The situation in New Orleans four days after Hurricane Katrina is like a science fiction movie come to life.
It’s also kind of like a novel by Stephen King, “The Stand,” which describes the breakdown of society after a catastrophic event.
There are scenes from today’s New Orleans that look almost exactly like scenes from “28 Days Later,” the chilling 2002 movie that depicted life in London after a man-made health disaster.
Or the movie “Bladerunner,” which shows humans trapped in a world where the climate has been turned upside down so that everybody is living at the bottom of a soggy nightmare. Or the movie, “The Day After Tomorrow,” which partially came true in Europe this summer, as the melting of polar ice changes ocean currents and creates freak weather patterns that have been totally predicted by global warming scientists.
And then we have the ongoing movie that all of us are actors or extras in, the sad movie starring Georgie Bush and the government of the United States as an incompetent, brutal, ignorant regime that has harmed America and the world far more than any “terrorist organization” or hurricane ever could.
You’d think Bush would have learned something from 9-11-01. On that fateful day, the unelected president sat like a lump in a kiddie school classroom reading a book about goats after being told that America was under attack from terrorists.
When he learned of the attack, he didn’t politely but quickly stop reading and announce to the children that he had to go back to Washington, DC to do his job.
He just sat there reading the book to them as if nothing had happened, as if he was unsurprised by the news that had been whispered to him by an aide.
Probably he was unsurprised. There’s plenty of evidence that the US government knew in advance that the 9/11 attacks were coming, just like it knew in advanced that a hurricane like Katrina could cause a catastrophe in New Orleans. In both cases, the government did nothing, and people are dead.
In lawyer language, that’s called “criminal negligence.”
After Bush finished reading his goat book on 9/11, he casually strolled from the classroom and got on a plane, not to be seen or heard from again for many hours, while android Dick Cheney supervised the cover-up of the crime scene, the destruction of physical evidence, the introduction of the Patriot Act in Congress, and the cover story that the airplane-bombing of New York and the Pentagon had been carried out by a bunch of dead Oswalds from Saudi Arabia, case closed.
You almost have to feel compassion for Bush, the tough-talking cowboy who said in 2003 that if Iraqi insurgents wanted to resist American power, then “Bring it on.”
Well, they brought it on, and Iraq is America’s new Vietnam, with nearly 2000 American soldier killed, 25,000 maimed, and 110,000 Iraqis dead, wounded or imprisoned, and Iraq in far worse shape now than it was when Saddam Hussein was president.
Hapless Bush retreated to his dude ranch in Crawford, Texas in early August, only to find himself dogged by some moms, angry at him that their sons had died in Iraq.
He refused to meet with grieving moms of dead soldiers; then he ran away from Crawford, seeking solace in Mormonville Utah and Idaho, and then in San Diego.
That’s where he was when the hurricane turned New Orleans into a science fiction movie: on the road, giving meaningless speeches about topics that have nothing to do with the hurricane or anything else relevant to the American people.
While people were starving, weeping, drowning, shooting each other, being raped, and dying in New Orleans, the president was engaged in political stagecraft as if there had been no hurricane. He hosted a party for right-wing former prisoner of war Senator John McCain, he played guitar, he delivered a speech about World War Two, he ate lots of gourmet food.
Finally, two days after New Orleans was buried under a wall of water, he realized that he needed to look “presidential,” tried to sound concerned, tried to act like he cared about the people of New Orleans.
The problem for Bush is that facts prove he really does not and never did care about the people of New Orleans.
His environmental and budgetary policies, as much as the hurricane, created the disaster that has now rained down upon them.
As soon as Bush took office, he overturned protection of thousands of acres of islands, swamps, forests, and wetlands that had been a barrier to hurricane storm surges. He allowed developers to pave over those wetlands. All the people who bought homes there are now flooded out, and the developers who built the homes, the real estate agents who sold them, and the government planners who approved the developments should all be sued.
Bush also loosened environmental regulation of the oil and gas and other death industries, so that New Orleans already was and has now become even more a cesspool of toxic waste.
For the last four years, Bush has cut funding to repair the levees, even though scientists and local officials pleaded with him not to. He spent the levee repair money on his overseas wars, and on his domestic drug wars.
He created the Gestapoesque Department of Homeland Security and put the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), under the supervision of a bunch of talentless bureaucrats and political hacks in the new Department.
In 2001, Bush appointed his buddy Joey Allbaugh to head FEMA. Allbaugh had never run a disaster management agency and his main goal at FEMA was rumored to be handing out federal money to his friends in the construction industry.
In 2002, Allbaugh quit FEMA so he could help American corporations make money off the war in Iraq. Bush installed as FEMA head Mikey Brown, who also had no disaster management experience. Mikey’s previous jobs were as a millionaire’s lawyer and as the lawyer for the International Arabian Horse Association.
These clowns had no idea what to do when the hurricane disaster came, and the $45 billion year budget of the Homeland Security Department is a sick waste of money that has mainly gone to enrich Bush’s corporate friends and create a police state that surveils every American.
Instead of streamlining disaster response as it was supposed to do, the Department made things worse. Even Bush is now criticizing the inadequate “federal response” to the New Orleans disaster.
Bush also contributed to the mess in New Orleans by sending Louisiana’s National Guard soldiers and equipment, which are meant to be used for domestic disasters, to Iraq where they have done no good at all for anyone. The soldiers watched helplessly from the land they’ve invaded as their families back home were killed by floods, toxic wastes, and wind.
During a press conference this week, when reporters asked if the president’s budget cuts and other actions had contributed to the hurricane tragedy, a White House spokesperson said, “This isn’t the time to cast blame or ask questions.”
Of course it isn’t. With the Bush administration, you never get to assign blame or ask questions.
“If it keeps on raining, the levee’s gonna break.”
My friend whose family used to live in New Orleans was playing that classic Led Zeppelin song over and over again when I talked to him on the phone after the hurricane.
He told me that what pisses him off the most is that during the years he lived in New Orleans, his school-age children never received government-sponsored education about hurricanes, flooding, swimming, evacuation routes, and what to do if New Orleans was threatened by a hurricane and floods.
“They never heard anything about the important stuff,” he said, “but they did get a lot of drug education. Seemed like every month they were coming home with some pamphlet or button from a DARE officer or some other anti-drug bullshitter.”
The pamphlets contained assurances that the government cares about children very much, and that is why children are being warned about marijuana and other drugs, because “drug abuse is America’s number one problem,” and “illicit drugs are the biggest killers of our youth.?
Now that hundreds of children and other people have become floating corpses in New Orleans, my friend wonders if the government is going to revise its warnings to say that government negligence is the biggest killer of America’s youth.
“What I wanted the school and government to do for my children is not what they did,” he explained. “Like, I would have liked it if they had had school books. The teachers were so underpaid. The air conditioners didn’t work. The kids sat in there sweating buckets. I wanted them to have training for my daughters in martial arts so they wouldn’t get jumped by boys. I wanted them to have college scholarships. And if they were going to warn them about shit, it should have been about hurricanes, or the Asian termites that were eating half the houses in the city, which were imminent dangers when we lived there, but nobody ever mentioned it. The real estate people and the Chamber of Commerce didn’t want anybody to think about that stuff.”
When his eldest son entered high school, my friend tells me, military recruiters worked with anti-drug agents in the schools. It wasn’t just the nefarious Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program that the boy was subjected to ? it was a combination of military recruiting and brainwashing.
One program my friend recalls is called DEFY (Drug Education for Youth), which is run by the US Navy from a shipyard in Washington, DC.
DEFY has local branches across the country, and although it is supposed to be only targeted at kids in military families, it apparently has also involved kids from non-military families too.
DEFY is sponsored by the Navy, so you might hope that it teaches kids how to avoid naval disasters or marine storms; but instead it appears to be another of the government’s many programs designed to rope kids into joining the military or becoming narcotics officers.
Typical of DEFY’s activities is a week-long youth camp held in July, 2003 by the National Guard’s Drug Demand Reduction specialist Ron Dollar, of the Arkansas Army National Guard, and New Orleans DEA Special Agent Keith Warzecha. The residential anti-drug program was run by DEFY at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, where 40 “at-risk” children under age 12 were brainwashed by DEA agents, National Guard soldiers, and police officers, including Texarkana Weed and Seed Police Officers Lonnie Booker and Sergeant Stephen Gass.
During DEFY training, kids visit prisons, are put through military style physical fitness exercises, and told to obey the government no matter what. They’re told that they should consider careers in law enforcement or the military.
The anti-drug literature that DEFY, DEA and other government agencies provide kids in New Orleans contains quintessential reefer madness propaganda.
“Marijuana is the most widely available illicit drug in Louisiana,” one piece of literature proclaims. “Most marijuana available in Louisiana is produced in Mexico, however, marijuana produced locally and in neighboring states is also readily available. The availability of high-grade domestically produced marijuana has increased due to modern techniques of indoor cultivation (i.e., the use of cloning and hydroponics to increase the potency). In many regions of Louisiana, the price of marijuana has been decreasing due to the availability of Mexico produced marijuana transported from hub cities in Texas. The dealers are diluting their marijuana with low grade Mexican and spiking it with narcotics. Marijuana is an addictive, gateway drug that is responsible for more hospital admissions than all other drugs.”
New Orleans has its own DEFY office and its own DEA office, and was one of a handful of cities chosen to implement an updated “science-based” DARE program in its public schools four years ago.
After nationwide studies showed that DARE did not reduce youth alcohol, tobacco and drug use, DARE officials created a new DARE program that supposedly works better.
“I guarantee the amount of publicity, speeches, public announcements, public service ads and other jaw-flapping that the government people gave about DARE and about illegal drugs amounts to far more than what they said about protecting New Orleans from a big storm or what we are supposed to do if a levee breaks,” my New Orleans friend recalls. “You see big anti-drug billboards and everybody from the president to the drug czar, the mayor, the governor, even at church ? they’re always talking about drugs, drugs, drugs ? but nobody ever mentioned, except in the newspaper, that our city was sitting south of a defective levee system and a disaster was just around the corner. The government people just never focused on it.”
The federal government’s criminal neglect of the New Orleans levee system, its lack of a pre-emptive disaster response plan, and its emphasis on protecting New Orleans from marijuana, other illegal drugs, and non-existent terrorists is evident in the history of DEA persecution of rave culture in New Orleans since the mid-1990’s.
DEA agents and local police have repeatedly harassed and busted rave dancers, club owners, and promoters as part of the government’s war on dancing and ecstasy, which was most recently seen in the government’s illegal, violent raid on a Utah rave several weeks ago.
In New Orleans, the DEA went so far as to order owners of prominent New Orleans dance clubs to ban face masks, glow sticks and pacifiers from their facilities, saying that the items constituted “drug paraphernalia.” As a result of the ban, rave attendees were forced to throw away personal possessions in order to gain entry to dance events, and dancers and dj’s were subject to intrusive searches, and arrest.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the government regarding its anti-rave actions in New Orleans, noting that the same thing happened early in the nation’s drug war when America’s first drug czar, Harry Anslinger, tried to shut down jazz clubs because musicians were smoking Mexican marijuana while they performed. ACLU attorneys also pointed out that during the city’s famous annual Mardi Grass celebrations, attendees often wear masks and use glow sticks.
In 2002, U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous ruled in favor of the ACLU’s lawsuit, saying “the government cannot ban inherently legal objects that are used in expressive communication because a few people use the same legal item to enhance the effects of an illegal substance.
“There is no conclusive evidence that eliminating the masks and glow sticks reduced the amount of ecstasy used at raves,” Porteous said. “When the First Amendment right of Free Speech is violated by the Government in the name of the War on Drugs, and when that First Amendment violation is arguably not even helping in the War on Drugs, it is the duty of the Courts to enjoin the government from violating the rights of innocent people.”
The judge banned the government from trying to ban masks and glow sticks, noting that DEA officials and federal prosecutors had been conducting workshops throughout the US citing the New Orleans case as an example of how to shut down a rave. Government agents also encouraged prosecutors to charge rave promoters as drug dealers under state and federal “crack house” laws and to engage in excessive enforcement of parking permits and other local laws in order to shut down counterculture events such as raves and hemp festivals.
Some people are praying that the ongoing reality show, “The Flooding of New Orleans” might wake up Americans enough to create an immediate revolution against the government, similar to the one conducted by Martin Luther King and millions of other people during the 1960’s and 70’s.
Back then, instead of watching football games and NASCAR, gulping Prozac, inhaling pizza, and otherwise remaining fat and passive in the face of rampant government criminality at home and abroad, millions of Americans got off their asses and marched on Washington, DC, protested at police stations, colleges and federal buildings, got their heads split open by fascist police and racist civilians, spent time in jail, and otherwise risked their lives to stop the Vietnam War and end segregation and institutionalized racism.
There’s a lot more to protest this time, but my friend, who left New Orleans a year ago and now lives in the Midwest, isn’t optimistic.
“I am hearing there’s a terrible shortage of police, helicopters, medical supplies, trucks ? that New Orleans is in utter chaos and needs help from everybody everywhere,” he said. “But you know what the police were doing here where I live? Flying their helicopters looking for marijuana growing in people’s backyards. They swooped on a guy who ran out in his backyard and tried to burn down his four pot plants when he heard their copters coming. They sent in a huge squad to bust him. I think that every one of those police and all their equipment should have been helping out in New Orleans. But no, it’s business as usual. They don’t care about kids drowning in New Orleans. They just like to have their wars.”