Publius Archive

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Friday, September 30, 2005

Box of Freedom





Excerpted from a running e-mail debate...

On 9/30/05, B. A. wrote:

Oh, I'd love to see this special personal version of the constitution where there is a "freedom from religion" clause. I suppose it comes right before I am guaranteed the freedom from free speech? There is no wall of separation in the way that I think you intend it.


Not Again!
OK, Let's review the 1st Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...

-It doesn't say, "Shall make no law respecting an establishment of a religion." It's concerning ANY and ALL religion.

-It doesn't say, "shall make no law establishing religion." You can't make a law respecting establishment. The law can't even talk around the subject in law! That's a very high hurdle.
.

It doesn't say "shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion." Anything that could be considered an establishment is prohibited.

Some then argue that the anti-establishment clause is contradicted by the freedom clause, thus watering it down. This is not the case.

...
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

Why is that?
The Constitution prohibits the free exercise of religion! The Constitution itself is above the law, and it prohibits the free exercise of religion, specifically within the administration of the government. There is no contradiction.

or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


And finally, you will notice that there is no clause regarding speech and press analogous to the anti-establishment clause. --- So you ask, what exactly did the founding fathers intend? Let's consult the author of the 1st Amendment. From the University of Virginia website:

Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society. -Thomas Jefferson

I think that's pretty clear. That hyphenated word, non-belief does sort of settle the question of freedom from religion.

So has our government violated the anti-establishment clause? REPEATEDLY and over the course of centuries. This is one case where I'd really like to see a strict constructionist Justice.

I for one am sick of hearing Newt Gingrich and his political spawn lie about the lack of freedom from religion. It does bother me to see religious scenes in government buildings. They may seem harmless enough, but it's the camel's nose under the tent.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Here We Go Again

New Abuse Allegations coming from Iraq and Afghanistan...

The U.S. Army has launched a criminal investigation into new allegations of serious prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan made by a decorated former Captain in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, an Army spokesman has confirmed to TIME.

McCain wants to put into law a provision that we always abide by the Geneva Convention. Bush threatens to veto it...

McCain noted too that he wanted prohibitions against torture underscored in the Army Field Manual, which he said "is the document that the Army goes by and the military goes by when in the process of interrogation and treatment of prisoners." Told that the White House was opposed to such an amendment and that the president might veto the bill if the amendment were included, McCain said he was unsure whether there were enough votes in the Senate to override it.

God Bless America.

(and a tip of the hat to Metafilter.com)
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Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Box of God

There's a lively email list associated with this blog that one might never guess at based on the threads on the blog itself. Since the list came first, it's been hard to move people here. Anyway, one contributor, John Reid, has posted a very thoughtful essay on the meaning of God in a political context. I include it here, edited for minor corrections and clarity.

I don't think my being the center of my own universe has much influence unless I can make myself the center of everyone elses universe. This is the nature of power. Either God uses us to establish His authority or we are using God to establish our own. The God that Moses had in his box declared "jihad" on a great many folks. The absolute annihilation of these other folks with their other gods was mandatory in establishing the power to Joshua's Box of God. And so off he warred with his Box of God.

Menachim Began used very effective terrorist tactics against innocent Brits when he strove to occupy the land promised to Moses. Osama Bin Laden uses these same tactics. Depending on the Box of God that a group has, then they have the right and the power to wage whatever war they want. They are the center of our universe according to them. God gives them the command to take, and they take. Are they merely individuals using their Box of God to get others to do what they want? Of course not! They are prophets seeking the profits that God bestows on them. They can do whatever they want, because God gives them absolute, unquestionable power and authority. Innocent lives are of no value if those innocent lives are not being directed by the right God in the right Box. The "innoncent" have lost their innocence through their ignorance of the correct God.

Far be it from us as immoral individuals to make a judgement call on their tactics. They are the leaders; we are the followers. All we can do is dance around our golden calves. We won't get anywhere. We must make war if our Box of God says make war. The idea that we each have a conscious bestowed by God to determine justice without a King is more of that pacifist Jesus stuff. The new and improved Jesus understands that our primary concern is NOT to care for the poor and needy, but rather to use them to acquire what the elite want. If we don't use the poor, then they just drain us with all their needs. So, it's God's plan that we would be the users rather the used. This is Dominion Theology or "in the name of Jesus, hurricanes be gone!" Our moral compass need only place God in north, south, east and west and we move in one accord. "It's better to be wrong together than right alone!"

More in the Comments section...

Frequently Overlooked Newsbits

In discussions with a number of folks, It seems that quite a number have not been aware of these:

washingtonpost.com
Scandal Visits the White House

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, September 20, 2005; 12:24 PM

The Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal reached into the White House yesterday, picking off President Bush's top procurement official -- who just barely had time to resign before being arrested.

The federal charges against David Safavian stem from his tenure as chief of staff of the General Services Administration, predating his arrival at the White House a year ago. But his arrest nonetheless draws renewed attention to the ongoing corruption and influence-peddling inquiry swirling around Abramoff, a lobbyist well known for his connections to conservative Republicans in the White House and Congress.... MORE

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Up to $1 billion plundered from Iraqi funds: minister
Mon Sep 19, 2005 6:53 AM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - Large-scale corruption in Iraq's ministries, particularly the defense ministry, has led to one of the biggest thefts in history with more than $1 billion going missing, Iraq's finance minister said in an interview.

