, Wetlands Restoration, Worst President Ever | 8 Comments »

President Bush: Commit to Cat 5 storm protection and coastal restoration!

Posted by schroeder915 on March 1, 2007

President Bush,

On your visit to New Orleans today, note that a full year and a half has passed since the federal levee system failed, and you still haven’t committed to preventing such a disaster from occurring again. If you aren’t already aware that it was the levees, not the hurricane, that destroyed New Orleans, go visit Leake Avenue where people with flood-damaged homes have lined up outside the Corps of Engineers’ building to file their Form 95 claims against the Corps.

You, Mr. President, have a responsibility to commit adequate resources to compensate victims, to rebuild this city, to repair the institutional morass that created the disaster in the first place, and to protect America’s most unique cultural city from future disasters.

Your six-month hiatus from New Orleans, and your failure to mention New Orleans in your State of the Union address, are totally unacceptable. You can start to make up for those failures by committing today to a plan, to funding, and to targeted completion dates, for true Category 5 storm protection and coastal restoration.

So little has happened in the last year and a half, that I don’t even have to restate the arguments for Cat 5 storm protection and coastal restoration. I’ll just refer you to the post I wrote six months ago, and these letters which reflect the sentiment of all New Orleanians …

T-P letters:

President Bush has proposed allocating another $1 billion to “create jobs and help reconstruction in neighborhoods. . . . to help rebuild from the bottom up, from schools to local government to political interest groups.”

The president was speaking, of course, not about New Orleans, but about Iraq.

As I witness the destruction of my city on a daily basis and hear the continued pain of its citizens, it is surreal that my tax dollars continue to flow to the rebuilding of Iraq.

Kathy Meunier
New Orleans

 

The solution to our crime problem was just answered by President Bush in his address to the country the other day.

From now on, murderers, thugs, drug dealers, etc. will be called insurgents by the New Orleans media and all government officials.

Once we have established to the rest of the country that New Orleans is under attack by these insurgents, President Bush will go to Congress to plead for billions of dollars in aid and to send additional troops to the epicenter of insurgency in the United States: New Orleans.

Lee Scherman
New Orleans

Out of Iraq into New Orleans!

Posted in Category 5 Storm Protection, Coastal Restoration, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Protection, Katrina Dissidents, Louisiana, New Orleans, Rebuild New Orleans, Wetlands Restoration, Worst President Ever | 6 Comments »

Carnival in Washington

Posted by schroeder915 on January 25, 2007

George W. Bush spent half of his time in the State of the Union address defending his plan to send more Americans into the crosshairs of an Iraq civil war, but had not a single word of sympathy, encouragement, or support for New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast, still suffering from the ravages of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the federal levee engineering disaster which destroyed New Orleans. He narcissistically delights at the thought of himself as a war president. Were it not for 9/11, he’d have been an ineffective, unpopular president (as he is now, but he would have been denied a second term). Let’s remember how little he’s accomplished in the domestic arena other than tax cuts, which pick our childrens’ pockets tomorrow to enrich the super wealthy today. The “war against terrah” has been so grotesquely mismanaged and exploited for other agendas that even as Bush is talking about surging American troop levels in Iraq, the Taliban and Al Qaeda — who really did attack Americans on American soil — are surging again in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The only answer Bush has for the mismanaged occupation of Iraq is more of the same — more troops in the wrong arena for the wrong cause. In a vain attempt to create democracy from the muzzle of a gun — what Bush himself once derided as “nation-building” — Bush is breeding more animosity and more insurgents. He has never fully engaged the international community — the Arab world in particular — in sharing the responsibility for the outcome in Iraq. His sole interest is securing control of the world’s second largest petroleum reserves under Iraq for his oil company friends. Bush’s “coalition of the willing” has always been a farce — a mere shadow of the international support his father achieved. George W. Bush is creating a giant Sunni-Shia Hydra. There may be no good answer to solving that problem, but his effort to stabilize Iraq by killing more Iraqis will only create more insurgents, kill more Iraqis, and kill more Americans. Meanwhile, by ignoring Americans still suffering from the worst federal engineering disaster here at home, a great American city — a great world city — is being destabilized.

