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September 23, 2005 | Page 12

A move to deny abortion
Lay off the cheap shots
An unnatural disaster
Inherited arrogance

A city under occuption

"IT'S WORSE than prison," Michael Childs, one of the thousands of New Orleans flood victims seeking refuge in the Superdome, told the New York Times. "In prison, you have a place to urinate, a place for other bathroom needs. Here you have no water, no toilets, no lights."

Because the Superdome housed the city's poor, primarily Black families, prison-like conditions were deemed acceptable. The government has already shown no hesitation in locking up African Americans, who make up over 50 percent of the U.S. prison population.

Just as policing the oppressed is a top priority for foreign policy, which has federal resources tied up in exploiting the Middle East, it has taken priority amid the disaster in Louisiana as well. In response to the looting incidences, the mayor of New Orleans ordered 1,500 police officers to return from rescue efforts to their traditional roles. The state police also sent out 200 officers specially trained for riot situations.

Clearly intending to send a message to the poor Black population, the state is establishing a temporary detention center in a nearby area and asserts it is "ready to accept [lawbreakers] into our system." The official response to the disaster is dominated by "restoring order" to protect private property to the detriment of thousands flood victims still waiting to be saved.

New Orleans is starting to look like occupied territory. Like the manmade disaster in Iraq, the city is littered with dead bodies and debris from demolished homes and buildings. It also bears this resemblance with the presence of armored vehicles filled with troopers flaunting firearms and patrolling the area.

Politicians and the corporate media have denounced looting as though this is the real emergency, implying that the mostly poor Black population is incapable of living peacefully without constantly being policed.

This familiar "white-man's burden" argument is the same one used to justify the occupation in Iraq. In both cases, it is a profoundly racist conclusion that blames the oppressed for the conditions that U.S. ruling class itself has created for them. It is a method of distracting from the fact that the main reason for the looting in New Orleans is that people are not being given what they need to survive--not just in the flood disaster--but also to survive in a system that condemns millions life-long poverty.
Jocelyn Blake, San Diego

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A move to deny abortion

I WANTED to let readers know about an abortion rights case that began in 2002. The story caught my eye on the front page of the Seattle Post Intelligencer, about an unnamed Everett, Wash., woman.

When she was 19 years old and working at the Navy Exchange, she was diagnosed with carrying an anencephalic fetus. This means the baby had no skull or brain, and would die very quickly if born. This was a working woman, and she and her doctor had decided to terminate the pregnancy. Her husband was a sailor in the Navy. The military health insurance plan should have paid for this procedure.

U.S. circuit judge Thomas Zilly ruled in her favor, but her life wasn't at risk, and the Hyde Amendment (passed 30 years ago) prevents federal money funding abortions unless the woman's life is in danger (or in cases of rape and incest). On appeal, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied her, calling its own decision "callous and unfeeling," according to reporter Paul Shukovsky.

This shows the need for a movement that calls for free abortion on demand without apologies!
Brooke Winter, Seattle

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Lay off the cheap shots

I COMPLETELY share Dave Zirin's outrage at Christopher Hitchens ("An altogether rotten human being," September 2), the ex-human turned right-wing pundit who mocked and slandered Cindy Sheehan in a recent column.

But enough with the alcoholic jokes (Dave made three in a short letter). The problem with these jokes is not that they're cheap shots on Hitchens, who deserves any shot coming his way, but that they're moralistic. They imply that if a person or activist has a drinking or drug problem, their ideas are worthless.

Christopher Hitchens is worthless for so many other reasons. We should stick to them.
Danny Katch, New York City

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An unnatural disaster

FOLLOWING THE devastation that Hurricane Katrina has wrought on the Gulf Coast, there have been lots of references to the impact of global warming on hurricane intensity and frequency, as well as the effect that George Bush's environmental policies have had on global warming. I want to clarify several things that can make our argument more accurate and compelling.

First, climatologists are still extremely uncertain about the causal link between global warming and hurricanes--but what we do know is that hurricanes gain more strength over warmer water, and since around 1994, temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean have been warmer due to a "flip" in the Atlantic multi-decadal mode. This mode generally cycles back and forth every 25 years, and in its warm phase, it correlates not only with mega-intensity hurricanes, but also changes steering currents and causes these storms to make landfall with much greater frequency.

Climate scientists have been issuing dire warnings about the increased threats to coastal areas for over a decade, but federal officials haven't listened. In fact, they've loosened regulations to make it easier for construction companies to build shoddy death-traps which don't sustain hurricane winds, and they've taken money away from sea-wall, dyke and levee construction to pay for the destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Despite the well-known threats to New Orleans, in 2003, George Bush turned over many miles of Louisiana and Mississippi wetlands to developers and oil companies. Every four miles of these wetlands could have absorbed a foot of the storm surge from Katrina, but instead, the profits from their destruction are lining the pockets of rich (and overwhelmingly white) Louisianans who escaped Katrina's destruction.

Finally, it is not the case that current administration's influence on global warming (its atrocious energy policy, refusal to sign the Kyoto protocol, etc) is immediately responsible for the increase in global temperatures. The real story is even scarier--the rise in temperatures we see now is the result of greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere at least 50 years ago!

The not-so-natural disasters caused by anthropogenic climate change will only get much worse, and George Bush's environmental policy dooms us to another long century of disasters like Katrina, or worse.
Taylor Johnson, San Jose, Calif.

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Inherited arrogance

DID YOU hear about Barbara Bush's radio interview while she visiting evacuees at the Houston Astrodome? She said, "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is that they all want to stay in Texas. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working out well for them."

Now I know where the president inherited his "compassionate conservatism." I guess that George Jr. isn't the only Bush relative who was "born with a silver foot in his mouth."
Chuck Mann, Greensboro, N.C.

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