Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Blame Bush for New Orleans catastrophe

When The Levee Breaks I'll have no place to stay.
- Led Zepplin

New Orleans is now a swamp. A pair of breaches in the levee that separated it from Lake Pontchartrain has allowed water to flood the city up to 20 feet deep in some sections. After thinking they had been spared the worst effects of Hurricane Katrina after it jogged east at the last moment (slamming hard into Mississippi), New Orleans found itself in an even worse predicament: was not the water from the sky but the water that broke through the city's protective barriers that changed everything for the worse. With a population of nearly 500,000, New Orleans is protected from the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain by levees.
When the levees gave way in some critical spots, streets that were essentially dry in the hours immediately after the hurricane passed were several feet deep in water on Tuesday morning. Even downtown areas that lie on higher ground were flooded. Mayor Nagin said both city airports were under water.

But it didn’t have to happen
this way. As Eric Boehlert point out, the flooding could have been avoided if President Bush had not diverted millions of dollars from a federal program designed to build up the levees in order to pay for his tax cuts and for the war in Iraq.

In 1995, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA. Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps 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."

*" 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."

*" 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.”"

*"The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history."

*" One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer: a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach on Monday."

*"The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House....In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."

Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be.

So Bush saves a few hundred million dollars by scrimping on funding for flood protection in New Orleans and now as a result we will have to pay billions and billions of dollars in disaster relief aid.
Is there no end to the blundering incompetence and short-sightedness of this administration? This is, without a doubt, the worst presidential administration this country has ever seen.

Hit songs of 1983

Found at Roscoe's Excuse:

Rules of play:

A. Go to
B. Enter the year you graduated from high school in the search function.
C. Bold for the songs you like, strike through the ones you hate and italicize your favorite. Do nothing to the ones you don't remember (or don't care about).

1. Every Breath You Take, Police
2. Billie Jean, Michael Jackson

3. Flashdance... What A Feelin, Irene Cara
4. Down Under, Men At Work
5. Beat It, Michael Jackson

6. Total Eclipse Of The Heart, Bonnie Tyler
7. Maneater, Daryl Hall and John Oates
8. Baby Come To Me, Patti Austin and James Ingram
9. Maniac, Michael Sembello
10. Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), Eurythmics
11. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me, Culture Club
12. You And I, Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle
13. Come On Eileen, Dexy's Midnight Runners
14. Shame On The Moon, Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band
15. She Works Hard For The Money, Donna Summer
16. Never Gonna Let You Go, Sergio Mendes
17. Hungry Like The Wolf, Duran Duran
18. Let's Dance, David Bowie
19. Twilight Zone, Golden Earring

20. I Know There's Something Going On, Frida
21. Jeopardy, Greg Kihn Band
22. Electric Avenue, Eddy Grant
23. She Blinded Me With Science, Thomas Dolby
24. Africa, Toto
25. Little Red Corvette, Prince
26. Back On The Chain Gang, Pretenders

27. Up Where We Belong, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes
28. Mr. Roboto, Styx
29. You Are, Lionel Richie
30. Der Kommissar, After The Fire
31. Puttin' On The Ritz, Taco
32. Sexual Healing, Marvin Gaye
33. (Keep Feeling) Fascination, Human League
34. Time (Clock Of The Heart), Culture Club
35. The Safety Dance, Men Without Hats
36. Mickey, Toni Basil
37. You Can't Hurry Love, Phil Collins

38. Separate Ways, Journey
39. One On One, Daryl Hall and John Oates
40. We've Got Tonight, Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton
41. 1999, Prince
42. Stray Cat Strut, Stray Cats
43. Allentown, Billy Joel

44. Stand Back, Stevie Nicks
45. Tell Her About It, Billy Joel
46. Always Somethmg There To Remind Me, Naked Eyes

47. Truly, Lionel Richie
48. Dirty Laundry, Don Henley
49. The Girl Is Mine, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney
50. Too Shy, Kajagoogoo
51. Goody Two Shoes, Adam Ant
52. Rock The Casbah, Clash
53. Our House, Madness

54. Overkill, Men At Work
55. Is There Something I Should Know, Duran Duran
56. Gloria, Laura Branigan
57. Affair Of The Heart, Rick Springfield
58. She's A Beauty, Tubes

