Friday, September 30, 2005

TORTURE, Where are religous leaders?

Torturous Silence on Torture
By Ray McGovern
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Tuesday 27 September 2005

Where do American religious leaders stand on torture? Their deafening silence evokes memories of the unconscionable behavior of German church leaders in the 1930s and early 1940s.

Despite the hate whipped up by administration propagandists against those it brands "terrorists," most Americans agree that torture should not be permitted. Few seem aware, though, that although President George W. Bush says he is against torture, he has openly declared that our military and other interrogators may engage in torture "consistent with military necessity."

For far too long we have been acting like "obedient Germans." Shall we continue to avert our eyes - even as our mainstream media begin to expose the "routine" torture conducted by US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo?

Senate Armed Forces Committee Chairman John Warner took a strong rhetorical stand against torture early last year after seeing the photos from Abu Ghraib. Then he succumbed to strong political pressure to postpone Senate hearings on the subject until after the November 2004 election. Those of us who live in Virginia might probe our consciences on this. Shall we citizens of the once-proud Old Dominion simply acquiesce while Sen. Warner shirks his constitutional duty?

We have come a long way since Virginia patriot Patrick Henry loudly insisted that the rack and the screw were barbaric practices that must be left behind in the Old World, "or we are lost and undone." Can Americans from other states consult their own consciences with respect to what Justice may require of them in denouncing torture as passionately as the patriots who founded our nation?

On September 24, The New York Times ran a detailed report regarding the kinds of "routine" torture that US servicemen and women have been ordered to carry out. This week's Time also has an article on the use of torture by US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo.

Those two articles are based on a new report from Human Rights Watch, a report that relies heavily on the testimony of a West Point graduate, an Army Captain who has had the courage to speak out. A Pentagon spokesman has dismissed the report as "another predictable report by an organization trying to advance an agenda through the use of distortion and errors of fact." Judge for yourselves; the report can be found here. Grim but required reading.


History, even recent history, demonstrates once again that total power corrupts totally. See if you can guess the author of the following:

In this land that has inherited through our forebears the noblest understandings of the rule of law, our government has deliberately chosen the way of barbarism ...
There is a price to be paid for the right to be called a civilized nation. That price can be paid in only one currency - the currency of human rights ... When this currency is devalued a nation chooses the company of the world's dictatorships and banana republics. I indict this government for the crime of taking us into that shady fellowship.

The rule of law says that cruel and inhuman punishment is beneath the dignity of a civilized state. But to prisoners we say, "We will hold you where no one can hear your screams." When I used the word "barbarism," this is what I meant. The entire policy stands condemned by the methods used to pursue it.

We send a message to the jailers, interrogators, and those who make such practices possible and permissible: "Power is a fleeting thing. One day your souls will be required of you."

--Bishop Peter Storey, Central Methodist Mission, Johannesburg, June 1981

I asked a Muslim friend recently what the Koran says about torture. After consulting an imam, she reported that the Koran does not address the subject because the Koran deals only "with human behavior." Do not we of the Judeo-Christian tradition also reject torture as inhuman and never morally permissible?

The various rationalizations for torture do not bear close scrutiny. Intelligence specialists concede that the information acquired by torture cannot be considered reliable. Our own troops are brutalized when they follow orders to brutalize. And they are exposed to much greater risk when captured. Our country becomes a pariah among nations. Above all, torture is simply wrong. It falls into the same category of evil as slavery and rape. Torture is inhuman and immoral, whether or not our bishops and rabbis can summon the courage to name it so.

It Is up to Us

By keeping their tongue-tied heads way down, our religious leaders have forfeited the moral authority with which they otherwise could speak. They end up playing the role of Hitler's Reichsbishops, who supported - or at least acquiesced in - the policies and methods of the Third Reich.

Many American men and women - Jews, Christians, Muslims of Abrahamic tradition - have learned not to depend on clergy leaders who bless the Empire. The inescapable conclusion is, as popular theologian Annie Dillard reminds us, "There is only us; there never has been any other."

The question is this: Are we are up to the challenge of confronting the evil of torture, or shall we prove Patrick Henry right? Is our country about to be "lost and undone?"


Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and lives in Virginia.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

How Politicians are Bankrupting the Country, book review

While the Politicians Fiddle, America Goes Broke
How the Democratic and
Republican Parties Are
Bankrupting Our Future and
What Americans Can Do About It
By Peter G. Peterson
242 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $24.

