Archive for December, 2008

Even though I am late commenting on this story in The Nation, I am not late hearing about it. I first caught wind of “the militia” the week after the Flood. This was the time of depictions of the city in chaos and mass looting. I admit I was glad someone was watching over the neighborhood after the virtual collapse of city, state and federal governments. Come to find out though, the militia never made it to my side of Opelousas, the “muddy” side talked about in the article.

When I arrived back in town there were lots of stories going around about what occurred but no one mentioned specifics about the shootings. People were mostly bragging. They were proud of themselves. I never doubted that some shootings occurred, but most of us were concerned with getting the city (and our lives) together. In the weeks following the Flood, there were so many horrendous stories going around and so much fabrication and sensational hyperbole that I resigned myself to the fact that it would almost be impossible to piece it all together. And I don’t think A.C. Thompson does a very good job with the small slice he was tasked with.

First things first, I believe Donnell Herrington’s story. Reason being: the shooters have not stepped up and stated their side. Therefore the only information available is Herrington’s and he has a scar and hospital reports to back it up. He was shot and the person who shot him hasn’t stated clearly the reasons why he or she did so. Until this person does, Herrington’s story must be accepted as truth. Also, it doesn’t sound far-fetched considering the fact that several Algiers Point residents stated similar events did indeed occur, some with fatal results. In fact, Herrington himself could have easily died and if he had this event wouldn’t have seen the light of day. It takes a brave person to be shot and then to speak out against his would-be killers. If the people who did the shooting are as brave, they need to state their side of the story. I fully encourage them to do so. If they were indeed guilty of a crime, they should be prosecuted. If it was some sort of self defense, they need to be cleared. As it stands, Herrington and his friends are the victims in this story and thanks to Thompson for bringing their story to light.

As a resident of Algiers Point, I only want the truth. Unfortunately, truth is not something that will ever emerge from those days after the Flood. As time goes by folks are going to meld the entire incident to their own prejudices. Racists on both side of the spectrum are going to cite the Flood as proof of their own twisted, segregated ideas. The critical thinkers in the middle will be left to sort it all out and of course it will never be totally.

As it relates to my neighborhood, we took a beating in the article and it certainly looks like no attempt was made to portray us as a place that struggles with issues of race like any other spot in the country, like Detroit, Chicago, Cincinnati and Los Angeles have in the last few years. It seems at no point was a person whose aim was racial harmony given a quote in the article and I think just about everyone I know who lives here indeed wants it. The problem is, these people were hundreds of miles away when the events of the article took place.

But when American government collapses (and the Flood and the L.A. Riots are the only two times I have seen it do so in my lifetime with Katrina being a much wider and far-reaching collapse) then folks take matters into their own hands. The looters looking for goods, the desperate looking for food and the fearful looking for protection all have to rely on their own decisions. Never in Thompson’s article is it stated (as a well-rounded article might) how residents of Algiers Point were supposed to react in light of the crimes happening around them with no law enforcement available. It is suggested that they help people getting off the ferries and offer food and water but the sheer logistics and realities of this aren’t explored. What position was the community in to provide relief? What were they supposed to do if someone they were trying to help tried to harm them? The article incompetently avoids the very real fact that these people’s lives were threatened and some of them made very bad choices when put under this pressure. The threats these men were facing is downplayed and the insane reactions of a handful of them are accentuated.

Algiers Point is a neighborhood that only three years ago had a string of four murders in a few weeks time, including a young Vietnamese girl working in her family’s store killed for a thrill. Then a NOPD officer was shot and paralyzed in front of the same store the next year. Folks are fed up with crime here. Perhaps other cities don’t struggle with the problem so openly and under as much scrutiny because other cities are segregated by class and race. New Orleans (and Algiers Point) largely isn’t. So we fight our battles in the open rather than behind closed doors. But never think for a moment that these incidents don’t exist elsewhere. New Orleans is a special case indeed. It’s special because it is exposed.

Still, people in other cities need someone to point at and say, “Those are the bad guys.” Whether it is the racist perpetrators of the acts depicted in this article or the out-of-control crime or the corrupt politicians, folks of all sorts need New Orleans to exist so they can feel better about themselves. They need to come down here and do reports that stir things up. They need to post hateful messages on the Internet. They need to convince themselves that the place they live is so much better.

Perhaps A.C. Thompson is thinking he is helping out and he has certainly enlightened many to the events. However, calling the events in Algiers Point a “race war” is damned irresponsible. It seems as likely to incite violence as it does to bring justice to our neighborhood. And why should A.C. Thompson or the editors at The Nation care? They only need to observe it and comment from afar and maybe even be astonished at the mess they have created. Then after the fact, they can do more stories and interviews and put themselves in positions where they can be considered experts and sit in on interviews. Essentially, creating the supply and the demand for talk show appearances.

