Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Generals Have Failed Our Troops

As some of you know, I now live near Fort Hood. I actually teach two courses a semester on base. Many of my students are either active duty, spouses or children of active duty personnel, or retired military. I have come to know many people who have a direct relationship with the Iraq War, and many are beyond tired of having their lives or their loved-one's lives put in harms way for no apparant reason.

Lt. Colonel Paul Yingling recently voiced his concern about the Lack of Military Leadership in this war--specifically, the lack of "the balls" to tell the politicians what was necessary to complete the mission in Iraq.

Yingling is no "Dove." He is deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment stationed here at Fort Hood. He has served two tours in Iraq, another in Bosnia and a fourth in Operation Desert Storm.

Yingling states that:

"These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress."

In an interview on NPR Friday, Yingling conceded that the only General that he could think of that had the guts to "tell it like it is" was General Eric Shinseki, who was fired by the Bush Administration when he gave his honest assessment of how many troops were needed to succeed in Iraq.

It is incredible to read Col. Yingling's assessment of what is going wrong in the military today. What is the value of a General if they do not have the interests of their troops in mind? Over 3000 troops have given up their lives for a war many of my friends regarded as illegal in the first place. Bush's war strategy is falling apart at every concievable angle today. How is it that the Generals are also responsible for not being honest with the Executive Branch for this failed strategy? What does it say about the dangerous arrogance of the Executive Branch today (our Imperial Presidency) that they not only blatantly disregarded professional advice--they also FIRED the sole voice with the guts to tell them the honest truth?

For me, it is now imperative that we bring our troops home from a dangerous and unwinnable situation. Not even the Generals have the "balls" to give the troops what they need to win. Is "saving face" worth MORE THAN THE LIFE of other soldiers in Iraq today? And where is "saving face" part of the freedoms we have sent the troops to defend? Whose face are they saving by "Staying The Course?"

I'm not sure I agree with what Yingling asserts as the solutions to this problem. There needs to be a heirarchichal relationship between the Civilian authority over the Military Branch. The Civilian Authority should always question and critique the Military Branch's options for war. Still, what Yingling asserts is dangerous--the General Leadership is nothing more than ass-kissing hacks to the Executive Branch. For honest assessments, you get fired. What message does this send to lower ranking officers in the Corps? What message does this send to the troops on the ground?

It is time to get out of Iraq. It seems noone cares about the troops on the ground anymore (if they ever did)....

Thanks Houston

Thanks to Ashley Morris, through Dillyberto, for putting this on their websites. I just had to do the same.

Thanks again, Houston

Friday, April 27, 2007

Happy JazzFest Everybody

I woke up this morning and turned on WWOZ. They've put up a new webpage--it looks pretty good. I also saw what looked like the new Piano Night 2007 poster. It looks like my friend Lionel Milton did the artwork. He should be out at the Fairgrounds both weekends in Congo Square. If you see him, tell him Banzai Bill says hello.

As I mentally prepare for Jazzfest, I saw this last night for the first time.

Harry Connick, Jr., Branford Marsalis, Freddy Lonzo, and Bob French on drums. Should be the same lineup later this week at the Fest.

I'll be watching you all on the Liuzza's Webcam. And I'll have a drink with you all too. And I'll be there next weekend for all kinds of music madness.

Yeah You Right....

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Adapt or Die?

At times, I wonder if many of us New Orleanians are living in a “make-believe” world when it comes to New Orleans and its recovery. Our initial sense of incredible opportunity after the Storm, a sense that we could perhaps rebuild better levees, better housing, better schools, and induce better economic development into the City has been hit with the reality of not only the slowness of the recovery pace but also the ineptitude of the “so-called” leaders at all levels of government to fund the recovery. Nearly two years after the Storm and large parts of the City remain abandoned and blighted. In my former neighborhood of Broadmoor—one of the better neighborhoods when it comes to post-Katrina recovery—I still find significant pockets of abandoned and blighted housing (my former house, which I sold last year, has yet to be gutted—it most likely will be a teardown). Just on my former street (Walmsley Avenue), I estimate that only 33-35% of the houses are occupied. The others appear to still be in a state of despair.

Mark Hertsgaard, the Nation Magazine’s Environmental Correspondent, reports this week that, given the changes taking place on the planet due to climate change, New Orleans may be lost anyway.