More than 200,000 people remain displaced from New Orleans. Their homes sit idle while they wait for insurance, wait for Road Home grants — neither of which are sufficient compensation to rebuild their homes — wait for streets to be repaired, wait for water and sewer lines to be repaired, wait for street lights to be repaired, wait for the criminal justice system to be repaired, wait for schools to be repaired, wait for hospitals to be repaired, wait … wait … wait. Tens of billions of dollars spent on cleanup amounted to nothing after Bush’s friends grabbed the money. When it was all over, all that remained was $8 billion in CDBG grants for homeowners — a sum of money that George W. Bush has been spending in Iraq every four weeks for nearly four years. Meanwhile, a great American city — a great world city — has been allowed to die. Scores of thousands of more Americans across the Gulf Coast remain without hope.

It’s time for a march on Washington. I propose February 24th — the first Saturday after Mardi Gras — a perfect occasion to take the carnival revolution from the streets of New Orleans to streets of Washington. We’ll need trucks and flatbed trailers to load up with soggy, moldy furniture from houses still not gutted a year and a half after the federal levees broke. We’re going to haul the debris to Washington and dump it on Pennsylvania Avenue as a gesture of our contempt for a president who had nothing to say in the most important report he is required to provide to Congress about the well-being of our nation and her citizens. I’m calling on Americans across the nation who care about New Orleans, who care about the Gulf Coast, who care about the lives of American soldiers and their families, who care about the pressing global environmental issues that need to be addressed right now, who care about an eroding middle class, who care about America and the world being created in George W. Bush’s image. Let us Americans, all of us, march on Washington to tell George W. Bush and Congress that we don’t want their war in Iraq any more. Let’s march on Washington to tell George W. Bush and Congress that we won’t stomach the deaths of any more Americans from oil wars; we won’t stomach the deaths of any more Americans from environmental disasters; we won’t stomach the deaths of any more Americans from bloated bureaucracies and engineering failures. We demand honesty. We demand transparency. We demand accountability. We demand real solutions for the coming environmental challenges. We demand coastal restoration, and Category 5 protection from hurricanes and rising sea levels.

We are Americans. We demand an adequate answer from our elected officials when Americans are in need!

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Posted in Category 5 Storm Protection, Coastal Restoration, Failure is not an option, Global Warming, Hurricane Katrina, Iraq, Katrina Dissidents, Louisiana, Most Revolting President Ever, New Orleans, Rebuild New Orleans, Wetlands Restoration, Worst President Ever | 37 Comments »

Misery tour suggestions

Posted by schroeder915 on January 22, 2007

If you were to host a group of about 100 visiting environmentalists on a misery tour, what salient facts would you offer to support a comprehensive understanding about what happened that caused flooding in New Orleans, and where we need to go from here? I’m looking for anything from levee failures to green building and coastal restoration, scientific facts, and sources. Looking back almost a year and a half, it’s become a daunting amount of information and I wouldn’t like to miss any important facts.

Posted in Category 5 Storm Protection, Coastal Restoration, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans | 6 Comments »

John Edwards: “People Get Ready!”

Posted by schroeder915 on December 27, 2006

The wording of the announcement is uncanny. From the John Edwards One America website, blogger philgoblue quoted John Edwards in spirit, if not verbatim: “People Get Ready!”

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By announcing his candidacy for President in the 2008 election from the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, John Edwards is sending a powerful message to the rest of the nation, and the world, that New Orleans will no longer be neglected; that the rebuilding of New Orleans is a symbol of the kind of nation the United States of America should be, where the least among us is treated with dignity, where resources aren’t squandered on a rich minority, but invested in the infinite potential of the multitudes, where hope in a brighter future replaces fear exploited for partisan or personal gain, where one of the greatest cities on Earth is recognized for its cultural and economic contribution to the world.

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Thank God we finally have an intelligent, eloquent, respected spokesperson of national stature to keep New Orleans in the spotlight.

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Charles Dharapak / AP

I’ve said it many times before: As New Orleans goes, so goes the rest of the nation.

Posted in 2008 Elections, Category 5 Storm Protection, Coastal Restoration, Failure is not an option, Global Warming, John Edwards, Katrina Dissidents, Louisiana, Neighborhood Preservation, New Orleans, Rebuild New Orleans | 19 Comments »

John Edwards: “People Get Ready!”

