Federal Disaster Relief Always Spells Disaster

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How bad can things get for California? Already scorched by wildfires fueled by hot, dry Santa Ana winds, the Eureka state received another blast of hot air when the President showed up for some political gain.

George W. Bush promised that: "We’re not going to forget you in Washington, D.C." I shudder at the thought. Is the state of California going to receive the same aid and support from Washington DC that was received by Katrina-ravaged New Orleans? If so, it’s doomed.

California would be well-advised to let Conan the Republican and the private sector clean it up. Federal disaster aid means bureaucratic bumbling, lost funds, wasted time, destroyed lives and communities and, gentle reader, that’s the good news.

Washington D.C. loves a disaster, so much so that it is a disaster. The White House has shown itself eager to parlay human suffering into an excuse for an expanded police state.

Unconcerned with the welfare of its citizens, Washington D.C. regards you and me as just so much tax money, votes and cannon fodder. We are to be corralled by the White House’s cunningly orchestrated program of perception management. We may revere the rule of law, but the White House just sees the Constitution as a goddamned piece of paper. The White House needs us to shut up and to pay up for their agenda of world domination.

Stunned by 1,800 acres burnt and nearly one million evacuated, shocked by the estimate of at least $1 billion damage in San Diego County alone, Californians are in dire need of help. But what can they expect Washington D.C. to provide? Ask the citizens of New Orleans.

Meanwhile the state of California has had the obligatory presidential flyover, photo ops and pretty speeches. What happens when Bush scuttles back to the Oval office to forget about this disaster in order to concentrate on more important disasters such as losing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and demonizing Iran in preparation for WW III?

History doesn’t repeat itself. People just repeat the same stupid mistakes. Watch Bush imitate Nikita Khrushchev as he antagonizes the Russians with a reverse Cuban Missile Crisis in the form of America’s provocative plan for an Eastern European Missile Shield.

There’s a self-inflicted world crisis raging, and before you can say Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, California’s little bonfire won’t even be remembered as a good place to make S’mores.

All too soon the misery in California will be forgotten by all those not made homeless. Chaparral wildfires fanned by Santa Anna winds? BFD! Those wildfires happen every year.

However, what about that Bush promise to California of federal money to aid those who have lost everything? Where is that money going to come from? As Tom Doggett of Reuters reported last week, the federal government is short of money to help the poor with their heating bills. "About 30 million low-income American households who will need help paying heating bills this winter from a U.S. government program will be left in the cold because of a lack of funding for the program."

What, the world’s richest and most powerful country can’t… or won’t bother to… help its poor? Doggett continues: "The government’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP, only has enough funding to cover 16 percent of the 38 million poor households eligible for the program."

But not to worry, the White House has just issued a Fact Sheet that boasts "Just the Facts: u2018Over Half the Families in America Are Not Poor.’" How reassuring, the glass is half-full.

Besides, Bush needs $46 billion more for his wars. If Cheney can stay awake long enough, maybe he will remember to ask the next visiting Chinese official for an extension of the burgeoning US loan.

Disaster relief? Give me a break. That is the idealistic stuff of Democrats. The last time I looked, the Democrats were as hollow as Fort Knox.

What about security? Disaster areas tend to invite looting. After the fires, California might suffer an even bigger disaster of lawlessness.

In bygone civilized days, when a state was hit by a disaster, the state governor would call out the National Guard which arrangement served the citizens handsomely. But where is the National Guard now? They’re in Iraq stretched thinner than your last dab of butter over two pieces of toast.

The absence of the National Guard creates a security void. And, where there’s a vacuum, there’s the private security contractor waiting in the wings to reap the benefits.

The Powers That Be have thought it all out. Having negated the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, Bush can override what was the discretion of state governors. The New York Times editorial page wrote last February that it is now "easier for a president to override local control of law enforcement and declare martial law." And, always eager to repeat past mistakes, the Federal Government might sub-contract security just as they did in New Orleans. That policy will only cost the taxpayers, many of them trying to rebuild homes and lives, at a significantly higher rate than the National Guard.

And to whom does the private security contractor answer? George W. Bush. And to what is the private security contractor loyal? The Almighty Dollar. Neither Bush nor the contractor gives a damn about you. In cases such as this, security does not mean: "to protect and serve." It means control through oppression.

How long will private security contractors remain on the scene? In the business of milking taxpayer resources, they might even create the conditions that necessitate their continued presence.

Won’t Californians feel so much more secure while being eyed by gun-toting commandos every time they step out for ice cream, take the kids to school or attend church?

Niko Kyriakou quotes Mary Ellen McNish, general secretary for the American Friends Service Committee who said: "With images of soldiers in New Orleans carrying M-16s but no medical or relief supplies fresh in the public memory, the president would still have us believe that a military response is the preferred response."

Kyriakou sums up: "relief groups doubt whether giving the military police power in emergency situations would really increase Americans’ safety."

And how many more natural disasters will it take before every nook and cranny of America is filled with Private Security agents? The sad thing is that in the ordinary course of events there may be other natural disasters that inspire Bush to send in more private security firms.

We won’t be the "Land of the Free" for long. Who needs the threat of foreign armies and terrorists when the bigger threat is Bush’s plan to install private security armies in our communities?

A word to the wise: Governor Schwarzenegger and the residents of California can thank George W. Bush for his visit and inspirational speech. They can applaud as he hugs the desolate and smirks for the photographers. And then, in response to Bush’s promise of federal largesse, the Californians can show Bush the door with a polite: "No thank you."

Elizabeth Gyllensvard contributed to and edited this story.

Tom Chartier [send him mail] played lead guitar in legendary Los Angeles punk band The Rotters for 26 years until their final appearance in January of 2004. He has lived in Tokyo and Los Angeles. Currently he resides somewhere in the Caribbean.

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