9/14/2005

Democracy-building for Neo Cons

We found out too late that the war in Iraq was based on a pack of lies -- that it was not about WMD, al Qaeda, or 9/11 -- so you claimed that the war was about "building democracy" in Iraq.

O.K., let's look back at our own history so citizens realize what we are in for if we allow this horrific war to continue.

The first step in democracy-building is ethnic cleansing, a process that is well under way by the Shiite majority in Iraq. In our own nation, you will remember, we tried hard to exterminate the American Indians. When that failed, we tried to eliminate their main food supply, the buffalo. That weakened them enough that we could round them up and put them on reservations.

Of course, you can't build democracy without someone to do the manual labor, so you will need at least 200 years of abject slavery in order to ensure that the majority gets to live the good life while the ethnic minorities remain poor. You can keep the slavery going in different forms, such as wage slavery, indefinitely.

Perhaps the most sacred part of the democratic process is voting. One man, one vote. Of course, you will not want to allow women to vote for about 150 years (if ever). If you notice that any minority group starts gaining too much power in a particular area, just re-draw the voting districts. Make it as inconvenient as possible for minorities to vote by allowing them fewer voting booths so they will have to wait in long lines to vote. When you can afford it, invest in electronic voting machines that do not leave a paper record of the vote. These can be tampered with without the voter ever knowing it.

There you have it, ladies and germs. When you want to invade a sovereign nation under the guise of spreading democracy, you are deceiving yourselves if you think it will be quick and easy, or that it will even be democracy. You will always be seen as foreign invaders, as murdering pirates going from ship to ship. But democracy really isn't what you want, here or anywhere else, is it? You want total political and economic control. You want all oil and mineral rights. And there is nothing that you will not do to get your way. Nothing. No one is safe. Even your own citizens.

9/12/2005

Which kind of extremist are you?

One of these days, the levees around New Orleans will finally be raised and strengthened to handle a Category 5 hurricane, but land developers are already salivating over the "new" New Orleans.

They imagine a New Orleans of pricey hotels, condos, and shopping districts. The single-family homes will be bulldozed and replaced with high-rent apartments so landlords can further gouge the pocketbooks and dignity of the working class poor employed in the tourist and service industries -- waiters, cashiers, nurses aides, receptionists, cooks, delivery drivers, and so on. Instead of becoming a model city that pays a living wage to its citizens, that cares about the health and welfare of its citizens from the cradle to the grave, the "new" New Orleans will likely become a showcase for the very worst of modern capitalism. Greed.

The Garden district and Bourbon Street will still be the main tourist draw because of the name recognition, but the real character of the city lives in a gumbo mix of French-speaking people, families of former slaves, and Latin Americans and, if they are driven out by high rent, then Bourbon Street will be nothing more than an old facade. A page in a history book.

Cities are for people, for human beings of all colors. Cities should be planned logically so people can live near shopping centers, markets, and mass transit routes. City buses should be all-electric, biodiesel, or hybrid, to keep air pollution to a minimum. All employers should have to pay a living wage. National health insurance should provide for all health and dental care needs with a special focus on preventative medicine and patient teaching. Building codes should be strictly enforced in areas prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. No exceptions for casinos and special interests.

I have heard people say that we are all extremists. Some of us believe that the Earth and human society exist for humankind, for all the people who inhabit the Earth, and that we should strive to live together, better ourselves, and share the planet with as much justice and harmony as possible. Others believe that the Earth can be divided up and owned, that its wealth can be exploited for the personal riches of a few while millions suffer from starvation, poverty, lack of clean drinking water, lack of health care, lack of housing, and lack of education. The real question then becomes: Which kind of extremist are you?

As images from New Orleans have reached the rest of the world, offers of assistance have come from many countries, including some of the poorest nations on Earth, such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Venezuela offered a financial contribution to the Red Cross and offered to sell discounted gasoline through its Citgo stations to areas affected by the hurricane. The cash donation was accepted but the offer of discounted gasoline was refused by FEMA.

The Republic of Cuba, a Caribbean island nation with extensive hurricane experience, offered to send some 1,500 doctors to the Gulf coast. Because of US hostility toward Cuba, however, this offer was rejected by FEMA. At a time when the US may be facing a public health crisis beyond anything we have seen, these doctors could have been saving lives. Which kind of extremists control FEMA?

There's trouble a'brewin in the southland, folks. We don't need a war on terrorism; we need a war on poverty. We need a living wage movement. The land developers in the "new" New Orleans do not want the refugees back. Texas doesn't want them either. (Just ask Barbara Bush.) What will happen when the refugees start to return home as soon as the flood waters recede, even though government officials say they can't? Will the police or the National Guard be ordered to stop them at some razor-wire checkpoint? These are interesting questions -- food for thought, if you will -- that lead us back to our original question: Which kind of extremist are you? It's gut check time.

