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.
The NYT reports on canvas and plywood tent cities being constructed in Mississippi. Frankly, they don't sound that overly bad:
The tents, built by the Navy Seabees at a cost of $1 million, can be heated and cooled, and have plywood floors and walls that create an 18-by-32-foot wooden box inside the exterior fabric. They are set up in long, straight rows and distinguished only by alphanumeric addresses painted on their exteriors.
Free meals, financed by the federal government, are served in a giant white tent. And in Pass Christian, there is a community center with carpeting, comfortable couches, a couple of televisions, and a collection of donated books and toys. The toilets are portable, without running water, and are lined up near a tractor-trailer that serves as a shower house.
And, in case the NYT ever says something along the lines of there being jobs that Americans won't do:
At the Long Beach tent city, five miles east of Pass Christian, the entire inventory of Robert Stover's possessions consists of a mattress on the floor, a Bible, a few donated books and a plastic bucket that he turns upside down and tops with a small pillow to create a chair.
Desperate for work, Mr. Stover, 45, a former plumber at an area hospital, found a job at a cigarette distribution warehouse. But it is in Gulfport, miles away, and he has no car, so he spends three hours each day walking to work. When it rains, his protective gear is two trash bags: one covering his body, the other wrapped around his head.
From November 4 came the NYT's "In Louisiana, Worker Influx Causes Ill Will". While not as overtly biased as other article reporting on illegal aliens taking jobs from American hurricane victims, it does give unanswered voice to those who support that un-American practice:
...The focus on Hispanic immigrants worries people like Representative Nydia M. VelÃƒÂ¡zquez of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Small Business Committee.
"I am afraid the anger and frustration of hurricane victims is going to be turned against undocumented workers, who are being taken advantage of," Ms. VelÃƒÂ¡zquez said.
They also provide more on the Belle Chasse scandal:
...It was the promise of housing, as much as anything, that prompted Mr. Cheatham, the union electrician, to take a job wiring a tent city for a subcontractor at the Naval Air Station at Belle Chasse, south of New Orleans, he said. He had lost his house near Lake Pontchartrain to flooding, along with his car; his family was scattered.
Life on the base was tough, he said, but he was particularly troubled by the presence of a large number of people he believed to be illegal immigrants, some of whom were working at the base, others of whom arrived each night on buses for meals. (The Navy said it allowed its contractors to house workers on the base.) "I called immigration several times to complain," Mr. Cheatham said.
Then, abruptly in their view, the subcontractor, BE&K, fired Mr. Cheatham and his fellow union electricians. The electricians, who make about $22 an hour plus benefits, said they believed that their jobs were taken by lower-paid, illegal workers.
Their boss, Albert Knight of Knight Enterprises in Lacombe, La., complained to Senate Democrats, who demanded an investigation. And, in fact, federal officials have since found more than two dozen illegal workers at the base, although only two worked for BE&K, which says it did not replace the electricians with lower-paid workers...
Last week we had Bloomberg offering "Bush's Attention Wanders From Katrina as Reconstruction Lags". Then came Paul Krugman with "The Promiser in Chief". Apparently new talking points were released, since there are at least two other recent instances of this same line of thought.
For instance, here's Mike Allen of the Washington Post appearing on Meet the Press and intoning (nofollowpolicy):
I'm going to tell you something to amaze you; it amazed me yesterday. The last time the president was in the hurricane region was October 11, two months ago. The president stood in New Orleans and said it was going to be one of the largest reconstruction efforts in the history of the world. You go to the White house home page, there's Barney camp, there's Social Security, there's Renewing Iraq. Where's renewing New Orleans? A presidential advisor told me that issue has fallen so far off the radar screen, you can't find it.
And, of course, see the NYT's "Death of an American City" for yet another in this long series.
According to an NYT editorial, we need to spend $32 billion or so - spread over several years - to improve the levees to Category 5 level. Why, that's just a third of the recent tax cuts! And, while president Bush is largely to blame, local officials must do their part as well:
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. He stood in Jackson Square and said, "There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans." But it has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina struck and the city is in complete shambles.
There are many unanswered questions that will take years to work out, but one is make-or-break and needs to be dealt with immediately. It all boils down to the levee system. People will clear garbage, live in tents, work their fingers to the bone to reclaim homes and lives, but not if they don't believe they will be protected by more than patches to the same old system that failed during the deadly storm. Homeowners, businesses and insurance companies all need a commitment before they will stake their futures on the city.
At this moment the reconstruction is a rudderless ship. There is no effective leadership that we can identify. How many people could even name the president's liaison for the reconstruction effort, Donald Powell? Lawmakers need to understand that for New Orleans the words "pending in Congress" are a death warrant requiring no signature.
The rumbling from Washington that the proposed cost of better levees is too much has grown louder. Pretending we are going to do the necessary work eventually, while stalling until the next hurricane season is upon us, is dishonest and cowardly. Unless some clear, quick commitments are made, the displaced will have no choice but to sink roots in the alien communities where they landed...
[...comparison with Iraq rebuilding...]
...One FEMA program has, however, been revamped. The Recovery Channel is a satellite and Internet network that used to provide practical information to disaster victims. Now it features public relations segments telling viewers what a great job FEMA and the Bush administration are doing.
