The Polite Liberal

A rant-free discussion of liberal philosophy and policies.


The Polite Liberal is the pseudonym of a "nontraditional" graduate student in mathematics (for nonacademics, "nontraditional," is a polite way of saying, "older than 25.") The Polite Liberal is an attempt to spur real policy debate, instead of partisan insults and conspiracy theories. Conservatives (and liberals, of course!) are welcome.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Calm... calm...

OK, calmer now.

Today things finally seem to be moving, give or take. Today is what Wednesday should have looked like (with copters instead of trucks, given the state of the highways into the region).

Thursday, September 01, 2005

diddley, Diddley...


OK, politeness goes on vacation for a day. This has nothing to do with policy. This has to do with basic competence at making the government do what it's designed to do.

We're now five full days after the hurricane hit. People are dying of thirst and starvation in the very places they WERE TOLD TO GO IF THEY COULDN'T GET OUT OF NEW ORLEANS.

Remember five or six years ago, under Clinton, when FEMA could get the job done? You're telling me that in a week we couldn't get food and supplies in to these folks?

Remember after the tsunami? Remember all the snarking about how other countries never pony up to help us when we're in trouble?

Well, they're trying. Canada, Russia, and Israel have all offered assistance. The Bush administration, for whatever brilliant reasons they've come up with, WON'T COORDINATE WITH THEM. Louisiana had to cut a separate deal with Canada to get help in from Vancouver.

We're all donating to the Red Cross, but the Red Cross can't contain looting and get supplies to starving people without military help. Every online message from an Army pilot that I've read has them chomping at the bit, wondering when they'll flipping get the order to go do their jobs.

Again, this isn't policy. This is disastrous incompetence by the folks whose job it is to coordinate the response.

Politics has real effects

There's been a lot of talk lately about whether it's appropriate to "play politics" with the catastrophe in New Orleans.

Right now, probably not. There are bodies in the water, and there are people that'll turn into bodies if we don't get them out of there and into housing right quick. For right now, the thing to do is head over to the Red Cross and donate some money.

Once the immediate crisis is over, though, we really do need to assess blame. Politics isn't some sort of team sport where we try to get "our guys" into power and keep "their guys" out. Politics is the process by which we try to get people we trust into positions of power.

It isn't always abstract--politics can be quite concrete. In the case of infrastructure improvements, it's sometimes literally concrete. The vulnerability of New Orleans to this sort of disaster has been discussed for years. If levees haven't been maintained, some one or some group made a conscious decision not to maintain them. If the response is disorganized, then either someone hasn't been planning properly, or someone higher up failed to make the planning anyone's job.

For now, let's help those people. Once the crisis is over, though, let's not let people whose job it was to prevent just this tragedy get away with accusing us of playing politics when we ask them why things went wrong.