Archive: September 2005

Global Warming: Policy Changes Maybe Even Bush Would Accept

One of the issues raised by a couple Debaters in the comments was that these big hurricanes -- regardless of whether they're bigger due to global warming, a natural cycle, or some combination of both -- will inevitably cause more death and destruction now that more development has taken place in vulnerable areas. Thanks to the Archive.org Wayback Machine, we can read the EPA's 1998 report The Regional Impacts of Climate Change, which warns of policies (including subsidies and regulations) that contribute to our environmental conditions and can hinder our ability to adapt to a changing climate. Part of what the report discusses is "inappropriate land-use zoning and/or subsidized disaster insurance, which encourage infrastructure development in areas prone to flooding or other natural disasters -- areas that could become even more vulnerable as a result of climate change." Sound familiar? To those Debaters who have been arguing that actively trying...

By Emily Messner | September 30, 2005; 12:31 PM ET | Comments (7)

Roberts Confirmation Update: Democrats and Robes

On a vote of 78-22, John G. Roberts has been confirmed as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The big thing we'd all been wondering when we debated this subject two weeks ago was how would the Democrats vote? We saw five Dems on Judiciary vote against the nominee in committee, while the Post commended the other three (Leahy, Feingold and Kohl) who saw fit to support sending Roberts's nomination to the full Senate. In that Senate vote, all 55 Republicans, the one independent and 22 of the Democrats voted for Roberts's confirmation. The other half of the Democratic caucus voted against. (Historical note: Rehnquist received 26 no votes when he was up for a spot as an associate justice on the Supreme Court, and 33 no votes when he was up for elevation to the chief's seat. So Roberts, apparently, was less upsetting to the Dems than...

By Emily Messner | September 30, 2005; 5:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

Global Warming: Bush vs. Clinton on Kyoto

You may be surprised to learn that the Bush administration is in line with its predecessor in acknowledging that the problem of global warming exists. From the fact sheet on President Clinton's India Trip, March 22, 2000: "There is broad scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions -- primarily in the form of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels -- are at least partly responsible for an increase in global temperatures over the last century." From the fact sheet on President Bush and the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development, July 27, 2005: "We know the surface of the Earth is warmer and an increase in greenhouse gases caused by human activity is contributing to the problem." The Bush/Clinton consensus ends, of course, when it comes to doing something about the problem and especially when it comes to the Kyoto Protocol....

By Emily Messner | September 29, 2005; 9:08 AM ET | Comments (14)

This Week's Debate: Global Warming

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have rekindled the debate over global warming, with some declaring that these monster storms are evidence that global warming has reached the point of no return, and others saying that this is just nature running its course. This week, we'll look at the controversy surrounding global warming, the scientific evidence supporting (or denying) it, the political ramifications of U.S. policy on the subject, and where we go from here to ensure we don't bake ourselves into extinction, or turn the entire human race into People Popsicles, depending on which computer model you believe. But first I want to leap past the overall scientific debate as to whether temperatures are rising because of carbon dioxide we've launched into the atmosphere and look into what's really in the news. Are increased temperatures causing killer hurricanes?...

By Emily Messner | September 28, 2005; 3:07 PM ET | Comments (96)

Operation Offset: Best Way to Pay for Rebuilding the Gulf Coast?

In the grand debate over how exactly we're going to come up with the couple hundred billions of dollars to pay for post-Katrina rebuilding, one plan that's been taking a lot of heat is the Republican Study Committee's Operation Offset. The total presumed savings of making all the cuts in the plan would be about $100 billion dollars next year, projected to be around $950 billion over the next decade. ThinkProgress.org offers an alternative plan that would cut $688 billion in unnecessary federal spending over five years, with $327 billion of that coming just from rolling back the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers. Perhaps if I were in that wealthiest 1 percent, I would feel differently, but the idea sounds good to me. That said, even the liberalist of liberals must admit that Operation Offset isn't all bad. There is certainly plenty of...

By Emily Messner | September 28, 2005; 6:09 AM ET | Comments (4)

Hurricanes and Gas Taxes (cont.)

With more than a month left of the hurricane season and layer of extra-warm water stubbornly hanging out in the Gulf of Mexico, it would be unwise to rule out the possibility of another monstrous hurricane attacking the Gulf Coast. As we discussed in the previous post, the Gulf Coast is chock full of oil refineries, and thanks in part to damage some of those refineries have already experienced fuel costs have jumped over the past month. In an effort to ease the burden of $3-a-gallon gasoline, lawmakers across the country have been considering measures to suspend gas taxes. Cynthia Tucker, of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, thinks this approach ignores the fundamental problem. A rise in gas prices would likely encourage some much-needed conservation, she says, and free market conservatives in particular should support the market's upward pressure on the cost of oil, right? Apparently not. "Rather than confront the...

By Emily Messner | September 26, 2005; 10:37 AM ET | Comments (4)

Hurricanes, Refineries and How Oil Prices Could Afftect Post-Katrina Reconstruction

I got a glimpse of the future on Saturday when I stopped in to a Sheetz gas station in Northern Virginia. For those of you not familiar with Sheetz, it's one of those chains that generally has around two dozen pumps to choose from -- and every last pump had a piece of plain white paper taped to it, each with the hastily scrawled words "Out of Gas." In the past, I have seen a station out of 87 octane or one pump cleaned out of 93, but never have I seen two dozen pumps all completely dry. The only explanation we got from the clerk was this: "The supplier has no gas." When I asked when more fuel was expected to arrive, he shrugged. The Sheetz shortage may not last long, since Rita didn't pack the punch many had anticipated -- see Earl Bockenfeld's Radio Weblog for a map...

By Emily Messner | September 26, 2005; 5:34 AM ET | Comments (5)

Rethinking Reconstruction As the Levees Give Way

This is not a good sign. Several hours before Rita's landfall -- and without even the threat of a direct hit on New Orleans -- the hurricane's winds alone pushed so much water toward New Orleans that by noon on Friday, one patched levee had already come unpatched and a dozen or more blocks had re-flooded. This is disturbing for countless reasons, not least of which the fact that the toxic water pumped out of the city is flowing right back in. But more pertinent to our current discussion is that if the city experiences more massive flooding, that will pile on the cost of cleanup and rebuilding. Once again, this raises the question: Are we absolutely positive we want to rebuild New Orleans? (And is everyone involved clear on exactly how that rebuilding should be done?) Sure, Donna Brazile (a noted Democratic campaign strategist), wrote an op-ed after listening...

By Emily Messner | September 23, 2005; 12:20 PM ET | Comments (35)

Rebuilding After Katrina: Pork and Tax Cuts

The figure being bandied about is $200 billion, but it's not just hard dollar figures that are at issue here. What will the cost be to education? To our children and grandchildren? To key social programs from Head Start to Medicare? To the troops in Iraq who already don't have enough armor (among other vital resources)? Sen. Robert Byrd makes the case forcefully in the Baltimore Sun that, with the added financial strain from Katrina reconstruction, it's time for America to get out of Iraq. In addition to needing our Guardsmen here at home to be first responders in the event of a disaster, the bottom line, Byrd argues, is that we simply cannot afford to keep spending billions on the conflict. But is that realistic? At least among lawmakers, Byrd probably won't be able to make that sale. So where will the money come from? Editorials and op-eds --...

By Emily Messner | September 22, 2005; 10:11 AM ET | Comments (3)

We're Spending Billions on Katrina Rebuilding -- How About a Few Million for Disaster Preparedness?

In an edtorial today titled The Anthrax Metaphor, the Post confronts a fact that is most uncomfortable for those of us who live here in the Washington area: We're underprepared for a disaster of Katrina's magnitude. With the exception of the Capitol buildiing, the White House and perhaps a few other select federal buildings -- which have mini armies and established evacuation plans for all their occupants -- Washington is no safer from terrorist attack than it was four years ago. The scramble after the anthrax attacks was huge, with thousands if interviews conducted to try to find the culprit, but nothing came of it. Same with the scramble to protect Washington after 9/11. If there's a large-scale terrorist attack on Washington, we're likely to see the same kind of bedlam we saw in New Orleans, the editorial argues. At least one local leader has suggested we throw out all...