Posted by schroeder915 on December 27, 2006

The wording of the announcement is uncanny. From the John Edwards One America website, blogger philgoblue quoted John Edwards in spirit, if not verbatim: “People Get Ready!”

edwards_pgr.jpg

By announcing his candidacy for President in the 2008 election from the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, John Edwards is sending a powerful message to the rest of the nation, and the world, that New Orleans will no longer be neglected; that the rebuilding of New Orleans is a symbol of the kind of nation the United States of America should be, where the least among us is treated with dignity, where resources aren’t squandered on a rich minority, but invested in the infinite potential of the multitudes, where hope in a brighter future replaces fear exploited for partisan or personal gain, where one of the greatest cities on Earth is recognized for its cultural and economic contribution to the world.

jre_in_nola_with_volunteers.jpg

Thank God we finally have an intelligent, eloquent, respected spokesperson of national stature to keep New Orleans in the spotlight.

122706_edwards_02.jpg
Charles Dharapak / AP

I’ve said it many times before: As New Orleans goes, so goes the rest of the nation.

Posted in 2008 Elections, Category 5 Storm Protection, Coastal Restoration, Failure is not an option, Global Warming, John Edwards, Katrina Dissidents, Louisiana, Neighborhood Preservation, New Orleans, Rebuild New Orleans | Comments Off on John Edwards: “People Get Ready!”

Merry Katrina Christmas, 2006

Posted by schroeder915 on December 22, 2006

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There are more of my Katrina Christmas photos here, here, and here. And visit Humid City for an entertaining twist on The Night Before Christmas.

A lot of us may not be blogging over the next few days, so here’s my wish to all of you for a happy holiday season, whatever it is you like to celebrate.

I haven’t been driving around much lately because I was busy studying, so maybe it’s my imagination, but I don’t think I’m seeing as many Christmas decorations in areas that flooded as I saw last year. Last year, the first Christmas after Katrina, people who made it back — some who were living in trailers, some living in tents, some in their gutted homes without gas, some without electricity, many taking cold showers, and eating MRE’s or cooking on camp stoves — people who were defying all odds and making it happen made a powerful statement about getting back to normal despite the odds by putting up some amazing Christmas decorations. If it’s true that there aren’t as many decorations this year, that would be very disconcerting because it would mean people are feeling defeated, or have already given up and moved away. More hopefully, it’s also entirely possible that people are just too damn busy fighting their insurance companies (still), and ICF for their Road Home grants, and the Corps of Engineers, and City Hall, and now, re-salvaging what they can of their salvaged Katrina possessions since the Sewerage and Water Board can’t handle a little rain.

A friend of mine was flooded again:

“The worst part about it, this is the stuff that survived,” said Steve Quick, who had just returned from school at Washington University in St. Louis to visit his girlfriend for the holidays.

Quick sorted through soggy pictures, stuffed animals and books, which he laid out to dry in the front room of his girlfriend’s apartment, which is still being renovated. His girlfriend, who was at work during the flooding, lives in a FEMA trailer next to the house.

I waded into River Road — ironically, in front of the Corps of Engineers office building — to push two flooded cars off of the street. As I was helping one driver blow water out of her engine block, I heard a loud thud as a driver trying to get out of the floodwater in a Toyota compact found a curb instead of a driveway. When he quickly jumped out of the car to examine the fabric burn on his forearm, I realized the smoke pouring out of the passenger cabin was coming from the deployed airbag.

Times-Picayune photos here, here, and here.

It seems the problem was an electrical outage at Pumping Station No. 6, which would have slowed drainage throughout a huge swath of Uptown, Broadmoor, Carrollton, Jefferson, and Old Metairie, and silt-clogged pipes from Katrina flooding which FEMA still hasn’t paid to get cleaned.

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I did find it interesting that the TP reporters caught up with Joe Sullivan, the general superintendent for the Sewerage and Water Board, even though he was on vacation. Sullivan couldn’t say how long the electrical outage at station 6 lasted, because of course, he was on vacation. So who’s in charge when Sullivan’s on vacation?

I’m also wondering why, if the city has so far had to pay for the cleanup of those drainage pipes — which were inundated by a disaster caused by the federal government — why isn’t Mayor Unseen Ray Nagin broadcasting this vital infrastructure project through a megaphone every day?