When George W. Bush was governor of Texas, Peter G. Peterson tried to convince him that the rickety finances of Social Security and Medicare posed a pressing philosophical and moral question. Mr. Peterson has been chairman of several corporations and of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and was secretary of commerce under President Richard M. Nixon. As president of the Concord Coalition he has warned that politicians are endangering the economy by recklessly promising government benefits that they have no will - and no way - to finance. The question he raised with Governor Bush was ''whether a modern, media-driven democracy that only focuses on immediate crises could respond effectively to a very different kind of threat - a silent, slow-motion, long-term crisis like entitlements."

Three years into the Bush administration, Mr. Peterson has his answer. It is no. Benefit spending now takes up an eighth of gross domestic product and is rising steeply. The deficit has spiked alarmingly since 2000, and under the most favorable demographic circumstances imaginable: for the past two decades the huge baby-boom generation has been in its prime work years, paying benefits for a relatively small number of nonworking seniors and children. Things are about to change dramatically for the worse. Soon, senescent boomers will be collecting the checks, and there will be only two-and-a-quarter workers per beneficiary.

With precision and punch, Mr. Peterson's "Running on Empty" lays out why we are in a lousy position to dig ourselves out of this hole. The United States now has the lowest savings rate in the developed world. Much of the growth in entitlements has been paid for by defense cuts that were reaching their limits even before Sept. 11. The annual current-account deficit - what America has to borrow to finance its excess of imports over exports - is a dangerously high $540 billion, or 5.1 percent of gross domestic product. Net financial liabilities to foreigners have risen to $2.6 trillion today, from zero in 1980. With a third of public debt held abroad, the consoling thought that ''we owe it to ourselves" is no longer operative.

For the rest of this book review, see link NY Times, “Books of the Times: Running on Empty,” still available without cost of new online subscription service now required to view their regular columnists.

NY Times, August 12, 2004

Sunday, September 25, 2005

POLICE ABUSE OF GAYS, etc., report by Amnesty International

Amnesty International USA
surveys police abuse of gays


Amnesty International [official web-site]


AI Index: AMR 51/150/2005 (Public)
News Service No: 252
22 September 2005

Embargo Date: 22 September 2005 - 04:00 GMT

"USA: Police mistreatment and abuse widespread in lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender communities nationwide"

New Amnesty International Study Finds LGBT People of Color and Youth
Most Likely to Suffer; Calls on Police to Improve Training and

"The police are not here to serve; they are here to get served ...
every night I'm taken into an alley and given the choice between
having sex or going to jail." -- Amnesty International interview with
a Native American transgender woman, Los Angeles

(New York) -- In the most comprehensive report of its kind to
date, Amnesty International (AI) reveals that police mistreatment and
abuse of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are
widespread nationwide and go largely unchecked due to under-reporting
and unclear, under-enforced or non-existent policies and procedures.

"Across the country, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
endure the injustices of discrimination, entrapment and verbal abuse
as well as brutal beatings and sexual assault at the hands of those
responsible for protecting them - the police," said Dr. William
F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA
(AIUSA). "Some, including transgender individuals, people of color
and the young suffer disproportionately, especially when poverty
leaves them vulnerable to homelessness and exploitation and less
likely to draw public outcry or official scrutiny. It is a sorry
state of affairs when the police misuse their power to inflict
suffering rather than prevent it."

In its 150-plus page report, "Stonewalled: Police abuse and
misconduct against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in
the United States," AI focuses on four cities - Chicago, Los
Angeles, New York and San Antonio - surveys the 50 largest police
departments in the country, as well as Washington, D.C., about LGBT
policies and practices, and includes information from several hundred
interviews and testimonies. AI's findings strongly indicate that
there is a heightened pattern of misconduct and abuse of transgender
individuals and all LGBT people of color, young people, immigrants,
the homeless and sex workers by police. At times, the mere perception
that someone is gay or lesbian provokes physical or verbal attacks.

The mistreatment and abuse documented in the report includes targeted
and discriminatory enforcement of statutes against LGBT people,
including so-called "quality of life" and morals regulations;
profiling, particularly of transgender women as sex workers; verbal
abuse; inappropriate pat-down and strip searches; failure to protect
LGBT people in holding cells; inappropriate response or failure to
respond to hate crimes or domestic abuse calls; sexual harassment and
abuse, including rape; and physical abuse that at times amounts to
torture and ill-treatment.

