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September 25, 2005 - The Fire Next Time, Again

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Okay, there are a few.  Fox News has them on all the time to show that the president is a fine fellow.  That's the Murdoch-Ailes mission.  Everyone else rags on the president, and, to make things fair and balanced, their news operation will do the opposite.  So they trot out these guys, the black, pro-Bush Republicans.  Yes, there are a few.  They're one of the Fox News weapons in their war to take back the national narrative from the liberal, Jewish, pro-Democrat, probably socialist, clearly anti-Christian and irresponsible New York media, those guys who want Saddam back in power and would kill hundreds of millions of our embryo citizens and force teenage girls to have abortions even of they're not pregnant, and all the rest.  But is the administration screwing over our black citizens?  Have they been systematically doing that? B ring out the black Bush supporter.  Prove it isn't so.  These guys love George.

But what happens when one of them reaches his limit?  Consider Robert A. George of the National Review, William F. Buckley's flagship magazine of the conservative movement.  It seems he has, as he writes this


First came House Speaker Dennis Hastert openly considering "bulldozing" parts of New Orleans - at a point when the city was still 80 percent under water, bodies were still being fished out and people were still stranded in the convention center...

Then, former First Lady Barbara Bush uttered words in a radio interview which will unfortunately haunt her remaining years: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." Those that heard the contents state that she notably "chuckled" during the last phrase.

Now, for some, Katrina may present new opportunity. But if poor children lost their parents and were adopted by a wealthy couple, would one chuckle that things were "working well for them"?
And then, to complete the hat trick, an actual Louisiana congressman pops up telling lobbyists, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Baker claimed that he was misquoted or misheard or something...

Honestly, I might be inclined to give Baker the benefit of the doubt, if it didn't seem like this disaster has given Republicans the opportunity to "share" how they really feel. Similarly, under normal circumstances, I wouldn't include Barbara Bush's comments. But, not this time. It just happens too often to ignore them anymore.

Ironically, the concern uttered here is not that the statements are necessarily racist or suggest some animus toward minorities. That's not the point. It is that the speakers seem unable to see those suffering as actual people.


Of course, this is on his web log, not in the National Review, nor on Fox.  The title is "Why Am I Still a Republican?"

Good question, and don't expect Hannity or O'Reilly to interview you on the topic.  But welcome aboard the reality express.

It is fascinating to watch the thoughtful conservatives deal with their party in its current turmoil, like Andrews Sullivan here:


One of the more irritating aspects of the post-Katrina debate has been the assertion by some liberals that the failure to provide emergency assistance for citizens hit by a natural disaster is a function of conservatism. The notion is that conservatives hate government so much that they do not even think the government has an obligation to act in a natural disaster. In fact, the opposite is true. Real conservatives (I'm not referring to the crew now in the White House) favor energetic executive action where only it can do the job: police, war, disaster relief, a basic social welfare net. What we're against is social engineering, redistributive taxation, over-regulation of private activity, etc. What conservatives want is a smaller yet stronger government. And getting smaller helps government focus on what it really should do, not on all the illusory goals that some liberals believe in, like, er, ending human inequality.


Yep, ending human inequality, like working for world peace, is best left to the Miss America Pageant. The sweet young things, when asked for their deep thoughts, always wish for that. Whatever. But note the argument here - "the crew now in the White House" aren't "real" conservatives. There's been some kind of bait-and-switch? These guys are sleepers - liberal radicals from the sixties planted in the Republican Party long ago to destroy it from within?

Possibly. One of the odder conspiracy theories, of course.

Friedrich Hayek is one of the heroes of the conservative movement and Sullivan notes he is quoted here:


There can be no doubt that some minimum of food, shelter, and clothing, sufficient to preserve health and the capacity to work, can be assured to everybody...

Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individuals in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision. Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance...the case for the state's helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong....

To the same category belongs also the increase of security through the state's rendering assistance to the victims of such "acts of God" as earthquakes and floods. Wherever communal action can mitigate disasters against which the individual can neither attempt to guard himself nor make provision for the consequences, such communal action should undoubtedly be taken.


Sullivan's conclusion?  "What has happened under Bush is not a function of conservatism. It's a function of abandoning conservatism."

And here he issues a challenge to other "real" conservatives regarding this blog effort to get some Republicans to cut "pork" out of the federal budget.


