Monday, February 13, 2006

Katrina Evacuees Fighting Eviction + Brazell Anniversary + Two Controversial Musicians

EvacueesAccording to numerous reports, about 12,000 families that had to flee the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina and the inept government responses following it are now facing eviction from their government-subsidized housing today; last week 4,500 families stopped receiving funding. Calling these actions disgusting, barbaric and criminal barely suffices.

Although the Emperor Katrina stood before the backdrop of New Orleans's St. Louis Cathedral and claimed he would work his damnedest to ensure funding so that that city and other parts of the Gulf Coast would be rebuilt, he and the Republican-controlled Congress have dragged their feet.

FEMA, which came under withering criticism during last's fall's tragedy and has continued to garner harsh critiques because of its ongoing ineptitude, has said it will stop sending out rent support, though attorneys for the evacuees are filing for a temporary stay.

As ABC News's Mary Roberts reports:

Attorneys on Sunday delivered papers to the home of U.S. District Court Judge Stanwood Duval, asking him to grant a temporary restraining order to stall the evictions. By late Sunday night there was still no word on Duval's ruling.

"We have provided the court with statements from people showing they have not been treated fairly by FEMA," said Bill Quigley, an assistant dean of the Loyola University Law School, who filed the motion with civil rights attorney Tracie Washington.


About 10,500 families, or 88 percent, have received rent-assistance checks from FEMA, said Libby Turner, the agency's transitional housing director. The cash can be used to pay for an apartment or to continue their hotel stays. It also can be put toward fixing their ruined homes.

Quigley and Washington are asking the court to issue a temporary restraining order suspending all pending FEMA evictions of all evacuees.

There are links and instructions on ways to respond at Steve Gilliard's News Blog.

Meanwhile, Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post reports that a Republican select committee is set to release a report condemning the government's response to the horrific hurricane. It details 90 findings of failure at all levels of government. We learned last week that despite the initial lies fed to the public, Brownie alerted his boss and the White House on the day of the hurricane that the levees had broken. But then we learned even before then that there had been repeated warnings on the precarious state of the levees under a Category 4 or 5 hurricane (and Katrina was a Category 3) years before, despite the lies initially fed to the public. How will they get out of this one?

Hurricane Katrina exposed the U.S. government's failure to learn the lessons of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as leaders from President Bush down disregarded ample warnings of the threat to New Orleans and did not execute emergency plans or share information that would have saved lives, according to a blistering report by House investigators.

A draft of the report, to be released publicly Wednesday, includes 90 findings of failures at all levels of government, according to a senior investigation staffer who requested anonymity because the document is not final. Titled "A Failure of Initiative," it is one of three separate reviews by the House, Senate and White House that will in coming weeks dissect the response to the nation's costliest natural disaster.

The 600-plus-page report lays primary fault with the passive reaction and misjudgments of top Bush aides, singling out Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security Operations Center and the White House Homeland Security Council, according to a 60-page summary of the document obtained by The Washington Post. Regarding Bush, the report found that "earlier presidential involvement could have speeded the response" because he alone could have cut through all bureaucratic resistance.


The report said the single biggest federal failure was not anticipating the consequences of the storm. Disaster planners had rated the flooding of New Orleans as the nation's most feared scenario, testing it under a catastrophic disaster preparedness program in 2004.

About 56 hours before Katrina made landfall, the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center cited an "extremely high probability" that New Orleans would be flooded and tens of thousands of residents killed.

Given those warnings, the report notes Bush's televised statement on Sept. 1 that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees," and concludes: "Comments such as those . . . do not appear to be consistent with the advice and counsel one would expect to have been provided by a senior disaster professional."


BrazellToday's New York Times marks the one-year anniversary of the murder of Rashawn Brazell (at left, photo from the New York Times) a young sgl Brooklynite, with an article by Kareem Fahim and John Koblin, entitled, "A Year after a Teenager Was Dismembered, Still No Answer."

Several of my earliest posts (here, here) on this blog (back in March 2005) concerned the aftermath of the killing, and the work of so many Black gay bloggers and others to increase awareness about the killing, press the police to take it seriously, and honor Brazell. As a result, the Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund now exists.

