Sunday, December 31, 2006

System of Debt Peonage: a feature of debt peonage was(is) that landless peasants who worked on haciendas were forced to live in accomodation owned by the landlordsand to buy clothing, food, and medicinefrom their stores. The peasants' wage never covered these basic provisions. By insisting on credit being given at the hacienda stores, the landlords created ever-increasing levels of exploitation for their workers. They deducted these debts from their wages, with the result that the peasant and his family received nothing for the work that they did.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Big thanks to Duece City Styles for making the closing event hope. Cool Hands, Casper, Woody, Stun 1 , and friends were great on the turn tables and added to the show! Check out

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Saturday, April 15, 2006


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopia

Starve-the-beast or choke-the-beast is a conservative political strategy which uses budget deficits to force reductions in government expenditure, especially spending on social security programs. The term "beast" is used to denote government and the social programs it funds, including publicly funded healthcare and welfare, the implication being that expenditure on such programs, or the programs themselves, is wasteful or destructive.

A current example is the tax cutting policy of the Bush administration in the United States. A well-known U.S. proponent of the strategy is Grover Norquist.

It appears the earliest reference to "starving the beast" as a doctrine was made during the Reagan administration by White House budget director David Stockman, to describe its fiscal philosophy.

Some empirical evidence shows that the strategy may actually be counterproductive, with higher taxes actually corresponding to lower spending: "Controlling for the unemployment rate, federal spending [from 1981 to 2000] increased by about one-half percent of GDP for each one percentage point decline in the relative level of federal tax revenues." The article (written by William Niskanen and Peter Van Doren of the Cato Institute) shows that "a tax increase may be the most effective policy to reduce the relative level of federal spending," though the authors oppose tax increases for other reasons.[1] Additionally, some economists and politicians see the budget deficits created by this strategy as harmful to the economy.

starve the beast v. To cut taxes with the intent of using the reduced revenue as an excuse to drastically reduce the size and number of services offered by a government.
starve-the-beast n., adj.
starving the beast n., pp.
starve-the-beaster n.

Example Citations:
The starve-the-beast doctrine is now firmly within the conservative mainstream. George W. Bush himself seemed to endorse the doctrine as the budget surplus evaporated: in August 2001 he called the disappearing surplus "incredibly positive news" because it would put Congress in a "fiscal straitjacket."

Like supply-siders, starve-the-beasters favor tax cuts mainly for people with high incomes. That is partly because, like supply-siders, they emphasize the incentive effects of cutting the top marginal rate; they just don't believe that those incentive effects are big enough that tax cuts pay for themselves. But they have another reason for cutting taxes mainly on the rich, which has become known as the "lucky ducky" argument.

Here's how the argument runs: to starve the beast, you must not only deny funds to the government; you must make voters hate the government. There's a danger that working-class families might see government as their friend: because their incomes are low, they don't pay much in taxes, while they benefit from public spending. So in starving the beast, you must take care not to cut taxes on these "lucky duckies." (Yes, that's what The Wall Street Journal called them in a famous editorial.) In fact, if possible, you must raise taxes on working-class Americans in order, as The Journal said, to get their "blood boiling with tax rage."
—Paul Krugman, "The Tax-Cut Con," The New York Times, September 14, 2003

But the only way to force government to pare itself down is to cut off the flow of money going to it. Politicians won't stop spending other peoples' money on their own. They'll keep doing it because ... well, that's what politicians do.

That means if we want smaller, less-intrusive government, we have to "starve the beast." Cutting their allowance is the only way to put politicians on a spending leash. And that means tax cuts, tax cuts and more tax cuts. The recent Bush/Republican rebate was just a small down-payment. Time to break out the meat cleaver.
—Chuck Muth, "Commentary: More tax cuts please," United Press International, August 17, 2001

Earliest Citation:
Giant federal tax cuts and deficits have made it politically impossible for Congress to enact major, permanent new programs. Although big new programs stopped springing up several years before Mr. Reagan took office, the president "has changed the whole frame of reference within which the budget is debated," says Republican Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington.

But the deficit "starved" few programs to death, even in cases — such as the Small Business Administration and the Economic Development Administration — where many liberals questioned the programs' worth. And the deficit has sharply added to one spending category: Interest on the national debt has risen to about $140 billion in the current fiscal year from $69 billion in fiscal 1981.

"We didn't starve the beast," laments a White House official. "It's still eating quite well — by feeding off future generations."
—Paul Blustein, "Reagan's Record," The Wall Street Journal, October 21, 1985

(From Word Spy)