I'm as eager as the next guy to prevent pork-barrel spending, and I'd definitely support this effort. But the blogosphere campaign to battle pork in the face of Katrina, however admirable, still strikes me as too easy. The truth is: even if we got rid of all the pork, we'd still be in deep fiscal doo-doo. People like me who want to find the money to pay for Iraq and Katrina should be asked what we'd cut. Here's my basic list: postpone or repeal or radically scale back the Medicare drug benefit so it only affects the truly needy; restore the estate tax in full; phase in the means-testing of social security; end agricultural subsidies; kill off all corporate tax relief and the mortgage deduction and move toward a flat tax. That's a start. How many fiscal conservatives will bite these bullets?


Not many.

But is Fox News right? Is everyone picking on Bush, and now the "real" conservatives?

Consider the Monday polling data from Survey USA:


Three polling days after George W. Bush's prime-time speech to the nation from Jackson Square in New Orleans, a "can't win" dynamic is unfolding for the President, according to exclusive SurveyUSA data gathered Friday 9/16, Saturday 9/17 and Sunday 9/18. The number of Americans who now approve of the President's response to Hurricane Katrina is down: 40% today compared to 42% before he announced the Gulf Opportunity Zone. The number of Americans who disapprove of the President's response to Katrina is up: 56% today compared to 52% before the speech. Bush went from "Minus 10" on his Response to Katrina before the speech to "Minus 16" today.


Guess the speech didn't work. His opponents didn't see much to cheer, only a little, and he ticked off his conservative base:


One way to make sense of these numbers is to look at the number of Americans who today say the Federal Government is doing "too much" for Katrina victims. That's up to 16% today, more than triple what the number has been on 7 of the 19 days that SurveyUSA has conducted daily tracking since the storm. The more cash President Bush throws on the fire, as compensation for what some see as an inadequate initial response, the more it antagonizes his core supporters.


Heck, all he was trying to do was buy better polling numbers using two hundred billion dollars of taxpayer money, or money borrowed from the Chinese and Japanese in long-term treasuries. Sometimes you can't win for losing.

But at least he avoided a racial uprising by offering something.  See Katrina stirs memories of Watts by Diane McWhorter in USA Today, Monday, September 19 - she won a Pulitzer for Carry Me Home and wrote A Dream of Freedom, one of those "young-adult" books, a history of the civil rights movement.

She asks you to remember this:


In the late-summer doldrums, a peerless American city at the continent's edge suffered complete social breakdown. Black citizens rose up in arms against the institutions of civilization and commerce. Marauders commandeered the streets, looting guns from abandoned stores. By the time the National Guard restored peace, a major part of the city lay in ruin, and America had been shaken to the very core of its national identity.

The scene was Los Angeles, 40 years before Hurricane Katrina spun New Orleans into anarchy.


And she ends with this:


On the Tuesday the levees broke in New Orleans, the U.S. Census reported that, despite economic growth in 2004, the poverty rate had increased and income had stagnated. In Watts, the poverty rate today - 46% - is higher than it was in 1965. In the reallocation of national priorities since the country waged war on poverty, it is the rich who are now receiving "handouts," while nearly 30% of residents of a city dedicated to les bon temps live below the poverty line and beneath dignity, as the recent events so gruesomely demonstrated.

"God gave Noah the rainbow sign," goes the old Negro spiritual. "No more water, the fire next time." The omen from this flood, as the president acknowledged in his speech from New Orleans last week, is that the ark is off course.

And the forsaking of those in direst need of its shelter has fired the moral imagination of the rest of us.


So go read the middle.  We're at the edge.

Okay, you remember your Langston Hughes - the "Dream Deferred" thing (here).  Read the last line again.

And too, read some of the current folks on the right who are angry with Bush for mentioning "racial inequality" may have been a problem and we should do something about it.  Read this guy:


His statement is the standard apology for disproportionate black poverty, disproportionate black crime, and disproportionate black underachievement in America. It is the bread and butter of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and the standard "Get out the vote" cry of the Democratic Party in the inner cities of America.

And it is simply hogwash. If you were poor and black in 1955, you could offer this explanation for failure truthfully. It no longer is very relevant. No one has been cut off from the opportunity of America by external impediments for forty years.


We fixed all that stuff:


The doors have been thrown open, the way lighted and the government has spent several trillion dollars attempting to guide poor blacks through the door. Yet many remain inside the prison of poverty. Racial discrimination, even if prevalent, cannot injure a people without other assistance. Neither can simply being born into poverty.


Yep, it's their own damned fault.

