A collection of various articles that in my opinion are
relevant about policy making and the Katrina effect on New
First some background: The president finished his five week
vacaction and went on a fundraising tour to Arizona and the
west coast. He likes to keep a balanced
In the meantime, as the vice president continued to enjoy
his holidays the Secretary of State was spotted in New York
a Broadway show and going on a shopping spree:
On Wednesday night, Secretary Rice was booed by
some audience members at "Spamalot!," the Monty Python
musical at the Shubert, when the lights went up after
Yesterday, Rice went shopping at Ferragamo on Fifth
Ave. According to the Web site www.Gawker.com, the
50-year-old bought "several thousand dollars' worth of
shoes" at the pricey leather-goods boutique.
A fellow shopper shouted, "How dare you shop for
shoes while thousands are dying and homeless!" -
presumably referring to Louisiana and Mississippi.
The woman expressing her First Amendment rights was
promptly removed from the store.
Paul Krugman's column
in yesterday's New York Times argues that the
Cheney administration's lackadaisical response to
Hurricane Katrina is a symptom of a much larger
problem -- the GOP contempt for government:
At a fundamental level, I'd argue, our current
leaders just aren't serious about some of the
essential functions of government. They like
waging war, but they don't like providing
security, rescuing those in need or spending on
I was thinking about posting something along those
same lines -- along with a modest proposal to
chaingang all the conservative pundits and politicians
who've spent the past twenty five years trashing the
federal government, and put them to work stacking
sandbags down in Louisiana. And while we're at it, we
could take all the think-tank libertarians and
corporate bunko artists who promised us their blessed
free market could and would solve all human problems,
and use them as filler for the sandbags.
Local National Guard are serving in a President's war
of choice. People in trouble need them here.
Molly Ivins states:
Just plain political bad luck that, in June, Bush took
his little ax and chopped $71.2 million from the
budget of the New Orleans Corps of Engineers, a 44
percent reduction. As was reported in New Orleans
CityBusiness at the time, that meant "major hurricane
and flood projects will not be awarded to local
engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to
protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has
been shelved for now."
Comment: The writer above is absolutely correct that,
if we were prepared, the response to the aftermath of
Katrina would be further along by now. Responsibility
however is not with the administration, it lies with
the electorate. We had a chance to make last year's
election a referendum on the politics of terrorism, to
seriously evaluate our preparedness, if we really
If anything is learned from this, we have to think,
we can't delegate. We need leadership that cares, not
in a superficial way. That leadership must come from
us. We have some very huge decisions to make right
now, and many thousands of lives depend on how well we
do. That said, I have few ideas of things we can do
other than give money to relief agencies, which of
course, we are doing.
Molly Ivins echoes the need to care about politics:
To use a fine Southern word, it's tacky to start
playing the blame game before the dead are even
counted. It is not too soon, however, to make a point
that needs to be hammered home again and again, and
that is that government policies have real
consequences in people's lives.
This is not "just politics" or blaming for
political advantage. This is about the real
consequences of what governments do and do not do
about their responsibilities. And about who winds up
paying the price for those policies.
And when you combine limited government with incompetent government, lethal stuff happens.
Others are a bit harsher,
but still correct.
letter to the president:
Any idea where all our helicopters are? It's Day 5 of
Hurricane Katrina and thousands remain stranded in New
Orleans and need to be airlifted. Where on earth could
you have misplaced all our military choppers? Do you
need help finding them? I once lost my car in a Sears
parking lot. Man, was that a drag.
Also, any idea where all our national guard soldiers
And don't listen to those who, in the coming days,
will reveal how you specifically reduced the Army
Corps of Engineers' budget for New Orleans this summer
for the third year in a row. You just tell them that
even if you hadn't cut the money to fix those levees,
there weren't going to be any Army engineers to fix
them anyway because you had a much more important
construction job for them -- BUILDING DEMOCRACY IN
The president tried to use the "nobody expected this"
Winer has collected
that the problems in New Orleans were well known.
each one of the excuses from the Homeland Security Secretary.
In the meantime, operation scapegoat is in full swing.
Joshua explains this succinctly:
Now at least we have the storyline. The Bush administration
wasn't caught sleeping on the job while New Orleans went under
with a gutted FEMA run by a guy who got fired from his last
job policing horse shows. In fact, according to the new White
House storyline, the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of
New Orleans didn't ask for help quickly enough. And the White
House was powerless to act until they did. Apparently they
couldn't even reschedule the president's vacation until the
locals got the right forms signed.
The Independent hosts some questions and answers:
Why has it taken George Bush five days to get to New Orleans?
How could the world's only superpower be so slow in rescuing its own people?
Why did he cut funding for flood control and emergency management?
Why did it take so long to send adequate National Guard forces to keep law and order?
How can the US take Iraq, a country of £25m people,
in three weeks but fail to rescue 25,000 of its own
citizens from a sports arena in a big American city?
Click for the answers
Billmon points out that this disaster is similar to the
1927 flood of New Orleans and quotes some 1927
newspapers and photographs
Greg Palast on the
1927 floods and the rise of the government for the people:
There is nothing new under the sun. In 1927, a
Republican President had his photo taken as the
Mississippi rolled over New Orleans. Calvin Coolidge,
"a little fat man with a notebook in his hand,"
promised to rebuild the state. He didn't. Instead, he
left to play golf with Ken Lay or the Ken Lay railroad
baron equivalent of his day.
In 1927, the Democratic Party had died and was
awaiting burial. As depression approached, the
coma-Dems, like Franklin Roosevelt, called for
balancing the budget.
Then, as the waters rose, one politician finally
said, roughly, "Screw this! They're lying! The
President's lying! The rich fat cats that are drowning
you will do it again and again and again. They lead
you into imperialist wars for profit, they take away
your schools and your hope and when you complain, they
blame Blacks and Jews and immigrants. Then they push
your kids under. I say, Kick'm in the ass and take
your rightful share!"
Huey Long laid out a plan: a progressive income
tax, real money for education, public works to rebuild
Louisiana and America, an end to wars for empire, and
an end to financial oligarchy. The waters receded, the
anger did not, and Huey "Kingfish" Long was elected
Governor of Louisiana in 1928.
At the time, Louisiana schools were free, but not
the textbooks. Governor Long taxed Big Oil to pay for
the books. Rockefeller's oil companies refused pay the
textbook tax, so Long ordered the National Guard to
seize Standard Oil's fields in the Delta.
Billmon points out that the US is capable of deliverig
efficient relief efforts Where there's a
Will. He presents various newspapers quotes from 2004 and
So you can see that when the chips are down, and the need
is absolutely dire, this administration can still deliver the
kind of coordinated emergency response that once made the
U.S. government the envy of the world -- just as it cooly and
capably protected the Iraqi Oil Ministry from the chaos and
looting that trashed every other government office in
post-invasion Baghdad. As is usually the case in public
service, it's just a matter of having the right incentives.
The comparison between the TLC showered on Florida last
year and Bush's initial "What, me worry?" response to this
year's disaster no doubt will go unnoticed by the amnesia
patients in the corporate media. And since I'm lucky enough to
live in a swing state that is also coveted by GOP political
strategists, I probably don't have to worry about it either --
that is, as long as any future disasters around my neck of the
woods happen in one of those years divisible by two.
But for the citizens of staunch, deep red Mississippi and
slightly less staunch but still red Louisiana, the lessons are
painfully obvious. If you're going to insist on living in a
hurricane alley, then you need to take personal responsibility
for your own actions, stop whining about government
incompetence, and embrace the free market solution to your
problems -- by moving to Florida.
On Rebuliding New Orleans:
Long before Katrina, New Orleans was hit by a
hurricane of poverty, racism, disinvestment,
deindustrialization and corruption. Simply the damage
from this pre-Katrina hurricane will take billions to
Now that the money is flowing in, and the world's eyes
are focused on Katrina, its vital that
progressive-minded people take this opportunity to
fight for a rebuilding with justice. New Orleans is a
special place, and we need to fight for its rebirth.
No sane person should classify someone who takes food
from indefinitely closed stores in a desperate,
starving city as a "looter," but that's just what the
media did over and over again. Sheriffs and
politicians talked of having troops protect stores
instead of perform rescue operations.
Images of New Orleans' hurricane-ravaged population
were transformed into black, out-of-control,
criminals. As if taking a stereo from a store that
will clearly be insured against loss is a greater
crime than the governmental neglect and incompetence
that did billions of dollars of damage and destroyed a
The press has not noticed where the real
looting is going on:
President Bush yesterday told ABC-TV, ''there ought
to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during
an emergency such as this, whether it be looting or
price-gouging at the gasoline pump or taking advantage
of charitable giving or insurance fraud.''
In a thinly disguised attempt to act as if it cared
about the people wading in the water, Chevron has
pledged $5 million to relief efforts. ExxonMobil and
Shell have pledged $2 million apiece. British
Petroleum and Citgo have pledged $1 million each.
Those disciplined operating practices are hardly
confined to the oil fields. Everyone knows that Bush
does not really mean what he says about price-gouging
at the pump, since he just gave energy companies the
bulk of $14.5 billion in tax breaks in the new energy
bill. Surprise, surprise. In Bush's two elections, oil
and gas companies gave Republicans 79 percent of their
$61.5 million in campaign contributions, according to
the Center for Responsive Politics.
If Bush really meant what he said, he would call
for a freeze or cap on gasoline prices, especially in
the regions affected most dramatically by Katrina. He
would challenge big oil to come up with a much more
meaningful contribution to relief efforts.
Insurance companies are expecting up to $25 billion in
claims from Katrina. For ExxonMobil, which is headed
to $30 billion in profits, to jack up prices at the
pump and then only throw $2 million at relief efforts
Jamie has several other updates.