Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Random Idiocies

Al Gore is cheeking his medications again:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Former Vice President Al Gore urged Americans on Friday to hold the Bush administration accountable for failing to adequately prepare for and respond to Hurricane Katrina.

"When the corpses of American citizens are floating in toxic flood waters five days after a hurricane struck, it is time not only to respond directly to the victims of the catastrophe, but to hold ... the leaders of our nation accountable," Gore told environmentalists at the Sierra Club's national convention.

"The warnings about global warming have been extremely clear for a long time. We are facing a global climate crisis, it is deepening. We are entering a period of consequences," Gore said.

Funny he should be preaching to the Sierra Club about the federal government's failure to protect the people of New Orleans. Because really the Sierra Club should be judging the performance of the federal government based upon how the black bear is fairing, or the conditions for amorous relationships among certain bird species. Has FEMA saved any black bears? If they did, no doubt we'd be hearing them crow about it (this is from an article on National Review Online - for some reason my linking is down):

With all that has happened in the state, it’s understandable that the Louisiana chapter of the Sierra Club may not have updated its website. But when its members get around to it, they may want to change the wording of one item in particular. The site brags that the group is “working to keep the Atchafalaya Basin,” which adjoins the Mississippi River not far from New Orleans, “wet and wild.”

These words may seem especially inappropriate after the breaking of the levee that caused the tragic events in New Orleans last week. But “wet and wild” has a larger significance in light of those events, and so does the group using the phrase. The national Sierra Club was one of several environmental groups who sued the Army Corps of Engineers to stop a 1996 plan to raise and fortify Mississippi River levees.

The Army Corps was planning to upgrade 303 miles of levees along the river in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. This was needed, a Corps spokesman told the Baton Rouge, La., newspaper The Advocate, because “a failure could wreak catastrophic consequences on Louisiana and Mississippi which the states would be decades in overcoming, if they overcame them at all.”

But a suit filed by environmental groups at the U.S. District Court in New Orleans claimed the Corps had not looked at “the impact on bottomland hardwood wetlands.” The lawsuit stated, “Bottomland hardwood forests must be protected and restored if the Louisiana black bear is to survive as a species, and if we are to ensure continued support for source population of all birds breeding in the lower Mississippi River valley.” In addition to the Sierra Club, other parties to the suit were the group American Rivers, the Mississippi River Basin Alliance, and the Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi Wildlife Federations.

And speaking of litigation, I read somewhere that Mayor Ray Naggin delayed the decision to evacuate for fear of litigation over lost revenues from the hotels in the city. And you know what? He was right to be concerned. If only it was the lawyers who couldn't escape the flooding (members of Hatcher's family who are attorneys in the Bayou excluded, of course).

But lest you fear our government will never get a handle on protecting its people, rest assured that the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are on the job, making sure that no Supreme Court justice is complicit in the catastrophic acts of nature going forward:

It took less than an hour before Senators considering federal Judge John G. Roberts Jr.'s nomination to the Supreme Court fell into disagreement over Hurricane Katrina. In their opening remarks, the two top Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee invoked the tragedy as a reminder of the gap between rich and poor and the need for a Supreme Court that wants to close that gap.

"Today, the devastation, despair facing millions of our fellow Americans in the Gulf region is a tragic reminder of why we have a federal government, why it's critical that our government be responsive," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and ranking minority member of the panel.

"We need the federal government for our protection and security, to cast a lifeline to those in distress, to mobilize better resources beyond the ability of any state and local government -- all of this for the common good."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat, said lessons should be learned from the hurricane.

"The powerful winds and flood waters of Katrina tore away the mask that has hidden from public view the many Americans who are left out and left behind," he said. "As one nation under God, we cannot continue to ignore the injustice, the inequality and the gross disparities that exist in our society."

Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment. (That still makes me laugh).

I don't even know if it is worth digging into the logic on this one, but what the hell. Last I checked, the Supreme Court has never blocked one welfare-related program. I suppose there are differences between conservative and liberal jurists over such things as criminal rights, and as there is clearly a correlation between poverty and crime, maybe this is where the Supreme Court can play its part. Perhaps this is what Leahy and Kennedy are referring to. Which brings us to the widespread looting that took place in NO - what are Judge Robert's views on punishment here? My guess is that the Leahy and Kennedy view is to go easy. The problem with that view is that it completely misses the fact that whereas the poor account for the perpetration of most crime, it is not at the expense of the rich; it is a cost that falls squarely on the poor. The poverty in NO was apparently never abated by 4 decades of welfare, whereas the population of poor fatherless teen-aged boys no doubt flourished under such aid. People needed food in this crisis, no doubt, but that doesn't explain why others would loot gun shops and take shots at relief helicopters. So, if closing the gap between rich and poor is such a priority for Kennedy (how many poor people does he invite to Hyannesport?), he should welcome a judge who doesn't excuse criminals for their poverty.

Meanwhile, it looks like Bush is about to fire Brown as head of FEMA. On a related note, I read with interest comments made by Brit Hume on Fox News Sunday: "We need to understand what FEMA is. And it's an appalling fact that very few reporters in Washington seem to know what FEMA is. FEMA, first of all, is not a first responder. FEMA is basically a tiny little agency that has been kept weak. And you know why it's been kept weak? The governors want it that way. In each of these operations, it's always FEMA's job to work through the state and local government... And what FEMA is, is an agency with supplies and a lot of money. And we're going to see that money spread around ...

That seems spot on to me - I've always thought of FEMA as basically a federal insurance company that comes in after the fact and dishes out the goodies. I mean, it's not like my kids, who aspire at times to be firemen and police officers, run around playing FEMAman. Do those guys even carry guns or axes? Do they drive big red trucks? I'll give my kids some monopoly money and tell them to run around rewarding people whose property was crushed by natural disasters, but my guess is that the game will wear thin real fast - which is the best indication of any that Brit Hume is right, FEMA is not intended as a unit of first responders. What with all of the hulabaloo over the qualifications of Brown, I don't think that I've heard any specific charges of things that FEMA actually screwed up. I'm not saying there aren't any, I'm just saying it seems like people are pointing the finger at them because they don't understand their limited role.


Anonymous Jim O said...



There are about 4 or 5 different things in the space of that entry that just render me speechless with confusion.

Is the federal government responsible for hurricanes now? I understand that FEMA is supposed to be available to come in when the local and state resources are overwhelmed, but isn't that at the request of the state governor? From what I have heard, the governor didn't want the feds involved, cause they would take all the credit. And also from what I have heard, Michael Brown was a patronage hire with little emergency experience, and it's better all around that he is gone, but what did that have to do with the first few days after, when the state didn't want FEMA involved?

And how is a Supreme Court Justice supposed to affect hurricane relief? Isn't the SC the place to go when questioning the constitutionality of laws, and/or their applications to lawsuits from appelate courts? How does the hurricane relief tie into that? Are hurricanes unconstitutional?

And why is the Sierra Club upset about the hurricane? They should be happy that the natural order is being restored through the failure of the levees.


10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That post was spot on!

4:17 AM  

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