New Orleans is destroyed

New Orleans has been destroyed. Even after the water is pumped out - in 3 or 4 months - the next order of business will probably be to condemn and demolish a quarter or more of the city's housing stock. Thankfully some of the people forced to stay behind were rescued.

It is incredible that the focus now in news reports seems to be on looting. Hello... people are dying. People are dying because they could not afford to leave their city. Don't we have better things to worry about?

Let's make the situation perfectly clear. Wealthier residents of New Orleans were able to flee the endangered city, using their own resources, and abandoning whatever property they could not take with them. Let us also stress that they essentially abandoned their fellow, poorer and overwhelmingly black, citizens to their fate. So poor people, left to die a horrible death from drowning or disease, are now getting shit from observers in their safe, happy middle-class homes for taking abandoned property.

Once again, we have to turn to newspapers outside of the US (here, the Guardian) to get the straight story on this betrayal of the lower classes:

Professor Dumas added that not enough provision seemed to have been made for poor people. "There doesn't seem to have been much attention paid to people who didn't have private automobiles," he said. "I didn't hear anything about school buses or city buses being used to aim people out of town." He said that there appeared to be little forward planning to cater to those on low incomes who would be unable to return to their homes for up to two months but who would not have the money to pay for that time in a hotel.

The racists who want to take a "hard line" to looting in New Orleans or curse the "cussedness" of those staying behind actually should be looking elsewhere to see what real looting looks like. Don't know? Let me show you:

Over $5/gallon in Georgia. Who are the real looters? When the poor use the "two hands that god gave them", that's "looting". But when the rich do it, that's just "good business" or, even better, "inviolable market forces".

Any government official giving an order for police or National Guard to prioritize dealing with looters over helping stranded residents (insofar as the looters are not hindering rescue efforts) is a criminal and will have blood on his or her hands.

Hell, people trying to get out of the fucking city by any means possible have to deal with gun-toting Texas rednecks:

Meanwhile, as New Orleans drowns, Bush fiddles:

Bush will, without a doubt, go down in history as one of the most incompetent and foolish leaders of all time, along with Nero, Louis XVI, and Czar Nicholas II. Don't believe me? Take a look at this quote from Bush's luxury fly-over of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast:

Turning to his aides, he said: "It's totally wiped out. ... It's devastating, it's got to be doubly devastating on the ground."

You think? Only "double" the devastation that a pampered fool can imagine from his luxury plane, doing a circle or two and then going back to DC?

Why did this happen? For sure, hurricanes are a fact of life along the Gulf Coast. But that's the entire point: they are a fact of life, and therefore you plan ahead as best you can and make preparations for the worst case. But that explicitly did not happen with New Orleans: resources for levee maintenance were diverted to the war in Iraq, natural barriers to storms were deliberately degraded by the needs of big business and development, and few people gave a shit. Again, from the Guardian article:

"Human activity, directly or indirectly, has caused 1,500 square miles of natural coastal barriers to be eroded in the past 50 years. Human activity has clearly been a significant factor in coastal Louisiana land losses, along with subsidence, saltwater intrusion, storm events, barrier island degradation, and relative sea level changes," the society said in a paper last year.

The war in Iraq was also being seen as playing a part in the federal response to the crisis. Many members of the National Guard who would normally have been swiftly mobilised to help in evacuation are on duty in Iraq. Although US air force, navy and army units were deployed to assist, the locally-based National Guard is depleted by the demands of the war.

The corps has long wanted to strengthen some of the levees which have been sinking, and on its website yesterday said it planned to build a further 74 miles of hurricane defences. But according to local media, it was last year refused extra funding by the White House which wanted to save money to pay for homeland security against terrorism. "In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for south-east Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4m, a sixth of what local officials say they need," reported Newhouse News Service yesterday.

Last year Walter Maestri, emergency chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, one of the worst affected areas, reportedly told the Times-Picayune newspaper: "It appears that the money [for strengthening levees against hurricanes] has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

Calling this criminal negligence is dead wrong. This is just fucking criminal. The people responsible should pay.

In the meantime, good luck to all of those still in New Orleans and those out but with no place in the world to go. I hope y'all make it ok.

Leading Democrats: Spineless, or evil?