I find it difficult to imagine how four inches of water could cause so much destruction. I’m not convinced that The Times-Picayune got to the bottom of the problem, but Matt McBride has additional insights which, as always, merit attention. Here is blogging at it’s best — I mean, who has time to go around town in the middle of a rain storm to inspect the pumping stations (compare Matt’s report to the AP report in The Washington Post for an example of how media democracy is often far superior to corporate media). Good work Matt! Once again, New Orleans citizens are doing it for themselves!

One last item before I depart from this post. For those of us wondering whether or not citizens have power over local broadcasters, and can get them to serve the community better, Madison, Wisconsin has an answer.

Griper News is reporting that protestors forced Clear Channel to keep the Air America format on Madison’s 92.1 FM. There’s been quite a bit of discussion about Madison’s struggle in the comments to a recent PGR post, “Raise the volume: Raze corporate media.” The problem there was similar to the problem here in New Orleans — the only difference here is that the corporate villain is Entercom.

Just three days after the Democrats won control of Congress, Clear Channel announced that it was going to kill the progressive Air America format in Madison. In New Orleans, Entercom didn’t wait to announce the change — they just did it, two days after the election. Entercom is now re-running the same content on 1350 AM that it simultaneously broadcasts on two other stations, 870 AM and 105.3 FM. How hoarding three licenses to broadcast the same content in any way serves the community isn’t just a rhetorical question. It demands an answer by Entercom executives, and we citizens should demand public hearings and an FCC investigation.

Incidentally, Entercom used the same excuse that Clear Channel used. They both said that the Air America format had bad ratings and wasn’t getting any advertisers. The truth is, they never had a dedicated sales staff to acquire advertisers, and they never promoted the format.

Maybe John Nichols of The Nation will now turn his attention from Madison’s fight, to give us a hand in fighting New Orleans’ corporate media villains. Not only should we demand an alternative to the ignorant rants streaming from 690 AM, 870 AM, 105.3 FM, 1350 AM, and 99.5 FM, but the community should be able to operate its own radio station, sharing the information we need to make our neighborhoods safe places to live in again.

Imagine if Matt McBride had his own radio show!

Related:

Metroblogging New Orleans — Matt McBride: The Station Pump Master

Posted in Category 5 Storm Protection, Clear Channel, Coastal Restoration, Entercom, Failure is not an option, Katrina Dissidents, Media Democracy, New Orleans, New Orleans Blogs, Rebuild New Orleans, Recall Nagin, WIST, Worst Mayor Ever, Worst President Ever, WRNO, WSMB, WWL, WWWL | 8 Comments »

Going underground

Posted by schroeder915 on December 16, 2006

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Four days to go until G-day. I’m re-taking the GRE for the second time in … I won’t say how many years it’s been. I’ll just say it’s longer than the Educational Testing Service holds on to previous scores, which is why I have to take it again. How does it feel? Painful. My brain strains and shudders and sobs every time I open up my sopororific study guide. But re-learn the FOIL method I will, and commit to memory the meaning of words like “Donnybrook” I shall.

The paragon institution of erudite liberal arts academic pursuits to which I have applied has ordered that I be subjected to the base ritual of a standardized multiple choice exam to determine if I am, indeed, capable of taking standardized tests, can still solve for x in a polynomial equation, and can find an angle formed by a transversal across parallel lines. There is no possibility of obviating the requirement, supplicating the review board, or malingering in the specious notion that it might be overlooked.

So, until I emerge from my apprenticeship in the requisite skills to cheat the GRE test creators out of their ardor to separate me from my goal in complete opprobrium, I shall be obdurate in my quest, and abate my garrulous proclivities.

In the meantime, I offer the photo above as a reminder that this completely gutted house in a severely-flooded neighborhood wouldn’t be posted for sale, and the owners wouldn’t have moved somewhere else, if it weren’t for the fact that the federal government first destroyed their house, and then abandoned them without due compensation. Tens of thousands of other Americans are being forced to make the same decision, to retain only the memories of the homes and lives they once had, and of a city they loved as one of the most unique in the world.

Posted in Category 5 Storm Protection, Coastal Restoration, Failure is not an option, Katrina Dissidents, New Orleans, Rebuild New Orleans, Worst President Ever | 15 Comments »

Raise the volume: Raze corporate media

Posted by schroeder915 on December 14, 2006

I’m going to ramble here for a while on some media thoughts I’ve been having lately.

