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Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Archive for November, 2009

Army Corps Found Negligent by Federal Judge

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

The failure of the Corps to recognize the destruction that the MRGO [Mississippi River–Gulf Outlet navigation canal] had caused and the potential hazard that it created is clearly negligent on the part of the Corps. Furthermore, the Corps not only knew, but admitted by 1988, that the MRGO threatened human life. (p. 105)

The Corps’ lassitude and failure to fulfill its duties resulted in a catastrophic loss of human life and property in unprecedented proportions. The Corps’ negligence resulted in the wasting of millions of dollars in flood protection measures and billions of dollars in Congressional outlays to help this region recover from such a catastrophe. (p. 111)

MR-GO navigation canal appears at center (vertical); Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish at left. Detail of NASA photo.

MR-GO appears at center (vertical); Lower 9th Ward, St. Bernard Parish at left. NASA photo.

Federal Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. has found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ poor maintenance of the Mississippi River–Gulf Outlet navigation canal was responsible for some of the worst flooding of St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward during and after Hurricane Katrina.

Mark Schleifstein of the Times-Picayune explains: “Duval’s 156-page decision could result in the federal government paying $700,000 in damages to three people and a business in those areas, but also sets the stage for judgments worth billions of dollars against the government for damages suffered by as many as 100,000 other residents, businesses and local governments in those areas who filed claims with the corps after Katrina.”


Coastal Conservation Corps:
A New CCC for Coastal Restoration—and Jobs

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Linoleum block print by Friedolin Kessler, CCC, 1936.

Linoleum block print by Friedolin Kessler, CCC, 1936.

Levees Not War is pleased to direct your attention to LaCoastPost, where you can read a guest post titled “Why Not Institute a ‘Green’ Corps for the Coast?”, or, “Reinventing the CCC and WPA.” In collaboration with LaCoastPost editor Len Bahr, a coastal science and policy adviser to five Louisiana governors, we propose a Coastal Civilian Corps—a new CCC for our time—as a workable remedy for the widespread unemployment and environmental degradation besetting Louisiana and the nation. Both Levees Not War and LaCoastPost have recommended a CCC for coastal restoration before + a new WPA for infrastructure reinforcement. Now, with the still bleak employment outlook and the urgent need for defense against hurricane storm surge, plus the likelihood of a new push for further stimulus legislation in Congress, we think it’s time to press for a new CCC—and we urge activists and public officials in all 50 states to press for similar legislation nationwide. Read all about it at LaCoastPost.

“The Brown Pelican Is Back”

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

An Environmental Protection Success Story
Detail from the Bank of New Orleans, Magazine Street.

Detail from the Bank of New Orleans, Magazine Street.

The brown pelican, a species that was driven nearly to extinction by use of the pesticide D.D.T., has grown back in strong enough numbers that the admirable bird has been removed from the endangered species list. The decision was announced Wednesday by officials of the U.S. Interior Department in a ceremony with Senator Mary Landrieu at Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in Lacombe, Louisiana. The brown pelican was declared endangered in 1970. Pelicans would eat fish that contained traces of D.D.T., and the pesticide’s weakening of calcium in the eggshell would cause the birds’ eggs to be so thin that they would break during incubation. Bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and other birds were similarly affected. D.D.T. was banned in 1972 (but we’re not safe yet).

Christine Harvey of the Times-Picayune explains the announcement in illuminating detail. She reports that Senator Landrieu used the occasion of the visit by Interior assistant secretary Tom Strickland and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services director Sam Hamilton

to convene a closed meeting between the Interior officials and about 75 coastal restoration “stakeholders” representing state agencies, universities, local governments and environmental groups in an effort to press the Obama administration on its commitment to speeding the state’s coastal restoration process.


Homeless on Veterans’ Day

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009


Gen. Shinseki with the president at a Veterans’ Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

We reprint the following editorial from today’s New York Times as a reminder that a grateful nation owes its veterans more than ceremonies and nice words. Also, we salute the admirable commitment of General Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to improving this nation’s care and rehabilitation of its veterans. We earnestly hope the White House and Congress will listen to him (he has not always been heeded) and help as he recommends.

Veterans not only deserve good counseling, job training, and housing assistance, but they also need—and certainly they have earned—dependable, affordable health care. A Harvard Medical School study finds that last year, 2,200 veterans died for lack of health insurance—that’s six preventable deaths per day. Some 1.46 million veterans between 18 and 64 (too young for Medicare) have no health insurance. (Those not injured in battle and who are above a certain income are often ineligible for V.A. care.)