Several examples include:

... Young gay men and advocates in Chicago told AIUSA of a police
officer who, according to one man, will "remove his badge, gun and
belt and then beat you unless you give him a blow-job, after which
he'll just leave you there."

... Police officers accused a Latina transgender woman in San Antonio
of stealing. One officer reportedly said, "People like you make the
world a bad place." Three police officers and two detectives
allegedly surrounded her while one officer searched her, exposing her
pubic hair, buttocks and one of her breasts. She said, "I didn't ask
to be searched by a female officer. I've tried that before - they
don't care, to them we're all men." She was not charged with any
crime. Officers refused to give her their badge numbers. She said, "I
know to be respectful to police officers but I'm tired of the way
they are treating us."

... Police officers allegedly beat, hog-tied and dragged Kelly
McAllister, a white transgender woman, across hot pavement upon her
arrest in Sacramento, CA. She was placed in a Sacramento County Main
Jail cell with a male inmate who struck, choked, bit and raped her.
That inmate received a mere three-month sentence. No officer has been
disciplined for the incidents surrounding Kelly's incarceration.

... Two lesbians of color reported that two men in Brooklyn, NY,
followed, harassed and threatened them, saying, "I'm going to kill
you, bitch. You're not a man. ... I'm gonna put you in your place."
The verbal abuse escalated to physical abuse; the two women called
911. When police were told this was a homophobic crime, the officers
reportedly left without further investigating the incident or taking
a complaint, telling the ambulance attendants responding to the
women's call to leave. One woman reportedly was bleeding from the
head due to a blow from one of the men. Her companion stated, "It was
ridiculous. There she was running down the street, bleeding and
chasing after the ambulance."

... A Native American transgender woman reported that two Los Angeles
police officers handcuffed her and took her to an alley-way. One
officer reportedly hit her across the face, saying "you f---ing
whore, you f---ing faggot," then threw her down on the back of the
patrol car, ripped off her miniskirt and her underwear and raped her,
holding her down and grabbing her hair. The second officer is also
alleged to have raped her. According to the woman, they threw her on
the ground and said, "That's what you deserve," and left her there.

While it is impossible to obtain accurate statistics, the AI study
showed that transgender people, particularly women and the young,
suffer disproportionately. A large percentage of transgender people
reportedly are unemployed or underemployed, leaving the population
more vulnerable to homelessness or situations that leave them exposed
to police scrutiny and abuse. Meanwhile, 72 percent of police
departments responding to AI's survey said they had no specific
policy regarding interaction with transgender people.

AI welcomed the initiative taken by several police departments to
improve their practices. The West Hollywood Station of the Los
Angeles Sheriff's Department has a Gay and Lesbian Conference
Committee that is open to the public and allows police to stay in
touch with community concerns. The City of West Hollywood also
established a Transgender Task Force that addresses policing issues.
In Washington, D.C., the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) is
staffed by four full-time officers and ten volunteers, and the head
of the unit, Sgt. Brett Parson, reports directly to the police chief.
GLLU is also involved with training efforts within the police

However, the AI report demonstrates that despite initiatives such as
these, police departments nationwide need to do more to protect LGBT
people - something that was reflected in responses to the AI
survey of police policies and practices with regard to LGBT people.
Of the 29 departments that responded to the survey, only 31 percent
instruct their officers on how to strip search a transgender
individual; two thirds (66%) of police departments reported providing
training on hate crimes against LGBT individuals; and while most
departments provide training regarding sexual assault (86%), about
half (52%) do not include LGBT-specific issues.

"Police officers are hired to protect and serve all of their
communities, not only the ones they deem worthy," said Michael
Heflin, Director of Amnesty International USA's OUTfront program,
which focuses on LGBT human rights. "Every human being, without
exception, has the right to live free from discrimination and abuse,
yet LGBT people nationwide are afraid to report hate crimes or other
abuses to the police, who at times prove themselves to be the
criminals. If we can't count on law enforcement to set an example,
hate crimes and discrimination will continue to flourish in a land
that otherwise has made relative headway in the fight for LGBT

Under international law, everyone, regardless of sexual orientation
or gender identity or expression, is guaranteed the fullest enjoyment
of his or her civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
The United States is party to the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, the principal international treaty that lays out
fundamental rights such as freedom from arbitrary arrest and
detention and torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well
as the Convention Against Torture and the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

For further information, please contact:
Wende Gozan at +1 212 633 4247
or Ben Somberg at +1 212 633 4268

Read Amnesty International's full report, "Stonewalled: police abuse
and misconduct against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
in the United States" ...

