“I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.” Really, Dubya? As Looka and the WP point out, two different government reports suggested the damage Katrina would cause to New Orleans in the days before it hit. “The NISAC paper warned that a storm of Katrina’s size would ‘likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching’ and specifically noted the potential for levee failures along Lake Pontchartrain.. So, yet again, the president has lied to the American people and stonewalled congressional investigations into his actions. They used to call these impeachable offenses — Now, we call them Wednesday.
“We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum. We said this wouldn’t happen. President Bush said it wouldn’t happen.” By way of Looka, who’s been doing an exemplary job covering the Katrina aftermath, remember New Orleans.
As Chuck notes, “Why are [Dubya and the GOP] balking at spending $32 billion to protect a major American city from further destruction while they seem to have had no trouble passing four tax cuts in the last week that totalled $95 billion?” Update: The White House announces it will spend $3.1 billion on levees. Well, it’s a start, I suppose.
“Earth, that living, seething, often inhospitable and not altogether intelligently designed thing, has again shrugged, and tens of thousands of Pakistanis are dead…Americans reeling from Hurricane Katrina, and warned of scores of millions of potential deaths from avian flu, have a vague feeling — never mind the disturbing rest of the news — of pervasive menace from things out of control. Too vague, according to Simon Winchester.” In light of the horrifying calamity in Pakistan this past weekend (as well as Katrina and the tsunami), George Will peruses Simon Winchester’s new book on the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
Looka points the way to a truly horrifying breakdown of Operation Offset, the House Republicans’ disgusting, abhorrent proposal to pay for Katrina reconstruction (without, of course, touching a red cent of Dubya’s millionaire tax breaks) So, guess who foots the bill?
“The Republicans would freeze funding for the Peace Corps, the Global AIDS Initiative, U.N. peacekeeping operations and a wide variety of third-world development programs; eliminate the EnergyStar program, eliminate grants to states and local communities for energy conservation, reduce federal subsidies for Amtrak, eliminate funding for new light-rail programs and cancel the president’s hydrogen fuel initiative; eliminate state grants for safe and drug-free schools because ‘studies show that schools are among the safest places in the country and relatively drug free’; and eliminate the teen funding portion of Title X, which provides ‘free and reduced-price contraceptives, including the IUD, the injection drug Depo-Provera, and the morning-after pill’ to poor teenagers.
Along the way, they’d find a way to punish — or simply eliminate — some of their enemies, real and imagined. They’d cut funding for the District of Columbia, eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, eliminate subsidized student loans for graduate students, terminate the Legal Services Corporation, eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and kill the National Endowment for the Humanities…
[T]he Republican plan also calls for ‘rational reforms to Defense and Homeland Security.’ Does this mean cutting weapons systems at the expense of big defense corporations? Well, no. But it does mean closing schools for the children of soldiers, cutting grants for local responders and offering National Guard members the ‘option’ to purchase a less comprehensive healthcare plan.”
So, just to clarify: Rather than roll back the Dubya tax breaks for the wealthiest 1% of Americans, which almost alone would raise the necessary funds, Boss DeLay and the House GOP want to cut a Grover Norquist-style swath of destruction through our government and foist the clean-up bill on everyone but their fatcat cronies. I must say, I am consistently surprised by the current GOP leadership’s ability to plumb new depths of repugnance.
“‘We must deal with our short-term problems while not sacrificing our long-term investments,’ Griffin said. ‘The space program is a long-term investment in our future.’” While nodding to the funding issues created by Katrina, NASA unveils its ambitious plans to return to the moon by 2018. The plan, involving a lunar-lander like CEV that can carry 4 to 6 astronauts, basically seems to be a hybrid of the Space Shuttle and “Apollo on Steroids,” and has been designed with future missions to Mars in mind. In general, I’ve been impressed with NASA head Michael Griffin despite Dubya’s faulty emphasis on space-weapons (and I generally agree with his take on NASA funding), so if he thinks this rocket-hybrid is the way to go to get to the moon and beyond, I’m all for it.
