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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

HE STILL WOULDN'T BE WORTH VOTING FOR

Partisanship is at an all-time high among those who can afford to be political. This op-ed from the Boston Herald shows that even some of the most partisan Democrats are ready to put the bitterness aside, join hands with political opponents and try to do what's best for the Gulf Coast. Others are not mature enough to take that step, like former-presidential candidate John Kerry.

Dems at odds over Gulf: Kerry, Brazile choose sides

By Rachelle G. Cohen
Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Memo to John Kerry: It's not all about you.
The rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, and the rebuilding of the lives disrupted by Hurricane Katrina ought to be a shared goal, not just more political fodder for the unbridled ambitions of a failed presidential candidate.
That's not to say the Bush administration and the ineptitude of its now departed FEMA Director Michael Brown ought to be above criticism. Far from it. But the increasingly shrill tone adopted by Kerry is hardly putting him on the road to statesmanship.
"If 12-year-old Boy Scouts can be prepared,'' Kerry said in a Monday speech, "Americans have a right to expect that their 59-year-old president can be prepared.''
He made a blatant – and shameful – pitch to Brown University students to use the hurricane and its aftermath as a rallying point.
"We have to get angry and organize around that,'' Kerry said.
Yep, that will make the folks who simply want to return to their homes, their schools, their lives feel a whole bunch better.
It would be easy to ignore the latest self-serving Kerry bleatings were it not for the powerful contrast provided by another loyal life-long Democrat – but one who is a native of New Orleans.
Writing in an oped in the Washington Post, Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, said, "I did not vote for George W. Bush – in fact, I worked pretty hard against him in 2000 and 2004. But on Thursday night, after watching him speak from the heart, I could not have been prouder of the president and the plan he outlined to empower those who lost everything and to rebuild the Gulf Coast.''
Brazile is as partisan as they come. Somehow if the topic turned to the nominee for Supreme Court chief justice, she'd likely work up a lather with little effort. But for her, rebuilding is above petty partisanship.
"There are times when it seems that our nation is too divided ever to heal . . . But we are one nation. We are a family. And this is what we do. When the president asked us to pitch in, he wasn't asking us to do anything spectacular. He was asking us to be Americans, and to do what Americans always do.''
Most Americans maybe, but not John Kerry.
"This administration is recycling all their failed policies and shipping them to Louisiana,'' Kerry said. "After four years of ideological excess, these Washington Republicans have had a bad hangover – and they can't think of anything to offer the Gulf Coast but the hair of the dog that bit them.''
It's hard to imagine that Kerry and Brazile heard the same Bush speech. Actually it's hard to imagine these two Democrats are living on the same planet.
For Brazile, of course, all of this comes close to home.
"My hometown is down, but not out,'' she wrote, "and with the help of every American, it will be back on its feet, bigger and brighter than ever.''
And in a closing that brought to mind a real John Kerry moment, Brazile wrote, ``Mr. President, I am ready for duty. I am ready to stir up those old pots again. Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.''
So let John Kerry continue his whining and his carping and his quest for political advantage, while others, like Brazile roll up their sleeves. And when the work is done and this first-rate political operative goes shopping for her next Democratic presidential candidate, he – or she – will deserve a careful look.

Monday, September 19, 2005

THOUGHT-PROVOKING OP-ED

I'm pretty convinced that there will be no satisfying some people with regards to the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. President Bush could have sprouted wings, flown down to the Gulf Coast, and personally rescued every survivor, and still some people would find something to complain about. This op-ed from the Sacramento Bee kind of puts it in perspective.

For Bush, it's just one thing after another

By Rick Horowitz -- Special To The Bee
Published 2:15 am PDT Sunday, September 18, 2005
Story appeared in Forum section, Page E2

First you do a flyover. And it's not just any flyover; you cut your vacation short to do it, to dip down and take a look at the devastation on your way back to Washington. (How often do you cut your vacation short for anything?) Message: "I care." But do you get any credit for it? Not a bit. They say you never put your feet on the ground.

So you go right back a few days later, and this time you don't just fly over the place; you actually land - more than once, in two different states! - and you walk around. You look at remains of houses and at broken levees. You even hug some people; if that doesn't show compassion, what does? But do you get any credit for it? Hardly. They say you avoided the worst parts. If you really cared, they say, you'd have gone to the worst parts.

So you go right back a few days after that - that makes two visits and a flyover, and you had to cut your vacation short.

But do you get any credit for it? Don't even ask.

Meanwhile, of course, you're talking about it all the time. You even talk about it in the Rose Garden, with your Cabinet surrounding you; you tell everyone how much help you've already sent down there, and how well the recovery is going.

