Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Skillful Manager

Known for being a skillful manager

By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar
Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — The Coast Guard admiral selected yesterday to lead the government's response to the havoc created by Hurricane Katrina is known as a decisive manager who makes the most of limited resources.

Serving in New England in the early 1990s, then-Capt. Thad Allen was nicknamed "the Schwarzkopf of Connecticut" by members of his staff who saw similarities between the way he handled an oil spill in sensitive Long Island Sound and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who led U.S. forces in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

"He doesn't let red tape and bureaucracy get in his way — he figures out a way to do things," said Master Chief Petty Officer Skip Bowen, who has served with Allen three times in the past 15 years, and is stationed in the Florida Keys.

Allen, 56 and a vice admiral, commanded the Coast Guard's Eastern Seaboard and Gulf region on Sept. 11, 2001, when every port was considered a potential terrorist target and even the most innocuous foreign merchant ship had to be viewed as possibly sinister.

Already juggling missions ranging from drug interdiction to environmental enforcement, the Coast Guard suddenly found itself charged with making sure that ports and shipping were safe from attack.

"We're an organizational chameleon," Allen said in an interview for a Coast Guard oral history of the Sept. 11 attacks. "We can be whatever color anybody wants us to be for the mission at hand."

For his efforts, Allen was promoted to chief of staff, third in the Coast Guard's chain of command.

Like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Coast Guard is part of Homeland Security. But it has retained an autonomy that enabled it to swing into action in Katrina's wake and immediately send helicopters to pluck survivors from rooftops in flooded New Orleans.

Allen yesterday replaced FEMA director Michael Brown, who has become a lightning rod for criticism, as the so-called "principal federal officer" on the disaster scene. Brown was called back to Washington, D.C.

Allen had been serving as Brown's deputy in New Orleans the past few days. He will be working with Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the commander of Army troops in New Orleans.

Allen met with his staff yesterday and scheduled a lunch for today with elected officials from the New Orleans area. At a news conference, he set an ambitious goal: to return to a semblance of normalcy.

"Quite frankly, one of our goals now needs to be to reconstitute communities and community capabilities to get on with life," Allen said. "We need to start talking about the reconstitution of services and how we can assist in doing that."

Allen's appointment is not the first time the Bush administration has turned to a Coast Guard officer to salvage a troubled operation. Retired Commandant James Loy was drafted to rescue the foundering Transportation Security Administration in 2002, and eventually became deputy secretary for Homeland Security.

Allen's career has included overseeing drug and migrant programs in Miami and a tour of duty during the Vietnam War.

He also holds master's degrees in public administration and science from George Washington University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, respectively.

Pustule of the Body Politic

Pustule of the Body Politic: Me, You, and George

PEJ News -
C. L. Cook - It's tempting to discount George W. Bush and those around him as something alien to humanity, some sort of ghoulish life-force vampires whose joy and sustenance is the misery inflicted on the rest of the race; but, that would be a misunderestimation of their true constitution.

Pustule of the Body Politic:
You, Me, and George
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
September 10, 2005

You've likely heard the phrase, generally uttered by pachouli scented Sixties types as they huddle about steaming pots of herbal tea: "Everything is connected!"

Beyond the obvious, it's an observation whose simplicity conveys the answer to the question millions have asked these last terrible years: "How on Earth did George Bush become the leader of the planet's most powerful nation?"

The cynics in the crowd may cite the criminal machinations of the Republican party apparatus that employed goons like John Bolton to intimidate voting poll workers; the mobilized racist law enforcement officers to intercept and harrass Black voters; stacked state bureacracies with anti-democratic apparatchiks, happy to obstruct the will of the majority; and, used a crooked judiciary more interested in its own interests than the public's. And, of course those cynics are correct on all points. But, there's another dimension to Dubya's ascension, one more than the mere corruption and venality he represents, one that has more to do with you and me.

The thin veneer of civility so effectively stripped away by the recent disaster in New Orleans can't honestly be said to reveal anything we all don't already know, at some level at least; our system, the economy, the privilege of race and class, the barbarous measures required to sustain the status quo, is nothing new. Images of the suffering of the underclass, whether at home, or wherever our virulent influence is exacted may shock, but they certainly don't surprise.

