Hello, First, please remember you can add or remove addresses from the ZNet Free Update list on our top page at http://www.zmag.org/weluser.htm
Second, we have placed online, so far, fifteen essays about Katrina's aftermath. They include first hand reports, background information, commentary, and data. The picture they convey is quite different than what mainstream media conveys, predictably so, of course. We urge you to both read and assess this material for yourself, and to convey the information to others. This is important both to motivate help for people suffering, and to propel useful later lessons and activism. In case you don't have time to consult ZNet directly, here are three of the pieces we have put online. Much more is available, again, including both analysis and data, via http://www.zmag.org/weluser.htm . --- This is Criminal Report from New Orleans by Malik Rahim [Note: Malik Rahim, a veteran of the Black Panther Party in New Orleans, for decades an organizer of public housing tenants both there and in San Francisco and a recent Green Party candidate for New Orleans City Council, lives in the Algiers neighborhood, the only part of New Orleans that is not flooded. They have no power, but the water is still good and the phones work. Their neighborhood could be sheltering and feeding at least 40,000 refugees, he says, but they are allowed to help no one. What he describes is nothing less than deliberate genocide against Black and poor people.] New Orleans, Sept. 1, 2005 -- It's criminal. From what you're hearing, the people trapped in New Orleans are nothing but looters. We're told we should be more "neighborly." But nobody talked about being neighborly until after the people who could afford to leave -- left. If you ain't got no money in America, you're on your own. People were told to go to the Superdome, but they have no food, no water there. And before they could get in, people had to stand in line for 4-5 hours in the rain because everybody was being searched one by one at the entrance. I can understand the chaos that happened after the tsunami, because they had no warning, but here there was plenty of warning. In the three days before the hurricane hit, we knew it was coming and everyone could have been evacuated. We have Amtrak here that could have carried everybody out of town. There were enough school buses that could have evacuated 20,000 people easily, but they just let them be flooded. My son watched 40 buses go underwater - they just wouldn't move them, afraid they'd be stolen. People who could afford to leave were so afraid someone would steal what they own that they just let it all be flooded. They could have let a family without a vehicle borrow their extra car, but instead they left it behind to be destroyed. There are gangs of white vigilantes near here riding around in pickup trucks, all of them armed, and any young Black they see who they figure doesn't belong in their community, they shoot him. I tell them, "Stop! You're going to start a riot." When you see all the poor people with no place to go, feeling alone and helpless and angry, I say this is a consequence of HOPE VI. New Orleans took all the HUD money it could get to tear down public housing, and families and neighbors who'd relied on each other for generations were uprooted and torn apart. Most of the people who are going through this now had already lost touch with the only community they'd ever known. Their community was torn down and they were scattered. They'd already lost their real homes, the only place where they knew everybody, and now the places they've been staying are destroyed. But nobody cares. They're just lawless looters ... dangerous. The hurricane hit at the end of the month, the time when poor people are most vulnerable. Food stamps don't buy enough but for about three weeks of the month, and by the end of the month everyone runs out. Now they have no way to get their food stamps or any money, so they just have to take what they can to survive. Many people are getting sick and very weak. From the toxic water that people are walking through, little scratches and sores are turning into major wounds. People whose homes and families were not destroyed went into the city right away with boats to bring the survivors out, but law enforcement told them they weren't needed. They are willing and able to rescue thousands, but they're not allowed to. Every day countless volunteers are trying to help, but they're turned back. Almost all the rescue that's been done has been done by volunteers anyway. My son and his family - his wife and kids, ages 1, 5 and 8 - were flooded out of their home when the levee broke. They had to swim out until they found an abandoned building with two rooms above water level. There were 21 people in those two rooms for a day and a half. A guy in a boat who just said "I'm going to help regardless" rescued them and took them to Highway I-10 and dropped them there. They sat on the freeway for about three hours, because someone said they'd be rescued and taken to the Superdome. Finally they just started walking, had to walk six and a half miles. When they got to the Superdome, my son wasn't allowed in - I don't know why - so his wife and kids wouldn't go in. They kept walking, and they happened to run across a guy with a tow truck that they knew, and he gave them his own personal truck. When they got here, they had no gas, so I had to punch a hole in my gas tank to give them some gas, and now I'm trapped. I'm getting around by bicycle. People from Placquemine Parish were rescued on a ferry and dropped off on a dock near here. All day they were sitting on the dock in the hot sun with no food, no water. Many were in a daze; they've lost everything. They were all sitting there surrounded by armed guards. We asked