Friday, September 16, 2005

More on New Orleans

Our handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster compares poorly to that of Cuba, according to an article I read. According to that article, Cuba has plans to respond to hurricanes, including evacuation of residents, their animals (I hope this includes pets and not just livestock), and appliances like TVs and refrigerators (to prevent looting)! On this it may be the local and state officials' faultdts, since they must have had vehicles they could have used for evacuation. It must have been very bad for New Orleans residents to have to leave their pets behind, and to just leave them alone to fend for themselves is inhumane.

Thursday night Bush said there would be an investigation or review of the disaster response - but why was the idea of an independent (or at least Congressional) investigation of the response dropped in Congress recently? We need an independent, reasonably objective investigation to find out what went wrong (just like there should have been a better investigation of 9/11).

The Internet encourages rumors and conspiracy theorizing, but with this Administration it is hard to tell what is reasonable to believe (after all, it compulsively withholds facts, even from Congress, and has lied to the public so many times). Thursday I saw an article saying that the levee in New Orleans could have been broken by military forces who were there, about 5 of whom were shot by New Orleans police. The purpose of the flooding would then be to force out the black residents to allow corporate redevelopment. Whether this is true or not, it looks like a corporate, neoliberal-style reconstruction of the Gulf region is being planned. Unions are already under attack and a free trade-based economy is planned. This is like the situation in occupied Iraq, where the US has liberalized laws on foreign ownership of Iraqi companies and resources, given reconstruction money to foreign companies like Halliburton, instead of native (and cheaper) contractors, and even attacked Iraqi agriculture with new rules on seed saving (or maybe it was something else). Some or all of these changes are also illegal under international law, which prevents occupiers from re-writing the laws of a conquered country.

Earlier there was a controversy about what to call the people displaced by the disaster. By definition refugee fits, but at least some people are against the term. Why is that? I don't think it compares the suffering of survivors to the suffering of people in Africa (which is what one Herald-Sun letter writer said). Evacuees seems to be the preferred term now, so I'll use that.

The other big national story right now is the Roberts confirmation hearings. I've heard the hearings on NPR and not a lot sticks out as dangerous about Roberts there. But we have little information on what he thinks, since he won't comment on many issues and he says as a lawyer he would have taken whichever side he was hired to defend. I distrust Bush's motives in nominating Roberts and Bush will be able to fill two Supreme Court seats - is there a hidden plan at work to turn the Court further right or towards the Executive branch, starting with nominating Roberts? According to the radio program Democracy Now, Roberts may stand for increasing Presidential power, rather than a conservative agenda. This idea fits with the Bush Administration's secrecy and concentration of power in the Executive branch. I worry though that if Roberts is rejected Bush will not nominate a better candidate (one who won't turn the Court further right or serve the Executive branch), and maybe a worse one.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Disaster in New Orleans and other delayed posts

I haven't posted in awhile so I have several stories to mention.

I was hoping to do more reading into what has happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina went through, but I haven't had time. From what I've heard it sounds like the government at all levels failed the people of the Gulf coast. It seems like if you're in a major disaster, expecially if you are considered political unimportant by the elite, watch out, because you may be on your own for awhile. I plan to look into how the results and response to Katrina and Hurricane Floyd in eastern North Carolina compare - has disaster relief gotten worse, or did the Clinton Administration and the State government allow poor and working class people to die needlessly here too?

Now there are Blackwater mercenaries in New Orleans and civil rights are or were suspended (I doubt a shoot to kill policy encourages respect for the lives and rights of any citizens caught in the open). I was surprised that national political figures would talk of abondoning a great and historic city like New Orleans. New Orleans has problems, since it is below sea level and on the coast, but we have always rebuilt our large cities after disasters and New Orleans could be made safer. If New Orleans residents want to rebuild, they should be allowed to and helped. Also, I have seen news articles about the affects of pathogens in the floodwaters and air pollution, but what about all of the poisons released by the flood? After all, the lower Mississippi and other affected areas are already dangerously contaminated in places by carcinogens from the chemical and oil industries. What will this do to the natural ecosystem? I have given to the Red Cross for disaster relief, but there is also an issue here (and with Pat Robertson's charity even more so).

Hopefully I will have time to write something more substantive later on.

I think an article in the Durham section of the Herald-Sun today said that ARAMARK was among the companies possibly violating Durham County's living wage law (by not releasing their payroll records to allow verification of compliance). This reminds me of the many payroll problems reported by ARAMARK workers at UNC-CH (see article in the July 2005 edition of Alliance!).