That we who aren't suffering can watch images of misery, and then go about our daily business supporting the system that promises its continuity without losing a lot of sleep over it attests to a societal disease, a political pandemic far greater than George W. Bush, or any of the serial killer manifestations of that illness preceding him in the White House. George, and this war, not even His war, is merely the latest symptom of our collective sickness; a poison pustule, boiling to the surface of the body politic, a manifestation of our disregard for all, save narrow self-interest.

That this pimple need be lanced is beyond dispute, but if we are content to remove the zit without addressing the infection that created it we run the risk of further sceptic eruptions; eruptions that will prove increasingly toxic, and perhaps fatal to the organism we all, in turn, feed and are fed by.

Yes, we are all indeed connected: I am you, and you are me, and we are all together. And George is where he is now because we failed to practice preventative medicine.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He also serves as a contributing editor to PEJ News.

"Send in the Coroners!"

Guns Not Butter for Louisiana

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - Befitting the conduct of this emergency promising disaster, the Bush administration has only now, nearly a fortnight following the unleashing of chaos, decided to accept foreign aid for the victims of Katrina and the consequent New Orleans Flood. But, it's not the doctors and medicines promised by Castro, or the subsidized fuel offered by Chavez, or even the Urban Search and Rescue team unceremoniously sent packing back to Canada from the epicentre of the catastrophe they want; the intrepids at Camp Bush have put out a mayday to NATO, in the form of a deployment of its freshly minted military strike force.

Guns Not Butter
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
September 9, 2005

Yesterday, the Bush administration requested the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) provide aid to the stricken Mississippi delta region. As with the rest of this incredible spectacle unfolding in the aftermath of the killer hurricane, Katrina this belated move by Bush has a queer ring.

Neglecting to respond to numerous offers from around the world these painful past days, and actually "deporting" a foreign rescue team of the highest calibre, what's now thought required by the White House is military reinforcements, drawn from allies. The military hue to the Bush "relief" operation in Louisiana gets greener by the moment.

And, there's an even more macabre side to this fiasco. While refusing an offer of doctors and nurses from less politically incorrect Thailand, the dispatch of coroners and forensic experts from the far off nation was welcomed.

That may be just prudent planning, finally, on the part of the official responders to the unprecedented calamity. After snubbing offers of the usual types of assistance from Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Cuba, Venezuela, and a host of nations too minor to merit, the need for legions to deal with the dead is the most sensible thing done by this baffling band of buffoons yet.

According to the Associated Press' Matt Moore, the clarion call that eventually blew from Pennsylvania Avenue was a call for the elite, mobile military strike force, NATO Response. NATO describes the saviours of New Orleans on their website thus:

"The Nato Response Force will consist of air, maritime and ground forces which will be rotated on assignment over a period of six months. The size of the force applied will be dependant on the mission that is to be carried out, but rough estimates indicate the following as a guideline:

Nato Land forces up to Brigade size.
Maritime forces up to the size of a Nato Standing Naval Force
Command and Control capabilities and Air assets capable of carrying out and supporting up to 200 combat sorties daily.
It is expected that such a force will number roughly 21,000 personnel."


Those forensic experts are really going to have their hands full! You see, the remaining citizens of New Orleans are not quite dead, yet. But they number in the thousands; thousands living under Falluja-like conditions of deprivation, curfews, and harrassment by heavily armed police, National Guard, reputed "contractors," and various military and State agency enforcers patrolling their neighbourhoods. Add to that mix a willing coalition of foreign military forces and the analogy is complete.

Already, the corporate press is working overtime, in tandem with their erstwhile Iraq embed partners in the Pentagon to paint a picture of those American citizens too afraid, or mule-headed to leave, as the dregs of society, not worthy of concern.

The administration has also attempted, with near complete success, to pull the plug on differing versions of the reality of the situation that may eminate from "unapproved" sources through intimidation of journalists trying to stay in, or get into the city. And, the language used to refer to this draconian turn of events through the usual media mouthers is eerily identical to the talk we've heard so often before, if only directed at the distant "others" facing this treatment, and worse.

