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Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Archive for May, 2009

Hurricane Season Is Here, Now

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

President Obama will keep the broken promises to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. He and Vice President Biden will take steps to ensure that the federal government will never again allow such catastrophic failures in emergency planning and response to occur. Within weeks of his inauguration, he made a renewed commitment to partner with the people of the Gulf Coast to rebuild now, stronger than ever. —WhiteHouse.gov

We’re marking the first day of hurricane season by calling attention to two pieces of legislation in Congress that could, with popular support, become enacted and result in jobs and new infrastructure along the Gulf Coast. We’re also wondering when our busy president is going to turn his attention to New Orleans and other communities along the Gulf Coast stricken by hurricanes and endangered by coastal erosion and weakened flood protection systems. We know he’s had his hands full, but we’ve been waiting.

First the good news: As Bob Herbert mentioned in his New York Times column last week, Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro and others have introduced a bill to establish a national infrastructure development bank that would use public and private capital to finance regional and national projects. This is an idea put forward by Barack Obama in February 2008 [See “Barack, You’re Totally Our Infrastructure Hero” (2/15/08), below.] We’ll be following this story in the weeks and months to come. We hope to see the legislation enacted, though we have some reservations about it.


National Train Day: All Aboard for a Retro- and Pre-Celebration

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

LNW_TrainDay09Usually we call attention to events before they happen, but today we’re retro-celebrating National Train Day that somehow sped past us like a high-speed Amtrak Acela and was gone before we even knew it was coming. On May 9 the second annual Train Day celebrated “140 years of connecting travelers from coast to coast.” (Cool fact: It was on May 10, 1869, that the ceremonial Golden Spike joined the rails of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads at Promontory Summit, Utah, thus completing the Transcontinental Railroad.) So, we’re celebrating a few weeks after the fact, and more than 11 months in advance of the third annual National Train Day.

This year’s Train Day was marked by events in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles, among other places. American Idol judge Randy Jackson participated in the WDC festivities that included music performances, interactive “green travel” exhibits that showcased electric trains’ energy efficiency, model train displays, and an exhibit on how Trains Move Our Economy.


How Rumsfeld Aggravated Katrina’s Destruction (How Many Died from SecDef’s Turf War?)

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

LNW_Rumsfeld-ReutersThe New York Times and other sources have reported on the biblical quotations that adorned the cover pages of Pentagon intelligence briefings sent to the Bush White House (“Therefore put on the full armor of God. . .”) in a GQ profile of former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld by Robert Draper. Not good, especially when the Muslim world had already heard Bush describe the War on Terror as a “crusade.” In our view, however, Draper’s most distressing revelation is that days after Hurricane Katrina, when tens of thousands of victims were in desperate need of rescue and medical care, Rumsfeld refused to deploy a fleet of search-and-rescue helicopters at Hurlburt Field Air Force Base in Florida—only 200 miles from New Orleans—who were waiting for go orders. Indeed, when Bush tried to drag cooperation out of him, Rumsfeld only grudgingly relented. A nice touch when 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded after the failure of the federally (Army Corps of Engineers-) built levees. From “And He Shall Be Judged” in the June 2009 issue of GQ, by Robert Draper, author of Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush:


Fugate Confirmed for FEMA: Help Is on the Way.

Friday, May 15th, 2009

LNW_Fugate.kayakIt is very good news that the Senate voted last week to confirm W. Craig Fugate as administrator of FEMA. Fugate knows what he is doing. He will be the “anti-Brownie”—every bit as in command as Michael Brown and other Bushies were not. Having directed Florida’s Division of Emergency Management since 2001 (Florida is the most hurricane-prone state), Fugate is by far the best-prepared administrator FEMA will ever have had—even better than the highly respected James Lee Witt who under President Clinton did so much to restore pride and confidence in that long-neglected agency. (See “Fugate for FEMA” [3/17] below, and read Cooper and Block’s Disaster for the sad procession of political appointees who have headed FEMA since its inception in the late 1970s.) When candidate Obama said, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” he may have been referring to Mr. Fugate. A thousand welcomes, sir. Can we get you a cup of coffee?