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“Conservatives cannot govern well . . .”

The article below by political scientist Alan Wolfe explains in convincing detail the deadly consequences of the conservatives’ unbelief in governing and reveals why a deliberately weakened FEMA was unable to respond to the destruction and suffering wrought by Hurricane Katrina:

Omigod! Operation Iraqi Freedom Isn’t Free!

As we reported in “Let the Eagle Soar” below, the Congressional Budget Office released a report Oct. 24 estimating that the total expenditures for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost over $2.4 trillion over the next ten years—or $8,000 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. We hear often enough that “freedom isn’t free,” but we’re not sure we’re getting our money’s worth—especially when so many important priorities are neglected here at home.

Celebrate! Good News for Water Works! (A One-Two Punch for The Decider)

Within two days, the two chambers of the U.S. Congress have voted to override the president’s veto of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)—the first water projects bill in seven years (normally passed every two years), and the first override of a presidential veto since 1998. Today the Senate voted 79 to 14—an overwhelming margin similar to that of the House’s 361 to 54—to authorize spending levels for about 900 projects nationwide, including about $7 billion for Louisiana coastal restoration and flood protection. Bruce Alpert of the Times-Picayune notes, “Congress still must approve individual appropriations to get the work done.”

An Open Letter to President Bush: Don’t Come Back Till WRDA Passes

The following letter has been faxed to the White House (202-456-2461). Please see below for a letter faxed to leaders in the House and Senate urging an override of the president’s veto. (The House has done it! 361 to 54—ninety votes more than needed to override.) Please see our ‘Political Action’ page for fax and phone numbers of the White House and Senate. Help us press for a Congressional override of the president’s veto—it would be a first. We’re halfway there. Thank you.

Interview with Mark Schleifstein
Pulitzer Prize-winning coauthor of
‘Path of Destruction: The Devastation of New Orleans
and the Coming Age of Superstorms’

Mark Schleifstein joined the Times-Picayune in 1984 as an environmental reporter after five years at the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi. Since 1996 he and his Times-Picayune colleague John McQuaid have written numerous major environmental series for the paper, most recently in January 2006. Schleifstein and McQuaid won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for their series “Oceans of Trouble: Are the World’s Fisheries Doomed?”—a comprehensive eight-day series about the threats to the world’s fish supply, including the effects of coastal wetlands erosion on fish in Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico. In 1998 the Picayune published their series “Home Wreckers: How the Formosan Termite Is Devastating New Orleans,” a finalist for the 1999 Pulitzer.

Diagnosis of a Stressed-Out Planet

Climate change is a central concern here at Levees Not War—it keeps us up late at night. The reasons are obvious: As we’ve said before, even Category 5–strength flood protection is useless if global warming raises sea levels by 10 or 20 feet or more, as scientists have warned may happen in this century. (See ‘Swiftly Melting Planet 2007,’ several posts down.) The trend can be slowed, and eventually reversed, by massive coordinated—and sustained—effort.

Lessons Learned: FEMA Staff Ask the Questions at FEMA “Press Briefing”

Deputy administrator Vice Admiral Harvey E. Johnson praised his “very smoothly, very efficiently performing team.” (For the sake of the Californians, we hope he’s right.) “And so I think what you’re seeing here is the benefit of experience, the benefit of good leadership and the benefit of good partnership, none of which were present in Katrina.” (Thanks for reminding us.)

“Let the Eagle Soar . . .”

Congressional Budget Office figures released Wednesday, Oct. 24, estimate that total spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “and other activities related to the war on terrorism” may amount to between $1.2 trillion and $1.7 trillion through fiscal year 2017. Counting interest (we’re fighting on borrowed money), the costs over the next decade could reach $2.4 trillion. The costs may go higher. Iraq alone accounts for $1.9 trillion, including about $564 million in interest. This latest estimate is more than 40 times higher than the Bush administration’s initial (2003) estimates of about $50 billion. The CBO’s projection assumes that 75,000 troops will still be in Iraq ten years from now.

Horseman of the Apocalypse: “If you’re interested in avoiding World War III . . .”

Yes, we’re interested in that. The president held a press conference this morning, Oct. 17. He said this: . . . we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be ...

The Picayune Has Friends, Indeed

The Friends of the Times-Picayune fund-raiser last night at the Time-Life Building on Avenue of the Americas was quite a success—and a taste of home, with dee-licious hors d’oeuvres and music by Henry Butler (classic in his purple suit) and Davell Crawford. Mr. John Huey of Time Inc. welcomed everyone and pledged that Time will keep the spotlight on New Orleans and vicinity.

Blind Justice and Verschärfte Vernehmung: Sullivan Sees “War Criminals in the White House”

Sullivan and Marty Lederman at Balkinization have fittingly harsh judgments on what today’s New York Times article “Secret U.S. Endorsement of Severe Interrogations” tells us about the Bush Justice Department’s blind eye toward torture. (“A place of inspiration” is how former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales described DOJ.) Lederman, who worked many years at Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, writes: