Thursday, September 15, 2005



Quote of the Day:
"The reconstruction of New Orleans starts now. We need to reconstruct the truth."

-Jordan Flaherty, New Orleans resident, union organizer, and an editor of Left Turn Magazine ( []
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DNC Chairman Howard Dean's op ed titled "The Verdict on John Roberts" will appear in tomorrow's newspapers. For a preview, see He believes that John Roberts is the wrong man for the job.

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In typical House Republican fashion, Democratic attempts on Wednesday to force the Bush administration to surrender documents on prewar intelligence and the disclosure of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame were derailed. Liz Sidoti reports that Republican leaders want to avoid the spectacle of either issue being debated on the House floor amid some fear that the measures could succeed if enough Republicans side with minority Democrats. [WaPo]

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In a new e-mail distributed by the One America Committee, Elizabeth Edwards asks all supporters to rally others to sign a petition for her husband Sen John Edwards' "New America Initiative." The plan is intended to assist the victims of Hurrican Katrina, asking the president to “provide the victims of this disaster with the skills, materials and planning they need to revitalize their region.” Mrs. Edwards says it is sad, but not surprising to see how the Bush administration's weak response to the disaster and the Republican leadership's irresponsible policies are a reminder of the immeasurable suffering that results from the disregard. She says that it has to stop, and it can. In her words:
We cannot expect that the Republican Congress or White House will come up with a plan that has the interests of all Americans in mind. In both their long-standing policies and their response to this disaster, their disregard and callousness have been painfully evident. Grover Norquist, a seminal thinker among the Republican leadership, has said that he wants government to be so weak that he could "drown it in a bathtub." That image is searing today. And he is wrong - we need a government strong enough to protect our people and ensure hope and opportunity for all Americans, not just the wealthy.
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On the eve of the President's address to the nation about Hurricane Katrina, AFSCME challenged the Bush Administration to abandon plans to give more tax cuts to the wealthy and immediately implement a comprehensive plan that would both prepare for another Katrina-like disaster and bolster relief efforts.
AFSCME calls on Congress to promptly move ahead with a comprehensive preparedness and relief plan:

* Immediately suspend tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans
and use the money to provide relief to evacuees and rebuild the Gulf
Coast. No new tax cuts should be considered.
* Create a WPA-like jobs program for the nearly half a million workers
who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina, putting evacuees to work
rebuilding the Gulf Coast. Guarantee prevailing wages for the men and
women rebuilding hurricane-torn areas.
* Provide health coverage to every evacuee by enrolling every evacuee in
Medicaid, and don't cut this vital program.
* Give immediate relief to states housing evacuees. If we don't provide
some relief, these states will have to cut programs that serve the
people hit hardest by this tragedy.
* Make the investments in infrastructure necessary to protect against
future disasters, such as a major earthquake in California or a
devastating hurricane in Florida.
* Give emergency responders the tools they need and set up funds for
public employees and relief volunteers. After 9/11 these highly
valuable workers got a lot of lip service but not enough action.
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David Corn asks: What Went Wrong? []
People died because of this. And a harsh reality was exposed: In the event of a calamity—whether caused by nature or by terrorists—we cannot expect the government to respond competently. It is scary out there. And the people of New Orleans—and the rest of us—deserve a few answers. If we are on our own, it would be better to know that now rather than later.
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In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, leaders of five mainline religious denominations have joined in a renewed call on U.S. Congress to oppose cuts to programs serving the poor. [U.S.Newswire]

Elizabeth Green, who is a public policy associate for Call to Renewal, believes that people of faith must use this moment, when poverty is in the national spotlight, to call for a change in our country's priorities for the common good. Will we accept a federal budget that provides tax benefits to the wealthiest while deeply cutting vital programs for the poor, and all of us? Or will we use this opportunity to call for morally grounded budget and tax policies that help families escape the growing vise of poverty in times of crisis and "normalcy"?
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OAC guest-blogger Joe Clark discusses FEMA and the Revolving Door. He discusses a WaPo piece by staff writers Griff Witte and Charles R. Babcock. The article revolves arounf the new test for FEMA - how do they plan to distribute the $62 billion Congress has approved for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts? How will they monitor the private contractors who will do much of the work? It's like a gut punch when you read that..
"Last spring, the Homeland Security Department's inspector general's office audited the FEMA staff that manages its contracts and found it "impossible to determine whether the acquisition personnel met training, education, and experience requirements." As a result, the auditors concluded, "FEMA may be at risk that its acquisition workforce is not qualified."
A CBS article titled "Big Contracts Went To Big Donors" speaks for itself.

I think about Sen John Edwards' New America Initiative, where the rebuilding of New Orleans and surrounding devastated areas could be led by the citizens who live there rather than by cold proprietary interests whose primary goal is profit - and not the public interest. The head of FEMA was a political appointee who didn't know sh*t from Shinola about handling a tragic American emergency. It was an unecessary tragedy. People DIED because of it. Seeing friends of corporate lobbyists get contracts over skilled professional disaster teams and local urban planners who, in rebuilding, will best preserve the spirit of the city they know so well is bothersome to me - especially since it does nothing to better the economic position of the people living and resettling in the disaster areas (which were a disaster BEFORE the floods due to povertry and social injustice).

It screams "WRONG!" The situation demands the public's concern. Any government that would hire private contractors like KBR or Halliburton [] to gentrify New Orleans and further enrich the rich while failing to serve the very poor, and that allows public interest to suffer at the preference of private interest cannot stand as a popular government or a government with high or historically respectful or abiding purposes. To put it in simpler terms. I smell corruption. And the smell is far worse than the receding floodwaters down in the 9th Ward.

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Stick a fork in him, he's done.
E.J. Dionne explains that any myths or pretensions still sheltered or promoted about Bush being a political success have been dispelled by Katrina. No longer "the Bush Era", Dionne says it's time for new leaders to emerge with better ideas. In his words:
Those who call for yet more tax cuts risk sounding like robots droning automated talking points programmed inside them long ago. Katrina has forced the issue of deep poverty back onto the national agenda after a long absence. Finding a way forward in -- and eventually out of -- Iraq will require creativity from those not implicated in the administration's mistakes. And if ever the phrase "reinventing government" had relevance, it is now that we have observed the performance of a government that allows political hacks to push aside the professionals.

And what of Bush, who has more than three years left in his term? Paradoxically, his best hope lies in recognizing that the Bush Era, as he and we have known it, really is gone. He can decide to help us in the transition to what comes next. Or he can cling stubbornly to his past and thereby doom himself to frustrating irrelevance.

to be cont'd

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