I can't tell you how frustrated I've been feeling at all the horror stories about the bumbling government efforts to aid the victims of Katrina.
It's enough to make you shout, as Casey Stengel did at the 1962 Mets, "Can't anybody here play this game?" (I was also yelling that at the 2005 Yankees last night.)
The bureaucratic bungling here is simply beyond belief. Since the average DMV is a mess, you wonder how federal and state agencies can deal with a massive crisis. And according to recent newspaper accounts, they can't.
More than 7,000 firms have applied to the Small Business Administration for help -- only 20 have gotten loans.
FEMA was giving out those $2,000 checks for household assistance, and suddenly it wasn't.
The government sent 91,000 tons of ice cubes to cool food, medicine and sweltering storm victims at a cost of $100 million, says the NYT. And most of it was never delivered, as truck drivers kept being redirected. What a meltdown.
As of Oct. 1, more than 100,000 people were still living in makeshift housing, and another $400 in hotels costing up to $100 a night.
Lobbyists | http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-lobby10oct10,0,3018445.story?coll=la-home-nation for big industries are helping write the clean-up legislation.
Oh, and did I mention there's no federal contract to pick up the dead bodies | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/09/AR2005100901383.html?
Then I got to thinking: Why do government agencies have so many hoops to jump through? Usually, it's to prevent cheating. And shockingly, there's been no shortage of fraud as well.
Another NYT piece reported on a Louisiana woman who used her aunt's New Orleans address and brother's name to file a claim. Red Cross contract workers accused of cashing in on benefits for fictitious hurricane victims. Two Florida residents who asked for help for nonexistent Louisiana houses. How pathetic can you get?
I thought it was crazy when I read about (New Orleans Mayor) Ray Nagin saying he'd have to lay off 3,000 city workers. Just what a sinking economy doesn't need. Couldn't the feds just give the city a grant or loan, so those folks could keep their jobs for a few more months? But where do you draw the line? The people who worked in restaurants and dry cleaners and drugstores also lost their jobs, and in some cases their houses. There's no way to guarantee those jobs. And why should victims of Katrina and Rita get more aid than those who suffered in previous hurricanes? One answer is that previous storms didn't cause a major city's destruction, but it's awfully hard to draw such distinctions.
Whatever the government chooses to do, though, it's going to have to do a better job. This is as depressing, in its own way, as the initial botched response to Katrina.
Liberals are bummed, reports the New York Times | http://nytimes.com/2005/10/11/politics/11poverty.html?hp&ex=1129003200&en=985822270f6ea08b&ei=5094&partner=homepage:
"What looked like a chance to talk up new programs is fast becoming a scramble to save the old ones.
"Conservatives have already used the storm for causes of their own, like suspending requirements that federal contractors have affirmative action plans and pay locally prevailing wages. And with federal costs for rebuilding the Gulf Coast estimated at up to $200 billion, Congressional Republican leaders are pushing for spending cuts, with programs like Medicaid and food stamps especially vulnerable . . .
"But many conservatives see logic, not irony, at work. If the storm exposed great poverty, they say, it also exposed the problems of the very policies that liberals have supported."
Paul Krugman wonders whether Bush will actually cough up the promised cash:
"I'm not sure why the news media haven't made more of the White House role in stalling a bipartisan bill that would have extended Medicaid coverage to all low-income hurricane victims -- some of whom, according to surveys, can't afford needed medicine. The White House has also insisted that disaster loans to local governments, many of which no longer have a tax base, be made with the cruel and unusual provision that these loans cannot be forgiven.
"Since the administration is already nickel-and-diming Katrina's victims, it's a good bet that it will do the same with reconstruction -- that is, if reconstruction ever gets started."
Bush, for his part, had dinner | http://www.nypost.com/news/nationalnews/29308.htm last night in the French Quarter.
On to the Supreme Court: So it turns out Miers does have a bit of a paper trail, as this Bloomberg | http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/nation/12870918.htm piece makes clear:
"The Dallas law firm headed by U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers helped accounting firm Ernst & Young sell what came to be regarded as a sham tax shelter in 1999 by providing letters to shield customers from IRS penalties, a Senate investigation found."
Heck of a job.
On the other hand, lawyers will like this one:
"As a corporate lawyer," says the Washington Post | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/10/AR2005101001492.html, "Harriet Miers once urged then-Gov. George W. Bush to veto legislation that would have prohibited the Texas Supreme Court from regulating or capping attorneys' fees, charging that the legislation did 'violence to the balance of power between the legislative and judicial branch.' Miers, President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court, said in her 1995 letter to Bush that the legislation was a blatant attempt to protect a 'handful of greedy, but immensely rich and powerful' trial lawyers."
