Monday, February 12, 2007

Better Late than Never

Yes, I know that the chutzpah award should have been announced before the end of last week. However, nothing really piqued my attention until I was listening to Amy Goodman's DemocracyNow! on KPFA this morning (now my preferred alternative to NPR). While I "parsed" the broadcast as a single item, the Headlines summary page at the DemocracyNow! Web site broke it down into two conjoined parts:

FEMA Gives $3 Million to Restore Jefferson Davis' Home
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to pay about three million dollars to help repair the former home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Davis led the Confederacy in the South during the Civil War. Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed the 150-year-old home in Biloxi Mississippi.

New Orleans Public Housing Residents Fight For Homes
In New Orleans, low-income residents are still fighting to prevent their homes from being demolished. On Saturday some residents of the Central City public housing complex defied government orders and moved back into their old apartments. The city is planning to demolish four large public housing developments even though tens of thousands of low-income New Orleans residents remain displaced.

Personally, I find the conjunction to be entirely apposite, particularly after NBC News reported last Friday that FEMA was getting "high marks" for its response to the Florida tornado. This is where the real chutzpah resides, not so much in FEMA's distorted sense of priorities in their post-Katrina management but in NBC's attempts to tell a "good news" story about FEMA while the state of affairs in the wake of Katrina continues to be a disgrace. This is not to argue against historical preservation (even when it involves the history of the Confederacy); but, between the continuing extent of homelessness and that inflammatory language about slavery that Spike Lee managed to document, one would have thought that the historical preservation could have been put on hold and the $3 million applied to more immediate needs of the living.

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