According to history, the curse of empire is always an imposition of the cruelty and barbarity meted on the reluctant citizens of its distant colonies and outposts coming home with equal force to be landed upon the heads of its own. This is generally during the final desperate throes of its power. One can only hope, the desperate men running the Hell on Wheels show that has been America's recent history are not so determined that they would launch similar "aid" models to other cities following natural, or otherwise disasters.

Chris Cook
hosts Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria. He also serves as a contributing editor at PEJ News. You can check out the GR Blog here.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Katrina's Patsy: Who Are You, Mr. Brown?

Katrina's Patsy: Who Are You, Mr. Brown?

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - The guillotine blade is risen and heads will roll. Though the melons most suited to fill those baskets will be spared, it may provide solice that those that do, vile co-conspirators of the authors of Katrina, the crime that dwarfed 9/11, and eclipsing for now the toxic legacy of that other criminal quagmire, Iraq. Michael Brown, current head of FEMA and odds on favourite for first tete in the bucket, is tonight revealed by TIME On-line as having "discrepancies" in his resume.

Katrina's Patsy:
Who Are You, Mr. Brown?
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
September 8, 2005

Brown's appointment in to succeed his Federal Emergency Management Agency boss and Bush crony, Joe Allbaugh in 2003 seemed a no-brainer to most casual observors. The Number Two at the agency would make an easy appointment, passed over the beltway with a yawn. So, who's paying attention to minor details like qualifications, work record, and all those annoying details the unconnected hoi polloi are forced to endure to secure a job?

But "Brownie," as "Dubya" would have, ain't little people. In fact, he thinks Brown is doing great work! And, as he picked the guy in the first place, Bush knows he's qualified.

TIME's Daren Fonda and Rita Healy looked a little deeper into the bona fides of the lawyer and former Horse Show circuit luminary and came up with some things Brown would likely prefer left in the paddock. It turns out, of the several versions of his resume and official bio information, the one that landed him the deputy chief gig at FEMA, his staircase to the top, was a little more manure than hay. Not that his conflation amounted to much anyway.

Touting Brown as formerly "overseeing the emergency services division" for the bedroom community of Edmond, Oklahoma, while a student at Central State University. His Assistant City Manager job is a position described as more resembling a "internship" than leadership role, according to the city's current PR head, Claudia Deakins. But, to his credit, his former boss, city manager Bill Dashner claims Brown was a good worker who was punctual and, "always had on a suit and a starched, white shirt." Dashner further praises his administrative assistant as a "loyal" aide who wrote speeches for him. Basically a communications guy who had a way with words and could type.

Fair enough. Hardly damning stuff. But, "Mike" has accused TIME's story, through FEMA's public affairs officer Nicol Andrews, of inacuracy. She says, he says, "a large portion is very inacurate."

But, there's more.

Lawyer Brown list among his accomplishments at, a professional web listing site, TIME reports the curious entry, "Outstanding Political Science Professor, Central State University." While Central State lists him as a former student, there's no record of his professorial "achievements." In fact, U. of Central Oklahoma, the former Central State, lists Brown as having studied there, and may perhaps, according to Charles Johnson of the University Relations office, have served as an "adjunct professor," something less than a professor. As far Mike's self-proclaimed scholastic position, former poli-sci professor at Central, Carl Reherman says Brown was never a member of the faculty.

Brown claims the FindLaw listing is wrong, and that he never claimed to be on Central's faculty, but was instead an adjunct professor at Oklahoma City School of Law and his "Outstanding" citation was earned as a "senior" at Central.

Mistakes happen. But, according to FindLaw, mistakes seem to be the hallmark of Mr. Brown's incredible career that culminates at the apex of the colossal government agency. They also list him as a director of the Oklahoma Christian Home. Administrators however have no recollection of him; not in the claimed twenty-plus year association with them.

Jumping to Brown's defense, Andrew's says he "never claimed to be the director of the home; something neither TIME, nor FindLaw asserted. But, she reiterates his claim as having served "on the board directors, or governors of the nursing home." It's a claim a long-time employee refutes, saying Brown "was never director here, was never on the board of directors, was never executive director. Adding, "He was never here in anycapacity. I never heard his name mentioned here."