Every once in a blue moon, when I write a post which offers what I think are revealing facts or perspectives which aren’t being offered in the local mainstream media, I have occasionally posted a link in the NOLA.COM town hall forums.

A couple of days ago, I posted a link to “We all sink or swim together” in the Jefferson, Orleans, West Bank, Uptown, Gentilly, and Mid City town hall forums. As of this evening, all but the Uptown posts were deleted — by NOLA.COM I presume.

Are they merely protecting their readers from leaving the NOLA.COM pages? Is this a form of private censorship? Or is it just a stupid business model?

How many people will be interested in returning to the forums once they discover that the posts are being monitored by a gatekeeper who can arbitrarily delete anything?

I tuned into WIST yesterday afternoon for not more than about five minutes of Kaare “stop shouting” Johnson’s show before I had to change the channel when I heard him say he had been talking to a caller who studied “economy.” What? Economics? It makes me wonder what the qualifications are to be a talk-show host.

Yesterday morning, Bob Delgiorno introduced John Spud McConnell as someone who’s “very opinionated,” elaborating that that’s why Spud’s a talk show host. Huh? Spud McConnell is a redneck yahoo who’s ignorance and contempt for intellectual discussion is daily vindicated by listening to Rush Limbaugh, another mental midget who dutifully recites his lines from the RNCC daily talking points. I’ve heard Spud matter-of-factly say that he doesn’t actually read the newspaper. He just reads the the headlines. Taking a guy who forms opinions without being educated, and turning him out over the airwaves to influence the views of millions of citizens isn’t just bad programming — it contributes to bad public understanding, bad public policy, and it erodes the foundation of our democracy.

A few days ago, I heard Garland Robinette make a pitch for a very worthy cause — Children’s Hospital — by joking that he’d “hit the bong” (rather than “hit the gong”) if anyone called in to pledge $500. A slip of the tongue? He continued to repeat the line as though it was funny to his listeners, or somehow amusing to Children’s Hospital. This is from a guy who never stops talking about himself in almost every segment as being a communications professional who once had a communications business.

With the exception of some notable and distinguished reporters at The Times-Picayune, I have to ask: Where are the real media professionals in this town? I mean, people who have earned their credentials after rigorous formal training, who are seasoned (not hardened) by their years of experience, and who demonstrate that their profession continues to offer opportunities to learn and grow and mature. Anyone?

I think of Bob Marshall, Mark Schlefstein, and Gordon Russell at The Times-Picayune. There are some new potential stars rising at The Times-Picayune as well, like Michelle Krupa.

Were there another major daily, I might be able to point to other professionals who are providing a critical eye on what’s happening in our city. Unfortunately, The Times-Picayune is just too damn big. They’ve sucked all the air out of the region with their bureaus distributed over five or six parishes. Maybe that’s the only way a newspaper can survive these days, but spread so thinly, I’m not sure they can really do a good job.

There was a time when radio and television did more to uncover stories with their investigative news bureaus — never on a par with what newspapers could do, but still, they were there pounding the pavement and demanding answers. WWL TV is the best at it these days (as far as television news goes), but how much can really be done in the occasional two-minute feature?

For its pathetic lack of hard news outlets, New Orleans is really not much different from most urban centers around the nation. There was a time when things were different, when there was more than one paper, and talk shows weren’t dominated by self-aggrandizing angry white men with an ax to grind.

Having multiple sources of information enriches the dialog on vital issues, and gets us to the answers we need faster. For people trying to make sense of what’s happening in New Orleans post-Katrina, we’re starved for information like catfish writhing around at the bottom of a pirogue sucking wind. At this moment when we vitally need a vibrant press to keep tabs on public officials, and to tell us what the hell is going on, we’re stuck with a single daily newspaper, self-promoting TV news personalities, and dim-witted right-wing talk show freaks.

If you take a step back and put it in perspective, we deserve better than what “the market” has given us. We citizens are now paying the true price of the deregulated corporate media-consolidation revolution ushered in by Ronald Reagan, and taken to new extremes by Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress with the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

We need to roll back that deregulation now! We need more localism in our print, radio, and television media. We need more community control, and more diversity of perspectives in the media. We need the Fairness Doctrine. It is, after all, our media, and those bastards ought to listen to what we have to say.