With the administration’s numbers in a continuing death spiral ever since their sheer incompetence, blatant cronyism, and general heartlessness was exposed by Katrina, several recent anti-Dubya speeches of note:
President Clinton: “Now, what Americans need to understand is that means every single day of the year, our Government goes into the market and borrows money from other countries to finance Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, and our tax cuts. We have never done this before. Never in the history of our republic have we ever financed a conflict, military conflict, by borrowing money from somewhere else…We depend on Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Korea primarily to basically loan us money every day of the year to cover my tax cut and these conflicts and Katrina. I don’t think it makes any sense. I think it’s wrong.“
John Kerry: “‘Brownie is to Katrina what Paul Bremer is to peace in Iraq, what George Tenet is to slam-dunk intelligence, what Paul Wolfowitz is to parades paved with flowers in Baghdad, what Dick Cheney is to visionary energy policy, what Donald Rumsfeld is to basic war planning, what Tom DeLay is to ethics and what George Bush is to ‘Mission Accomplished’ and ‘Wanted Dead or Alive.‘”
John Edwards: “I might have missed something, but I don’t think the president ever talked about putting a cap on the salaries of the CEOs of Halliburton and the other companies . . . who are getting all these contracts…This president, who never met an earmark he wouldn’t approve or a millionaire’s tax cut he wouldn’t promote, decided to slash wages for the least of us and the most vulnerable.“
Bill Maher: (I forgot where I saw this one first, but it’s a toss-up between Booknotes and Follow Me Here.) “On your watch, we’ve lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans. Maybe you’re just not lucky. I’m not saying you don’t love this country. I’m just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side. So, yes, God does speak to you. What he is saying is: ‘Take a hint.’ “
“Grab some black people who look like they might be preachers.” By way of Breaching the Web, this site has gathered all of the staggering quotes on Katrina emanating from the mouths of the GOP. Similarly, Salon has assembled an hour-by-hour recap of the government’s response to the hurricane. Both are well worth a read.
As Dubya’s numbers hit a new low and TIME Magazine starts digging deeper into “Brownie’s” resume, Dubya’s flak at FEMA belatedly gets the hook. Better late than never. By the way, can you guess to whom the White House is doling out the clean-up contracts? Here’s a hint: It starts with an H and ends with an Alliburton.
“We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.” Seemingly devoid of the empathy enzyme in any case, many key Republicans — not just Dennis Hastert and Barbara Bush — seem to be having trouble mustering up a way to discuss Katrina that doesn’t reflect their party’s general lack of Christian compassion. When meeting with young New Orleans evacuees at the Astrodome, Boss DeLay “likened their stay to being at camp and asked, ‘Now, tell me the truth, boys, is this kind of fun?’” Meanwhile, Rick Santorum blames Katrina on…the National Weather Service (to help out his donors at Accuweather).
“With the midterm congressional elections 14 months away, both parties see high stakes in where blame will eventually fall for the government’s lagging response to Katrina. Yesterday, congressional Republicans tried to get a head start, announcing the formation of an investigative commission that they can control. They rejected Democratic appeals to model the panel after the Sept. 11 commission, which was made up of non-lawmakers and was equally balanced between Republicans and Democrats.” Continuing their attempts to shield Dubya (and themselves) from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, the congressional GOP set up a dummy commission to get to the bottom of absolutely nothing, just the way they want it.
By way of Breaching the Web and Medley, the Hurricane Katrina timeline. Think My Pet Goat extended over several days. Nevertheless, the GOP is rallying around Dubya: “Just 17 percent of Democrats said they approved of the way Bush was handling the Katrina crisis while 74 percent of Republicans said they approved.” Update: Out of sight, out of mind? Update 2: The Post‘s Terry Neal has more. Update 3: The government backs down on the media blackout after threat of a lawsuit by CNN.
“‘It’s such an irony I hate to say it, but we have less capability today than we did on September 11,’ said a veteran FEMA official involved in the hurricane response. ‘We are so much less than what we were in 2000,’ added another senior FEMA official. ‘We’ve lost a lot of what we were able to do then.‘” As Team Dubya scrambles to scapegoat state and local officials, the WP turns an eye to the dismantling of FEMA on Dubya’s watch (as noted previously here.)