But it is the story’s bias and more so, its vagueness, that damages its important message. Consider the following direct quotes from the article that use utterly ambiguous terms to describe events: “says one local,” “a loose band of about fifteen to thirty residents,” “while the shooters, it appears, were all white” and “some of whom may have died.”

Thompson also relies on anonymous quotes generously, something that always raises questions and unequivocally affects the potential veracity of the statements. Late in the article, he quotes a woman whose cousins and uncle were involved in shootings. She doesn’t give her name because she fears her family members may be prosecuted for their crimes. At this point, why use the direct quotes? Perhaps because they are particularly incendiary? Maybe they are true, maybe they aren’t. We don’t know because we are forced to take Thompson’s word for it. That is, “I know somebody who knows somebody who said they read an e-mail that…” He also uses the anonymous account of an EMT with video of the incidents but either didn’t or wasn’t able to obtain permission to use their name. It’s questionable whether these people, who were so quick to talk to a reporter, will be so cooperative in an investigation by law enforcement or even under oath? If they spoke to a reporter, will they speak to police? Why not?

Thompson’s use of anonymous sources also makes me question his motives. Does he seek justice for the men shot in the storm? If so, wouldn’t his anonymous sources be witnesses? Or does he simply want the glory of the story? This is a question Thompson, who isn’t simply a crime reporter any longer, needs to ask himself.

In this smarmy interview Thompson and Alternet Writer Liliana Segura discuss why individuals place so much value on property over human life even though Vinnie Pervel clearly states in Thompson’s own article that he feared for his and his elderly mother’s lives. Why wasn’t this stated? Probably because this was a friendly interview, where both sides have the same bias.

But who needs real witnesses to speak up when you’ve got a drunken witness spouting off with a beer in his hand right? If Donnel Herrington is the victim in this story, its clear Wayne Janek is its impotent monster. Though he states he never shot anyone in the story, he certainly doesn’t mind indicting his neighbors with his exuberant, intoxicated boasting on video. This is a man who doesn’t have a very swell reputation in our neighborhood and has more enemies than friends. He is the one who is truly “tolerated” around our neighborhood. To many, he is the drunken village idiot. So it hurts that he is being held up as an avatar for Algiers Point when he is clearly the opposite. Those men who were involved in the very serious, very painful events in Algiers Point following the Flood should be furious at Wayne Janek or anyone else treating it like it was something frivolous. Anytime I have talked to police officers or soldiers who have killed someone, they treat the act with respect and they generally regret that it happened. That Janek or others don’t have this respect shows that, regardless of their motives, they are indeed monsters.

But of course, Janek says he never really did anything. In fact, he says he even had a chance to and didn’t. His decision with a little booze in him to brag about it in front of a camera speaks to his character and integrity.

Simply based on the facts stated in the article, the most concrete and obvious case of which there is substantial evidence of unprovoked activity is the shooting of Herrington and Marcel Alexander and Chris Collins. I think this case should be investigated and the people who did so prosecuted if the events described by them are true. I may have neighbors who disagree with me and think those who shot these men did what they had to do. To them I say when you put yourself into the position of a law enforcement officer you should be held to the same scrutiny that peace keepers are. If the police shot these men for walking down the street then they should be prosecuted. I wouldn’t want the local cops making an example out of me. These men shouldn’t have been shot.

In the end, we all suffer for prejudice. The African American men in the neighborhood suffered because racist whites lumped them together with looters. Myself and my neighbors are now suffering because folks will lump us together with these men. Does Malik Rahim believe I “tolerate” my African American next door neighbors? Do these folks in the Point look at my neighbors like they are going to rob them? It’s a damned mess.

Hopefully, this article will help sooth the anger of Donnell Herrington and bring light to the crime perpetrated against him. It’s unfortunate that it was written in such a way that didn’t paint the incident against the much broader landscape of what occurred in the days after the storm. In which events as horrific as these were taking place all over the city.

It is also unfortunate that ten times as many young African Americans are killed in the city and their deaths rarely see the attention this story has seen simply due to the fact that their killers weren’t white. The double standard is blatant.

Also, instead of focusing on the very real, very tangible account of Herrington and pursuing that, A.C. Thompson muddies the water by writing about the very troubling and often-struggled with issue of racism and drops it into the middle of a very confusing and unaccounted-for moment in American history with a seeming disregard for truth and a possible desire for chaos. Doing this and not keeping to the facts will turn Herrington’s case into a symbol of something larger and more complicated and hurt his chance at justice.

* If you don’t get a name, don’t use the quote.

Reactions to The Nation story abound:

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Nola Slate

City could save $1 million by cutting take-home vehicles, inspector general finds

I think this falls under the “Waste” sin.

However, I am inclined to say, “So what?” It’s not any secret that Sugar Ray is wasteful. Just check the Seven Deadly Sins page. What could significantly come of this latest finding? I’m seriously wondering.

Gambit has a great story by Alison Fensterstock about the October demise New Orleans’ strip club Big Daddy’s.

