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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN / Letters from our readers

Government failed to repair levee when it had the chance

The calamity in New Orleans troubles me because I know that it could have been prevented. What's happening now is a direct result of inappropriate government spending throughout Bush's administration.

In 2004, the Army Corps of Engineers estimated it would cost $20 million to fix areas of the levee system that were vulnerable to strong hurricanes like Katrina, but they only received $3.9 million in the president's 2005 budget. I don't understand how the government can spend nearly $200 billion on the war in Iraq, but can't find $16 million to fix a problem at home.

Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security was given a $33.8 billion discretionary budget in 2005, and its slow response to this natural disaster should raise some questions. Here's one that stands out in my mind: Why couldn't they get food and water to those stranded in New Orleans, when its mission is to "protect against and respond to threats and hazards to the nation."

It's unfortunate that the federal government couldn't find $16 million to fix the levee system because it would have been a quick solution to what is now a very big problem.

Matthew George



There's enough blame to go around on Katrina

I disagree with the Sept. 11 letter writer who seems to place all of the blame for inaction after the hurricane on President Bush. I have read many articles and listened to hours of news as to who failed the people of New Orleans.

In a state that has a city located below sea level and in an area subject to hurricanes, is it not the prime responsibility of the mayor of that city and the governor of that state to have a plan of action in the event of an emergency?

They should have had a plan in place to call in every school bus and other public transportation to remove the people. They should have had a plan as to where the people would be transported. And they should have requested mobilization of the National Guard in those states before the storm made landfall. It takes time for National Guard personnel to be called, report for duty, prepare needed equipment and move out.

There is no doubt in my mind that mistakes were made by the city, state and federal governments. It is my hope that such mistakes will not be repeated in the future.

Edward Ingalsbe



Robertson has acted quickly after Katrina

A Sept. 13 letter criticized conservative religious leaders for not acting sooner after Hurricane Katrina.

I certainly can't speak for all of them, but Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing has been sending food, medicine and supplies, and has also organized efforts of churches across the country -- currently 1,800 of them -- to take in people displaced by this tragedy.

In his defense, maybe the writer was unaware of these things because Robertson didn't exploit the situation for a photo-op like Jesse Jackson did.

Diane K. Temple



Holstun's response is riddled with errors

In a Sept. 14 Another Voice, University at Buffalo English Professor James Holstun, responded to criticism regarding his course on Palestinian literature and anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli feelings on college campuses.

Holstun accused his critics who find fault with some Palestinians as "deniers" of their suffering. His classes, he claims, illuminate the creativity of the Palestinians. Holstun uses a familiar tactic to absolve himself of any perceived prejudice against Jews or Israel; namely, stating that some of his students are Jewish, and/or Zionists, and that his wife was raised as an Orthodox Jew.

Holstun is uninformed, or misguided. He used a myth and states it as a fact. Palestinians did leave Israel (then Palestine) after 1948 but it was because Arab leaders told them they would be massacred if they stayed. Those Arabs who remained became part of Israeli society.

More importantly, Holstun misrepresents to his students the motivation behind the anger towards certain Palestinians. It is not their poetry, prose or scholarliness that raise concern. It is their behavior. The anger is directed towards those Palestinians who execute innocent people.

Holstun uses his Jewish connections to imply his impartiality. Jews, like any other group of people, are not all of the same mind about any subject. Norman Finkelstein, who spoke at UB, is a self-hating individual. I have Christian and Moslem friends who have a more favorable opinion of Jews and Israel than Finkelstein.

Adrienne Crandall



Weiss' essay provides false view of Israelis

On what basis did Elinor Weiss, in her Sept. 12 Another Voice, link Norman Finkelstein and University at Buffalo Professor James Holstun to anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers -- the former a son of Jewish holocaust survivors and the latter related by marriage to Jews gassed by the Nazis? Weiss' constricted world view of Israeli innocence and Palestinian perversity leaves no room for Israel's role in fomenting violence in blood-stained Palestine.

She laments a million Jewish refugees driven out of Arab countries but not the 700,000 Palestinians driven from their homes to make way for the Jewish state in 1948-9, nor the four million Palestinians crushed under Israeli occupation since 1967. Blaming professors like Holstun for manipulating "impressionable" young Jews into supporting the Palestinian cause, she ignores the enormous injustices which deeply offend Jewish moral sensibilities: thousands of Palestinian homes demolished, farm lands confiscated, water supplies diverted, lives destroyed, in the wake of expanding Jewish settlements, creating a vile atmosphere which drives many to despair and a few to suicidal terror.