By Emily Messner | September 22, 2005; 6:05 AM ET | Comments (5)

This Week's Issue: Rebuilding After Katrina

After a pleasant diversion for the Roberts hearings, we're back onto the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This week, we'll be focusing on the reconstruction -- and the debate over how we're going to pay for it. The challenge, as a Post editorial points out, is "to respond not only with compassion and generosity but with wisdom." We are talking about huge amounts of money here, and that's on top of an already astronomical deficit. The Post's guest blogger (pretty cool, eh?), the one-and-only Andrew Sullivan, points out that it will soon cost "two Katrinas a year" just to pay off the interest on our (Bush's) debt. Americans' tax rates could be affected (understandably) for generations. The president and many Republicans so far have refused to consider allowing the tax cuts -- even for the wealthiest 5 percent or so -- to expire. Bush says he'll pay the $200 billion in...

By Emily Messner | September 21, 2005; 9:20 AM ET | Comments (15)

Roberts: What Have We Learned?

We're two days from the vote on Roberts's confirmation, and in case it wasn't obvious enough before, it is now: Unless something really unlikely happens -- like kinky Polariods of Roberts turning up on the Drudge Report -- the confirmation is all sealed up. Here's a quick review of some of the most contentious questions about Roberts's suitability for the role of Chief Justice. Will Roberts be too permissive of presidential overreaching? Law professors are split on this one. Prof. Yale Kamisar cautions Democrats not to assume Roberts's positions are fixed; a nominee's ideas about executive power can change the further away he gets from his time within the executive branch. Prof. Peter Shane and former FCC chairman Reed Hundt, writing in the Post, aren't convinced. Where does Roberts stand on issues of civil rights? Ann Marie Tallman, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, wrote in...

By Emily Messner | September 20, 2005; 2:00 PM ET | Comments (4)

Democrats, Scalia and Roberts

Another blast from the past, this from the New York Times, Sept. 18, 1986: While the debate on Justice Rehnquist took five days, the debate, if it could be called that, on Judge Scalia consumed barely five minutes. The 50-year-old Court of Appeals judge was praised as thoughtful and fair by several senators, including Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who ... led the opposition to Justice Rehnquist. Senator Kennedy said that although Judge Scalia was a conservative, ''he is clearly in the mainstream.'' Justice Antonin Scalia was confirmed by a 98-0 vote in the Senate. What has changed in the last 20 years?...

By Emily Messner | September 20, 2005; 5:07 AM ET | Comments (24)

Editorial Endorsements: Most Favor Roberts

Here's a quick sampling of some of the yays and nays from other editorial boards around the country. In the Yes column: Chicago Tribune (doing the editorial equivalent of rolling its eyes at the senators' gratuitous grandstanding) Ft. Worth Star Telegram (beating the baseball metaphor to death) Hartford Courant (hoping Roberts surprises his critics) Minneapolis Star-Tribune (convinced enough that he's not an ideologue) New York Daily News (a Roberts lovefest) Orlando Sentinel (impressed with his resume and intellect) Philadelphia Inquirer (figuring Roberts for Rehnquist is an even tradeoff) Rocky Mountain News (an over-enthusiastic yes -- he's referred to as "Chief Justice John Roberts" in the first sentence) St. Petersburg Times (suggesting Dems ammunition would be better spent on the next nominee) Wall Street Journal (sarcastic and biting, as usual, complete with comments like, "Nowadays, Oliver Wendell Holmes would struggle to get Democratic votes.") Washington Post (understanding they're probably not going...

