Today's Blogs


Bloggers are disheartened by the status of Iraq reconstruction projects, dismayed by news on uncollected Katrina aid, and celebrating the return of Sesame Street to Israeli and Palestinian television.

Deconstruction: A study by a federal oversight agency of eight reconstruction projects in Iraq shows that seven of the projects are no longer functioning at an acceptable level. Problems with plumbing, electricity, and crumbling concrete have cropped up, something experts partly blame on lack of funds earmarked for maintenance and training.

At group political blog Outside the Beltway, Alex Knapp deems this “[j]ust one more front in this war in which we are losing. Ostensibly, one of the primary motivations for this war was to build a democratic ally in the Middle East—it’s difficult to see how that can happen when American Reconstruction projects are left to rot like this. To be sure, this may not be a statistically representative sample, but to find that seven out of eight ‘successes’ are actually failures is pretty damning.”

Barbara O’Brien of left-wing Mahablog looks to history for an explanation of the Bush administration’s failures. “The way Bushies deal with Iraq and New Orleans reminds me of those 19th-century white missionaries who traveled far to bring the blessings of civilizations and Christianity to simple brown natives everywhere, and in doing so opened the way to wholesale plundering of whatever the simple brown natives had that white people wanted,” she writes. “Colonialism, paternalism, racism—it’s all there.” Liberal Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast also sees some colonial undertones: “So we built all these facilities without involving the Iraqis at all, then didn’t train them, and then wonder why they can’t operate them? Granted, part of the problem is that because of the sectarian violence DIRECTLY UNLEASHED by George Bush’s Iraqi Adventure, much of the education population who CAN leave, has already left. But there is a strong whiff of colonialism about the whole enterprise.”

At Discourse, law prof Michael Froomkin faults President Bush’s attention span: “Failing to build in mechanisms for maintenance is one of the most common errors in development assistance. And here, as in everything else to do with Iraq, this administration has not only failed to learn from experience, it has demonstrated a total lack of interest in it.”

“What’s not working? A shorter list might include what is. … ” writes the anonymous liberal at The Common Ills. ” ‘Micromanage’ has really become the catchphrase for the administration. Whenever something goes wrong because the administration wasn’t doing their job, the term ‘mircomanage’ gets tossed out,” he writes. At Obsidian Wings, philosophy prof Hilzoy also critiques the “micromanagement” meme: “Given all the many ways in which we continue to infringe on Iraqi sovereignty, who would have thought that telling people how to use and care for the stuff we have built counts as an infringement of Iraqi autonomy?”

Read  more about the failing reconstruction projects.

Aid unused: America, more accustomed to donating foreign aid than receiving it, was offered more than $850 million from its allies for Katrina recovery. Almost two years later, only $50 million has reached its intended destination. The State Department, tasked with handling the donations, turned offers away, redirected them to the Red Cross, or let supplies simply rot. A Washington-based watchdog obtained the documents related to the donation and gave them to the Washington Post.

New Orleans resident Dambala at American Zombie proposes another way to collect these donations: “Can we accept these gifts without the Fed’s involvement? I’ll put up a paypal account and send an email to the U.A.E asking them if they want to donate online.”

At Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch, Sue Sturgis details the specifics of what was turned down—Pakistani tents and pillows, Peruvian blankets and clothing, Danish water purification equipment—finding one rejected offer particularly egregious: “[T]he Bush administration turned down an offer of two free cruise ships from Greece, instead paying $249 million to use Carnival Cruise Lines.”

Pondering the uncollected aid, Chuck at News of the Weird Daily snarks “Heckuva-Job Brownie wasn’t personally involved, but apparently he personified a level of general multi-agency incompetence heretofore underappreciated.”

“[S]ometimes a story so stomach-churning and obscene in its meaning crops up,” opines Liberal Rude Pundit. “The Bush administration delayed so long in getting the cash that other nations just said, ‘Fuck it’ and walked away, or they gave it to the Red Cross. The U.S. declined 54 of 77 offers of aid from, like, Canada. And that included search and rescue teams.”

Read more about the uncollected donations.

Sesame on the Israeli-Palestinian Street: After years off the air, Israeli and Palestinian versions of Sesame Street are again hitting TV screens to teach tolerance and the importance of diversity in an atmosphere often marked by the lack of these sentiments.

At My Urban Kvetch, writer Esther Kustanowitz wonders how effective the programming can be: “My question is not whether TV can have a positive influence and serve as an educational tool. My question is whether what TV teaches can overcome negative messages in the home, from the community and in social contexts. In other words, if a child sees a world on TV where there is peace but lives in a world where there is conflict, which message does he or she believe and adopt as personal attitude?”

At Desert Peace, a Jerusalem-based peace worker calls for a revival of peace talks: “I’m game for anything that can lead to peace and understanding … but it’s got to come from both sides … and it’s got to start for real … not just on Sesame Street.”

Read more about Israeli-Palestinian Sesame Street. Israelity links to a YouTube clip from an old Israeli episode.