Wednesday, October 12, 2005



October 12, 2005
By Patricia Goldsmith

George W. Bush has famously expressed a certain contempt for history:
"History? We'll all be dead." A smirker's philosophy in a nutshell. And
yet he cared enough about history to make Bob Woodward his official
biographer. Shaping opinion, now and if possible for all time, is a
primary focus.

It's only been a little over a month since Hurricane Katrina hit, but
already it is clear that the disaster was a bonanza for those who are in
the self-declared business of bending the world to their reality.

The world has indeed changed. As usual, active efforts are being made by
the Bushitters and the mainstream media to prevent what we've just
experienced from sinking in, while they bury the truly significant
aspects of the story and begin the long tedious process of editing our
memories. So I want to take a minute and look at three altered or
suppressed aspects of what we just witnessed and provide a memory
resource for the future.

Perhaps the most under-reported aspect
of Bush's response relates to a memo written by Michael Chertoff
discussing the creation of a "White House Task Force on Hurricane
Katrina Response," contravening the new 2005 National Response Plan and
previous executive orders by George Bush on the handling of emergency

According to Knight-Ridder, which reported the story, "the goal of the
National Response Plan is to provide a streamlined framework for
delivering federal assistance when a disaster - caused by terrorists or
Mother Nature - is too big for local officials to handle." This means
that the relief effort was not handled by disaster professionals, as it
should have been, but was run out of the White House.

Here's a synopsis of how FEMA performed, while acting under the White
House's direct supervision (with the exception of the last item, all the
FEMA links were compiled by peabody71
on Democratic Underground):

FEMA won't accept Amtrak's help in evacuations

FEMA turns away experienced firefighters

FEMA turns back Wal-Mart supply trucks

FEMA prevents Coast Guard from delivering diesel fuel

FEMA won't let Red Cross deliver food

FEMA bars morticians from entering New Orleans

FEMA blocks 500-boat citizen flotilla from delivering aid

FEMA fails to utilize Navy ship with 600-bed hospital on board

FEMA to Chicago: Send just one truck

FEMA turns away generators

FEMA: "First Responders Urged Not To Respond"

FEMA officials ordered a doctor to stop giving aid to dying people

You can judge from the results what the purpose of the Task Force might
have been.

The second aspect of the story, having to do with graft and
profiteering, is one that has gotten more coverage, but is still being
distorted by Republican noise, beginning with Bush's Katrina do-over
speech <>
given in Jackson Square, New Orleans. Bush almost immediately alluded to
now largely discredited accounts
<> of black
looting and violence, although, ironically, he adopted en masse economic
proposals on reconstruction put out by the Heritage Foundation
<>, including
the whole idea of a "Gulf Coast Opportunity Zone."

With an efficiency belying the administration's slowness in responding
to human suffering, Karl Rove
oversaw the awarding of hundreds of millions in no-bid reconstruction
contracts within a few weeks. Maybe he was a little too successful.
Under pressure from Congress, the new director of FEMA has promised to
all no-bid contracts. Still, the fact that the favored businesses are
already on the scene gives the original contractors an edge over all
other comers.

This is a method they've successfully employed in the past
which is why I won't hold my breath waiting for Halliburton, Bechtel,
and Fluor to be replaced by local, cheaper contractors. The overwhelming
majority of these no-bid contracts went to out-of-state companies
including an Alaskan firm with close ties to Bush.

A lesser known push is for a giant housing project involving the
creation of trailer communities for evacuees, in spite of a large number
of vacancies
<> in
available housing. In the past, housing vouchers have been an efficient
way to handle such a situation. According to Paul Krugman
<>, the problem
with vouchers, as far as Bush & Co. are concerned, is not that they
don't work, but that they do. FEMA
<> says, "It
may not be quite on the scale of building the pyramids, but it's close.
This is big. We've never done anything like this."

