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                              Katrina Revelations

                                                                                                          Earth Manifesto Insights

                                                                                                              Dr. Tiffany B. Twain  

                                                                                                             October 2005

King Louis XV of France, in the late 18th Century, observed that after his reign, a figurative flood of revolutionary discontent would overwhelm his country.  "Après moi, le deluge", he stated.  His premonition that political and social collapse was imminent was based on clear signals of serious social malaise due to his bankrupt Divine-Right policies of unfair privilege, lavish living for the nobility, extreme poverty for millions, and unfair taxation.

The crisis caused by Hurricane Katrina and the devastating flooding of New Orleans in late August 2005 temporarily gave us a clearer perspective of our own vulnerabilities and our social responsibilities.  Catastrophes bring out both the best and the worst in people. In ways similar to the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Katrina's immediate aftermath has brought out distinct heroism, wonderful generosity, genuine humanitarian concern, caring willingness to help others, and an impressive social and political commitment to assist people who have suffered losses.  It also brought out instances of violence, anarchy and looting.  Once again it brought religious fanatics like Pat Robertson onto the stage to blame gays and lesbians with mean-spirited intolerance and charlatanic sanctimony.  Robertson's piousness and presumption in using disaster to claim that God is angry at homosexuals is a pathetic reflection of the wrongness and pathetic biases of the radical religious right.

But far more disturbing revelations have been illuminated by Katrina than Pat Robertson's narrow judgmental bigotry.  Harsh right-wing doctrines are having terrible consequences for the poor, for equality in our society, for environmental justice, for fairness of opportunity and representation, and for honest policy-making in America.

The United States is today acting out its own version of King Louis' arrogant and foolish shortsightedness.  The natural disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina has nakedly exposed the dark and ugly underbelly of our economic system and American political leadership.  Katrina's powerful winds have flooded our consciousness with terrible images of tragedy, poverty, suffering, personal loss, and desperate need.  

This calamity has temporarily blown away the false smokescreen of rosy rhetoric and deceptive spin that usually conceals the corrupt practices, chronic mismanagement, failed policies, destructive exploitation, blatant propaganda, and misguided priorities that characterize crony capitalism and political leadership tainted by Big Money, partisan doctrines, selfish greed, and abuses of power.

Our great social problems lie much deeper than corrupt politics and crony capitalism, deeper than greed and reckless opportunism, deeper than religious fanaticism and the ascendance of simplistic doctrines of Good and Evil.  Understandings of virtue and sin reside within each of us.  But our perspectives are distorted by individual and national insecurities.  Man-made and natural disasters threaten us so profoundly that we have become more fearful of change, so we become more conservative and understandably seek refuge from fear and confusion and uncertainty by embracing political and religious doctrines that reassure us.

Conservatism claims to be strong and right.  It strives to gain and maintain power by co-opting natural human empathy.  It claims that it is compassionate, though it is arguably really just stubborn and unyielding.  Conservatism appeals to many people today because change is taking place so rapidly that we yearn to stop it, to react against it, and to figuratively batten down the hatches.  Unfortunately this allows right wing forces to hijack our societies, and to structurally institutionalize old paradigms that represent entrenched interests, ruthless opportunism, reckless exploitation, avarice, special privilege, extensive injustice, and arrogant drives for dominance.

The insight that we must recognize is this:  societies must evolve and adapt with positive vision, with statesmanship-like perspective, and with open-minded, courageous resolve to improve the world for all, not just for the few and the powerful.

Our problems lie deep, but we must start somewhere, so the ideas herein target various foolish and nefarious aspects of the Status Quo.  Katrina has revealed the often sinister and stubborn wrong-headedness of our political system, in the following specific aspects:

1.  Crony capitalism gives the rich, the privileged and the powerful far greater privileges than the poor and the underprivileged.  This is creating a growing gap between the wealthy and the poor.  The consequences of this unfair and unchristian economic system are the growth of poverty, increasing unfairness of opportunity, greater social injustices, heightened social strife, ruthless class war, and subtle racism.  These impacts make all of us less safe and less secure.  The hidden poverty of 28% of New Orleans residents and the dramatic growth in the disparity between the rich and the poor since 1980 exposes the deception of the "trickle-down theory".  The primary impact of political doctrines that push aggressively for more and more tax breaks is clear:  the rich get far richer.  The elimination of the Estate Tax is the most seriously regressive of tax changes, brazenly shifting a significant amount of taxes from the top 1% of Americans (when they are dead!), to all other taxpayers and to everyone in the future.  We must reverse this tax boondoggle.

2.  Corporations are irresponsibly shortsighted in their obsession to make ever-bigger profits, to compete mercilessly, and to influence government by lobbying effectively for more subsidies, tax breaks, and loopholes.  They strive constantly to circumvent sensible regulations, gain unfair advantages, and externalize toxic pollution and healthcare costs onto society.  We must not allow this.

