Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What's in a name: Katrina

You know I rowed a little boat, five miles 'cross the pond
You know I rowed a little boat, 'bout five miles 'cross the pond
I throwed my things in the little boat, it rolled me right along
It was thunderin' and lightnin', but it rolled me right along
It was thunderin', it was lightnin', Oh yeah, it rolled me right along

There were thousands of people, they didn't have no place to go, mmm
Little children they were screamin'and cryin', Oh yeah
The wind was howlin', they didn't have no place to go, mmm
There were thousands o' people, they's goin' from door to door, mmm

- I Rowed a Little Boat
Traditional, from the 1927 Mississippi River Flood

On August 29, 2005, almost 80 years after the terrible Mississippi flood of 1927, the levees broke and flooded the poorest, lowest-lying sections of New Orleans, Louisiana, drowning over one thousand people. Two years later, many of those sections are still deserted, their inhabitants scattered across the country, many with no plans or desire to return. For several weeks the sight of the survivors, stranded by the floods and by the harsh economic realities of a country that consistently puts money ahead of life, was out there for all the world to see. And the world did see it, more clearly and objectively than most people in this country were willing to. I remember going to the BBC and other foriegn news outlets to get the most in-depth look at why the richest country on earth could doom its own citizens to a watery grave. How that country that could spend a trillion dollars on invading and occupying countries halfway around the world was not willing to spend less than one hundredth of that cost to shore up the levees that protected one of its own cities.

Coming almost exactly four years after the 2001 attacks, with a similarly horrific death toll, this disaster in many ways stood in stark contrast to that event. This time, the lie was put to the term "Homeland Security" the reactionary name and department that was born of 9/11. It was exposed as a grand farce as floating corpses were eaten by dogs and people died of dehydration, waiting for help that never came. This government was obviously not capable to secure this country, much less Iraq.

And then there the were people stranded and dying even after they were rescued, or waded out of the flood waters. As Wolf Blitzer observed in a moment of live-TV stream of consciousness "These people are so poor, so Black". And they were. They were not the wavy-haired, light complected Louisiana ruling class Moriels et al., but their darker brethren, lowest on the economic and social totem pole that is the living legacy of the plantations. They were "left behind" even as the pets were flown out of harm's way while the monstrous swirl of clouds and wind approached.

Perhaps the sickest tendency in the wake of the event was to blame the victims, which is elevated to something of an art form by our media giants. So we have LOOTERS and SHOOTERS and all kinds of hysteria that turned out to be 99 percent bullshit, all in the name of making people think "yep those niggers are animals and they brought this on themselves. Nope, there's no helping those people". What they didn't report that most of the poor people in New Orleans and all across our land of bounty, have jobs, often more than one. And they still can't afford a car to get the hell out of town. No they never spoke of poverty wages, but the first thing Bush and Cheney did was foist an executive order making it legal to pay slave wages to workers reconstructing the city!

Oh and one more thing the media never told you. The lower 9th ward, the lowest of the low lands, was created when the New Orleans Superdome was built, destroying a more prosperous (and elevated) working class community and relegating its inhabitants to the place that is now a wasteland. It is sadly ironic that the Superdome became their terrordome again during Katrina and their middle passage out of New Orleans.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Great (Non) Debate

Listen to me! A two-legged animal will believe anything, and the more preposterous the better. Whales speak French at the bottom of the sea. The horses of Arabia have silver wings. Pygmies mate with elephants in darkest Africa. I have sold all those propositions...and more.

~Allardyce Meriweather, snake oil salesman in the movie "Little Big Man"

Americans like to be fooled. It's in our blood. We are suckers for hucksters with good sales pitches. Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of politics. How else can you explain so many people voting against their own economic self interests? Karl Rove was no genius, despite what some frustrated non-wingnuts may think. It's not hard to fool people who are raised up as consumers, the human equivalent of a grazing bovine herd animal. It's been done before, many times. Just play to the fear and ignorance. Genius means inventing something new...and ole fat Rover just took the ancient turgid playbook of American politics and ran through the mud one more time with it. The genius part of politics exists elsewhere, however...to wit: the entire "left/right" debate on Fox News and CNNBCBS. How is this desultory bit of theatrics genius you ask? First of all, the true left is nowhere to be found in the mainstream media. Rather we have center-right debating with the rabid wingnuts. It's a sham, designed to make people believe that the likes of Bill Clinton is actually a "leftist" rather than the big chubby, amiable friend of carnivorous capitalism that he is. It's also designed to make people believe that there is an opposition to a system that puts profit ahead of life on earth when there isn't. Not one that can get elected president anyway.

So in campaign 2008 we have the Republican side already proudly advertising themselves as the worst in human nature. Shameless boorish hypocrites willing to squander whatever resources (both human and natural) they can to maximize the profits of the top 1 percent of the population. On the other side we have the Democrats, divided into the so-called "top tier" candidates who are undercover Wall Street stealth operatives ready to sign more disastrous trade agreements and the more true representatives of the long battered working class who are already being termed the "also-rans" by the money pundits before a single vote is cast. These are our choices. We are told the only people that are willing to make any meaningful change cannot be elected to make that change.

This is the democracy we want to export to the rest of the world? No wonder no one wants us occupying their country.