In a stunning lack of sensitivity to the biggest natural disaster this country has faced in recent memory, neither Senator Barack Obama nor Senator John McCain have committed to a debate in New Orleans about Louisiana coastal wetlands restoration and hurricane recovery. More than 90 musicians and music industry voices; from New Orleans’ Allen Toussaint, Aaron Neville, Dr. John, Galactic, Tab Benoit and Funky Meters to international acts like REM, Pearl Jam, Trent Reznor, 311, Ok Go, Jackson Browne, My Morning Jacket, Susan Cowsill and the Indigo Girls signed a l etter urging the candidates to address these issues.
Walter Williams, creator of Saturday Night Live’s iconic Mr. Bill has been working with YouTube, Google and the City of New Orleans to promote the hoped-for debate on September 18. As of this morning, despite massive international coverage of the concept, neither candidate has uttered a word about this request from New Orleans. Could it be that the candidates are afraid of the intense spotlight of mainstream media which would dog their every utterance on the federal failures still evident in the Crescent City?
Obama’s Image Problem
With Obama’s micro-management of media imagery, one imagines that he would not want to be associated with video and still photography of the still-blighted neighborhoods, belching sewers, pot-hole dotted streets, dangling electrical wires, kudzu covered empty homes and environmental damage—not to mention the homeless victims of disaster capitalism. My god, he might be expected to DO something about the mess if elected president.
John McCain is more media friendly, but cancelled a planned trip to New Orleans the very day that a massive oil spill on the lower Mississippi closed all river traffic and sickened residents with the fumes. Williams asks why the mainstream media has all but ignored the factors behind the spill.
“Can anyone explain why the huge environmental disaster which dumped a half a million gallons of heavy thick crude on our river and shut down all traffic, cut off drinking water, made everyone sick from the fumes and is a huge danger to wildlife, can’t get any press? Why did McCain cancel his trip here to tout the non impact of oil drilling on the very day the oil spill occurred? Why did our Governor [Bobby Jindal]] keep quiet about the disaster for four days?”
Bush to McCain’s rescue?
In related news, United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., commented this evening on the announcement that the Bush Administration will extend repayment terms for Louisiana’s share of levee reconstruction costs from three years to 30 years.
"Tonight’s announcement by the Administration, while overdue, is very welcome news,” said Sen. Landrieu, who last month wrote the President, urging him to exercise his authority to extend the terms. “These repayment terms will allow our state to more smartly prioritize its resources and dedicate them to other immediate, unmet recovery needs still at hand.
“I of course would have preferred that the President had taken this step sooner, and worked with our delegation rather than against us on the Supplemental bill, but am nonetheless grateful for this decision.”
Landrieu is no doubt grateful, but one imagines John McCain is also grateful for this sop which the Republicans just threw to New Orleans three years after hurricane Katrina made landfall. Gotta give Landrieu some chops for negotiating this one.
Williams at Work
Williams filmed the accompanying YouTube video in front of the Rock ‘n Bowl on Carrollton Avenue this past Saturday night. It features 18 year old Amanda Shaw who was also prominent in the IMAX presentation Hurricane on the Bayou.
Shaw is a New Orleans based singer, songwriter and fiddler. She turned 18 years old this week and has been an advocate for Louisiana’s wetlands since she was 14. “As a first time voter, I want to make sure they know how much we need our wetlands and hear their plans to restore the coast because the wetlands take care of us and protect us," said Shaw.