One answer for the latter:

The Dems know full well there is an enormous anti-war constituency out there. If they used their considerable resources to organize it and give voice to it, then it would quickly prevail. A sorry example is Cindy Sheehan's effort. Not a single major Democrat has shown up at Camp Casey. They are blowing off Sheehan just like Bush.

In fact far from being cowardly, the Dems are showing considerable spine in standing up to the anti-war constituency that routinely does the leg work and contributes the dollars to elect them. Here their courage and resolve befit heroes of Homeric proportions. In the face of powerful anti-war sentiment from their loyalists, the Dems resolutely call for "staying the course" in the war for which they voted. Now there is spine.

You make the call.


Several for your reading pleasure

More-or-less regular posting expected to resume shortly. Until then, here are some articles for your titillation and edification.

- What Jeff Bale says. A real Left alternative to the SPD in Germany is welcome, but the attacks against gays and non-German citizen workers are disgusting. The fact that some leftists are seemingly ignoring them is worse.

- Matt Taibbi (who is no longer at NY Press) meets Cindy Sheehan.

- Daniel Lazare at The Nation takes on "patriotic history".

- Another look at the Gaza "withdrawal".


Support striking workers

Support the striking Northwest Airlines mechanics - fly another airline. If you're going to the airport (where, of course, you will hopefully be stepping on a non-Northwest plane), say hello to the strikers and offer them some encouragement.

Northwest's relationship with its mechanics is yet another example of workers being asked to make major sacrifices while incompetent executives continue to receive large compensation packages - in essence, rewarding failure. Incompetent?, you may ask. Actually, that's probably the most polite way to describe an executive who thinks that managing to lose billions of dollars for several years in a row constitutes a "winning strategy":

Steenland must engineer a turnaround at the airline that has lost $1.2 billion in the past three years, cope with dramatic increases in fuel costs and try to convince unions to give concessions that will allow Northwest to reduce annual labor costs by $950 million.


Q: Any major changes in top management?

A: There will be no major changes. Obviously, we'll move some boxes around on the organizational chart, but we don't have any other major announcements.

Q: Will the traveling public see any major changes at Northwest?

A: Not immediately, that's for sure. We think we've got a winning strategy and a winning hand.

I was an active participant in developing that strategy in the past, and I fully support it. I have no intention of changing it.
(emphasis added)

In addition, Northwest is a company with a record of fattening executive bank accounts in the middle of attacks on labor; and even now, extraordinary pensions and compensation packages are the norm for Northwest executives.

But if these arguments in defense of workers' rights don't sway you, consider this: mechanics are the ones making sure your plane is safe to fly. Their hard work helps to prevent things like, oh, brake mishaps and faulty air conditioners on landing planes. So, one might say that not flying Northwest during the strike would be an example of "enlightened self-interest".

And I'd like to give a special little "fuck you" to the scabs performing the work of the striking mechanics. There's no excuse for what you're doing.


Quote of the day

It's a tough call - two good ones from today's Bob Herbert column in the NY Times.

Here's an opinion I agree with wholeheartedly:

If Mr. Bush's war in Iraq is worth dying for, then the children of the privileged should be doing some of the dying.

But this statement of fact is also quite good:

David Brooks is on vacation.

Anything to keep him away from writing utensils is good news.


Wow... cops lie.


Blacklisting Beyond Chutzpah

The Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, MA, and Barnes and Noble have rescinded prior offers to host promotions for Norman Finkelstein's new book, Beyond Chutzpah. B&N, however, is allowing a promotion for the new Israel book of Torture Professor and Plagiarist Alan Dershowitz.

I urge readers (all two of you) to write letters to these bookstores (contact info here) and respectfully ask that these decisions be reviewed and overturned.

A dishonest little eulogy

The New York Times has invited readers to shed a tear about the impending withdrawal of colonist fanatics ("settlers") from the Gaza Strip. Touching.

But the tears streaming down our faces (whether due to anguish, or joy, or whatever other reason) should not blind us to the blatant dishonesty present in the article. It seems impossible for many journalists to write an analysis or background article on Israel/Palestine without such gross distortions appearing. But this NYT piece surpasses these already high standards of deceit by intentionally denying an important fact cited in the article.

