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Some more politics

By Brian | May 16, 2007 | Share on Facebook

The psychological need to blog about politics seems to be a cyclical thing. Here, I scratch that itch one more time:


On April 15, 2007, a huge nor’easter swept through northern New Jersey, leaving many homeless and causing $180 million in damage. Here’s the (completely unpublicized) response, as per The Star Ledger, a local paper here in New Jersey:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved nearly $7.6 million in disaster assistance for individuals and businesses affected by the April 15 nor’easter, officials said yesterday. As of Monday evening [May 7, 2007], FEMA registered 9,333 applications for assistance in New Jersey, said spokeswoman Barbara Lynch. Some 8,387 homes have been inspected by FEMA and some $6.9 million has already been dispersed through the agency’s housing program alone, Lynch said.

FEMA is currently operating 12 walk-in disaster-recovery assistance centers in 11 counties. To date, FEMA has recorded some 1,500 personal visits to the centers. The center at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bound Brook, in Somerset County, leads the pack in visits, with 510 visits, Lynch said. Bound Brook is also home to the state’s last shelter for families evacuated from their homes due to the flooding.

At the height of the disaster, the American Red Cross operated 23 shelters housing 2,425 people throughout the state, said spokesman Dan Iradi. As of yesterday, the Presbyterian Church in Bound Brook was the only shelter still operating with some 93 people.

Volunteers from the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and various Christian organizations are providing assistance for flood victims struggling with the cleanup of their homes and businesses. The elderly or overwhelmed are encouraged to dial 211 — an emergency number set up by the state.

The federal Small Business Administration is working with FEMA to offer low-interest loans to affected individuals and businesses. Spokeswoman Bonny Thompson Wright stressed that individuals should not be deterred from applying, noting that historically, 80 percent of SBA loans go to homeowners and renters.

Now, Bound Brook is no New Orleans. We’re talking about just over 10,000 people here, as opposed to 1.3 million. That said, it’s not all that different either: According to Wikipedia, Bound Brook has a median household income of just under $48,000, with roughly 11% of the population living below the poverty line. In Greater New Orleans (circa 2000, or pre-Katrina), the median household income was just over $27,000 and roughly 24% of the families lived below the poverty line.

Note, though, how the coordinated response from local, state and federal agencies (including FEMA), as well as non-government agencies like the Red Cross and faith-based organizations have all but put Bound Brook back on its feet in relatively short order. New Orleans, who’s local and state agencies all but abandoned the people at their time of greatest need, complicating an already complex situation which resulted in FEMA’s total ineffectiveness, is still a mess two years after the fact. Many will ignore examples of success, though, and continue to believe that all of this is because George Bush hates New Orleans residents more than he hates those in Bound Brook…


This from CNN:

Three retired generals challenged a dozen members of Congress in a new ad campaign Wednesday, saying the politicians can’t support President Bush’s policies in Iraq and still expect to win re-election. Other veterans promoted the campaign at a news conference in Manchester, the start of a six-state publicity tour targeting Sens. John Sununu of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Norm Coleman of Minnesota and John Warner of Virginia, plus nine House members. All are Republicans.

This cannot be found on CNN:

A petition signed by 2,700 current and former service members in support of continuing U.S. combat operations in Iraq will be turned over to two Republican lawmakers tomorrow in a ceremony at the headquarters of the nation’s largest group of combat veterans. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the House Republican leader, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will receive the petition, and use the event as another opportunity to criticize Democrats who control the House and Senate for trying to impose a withdrawal timetable on Iraq combat operations.

About 60 percent of the 2,700 signatures on the Appeal For Courage petition come from service members who are serving or have served in Iraq, with about two-thirds enlisted members and one-third officers. The signatures were gathered over about a month. The petition states:

“As an American currently serving my nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to fully support our mission in Iraq and halt any calls for retreat. I also respectfully urge my political leaders to actively oppose media efforts which embolden my enemy while demoralizing American support at home. The War in Iraq is a necessary and just effort to bring freedom to the Middle East and protect America from further attack.”

Regardless of what you think of the war, doesn’t it seem like CNN can’t honestly report on one of these stories without mentioning the other? They happened within two days of each other, and clearly show a wide variety of opinions across the military on our current war strategy.