the guards could we bring them water and food. My mother and all the other church ladies were cooking for them, and we have plenty of good water. But the guards said, "No. If you don't have enough water and food for everybody, you can't give anything." Finally the people were hauled off on school buses from other parishes. You know Robert King Wilkerson (the only one of the Angola 3 political prisoners who's been released). He's been back in New Orleans working hard, organizing, helping people. Now nobody knows where he is. His house was destroyed. Knowing him, I think he's out trying to save lives, but I'm worried. The people who could help are being shipped out. People who want to stay, who have the skills to save lives and rebuild are being forced to go to Houston. It's not like New Orleans was caught off guard. This could have been prevented. There's military right here in New Orleans, but for three days they weren't even mobilized. You'd think this was a Third World country. I'm in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, the only part that isn't flooded. The water is good. Our parks and schools could easily hold 40,000 people, and they're not using any of it. This is criminal. These people are dying for no other reason than the lack of organization. Everything is needed, but we're still too disorganized. I'm asking people to go ahead and gather donations and relief supplies but to hold on to them for a few days until we have a way to put them to good use. I'm challenging my party, the Green Party, to come down here and help us just as soon as things are a little more organized. The Republicans and Democrats didn't do anything to prevent this or plan for it and don't seem to care if everyone dies. --- How the Free Market Killed New Orleans By Michael Parenti The free market played a crucial role in the destruction of New Orleans and the death of thousands of its residents. Armed with advanced warning that a momentous (force 5) hurricane was going to hit that city and surrounding areas, what did officials do? They played the free market. They announced that everyone should evacuate. Everyone was expected to devise their own way out of the disaster area by private means, just as the free market dictates, just like people do when disaster hits free-market Third World countries. It is a beautiful thing this free market in which every individual pursues his or her own personal interests and thereby effects an optimal outcome for the entire society. This is the way the invisible hand works its wonders. There would be none of the collectivistic regimented evacuation as occurred in Cuba. When an especially powerful hurricane hit that island last year, the Castro government, abetted by neighborhood citizen committees and local Communist party cadres, evacuated 1.3 million people, more than 10 percent of the country's population, with not a single life lost, a heartening feat that went largely unmentioned in the U.S. press. On Day One of the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina, it was already clear that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of American lives had been lost in New Orleans. Many people had "refused" to evacuate, media reporters explained, because they were just plain "stubborn." It was not until Day Three that the relatively affluent telecasters began to realize that tens of thousands of people had failed to flee because they had nowhere to go and no means of getting there. With hardly any cash at hand or no motor vehicle to call their own, they had to sit tight and hope for the best. In the end, the free market did not work so well for them. Many of these people were low-income African Americans, along with fewer numbers of poor whites. It should be remembered that most of them had jobs before Katrina's lethal visit. That's what most poor people do in this country: they work, usually quite hard at dismally paying jobs, sometimes more than one job at a time. They are poor not because they're lazy but because they have a hard time surviving on poverty wages while burdened by high prices, high rents, and regressive taxes. The free market played a role in other ways. Bush's agenda is to cut government services to the bone and make people rely on the private sector for the things they might need. So he sliced $71.2 million from the budget of the New Orleans Corps of Engineers, a 44 percent reduction. Plans to fortify New Orleans levees and upgrade the system of pumping out water had to be shelved. Bush took to the airways and said that no one could have foreseen this disaster. Just another lie tumbling from his lips. All sorts of people had been predicting disaster for New Orleans, pointing to the need to strengthen the levees and the pumps, and fortify the coastlands. In their campaign to starve out the public sector, the Bushite reactionaries also allowed developers to drain vast areas of wetlands. Again, that old invisible hand of the free market would take care of things. The developers, pursuing their own private profit, would devise outcomes that would benefit us all. But wetlands served as a natural absorbent and barrier between New Orleans and the storms riding in from across the sea. And for some years now, the wetlands have been disappearing at a frightening pace on the Gulf? coast. All this was of no concern to the reactionaries in the White House. As for the rescue operation, the free-marketeers like to say that relief to the more unfortunate among us should be left to private charity. It was a favorite preachment of President Ronald Reagan that "private charity can do the job." And for the first few days that indeed seemed to be the policy with the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina. The federal government was nowhere in sight but the Red Cross