But do you get any credit for it? Of course not. They say you're reading numbers when you should be reaching hearts.

So you try it a different way. You say you "understand." You say you "understand" the devastation and the horrible conditions. You say you "understand" the battered families and the ruined lives.

But do you get any credit for it? Certainly not. They want to know what took you so long. And they still don't have enough water.

They say you're being too soft on the relief efforts. But when you criticize the relief efforts - the results are "unacceptable," you say - they criticize you anyway, just because a few hours later, you say something that sounds very different, that sounds like you're letting them off the hook.

Meanwhile, of course, your people are throwing rocks at the governor and the mayor. It isn't your fault, they're whispering to anyone who'll listen; it's those other guys - where was their planning? And what about the looters? And why didn't all those people get out when they had the chance? And your numbers are dropping.

So you go back again, a few days after that - that makes three visits and a flyover, not to mention cutting your vacation short. But your numbers keep dropping. "Why won't he take responsibility?" they're asking.

So you go back again, a few days after that - that makes four visits and a flyover. (And don't forget the vacation!) But your numbers keep dropping.

"Why won't he take at least part of the blame?" they're asking.

As if that's something you'd ever do. Haven't you done enough of the other things? You've gone down there like it's your second home, haven't you? By yourself, and with your wife at your side? You've sent the vice president down there, haven't you? You've patched things up (more or less) with the governor and the mayor, haven't you? But do you get any credit for it? Not a chance.

You hate to do it, but you're running out of options. So you take part of the blame, more or less. "To the extent," you say, "that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility." ("To the extent..."?) You say the words, but your body language is excruciating; if you had put any more distance between your words and your self, you'd have disintegrated, right there in front of the cameras.

But do you get any credit for it? Dream on! So now what? So now you go back again - and this time, you give a speech. To the nation. New plans. New programs. But will you get any credit for it? Will anyone say, "Thank you, Mr. President, for your great leadership in this terrible crisis, not to mention cutting your vacation short?" Don't hold your breath.

There's just no satisfying some people.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

WHO TO BLAME? THERE'S GOT TO BE SOMEONE, RIGHT?

Mike Brown, now the ex-director of FEMA, became a characterization of the federal government’s slow response that angered so many after Hurricane Katrina. Democrats who are using the disaster as a political opportunity constantly portrayed Brown as a scapegoat for the failures that took place at the local, state, and federal level.

What most people fail to realize is that there are complex interoperability issues between state and federal governments, even in disaster situations. The federal government is restricted from just marching right in uninvited, and most accounts of the days during and immediately following the hurricane reveal that Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco failed to request the appropriate help, which is somewhat understandable given the slow nature that news and information regarding the totality of the disaster was disseminated. Most people also overlook the fact that President Bush also declared the Gulf Coast a disaster area before the storm hit, not four days after as is popular to report. There is plenty of blame to go around, but so far, I’ve only seen Bush stand up and say that he’ll take responsibility. Governor Blanco, Mayor Nagin, and others at all levels of government share in that responsibility, whether they are able to admit it or not.

But to get back to the media’s favorite whipping boy, Mike Brown. He’s gone now, out of government and off the radar, but he’ll go down in history as the personification of a failed response to a major disaster. And Democrats across the spectrum couldn’t have been louder in their opposition to this man (who they loudly claimed was unqualified for the job in the first place), and they pointed their fingers firmly in President Bush’s direction as the ultimate authority to blame for Brown being in charge of national disaster response in the first place.

But let’s not forget, Brown had to go through a confirmation process first, and who was in charge of the Senate that confirmed him to his original role in FEMA? The Democrats. That’s right – the finger-pointers and the hypocrites.

The Democrats controlled the Governmental Affairs Committee when Brown was confirmed in 2002 as deputy director of FEMA. The confirmation hearing, by all accounts, was a cakewalk that lasted 42 minutes. None of the Democrats then bothered to question Brown’s credentials. None seemed concerned that he had spent nearly a decade heading an international organization for Arabian horses, which is now their favorite un-qualification that they point out.

Then-chairman Joe Lieberman pitched Brown softballs during his eight minutes of questioning, praising Brown’s management credentials and telling him at the end of the 42 minutes, “I certainly will support your nomination.”

In fact, only four senators even bothered to show up to the hearing at all. That is a quarter of the committee’s membership.

While that might be standard procedure for many Senate hearings, it’s pretty pathetic when our Senators aren’t interested enough in attending the confirmation hearing of the man who will be the second-in-command of our nation’s disaster response. When Brown was promoted to director of FEMA, the Senate didn’t bother to have a second confirmation hearing.

