Bush, lies and videotape

C.C. Campbell-Rock
Date Published: 
March 8, 2006

The videotape showing that President George W. Bush knew about Hurricane Katrina the day before the storm hit, yet neglected to send help immediately, lends credence to law professor William Quigley's belief that "They left us here to die."
At press time, President Bush was headed to the Gulf Coast again, According to a recent television interview with former FEMA Director Michael Brown, Bush has visited the area numerous times since the hurricane.
During an Aug, 27 meeting recorded in a videotape acquired by the Associated Press, Bush not only asked no questions, he automatically assured everyone that federal assets would be on the ground during and after the deadliest storm to hit t he U.S.
During congressional hearings into the administration's'handling of the disaster, Michael Brown couldn't remember if the president was present for that meeting or when the White House learned of the life-threatening nature of the hurricane. Meanwhile, the press reported that the White House wasn't aware of the hurricane's potential deadly impact until late Monday evening, after the hurricane slammed into the Gulf Coast.
Four days after the storm, and with little federal aid in sight, Bush said, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." However, the AP reported, "Transcripts and video show there was plenty of talk about that possibility - and Bush was worried too."
On Bill Maher's HBO series "Real Time," Brown said, "I'm glad the truth is finally coming out." He later characterized the president's laid back reaction to the impending disaster as "overconfident" in FEMA's capabilities.
The poster says, "If living were Critics of the administration say finger¬a thing that money could buy, pointing and laying blame doesn't erase concern for the 2 000 people still missing or the dead man found in an attic this week or the 400-500 bodies that remain unclaimed and unburied or the 120 houses being demolished in New Orleans, which guarantee that more than 100 evacuees are now officially homeless.

Voting rights denied
Katrina evacuees are now facing another challenge. Unlike Iraqis living in America during last year's Iraqi election, Katrina evacuees in 44 American cities will not have satellite voting polls at which to cast ballots. In order to vote for the next mayor of New Orleans, evacuees must apply for an absentee ballot by March 22 and get information on who is running on their own, without the glossy flyers that they usually receive in the mail.
Without explanation, Judge Ivan Lemelle, the only African American federal district judge for the eastern district of Louisiana, dismissed a lawsuit that would have placed satellite voting polls in cities where evacuees live.
Attorney Tracie Washington said, "Once again, this is further evidence that African Americans have a lesser standing in this country than whites or the foreigners who we're trying to get to run our ports. There is no reason for the judge to have denied ACORN's request for out-of-state satellite voting.
"Everybody we sued, from the governor to the Registrar of Voters, said it was feasible. When the judge asked them if they could use extra time, they said, That's fine,' and still the judge didn't do it. We now have to try desperately to get people to the polls in New Orleans. It's just disheartening that Lemelle did not rule in our favor."
Judge Lemelle told the San Francisco Bay View, "I can't legally discuss a case that is in litigation. I did rule, however, that my decision did not preclude anyone from challenging this decision or taking other actions."
"Despite strong evidence demonstrating that the vast majority of people displaced are living outside of Louisiana, the court opted against the establishment of satellite voting centers. The court's failure to act will prevent over 12,000 displaced New Orleanians from voting absentee," said Damon Hewitt, associate counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
"We're living in a country willing to bend over backwards to create the illusion of democracy in a country thousands of miles away, yet it could not see fit to create a one time exception to unduly burdensome regulations to allow the Katrina Diaspora to cast a meaningful ballot," Hewitt said, referring to last year's Iraqi election.
Nearly 26,000 people registered to vote in five U.S. metropolitan areas with heavy Iraqi populations: Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, Los Angeles and Washington," according to an Associated Press story in January 2005. Iraqis were also allowed to vote in Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iran, Jordan, Netherlands, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Katrina aftermath fraught with racism
Ron Chisom, a native New Orlean ian, civil rights leader, and co¬founder of the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, is currently living in Fresno, Texas. The People's Institute conducts anti-racism workshops for organizations and corporations. Chisom was the leading plaintiff in a voting rights lawsuit that resulted in retired Justice Revius Ortique becoming the first African American on the Louisiana State Supreme Court.
"Of course we should have the right to vote. New Orleans is not going to be what it's supposed to be unless we have total involvement. If African Americans were allowed to easily vote, that would give African Americans too much leverage to maintain an African American in that position (mayor's office)," Chisom said.
"We really have to educate all of our folks. They must understand the power dynamics. We are powerful people, but we're not being treated that way, and we don't treat ourselves that way. We have to do some organizing, writing campaigns, networking and put it out in media as to what's going on."
"With Katrina, we saw every aspect of racism -language, culture, individual and institutional racism. For example, the language used by media - 'African Americans were looting while whites were getting what they needed.' That was linguistic racism," he explained.
"There was a positive side to Katrina," Chisom added. "We saw people helping and getting help."
Chisom remains positive, however, even while mourning the passa9.,~9f his mother, Evelyn Theresa Comeaux, 84. "Mama died from i~i~iina. They took her out in a helicopter and we couldn't find herii;}rtwo weeks. She stopped eating and taking her medicine."
, Doing something about it
New Orleanians have until Wednesday, March 22, to request an absentee ballot to vote in the April 22 election. "We never intended to put everything into the court's hands," Hewitt continued. "We're going to educate people on how to cast absentee ballots and how to vote in Louisiana." Hewitt and others are setting up "Katrina Vote Centers" in cities with high concentrations of hurricane victims.
A hotline number will be released soon and a Voting Symposium held Friday, March 24, at Southern University in Baton Rouge,
"We need to put some heat in the street and be willing to fight like hell to get a little heaven," said Rev. Lennox Yearwood, a Louisiana native and founder of the Hip Hop Caucus.
Speaking during a pUblic conference call sponsored by backbonecampaign.org., and broadcast on Vashon.com radio, Yearwood said, "If they can leave citizens to die in the streets and evict people, while by the Stafford Act people can be housed for 18 months - if you look back on this moment in history and allow this moment to pass without saying enough is enough, then you will have missed it. The people must rise up and stand together."

To that end, the Hip Hop Caucus has organized the Katrina March in Washington, D.C., for Tuesday, March 14.
"This is a march to demand housing for victims of Hurricane Katrina and a moratorium on evictions. This is a march to save lives," organizers explained on the Hip Hop Caucus affiliated KatrinaMarch.org. "Trailers in New Orleans Now" and "Pass H.R. 4197."
Rainbow Push Coalition will host a "Right to Return and Rebuild" March on Saturday, April 1, in New Orleans. Rev. Jesse l. Jackson, the organization's founder, and Bill Cosby, Marc Morial and Rev. AI Sharpton will participate.
Also, the online petition, "Take Action against the Inaction," co¬sponsored by the directors of www.KatrinaAction.org and www.ColorofChange.org, invites everyone to let their voices be heard.
Additionally, the NAACP has asked U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to review Louisiana's plan for elections in New Orleans next month to ensure that African American voters displaced by Hurricane Katrina "will have a fair opportunity to vote in the upcoming elections," said Bruce S. Gordon, president and CEO.
CC Campbell-Rock, a native New Orleanian, veteran journalist and Katrina evacuee, is now the editor of the Bay View. Email her at campbeJlrock [at] sfbayview [dot] com.