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Bush offers ‘no-wage’ contracts for Katrina cleanup

WASHINGTON (Rooters)—President Bush issued an executive order Thursday allowing federal contractors rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to pay below the prevailing wage.

In a notice to Congress, Bush said the hurricane had caused “a national emergency” that permits him to take such action under the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act in ravaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Davis-Bacon law requires federal contractors to pay workers at least the prevailing wages in the area where the work is conducted. It applies to federally funded construction projects such as highways and bridges.

Bush’s executive order suspends the requirements of the Davis-Bacon law for designated areas hit by the storm.

Early Sunday evening, responding to criticism from Congressional Republicans that the executive order “did not go far enough,” President Bush issued a second order, stipulating that select federal contractors would be able to offer “no-wage” contracts in the city of New Orleans and along the Mississippi-Alabama coast.

“America has a long and proud tradition of coming together to enable certain groups of employees to work for their room and board,” Bush said today while touring the Gulf Coast.  “With these ‘no-wage’ contracts, America can get moving again.  The good news is—and it’s hard for some to see it now—that out of these ‘no-wage’ contracts Trent Lott is going to get himself a fantastic house. And I’m still looking forward to sitting on the porch.”

“Old times there are not forgotten,” replied a beaming Lott.

Conservative commentators applauded the President’s decision.  “When the Thirteenth Amendment was drafted,” said George Will, “no one anticipated the Hobbesian war of all against all that New Orleans has become.  But it is the President’s job to take bold, decisive action in a national emergency, and to determine which of our laws have become quaint or obsolete.  Once again, this President has shown that he is precisely the man for that job.”

Sunday night, Congressional Democrats sharply criticized the order, and were promptly rebuked the following morning by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.  “The President made this decision at the end of a solemn day of mourning and remembrance,” McClellan said.  “It is a sign of just how low the Democrat party has fallen that its leaders would attack the President on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history.”

The President’s mother, Barbara Bush, pointed out that no-wage contracts can be extremely popular for people devastated by Hurricane Katrina: “What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary,” she remarked on National Public Radio, “is that some of them are singing with happiness.  And many of them were idle anyway, so this could work out very well for them.”

President Bush did not say which industries would be eligible for the contracts, but one White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, remarked that the affected areas were ideal for growing cotton, and “cotton is a really great fabric in all kinds of weather—light, comfortable, versatile.  I think we’ll need a lot of it in the next few years, particularly in the regions most vulnerable to hurricanes.”

Tom DeLay (R- Tx.) agreed, quickly rounding up a group of evacuees for emergency planting.  With the help of law enforcement officials from Gretna, Louisiana, who surrounded the evacuees and began to march them to the fields at gunpoint, DeLay pulled aside three of them and asked, “Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?”

Posted by on 09/12 at 10:27 AM
  1. I used to be able to count on shocking my Women’s Studies students by telling them that Charlotte Perkins Gilman proposed building labor camps, under military guard, as a solution to the “Negro problem.” Now I’m afraid they’ll say, you mean like the one in Oklahoma?  (Or who knows, the one down the street?  Barbara Bush Village?) Thank you Michael.

    Posted by  on  09/12  at  12:22 PM
  2. In a related story, released by Goodnight Rider, President Bush expanded the disaster area created by Hurrican Katrina to include the entirety of the continental United States, Hawaii, and Alaska. Speaking from the porch of his winter home in Quebec City, Senator Trent Lott said in support of the President’s directive: “We will return to the unity we knew before this country was torn apart by the Civil War.” Both he and Barbara Bush then drank a toast to “the beautiful mind of Strom Thurmond.”

    Posted by  on  09/12  at  12:22 PM
  3. Québec City?  Seems suspiciously French to me.  But that quote sounds legit.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/12  at  12:33 PM
  4. These new aprrentices um slaves should do quite well.  Did you see Bush just named someone to handle THE MESS?

    Posted by The Heretik  on  09/12  at  12:51 PM
  5. Quebec? Forgive my geographic ignorance, but is there a Quebec City in Louisiana, or are we talking about that great city to the north? If the latter, I imagine some of these no-pay contracts are going to replenish the military, and we’ll now be sending them north to bring freedom to those poor beknighted souls. Just think of the benefits: All that land to exploit, all those white people who I know just want to be Americans, more tax cuts for the wealthy as the cost of paying soldiers drops to zero, and for Michael, all that hockey! Win-win, if you ask me.

    Posted by  on  09/12  at  12:51 PM
  6. That was excellent, Michael. If I were still capable of laughing about this, I would have.

    Posted by  on  09/12  at  01:48 PM
  7. At this point I truly have no idea what is appalling reality and what is parody.  And you aren’t helping things, Dr. Berube!

    Posted by  on  09/12  at  02:38 PM
  8. Jeez, when will all you social justice types get over your blind hatred of our president?  Don’t you realize that overcoming this Hobbesian war in New Orleans is a must-win situation?  For God’s sake, didn’t any of you watch all of those hooligans stealing luxary goods from drug stores?  Why, I saw some woman stealing disposable diapers—disposable diapers!—right in front of the TV cameras… What this really demonstrates is the total contempt rights people have for democracy and America’s hallowed institutions.  If our president thinks the 13th Amendment has to go, well then damnit, it has to go.  This situation is entirely unprecedented and way too urgent: We simply can’t afford to turn this one over to some over educated activist judge and we certainly don’t have any time for this “living document” crap.  And besides, if you hate America so much, why don’t you just move to eye-rack?

    Posted by Nick  on  09/12  at  02:39 PM
  9. Oh Gawd.  I read this site before I saw any real news this morning.  I was really hoping the whole thing (and not just part) was parody, but I guess I’m not that lucky.  Ungh.  On the bright side, at least Bush and friends are giving you loads of fresh material to work with.  Keep ‘em coming, Michael!

    Posted by  on  09/12  at  03:24 PM
  10. Ouuuch! Michael, maybe you should print all your parodies in a different color of text, or decorate them with laughing smiley faces. For those who aren’t following along with you.

    I loved Nick’s comment…

    Posted by Orange  on  09/12  at  06:13 PM
  11. I hate to rain on the parade but are these smarmy parodies really the mode to be writing in at the moment? Isn’t the truth outrageous enough? I don’t lack a sense of humor, and I share the basic political outlook, but I’m just not feeling this stuff. I find myself beginning to read and then groaning with disappointment when the parody becomes apparent. My head is too sore from trying to distinguish the horrible truth from the lazy exaggerations of it (see http://www.dailyhowler.com for such efforts) to deal with cynical fiction being thrown into the mix. And, contra the sycophantic comments above, they’re not very funny. My admiration for the Onion always grows when I read otherwise skilled writers try to do what they do and failing miserably.

    Posted by  on  09/12  at  09:57 PM
  12. Oh, well.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/12  at  10:20 PM
  13. "Sycophantic” and “failing miserably” were much too strong, just expressions of passing irritation. My response has more to do with where my head’s at regarding Katrina than with the merits of the piece. I enjoy much of what I read on this blog and appreciate the effort it requires.

    Posted by  on  09/12  at  11:11 PM
  14. Cannon, I know I owe you—and any number of readers—more than an “oh, well.” But I was dealing with fifteen other things when I checked in on the blog an hour ago.

    OK.  I’m sorry to be so expository, but here’s the deal.  First:  I don’t think this post is funny.  It wasn’t meant to be funny, and I honestly didn’t imagine that anyone would laugh at it.  I did not laugh while I was writing it, for what that’s worth; I wrote it in a cold gray fury.  Second:  the reason I embedded real quotes in the second, “satirical” half of this post—George Bush’s, Barbara Bush’s, Tom DeLay’s—is that I think the (obviously) racialized subtext of those remarks is worth calling attention to in precisely this way.  Third:  the suspension of Davis-Bacon is obscene.  And in the context of the Gulf Coast, it goes well beyond the ordinary screw-the-unions policy of the Bush GOP.  It verges on a kind of local/national colonialism which, I think, has everything to do with race, poverty, and the question of who gets to sit on Trent Lott’s porch.  I hoped that would be clear.

    For the record, I don’t think humans have yet invented a prose genre adequate to this moment in US history.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/12  at  11:23 PM
  15. Canals! Gondolas! Think of it a neo-venetian surrealist-cannibal park, Katrinaland, among the bungalows and sunken graveyards: fenced in. Charge admission-- Watch the darkies in their native environment--and even some white trash and creole sections to make everything PC-kosher.

    Yr such a boring, proper bitch, Doc.

