domingo, 26 de septiembre de 2010

A Champion of the Environment?

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle (August 15) describes Obama's first 18 months, with Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker, as the period with the "most productive Congress in recent memory." The accomplishments mentioned include the Obama health-care plan, the federal stimulus program, financial regulation, and an activist environmental agenda.

Let's take a look at this last claim.

The Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast is not one that can be blamed on the Bush administration. It was Obama himself who accepted huge contributions to his election campaign from the country's oil companies, including the British-owned BP. In exchange for these hefty donations to the Democratic Party coffers (it should be noted that these companies finance both major political parties), BP was released from having to produce an emergency disaster plan for their deep-water drilling project in the Gulf Coast.

This corruption scandal was not that of Bush. It was Obama's own environmental protection agency that waived this requirement for BP because of its funding to the Obama campaign. Deep Horizon is now the nation's biggest environmental disaster ever. It has become known throughout the South as "Obama's Katrina." It's a disaster that has destroyed not only precious flora and fauna, it has destroyed the livelihood of millions of people who live off of fishing and fish-processing (and all other spinoff industries), tourism, transportation and more.

And to add insult to injury, all the sludge that is being removed in the BP "cleanup" is being placed in highly toxic dumps right in the middle of the Black and Latino communities along the Gulf Coast seabord. This is the kind of environmental racism reminiscent of the Cancer Corridor just north of New Orleans, where deregulated industries abutted the Black townships, poisoning the poorest of the poor who could not afford to move elsewhere. (Hurricane Katrina exposed to the entire world this Cancer Corridor and the deathly toll it had taken on the primarily Black residents of the area.)

Five Years After Katrina

Today, five years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans remains a city that has expelled its majority Black population, has refused to preserve or rebuild public housing, and therefore, in practice, through the "laws of the market," has prevented the right of return of the Black majority to this historic city.

Without public housing, and without public financing that would allow the Black residents to rebuild their homes, hundreds of thousands of erstwhile citizens of New Orleans have been permanently displaced -- much like the Palestinians from their homeland.

Hurricane Katrina did in one day what the wealthy white establishment had long hoped to do: gentrify the city through a process of ethnic cleansing. New Orleans is now run by a majority white City Council, the first time in more than 70 years. The city has rebuilt hotels and casinos, not housing for the poor.

Glen Ford, the editor of the Black Agenda Report, wrote the following about New Orleans today, five years after Hurricane Katrina, and about the mini-Katrinas that are taking place across the country against Black people:

"[I]n New Orleans, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a small, hardly noticed protest outside what used to be a public housing project in the St. Bernard section of New Orleans, took place. ...

"A relatively small group of New Orleans activists gathered in the rain outside the project to protest the visit to the city by President Obama, whose housing policies spell doom for the entire concept of public housing in the United States.

"When Katrina struck, the Bush administration's Department of Housing was quick to call for demolition of all the public housing units in New Orleans, even though most of the buildings were salvageable. The residents were locked out, 3,000 of them, like hundreds of thousands of others across the country since the early Nineties, victims of corporate greed for the land the projects sit on and a racist prejudice that holds that Black and poor people are inherently dangerous when concentrated in one place. Katrina was simply a convenient excuse to get rid of public housing in New Orleans, where four major projects were demolished.

"In New Orleans and elsewhere across the country, the poor who are evicted from public housing are expected to disperse, get out of the way of corporate development that serves the needs of other people, and be quiet. But this weekend, the former residents of the St. Bernard project refused to scatter and be silent. They had earlier built a tent encampment nearby, called Survivors' Village. Now they denounced President Obama and his friend, Warren Buffett, the multi-billionaire hedge-fund baron who is developing the site of their former homes under a new name, Columbia Parc, for a new class of residents.

"The Obama administration has taken the anti-public housing policies of Bush and previous presidents to a new level, with a plan to abandon any federal commitment to building and maintaining housing for the poor. Instead, fat cats like Warren Buffett and huge private banking institutions will inherit the nation's public housing properties. In New York City, the Citigroup bankers now own a piece of 13 public housing projects -- a taste of what Obama has in store for what remains of America's public housing stock."

Just as Obama and the Democrats delivered more than 32 million healthcare clients to the private insurance companies to fuel their already exorbitant profits, so is he turning over the stock of public housing, a conquest of bitter class struggles waged by unionists and civil rights activists, to the speculators and land barons.

Those millions of Blacks, the disinherited and dispossessed who voted for Obama and cried tears of joy when he was elected, many hoping they would finally by able to return to New Orleans or to their homes in Selma, Ala.; or to their public housing projects in Seattle, feel sorely betrayed. Despite all the exhortations by Jesse Jackson Jr. and Al Sharpton for them to vote again for Obama and for the Democrats, the scenario of days past -- massive abstention -- is lurking once again on the horizon.

The anger that is simmering in the Black community and that will be expressed in massive abstention is also looking for a political avenue to express itself. An opinion poll reported by Black Agenda Report revealed that more than 65% of the Black people polled were anxiously hoping for the creation of a third party for Black people. -- The Editors

El que busca la verdad corre el riesgo de encontrarla.Manuel Vicent (1936-?) Escritor español.

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