Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Guest blog: Walter Williams on the YouTube presidential debate

Posted By on Wed, Aug 6, 2008 at 2:37 PM

(The following is a guest blogpost by Walter Williams, native New Orleanian, Louisiana wetlands activist [and, of course, creator of the immortal Mr. Bill].)

YouTube and the city of New Orleans are trying to stage a debate here on September 18. What better place to hold a debate about the state of our country? Massive infrastructure failure, catastrophic environmental damage, economic chaos…sure sounds like the US of A to me. Here is a question from 18-year-old super talent Amanda Shaw for the candidates that I filmed Saturday night for the YouTube debate:

And please read the letter below to the candidates endorsed by concerned musicians including R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Dr. John…check out the list of who is pushing the candidates for answers to our plight.

But neither candidate has committed yet. That’s how you can help. Please contact Obama and McCain and ask them why they are afraid to come and face us. Have they written us off? Are we an embarrassment? This link allows you to just push a button to send a message to both campaigns to commit to this debate. We’ve got to make them feel like they’ll look bad if they do snub us…again. We were supposed to be awarded one of the three official debates.

Also, 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 keep quiet about the disaster for four days?

Generally with a disaster of such magnitude, the governor would be on the phone to the president begging for federal help. Two weeks later, the split open barge is still pinned against the Mississippi River Bridge spewing oil as we speak. This was not a barge of powdered sugar, otherwise the tourists would be out dunking their beignets in the river. No it was a barge full of heavy crude headed north to help keep people warm this winter. This is further proof that New Orleans and southern LA have borne the environmental impact in order to fuel the rest of the nation. Now these activities have put our very existence into question. Please read the release and letter below from the concerned musicians asking the candidates to explain their plan to save the birthplace of jazz, rock and roll, hip hop and who knows what next in the future. And please help us.

Peace all,

Walter

MUSICIANS SOUND CALL FOR THE LOUISIANA COAST

Dr. John, Funky Meters, REM, Pearl Jam, Allen Toussaint and others ask Presidential Contenders to Commit to Gulf Coast Wetlands, Recovery and Debate

Internationally known musicians have united with Louisiana artists to call on the Presidential candidates to debate in New Orleans about Louisiana coastal wetlands restoration and hurricane recovery. With the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina looming, musicians are urging the candidates to weigh in on Gulf Coast issues which need Federal leadership -- Louisiana Coastal wetlands rebuilding and a sustainable hurricane recovery, by attending a Presidential Forum being organized by the websites Google and YouTube.

The Gulf Restoration Network partnered with Grammy-nominated musician Tab Benoit and his Voice of the Wetlands organization to enlist more than 90 musicians and music industry leaders on a letter to the candidates urging them to support Louisiana coastal wetlands rebuilding, a sustainable hurricane recovery and to present plans on both issues at the Google/YouTube forum. The letter was signed by a wide range of musicians and music industry voices; from New Orleans own Allen Toussaint, Aaron Neville, Dr. John, Galactic, and Funky Meters to internationally known acts like REM, Pearl Jam, Trent Reznor, 311, Ok Go, Jackson Browne, My Morning Jacket and the Indigo Girls.

Rounder recording artist Amanda Shaw, a New Orleans based singer, songwriter and fiddler, turned 18 years old this week but 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. Coastal experts have estimated that every mile of coastal wetlands that a storm travels over diminishes its surge by as much as a foot and point to the ongoing loss of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands (currently 25 square miles per year) as a primary reason that New Orleans’ federal levees failed during Katrina.

Stanton Moore, a founding member and drummer for Galactic stated, "New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, and has influenced about every American style of music that followed, from rock to hip hop. The next President will need to prioritize restoring our coast to continue the recovery process. The culture of our whole country depends on it."

Benoit explains, "This forum is the perfect opportunity for the people of Louisiana to voice their concerns about rebuilding our wetlands and communities. It creates the opportunity to get the Presidential candidates to make concrete proposals for how we can ensure that Hurricane Katrina does not happen again."

Expected to use a format similar to the YouTube forum in the primaries, members of the public will be able to ask questions of the candidates by submitting YouTube videos. Despite high-profile support from Louisiana's Governor Bobby Jindal, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin as well as the New Orleans area universities, neither Senator Barack Obama nor Senator John McCain have committed to the event.

To read the letter and see the complete list of signatories, please visit:

http://www.healthygulf.org/Candidates_Coastal_letter.pdf

For more information about Louisiana’s coastal crisis, please visit:

http://www.healthygulf.org/GRN_Defend_Our_Coast_factsheet.pdf

Voice Of the Wetlands (VOW) is an organization that is made up strictly of volunteers who dedicate their talent, time and resources to bring global attention to south Louisiana and the world's coastal erosion problem. Based in Houma, Louisiana, VOW is organizing their 5th annual Voice of the Wetlands Festival October 10-12 at the Southdown Plantation in Houma.

Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) is a network of groups and individuals committed to restoring the Gulf of Mexico to an ecologically and biologically sustainable condition. Based in New Orleans, Louisiana, the GRN is the only organization solely focused on uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf. On the web at www.healthygulf.org

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