    Posted by Holofernes  on  09/13  at  12:17 AM
  16. But more amusing than all the soup-kitchen “marxists” wailing at the events in N.O. was the rapidity with which the postmod issues--i.e does language refer to “objective” events/processes in some empirically-knowable world--were forgotten. The former postmod belle-lettrist, now become professional lament specialist, has also miraculously become more or less a rule utilitarian-type, and there’s no more of this wishy-washy “nothing outside the text” jazz--it’s all outside the text, and the new disaster ethicists have all the facts and evidence to provide us with the official academic verdict.

    Posted by .............  on  09/13  at  12:48 AM
  17. The suspension of Davis-Bacon is indeed obscene--even moreso in view of what the “prevailing wages” are that employers will now be allowed to undercut: according to the Times editorial, around $14 an hour for an electrician, which adds up to less than $30,000 a year pre-tax income.

    Posted by  on  09/13  at  12:51 AM
  18. Actually, Mr. ............., we haven’t forgotten any of those issues.  And the issues themselves are not “postmodern,” either.  “Truth” be “told,” philosophers have been asking about the referential capacities of language for three or four millenia now.  Come join the conversation!  Let’s begin with the sentence, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” Discuss this utterance as (a) an areferential statement or as (b) a failed performative utterance.  We soup-kitchen marxists await your analysis. 

    Posted by Michael  on  09/13  at  01:04 AM
  19. Well did the event actually occur and is Brownie actually doing a good job? If so, and Brownie IS doing a good job (say meeting or surpassing agreed-upon standards), then it’s referential: there is some act (or actions) that x (Brownie) has done successfully according to the speaker. So really not a performative, but more some type of implied statement, even Modus ponens : if you got 90% on yr algebra test, you did a good job. Brownie did get 90% on test. THerefore Brownie did a good job.

    If the speaker is wrong, or lying, of course then yes, it’s sort of an expression--just your speech act jerk-off stuff.

    Posted by .............  on  09/13  at  02:18 AM
  20. Or are you referring to Brown the FEMA guy. I wasn’t there and don’t have enough relevant info--I am not acquainted sufficiently with the objects/events/processes in question to make any sort of assessment.

    you might outspin me on the performatives/ semiotic stuff, but I think one big problem being overlooked by blogopolis is whether or to what degree narratives regarding atrocities are being fabricated to make the Feds/BushCo appear incompetent/racist/fascistic. Not really a linguistic issue; more semantic or related to Orwell’s doublespeak. (read Alphonse Van Worden’s blog for mucho evidence of that).  I don’t like BushCo, but I dislike Bukharin-like smear campaigns more.

    Posted by ...........  on  09/13  at  02:36 AM
  21. Um, ............., all I can say is that Bush really did suspend Davis-Bacon.  Indefinitely.  Check the hyperlink on “Washington (Rooters)”—that’s not the Bukharin Smear Network, it’s just the CNN “Money” pages.

    And yes, I meant Michael Brown, formerly of FEMA.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/13  at  07:51 AM
  22. Now that Brownie is one of the hundreds of thousands of workers displaced by Katrina’s wrath, I wonder if he’ll be eligible to work on a clean-up crew. . . or perhaps benefit from some of those fantastic Wal-Mart donations.

    Posted by  on  09/13  at  09:20 AM
  23. Brownie did get 90% on test. THerefore Brownie did a good job.

    I don’t think that’s entirely fair to Brownie. I mean, yes, he did lose approximately 10% of the population of New Orleans for three days, but he let them have water only two days after that. Surely that counts for something.

    Posted by julia  on  09/13  at  09:46 AM
  24. For the record, I don’t think humans have yet invented a prose genre adequate to this moment in US history.

    I think John Kennedy Toole could have handled it, by way of sequel. (Ignatius would, of course, be working at Fox News.)

    But since he’s dead, I’ve been turning to verse. Neruda, Jara, Parra, like that. Those Nueva Canción folks seem to possess the necessary gravitas.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  09/13  at  10:17 AM
  25. I think a Hume would be more relevant: yes it may have been a tragedy, and perhaps Fed/state incompetence contributed to the tragedy, but what is the extent of my care? No one is obligated to be compassionate.

    (Celine might have depicted it adequately)
    wink

    Posted by L. Peter Rigorstone  on  09/13  at  10:40 AM
  26. Fascinating....

