Archive for the 'Disasters' Category

07
Jan
09

More Madoff “Aftershock”

Waiting for me in my e-mail inbox, from Brandeis University President Jehuda Reinharz:

Let me outline for you the current challenges. While some saw signs of an impending global financial crisis last year, no one could have predicted the intensity of the recession, or the Madoff debacle, and the major blow it would deal to philanthropy. The Madoff aftershock produced a second wave of financial crisis felt acutely in Boston’s major not-for-profit institutions, as well as many other cities in the United States and abroad. While it was a relief to report that the university never invested money with Bernard Madoff, sadly, some of Brandeis’s most staunch and generous supporters suffered major losses. It is very hard to calculate the immediate and long-term effects on the university’s fundraising results.

I’ve never been a big nor frequent donor to Brandeis – and I won’t exactly be passing on windfall profits to them this year either.  However, I can step up the frequency a bit, with some small donations here and there.  Maybe it will help some undergrad buy that extra book she needs…or some beers to take the edge off during this crisis.  Assuming she’s a senior in college, of course…

07
Jan
09

Snitch

I’m 99% sure that in my first post-Katrina New Orleans project, when I was part of a team interviewing community activists for funders, my colleagues interviewed this guy.

16
Dec
08

Bush by the numbers

I received this via e-mail this morning from the progressive NYC think-tank Drum Major Institute.  It’s reprinted in its chilling entirety.

The 2008 DMI Injustice Index: The Bush Legacy

Opening weekend box office gross of Oliver Stone’s Bush biopic “W”: $10.6 million

Opening weekend box office gross of Michael Moore’s 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 911, which intensely criticized the Bush Administration: $23.9 million

Number of days during his presidency that Bush spent on vacation at either Camp David or his Texas ranch, as of August 2008 (including partial days off): 916

Total number of years in Bush’s presidency, if these vacation days are subtracted: 5.5

Proportion of U.S. workers who have no paid vacations or holidays at work: 1 in 4

Date on which President Bush received a presidential daily briefing entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” while in the midst of a month-long vacation: 8/6/2001

Date on which a FEMA report warned that Hurricane Katrina could “could greatly overtop levees and protective systems” in New Orleans, displacing more than a million residents, a warning which came when the President was again on a month-long vacation: 8/27/2005

Date of a second warning, from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, that Katrina would “likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching”: 8/29/2008

Date that President Bush told ABC “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.”: 9/1/2005

Date on which George W. Bush announced “I believe we’re overextended… if we don’t stop extending our troops all around the world and nation building missions, then we’re going to have a serious problem coming down the road”: 10/3/2000

Date on which the United Nation’s chief weapons inspector, Han Blix, informed the U.N. Security Council that he had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, although inspection and monitoring efforts would continue: 3/7/2003

Date that United States invaded Iraq: 3/19/2003

Cost of the Iraq War through 2008: $567 billion

Approximate cost of the privately funded George W. Bush Presidential Library, whose manager insists it will discuss the war “upfront”: $250 million

Year the library is set to open: 2014

Year by which the No Child Left Behind law mandates that all students nationwide must achieve grade-level proficiency in reading and math: 2016

Number of societies on earth that has ever succeeded in achieving universal student proficiency, according to testing expert Robert Linn: 0

Amount by which No Child Left Behind has been underfunded since its inception, according to Senator Tom Harkin: $70.9 billion

Proportion of U.S. public schools that are failing to meet No Child Left Behind standards as of October 2008: 2 out of 5

Percentage increase in overall school performance when previously uninsured children were enrolled in public health coverage, according to a California study: 24%

Change in the number of children with health coverage during President Bush’s tenure: -78,000

Percentage of President Bush’s total vetoes that blocked expansion of children’s health insurance: 20%

Number of times he cited the superiority of private insurance programs in his message explaining the first veto to Congress: 5

Year when President Bush made privatizing Social Security the centerpiece of his State of the Union Address, asserting that “your money will grow, over time, at a greater rate than anything the current system can deliver.”: 2005

Number of points the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped on September 29, 2008: 778

Overall change in stock market wealth between Oct. 2007 and Oct. 2008: -$8.4 trillion

Date President Bush signed legislation phasing out the federal estate tax: 6/7/2001

Increase in the number of U.S. millionaires since that year: 928,000

Increase in the number of Americans living in poverty since that year: 4.4 million

Cost of all Bush’s tax cuts from 2001 to 2007: $1.3 trillion

Date President Bush announced that his tax cuts would “encourage more investment” and “strengthen the foundation of our economy so that every American who wants to work will be able to find a job.': 5/28/2003

