Friday, September 30, 2005

Bill Bennett: Not Very Virtuous

Former Drug Czar, Bill Bennett is in a bit of trouble (that is an understament) for his remarks on a radio show where he theorized that crime would go down if all black babies were aborted. To be fair, he did say that such an idea was reprehensible, but the fact is he uttered the reprehensible and also painted some sweeping generalizations of black people. I'm a black man who has a masters degree. I own a home and I pay my taxes. I try to, as an old African American hymn goes, "treat everybody right." The only lawbreaking I have done is getting a few speeding tickets. It's shocking in the least to have someone who knows nothing about me to assume that I am the source of all crime in the US.

Is Bill Bennett a racist? I have no idea. He maybe, but he may not. However, his statement was racist. I don't care if it was "hypothetical," he basically said that crime would go down if blacks were eliminated. It doesn't matter that he said the idea was reprehensible because he basically said that basically committing genocide would produce a good result.

Bennett needs to apologize, though I know he won't. Republicans of all stripes needs to condemn his words and urge him to apologize. He might say he is sorry, but silence by Republicans will be tantamount to approval, and his statements are way, way beyond the pale.

Schwarzenegger: Girlie Man

I like many other moderate and/or libertarian Republicans thought that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would present an alternative face of the GOP. Instead of a far right face that sought to put gays back in the closet, the California Governor seemed more concerned with fiscal issues than with two guys holding hands.

I guess I was proven wrong.

It saddens me that the governor chose to wimp out on this issue. Here was a bill that was passed by both houses of the state legislature, NOT by the courts. Schwarznegger, for whatever reason, decided to punt, basically saying that he didn't think the Legislature could overturn the referendum passed by the people back in 2000.

I don't think Arnold is a bigot, but in a long line of politicians of both parties (that means you, Bill Clinton), he has chosen political expendiency over justice.

I think the betrayal of gays by people like Schwarzenegger and Clinton is even more infuriating than dealing with the haters like James Dobson. These people claim to love gays and talk about all the discrimination we feel. But when the rubber hits the road on something as bread and butter as marriage, they back off.

Gays don't simply want to not be discriminated against. Like heterosexuals, we want to form lasting relationships with those we love and have the same legal protections that they have. We want to take care of our spouses should they become ill. We want to take care of children. We want to own homes together and be not have to face a legal quagmire should one partner die.

My parents have been together for 37 years. Both of the have had serious health problems as of late. My Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 (she's three years cancer free, thank God) and my Dad had a heart attack and bladder cancer in 2003 (he's doing well). They have taken care of each other during these dark times. When my Dad was in the hospital about a decade ago for a serious surgery, one of his nieces thanked my Mom for taking care of him. My mother responded "what does she expect? That what I'm supposed to do."

Gay marriage is not about destroying marriage. It's about two people of the same sex who want to be able to take care of their partner without worrying that some authority would try to keep them apart. That's what this is about and shame on Schwarzenegger for not taking that into account.

UPDATE:Dale Carpenter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota has a good article regarding the California Governor and gay marriage.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Don't Weaken Endangered Species

My fellow centrist Republican blogger, Charging RINO, has been doing an excellent job in keep people informed of attempts by House Resources Committee Chair Mike Pombo to weaken the Endangered Species Act, the Holy Grail of the modern enviromental movement. ( You can read one of Jeremy's musings, here.)_Jeremy has been urging people to contact their representative to stop this bill in its tracks.

There is an easy way to do this. Republicans for Environmental Protection, a national grassroots organization of conservation-minded Republicans, has been keeping watch over many an evironmental issue for years and is following this legislation as well. If you want to contact your Congressperson as well as get more information on the Pombo bill, please go to this link. There is a letter already generated and after filling out a form, it will be sent to your representative. It will take less than a minute to make sure that animals like the bald eagle are protected from extinction.

One more thing. If you think that cars should be more fuel efficient, then you might want to support a bill introduced by Republican Sherwood Boehlert of New York. You can find out more by going here.

Gettin' Hammered

The other shoe has dropped.

The ethics cloud hanging over Rep. Tom Delay of Texas became a bit darker yesterday, with his indictment. Because of a House rule that forbids any person who is indicted to remain in leadership, Delay stepped down temporarily at least.

Of course, Delay is innocent until proven guilty. However, with that said, it sure looks bad.

This Republican is not shedding tears over his misfortune. If he hasn't totally broken laws (which I believe he has), he has at least danced close to the line and hasn't even tried to appear upright. He has become the symbol of the corruption that plauges the Republican party.

It's sad that it only took a decade for the Grand Old Party to become as corrupt as the Democrats were pre-1994, and their slide into corruption took forty years.

It's time for Republicans who put country before party to lead the charge to clean house. We need to eschew the grab for power and put together a vision for governing this nation of ours. And it has to happen quickly. A good first step for reform is to keep Delay out of power permanently. He is damaged goods and would only drag the party down further.

The 2006 mid-term elections could very well be the GOP's 1994 if the Dems get their act together. While I would rather see the GOP in power, I don't think that would be a bad thing: losing could force the Republicans to change for the better.

Here are what some other people are saying about the Delay indictment:

Jeremy over at Charging RINO truly lives up to his blog's name, giving Delay no quarter:

DeLay is a powerful symbol of the cancer within today's Republican party, the rottenness that has taken control of a once Grand Old Party and turned it into little more (and there are, of course, exceptions) than a collection of sycophants and automatons, robotically attending fundraisers and voting the party line.

This Republican's not going to defend Tom DeLay. I'm not going to say he's been a "great majority leader" or a "good ally" or anything else. He's a liability to our party, and he ought to resign permanently as Majority Leader. If he does not, if he returns to his post under any circumstances, our entire caucus will be painted with the same slimy brush of ethical stink - and frankly I don't want that to be my GOP.

Bull Moose says the revolution of 1994 is over:

"The Bug Man is the most representative leader of what the congressional wing of the GOP has become. The promise of the 1994 Republican takeover of the House of Representatives was to reform the institution and promote conservative principles of limited government, fiscal prudence, and the rights of states and localities. The Republican pledge, summed up in the now laughable Contract with America, was to end the crony culture that had developed during 40 years of Democratic control.

"But after a decade of Republican rule, with DeLay calling most of the shots, the new boss is identical to the old boss -- and maybe even worse. Like the French revolutionaries who stormed the Bastille and then created their own reign of terror, the Republicans who seized power on a promise of clean management now run the House with an appalling indifference to ethical standards."

The Washington Post has a good editorial:

In his drive to consolidate Republican power, Mr. DeLay has consistently pushed, and at times stepped over, ethical boundaries.