By Emily Messner | September 19, 2005; 8:45 AM ET | Comments (4)

London's 'The Guardian': A Chief Justice Confirmed

Here are some excerpts from a news story in London's The Guardian newspaper: WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 -- The Senate has confirmed [the] President['s] arch-conservative nominee as ... Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, after the most fiercely disputed confirmation hearings this century. Critics, who included Senator Edward Kennedy ... were unrepentant and said he would prove 'too extreme' for the country's good. During the three-month debate, on his appointment, old memos surfaced about his attitudes towards civil rights, women's rights and the rights of Americans as a whole in relation to the state. Personal ethics as well as candour became an issue. Suggestions were made that he failed to debar himself from sitting on at least one ... case involving ... suspected subversives .... The distinction between the judiciary and the executive and their respective powers goes to the heart of the American constitutional settlement the court is empowered to...

By Emily Messner | September 19, 2005; 5:52 AM ET | Comments (1)

Katrina Update: "Mercenaries" in Louisiana?

Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill and Daniela Crespo report the presence of armed patrols from Blackwater in Louisiana. (Some call Blackwater a private security firm; others use the term "mercenaries." You decide.) The name Blackwater might ring a bell thanks to its operations in Iraq. A Blackwater press release outlines the firm's contributions to the relief effort. Scahill writes of conversations with Blackwater personnel and others in New Orleans that confirm that the company is involved in law enforcement activities. The Blackwater release emphasizes the help it is providing in the areas of communications and insurance assessments. The issue has been discussed over at Daily Kos. I'm still trying to figure the whole thing out. Anyone have additional information? Thoughts?...

By Emily Messner | September 15, 2005; 11:27 AM ET | Comments (10)

Worthy of Note: Tom Coburn Laments Bitter Politics

If you watched the opening of the Roberts confirmation hearing on Monday, you might have seen Sen. Tom Coburn fight back tears as he talked about the damage caused by all this hateful partisan bickering. It was a moving speech. (More details at the Campaign for the Court blog.) Dana Milbank notes that not long before said speech was made, Coburn was in his seat in the hearing room, working intently on a crossword puzzle. Quick reminder: Mr. Coburn is probably not the best person to be scolding politicians who thrive on divisivenes. At the beginning of a Salon.com story from a year ago is this mystifying quote from the senator: "The gay community has infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country, and they wield extreme power ... That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today. Why do you think...

By Emily Messner | September 15, 2005; 10:38 AM ET | Comments (11)

Roberts: A Good Lawyer Can Argue Just About Anything

Time for another confession: I was a debater in college.* I spent pretty much every weekend at different universities, verbally abusing my peers. Parliamentary style. Please don't laugh. O.K., go ahead and laugh, but please, no rolling around on the floor. It's not that lame. The parliamentary debate format often requires participants to argue for a position they oppose or against a position they favor, and the best debaters can do this with strong logic and lots of passion. In practice, so can most skilled lawyers -- which is why it's not that difficult for me to believe that John G. Roberts's early writings aren't necessarily the best litmus test for his beliefs. As a lawyer working for the conservative Reagan administration, it would not be surprising if he tailored his memos to the stances of those for whom he was writing. Is it possible that he really did firmly...

By Emily Messner | September 15, 2005; 5:45 AM ET | Comments (4)

Voting for the Next Nominee

As Senate Democrats weigh the pros and cons of voting for John Roberts, one thing they'll have to consider is what ramifications their opposition might have on Bush's next Supreme Court nomination -- the one to fill Justice O'Connor's seat. Mark Tushnet argues that means they should vote no in order "to signal that the President ought to move toward the center with his nominees." Oh really? I'm not convinced. The president has a majority, so it's not as though he really needs the Democrats' votes. Further, if this confirmation process convinces Bush that the Democrats will not give him the satisfaction of being a consensus-builder, why should he bother to attempt to build a consensus over his second nominee? If he figures they will oppose anyone he puts up for O'Connor's seat, he might as well nominate someone who's as far to the right as his base desires. The...

