- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 8, 2005

Katrina relief questions

The lack of leadership preceding Hurricane Katrina and the absence of it in the initial aftermath from the city, state and national level, raises concerns about the recovery and reconstruction effort (“Spending overdose,”Commentary, Thursday).

The fact that each level of government is designing its own plan for reconstruction is ridiculous. As a taxpaying citizen, my fellow Americans and I from all 50 states are about to pay billions to repair and rebuild the region.

I have no quarrel with federal money being spent, but I do have concerns about who is going to be in charge of how it is spent.This is a noble endeavor, and the grand rebuilding effort certainly should start as soon as possible. Where is the oversight for that individual or organization?The bureaucracy failed us when the storm hit. Will it fail us again in fleecing the recovery effort?

The Louisiana congressional delegation introduced the Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief and Economic Recovery Act, which asks for $250 billion in federal aid to rebuild New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana that was damaged by Katrina.

According to news accounts, in inflation-adjusted dollars, this is more than the amount spent for the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the United States at the time. The $250 billion request is only for the state of Louisiana.

Both Mississippi and Alabama suffered damage during the storm and require rebuilding funds, as well. The last thing the American people want is for their hard-earned money to go to inept and historically corrupt politicians in Louisiana and New Orleans to be squandered on pet projects and lobbyist wish lists.

This is American government; it runs off pork and special-interest money. In fact, the pork and corruption have already started and can be seen without much investigation.

Tough and loud questions need to be asked, like why does the Army Corps of Engineers need $40 billion to build levees that would cost $2.5 billion to hold back a category 5 hurricane flood? According to the bill, $8 million is to be spent for alligator farming, $35 million for seafood promotion and marketing, $400 million for substance-abuse and mental-health services and $25 million for a sugar- cane research lab that apparently was not even completed before the storm. Are these projects and the requested amounts really needed?

While most of the requested money for the various projects is necessary, there are several large programs like the ones listed that are questionable.

The American worker is making a $250 billion investment into the recovery effort, and every dollar needs to be accounted for. With the corruption track record of the state’s politicians, once the money is earmarked, it will most likely be used regardless of whether it is needed. New Orleans? Mayor C. Ray Nagin has already created a commission to formulate rebuilding plans, and the governor is planning on producing her own planning committee.That’s fine, but don’t give them a check for $250 billion without federal oversight and direction.

We all witnessed the lack of coordination when all three levels of government tried to work together and failed.There must be a strong federal role, with someone leading the effort to coordinate the massive rebuilding and guarding against corruption and misspending by the local and state governments. Money and power corrupt on both sides of the political aisle.There is a lot of money on its way to Louisiana, and we have the potential for unprecedented corruption in the rebuilding efforts if we do not institute the proper oversight. Get it done, Washington.

MICHAEL KRAUSE

Columbus, Ga.

New ambassador, recurring issues

I would like to congratulate Ambassador Alexandros P. Mallias for taking up his duties as ambassador of Greece to Washington (World, Embassy Row, Thursday). As Turkish Cypriots, we are glad to note that Greece supports the unification of Cyprus, as we do. I would like to observe, however, that the term “functional” he uses in the context of the search for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue is a code word used by Greek Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopoulos (who rejected a settlement last year) for Greek Cypriot dominance over Cyprus. As employed by the Greek Cypriot leadership, the argument of “functionality” is a negation of the concept of political equality and consensus-building in a bi-communal bi-zonal federation sought by the U.N. plan for a Cyprus settlement.

OSMAN ERTUG

Representative

Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

Washington

The Miers nomination

The recent article by constitutional scholar Bruce Fein suggesting that Harriet Miers should voluntarily withdraw her name for appointment to the Supreme Court was disturbing (“Stealth choice … crony cachet,” Commentary, Thursday). First, Mr. Fein accuses President Bush of cronyism for appointing someone he has known for many years. Mr. Bush promised to appoint judicial conservatives and obviously likes to take a direct path to accomplish his goals. Past Republican presidents have gotten their judicial selections for the Supreme Court right less than half the time. With this high a level of failure, isn’t the logical thing to pick someone you really know well who you know will do the job?

Second, Mr. Fein exults the constitutional scholar over the business lawyer who has slugged it out in the courts in large commercial cases. I’ve litigated large commercial cases, and my opponents were the best of the bar. When billions of dollars are involved, a top corporate executive hires a mediocre lawyer who has a weak will? Mr. Fein does not seem to know the intellectual demands, fortitude and legal craftsmanship required in commercial cases involving the largest stakes that do not have something to do with sex or fights between branches of the government.

When I served in the Virginia legislature on the House committee that interviewed judges, a major goal was to increase the number of judges in Fairfax that had substantial business experience. Business-ignorant judges can make some really awful decisions that lack any basis in the real world. The Supreme Court has plenty of constitutional scholars on the bench and others, including Mr. Fein, to help it on constitutional issues. What it doesn’t have is enough judges with real world experience when it comes to less-published major commercial cases crucial to our economic future.

ROGER MCCLURE

McLean

Harriet Miers is a nice lady, I’m sure; very personable, a Christian woman and tough-minded conservative. Lots of good qualities. And to hear President Bush and his team tell us to trust that she’s all we’ve hoped for in a Supreme Court judge if we’ll just hang in there makes me want to say, “You’ll do fine. Let’s applaud.” But we all know what it’s like to get a nice gift, just not the one we had discussed or hoped for on Christmas or a birthday. You know, you tell your folks about that bike you’ve been pushing for that’s really the most, or the new electronic game that just came out that has all those great tricks, or that toy that got your heart going.

And you wait and wait for that special morning so you can come downstairs and glory in this fabulous thing, take it out and start playing with it. And you come running down the stairs … and the box doesn’t look right somehow for the thing you were expecting, or the bike they got you — well, it’s OK, but that’s not the model or make you had your heart set on. This isn’t the original, it’s the lesser knockoff. All your friends will see you got the el-cheapo version.

What will you do? You smile and say, “Hey, it’s great. Thanks.” But there’s no getting around it: The Real Deal is still at the store, and that’s where it’s staying. Better luck next time.

Harriet Miers, God love her, is a wonderful human being. I don’t want to imply anything less. Were she a wife or a mother, she’d be a fine one. A better friend you probably couldn’t find. But she’s not what this opportunity called for. We got a Cadillac, which drives real nice. But when you’re expecting a Rolls-Royce, is there really any alternative?

JACK WEBB

Springfield, Va.

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