You won’t see that information as headline news anywhere. I happened to catch a once-run snippet about the 2002 hearing on CNN, and there is a short article in the Hartford Courant, but many other major media sources, in addition to those harping Democrats, are perfectly content to lay blame at the President’s feet.

Facts can prove that there is plenty of blame to go around, and it might stretch back for years and years. Democrats now claim that in hindsight, they should have been tougher on Brown. It looks as if their answer has been satisfactory to the media. I have to wonder why “hindsight” qualifies as a valid answer from one party, but is seemingly not applicable to Republicans who now say “we should have prepared.”

If you’re intent on blaming someone for the response to Katrina, be sure to include all parties involved.


SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Isn't it amazing that so many people will refuse to buy a service like iTunes and pay $0.99 to download a several-minute long song, yet so many don't think twice about paying $2.50 per new ringtone for their cellphones. The days of free music with Napster really spoiled us.

Monday, September 12, 2005

BACK TO THE GRIND

I've been steeped in work since last night, so I haven't had time to write, but now seems as good a time as any. I'm starting to get into a pretty firm routine for work. I start at 5:30am and normally go till 10:30 or 11:00. I've been keeping bananas around so I have something to eat around 6:00 just to keep my stomach from growling, and I've been getting a short break in around 8:00 so that I can grab a bowl of cereal. It's not that I'm completely taking a break from working, but the pace slows down for me considerably at 8:00, so I can have a bowl of cereal in one hand and the mouse in the other.

I normally get a second breakfast (or maybe third, depending on how you look at it) around 10:30 or 11:00 and set back to work after that. We've got a conference call at 11:45 every morning, and after that I try to work straight through the afternoon. Lunch is usually at 1:00pm. At 5:00pm I start collecting information for the mailing that I'll put together the next day, and I'm normally wrapped up by 7:00pm, and I get dinner after that. Straight through, that'd be a 13.5 hour day, but with a 30 minute break here and there, and usually one in the afternoon, I don't know that I've ever put in more than 12.

Still, that makes for pretty long days, but you've got to keep in mind the kind of work I'm doing. I sit in a recliner and look at a computer screen, and I can always have CNN on in the background, with a healthy dose of TV Land when I get tired of watching the news run in a loop. Yes, we have to use our heads in our line of work, but there's virtually no physical activity to it. That might be one reason why I'm taking plenty of breaks and make a point to get out of the house at least once a day -- even getting up to the kitchen to cook gets me away from the computer for a while.

Now maybe it's easier to see why adding another post to my blog is sometimes the last thing on my mind!

I went into DC on Saturday and was able to see Uncle Jim and Aunt Vi. They're safe and sound at the Armed Forces Retirement Home after they were relocated from Gulfport. They said that it was kind of a harrowing experience, riding out the hurricane. Quite a bit of water got into the first floor of their building, they had to leave most of their belongings there (they could only bring one suitcase apiece), and they lost their car entirely. It was parked on the first floor of a parking garage, but it was gone after the storm. Uncle Jim said they weren't sure if it was stolen or if it could have possibly been carried away by the storm surge, but it was gone. Aunt Vi said that was OK though. They wouldn't want a car in DC anyway.

They said they plan on staying in the area permanently. They've got to get out of the guest quarters before they're settled in a little more, but it'll be nice to have some family in the area. I told them to call me anytime they needed something, and that if I didn't hear from them within a couple of weeks, I was going to be back to check up on them.

It seemed like they were going to be alright there. Uncle Jim walked out with me when I left, and he talked with about half-a-dozen people on the way down. He told me that he probably knew 500 people there. Not too bad for just moving in a week ago!

Friday, September 09, 2005

SHORT UPDATE

I haven't written for a few days and won't do too much tonight, but I just wanted to pass along a few updates for my readers.

Yesterday was my 23rd birthday, and even though I didn't get out and celebrate like so many people urged me to, I had on the order of 40 e-mails and messages sent to me wishing me happy birthday in addition to a few other cards, letters, and phone calls that I got. I've really got a lot of great family and friends who are checking up on me to see that DC is treating me alright.

I have a great aunt and uncle who lived at an armed services retirement home in Gulfport, Mississippi and were forced to leave after Katrina hit. They were brought up to Washington, DC to the sister institution of the one in Gulfport. I stopped by last Saturday, but they hadn't arrived yet. I'm planning on going there again tomorrow to see if they need some company -- I have a feeling they'll be glad to see family, even if it's been years since I've seen them.

