The Times' Flood Control Hypocrisy
Hurricane Katrina is a natural disaster unparalleled in modern times, leaving at least half of a major city underwater. In this national tragedy, the nation's paper of record rises to the occasion by declaring everything Bush's fault. But perhaps some blame could be more plausibly apportioned to the Times' own editorial page.
Thursday's lead editorial, "Waiting for a Leader," pretends to be focused on the here-and-now while actually looking ahead to blame Bush: "While our attention must now be on the Gulf Coast's most immediate needs, the nation will soon ask why New Orleans's levees remained so inadequate. Publications from the local newspaper to National Geographic have fulminated about the bad state of flood protection in this beloved city, which is below sea level. Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?"
Perhaps they were reading old Times editorials on flood control. As the EU Rotablog notes, the Times editorial page has often criticized such efforts.
EU Rota excerpts an editorial from July 14, 1993, after Midwest flooding: "For the longer term, Washington and flood-prone areas must reconsider the pro's and con's of flood control projects and flood insurance. The billions of Federal dollars spent to construct dams and levees have doubtless prevented billions of dollars of damage to the areas they serve. But a dam or a levee in one place creates problems somewhere else. Also, by offering protection, they encourage people to live and work and develop farming in flood plains that are inherently risky. Budget constraints and environmental concerns have slowed new flood control projects in recent years. Congress should resist pressure to spend more now because of this year's floods; these projects need closer evaluation than they've gotten in the past.Flood plains are risky territory, as the Mississippi and its tributaries are proving again. Federal policy needs to control the risk, not just the rivers."
From May 9, 1997, in the aftermath of flooding in North Dakota, the Times praised a liberal Republican for making flood control projects more expensive and harder to manage: "In the last session of Congress, a small band of Republican moderates organized by Representative Sherwood Boehlert of New York succeeded in blocking nearly every attempt by their right-wing colleagues to gut the country's basic environmental statutes. Fortunately, Mr. Boehlert and his friends are still wide awake. On Wednesday, in the first major environmental battle of the new Congress, the moderates and like-minded Democrats beat back a bill that would have permanently exempted any flood control project from the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.
To discuss the Times' about-face on flood control, go to MRC's blog, NewsBusters. The direct address for the node is here.
Friday's lead editorial, "The Man-Made Disaster," takes another tack: Hurricane Katrina is Bush's fault because of Iraq: "Watching helplessly from afar, many citizens wondered whether rescue operations were hampered because almost one-third of the men and women of the Louisiana National Guard, and an even higher percentage of the Mississippi National Guard, were 7,000 miles away, fighting in Iraq. That's an even bigger loss than the raw numbers suggest because many of these part-time soldiers had to leave behind their full-time jobs in police and fire departments or their jobs as paramedics. Regardless of whether they wear public safety uniforms in civilian life, the guardsmen in Iraq are a crucial resource sorely missed during these early days, when hours have literally meant the difference between evacuation and inundation, between civic order and chaos, between life and death."
The editorial doesnt cite anyone blaming the Iraq war for a shortage of National Guard troops. Brig. Gen. Hunt Downer, second-in-command in Louisiana's military, told a localpaper: "We have enough troops remaining here in the state."
Perhaps the paper's Manhattan-based editorial board has some inside information that Downer doesnt.
For Thursday's editorial, click here.
For the Friday editorial, click here.
Another NYT Scoop: N.O. Residents Mostly Black
Friday's front-page story on Hurricane Katrina from David Gonzalez, "From Margins of Society to Center of the Tragedy," brings race into the anti-Bush eye of the political storm.
The text box reads: "Most of those left behind in New Orleans are black," and Gonzalez repeats that meme early in the story: "The scenes of floating corpses, scavengers fighting for food and desperate throngs seeking any way out of New Orleans have been tragic enough. But for many African-American leaders, there is a growing outrage that many of those still stuck at the center of this tragedy were people who for generations had been pushed to the margins of society. The victims, they note, were largely black and poor, those who toiled in the background of the tourist havens, living in tumbledown neighborhoods that were long known to be vulnerable to disaster if the levees failed. Without so much as a car or bus fare to escape ahead of time, they found themselves left behind by a failure to plan for their rescue should the dreaded day ever arrive."