"Dorgan discusses 2007 budget- Social services agencies detail frustrations"
This article in April 18, 2006 Grand Forks Herald is a perfect example of Starve the Beast ideals. Cut social spending- what are the effects? The article is discussing Bush's 2007 budget proposal which makes deep cuts in social programs or outright eliminates them. Head Start, United Way, Temporary Aid to Needy Families and so on met with Dorgan to express grave concern about the services they will not be able to provide. A large chunk of these services are preventative services. They explained that they cannot pay employees their worth and have a large turn over with employees. In the long run starve the beast charges us later. In the social programs we will see more crime, more drug and alcohol abuse, more domestic abuse, lower educations, behavior problems, and so on. In budgets the costs incurred in debt will be there. Tim Pawlenty will not raise taxes to fund the highway projects. As a result, he would like to borrow a couple billion dollars. In turn, the tax payer will pay the interest, plus the next bill for highways down the road. The only outcome we will have is more debt in financial terms and also in social terms in society.
(you know damn well when welfare is taken away a man is driven to crime.)
Trickle Down Economy- That is what Reagan called it Starve the Beast policies). In the case of budgets we are seeing the effects of trickle down from federal to state to county to city. As the federal level cuts money it causes all these other elements to scramble for more funds. Cities accross the nation are having to cut programs and raise taxes in order to make up for smaller funds coming in. The feds have less money to give to the states, the states have less money for the counties, and the states and counties have less to give to the cities. It is important to note that these are not mistakes or just bad planning- these policies are crafted for this purpose. The result is that services can be privatized much easier with these lack of funds. It is also good to notice that while "we the people" are taxed higher to cover this lack of funds we are also giving welfare to corporations and developement. We give tax breaks, give free or reduced priced land, or subsidize these corpoartions and developement projects. It's a double wammy! So the trickle down comes right down to yours and my wallets and paychecks.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Local Newspapers
I searched neighborhood newspapers for about 3 months before the show. At first I was looking at articles about what businesses were closing and what developements were coming in. The more I read the more I understood the importance of these papers to community building and community news. I strongly encourage all to find out you local neighborhood paper. Then read and interact with it. Send letters to the editor and post events through these papers.
Some of the Minneapolis rags I picked up were:
City Pages and the Pulse
The Wedge
The Bridge
The Watchdog
The Alley
The Messenger
The Downtown Journal
The Southwest Journal
The Liberator
One Nation
The Rake
Circle News
Southside Pride
Whittier Globe (Alliance)
The Observer

This show was put together by Barry Newman and James DeNoyer. This blog is to add information related to the show. I do not want to speak for James, so this will focus mostly on my side of the show. I intended to bring some of the large global issues to light while connecting them to our community. There is a video which contained many shots of developement or buildings that were being torn down in Minneapolis. It also showed "gang" graffitti and buffed out graffitti. I also included 3 months of newspaper clippings from neighborhood papers that addressed new developements and also global and local issues dealing with taxes, budgets, debt, and free trade. Chris Johnson also provided a great dvd of footage he had taken of the old Macnamara bar/Rick's Market being torn down and the beginnings of the building of the new Lund's/condo complex that is replacing it. James also did a video that showed during the installation with many shots of trains, grain towers, etc..