Even Brown's much quoted connection with the International Arabian Horse Association now seems murky. The FindLaw profile citing that relationship was deleted today. There had been a media debate as to whether he had resigned his position with the horse breeders under pressure, or been fired outright. Now, he seems to have become something of a spectre there too.

At best, government response to the disaster in Louisiana represents a catastrophic systems breakdown rivalling 9/11. There's plenty of blame to spread around here, and it seems unlikely none will walk the plank this time, and the sharks are already circling for Mr. Brown.

Chris Cook
host Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He also serves as a contributing editor at PEJ News. You can check out the GR Blog here.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Current Hurricane Activity in Atlantic

Hurricane Maria Strengthens Over Atlantic

Tuesday September 6, 2005 4:46 AM

MIAMI (AP) - Hurricane Maria intensified Monday over the open Atlantic, while the 14th tropical storm of the season developed south of Bermuda, forecasters said.

Tropical Storm Nate had top sustained winds of 40 mph, and was centered about 320 miles south-southwest of Bermuda, according to the National Hurricane Center.

It was moving west near 2 mph, and forecasters expected it to continue its slow westward track over the next day.

Maria had top wind speeds at 115 mph as the system neared the cooler waters of the north Atlantic that are expected to sap its strength later in the week. At 11 p.m. EDT, it was centered 485 miles east of Bermuda and moving north-northeast at about 6 mph, well away from land.

Maria is the fifth hurricane of the Atlantic hurricane season, one of the busiest on record. Historically, only about four or five named storms form by this time of year, according to the hurricane center. Peak storm activity typically occurs from the end of August through mid-September.

The season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.


On the Net:

National Hurricane Center:

45 % Approval of Bush Disaster Management!

Forty-five Percent of Americans Polled Approve Bush Disaster Response!

Empire Burlesque
- Chris Floyd - Polls coming out after the disaster, which show that around 45 percent of the American people approve of Bush's handling of the relief effort. It seems inconceivable that any sentient being could witness the agonizing results of the Bush team's dithering, dilatory response -- an agony played out in the full glare of non-stop media coverage -- and not come away with a sense of towering anger at this criminal incompetence. But it's obvious that nearly half the American people have now left the "reality-based community" altogether; they see only what they want to see, a world bathed in the hazy, golden nimbus of the Leader.

No Direction Home
Chris Floyd

Empire Burlesque
Tuesday, 06 September 2005

"How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home…."
-- Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone"

Let's be clear about one thing. Nothing that has happened in the past week -- the mass destruction in the Mississippi Delta, the obliteration of the city of New Orleans, the murderous abandonment of thousands of people to death, chaos and disease -- will change the Bush Administration or American politics at all. Not one whit. The Bush Administration will not reverse its brutal policies; its Congressional rubber-stamps will not revolt against the White House; the national Democrats will not suddenly grow a spine. There will be no real change, and the bitter corrosion of injustice, indifference and inhumanity that is consuming American society will go on as before.

One proof of this can be found in the first polls coming out after the disaster, which show that around 45 percent of the American people approve of Bush's handling of the relief effort. It seems inconceivable that any sentient being could witness the agonizing results of the Bush team's dithering, dilatory response -- an agony played out in the full glare of non-stop media coverage -- and not come away with a sense of towering anger at this criminal incompetence. But it's obvious that nearly half the American people have now left the "reality-based community" altogether; they see only what they want to see, a world bathed in the hazy, golden nimbus of the Leader. The fact -- the undeniable truth -- that behind this carefully-concocted mirage lies nothing more than a steaming pile of rancid, rotting offal means nothing to these true believers. The Lie is better, the Lie is more comforting, the Lie lets them keep feeding on the suffering of others without guilt or shame.

This painful split between obvious reality and popular perception is nothing new, of course. Today we look at old footage of Adolf Hitler and wonder how on earth such a pathetic and ludicrous creature could ever have commanded the adoration and obedience of tens of millions of people. Yet he did. As Eliot said, "Human kind cannot bear very much reality."