He is, as we said last year, an ethical recidivist -- unabashed about using his legislative and political power to reward supporters and punish opponents, and brazen in how he links campaign contributions and political actions. Among the DeLay activities that have drawn disapproval from the House ethics committee: threatening a trade association for daring to hire a Democrat; enlisting federal aviation officials to hunt for Democratic state legislators trying to foil his Texas redistricting plan; and holding a golf fundraiser for energy companies just as the House was to consider energy legislation.

Nonetheless, at least on the evidence presented so far, the indictment of Mr. DeLay by a state prosecutor in Texas gives us pause. The charge concerns the activities of Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), a political action committee created by Mr. DeLay and his aides to orchestrate the GOP's takeover of the Texas legislature in 2002. The issue is whether Mr. DeLay and his political aides illegally used the group to evade the state's ban on corporate contributions to candidates. The indictment alleges that TRMPAC took $155,000 in corporate contributions and then sent a check for $190,000 to the national Republican Party's "soft money" arm. The national committee then wrote $190,000 in checks from its noncorporate accounts to seven Texas candidates. Perhaps most damning, TRMPAC dictated the precise amount and recipients of those donations.

The Los Angeles Times editorializes that the real scandal concerning Delay is not what he did in Texas, but what he truly believes in:

the real scandal in Washington, as someone once said, isn't what's illegal, it's what's legal. DeLay has practically made a career out of testing the boundaries on ethics — and going far beyond them politically. The House Ethics Committee knows him on a first-name basis, having admonished him three times in the last year for activity that stretches back more than four years. The Texas grand jury that indicted him on Wednesday has been investigating possible legal violations by DeLay and his associates for months.

Yet DeLay is more than the sum of his ethical lapses. He also has a long history of hypocrisy. During the Clinton administration, he criticized the bombing of Kosovo, saying that U.S. foreign policy was "formulated by the Unabomber"; six years later he chastised Democrats for criticizing U.S. policy in Iraq, saying they were "putting American lives at risk." His calls for the federal government to play a smaller role in Americans' lives were betrayed by his demands that it intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo.

Hypocrisy is the occupational hazard of politics. DeLay, however, is a special case, a partisan so unprincipled that not even his allies pretend that he stands for anything; his nickname, "The Hammer," comes from his ability to enforce party discipline. DeLay's indictment will lead to an increase in demagoguery on both sides of the aisle. But the real problem isn't what DeLay may have done, it's what he stands for.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

More on the State of the Democratic Pary


Mr. Russert: The Republicans control both houses of Congress, and as you said, President Bush has been encouraging spending. But the Democrats have not been standing up saying, "Wait, stop." They're still in there fighting for their own projects. David Brooks, you wrote on Thursday: "On one side are those who believe that the [Democratic] party's essential problem is with its political style. The Republicans win because they are simply rougher"--excuse me--"so the Democrats must be just as tough in response. They must match Karl Rove blow for blow. Democrats in this camp are voting against John Roberts" for the Supreme Court "just to show the world, and their donors above all, that they are willing to give no quarter. On the other side are those who believe that the Democratic defeats flow from policy problems, not from campaign style or message framing. They don't believe that Democrats can win wrapped in their own rage ...For them, the crucial challenge is to come up with policies more in tune with voters."

Who's winning that debate within the Democratic Party?

Mr. Brooks: The haters. You know what? You look across the party and you see some Democrats who really are working on policy ideas. I think of John Edwards, Steny Hoyer, one of the House leaders who had a foreign policy document come out this week. But most Democrats seem to be acting as if the main problem with the country is that the country doesn't hate George Bush enough. And if we only shout louder, they'll hate him more like tourists in Paris who think they'll understand us if we scream a little louder. And to me, it's led to the brain death of the Democratic Party. I don't know where the party stands on Iraq. I don't know where it stands on entitlement spending. On issue after issue, I really don't know where that party stands. So we're having a joint race to the bottom here between the two parties, and I think the result is what you're seeing is a dealignment. Voters flaking off the Republicans but not going over to the Democrats. They're just sort of stuck and floating in the middle. Stan Greenberg, Bill Clinton's old pollster, called them dislodged voters. And to me, that means the '08 election is gonna look very different than the '04 or '00.

Brooks has a big point here. The people who seem to be the movers within the Democratic party today are not thinkers. is not known for its positions papers, but its hatred for all things Bush and Republican. The "haters" as Brooks calls them, is all about emotion and about getting people angry. People are upset at Bush and the Republicans in Congress, but they aren't supporting Democrats enmasse. Why? Because the Dems have no ideas, just a lot of fury. They have no plan for Social Security other than leave it as it is. They have no plan for Iraq or how to deal with terrorism. How would they control the deficit?

Anger can be a good thing in getting urging people to action. However, in the end, you need to give people a plan an idea instead of basically saying things will be much better when Bush leaves.

What we need come 2008 is a presidential candidate, regardless of party, that will present ideas. When Bill Clinton and Ross Perot presented plans, they got listened to and one of them made it to the White House.

Saying no to Bush is not an agenda-it's simply a feeling. Being against something or someone isn't enough-you need to state what you are for.

Until that happens the Democrats are basically what Shakesphere once said: sound and fury signifying nothing.

The Democrats: Greater than the Sum of Its Parts?

I haven't said much about the nomination of Judge John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I have to say that for the most part, I like the guy. He's seems well qualified for the position. Yes, he is probably more conservative than I, but hello, he was nominated by a conservative President. I listened intently to the hearings and didn't see someone in the mold of Antonin Scalia.

Meanwhile the Democrats have been torn over Roberts. Some Senators are showing leadership and voting for the nominee because they see nothing that would preclude him from becoming a Supreme. This is a wise move, because as has been said over and over, the Republicans won't be in power forever in the White House. Someday, a Democratic President will send up a nominee and the Republicans in the Senate would defintely remember how a nominee was treated when the Democrats were out of power. Those Dems, like Patrick Leahy of Vermont, are thinking forward thinking and pragmatic. They are not rolling over, but since there is no smoking gun with Roberts, the best thing to do is to vote for him, because the President isn't sending a liberal to be confirmed.

So, hearing how some of the intrest-groups aligned with the Dems are reacting to the Roberts nomination, you'd think there were living in some kind of bizzaro world. They are not thinking about the future or even really taking a moment to understand this person. He was nominated by President Bush, their eternal enemy and anything he proposes must be opposed.

Bull Moose has a GREAT post about how the Dems are in the hands of the interest groups, which in turn, keeps that party from getting the White House. As the Moose notes, this alliance on the interest groups have hurt the party and is part of the reason they did such a bad job in the 1980s. Bill Clinton decided not to be beholden to those groups (remember his Sister Souljah moment?) and because of that, he won the White House-twice.

Now, it's not that the GOP isn't beholden to its own interest groups; it most certainly has. (Remember how a certain party in Congress got a certain bill passed and a certain President took time out of his vacation to sign a bill to help a certain brain-dead woman not starve to death all to please this certain party's base.) However, it seems to the credit of the GOP that they can present an image of not being the the thralls of the interest groups, while the Democrats can't.

