President Bush visited New Orleans yesterday in what appears to have been a visit designed to bring back tourists and conventioneers. Here's the NYT's first paragraph:
President Bush made his first trip here in three months on Thursday and declared that New Orleans was "a heck of a place to bring your family" and that it had "some of the greatest food in the world and some wonderful fun."
Of course, the first quote is more than a little reminiscent of the infamous Bushism "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job". As if on cue, the Huffington Post links to the NYT report using 'Bush Visits New Orleans Declares City A "Heck Of A" Place...' Also as if on cue, over 500 comments result from ardent "liberals".
Bush's motorcade passed by some devastated areas, but he avoided a demonstration put on by the Academy of the Sacred Heart demanding full levee protection.
Then, he paid a visit to the Convention and Visitors Bureau, where he said:
"for folks around the country who are looking for a great place to have a convention, or a great place to visit, I'd suggest coming here to the great New Orleans."
He did not, however, promise to develop levees that could withstand a Category 5 storm, only "stronger and better". That translates into being able to withstand a weak Cat 4 at the most.
Harry Shearer points to two recent NPR reports about New Orleans, both of which were "light" and neither of which mentioned the possibility of the Army Corps of Engineers' design flaws leading to the flooding:
...[the two shows were:] the debate on whether to hold Mardi Gras, and the recording of Elvis Costellos' collaboration with Allen Toussaint at Piety St. Studio in the Bywater. Anthony Brookes, in the first story, referred to the cause of the devastation as "the wrath of Katrina"... [the second was more light weight]
In comments, someone says:
The most recent edition of "On the Media" had a good story on the myths of Katrina, along with a bit of gratuitious navel gazing on journalists becoming part of the story.
Harry Shearer discusses a piece from Kerry Sanders that appeared on tonight's NBC Nightly News, claiming that he ignored the reports from NOLA and other sources blaming the Army Corps of Engineers for their bad floodwall design:
...Sanders' piece merely let a black man returning to his destroyed Ninth Ward home vent his blame on the Corps . It just sounded like a poor man looking for a scapegoat, and Sanders made things worse by following up that sound bite with these voice-over words..."True or not...." Really, Kerry?
The WSJ has a long article on the Orleans Levee Board. To the right you see one of their trademarked line drawings, this time of that board's former head.
To save time, I'll let Harry Shearer summarize the WSJ piece:
concentrates on the fractured responsibility of the levee boards, sewerage and water board, and Port, as well as the Army Corps, for inspection and maintenance of the system. It also points out, appropriately, the failure of the Louisiana Legislature to unify those responsibilities in the recent special session...
What the Journal misses, however, is what the local paper, The Times Picayune, uncovers in Friday's edition, unaccountably not available online (late Thanksgiving?). The highlights: scheduled inspections of the system, conducted by levee board members and officials from the Army Corps of Engineers, were "cursory affairs" that "skipped the floodwalls...exposed by Katrina as the system's Achilles' heel." Beyond these scheduled visits, the agencies relied on grasscutting crews who "know what a good levee looks like".
Says Jerry Colletti, the Army Corps' operations manager for completed works of the admittedly under-thorough inspections his agency helped conduct, "I think it's a good lesson learned." Maybe Mike Brown's new firm has its first hire...
The TP sources its report in both documents and interviews. The WSJ quotes "engineers and others", mainly a National Science Foundation report on divided levee responsibility.
Unfortunately, a lot more people will see the Journal piece than will have access to the TP article.
The TP article he references is now online here.
Eric Schmeltzer (who?) calls Harry Shearer on to the carpet for his Ned Flanders-style goody-two-shoes coverage of New Orleans:
...Last night was the kicker. 60 Minutes dared to air a story quoting a scientist that says New Orleans might be so far below water in 90-to-100 year that it might need levees of 100 feet to keep it safe, and questions whether that is worth it. The scientist bases his opinion on coastal erosion rates that are expected to increase because of the effects of global warming. Harry? He repeats attacks on the scientist's credibility.
Nevermind that the findings of the scientist quoted by 60 Minutes are widely accepted. Al Gore has warned that New Orleans would be submerged if global warming was allowed to continue. CNN reported on it back in 1997. The Washington Post has an excellent piece on the history of New Orleans sinking. Science Daily has reported on it. So has NPR...
Some bright person leaves a comment pointing out the fallacies in ES's argument.
The "war" in question involves not giving aid to people who've been convicted of drug crimes:
Federal laws prohibit former drug law offenders from obtaining welfare, food stamps, public housing, financial aid for schools and other benefits for themselves and their families. While it is impossible to know for sure how many hurricane victims will be denied public assistance because of drug convictions, it could be in the tens of thousands.
Needless to say, Ethan Nadelmann ("founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance") is against this policy. In fact:
Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced legislation last week that would temporarily suspend federal laws that prevent hurricane victims with drug convictions from receiving public assistance. His legislation, entitled the "Elimination of Barriers for Katrina Victims Act," is co-sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS).
