Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Katrina Reflection

The New Orleans Times-Picayune has an Editorial today aimed at Bush. The Times-Picayune says: Treat us fairly, Mr. President...

Nobody wants to have to compete for disaster relief.

But that is what Louisianians have had to do in the two years since Hurricane Katrina struck.

Despite massive destruction caused by the failure of the federal government's levees during Katrina, despite the torment caused by FEMA's slow response to the disaster, despite being hit by a second powerful hurricane less than a month later, Louisiana has had to plead to be treated fairly by our leaders in Washington.

Of all the photos from Katrina, the two below are among the most memorable in my mind:

Historian Douglas Brinkley chronicled many photos from Katrina in his book, The Great Deluge. There's a photo gallery here.

From The Guardian UK on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina a reflection from music legend Fats Domino who was missing after Katrina:

The King of New Orleans, Fats Domino, is one of the few optimistic people in the still devastated city. "Everybody is doing the best they can. I think New Orleans will recover," he said on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

He is one of the lucky ones. His house in the city's poor and exclusively black Lower Ninth district, from which he was rescued by helicopter, was destroyed in the flooding. But musicians from around the world - Elton John, Joss Stone, Neil Young and many others - have put together a tribute CD to be released next month to pay for its reconstruction and others in the Lower Ninth.

Speaking in Tipitina's jazz hall, Domino, 79, said he was born and raised in New Orleans, liked everything about the place, from the food to the music, and did not want to live anywhere else. "I think we will be all right," he said.

That is not a view shared by many of the city's 250,000-plus residents still waiting to return to their homes or the 100,000-plus still in exile in Texas and elsewhere.

The recovery goes on in the Gulf. John Kerry noted today in response to Bush's platitudes from New Orleans that Bush aasn’t learned the lessons of Katrina:

“President Bush showed once again that he hasn’t learned the lessons of Katrina. Empty claims ring hollow to the survivors of Katrina still struggling to get back on their feet. While the President hailed the progress made by Louisiana schools, less than twenty percent of the money needed to rebuild the schools has been pledged to New Orleans. The Gulf Coast needs a sustained federal effort to help small businesses and homeowners return and rebuild. It’s time for President Bush to listen to his own advice and make a real commitment to Gulf Coast recovery.”

Enough Is Enough.

Cross posted from The Democratic Daily.

Anger and Sadness Mark Katrina Anniversary

Today marks the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. And sadly the question begs to be answered, why have "those dependent on government assistance to rebuild their lives," been overlooked and met with delays.

While middle- and upper-class neighborhoods have rebuilt using private insurance and contacts, residents of low-income areas such as the Lower 9th Ward and Holy Cross — roughly 20,000 of them — for the most part remain scattered throughout the region, their return uncertain.

The flooding that began after Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005, delivered an estimated $150 billion worth of damage to the Gulf Coast region, making it the worst disaster in U.S. history. Of the $116 billion appropriated by Congress to Gulf Coast recovery, $34 billion has been earmarked for long-term rebuilding. But less than half of that has made its way through federal checks and balances to reach municipal projects.

Throughout the Gulf Coast, residents are asking why their government — at every level — hasn't done more to streamline the process and bring more rebuilding dollars to the region.

"We're working ourselves close to death," says Scott Darrah, a New Orleans civic activist. "But we can't move it past further than what we have today. The government needs to step up."

Yesterday, Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, made the following statement on the eve of the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina:

“Two years after Hurricane Katrina there is still a long way to go to get the Gulf Coast region back on its feet. Too many families and businesses are still struggling with too much red tape and an incompetent federal response that put our kids in toxic trailers and mismanaged billions of taxpayer dollars. Two years ago, Katrina pulled back a curtain and showed the world the true extent of poverty and inequality that still exists in our country. Remembering this tragedy with photo ops isn’t enough. We must finally force accountability and action from the federal government that will get our families and small businesses back on track.

“When Katrina hit, there was no effective safety net to help the individuals and small businesses that were devastated by the storm. And two years later, we still lack a plan that ensures that a Katrina-like response never happens again. I’ve worked with Senator Mary Landrieu and others on a bipartisan basis for two years to provide the government with critical tools to respond more quickly and effectively in the case of future disasters. We passed a disaster loan reform bill in the Senate, and we need to get this legislation on the President’s desk and signed into law.”

“Many families and businesses owners have put themselves back on track and the Gulf Coast region is making progress because of their own hard work and determination. It’s long past time that Washington gives the victims of Katrina a policy that equals their incredible perseverance and hope.”

See here for more information about the legislation.

Bush made an appearance at a "recovering school in the Lower 9th Ward — a predominantly black, low income area that was all but obliterated by the storm" and led a moment of silence followed by platitudes.
Read more »

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Kerry Says Census Statistics on Uninsured Americans Show Urgent Need for Action

The latest Census Report is out today, showing that although the poverty rate dropped in '06, "the percentage of Americans without health insurance coverage hit a record high."

Census officials attributed the rise in uninsured Americans to 47 million from 44.8 million in 2005 mostly to Americans losing employer-provided or privately purchased health insurance. The percentage of people who received health benefits through an employer declined to 59.7 percent in 2006 from 60.2 percent in 2005.

The percentage of people with government-provided health insurance also dropped, to 27 percent from 27.3 percent.

The number of uninsured children increased to 8.7 million, or 11.7 percent, in 2006, from 8 million, or 10.9 percent, in 2006.

Senator John Kerry made the following statement today in response to the Census Bureau’s report that 2.2 million more Americans became uninsured over the last year, including 700,000 additional children under the age of 18: Read more »

Monday, August 27, 2007

John Kerry Tells Bush to Restore Integrity to Justice Department

As Hart noted below, Alberto Gonzales resigned today and even the wingnuts are "swimming away from the sinking Ship of State." The WaPo reports that Gonzales' resignation ends "a controversial cabinet tenure that included clashes with Congress over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys and over the use of warrantless wiretaps in the war on terror."

In a brief statement, he called his 13 years in public service a "remarkable journey," but he gave no explanation about why he chose to resign now after resisting months of pressure to quit.

Gag me... The praise from Dubya is nauseating:

In a brief statement from an airport tarmac in Waco, Tex., President Bush praised Gonzales as "a man of integrity, decency and principle." The president also asserted that his attorney general had been unfairly maligned.

"It's sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons," Bush said.

Gonzo's resignation "marks the loss" of yet another BushCo loyalist "at a time when the president's support in public opinion polls has been lagging and amid a fight with Congress over the future of Iraq war policy."

Senator John Kerry issued the following statement today, following the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez:

“Alberto Gonzales turned the Justice Department into a political arm of the White House and he should have resigned long ago,” Kerry said. “From the firings of the US Attorneys to evasion about illegal wiretapping, Gonzales single-handedly damaged the integrity of our legal system and subverted efforts to get to the truth. This is a critical moment. President Bush can either continue on a divisive and destructive path, or choose in the next Attorney General someone who knows they’re not the president’s lawyer but rather the nation’s top law enforcement officer. The President should choose a replacement that gives the department a fresh start, untainted by controversy; and even with Gonzales gone, Congress must keep pushing until we get truth and accountability on unanswered questions involving everything from illegal wiretapping to the US Attorneys scandal.”


Cross posted from The Democratic Daily.
John Kerry Tells Bush to Restore Integrity to Justice Department

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

John Kerry Responds to Bush’s VFW Speech Invoking Vietnam

Bush offered a defense of Iraq War "surge" today at a speech to the VFW, "declaring that he envisions an American victory there and asserting that a hasty withdrawal by the United States would unleash a bloodbath reminiscent of the Vietnam War era." His defense of the "surge" is a prelude to the expected "tough battle with Congress over the future of the war" when Congress reconvenes in September. In his speech Bush "accused the Congress of planning to “pull the rug out from under” American troops."

He said the American pullout from Vietnam more than 32 years ago was to blame for millions of deaths in Cambodia and Vietnam, and for putting a dent in American credibility that lasts to this day.

“Then, as now, people argued that the real problem was America’s presence, and that if we would just withdraw, the killing would end,” Mr. Bush told an audience at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention here today. “The world would learn just how costly these misimpressions would be.”

Senator John Kerry made the following statement in response to the speech today by Bush:

“Invoking the tragedy of Vietnam to defend the failed policy in Iraq is as irresponsible as it is ignorant of the realities of both of those wars,” Senator Kerry said. “Half of the soldiers whose names are on the Vietnam Memorial Wall died after the politicians knew our strategy would not work. The lesson is to change the strategy not just to change the rhetoric. We want democracy in Iraq, but Iraqis must want it as much as we do. Our brave soldiers can’t bring democracy to Iraq if Iraq’s leaders are unable or unwilling themselves to make the compromises that democracy requires. No American soldier should be sacrificed because Iraqi politicians refuse to resolve their sectarian and political differences.

“It is unfortunate that President Bush would want to invoke a false comparison of Vietnam to Iraq, but not surprising that he would oversimplify the differences and overlook the tragic similarities. As in Vietnam, we engaged militarily in Iraq based on official deception. As in Vietnam, more American soldiers are being sent to fight and die in a civil war we can’t stop and an insurgency we can’t bomb into submission. If the President wants to heed the lessons of Vietnam, he should change course and change course now.”