That's all for tonight. I'll write again soon. With the ongoing rescue operations in the south, there's plenty to write about when I've got the time.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

OUTLOOK FOR THE SUPREME COURT

Chief Justice William Rehnquist has passed away just minutes ago. His passing leaves yet another hole in the Supreme Court lineup, in addition to the one left by Sandra Day O'Conner when she retired earlier this year. President Bush will have an historic opportunity to appoint two justices to the court in a very short period of time, and with another justice getting quite old, the President may be able to reshape the makeup of the Court.

I don't know a lot about Rehnquist, but I'm sure we'll hear plenty in the following days.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

PACKS OF WOLVES

Hurricane Katrina may well be the most devestating natural disaster to ever hit the United States; certainly it has been the most powerful in modern times. Although I tend to have a great deal of faith in the kindness of the human spirit in times like these, the situation in and around New Orleans continues to deteriorate in the face of mounting relief efforts as well as a rising body count.

There are looters everywhere, stealing not just excusable necessities like food and water, but big-screen TVs and high-dollar clothes. Today, there has been a significant increase in the reports of shootings throughout New Orleans. A group of bystanders was shot at from a passing car for no reason; a National Guardsman was wounded by gunfire at the Superdome; a hospital evacuation was halted for hours because of sniper fire. That's right, sniper fire; some asshole taking pot shots at a group of doctors, nurses, and patients who were trying to evacuate to safer quarters. On top of that, there are robberies, rapes, and even murders.

In this time of desperation and need, there are folks out there acting like wolves, like vultures, just waiting for their opportunity to strike, regardless of what that opportunity may be.

There are other types of wolves and vultures out there right now, and in a lot of ways, they're just as sick as the first type. These are the political opportunists. The beating rains from Katrina had barely stopped falling, and they were targeting President Bush and the administration, blaming them for everything from a lack of preperation to a lack of response to global warming.

I got an e-mail today from a friend from college, and it really brought this issue to the forefront for me. There are some folks out there just drooling over an opportunity to bash the President. The editorial board at the New York Times is made up of such people, and this e-mail that was titled "good editorial" included a copy of the filth printed today:

It would be some comfort to think that, as Mr. Bush cheerily announced, America "will be a stronger place" for enduring this crisis. Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal.

Give me a damn break. The rest of the editorial was disgusting enough not to merit posting here. I wonder if liberals believe hurricanes existed before "global warming" set in? Surely not. They can't be that stupid. If they would take a few minutes to read about the history of catastrophic hurricanes, they'd discover that history is full of them. This is cheap shot #1: let's blame Bush for the weather. If you think that, give me a call; I've got some choice words for you.

And then, of course, there are those who complain that we should have been prepared for this. "Why didn't we do more?" OK, folks, hindsight is 20/20. I wish we would have done more. I wish we could have done more. The fact is that things like this often take us by surprise. Why didn't Hoisington, KS prepare better for the tornado that hit them in 2001? How come so many towns in the Midwest were taken by surprise by the Great Flood of 1993? Why do people die in earthquakes? Couldn't South Asia have prevented the tsunami?

Those seem like pretty silly questions, don't they? It is equally foolish to ask why New Orleans and other areas along the Gulf Coast weren't prepared, and twice as foolish to blame the government for it. New Orleans, in reality, wasn't a real well-placed city to begin with. All the "government preparation" in the world couldn't have saved the infrastructure there.

As for evacuating people before the storm hit, the governments -- state and federal -- did the best they could. Evacuating a city is not something taken lightly. Many people just flat-out don't want to go. When Katrina hit Florida, it was a Category One hurricane; some damage, a handful of deaths, and a hurricane that was expected to fizzle out. But it grew rapidly and caught everyone by surprise. Sure, we saw it coming, and evacuations were ordered over a day ahead of time. But what would another few hours have done? A city as large as New Orleans probably couldn't be evacuated in a month's time, let alone a few days.

There are some things that local, state, and federal governments could have done over time that may have protected the Gulf Coast a little better, but the time to discuss "could've beens" isn't right now. Besides, no amount of coastal restoration projects were going to stop Katrina in her tracks. None. Bush is hardly at fault for underpreparation, and any suggestion that he was is disgusting.

And now there are plenty of wolves saying that Bush hasn't responded fast enough. Bush didn't respond correctly. He isn't working hard enough.

Please, folks, tell me: what would you have him do?

We're all in the same boat regarding the flow of information. Much of the devestated area is cut off from communications, and the flooding makes it hard to reach anywhere. I watched the hurricane hit on Monday morning, and I remember thinking, "Reporters are right out in this; it won't be as bad as they thought."