59. Solitaire, Laura Branigan
60. Don't Let It End, Styx
61. How Am I Supposed To Live Without You, Laura Branigan
62. China Girl, David Bowie
63. Come Dancing, Kinks
64. Promises, Promises, Naked Eyes
65. The Other Guy, Little River Band
66. Making Love Out Of Nothing At All, Air Supply
67. Family Man, Daryl Hall and John Oates
68. Wanna Be Startin' Somethin', Michael Jackson
69. I Won't Hold You Back, Toto
70. All Right, Christopher Cross
71. Straight From The Heart, Bryan Adams
72. Heart To Heart, Kenny Loggins
73. My Love, Lionel Richie
74. I'm Still Standing, Elton John
75. Hot Girls In Love, Loverboy
76. It's A Mistake, Men At Work
77. I'll Tumble 4 Ya, Culture Club
78. All This Love, Debarge
79. Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy, Sammy Hagar
80. Heartbreaker, Dionne Warwick
81. Faithfully, Journey
82. Steppin' Out, Joe Jackson
83. Take Me To Heart, Quarterflash
84. (She's) Sexy + 17, Stray Cats
85. Try Again, Champaign
86. Dead Giveaway, Shalamar
87. Lawyers In Love, Jackson Browne
88. What About Me, Moving Pictures
89. Human Nature, Michael Jackson
90. Photograph, Def Leppard
91. Pass The Dutchie, Musical Youth
92. True, Spandau Ballet
93. Far From Over, Frank Stallone
94. I've Got A Rock 'N' Roll Heart, Eric Clapton
95. It Might Be You, Stephen Bishop
96. Tonight I Celebrate My Love, Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack
97. You Got Lucky, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
98. Don't Cry, Asia
99. Breaking Us In Two, Joe Jackson
100. Fall In Love With Me, Earth, Wind and Fire

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

George W. Bush: Setting new lows in popularity

George W. Bush is not the most unpopular president of all time, but he is getting there.

On Friday, Gallup announced that the president's approval has reached a new low of 40 percent, while his disapproval has soared to a new high of 56 percent....
Of the 12 presidents who've served since Gallup started polling in the late 1930s, Bush has entered the ranks of the most unpopular. He's now more unpopular than FDR, Ike, JFK, LBJ, Ford, and Clinton ever were, and has matched the highest disapproval rating of his idol, Ronald Reagan.

Bush's disapproval rose five points in August alone. At his current pace of losing favor, he could speed past two more presidents within the next month: Jimmy Carter, who peaked at 59 percent in mid-1979, and George H.W. Bush, who hit 60 percent in the summer of 1992. That would leave the current Bush just two more men to pass on his way to the top spot: Richard Nixon, who reached 66 percent before resigning in 1974, and Harry Truman, who set Gallup's all-time record at 67percent in January 1952.

Can Bush break the record? The experts say it's nearly impossible in a political climate so much more polarized than the one the men he's competing against faced. To increase his disapproval ratings among Republicans, Bush would have to lose a war, explode the national debt, or preside over a period of steep moral decline. Moreover, as his friends have learned, it's a lot harder breaking records when you have to do it without steroids.

But don't count Bush out—he thrives on being told a goal is beyond his reach. The president is an intense competitor and stacks up well against the historical competition:
• Reagan was old and amiable; Bush is young, vigorous, and has a smirk in reserve.
• Both Carter and Bush 41 were one-term, rookie presidents with no clear plan to gain disfavor and who had to rely entirely on external events going south. Bush 43's chances don't depend on luck: He has a proven strategy to fail at home and abroad.
• Nixon had to achieve his disapproval ratings almost entirely through scandal, with little help from the economy or world events. The Bush White House is much more versatile: They won't let scandal distract them from screwing up foreign and domestic policy. Already, 62 percent of Americans believe the country is going in the wrong direction—the highest level in a decade—even before the Bush scandals have begun to take a toll.
• Truman might seem tough to beat, because Bush has no popular generals to fire. But Truman had several historic achievements under his belt that kept his unpopularity down, such as winning World War II and presiding over the postwar boom. Bush's record is free of any such ballast. In a pinch, the Bush camp can also make a good case that polling on Truman was notoriously unreliable, and that Bush deserves a share of the modern-day record if he reaches Nixon's level.

With gas prices about to soar to new stratospheric highs, I imagine that Bush’s disapproval ratings will be tagging right along behind.

Disney wobblers

I found a weeble in my last box of cereal that looked like a little green worm with eyes. As it turned out it was supposed to be Squirt, the young sea turtle character in Disney’s Finding Nemo movie. Disney has created a set of 50 of these toys they call Wobblers that they are giving away in a promotion with Kelloggs.

I’m a sucker for lists and so I was facinated with how they came up with the 50 Disney characters to be represented in this collection celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the company’s theme parks.

Here is the complete list according to the back of my cereal box:

Classic characters
Mickey Mouse
Donald Duck
Minnie Mouse
Daisy Duck
Chip and Dale
Peter Pan
Peter Pan
Captain Hook
The Crockodile
Jiminy Cricket
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Snow White
The Witch
Alice in Wonderland
Mad Hatter
Cheshire Cat
Lady and the Tramp
101 Dalmations
Cruella de Vil
The Fox and the Hound
The Little Mermaid
The Lion King
Toy Story
Buzz Lightyear
Little Green Man
A Bug’s Life
Monster’s Inc.
Finding Nemo

Are these supposed to be the 50 most popular characters? That seems like a lot, but there must be thousands of Disney animated characters and even with a list like this there are dozens of glaring omissions - like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. I’m assuming the collection was being put together before the release of The Incredibles movie which would explain their absence, but I’m still surprised that Lilo and Stitch were left out.
(Note: The Winnie the Pooh set is apparently offered seperately)

To get an idea of how many characters they had to leave out just look at this list of Disney animated movies that are not represented in the wobbler collection:

Sleeping Beauty
The Sword in the Stone
The Jungle Book
The Aristocats
Robin Hood
The Rescuers
The Black Cauldron
The Great Mouse Detective
Oliver and Company
Beauty and the Beast
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Emperor’s New Groove
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Lilo and Stitch
Treasure Planet
Brother Bear
Home on the Range

And that’s not counting the partially animated movies like Song of the South, Pete’s Dragon, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins.