Rank of the business cycle that included these tax cuts compared to all business cycles since 1949 in terms of employment growth: last

Rank in terms of investment: last

Change in the real median income of non-retiree households since 2000: -$2,010

Estimated home equity lost by American families with the bursting of the housing bubble: $4 trillion

Year that subsidiaries of the U.S. Treasury Department struck down laws in Georgia and New Jersey that were intended to rein in predatory lending and prevent foreclosures within those states: 2003

Year in which the Federal Reserve issued its own rules to rein in predatory lending and prevent foreclosures: 2008

Number of home foreclosure filings in the first three quarters of 2008: 2.2 million

Number of surrounding homes likely to suffer price declines as a result of this number of foreclosures according to the Center for Responsible Lending : 40.6 million

Date on which President Bush appeared on the NBC game show “Deal or No Deal,” joking that he was “thrilled to be anywhere with high ratings': 4/21/08

Percentage difference in viewership of the episode with the Bush cameo, compared to the show’s season average: -27%

Approximate proportion of Americans who approved of President’s Bush handling of the Presidency in October, 2008: 1 in 5

Proportion of American adults currently incarcerated in a prison or jail: 1 in 100

Date on which President Bush commuted the prison sentence of I. Lewis Libby, the Vice President’s former Chief of Staff, who was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice: 7/2/2007

Percentage change in the number of full time staff monitoring hazardous goods at the Consumer Product Safety Commission during Bush’s tenure: -16%

Percentage change in the number of federal investigators who monitor employers’ compliance with minimum wage, overtime, and child labor laws during Bush’s tenure: -23%

Percentage of Bush Supreme Court appointees who ruled that factory worker Lilly Ledbetter would get no recompense from her employer despite proving 20 years of pay discrimination: 100%

Number of judges Bush appointed to the Supreme Court as president: 2

Number of Supreme Court Justices who ruled to stop the Florida recount in Bush v. Gore, effectively handing the 2000 election to George W. Bush: 5

Date on which Vice President Dick Cheney announced “history will be the judge – and history, I believe, will say, job well done.” 10/3/2008

To read more from DMI’s 2008 Year In Review, click here.


10
Dec
08

A single mistake

That’s how Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz assigns culpability for our current economic meltdown, as encapsulated in a single, flawed belief:

that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal.

If you’re like me, you haven’t been keeping up with most economic analysis of our current crisis because it bores / confuses / depresses you.  But this Vanity Fair piece by Stiglitz clearly explains 5 major decisions since the Reagan era that got us to today.   Though I summarize them very briefly here, I highly recommend the whole article.

Continue reading ‘A single mistake’

08
Dec
08

5 years out of step?

Talking about GOP Candidate Anh “Joseph” Cao’s win this weekend over Bill Jefferson in Louisiana’s 2nd House district, local reporter John Maginnis described the state as “five years out of step” with the rest of the country.  It’s a place where Republicans are “still coming up.”  The main themes of the victory are a) low turnout among black voters and b) white activism to vote the indicted Jefferson out of office.  Many have pointed out that Cao’s win reflects post-Katrina demographic change in New Orleans: the black population has shrunk by at least 7 %, and whites have increased by 5%.  Asian-Americans – mostly Vietnamese – make up 3% of the city’s post-storm population.  Last year, the City Council became white majority again for the first time in 20 years.

What I find more interesting about Cao’s victory is his inspiration to enter politics after Katrina, due to the flooding of his office and home and the poor government response to the disaster.  It is this kind of local activism that I have seen in the city and region since the storm.  It is this burgeoning, organized activism that promises to fill the political and socio-economic gaps in the city and region, given the chronic lack of local government leadership in New Orleans, and/or the willful neglect of local and state governments around the Gulf Coast.  That is, one remarkable outcome of the 2005 storms is the tremendous civic infrastructure that is being built by activists, professional advocates, non-profits and funders, because governments either lack the money or political will to rebuild fairly and responsibly.

As the field remarks, the GOP’s big tent pretty much begins and ends in Louisiana.  Much more so than creationist Gov. Jindal, we might look to citizen-activist Representative-elect Cao for insight on how to expand the GOP to include those who simply want better, more responsible government to fulfill our individual rights to private property and to help us run our small businesses.  I’m obviously not all that interested in strengthening the GOP, but I’m intrigued by the task ahead for the Party, as it must modernize and moderate its platform if it ever wants centrist Republicans to turn up at the polls again.