As has become apparent over the last few weeks, I have a particular vendetta against local radio. The biggest targets of my scorn are Entercom and Clear Channel, which own a combined 13 radio stations in the New Orleans market. Until recently, only WWL was offering its uneducated, one-sided interviews with public officials. Then Clear Channel decided to finally change the format of one of its seven radio stations to talk radio, but gave us more of the same raving lunatic angry white men, including convicted insurance commissioner Jim “can’t stop lip-smacking” Brown and Sean Hannity. It’s the absolute epitome of the uninspired programming decisions that come out of corporate boardrooms, not in response to what the community wants or needs, but what they can throw out there to minimize their costs and maximize their ad revenues. Meanwhile, Entercom decided in the last couple of months to kill the only alternative to right-wing talk, Air America Radio, opting instead to broadcast the same content on three of its radio stations.

We don’t need more syndicated hate radio shoveled at us. We need answers to local problems. We need rational, civil conversation, supported by empirical facts, and including a wide-ranging diversity of viewpoints, in order to figure out how to get us out of the mess we’re in. We need to celebrate our local community and culture. We need to have more say in programming decisions and press coverage.

I envision a future in which ubiquitous broadband wireless forces radio stations to finally stop dumping the same repetitive music and syndicated programming on affiliates across the country, because when you can tune in your wireless radio at home or your car, to any station in the country, then every station around the country will be competing for the same potential listeners. I think the result would be more variety, as stations try to identify niches that both capture local audiences, as well as interest national audiences.

WWOZ offers an excellent example of a station which has a niche found nowhere else in the world, and its live internet stream probably entertains tens of thousands of listeners around the globe. It found that niche not because it intended to create programming that appealed to world listeners, but because it was responding to the unique musical culture of New Orleans. Every community has creative roots which could flourish in an innovative new market.

As I’ve been making these arguments for more community input into what we get from our media, I’ve been repeatedly reminded that we also need to fight to retain net neutrality. It’s true. The vision I just described of a more dynamic radio market supported by internet broadcasting won’t happen if we allow corporate gatekeepers to control the content that’s piped over the internet.

That vision is also predicated upon the establishment of more community control over broadcast licenses.

I’ll repeat it again: We should demand that commercial broadcasters hold public hearings now to demonstrate how they’re serving the community (print media should be listening to us as well). The FCC should step in and demand that commercial broadcasters justify their right to hold the licenses which we own — not them. If they can’t prove that they’re adequately serving the community (and how could they), we should demand that they hand over their licenses to more responsive organizations.

Imagine what could be done if we gave the microphone to the neighborhood activists to talk about what’s on their minds. There’d be no hiding from them, and it’d be some of the best radio ever. It would also, I have argued, be completely commercially viable, since the audience would be comprised of precisely the kinds of people rebuilding their homes and their communities who big advertisers want to reach. All that’s lacking is an FCC license, which we as a community are entitled to, and which we should speak up for.

I attended a forum on Louisiana public policy and perception Tuesday at St. Dominic School. The panel of speakers included Berkeley engineer Bob Bea and LSU scientist Ivor Van Heerden, who have both been crusaders for truth against obfuscation by the Corps of Engineers. Both said that we as a community need to be responsible for generating the momentum needed to create the kinds of innovative engineering projects required to protect our city and our state from future storms. A radio station would be an extraordinary way to unify and amplify our collective voices.

We’ve been floundering in the recovery of our city and region thus far, not because we don’t want things to move faster, but because our public officials are so damned incompetent. We need to raise our voices so they can hear us loud and clear in City Hall, Baton Rouge, and Washington.

Related:

“And you didn’t punch her in the face?”

“We shall beat our plowshares into swords”

WIST is an “entertainment” station


Kill corporate media

No harm done when you’re already braindead

Better dead than blue

How corporate control kills media democracy

Whoring for WWL

Dems win, Entercom kills progressive radio

Posted in Category 5 Storm Protection, Clear Channel, Coastal Restoration, Entercom, Failure is not an option, Katrina Dissidents, Louisiana, Media Democracy, New Orleans, Rebuild New Orleans, The New 995, WIST, Worst President Ever, WWL | 22 Comments »