Category: Local/State
Jefferson Davis was never a president | Opinion

In the recent debate over removing Confederate monuments from public spaces, defenders of the statues have argued that such action was part of an attempt to “erase history” and suggested that adding historical information to the sites would better serve the public.

That raises the question of what history will be added and who gets to write it.

“History is always written by the winners,” author Dan Brown says. “When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books — books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?'”

But until recently, the history represented by the Confederate monuments was written by the losing side, a fable honoring men who were committing treason in a rebellion against the United States. The statues have been rightly ridiculed as the 1860s equivalent of participation trophies.

The historical markers written by “winners” would not likely please supporters of the monuments to Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the Confederacy.

Christopher Wilson, director of the African American History Program and Experience at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, makes that point in a piece on under the headline “We Legitimize the ‘So-Called’ Confederacy With Our Vocabulary, and That’s a Problem.” The summation is that “Tearing down monuments is only the beginning to understanding the false narrative of Jim Crow.”

“Most of these monuments sprang from the Lost Cause tradition that developed in the wake of the war, during the establishment of white supremacist Jim Crow laws around 1900, and as a response to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s,” Wilson writes. “Those artifacts are not the only way we legitimize and honor the deadly and racist 19th-century rebellion against the United States. Much of the language used in reference to the Civil War glorifies the rebel cause.”

Wilson builds on a 2015 article by Michael Landis urging his fellow historians to reconsider the terms and language they use when writing about the Civil War and the issues leading up to it.

Landis suggests that we call plantations what they really were, slave labor camps, and to stop referring to the United States as “the Union” and the rebelling states as “the Confederacy,” suggesting a conflict between two equal nations. The Confederacy was never officially recognized by any other world government, and in the view of President Abraham Lincoln and others, the United States never ceased to exist, including those 11 states in rebellion.

Wilson says legal historian Paul Finkelman has made a compelling case against the label “compromise” to describe the legislative deals that kept the slaves states from bolting sooner. Compromise, Finkelman says, implies that both North and South gave and received equally in the bargains over slavery.

He says “appeasement” is a more accurate term as the northern lawmakers gave the slave states almost everything they demanded, “including an obnoxious Fugitive Slave Law, enlarged Texas border, payment of Texas debts, potential spread of slavery into new western territories, the protection of the slave trade in Washington, D.C., and the renunciation of congressional authority over slavery. The free states, in turn, received almost nothing (California was permitted to enter as a free state, but residents had already voted against slavery). Hardly a compromise!”

And as long as we are letting the winners write the inscriptions, we should let President Lincoln have his say.

Lincoln consistently referred to the seceding states as the “so-called Confederacy” and made a point of ignoring Davis’ claim to be president of the CSA, calling him — and never by name — only the “insurgent leader.”

And, if we’re are being strictly accurate the highest rank Robert E. Lee achieved in the U.S. Army was colonel. Given that he achieved the higher rank only in service to a failed rebellion, should we really refer to him as Gen. Lee?

Wilson offers a look at how the current debate might look if we rescued our history from the viewpoint and vocabulary of the Lost Cause.

“When news reports about the debate over monuments say ‘Today the City Council met to consider whether to remove a statue commemorating General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army,’ what if they instead were written in this way: ‘Today the City Council debated removing a statue of slaveholder and former American army colonel Robert E. Lee, who took up arms in the rebellion against the United States by the so-called Confederacy’?”

Tim Morris is an opinions columnist at | The Times-Picayune. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @tmorris504.

Let’s face facts: Louisiana is sick and dying | Opinion
| September 10, 2017 | 8:44 pm | Economy, environmental crisis, Local/State | No comments

Let’s face facts: Louisiana is sick and dying | Opinion

Two questions have dogged me lately: If I could go back 18 years, would I raise my children in Louisiana? Would I still view this as a place that would nurture and educate them, offer opportunities for personal and financial growth and help my wife and me imbue in them the values important to us?

