05/22/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Serving the People vs. Clinging to Power

It's useful to compare the way China handled its national disaster with the way the Burmese handled the cyclone, and the way our Republican administration handled Katrina.

The Chinese premier immediately sent 50,000 troops with every conceivable type of disaster relief equipment to the affected area, and headed them up personally, climbing through the rubble and shouting to those trapped inside that help was on the way.

Since he couldn't put on a uniform and play soldier, Bush just sat on his duff and made speeches, calling on the people to help themselves.

The Burmese junta was willing to let tens of thousands of people die of hunger, thirst, exposure and disease rather than run the risk of letting a foreign 'agitator' into the country.

Odd that our 'democratic' leader barely did better than the Burmese junta, and much worse than the undemocratic Chinese.

Lincoln said our government was 'for the people', but this is not the motto of the Republican party, which views the American people as a rabble not to be trusted, and feels that information about what the government is doing should be withheld from anyone who can't afford to buy his girlfriend a hundred thousand dollar dress, or a three hundred thousand dollar watch that doesn't tell time. All others should be spied upon because you never can tell what unpleasant things they might be saying about their leaders.

It's easy to tell a democratic leader from a dictator. Democratic leaders are interested in the welfare of the people. Dictators are interested only in preserving their power.

The Republican attitude is closer to the Burmese leaders than to the Chinese, who seem to be inching toward becoming a little more open, while our Republican administration plunges toward ever-increasing secrecy and paranoia.

This Republican administration, for example, is as suspicious as the Burmese junta when it comes to disaster relief. This Republican administration regularly taps phone calls between Americans and relief groups like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, in defiance of our own and international law. It makes hundreds of thousands of requests to libraries and other institutions for private information on reading habits of American citizens.

This administration seeks to justify the unchecked expansion of citizen surveillance on the grounds that it may, in millions of hours of listening to unsuspecting Americans, once in a blue moon uncover a bit of information about terrorist plans or weapons caches. The joke is that in Iraq the military is continually receiving voluntary tips about weapons caches that it lacks the resources to follow up on.

All this surveillance has little to do with terrorism and a great deal to do with stifling dissent. When people are put on No-Fly Lists or Potential Threat Lists for disagreeing with administration policy or reporting the truth about conditions in Iraq, it becomes clear that the Republican administration is simply terrified that the American people will discover just how corrupt, incompetent, and irresponsible it actually is.