But the New York Times | http://nytimes.com/2005/10/11/politics/politicsspecial1/11archive.html?hp&ex=1129089600&en=025c849e781015f2&ei=5094&partner=homepage lead will bolster those who see the White House counsel as the ultimate crony:
" 'You are the best governor ever -- deserving of great respect,' Harriet E. Miers wrote to George W. Bush days after his 51st birthday in July 1997. She also found him 'cool,' said he and his wife, Laura, were 'the greatest!' and told him: 'Keep up the great work. Texas is blessed.' "
Very cool discovery.
I notice that MSM accounts are now using words like "revolt" and "uprising" to describe the conservative opposition to Harriet Miers. OpinionJournal's John Fund | http://www.opinionjournal.com/diary/?id=110007384 says that after interviewing friends and colleagues in Texas, "I came away convinced that questions about Ms. Miers should be raised now -- and loudly -- because she has spent her entire life avoiding giving a clear picture of herself. 'She is unrevealing to the point that it's an obsession,' says one of her close colleagues at her law firm.
"White House aides who have worked with her for five years report she zealously advocated the president's views, but never gave any hint of her own . . . The evidence of Ms. Miers's views on jurisprudence resemble a beach on which someone has walked without leaving any footprints: no court opinions, no law review articles, and no internal memos that President Bush is going to share with the Senate . . .
"The White House spin team has been pathetic, dismissing much of the criticism of Ms. Miers as 'elitism' or even echoing Democratic senators who view it as 'sexist.' "
InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds | http://instapundit.com sees no socially redeeming value in the nomination:
"More and more, I have to wonder what the White House was thinking with this. First of all, when you're already under fire for cronyism, and you nominate someone who's, well, a crony, you ought to be locked-and-loaded in terms of response. They weren't.
"Second of all, they seem to have managed to convince a lot of people on the social right that she's too liberal, while people on the libertarian-right worry that she's too much a fan of government power. Third, their response to critics and complaints has been slow and weak . . .
"Her nomination looks like a major political blunder for the Administration, which has yet to provide any very convincing reasons why she belongs on the court more than any of several thousand other lawyers with similar credentials."
David Frum | http://frum.nationalreview.com/, the former Bush speechwriter who was the quickest conservative out of the box, isn't letting up on his National Review blog. After talking to conservative lawyers in Washington, he says, "it is hard to convey how unanimously they not only reject, but disdain, the choice of Miers.
"One commented on this news story that Miers' favorite reading was John Grisham novels: 'Look, it's inevitable these senators are going to ask you some obviously stupid questions. You just can't give them obviously stupid answers. How hard is it to say that you are reading Jean Smith's biography of Chief Justice John Marshall?'
"Another told me of a briefing session to prepare Miers to enter into her duties as White House Counsel. A panel of lawyers who had served in past Republican White Houses was gathered together. After a couple of hours of questions and answers, all agreed: 'We're going to need a really strong deputy.'
"It's been reported the reason Miers was named White House Counsel in the first place was that she had proven incompetent as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy. Her boss, Chief of Staff Andy Card, badly wanted to get her out of his office -- but couldn't fire her because she was protected by the president and the first lady. So he promoted her instead. Now we learn that it was Card who was the strongest advocate of moving Miers out of the West Wing altogether and onto the high court -- raising the question of whether the ultimate motivation for this nomination is to open the way to hiring a new Counsel by kicking a failed Counsel upstairs."
The ultimate Peter Principle?
Bill Kristol | http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/178wuhnk.asp sees a silver lining for the conservative punditocracy:
"It's been a bad week for the Bush administration -- but, in a way, a not-so-bad week for American conservatism. George W. Bush's nomination of White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court was at best an error, at worst a disaster. There is no need now to elaborate on Bush's error. He has put up an unknown and undistinguished figure for an opening that conservatives worked for a generation to see filled with a jurist of high distinction. There is a gaping disproportion between the stakes associated with this vacancy and the stature of the person nominated to fill it.
"But the reaction of conservatives to this deeply disheartening move by a president they otherwise support and admire has been impressive. There has been an extraordinarily energetic and vigorous debate among conservatives as to what stance to take towards the Miers nomination, a debate that does the conservative movement proud. The stern critics of the nomination have, in my admittedly biased judgment, pretty much routed the half-hearted defenders. In the vigor of their arguments, and in their willingness to speak uncomfortable truths, conservatives have shown that they remain a morally serious and intellectually credible force in American politics."
