Blame Game

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 12 2006 5:23 AM

Blame Game

The Washington Post leads with a leaked House report, officially due out on Wednesday, on federal mismanagement of the Hurricane Katrina response. The report spreads the blame across all levels of the federal government, reserving special criticism for the Department of Homeland Security. The Los Angeles Times leads with Pentagon bureaucratic foot-dragging and its unfortunate consequences for ground troops in Iraq. The New York Times leads with news that students nationwide aren't availing themselves of free tutoring made available through the No Child Left Behind education reform act.

The House select committee report, titled "A Failure of Initiative," turns out to be far from the GOP hush job that Democratic leaders expected when they boycotted the committee upon its creation last September, the Post reports. Ripping into the federal government's "blinding lack of situational awareness," the report, composed entirely by Republican House members, unsparingly chastises the government's failures in anticipation, evacuation, and communication, leaving nobody off the blame train.

Advertisement

DHS secretary Michael Chertoff bears the brunt of its criticism for being slow to make bad decisions which were implemented poorly. But the White House is faulted for lethargic leadership, former FEMA head Michael Brown is blamed for incompetence, and even New Orleans mayor C. Ray Nagin is chided for general hysteria-mongering. "All the little pigs built houses of straw," the report notes in an apt though somewhat unfortunate metaphor. Left unanswered is the question of whether Congress will be satisfied with finger-pointing, or whether accountability will be brought to bear.

A device called the Joint IED Neutralizer boasts a 90 percent success rate in destroying roadside bombs, but the Pentagon won't let it be used in Iraq, the LAT reports. Although Pentagon officials insist that further testing is needed, others are frustrated by what they consider stalling from an agency out of touch with the immediate needs of ground soldiers. Over 50 percent of total American casualties have been attributed to roadside bombs. "The Army isn't saying no to this," a former Pentagon official says. "They are just saying yes very, very slowly, and it's a tragedy." A NYT front page feature underscores this point with the story of two soldiers recovering from wounds inflicted by roadside explosives.

The NYT reports that only 12 percent of eligible public school students take advantage of the free tutoring services offered under NCLB. The program offers private tutoring in various subjects for students in schools judged to be failing under NCLB's standards. Nobody's quite sure why the tutoring is so underutilized—some blame the federal government for not allotting the program enough money, others blame individual schools for not publicizing the program enough. One conclusion suggests itself: education reform is hard, while finger-pointing is easy.

The WP fronts news of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and his efforts to make inroads with high-profile Bush supporters in advance of a possible 2008 presidential campaign. The outspoken senator and perennial candidate has been meeting with big GOP donors in key states, attempting to build alliances that will pay dividends in 2008. Meanwhile, a piece runs inside on Mark Warner, Democratic presidential hopeful and former governor of Virginia, who is currently spending his days touring New Hampshire yogurt factories and shaking hands with strangers. The game is officially afoot!

The NYT off-leads a deeply reported piece on a rise in violent crime rates in several cities. Although historic crime centers like New York and Los Angeles have enjoyed relative peace in recent years, smaller cities like Milwaukee, Boston, and San Francisco have faced surges in violent behavior. While some blame relaxed gun laws and revolving-door justice, police officials in the various cities point instead to a generally bad-tempered, quick-triggered populace—'"the rage thing,'" Milwaukee's police chief calls it.

The Post fronts a fascinating news feature on the upcoming trial of Moroccan activist Nadia Yassine, charged with badmouthing the monarchy in a newspaper. Many Moroccans question Yassine's motives in taking on King Mohammed VI, a reformer who supports parliamentary elections and freedoms for women and the press. Yassine's organization, Justice and Charity, advocates the institution of an Islamic fundamentalist state and has called for the rollback of many of Mohammed's reforms.

The NYT fronts a story on new Bolivian president Evo Morales' novel approach to drug reform—'"yes to coca, no to cocaine.'" Morales wants to allow the coca leaf to be grown and used legally in products like shampoo and toothpaste. The U.S., long committed to coca eradication, is, um, disenchanted with Morales' plan.

The LAT fronts a long story on round two of the global space race. India and China, now flush with cash, are eager to spend it on the highly expensive symbolic achievement that is the moon rocket. The U.S. already knows how boring the moon is, but they plan on going back anyway. Why not?

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 7:30 AM Ring Around the Rainbow
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.