    I read the comments of ............... and, well, his lips are moving… but… all I hear is noise.

    Must be my lack of post-graduate work.

    Here’s what I know- there are plenty of working class guys like me and my peer group that are ready and willing to load up our pickups with tools, water and MREs and head down to New Orleans to do some work.  We are carpenters, electricians, plumbers and painters.  We will sleep in our trucks and work 12 hour days if we have to.

    We’re ready to build houses for everybody (yes, even poor people- the soul of New Orleans is its working class.  Rich people didn’t invent jazz, or jambalaya or (ahem) the Po’ Boy), and we’re not afraid of blood, sweat or humidity.  But we’re going to need to get a fair wage.  Where are they going to find experienced laborers who are willing to work for sub-minimum wage?  Are they gonna tar-paper and scrap-lumber the city back together with imported Chinese labor on loan from the Re-education camps? 

    Does anything matter to these people more than Making Lots of Money?

    Posted by patrick  on  09/13  at  11:15 AM
  27. O yeah a tradesman’s Boomtown: as soon as you get the construction goin’ again everything’s restored....

    ye gods if the ‘cane had just been like a Cat 5 and sunk the entire shithole named dixie down (of course assuming all de good folks had like some make-shift rafts---Huck ‘n Jim!)

    Posted by E. Rector Wadchorizo  on  09/13  at  11:34 AM
  28. Just for my sake, E.R.W., could you clarify your comment for me?

    Because I am not sure what exactly you’re saying…

    Perhaps I am being dim or misconstruing your implication, but are you saying that somehow New Orleans should be rebuilt without builders?

    Posted by patrick  on  09/13  at  11:39 AM
  29. from Tuesday morning’s Harper’s Weekly Review--which is intended to provide anecdotal snippets of the news slanted slightly sarcastically… (just in case ............. is reading today).

    “Houston, Texas, the headquarters of contractors Halliburton and Baker Hughes, was preparing for a boom; one real-estate firm was offering special financing deals “for hurricane survivors only.” Wealthy residents of New Orleans were devising ways to rebuild the city with a minimum of poor people. Barbara Bush visited the Astrodome and said that, given that the evacuees were “underprivileged anyway,” things were “working out very well” for them, and Congressional Representative Richard Baker gave the hurricane credit for finally cleaning up public housing in New Orleans.”

    And if this isn’t sufficient to demonstrate the need for parody in these seriously dysfunctional times, here is a doozy from that scion of Uncle Tom: the righteous professor John McWhorter’s column for the Manhattan Institute.  He is suggesting that
    <a href=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-524-1774271-524,00.html/"> “it is all our fault!"</a>!

    Posted by  on  09/13  at  11:44 AM
  30. sorry about the HTML scrambled egg spill

    Posted by  on  09/13  at  11:45 AM
  31. not to appear a gauche, but, yeah I think there are boo-cco tradesmen and construction goons lickin’ their chops at the prospect of the rebuilding. I say even give the bruthas and other under or unemployed men displaced by the ‘cane first crack at that. Most “trades” are something learned by any semi-intelligent human in a few days or weeks: so train some of the po’ people and let them rebuild the city itself instead of shipping in all the gung ho construction soldiers, or something like that. I really don’t care. Remember the tsunami of 12/04? That was a tragedy far, far beyond this and yet it seems to have been forgotten.

    Posted by E. Rector Wadchorizo  on  09/13  at  11:47 AM
  32. Most “trades” are something learned by any semi-intelligent human in a few days or weeks:

    The rule-probing exception in this case being provided by the above commenter, who shows every indication of having attempted, and in the recent past at that, to comb his hair with a live nail gun.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  09/13  at  11:59 AM
  33. Hm… I respect your attempt not appear gauche, but your statement “Most ‘trades’ are something learned by any semi-intelligent human in a few days or weeks:” does kind of reek of “Well, how hard could it be if all those rednecks do it?” classism. 

    How hard could flying a plane be?  You just sit and that chair and diddle with the steering wheel thingy, right?

    Your image of a slavering horde of greedy contractors belies my own experience of quiet conversations with thoughtful men who would like any opportunity to do something, ANYTHING to help the displaced, the abused and dispossessed get back to life as they knew it in the South’s greatest city.