Kristol again calls on Miers to bow out, saying: "Would a withdrawal be an embarrassment to the president? Sure. But the embarrassment would fade. Linda Chavez at the beginning of the first term, and Bernard Kerik at the beginning of the second, withdrew their nominations for cabinet positions and there was no lasting effect."
Andrew Sullivan | http://www.andrewsullivan.com sees the hearings making or breaking Miers:
"The first is that she'll be revealed in some fashion or other as completely unprepared or unqualified for her proposed job. Specter or Leahy or Biden may get a moment when she is revealed as simply too small for the shoes she is trying to feel. But she's a very smart woman, from all accounts, and she will be trained well. The second and, to my mind, likelier possibility is that she'll come off as Ross Perot in a Talbot's dress. She'll be direct, folksy, and the Senatorial inquisition will rally the public to her side. A little lady from Texas versus hair-transplanted blowhard from Delaware? No contest."
You read it here second.
Bill Keller may have hurt his chances of appearing on the "Factor," based on this Business Week | http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/oct2005/nf20051010_7117_db042.htm piece:
Keller "noted that O'Reilly 'denounced' the Times so frequently that 'if he didn't have The New York Times, he might be selling Ginsu knives on late-night TV.' Along the same lines, Keller termed the Fox News Channel's 'fair and balanced' tagline 'the most ingeniously cynical slogan' in media marketing."
Now this strikes me as an exaggeration. O'Reilly only bashes the Times four nights out of five, though he's usually off Friday.
In light of this Times report | http://nytimes.com/2005/10/10/nyregion/10cnd-alert.html?hp&ex=1129003200&en=22c86deffb30237d&ei=5094&partner=homepage--"American law enforcement and intelligence authorities have all but discounted the report of a terrorist threat to city's subways" -- I have a message for cable TV execs: you really, badly overplayed that story, with intrepid reporters venturing into subway stations for their scaremongering.
Kos | http://dailykos.com explains why liberal blogs have been more influential than their right-wing counterparts:
"Not only are conservative blogs redundant in the conservative media pantheon, but they have not proven adept at raising money. And in politics, raising money is the first, second, and third most important thing . . .
"As for Democrats, conservatives like to think that sites like Daily Kos meet weekly with Howard Dean and Harry Reid, as though we're an integral part of some well-oiled machine. And that's also not true. We get their press releases. The same press releases all other media outlets get. And, as far as Reid's office is concerned, they answer any questions I send their way, just like any other media outlet. It's helpful, but hardly earth shattering.
"When they do pay attention, most of the time it's naked attempts to score cash from the community, as though we're some kind of ATM. And when they don't ask for money, and try to tackle an issue, parts of the blogosphere erupt in hysterics. You'd think Obama killed everyone's first born to hear some of you wail about his diary. There's a fine line between reasoned discussion and attacks, so if you're a Democratic politician, you sort of have to be a masochist to try and engage the netroots in discussion.
"On the other hand, liberal bloggers are definitely getting attention from the folks wiring the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy. No money yet, but there's hope to start building some blog-supporting infrastructure. A think tank, maybe some fellowships, book deals, cross-media promotions (like my weekly spot on Majority Report Radio), those sorts of thing. Just like the conservative movement has worked to support its best writers and build a wide-reaching media machine, so too is the progressive movement seeking to mimic that. And while the conservative movement was built in the 70s and 80s for a different generation, ours is being built on a digital foundation."
By the way, the NYT won't even tell its own reporter | http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/10/business/10paper.html how many people have forked over the 50 bucks to read Times columnists online. If it was an impressive number, don't you think the execs would be putting out a press release?
Finally, the back story here is kinda convoluted. Fox's James Rosen, interviewing Condi Rice, said gee, you should meet my colleague Lauren Green, she also plays the piano and has a new CD. This led to a New York gossip item with some unfortunate personal speculation about the secretary of state, which in turn produced this Minneapolis Star Tribune | http://www.startribune.com/stories/459/5656750 piece:
" 'Fox & Friends' anchor Lauren Green has a news flash for gossiphounds curious about her love life: Females need not apply.
"'It's hard enough to find a date' said Green, responding to media and bloggers attempting to link her romantically to Secretary of State Condolezza Rice. 'You know what I mean. I don't need that!' Green said, laughing off the rumors that wouldn't be floating if NYC newspaper columnists bothered to call Lauren for comment.
"Gay is cool, but it's just not Green's persuasion: 'I am not gay. I am very straight. All Christian men, single and over 35 can apply.' "
You can't make this stuff up.