During the 1997 Daytona Beach Bike Week, I met an airbrush artist who had registered the domain name PETA.COM and used it as a parody page to mock the terrorist funding organization called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). So, for a few months, that .COM web site had "People Eating Tasty Animals" on it.
Now, in a similar way, the watch dog group, Center for Consumer Freedom had their anti-PETA billboard tagged (shown above) after punking the 25th Anniversary PETA gala. But, there is another twist. Here is a copy of the CCF press release:
In a highly original maneuver, the perpetrators crossed out the word "Kills" and sprayed the word "Saves" in its place. Unfortunately for them, the Center for Consumer Freedom also owns the Internet domain "PetaSavesAnimals.com" -- which redirects to PetaKillsAnimals.com. Oops.
Before you fire off that "You animal-hating cruel bastard" hate mail, follow some of the links in this entry concerning PETA, or realize the ugly facts of things -- like Earth Day being thought up by a drug-crazed, convicted killer. I love my Skiddyand I like my spot on the food chain, thank you.
If you really want to help animals and pets in the Hurricane Katrina disaster zone, give your support to an organization with its boots on the ground and not its head up its ass. Noah's Wish needs your support. Also, you can check out the great work that Petfinder and Pets911 is doing.
The other night when NBC aired its live "Concert for Hurricane Relief," I watched with amusement as rapper Kanye West surprised everyone by going on a mini-rant that ended when he blurted out, "George Bush doesn't care about black people!" That little live nugget was cut from the taped program broadcast in the TV markets further west, but it did throw a bit of racial gasoline in the growing blame-game bonfire. I was trying to avoid the distraction of finger pointing while researching web sites to include in the entries I did write.
I hope they were helpful for some. I left the topics of who to blame, why to blame, and what not for a later time. But, I did create a Blogdrive poll for you on the left side panel today. Feel free to vote and vent there, or here.
Another thing upon which I initially tried to avoid wasting my energy was chasing down some of the many stories of incompetence and horror. It was a difficult enough task for me to track down and verify all the humanitarian outreach and hopeful news surrounding the rescue, recovery, and relief efforts being made by heroic members of the Coast Guard, or the private sector, or individual groups of people.
At the same time, hurricane Katrina did seem to blow the ugly lid off of historic animosities in our country with regards to race and class. Some people, like Kanye West, expressed his views on these issues bluntly and abruptly. Others expressed similar views, but were more subtle about it.
Do they take away with them an awareness that it has always been not only a great white metropolis but also a great black city, a city where African-Americans have come together again and again to form the strongest African-American culture in the land?
The first literary magazine ever published in Louisiana was the work of black men, French-speaking poets and writers who brought together their work in three issues of a little book called L'Album Littéraire. That was in the 1840's, and by that time the city had a prosperous class of free black artisans, sculptors, businessmen, property owners, skilled laborers in all fields. Thousands of slaves lived on their own in the city, too, making a living at various jobs, and sending home a few dollars to their owners in the country at the end of the month.
This is not to diminish the horror of the slave market in the middle of the famous St. Louis Hotel, or the injustice of the slave labor on plantations from one end of the state to the other. It is merely to say that it was never all "have or have not" in this strange and beautiful city.
Later in the 19th century, as the Irish immigrants poured in by the thousands, filling the holds of ships that had emptied their cargoes of cotton in Liverpool, and as the German and Italian immigrants soon followed, a vital and complex culture emerged. Huge churches went up to serve the great faith of the city's European-born Catholics; convents and schools and orphanages were built for the newly arrived and the struggling; the city expanded in all directions with new neighborhoods of large, graceful houses, or areas of more humble cottages, even the smallest of which, with their floor-length shutters and deep-pitched roofs, possessed an undeniable Caribbean charm.
Through this all, black culture never declined in Louisiana. In fact, New Orleans became home to blacks in a way, perhaps, that few other American cities have ever been. Dillard University and Xavier University became two of the most outstanding black colleges in America; and once the battles of desegregation had been won, black New Orleanians entered all levels of life, building a visible middle class that is absent in far too many Western and Northern American cities to this day.
The influence of blacks on the music of the city and the nation is too immense and too well known to be described. It was black musicians coming down to New Orleans for work who nicknamed the city "the Big Easy" because it was a place where they could always find a job. But it's not fair to the nature of New Orleans to think of jazz and the blues as the poor man's music, or the music of the oppressed.
