Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'm Baaaaaaack

Yes I have been silent the last couple of weeks, but am trying to find more time to write. As most of you know I am in the middle of studying for the LSAT, which I am taking on June 7th. The focus on my stress level the last month or so has severely cut into my spare time of reading and yes writing this issues based blog. I guess if I was writing about my personal life I may have had time to drop in and share a pointless anecdote of how I changed toothpaste brands or some other crap. No sir not this guy, I do serious stuff here (sarcasm).

Anyways the last couple of weeks have been fairly eventful in the news. In this day of the 24hr news cycle I am woefully behind on analyzing some things so I'll spare you the rundown. Two big issues lately though have caught my attention. One is more local to NYC, the other of course being this oil spill mess in the Gulf (sorry I will be the thousandth guy talking about it). The New York issue is last night's Community Board 1 decision to approve the Cordoba project in lower Manhattan. For those unfamiliar with the project, it is a proposed mosque and Islamic cultural center a stones throw away from where 3,000 people lost their life in the name of that religion. It passed by a vote of 29-1, I would like to buy the lone dissenter a drink because he/she obviously gets it.

Here's the thing, quite honestly I do not have an issue specifically with a mosque or house of worship being built anywhere as long as it adheres to local zoning laws. What I do have a problem with is the gentleman who is proposing this site. The Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has insisted that his project will "bridge the great divide" between Muslims and the rest of America. Until he answers specific questions about his organization and what type of cultural center will be there he should not be given the benefit of the doubt. He says it will reflect "moderate" Islamic views and promote tolerance of Muslim views in America. No one is asking serious questions though, as Bret Stephens over at the Wall Street Journal pointed out in a great item yesterday. Until we get an answer as to how they plan on funding this $100 million center, when Rauf only has $18,000 in the bank; until we know what aspects of Sharia law they repudiate, if any; and until we know if he really wants to stand by his earlier statements that it wasn't Muslims who perpetrated 9/11, the city and it's residents should oppose this fallacy of his "moderateness" and the construction of the mosque. The idea of this being in the shadows of the WTC is despicable. He should be taking his moderation to Riyadh and Tehran and "moderating" his fellow Muslims as it seems THEY are the ones who need to be tolerant and "bridge the great divide"...the great divide between the Middle Ages and 21st Century.

'Deepwater Horizon'

That term could very well describe the location of the latest poll numbers for President Obama, but in this case I am referring to the oil rig in the Gulf that exploded and killed 10 workers on April 20th. I am not going to sit here and blame the oil spill on the President, that is just plain silly but the response of the White House has been a microcosm (although not so micro, as it is in its 37th day of spilling) of how they operate, arrogant and aloof. Even James Carville had a total outburst with George Stephanapolous about the response. There are a couple of memes (the most overused term on the Internet, by the way) that seem to be prevailing over the narrative of the story. One is that it is totally BP's fault, the other is that it is George W. Bush's fault. The one that seems to be missing is that it is exhibit #56,987 on why big government - of either party - is generally a failure. It is the only entity that has any oversight authority in waters that effect five different states. Some people have as gone as far as calling this Obama's Katrina. I respectfully disagree with this assertion, the comparison has one huge logical leap that cannot be made easily. I actually believe Obama's administration's response is egregiously worse. Let me explain what I mean by this.

In the case of Katrina the responsibility of first response and triage of an in state disaster is quite clear. It is the responsibility of the state's resources and it was obvious after only a day or two that their effort was lacking and not very planned out. Did the Bush Administration (FEMA) drop the ball in some regards to Katrina, yes but certainly not to the extent that the media narrative at the time would have you believe. It was not the federal responsibility to step in until the state asked for help, which it did by asking Bush to declare a State of Emergency two days before landfall...the administration complied. The resources were in place but tragically not for the unforeseen tragedy of the levees breaking around the city. And this is where the complex failures of Mayor Ray Nagin, Governor Blanco and head of FEMA Mike Brown all converged. So while we were brought the dramatic pictures of people sitting on their roofs waiting to be rescued, the narrative that it was all Bush's fault took hold and perception became reality. Having been through the previously worst natural disaster, Hurricane Andrew in 1992, I can attest that it is the state and local authorities who are best equipped to assist residents evacuating and acquiring quickly the supplies necessary. The flip side here is the Deepwater Horizon disaster, from minute one in the Gulf it is a federal issue. They regulate the rigs from the obviously inefficient and lazy Mining Management Service, so how is it not the responsibility of theirs to manage the safety? Well as we have found out BP had no Plan B, and the federal government had no Plan A even. It has been the assumption of BP that "Nothing will happen to the rig", and apparently that explanation was just fine to the regulatory body of MMS. Which can also be illustrated by the fact that they are continuing to approve mining locations even though it is clear they don't have oversight capabilities. A possible solution, let's have a real moratorium on new drilling for now as we figure out this mess and go from there. Re-inspect all rigs and make sure they all have operational emergency shutoffs. There is no 'failsafe' in this instance but a reasonable expectation would be to have a decent alternative plan. We will continue to need domestic drilling operations for natural gas and oil so an all out ban would be foolish and reactionary.

Why the White House cannot craft a cohesive message on this in 37 days is beyond me. Did they figure it would just go away, that BP would take care of it? They do shoulder some of the responsibility of the cleanup obviously but the feds should have been on this immediately, there was no bureaucracy in the way except themselves which of course is part of the problem. The federal government gave them permission to drill there, did the administration not think there are repercussions to that effect and that they wouldn't be called to the carpet on a problem occurring during a federally sanctioned endeavor? It is amazing that only after the mainstream media started carping on this did the administration see fit to respond accordingly. It is just sad that the media took this long but it is just irresponsible and lazy for the administration to not pay attention to it. This incident is becoming the icing on the cake of America's growing distrust for government to do the things it is actually supposed to do, and its growing discontent with the government trying to get into things it has no business doing.

So while yes it may be the Katrina equivalent in the image damaging perspective, it just is not apples to apples comparison in the scope of how an administration fails in a response to disaster.


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