By Emily Messner | September 14, 2005; 12:15 AM ET | Comments (13)

The Hearings: Party-Line Differences Without Partisan Rancor

Former Solicitor General Ted Olson writes in the Wall Street Journal that judicial confirmation hearings "now tend to combine the worst features of reality TV, professional wrestling and celebrity criminal trials." That's world-class sound bite material, but it seems a bit overblown, does it not? After watching the opening statements, I've yet to see a chair thrown. Did Sen. Schumer bodyslam John Roberts while I was away from my desk? As far as I know, nary a curse word has been bleeped. Or have I missed something? Olson laments that "prospective judges are probed, humiliated, scolded and scorned." The last three may happen when there are serious questions about a nominee's fitness for the position, and as for probing, isn't that only reasonable, when deciding whether to grant an individual a lifetime appointment? Yes, it is true that the Democrats are hoping to get more specific answers out of Roberts....

By Emily Messner | September 13, 2005; 5:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

John G. Roberts: Unlikely To Be 'Borked'

Some opinion writers and interest groups here and there are railing against John Roberts, but as the Los Angeles Times writes, "few he has encountered have anything bad to say about him." That seems to be the fairly broad consensus on Bush's nominee for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court -- his views are conservative, yes, but it's tough to find anything really awful to pin on him. In short, it doesn't look like we've got another Bork on our hands, much to the disappointment of many on the right and on the left who were spoiling for a fight. It seems that, very much to his credit, Bush chose well on this one. Again, that's an impression that could change over the next week or two, but for now it looks like Democrats would be wise to hold their fire for the nominee to O'Connor's seat. In the meantime,...

By Emily Messner | September 12, 2005; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (16)

The Facts: Roberts Nomination

Originally nominated by President Bush on July 19 to fill the vacancy left by retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, John G. Roberts is now Bush's nominee for Chief Justice, following the death of William H. Rehnquist. If Roberts is confirmed in short order, the court will start its session in October with a full compliment of nine judges. O'Connor has agreed to stay on until her replacement is confirmed. For a quick primer on Roberts himself, washingtonpost.com has compiled a dossier that includes his vital stats, a short bio, and some key documents from thecourse of his career. Want information on the whole court? Another primer from washingtonpost.com -- this one interactive -- can be found here. And don't forget to check in regularly with the Post's Campaign for the Court blog, which is updated frequently with new news developments in the nomination process. Other unvarnished facts on this week's...

By Emily Messner | September 12, 2005; 5:00 AM ET | Comments (5)

Lessons and Blame

The Debate will be moving on to a new issue Monday -- the Roberts confirmation battle -- even though the debate over Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath is clearly going to continue for a long, long time. Before we turn to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the complex politics of the Supreme Court. it's worth trying to briefly sum up what lessons are starting to emerge from the Gulf Coast disaster, as well as who at this point seems most deserving of blame for making things worse. Many columnists, editorial writers and bloggers are still grappling with one key Katrina question: Why did it take until the Friday after the storm had passed for substantial federal aid to arrive in hurricane devastated New Orleans, in spite of the fact that the president declared a state of emergency for Louisiana the Saturday before? An editorial in the Post points out that...

By Emily Messner | September 9, 2005; 7:00 PM ET | Comments (146)

Katrina Animal Care and Rescue

While human life remains the top concern, there were other victims of Hurricane Katrina, too, including some animals who were left to drown in shelters. As evacuations progress and resources are beginning to reach the hurricane's survivors, attention is turning to the animals left behind in the storm. Update: Unacceptable brutality. In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is this article reporting that dogs were shot to death by police because they were "deemed too big or dangerous" to be evacuated with their owners. Absolutely, completely, entirely inexcusable. Here's an update on conditions in Louisiana, from the point of view of the ASPCA. And this heartbreaking Washington Post photo gallery tells the animals' side of the story....

By Emily Messner | September 9, 2005; 5:00 PM ET | Comments (20)

Are We Prepared for Next Time?

