Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: Dollars to <i>beignet</i>, rebuilding makes sense .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Dollars to beignet, rebuilding makes sense

Okay, I'm a little slow as usual, but I just found out Brown resigned as head of FEMA.

Too bad he didn't do it before it really meant something. After padding his resume and accepting the post because he was a crony of a Bush fundraiser, he headed our main defense against a natural disaster, and the civil unrest that might ensue in an aftermath without response.

He seemed to know what he was doing when supplies, troops and emergency response were ready during the four hurricanes that Florida received last year.

We had a hint of impropriety when millions were awarded to homeowners who were not even affected by natural disasters in Miami-Dade County, but we expected errors to be made in such a large endeavor. After all, bureaucracy has its drawbacks.

But when such a large error was made in favor of the state governed by dubya's brother, and then a larger error lead to the detriment of the poor, downtrodden, and Democrats in the rest of the Gulf Coast, you gotta wonder.

The storm displaced a million people, destroyed large areas of cities and communities and heavily damaged roads, bridges, canals and oil and natural gas facilities.

Oh no, not oil and natural gas facilities! We've got to save our phoney-baloney jobs, gentlemen! Let's pretend that we're helping poor people, and get in there and reconstruct that region!

President Bush rode in an open truck Monday for his first close-up look at New Orleans' ravaged, trash-strewn, flooded neighborhoods. He denied that poor, black victims of Hurricane Katrina were ignored because of their race.

And as for leadership, let's take the lessons learned from Abu Graib and blame those on the front lines so that we don't have to take responsibility for our own actions or inaction.

Mike Brown quit Monday as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the White House moved quickly to replace him, installing an FEMA official with three decades of firefighting experience as the acting director.

At risk of being politically incorrect, appointing a firefighter to head flood relief is like appointing a surfer to assess drought damage. Of course, he couldn't be any worse than Mike Brown. Is that what we're reduced to?

And since finger pointing is the rigueur du jour these days, let's blame others for everything else we've screwed up lately...

With nearly 29,000 hurricane evacuee students already enrolled in Texas schools and more expected this week, state education officials are disappointed that the federal government has said it will not pay for additional teachers and textbooks at this time.

Since Texas Legislators were unable to come to grips with teacher salaries and textbook costs during their regular legislative session and two special sessions, they're trying to use this catastrophe to pull their butts out of the fire.

Our schools are currently working without many textbooks (recommending that students access textbooks online), and teacher pay has barely been accounted for in existing emergency funding.

I'm all for help in paying teachers, but for legislators to pull this kind of sympathy play to solve the problems they themselves couldn't, reminds me that we need a change of leadership come the next election.

And may I remind you that the majority of that leadership that needs replaced is Republican, thanks to Tom DeLay and his cronies?

It seems that the biggest catastrophe to hit our county in decades (other than 9/11, where we had a specific enemy to hate) has lead to opportunism for anyone who has an ax to grind, an elected position to protect, or an issue to promote.

Let's get back to the basics, people. We have victims to help, and lives to rebuild. Whether or not the French Quarter is reopened in time for Mardi Gras is irrelevant. If you think otherwise, you're just buying into the economic bourgeois theory that says that a reborn Mardi Gras will help rebuild New Orleans as we knew it.

The Crescent City was much more than the tourist attractions on Bourbon Street, and covers more ground than was drowned after the levees broke. Likewise, Biloxi was much more than the casinos. Sure, there are areas that we shold allow to go back to nature. Overdevelopment of wetlands was one of the reasons New Orleans was so vulnerable.

But there were thousands of lives displaced by this disaster, and only a small percentage of them relied on the French Quarter bistros and Biloxi gambling halls.

Most of these people worked in the everyday jobs that make this country what it is. Most of those businesses are out of business, or at least displaced.

Let's concentrate on getting these people jobs wherever they've been displaced to, and finding them permanent work if they've decided to stay.

If the most we can say for an area is that tourism would benefit it, then people aren't measuring with the right yardstick. One of the main requirements of a good tourist attraction is weather, which also adds to the 'quality of life' quotient. People want to visit the Gulf Coast - why wouldn't they want to live there?

It's primarily the economy. But why isn't the manufacturing industry there, as well as the service industry? If they were, they would have an abundant supply of workers and a temperate climate (why do you think there are so many call centers in India?)

Granted, industry would have been temporarily set back by this catastrophe, as would service organizations. But they have no qualms about setting up in California, which is susceptible to earthquakes, mudslides, etc., and the cost of living there is much higher than in the Gulf.

Likewise Omaha, the Mecca of insurance call centers, which is in the heart of Tornado Alley.

So let's rebuild the Gulf Coast, but in the right way. Rebuilding New Orleans just for the well-to-do and tourists would be a mistake. Rebuilding Biloxi's Casinos would be an exercise in capitalism gone horribly awry.

Rebuilding the best of the Gulf Coast for true economic recovery can help both the local economy and the people of the region achieve the true American ideal of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

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