The fact that a few conservative commentators and politicians are making mild criticisms of Bush means nothing. There has been much trumpeting of the remarks by David Brooks of the New York Times that Bush's manifest failures in the Delta -- coming after the debacle of the Iraq occupation, the torture revelations, etc. -- could be a "watershed" moment when the nation loses faith in its institutions, a situation Brooks likened to the 1970s. But even in making these comments on one hand, Brooks was taking them back with the other, saying clearly that he might "get over" his disappointment with Bush soon enough. Think of it: Brooks has watched people literally dying before his very eyes after being abandoned to their fate for days by Bush's criminal negligence - and he thinks he can "get over" that at some point, and give his full-throated approval to the Leader once again.

This is the general mind-set (if you want to dignify the inch-deep shallowness of Brooks' intellect with the word "mind") of all the conservative critics: gosh, Bush really dropped the ball on this one! He'd better turn the PR thing around, or he might lose some of the "political capital" he needs to "advance his second-term agenda." That's it. That's as far as it goes.

After all, they fully support the "agenda" -- more war, more tax cuts for the rich, more impunity for big corporations, more welfare for the oil barons, the coal barons, the nuke barons, more coddling of elite investors, more state power for Christian extremists, more media consolidation, more graft, more kickbacks, more easy money for greasy palms. And now that Karl Rove has finally figured out his response -- employing brazen lies to smear state and local officials -- you will very quickly see the conservative critics, especially in Congress, fall into lockstep with the porcine counsellor's program.

By the time Congress holds hearings into the disaster, they'll be singing love songs to the Leader; the hearings themselves will doubtless turn into a pageant of heroic tableaux -- glittering stories of the heroic federal effort to rescue the perishing, all of it driven by the calm and steady hand of the Commander-in-chief. Oh, there might be a scapegoat or two for the Congressmen to pummel with puff-cheeked righteous rage for the cameras. But anyone hoping for a fearless, presidency-shaking probe will be disappointed.

Just as the media have always overhyped Bush's popularity, they are now overhyping the "political crisis" he is supposedly facing. There is no political crisis whatsoever, if by "political crisis" you mean something that will cause Bush to alter his politics or his policies. The war in Iraq will go on. The war against the poor will go on. The slow destruction of middle-class security and stability will go on. The long and ferocious rightwing campaign against the very idea of a "common good" will go on, unabated - perhaps even strengthened as it faces a backlash from the half of the American public that actually accepts the reality of what they saw in New Orleans and all along the ravaged Gulf Coast.

This is what you must understand: Bush and his faction do not care if they have "the consent of the governed" or not. They are not interested in governing at all, in responding to the needs and desires and will of the people. They are only interested in ruling, in using the power of the state to force their radical agenda of elitist aggrandizement and ideological crankery on the nation, and on the world.

They have a large, hard core of true believers who will countenance - even applaud - any crime, any corruption, any incompetence of the Leader and his minions. With this base, and with all three branches of government already in their hands, the Faction need only procure the reluctant support of just a small percentage of the rest of the population - through fearmongering, through smears and lies, and, as we saw in 2000 and 2004, through the manipulation of election results via politically connected voting-machine corporations and politically partisan election officials.

None of this will change because of what happened in New Orleans. If these people could be touched by suffering and injustice, by death and destruction, by corruption and incompetence, then they would not be where they are today. If there was a viable opposition in the American Establishment to Bush's policies, it would have stood up long ago. Like the people left behind in New Orleans, we're all on our own - "with no direction home."

How does it feel?

"Thanks, But No Thanks!"

Thanks, But No Thanks!" U.S. Rejects International Aid Offers

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - The gross incompetence displayed by the Bush administration and it's budget-heavy Homeland Security, in these days, a week past the disastrous landfall of Hurricane Katrina, a week of inexplicable inaction on the part of the federal government, is now compounded as Bush thumbs his nose at international offers of aid.

"Thanks, But No Thanks!"
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
September 5, 2005

Despite the dismal history of George W. Bush's criminal neglect of the infrastructure needed to preserve the City of New Orleans and environs, despite the pitiful failures of rescue coordination resulting in the unnecessary deaths of untold numbers of Americans, despite the virtual disappearance of key Bush administration "leaders" in the days following this disaster, there is still a greater crime being committed against the population of the benighted Delta region.