Public Document
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office
in London, UK, at +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW.

For the latest human rights news, view

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Image fromi Christian Century, and Tab, Calgary Sun.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Forever War, NY Times, by Mark Danner

Most inclusive and complete analysis yet of our national response to 9/11
and the Iraqi war.

Highly recommended reading (4.5 stars) by Paschal Baute

Bottom line: we have fueled a new and different terrorism, and Mr. Bush and
the Neo-con policies are leading us--country, government, military and the
world--straight into the jaws of hell (my metaphor)



SEPTEMBER 11, 2005

Mark Danner

Seldom has an image so clearly marked the turning of the world. One of man's
mightiest structures collapses into an immense white blossom of churning,
roiling dust, metamorphosing in 14 seconds from hundred-story giant of the
earth into towering white plume reaching to heaven. The demise of the World
Trade Center gave us an image as newborn to the world of sight as the
mushroom cloud must have appeared to those who first cast eyes on it. I
recall vividly the seconds flowing by as I sat gaping at the screen,
uncomprehending and unbelieving, while Peter Jennings's urbane, perfectly
modulated voice murmured calmly on about flights being grounded, leaving
unacknowledged and unexplained - unconfirmed - the incomprehensible scene
unfolding in real time before our eyes. "Hang on there a second," the
famously unflappable Jennings finally stammered - the South Tower had by now
vanished into a boiling caldron of white smoke - "I just want to check one
thing. . .because. . .we now have.. . .What do we have? We don't. . .?"
Marveling later that "the most powerful image was the one I actually didn't
notice while it was occurring," Jennings would say simply that "it was
beyond our imagination."

Looking back from this moment, precisely four years later, it still seems
almost inconceivable that 10 men could have done that - could have brought
those towers down. Could have imagined doing what was "beyond our
imagination." When a few days later, the German composer Karlheinz
Stockhausen remarked that this was "the greatest work of art in the history
of the cosmos," I shared the anger his words called forth but couldn't help
sensing their bit of truth: "What happened there - spiritually - this jump
out of security, out of the everyday, out of life, that happens sometimes
poco a poco in art." No "little by little" here: however profoundly evil the
art, the sheer immensity and inconceivability of the attack had forced
Americans instantaneously to "jump out of security, out of the everyday, out
of life" and had thrust them through a portal into a strange and terrifying
new world, where the inconceivable, the unimaginable, had become brutally

In the face of the unimaginable, small wonder that leaders would revert to
the language of apocalypse, of crusade, of "moral clarity." . . .

Copyrighted article.

Concluding paragraphs:

During the four years since the attacks of 9/11, while terrorism worldwide
has flourished, we have seen no second attack on the United States. This may
be owed to the damage done Al Qaeda. Or perhaps planning and preparation for
such an attack is going on now. When it comes to the United States itself,
the terrorists have their own "second-novel problem" - how do you top the
first production? More likely, though, the next attack, when it comes, will
originate not in the minds of veteran Qaeda planners but from this new wave
of amateurs: viral Al Qaeda, political sympathizers who nourish themselves
on Salafi rhetoric and bin Laden speeches and draw what training they
require from their computer screens. Very little investment and preparation
can bring huge rewards. The possibilities are endless, and terrifyingly
simple: rucksacks containing crude homemade bombs placed in McDonald's -
one, say, in Times Square and one on Wilshire Boulevard, 3,000 miles away,
exploded simultaneously by cellphone. The effort is small, the potential
impact overwhelming.

Attacks staged by amateurs with little or no connection to terrorist
networks, and thus no visible trail to follow, are nearly impossible to
prevent, even for the United States, with all of its power. Indeed, perhaps
what is most astonishing about these hard four years is that we have managed
to show the world the limits of our power. In launching a war on Iraq that
we have been unable to win, we have done the one thing a leader is supposed
never to do: issue a command that is not followed. A withdrawal from Iraq,
rapid or slow, with the Islamists still holding the field, will signal, as
bin Laden anticipated, a failure of American will. Those who will view such
a withdrawal as the critical first step in a broader retreat from the Middle
East will surely be encouraged to go on the attack. That is, after all, what
you do when your enemy retreats. In this new world, where what is necessary
to go on the attack is not armies or training or even technology but desire
and political will, we have ensured, by the way we have fought this forever
war, that it is precisely these qualities our enemies have in large and
growing supply. (End)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

On the Scene in New Orleans: What's happening and Why

Notes from Inside New Orleans
By Jordan Flaherty
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 02 September 2005

I just left New Orleans a couple of hours ago. I traveled from the apartment I was staying in - by boat - to a helicopter to a refugee camp. If anyone wants to examine the attitude of federal and state officials toward the victims of hurricane Katrina, I advise you to visit one of the refugee camps.