When my son and daughter were born, I believed the answer was yes. I had hope. Even three years ago, I still had faith in Louisiana, as I wrote in a column to young people who considered abandoning the state: “Stay here, find like-minded people, organize them, expand your influence, demand change, but don’t give up on this amazing, beautiful place. Its good people — flawed as we might be — are worth your efforts.”

When I wrote that, I believed Louisiana had brighter days. I hoped there was a small flame of desire to recreate something great here. I thought Louisiana’s people wanted to redeem their state.

I was wrong.

Today, I ask only, “Is this as good as it will ever be?” The answer, I believe, is yes. It’s not getting better and could get much worse.

For all its rich and diverse culture and abundant natural resources, Louisiana is the sick man of the United States. We’re an economic basket case and a toxic waste pit of environmental neglect and misconduct.

We are the state most adept at missing opportunities and abusing and wasting our abundant natural resources.

Louisiana is my home in every way and, at 59, I cannot imagine living anywhere else. And yet it’s time to admit this is a place with no visible promise and little hope. To pretend otherwise is to engage in delusional thinking. We must face facts.

I’m not saying everyone should give up and leave. I’m staying and fighting for our future. There is much work to do, and I believe I can make a difference. I suspect most of you feel the same. But if we’re staying, we must be honest about Louisiana’s deplorable condition and bleak future.

Blame our leaders, if you like. But the problem is us. On average, we aspire to mediocrity; we are happy with good enough. We live in a land of plenty but view the world from an attitude of scarcity.

We mask our state’s profound illness and disease with colorful festivals and spicy food.

We tolerate — sometimes celebrate — our corrupt politicians. (Witness the recent outpouring of affection for disgraced former Gov. Edwin Edwards on his 90th birthday.)

Speaking of celebrations, nothing makes us happier than college football, which is our true religion. In the fall, we worship on Saturday nights in Tiger Stadium, the state’s holy shrine. Meanwhile, what transpires across campus — in the classrooms and lecture halls — barely concerns us.

Our elected leaders sell their souls to big oil and the chemical industry. The first has spoiled our land, pillaged our resources and damaged our coast, while the other has poisoned our air and water.

We are 47th in environmental quality. Perhaps it’s no coincidence we have the nation’s highest cancer rate.

Almost a third of our children live in poverty, the third-highest rate in the nation. That’s not changed for decades.

We have the seventh-lowest median household income and the third-highest unemployment rate. After decades of so-called “reforms,” we still have the worst public schools in the country. We’ve cut higher education funding more than almost every other state.

I could go on. We are first in almost everything that’s bad and last (or near last) in almost everything that’s good. In most cases, even mediocrity seems beyond our reach.

The experience of the last four decades should settle any question about whether Louisiana and its people will soon awaken from their coma of complacency. We know well the diseases of ignorance, poverty and pollution that afflict us — and have accepted them as sad facts, not obscenities.

The question isn’t whether there is much hope or aspiration left in Louisiana’s people. There is not. The question, instead, is whether this is a place our promising young people should abandon as soon as possible.

So here’s what I’ll tell my children: If you want to stay, then regard Louisiana as a mission field. However, if you want a place that will enlarge your life, expand your horizons, offer new opportunities and challenge your thinking, you should look elsewhere.

Our insular, prehistoric ways will not soon spawn a dynamic, creative culture to revive our economy and attract bright young minds to study at our universities and, after graduation, remain here to build a vibrant state. Our people have said loud and clear over the decades that we do not desire such a state.

It’s time to admit that Louisiana is sick and dying.

Robert Mann, an author and former U.S. Senate and gubernatorial staffer, holds the Manship Chair in Journalism at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Read more from him at his blog, Something Like the Truth. Follow him on Twitter @RTMannJr or email him at

Hurricane Harvey: a Man Made Tragedy that Never would have Happened in Cuba
| September 6, 2017 | 9:18 am | Local/State | No comments

Hurricane Harvey: a Man Made Tragedy that Never would have Happened in Cuba

By Bill Hackwell on September 1, 2017

When I moved to Houston in 1964 with my sisters and my mother I remember how huge, flat and sprawling with cris crossing freeways it seemed. Coming from Newport New Hampshire, population 5,000, it really was big but back then Houston, in the national scheme of things, was a major port city but with less than a million people and just barely in the top ten of the largest cities.