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Purging the Poorby NAOMI KLEIN[from the October 10, 2005 issue] The NationOutside the 2,000-bed temporary shelter in Baton Rouge's River Center, a Church of Scientology band is performing a version of Bill Withers's classic "Use Me"--a refreshingly honest choice. "If it feels this good getting used," the Scientology singer belts out, "just keep on using me until you use me up."Ten-year-old Nyler, lying face down on a massage table, has pretty much the same attitude. She is not quite sure why the nice lady in the yellow SCIENTOLOGY VOLUNTEER MINISTER T-shirt wants to rub her back, but "it feels so good," she tells me, so who really cares? I ask Nyler if this is her first massage. "Assist!" hisses the volunteer minister, correcting my Scientology lingo. Nyler shakes her head no; since fleeing New Orleans after a tree fell on her house, she has visited this tent many times, becoming something of an assist-aholic. "I have nerves," she explains in a blissed-out massage voice. "I have what you call nervousness."Wearing a donated pink T-shirt with an age-inappropriate slogan ("It's the hidden little Tiki spot where the island boys are hot, hot, hot"), Nyler tells me what she is nervous about. "I think New Orleans might not ever get fixed back." "Why not?" I ask, a little surprised to be discussing reconstruction politics with a preteen in pigtails. "Because the people who know how to fix broken houses are all gone."I don't have the heart to tell Nyler that I suspect she is on to something; that many of the African-American workers from her neighborhood may never be welcomed back to rebuild their city. An hour earlier I had interviewed New Orleans' top corporate lobbyist, Mark Drennen. As president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc., Drennen was in an expansive mood, pumped up by signs from Washington that the corporations he represents--everything from Chevron to Liberty Bank to Coca-Cola--were about to receive a package of tax breaks, subsidies and relaxed regulations so generous it would make the job of a lobbyist virtually obsolete.Listening to Drennen enthuse about the opportunities opened up by the storm, I was struck by his reference to African-Americans in New Orleans as "the minority community." At 67 percent of the population, they are in fact the clear majority, while whites like Drennen make up just 27 percent. It was no doubt a simple verbal slip, but I couldn't help feeling that it was also a glimpse into the desired demographics of the new-and-improved city being imagined by its white elite, one that won't have much room for Nyler or her neighbors who know how to fix houses. "I honestly don't know and I don't think anyone knows how they are going to fit in," Drennen said of the city's unemployed.New Orleans is already displaying signs of a demographic shift so dramatic that some evacuees describe it as "ethnic cleansing." Before Mayor Ray Nagin called for a second evacuation, the people streaming back into dry areas were mostly white, while those with no homes to return to are overwhelmingly black. This, we are assured, is not a conspiracy; it's simple geography--a reflection of the fact that wealth in New Orleans buys altitude. That means that the driest areas are the whitest (the French Quarter is 90 percent white; the Garden District, 89 percent; Audubon, 86 percent; neighboring Jefferson Parish, where people were also allowed to return, 65 percent). Some dry areas, like Algiers, did have large low-income African-American populations before the storm, but in all the billions for reconstruction, there is no budget for transportation back from the far-flung shelters where those residents ended up. So even when resettlement is permitted, many may not be able to return.As for the hundreds of thousands of residents whose low-lying homes and housing projects were destroyed by the flood, Drennen points out that many of those neighborhoods were dysfunctional to begin with. He says the city now has an opportunity for "twenty-first-century thinking": Rather than rebuild ghettos, New Orleans should be resettled with "mixed income" housing, with rich and poor, black and white living side by side.What Drennen doesn't say is that this kind of urban integration could happen tomorrow, on a massive scale. Roughly 70,000 of New Orleans' poorest homeless evacuees could move back to the city alongside returning white homeowners, without a single new structure being built. Take the Lower Garden District, where Drennen himself lives. It has a surprisingly high vacancy rate--17.4 percent, according to the 2000 Census. At that time 702 housing units stood vacant, and since the market hasn't improved and the district was barely flooded, they are presumably still there and still vacant. It's much the same in the other dry areas: With landlords preferring to board up apartments rather than lower rents, the French Quarter has been half-empty for years, with a vacancy rate of 37 percent.The citywide numbers are staggering: In the areas that sustained only minor damage and are on the mayor's repopulation list, there are at least 11,600 empty apartments and houses. If Jefferson Parish is included, that number soars to 23,270. With three people in each unit, that means homes could be found for roughly 70,000 evacuees. With the number of permanently homeless city residents estimated at 200,000, that's a significant dent in the housing crisis. And it's doable. Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, whose Houston district includes some 150,000 Katrina evacuees, says there are ways to convert vacant apartments into affordable or free housing. After passing an ordinance, cities could issue Section 8 certificates, covering rent until evacuees find jobs. Jackson Lee says she plans to introduce legislation that will call for federal funds to be spent on precisely such rental vouchers. "If opportunity exists to create viable housing options," she says, "they should be explored."Malcolm Suber, a longtime New Orleans community activist, was shocked to learn that thousands of livable homes were sitting empty. "If there are empty houses in the city," he says, "then working-class and poor people should be able to live in them." According to Suber, taking over vacant units would do more than provide much-needed immediate shelter: It would move the poor back into the city, preventing the key decisions about its future--like whether to turn the Ninth Ward into marshland or how to rebuild Charity Hospital--from being made exclusively by those who can afford land on high ground. "We have the right to fully participate in the reconstruction of our city," Suber says. "And that can only happen if we are back inside." But he concedes that it will be a fight: The old-line families in Audubon and the Garden District may pay lip service to "mixed income" housing, "but the Bourbons uptown would have a conniption if a Section 8 tenant moved in next door. It will certainly be interesting."Equally interesting will be the response from the Bush Administration. So far, the only plan for homeless residents to move back to New Orleans is Bush's bizarre Urban Homesteading Act. In his speech from the French Quarter, Bush made no mention of the neighborhood's roughly 1,700 unrented apartments and instead proposed holding a lottery to hand out plots of federal land to flood victims, who could build homes on them. But it will take months (at least) before new houses are built, and many of the poorest residents won't be able to carry the mortgage, no matter how subsidized. Besides, it barely touches the need: The Administration estimates that in New Orleans there is land for only 1,000 "homesteaders."The truth is that the White House's determination to turn renters into mortgage payers is less about solving Louisiana's housing crisis than indulging an ideological obsession with building a radically privatized "ownership society." It's an obsession that has already come to grip the entire disaster zone, with emergency relief provided by the Red Cross and Wal-Mart and reconstruction contracts handed out to Bechtel, Fluor, Halliburton and Shaw--the same gang that spent the past three years getting paid billions while failing to bring Iraq's essential services to prewar levels [see Klein, "The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," May 2]. "Reconstruction," whether in Baghdad or New Orleans, has become shorthand for a massive uninterrupted transfer of wealth from public to private hands, whether in the form of direct "cost plus" government contracts or by auctioning off new sectors of the state to corporations.This vision was laid out in uniquely undisguised form during a meeting at the Heritage Foundation's Washington headquarters on September 13. Present were members of the House Republican Study Committee, a caucus of more than 100 conservative lawmakers headed by Indiana Congressman Mike Pence. The group compiled a list of thirty-two "Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina and High Gas Prices," including school vouchers, repealing environmental regulations and "drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." Admittedly, it seems farfetched that these would be adopted as relief for the needy victims of an eviscerated public sector. Until you read the first three items: "Automatically suspend Davis-Bacon prevailing wage laws in disaster areas"; "Make the entire affected area a flat-tax free-enterprise zone"; and "Make the entire region an economic competitiveness zone (comprehensive tax incentives and waiving of regulations)." All are poised to become law or have already been adopted by presidential decree.In their own way the list-makers at Heritage are not unlike the 500 Scientology volunteer ministers currently deployed to shelters across Louisiana. "We literally followed the hurricane," David Holt, a church supervisor, told me. When I asked him why, he pointed to a yellow banner that read, SOMETHING CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT. I asked him what "it" was and he said "everything."So it is with the neocon true believers: Their "Katrina relief" policies are the same ones trotted out for every problem, but nothing energizes them like a good disaster. As Bush says, lands swept clean are "opportunity zones," a chance to do some recruiting, advance the faith, even rewrite the rules from scratch. But that, of course, will take some massaging--I mean assisting.