3.  Political pandering to giant corporations and the wealthy also leads to misguided priorities, wasteful spending, deficit financing, profligate pork barrel projects, unwise and unsustainable development, and policies that are spiritually, ethically and fiscally bankrupt.  Politicians are very generous with taxpayer monies -- but they cowardly avoid requiring citizens to make any sacrifices, once again tapping irresponsibly into the risk-laden well of politically expedient deficit spending.  As a consequence, we are adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the enormous national debt, and borrowing from future generations instead of being more fiscally disciplined.  This is a new and insidious form of the old gambit of taxation without representation.  It penalizes our children, and theirs.  It is ridiculous and essentially immoral to foist such costs onto our descendents at the same time that we wastefully use up non-renewable resources, heedlessly damage fragile ecosystems, degrade fresh water resources, deplete public lands, allow businesses to pollute the commons, and contribute to global warming and climate instability.  We should not continue doing this.

4.  Deceptive rhetoric and ideological spin and distorted science are being used to shore up laissez-faire anti-regulation doctrines.  Official government channels and manipulated television and radio media are being used to distort the truth and discourage honest journalism.  This prevents people from being accurately informed, and thus they are less able to have a rational and intelligent opinion, and to act and vote accordingly.

5.  There is an immediate gold rush of disaster opportunists, price gougers, real estate speculators, and fraudulent corruption flooding into the South to take advantage of bureaucracy and free-flowing taxpayer dollars.  Bold measures should be adopted to ensure that funds are spent wisely, not profligately, on relief and reconstruction.

6.  The Achilles heel of the U.S. is our addiction to fossil fuels and imported oil.  Instead of embracing bold conservation measures and greater energy efficiency and better vehicle mileage and the inevitable imperative to switch solar power and other energy alternatives, our leaders increase our vulnerability by continuing to defend Vested Interests and to aggressively fight oil-related wars abroad.  We do this even though it grows increasingly obvious that the world is reaching peak oil production, and that the status quo of wasteful fossil fuel usages is foolish and absolutely unsustainable.

7.  The slow federal emergency response exposed the folly of allowing unqualified people to be appointed to positions of power (like the Director of FEMA).

8.  Political pandering to the right wing and religious fundamentalists results in a distorted emphasis on divisive hot-button-issue controversies that distract the public from helping solve our social problems.  Issues such as gay marriage, school prayer, flag burning, unrestricted gun ownership, drug use, teen sex, and abortion are emphasized, but far more important moral issues are ignored, such as those concerning growing poverty, environmental injustices, homelessness, unequal opportunity, social dysfunctionality, sexual and racial discrimination, voter disenfranchisement, and threats to international peaceful coexistence.

9.  All legislation is focused on the best interests of corporations, rather than the general welfare and the common good.  Particularly bad legislation that has been passed by the Republican-dominated Congress in the past 5 years include: (a) regressive tax cuts that severely exacerbate social inequities and budget deficits;  (b) the Highway and Transportation Bill that contains over 6,000 pork-barrel spending projects;  (c) the Energy Bill that is far too heavily weighted towards the status quo of wasteful energy usages, fossil fuel dependence, and subsidies to Big Oil, Big Auto, and Big Coal companies;  (d) the Healthy Forests Initiative that strives to cut the public out of decision-making on public lands management issues, and to give logging companies easier access to America's National Forests;  (e) the Clear Skies Initiative that weakens the 1970 Clean Air Act, allowing antiquated power plants to take advantage of pollution regulation loopholes, resulting in greater public health costs;  (f) the Bankruptcy Act that primarily benefits banks, often at the expense of people suffering medical calamities;  (g) the Medicare Prescription Drug Act that creates an extremely expensive new entitlement program that primarily benefits giant drug companies, expands bureaucracy, and helps corporations to evade paying healthcare costs for their employees;  and (h) the Patriot Act, which in some aspects unreasonably erodes important Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms.

Not only has the aftermath of the disasters of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina highlighted the wrong-headedness of our government policies, but they have also cast greater clarity on the failings of the status quo BEFORE the events.  Richard Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, cites the numerous ways in which the government studiously ignored the intelligence that warned of the growing threats to the U.S. by Al Qaeda terrorism before September 2001.  Likewise, before the New Orleans tragedy, government policies actively contributed to circumstances that have made the disaster far worse:  allowing the deterioration of levees, causing Louisiana coastal wetlands erosion, exacerbating global warming, fostering ever-greater social inequities, and failing to support good public transportation systems.

OUR LEADERS ARE MISLEADING US!  They are misleading us in both senses of the word:  1) leading us in the wrong direction, and 2) simultaneously deceiving us to accomplish this.  They claim moral and righteous motivations, and propagate rosy spin for their actions.  They even resort to bald-faced lies in order to advance their wrong-headed goals.  Yet, in truth, their motives are almost singularly allied with the crony capitalistic ends of benefiting those with money, power and the right connections in order to facilitate greater profits at the public's expense.  Concomitantly, they throw in their Strict Father eagerness to control and dominate American society with harsh, puritanical and repressive social policies.