Since then Houston has exploded in population and is now the 4th largest city in the U.S. with just under 7 million people.  This is the city that is the nation’s fossil fuel capital in a state where even the mention of climate change is considered heresy.  The rich of Texas still look at it like it is the wild west under the god given premise that if you own land you are entitled to do whatever the hell you want to with it. That is why there are virtually no zoning laws to speak of and why housing sub divisions now butt up against toxic chemical refineries as well as under the shadows of the two large dams on Buffalo Bayou.

Personally I would never have called it paradise but, to take a phrase from a Joni Mitchell song, Houston paved paradise and put in a parking lot, a massive one.  In a short period of time the natural areas of Houston have been dramatically turned into huge areas of land that are covered with what scientists refer to as impervious surfaces. Breaking that down I understand that to mean when it rains water has no way to seep into the soil and can only do one thing, roll and flood.

Houston, like New Orleans, sitting on the Northern side of the Gulf of Mexico, is situated where the question has been proven not to be if a major hurricane is going to land but in this period of global warming,  when, how often and how big. While global warming did not necessarily produce Hurricane Harvey it had everything to do with its intensity. What fuels the hurricane’s fury is the temperature of the water it is over. This year the temperature of the Gulf of Mexico, for the first time since records have been kept, did not go below 73 degrees.  Harvey is the first hurricane ever in the gulf to actually gain intensity in the 12 hours prior to hitting landfall. This is not a debate but rather scientific facts.

Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath is still wreaking relentless havoc on the people of Houston and all of Harris County and their recovery will be a long time coming. On the 12th anniversary of Katrina in a cruel ironic twist it hit Louisiana as well. Today Trump, the ultimate climate change denier, showed up in Texas making sure he looks concerned and not appearing like the disconnected George Bush in 2005 when he flew over and peered down from 10,000 feet at the flooded devastated and neglected city of New Orleans where 2,000 people died. It is hard to forget Bush’s finest imperial moment when for no reason he slapped his disgraced FEMA chief Mike Brown on the back and told him, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” FEMA’s ineptitude dealing with Katrina was just the beginning of their crimes. In the recovery over 55,000 families displaced along the Gulf Coast were awarded trailers as housing that were laden with toxic formaldehyde.

Like Katrina, where people where left to their own devices to get out of the Mississippi Delta and figure out their future, the people of Houston are also facing a similar fate. There was no contingency plan from any level of government and the only thing collective when the massive storm hit was confusion. Trump mentioned how happy is with the co ordination of the rescue operation; what co ordination was that?  The mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner told everyone to just sit tight and ride out the storm at home about the same time as Texas Governor Gregg Abbott called for the people in Houston and surrounding areas to evacuate. Maybe Trump was talking about the rescue helicopter pilots who were fearful of hitting each other in the sky because there was no navigation center co coordinating their efforts in the air and on the ground. There are hundreds of people from all over the country who spontaneously volunteered with their boats lining roads waiting for orders to go into the water to rescue people. The government told people to put a white towel out the windows of their home if they needed rescue. They also told them to write their name and social security number on their arm….just in case.

Random acts of bravery versus centralized search and rescue

CNN in particular has raised the rescue efforts of random brave individuals into more than a virtue of success instead of hammering the government about the lack of any comprehensive civil defense plan for such a catastrophic event. Everyone knew for almost a week the magnitude of the storm but they did little to nothing to prepare with no infrastructure to activate.  The hundreds of people rescued by strangers willing to jump back into the water is remarkable but they can be no substitute for a co ordinated centralized search and rescue and recovery plan.