Never having been a big fan of strip clubs when I was young and full of beans, I must admit I have developed a fondness for them as I have become more refined, particularly unpretentious clubs like Big Daddy’s.

I’m not interested in being mesmerized or even sexually aroused in a strip club. I just want to go in with a toasted group of friends, partake in a charade of lasciviousness, leave with cheap perfume all over me and laugh about it for years. One could find no better spot to do this than Big Daddy’s. Be weary of those Iberville spots like The Artists Cafe or Don Juan’s. They are too unpretentious. I once saw a pair of scantily clad pregnant women standing in front of the former. No sir, when you wanted the perfect dividing line between fake glitz and glamor and seedy underbelly, Big Daddy’s was your spot. It was little bit of both.

It was years before I did anything other than point to the swinging legs with my visiting friends. But a night before Katrina, my cousin and her husband were in town and we all ended up there. I was broke as a joke at the time and had perhaps two dollars for the girls. I ended up giving them to one who I later noticed was sporting a band aid on her butt cheek. O’ Big Daddy’s!

It’s entirely possible The Star Wars Holiday Special has already been submitted (perhaps last year) to the Christmas video assault. However, if it hasn’t please consider…

It has many layers of suck, these are some of my favorites…

- Mark Hamil with a bad haircut even for him at 1:08
- An all-star line-up of late ’70s greats at 2:05
- A wookie with an apron on at 3:38
- Wookies with rubbermaid trash cans at 3:50
- A wookie with an awful underbite at 4:10
- Chewbacca in a picture frame at 6:30
- No dialogue other than wookie grunts from 2:50 to 8:31

It really goes on and on. Part 1. Part 2.

Yup it’s up-and-done it again.

Oh, and my heater went out last night.

In reference to THIS.

This…

It gets particularly schmaltzy at the 1:53 mark. He makes faces like he’s poopin at 2:35. And remember, this is mullet Mike.

What Jeffrey Said.

What E did.

Is it safe to say we should all put our lawyer’s numbers on speed dial and phone them immediately when coming in contact with N.O.P.D.? Or at the very least request a second officer come to the scene?

In reference to this case, I can’t see someone making up such a story so that they have the details down like this gentleman. Of course, the tourists are the missing link. But it would probably be impossible to find them unless word-of-mouth does the job. But they would be able to determine if the tour guide was drunk, if the initial contact was similar to the story told by the tour guide.

And while we are on the subject, can “public drunkenness” laws please be quantified with an actual blood-alcohol level? And can it please be well beyond what the so-called “legal limit” of .08? That way people arrested for it can actually have some sort of proof for or against them. Because this selective enforcement is a too-often abused tool for law enforcement to arrest folks for looking at them wrong or perhaps even exercising their rights.

Either way, it couldn’t hurt to have someone to call in scenarios like the ones above.

Speechless? How about petrified?

“I am very honored and at this point, somewhat speechless to be the first Vietnamese-American congressman,” Anh “Joseph” Cao told CNN on Sunday. “But I also hope that many of our young people will consider being more politically active and being move involved in the community. Because as you can see, really anything can happen.”

It’s ‘effin true.


img hot linked from WWL

Like or don’t like it, it’s another interesting chapter in local politics. A hurricane, a historic presidential election, a lame Saturday in December, it was a perfect storm.

I voted for Cao. And in doing so can revel in his victory or, let’s be honest, the defeat of William Jefferson. And as it has been said before, anti-corruption should be every voter’s first priority, particularly in the case of Jefferson. One can say that his ouster will harness incoming recovery funds but, after hearing him specifically referenced many times as a reason funds shouldn’t be allocated (along with his extinguished status in Congress recently), it probably won’t be the case.

I am happy to have a Vietnamese philosophy grad in office rather than a 10-time crook who stole from school children. I am happy the people in New Orleans East have a representative in Congress.

Added: Whoa! National news! hey!

Crescent City Connection audit recommends dumping toll booths for electronic tags

In the story above, remarks are made regarding the Mississippi River ferries and their cost to the Crescent City Connection. You can read the story but it says the ferries lose $21,000 a day.

Being a weekly and often daily traveller on The Algiers ferry I don’t doubt this statistic. You get pretty contemplative out there on the river and doing the simple math of counting the cars and doing the numbers shows they probably can’t break even.

But the thing is they only charge for cars. And the number of cars on the bridge are always outnumbered by pedestrians and bicyclists. So start by charging these folks a quarter. See how that works and then raise the fees over the next few years. Also, there are many people, such as myself and several of my friends who take the ferry every day. Why not offer these people, yearly or monthly passes? Or perhaps asking the port to help out in managing cost? The DOT? How about charging for traffic both ways? How about instead of easing the hours of the ferry increasing them and charging more? My number one reason for not taking the ferry is usually the wait. So if the wait were cut to 15 minutes, I would be willing to pay the dollar to take the boat. Especially if a card swipe system similar to toll tags were implemented.