But who knows? Maybe they will issue a second set before long and this time include the rest of the Dwarves.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Knocking down strawmen

A disappointing column this weekend by Jonathan Gurwitz.
It started off promisingly enough with his acknowledgment that there are “principled reasons to question and oppose the U.S.-led offensive in Iraq.”

He even seems to hint further down that his own unwavering position in support of the war could change when he says that the question of whether or not the war was worth it “... is not a liberal or conservative exercise. It is a judgment arrived at by evaluating factors that can and do change over time.”

But have those factors changed enough to affect his position? Or perhaps he will address some of those “principled reasons” for opposing the war and explain why he is still 100 percent behind the President.

Unfortunately, Gurwitz fails to address either of these issues in the rest of his column. Instead he decides to go after some easy targets - namely, some of the more extremist protesters camped out at Crawford. In this way, he manages to construct three straw men using slogans that he read off of some of the protesters’ signs and then proceeds to knock them over one by one. This also gives him an excuse to raise the specter of anti-semitism that has been exciting right-wingers recently in their efforts to smear Cindy Sheehan.

But it also allows him to skirt the more serious issues facing the United States as we try to figure some way out of this quagmire Bush has led us into. Like how are we going to afford the $1 trillion price tag that this war will present us with if it continues to drag on for two or three more years. And how are we going to fill the gaps in our military as recruiting efforts continue to lag behind?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The art of condemnation

I've been having a long and sometimes heated argument over at All Things Conservative about the right-wing effort to smear Cindy Sheehan as an anti-semite.
It has gotten to the point where I have been accused of being an anti-semite myself because I will not condemn Sheehan as an anti-semite.
The charges apparently stem from an e-mail that Sheehan supposedly wrote in which she says:

"...(my son) was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the army to protect America, not Israel."

There has been some question as to whether Sheehan actually wrote those words. She apparently is now claiming that her e-mail was altered and changed by somebody else who wanted to make her look bad. But assuming that she did write the above during a fit of anger, is it proof or evidence that she is racist against Jews as many on the right now allege?

Another commenter at ATC insists that the above statement is "accusing Jews at the highest levels of American government of manipulating policy to get the United States to go to war to defend Israeli interests."
He then goes on to claim that anyone "who can't see that this is bald anti-Semitism, consistent with right-wing extremism, Nazism, Islamic extremism and every anti-Semitic theory going back to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion," is "beyond the pale of intelligent debate."

I don't agree with the statement above. I don't believe we went to war in Iraq to defend Israeli interests.
But it is true that we would go to war to protect Israel if they were ever seriously threatened. And it is also true that the security of Israel was one of the factors raised by the Bush administration prior to launching their invasion of Iraq. The long-range missiles that Saddam was said to have in violation of U.N. dictates were said to be a threat to Israel - they were certainly no threat to the U.S.

But even if we did go to war to protect Israel, does it mean that someone who opposes that war is necessarily racist towards Jews?
To frame this question differently, I posed the following analogy: Let's say the mother of a soldier killed during the First Gulf War is angry and says she did not want her son to die defending Kuwait. Does that mean she is racist towards Kuwaitis?
Of courst not.

I for one am not happy with a lot of things that Israel does right now, but it is not because it is a Jewish state. Rather it is because they are currently guided by the right-wing Likud Party which, in my opinion, is screwing up things over there just as badly as the Republicans are screwing things up around here. The fact that I am critical of the Republicans and their political agenda does not make me anti-American.

But defending Cindy Sheehan right now is not a popular thing to do at a lot of right-wing blogs. She has become a real pariah for the right and they are looking for anything they can grab to try and tear her down.
But the point about Sheehan is not what her views and prescriptions are for resolving Middle East conflicts. It is simply the fact that she is there taking a stand. She is not a politician or a spokesperson for the Democratic Party. She is not a polished speaker with an army of handlers watching over her constantly to make sure she never says anything that is politically incorrect. She is just an average citizen who had the courage to stand up in the glare of the national media and say that enough is enough.
In that sense, she is like Rosa Parks was for the Civil Rights movement. She is a symbol that people can rally around. It did not matter what Rosa Parks views on race relations were. Likewise, I could really care less about what Sheehan has to say on the political topics of the day. So attacking her for holding some wrongheaded ideas on certain subjects is just missing the point and shows a lack of understanding about the significance of her role in this ongoing debate.
Republicans are finally starting to lose this political battle back home and that is why there has been rumbling recently that they will have a major drawback of troops next year in time for the 2006 mid-term elections. They had better do something quick because Bush's poll numbers are in total freefall right now and while he may not be running again he is going to be an albatross around his party's neck at this rate.