“New Orleans …will be looked back on as one of the first great casualties of climate change. Not because global warming can definitively be blamed for Katrina or the Bangladesh floods; the earth's weather system is too complex to attribute any one event to a single cause. But these events fit a larger pattern: Extra-strong hurricanes and floods are exactly what scientists expect to see--along with fiercer heat waves, harsher droughts, heavier rains and inexorable sea level rise--as global warming intensifies in the years to come.”

As I drove around the city this last weekend, I couldn’t help but feel that the city was full of incredible heroes, those working with a passion to rebuild their houses, communities, and lives. New Orleans is such a great place to preserve—it is important. Yet, one has to wonder how futile this work will be if New Orleans is hit with another hurricane. One thing to consider is that New Orleans has been touched by the four most destructive storms of the twentieth century: the Hurricane of 1947, Betsy, Camille, and Georges. It is difficult to believe that New Orleans will not be hit with a hurricane again this century. It becomes imperative that the Levees be repaired and reinforced to withstand a Cat-5 storm, and Wetlands be restored. Without this, we are in peril of losing New Orleans. We must seriously think about this as we encourage the rebuilding of New Orleans.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Back home for the weekend

We made it back home this past weekend. It was a short but efficient visit—I presented a paper at the Society for Anthropology in North America meetings and Susan had a chance to visit with her children (who she hasn’t seen since December). I’m not sure how I classify this latest visit, other than I am somewhat reserved to the fact that I am now just a visitor to the city I love so much.

During Bob French’s show atWWOZ, I got the chance to meet Bransford Marsalis. We talked about jazz and also about the Musician’s Village
(I’m beginning research on that project) and I enjoyed his “normal” demeanor. He told me Jason (his younger brother) is back in town now, though I’m not sure he’s living in his house on Napoleon Ave. yet. I kept wondering where in Central Texas, other than at KUT-FM Austin would I ever have a chance to meet the artists I have over the years in New Orleans. As I settle into this area, I will try to land a show there.

Our trips back home seem to follow a certain pattern. Most of it centers around seeing the kids and seeing old friends. I enjoy this very much. I also enjoy becoming spiritually grounded again walking the streets of New Orleans. I enjoy seeing friends spontaneously on the streets, and being asked whether I’m back or not (though they all know that we’re not coming home for a long time). We buy things here that we cannot get in Central Texas, much of it art from Brad and Ginger on Decatur St., or books from Beckham’s, or music from the Louisiana Music Factory. And we enjoy the long walks through the Quarter—and the music on Frenchman Street.

We stayed again with our friends David and Jenn in Gentilly. There is a special place for them in Heaven—they host so many people during the year in their house. We had an incredible backyard barbeque on Saturday, and we invited our friend Lynn Drury to meet them and play some music. I love her work—though it probably “works” better in a place like Nashville or Austin.

I also visited the Musician’s Village—and was impressed with the progress taking place there. It is beginning to have a minor spill-over effect on the neighborhood, though time will tell how this helps the overall community return. We also visited our house in Broadmoor, and we were very sad to see the level of decay it has fallen into. It will probably be a “tear-down” now.

Such is life.

And now we are “home” in Central Texas, and they’ve completed our new house, and we begin moving in around mid-May, and we will “officially” start our life anew here.

And we will have Movie Nights on the last Friday of the month.

And we will have Salons on the second Saturday of the month.

And we will walk through the neighborhood with our to-go cups filled with our beverages of choice.

And Devin will hear Brass Band, Funk, and Jazz music playing on the CD Player all day and night long.

And he will know that he still lives on the corner of Walmsley and Rendon (don’t ask me how—I might have to go to jail for that)….

And the smells of shrimp ettouffe, barbeque shrimp, oyster bisque, red beans and rice will permeate the kitchen, and then hopefully drift out of the house into the neighborhood.

And Susan and I will, when we can go outside and “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching.”

We had the contractors place a bag of New Orleans gris-gris in our foundation near the front door. So if you get the chance to come up and visit us, please be sure that you won’t be far from New Orleans when you enter our house.

New Orleans will never be far from where I live—it will always be in my heart.

It was nice to be back home this last weekend….