Superfund Budget Cuts (2002)
The best "editorial" I read this morning was a sports column -- "Edge of Sports -- The Superdome: Monument to a Rotten System" by Dave Zirin:
There is nothing "unnatural" about the disaster of New Orleans. When politicians smirk at global warming, when developers look at our wetlands and dream of mini malls, when billions are flushed in the name of war and tax-cuts, when issues of poverty and racism don’t even register in Presidential debates, all it takes is wind, albeit 145 mph wind, to expose a sturdy superpower as a house of cards.Nowhere is this personified more painfully than in a monument to corporate greed that has rapidly become the earth’s most damnable homeless shelter, the Louisiana Superdome.
The Superdome is perhaps the most unintentionally appropriate name since Mr. and Mrs. Cheney looked at their newborn son and said, "Dick." It was birthed in 1975 with pomp and bombast, as the largest domed facility in the world. It was also funded entirely on the public dime. In a case of brutal foreshadowing that would shame a B horror flick, the dome was constructed on an old cemetery for the poor. The burial grounds were dug up and discarded with a promise that the Superdome would the centerpiece of a New Orleans "Central Business District" that would benefit all. The results are certainly now in plain, ugly view. This past week, 25,000 people, walked through its doors, many for the first time. They entered a stadium where tickets go for 90 bucks a pop, season passes cost $1,300 and luxury boxes can run for as much as $109,000. The arena boasts of having a capacity that can comfortably seat 72,000 people, with 9,000 tons of air conditioning, and 88 massive restrooms. But for the 25,000 that can’t afford the oxygen, there has been no air conditioning and bathrooms without electricity, running water, or working toilets. Feces and garbage now pack the upper decks. The traumatized people finally emerging tell of dead bodies on the 50 yard line. One man even committed suicide, throwing himself off the upper deck. Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco called the Superdome shelter strategy an "experiment," when asked if it could hold the storm or the flood. Chuck D’s line about Housing Projects comes to mind when he said, "What is a project but another word for experiment?"
Thousands await evacuation from the Superdome on Friday.Saints' receiver Joe Horn has looked at the place where he has set receiving records and said that football couldn’t be farther from his mind. "It's devastating to us. I've cried three or four times. Seeing kids without any food, elderly people dying and the government saying that help is on the way -- that's the most shocking part."He's right. That is the most shocking part. Leading this carnival of disgrace is "Mr. Shock and Awe" himself, George W. Bush. Everyday, President Bush doles out comments that signal his removal from any basic notion of humanity. Perhaps the most galling, "The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch."But happy visions of mint juleps with Trent, while Mamie and Prissy tighten Scarlett's corset, just will not sell. The discussion instead, from right wing editorial pages in New Hampshire and Mississippi to an vocal, angry, Civil Rights community, is about the racism, profiteering and vile hypocrisy at the heart of this system.As Norman Solomon wrote, "The policies are matters of priorities. And the priorities of the Bush White House are clear. For killing in Iraq, they spare no expense. For protecting and sustaining life, the cupboards go bare. The problem is not incompetence. It's inhumanity, cruelty and greed."Frederick Douglass said it even better a century ago in his speech, "What to the Slave is the 4th of July.""[Y]our national greatness, swelling vanity; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages."I would amend the great Mr. Douglass just to say that we are not at present a nation of savages. The unreal outpouring of both aid and the furious call for answers are not the actions of beasts. But it is now clear that savages rule our lives. The echoing cry from the Gulf Coast is that we deserve better than living under a system that weeps over spilled oil, and rolls its eyes at our spilled blood.
At least Douglass' speech is now accessible to everyone. However, the same cannot be said for rapper Kayne West, whose comments about George Bush, made last night at a musical fundraiser for Katrina victims, were deliberately snipped for tape-delayed broadcasts:
It began, fittingly enough, with jazz from New Orleans natives Harry Connick Jr. and Wynton Marsalis. But "A Concert for Hurricane Relief," a heartfelt and dignified benefit aired on NBC and other networks Friday night, took an unexpected turn thanks to the outspoken rapper Kanye West.Appearing two-thirds through the program, he claimed "George Bush doesn't care about black people" and said America is set up "to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off as slow as possible."[...]There was a several-second tape delay, but the person in charge "was instructed to listen for a curse word, and didn't realize (West) had gone off-script," said NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks.West's comment about the president was cut from NBC's West Coast airing, which showed three hours later on tape.[...]
Kayne West performing last night.
Comedian Mike Myers was paired with West for a 90-second segment that began with Myers speaking of Katrina's devastation. Then, to Myers' evident surprise, West began a rant by saying, "I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says they're looting. See a white family, it says they're looking for food."While allowing that "the Red Cross is doing everything they can," West -- who delivered an emotional outburst at the American Music Awards after he was snubbed for an award -- declared that government authorities are intentionally dragging their feet on aid to the Gulf Coast. Without getting specific, he added, "They've given them permission to go down and shoot us."After he stated, "George Bush doesn't care about black people," the camera cut away to comedian Chris Tucker.[...]
In a statement, NBC said, "Kanye West departed from the scripted comments that were prepared for him, and his opinions in no way represent the views of the networks."It would be most unfortunate," the statement continued, "if the efforts of the artists who participated tonight and the generosity of millions of Americans who are helping those in need are overshadowed by one person's opinion."
Right. No honest criticism is allowed in Bushland. What was West thinking? One can't go "off-script" in a pre-screened society. One can only make critical statements in isolation -- removed from earshot and relegated to the boonies of razor-wired, free speech zones. For a supposedly free society, the tape-delayed neutering of West's comments is disgraceful -- the antithesis of Hyde Park.
West did not overshadow anything. He was censored.
He spoke the truth. BushCo's priorities are clear, and their policies helped to cause and shape the current crisis. Bush diverted funds for flood control to shore up his private war -- and now dead Americans float in the waters filling New Orleans.