In the refugee camp I just left, on the I-10 freeway near Causeway, thousands of people (at least 90% black and poor) stood and squatted in mud and trash behind metal barricades, under an unforgiving sun, with heavily armed soldiers standing guard over them. When a bus would come through, it would stop at a random spot, state police would open a gap in one of the barricades, and people would rush for the bus, with no information given about where the bus was going. Once inside, we were told, evacuees would be told where the bus was taking them - Baton Rouge, Houston, Arkansas, Dallas, or other locations. I was told that if you boarded a bus bound for Arkansas, for example, even people with family and a place to stay in Baton Rouge would not be allowed to get out of the bus as it passed through Baton Rouge. You had no choice but to go to the shelter in Arkansas. If you had people willing to come to New Orleans to pick you up, they could not come within 17 miles of the camp.

I traveled throughout the camp and spoke to Red Cross workers, Salvation Army workers, National Guard, and state police, and although they were friendly, no one could give me any details on when buses would arrive, how many, where they would go to, or any other information. I spoke to the several teams of journalists nearby, and asked if any of them had been able to get any information from any federal or state officials on any of these questions, and all of them, from Australian TV to local Fox affiliates complained of an unorganized, non-communicative mess. One cameraman told me "as someone who's been here in this camp for two days, the only information I can give you is this: get out by nightfall. You don't want to be here at night."

There was also no visible attempt by any of those running the camp to set up any sort of transparent and consistent system, for instance a line to get on buses, a way to register contact information or find family members, special needs services for children and infirm, phone services, treatment for possible disease exposure, nor even a single trash can.

To understand this tragedy, its important to look at New Orleans itself.

For those who have not lived in New Orleans, you have missed a incredible, glorious, vital city. A place with a culture and energy unlike anywhere else in the world. A 70% African-American city where resistance to white supremacy has supported a generous, subversive and unique culture of vivid beauty. From jazz, blues, and hiphop to secondlines, Mardi Gras Indians, parades, beads, Jazz Funerals, and red beans and rice on Monday nights, New Orleans is a place of art and music and dance and sexuality and liberation unlike anywhere else in the world.

It is a city of kindness and hospitality, where walking down the block can take two hours because you stop and talk to someone on every porch, and where a community pulls together when someone is in need. It is a city of extended families and social networks filling the gaps left by city, state and federal governments that have abdicated their responsibility for the public welfare. It is a city where someone you walk past on the street not only asks how you are, they wait for an answer.

It is also a city of exploitation and segregation and fear. The city of New Orleans has a population of just over 500,000 and was expecting 300 murders this year, most of them centered on just a few overwhelmingly black neighborhoods. Police have been quoted as saying that they don't need to search out the perpetrators, because usually a few days after a shooting, the attacker is shot in revenge.

There is an atmosphere of intense hostility and distrust between much of Black New Orleans and the NO Police Department. In recent months, officers have been accused of everything from drug running to corruption to theft. In separate incidents, two New Orleans police officers were recently charged with rape (while in uniform), and there have been several high profile police killings of unarmed youth, including the murder of Jenard Thomas, which has inspired ongoing weekly protests for several months.

The city has a 40% illiteracy rate, and over 50% of black ninth-graders will not graduate in four years. Louisiana spends on average $4,724 per child's education and ranks 48th in the country for lowest teacher salaries. The equivalent of more than two classrooms of young people drop out of Louisiana schools every day, and about 50,000 students are absent from school on any given day. Far too many young black men from New Orleans end up enslaved in Angola Prison, a former slave plantation where inmates still do manual farm labor, and over 90% of inmates eventually die in the prison. It is a city where industry has left, and most remaining jobs are are low-paying, transient, insecure jobs in the service economy.

Race has always been the undercurrent of Louisiana politics. This disaster is one that was constructed out of racism, neglect and incompetence. Hurricane Katrina was the inevitable spark igniting the gasoline of cruelty and corruption. From the neighborhoods left most at risk, to the treatment of the refugees, to the the media portrayal of the victims, this disaster is shaped by race.