extreme makeover (related article3)
08 February 2005Iraqi farmers forced to sow modified grainAn order on intellectual property signed by the former US military administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, forces Iraqi farmers into dependency on international corporations peddling genetically modified (GM) seed.By Christopher Findlay for ISN Security WatchIraq is historically part of the Fertile Crescent (a term coined by US archaeologist James H. Breasted in the early 20th century), a swathe of arable land that stretched across the Middle East in ancient times, from the waterways of the Persian Gulf across the northern edge of the Syrian desert and Mesopotamia to the Levant and down to the Nile river delta. This area, considered by some historians to be the cradle of the sedentary farming culture, was home to some of the earliest advanced human civilizations such as the Sumerian, Egyptian, Akkadian, Assyrian, and Babylonian empires. The first agricultural settlements in the Fertile Crescent were founded in about 8000 BCE. They facilitated the emergence of advanced societies with complex social systems and an economy based on farming and animal husbandry. From the muddy banks of the Nile to the Shatt-al-Arab at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, people learned to farm the rich soil and exploit the annual flooding of streams and waterways for economic gain. The marshlands of the great river deltas in southern Iraq were believed to be the last modern-day remainders of the ancient Fertile Crescent, but most of these swamps have been desiccated in the past decade through damming and draining of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. The marshes were drained both for irrigation purposes and in order to deny a sanctuary to the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq when they rebelled against the regime of Saddam Hussein, with encouragement from the US, after the end of the 1991 war in the Gulf.Can Iraq feed itself?Iraqs agricultural sector has been particularly affected by political developments in the past decade. According to statistics published by the UNs Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Iraqs annual wheat production increased from 975600 tons in 1980 to 1195800t in 1990, the year in which then-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein decided to invade and occupy neighboring Kuwait although the harvested area had been slightly reduced from nearly 1.4 million to just under 1.2 million hectares. Although the total arable land increased again over the following decade, the crop was reduced by two-thirds during the UN embargo years between 1991 and 2000. The harvest yield dropped from 710 kilograms of wheat per hectare to 274kg per hectare during the period 1980-2000, according to the FAOs figures. Although the grain harvest improved and the UN lifted economic sanctions in 2003, around half of the Iraqi population, or around 13 million citizens, still required food aid six months after the occupation of the country, the UN food agency said. There is little doubt that Iraqs agricultural sector, like the rest of the countrys economy, is in a bad shape. But experts question whether this is really the result of inferior seeds used by Iraqi farmers, as US genetics companies claim, and point to other factors that can explain the difficulties that Iraqi wheat growers are currently experiencing. After more than a decade of UN sanctions and two years of military occupation, many sectors of the Iraqi economy are suffering from the same problems. These include material difficulties such as a damaged infrastructure and a lack of spare parts and fuel for tractors and other mechanized farming implements, as well as general insecurity due to concerns about safety and the lack of public authority in the occupied country. However, experts believe that Iraq could once again become independent of wheat imports, now that UN sanctions have been lifted and once the economic and security situations improve.Paul Bremers Order 81From the earliest days of sedentary agriculture, farmers learned that saving seeds not only ensured that there would be a harvest in the following year, but that different strains of seeds could be manually selected and cross-bred to achieve more resistant plants or a greater yield in next years harvest. The practice led to the emergence of new wheat strains that were ideally adapted to the climatic and soil conditions in the region. Thus, over the course of hundreds and thousands of years, the farmers of what is modern-day Iraq taught the world the secrets of farming wheat and other crops. But the traditional ways of agriculture in Mesopotamia may be facing extinction unless a regulation enacted by former US governor Paul Bremer is rescinded. Under the terms of Bremers CPA Order 81 on Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety, enacted shortly before the formal handover of sovereignty last year, the Iraqi Patent and Industrial Designs Laws and Regulations (No. 65 of 1970) were amended. As a result, it is now illegal for Iraqi farmers to save up seeds from their latest harvest and use them for planting or crossbreeding in the next years crop a practice that has been honored by farmers in the region since time immemorial. The preamble to Bremers Order 81 states that one of its goals is to ensure that economic change as necessary to benefit the people of Iraq occurs in a manner acceptable to the people of Iraq. But in paragraph 66 of the order, Iraqi wheat growers are expressly prohibited from saving their seeds for the next season: Farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties, the order says. These protected seeds include an increasing number of varieties that have been developed by indigenous farmers through manual selection over centuries, but have since been patented by international companies. Seeds that are distinguished from other known, registered varieties can be claimed as intellectual property by anyone, worldwide. Such seeds are by default considered to be protected varieties, and Iraqi farmers using them are required to destroy their entire seed stock at the end of a harvest.Seed savers targetedUnder the new rules, local growers are forced instead to purchase annual licenses from corporations and will receive new seed every year. Many GM wheat strains are engineered to become barren in the next generation, to prevent farmers from reusing the seed. Even farmers who refuse to plant modified crops may be affected, as airborne cross-pollination from GM fields to non-GM fields is not unusual; however, even if cross-breeding is completely unintentional, the company owning the patent on certain genetic traits can claim the entire next generation as its own property. In several districts of Iraq, soldiers of the US Armys 256th Brigade Combat Team (BCT) have been distributing free, genetically modified (GM) wheat seed to farmers since December last year, as part of Operation Amber Waves, an effort by the Agricultural Reconstruction and Development Program for Iraq (ARDI) to introduce high-quality seeds to the occupied country. According to US military reports, farmers received free wheat, barley, and fertilizer, as well as a United Farmers of Iraq T-shirt, as part of Operation Amber Waves. Iraqs wheat seed has been degraded tremendously because the farmers harvest their grain and then use the same wheat to replant, Major Carrie Acree, a public relations officer serving with the 256th BCT, was quoted as saying. What they have now is fit for livestock. But other sources warn that the program is a thinly-disguised measure that will force Iraqi farmers to switch to GM seeds imported by US companies, and will outlaw the practice of saving seeds for the next years harvest. It is estimated that up to 97 per cent of Iraqi growers are seed savers or purchase locally-developed seed from local vendors, and rely on this technique for their livelihood.Creating dependenciesThe ARDI program is run by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and aims to demonstrate measures to improve winter crops for the 2004/2005 harvest by distributing GM seed developed by US corporations. However, critics say that the measure will force the farmers to purchase licenses and make them completely reliant on foreign seed suppliers in the long term. One often-heard argument in favor of GM food is the promise of bumper crops that could end hunger in developing countries. But this vision depends on the willingness of farmers to become completely dependent on international corporations, and on their compliance with contracts in which they effectively sign away all rights to indigenously developed, local plant strains. Intellectual property rights can extend not just to a specific variety of genetic structure, but may apply to the resultant characteristics, such as a plants resistance to a particular pest. Any other strains that exhibit the same characteristic may then be regarded as infringing on that copyright, regardless of whether they were developed commercially through GM technology, or have emerged as the result of traditional seed retention and crossbreeding. Critics of GM agriculture say that Order 81 will eradicate plant diversity, place Iraqi farmers under the tutelage of international genetics companies, and force them into dependency on those corporations for the foreseeable future. At the same time, Bremers legislation creates more favorable conditions in Iraq for GM giants such as Monsanto or Syngenta than they could ever hope to encounter in a country with a functioning administration. With the almost complete disenfranchisement of farmers having become binding legislation, corporations will be able to force Iraqi growers into package deals that combine potent weed killers with seeds that have been genetically modified to withstand the chemical onslaught. Many GM companies face widespread resistance in developed countries, for example in the EU and Japan, and opponents say that Iraq may now become a testing ground for technology that is considered unacceptable, because too risky, in countries with a sovereign government.

extreme makeover (related article2)
Posted by David Bollier on Fri, 09/02/2005 - 11:08amToolsThe heart-rending breakdown of civilization that we are witnessing in New Orleans is not a natural disaster." It is the logical outcome of a laissez-faire approach to governance that the Bush administration has aggressively pursued from Day One. While Category 4 hurricanes inevitably cause death and destruction, there is lots that government can do to manage the foreseeable problems after a catastrophic storm: rescue people; provide food, water, shelter and medical care; maintain order; fix damaged infrastructure. This is what government, especially the federal government, is for.But when you don't really believe in government except as a means to subsidize business and privatize wealth, the unfolding debacle in New Orleans should come as no surprise. After all, the rallying cry of conservative ideologues for years has been starve the beast." The best way to curb the size and power of government, they realize, is to slash spending on social services and discredit government leadership. Unleash the market! Privatize government!Now we know what a starved beast looks like. Chaos. Suffering. The breakdown of civil order. Now we can see what happens when essential government services are privatized.when important public works projects (like flood control and emergency planning) are under-funded. when the one-third of the National Guard is diverted to fight an unnecessary war in Iraq. and when the most basic human needs of the urban poor have no standing in our political culture.What could be more shameful than the deaths, suffering and lawlessness at the New Orleans Convention Center: several thousand refugees, mostly black and poor people, that FEMA didn't even know were there! For four days, no one had food or water. Dead bodies lay about. A young girl was reportedly raped. No one was in charge.It will take months to understand the political and policy choices that contributed to this disaster in emergency planning. But a major article by John Elliston in Independent Weekly (Disaster in the Making," September 22, 2004)goes a long way towards explaining how the Bush administration's privatization philosophy played out at FEMA (cited by Hunter at the DailyKos.)Elliston describes how Bush appointed Joseph Allbaugh his chief of staff in Texas and the manager of his presidential campaign in 2000 to head FEMA in 2001. Allbaugh that year told a Senate appropriations subcommittee about his intentions for FEMA: "Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective state and local risk management. Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level."Ellston writes:Some FEMA veterans complained that Allbaugh had little experience in managing disasters, and the new administration's early initiatives did little to settle their concerns. The White House quickly launched a government-wide effort to privatize public services, including key elements of disaster management. Bush's first budget director, Mitch Daniels, spelled out the philosophy in remarks at an April 2001 conference: "The general idea -- that the business of government is not to provide services, but to make sure that they are provided -- seems self-evident to me," he said.As a result, says a disaster program administrator who insists on anonymity, "We have to compete for our jobs--we have to prove that we can do it cheaper than a contractor." And when it comes to handling disasters, the FEMA employee stresses, cheaper is not necessarily better, and the new outsourcing requirements sometimes slow the agency's operations.William Waugh, a disaster expert at Georgia State University who has written training programs for FEMA, warns that the rise of a "consultant culture" has not served emergency programs well. "It's part of a widespread problem of government contracting out capabilities," he says. "Pretty soon governments can't do things because they've given up those capabilities to the private sector. And private corporations don't necessarily maintain those capabilities."The shameful events in New Orleans are only the most lurid manifestation of the starve-the-beast ideology of governance. The Republican obsession with outsourcing and privatization (which many centrist Democrats have happily emulated) is now pervasive despite the demonstrable human costs and social inequities. We see it in public health, public education, social services, environmental protection, healthy and safety regulation, and more.It is difficult to predict whether the searing stories coming out of Louisiana will sufficiently discredit this pernicious political theology. Probably not, because fundamentalism, as exemplified by George W. Bush personally, is proudly indifferent to facts. On the other hand, Americans are a pragmatic people. They realize that "shoot to kill" orders to curb looting is no substitute for thoughtful government leadership and planning. Let's hope they realize that ramming through a permanent repeal of the estate tax in coming weeks -- as the Bush administration hopes to do -- would be supremely tasteless and anti-social.If there is one bright spot in the current morass of suffering, shame and despair, it is the clarity of the challenge facing us to reclaim government as an instrument of the common good.