If the Dems want to move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue again, they have to start showing leadership and not listen to the Moveon.orgs and other groups that are more interested in being right than in actually winning elections and leading.

The Other Looters from Louisiana

Louisiana is, to use the Southern colloquialism, in a world of hurt. Battered by two hurricanes and having its largest city destroyed, it is in bad shape. The Federal Government and regular Americans have stepped up to help the Bayou State right itself again.

And what was the response from the state's Congressional delagation? How did they say "thanks" to the nation? By picking the federal pocket.

Today's Washington Post has a scathing editorial on the Louisiana delegation's attempt to use the Katrina tragedy to get more pork sent to the state. The Post is not amused:

Like looters who seize six televisions when their homes have room for only two, the Louisiana legislators are out to grab more federal cash than they could possibly spend usefully. For example, their bill demands $7 billion for rebuilding evacuation and energy supply routes, but it also demands a separate $5 billion for road building and makes no mention of the $3.1 billion already awarded to the state in the recent transportation legislation. The bill demands $50 billion in community development block grants, partly to get small businesses going, but it also demands $150 million for a small-business loan fund plus generous business tax breaks. The bill even asks for $35 million for seafood marketing and $25 million for a sugar-cane research laboratory. This is the equivalent of New York responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center by insisting upon a federally financed stadium in Brooklyn.

After what we have just seen in New Orleans, the response should be to help rebuild the city, build strong levees and restore marshland that has been gobbled up by developement. It is a bad time to be passing out federal largesse in order to enhance re-election chance.

I guess we can't expect much from a state that elected crooks like former governor Edwin Edwards.

Bush says the "C" Word

"...people just need to recognize that the storms have caused disruption and that if they're able to maybe not drive when they -- on a trip that's not essential, that would helpful. The federal government can help, and I've directed the federal agencies nationwide -- and here's some ways we can help. We can curtail nonessential travel. If it makes sense for the citizen out there to curtail nonessential travel, it darn sure makes sense for federal employees. We can encourage employees to carpool or use mass transit. And we can shift peak electricity use to off-peak hours. There's ways for the federal government to lead when it comes to conservation."

President Bush, speaking yesterday about the nation's oil supply after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

So, it took two storms to get the President to actually consider conserving our natural resources. It's a switch from what the White House was saying four years ago:

"Is one of the problems with this, and the entire energy field, American lifestyles? Does the President believe that, given the amount of energy Americans consume per capita, how much it exceeds any other citizen in any other country in the world, does the President believe we need to correct our lifestyles to address the energy problem?

MR. FLEISCHER: That's a big no. The President believes that it's an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life. The American way of life is a blessed one. And we have a bounty of resources in this country. What we need to do is make certain that we're able to get those resources in an efficient way, in a way that also emphasizes protecting the environment and conservation, into the hands of consumers so they can make the choices that they want to make as they live their lives day to day."

As one reporter put it, the President back in 2001, when energy was a problem as it is now, could have execised moral leadership and called for conservation. Instead, he called for preserving a way of life that was wasteful of the resources we have. Some would argue with then-press secretary Ari Fleischer's assessment that the American way of life is a "blessed one" but I would say if we are blessed, doesn't that also mean we have a responsibility to use what we are given wisely? This president has not called for increased fuel efficiency for autos, including SUVs, nor has he raised the gas tax, which would be a sure-fire way to influences the auto- buying habits of the American public He has let Detroit call the shots on this one.

Don't get me wrong, I am glad that the president is calling for conservation, something that I already do since I take public transit to work and I have a fuel efficient diesel car. But right now we are basically at the breaking point in our fuel supplies. God help us if there is another hurricane that strikes the Gulf Coast.

Part of being a conservative means conserving things. Our environment is one such thing that we ought to be conserving. Too bad it too the President four years to understand that.

Just for Fun...

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 9 out of 10 correct!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Being Black Does Not Equal Being Poor

As we all saw the black faces trapped in New Orleans, I started to hear talk about race in America.

And that's when I started feeling funny.

There is talk again about the topic of race in America and how we need to do more to help African Americans. What's interesting about this talk is that it is interwoven with a talk on poverty in America. Witness this column by Washington Post writer, David Broder. Broder seems to mix the issues together. I have a problem with this. For one thing, yes, race is still an issue in America (witness the Rodney King verdict and subsequent LA riots), but let's face it, the America of 2005 is not the America of 1955. I can eat in a restaurant and sleep in a hotel and very few would bat an eye. That wasn't the case with my Dad fifty years ago. He moved to Michigan from his native Louisiana in the early 50s. When he went to visit his Mom back home, he had to sleep in the car and eat meals packed for him because he couldn't sleep in a hotel or get a good meal at a diner.

What also bothers me is that most often when we talk about blacks and whites, blacks are always portrayed as poor and whites are all well to do. This is malarkey. There are blacks who are firmly in the middle class and whites who are poor. I have relatives who make six-figure salaries and I've met white people who are very poor. It's a little frustrating to when people see blacks and white as monolithic groups and not diverse communities.

I think the civil rights revolution of the 60s did a lot to remove the racial barriers that kept Black Americans from being full members of society. It helped lift a fair number of blacks out of poverty and into the middle class. But there were a lot of blacks that lacked the basic resources and remained mired in poverty. Those were the faces we saw in the Big Easy. Was race involved? Maybe. But it seems the bigger issue here is that there is a little opportunity for these people to get out of poverty and better themselves, their families and their communities.

I tend to believe all the talk about race tends to sidline poverty. There will be calls for more conversation and some blacks will talk about how hard it is to be black in America. But that talk tends to focus on middle class blacks and not about how to help the poor.

Let's also not forget that there are huge numbers of poor people who are whites as well. For some reason, they tend to be forgotten.

It's time for America to have a conversation, NOT on race, but on poverty. No one wants to talk about this. Liberals don't want to talk about poverty because it doesn't fall into their view of indentity politics. Conservatives don't want to talk about it because it means questioning their worldview that there is a class system in American society.

We need a government that would develop programs to give people a hand up. Affirmative Action should not be soley racial based (it only helps the black middle and upper classes) but based on economics,to help those who are economically behind as well.

We need to ask why we ignore the poor or condemn them. We need to ask what makes people poor. And we might even have to ask the poor to stop doing behavoir that could keep them mired in poverty.