Do we have laws like this for a reason? Yes. While there might be grandstanding involved, it's in our society's best interests not to have a drugged-up citizenry. While I might be inclined to support this measure, I have a couple of questions.
First, words like "Conyers" and "Frank", not to mention "Lee" and "Jackson Lee" scare the heck out of me. While Ron Paul partially counteracts those scary names, I still get the idea there's something very wrong with this legislation.
Second, what is being done to enforce our society's best interests in avoiding that drugged-up citizenry? Do those who will have their aid restored have to do something? Pass a drug test? Attend (real) counseling? Or, is this something that will just end up making drug abuse - and thus poverty - even worse?
He monkeys around with some ideas in "The Art of Caring for Souls":
The failure to govern well is a natural and a predictable result of disbelief in government. It is a brief step from disbelief in government to disbelief in governance. With many Democrats in tow, conservatives have demonized government: "Government is not the answer; government is the problem," was Ronald Reagan's inaugural pronouncement. How does one, not believing in government, respond when given its reins? In the case of the incumbent and previous conservative presidents the response is to not take it too seriously. Work out a couple of hours a day. Take a nap. Watch television in the evenings. Resist foreign travel and engagement in the great events of the times. Delegate authority, in many cases to incompetent people, because it really doesn't matter much. Most of all avoid responsibility and, at all costs, accept accountability only reluctantly...
...Had we had a president who believed in effective, energetic government, levees might have been strengthened, drills coordinating disaster response among levels of government might have been carried out, mothballed military bases might have been made ready for victims, evacuation plans might have been current. We have now paid the somber price for the carefree neglect, the smirk and the wink, the frat-boy funny names, the swagger and the brush-cutting photo-ops. Now is the time for a sober understanding that governing America requires more than an attitude, especially one that guarantees ineffective government and incompetent governance.
We might then not have the most physically fit president in recent history, but we would surely have a more physically fit nation.
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman says we're in for six months of high gas prices as production levels reduced by both Hurricane Rita and Katrina return to normal:
"We're going to go through a very challenging time the next six months, is my guess," Bodman said. "Most of us have viewed energy availability as a kind of right of citizenship," he said, and might have to rethink that as refineries are restarted, pipelines repaired and natural gas processing resumed. "Both in terms of gasoline availability and (prices of) natural gas and heating oil, we're going to have some problems."
Put on your sweater, Citizen, because Bodman unveiled his plan today:
The administration and the Alliance to Save Energy launched an energy efficiency campaign on Monday that calls on homeowners and businesses to "use energy more wisely" heading into the winter heating season in an effort to reduce demand on the struggling energy sector...
The administration is looking to consumers and businesses to take a number of first "easy, sensible steps" such as weatherizing their homes and lowering their thermostats to see how effective such efforts can be in reducing energy demand.
"We're going to do our very best first to see what we can accomplish by a reduction in demand for energy which this is all about...we hope that that will affect prices," Bodman said.
The administration is prepared to tap national oil and heating reserves if the market illustrates the need for additional supplies, Bodman said.
BTW, the HuffPost entitles their link to the USAToday story "Echoes Of Jimmy Carter... Bush Admin. Urges Energy Conservation, Warns Of Energy Shortages".
And, the official site associated with this effort is energybug.org. It just uses flash and not plain HTML, so I declined to view it.
See also "Oil Prices Retreat As Refinery Reopens":
Energy futures retreated Monday after power was restored to a large refinery in Texas and the Bush administration said it was, in principle, prepared to tap an emergency supply of heating oil in the Northeast.
But analysts said they did not expect fuel prices to fall sharply anytime soon because of the persistent supply constraints caused by back-to-back hurricanes.
In the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, a dozen refineries along the Gulf Coast remain closed, crimping gasoline and heating-oil production, and oil and natural gas output is far below normal levels. Under the circumstances, brokers said the decline in energy futures on Monday should not be seen as the start of a significant downtrend and they warned it could be merely a pause in a broader uptrend.
"I think it's more likely that this is probably a consolidation before the next move higher," said broker Tom Bentz of BNP Paribas Commodity Futures...
The HuffPost's Jason Leopold offers "An Issue Just as Deadly as Terrorism", about Katrina and the Northeast blackout:
...For years, energy and environmental experts sounded early alarms about the potential for catastrophes like this unless federal lawmakers immediately took the necessary steps to upgrade the country's aging power grid to stave off widespread power failures.
Whoever Leopold is, he needs an editor to make it clear that the power grid didn't worsen Katrina.
And in the case of global warming, backed the Kyoto protocol, which aims to curb the air pollution blamed for severe climate changes that is no doubt the reason Katrina turned from a relatively small hurricane to a destructive monstrosity due to high sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the National Weather Service.
What's that? The NWS says global warming worsened Katrina!? No, wait, let's read that more closely. He's saying that that was caused because we didn't sign Kyoto! No, wait... Aw, don't bother. Just let the Arianna side of your brain take over and you'll understand.