Across the country, a disturbing question is being raised: Is the United States adequately prepared to deal with future large-scale disasters, natural or otherwise? The honest answer is, we don't really know. (Seems like Scott McClellan doesn't know either.) But it doesn't look good. Perhaps the funding that has been diverted to terrorism preparedness at the expense of natural disaster-related programs would make a difference if the next disaster were a terrorist attack. Then again, the basic elements of an effective response -- evacuating, maintaining law and order, and providing relief supplies -- are pretty much the same for any large-scale disaster, regardless of its cause. If it was bungled this time, why wouldn't it be bungled again? I'd be more confident that members of the administration are learning the key lessons from this tragedy if they didn't keep dodging questions and offering to lead an investigation into their own...

By Emily Messner | September 9, 2005; 11:55 AM ET | Comments (66)

Facts and Rumors: Federal Power in a State of Emergency

First, a note to all the Debaters: Ordinarily, Wednesday would mark the beginning of a new week for The Debate -- it's the day a fresh topic would be introduced for discussion until the following Tuesday. But this is no ordinary week. So we're bending the rules to make room for a few more days of Hurricane Katrina, and we'll introduce next week's issue, the Roberts nomination, on Monday -- just in time for the start of his hearings. But for now, we're still talking about the hurricane, and all the false assertions that have been floating around with regard to who had the power to do what in Louisiana have got to be put to rest. Please allow me to use the text of federal laws and some other reputable sources in order to set the record straight. (My very basic conclusions based on those facts appear in parenthesis.)...

By Emily Messner | September 8, 2005; 9:23 AM ET | Comments (32)

Dealing With Disaster: When Optimism Makes Things Worse

When President Bush said he didn't think the New Orleans levees would give way last week, White House Briefing columnist Dan Froomkin promptly pointed to several reasons why the president should have known better. Bush's belief wasn't exactly surpising -- after all, this administration is nothing if not optimistic. (Remember the whole "Mission Accomplished" thing a couple years back?) [Update: Looks like the sunny outlook runs in the family.] But while I totally dig optimism, when it comes to disasters, governments must plan for the worst. Assuming the best can endanger people, a point made in a Saturday Toronto Globe and Mail editorial....

By Emily Messner | September 6, 2005; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (192)

Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath: Not the President's Finest Hour

Lots of comments this week. Some of you wrote with a sense of deep sadness, others wrote with anger, still others expressed a feeling of helplessness in the face of this overwhelming disaster. And then there were the few readers who inexplicably felt it necessary to post their thoughts on the color of my hair. (Seriously, guys, have you nothing better to do?) The issue that seemed to spark the most debate -- judging by my unscientific perusal of the comments -- involved the preparations for and initial response to this deadly hurricane. Because this subject is so huge, I'm going to break it up into four posts. This one takes a political perspective, jumping off from several readers' comments that President Bush has not taken the catastrophe seriously enough. Then comes a reality check: Why optimism and disaster response planning don't mix. Next up is a question: Are we...

By Emily Messner | September 5, 2005; 5:00 AM ET | Comments (59)

Bloggers Kept Lines Open During Hurricane Katrina

A recent Washington Post editorial makes this observation: "In a society hooked on access to instant and overwhelming quantities of information, it was remarkable how much was unknown about the scope of the disaster wreaked by Katrina; the storm had simply destroyed much of the information network." Yes, electricity and phone lines were knocked out throughout the region, and much was and is unknown, but there were some sources of information that remained unfiltered and undeterred by damage to conventional communications. These sources were blogs. Plenty of bloggers were following the storm from different parts of the country, but the ones that stick out in my mind were right in the middle of it. One such writer, Kaye Trammell, wrote in an op-ed in Saturday's Post about blogging through power outages while waiting out the storm in her Baton Rouge home. I admit, I had no idea that was even...

By Emily Messner | September 4, 2005; 4:00 PM ET | Comments (6)

Where Is All the Foreign Aid for Us?