In the Hill: Democrats blast Bush’s Vietnam comparison.

Cross posted from The Democratic Daily.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Kerry: Army Report on Suicide Rates Reinforces Need to Improve Care for All Wounds of War

Following up on my early morning post about the Army suicide rate being the highest in 26 years, Senator John Kerry made the following statement today, in response to the newly released military report on suicide rates of those serving in the United States Army. The report notes that soldiers in the Army committed suicide last year (2006) at the highest rate in 26 years, and it also said that more than a quarter did so while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Today’s report underscores even more powerfully the urgency of getting our soldiers the care and assistance they need before they deploy, while they are in combat and most importantly when they return,” Senator Kerry said. “There is nothing more important than getting our government prepared to help heal all the wounds of war – including those that might not be visible. It starts with improving PTSD treatment and giving our veterans centers the resources they need to provide the care our soldiers deserve.”

“Over the past 6 years we’ve too often seen the rhetoric of supporting the troops fall short of promises kept. From threatened vetoes of military pay raises, failure to provide our troops with the proper equipment, and a multi-billion dollar shortfall at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the gaps in preparedness have been unacceptable. The Administration must reverse course and immediately follow the Dole-Shalala Commission’s recommendations and improve care and resources for PTSD and traumatic brain injury. I also call on the President to support bipartisan efforts in Congress to increase the number of mental health specialists in both the Department of Defense and the VA and increase dwell time for our soldiers between deployments.”

In the blogosphere, Outside the Beltway and Armered Liberal at Winds of Change, are pulling out national suicide statistics to downplay the reports findings. There is no downplaying this. The fact is that we're not doing enough to help out troops cope with PTSD, we're sending suicidal and stressed out soldiers back into combat, and we're not providing adequate medical care for our veterans.

Enough Is Enough.

Cross posted from The Democratic Daily.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Kerry Aide with Aspirations Considers Run for Mayor in ‘09

John Kerry’s deputy state director, Setti Warren is considering running for mayor of Newton, MA in 2009. Warren "served in the Clinton White House, and was appointed in 2002 the regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for New England. Warren joined Kerry’s crew in 2003, serving as the senator’s trip director and press secretary before becoming his deputy state director in late 2005." I had the pleasure of meeting Setti Warren on many occassions during Kerry's '04 campaign. The Newton TAB reports Warren's possible candidacy has garnered the interest of "Steve Grossman, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and long-time Newton resident."

Should Warren decide to run in 2009, Newtonites would potentially benefit from a debate between a mayor with a strong track record and a new face with a list of real-life experiences, Grossman added.

"I think a lot of people will see a competition, if you will, as something of being a win-win for the people of Newton,” he said.

In his current position, Warren works with municipalities on economic development and constituent issues across the state.

Considering his experience within the executive and legislative branches, “[Setti] has a finger on the pulse of unmet needs of cities and towns,” Grossman said.

He didn’t consider Warren’s status as a first-time candidate a detriment to any future campaign.

“I think the people of Newton are very open-minded to fresh faces who offer something special and exciting and bold and imaginative ... and Setti is all those things.” Grossman said.

Last August, Setti Warren married Elizabeth Tasker Plummer, who he met during Kerry's '04 campaign. John Kerry was a groomsman at Warren's wedding.

Cross posted from The Democratic Daily.

Kerry Responds to Cheney’s Defense of Pentagon’s Smear of Senator Clinton

On Tuesday John Kerry responded to comments made by Vice President Dick Cheney during his interview with Larry King on CNN. Earlier in July, Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman said that Senator Clinton was aiding the enemy by asking for plans on troop redeployment from Iraq. Dick Cheney defended these attacks in the interview, saying Edelman’s letter was “a good letter.” He also refused the oversight role of Congress on the war in Iraq.

Senators Kerry and Clinton are introducing legislation that would direct the Pentagon to prepare a report and briefing for Congress on contingency planning for redeploying troops from Iraq. Kerry said in a statement:

“It’s no surprise that today Dick Cheney stands by these politically motivated attacks and belittles accountability from Congress on the war in Iraq,” Senator Kerry said. “After all, this is the Vice President who said Saddam Hussein had reconstituted nuclear weapons, who said over two years ago that the insurgency was in its “last throes,” and who just weeks ago contended he wasn’t part of the Executive Branch. This Administration needs to honor our troops by listening to its own generals and changing course in Iraq now. The Vice President should focus on how to bring our heroes home from a stable Iraq.”

Good for Kerry for holding ground against Cheney and the Pentagon in their attempts to smear Hillary. And speaking of the Pentagon, Raw Story reports that the Pentagon has announced "20K troops will rotate into Iraq." There is "No End In Sight."

Cross posted from The Democratic Daily.