extreme makeover (related article)
How to End the WarBy Naomi KleinIn These TimesThursday 05 May 2005The central question we need to answer is this: What were the real reasons for the Bush administration's invasion and occupation of Iraq?When we identify why we really went to war - not the cover reasons or the rebranded reasons, freedom and democracy, but the real reasons - then we can become more effective anti-war activists. The most effective and strategic way to stop this occupation and prevent future wars is to deny the people who wage these wars their spoils - to make war unprofitable. And we can't do that unless we effectively identify the goals of war.When I was in Iraq a year ago trying to answer that question, one of the most effective ways I found to do that was to follow the bulldozers and construction machinery. I was in Iraq to research the so-called reconstruction. And what struck me most was the absence of reconstruction machinery, of cranes and bulldozers, in downtown Baghdad. I expected to see reconstruction all over the place.I saw bulldozers in military bases. I saw bulldozers in the Green Zone, where a huge amount of construction was going on, building up Bechtel's headquarters and getting the new US embassy ready. There was also a ton of construction going on at all of the US military bases. But, on the streets of Baghdad, the former ministry buildings are absolutely untouched. They hadn't even cleared away the rubble, let alone started the reconstruction process.The one crane I saw in the streets of Baghdad was hoisting an advertising billboard. One of the surreal things about Baghdad is that the old city lies in ruins, yet there are these shiny new billboards advertising the glories of the global economy. And the message is: "Everything you were before isn't worth rebuilding." We're going to import a brand-new country. It is the Iraq version of the "Extreme Makeover."It's not a coincidence that Americans were at home watching this explosion of extreme reality television shows where people's bodies were being surgically remade and their homes were being bulldozed and reconstituted. The message of these shows is: Everything you are now, everything you own, everything you do sucks. We're going to completely erase it and rebuild it with a team of experts. You just go limp and let the experts take over. That is exactly what "Extreme Makover:Iraq" is.There was no role for Iraqis in this process. It was all foreign companies modernizing the country. Iraqis with engineering Ph.D.s who built their electricity system and who built their telephone system had no place in the reconstruction process.If we want to know what the goals of the war are, we have to look at what Paul Bremer did when he first arrived in Iraq. He laid off 500,000 people, 400,000 of whom were soldiers. And he shredded Iraq's constitution and wrote a series of economic laws that the The Economist described as "the wish list of foreign investors."Basically, Iraq has been turned into a laboratory for the radical free-market policies that the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute dream about in Washington, D.C., but are only able to impose in relative slow motion here at home.So we just have to examine the Bush administration's policies and actions. We don't have to wield secret documents or massive conspiracy theories. We have to look at the fact that they built enduring military bases and didn't rebuild the country. Their very first act was to protect the oil ministry leaving the the rest of the country to burn - to which Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld responded: "Stuff happens." Theirs was an almost apocalyptic glee in allowing Iraq to burn. They let the country be erased, leaving a blank slate that they could rebuild in their image This was the goal of the war. The big lie The administration says the war was about fighting for democracy. That was the big lie they resorted to when they were caught in the other lies. But it's a different kind of a lie in the sense that it's a useful lie. The lie that the United States invaded Iraq to bring freedom and democracy not just to Iraq but, as it turns out, to the whole world, is tremendously useful - because we can first expose it as a lie and then we can join with Iraqis to try to make it true. So it disturbs me that a lot of progressives are afraid to use the language of democracy now that George W. Bush is using it. We are somehow giving up on the most powerful emancipatory ideas ever created, of self-determination, liberation and democracy.And it's absolutely crucial not to let Bush get away with stealing and defaming these ideas - they are too important.In looking at democracy in Iraq, we first need to make the distinction between elections and democracy. The reality is the Bush administration has fought democracy in Iraq at every turn.Why? Because if genuine democracy ever came to Iraq, the real goals of the war - control over oil, support for Israel, the construction of enduring military bases, the privatization of the entire economy - would all be lost. Why? Because Iraqis don't want them and they don't agree with them. They have said it over and over again - first in opinion polls, which is why the Bush administration broke its original promise to have elections within months of the invasion. I believe Paul Wolfowitz genuinely thought that Iraqis would respond like the contestants on a reality TV show and say: "Oh my God. Thank you for my brand-new shiny country." They didn't. They protested that 500,000 people had lost their jobs. They protested the fact that they were being shut out of the reconstruction of their own country, and they made it clear they didn't want permanent US bases.That's when the administration broke its promise and appointed a CIA agent as the interim prime minister. In that period they locked in - basically shackled - Iraq's future governments to an International Monetary Fund program until 2008. This will make the humanitarian crisis in Iraq much, much deeper. Here's just one example: The IMF and the World Bank are demanding the elimination of Iraq's food ration program, upon which 60 percent of the population depends for nutrition, as a condition for debt relief and for the new loans that have been made in deals with an unelected government.In these elections, Iraqis voted for the United Iraqi Alliance. In addition to demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of troops, this coalition party has promised that they would create 100 percent full employment in the public sector - i.e., a total rebuke of the neocons' privatization agenda. But now they can't do any of this because their democracy has been shackled. In other words, they have the vote, but no real power to govern. A pro-democracy movement The future of the anti-war movement requires that it become a pro-democracy movement. Our marching orders have been given to us by the people of Iraq. It's important to understand that the most powerful movement against this war and this occupation is within Iraq itself. Our anti-war movement must not just be in verbal solidarity but in active and tangible solidarity with the overwhelming majority of Iraqis fighting to end the occupation of their country. We need to take our direction from them.Iraqis are resisting in many ways - not just with armed resistance. They are organizing independent trade unions. They are opening critical newspapers, and then having those newspapers shut down. They are fighting privatization in state factories. They are forming new political coalitions in an attempt to force an end to the occupation.So what is our role here? We need to support the people of Iraq and their clear demands for an end to both military and corporate occupation. That means being the resistance ourselves in our country, demanding that the troops come home, that US corporations come home, that Iraqis be free of Saddam's debt and the IMF and World Bank agreements signed under occupation. It doesn't mean blindly cheerleading for "the resistance." Because there isn't just one resistance in Iraq. Some elements of the armed resistance are targeting Iraqi civilians as they pray in Shia mosques - barbaric acts that serve the interests of the Bush administration by feeding the perception that the country is on the brink of civil war and therefore US forces must remain in Iraq. Not everyone fighting the US occupation is fighting for the freedom of all Iraqis; some are fighting for their own elite power. That's why we need to stay focused on supporting the demands for self-determination, not cheering any setback for US empire.And we can't cede the language, the territory of democracy. Anybody who says Iraqis don't want democracy should be deeply ashamed of themselves. Iraqis are clamoring for democracy and had risked their lives for it long before this invasion - in the 1991 uprising against Saddam, for example, when they were left to be slaughtered. The elections in January took place only because of tremendous pressure from Iraqi Shia communities that insisted on getting the freedom they were promised. "The courage to be serious" Many of us opposed this war because it was an imperial project. Now Iraqis are struggling for the tools that will make self-determination meaningful, not just for show elections or marketing opportunities for the Bush administration. That means it's time, as Susan Sontag said, to have "the courage to be serious." The reason why the 58 percent of Americans against the war has not translated into the same millions of people on the streets that we saw before the war is because we haven't come forward with a serious policy agenda. We should not be afraid to be serious.Part of that seriousness is to echo the policy demands made by voters and demonstrators in the streets of Baghdad and Basra and bring those demands to Washington, where the decisions are being made.But the core fight is over respect for international law, and whether there is any respect for it at all in the United States. Unless we're fighting a core battle against this administration's total disdain for the very idea of international law, then the specifics really don't matter.We saw this very clearly in the US presidential campaign, as John Kerry let Bush completely set the terms for the debate. Recall the ridicule of Kerry's mention of a "global test," and the charge that it was cowardly and weak to allow for any international scrutiny of US actions. Why didn't Kerry ever challenge this assumption? I blame the Kerry campaign as much as I blame the Bush administration. During the elections, he never said "Abu Ghraib." He never said "Guantnamo Bay." He accepted the premise that to submit to some kind of "global test" was to be weak. Once they had done that, the Democrats couldn't expect to win a battle against Alberto Gonzales being appointed attorney general, when they had never talked about torture during the campaign.And part of the war has to be a media war in this country. The problem is not that the anti-war voices aren't there - it's that the voices aren't amplified. We need a strategy to target the media in this country, making it a site of protest itself. We must demand that the media let us hear the voices of anti-war critics, of enraged mothers who have lost their sons for a lie, of betrayed soldiers who fought in a war they didn't believe in. And we need to keep deepening the definition of democracy - to say that these show elections are not democracy, and that we don't have a democracy in this country either.Sadly, the Bush administration has done a better job of using the language of responsibility than we in the anti-war movement. The message that's getting across is that we are saying "just leave," while they are saying, "we can't just leave, we have to stay and fix the problem we started."We can have a very detailed, responsible agenda and we shouldn't be afraid of it. We should be saying, "Let's pull the troops out but let's leave some hope behind." We can't be afraid to talk about reparations, to demand freedom from debt for Iraq, a total abandonment of Bremer's illegal economic laws, full Iraqi control over the reconstruction budget - there are many more examples of concrete policy demands that we can and must put forth. When we articulate a more genuine definition of democracy than we are hearing from the Bush administration, we will bring some hope to Iraq. And we will bring closer to us many of the 58 percent who are opposed to the war but aren't marching with us yet because they are afraid of cutting and running.