Booker Rising quotes Vanderbuilt professor Carol Swain on how to solve this issue:

“The best strategy for racial and ethnic minorities to adopt, therefore, is one that minimizes identity politics and instead focuses on the attainment of policies and programs that will address common needs. Fortunately, many of the problems affecting poor minorities are common among poor whites as well. A political strategy that deracializes issues is more likely to succeed than one framed around race. Surveys have shown that a large percentage of Americans support job creation, universal health care, education reform that expands parental choice, a minimum-wage increase, and immigration reform. On some of these issues the political parties are not responsive to the will of the people. It should be encouraging to minorities that the majority of white Americans, while opposing racial preferences, support outreach, nondiscrimination, and equal opportunity. We are in trouble, though, unless Americans move away from narrowly defined identity politics. Strategies that ensure more support for race-neutral policy agendas should be preferred over those geared toward enhancing the perceived needs of any single racial or ethnic group. Indeed, beyond a certain point, a focus on narrowly defined group interests can become counterproductive. When leaders are responsive to the needs of the people, the race of the legislator becomes less important.”

So, let's talk about poverty and class. Not to blame, but to find solutions. I don't have time to rehash and argument that was mostly (but not totally) settled 40 years ago. I'm ready for the discussion. Are you?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Katrina Cleanup: Who's Gonna Pay for It?

It used to be that Republicans were always the ones wondering how some great idea would be paid for. They weren't interested in just doling out money, but they wanted to spend money wisely.

As I said, it used to be that way, but not anymore. While the President should be commended for putting some ideas on the table on how to best help the Gulf Coast recover, he gets jeers for not being specific on how to pay for this $200 billion plan. We do know he won't raise taxes for it, and I'm pretty sure that he will again borrow heavily to do this.

How to pay for the the recovery is becoming an issue among Republicans. Senate Republicans are dismayed at the White House for not giving specifics on how to pay this bill. As the Washington Post notes:

Congressional Republicans are not arguing with Bush's pledge that the federal government will lead the Louisiana and Mississippi recovery. But they are insisting that the massive cost -- as much as $200 billion -- be paid for. Conservatives are calling for spending cuts to existing programs, a few GOP moderates are entertaining the possibility of a tax increase, and many in the middle want to freeze Bush tax cuts that have yet to take effect.

The article goes on to say that the White House is trying to pacify congressional Republicans by saying that they will put off for now such ideas as repealing the estate tax (called the "death tax" by conservatives) and making the tax cuts passed in the president's first term permanent. That doesn't please House Majority Leader Tom Delay of Texas who thinks that it's wrong to wait on such issues.

I agree with my fellow blogger, Jeremy at Charging RINO who thinks it's high time to be having a debate on fiscal policy within the party. I'm also glad that there are some leaders who are considering raising tax or at least feezing tax cuts. We need to hear more talk from our leaders about shared sacrifice, something that is missing in all the rhetoric from the White House.

It's sad that the President and Congress can fly back to Washington to try to save the life of a brain-dead woman, but can't get upset about our fiscal situation. it's a shame that Tom Delay, who also got his panties in a bunch over said woman, seems more concerned about low taxes right now than about how to rebuild a large American city that has been effectively shut down.

Republicans used to be about prudence in financial matters. They were fiscal conservatives. But these days, what's important is fighting against those evil homosexuals and not about balancing the national checkbook.

I hope that this debate can bring the GOP back to being a party of fiscal conservatism again. It's about damn time.

By the way, Slate has a good piece on the state of fiscal conservatives. It's worth a read.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Race and Katrina (And why Kanye West doesn't know what he's talking about)

Americans are talking about race again in the aftermath of Katrina. As a black man, it's hard not to look at the faces of those who were trapped in the Superdome and the convention center and not wonder if the color of those faces was a factor in the slowness of response by the authorities.

So was Kanye West right when he said on national television that "George Bush doesn't care about black people?"


Bush might be a lot of things, and I'm certainly not one of his adoring fans, but he is far from a racist. You can't be a racist have a black woman as your Secretary of State who took that post over from a black man. Bumbling boob, yes, racist no.

Richard Cohen has an excellent piece where he sheds some light on the whole Bush-is-a-racist meme. Read the whole piece, but here's a snippet:

Bush, in this case, was an equal opportunity bungler -- but that it rests on a stereotype: Republicans tend to wear lime green pants in the summer and dislike black people all year round. There was more than a little truth to this at one time. The GOP, after all, became a safe haven for Southern bigots who fled the Democratic Party (as Lyndon Johnson knew they would) in the civil rights era. The fight for the rights of blacks turned Dixie as Republican as it once was Democratic. To its everlasting shame, the GOP continues to benefit from raw bigotry.

But Bush is not cut from that cloth. He is a contemporary Republican, a person of another generation who, you may have noticed, has a black woman as secretary of state and had a black man before her. Under him, the GOP began an outreach to black Americans, and unless the Democrats wake up it will ultimately succeed. As Karl Rove well knows, all he has to do is pick up a small percentage of the black vote and he ends the current 50-50 electoral split. Bush, who won an impressive 27 percent of the black vote in his reelection bid for Texas governor, could have been the man to do this. His task is a lot harder now.

Bush messed up in how the feds responded to Katrina, but so did the state and local officials, some of which were black.

I'm not one who thinks that racism is no more, but I'm not looking for bigots under beds either. Let's deal with trying to make sure what happened in the Big Easy never happens again and stop with the petty name calling.

The State of Conservativism

Andrew Sullivan links to some good posts today about what conservatism really is and how the Bush administration has abandoned those tenets.

Jack Balkin notes how cold and heartless conservatism has become in that it has to add the qualifier "Compassionate" before the word conservative. He quotes F.A. Heyek, which has been considered one of the fathers of conservatism. Many have seen him as anti-government, but Balkin quotes the Austrian who wrote The Road to Serfdom tended to see a role for government in free societies:

[T]here can be no doubt that some minimum of food, shelter, and clothing, sufficient to preserve health and the capacity to work, can be assured to everybody...

Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individuals in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision. Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance...the case for the state's helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong....

To the same category belongs also the increase of security through the state's rendering assistance to the victims of such "acts of God" as earthquakes and floods. Wherever communal action can mitigate disasters against which the individual can neither attempt to guard himself nor make provision for the consequences, such communal action should undoubtedly be taken.

I think some who call themselves conservatives today would wonder if this really was Hayek talking. But as someone who considers himself progressively conservative, it does. One doesn't have to be a socialist to support some minimal standards to ensure people have proper housing, medical care and food. To not care about whether people have these doesn't make someone a conservative in my book, but a heartless...well, this is a family blog, so I will just say a heartless person.

For some reason, conservatives have started to believe the small government means a government that buys into some sort of economic darwinism; continually cutting taxes for the well off, cutting services for the less fortunate and piling up debt for the next generation. People like Grover Norquist talks about some kind of anti-government utopia, but to me it seems more like something out of
Lord of the Flies.

Republicans doesn't have to develop large government programs as Democrats have (save President Clinton) to tackle poverty. But we do need to find ways to bring economic freedom to the poor. The poor can't simply do it on themselves when they are faced with poor education and crime.

My liberal friends talk about social justice and for some conservatives, it brings up this image of the bloated welfare states found in Europe. But for me, social justice means setting things right for the poor; giving them a chance to get out of poverty. It comes from the Bible where we are reminded to care for those less fortunate. Conservatives don't have to become liberals in order to deal with these issues, but they have to have a heart about this.

There needs to be a wholesale intellectual revolution within conservatism. It starts by doing this: Republicans need to start reading your Bibles, beyond the few scattered verese that talk about homosexuality. The Bible is filled with verses about caring for the poor, so it seems that God is a bit more concerned with people being well-fed, than with two guys holding hands.

If the father of conservatism can see the importance of helping the poor, maybe other conservatives need to take notice.

Friday, September 16, 2005

FEMA and Katrina: Incomprehensible Incompetence

In the days before Hurricane Katrina hit land, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, FEMA Director Michael Brown and other top Homeland Security officials received e-mails on their blackberries warning that Katrina posed a dire threat to New Orleans and other areas. Yet one FEMA official tells NPR little was done.

Leo Bosner, an emergency management specialist at FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C., is in charge of the unit that alerts officials of impending crises and manages the response. As early as Friday, Aug. 26, Bosner knew that Katrina could turn into a major emergency.

In daily e-mails -- known as National Situation Updates -- sent to Chertoff, Brown and others in the days before Katrina made landfall in the Gulf Coast, Bosner warned of its growing strength -- and of the particular danger the hurricane posed to New Orleans, much of which lies below sea level.

But Bosner says FEMA failed to organize the massive mobilization of National Guard troops and evacuation buses needed for a quick and effective relief response when Katrina struck. He says he and his colleagues at FEMA's D.C. headquarters were shocked by the lack of response.

"We could see all this going downhill," Bosner said, "but there was nothing we could do."

Listen to this National Public Radio story here.

It is really breathtaking to see how incompetent the federal response was.

Bush and Katrina Recap

Here are what some bloggers and commentators are saying about the President's response to Hurricane Katrina:

Kevin Featherly takes issue with the President's apology earlier this week.

Minneapolis Star Tribune commentator John Gunyou says forget the investigation, we need apologies.

Bull Moose talks about how the Republicans are losing their image as the "party of order" in the wake of Katrina and Iraq.

Live, From New Orleans

I watched President Bush's speech from New Orleans last night. On the whole, I think it was a good speech, but I also think it was about a week too late. I think it would have made more sense to have made this speech the Thursday after the Hurricane hit than two weeks later.

Be that as it may, he had some good ideas of trying to help the Gulf Region. I liked that he wanted to get locals involved in the efforts to rebuild. I liked that he wants to do a full scale review of emergency preparedness plans, though you'd think that would have been done after 9/11.

I thought this passage about poverty and race was interesting:

Within the Gulf region are some of the most beautiful and historic places in America. As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well.

That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.

So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality.

When the streets are rebuilt, there should be many new businesses, including minority-owned businesses, along those streets.

When the houses are rebuilt, more families should own, not rent, those houses.

When the regional economy revives, local people should be prepared for the jobs being created.

Okay, so he sees poverty as a problem. What's his solution? The President continues:

I believe we should start with three initiatives that the Congress should pass.

Tonight, I propose the creation of a Gulf opportunity zone, encompassing the region of the disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama.

BUSH: Within this zone, we should provide immediate incentives for job-creating investment; tax relief for small businesses; incentives to companies that create jobs; and loans and loan guarantees for small businesses, including minority-owned enterprises, to get them up and running again.

It is entrepreneurship that creates jobs and opportunity. It is entrepreneurship that helps break the cycle of poverty. And we will take the side of entrepreneurs as they lead the economic revival of the Gulf region.

I propose the creation of worker recovery accounts to help those evacuees who need extra help finding work. Under this plan, the federal government would provide accounts of up to $5,000, which these evacuees could draw upon for job training and education to help them get a good job and for child-care expenses during their job search.

And to help lower-income citizens in the hurricane region build new and better lives, I also propose that Congress pass an Urban Homesteading Act.

BUSH: Under this approach, we will identify property in the region owned by the federal government and provide building sites to low-income citizens free of charge, through a lottery. In return, they would pledge to build on the lot, with either a mortgage or help from a charitable organization like Habitat for Humanity.

Homeownership is one of the great strengths of any community, and it must be a central part of our vision for the revival of this region.

Some of the ideas are good. The Gulf Opportunity Zone is kind of an enterprise zone writ large and might spur some economic growth. I'm a little wary of the job training program since there has been some concern that these programs do very little to help people find jobs. The Urban Homesteading idea sounds good, but my concern is how a poor person could get a mortgage or if the influx of people wanting homes would swamp non profit housing agencies like Habitat for Humanity. On the whole, they are all good starting ideas, that need to be tweaked.

The President also noted that future large scale disasters might involve the military, something unheard of in America:

It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces, the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice.

These were all good promises. What remains to be seen and what is always the problem with the President is follow-through. From 9/11 to Iraq, the President has always had a great ideas, but his implementation has always been at issue. For the president to make this work and to also salvage his approval ratings, he needs to take charge and get on top of this. He royally screwed up in the first important hours after the Katrina hit, but he has a chance to repair that mistake if he can crack a few heads and spearhead the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. If not, the GOP can expect the Chicago Effect to hurt the party in 2006 and 2008.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hell On Earth

If you haven't already read this gripping account in today's Washington Post, by all means, please do. It gives a chilling account of what went on at the New Orleans Convention Center in the days after Hurricane Katrina hit the city. You need to read the whole story, but here are some excerpts.

First, there was some form of law enforcement involved in the form of the Louisiana National Guard that was in the center. But they refused to intervene:

That futility was symbolized by the presence in the convention center for three of the most chaotic days of at least 250 armed troops from the Louisiana National Guard. They were camped out in a huge exhibition hall separated from the crowd by a wall, and used their trucks as a barricade when they were afraid the crowd would break in.

The troops were never deployed to restore order and eventually withdrew, despite the pleas of the convention center's management. Louisiana Guard commanders said their units' mission was not to secure the facility, and soldiers on the scene feared inciting further bloodshed if they had intervened. "We didn't want another Kent State," said Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, commander of the active-duty military forces responding to Katrina. "They weren't trained for crowd control."

Then there was the problem of mixing housing developments that in put warring gangs together:

In more than 70 interviews, with both military and law enforcement officials -- who were themselves sometimes inside the center -- and with many of the survivors who suffered over the course of several nights, a chilling portrait emerges of anarchy and violence, exacerbated by young men from rival housing projects -- Magnolia, St. Bernard, Iberville, Calliope.

"Everywhere I went, I saw people with guns in their hands," said Troy Harris, 18. "They were putting guns to people's heads."