Katrina and Harvey are not just aberrations of how the U.S. approaches natural disasters. We see the same thing time and time again. In 2016 as Hurricane Matthew approached the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. reactionary Florida Governor Rick Scott, instead of providing some level of leadership, created an atmosphere of panic in the state by telling everyone to flee because, “this storm will kill you!!”. What he failed to tell people was where to go and how. And like all these storms there is absolutely no preventive consideration for the most vulnerable, those without cars, the homeless, the infirmed, the poor, the incarcerated and immigrants fearing arrest.

When the next hurricane or earthquake hits we can expect the same thing to unfold,  the hit or miss rescues, the price gouging in the stores and at the pump and the hundreds of thousands displaced who have lost everything, including those with inadequate insurance. It is hard to imagine that the lack of resolve from the government could get any worse but it will considering that the Trump administration is calling for $667 million to be cut in FEMA grants that includes pre-disaster prevention programs. He is also planning to cut the budgets of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center by 16 percent as well as a 32% cut on research on the oceans and the atmosphere.

Cuba’s Approach to Disasters

When Hurricane Matthew hit Eastern Cuba a whole other scenario took place. The prevention measures were well in place days before the storm was even close and institutions were activated. It took a full mobilization of the society that included students, workers, farmers and others who brought all their energies into a collective force. Extra medical professionals were brought in as well as trucks, buses and provisions. Through the community organizations everyone knew where to go and all the other details of the evacuation.

Raul went for Concern of the Safety of his Country, Trump went for a Photo op

President Raul Castro went to Barracoa, the target of the storm, early to check on all details of the preparedness, unlike Trump who is now spending a moment in Houston handing out hot dogs in a food serving line telling people a whole lot of disingenuous platitudes.

No one should think that if Hillary Clinton was president the outcomes of Hurricane Harvey would be different because as awful as Trump is he is just a symptom of the rotten system of capitalism that cannot correct itself or provide for its own; let alone be a humane model for anywhere else.

In Cuba human life is more important than anything as the mobilization during Matthew illustrated. Over 375,000 people from 2 provinces were evacuated during that storm and there was not a single death. The example of Cuba, a poor blockaded country with its bigger than life international sense of humanity, should be the model held up for everyone to emulate.

Source: International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity

Hurricane “Harvey”: Another capitalist crime against the people
| September 4, 2017 | 8:17 pm | Local/State | No comments

Monday, September 4, 2017

Hurricane “Harvey”: Another capitalist crime against the people
The hurricane and tropical storm “Harvey” in Texas revealed the misery and disaster that capitalist “development” spreads at the expense of public security and people’s interests. The same, even in a larger scale, had happened 12 years ago with hurricane “Katrina” in the states of Luisianna and Mississippi. In both cases, the heaviest price of the disaster was paid by the poor strata of these states, the working class and immigrants.
The record rainfall and floods, the “extreme natural phenomena”, cannot explain by themselves alone the scale of the destruction. The real cause behind the disaster in Texas is the policy which, in order to maximize business profits, destroys natural envirnoment, creates anarchy in construction, builds huge factories, industries, shopping centers without any fundamental security plan.
The Texas disaster reveals the true nature of Capitalism: for the capitalist system, the security and health of the people, of the workers, of the masses is not important. What matters in Capitalism is the profitability of the monopolies, of the large business corporations, of the capital, at any cost, even by sacrificing people’s lives.
For the issue of “Harvey” hurricane in the United States, we republish an article appeared on “Liberation”, the newspaper of the U.S. Party of Liberation and Socialism:
Twelve years to the day after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans and much of the Gulf coast, millions in southeast Texas are suffering the devastating impact of another huge storm. An unknown number of people are dead or missing, and tens or hundreds of thousands are desperately seeking refuge as the flood waters rise to historic levels. Thousands of heroic volunteers of all nationalities have joined in efforts to rescue thousands trapped on rooftops and nursing homes.
The immediate cause of the crisis is record rainfall, in some places over 50 inches in just a few days. But like Katrina and virtually every other major natural disaster, the crisis has been worsened  by an abject lack of government readiness.
Hurricane Harvey has exposed government at every level as being woefully unprepared to meet the needs of the people. While in ordinary times this reality is somewhat concealed, in times of catastrophe it is fully visible and undeniable.
The fundamental cause of the repeated pattern of government failure is that under the existing capitalist system governments are organized not to serve the interests of the people but instead those of the corporate owners and the super-rich.
The Center for International Policy, a research and policy group based in Washington, says “a person is 15 times as likely to be killed by a hurricane in the United States as in Cuba.” How is it possible that socialist Cuba, a blockaded country with far fewer resources, “consistently weathers Category 4 and 5 hurricanes with relatively few casualties”? A New York Times article from 2013 reports:

“Cuba would have suffered a great deal more if not for its well-rehearsed storm preparation system. It is a multilevel process that starts with the young. Grade school students practice evacuations; high-school students monitor neighborhoods to identify weak trees and other hazards. … In the event of a storm, the head of every institution — schools, hospitals, hotels — is considered a member of the Cuban Civil Defense force, responsible for the well-being of people around them. … In Pinar del Río, the province most vulnerable, the government deploys large brigades to prepare for disaster. ‘If you have nowhere to go, then there’s the state shelters with food and water and doctors,’ said María Fajardo, a resident. 

Hurricane Tips from Cuba,” New York Times,  July 29, 2013. 

Houston, the fast-growing and fourth largest city in the U.S. with a metro population of 6.6  million , is on low, flat land and vulnerable to flooding. The current disaster is the latest and worst of four major flooding episodes in just the past nine years. A major cause is that the city has no zoning laws, so development is largely unplanned. So, too, is emergency preparedness.
A December 6, 2016 article in the Texas Tribune reported: “As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely snubbed stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over crucial acres of prairie land that once absorbed huge amounts of rainwater. That has led to an excess of floodwater during storms that chokes the city’s vast bayou network, drainage systems and two huge federally owned reservoirs, endangering many nearby homes … “
As the hurricane approached, the mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, told residents to “stay in place” citing the fear of highways becoming clogged with people, and then flooding. Later, as the flood waters rose, city officials advised residents to move to the second floor of their homes, and then, if the water continued to rise, to their roofs, and “wave white towels to attract attention.”
At the same time, the governor of Texas, a virulent right-winger, Greg Abbott, called for Houston residents to evacuate, but offered no assistance or plan for evacuees. This, too, was reminiscent of Katrina, when those who had the funds escaped New Orleans in chaos, on jammed roads, forced to pay sky-high rates for hotel rooms. Those without resources were left behind, leading to the deaths of more than 1,800 people, overwhelmingly poor and African American, when the levees broke.
As the Texas crisis turned into catastrophe, President Trump tweeted a self-congratulatory, “Wow – Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!” Later in the weekend he sent out a book recommendation on Twitter, followed by an admission that he had pardoned the criminal sheriff Joe Arpaio as Harvey hit because the TV ratings would be “far higher.”
Houston is home to many oil refineries, all of which were shut down in advance of the storm, in some cases releasing toxic pollutants into flood waters and the air, affecting nearby communities which are disproportionately Latino and African American. One chemicals plant in the northeast edge of Houston, Arkema, is in critical danger of massive explosion because the electrical cooling systems and back-up generators have failed.
Pensioners trapped in Texas care home
flooded by Storm Harvey.
Even before the shutdown, some oil executives were talking of gas price hikes when they re-start and gas stocks rose 7%. As always, the corporate profiteers have only one real objective.
Nearly 600,000 undocumented workers live in Houston. While the governor was telling Houstonians to evacuate, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that they were keeping in place internal checkpoints on major highways. Undocumented workers were thus forced to choose between the flood and a potential threat of deportation.
More than 30% of Harris Country, 444 square miles, is under water and hundreds of thousands of residences have suffered water damage that will often require tens of thousands of dollars each in repair costs – if they can be repaired.
While Trump staged a public relations trip to “assess” the damage in Texas, his administration is calling for slashing the federal flood insurance budget and flood insurance subsidies to homeowners who live in areas highly vulnerable to floods.  If enacted, this would raise annual insurance costs to astronomical levels, from present monthly premiums of $100-200 to as much as $2,400.
Presently, the homeowners insurance covers wind damage, but not water damage. Many Houstonians have the former, few have the latter.
The danger in southeast Texas remain acute, with rain still falling, rivers and bayous still rising and old reservoirs and levees in danger of failing. But even if the rain were to immediately stop and the rivers recede, the long-term crisis would only be starting.
Many months and perhaps more of reconstruction are ahead. The Party for Socialism and Liberation salutes all those on the ground in Texas who are engaged in the recovery effort, and we are joining in that effort.
At the same time, what is needed more than ever is a mass people’s movement that demands the federal and state governments provide the assistance and funds – not crushing loans – for rebuilding what has been destroyed, in a long-term sustainable fashion.
We need a new system of political governance. Under capitalism society’s plentiful resources are marshaled by the government to streamline profit-making by bankers, real estate developers and corporations rather than to protect and defend all the people and the environment.
The people’s needs must come first!
Harvey is Deemed the Costliest Disaster in U.S. History
| August 31, 2017 | 8:21 pm | Local/State | No comments