starve the beast (related article)
Published on Wednesday, February 16, 2005 by the Seattle TimesBush Erasing FDR's Legacy While Waging Class Warfareby Floyd J. McKayConsidering past failures to privatize the Bonneville Power Administration, the Northwest may wonder what is in President Bush's mind when he proposes yet another anti-Bonneville measure.The president's budget calls for Bonneville to sell its power at "market rates" rather than the lower wholesale rates it has used for nearly 70 years.This is not the first Republican shot at Bonneville, but in this case it illustrates Bush's obsession with wiping out any vestiges of the New Deal and turning the entire nation over to private business.Bonneville would not become a private business under his plan, but for all practical purposes, it might as well be one if it loses the keystone of its operation, marketing hydropower to the region's homes and industries.It would be relegated to the scrap heap that the president wants to use for Social Security, another legacy of the New Deal. Privatization has become the grand mantra of this administration, ranking equally with American military superiority abroad.There are links. Since we moved, post-Vietnam, to a professional military, many duties once handled by military personnel are contracted out to private industry. In Iraq today, tasks ranging from food service to bodyguards for high-ranking officials have been privatized. That may be fine in some instances, but it further strengthens what the general-turned-president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, termed the "military-industrial complex." And it's very good politics military units cannot contribute to campaigns, but private contractors can, and do at very high rates.By building a professional Army, conservatives expand a voting bloc military families tend to vote Republican and when you add to this the military contractors plus our huge defense industry, you create one of the basic building blocks of the conservative coalition.That building block floats on American taxpayer dollars, from Democrats as well as Republicans.Privatization aims to move us further down this route. The real beneficiaries of Bush's plan to privatize Social Security are in the financial industry, those who sell mutual funds or other investments that might qualify for the new private accounts the president is pushing. Big campaign donors.To make privatization work, Social Security benefits must be reduced, and billions of dollars borrowed to float the privatization program. That debt will also be held by the financial industry, here and in foreign nations, primarily China and Japan.Privatization and militarization are two legs of the legacy Bush hopes to leave to history. The third leg is the virtual elimination of social-welfare programs, many of them dating to the New Deal. It's called "starving the beast."When we choose to spend billions upon billions for military operations, and are required by law to maintain basic payments to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the federal budget can be balanced only if we also increase taxes to pay for these programs. Bush has done the opposite his tax cuts, primarily for the nation's richest citizens, are driving the country deeply into debt.We are taking in less than we are spending and there is no end in sight unless we either make massive cuts in spending or increase taxes. Since Republicans have made "taxes" the dirtiest word in the English language even more deplored than "liberal" none will dare back a tax increase. Even reversing Bush's giveaway to the wealthiest would be called a "tax increase."Instead, we build continuing debt, which eventually must be repaid. When the Treasury notes come due, they must be redeemed right off the top of the federal budget. Billions now, it will be trillions if the president gets privatized Social Security.Consider the future: Payment on the debt is required; basic Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are required; and the military is in the midst of another war to promote democracy.There is virtually nothing left to pay for federal programs most Americans support, from parks to clean water to border patrols to scientific research.What to do? Well, they could be privatized (sell BPA to Enron). Or simply nibbled to death. Hence the term, "starving the beast," coined by the anti-tax zealot Grover Nordquist. The president's new budget takes us down that road, a bite here and a bite there.George W. Bush is one of two radical presidents in my lifetime. The first, Franklin D. Roosevelt, saved the poor and middle classes and built a nation of opportunity. Bush is destroying FDR's legacy and waging class warfare on behalf of wealthy Americans who don't need his help.Floyd J. McKay, a journalism professor emeritus at Western Washington University, is a regular contributor to Times editorial pages. E-mail him at floydmckay@yahoo.com2005 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

