Friday, September 09, 2005

Now the real looting begins

While the nation is distracted by the horrific images of death and suffering coming from the Gulf coast, the Bush oligarchy is looking to fatten the wallets of the already wealthy.

Three examples will suffice, but be assured that Dick Cheney's visit to the region yesterday had nothing to do with storm victims and everything to do with laying the groundwork for Halliburton and other Republican donors to obtain huge contacts for the rebuilding - much as he mused over the maps of Iraqi oilfields prior to our "humanitarian" invasion. Look for many further atrocities to the federal treasury as Cheney plots a course of greed in the midst of a tragedy.

The first step to his "Rebuilding for Fun and Profit" plan has already been put in place. Corporate Republicans have for years tried to dismantle the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, which requires that federal contractors pay the prevailing wages in the area in which federally funded work is conducted. Keep in mind that most construction work is performed by union workers - thus, prevailing wages in this type of work is generally understood to be union scale. Large construction firms really dislike union scale - that's money that could be in their pockets.

Well, yesterday, with the stroke of a pen, Bush destroyed the Davis-Bacon Act for Cheney's Halliburton friends.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush issued an executive order Thursday allowing federal contractors rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to pay below the prevailing wage.

In a notice to Congress, Bush said the hurricane had caused "a national emergency" that permits him to take such action under the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act in ravaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Handy, isn't it? Now the only requirement for workers hired by Halliburton and other GOP-connected firms will be to pay the federal minimum wage - five bucks an hour. And these are the jobs that will be offered to the evacuees, many of whom are already poor, who will continue to live under the poverty line even as they do the hard and dangerous work of rebuilding their communities through layers of toxins and disease.

Are we ready for a revolution yet?

Further on this subject is my second example. Yesterday, CNN reported that evacuees had to sign a waiver to receive their $2,000 per family grant that decrees that they won't request further assistance from the government. When that $2,000 runs out - as it will quickly, as most of them only have the clothes on their back - what happens? Why are they being forced to waive the provisions of FEMA's own Individual Assistance Program, which provides cash grants of up to $26,200 per individual or family, forcing them to settle for less than a tenth of that amount?

See the (deadly) minimum wage jobs noted above. If that fails, there's always the deadly duty of being shipped to Iraq. Military recruiters are taking advantage of the large pool of evacuees at the Superdome to sign up new cannon fodder, which may be the only option left for people jobless, homeless, and without funds. See how those waivers come in handy?

Are we ready for a revolution yet?

Next on the hit parade is possibly the most outrageous exploitation of tragedy to push through the Bush agenda since 9/11. Hoping that the country will be distracted by the disaster which the Republicans did so much to contribute to, they're now planning on ramming through Bush's Social Security Privatization plan - the largest looting scheme in history - through a sneaky procedural vote, despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of the public opposes this plan.

Congressional Republicans, persisting in hopes of enacting some form of private Social Security option despite opposition from the public and the Democrats, are considering the same kind of maneuver that enabled them to pass a controversial Medicare drug bill two years ago.

That's the clear signal from key GOP congressional leaders and chief White House strategist Karl Rove, one of the main architects of the Social Security proposal that President Bush made his top 2005 priority.

Mr. Rove, speaking to college students and lobbyists before Congress went on its current recess, said the House would act next month and the Senate soon after, according to the congressional newspaper The Hill .

And Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and one of his party's canniest operatives, said without giving details that his panel would introduce a retirement security bill in September.

...None had as torturous a path to enactment as the bill to create a prescription drug program. It only passed in 2003 after three hours of early morning arm twisting and the help of misleading cost estimates that soon proved to have been understated.

Because the Senate had passed a similar bill, Republicans could take the measure to a Senate-House conference. By excluding most Democrats from any role, they crafted the kind of bill they wanted in the first place.

That would appear to be their hope for private Social Security accounts – pass a bill in the House authorizing private accounts, accept any Social Security vehicle in the Senate that gets the issue to conference and write a final version letting the White House proclaim success.

So, there you have it - wage laws destroyed, Social Security being leeched by Wall Street, lots of profits from hurricane rebuilding efforts going directly into the pockets of the oligarchy - no wonder Bush asked Nancy Pelosi in wonderment, "What went wrong?" He and his wealthy corporate friends hit another "trifecta".

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Recommended Reading

Found a fascinating blog today in which the writer deconstructs news photographs and captioning, many of which are carefully scripted for propaganda effect - psy-ops, if you want to paint in broad strokes. The Bush administration is a master at manipulating visuals - hence the many photo-ops - and while their attempts are often gimmicky and ring false, it's important to understand the silent messages they're sending.

His commentary on the images we're seeing from Katrina is must-read stuff.

"Oblivious, in denial, dangerous"

Thank you, Nancy Pelosi, for finally telling the truth about the sociopath in the White House.

During a meeting with Congressional leaders on Tuesday, President Fruit Loops had the following exchange with Pelosi:

At a news conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's choice for head of the
Federal Emergency Management Agency had "absolutely no credentials."

She related that she had urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Michael Brown.

"He said 'Why would I do that?'" Pelosi said.

"'I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?'"

"Oblivious, in denial, dangerous," she added.

We're so screwed. If he really is clueless and has no idea what "didn't go right", then he's incompetent. But of course he knows. This is more of his mission accomplished-style bullshit, denying reality to the American people while he follows his deadly agenda. The country can't afford a "What, me worry?" president who, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, assures us of victory in Iraq and tells us that the federal response in the Gulf was satisfactory.

I wonder what the thousands of people at the Superdome or the Convention Center in New Orleans last week - people who were degraded, forgotten, and left to die by George Bush - think of his "What didn't go right?" comment. Gee, might they think that his neglect was deliberate? That the deaths were something that went right? It's really an admission of genocide, isn't it?

Pelosi is right. This man is dangerous.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

From bizarre to insane

As evidence mounts of bumbling ineptitude on the part of our Republican government in handling the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, George Bush has proposed a novel idea sure to catch fire with the many Americans outraged by his handling of the disaster.

Yes, the president is going to investigate himself. Yes, he's going to personally head up the investigation into "what went right (!) and what went wrong" with his government's response to the crisis.

I'm reassured - aren't you? I wonder if he'll criticize himself for attending birthday parties and playing with a guitar and golfing and fundraising while residents of the Gulf coast went without emergency supplies and New Orleans drowned. No doubt the "I can't recall a mistake I've ever made" president will really crack down on the fact that his excessive vacation time seems to be a problem, given his lengthy downtime just before 9/11 and during the height of the greatest natural disaster in our country's history.

In bizarre "who are you going to believe, me or your lyin' eyes?" language, Bush said yesterday, "We've got to solve problems. We're problem solvers. There will be ample time for people to figure out what went right, and what went wrong. What I'm interested (in) is helping save lives."

What a sack of shit. Where was this interest in saving lives last week, when there were actually lives to save? Where was this problem solving prowess when FEMA turned away emergency supplies and rescue crews desperately trying to gain access into the affected areas? Why did our "MBA president" pack one of the most crucial federal agencies with political cronies with no experience in disaster management? Why hasn't he fired his top crony at FEMA, Michael Brown, who waited until after the storm hit to request a paltry 1,000 DHS employees to the region (and gave them two days to arrive - crucial days, as it happened) and listed one of the urgent duties of these workers as "conveying a positive image " about the government's response?

This sad document, asking for DHS employees to play a public relations role for George Bush rather than saving the lives the president suddenly claims to care about, exposes the sheer shallowness of this government. Everything is for show, everything is a stunt and a photo-op, everything is about propping up the puppet in the White House, even if thousands of lives are lost in the process.

We know what happens when the crooks in the White House investigate themselves - they give themselves a clean bill of health. It's time for the American people to demand not only a non-partisan investigation into this fuckup but to start demanding impeachment hearings.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Spinning Death

As evidence mounts of the Bush administration's utter incompetence in dealing with Katrina, the White House is in a frenzy of spin, attempting to blame the mayor of New Orleans, the governor of Louisiana, and even the victims themselves for FEMA's failings.

An interesting confluence of headlines today. From AP comes a story entitled White House: Leave Blame Game for Later.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Criticized for its sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina, the White House said Tuesday that ``we're not going to engage in the blame game'' but instead would keep its focus on rescue and recovery efforts across the heavily battered Gulf Coast.

The "blame game" is used interchageably with the dreaded "pointing fingers" by Bush apologists, including former president Clinton.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that - oops! - the White House is indeed very much engaged in the "blame game" in a piece entitled White House Enacts a Plan to Ease Political Damage (a "plan" you see, is different from a "game").

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4 - Under the command of President Bush's two senior political advisers, the White House rolled out a plan this weekend to contain the political damage from the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina.

It orchestrated visits by cabinet members to the region, leading up to an extraordinary return visit by Mr. Bush planned for Monday, directed administration officials not to respond to attacks from Democrats on the relief efforts, and sought to move the blame for the slow response to Louisiana state officials, according to Republicans familiar with the White House plan.

When the Bush apologists aren't blaming state officials, they're blaming the victims of their incompetence by faux outrage that poor, elderly, or infirm African-Americans didn't have cars, or credit cards to finance hotel stays, or ready cash for plane tickets to evacuate New Orleans. This is the low tactic of sheer desperation, repulsive to an extreme, but the immorality of this particular "blame game" doesn't stop Republicans such as Larry King.

If you've flipped over to Larry King Live in the past few days, you were treated to the stomach-churning sight of King speaking in a slow, patronizing voice - the manner in which you'd speak to an idiot, or a small dense child - whenever he spoke to a displaced African-American at the Houston Astrodome. His first words to every single African-American he spoke to were, without exception, "Why did you stay?". These people, already brutalized by the government's lack of response, were further brutalized by King demanding them to put aside all pride, all dignity, and confess to being poor on national television. Never have I seen the Bush apologists sink so low, and you can find similar examples throughout cable television.

The public chiding and ridiculing of the poor continued over the weekend with former First Lady Barbara Bush saying in a radio interview that "it's sort of scary" that many former residents of New Orleans might permanently relocate to Texas, leaving one to wonder if it's "sort of scary" because they're poor and black or because many are Democrats. Pathetic enough, but she went on to say that "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway (chuckles), so this is working very well for them." Yes, you old pseudo-royal bitch, I'm sure that these poor blacks who have lost homes and the lives of family members and friends, who were left to die on a New Orleans sidewalk by your son, who are left with nothing are just sitting around plotting how to scam the system - which is exactly what she was inferring with her crude comments. To even think that victims of a major disaster and the criminal negligence of our government have things "working very well for them" is perverted, especially given that the only reason Barbara Bush isn't one of those desperate unfortunates she despises is that she married into a wealthy crime family.