Offers of aid from foreign governments began to pour into the White House once the scope of this tragedy became apparent to shocked television viewers around the world. But the Bush administration response was, to some, as absent as Dick Cheney during this, and past disasters. Cuba's President Castro reached out a hand to the country that has dedicated itself these past forty-plus years to the destruction of his nation, offering more than fifteen hundred doctors and tons of medicines and materiel only to find his offer rejected. A non-plussed Castro said, addressing the country's disaster workers:

"You could all be there right now lending your services, but 48 hours has passed since we made this offer, and we have received absolutely no response."

France too found its offer of water-treatment equipment and other necessary life-saving equipment and personnel ignored by Bush.

Iran, India, Sri Lanka, and a host of other impoverished countries, many of which have been past victims of American financial and military attacks, too lined up to offer what they could for the benefit of those citizen's suffering. But the response is dead silence.

Telephones are too silent. Wayne Madsen Reports, an on-line intelligence and policy monitor, yesterday reported yet unconfirmed jamming operations being conducted against the region by a U.S. Navy vessel located in the Caribbean. This has meant not only the loss of cell phone communications in some areas, but is also hampering desperately needed communications for emergency responders.

It's all too much for those on the scene; as Condoleezza Rice shopped for shoes on New York City's tony 5th Avenue, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was blowing gaskets, begging the media urge to action an apparently moribund federal government.

Despite Rice's statements of last week, saying: “no offer that can help alleviate the suffering of the people in the afflicted area will be refused.”, Swedish aid agencies offering help were told their help wasn't needed at the moment. Now, Rice says she's "evaluating" foreign aid offers.

Rice also denies there is a racial element to the utter abandonment of the "majority Black" city. But, Louisiana's Black leadership are not content to wait for Bush's help. They are demading the nearby and now shuttered England Air Force Base be made available for evacuees. California Representative Maxine Waters and Jesse Jackson are personally spearheading that campaign.

Today, the Bush administration had the temerity to point fingers of blame toward state and local governments. This likely a response, in classical Rove fashion, to the growing outrage and despite the well-publicised failures of the federal government to fund the precise projects that would have averted this calamity.

The corporate media, though damning Bush's pathetic response to this horror, are today finding their more accustomed equilibrium as apologists and disaster deniers. And people continue to perish.

It seems the Bush administration is content to see the city of New Orleans emptied of it's population, to then be rebuilt by Cheney firm, Halliburton, already contracted for portions of the massive reconstruction needed.

Soldiers arriving are being issued "shoot to kill" orders against "looter" and curfew breakers; one reported mass shooting already raising questions, but domestic, indepedent aid agencies are also being prohibited access to make deliveries of food, clothing and medicine, as the Red Cross complains.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He also serves as a contributing editor at PEJ News. You can check out the GR Blog here.

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

A Dink's Requiem: Last Words on Rhenquist

A Dink's Requiem: Last Words on Rehnquist

Jazzman Chronicles - Jack Random - Forgive me if I have no tears to give for the passing of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. As thousands of my brethren lie dead in New Orleans and beneath the rubble of countless communities along the Gulf, forgive me but I cannot bow my head in mourning for this one more.



By Jack Random

“Don’t waste your time mourning – organize!” Joe Hill, the day before his execution.

William Rehnquist was the legacy of Richard Nixon, a reminder that presidents often far outlive the terms of their presidencies. He was at the vanguard of the modern conservative movement, a movement dedicated to reducing the power and responsibilities of the federal government. In over three decades of jurisprudence, Rehnquist opposed state’s rights against federal responsibility only once: Bush V. Gore, 2000. That singular fact (alongside the golden epaulets adorning his gown) is all you need to know about the judicial philosophy of William Rehnquist.

State’s rights were employed to fight back desegregation in the south. State’s rights were used to fight back civil rights and the voting rights of African Americans. State’s rights were employed in the battle against organized labor and women’s equality. And state’s rights were denied in order to make George W. Bush president.