Louisiana politics is famously corrupt, but with the tragedies of this week our political leaders have defined a new level of incompetence. As hurricane Katrina approached, our Governor urged us to "Pray the hurricane down" to a level two. Trapped in a building two days after the hurricane, we tuned in our battery-operated radio to local radio and TV stations, hoping for vital news, and were told that our governor had called for a day of prayer. As rumors and panic began to rule, there was no source of solid, dependable information. Tuesday night, politicians and reporters said the water level would rise another 12 feet - instead it stabilized. Rumors spread like wildfire, and the politicians and media only made it worse.

While the rich escaped New Orleans, those with nowhere to go and no way to get there were left behind. Adding salt to the wound, the local and national media have spent the last week demonizing those left behind. As someone who loves New Orleans and the people in it, this is the part of this tragedy that hurts me the most, and it hurts me deeply.

No sane person should classify someone who takes food from indefinitely closed stores in a desperate, starving city as a "looter," but that's just what the media did over and over again. Sheriffs and politicians talked of having troops protect stores instead of perform rescue operations.

Images of New Orleans' hurricane-ravaged population were transformed into black, out-of-control criminals. As if taking a stereo from a store that will clearly be insured against loss is a greater crime than the governmental neglect and incompetence that did billions of dollars of damage and destroyed a city. This media focus is a tactic; just as the eighties focus on "welfare queens" and "super-predators" obscured the simultaneous and much larger crimes of the Savings and Loan scams and mass layoffs, the hyper-exploited people of New Orleans are being used as a scapegoat to cover up much larger crimes.

City, state and national politicians are the real criminals here. Since at least the mid-1800s, the danger of flooding to New Orleans been widely known. The flood of 1927, which, like this week's events, was more about politics and racism than any kind of natural disaster, illustrated exactly the danger New Orleans faced. Yet government officials have consistently refused to spend the money to protect this poor, overwhelmingly black city. While FEMA and others warned of the urgent impending danger to New Orleans and put forward proposals for funding to reinforce and protect the city, the Bush administration, in every year since 2001, has cut or refused to fund New Orleans flood control, and ignored scientists' warnings of increased hurricanes as a result of global warming. And, as the dangers rose with the floodwaters, the lack of coordinated response dramatized vividly the callous disregard of our elected leaders.

The aftermath from the 1927 flood helped shape the elections of both a US President and a Governor and ushered in the southern populist politics of Huey Long.

In the coming months, billions of dollars will likely flood into New Orleans. Either this money can be spent to usher in a "New Deal" for the city, with public investment, creation of stable union jobs, new schools, cultural programs and housing restoration, or the city can be "rebuilt and revitalized" to a shell of its former self, with newer hotels, more casinos, and with chain stores and theme parks replacing the former neighborhoods, cultural centers and corner jazz clubs.

Long before Katrina, New Orleans was hit by a hurricane of poverty, racism, disinvestment, de-industrialization, and corruption. The damage from this pre-Katrina hurricane alone will itself take billions to repair.

Now that the money is flowing in, and the world's eyes are focused on Katrina, it's vital that progressive-minded people take this opportunity to fight for a rebuilding with justice. New Orleans is a special place, and we need to fight for its rebirth.

Jordan Flaherty is an Editor of Left Turn Magazine:

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Waiting for a Leader, N Y Times Editorial, 9/1/05

September 1, 2005
Waiting for a Leader

George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.

We will, of course, endure, and the city of New Orleans must come back. But looking at the pictures on television yesterday of a place abandoned to the forces of flood, fire and looting, it was hard not to wonder exactly how that is going to come to pass. Right now, hundreds of thousands of American refugees need our national concern and care. Thousands of people still need to be rescued from imminent peril. Public health threats must be controlled in New Orleans and throughout southern Mississippi. Drivers must be given confidence that gasoline will be available, and profiteering must be brought under control at a moment when television has been showing long lines at some pumps and spot prices approaching $4 a gallon have been reported.

Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.

While our attention must now be on the Gulf Coast's most immediate needs, the nation will soon ask why New Orleans's levees remained so inadequate. Publications from the local newspaper to National Geographic have fulminated about the bad state of flood protection in this beloved city, which is below sea level. Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?

It would be some comfort to think that, as Mr. Bush cheerily announced, America "will be a stronger place" for enduring this crisis. Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal.