Sunday, September 04, 2005
How the NeoCons murdered New Orleans:
Another in the continuing series.
Mr. Bush said on "Good Morning America" that the United States could fend for itself. "I do expect a lot of sympathy and perhaps some will send cash dollars," the president was quoted as saying of foreign governments. "But this country's going to rise up and take care of it."
As indeed we should. Americans are courageous and they will do what must be done. But that is a different set of actions than envisioned by George W. Bush and his cohort.
Fourteen billion dollars sounded like a lot of money in 1998, too much money for the Feds to commit to Coast 2050, the plan agreed on by the governor's office, the state's Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service and all 20 of the state's coastal parishes for restoring coastal Louisiana.
Relief for New Orleans is costing you and me a half billion each day now; that does not count the costs of rebuilding.
New Orleans had a wake up call in the form of Hurricane Georges in September of 1998. Faced with a wall of water 17 feet in height that threatened to surge into Lake Pontchartrain and flood their city they came together.
New Orleans saw what was inevitable. So did most of literate America. In an article published in Scientific American in October of 2001 titled, Drowning New Orleans by Mark Fischetti,
the dangers were spelled out. In less than six pages it laid out what was going to happen, why it was inevitable, how New Orleans found itself a storm away from death and destruction, and what was proposed to stop it.
In October of 2001 all Americans understood well that disasters can happen here. You would have thought that the present administration would have listened. The NeoCon Administration did have a response. It cut funding to FEMA for the maintenance of the system of levees. Perhaps most Americans do not read Scientific American. But more of them read National Geographic, which last year again laid out the same grim prognosis.
People often lie when they talk. What they do is always true.
If you dig into the article in Scientific American and understand the human choices that left New Orleans vulnerable you see that those responsible, for the most part, were not in the line of fire. They did not lose homes, property, lives. They are not now living in fear of lawlessness and curling up hungry and parched with thirst, smelling death all around them. We have all seen the pictures.
Those who set up the Big Easy to die actually put money in their pockets and will continue to benefit. Those two parties are this NeoCon Administration and their core constituency, certain purveyors of products of the petroleum kind.
The NeoCons lied, the Big Easy died.
New Orleans had been buffered from disaster by the deposit of silt and sand built up from the deposits made by the Mississippi River. These were the source of the bayous, a fertile extension of delta land extending into the ocean, creating a wetlands where life teemed and many ordinary people make their livings. That started to change when the levee system began at the behest of Congress in 1879. Quick fixes that ignore the nature driven dynamics of systems too complex to be entirely understood have long term consequences. The people who originally made those choices didn't know better. They are now all dead of old age. At least that generation of Congress had less costly public funded perks.
When this happens due to ignorance we are forgiving. When it is due to deceit and greed action must be taken to ensure that the behavior is extinguished absolutely. This missing component in America's societal tool chest, retribution for those who abuse the most potent trusts, must be rebooted. Since we are human all such rules exist exclusively in human custom. We can change it if we decide to do so.
New Orleans was buffered by wetlands. Wetlands can absorb enough water to knock down the height of water surges as high as 20 feet – at a rate of one foot of water for every four miles of wetlands. You can do the math yourself. If you can't do the math and you went to a public school you know who is responsible for that, too.
New Orleans was left vulnerable by the congruent action of government and oil companies.
In his article in Scientific American Fischetti comments that the wetlands just outside of New Orleans is still lush. But the landscape changes as he journeys down to Port Fourchon, closer to the tides and turmoil of the ocean. There, the intrusions of saltwater are killing the grasses that maintain the wetlands, aided by the miles of corridors cut into that buffer by petroleum companies. Fischetti reports seeing abandoned trailers and buildings, lost to the encroaching ocean. Port Fourchon loses 40 to 50 feet of beach a year, the highest rate in the country and perhaps the world.
One third of the buffer that protected New Orleans was stolen by the same companies that immediately raised the cost of gasoline at the pump to over $5.00 a gallon although the gas then being pumped had cost them nothing more. If a store owner raised the price of water to double we would recognize it as price gouging enforced by the desperation of the consumers.
