Thursday, September 01, 2005

Thoughts About Katrina and a Lack of Leadership

Thoughts About Katrina and a Lack of Leadership

Quote of the day:

"..just this morning, the President claimed that no one could have anticipated the levee breaches we've seen in New Orleans after Katrina hit. That's not leadership, that's an excuse."-

Gen Wesley Clark

9/1/05 - Waiting for a Leader - NY Times editorial

Looking at the obvious unpreparedness of the government in this emergency situation, Atrios asks what the Bush administration's been doing these past four years. He refers to a letter sent to Josh Marshall from a reader.

9/1/05 - NY Times advances Bush administration's dubious suggestion that FEMA is "better prepared" to handle hurricane crisis than before 9-11 [Media Matters]

2004 - FEMA was buried alive in DHS, and nothing has been the same since.

9/1/05 - FEMA has had to suspend rescue operations in some areas after gunfire broke out. There was also a report of a shot being fired at a military helicopter near the Superdome, where fights and trash fires have broken out. [News14Carolina]

When I think of Hurricane Katrina and the chaos in New Orleans, I can't help recalling Donald Rumsfeld's words about the looting, chaos and rising tempers in Iraq after we shocked and awed them: "Freedom’s untidy. Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things...And while no one condones looting, on the other hand one can understand the pent-up feelings that may result from..(you fill in the blank to make your point sound politically feasible).."

Freedom is obviously untidy in New Orleans tonight. I never thought I'd live to see the day that wed have such a catastrophe on our hands. Having our President tell us that the levee breaches in New Orleans could not have been foreseen reminds me of Condi Rice telling us that before 9/11, no one could have imagined planes being used as suicide weapons. Poppycock. Americans know better.

Arianna Huffington asks:
"Is the aftermath of Katrina part of the price we are paying for Iraq? To the growing list of collateral damage caused by the Iraq war and Bush's stunningly inept leadership, we can now add the city of New Orleans. It's no surprise that RNC chairman Ken Mehlman doesn't want "politics" injected into the national discussion about Katrina...Or that Scottie McClellan would echo that "this is not a time for politics." Why would he when President Bush's politics and policies have made this disastrous situation so much worse than it otherwise would have been?"

I'm thinking that this is the answer to Grover Norquist's spoken wish to drown government in the bathtub. The manifestation of Grover's bathtub dream is New Orleans.

I can hardly believe the childish-sounding tripe Jonah Goldberg wrote last Sunday about New Orleans (before the hurricane had hit the city). Tom Tomorrow points it out, in all its wretched mockery, at This Modern World.

Denny Hastert says why bother to rebuild it? Bulldoze it and forget it.

"Americans' hearts go out to the people in Katrina's path... But if the people of New Orleans and other low-lying areas insist on living in harm's way, they ought to accept responsibility for what happens to them and their property."
- from a Waterbury, Conn. Republican-American newspaper editorial Wednesday. [source:Huffington Post]

Lis Riba has a good list of links to bloggers commenting on Katrina.

It Takes More Than Hope to Tackle Poverty

It Takes More Than Hope to Tackle Poverty

There is a determination on the part of the Bush administration to disguise the fact that as America, in its national name, grows richer, American citizens are a poorer lot. Since George W. Bush’s election (I'm using the term loosely) in 2000, the poor in America has grown by 6 million people, nearly 20 percent over the 2000 statistics. 37 million Americans are living in poverty. The U.S. poverty rate rose to 12.7 per cent of the population last year alone, and it was the fourth consecutive annual increase, the Census Bureau said on Tuesday.

The state of Wisconsin was hit hardest, growing in poverty from 9.2 percent of households in poverty over a two-year average in 2002 and 2003, to 11% over a two-year average from 2003 to 2004. The Bronx had the fourth-highest poverty rate in the nation, trailing three counties on the Texas-Mexico border.

Looking at ethnic groups, black Americans have the lowest median income. Asians have the highest median income, and they were the only ethnic group to have experienced a decline in their poverty rate in 2004.

Larger American cities are finding they have more low-income neighborhood than they can afford. An editorial from today's Long Beach, CA says it beautifully:

"The latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau puts Long Beach near the top of one of its lists, as the nation's sixth-worst city in terms of households below the poverty level. Even allowing for a margin of error, that's the wrong end of the scale. The numbers are imprecise, but their message is clear. There is a point in the balance between poverty and affluence beyond which a city shouldn't venture; with too much poverty and too little affluence, financial viability disintegrates.....they are, in census reports and crime stats, reminding us that the community as a whole, not just a few of its more visible parts, must be in reasonably good health. And, reminding us to watch out for that tipping point."

