Monday, April 30, 2007

The Gulf Coast Embargo

Foreign aid after Katrina refused, misused, or continues to go unused (WaPo):

Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.
Opinion from Dambala:
Katrina exposed this country's dirty little secret...we're not so super. For that, New Orleans must be isolated in this country's collective consciousness as an anomaly.

New Orleans was such an embarrassment that the Bush administration couldn't accept the nearly 1 billion dollars in aid being offered by other countries.
I don’t disagree with this assessment. But I would add that even if it was not seen as an embarrassment to the Bush administration, his State Department was incapable of accepting and using the aid.

This is the result of one-way relations with foreign countries. We are no longer able to participate in the world community as a member. We know how to give, but not receive. We have isolated ourselves and can only “receive” by forcibly taking with our superior military and economic might.

Opinion from Oyster:
We pour hundreds of millions of tax dollars into Iraqi nation-building projects that quickly become inoperable, all in the name of reconstructing a divided country that views us as occupiers, wants us to leave, and thinks its ok to kill our troops.

And then we refuse hundreds of millions of international donations to Americans on the Gulf Coast, who suffered from devastating hurricanes and a Federal Flood.
The Iraq conflict is another example of our one-way relations with the rest of the world. A preemptive attack on a country which could not attack us or our interests, and would not be able to in at least my generation, possibly never. Not much to preempt there. But plenty to take. And that’s what we did.

And, as Oyster points out, it affects us back home. This is most evident when our President will sign a bill if it has $90 billion to be spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he will veto that bill if it also includes another $3.5 billion to be spent on the Gulf Coast for hurricane recovery.

So, the Gulf Coast Embargo stretches from no foreign aid easily entering our borders to no domestic aid easily entering our borders. And it is enforced by that which is stronger than the sword: the President’s pen - which could, with deft swipes, sign off on the supplemental spending bill that will further fund our recovery and also eliminate the 10 percent match that has stalled many a local project along the Gulf Coast.

One aspect of the refused foreign aid aggravates me more than any other:
In another instance, the Department of Homeland Security accepted an offer from Greece on Sept. 3, 2005, to dispatch two cruise ships that could be used free as hotels or hospitals for displaced residents. The deal was rescinded Sept. 15 after it became clear a ship would not arrive before Oct. 10. The U.S. eventually paid $249 million to use Carnival Cruise Lines vessels.
Did the Bush administration think that the recovery effort would be wrapped up by October 10, 2005? This demonstrates a lack of comprehension of how long the recovery would take and what would be needed to do what it takes.

Interesting thing about that Canival Cruise Line contract. In February 2006, then ranking minority member Henry Waxman on the Committee of Government Reform wanted an explanation for why a familiar name popped up when the contract was being negotiated:
A top House Democrat released e-mails Tuesday detailing Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's role in pushing a $236 million federal contract for Carnival Cruise Lines to house Hurricane Katrina victims.

In a letter, Rep. Henry Waxman of California called on Bush to explain his role in the award of the "lucrative contract," which was given to the Florida-based company without a full competitive bid process.

***

According to Waxman, Bush forwarded to Brown, then the FEMA director, an e-mail from a Carnival advertising executive proposing that the company's ships be used for housing two days after the Aug. 29 storm.

The Carnival official, Ric Cooper, has been a major political donor to the Florida and national Republican parties, including $65,000 to the state GOP in 2002, and $50,00 to the RNC in 2004, Waxman said.

Less than three hours later, Brown replied to Cooper, saying he thought it was a "great idea."

"One of my HQ folks working the housing issue is going to contact you directly," Brown wrote. "If you haven't heard from them by close of business tomorrow, please call me on my cell phone ...Thanks. MDB"
The correspondence was a little more intimate than the AP article demonstrated. That last paragraph from Waxman’s actual letter (PDF), emphasis mine:
Ric, thanks for the note that Jeb sent. I personally think this is a great idea. One of my HQ folks working the housing issue…
Apparently, the Gulf Coast Embargo does not extend to well-connected Florida Republicans.

2 comments:

Dambala said...

great post.

TravelingMermaid said...

This is all so disturbing it makes me nauseous. I don't think I want to live in this country anymore.