Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Arianna: Great journalism...

Karl Rove's Big Easy
Posted September 15, 2005 at 8:03 p.m. EDT

Creating an independent, bipartisan commission to look into what went so horribly wrong with the response to Katrina is not only an idea supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people -- including 64% of Republicans -- it's also, unarguably, the right thing to do.

After all, we're not talking about a witch hunt to ferret out which public officials should be pilloried in the public square (although surely more than a few members of the administration deserve a good thrashing -- uh, I mean Medal of Freedom) but a chance to make sure that the same mistakes aren't made when the dreaded next terrorist attack hits us. If we look at Katrina as a very wet dry run for our response to Hurricane Osama, an independent commission should have been empanelled the second the bodies started piling up in New Orleans.

And it's not like this kind of fast-track fact-gathering is without precedent. The first of nine investigations into the failures that led to Pearl Harbor convened 11 days after that attack. And LBJ created the Warren Commission seven days after President Kennedy was assassinated.

But a full, public, and unbiased accounting is the last thing the White House and its Congressional allies want. Hence Wednesday's straight party-line vote. Not surprisingly, the GOP prefers the fox guarding the henhouse approach of having a Republican-controlled Congressional panel investigate Katrina.

Of course, we've seen this foot-dragging, stonewalling, anything-to-avoid-looking-in-the-mirror tactic before. It took 14 months -- and a candlelight vigil outside the White House by the 9/11 families -- before Bush finally relented and the 9/11 Commission was created. Is that kind of public shaming what it's going to take to get to the truth about Katrina? If so, let's not wait 14 months to have the families of Katrina's victims gather outside the White House demanding answers.

There is too much at stake to let Bush and the GOP Congress play politics with our lives.

And speaking of playing politics, I love how the news that Karl Rove has been placed in charge of the reconstruction effort was buried in the ninth paragraph of a twelve-paragraph New York Times story on Bush's big speech.

This assignment proves that despite the president's lofty rhetoric about "building a better New Orleans," his main concern is stanching his political bleeding. Let's be honest, when it comes to large-scale efforts like this, Ol' Turd Blossom isn't exactly Gen. George Marshall, who, before devising the Marshall Plan, had, among other things, been responsible for deploying over eight million soldiers in WW II.

Rove's genius (aside from a Mensa-level mastery of dirty trickery) is for using imagery, spin, and atmospherics to turn political liabilities into political opportunities.

So here is the White House's Katrina Plan in a nutshell: block any independent examination of its failings, put the Einstein of damage control in charge of reconstructing New Orleans, keep the dead bodies out of sight, try to get away with general platitudes and palliatives, offer watered-down acceptances of "responsibility" while trying to pin everything you can on local yokels and fall guys like Brownie, and let Bush's corporate cronies get fat on hefty no-bid reconstruction contracts.

So get ready for the New New Orleans -- Karl Rove's Big Easy -- featuring the Halliburton French Quarter, the ExxonMobil River (formerly the Mississippi), Lake MBNA (formerly Pontchartrain), and Eli Lilly music (formerly jazz).

With deals like that shimmering on the horizon, it's no wonder the president's pals in Congress are doing everything they can to throw a monkey wrench into House Democrats' efforts to investigate the Plamegate scandal, and the Boy Genius' involvement in it -- shooting down a pair of bills that would have required Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department, and Condi Rice and the State Department to turn over all documents and information pertaining to the outing of Valerie Plame.

God forbid! Mustn't allow anything to get in the way of Reconstruction Karl's efforts to rebuild the president's poll numbers, eh?

And this...

Katrina Relief: It's Iraq Deja vu All Over Again
Posted September 16, 2005 at 7:17 p.m. EDT

Reacting to all the pricey promises the president made in his big Katrina speech, a senior House Republican official told the New York Times , "We are not sure he knows what he is getting into."

If that's true, Bush must have the worst memory since Guy Pearce in "Memento" because he's definitely been down this road before.

The coming attractions for the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast play like a shot-by-shot remake of the mother of all disaster features, the reconstruction of Iraq.

Let's start with the rhetoric. "We will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes," the president pledged on Thursday. "We will do whatever it takes... we will stay there until the job is done," the president said of Iraq in November 2003. It wouldn't be a "Terminator" movie without "I'll be back," and it wouldn't be a massive mega-billion dollar Bush initiative without a vow to stay the course.

This rhetorical comparison extends to what the president didn't say -- namely, anything about the need for shared sacrifice. He didn't call for it after 9/11, he didn't call for it when we embarked on the war in Iraq, and he didn't call for it as we are embarking on the rebuilding of New Orleans. The closest he came was challenging "scout troops" to "get in touch with their counterparts" in the disaster area and "learn what they can do to help." Wonder if that was part of the Heritage Foundation's post-Katrina policy manifesto: Merit badges for corpse recovery and helping displaced evacuees across the street!

Indeed, responding to the devastation caused by Katrina, Treasury Secretary John Snow claimed: "Making the [Bush] tax cuts permanent would be a real plus in a situation like this." Sure, why ask for some sacrifice from the richest Americans when we have scout troops doing their part?

The feeling that the Katrina relief effort is going to be Iraq all over again is unavoidable when you look at the list of the companies already being awarded clean up and reconstruction contracts. It's that old gang from Baghdad: Halliburton, Bechtel, Fluor, and the Shaw Group (which has a tasteful notice on its website saying "Hurricane Recovery Projects -- Apply Here!"). Together again. A veritable moveable feast of crony capitalism.

Even the Wall Street Journal is getting an uneasy sense of deja vu, pointing out that "the Bush administration is importing many of the contract practices blamed for spending abuses in Iraq," including contracts awarded without competitive bidding, and cost-plus provisions "that guarantee contractors a certain profit regardless of how much they spend." So what's the thinking on this one, Mr. President -- 'If at first you don't succeed...'?

And what about financial oversight of the tens of billions that will be doled out to these corporate chums of the administration? After consistently stonewalling investigations into the corruption that has plagued U.S. efforts in Iraq, the president vowed to have "a team of inspectors general reviewing all expenditures" related to Katrina. But such promises seem laughable when you remember what happened to Bunny Greenhouse. After blowing the whistle on Halliburton's corrupt Iraq war contracts, the Army Corps of Engineers auditor was demoted. That should really motivate the Katrina contract inspection team.

Another very troubling similarity between the Katrina plan and the Iraq debacle is the failure of Democratic leaders to address the core issues raised by the president's proposals. Mirroring the spineless bandwagon hopping that gave the president a flashing green light on Iraq, Harry Reid responded to Bush's speech by saying, "I think we have to understand that we have a devastation that has to be taken care of. And I'm not finding where we can cut yet."

Really? How about Iraq? We're spending $5 billion a month there. And what about demanding the rollback of the Bush tax cuts? Even a partial rollback would produce about $180 billion in revenue, right around what the Katrina relief effort is estimated to cost. And how about taking a carving knife to the huge slabs of pork that continue to be piled onto legislation like the new transportation bill, which included 6,371 pet projects inserted by members from both parties, at a cost of more than $24 billion. And that's just one bill! But the Senate Minority Leader can't find where to cut yet?

Iraq is an utter catastrophe. The only good that can come from it will be as an object lesson in what not to do with Katrina. But, so far, it's a lesson both the president and the loyal opposition seem unwilling to learn.

As the philosopher said: It's deja vu all over again.

As the fallout from Katrina continues this week, the bloody news from Iraq reminds us that the Bush administration has two major disasters on its hands. For the latest headlines and blogs, keep logging on to


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