The study of Middle Eastern history shaped his convictions, says Josh Reuben, a Jewish American heading the national campaign to end the Israeli occupation. It's the kind of history pro-Israel zealots have long tried to suppress with screams of anti-Semitism.

Edward Cuddy



Finkelstein lecture promoted Jewish hatred

From the picture presented in the Sept. 6 Buffalo News depicting a lecture given by Norman Finkelstein, it's difficult to believe the University at Buffalo professor whose comments were featured attended the same lecture I attended. I was there and I can state, unequivocally, the lecture was a sustained diatribe against Israel and Jews.

People often ask how the Holocaust could happen. Attending this lecture, one would easily understand not only how it happened, but how it could happen again. As an African-American and a woman, I must say of that evening, had I closed my eyes and translated Finkelstein's words to German, I could easily have imagined myself transported back to 1938 and a lecture by Josef Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, or could just have easily found myself on a campground in the heart of Dixie amongst white supremacists.

Spend 10 minutes on Finkelstein's website and everything I assert here will be shown true. His vitriol against Jews in general and Israel in particular is all the more insidious because his parents are Holocaust survivors.

Finkelstein and those at the University of Buffalo who sponsored this lecture, like Bruce Jackson and James Holstun, members of the English department faculty, would love people to perceive them as exposers of conspiracies, truth-seekers, and righters of a wronged people. They are not.

They are men who hide behind a thin patina of scholarship and exploit their status as academics to indoctrinate, intimidate, and disseminate half-truths cloaked in rhetoric. They should be defined by what they produce. The lecture was not free speech in action, but hate speech incarnate.

D. Noa Bursie



Bush should emulate Nixon oil crisis action

In the early 1970's a Republican president, Richard M. Nixon, faced a national need to reduce dependence on foreign oil, established a nation-wide highway speed limit of 55 miles per hour. It worked. Immediate reduction in gasoline consumption (with a beneficial side-effect of reduced highway accident fatalities).

Now we again feel the need to reduce our dependence on imported oil. So there is talk about requiring a little bit higher average fuel efficiency for new cars, SUVs, vans, and light trucks. Increased fuel efficiency for new vehicles is a good idea, but the effect will be felt only slowly as the slightly more efficient vehicles are bought.

Why, I wonder, has Nixon's solution been ignored? Now, with about half of our personal vehicles being big gas-guzzlers, I propose the following: A rigorously enforced national maximum speed limit of 60 miles an hour for vehicles that average least 30 miles per gallon on the highway and a speed limit of 50 miles per hour for all vehicles that average less. Our dependency on foreign oil would be reduced immediately.

I hope our present Republican president will show as much wisdom and courage as Nixon showed when faced with a similar need for action.

Paul H. Reitan



Bush has demonstrated a lack of leadership

Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush Administration declared Homeland Security would become its top priority. We were told to re-elect President Bush in 2004 because he would keep America safe. More than two weeks after Hurricane Katrina, the president announced that planning for future national disasters will become his top priority. Americans now must ask of their leaders, "What have you been doing for the last four and a half years?"

Experts were warning the government about Katrina, days before it struck. If the chaotic and ineffectual federal response is the best our government can do after more than four years of preparation, Americans should be outraged. We must hold the "accountability president" accountable for his appalling lack of leadership in a time of crisis.

Sean O'Skea



President disregards poor in favor of wealthy

The Sept. 11 News editorial on Hurricane Katrina was an excellent summary of President Bush's record. However, it begs the question as to why he has acted in this way. I feel that the explanation is quite simple: Bush sincerely believes that the rich are rich because they deserve to be rich, and the poor are poor because they deserve to be poor.

Why else would he be so hung up on permanent income and estate tax cuts for billionaires, while not showing any concern about the large increases in people, particularly children, living in poverty and without medical insurance that have occurred throughout his administration?

Ted Fisher



Proposed Seneca casino must be put to an end

The proposed Seneca-operated gaming casino in Erie County must not be allowed because the New York State Constitution forbids casinos anywhere in New York. In a nation of laws -- if the U.S. retains that designation after the criminal and massively lethal invasion of Iraq that was based on untruthful assertions by Bush -- the pro-Seneca but illegal stance of Gov. George Pataki does not justify support of local politicians, including lame-duck Mayor Tony Masiello, who has wrongly been pushing the casino proposal for years in spite of future socioeconomic damage to the community, e.g. desolate Atlantic City, N.J.

How can the land encompassing the proposed casino facility, now part of our country, legally be given away, in perpetuity, to another (Seneca) nation? Since when do the foolish elected officials such as Pataki, (County Executive) Joel Giambra and Masiello have the authority to give away the people's land?

John Maxfield Hague


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