9/09/2005

FEMA seeks media censorship

The news reporting out of New Orleans has been better than we have been accustomed to. Some reporters have been getting in boats, going into neighborhoods, and have even helped save lives. Their cameras have shown us the bloated bodies bobbing in the toxic water, the joy on people's faces as they are rescued from their homes, and the sadness as a beloved pet is left behind. Even Geraldo Rivera broke down into tears at the convention center over the treatment of people stranded there without food or water and the lack of a response to assist them. This is the kind of reporting that shows us the stark, glaring truth and allows us to speak truth to power.

During the build-up to the Iraq war, this kind of reporting was AWOL. Reporters accepted the Bush administration's war justifications without dissent. No tough questions. No demands for proof. No pictures of war-torn bodies or flag-draped coffins. No complaints about censorship requirements for imbedded reporters. The government was able to control the war news to its liking by controlling the media. War looks very clean and sanitized -- and hard to oppose -- through the many filters of censorship.

In New Orleans, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is now asking the National Guard not to allow reporters onto boats and to prevent them from photographing dead bodies. FEMA claims it is to protect family members from seeing a loved one on TV, but the photographers have done a good job of documenting the horror with wide-angle and distance shots, not close-ups that would identify the victims on national television. FEMA is using this censorship as an excuse to restrict reporting, which, they hope, will result in less criticism of the Bush response to the disaster. Control the media; control the story.

It is very important to have witnesses in New Orleans, whether they are from the national media, local independent outlets, or individuals with video cameras. People need to document what is happening there at all stages of the disaster, right through the reconstruction process.

9/01/2005

A "public works" president must help New Orleans

George W. Bush, who slashed funds being used for New Orleans levee construction to help pay for the Iraq war, can do little to help the long-term humanitarian disaster created by Hurricane Katrina.

Imagine a city of 1.5 million people thrown into sudden unemployment and homelessness. Bush released federal disaster funds to help relief agencies with search and rescue, health, and security, but a much needed National Guard is stretched thin with 40 percent of the troops and most of their equipment in Iraq. Bush ordered seven Navy ships from Norfolk, Virginia, to Louisiana, a voyage that at best speed can take nearly a week.

In the short-term, time is critical. The human body needs water in three days or the vital organs begin to shut down. Today is the fourth day and the news networks keep interviewing federal officials who state the list of relief supplies that are "on the way." Yet from the pictures I have seen of crowds gathered in dry areas and people waiting to be rescued, I do not see anyone with water. Even in the field triage areas set up near the superdome. You would think there would be case after case of water there for people. You would think there would be portable toilets set up near these staging areas. You would think there would be water patrols or helicopters taking water to the neighborhoods while people are waiting to be rescued from rooftops. Drinking water should be available everywhere by now. There should be no more double-talk by bureaucrats.

And bussing people from New Orleans to Houston seems like an incredibly slow, wasteful process. Bus them to the airport and get them on planes. Get them on cruise ships. Stop wasting time negotiating with these companies. Bush could simply say he needs this equipment and he needs it now. This evacuation cannot be put off.

People in New Orleans who hamper the effort or who are caught looting guns, robbing others, or breaking into houses and pharmacies must be arrested. Stealing for food and survival is one thing, but stealing for fun or monetary gain hampers the relief effort to the extent that relief workers are afraid to go into the neighborhoods. This is where the National Guard could be of help if they were readily available and not off fighting an illegal war in Iraq.

What happens when the city is evacuated? How will people live and survive? Will there be 1.5 million refugees wandering the nation? Bush talks about getting people's lives back to normal. Does he mean back to the same impoverished conditions when they return?

If Bush wants to help New Orleans in the long-term, he can't do it as the war president, he must do it as the public works president -- even if the secret Skull and Bones Society revokes his membership and takes back his decoder ring.

First, the levees in New Orleans will have to be repaired and raised under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers. Then clean-up crews will have to be hired and whole neighborhoods likely must be torn down. More workers can then be hired to build modern, energy-efficient, sustainable housing. In the meantime, until public works employment is available, all displaced workers from the Gulf states must get federal relief aid.

This is not just about rebuilding houses, infrastructure, and creating short-term jobs. The people of New Orleans need a long-term stake in their city and in their future as they rebuild their lives. They do not need any more low-income housing projects, those disgusting symbols of poverty from the 1960s. The new New Orleans must be a showcase for the country and the world. For example, instead of using traditional shingles on new housing, use the new solar roofing designs that produce electricity. Thousands of grid-tied solar roofs will greatly reduce the city's dependence on fossil fuels and will eliminate electric bills for the residents.

It is fine for Bush to ask people to donate to the Red Cross to help with disaster relief, but he must repeal his tax cuts to the rich to pay for this massive public works program. Yes, the rich are going to have to get off their corporate welfare and pay for this. And pay for it they must.