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Views in brief

March 3, 2006 | Page 8

OTHER VIEWS BELOW:
More schools, not stadiums
New attack on Native rights
"Bring the troops home"

Sinking under bureaucracy

THERE ARE many aspects of the government's negligent response to Hurricane Katrina that would be laughable if they weren't so devastating. One of the recent examples borders on the absurd.

Shortly after the hurricane, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) ordered 25,000 mobile homes at a cost of $850 million. Out of these, only 2,700 have been used and around 11,000 are sitting in a lot in Arkansas, slowly sinking into the mud.

So what is the government doing about these trailers? They're spending an additional $6-8 million on gravel to stop them from sinking. Although over 55,000 families in Louisiana are waiting on mobile homes, they will probably never get them. Why? Because according to FEMA's own regulations, the trailers cannot be placed on flood-prone areas.

Now the government is looking to sell them off--most likely for less than they paid for them. "Some of the trailers that we inspected are actually warping, have lost wheels, and some have been cannibalized, parts taken out, and we don't even know where the parts are right now," said Homeland Security inspector general Richard Skinner. "So their value is going to decrease tremendously."

While thousands of hurricane survivors are still getting the shaft, the government has found yet another way to throw money down the drain. As if war and tax cuts for the rich weren't enough!
Leela Yellesetty, New Haven, Conn.

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More schools, not stadiums

THE PRIORITIES of the current system recently were shown clearly in Washington state. The state legislature is seriously considering giving $200 million to the owners of the Seattle Sonics basketball team--at the same time as another plan has come out to cut back on bilingual education, special education and close schools in Seattle.

Last year the Superintendent of Seattle Schools proposed closing 10 schools to save money. The budget was millions of dollars short every year. Parents, students and teachers rose up and stopped that plan. They had rallies and forums, and occupied school board meetings. In response, the administration co-opted some of the parents onto a committee to advise them how to close schools in Seattle.

The new plan that came out this week still calls for closing schools but also calls for union-busting (contracting out jobs that are now unionized public jobs to private contractors at lower pay). Besides the cuts in special ed and bilingual education, it calls for more state money to lower class sizes.

But the new state money is a wish and prayer, while the proposed cuts seem more likely--unless a new movement develops to stop this plan as well.

While the Seattle Schools are drowning in red ink and facing a rising number of special education students, the legislature ignores this crisis. Instead, it listens to the owners of the Sonics. The Sonics got a $200 million renovation of the Key Arena in Seattle a few years ago. Apparently, this wasn't enough. The owners now want another $200 million to renovate the arena further and put in even more luxury boxes. If the state doesn't give in to blackmail, the Sonics threaten to leave Seattle.

Just as the parents, teachers and students showed last spring, it takes a grassroots movement to defend our priorities against those who have the wealth and run the government. We need to demand that the legislature tax the rich and use the money to provide what the schools need. Money for schools, not stadiums and war!
Steve Leigh, Seattle

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New attack on Native rights

SEN. JOHN McCain is currently sponsoring Senate Bill S1003, whose purpose, according to McCain, is "to amend the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act of 1974 in order to bring the relocation process to an orderly and certain conclusion."

It would mandate the forcible removal of the remaining Dineh (Navajos) living on the Black Mesa in Arizona. They are to be relocated to an area near Chambers, Ariz., along the Rio Puerco river, which was contaminated by a radioactive spill in 1979. Since 1974, 14,000 Navajos have been relocated to this area. The ostensible purpose of this relocation is to settle a land dispute between the Hopis and the Navajos, but its real purpose is open up the land to coal mining.

Considering the disgraceful way this country has treated indigenous peoples, it takes an amazing amount of gall for the government to do something like this. We should oppose any efforts by the government to relocate people, whether they be Katrina survivors or the Dineh.
Evan Kornfeld, Eugene, Ore.

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"Bring the troops home"

SINCE THE U.S. war in Iraq shifted gears from invasion to occupation, Socialist Worker has correctly raised the slogans of "End the occupation," "Bring the troops home now," and "Troops out now."

"Troops home" and "troops out" have been, and continue to be, used interchangeably. This has made perfect sense for much of the duration of the occupation, but the situation has recently changed.

Rep. John Murtha's (D-Pa.) call last November for "strategic redeployment" of U.S. troops out of Iraq and into Kuwait and other stations in the Middle East has been cheered by sections of the antiwar movement as an antiwar, "troops out now" position. It is not. It is a call for strategic and tactical changes in order to win the war in Iraq.

The goal remains the same: U.S. domination of the Middle East and its oil resources, as a way to solidify and expand the power of the U.S. ruling class over its global rivals, present and future (read, the rest of the world).

The debate at the top over how to best proceed with the agenda in the Middle East is driven first and foremost by the steadfast resistance of the people of Iraq to the occupation. The debate is also in recognition of the fact that nearly seven in 10 Americans think that the war isn't worth it, and that the troops should come home soon, if not immediately.

We should take heart from both the broad antiwar sentiment at home, and from the resistance to the occupation offered by the people of Iraq.

In light of Murtha's proposal, and its effects on the antiwar movement, we can no longer call for "troops out now." This slogan is being co-opted by the Democratic Party as a way to disorient the movement, and to carry on with the war. We must instead clearly call for "Troops home now"--and home means home, not Kuwait, not Afghanistan or Iran.

Slogans are not a substitute for political discussion and debate, but they can and should be a way to galvanize and advance the movement. "Troops home now--end the occupation" provides a clear rallying point for the movement, and must be the bedrock slogan upon which other demands (such as "No racist scapegoating" and "Defend civil rights") can be built.
Roger Dyer, San Francisco

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