The article notes that

[o]n Thursday, the newspaper Haaretz reported that the proportion of Jews in the combined population of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza had dropped below 50 percent for the first time.

Right - Jews no longer form the majority in all the territory under the direct control of the State of Israel. But in the very next sentence, Ethan Bronner, the journalist, denies the implications of this demographic fact:

This means, many Israelis argue, that unless they yield territory, they will have to choose a Jewish state or a democratic one; they will not be able to have both. (emphases added)

No, what this means is that Israelis have already chosen the "Jewish state" over the "democratic one". The use of the future conditional here is a bald denial of the reality of the situation or, in expansionist Zionist terminology, the "facts on the ground". "Disengagement" means nothing in terms of "Israeli democracy" since Gaza is not achieving any kind of independence through the removal of the settler fanatics and will still be subject to Israeli approval for virtually any important decision. Palestinian Gazans, in other words, will still be subject to the whims and laws of a ruling class that is now not the majority in the territory over which it rules. Needless to say, this is hardly "democratic" in any accepted sense of the word.

Unlike Bronner and his ilk, I have real news for Israel's supporters: the "undemocratic Jewish state" and the "apartheid state" are not "dangers" that Israel faces at some hazy point in the future - they exist right now. And any attempt to deny these facts is a denial of reality.


Send the Boy Scouts to Iraq

Let these little snot-nosed 10-year-olds take on IEDs and fight for Bush in Iraq - at least, that's what Bush thinks should be happening:

Men in black "Army" T-shirts coached young boys to chant "OO-rah" like soldiers. A giant "ARMY" hot-air balloon bobbed overhead.

Bush said the Boy Scouts "understand that freedom must be defended," and touted what he called the "armies of liberation." The Army has fallen behind its recruiting goals amid the Iraq war.

"When you follow your conscience and the ideals you've sworn as a Scout, there is no limit to what you can achieve for our country," Bush told the crowd, which chanted "USA, USA."

Well, I'll be fair: maybe Bush doesn't want to send the 10-year-olds to Iraq. After all, their stubby little fingers might have trouble applying enough pressure to the triggers of their M-16s to actually fire a bullet, much less kill any "jihadists" or "dead-enders". But we all know that 10-year-old snot-nosed kids grow into strapping 18-year-old cannonfodder potential recruits.

But to show that life can sometimes imitate good art:

***Bush's visit***

Bush had originally planned to visit Fort A.P. Hill on Wednesday. Scouts waited for hours in the blazing sun for him to arrive, some collapsing from the high temperatures and humidity. More than 300 had to be treated for heat-related illnesses.

***Parades in Catch-22***

The men fell out for the parades early each Sunday afternoon and groped their way into ranks of twelve outside the barracks. Groaning with hangovers, they limped in step to their station on the main paradeground, where they stood motionless in the heat for an hour or two with the men from the sixty or seventy other cadet squadrons until enough of them had collapsed to call it a day. On the edge of the field stood a row of ambulances and teams of trained stretcher bearers with walkie-talkies. On the roofs of the ambulances were spotters with binoculars. A tally clerk kept score. Supervising this entire phase of the operation was a medical officer with a flair for accounting who okayed pulses and checked the figures of the tally clerk. As soon as enough unconscious men had been collected in the ambulances, the medical officer signaled the bandmaster to strike up the band and end the parade.

So maybe Catch-22 will be the great anti-war novel for another generation after all.


The Democrats have gotten to a point where a loss is seen as a victory. I could go on about how sad a thing this is, but I won't, because it isn't. The Democrats delight in screwing over ordinary working Americans (and let's not even talk about ordinary working non-Americans) - witness the recent bankruptcy legislation, the ongoing refusal to demand a troop withdrawal from Iraq, the toying with the quasi-fascist right-wing concerning abortion rights, the incapacity to seriously challenge the Bush administrations about anything at all, etc. etc. - and then expect them to salute even when they lose. And these are not things that can shoved off onto Joe Lieberman and the rest of the dickheads in the DLC. There is a systemic flaw in the Democratic party.

The Democrats are obsolete as a political force. When they go the way of the Whigs, things might look up for progressive Americans and the rest of the world as a whole.

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