Bush Diverted Levee-Building Funds to Iraq War, Tax Cuts

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain.

Repair and maintenance of the fortress-like system of levees around New Orleans has been a fact of life there for decades. The levees themselves are constantly sinking – in one report they sank four feet in about a year. But in 2003 – at the time President Bush cut the taxes of the wealthy (his “base”) while simultaneously launching the invasion of Iraq for no other reason than his personal whim, funding to rebuild the levees was reallocated:

[After] 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA [Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project] dropped to a trickle. The [Army Corps of Engineeers] never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security — coming at the same time as federal tax cuts — was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

As the situation in Iraq devolved into the slow-motion bloodbath we are experiencing today, the Bush Administration needed more money to feed the beast it had unleashed. As a result, even more funding was drained away from repairing the levees around New Orleans:

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.

Last summer, local officials recognized that the president’s decision had placed the city in jeopardy:

On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: “It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.”

Rightwingers Blame Americans for Hurricane Destruction

Why do rightwingers blame America first for natural disasters?

A group called Columbia Christians for Life sent out the following email:

The image of the hurricane above with its eye already ashore at 12:32 PM Monday, August 29 looks like a fetus (unborn human baby) facing to the left (west) in the womb, in the early weeks of gestation (approx. 6 weeks). Even the orange color of the image is reminiscent of a commonly used pro-life picture of early prenatal development… [This] hurricane looks like an unborn human child.

Louisiana has 10 child-murder-by-abortion centers – FIVE are in New Orleans
www.ldi.org (‘Find an Abortion Clinic [sic]’)

  • Baby-murder state # 1 – California (125 abortion centers) – land of earthquakes, forest fires, and mudslides
  • Baby-murder state # 2 – New York (78 abortion centers) – 9-11 Ground Zero
  • Baby-murder state # 3 – Florida (73 abortion centers) – Hurricanes Bonnie, Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne in 2004; and now, Hurricane Katrina in 2005

God’s message: REPENT AMERICA !

Elsewhere, a group called Repent America blames the destruction of New Orleans “Girls Gone Wild,” a video series in which young women expose their breasts, and “Southern Decadance,” an annual gay event hosted in the the city.

Seriously, we hate to besmirch the gentle souls of the truly mentally challenged by calling these wingnuts “retarded” but no other term is accurate.

And God help us, these are the folks who control all three branches of our government today.

East Coast Stations Run Out of Gas

For the first time since the 1970’s, gas stations in North Carolina are out of gas, and shortages have pushed the cost up to $3.00 per gallon – just in time for the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Gov. Mike Easley urged citizens to conserve on gas because supplies are dwindling. He said that two major pipelines that furnish gasoline to North Carolina and eight-to-10 other states are unable to pump gasoline to the region because of damage from Hurricane Katrina.

From Georgia to Michigan, fuel supplies are dwindling and prices are rising:

Gas stations in upstate South Carolina reported they were running out of gas. “The state is telling us the pipeline that services the northeast has been disrupted at the supply point in Louisiana, and that it will take a week and half for it to reach us,” he said. “A lot of gas stations are out and closed in this area.”

In central Maryland, many gas stations were shut down by Wednesday night. “I don’t know when I’ll get gas again,” said one station owner in Laurel, Md…

In Michigan, gas prices were as high as $3.92 for unleaded regular in Garden City, just one of many stations with high prices in the Detroit metro area. Forty percent of Michigan’s gas comes from the Gulf Coast.

In Atlanta, gas prices were rising and shortages were imminent, residents reported.

Flashlight, Batteries, Bottled Water, Hurricane Condom

We could all use some humor right about now, and this appears to be legit. The father of a Florida Atlantic University student is upset because his son received a condom in the hurricane supplies issued by the school in preparation for Katrina.

Palm Beach Post:

As Hurricane Katrina swirled toward Boca Raton, freshman John Lehman, 18, was surprised to be handed protection from more than the storm.

The boy’s father, Charles Lehman of Tequesta, checked with his son to see whether he was safe from the hurricane in his Heritage Park Towers dorm.

“And he said, ‘The RA passed out the hurricane supplies — a condom,’ ” the father said. “That was it. I was so taken aback. Did they give him a flashlight? No, they gave him a condom.”

Hey, stuff happens Dad. You gotta be ready at all times. Besides, maybe they meant for it to be used as a flotation device, or as extra rain gear. Get your mind out of the gutter already.

The school claims that one resident assistant, who was supposed to distribute the outer wear to dorm dwellers as part of a safe sex program, decided to kill two birds with one stone.

“The administration was not aware of it,” [school spokeswoman Kristine] McGrath said. “And we think it’s inappropriate to think that a natural disaster is a reason to have sex.”

The condoms, she said, had been sent in boxes to resident assistants in dorms, but they weren’t supposed to be passed out in this way. The school, she said, has a comprehensive safe-sex program, which includes a lecture and some printed material…

“A safe-sex program should be more than just handing out a condom,” McGrath said, “and I don’t know that this was a time or place to do something like that. However, there were a lot of social events happening in the multipurpose rooms.”

You really can’t make this stuff up.

Iraq War More Expensive than WWI, Catching Up on Korea

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article that compares the cost of the war in Iraq to that of other wars of the last century. The conclusion — it’s really expensive!

With 140,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the conflict already has cost every American at least $850 in military and reconstruction costs since October 2001. If the war lasts five more years, it will cost nearly $1.4 trillion, or nearly $4,745 per capita. That estimate includes the military cost, veterans’ benefits and interest on the federal debt.

That’s more than the cost of World War I, at least in dollars. In lives, the Iraq and Afghan conflicts account for a total of just over 2,000 fatalities, while the “War to End All Wars” took nearly 54,000 American soldiers’ lives.

By the end of September, projected military costs will be $252 billion — $186 billion in Iraq and $66 billion in Afghanistan — which is approaching the cost of the Korean War at $361 billion.

One estimate places military costs at $460 billion for the next five years, plus $315 billion in veterans’ costs, $220 billion in added interest, and $119 billion for the economic impact of a $5 increase per barrel in the price of oil through July 2010.

Bush Will Likely Face Increasing Opposition to the War

“The worsening of the situation in Iraq is the most pressing issue for Bush and the GOP. For a month or two, there has been a theory circulating among those that watch polls that the American public can be broken down into four distinct groups: those that have always been against the war; those who were for it but now believe we’ve blown it and should pull out; those who supported the war, believe the invasion was successful but think that the aftermath has been completely blown, yet would hate to see us withdraw immediately and lose all we’ve invested; and those that have always been for the war.

“Pollsters say that the first group — always against — makes up about 30 percent of the electorate, while the second group — those that started off in favor of the war but now see it as a lost cause — includes about 20 percent. These two categories total half of all voters in opposition.

“The third group — those that are conflicted because they see the effort as doomed and casualties increasing, yet still hate to see us ‘cut and run’ — makes up another 25 percent. The last 25 percent remains supportive. What this means is that only a quarter of the American people are standing behind Bush on the war. The other three-quarters are either against him or highly critical of how he has handled the conflict and/or the aftermath. “

— Charlie Cook, writing in the National Journal

Why Weren’t the Levees Reinforced Yesterday?

Harry Shearer at the Huffington Post:

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin just told WWL TV in New Orleans that the project to fill the breach in the 17th St Canal flood wall with sandbags didn’t fail — the sandbags were never tried. Nagin suggested that, after repairing the breach had been made the top priority in discussions with state, federal and Orleans Parish Levee Board officials this morning, someone had apparently “reprioritized” the helicopter earmarked for the sandbag assignment.

The result: unless somebody thinks of something in the next 12 to 15 hours, Nagin said, currently dry areas of New Orleans, including the French Quarter and the Garden District, will be inundated to a point three feet above sea level. Nagin blamed the situation on “too many chiefs”, and darkly suggested that some officials — unnamed — failed to grasp the severity of the situation.

UPDATE: Nagin said basically the same thing to WDSU TV in New Orleans. But he did not repeat the incendiary statements in an interview with CNN’s Aaron Brown shortly afterward.

Poll: Another New Low for President Bush

The new Washington Post-ABC poll found that President George Bush’s job approval rating is at 45 percent, down seven points since January and the lowest ever recorded for the president in Post-ABC surveys. Fifty-three percent disapproved of the job Bush is doing.

We hate to sound like a broken record but these numbers are still ridiculously high for a failed presidency. The reason Mr. Bush’s poll numbers are not in the low 30’s is because people still give this administration credit for preventing another terrorist attack in the United States. Never mind that the 9/11 attacks took place nine years after the first World Trade Center bombings.

What is new in this poll is the fact that gas prices took a toll on the president’s approval rating. Six in 10 Americans said there are steps the administration could take to reduce gas prices.

Yeah, you’d think a couple of oil men would be able to fix the price of oil. Oh, wait! They did!