Jesse Taylor here - "I somehow find myself wanting to fall asleep and wake up to discover that all of my favorite 'racism doesn't exist' conservatives find themselves poor, black, and trying to find someplace to live in Georgia."

Oh heck, it's not racism. These guys are thinking of other things, as this Reuters item explains:


Hurricane Katrina will hurt the U.S. economy in the short run but bright long-term prospects mean the Bush administration can push ahead with its reform agenda, a top White House economic adviser said on Thursday.

"In the shorter term, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina will have a palpable effect on the national economy," White House economic adviser Ben Bernanke said in prepared remarks for delivery at the National Press Club. But he said private-sector forecasts were for healthy long-run growth.

Bernanke said the White House intends to continue pursuing policies that have make the economy able to withstand shocks and that will keep growth on track.

"These policies include making tax relief permanent, reducing the budget deficit by limiting spending, strengthening retirement and health security through efforts like Social Security reform ...and enhancing energy security," Bernanke said.


They're busy.  Things are looking up.  They're not thinking about race at all. It's not an issue.

Of course little things keep getting in the way.  Note this from Josh Marshall, Monday, September 19 –


The Office of Federal Procurement Policy handles procurement policy for the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

Until Friday the Administrator of the office was David Hossein Safavian.

Today he was arrested on a three-count indictment.

This, from the DOJ press release ...

"David Hossein Safavian was arrested today based on a three- count criminal complaint filed at federal court in Washington, D.C. The complaint charges Safavian with making false statements to a GSA ethics officer and the GSA-OIG, along with obstruction of a GSA-OIG investigation.

"The affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint alleges that from May 16, 2002 until January 10, 2004, Safavian served as Chief of Staff at the GSA. During that time he allegedly aided a Washington D.C. lobbyist in the lobbyist's attempts to acquire GSA-controlled property in and around Washington, D.C. In August 2002, this lobbyist allegedly took Safavian and others on a golf trip to Scotland.

"The false statement and obstruction of the investigation charges relate to Safavian's statements to a GSA ethics officer and the GSA-OIG that the lobbyist had no business with GSA prior to the August 2002 golf trip. According to the affidavit, Safavian concealed the fact that the lobbyist had business before GSA prior to the August 2002 golf trip, and that Safavian was aiding the lobbyist in his attempts to do business with GSA."

Did I mention that before he signed on with the Bush administration Safavian worked for Jack Abramoff at Preston Gates?

Well, he did. Now reread those three grafs and see if they read any different. Golf trip to Scotland? Right. Small world.

He's also a former business partner of Grover Norquist.


The original item has links to all the appropriate news stories.  This one will need to be cleaned up before anyone even thinks about black folks.

From the Washington Post, Friday, January 21, 2005, page A15, this


The law that created Safavian's position - administrator for federal procurement policy at the Office of Management and Budget - does not allow Safavian to intervene in ongoing procurement actions, but he can use the OMB's budget clout to call agencies on the carpet.

"We do have a responsibility to make sure that we have our policies correct," he said in a recent interview. "I view my job as helping to identify policies that are either good for the system or bad for the system, and act accordingly."

Safavian was nominated by President Bush for the OMB post on Jan. 22, 2004, and was confirmed just before Thanksgiving.

... During part of his wait for confirmation, Safavian served as counselor to Clay Johnson III, deputy director for management at the OMB. Safavian had previously served as chief of staff at the GSA, where he picked up experience in federal contracting issues.

He started his career as a lawyer and worked on Capitol Hill for three House members. He also has worked as a consultant and lobbyist on telecommunications, Indian gambling, tax policy and other matters. In his free time on weekends, he serves as a volunteer police officer in the District and in Dumfries, Va.


Whatever.  The man who headed FEMA, Michael Brown, had to resign because he was incompetent, and had no qualifications. The man who was to watch over all the billions in contracts to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast? Led away in handcuffs.

What a world, what a world?

This calls for some major spin.  Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes have their work cut out for them.  Our friend, Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, worked for Ailes a number of times.  Maybe he can tell us all how Ailes will spin this.  Our columnist Bob Patterson (the World's Laziest Journalist and the Book Wrangler) listens to Rush and Hugh Hewitt and all the right side talk radio shows.  I'm sure he will report on the spin there.

But what are you going to do with stuff like this in the major media?

Leaders Who Won't Choose
In Washington, it's business as usual in the face of a national catastrophe.
Fareed Zakaria - Newsweek - Sept. 26, 2005 issue

Zakaria is their suave international editor, with his own interview show now, and often a guest on other television panels. He knows his stuff. And he's a bit shrill now.