starve the beast (related article2)
Thursday, November 3rd, 2005Juan Gonzalez Analyzes the New York City Mayoral RaceDemocracy Now! co-host and New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez gives an analysis of the New York City mayoral race between Republican Michael Bloomberg and Democrat Fernando Ferrer and talks about the lack of focus on urban America by both corporate and progressive journalists. [includes rush transcript]* Juan Gonzalez, New York Daily News columnist and Democracy Now! co-host. He is also the author of several books including "Harvest of Empire : A History of Latinos in America," "Fallout: The Environmental Consequences of the World Trade Center Collapse" and "Roll Down Your Window: Stories of a Forgotten America."RUSH TRANSCRIPTAMY GOODMAN: Here in New York City, the mayoral election is taking place next Tuesday. The mayor's job in this city is often referred to as the toughest job in America and one of the most influential government posts in the country. The Republican incumbent, billionaire Mike Bloomberg, is seeking a second term in office, while former Democratic Bronx Borough President, Fernando Ferrer, is trying to unseat him. The race is set to go down in history as the most expensive political campaign outside a presidential race, with Michael Bloomberg outspending Fernando Ferrer by tens of millions of dollars. Polls have consistently shown that Ferrer is behind in the race. Last Tuesday night, he and Michael Bloomberg debated for the second and last time before the election.Juan, you have been covering city politics for many years as a columnist for the New York Daily News. You have written extensively about this administration, as well as previous ones, and also written a number of books. Harvest of Empire is about the history of Latinos in America. Your latest book, Fallout is about what happened after 9/11, the environmental fallout at ground zero, and have written Stories from a Forgotten America: Roll Down Your Window, your columns about the voices we don't hear. And I think that's a good launching point here to talk about this race in the context of national politics in cities around the country.JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah, well, actually, Amy, I just completed sort of a more in-depth analysis of this 2005 mayoral race, which I have called Where Have All of the Fighters Gone? because I think that one of the things, as I have spent close to 30 years now covering urban politics in the United States and not just here in New York, but in Philadelphia and other cities, and I have been actually astounded at the lack of in-depth analysis of this race in New York, which is probably, other than the New Jersey senatorial race, the biggest -- the most high profile election in the United States this year. And one of the amazing things to me is how even within the progressive movement, which prides itself on in-depth analysis or looking at the deeper ramifications of political processes, that there's been so little of it in this race, and especially in terms of what is happening in urban America today.I understand part of the problem has been that many progressive journalists and the progressive movement, in general, has been so fixated on these huge national problems and international problems like the war in Iraq and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and global warming and a variety of issues, but there has been really a dearth of analysis. What is going on in the cities of America? What are the class forces that are shaping the modern American city, and what do political battles have to do with that? And it's almost like its become a blind spot of the progressive movement in the United States.One of the points I try to make in my piece is that there are class and racial reasons for that, that the progressive movement in America is still largely confined to middle class and sometimes upper class folks who don't have a lot of day-to-day direct connection with what is happening in urban America.The great problem that capitalism has confronted in the last decades is that the great centers of finance and commerce have all become overwhelmingly populated by African Americans and immigrants from the colonial and neocolonial nations of the third world, so that what has happened is that even the progressive movement is no longer directly tied to the populations of the great cities of the United States. And I think that, therefore, they're not recognizing the enormous changes that are occurring, because what has happened, especially now as the United States is reaching peak oil production, but it started happening in the oil crisis of the 1970s, is that the ruling circles of the United States are trying to restructure the cities to regain control of the cities, because they can no longer control the political superstructure, because the voting power of these communities has grown -- of these immigrant communities has grown to such a degree. So they are attempting to recapture control and actually de-populate the major cities.One of the things that I encountered throughout my coverage of the four years of the Bloomberg administration in every working class community that I visit is the local leaders are telling me: They're taking our land. They are creating all of these huge development projects. They're making it impossible to live, whether it's Williamsburg or Greenpoint in Brooklyn or even the South Bronx. Harlem has been completely gentrified. And what is happening is that the ruling circles have been in the process of dismantling democratic government by taking away the tax base of these cities, so that even if candidates from the working class or minority communities get elected, they will have no ability to manage their cities independently, because the tax base is being eroded, and all of these stadium projects and these others, what they are, they are siphoning off the tax base to keep -- take economic power away from the growing majorities of the cities and leave them with political power but no ability to administer government. And the Bloomberg administration has been unparalleled in its ability to do this.(excerpt)