“Homes still lack power
a week on”
Financial Times 11/5/12, p. 3
“Households suffer without power as temperatures fall and storm looms”.
Financial Times 11/6//12, p. 3
“Climate change needs action but it has a cost”
Financial Times 11/5/12, p. 4
“City accused of not acting on plan”
Financial Times 11/1/12, p. 3
What has the world’s biggest and most costly ‘national
security state’ have to do with securing the life, livelihood and property
of the global financial capital of the world? Virtually nothing!
Ten days after tropical storm Sandy struck, over 730,000
people still lacked electricity in New York and New Jersey and nearly
150,000 in New York City. Nearly 50,000 families are without housing;
hundreds of thousands wait in the cold for water, food and gasoline deliveries.
Millions crowd barely operating public transport, as tempers flare:
commuters push and shove to get to work, school and to meet their daily
Mainstream media emphasize the ‘forces of nature’, blaming the storm for
the losses. The ‘alternative media’ point to climate change.
The former ignore the fact that the socio-economic impact of the storm
is a result of political-economic decisions; the latter overlook the specific
short-term policies which could have prevented or lessened the impact
of the storm.
Imperial Capabilities and Domestic Neglect
Three long and short-term inter-related factors were responsible for the
loss of over a hundred lives and $50 billion dollars in property damage:
Neo-liberal policies, climate change and militarist empire building leading
to domestic neglect and decay. Addressing these policy issues helps
us answer most of the questions raised by the multitude of angry New York
and New Jersey residents. A compilation of the questions from the
victims would include:
Why no civil defense no serious effort at crises prevention?
Why no protective levees, protective walls, evacuation plans?
Why prolonged delays in state delivery of food, water, gas?
Why the breakdown in the recovery of electricity by the private utility
companies, especially in poor neighborhoods?
Why the breakdown of the infrastructure?
These and other basic questions point to long-term, large-scale structural
weaknesses, especially the misallocation of hundreds of billions of dollars
in public resources from domestic priorities to empire building and financial
Militarism Abroad Amidst Domestic Decay
The US government annually spends over $800 billion dollars on weapons,
overseas military bases (over 700), military roads, highways, bridges
and troop transport; it spends unpublished billions funding clandestine
proxy wars, private mercenaries, Special Forces’ operations and puppet
regimes on four continents. Federal, state and municipal regimes
spend billions on “Homeland Security” and its local subsidiaries engaged
in spying on 40 million US citizens and persecuting Muslim citizens and
residents while arresting, deporting and profiling millions of Hispanic
and Asian immigrants.
Inappropriately named, “Homeland Security” actually creates domestic
insecurity via police state methods and by failing to protect and secure
the lives, property and livelihood of millions of US citizens, as shown
so clearly by the plight of millions in the aftermath of tropical storm
Homeland Security, with its million-member bureaucracy and subsidiaries
has had years to prepare for massive storm-induced coastal flooding and
power outages. Official reports, prepared by experts three years
prior to Hurricane Sandy, high-lighted the vulnerability of power stations,
subway systems and high rise apartments. But Homeland Security was
too occupied with X-raying and sniffing travelers at airports, train and
bus stations and tapping citizens’ phones, faxes and internet communications.
At least 10 days before the storm hit the Eastern coast, the Federal Emergency
Management Agency(FEMA) was informed of its trajectory and likely impact.
Yet nothing was done to mobilize temporary housing and gasoline reserves.
Instead the FEMA functionaries sat passively in their offices and after
the storm, registered the requests of the desperate scores of thousands
of homeless victims. FEMA’s top bureaucrat, Craig Fugate, told the
victims they should not expect any prompt recovery. “This will not
be done in months. This will not be done in a year” (Financial Times,
11/5/12, p. 3.). Yet millions of dollars flow daily to NATO proxies
in Libya, Somalia and Syria.
The seeming paralysis and obvious inefficiency of Homeland Security is
not due to lack of personnel, information or funds. It is no accident
that Homeland Security is not prepared to intervene on behalf of US citizens
in crisis. Their personnel are trained, rewarded and promoted according
to the number and “quality” of terrorists suspects they identify and monitor.
They are at their best (or worst) in profiling and entrapping Muslim suspects
and activists and not in mobilizing tankers and ships to transport gasoline
and bring mobile homes for the homeless disaster victims.
When it comes to mobilizing a naval armada for the Persian Gulf to intimidate
Iran or to supply Israel with the most up-to-date weaponry, the Pentagon
“engages” post-haste; but when it comes to evacuating thousands of elderly,
disabled and vulnerable Americans trapped in high-rise apartments without
light or heat, the Marines are nowhere to be seen.
Obviously the empire is “efficient” abroad and homeland security is deficient
at home because empire politics dominate the political agenda as defined
by the President, the Congress and their state and local satraps.
Neo-liberalism and the Making of Natural Disasters
The Stock Market was up and running in two days. Their electronic
board was lit. Billion-dollar bets were flashed to millionaire traders,
while two million residents of Greater New York shivered in darkness.
Was this telling us what and who have class priorities to essential services?
In his first term, the Obama regime poured $4 trillion of public money
to save the Wall Street speculators. The latter have recovered and
surpassed pre-crises profit margins. New York State and municipal
governments have granted multi-billion dollar tax concessions to Wall
Street and private corporations, while the public infrastructures, subways,
transport, highways, electrical systems and civil defense have been starved
The “storm” did not “cause” the human disaster!
Neo-liberal policies, as well as the financial and political powers backing
them, ensured that the City and its most vulnerable citizens would be
adversely affected. Infrastructure deteriorations, breakdown of
water and sanitation and prolonged electrical blackouts are products of
public disinvestment and private profit-taking; delays in repairing the
electric grid are products of cuts in the labor force. While the
state and federal government compiles detailed data files on every mosque,
and Muslim charity donor and whoever else might voice a criticism of the
State of Israel, it has no ‘data’ on our vulnerable elderly and disabled
citizens trapped in high rises, public housing and nursing homes. These
citizens suffered cold, thirst and hunger in darkness and many lacked
medicine. Some died. None existed in the priority registries
of Homeland Security.
The tax write-offs, granted to Wall Street firms, could have financed
the entire upgrading of our civil defense; public ownership and investment
could have upgraded and secured our electrical grid. Environmentally
and socially conscious politicians would have given priority to implementing
the recommendations from expert scientists and engineers to meet the rising
dangers from earth warming and climate change. Instead, free market
ideology dictated that the promotion of finance, insurance and real estate
capital in New York and New Jersey should dominate the public agenda.
New York City, the self-appointed cultural and intellectual center of
the United States, had recognized the dangers of climate change:
its public officials had even appointed a committee of experts to study
the problem. They issued a timely report warning of the dire consequences
of doing nothing. Typical of New York City politics, such critical
committee reports would have provided ‘symbolic gratification’ for liberals,
the illusion that something ‘progressive’ might be in the works.
And so speakers at radical forums could congratulate themselves that they
had spoken up about the consequences of climate change. And then
In fact, virtually nothing had been done. Worse,
nothing is being done even at the most immediate and tragic level of aiding
the millions of victims. Governor Cuomo utters meaningless threats
to ConEd for the prolonged delays and blatant failures to restore power.
The sufferers, backed up at the gas stations, vent their anger against
each other. Price gouging is rampant. Private charities, neighbors
and citizens make do with micro-aid programs. The vast US Empire
crumbles internally from the dry rot of decaying infrastructure.
Its citizens slosh through overflowing sewers. President Obama opposed
carbon controls while promoting the massive extraction of more coal, oil
and gas through techniques like hydraulic fracking and more carbon dioxide
and green-house gases fill the air.
The world-famous New York Philharmonic can play a “Requiem for the New
Atlantis” as more waves inundate lower Manhattan. Meanwhile, the
impregnable Wall Street re-locates inland; its move financed by the impoverished
upstate municipalities’ massive tax write-offs to the billionaires.
live the Empire State!
Long live the Big Apple!