He opens with this:


Adversity builds character," goes the old adage. Except that in America today we seem to be following the opposite principle. The worse things get, the more frivolous our response. President Bush explains that he will spend hundreds of billions of dollars rebuilding the Gulf Coast without raising any new revenues. Republican leader Tom DeLay declines any spending cuts because "there is no fat left to cut in the federal budget."

This would be funny if it weren't so depressing. What is happening in Washington today is business as usual in the face of a national catastrophe. The scariest part is that we've been here before. After 9/11 we have created a new government agency, massively increased domestic spending and fought two wars. And the president did all this without rolling back any of his tax cuts - in fact, he expanded them - and refused to veto a single congressional spending bill. This was possible because Bush inherited a huge budget surplus in 2000. But that's all gone. The cupboard is now bare.

Whatever his other accomplishments, Bush will go down in history as the most fiscally irresponsible chief executive in American history.



And this:


Today's Republicans believe in pork, but they don't believe in government. So we have the largest government in history but one that is weak and dysfunctional. Public spending is a cynical game of buying votes or campaign contributions, an utterly corrupt process run by lobbyists and special interests with no concern for the national interest. So we shovel out billions on "Homeland Security" to stave off nonexistent threats to Wisconsin, Wyoming and Montana while New York and Los Angeles remain unprotected. We mismanage crises with a crazy-quilt patchwork of federal, local and state authorities - and sing paeans to federalism to explain our incompetence. We denounce sensible leadership and pragmatism because they mean compromise and loss of ideological purity. Better to be right than to get Iraq right.


The idea here is Hurricane Katrina was a wake-up call and it's time to get serious. Maybe work on the basics: "secure the homeland, fight terrorism and have an effective foreign policy to advance our interests and our ideals. We also need a world-class education system, a great infrastructure and advancement in science and technology."

So what else is new? The current crew has other ideas, ideas about how the world ought to be. Privatized, free market, and run by loyal friends (the "right sort of people"), even if they have no concept of how to do the job they've been handed. Maybe they'll learn on the job. (Brown didn't) Maybe they'll be arrested. But they are true believers.

The issue here is some folks see racism. It's not. It's just incompetence.



Monday, September 19, the New York Times and its European sister publication, the International Herald Tribune, put all of the columnists who write for them behind a "wall." If you want to read them or quote them it will cost you around fifty dollars a year. You can see this is an attempt to recoup the cost of publishing a major newspaper, or an attempt to severely limit the influence of those who write for them. Your choice. The Independent (UK) did this a year or two ago, and they are seldom cited now. Why bother? There's lots of good stuff all over the web available for free.

In any event, this site offers some geeky tricks for getting around the Times' wall - security holes not yet plugged. And there you will find Paul Krugman's Monday New York Times column in the relationship of race and incompetence in full. In relation to matters above, this is just one of his observations:


... in a larger sense, the administration's lethally inept response to Hurricane Katrina had a lot to do with race. For race is the biggest reason the United States, uniquely among advanced countries, is ruled by a political movement that is hostile to the idea of helping citizens in need.

Race, after all, was central to the emergence of a Republican majority: essentially, the South switched sides after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Today, states that had slavery in 1860 are much more likely to vote Republican than states that didn't.

And who can honestly deny that race is a major reason America treats its poor more harshly than any other advanced country? To put it crudely: a middle-class European, thinking about the poor, says to himself, "There but for the grace of God go I." A middle-class American is all too likely to think, perhaps without admitting it to himself, "Why should I be taxed to support those people?"

Above all, race-based hostility to the idea of helping the poor created an environment in which a political movement hostile to government aid in general could flourish.

By all accounts Ronald Reagan, who declared in his Inaugural Address that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem," wasn't personally racist. But he repeatedly used a bogus tale about a Cadillac-driving Chicago "welfare queen" to bash big government. And he launched his 1980 campaign with a pro-states'-rights speech in Philadelphia, Miss., a small town whose only claim to fame was the 1964 murder of three civil rights workers.

Under George W. Bush - who, like Mr. Reagan, isn't personally racist but relies on the support of racists - the anti-government right has reached a new pinnacle of power. And the incompetent response to Katrina was the direct result of his political philosophy. ...


That seems about right - Bush is not personally racist but relies on the support of racists.


The effect is the same.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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