But Cao’s election symbolizes a broader trend underway in Louisiana: the slow, methodological development of citizen engagement, non-profit capacity building, and political accountability.  Louisianans have their work cut out for them: Jindal has abolished the Department of Labor in this right-to-work state, wants to effectively get rid of the Medicaid system, and has imposed cuts to vital non-profits throughout the state.  This is also the place where only 2 months ago GOP Rep. John LaBruzzo advocated sterilization for low-income women as a poverty alleviation measure, then patted himself on the back for taking a tough, bold, innovative anti-poverty approach.  Then there’s Jena.  And Angola.

I need to stop now before I further inspire my LA and Southern colleagues to remind me of the Northeast’s and Boston’s own dirty laundry of injustice and political chicanery.    But I write from an inspired position.  The people I’ve met in New Orleans and across the Gulf Coast are doing more work than is reasonably expected to rebuild their homes and communities in the absence of government leadership.  It is some of the most impressive mobilization I’ve seen in my shortish life.   And they’re dragging their governments, with their shuttered Charity Hospitals, toxic FEMA trailers and bloated ports, into a new, more progressive era.  It’s like the civic activist version of the World’s Strongest Man contest.  Stay tuned!!

07
Dec
08

hell no, hell yes

Thank goodness someone said it: Caroline Kennedy – the audacity of entitlement?

On the flip side, this is a fabulous appointment.  Here’s hoping we can rectify some of the massive wrongs by the Bush Administration at the V.A.  The treatment of Vets in our country, preceeding Bush but exacerbated by him (like every other inequality) is reprehensible.  The conditions at Walter Reed ranked right up there with life in FEMA trailers in the post-Katrina Gulf Coast.

17
Nov
08

gentrification

I’m in New Orleans for a meeting of non-profit recovery advocates.  Yesterday, I spent about 45 minutes talking to a local photographer, Christopher Porche-West, about the changes in the city since Hurricane Katrina and his particular challenges rebuilding his life.

Porche-West talked about how social boundaries and networks have really changed in the city since the storm.  Prior to Katrina, neighborhood identification and boundaries were primary; the city had about 450,000 people prior to the storm, but 73 formally designated neighborhoods.  In reality, New Orleanians tell me, there were about 200 neighborhoods in this sprawling city on the Mississippi River.  The appropriate question to ask New Orleanians to categorize them is what high school they attended.

Porche-West says now that given the disparity of the physical damage, and the displacement, dislocation and relocation of so many people to new neighborhoods, that neighborhood boundaries and identification just isnt’ accurate anymore.  This is particularly acute for African-Americans, as middle-class blacks and Creoles from Gentilly and New Orleans East have relocated en mass to other black neighborhoods that sustained far less damage; lower-income and former public housing residents are most likely to remain displaced, as rents are more than 50% higher than they were pre-Katrina.

The other major demographic change in the city is the influx of outsiders, who have flocked here to participate in the recovery.  (Non-profits are leading the way in housing redevelopment.)  There is even a social network bubbling up – Young Urban Rebuilding Professionals, or YURPs.  As you might imagine, the city is becoming whiter and more affluent.  Due to the extent of the physical damage, the average median housing value has risen 45%; the white population has grown by 5% and the African-American population has fallen by 7%.  In 2007, more than 1 in 10 New Orleanians were not living in Louisiana in 2006.  Transplants now make up 20% of a city that has lost at least 150,000 residents since Katrina.

Porche-West says the new dichotomy is whether you were living here when Katrina hit.  Go figure.  I put all this out here as you check out Gambit Weekly’s 11th annual “40 Under 40,” their “annual look at some of the young people who are making remarkable contributions to the New Orleans metropolitan region,” submitted via nominations.  I just want to point out that of the 40, 5 are African-American.  What I find particularly striking is that 4 of them are in the music industry (though in a variety of capacities).  I realize that Afro-American music, art, culture and history defines New Orleans and is a thriving business sector (and is also exploited by an extractive tourism industry), but really…does this strike anyone else as problematic?  Whites, Asian-Americans, and Jews are the social entrepreneurs, the do-gooders and the brain trust of the rebirth of the city?  While African-Americans are its cultural foundation and…its entertainers?

Not that I was wondering why tensions often abound in my network of recovery advocates where more than 6 in 10 of us are not only not from New Orleans, but about half of us are from coastal, liberal, elite, latte-loving, high-“capacity” cities.  (Mostly women and about even white and African-American/Creole, with small Latin@ and SE Asian participation.  Not that I’m keeping track or anything, in our post-partisan, post-racial world!)




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