But back to reconstruction. By letting the gulf region languish, Mr. Bush is allowing a window of opportunity to close, just as he did in Iraq.
To see why, you need to understand a point emphasized by that report in The Los Angeles Times: the private sector can't rebuild the region on its own. The reason goes beyond the need for flood protection and basic infrastructure, which only the government can provide. Rebuilding is also blocked by a vicious circle of uncertainty. Business owners are reluctant to return to the gulf region because they aren't sure whether their customers and workers will return, too. And families are reluctant to return because they aren't sure whether businesses will be there to provide jobs and basic amenities.
A credible reconstruction plan could turn that vicious circle into a virtuous circle, in which everyone expects a regional recovery and, by acting on that expectation, helps that recovery come to pass. But as the months go by with no plan and no money, businesses and families will make permanent decisions to relocate elsewhere, and the loss of faith in a gulf region recovery will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Funny, isn't it? Back during the 2000 campaign Mr. Bush promised to avoid "nation building." And so he has. He failed to rebuild Iraq because he waited too long to get started. And now he's doing the same thing here at home.
"Relocating elsewhere" might indeed be part of the Bush "plan", or at least a happy side-effect of the Bush non-plan.
However, the Dems have no plan either, so, as usual, America is caught between two corrupt and incompetent parties.
Their coverage of the anti-American scandal is in "In Louisiana, Worker Influx Causes Ill Will".
Needless to say, this putatively American newspaper reports on illegal aliens working and living in unsafe conditions and taking jobs that should go to Americans without emphasizing how much a scandal this is. On the bright side, they don't play the race card as much as other papers have.
Previously: "Michael Martinez, the Chicago Tribune, and illegal aliens taking rebuilding jobs", "Bush making conspiracy theories come true; Spike Lee movie", and "New Orleans jobs and federal funding scandal".
From the NYT's "Liberal Hopes Ebb in Post-Storm Poverty Debate":
As Hurricane Katrina put the issue of poverty onto the national agenda, many liberal advocates wondered whether the floods offered a glimmer of opportunity. The issues they most cared about - health care, housing, jobs, race - were suddenly staples of the news, with President Bush pledged to "bold action."
But what looked like a chance to talk up new programs is fast becoming a scramble to save the old ones...
"We've had a stunning reversal in just a few weeks," said Robert Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal advocacy group in Washington. "We've gone from a situation in which we might have a long-overdue debate on deep poverty to the possibility, perhaps even the likelihood, that low-income people will be asked to bear the costs. I would find it unimaginable if it wasn't actually happening."
Dear liberals: I'm sorry your attempts to either pay people to vote for you or to just be ineffective bleeding hearts have been dashed. Here, have a shot of self-reliance and responsibility. C'mon, it'll do you some good.
"This is not the time to expand the programs that were failing anyway," said Stuart M. Butler, a vice president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research and advocacy group influential on Capitol Hill.
While the right has proposed alternatives including tax-free zones for businesses and school vouchers for students, Mr. Butler said, "the left has just talked up the old paradigm: 'let's expand what's failed before.' "
The NYT offers a report on James Lee Witt in "FEMA Leader Under Clinton Makes It Pay":
...Soon after the storm hit, the State of Louisiana signed up with Witt Associates, a disaster consulting firm. Within days, Mr. Witt had become a fixture at the state's emergency operations center in Baton Rouge, advising the governor and sleeping in a trailer. He even figured out a way for FEMA to reimburse the state for his firm's fees, which the company estimates at $4 million to $6 million over the next year.
In Mississippi, Witt Associates swung into action to assist employees of Pinnacle Entertainment, whose Casino Magic Biloxi had been blown off its moorings and into a parking lot. Days later in New York, Mr. Witt appeared at a news conference with another client, the Allstate Corporation, to promote creation of a catastrophe fund to ease the financial burden on insurers...
..."James Lee Witt is giving his seal of approval to some companies, and I question whether that is appropriate as you leave government," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, which studies government contracts. "He is lending his credibility as a public official to help companies advance in Washington."
...Former President Bill Clinton helped enlist as partners former Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater and Gen. Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme commander and Democratic presidential candidate. Former Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin reviewed the business plan. Former Senator John B. Breaux, Democrat of Louisiana, said he put in a good word for Mr. Witt with Louisiana officials. And former FEMA officials, with their own networks of contacts, are on his payroll...
...Some jobs undertaken by the onetime FEMA chief, though, could raise questions about his new role. After 9/11, his firm was paid more than $970,000 by the State of New York and concluded that evacuation plans at the Indian Point nuclear plant, plans FEMA had approved under Mr. Witt's watch, were inadequate. Last year, his company helped Louisiana officials respond to a FEMA audit, saying they had mishandled federal disaster money.
And when FEMA contracted last year to conduct a disaster-response exercise called Hurricane Pam for New Orleans, Witt Associates was identified as a subcontractor but ultimately was not asked to do any work because its fees were too high...
The NYT reports on how evacuees fared in Oklahoma:
Tensions rose, and by the end of the month, the Louisianans, grateful though they were, could not wait to get out. And the local people, well-meaning and overwhelmed, were just as relieved to see them go.
Here's a peek inside one of FEMA's Oklahoma camps.