    The parsing of the images on television of the poor and homeless has become the great litmus test of our society- Rush Limbaugh sees a bunch of welfare cheats who would cut his throat for one of the oxycontin in his pocket.  A lot of liberals see a huge mass of unfortunate, uneducated, pitiful wretches who need any and every handout we can give them and woe upon us for allowing this to happen.  While I am clearly more sympathetic to the latter view, what I see, and what other working class men see, is a lot of working people, just like us. 

    Getting down there and working is a way that I can still support my family and also give something back to the last great working class city of the South.  I’d love for an excuse to get out from behind this desk and actually do some WORK to REBUILD it.

    Posted by patrick  on  09/13  at  12:04 PM
  34. What’s nearly as nauseating as the NO flood spectacle are the smarmy, predictable outpourings of insta-compassion on the part of academic sentimentalists, the Nancy Pelosi-like faux-liberal rage, the blog-leftist’s bloodthirsty impulse to “get” the perpetrators. Better looting then to be forced to endure benefit concerts featuring Ellen DeGenere and any other hysteria-driven creeps du jour.

    Posted by .............  on  09/13  at  12:10 PM
  35. And the cowardly, anonymous defenses of mass murder.

    (And the people who should know better who nonetheless feed the trolls.)

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  09/13  at  12:18 PM
  36. You know, I don’t think L. Peter Rigorstone, E. Rector Wadchorizo, and Holofernes are real names.  In fact, I think they’re all pseudonyms for ............., and I believe ............. is his real name.  Either that or all four of these guys are using the same computer with the same IP address.  And eight comments in 12 hours is quite enough, my good men.  Chill or be chilled.

    P.S.  While I was posting this, E. Rector posted a ninth comment foul enough to delete.  He’s now restricted to viewing only, though of course if he wants to spit at his computer screen in righteous fury, he’s more than welcome.

    Posted by  on  09/13  at  12:37 PM
  37. Yes, Professor, you did the right thing. We must do all we can to prevent trolls, and to eliminate any sort of open discussion of this issue....

    Yo Berube: We’re on the phone to your CO at that joke school U. of Penn: soon maybe you’ll be doing your substitute teacher review session: I jus’ knows you’ll get those pie graphs someday!

    (one word: proxy--you only got like 40,000 more to go)

    Posted by Patrick  on  09/13  at  12:51 PM
  38. Discussion is fine, Patrick.  Verbal abuse is not.  People who know the difference can stay, and people who don’t can go somewhere else.

    By the way, don’t call anyone at U. of Penn.  I don’t teach there.

    Posted by  on  09/13  at  12:59 PM
  39. Thank you, Michael! I normally don’t like censorship, but in the case of idiots like ......., and his/her other alter egos, you made the right decision.

    Posted by  on  09/13  at  01:17 PM
  40. Thanks, Lefty.  As a general rule, commenters should not wish violence on other commenters, or call them “bitch boys.” That’s what was going on in the comment I deleted, just for the record.

    patrick with a small p, I hope you’re paid a decent wage for your very decent work.

    Posted by  on  09/13  at  01:29 PM
  41. for the record, there is someone now posting as Patrick that is not patrick.

    So, please don’t misconstrue the abuse above as having come from me.  Thx.

    -small-p patrick

    Posted by patrick  on  09/13  at  01:45 PM
  42. Gotcha, patrick.

    Posted by  on  09/13  at  01:55 PM
  43. That was a threat of violence? I thought by saying I should be “locked up with southside crips” he was suggesting some steady company far preferable to that providable by, say, anyone who’s ever posted to Little Green Footballs.

    As for being called a “bitchboy,” I was honored.

    None of which is intended as quibbling with your moderation, Michael. Not that I don’t always enjoy quibbling with your moderation.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  09/13  at  03:35 PM
  44. I thought I had lost my ability to laugh at what has been done in the aftermath of Katrina, but I have to admit that this…

    The rule-probing exception in this case being provided by the above commenter, who shows every indication of having attempted, and in the recent past at that, to comb his hair with a live nail gun.

    ... got quite a laugh out of me.

    Posted by  on  09/13  at  09:04 PM
  45. The typical sentimental academic “I can feel your pain” type of drivel seen in the comments (the ham-fisted, Onion-lite parodies of Berube are not much better) are enough to make even Billy CLinton wince. Yr not men--yr hens. Hear, hear for ........ : better bare-bones Hume then Oprah

    Posted by Patrick  on  09/14  at  07:52 PM

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