Recounting their pleas for milk for their babies, for food, for protection, many survivors described the same sense of bewilderment and anger -- broadcast, surreally, on live television. "This is America," one woman shouted into the TV cameras. What she meant was, this is not supposed to happen here.


A gang broke into the locked alcohol storage areas and suddenly had 50 cases of hard liquor and 200 cases of beer. And before long, there were scenes of gangsters, drunk, groping after young girls -- and those scenes not far from the ones of women in corners, balled up, praying all frozen with a Hobson's choice: the gangsters, or the floodwaters.

Then there is this horrible account of the abuse of power:

That same day, the New Orleans police made a dramatic entrance. Sgt. Hans Ganthier and 12 other New Orleans SWAT team members entered the center, M-4 commando rifles at the ready. Prayers had been answered -- only it was a rescue mission of a different purpose.

A Jefferson Parish police deputy had appealed to SWAT team Capt. Jeff Winn for help in bringing out his wife and a female relative from the center. "He knew they were there and was hearing nightmarish stories," said Ganthier, who declined to identify the officer for security reasons.

Winn approved the mission.

When the SWAT team entered at 11 a.m., the Jefferson Parish officer called out his wife's name. She heard him, and along with the relative rushed to his side. The SWAT team put the women in the middle of the team, then backed out the door.

Once it became clear that the SWAT team had come with the single goal of rescuing two white women, anger exploded.

"Racists!" one man cried out.

"Some people were upset we weren't rescuing them," said Ganthier. "It's hard to leave people behind like that, but we were aiding an officer."

Finally, the images of death and quite possibly murder:

Three days after the evacuation, Staff Sgt. Juan Almonte, a medic with the 82nd Airborne Division, slipped past a caution sign and through a ripped metal door, bracing himself for the task ahead -- to "bag" the bodies still inside the convention center.

Inside the food-service area near Hall A, sitting slumped in a black wheelchair, was a woman of about 60 in a hospital gown. A man in a shirt and jogging pants lay curled up on the concrete floor next to her, his hand over his face.

To Almonte's right down a wide hallway, a large man -- the medic guessed he was at least 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds -- lay with his arms over his head and knees bent. Another woman in hospital scrubs lay a few feet from him, next to aluminum cans and trays with stained but elegant white dinner menus.

Around the bodies were pools of dried blood. Looking closer, he noted swelling and abrasions on the corpses. He stared at what he found next. On the gray, soiled floor several feet from the dead lay a pair of shiny brass knuckles.

"My perception was that they were beaten to death," he said last week. "Absolutely, they were killed."

I don't have much to say about this. I mean, it kind of takes your breath away. Maybe I will have something more to say later, but for now I just sit in dumbfounded silence.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

What About Civil Society?

Nearly two weeks ago, as the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina became apparent, I felt the need to do something. I had recieved an email about the efforts of two pastors in my denomination (the Disciples of Christ) who were coordinating efforts in Houston. I sent an email to one pastor and he said that he needed towels. So,I was able to get several Disciple churches here in Minnesota to donate towels that were shipped to Houston to evacuees in Houston.

In these days where people are pointing fingers at which part of government bungled the aftermath, Anne Applebaum reminds us of the role that civil society has played. Churches, schools, radio stations and organizations like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army have come together to do what they can to help people. A writer for the British newspaper, the Guardian had this to say about American society. America was revealed as:

"a hollowed superpower ... a country that is not a country at all, but atomised, segmented individuals living parallel lives as far apart as possible."

To which I say, rubbish.

While our government surely does have problems, the notion that all Americans are just out for themselves hasn't been evident in the past few weeks as we have donated huges sums of money to charitible organizations to help. And don't forget the countless stories of people opening their homes or just driving to the Region to donate what they can, just because they had to do something.

This doesn't mean that we should get rid of FEMA or that government has no role in relief efforts. It does. But we should also be reminded of civil society as well. It can't alone solve problems, nor should it, but it is the grease that keeps this society moving and it should be celebrated and praised.

A vibrant democracy needs a well functioning government and in this post 9/11 age, it needs a good agency that can respond to disasters. But it also needs a vibrant civil society, made up of people who want to help their fellow person. We need to keep putting a light on the failures of goverment in this tragedy, but let's also praise those countless individuals who gave of themselves at this hour of need.

The Poor as Pawns

Dell Gines at the Urban Conservative has an intriguiging viewpoint on how the left and right are more interested in scoring partisan points about the poor in New Orleans instead of putting for solid solutions. Here is the money quote:

Through the political rhetoric designed to appease constituents, two points have noticeably occurred in the post Katrina debate. The first point is that the poor have become a pimping point by both sides, as each attempt to capitalize the death and storm based disenfranchisement of the black poor by assigning blame to the other side. The second point is that through the midst of the finger pointing and polarizing of Katrina, no relevant policy discussions or even good solid op-ed pieces in the national news, geared towards positing solutions to this thematic concentration of poverty amongst African-Americans in the inner-city.

So even as America comes together in a way they have never had before in terms of providing relief to the victims of Katrina, we must ask ourselves this…

When it is all said and done, will anyone really remember the poor or will they just continue to be used as pawns on the political chess boards of the neo-conservatives and the liberals?

I agree with Dell. Both sides are using the devastation that took place in the aftermath of Katrina just to score points. I've heard very little about how we can alleviate poverty.

And that is the problem here. Katrina revealed the fact that America, not just Democrats or just Republicans, but all of us have failed to tackle poverty.

Most of what I've heard in the last week has been nothing more than hand-wringing and moralizing. What we need are ideas. But we live in an age where there is a lot of talking (spin), but no ideas.

This has got to change. Will Katrina do that? Only if we really care about making the lives of poor Americans better and not just point fingers.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Katrina Redux or What's Wrong With Republicans

Andrew Sullivan has a dead-on piece about the Bush Administration and the current Republican party in general. He reveals a party that is incompetent, prone to cronyism and anti-government. It's best to read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts. First , on competence:

"What happened after Katrina hit — the complete failure of local, state and federal authorities to seize control of the situation — was not about right or left, Democrat or Republican. It was about simple competence.

Take the latest spin from the White House public relations operation, now in overdrive. The White House blames Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana, for not specifically requesting federal troops to impose law and order (as opposed to search and rescue), and so clearing away legal hurdles for the federal government to help.

An anonymous source — Andy Card? Karl Rove? — told The New York Times: “Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?” Well, actually, at that point it was completely clear that the state authorities were overwhelmed and “lawlessness was the inevitable result”. Emergencies such as Katrina are precisely why the federal executive branch exists. It exists to take control and do things swiftly. Instead, the White House worried about gender politics and public relations while people drowned and corpses littered the streets of a city."

The he talks about cronyism:

Then there’s cronyism. We now all know that Michael Brown, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), had little or no experience of managing major emergencies. Neither had his deputy. Nor his predecessor, when appointed. But they were all Bush campaign operatives and cronies. The Senate approved his appointment after a 42-minute hearing.

What does it tell you — that the last two Fema heads were college room-mates? And that the previous head was already down on the Gulf coast last week, advising “private clients” on helping with the recovery? You don’t think any of the $100 billion in aid might end up in the hands of a few well-connected businessmen, do you? Meanwhile, even conservative commentators had to concede that Brown was in way over his head. He’d even padded his CV. In normal times, this kind of cronyism is not exactly shocking. It happens all the time — in administrations Democrat and Republican. Bill Clinton was a master at it. But after 9/11, to place a complete hack in charge of response to a national emergency is criminal negligence.

I would agree with that last statement. If FEMA and Homeland Security can't help during a natural disaster, God help us when another terrorist attack strikes.

Finally, he tackles conservatism:

Some have argued this past week that the underlying problem is that America doesn’t have enough government spending or a big enough government. Given the explosion of spending under Bush — the biggest increase since Lyndon Johnson — this makes no sense at all. The US has spent billions on homeland security — and what we now know is that if Al-Qaeda had blown up a couple of levees in New Orleans, they could have killed far more people than they did on 9/11.

The issue is not how big government is, but how effective it is. Conservatism has never meant abandoning the basic task of government: the common defence and law and order. Even classical liberals, like yours truly, who like their government extremely lean, have no problem with spending what it takes to secure basic infrastructure and a police and military to protect private property. That basic infrastructure didn’t exist last week.

I think that conservatism has listened too much to the sweet sounds anti-government people like Grover Norquist who has talked about making government small enough to "drown it in a bathtub." He desires to make government weak and we have seen the results amid those waiting for relief in New Orleans. True conservatives do want a small goverment, but they want that government to be efficient and competent. If a government can't do something as basic as provide law and order, then we are all in big trouble.

All in all, a very good read.

"Brownie" Out

The Chicago Tribune reports that FEMA head, Mike Brown has tendered his resignation, three days after being pulled off the Hurricane Katrina Operations.

About time.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Even Bush Supporters

For those that think the current criticism of the federal government's handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is nothing more than liberal partisans beating up on Bush, The Moderate Voice links to a dynamite essay by the conservative TV commentator and former Congressman, oe Scarbourough. Scarbourough, who hails from Florida, knows a thing or two about hurricanes. Here are some excerpts:

First he call the President on his...umm, crap:

"...the bottom line is that despite the fact the president was strapped with two governors who bungled this crisis badly, in the end it is the president who sends in the National Guard and FEMA relief.

The president's suggestion that the size of this storm caught all by surprise just doesn't get it. His administration was 48 hours late sending in the National Guard and poor Americans got raped and killed because of those mistakes."

Then he turns to FEMA head, Michael Brown:

"FEMA’s Michael Brown also shoulders the burden for the suffering in New Orleans. His claim that no one knew of the suffering on the ground until Thursday defies logic. America knew the crescent city was drifting toward chaos on well before Tuesday. Why didn't the man in charge of disaster relief know the same thing?"

The governors of Mississippi and Louisiana don't get off easy either:

"...the first responders in any hurricane are local and state officials. When Florida was struck by four hurricanes last year, Governor Jeb Bush was nothing short of spectacular. Louisiana Governor Blanco was breathtakingly clueless as were other Louisiana officials. The deaths of many lay on their doorsteps.

One state over, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour continues to claim that Katrina caught him by surprise, telling one reporter that it was after all a cat one storm after crossing Florida. That useless fact doesn't erase the fact that the entire Gulf Coast was put on alert as early as Friday that this storm would be historic.

If Barbour thought Katrina would be little more than a category one storm, then he is not to be trusted organizing his sock drawer — let alone the most tragic natural disaster to ever hit his state."

Scarbourough's overall assessment is that government failed. People didn't die because of race or poverty, but because of ineptitude at all levels.

In the coming weeks and months, as New Orleans slowly and painfully recovers, the nation needs to ask its leaders at all levels some hard questions and demand a full accounting. We have to stop saying this is a Republican or Democratic problem. This is a national problem filled with blame all around. The people need to tell its leaders to get its act together and partisan hacks need to stop defending their leaders and work for towards a solution. Americans deserve no less.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Ditto, Part One

Okay, I will join the chorus and say that Bush should (he won't) fire FEMA head, Mike Brown (AKA, "Brownie"). I'm sorry, but having man whose prior experience was looking after horses and giving lots of money to the President's campaign lead the agency that is charged with dealing with natural and man-made disasters has to be the worst HR decision ever made. If this guy can't get it together for a hurricane, how could he handle another 9/11 style attack?

And I don't know about you, but all those voters who trusted Bush because he was better suited to handle security issues have to be scratching their heads.

And while we are at it, Homeland Security Head Mike Chertoff needs to go too. When told by an NPR reporter about the people stuck at the convention center, he discounted the story, even though it had been on the news for hours. This is the guy we are trusting to prevent Osama from striking us again?

The President said he would investigate what went wrong. I don't think it's that hard: fire the "Mikes."

Oh, James Lee Witt, where are you?

(I know, he's in Louisiana.)


I will be writing about what I think about FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina (and no, it's not pretty), but I've been a bit concerned about some of the bloggers are taking some stories about FEMA messups as gospel, even though there are no coorberating sources. For example, Andrew Sullivan links to a story on Daily Kos on a harrowing account of one person's story in New Orleans. It is horrid, but what is distrubing is that there is nothing that tells me if this story is real or fake. Of course the account is to show how bad the feds have acted in Katrina's wake. I think FEMA did mess up, but I don't want to share infomation that might not be accurate either, and the problem is, a lot of bloggers are linking to Kos and other bloggers even though they have no other source than their own. (Another example is from

this blog which also links to several Kos posts that are also uncoobberated.

Do you remember the photo that came out shortly after September 11th? It was of a tourist supposedly on top of the one of the towers of the World Trade Center on that day. Just to his back, was a plane with an American Airlines logo just seconds before it slams into the building. It was a compelling photo, but it was fake. But a lot of people, including myself, we taken in initially.

Maybe its the journalist in me, but we need to be careful what we place on our blogs. Bloggers love to say that they are so much better than the mainstream media (nevermind we wouldn't exist without them), but we sometimes play fast and loose with facts, letting emotions take over instead of providing good information.

Maybe these stories are true, I don't know. But that's the problem. I don't know and it would be dangerous for me to pass this off as truth when I'm not certain.

I'm all for castigating FEMA which I think did screw up royally. But let's do it based on reliable facts.

Obama the Healer

Barack Obama continues to amaze me. I remember his wonderful unifying speech at the Democratic convention last year, and he does it again in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. You can read the whole text here. You can go to
Charging RINO for some great experts.