went into action. Its message: "Don't send food or blankets; send money." Meanwhile Pat Robertson and the Christian Broadcasting Network---taking a moment off from God's work of pushing John Roberts nomination to the Supreme Court---called for donations and announced "Operation Blessing" which consisted of a highly-publicized but totally inadequate shipment of canned goods and bibles. By Day Three even the myopic media began to realize the immense failure of the rescue operation. People were dying because relief had not arrived. The authorities seemed more concerned with the looting than with rescuing people. It was property before people, just like the free marketeers always want. But questions arose that the free market did not seem capable of answering: Who was in charge of the rescue operation? Why so few helicopters and just a scattering of Coast Guard rescuers? Why did it take helicopters five hours to get six people out of one hospital? When would the rescue operation gather some steam? Where were the feds? The state troopers? The National Guard? Where were the buses and trucks? the shelters and portable toilets? The medical supplies and water? Where was Homeland Security? What has Homeland Security done with the $33.8 billions allocated to it in fiscal 2005? Even ABC-TV evening news (September 1, 2005) quoted local officials as saying that "the federal government's response has been a national disgrace." In a moment of delicious (and perhaps mischievous) irony, offers of foreign aid were tendered by France, Germany and several other nations. Russia offered to send two plane loads of food and other materials for the victims. Predictably, all these proposals were quickly refused by the White House. America the Beautiful and Powerful, America the Supreme Rescuer and World Leader, America the Purveyor of Global Prosperity could not accept foreign aid from others. That would be a most deflating and insulting role reversal. Were the French looking for another punch in the nose? Besides, to have accepted foreign aid would have been to admit the truth---that the Bushite reactionaries had neither the desire nor the decency to provide for ordinary citizens, not even those in the most extreme straits. Next thing you know, people would start thinking that George W. Bush was really nothing more than a fulltime agent of Corporate America. Michael Parenti's recent books include Superpatriotism (City Lights) and The Assassination of Julius Caesar (New Press), both available in paperback. His forthcoming The Culture Struggle (Seven Stories Press) will be published in the fall. For more information visit: www.michaelparenti.org. ----------- Business As Usual Michael Albert The growing outrage over the willful ignoring of warnings and overt cutting of local expenditures that paved the way for New Orleans' disaster is of course valid. The growing outrage over the unavailability of resources spent on immoral imperial violence is also valid. Corpses floating by warrant both tears and recrimination, but I want to address something slightly different. Set aside the past history leading to New Orleans' vulnerability. Set aside the early warnings ignored. Set aside the National Guard sent to Iraq. The storm hit. Those with means to flee and somewhere to go got out. Levies burst (or, more accurately, succumbed to insane neglect). Waters rose. People lost food, medicine, information, and, yes, for a few, access to addictive drugs. So what then? I am no city planner. But a few possibilities cross my mind. Why not issue an order to bus companies to curtail transport elsewhere in the south and send all those busses, and certainly not too few, to New Orleans and the Mississippi coast to extract those who wished to leave. Why not send in food, water, medicine, and yes, perhaps even drugs to appease desperate habits, to be distributed from sites all over the afflicted area, as well as dispersed to those who couldn't gain access to distribution points. Why not issue an order to the military at bases across the south to send in troops to provide relief, including rescuing people, taking people out, distributing needed supplies, and, as a sidebar, helping keep order. But where will people who leave stay? How will people escape the blistering heat and rising tides? Why not issue an order to hotels to open their doors in surrounding areas free from the floods and power outages. The busses then wouldn't have to drive people hundreds or even thousands of miles. There would be no need to put people in vast stadiums with no privacy, amenities, or security, producing still more suffering. The hotels would be easy destinations to deliver food, medicine, and other necessities like clothing, diapers, soap, and radios to, the last so that people could hear Bush taking credit for issuing executive orders to save their lives and comfort them for bearing the burden of climate warming gone amuck. No doubt you can think up better possibilities. Surely mayors and governors and heads of big corporations, or their advisers, or many news commentators, could think up good options too. In other words, even given the grotesque unpreparedness of New Orleans and the Mississippi coast, even given the unending misallocations of resources to immoral war, still, once people were clinging to roofs, once people were wading though chest deep tides, once people were enduring blistering sun, once people were parched, hungry, without clothes, without medicine - why did we do so little? Well, first, it isn't we who did so little. Normal people were immediately horrified. Normal people, particularly in the area, immediately tried to help. Despite being inundated daily with media messages and social situations that arouse antisocial greediness and egocentrism, the U.S. population still has a beating