Building mobile-home communities also allows the White House to choose
new electoral districts for the displaced. New Orleans Republican Craig
went to Washington immediately to make the point that his district would
go red if the blacks weren't allowed back. State officials in Louisiana
say they are now "virtually certain"
they will lose a congressional seat, due to a drop in population, with a
concomitant drop in federal revenue. Louisiana could easily go from Blue
to Red, statewide and nationally.

Under Karl Rove, the reconstruction effort has become a goldmine for
numerous corporations via a legislative agenda that includes:

Making the rollback of Davis-Bacon
<> permanent
and automatic in a disaster situation.

Gutting the endangered species act
From now on, the government will pay corporations for complying
with provisions of the act.

Richard Pombo
Republican from California, seized the moment to relax rules on
offshore drilling on both coasts and to encourage oil-prospecting in
the Rocky Mountains.

Texas Republican Joe Barton
<> is asking that
pollution laws be relaxed.

Congress slashed food aid for the poor
both food stamps and farm supports, and there'll be no help with
energy costs <> for
seniors and the poor this year, partly because Republican lawmakers
refused to give up their pork

Bush is calling for entitlements to be cut
<> to pay for Katrina, at exactly the
same time that taxes are being cut--again--for the wealthiest
fraction of one percent of Americans. This time, billionaires are
being "relieved" of the inheritance tax, one of the last impediments
to inter-generational concentration of wealth.

Finally, to support this radical corporate agenda, the Bushitters
propose to amend the Posse Comitatus Act
prohibiting domestic use of the military. This, in combination with
the packing of the Supreme Court, may be the most ominous structural
change of all.

But the radical right was giddy with what was accomplished even before
the gravy began to flow. Richard Baker
10-term Republican from Baton Rouge, enthused, "We finally cleaned up
public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."

Which brings me to the third suppressed aspect of media coverage: the
references to racial (and class) cleansing, both coded and explicit.

For example, Bill Bennett <>
joined in the high spirits on his radio show, spontaneously introducing
the extremely hypothetical and morally repugnant idea of aborting black
fetuses - all of them, Condi - in order to reduce the crime rate.

Bush made a reference to the Great Flood in his Jackson Square speech:
"Along this coast, for mile after mile," George said, talking directly
to his base, "the wind and water swept the land clean." In the Bible
story, you'll remember, God sent a Great Flood to cleanse the land of
sinners, who got what they deserved.

It all seems eerily reminiscent of a strategy Pat Robertson
<> laid
out all the way back in 1992:

The strategy against the American radical left should be the same as
General Douglas MacArthur employed against the Japanese in the
Pacific ... bypass their strongholds, then surround them, isolate
them, bombard them, then blast the individuals out of their power
bunkers with hand-to-hand combat. The battle for Iwo Jima was not
pleasant, but our troops won it. The battle to regain the soul of
America won't be pleasant either, but we will win it.

I think Robertson underestimates the pleasure of the task for those who
are performing it. It is by now abundantly clear that "the American
radical left" refers to those who believe in Social Security and
Medicaid every bit as much as gays and abortionists. (In that regard,
it's interesting to note the recent opening of a museum
<> near
Cincinnati that "explains the post-Flood world ... when dinosaurs lived
with man." This "museum" is dedicated to the idea that "the world and
the universe are but 6,000 years old and that baby dinosaurs rode in
Noah's ark." There's more than one way to isolate a liberal.)

So when George W. Bush, fielding a prearranged question, tells the
nation that we may have an avian flu pandemic
<> that could
require quarantines enforced by the military, I sense another
opportunity zone for the fearmongers <>.
You'd have to stop the planes, so people can't go out, Bush said in the
press conference, and use the military to prevent people going in.

What then? Use your imagination. Perhaps there would be reports of civil
unrest within the secured perimeters: looting, rape, murder. Unlike the
police, soldiers, as Kathleen Blanco so eloquently warned, shoot to
kill. Would armed troops go door to door looking for the sick? What
about food, water, medicine - think all that would arrive in a timely
fashion? How much better are your odds if you live in a Republican area?

I'm sure you can add to the list. The important thing is that we don't
soften or forget what we have seen.

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