Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Pity Of New Orleans

An essential editorial today from The New York Times concerns the willful destruction of the city of New Orleans by the Bush administration.

In their lead editorial, the Times begins:

"We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum."

Further on:

"There are many unanswered questions that will take years to work out, but one is make-or-break and needs to be dealt with immediately. It all boils down to the levee system. People will clear garbage, live in tents, work their fingers to the bone to reclaim homes and lives, but not if they don't believe they will be protected by more than patches to the same old system that failed during the deadly storm. Homeowners, businesses and insurance companies all need a commitment before they will stake their futures on the city.

"At this moment the reconstruction is a rudderless ship. There is no effective leadership that we can identify. How many people could even name the president's liaison for the reconstruction effort, Donald Powell? Lawmakers need to understand that for New Orleans the words "pending in Congress" are a death warrant requiring no signature.

"The rumbling from Washington that the proposed cost of better levees is too much has grown louder. Pretending we are going to do the necessary work eventually, while stalling until the next hurricane season is upon us, is dishonest and cowardly. Unless some clear, quick commitments are made, the displaced will have no choice but to sink roots in the alien communities where they landed."

And the Times writes this, keeping in context the President's promises to rebuild the city and noticing the complete lack of follow-up efforts.

To be fair, state and city officials are being skewered for not coming up with an acceptable plan for rebuilding, but this is a momumental effort. It is hard to imagine any city, including New York, being able to rebuild their entire infrastructure (not just a neighborhood) without massive outside help. This is not Sim City 2005.

The importance of the editorial is that the state of American media is so pitiful that once bodies stop being found, the press loses interest. It is probably why George Bush made the promises he made. He knows better than anybody how short a memory can be found in the institutions that are supposed to be informing us.

If anything, the Democrats need to highlight the Bush response to the rebuilding of New Orleans. If the GOP-led Congress and White House continue to stall, America needs to know. And we need to be reminded of how many billions are being spent to "allegedly" rebuild Iraq.

Our priorities at this time are so skewed it feels like we have already gone through the looking glass.

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