The cheapest means for putting in drilling is to float a barge out to the location, digging a canal that is then abandoned; this is what such companies and Exxon-Mobile have done and continue to do despite knowing the potential costs.
All of those who profited knew the risks.
At this moment you can rest assured the Karl Rove and Brain Central in the White House are working feverishly on how to turn their own profit by spinning these events to their benefit.
Their concern is more than just money. It is how to continue to control Congress in the '06 election if, as may well happen, Americans manage to retake control of the electoral system and ensure the first honest election in ten years. I can almost see the light bulb glow over Rove's head. “That's it! We will bring the troops home from Iraq because we have to make New Orleans relief a priority. We will also have to institute the draft to continue that work. Then after the '06 election we can invade Iran. That gives us two more years before we need to think about finding a stand in for BushBoy. '06 will be a breeze. We will actually be popular again!”
Rove is such a clever guy.
But I have a different proposal.
What is missing in this morass is that essential American value of accountability. You may know that while they were dredging those oil companies were also busy buying Congressmen to ensure that their potential liability was nil. So we need to inject some good old fashioned cause and effect. Who was bought, how much did the Petro Elite pay for them? Indict them all.
Here is the plan for enforcing accountability on those who are used to evading it.
Those petroleum companies who cut into the buffer will be held accountable for the damage done, both for restoring the impacted wetlands and to the thousands and thousands of individuals their calloused acts impacted. The National Association of Trial Attorneys can offer pro bono services to bring them to justice on behalf of those who lost property, life, and hope in New Orleans. It is in the interests of the law profession to prove to Americans that at least some of they can be trusted. And the payments will not be configured just in cash but in the transfer of property as well.
Those petroleum companies own facilities now dedicated to the production of oil based products. They will pay for these to convert to hydrogen and the stations they own now selling hydrocarbon based fuel will be converted to hydrogen. Ownership will be transferred to a trust that will see that restitution is made. I would nominate the Yosemite Fund and other like nonprofits who have struggled to maintain America's environment in the face of government's rapacious takings to oversee this trust.
In the interim the US government will encourage the production of gasohol and other alternative fuels that can be utilized by simply adjusting the timing on those automobiles now in use. No American will be forced to change; regular fuel will continue to be available – as long as it lasts.
Those impacted, now destitute, without jobs or hope, will have the money to restart their lives – some of them may end up owning their own pumping station for clean fuel.
Congress will lose its perks. If they want a dining room let them buy a MacDonald's franchise. Liability against those who made these choices, cutting funding for the levees, will be exacted personally. Those who act under color of authority can and should be denied the protections of authority. The law allows us to take this action. Those responsible should lose their private islands, their lavish life style and be destitute. But I am sure they will be able to get a job at WalMart or McDonald's.
For the NeoCons the charges for malfeasance for New Orleans will be added to those pending in Chicago against those indicted from the administration already. Perhaps instead of preparing to celebrate Mardi Gras by profiting from death those now occupying those dishonored positions of trust can be fitted for very different kinds of costumes.
America will also get something it desperately needs, clean fuel and a cleaner environment. The bayous were once places of fragile beauty; most Americans have only glimpsed this world from a boat in the Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.
We need a tangible, visceral message the greedy cannot ignore. Americans can take care of the problem once they correctly identify what the problem really is.
Those harmed will have been made whole; the wetlands will no longer be endangered. That is what justice should be about.
America needs to take stock, reflect, and act to save our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor. We had to do it once before. We can do it again.
Melinda Pillsbury-Foster is presently working on a book titled, Revoking the License to Steal: How Americans can govern themselves. The book calls for accountability in every facet of life and the true establishment of individual rights for all Americans through the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. She uses the original philosophical tools of America's Founders, the market, justice, and individualism. She is a registered Republican, a member of the National Federation of Republican Women, a committed Libertarian, and a life-long environmentalist.
She runs an organization to preserve the legacy of her grandfather, Arthur C. Pillsbury. The website is at: acpillsburyfoundation.com