The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Major Owens - The Washington Looting of New Orleans

The Washington Looting of New Orleans
Rep. Major Owens

Who lost New Orleans? Our cities are the greatest treasures of our civilization. So why were the levees and the pumping stations emplaced to protect New Orleans from the sea so technologically obsolete?

If the descendants of the American geniuses who built large artificial ports at Normandy on D-Day could not design adequate protection, then why didn't we ask the Netherlands to outsource their expert sea management engineers to us long ago?

New Orleans will be lost only for a short period. In spite of the paucity of spirit and imagination among our ruling decision-makers, cities will continue to resurrect themselves and survive. But Americans must learn from the lesson of an almost drowned New Orleans. No great American city should be needlessly placed at risk. The rural-centered congressional policies of the last two decades must be radically reversed. The power of senators (in a chamber not based on one man, one vote representation) deal making for small population interests must be curbed. Taxpayer dollars must be spent for projects and programs located where people live. Who is served by expensive bridges in Alaska?

Examine the last omnibus budget bill passed by Congress and signed by the president; or review the items listed in the recently signed Surface Transportation Act. For even a high school sophomore one fact will be immediately revealed: the per capita expenditure is far greater in sparsely populated states than it is in the densely populated states where the big cities are located. Each senator from a rural state has many more allies than the senators from states with big cities. In other words, senators who represent urban Americans have less influence.

Review the scenario of last year's Senate deliberations on the provision of emergency hurricane relief aid and the power of the states with less people becomes apparent. During the negotiations the Senate rural raiders held the bill hostage until they could extort an extra two billion dollars for a sudden need for drought relief. At the end of this extortion orgy there was no money left for New Orleans where, in 2004, government officials had conducted a training exercise, pinpointed the same water control problems which have now emerged, and accurately predicted the number of casualties we see occurring today. The knowledge was available but the sympathy and sensitivity to cities was smothered. In Washington, particularly the undemocratic Senate, village mind-sets unwilling and/or unable to manage modern complexities are firmly in charge.

With billions readily available to make war or implement any other deadly or wasteful priority our leaders deem necessary, why haven't we appropriated the funds needed to save, to maintain, to expand, to glorify our cities? That which is urban is almost synonymous with that which is civilized. Jefferson notwithstanding, the agrarian life permitted the flowering of only a few. In the rural domain nature is to be placed on a much deserved pedestal to be observed and admired. But a city keeps man's feet on the ground where life can be hugged and kissed and ravished; where culture is the unique product of imaginations interacting. Jazz could never have been born in the countryside; and between rows of corn and cotton Satchmo could never have strutted and marched.

Ted Koppel wants fervently to lash the New Orleans lawless looters looking for food and bottled water in the sacred supermarkets. Where are the commentators with the guts to go bounty hunting for the government treasury looters who for decades devoured all of the appropriations that should have been saved for our needy cities. Throwing dollars at problems never automatically solves them but in New Orleans there could have been more planning on how to spray the rapidly breeding mosquitoes; how to manage the evacuation of the refugees from the Superdome; how to keep intact a fail-safe system for repairing a breech in the wall around Lake Ponchartrain; how to guarantee at vital installations the necessary auxiliary generating power; how to achieve the immediate deployment of massive numbers of U.S. military helicopters and naval small boats to speedily rescue all stranded inhabitants instead of waiting for the conventional sluggish National Guard and Red Cross buggies to roll out.

New Orleans will not be lost forever like Atlantis. Salvaging New Orleans could prove to be a process which fuels the revamping of the corrupted Washington decision-making process. It could spur the salvation of all cities which collectively constitute the core of our modern American civilization. The process must begin with less focus on bread and water looters and more scrutiny of the Washington leadership which has for decades allowed the continuous looting of the federal treasury to enrich the small percentage of the population not dependent on cities.

New Orleans has presented us with a hysterical profile which shows that in many vital ways, despite our impressive skyscrapers, we are an underdeveloped civilization. Our masses live in our cities (or the dependent exurbias and suburbs). To foster our nation's security, prosperity and greatness we must expend taxpayer resources on planning, programs and projects which provide the greatest benefits for the greatest numbers. The Washington looting mentality must be replaced with a new Washington creative leadership imperative.


Washington looters still running loose
Abusers of New Orleans
Embezzlers of canal repair dollars
Big shot necks too big for a noose.
For the Mardi Gras
Neo-con domestic shock and awe
Bush budget blunders trapped in the crayfish claw.
Grandmothers and babies cry
Urban peasant victims die;
Oh when the Saints come marching in
Judgement will fall on merciless men.
Put street looting logs away
Only political atrocities on the dock today.
Washington looters still running loose
Big shot necks too big for a noose.


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