The Times writers begin:

The tips have slowed to a trickle, and the leads have all but dried up.

Detectives know little more about what happened to Rashawn Brazell, whose limbs and torso they found in trash bags in a subway tunnel and in a recycling plant in Brooklyn last year, than they did in the weeks after he vanished from his home in Bushwick.

In some ways they know less, having discarded early theories about Mr. Brazell's killer, including hunches that the person might be a transit worker or someone with medical training.

"We still don't know where he got killed, or why," said a senior investigator who has supervised the case since its beginning. "It's frustrating."

As cold cases go, Mr. Brazell's stands out, as much for the grisly way his body was disposed of as for the person his relatives and friends said he was: an energetic, grounded 19-year-old who loved music, cooking and going to clubs and who, with his résumés prepared, was set to go hunt for a job the day he disappeared.

"This victim was not leading a criminal lifestyle," said the investigator, who was not authorized to speak for attribution since the case is open. "You have to feel for that family."


Two Musicians: "One died, and the soul was wrenched out of the other in life..." (John Ashbery, "Street Musicians," from Houseboat Days [Viking: 1977].)

SchoenbergHe (at right, "Self Portrait," undated) was born 132 years ago in September in Vienna, Austria, and died just over 50 years ago in Los Angeles. The very mention of his name, let alone the music he composed, continues to provoke irrational responses in some concertgoers. Yet he's widely recognized as one of the most important musicians of the 20th century; his trained several of the most singular musicians ever to appear (Alban Berg, Anton Webern, etc.), and was himself major innovator whose chief developments include atonalism (which he called pantonalism), the incorporation of a vocal line in the string quartet, and most importantly, the 12-note compositional method, or dodecaphony, which became one of the dominant compositional methods for four decades. Even musicians who were opposed to him, including Igor Stravinsky, incorporated elements of it or utilized it in their work. So why are people still afraid of his work? James Levine, the chief conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera, is willing to take up the challenge. One woman I once worked for, a Met subscriber, decried having to sit through his unfinished, conceptual masterpiece Moses und Aron, which she called the "Maidenform opera." On the other hand, when composer Byron M. and I went to see another of his works performed at Carnegie Hall, a guy was scalping tickets outside! His best works still sound strange and novel, even though elements of them have been incorporated into the works of jazz and rock & roll musicians. So what's the big deal in 2006?

He (at right, drawing © by Peterchev) was born 100 years ago, also in September, in St. Petersburg (which became Leningrad, then Petrograd, and is once again St. Petersburg), Russia, and died in Moscow in 1975. He composed 15 symphonies, several operas (one of which almost led to his death), fifteen string quartets (and a chamber symphony), as well as ballets, film scores, concerti, and numerous other works. To some he is also one of the greatest classical composers of the 20th century, while to others he is a prolific hack. Did he agree with the tenets of the Soviet regime, as some of his greatest compositions seem to imply (the 5th and 10th Symphonies), or did he oppose it and nest his dissidence in his often highly ironic melodies and tart harmonies (the 4th, 9th, and 13th Symphonies)? Is his work merely a continuation of Gustav Mahler's mixed with Beethoven's or something truly original? What about the symphonies that appear to be propagandistic, like the 3rd ("May Day"), or bombastic, like the 11th ("The Year 1905"), or shoddily constructed, like the 12th ("The Year 1917"), which is one of my favorites? Should it be interpreted as a paean to the October Revolution, or do its simple melodies and haphazard construction point to a necessarily more complex interpretation? Meanwhile, Manchester, UK, "tunes up" for the centenary; I'd love to be able to catch even a little of it.


  1. Rashawn & Katrina: The True State of Our Union

  2. Civil rights are seldom handed out by anyone suffering of civility.

    Both you and I must stand up and take them, now as tomorrow is to late.

    What was was done to the people of New Orleans is a major crime committed by what must now count as the greatest criminal the world has ever known, hi George, kneck and head still connected but no co ordination other than to get the money in your pockets.