Saturday, September 24, 2005

Text of Cindy Sheehan's Speech

September 24
UFPJ Rally

Ahhhh, I love the smell of Patriotic Dissent in the afternoon!

As we stand here on the grounds of a monument that is dedicated to the Father of our Country, George Washington, we are reminded that he was well known for the apocryphal stories of never being able to tell a lie. I find it so ironic that there is another man here named George who stays in this town between vacations and he seems to never be able to tell the truth. It is tragic for us that o ur bookend presidents named George have two completely different relationships with honesty.

I also find it ironic and heartbreaking that my son, Casey, who was a brave person, tall and proud, who loved his country and was honest beyond measure, could be sent to his death by someone who is even too cowardly to meet with a broken hearted mom, let alone go and fight in the illegal and immoral war of his generation. We are losing our best and our brightest in a country that we are destroying that was no threat to the United States of America. Iraq was and still is no danger to our safety and security, or to our way of life. The weapons of mass destruction and mass deception reside in this town: they are the neocons who pull the strings and the members of Congress who have loosened the purse strings with reckless abandon and have practically given George and company a blank check to run our country into monetary and moral bankruptcy. We are out here in force today to take our country back and restore true democracy and sanity to our political process. The time is now and we are here because we love our country and we won't let the reckless maniacs destroy her any further.

We as a young colony of Great Britain broke from another tyrant, King George the Third. Well, I wish our George the Third were here today to see us out here in force protesting against his war and against his murderous policies. George is not here, though, because he is out galavanting around the country somewhere pretending that he cares about the people who are in the path of hurricane Rita. We know that he cares nothing for the people of America: Katrina, Iraq, and his idiotic response to 9/11 are evidence of that. He is just out and about play-acting like a President whose country is in crisis just like he pretends to be a Commander in Chief and a Cowboy (I wonder if before he took off to Texas or Colorado or wherever he went, he watched a movie like Independence Day to see how that other fake president acted?). The reason he is out today is that his handlers told him that he got a little flak for playing golf and eating birthday cake with Senator Me Cain while some of his employers were hanging off rooftops and treetops in New Orleans. He swaggers around arrogantly like he is a macho dictatorial tyrant who doesn't have to answer to his employers, the people of the United States of America. Those days are over George, we are here today to tell you that we are a majority and we will never rest until you bring our young people home from the Middle East and until you start putting money into rebuilding OUR communities: the ones natural disasters destroy with your help, and the ones which your callous and racist war economy are decimating. We won't allow you to take anymore money out of social programs to finance Halliburton to rebuild the Gulf States: there is no money. Our bank account is empty. George, this is our rainy day and you have failed us miserably. Stop pouring money into the pockets of the war profiteers and into building permanent bases in Iraq . It is time to bring our billions of dollars home from Iraq too!!!

One thing the Camp Casey movement that hunkered down in Crawford, Texas this past August taught us is that we the people of America have the power and we can and should name our national policy and make sure it is carried out. I constantly get asked if we are making a difference and if we think (like we're naïve boobs) that we will actually stop the war. Well, looking back at how Vietnam was ended and looking back in the history of our country, most notably in the suffragette, union, and civil rights movements, we the people are the only ones who have been able to transform history and affect true and lasting change here in America: so to those people who question if we are making a difference: I tell them to go back to school and read their history books!! And another thing these questioners overlook is that WE ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!!! And we are here to tell the media, Congress, and this criminal and criminally negligent administration: WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY!!!

We in the peace movement need to agree on one thing: yes we need an exit plan, but it is not a strategy, it is a command. The command should be: have all of our military personnel and paid killer mercenaries out of Iraq within 6 months and the generals carry out the command. Simple, it's not brain surgery and I think it is so easy even George Bush can sign the order. We can't give the homicidal maniacs any wiggle room or long term strategy sessions. For one thing, when our leaders strategize, we are put in even more jeopardy, they have proven that they are not too bright or even a little compassionate. But the most important thing is that people die everyday in Iraq for absolutely no reason and for lies. We have to say NOW because the people on the other side are saying NEVER. We can't compromise, we can't say please, and we can't retreat. If we do, our country is doomed. We have to honor the sacrifices of our loved ones by completing the mission of peace and justice. It is time. Bring our troops home, NOW!.


Link.

Rugged individualism is a drag

Something that caught my attention was this quote:
"It has of course been in the interest of Republicans to stress self-reliance and individualism. That's the Frank Luntz way of packaging their economic plans to starve support for the needy.

But leaving people on their own to flounder and drown doesn't really reflect the values of most America. The policies based on this philosophy of social Darwinism haven't made American strong: they've made middle-class America weaker by draining resources away from families. By taking our own money away from civic life and community activism. By encouraging selfishness. By making people feel alone.
In America, we've been buying into the myth of rugged individualism for as long as I can remember. I see the Social Darwinist vibe show up in some of the comments, by folks who seem to view the survivors of natural disasters as somehow being solely to blame for their situation. It's a mindset of "every man for himself, and if you can't somehow pull yourself up by the bootstraps then God help you because no one else will." In talking about responsibility, the focus is on the individual. That is all well and good up to a point. However, what is lost in the process is our nature as social animals, and ones who are responsible not just for "number one" but also for well-being of others. We need each other in order to survive, perhaps much more so in our complex social environments than we might have when we as a species were still primarily hunters & gatherers. The mindset I'd rather promote on this blog is one that views the individual not as an entity unto himself/herself, but rather as embedded in a social environment. In order to be a valuable member of the community one must not only be responsible for oneself but also responsible for the well-being of his/her fellow community members. Neglecting those in need, and rationalizing that neglect by "blaming the victims" is simply not part of a value system that I'd want anything to do with.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Song Remains The Same



Many Poor Stuck in Houston as Hurricane Rita Approaches

HOUSTON — Wilma Skinner would like to scream at the officials of this city. If only someone would pick up their phone.