Something else was going on in New Orleans. The living was good there. The clock ticked more slowly; people laughed more easily; people kissed; people loved; there was joy.
Which is why so many New Orleanians, black and white, never went north. They didn't want to leave a place where they felt at home in neighborhoods that dated back centuries; they didn't want to leave families whose rounds of weddings, births and funerals had become the fabric of their lives. They didn't want to leave a city where tolerance had always been able to outweigh prejudice, where patience had always been able to outweigh rage. They didn't want to leave a place that was theirs.
And so New Orleans prospered, slowly, unevenly, but surely - home to Protestants and Catholics, including the Irish parading through the old neighborhood on St. Patrick's Day as they hand out cabbages and potatoes and onions to the eager crowds; including the Italians, with their lavish St. Joseph's altars spread out with cakes and cookies in homes and restaurants and churches every March; including the uptown traditionalists who seek to preserve the peace and beauty of the Garden District; including the Germans with their clubs and traditions; including the black population playing an ever increasing role in the city's civic affairs.
Now nature has done what the Civil War couldn't do. Nature has done what the labor riots of the 1920's couldn't do. Nature had done what "modern life" with its relentless pursuit of efficiency couldn't do. It has done what racism couldn't do, and what segregation couldn't do either. Nature has laid the city waste - with a scope that brings to mind the end of Pompeii.
I share this history for a reason - and to answer questions that have arisen these last few days. Almost as soon as the cameras began panning over the rooftops, and the helicopters began chopping free those trapped in their attics, a chorus of voices rose. "Why didn't they leave?" people asked both on and off camera. "Why did they stay there when they knew a storm was coming?" One reporter even asked me, "Why do people live in such a place?"
Then as conditions became unbearable, the looters took to the streets. Windows were smashed, jewelry snatched, stores broken open, water and food and televisions carried out by fierce and uninhibited crowds.
Now the voices grew even louder. How could these thieves loot and pillage in a time of such crisis? How could people shoot one another? Because the faces of those drowning and the faces of those looting were largely black faces, race came into the picture. What kind of people are these, the people of New Orleans, who stay in a city about to be flooded, and then turn on one another?
Well, here's an answer. Thousands didn't leave New Orleans because they couldn't leave. They didn't have the money. They didn't have the vehicles. They didn't have any place to go. They are the poor, black and white, who dwell in any city in great numbers; and they did what they felt they could do - they huddled together in the strongest houses they could find. There was no way to up and leave and check into the nearest Ramada Inn.
What's more, thousands more who could have left stayed behind to help others. They went out in the helicopters and pulled the survivors off rooftops; they went through the flooded streets in their boats trying to gather those they could find. Meanwhile, city officials tried desperately to alleviate the worsening conditions in the Superdome, while makeshift shelters and hotels and hospitals struggled.
And where was everyone else during all this? Oh, help is coming, New Orleans was told. We are a rich country. Congress is acting. Someone will come to stop the looting and care for the refugees.
And it's true: eventually, help did come. But how many times did Gov. Kathleen Blanco have to say that the situation was desperate? How many times did Mayor Ray Nagin have to call for aid? Why did America ask a city cherished by millions and excoriated by some, but ignored by no one, to fight for its own life for so long? That's my question.
I know that New Orleans will win its fight in the end. I was born in the city and lived there for many years. It shaped who and what I am. Never have I experienced a place where people knew more about love, about family, about loyalty and about getting along than the people of New Orleans. It is perhaps their very gentleness that gives them their endurance.
They will rebuild as they have after storms of the past; and they will stay in New Orleans because it is where they have always lived, where their mothers and their fathers lived, where their churches were built by their ancestors, where their family graves carry names that go back 200 years. They will stay in New Orleans where they can enjoy a sweetness of family life that other communities lost long ago.
But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us "Sin City," and turned your backs.
Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.
On a personal note: there is no way I could follow what Anne Rice just wrote with anything. I mean, c'mon. It's Anne Rice. But, I did leave you a gift, if you like CCR.
