Hurricane Katrina – Fifth Anniversary

August 29, 2010

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. There remains much to rebuild and much debate about who was responsible for the failure to address humanitarian needs leading up to and following the storm. The reality is accountability rests with folks from various levels of government, members of both parties, and partially individuals.

Here you can watch Meet The Press video from this morning on the aftermath and what progress has been made. Louisiana’s U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and her brother, New Orleans Mayor, discuss the issue.

I have only one thought to add to the coverage we have seen over the last five years. It may be that overt racism, prejudice, or negligence is not to blame for the aftermath. However, in addition to laying bare our poor preparation for disasters nationwide, it may have exposed the blatant disconnect among sections of our society. It perhaps was that disconnect and lack of awareness of what life was like for the folks on the ground with little means that directly resulted in the lack of humanitarian support before and after the storm. And I think that is the real underlying story of Hurricane Katrina.


Changes Coming…

August 27, 2010

Soon The Political Panorama will have some changes including a looser format where authors will post without a schedule, allowing for more posts per day, more news, more opinion. New authors may be added over the coming weeks and readers are welcome to email thoughtful articles to the address in the right margin and their articles will be posted shortly thereafter.

Thank you again for reading The Political Panorama and please continue to join us in discussion!

Vice President Hillary Clinton?

August 22, 2010

As the 2010 election approaches, speculation has already begun about who will run in 2012 – and not just on the Republican side. Some suggest the far-fetched notion that Hillary will challenge Barack for the nomination. Let’s be clear, that simply will not happen for many reasons.

More recently, a very intriguing idea has been toss around by Hillary supporters and the media. That rumor is that Obama may replace Biden on the ticket with Hillary, potentially making a direct swap that would result in Biden becoming Secretary of State and Hillary running for Vice President. Normally, I would be tempted to dismiss such a rumor as rubbish, but there are reasons not to dismiss such speculation out of hand:

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Obama Weighs In – The Mosque at Ground Zero

August 15, 2010

As many have heard, some want to build an Islamic Center near ground zero in New York City. Contrary to what reports would have us believe, there already exists a location for prayer. The goal is to expand the facility and create a center that would focus on building peaceful relations between Muslims and the West. I will admit that before reading more on the topic, I tended to lean against the construction of the facility near ground zero because I felt they could build it elsewhere.

Then in steps Obama. When I first saw he was getting involved in a controversial local issue which he did not need to get involved in, I was frustrated and could not begin to fathom why he would insert himself and risk public fury. Then I continued reading and began thinking. Beyond the initial knee-jerk reactions, I began to see the significance and wisdom of getting involved. It was indeed an issue of national importance too, not merely a local issue to be written off for political expedience. Obama did, after all, promise a new kind of politics and decision making that would rely on our fundamental democratic values rather than political maneuvering.

It was actually Michael Bloomberg’s quote in the article linked above comparing Obama to George Washington that got me thinking: “Two hundred and twenty years ago this week, the Father of Our Country penned his famous letter to the Jewish Community of Newport Rhode Island or, as he called them, ‘the Children of the Stock of Abraham.’ President Obama’s words tonight evoked President Washington’s own August reminder that ‘all possess alike liberty,'” Bloomberg said.

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Turning Point – Justice Elena Kagan

August 8, 2010

This will be a brief post to note a turning point in American history. Much like the election of Barack Obama as President, it is difficult to completely appreciate the historic nature of the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court in the same way that it will be appreciated decades from now. But the nomination of Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court is a moment in American history worth noting. Prior to her nomination, women were often nominated to the court as a token selection. Typically only one or two females have sat on the court over approximately the last twenty five years. Barack Obama has nominated two females to fill the first two Supreme Court vacancies of his presidency and, in doing so, he changed the selection of female nominees from a token political move to a normal occurrence. There have now been four women to have served on the court and three are serving currently, making up one third of the nine justices. While she represents the status quo and lack of diversity in terms of her ivy league education and her religion (Judaism), it is nonetheless a good day in this democracy in that the way female nominees to the court (and perhaps in the legal profession generally) has been forever changed.

The Auto Bailout and Fiscal Responsibility

August 1, 2010

Sometimes fiscal responsibility means making wise investments with long term benefits taking precedence over short term concerns. That seems to be the case with the auto bailout.

It is worth noting that the use of the term “bailout” is a bit of a misnomer as the money given to the auto industry was in the form of a loan and will be repaid with interest. It is by no means a giveaway. However, since it is the well established nickname for the aid given to the auto industry, I will continue to use it.

I probably would not have supported the auto bailout without serious limitations on executive pay. Wealthy executives should not be rolling in piles of money while working class Americans pay for bailouts of the same company. Additionally, unreasonable executive pay indicates problems with the fiscal responsibility of auto companies and their executives and that raises the question of whether the public should be risking their hard earned dollars to bail them out.

However, it seems as though the auto bailout has paid off. One Chrysler plant “added a second shift of production to the tune of about 1,100 jobs.” Another Chrysler plant will add 900 at a plant outside Detroit. In the year following the bailout and bankruptcies, 55,000 jobs were created in the auto industry which is the largest growth for the auto industry in more than a decade. More than 10,000 additional jobs are projected to be created by the end of the year. Chevrolet and Ford are both operating at a profit and Chrysler is nearly profitable with only the interest on the government loans keeping them in the red.

Equally important is the fact that, while the government likely will not recoup the approximately $25 billion given to the auto industry by the Bush administration, all of the $60 billion given by the Obama administration in the form of loans will be recouped with interest. This is obviously good news.

Fiscal responsibility is a long term approach and means making the financial decision that is the most fiscally responsible, not necessarily the one that is the most fiscally reluctant.

Charlie Rangel, Ethics, and Democratic Leadership

July 25, 2010

U.S. Representative Charlie Rangel has had ethics questions following him for years. Numerous charges against him are currently being considered by the ethics committee generally involving accusations of illegal corporate gifts and contributions and not abiding by tax laws.

In March, he finally stepped aside from his powerful chairmanship on the House Ways and Means Committee. This was said to be temporary, though most agree it will be permanent.

In 2006, the Democrats campaigned against the Republicans’ deep culture of corruption. Since gaining control of Congress, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have been slow at best when it comes to holding their own members accountable and keeping their campaign promises. Under her leadership, the handling of ethics problems has looked too much like hypocrisy.

If the Democrats are going to maintain any credibility and integrity, they must be quick to respond to ethics problems. That does not mean assuming guilt before it is proven, however they must take affirmative action to begin addressing the problems and get ahead of the story. This is aside from the fact that one person (Rangel) should not be so arrogant and obsessed with power that they are unable to do what is best for their country, party, and cause.

This failure of leadership should result in a new Democratic leadership that will provide experience, effectiveness, and accountability. As I have indicated before, I believe Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Harry Reid should be replaced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rep. James Clyburn, and Senator Chuck Schumer, respectively. If Democrats retain control of both houses in 2010 as I expect they will, they need to demonstrate they understand the public’s frustration and begin to address it by first selecting new leadership.