Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Brief Respone to Star Parker's Criticism of "When the Levees Broke"

Star Parker's editorial on "When the Levees Broke" deserves a lengthy response, but I'm writing this brief statement to encourage readers to view this documentary and follow the story of the Gulf Coast.

Star Parker's editorial entitled "Of Katrina, lies and Spike Lee's videotape" unfairly attacks Spike Lee's outstanding documentary When the Levees Broke. Upon the collapse of the levees on August 29, 2005, the local and state governments did not have the means to save people trapped in their homes and to provide assistance to those who managed to escape the flood to the Superdome, the Convention Center or overpasses. On September 3rd, the military began to provide effective assistance, but the delay in response cost lives and created suffering. This alone makes the federal government worthy of criticism.

Ms. Parker falsely accuses the documentary of not acknowledging the $700 million private citizens donated. With approximately 200,000 families displaced, that amounts to $3,500 per family, assuming there are no administrative costs. Insurance claims from the Gulf Coast region are approximately $70 billion, most of which insurance companies will not pay. The situation is larger than private charity can handle.

The documentary shows the neglect of the people of the Gulf Coast in the year since the storm. This is a reflection of the federal government's misplaced priorities. This administration and Congress have done everything in their power to subsidize the energy, pharmaceutical and weapons industries. Do we really believe that the Army Corps of Engineers's efforts would remain under funded if the 9th Ward was filled with Exxon facilities instead of working class people?

This documentary asks whether we want to rebuild New Orleans as a residential, culturally-vibrant city guarded by adequate, Dutch-quality dams and levees or allow private developers to develop these areas commercially and then use their money to influence the federal government to fund storm-protection systems as corporate welfare.

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