Now, given the retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor, the legacy of one of the most ill equipped leaders ever to inhabit the White House will be felt for generations to come.

President Bush the elder was fond of speaking of “a thousand points of light” (a concept his son converted to “faith based” charities) but a thousand points of light are not capable of fortifying levees, restoring wetlands, cooling an overheated planet, or amassing the kind of response required in a major disaster.

All issues surrounding the Gulf Coast catastrophe, its prevention and relief, are the essential responsibilities of the federal government. I am not impressed with the unity tour of former presidents Clinton and Bush to raise private funds for the most basic of government functions. This is why we pay taxes and, yes, taxes should be raised. As the financers of our government, the responsibility belongs to all of us and all of us should pay our fair share – beginning with the corporations that profit from war and national tragedies.

We need not wonder what happened to all those billions of dollars we paid for Homeland Security. They went to the wars and the occupations. They went to stealth operations, sponsoring coups in Haiti and Venezuela. They went to the development of a new class of tactical nuclear weapons. They were shuffled around to pick up pork projects in exchange for midnight votes for another round of payoffs to the pharmaceutical industry, the banking and credit industry, and of course the oil industry.

We are facing the national disgrace of an abandoned city, a predominantly poor black city, and an army of lost, desperate souls, yet the White House is already shifting gears, biding its time, waiting for the cameras to turn away from the suffering so that the government can proceed with its program of austerity for the masses and tax relief for the elite.

At its very core, the modern conservative philosophy holds the poor responsible for their own poverty.

At the core, the new conservatives do not believe that the federal government is responsible for rebuilding New Orleans or restoring the afflicted to stable and decent lives.

They will not say so in public but in the private smoke-filled rooms where William Rehnquist held court, where his brethren found him charming and illuminating, it is openly acknowledged and embraced.

So forgive me if I do not bow my head for the passing of the Chief Justice. My heart is already consumed in mourning. Forgive me if I do not honor the tradition of paying homage to the dead. He was only one man, one life against a backdrop of thousands.

As labor leader Joe Hill said: Don’t waste your time. Organize!



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Whose Desire Would Burn the World

Whose Desire Would Burn the World

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - Speechless. The television remains off, I can't take it today. In print, the rolling misery of America, its veneer scraped as effectively as the Superdome's roof, revealing all many have known all along; but, seeing it is something else again. And behind this ghastly production, George W. Bush and his now infamous coterie stand in the wings, authors of this through their insatiable cravenous, poised to profit the calamity.

Whose Desire Would Burn the World

C. L. Cook

PEJ News
September 4, 2005

Just a week before commemorations of September 11, 2001, America is suffering a blow the effects of which render that horrendous day's happenings as "trifling" by comparison. In exact manner as witnessed deployed across the globe these last bloody years, what is happening today in the, if not heart, then the navel of the nation, is being experienced by Americans; experienced not from the comfortable distance via CNN, etc., but in the first person. And, like in those unpronouncably far-flung places, vultures are aloft.

Halliburton, it was recently revealed, signed a massive contract for the reconstruction of New Orleans almost a week ago. The ink on that deal dried considerably sooner than any actions to alleviate the devastated populations caught in the eye of the maelstrom were undertaken by the "president," or by any of his nearest friends.

Talk of blame, or worse what's coming from around the planet, talk of KARMA, is currently in the hands of the legions of government PR doctors, corpo-hacks, et al. It seems inappropriate, officially, to point fingers at the massive neglect that cannot be said to be simply benign, on the part of George W. Bush's administration.

Of course, George may yet blame Bill Clinton, a risky PR move given the Southern Governor's high profile, alongside Du Dubya's daddy, George. But there is no avoiding the criminal omissions of this federal administration, which starved the agencies trying to avoid precisely this disaster, and repeatedly warned against, of funds required.

Now, thousands (?) of corpses ply the water-swollen avenues of America's cultural jewel, just so much fodder for the alligators.

It's a real pity Mr. Bush needn't again stand for election. But who voted for him, anyway?

Chris Cook
hosts Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He's also a contributing editor to PEJ News. You can check out the GR Blog here.