heart. But disparate populations have limited options. The "we" who did little or nothing was not the broad population but the people who had means. The "we" was the government. So why didn't the government act quicker and more aggressively? The answer gaining credence by the hour is that the suffering people were, and are, black and poor. That is overwhelmingly true and intensely relevant, particularly to the instant news coverage, to the shoot to kill rhetoric, to the belief that politicos could ride out being callous, and to the endless indignities imposed at the gathering places where acres of hungry, disheveled blacks are harassed by surrounding police forces - not to mention to the prior history of New Orleans. But however central racism has been, it is not the whole story. The additional factor making things much worse than nature imposed, I think, is that government intervention on behalf of humanity violates the logic and philosophy of business as usual. Yes, the Bush administration worships market fundamentalism beyond all reason which makes them even more guilty than a Kerry or Gore regime, which would not have so drastically cut security measures for New Orleans, a hub city of the U.S. and world economy, and might have signed the Kyoto Accords, paying more attention to global warming, a likely cause of growing hurricane severity. But even if Kerry or Gore wouldn't have done as badly before the fact as Bush, nonetheless, if the storm had hit head on, Kerry or Gore in office would have faced a situation little different from what we see now. Kerry would have put on a more sincere looking smiling face, no doubt. Gore would have delivered more caring and coherent homilies, I bet. Kerry would have set down the plane and rolled up his sleeves to hand out water bottles to suffering crowds - can't you just see him in your mind's eye? But neither Kerry nor Gore would have issued orders to bus companies, hotels, and pharmaceutical, food, and water providers to immediately aggressively alleviate people's suffering. Why not? For Kerry and Gore, as for Bush, to issue such directives would challenge the private pursuit of profits. But, you say, this is a calamity. Bush could interfere as an emergency act and could then soak up gigantic public thanks and avoid the gigantic public recrimination he is now suffering. Even if Bush doesn't give a damn about the people who are suffering, how could that not be better for his stature and even for his market fundamentalist agenda? The answer is, I think, while such a choice would be in elites' short-term interest, it would not be in their interest over the long haul. Over the long haul, it would be okay for elites to volunteer aid, yes, though incredibly few seem to be doing so, but the government telling private corporations that they must serve human need at the expense of private profit is unacceptable because, heaven forbid, it might cause too many people to perceive the obvious. If homelessness after a hurricane should be solved by government fiat against market mayhem making things worse, why not solve day to day homelessness that way, too? Why not solve a crumbling infrastructure that way? Why not solve 30 or maybe 40 million Americans living below the poverty line that way? Why not solve literacy rates falling, poverty climbing, hunger growing, health failing? If rescuing New Orleans after a (somewhat) natural calamity warrants the government coercing big business, why not rescuing New Orleans, and other cities too, from the continuous ravages of corporate greed? Before the water rose, illiteracy in New Orleans was 40%. How can that be civilized? Why not correct that? Must we be literally drowning to address grotesque injustice? What if people started asking questions like these? Is Bush looking gleefully at the suffering in New Orleans and even neglectfully adding to it as a psychopathic sadist might? I doubt it. Rather, Bush worries about tomorrow, not about tomorrow's ecology, mind you, or its climate, but about tomorrow's sociology. Bush ignores prognostications of natural calamity but listens very hard for the possibilities of social calamity. Retaining corporate power and profit is Bush's reason for being. Maintaining subordination of the many to the few is his business as usual. Cheney is probably lining up construction contracts. That's the subtext of Katrina and New Orleans. That's why Bush and Co. reflexively marched lock step into incredible callousness. Accept business as usual as priority one and all that's left is different brands of callousness. And then Bush's media spinners have to sell Bush's callousness. So like rabid sociopaths they try what often works, being tough - "shoot the looters to kill" they bluster. Shoot people who are taking food and water and sharing it with those too old or too young to loot for themselves. Shoot the sick seeking medicine to survive. Shoot, shoot, shoot. Don't distribute what's needed, heaven forbid. Defend empty stores. Defend empty hotels. Who cares about the living, after all, a lot of them will soon be dead and the rest silent. Just to clarify the point, for those who take seriously the admonition to shoot the looters to kill - the main looters in our society are corporate owners who accrue the products of working people's labor. The shooting gallery, if fulfilling this instruction were to become popular, would be far more upscale than the swamp that is New Orleans. Bush has bloody hands, but beyond Bush, the larger system of business as usual guaranteed a catastrophic response to this catastrophe. The accurate Katrina headline is: Storm Hits, Capitalism Preserves Profits, Humanity Drowns. ===================================This message has been brought to you by ZNet (http://www.zmag.org). Visit our site for subscription options.