"I done called for a shelter, I done called for help. There ain't none. No one answers," she said, standing in blistering heat outside a check-cashing store that had just run out of its main commodity. "Everyone just says, 'Get out, get out.' I've got no way of getting out. And now I've got no money."

With Hurricane Rita breathing down Houston's neck, those with cars were stuck in gridlock trying to get out. Those like Skinner - poor, and with a broken-down car - were simply stuck, and fuming at being abandoned, they say.

"All the banks are closed and I just got off work," said Thomas Visor, holding his sweaty paycheck as he, too, tried to get inside the store, where more than 100 people, all of them black or Hispanic, fretted in line. "This is crazy. How are you supposed to evacuate a hurricane if you don't have money? Answer me that?"

Some of those who did have money, and did try to get out, didn't get very far.

Judie Anderson of La Porte, Texas, covered just 45 miles in 12 hours. She had been on the road since 10 p.m. Wednesday, headed toward Oklahoma, which by Thursday was still very far away.

"This is the worst planning I've ever seen," she said. "They say, 'We've learned a lot from Hurricane Katrina.' Well, you couldn't prove it by me."

On Bellaire Boulevard in southwest Houston, a weeping woman and her young daughter stood on the sidewalk, surrounded by plastic bags full of clothes and blankets. "I'd like to go, but nobody come get me," the woman said in broken English. When asked her name, she looked frightened. "No se, no se," she said: Spanish for "I don't know."

Her daughter, who appeared to be about 9, whispered in English, "We're from Mexico."

For the poor and the disenfranchised, the mighty evacuation orders that preceded Rita were something they could only ignore.

Eddie McKinney, 64, who had no home, no teeth and a torn shirt, stood outside the EZ Pawn shop, drinking a beer under a sign that said, "No Loitering."

"We got no other choice but to stay here. We're homeless and we're broke," he said. "I thought about going to Dallas, but now it's too late. I got no way to get there."

Where will he stay?

"A nice white man gave me a motel room for three days. Just walked up and said, 'Here.' So my buddy and me will stick it out," he said, pointing to another homeless man. "We got a half-gallon of whiskey and a room."

In Deer Park, a working-class suburb of refineries south of Houston, Stacy and Troy Curtis, waited for help outside the police station. Less than three weeks ago, the couple left New Orleans after it was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

With no vehicle, and little money, they tried to get their lives together while staying at a hotel in Deer Park. Stacy Curtis, a nursing assistant in New Orleans, had a job interview scheduled for Thursday.

But most businesses had shut down because the neighborhood will likely flood if the hurricane hits Galveston Bay. The streets were empty Thursday afternoon.

"We're stuck here," Stacy Curtis said. "Got no other place to go."

An emergency official eventually sent a van to take the couple to a shelter at a recreation center.

Monica Holmes, who has debilitating lupus, sat in her car at a Houston gas station that had no gas. "We can't go nowhere," she said, tapping a fingernail against the dashboard fuel gauge. "Look here," she said. "I'm right on E."

Her husband, a security guard, had a paycheck, but no way to cash it.

"We were going to try to go to Nacogdoches" in east Texas, not far from the Louisiana border, she said. "But even if we could get on the road, we're not going to get out. These people that left yesterday, they're still on the beltway. They haven't even got out of Houston."

So she and her husband will hunker down in their Missouri City home, just to the south. "We'll be fine," she said. "You can't be scared of what God can do. I'm covered."

As always, there were those who chose to stay, no matter how dire the warnings.

John Benson, a 47-year-old surfer and lifelong Galveston resident, said he thinks his town "is going to take on a lot of water. But as far as the winds, I think here on the island, it will be a little bit less than they anticipated."

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued Wednesday for the area.

Benson said he planned to use his surfboard as transportation after the hurricane. "The main thing is you have a contingency plan," he said, and thumped his board. "You got buoyancy."

Skinner, accompanied by her 6-year-old grandson, Dageneral Bellard, would settle for a bus.

"They got them for the outlying areas, for the Gulf and Galveston, but they ain't made no preparations for us in the city, for the poor people here. There ain't no (evacuation) buses here. I got nowhere to go."

A replay of New Orleans, it appears. Why am I not surprised.

Where will you be when your laxative kicks in?

We live in interesting times indeed

While Not-so-lovely Rita aims at Gulf Coast, potentially causing havoc to oil drilling and refinery facilities in the area, here's some other news in Nigeria:
ABUJA, 22 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - Militants loyal to Moujahid Dokubo-Asari said they had taken over several oil facilities in the Niger Delta on Thursday, as Nigerian officials said the militia leader would be charged with treason.

Dokubo-Asari, the head of Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force (NDPVF) who has repeatedly clashed with the Nigerian authorities over oil issues, was arrested two days ago.

He appeared in court on Thursday where a judge ordered he be detained for a fortnight while prosecutors prepared their case.

“This is the highest form of dictatorship,” Dokubo-Asari, wearing a blue robe, told reporters before he was whisked away in a police van.

Police sources said the militia leader had been arrested following comments he made in a recent newspaper interview about fighting for the disintegration of Nigeria.

[...]

Dokubo-Asari's NDPVF had threatened on Wednesday to unleash mayhem in the Niger Delta, which accounts for nearly all of Nigeria's 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, unless their leader was released.

On Thursday, his aides said oil facilities run by Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell had been captured.

“This morning we took over two flow stations belonging to Chevron and one belonging to Shell,” the NDPVF's number two Alali Horsefall told IRIN. “And we are going to take more.”

A Chevron official confirmed that the company’s Idama facility had been overrun by armed militiamen, who cruised up in several speedboats, but declined to provide further details.

Royal Dutch Shell did not confirm or deny that one of its facilities had been targeted but Reuters news agency reported that non-essential staff had been evacuated from one of the company's oil platforms.

The oil giant has also asked employees at its headquarters in the oil hub Port Harcourt to stay away from work in view of the deteriorating security situation.

Hundreds of police reinforcements have been sent to the delta this week as tensions have escalated.

Militants armed with machetes and assault rifles have been demonstrating in Port Harcourt, with some burning tyres in the streets and others blocking a major road, witnesses said.

[...]

A self-styled revolutionary, Dokubo-Asari is viewed as a hero by Ijaws, the dominant ethnic group in the Niger Delta region, for that inhabitants have a greater share of and control over the oil weath.

The Niger Delta has been wracked by unrest for years, because ethnic minorities of the area feel cheated out of their wealth and resent the joint ventures run by the Nigerian government and international oil companies.
Not much to add to that. When you're dependent on nonrenewable resources that are found predominantly in parts of the world that are vulnerable to either catastrophic storms or to political turmoil, you don't have a whole lot of choices available to you. I've been alive just long enough to remember when the old Ronald Raygun crowd were poo-pooing the need for more research and development of alternatives to petroleum. The American model of governing is one focused squarely on the present without regard for the future. For the last quarter century, our leaders have sounded a lot like John Travolta's character in Saturday Night Fever: "Fuck the future," they tell us. Problem is, as the old man retorted, "you don't fuck the future. The future fucks you."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Someone who shares my own frustration

From the comments of a DailyKos diary:
The Democrats don't stand for me on the War on Iraq.

The Democrats don't stand for me on Global Warming.

The Democrats don't stand for me on bankruptcy.

The Democrats don't stand for me on SCOTUS.

The Democrats don't stand for me on Universal Health Care.

The Democrats don't stand for me on the minimum wage.

The Democrats don't stand for me on a just peace in the Middle East.

The Democrats don't stand for me on the failed war on drugs.

The Democrats don't stand for me on media consolidation.

The Democrats don't stand for me on eminent domain abuse.

The Democrats don't stand for me on environmental justice.

The Democrats don't stand for me on ending dependency on foreign oil.

The Democrats don't stand for me on ethics in the House of Representatives.

The Democrats don't stand for me on saying no to torture.

The Democrats don't stand for me on the Ninth Amendment.

The Democrats don't stand for me on the Second Amendment.

The Democrats don't stand for me on the Patriot Act.

I keep wanting the Democrats to stand for me, but every time they get the chance, they fall for lies then apologize.

Greenskeeper was truly brave to post that on what is billed as a partisan Dem blog. That cat writing that is probably fixing to get banned from that site (just gallows humor on my part, given that blog's history over the last few months).

It all goes back to something I've said before and will say again. A wise man once said that if you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything. Someone like me who lives paycheck to paycheck (and who feels fortunate enough to do that) doesn't have the patience for a minority party who's leaders keep giving us all this "nuanced" bullshit about how they need to be more like the Republicans in order to get more votes; that when important battles come up that they must somehow keep their "powder dry" for the next "more important" battle that is supposedly down the road. Let's check it out: the reason I don't vote for Republicans is because I think their policies suck - their policies are ones formulated by elitist, racist, jingoistic crooks who have no interests besides those of their CEO cronies. Why would I want to vote for so-called "opposition" candidates who want to emulate that? Why would I want to contribute money or volunteer time for someone like that. Forget it. As for keeping their "powder dry" here's the 411 for the Dem party: You have some very pissed off constituents who comprise your base. You do remember your base, right? Let's just say that by not fighting to represent our interests you are sitting on the mother of all powderkegs. In fact the day may not be that far at hand when your "base" exercises its own nuclear option (folks like John Conyers and Cynthia McKinney will be spared - they've been fighting the good fight). You won't be missed - go back to your thinktanks and writing position papers where you can do less harm.

Next year is midterm election year. If the upcoming year were for a presidential election, I'd be betting that some cat who could deliver a coherent populist message as a tonic to the crass corruption and incompetence of the last several years would have a shot. As it is now, it's a matter of what party can emerge as a legit opposition, and one that embraces the best of American populism. I don't hold out a lot of hope for the Dems unless something unusual happens next spring during the primaries to either directly toss out a bunch of the bums, or at bare minimum puts the fear of God into them. The bottom line is liberty and justice for all - not just a select few but ALL - by any means necessary.

How to pay for Katrina (GOP-style)

It sure wouldn't include ending a wasteful war in Iraq or those idiotic taxcuts to the rich. Instead, the GOP has other plans:
  • Elimination of Amtrak
  • Elimination of the National Endowment of the Arts
  • Elimination of subsidized loans to graduate students (one of the reasons that someone of my background and means was able to complete a grad degree in the first place)
  • Increase allowable copayments for Medicaid
  • Level funding for Global AIDS initiative
  • Delay Medicare Prescription Drug bill by one year
  • Reduce Farm Payment Acreage by 1%
That's only a partial list. There's more. Much more.

Doesn't Look Good

Not good at all according to the GAO:
We found numerous problems with DOD's processes for recording and reporting costs for the Global War on Terrorism, raising significant concerns about the overall reliability of DOD's reported cost data. As a result, neither DOD nor Congress (1) can reliably know how much the war is costing and details on how appropriated funds are being spent or (2) have historical data useful in considering future funding needs.
Hat tip to agent change. The corruption during the Bu$hCo years has been remarkable, to say the least.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Potty Humor (Or, Passing Notes at the UN)



U.S. President George W. Bush writes a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14, 2005. World leaders are exploring ways to revitalize the United Nations at a summit on Wednesday but their blueprint falls short of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's vision of freedom from want, persecution and war. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Where will you be when your laxative kicks in?

Kn@ppster on Iraqi "Sovereignty"

Short, sweet, and to the point:
Advocates of the war on Iraq have consistently claimed -- at least since January's elections -- that it isn't a war on Iraq, but rather a war in Iraq, conducted against terrorists and insurgents with the support of a sovereign Iraqi government. In other words, that Iraq is not being occupied, but assisted.

Sovereignty can be a pretty fluid notion, but it has some sharp edges -- and one of those edges cut right through the bullshit yesterday to give lie to that piece of the pro-war case. A sovereign country has its own laws and may enforce those laws upon anyone within its borders ... even foreign soldiers who happen to be there to "assist" its government. A military force which assaults the local government's jail to free some of its members who have been lawfully arrested is an occupying force which considers itself, and not the "sovereign" local authorities, the de facto government in the area. Period.

Advocates of the war can no longer rely on arguments that go to sovereignty and assistance. Yesterday's events establish that Iraq is still a country under occupation, with foreign troops calling all the real shots. The war in Iraq is a war on Iraq, and Iraq's politicians therefore fall into two classes -- the occupation forces' quislings, or the enemy.

C'mon Bill, Tell Us What You Really Think!

O'Reilly wishes the UN building had been decimated by Hurricane Katrina. I'm sure that's his idea of a sense of "humor." Nice. Via, Open Your Mind's Eye.

Say hello to

On The Left Tip

Your tax dollars at work

Michael Brown, the embattled head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, approved payments in excess of $31 million in taxpayer money to thousands of Florida residents who were unaffected by Hurricane Frances and three other hurricanes last year in an effort to help President Bush win a majority of votes in that state during his reelection campaign, according to published reports.

"Some Homeland Security sources said FEMA's efforts to distribute funds quickly after Frances and three other hurricanes that hit the key political battleground state of Florida in a six-week period last fall were undertaken with a keen awareness of the looming presidential elections,” according to a May 19 Washington Post story.

Homeland Security sources told the Post that after the hurricanes that Brown "and his allies [recommended] him to succeed Tom Ridge as Homeland Security secretary because of their claim that he helped deliver Florida to President Bush by efficiently responding to the Florida hurricanes.”

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel uncovered emails from Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that confirmed those allegations and directly implicated Brown as playing politics at the expense of hurricane victims.

"As the second hurricane in less than a month bore down on Florida last fall, a federal [FEMA] consultant predicted a "huge mess" that could reflect poorly on President Bush and suggested that his re-election staff be brought in to minimize any political liability, records show,” the Sentinel reported in a March 23 story.

"Two weeks later, a Florida official summarizing the hurricane response wrote that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was handing out housing assistance "to everyone who needs it without asking for much information of any kind."

The records the Sentinel obtained were contained in hundreds of pages of Gov. Jeb Bush's storm-related e-mails the paper received from the governor's office under the threat of a lawsuit.

The explosive charges of mismanagement of disaster relief funds made against Brown and FEMA were confirmed earlier this year following a four-month investigation by Richard Skinner, the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general. Skinner looked into media reports alleging that residents of Miami-Dade were receiving windfall payments from FEMA to cover losses from Hurricane Frances they never incurred.

Brown may have sucked when it came to actual doing the job we taxpayers payed him to do, but he sure knew how to do whatever was necessary to help his old buddy remain in the White House. Read the rest of the story here. This whole fucking administration, let alone the party it represents, leaves a trail of slime wherever it goes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Congratulations! You are visitor 40,000.

To the regulars: thanks for continuing to drop by. To newcomers, welcome.

Katrina, Class, and Race

Some snippets of relevant commentary that I've stumbled upon:

Mumia Abu-Jamal in an essay titled Of Race and Nature's Wrath writes:
In the aftermath of the horror of Hurricane Katrina, voices of anger and outrage are heard throughout the land, and just as quickly, comes the chastisement of the media censors, who rush to the fore to criticize and condemn those who dare to speak truth to the Naked Emperor.

Indeed, the central government has approved this message, saying, with almost one voice, "Now is not the time for the Blame Game."

This government and media incest reminds me of other occasions when it was considered 'bad form' to criticize the political [mis]leaders.

When a Black mayor of Philadelphia gave the go-ahead to police to bomb the MOVE house in 1985, he accepted 'full responsibility', but none of the blame. Eleven men, women, and children were shot, torn apart, and burned to death, but no one was to blame (except Ramona Africa, who was sent to prison for 7 years, for surviving).

When 9/11 struck, and thousands of people died, name one political leader who was fired?

Indeed, when an FBI agent emerged to report that she had, indeed, provided tips to her superiors about people who were possibly involved in domestic terrorism, she was targeted.

Now, when political leaders sat back for almost a week, while people drowned, died from starvation, fell dead from chronic illnesses, or were tossed into the dark warrens of the New Orleans Superdome to live or die, it isn't time for blame!

Since when have you seen any member of the national leadership *not* blame people, for not living up to their 'standards' of so-called morality? The state and federal prisons are swelling with millions blamed and punished under scores of new laws that they've passed. They started a war based on blaming a nation's president with storing 'weapons of mass destruction!' And what is war, after all, but blame writ large? Blaming another country -- an entire country -- with certain wrongdoings?

Yet they bellow, 'Now is not the time for the Blame Game.'

Rapper Kanye West, in a crystal clear moment of emotion evoked by the harrowing pictures flashed of Black and poor misery in New Orleans, said, "George Bush doesn't care about Black people." Networks cut his live feed, and promised to tape upcoming appearances, to insure they could edit out any other unapproved utterances that might embarrass the Emperor.

And yet ... who among us can imagine a flood in say, Boston, where thousands were imperiled, and the government waiting four days to give succor to anguished, white faces?

The faces of New Orleans, their suffering, their squalor, their loss, could just as easily have been seen in Haiti, in Rwanda, in Cambodia, and yet we are to act as if they were cared for, by the national and state governments.

They didn't give a damn.

The hurried photo ops of Bush holding Black babies showed a man about as comfortable as a klansman at the Million Man March!

Ask the average Nigerian what he saw on TV.

Ask the average Brit what she saw on the telly.

They saw the dark and anguished faces, sprinkled with other poor Hispanics, Vietnamese, and whites, staring out from eyes of emptiness.

They saw the dark side of 'the ownership society': the society of people who owned nothing.

They saw America, without its makeup, and mask.

They saw a mirror of themselves, and wondered, if only for a minute, is this where we want to go?

This government didn't start, a week ago, not caring about the poor; for what else is the obsessive raid against Social Security, but an attack on the poor?
The same author also wrote, in an essay titled Katrina's Rage:
It is virtually impossible to witness the harrowing scenes coming out of America's Gulf Coast, without being stunned by the imagery of destruction, loss, and desperation.

For all intents and purposes, the bowl-like city of New Orleans has been blown off the map, remade part of Lake Ponchartrain, which broke its earthen bonds, and, fed by the watery fuel brought by Hurricane Katrina, spread its sodden affluence over 80% of the city.

Other gulf cities, like Biloxi, and Gulfport, Mississippi also suffered from the wrath of Katrina.

The natural disaster almost dwarfs everything that came before it, in recent memory, for the sheer devastation wrought on a major American city.

People, by the thousands, were stranded on their roofs, waiting, sometimes for days, until being rescued. Others waded in the water, walking through swirling waters that would've defeated the best of cars, in search of food, or water, or a dry place to rest.

But, as ever, disasters have a way of revealing deep truths about people.

In the American context, the devastation brought by Katrina revealed the deep chasm that continues to exist between Americans on the basis of race and class. For days leading up to landfall, the nation's media warned people to drive away from the areas of lowest elevation, which were susceptible to flooding.

What's wrong with that? How about the often ignored fact that there are millions of people who watch TV, who can't afford a car? What were they to do?

It was they, the city's poorest, mostly Black residents of the region, who were stuck.

They, for the most part, took to their rooftops, or barricaded themselves in attics. They had no way out, and they bore, and are still bearing, the brunt of Katrina's blind fury.

They walked, if they could, to the New Orleans Superdome, where people survived the raging winds and waters of Katrina, only to emerge to chaos.

They had nothing, and could return to nothing.

The infamous New Orleans police virtually disappeared, and, as in many states, the so-called National Guard had its strength sapped by their unwise deployment to Iraq. Many, if they are lucky enough to return, will return to the wastelands of this 'New' New Orleans, their homes washed away into a silty sea.

Dead bodies, of elderly, and sick were left to ripen and rot in the Louisiana sun, beside the shredded cupola of the Superdome.

For those people of means, it was possible to outrun the disaster.

For many others, the poor, the elderly, the ill, they were left to the vagaries of fate: no water; no food; no electricity; and no real hope that there was any appreciable help coming.

And people are shocked that looting broke out?

Should they have simply starved in silence, waiting for the illusion of 'help' that may never have come?

Over a century ago, the great British writer, Charles Dickens, wrote *A Tale of Two Cities* (1859). And like 19th century London, New Orleans, (and many other places) is a city divided against itself. It is rich and poor. It is white and Black. It is those who are able to escape and those who can't. Those who can flee the coming storm, and those who are trapped.

And the real truth is that, while it's New Orleans today, it could just as easily be New York tomorrow, or Jersey City, or Philadelphia.

Some people are served. Others are forgotten.

The raging winds, and surging surf of Hurricane Katrina washed up these ugly bones.

Hurricane Katrina showed us all the frailty of life, the smallness of man, and the vast powers of Nature. It showed us that the storms raging in our souls, in our psyches, can be just as deadly and dangerous.

Heather Gray, in her essay Wake Up White America! Racist Policies Lead to Death and Destruction, augments the above:
As we entered the 21st century, I reflected upon the appalling reality of white supremacy in America and the western world generally and decided I wanted to write about it in ways I'd not before. I particularly wanted to challenge other white folks. This resulted in my article "A Message to White America: It's Time We Woke Up" in March 2000 that took on a life of its own. Within minutes of it being posted on the Black Radical Congress list serve and other websites, I started receiving messages from all over the country. This included some scathing remarks from whites, of course, but some 250 remarkably revealing and heartfelt comments from both blacks and whites. It was and remains on numerous websites presently, but given the recent overwhelming tragedy in New Orleans and the gulf coast I wanted to dust it off and re-issue it with a few edits and a forward.

As I watched, with anger, the images of death and destruction of the poor, the people of color, the children and the elders in New Orleans and juxtaposed the same scenes in Iraq I connected the dots. Invariably these tragedies reveal the violent and greedy underbelly of western white supremacy that bolsters and informs the U.S. policies both domestically and internationally. This is, categorically, not only a Bush thingit's American as apple pie. Arrogant white supremacy coupled with government and corporate financial mismanagement is far more than an academic or economic issue or even greed for that matter, it is criminal behavior that leads to loss of life and livelihood for the masses in the U.S. and throughout the world, in fact. But we as whites rarely will allow ourselves to look critically at what we do. We constantly deny our past and present racist and white supremacy policies.

[...]

While we have seen some changes in America, much of DuBois' concerns have simply not been addressed and the progress we've made is now threatened by conservative trends and Bush's Supreme Court meddling. This is likely happening, for one, because we've not looked at and addressed the core problems in America that now scream at us in New Orleans. Race and class? Absolutely! But injustice is never without response and people always rise to challenge. "A luta continua" - the struggle continues ­ is the great African saying during the anti-apartheid era is all the more relevant in today's America ... and suffice it to say, it's long past time that we as whites met the challenge of addressing white supremacy that under girds so much of the world's problems.

Spiderleaf looks at the ecological nightmare in the Gulf Coast region and its social and economic components:
All of this sludge, water, mould, etc. will seep into the earth and streams and contaminate cattle and crops in the areas along the Mississippi & Coast. Children will be playing on ground that is poisonous. Those without potable water will be drinking and bathing in the contaminants. It is a huge health concern that not many are seriously talking about. Draining water is one thing, but it's what is left behind that we haven't heard a plan about.

So all this needs to be cleaned up.

But by who? In my darkest fears about humanity and greed do I really believe that the US gov't as led by George W. Cheney will put the army in charge of this for an extended period of time? He needs them for war fighting... and as we've already seen Blackwater mercs are on the ground so I expect more contract military to be utilized as things continue to spiral out of control in Iraq and the draft remains an unfeasible political option heading into 2006. Heavily armed mercs accountable to their paychecks providing "security" on the streets of NOLA as the wealthy get back to rebuilding their lives and partying with other wealthy people who arrive on vacation... pessimistic. Perhaps.


Ductape Fatwa has a couple essays as well. One titled Does Katrina Require Us to Now Bash Jesse, Al, Louis & Ilk? has this to say:
By Tuesday afternoon, as the waters rose, and the poor with the strength to do so hacked holes in their roofs and huddled in their attics, and America empowered some with the choice of deciding if they and their families would perish of suffocation, drowning, or being burned alive, offers of international aid began to take on the subtlest of tones of bewilderment and alarm: If you prefer not to rescue them, will you PLEASE let us do it? was the between the lines message of offers such as one from Honduras, locked in a perpetual nose to nose with Haiti for the Poorest Nation in the Western Hemisphere Award, as they offered 135 experts in the art of rescuing people from floods, a subject with which they are intimately familiar.

If there was a watershed moment, a teachable moment, a window, one of those moments where time stands still and the course of history is determined, that would have been between Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, when right there for anyone to see on the TV were live feeds of evidence that Washington in its wisdom had decreed that it would be best if thousands of its weakest, poorest citizens and residents were allowed to perish.

That was the time when, if it was going to happen, millions of Americans of all races and economic conditions would have hit the streets however they could, and made their way to New Orleans to spread some Resolve onto the handful of gunmen stationed at the city's entrance to prevent their entry.

Of course this is an unrealistic notion. The US mainstream is quite willing to write a check, even hop in the SUV and put in a couple of hours at the shelter for any victims who were allowed to survive, but all in all, the loss of even a large number of poor people of color is not seen as a national tragedy. In fact many expressed with characteristic American optimism that it was high time that New Orleans was cleaned up.

[...]

But there were no millions, no thousands, and maybe Jesse and Al and Louis knew that. There would be no Dr. King, no Gandhiji, no Toussaint L'Ouverture, not even a General Vaval to step into history and lead the people out of Egypt land.

[...]

When history called, when opportunity knocked, there were no leaders to answer, nor were there followers. No significant spontaneous protests, no Bastille storming, the underclass gazed into the screen, saw its own future, and elected not to raise torch and pitchfork.

The incurable optimists among us are free to hope, of course, that somewhere, there are whispers, looks, nods, that there is a Toussaint, a Gandhiji, somebody, who has not revealed himself, or herself, who may not even know his identity, his destiny, maybe he is not even grown yet. Maybe he is one of those little fat cheeked faces of the Missing Children on CNN, or one of the glowering little faces we see in the feeds from the "shelter" camps, who watched his grandma die of thirst, for whom seeing his mother's shame as she handed her clothing over to be searched before stepping in to strip herself nude in front of hundreds of women she did not know in order to enjoy the privilege of a shower was the moment that will define him, and the future of the US, forever.
The other by the same author, Katrina: A Glimpse of America's Future: When Will YOU Be Cleansed? has this to say:
"Like a third world country." It's been quite a favorite phrase with the TV reporters. It's become a meme.

It has punch, impact, it gets attention. What it doesn't get from the overwhelming majority of the US public who don't get it, is reflection, a light bulb over the head moment.

What do you think that means, a third world country?

First and foremost, it means poverty.

A poverty so pervasive that one cannot walk the streets without seeing it, despite the best efforts of "security personnel" armed with anything from sticks to automatic weapons, for the purpose of keeping the area relatively "clean" so that nice folks like you can shop without the plague of beggars, pickpockets and assorted riff-raff, or as they are called in the US, "cockroaches."

[...]

Many Katrina victims who did have the resources to evacuate before the storm are now realizing that they are poor. Credit card maxxed out, insurance won't pay, mortgage company says have a month or two grace, but then you HAVE to pay, so does the IRS. FEMA says you qualify for a few hundred dollars. Hopefully by the time that's gone, you'll have saved enough from your new job at Wal-Mart to buy some food and a plastic tarp for your house, if it's liveable at all. If not, it's camp out in the car, or live in a shelter.

Americans who live check to check are not just the low wage earners. Few car and homeowners with even a little discretionary income think Kissinger's reference to "useless eaters" meant THEM.

Phasing out the middle class, however, means exactly that. It means that unless you have a LOT of money, there is not a place for you in America's future. Once your resources are gone, once you simply cannot pay that mortgage, and that car note, and the health insurance, AND the credit cards, the difference between you and those terrified looking people from the housing projects consists of an expensive education that means nothing to the Wal-Mart manager, and for a couple of weeks, a better haircut. You, too are low cost expendable labor, and if you whine that six dollars an hour is not enough to purchase housing, there are plenty of folks lined up out there who know that housing is out of the question, but they will take the six dollars in hopes of buying food to hoard in their shopping cart under the overpass, or their sister-in-law's two bedroom apartment until she suggests that they really need to start looking for their own space.

Under that overpass can get a lot like a miniature version of the New Orleans convention center pretty quick, and if neither you nor your sister in law are used to living with 12 people in 1200 square feet of space, that option is not going to be much better after a while.

You may have noticed that it seems to take more and more money just to stay in the same place. Maybe you've already cut out extras, and can't really say you have discretionary income any more, unless you count discretion as trying to charge your VISA balance to your MasterCard in hopes of lowering your monthly minimum payment by $14. You may have already started to use those cards to pay for a new tire here, a hefty summer electric bill there, that prescription that your insurance doesn't cover, the deductible for your daughter's broken arm, the deductible you increased so you could afford the "co pay" at all. Yes, you're lucky, your employer pays for part of your coverage!

Maybe your homeowners' insurance went up just a little, and so did your property taxes, and that little just happened to be the diaper budget. Whip out the MasterCard and charge up a year's supply of Pampers at CostCo.

And soon, your minimum payment will double. If you can't handle that, and the rest of the bills, you're a useless eater. You're poor. And you know what America thinks of poor people.

When your town's name is called, you will not be on the high ground of the French Quarter.

And you would be well advised to stay out of your old neighborhood. The new owners of your house have armed guards.
Some food for thought for this evening.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Quotable (Third Time's a Charm):

As the frog boils

Last February I wrote:
And let's note something else about the Bush cuts, too: There are cuts in all sorts of funding to local first-responders. Think about this, now. Our police, fire departments, and National Guard are the ones who are supposed to be on the ground to keep the peace and protect us at home, but Bush has closed many firehouses and police stations and has sent the Guard off to fight unnecessary foreign wars. Meanwhile, he's beefing up a federal intelligence and policing service more massive and intrusive than we have ever seen, under an executive that is no longer constrained by any rule of law. Think "police state", people, this is exactly how it's done.
Now look at this story from USA Today yesterday:
After the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is questioning whether changes are needed in disaster-response policies, including repealing a law that prohibits the use of federal troops in domestic law enforcement.

The law dates to the 1870s. It was a reaction to the deployment of federal troops to former Confederate states to supervise elections and maintain law and order, known as Posse Comitatus. It was a practice that many in Congress were uncomfortable with because of the potential for abuse.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., head of the Armed Services Committee, wants to review that law to reconsider the role of troops in natural disasters.

Yes, that's right, conservatives were "uncomfortable" with the use of active-duty military on US soil when it was used to enforce the right of Americans to vote, because of the "potential for abuse."

Now, when the "potential for abuse" isn't merely "potential" anymore, they're eager to reconsider restraints on having armed troops in your neighborhood.

A picture is worth ten thousand words



Click the pic for a larger image. Via The Newsblog.

Quotable (Part Dieux):

Despite all the bullshit that comes out of President Bush's mouth, the simple facts are these:

  1. Hundreds of billions of dollars are going to be spent under the direction of the White House's chief political operative, Karl Rove.

  2. The agencies responsible for that money have a history of incompetence in the handling of far smaller sums of money.

  3. The corporations brought into the rebuilding effort with be those with the closest political connections to the Republican Party and the Bush Administration.

  4. Those corporations will include many of the same companies that have stolen unaccounted billions from the United States in Iraq.

That is Bush's Four Point Plan for the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast.

Read the rest here.

Quotable:

"You’re the first American president to lose a whole city ... Herbert Hoover was a lousy president, but he didn’t concede an entire metropolis to rising water and snakes.You’ve performed so poorly you should give yourself a medal."
-- Bill Maher

Penny-wise and Pound-foolish

A point was raised on one of the shows that I caught on the History Channel this past Saturday: the price tag for protecting Louisiana's wetlands would have cost 14 billion dollars. This is something I've read elsewhere, and continue to read:
Drafted by the Corps a year ago, the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) project was initially estimated to cost up to 14 billion dollars over 30 years, almost twice as much as current efforts to save the Everglades. But the Bush Administration balked at the price tag, supporting instead a plan to spend up to two billion dollars over the next ten years to fund the most promising projects. Either way, Congress must authorize the money before work can begin.
Let's put some of this in perspective. The cost of the Iraq quagmire has almost hit the 196 billion dollar mark as of this writing: that is the amount you get by the way if you square the price tag of the LCA project. Yep, you could have done that particular project 14 times over. That's a hefty chunk of change. That's money that would have been nice to have had for that and other projects needed to make the Gulf Coast region better able to withstand those hurricanes that plague the region. Hell, there would have been cash left over to build for New Orleans the sort of levee system that folks in the Netherlands take for granted. Instead, that's 196 billion dollars that has already been spent. It's gone, and much more will be gone before that disaster of a war is said and done (I've read somewhere an estimate the combined cost to continue the war in Iraq and rebuild the areas devastated by Katrina will run some 500 billion dollars!). In the meantime, the disaster that befell the Gulf Coast region will be the costliest ever encountered in the US. The financial costs will be felt by all of us. The human costs defy any price tag. Hurricanes can't be prevented; proper preparation could have prevented a fair amount of the toll experienced. The preparation required would necessitate a modicum of foresight and vision - qualities that are sorely lacking in today's White House and Congress.

Of course the hurricane season is far from over. We've got about another six or so weeks before we can breathe a sigh of relief for this year. And apparently there is a new storm that is seen by forecasters as a potential threat to the Gulf Coast region: Rita. The waters are very warm, and Rita could very well have some company before all is said and done. The federal government's bungling of the Katrina catastrophe doesn't exactly lend much confidence in handling things if another hurricane of any level were to move over areas already ravaged by Katrina. Pessimist at The Left Coaster has an apt summary. The elements for a serious meltdown have been in place for several years: inexperienced Bu$hCo cronies at the helm of FEMA, the aforementioned failure to actually do the needed long-term planning for hurricane events such as Katrina (rather whatever pittance that had been used to fund projects such as shoring up levees was being increasingly cut to service Bu$hCo's "noble cause" in Iraq), and the inability or unwillingness of FEMA's "leadership" to take an emergency hurricane warning seriously. Pessimist also highlights another little problem that the folks in DC will have to confront: this country is in no position to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (let alone escalate those hostilities to include Syria and Iran), continue to cut taxes for this country's wealthiest 1%, pour billions of dollars into pork barrel projects, and rebuild not just one city, but numerous other communities along the gulf coast. Something has got to give. The inherent problem of having a bunch of crooks who along with their cronies treat the nation's treasure as their own personal amusement park is that we're all left holding the bag if and when something goes disastrously wrong. I do find some dark humor in the political incumbents who weren't too concerned about all the waste just a few months ago suddenly play the role of deficit hawks now in the Katrina aftermath. Too little, too late in my estimation. Maybe Jeb Bush's imaginary friend can help them, and ward off those evil hurricanes in the process.

Americans may finally be getting fed up with all the bullshit. Apparently Democrats have opened up a 12 point lead against Republicans in the latest 2006 generic ballot - something that I don't think we've seen in recent memory. The independents are especially sour on the GOP. Some good news, I suppose, to the extent that there are now realistic prospects that some of the bums now running things could be thrown out. I haven't exactly been impressed by the Dems' performance in actually behaving like an opposition party and actually showing leadership. By default the Dems may actually succeed in doing in 2006 what the GOP did in 1994. If they do succeed, they will need to show some serious backbone and demonstrate a genuine understanding of the needs of the American people (not just the needs of a bunch of CEO cronies) if they hope to be anything more than a one-hit wonder.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

"Triumph of the Swill"

Crony capitalism trumps the needs of the people in the Gulf Coast region and beyond. While people are suffering, the GOP is using the disaster as an excuse to fulfill a whole host of right-wing wet dreams:
Congressional Republicans, backed by the White House, say they are using relief measures for the hurricane-ravaged Gulf coast to achieve a broad range of conservative economic and social policies, both in the storm zone and beyond.

Some new measures are already taking shape. In the past week, the Bush administration has suspended some union-friendly rules that require federal contractors pay prevailing wages, moved to ease tariffs on Canadian lumber, and allowed more foreign sugar imports to calm rising sugar prices. Just yesterday, it waived some affirmative-action rules for employers with federal contracts in the Gulf region.

Now, Republicans are working on legislation that would limit victims' right to sue, offer vouchers for displaced school children, lift some environment restrictions on new refineries and create tax-advantaged enterprise zones to maximize private-sector participation in recovery and reconstruction. Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would offer sweeping protection against lawsuits to any person or organization that helps Katrina victims without compensation.

"The desire to bring conservative, free-market ideas to the Gulf Coast is white hot," says Rep. Mike Pence, the Indiana Republican who leads the Republican Study Group, an influential caucus of conservative House members. "We want to turn the Gulf Coast into a magnet for free enterprise. The last thing we want is a federal city where New Orleans once was."

Many of the ideas under consideration have been pushed by the 40-member study group, which is circulating a list of "free-market solutions," including proposals to eliminate regulatory barriers to awarding federal funds to religious groups housing hurricane victims, waiving the estate tax for deaths in the storm-affected states; and making the entire region a "flat-tax free-enterprise zone."

Members of the group met in a closed session Tuesday night at the conservative Heritage Foundation headquarters here to map strategy. Edwin Meese, the former Reagan administration attorney general, has been actively involved.

Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R., Kan.) said that the plans under development "are all part of a philosophy of lowering costs for doing business." He said southern Louisiana,Mississippi and Alabama offer a "microcosm" where new ideas can be applied to speed the rebuilding.

The proposals to cut taxes and waive regulations come after Congress quickly approved $62.8 billion in federal spending for the Gulf Coast, and is expected to approve further spending that will push the price tag above $100 billion.

Some of the proposals are attracting fire from Democrats. "They're going back to the playbook on issues like tort reform, school vouchers and freeing business from environmental rules to achieve ideological objectives they haven't been able to get in the normal legislative process," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D., Ill.)
Just as 9/11 was an excuse to usher in new laws and edicts that gutted civil liberties that were supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution, Katrina is now a convenient excuse to shove more of the right-wing agenda down the throats of the American people. Taste the pain. Gutting affirmative action laws is one in a long list of actions that show the latent and not so latent racism that lurks within the GOP. The long dreamed of plans to gut what's left of our public school systems is something that the GOP wants to foist on the gulf region, turning education into a disaster of hurricane-like proportions. The scope of the disaster in the Gulf Coast region is largely the consequence of human neglect of the fragile environment of the region: gutting environment regulations further in the name of "free enterprise" is a fool's game. Add to that the use of mercenaries as "security" in the region.

I heard last night that New Orleans is something like the fourth largest port in the world. This important commerce center was allowed to fall into ruin by an irresponsible federal government that had "other priorities." This same combo of people with the mindset of Hoover, Mussolini, and Brezhnev are now going to "reconstruct" the region in their image. They did such a great job in Iraq.