“‘The entire fiscal landscape has been transformed in the last week…The entire Republican agenda of tax cuts, Social Security reform and big spending on pet Republican projects is over. Events do eventually have an impact on Capitol Hill.’” The Congressional GOP confront the realization that they’ll likely be forced to postpone their ill-advised tax cut dreams in light of Katrina. Nevertheless, Catkiller Frist is undeterred, and still plans to attempt a repeal of the estate tax when Congress convenes next week…cause, y’know, the nation’s millionaires are suffering. Update: Frist backs down (for now.) AP and the NYT has more.
To be honest, I’ve only had one eye on the news the past few days, as I’ve been busy relocating back to NYC. But what I have seen…oh my word. While the world looks on with a mix of horror, sympathy, and schadenfreude, New Orleans has fallen into almost-total anarchy. Other bloggers have been keeping up with the madness much better than I, so I’ll defer to them: As I noted earlier, Looka and Ed Rants are both doing a particularly good job covering the catastrophe, and Breaching the Web and Medley, among others, have ably drawn attention to both the Dubya administration’s culpability for the extent of this crisis and its grotesquely inappropriate and insufficient response. I assumed I couldn’t think any less of Dubya and his cronies after four years, but watching their sneering at desperate people, their mealy-mouthed evasiveness, and, most of all, their sheer, blatant incompetence — while Americans are suffering and dying in their homes — it’s disgusting. They’ve been exposed before all as pathetic, self-absorbed fuck-ups…at the cost of hundreds to thousands of lives and one great American city. Update: Also, by way of Booknotes, Wesley Clark weighs in on Dubya’s failure.
“It is not comforting to realize that, in the wake of Katrina, bloated bodies are floating on those streets today. But to speak of New Orleans’s resilience is simply to cite its history — a demographic and cultural melting pot of German industry and French and Spanish elitism, of Irish gregariousness and Sicilian emotionalism, of African exuberance and American frontier cussedness that embraces death, too, as a part of life.” By way of Mystery of the Vampire, an eloquent paean to the Crescent City by long-time resident Ken Ringle.
“In 2001, FEMA warned that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S. But the Bush administration cut New Orleans flood control funding by 44 percent to pay for the Iraq war.” Citing domestic budget cuts and Dubya’s disastrous wetlands policies, among other things, Sidney Blumenthal makes a compelling case that the tremendous devastation wrought by Katrina “may not entirely be the result of an act of nature.”
As the Gulf drowns in Katrina’s wake, Dubya gets his groove on. I may be mistaken, but somehow I can’t imagine Clinton stopping to play the saxophone the day after the Oklahoma City bombing. (Then again, this is fully in keeping with Bush’s horrifyingly tone-deaf scampering atop the ruins of the Trade Center just after 9/11.) Well, perhaps Dubya presumes he’s still on vacation. (Guitar via Medley, 404 via Ed Rants, who’s currently offering much quality info and links on Katrina.)
Obviously, the big story right now is the tremendous and nightmarish devastation wrought by Katrina upon the Gulf, particularly in Louisiana and Mississippi. The first reports suggested that the Big Easy had dodged the bullet when Katrina zigged to the right at the last moment, but the broken levees and rising floodwaters have obliterated that silver lining (which was likely little consolation anyway to the people of Biloxi and Gulfport, who felt Katrina’s full wrath.) Now, the news out of N’Orleans, one of America’s most unique and historic cities, sounds worse with each passing hour. My thoughts are with the people of New Orleans and the region (and their most esteemed bloggers) as they try to pick up the pieces after this continuing catastrophe.
Hey y’all. After a good deal of traveling (and side-stepping around Katrina), I’m back in Chesapeake, VA, and have broken Berkeley out of the canine correctional facility he was residing at during our Maui sojourn. Later in the week (and just like Tom Thumb’s Blues), I’ll be heading back up to NYC to begin Year 5 at Hogwarts, or Columbia, as it were.(I’ll post Hawaii pics at Flickr once I return to Gotham.)