Venezuela to Donate $5M to Harvey Victims in Texas

Venezuela to Donate $5M to Harvey Victims in Texas

  • Houston residents trudge through floodwaters.

    Houston residents trudge through floodwaters. | Photo: AFP

Published 30 August 2017

Venezuela has extended its solidarity to the victims of Harvey in Texas and Louisiana.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza has announced that the South American country will be donating US$5 million to help with recovery efforts in areas devastated by Harvey, particularly Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas.

Venezuelan Constituent Assembly Passes Decree Against US Sanctions

“Let’s not allow war or threats to be imposed, but instead let’s impose solidarity. We will always be with the people of the United States and the peoples of the world in difficult times,” Arreaza said.

He explained that President Nicolas Maduro has approved a special program to help the victims in the states of Louisiana and Texas.

The plan was approved by U.S. authorities and the cities’ mayors, according to Arreaza.

The diplomat indicated that a percentage of the sales of gas from Citgo will be destined for the construction of houses for the people affected. Citgo is a subsidiary of the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, based in Houston.

Arreaza also said that he will be sending a letter Wednesday to the charge d’affaires at the United States embassy to deliver the construction project, adding that Venezuela has offered rescue workers, doctors, and other specialized personnel to help with the situation on the ground.

President of Citgo Nelson Martinez said the company was “going to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of those affected, with its support plan for construction.”

Citgo operations were forced to shut down at its Corpus Christi, Texas facilities, near where Harvey made landfall Friday, but are reportedly on their way to restarting in the next few days.

Experts Say Climate Change Intensified Hurricane Harvey

In an announcement Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a decree imposing new economic sanctions on Venezuela. The latest U.S. sanctions ban trades of Venezuelan debt and prevent PDVSA from selling new bonds to U.S. citizens or financial groups. Trades of existing bonds commissioned by Caracas will also be barred.

Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington D.C., said the new round of sanctions is “severe” and is on a level never seen before, making Trump’s cursory threats of military intervention against the Bolivarian state highly plausible.

The government has said that the sanctions target the Venezuelan people, affecting food and medicine supplies, which has led to international condemnation of the U.S. measures.

The new sanctions come weeks after Trump said that a “military option” has not been ruled out against Venezuela.

Mainstream Media Misrepresents Hurricane Harvey’s Climate Change Connection
| August 30, 2017 | 6:36 pm | Climate Change, Local/State | 1 Comment