The fiddlers must be called to account to pay the piper by admitting that their sorry old tune is too shortsighted and unfair to be accepted any longer.  We cannot continue to neglect the poor, the disenfranchised, our children, our educational system, our country's infrastructure, and future generations.  And we can no longer pander to right-wing neoconservatism that advocates extravagantly financed aggressive militarism, violence to combat violence, and egregious violations of the sovereignty of other countries with preemptive attacks and the occupation of foreign lands.

Policies have intended and unintended consequences.  The Cheney/Bush Administration has been politically clever, but misguided in its focus and incompetent in its management.  The Administration has proclaimed that it has a God-approved mandate to pursue initiatives that are demonstrably contrary to the best interests of the majority of Americans.  The Administration is effectively enshrining shortsightedness in public policy and betraying the public's trust by dramatically enriching the wealthy through the expediencies of regressive tax changes and deficit spending.  Republican policies are abandoning the poor, fostering ever-greater social inequalities, ignoring environmental risks, failing to support either renewable energy alternatives or more efficiency in automobile efficiency standards, opposing sensible energy conservation measures, and squandering hundreds of billions of dollars of America's wealth on military aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan under false pretenses.

Our leaders are effectively committing high crimes and misdemeanors.  These facts and understandings are convincing grounds for impeachment of the President and Vice President.  We probably should not wait until the elections of 2008;  let us throw the scoundrels out now!  This will bring clarity to the abuses of power of the current Administration and Congress.

The stark light of truth occasionally filters its way through the conventional smoke and mirrors of dogma, deception, rhetoric, ideological spin, and the doctrines of the status quo.  We must be daring and imaginative.  We must enact greater fiscal discipline and require more responsibility.  We must design our economic systems more intelligently.  We must improve our social institutions.  We must properly prioritize planning, ensuring that it encompasses long-term sustainable goals.

We must demand that our leaders change course.  We must hold them accountable for their arrogant disregard for the general welfare and the common good.  We must insist that we adopt measures that are more reasonable and more egalitarian, with the following goals:

1.                  Make taxation more progressive, and balance spending with taxes collected.

2.                 Make government spending fiscally sustainable.

3.                 Reverse the unfair and socially antagonistic trend towards making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

4.                 Invest in the true security of the American people, not in aggressive warfare, pork barrel projects, resource depletion, and corporate welfare.

5.                 Prioritize spending more intelligently and objectively by investing in infrastructure maintenance, urban renewal, and better contingency planning.

6.                 Reduce the influence of Vested Interests in setting policies and enacting legislation that favors their narrow interests.  Embrace innovative solutions, not entrenched old technologies.

7.                 Emphasize energy conservation, efficiency, and alternatives, and wean the United States from our dependence on fossil fuels and non-renewable resources.

8.                 Create stronger institutions to protect human rights, equal opportunity, and fair representation of both citizens today and future generations.

9.                 Protect citizen's rights to privacy, limit the intrusiveness of government, and reduce the bloated size of the bureaucracies that are running the federal government.

Crises always present us with "dangerous opportunities".  The positive side of these opportunities is the chance to rebuild people's lives and the devastated Gulf Coast with greater fairness, more equal opportunity, less structural poverty, and more sustainable renewable energy technologies like solar power in homes and buildings.  The dangers lie in the probability that these opportunities will be squandered, just as the international goodwill in the wake of the 9/11 attacks was wasted through arrogant unilateralism and aggressive shock-and-awe militarism.  

The chances of real reform and visionary change are already being reduced in the Gulf as business-as-usual policies and Vested Interests capitalize on the reconstruction effort by advancing their selfish causes and imposing their ideological and opportunistic initiatives.  Affirmative Action and fair wage laws are being suspended, no-bid contracts are being given to contractors who will overcharge the government, environmental laws are being weakened, tax breaks for the rich are being protected, vast new deficit spending is being created, legislation is being advanced to subsidize ever-more aggressive drilling for oil on public lands, and public education is being abandoned in favor of vouchers for private schools and religious schools.

Disaster capitalism is a new form of predatory imperialism.  It uses the desperation and fear created by catastrophes to engage in globalization, privatization, militarism, and radical social and economic engineering.

Once again we are faced with the choice of implementing wise and empathetic ideas that are focused on creating a better society, or foolishly sticking with status quo strategies that reward entrenched companies and wealthy people.  We cannot continue to allow stupidity in bureaucracy, partisanship, social harshness, opposition to common sense regulations, and ecological soundness.  And we must keep in mind that fairness is needed in all decisions -- fairness to all people, including women, gays, blacks, poor people, and future generations.

The public must get involved and begin taking more committed action.  We must express outrage at the obscene fiscal irresponsibility of the current Administration, and its deceptions, misplaced priorities, unjust initiatives, and aggressive militarism.  We still live in a democracy where our voices can make a great difference, and it is high time we stood up and told the right wing that we have had enough!

                                                                                                 --- Dr. Tiffany Twain