Homeless on Veterans Day: A New York Times editorial

Gen. Eric Shinseki was famously shunned by the Bush administration for daring to state the true costs of occupying Iraq. As President Obama’s secretary of veterans affairs, he is, thankfully, no less candid about the grinding problems veterans face at home. They lead the nation in depression, suicide, substance abuse and homelessness, according to data that Mr. Shineski is delivering in salvos in his current role.


Harm’s Way, or, A Surge of His Own?

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The ceremony at Fort Hood yesterday was beautiful, and heart-breaking. The pain was all too real, and the president’s speech was sincere, somber, respectful, and probably healing.

But . . . could the ceremony have been designed in part as a warm-up, a stirring of our patriotism before the president announces yet another large increase of troops to Afghanistan? It may seem cynical to ask such a question—even heretical on Veterans’ Day of all days—but we know that this White House’s strategists and media team are skillful in their use of theatrical settings to match the president’s eloquence (nothing necessarily wrong with that). Obama’s words will unite us, make us feel better, and then he’ll announce a surge of his own. Or will he?

Just days after the horrifying massacre at Fort Hood by Nidal Malik Hasan, an army psychiatrist “mortified” about being deployed to Afghanistan, it has been leaked (and denied) that the White House plans to increase U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan by some 35,000 to 40,000. Once this deployment is fulfilled, the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, now about 68,000 (more than double the number when Bush left office), would be about 110,000.

But for now, on this Veterans’ Day, no more commentary, but prayers for healing of the wounded, for repose of the souls of the many, many dead, and peace and healing for the families and friends of the casualties of war. And, always, prayers for peace—and for the enduring strength and determination to work for peace.

“Whose Side Is Senator Landrieu On?”

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Public-Funded Health Care Has Been Good Enough for Landrieu

Karen Gadbois of Squandered Heritage, besides being a celebrated citizen-blogger + whistle-blower about the New Orleans Affordable Housing scandal—voted New Orleanian of the Year 2008 by Gambit Weekly—is a courageous breast cancer survivor who works full-time yet has no health insurance for herself or her daughter. In this video, produced by Democracy for America, Karen briefly shares her personal, heartfelt story and asks viewers to help press Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu to support a public option in health care reform. Landrieu has received $1.6 million in contributions from the insurance and health care industry, yet she has disingenuously dismissed the public option as a free-lunch giveaway.


Dems, Heed Creigh Deeds
(or, How to Make Voters Stay Home)

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

deedsVirginia Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Loses by 18 Points

“I’m not afraid of going against my fellow Democrats when they’re wrong. . . . A public option isn’t required in my view.” —Creigh Deeds, quoted in Firedoglake

We hope the White House political strategists are taking note, and we don’t mind if they’re feeling queasy. As Think Progress points out, Creigh Deeds did not run as a progressive and thus failed to give voters any compelling reason to come out for him. Large numbers of Democrats stayed home to wash their hair, while GOP turnout was about like 2008’s.

The best take we’ve seen comes from Markos himself at DailyKos (“Tonight’s Big Lesson”):

There will be much number-crunching tomorrow, but preliminary numbers (at least in Virginia) show that GOP turnout remained the same as last year, but Democratic turnout collapsed. This is a base problem, and this is what Democrats better take from tonight:

1.  If you abandon Democratic principles in a bid for unnecessary “bipartisanship,” you will lose votes.

2.  If you water down reform in favor of Blue Dogs and their corporate benefactors, you will lose votes.

3.  If you forget why you were elected—health care, financial services, energy policy and immigration reform—you will lose votes.


Read the Senators’ Mail—About Health Care Reform

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

3DCKaufferWe fax and mail a lot of letters to members of Congress—often demanding robust flood protection and coastal restoration for Louisiana, and in recent months pressing for health care reform with a strong public option. Sometimes they write back.

Below are excerpts from several recent letters from senators in response to our letters about health reform. (All are Democrats.)

Byron L. Dorgan (North Dakota)

I do support a public option on a healthcare reform plan. . . . It’s more difficult than some suggest. Yes, we’ve got the majority in the Congress and the President in the White House, but it’s very hard to move public policy that does not have reasonably broad support among the American people. Coming out of out this deep recession there is a great deal of great anxiety and concern, and my hope is that we can build the support that is necessary to pass some good healthcare reform. We are trying.

Kirsten E. Gillibrand (New York)

I believe that by opening up a not-for-profit public health plan like a “Medicare for all,” we can ensure that every American has access to quality, affordable healthcare where anyone could buy in at an affordable rate, such as 5% of their income. . . .

Offering a public health care plan option to compete with private insurers is the best way to truly lower health costs, improve quality of care and ensure access to care in rural and other underserved areas. Injecting health competition into the health care market is the only way to achieve real health care reform.