Of course, most people in New Orleans are black - 67%, according to the 2000 Census. The city's median household incomeis far below the national average (per capita income in New Orleans was $17,258, compared with $21,587 nationally). So any group of survivors and victims from such a group would naturally contain many poor blacks.
As Gonzalez himself notes later in the story, one of the hardest-hit areas is almost entirely black: "In the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood, which was inundated by the floodwaters, more than 98 percent of the residents are black and more than a third live in poverty."
Gonzalez gets his first quote from a left-wing hater of black conservatives, Rev. Calvin Butts: "'If you know that terror is approaching in terms of hurricanes, and you've already seen the damage they've done in Florida and elsewhere, what in God's name were you thinking?' said the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. 'I think a lot of it has to do with race and class. The people affected were largely poor people. Poor, black people.'"
That Butts would bash Bush isn't exactly on the level of "Man Bites Dog." Here he is talking about Republicans in the Contract With America days of 1995: "Yes Bob Dole, Phil Gramm, you are the enemy. Yes Clarence Thomas, you poor confused fellow, you are the enemy, and we are determined to turn you around, and if we don't, you are leading our country to a racial confrontation that we will all be the poorer for."
Later Gonzalez goes to another unlabeled left-wing activist, Jesse Jackson, who interrupted his bear-hug of Venezuelandictator Hugo Chavez long enough to fly to Louisiana and criticize Bush: "The Rev. Jesse Jackson said cities had been dismissed by the Bush administration because Mr. Bush received few urban votes. 'Many black people feel that their race, their property conditions and their voting patterns have been a factor in the response,' Mr. Jackson said, after meeting with Louisiana officials yesterday. 'I'm not saying that myself, but what's self-evident is that you have many poor people without a way out.'"
For the full story on Hurricane Katrina, click here.
Ganging Up on Bush
White House reporter Elisabeth Bumiller's Friday filing, "Democrats and Others Criticize White House's Response to Disaster," opens: "A political furor intensified on Thursday over President Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina as Democrats, local officials and members of an increasingly bewildered public accused the president of a slow response to the flood that has plunged New Orleans into chaos."
Bumiller doesn't hesitate to forward the most hostile comments from partisan Democrats: "Other Democrats cast Mr. Bush's first survey of the damage, from his window on Air Force One two days after the hurricane hit, as an imperial act removed from the suffering of the people below."
Later: "White House officials, already sensitive that Mr. Bush is suffering the lowest approval ratings of his presidency and under pressure to manage a catastrophe of what they called biblical proportions, reacted with frustration."
Bumiller againmakes use of her left-wing blog favorites: "The White House battled a chorus of criticism throughout the day as bloggers made much of the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, vacationing in New York during the disaster, where she was spotted at a Broadway show and was to attend the U.S. Open."
She concludes with comments from former NYC Mayor Ed Koch giving Democrats the all-clear to go after Bush: "Mr. Koch, who supported Mr. Bush on the war in Iraq, said that 'it's fair game for the Democrats to attack the president at this time. They want to win the House next year.'"
For the rest of Bumiller, click here.
Gay Jokes Come When Conservatives Are "Rolling Back Gay Rights"
Liberal reporter AlessandraStanley checks out Logo, a new gay cable channel, for Thursday Arts section, and says TV's acceptance of gay jokes "happens to coincide with a growing conservative movement to roll back gay rights, most noticeably by halting the legalization of gay marriage. That mission is led by evangelical Christians who view homosexuality as a sin and say they feel oppressed by a society that keeps expanding the terms of tolerance. And theirs is a serious movement; there are all kinds of differences and intolerances around the country, but most are not bolstered by Senate legislation and passages from the Bible."
For more Stanley, click here.