Some have used this disaster for simple partisan gain, but Obama continues to speak his unifying message. Hats off to you, Senator.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Comment of the Day

It seems to me that if the feds have no role in disaster relief, as some conservatives have been arguing, then FEMA should be disbanded. In fact, if the feds have no role in disaster relief, then I'd argue the whole Department of Homeland Security ought to be disbanded... since its primary purpose is supposedly disaster prevention (natural and man-made) and relief.

-From frequent commentor, Brian.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: The Political Version

I was out of town this past weekend, but not too far away from a TV screen or a computer to not see what was going on concerning the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the resulting political storm. I wanted to present a wrap of what has been said in other blogs and add my own comments.

Charging RINO links to a New York Times piece about how the White House is trying to spin the political fallout from the hurricane and place the blame on local and state officials, who just happen to be Democrats.


Jeff Jarvis over at Buzzmachine is calling for the head of former Arabian Horse Association head-cum-head of FEMA, Mike Brown. He includes a top-notch editorial from the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

TPM Cafe wonders if the Bush Adminstration ignored its own rules regarding the feds role in natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

The Carpetbagger shares a BBC report that Northern Command, or NorthCom, was ready to go and help, but they waited in vain for permission from the President which never came.

None of this looks good for the President. I have a lot to say about this, but the that will come tomorrow, when I'm not as tired.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Even the French

Via David Schraub, it seems that at least 20 nations are planning to aid the US in the wake of Katina. The list of nations includes:

Australia, Belgium, Canada, Russia, Japan, France, Germany, Britain, China, Jamaica, Honduras, Greece, Venezuela, the Organisation of American States, NATO, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, South Korea, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

This was a shocker:

Where the United States really needs help is getting cheap oil and the Bush administration will be approaching Arab nations and other oil producers over the coming days.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a vocal critic of the United States, offered to send cheap fuel, humanitarian aid and relief workers to the disaster area.

The State Department did not comment on Venezuela's offer but several officials smiled at the gesture from Mr Chavez, who yesterday called Mr Bush a "cowboy" who failed to manage the disaster.

I don't agree with Chavez, but it's still a nice guesture.

Let it not be said the world doesn't care about us Americans.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Chicago Effect

I might be wrong, but I have funny feeling that the affects of Hurricane Katrina will be felt on election day.

Why? Because Americans might not expect much from their government, but they expect them to help them out in times of severe crisis.

And the government on all levels have failed miserably.

There is a true story that has become a cautious tale for politicians. In 1979, a monster snowstorm struck Chicago. Here's a little taste of what happened:

In Chicago, roofs collapsed from the weight of the snow, and transportation was brought to a standstill for nearly a week. Garbage trucks were unable to run and the rats took advantage. The salt used to de-ice the roads caused motor failures on some of the trains. Abandoned cars slowed snow removal efforts. Buses were at least two hours behind schedule if they were running at all. After six days, only half of the runways at O'Hare were open for traffic.

The mayor at the time, Michael Blandic suffered as a result:

Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic, who took over after Richard Daly died in 1976 and was seen as a caretaker of the office until Daly's son was ready, lost the Democratic primary to Jane Byrne in on February 27, 1979. The defeat was widely reported to be a result of his inability to keep the city open for business during this blizzard.

Since that time, politicians have gone out of their way to look like they were on top of the situation. When a major snowstorm blanketed the Northeast, including New Jersey in 1996, that's state's then-Governor, Republican Christie Todd Whitman, drove a snowplow to show she was doing what she could to keep the Garden State moving.

I have a funny feeling that the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will impact the 2006 elections. I know that the CW is that people have short memories, but this is different. An major metropolitan center has been made uninhabitable and will remain that way for months. We are acutally using the word "refugees" to talk about American citizens. That isn't something people will forget.

I think goverment failed here. I'm not simply pointing a finger at Washington, but on all levels. I mean, why didn't goverments come together and build adaquate levies? It wasn't a big secret that something like this might happen in the Big Easy. And why wasn't there a plan to get those who had no transportation and no means of getting out on busses or trains or planes or something instead of putting them in the Superdome and hoping for the best? Why were there no cots in the Superdome? Why was there no plan to get the remaining people out of the city? Why was there no plans for adaquate law enforcement, including the military? Why was there no plan to get food and water into the area somehow?

Four years after 9/11, we should expect better. What is going on in New Orleans shows us that our pants our still down and butts are still exposed. If we can't prepare adaquately for a natural disaster, then what will happen when there's another terrorist attack?

I don't think I'm the only one asking these questions. Again, this is not directed at one party or one person. Government as a whole failed. Rasing money is nice, but people need help
now. And it seems the help was a day late and a dollar short.

And people will remember that in November, 2006.

I don't normally agree with them, but theMinneapolis Star Tribune has a great editorial about government's poor response. Also, blogger Kevin Featherly has a great post as well.

The info about the 1979 Chicago blizzard came from

Dennis Hastert (Foot in Mouth-IL)

It's not a good idea to tell nearly a half a million people who are now refugees that the federal government won't help them rebuild their beloved city. I dunno...kinda seems heartless.

Well, House Speaker Dennis Hastert did the unthinkable.

Speaking to a Chicago newspaper, he said that any attempt at rebuilding the Big Easy, "didn't make sense to me." Here's more:

Hastert said that he supports an emergency bailout, but raised questions about a long-term rebuilding effort. As the most powerful voice in the Republican-controlled House, Hastert is in a position to block any legislation that he opposes.

"We help replace, we help relieve disaster," Hastert said. "But I think federal insurance and everything that goes along with it... we ought to take a second look at that."

The Speaker questions rebuilding a city that is below sea level.

Okay, it wasn't the smartest idea three centuries ago to build a city below sea level, but it's been built and people live there. It's there home. What Hastert said was callous and mean-spirited. As the leader of the GOP he's come across as not really caring about the citizens of New Orleans.

It's the sort of statements that one might be remembered come the 2006 elections.

Hugo the Horrible

Pat Robertson's recent boneheaded comments about "taking out" (and no, I don't mean for a nice dinner) Venezualan President Hugo Chavez has placed a spotlight on the Latin American leader. Some (not all) on the Left see Mr. Chavez as a great leader, standing up against the hegemonic United States as this Minneapolis wrtier suggests.

I've never bought into that line. Just because someone comes in under the guise of helping the poor doesn't make them necessarily good. And there is evidence that Chavez is not the just leader he claims to be.

Julian Sanchez has a very good article detailing the danger that Chavez poses-not necessarily to the US but to the Region as does Michael Shifter of the InterAmerican dialogue.

I'm not against Chavez because he is a leftist. Brazil and Chile both have leftist leaders, but they aren't trying to usurp democracy as Chavez is.

In a time when Latin America is enjoying freedom after decades of dictatorships and repression, we can't afford to have it slip back. Chavez threatens that freedom under the guise of helping the poor.

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