When New Orleans officials issued a mandatory evacuation order, some speculated at the time that about eighty percent of the residents of The Big Easy had already fled ahead of Hurricane Katrina's arrival. Now as rescue and recovery operations continue, the scale of the displaced evacuee situation is starting to be calculated. It is estimated that up to one million people are scattered across the country because of Hurricane Katrina.
It's very good news that more Department of Defense (DoD) assets and personnel have arrived on scene. In New Orleans, many tens of thousands of people have already been rescued and relocated to Red Cross shelters in nineteen states, but twenty thousand more people could still be hunkered down in individual homes and apartments. Baton Rouge has instantly replaced New Orleans as the most populous city in Louisiana because of Katrina. Officials in Texas alone report that they have received over 200,000 evacuees.
With about one million evacuess scattered to the wind in the chaotic environment caused by Katrina, finding loved ones is a problem that is now being addressed on a large scale. While the news outlets poignantly report some feel-good, human interest stories of a few individual families being reunited to raise the mood of their viewers, other private and public organizations are creating real methods for people to reconnect with each other in the aftermath of Katrina.
If you evacuated before Katrina hit and you are somewhere safe, check these sites and register with the Red Cross so people looking for you will know you are okay. If you are looking for neighbors, friends, and loved ones that may have been evacuated to a shelter, check the list often as the Red Cross is continually updating it.
Here are some other helpful sites from various organizations in the area where you can read messages, leave messages, and simply get more information about specific areas affected by Hurricane Katrina:
NOLA.COM - Help, evacuee forums, photos and news for New Orleans. WWL TV - Help, forums, photos, live stream and news for New Orleans. CNN Safe List - Alphabetical listing with evacuee status. NOKR.ORG - The National Next Of Kin Registry WLBT.COM - News, forums, housing and helpful info for Mississippi. Clarion Ledger - Great section for help and info for Gulf Coast residents. Sun Herald - News, evacuee forums, helpful info for South Mississippi.
If you find some helpful info on other sites not listed here for the Where's Waldo evacuee situation, please leave a comment with the web address (URL) in the comment form.
Some of the web sites listed above have links concerning long term housing. Here is an inital list of websites dealing with housing:
If you have housing available or are looking for housing, check those websites. If you find additional web sites with housing information, please leave a comment with the web address (URL).
I also wanted to mention something of urgent need for the evacuation centers. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has put a call out for medical professionals of all disciplines and relief workers to register and volunteer. [Secure Volunteer Registration Form]
Also, Noah's Wish has updates and important information concerning pets left behind.
In response to the hurricane tragedy, NBC will air a live benefit special, "A Concert For Hurricane Relief," in high-definition on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC tonight at 8:00pm (ET), it was announced today by NBC Universal. The hour-long, music and celebrity driven broadcast will air live. From Rockefeller Plaza, the special will feature performances by artists with ties to the affected areas, including Tim McGraw, Harry Connick, Jr. and Wynton Marsalis, and an appearance by Leonardo DiCaprio.
Target has announced a $1.5 million donation to the American Red Cross, with $500,000 going for immediate relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina, and an additional $1 million for ongoing disaster relief and preparedness.
In addition to cash contributions, Target is offering much-needed real estate in Louisiana to the Red Cross to establish a central command center supporting the most heavily impacted areas of the storm. Target is also looking into real estate availability in Alabama and Mississippi.
Target is coordinating large-scale distribution of essential products requested by the Red Cross, including such items as water, ice, energy bars and bug spray. Stores in the affected areas have been given additional funds to provide in-kind product donations and grants to local nonprofit organizations. Our teams also will provide volunteer support. [press release]
Grainger (NYSE: GWW), North America's leading distributor of facilities maintenance supplies, has pledged more than $1 million in cash and emergency supplies such as tarps, gloves, flashlights and batteries to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund to help communities and businesses recover following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. The company also is encouraging its employees to contribute to the recovery efforts by providing a four-to-one match of employee gifts to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. [press release]
BP Foundation has donated $1 million to the Red Cross and will also match the contributions of BP employees to the disaster relief effort. [press release]
Chevron Corporation today announced it is making a commitment of $5 million to support recovery efforts in the communities affected by Hurricane Katrina. This includes a $3 million contribution to the American Red Cross in support of disaster relief efforts in Louisiana, Mississippi and other affected areas following further analysis of the devastation. The remaining $2 million will go to local charities and relief efforts near Chevron businesses in affected states, as determined by the Company. [press release]
These are just a few examples of good corporate citizens stepping up to the plate to aid in the Hurricane Katrina Relief activities. More are being added daily. Celebrities like Diddy and Nicholas Cage have made large financial donations.