Right blogs are falling in with the attempt to deny that so many Americans are in economic trouble. Powerline's John Hinderaker ignores the warning signs and says: "Somehow, things don't look so grim. By historic standards, the current poverty rate is low." Hinderaker claims that the NY Times is "wringing its hands." He complains about the media's reporting of the facts, saying that there is "little or no optismism to leaven the commentary." He claims that "it's hard to see any basis for pessimism." He accuses the NY Times of pandering to a more "sophisticated audience".

Hinderaker says:
" real terms, median household income is higher today than it has ever been, but for a couple of years in the late 1990s when we experienced a "boom" that we now know was fueled largely by a stock bubble and widespread corporate fraud. The truth is that our economy, aided by sound administration policies, has weathered the storms of the last several years extraordinarily well."
Hinderaker completely ignores the fact that gains from the economic recovery haven't filtered down to American workers. We are supposed to be living with a "robust economy." If the economy is expanding and the average American household income remains flat, who has reaped the benefit? Owners of capital have flourished uner the Bush economy. Bush's idea of an ownership society where everyone has private retirement and investment accounts is fine, if Americans have money to invest for their future. If this Census Bureau report has anything to tell us, it's that it is clear that millions of Americans are one bank account short of participating in the Bush version of the American dream. Robert Reich was correct in summing up Bush's plan for an "ownership society" in one word: "HOKUM."

This report should be a wake-up call for us all. The effects of poverty are devastating for American children. Americans are going deeper into debt with the current oil/gas prices and the rising prices for food, home-heating fuels, and health insurance. Millions of American consumers are having to spend more than they earn - simply on the basic necessities. We should be calling upon government to intervene in order to stop poverty's growth and mitigate its effects. In spite of many of America's strengths, we are not doing enough to turn around the growth in poverty. Instead of hiding the facts behind a waterfall of excuses, Right bloggers should recognize this and encourage the Bush administration to "fix" their economic policy around the Poverty Report "intelligence".

For a close-up look at poverty, look to the many residents of the 9th ward of New Orleans, who were among the 100,000 in the city who lacked a car or other means of leaving the city. According to the 2000 US census, the Lower Ninth Ward had a poverty level of 36.4 percent. A quarter of households in that district have an annual income of less than $10,000, while half live on less than $20,000. Over half of the population in the 9th ward of New Orleans is categorized as “not in the labor force,” mainly because they have ceased looking for work. Historically, the Lower Ninth Ward was one of the last regions of the city to be occupied because of its poor drainage system and its position on what was originally a cypress swamp. Those who settled there were mainly poor African-Americans and immigrant laborers with no other place to go. This is only one overview of Americans in economic trouble, and we're being warned that that number is on the rise. [source]Hurricane Katrina has just put a major city-load of Americans out of work for at least six months, maybe more. It's difficult to go to your job at the office when there is no office. We are being told it will cost tens of billions of dollars to clean up the damage, but the personal costs of recovery will be much more devastating to the individual families involved.

There is going to come a time when the Bush administration and the Right bloggers who love them are going to have to step into the mud pit and roll up their sleeves with the rest of us Americans who see the realistic effect of Bush's economic policies on the American family.

Former Senator John Edwards has commented: "America should be showing true leadership on the great moral issues of our time - like poverty - instead of allowing these situations to get worse." [Winston Salem Journal]

The Bush administration was quoted to have said that the "job market had continued to improve since the end of 2004 and they hope incomes were now rising and poverty was falling".

Hope, on its own, does not work. It takes action hard work, and sacrifice to eliminate poverty and increase stagnant incomes.

cross-posted at American Street

Beslan Tragedy - One Year Ago

Beslan Tragedy - One Year Ago

The tragedy in Beslan took place one year ago. Mourners are marking the sad anniversary today.

My comments from a year ago - 323 Dead - America's Future is Tied to Russia's
You may say that Russia doesn't require or desire our assistance. To that, I'd tell you that we will need to be able to do some convincing. We will need to seek their cooperation as the U.S. moves further and further into the Caucasus region with our international business interests. Progress marches on. We are citizens of the globe no matter how the Bush administration cares to step around the subject. We must act as citizens. It won't be long before the Chechen problem becomes our problem, too.

From today's news:
The United States is ready to cooperate with Russia at all levels in the fight against terrorism, State Secretary Condoleezza Rice said in a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, RIA Novosti reported.