Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Taking Care Of The Castle

Boy, “Our Kid” (as Brendan refers to him) sure is hard at work today, isn’t he? Why, he’s got his hard hat on and, golly, his sleeves are rolled up again, and he’s got that leather work belt look going too, I guess (of course, he’s a bigger tool than anything he’s carrying around his waist).

I don’t know how many more times Dubya is going to head down to the coast for photo ops, but I think we can look forward to at least a few more, since it gets the media focus away from the right-wing hissy fit over Harriet Miers and the ongoing Plame-gate investigation (dutifully ignored once again by the dear MSM...and as long as I linked to Brandoland above, check him out today on that!), with CNN and the rest obliging by giving Dubya prime news real estate over this nonsense (and it’s an equally clever move to get Dubya into the same sentence with Habitat for Humanity, especially since the Carters have apparently had a falling out with the organization…as I’ve said before, the Repugs are good at this stuff, though I hate to admit it).

Also, in the matter of homelessness in this country, USA Today ran this feature story. Though it sounds like the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is trying to get a handle on this problem, some passages in the story led me to believe that this is more of an exercise in crafting a story without much of anything really new to report. This paragraph caught my attention:

HUD will need six months to add up the local reports (i.e., to tabulate the number of homeless people in this country), and the agency isn't planning to announce the total because counting methods weren't uniform, spokesman Brian Sullivan says. Whatever flaws the count may have, it is the most ambitious attempt ever to measure the scope of homelessness in the nation.
It’s such an ambitious report that we won’t be able to read it, right? And of course it’s coming in six months, after which time most people’s attention will have focused away from Katrina and the aftermath. Also, even if the counting methods “weren’t uniform,” at least the numbers would give us some idea over what we know now, but again, we WON’T know, as it turns out, because we’ll never see it (so why the hell is USA Today even mentioning it, I wonder?). This is vintage Bushco.

Also, from a link to this story, I read this little nugget.

“HUD doesn't count as homeless those doubled-up with others, or families crowded into motel rooms.”
Why the hell not?

So, anyway, since this whole story “rang a few bells” with yours truly, I decided to poke around a bit more, starting with a visit to HUD’s web site. Under a news release for the Katrina Housing Assistance Program, I came across this:

Families will be given a rental subsidy based on 100 percent of Fair Market Rent in that community. Eligible families include displaced public housing residents; Section 8 voucher holders; other HUD-assisted households; and, pre-disaster homeless individuals who were directly affected by the hurricane.
This sounds well and good, though I wonder how "fair market value" will be determined. I’m sure it’s “pre Katrina,” though the skeptic in me notices that that isn’t mentioned. Also, evacuees will have to register with FEMA for disaster assistance. I don’t need to say a word about how Mike “Horsey Time” Brown just about ruined morale, so I hope his exit will give the many fine workers in that agency the boost they need. Also, under Bushco, FEMA seems to have an entirely different attitude towards refugees from natural disasters (as witnessed by that account of the woman who was housed at the FEMA camp in Oklahoma that was posted a few weeks ago…I linked to it at the time, but I can’t locate the link at the moment).

This led me to this story (in my ongoing effort to try and “connect the dots”) of HUD secretary Alphonso Jackson in the Houston Chronicle where Jackson stated that the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, which houses many of the city's poorest residents (and where the population is predominantly African American) should not be rebuilt. A. Jackson also criticized another Jackson (Jesse, by name) for making the Katrina fallout “a racial issue.” Jesse responded (properly, I think) with this:

The news coverage of the evacuation and relief efforts made it clear that a great many of those affected were black, poor and unable to leave on their own, he said.

"Those are the images that were burned into the consciousness of the world and became so embarrassing," he said.
Is Jesse Jackson a publicity hound at times? Sure he is. But he’s also done a lot of good (such as freeing our captured soldiers in Bosnia in the 90s, which seems like a lifetime ago now), and I never hear him getting any credit for it.

I thought this excerpt from the story was instructive also (and I’ll follow up on it shortly).

Alphonso Jackson predicted New Orleans will slowly draw back as many as 375,000 people, but that only 35 to 40 percent of the post-Katrina population would be black.
A. Jackson says this and then criticizes J. Jackson for making the reconstruction “a racial issue?” Please. This is but another shining moment from a Bushco underling; just file it with Mike (“Bird Flu Is Coming! Run For Your Lives!”) Leavitt, Mike (“City Of Louisiana”) Chertoff, and Don (“The Army You Have”) Rumsfeld.

And once more, Dubya shows what kind of a “hands on” guy he really is.

Jackson said he has been asked by President Bush to help New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin rebuild the city. His advice to Nagin during a meeting Friday: Build higher, sturdier and more water-resistant housing.
(no comment…)

This link also describes how A. Jackson wants to make it easier, according to the story, “for lenders to package their home loans with a complete set of settlement services, all at a guaranteed price, thereby giving big lenders too much power and squeezing small real estate providers out of the market.” There’s also stuff in the story about A. Jackson “verbally abusing HUD employees” (nice guy).

To me, the plan is crystal clear (and I’m sure to you also). New Orleans is going to be rebuilt at the Las Vegas of the Gulf Coast, and the poor resident who used to live there won’t be able to any more.

So what do we do with them? How do we provide equitably for the most needy in our society (yes, I know that’s a typical “bleeding heart liberal” question, but at some point, we will have to answer it).

I think the Bringing America Home Act sponsored by U.S. Rep. Julia Carson (D-IN) is definitely a step in the right direction. The latest information I have on the act is dated from last August. I contacted Rep. Carson to find out if there are any new developments. I’ll let you know if I hear from her.

We all have different castles. Some are McMansions, some are condos, some are apartments, and some are empty refrigerator boxes underneath a highway overpass. But everyone is entitled to have something, whatever it may be.

Dubya can pretend to do all of the constructing he wants. But by virtue of how his administration is “handling” the reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, I believe he is oblivious to that simple fact.

Update 10/13: This sure is an efficient use of our taxpayer dollars, isn't it? I guess Dubya thinks $11 mil will make the problem go away (and I'm sure he's paying special attention to this because the brunt is being borne by the beloved red states).

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