August 2006

This is the Bush administration policy, to do nothing but award contracts to cronies, who collect plenty of money, but don’t deliver the services or the goods. And Bushco does not want goods and services delivered. I went to the BagNewsNotes again. He features pictures and text from David Burnett. Burnett says:

I spent a month on the Gulf Coast in January working on a story for National Geographic Magazine, published this month in a 24 page article. The idea was to take a look at the coast months after the storms, and see what, if any, progress had been made to try and get reconstruction going.

What I saw was depressing and unsettling. Many areas were virtually untouched since September; it was as if you had been dropped into dead zones which had been frozen in time.
. . .
Storms hit every year, some homes are ruined, but there is always a reason for that “next day” rush to the Home Depots of this world: people are fixed on staying where they are, and want to start the reconstruction process as soon as possible. In New Orleans, and other towns across the coast, there was simply nothing to go back to. Nothing to repair. Nothing to fix. Nothing to work on. Nothing to hit a few boards into in order to keep the water out.

It is difficult to photograph something that isn’t there. Sure, you can see damage, and in many places it was an obvious and stark reminder of what had taken place. But when there is nothing left, you will be pressed to find a way to show that barren quality in a photograph.

Here is the link to Burnett’s series of photos titled Aftermath.

From the American Prospect comes this exchange with Dr. John in New Orleans:

I mentioned that Cyril Neville had told me that some people still don’t know where their friends and family members are.

Some people?! ” he said, his eyes wide with indignation. “Over half this city don’t have a clue. They’re either missin’ in action, dead in St. Gabriel and nobody knows who they are — and I could go on with a list of gripes. So there, babe.”

This picture was just embarrassing. Thanks to Dr. Doom for the caption. It reminds me a bit of the opening of the movie Black and White in Color, where the Africans are carrying two white priests on litters and singing. One groups sings, with subtitles, that my white man is as heavy as an elephant, and the other group sings how my white man’s feet smell so bad. The priests are nodding and humming along, and one says he really likes this song. Mr. Bush looks like those priests.

George Allen did not have to be a racist, he chose to be a racist. He is pictured with the people with whom he feels an afinity and wanted to fit in.

Only a decade ago, as governor of Virginia, Allen personally initiated an association with the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), the successor organization to the segregationist White Citizens Council.

This is recent history, not some foible dredged up from Allen’s school days, although there are some racist “foibles” there as well.

While he was Governor of Virginia he approved the shut-down of the Virginia Council on Day Care because his friends at the CCC were angry with the Council for preparing an “anti-bias” curriculum for daycare teachers. A CCC member complained to Allen that the Council was attempting to “form the minds of our young children with a radical ideology before they enter public schools.” Note that he calls anti-bias a radical ideology.

In 2000, he had hung a noose at his law office. When that fact was reported, he claimed it had “nothing to do with lynching.” When it was reported that he also hung large Confederate flags in his house, he explained they were part of his flag collection. Allen had also opposed the 1991 Civil Rights Act and making Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a holiday.

A noose in a law office in a US southern state is ALWAYS about lynching.

Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who did so much for PBS, trying to make it a right wing propaganda machine, or put it out of business entirely, has been spreading his expertise around further.

A year-long State Department investigation has found that the chairman of the agency that oversees Voice of America and other government broadcasting operations improperly used his office, putting a friend on the payroll and running a “horse-racing operation” with government resources.
Tomlinson Cited for Abuses at Broadcast Board
By Paul Farhi, Washington Post, Wednesday, August 30, 2006; Page C01

Digby has twice discussed an article that appeared in the New Republic about undecided voters. As the article points out, undecided voters are undecided because they do not even recognize what a political issue is. As a result, they may care profoundly about certain issues, but because they don’t recognize them as political issues, they vote for candidates that actively work against their interests. This is a failure on the undecided voter’s part, but it is also a serious failure of instruction in civics.

As a country we have failed in civics education because we have not taught people what the nature and function of taxes are. As an example, almost any series of interviews with the person in the street on the subject of taxes will feature some person saying some variation of: I think the people should pay less and the government should pay more. These persons on the street are not opposed to government services. They just don’t understand how we pay for them. Where do you suppose these people think the government gets money? But it is not just the role and nature of taxes and funding people do not understand. They cannot recognize a political issue, and do not understand the relationship between their votes, and the outcomes of the issues they care about.

Undecided voters don’t think in terms of issues. Perhaps the greatest myth about undecided voters is that they are undecided because of the “issues.”
. . .
More often than not, when I asked undecided voters what issues they would pay attention to as they made up their minds I was met with a blank stare, as if I’d just asked them to name their favorite prime number.
. . .
But the very concept of the issue seemed to be almost completely alien to most of the undecided voters I spoke to… So I tried other ways of asking the same question: “Anything of particular concern to you? Are you anxious or worried about anything? Are you excited about what’s been happening in the country in the last four years?”

These questions, too, more often than not yielded bewilderment. As far as I could tell, the problem wasn’t the word “issue”; it was a fundamental lack of understanding of what constituted the broad category of the “political.” The undecideds I spoke to didn’t seem to have any intuitive grasp of what kinds of grievances qualify as political grievances.

These were featured on BagNewsNotes. I think these are some of the most profound of the Katrina pictures. As Mr. Chin said: it was vitally important that people understand how serious a failure of government had occurred in New Orleans. “I mean,” he said, “the Indonesians had a tsunami, and they still handled it a hundred times better.”

Among his peers, Alan Chin is regarded as one of the finest photojournalists in the field . . . What these photos do is bear witness to much of the information that was reinforced through the written word. At the height of the disaster, we saw scenes of suffering, but were primarily told how bitter, annihilating and incomprehensible it was. We saw death, but were told it was everywhere. Also, we saw scenes of dignity and of contempt — but not quite as boldly as this.

Two of these images ran in the September 19th issue of Newsweek, and Alan has graciously made the series available to the BAG. Speaking to him last night, he felt it was vitally important that people understand how serious a failure of government had occurred in New Orleans. “I mean,” he said, “the Indonesians had a tsunami, and they still handled it a hundred times better.”

From the standpoint of this site, and my focus on visual politics and media, I asked Alan if he thought there had still been a “filter” on Katrina. I asked because these pictures seem that much more raw. Not surprisingly, his answer illuminated the difference it made that most of the news photos were in color. Chin explained:

“I shot it in black-and-white because we live in America, so no matter what happens, we always have visual elements that are very distracting. I was one of the only people who did this in black and white. I felt it should not be distracted by color, by the fact someone might have been wearing a hot pink t-shirt. I didn’t want that irony in it. I wanted to get to the heart of the matter — to the crucial thing.”

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