Far too many people have been asking -- here in The Debate, on other blogs, on cable news shows and in casual conversation -- why the rest of the world doesn't shower us with aid, "after all we've done for them." Answer? They do. International organizations including the United Nations, Organization of American States and NATO, as well as dozens of nations around the world, have offered assistance. Individuals from beyond our borders are also contributing. According to Montreal's La Presse (which I was reading over breakfast this morning -- greetings from Canada, by the way), Celine Dion is contributing a million dollars of her own to the American Red Cross. Some of the tsunami-ravaged nations, having expressed their condolences, are now trying to come up with ways they could help in the effort. Even Sri Lanka has donated $25,000 to the Red Cross -- and this is a country...

By Emily Messner | September 4, 2005; 10:58 AM ET | Comments (29)

$3 ($4?) a Gallon and Rising: Katrina Hits Energy Markets

Since Wednesday night, regular unleaded at the gas station across the street from my home has been going up an average of 10 cents a day, with faster price increases reported in many regions. By Friday evening, it was still rising, and I fully expect it to go up sharply, but I think it's safe to say that we as a nation have got far bigger problems on our hands. Nonetheless, gas prices are consistently cited as a top concern of voters. Even with Bush's decision to dip into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to try to offset prices, serious problems still remain. It wasn't just oil drilling platforms that were shuttered during the hurricane; key refineries, pipelines and ports are out of commission. When they will be able to reopen, much less return tofull capacity, is anyone's guess. Do you think Bush was right to open the reserve? What do...

By Emily Messner | September 3, 2005; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (10)

Comparing Misery

When Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway proclaimed, " http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/30/AR2005083000814.html">This is our tsunami," I was a bit taken aback. There's no doubt that Hurricane Katrina is one of the worst natural disasters in American history. It was a catastrophe for the residents of the Gulf states, most especially the city of New Orleans, which Mayor Ray Nagin estimates will "not be functional" for the next three months or so. Hundreds of thousands of people were able to get out of harm's way thanks to early warnings -- and their cars. Still, death tolls could run into the thousands, tens of thousands have had their homes ruined and the situation of those still trapped in the city is clearly dire. But with Katrina firmly in the category of catastrophe, we might just have to invent a new word to describe the Indian Ocean tsunami last December. (Can anyone think of a stronger word...

By Emily Messner | September 2, 2005; 5:00 AM ET | Comments (51)

Hurricane Katrina:Terrorism! The View From Washington

If you haven't already read Eric Holdeman's op-ed in Tuesday's Post, I promise it's worth a look. I mentioned it in this week's main entry, but I think the piece raises a key issue that deserves a post of its own. America, Holdeman argues, is not well enough prepared for natural disasters because much of the funding and attention has been shifted to preparing for a terrorist attack. He contends that things really started going downhill after 9/11 when the newly-formed Department of Homeland Security subsumed the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Holdeman likens DHS to the Borg collective; I can't help but picture Tom Ridge, stomping from agency to agency, pointing his robotic arm at various undersecretaries and barking, "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated." That's an image that won't leave me any time soon.) At a subcommittee hearing in March of last year, when the House was debating...

By Emily Messner | September 1, 2005; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (61)

Bush Takes Time Off From Vacation to Respond to Hurricane

A quick review: Saturday: Katrina is a Category 3 hurricane. President Bush declares a state of emergency for Louisiana. Sunday: It's becoming clearer by the minute that this hurricane is going to be big, big trouble. It has strengthened to Category 5 and covers a big chunk of the Gulf of Mexico. Traffic is jammed for miles as residents flee the coastal areas. The word "catastrophic" is being used without any trace of hyperbole. Monday: The hurricane hits. Homes turn to rubble. Curtains billow out of skyscrapers' shattered windows. Streets flood. Millions lose power. Approximately 10,000 people are holed up in the Superdome, which is losing chunks of roof as the storm swirls. Police report looting in Gulfport. A break is found in a New Orleans levee. At least 50 are confirmed dead in Mississippi alone and the toll is expected to rise. Tuesday: Two levees have been breached. Floodwaters...

By Emily Messner | September 1, 2005; 5:00 AM ET | Comments (162)

 

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