The most important and valuable person that can give financial aid is you. Millions of us acting together, just giving a donation that we can afford, can cumulatively eclipse all the financial donations by the large donors. We can step up and help.
Just this morning, I read a comment on Interdictor's blog about the students at Deland High School, here in Central Florida, who have simply banded together and donated one dollar each to their local Red Cross chapter. This is how we all band together to make a difference.
The following retailers continue serving as Red Cross Official Cash Donation Sites where members of the public, during their everyday errands, can conveniently make a contribution to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund:
Coinstar coin-counting machines, located in 10,000 grocery stores nationwide are accepting donations for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, just as they do 365 days per year as part of a long-time partnership.
Lowe's Companies, Inc. introduced a customer donation program in all 1,125 stores nationwide, matching donations up to $1 millions
Food Lion, LLC has started a customer donation program
Winn-Dixie began a customer donation program in all stores
People who've regularly read Thunderstorms or Dark Skies blog over the many months know how political and sarcastic I can be. Although the coordination of the relief effort by government officials seems woefully bungled as evacuees are stranded and dying, and corpses are floating in flooded streets, and there continues to be looting, raping, and murdering -- you can watch any television news broadcast to see that and the inevitable finger pointing or blame spreading. I simply can not bring myself to go chasing after the stories of absolute horror being played out in New Orleans, Mississippi and Alabama.
That's why I didn't blog anything yesterday. I needed a psychological break. Since the weekend, I had slept very little and was suffering from some kind of vicarious anxiety for some reason. Perhaps, it is because of my experiences last year with the multiple hurricanes here in Florida. Perhaps, it is because I am a news junkie. Perhaps, it is because I knew someone in path of the killer hurricane and was genuinely worried. Perhaps, it is because I am here and not there, and feel totally frustrated to do anything to help.
The last time I felt this way was during the days after September 11th. I lived hundreds of miles from New York City, but like many Americans, I felt traumatized. Like many Americans, I was glued to the 24-hour news coverage of that national tragedy. Ironically, I was saved from the continual news reports of horror that week when I turned my television on one morning and it broke. Poof. The damn television died. Or perhaps, I had literally worn the thing out channel surfing for 72-hours straight and old paint just gave up the ghost.
So, today, I decided to do what I did when my television died during the week of September 11th. Find something I can do. When it looked fairly impossible for me to drive to New York, I sent out emails to the corporate offices of various companies, specifically suggesting how they could help.
I remember, because of my job in construction, I emailed the Stihl corporation asking if they could donate their saws, and blades, and equipment parts, and personal protective gear to the rescue and recovery crews who needed to cut the concrete and steel at the World Trade Center. It was something with which I was familiar, and I knew that a saw blade to cut concrete can cost $300 each because it has saw teeth embedded with diamond. I knew how fast air filters on the saws get clogged up, etc. Stihl responded to me, and they sent supplies, including palettes of bottled water.
Similarly, I believe we as a nation need to focus on what we can do to help, rather than focus on blaming inept bureaucrats and politicians at every level of government. There will be plenty of time for finger pointing later, like during the 2006 election cycle. Right now, people need help.
The most productive thing any of us can do is donate to the American Red Cross, or any organization working on the relief effort for hurricane Katrina. I've decided that I would focus on the Red Cross and Noah's Wish. I will keep a link to these organizations on my web pages, to remind people of the need for continued support in the coming months, and perhaps years, after the news coverage dies down.
I want to do this because I have a particular mental image in my mind. While attending my best friend's wedding in Cape Coral, FL this past year, we drove past a FEMA village of about 1000 mobile homes visible from I-75. People were still living in those temporary trailers in the aftermath of hurricane Charley.
In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, a hundred thousand people are still being evacuated to shelters in neighboring states. The majority of people who did evacuate New Orleans now have no home. They are refugees. Counting the affected people in Mississippi and Alabama, it's likely there will be one million people who are now instantly homeless, jobless, and likely feeling extremely hopeless.