I’d heard about George Tenet’s new “tell all” book, in which he reportedly slams the Bush administration for lying about the intelligence his CIA gave them leading up to the war in Iraq. I haven’t read the book, nor do I intend to.

It would be great, just once, to hear a former Bush administration official criticize the administration when he hasn’t received a multi-million dollar advance to promote a book, or has at least offered to donate his personal profits from such “introspective confessions” to help families who have experienced loss or injury due to the war. Until that happens, I consider all of these “shocking revelations” as suspect, and I’ll stay away from the books, thank you very much.

All of that said, I did see Tenet on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show (the news source of choice for discriminating viewers) and I read the above story by Fred Thompson, both of which point to the same thing: Tenet really isn’t slamming the Bush Administration for much at all. He’s telling everyone that the CIA proved a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda, but not between Saddam and the 9/11 plot. He also said that the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda was sporadic and ancillary, and that at the time, they really didn’t know how connected the two groups were. He also said that he personally believed that Saddam had WMD when the war began, as did many other intelligence sources (“everybody got it wrong”), suggesting that no one was lying about it, as much as everyone was duped by the Iraqi (mis)information machine.

But this simply won’t do. You can’t sell a “tell all” book if the book suggests that the administration had the best interests of the country at heart, made the best decisions they could given the facts they had, and things just went extremely badly from there. Stewart showed clips of various interviewers lambasting Tenet (sometimes even screaming at him) about what they seem to have pre-determined to be his role in a massive cover-up that led us to war. Many demanded to know why he didn’t resign in the face of such immoral and dishonest behavior by the Bush administration.

It’s like they’re mad at him for not telling the same story they’ve now settled on. The fact that he’s a principal in the story and they’re just reporting on it doesn’t seem to matter in the least. In fact, it seems the order of descending credibility goes: 1) The media’s take on what happened, 2) the marketing spin designed to sell the book, and 3) what George Tenet is actually saying.

Topics: News and/or Media, Political Rantings | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Some more politics”

  1. Jeff Porten says at May 16th, 2007 at 9:28 pm :
    FEMA: the economic statistics you cite indicate a rather wide disparity between Bound Brook and New Orleans — there’s a LOT of difference between a median of 48K and 27K, and a VERY different economy when 13 percent more are below the poverty line. IIRC, that would put Bound Brook well above the national average, and GNO just below. Factor in the 9th ward being much worse off than GNO at your leisure.

    I’d suspect that the folks who claim racism as fueling NO neglect would find ammunition here, and I’d possibly agree with them. Other possibilities — it’s a class distinction, with the middle class being valued much more highly than the poor. Or even geographic: the media and national leadership might care more about what happens nearer the Northeast Corridor.

    Suggestion: moratorium on New Orleans and FEMA debate until 2015, at which time we can both start citing the 10th anniversary books.

    CNN: seriously, Brian, take a look at any academic study counting up all of the pro-war and all of the anti-war coverage in American history; it *always* skews towards war. Compare that to *this* war, and the effect is *much* more profound; only the Spanish-American War comes close (and that was not called Hearst’s War for nothing).

    I was in Annenberg during Gulf War I, and the stats were shocking then. Can’t say as I follow them as closely, but all the sources I read say that it’s worse this time. So I’m not exactly crying for your Appeal For Courage people being ignored. (And honestly, I’d be interested in the survey technique, as that one has coercion written all over it.)

    Tenet: not gonna touch that with a ten-foot pole.

  2. Brian says at May 17th, 2007 at 11:59 am :
    FEMA: Agreed there are differences. My point was this isn’t a NJ town full of rich, white folks. As to the possible concerns, I think you’re reaching for possible explanations, but seem to be ignoring the one I see blatantly – the action (or lack thereof) of the people on the ground vs. the tendency to depend on (and whine about) federal help.

    CNN: Seriously, Jeff, are you suggesting that the coverage of the Iraq war has been generally pro-war? That’s the first time I’ve heard that (even including the lefty crowd). And (possibly a case in point) why does the Appeal for Courage smell of coercion, but the retired generals do not?


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