We haven't known for several days the extent of the damage; it keeps looking worse and worse all the time, and it's not like the federal government knew instantly how bad the situation was. They learned right along with us, and are getting the appropriate aid to the Gulf Coast now, but it's a slow process. FEMA just learned today of the horrible situation inside the New Orleans Convention Center, and FEMA director Mike Brown got ripped by CNN's Paula Zahn for not knowing sooner, but all he could do was answer honestly: help is on the way. First responders and National Guard troops are doing their best, and by tomorrow, $10.5 billion more will be allocated to FEMA by Congress. And Bush will be visiting the area.

This is a dire, desperate situation, and I think that we're responding as best as is possible. It's a tough situation, and people are naturally frustrated. But blaming Bush and playing politics is downright dumb, and a sickening twist of political opportunism. People taking shots at the President during this should feel ashamed.

And admittedly, I feel bad because I've been sucked into the political debate, getting upset at those folks who are politicizing this disaster in addition to questioning where our international relief is, but that's ignoring what really matters. We need to do what we can to help the victims and the organizations working to help them. Donating money to the American Red Cross or a religious charity is the most feasible way for most of us to help. I'll be doing that after I get my paycheck tomorrow. If it weren't for my job, I'd be going to Louisiana or Mississippi or Alabama to lend a hand in whatever way I could. We can send money, we can volunteer, and we can pray.

Those who have politicized this tragedy reflect that same black mark on the human spirit that is represented by the looters, the gunmen, the robbers, rapists, and murderers. They're unfairly taking advantage of a situation that is beyond anyone's control; a situation so large in magnitude that prevention was inconceivable and response is difficult at best.

Be a positive influence at this time, please. Perhaps there will be time to discuss issues later, but for now, let's focus on rescue and recovery efforts. Let's get the bodies counted first. Let's save the people ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Outlook differs now


Published Thursday, September 1, 2005

Is this a bunch of hooey or what? Three-dollar gasoline in Topeka! I mean, what could possibly be worse?

(AP) A full day after New Orleans thought it had escaped Katrina's full fury, two levees broke and spilled water into the streets, swamping an estimated 80 percent of the bowl-shaped, below-sea-level city, inundating miles and miles of homes and rendering much of the city uninhabitable for weeks or months.

You know, don't you, those outrageous gas prices -- they were up to $3.09 last time I checked -- is putting a crimp in everyone's weekend plans. This is start of KU and K-State's football season, not to mention the fact Monday is Labor Day. Think what it will cost just to drive to Manhattan and back. I'm not even sure my relatives can afford to drive up for Monday's barbecue. This is outrageous. How's a person supposed to have any fun?

(AP) "We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before people can come (back)," New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said on ABC's "Good Morning America, "and the other issue that's concerning me is we have dead bodies in the water. At some point in time the dead bodies are going to start to create a serious disease issue."

Gas gouging is a serious issue. Get the governor on it. Get the attorney general on it. It's messing with people's lives and their livelihood.

(AP) The death toll from Hurricane Katrina reached at least 110 in Mississippi alone, while Louisiana put aside the counting of the dead to concentrate on rescuing the living, many of whom were still trapped on rooftops and in attics.

To top it off, thanks to all the blasted rain we've had in recent weeks, I had to mow my yard again last night, and darned if my mower didn't run out of gas. I don't know about you, but I can't imagine anything much worse than having to put three-dollar gasoline into a lawn mower.

(AP) The sweltering city of 480,000 people had no drinkable water, and the electricity could be out for weeks. ... The situation inside the dank and sweltering Superdome was becoming desperate: The water was rising, the air conditioning was out, toilets were broken, and tempers were rising.

I don't blame Topekans for being upset when they see the price of gas going up almost hourly. Most of us aren't rich, you know. Do you have any idea how much it costs to fill up an SUV? It hurts, I tell you.

(AP) All day long, rescuers in boats and helicopters plucked bedraggled flood refugees from rooftops and attics. Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said 3,000 people have been rescued by boat and air, some placed shivering and wet into helicopter baskets. They were brought by the truckload into shelters, some in wheelchairs and some carrying babies, with stories of survival and of those who didn't make it.

I don't think it's being overly dramatic to suggest that if gas stays this high for any time at all, and I'm hearing these ungodly prices are going to be around for at least a couple more months, it could have a dramatic impact on Topeka.

(AP) "We've lost our city," former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial said. "I fear it's potentially like Pompeii."

Pete Goering, executive editor of The Capital-Journal, writes a column on Sunday and Thursday. He can be reached at (785) 295-1191 or pete.goering@cjonline.com.


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