"Huge amounts of money have disappeared. In return we got nothing but scraps of metal," Finance Minister Ali Allawi told British newspaper The Independent in a report published on Monday. "It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history...."
MORE...

A Plan to Win the War in Iraq

You Got Better?


link

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

THE BASIC LAWS OF HUMAN STUPIDITY

I just want to make it clear that this is one of the most brilliant treatise ever written. It even uses some fairly sophisticated game theory before it's through. Funny as it is, I swear to God it explains it all- read the whole thing!...



THE BASIC LAWS OF HUMAN STUPIDITY
by Carlo M. Cipolla
illustrations by James Donnelly

The first basic law of human stupidity asserts without ambiguity that:

Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.

Stupid Person No. 1At first, the statement sounds trivial, vague and horribly ungenerous. Closer scrutiny will however reveal its realistic veracity. No matter how high are ones estimates of human stupidity, one is repeatedly and recurrently startled by the fact that:

a) people whom one had once judged rational and intelligent turn out to be unashamedly stupid.

b) day after day, with unceasing monotony, one is harassed in ones activities by stupid individuals who appear suddenly and unexpectedly in the most inconvenient places and at the most improbable moments.

The First Basic Law prevents me from attributing a specific numerical value to the fraction of stupid people within the total population: any numerical estimate would turn out to be an underestimate. Thus in the following pages I will denote the fraction of stupid people within a population by the symbol å.

More...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Halliburton Gets Contract To Pry Gold Fillings From New Orleans Corpses' Teeth

From The Onion:

September 14, 2005 | Issue 41•37

HOUSTON—On Tuesday, Halliburton received a $110 million no-bid government contract to pry the gold fillings from the mouths of deceased disaster victims in the New Orleans-Gulf Coast area. "We are proud to serve the government in this time of crisis by recovering valuable resources from the wreckage of this deadly storm," said David J. Lesar, Halliburton's president. "The gold we recover from the human rubble of Katrina can be used to make fighter-jet electronics, supercomputer chips, inflation-proof A-grade investments, and luxury yachting watches."

---

One of the best The Daily Show bits ever!


This page links to all the recent available videos of TDS

They're all good, but may I recommend watching What, me sorry?

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Friday, September 16, 2005

A Scanner Darkly

Philip K. Dick (Horselover Fats) wrote A Scanner Darkly decades ago. (Think Bladerunner, Total Recall and Paycheck...)  Finally the technology has caught up with the vision.  The film is digitally rotoscoped, which makes the movie possible. A cop who is doing undercover surveillance on... himself.  Someday, UBIK.
Cool trailer.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Problem With Roberts


...seems to be that he isn't giving the Left much to attack.  Am I missing something here,  or is this guy a pretty reasonable fellow who happens to be very good at what he does and have a sense of humor and be a Republican?   I almost forgot that people like that existed. 
 
I actually liked a lot of what I've heard him say during the confirmation hearings.  The only red flag that goes up is the fact that he has two adopted children and he has to go home every night to a wife who's a player in an organization called Feminists for Life, an anti-abortion group.
 
If he upholds Roe v. Wade, his bed might get a little chilly...
 
Other observations-  something I missed?

"Go and get him Saddam's gun," Condi said. "You know how he likes to hold it."

In the Spirit of the Faux Faulkner Contest winner,
actual Reuters photos by way of boingboing.net:

Bush asks Condi if he can go to the bathroom

Picture 6-4Hard to believe photos of President Bush writing a note asking Condoleeza Rice if it is possible for him to take a bathroom break during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.
Link and Link

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Fwd: under the topical pun

I just have to pass this one on...

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: E V
Date: Sep 14, 2005 3:08 PM
Subject: under the topical pun



Bush was asked about his position on Roe vs. Wade.

He said he really doesn't care how people get out of
New Orleans.


---

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Make Your Own Windows Error Message











You can make your own, which look a lot better than this example would suggest. Check out the gallery. They're a scream.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Levy Breaks

2 really important media reports have come out:

1) Newsweek is the first MSM outlet to discuss GW Bush's rages. They are reporting that all the aids in the Whitehouse were afraid to tell Bush what had been all over the news for days, at least until there was no way to avoid it.

A web political blog, capitolhillblue.com has been reporting this for at least a year (and I've commented on them in these posts). The press has known this for a long time but has been tacit.

2) On NPR's , This American Life this weekend, there was a program of the stories of survivors called After the Flood . Horrific. Right now, it looks like it can only be purchased, but they seem to post Real Audio freebie casts within a week. You can also see if there will still be a broadcast in your area. Check out the local NPR website.

This program is absolutely a must listen.

From Newsweek:

Sept. 19, 2005 issue - It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States... The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

How this could be—how the president of the United States could have even less "situational awareness," as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century—is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace....

Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him. Bush can ask tough questions, but it's mostly a one-way street. Most presidents keep a devil's advocate around. Lyndon Johnson had George Ball on Vietnam; President Ronald Reagan and Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, grudgingly listened to the arguments of Budget Director Richard Darman, who told them what they didn't wish to hear: that they would have to raise taxes. When Hurricane Katrina struck, it appears there was no one to tell President Bush the plain truth: that the state and local governments had been overwhelmed, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was not up to the job and that the military, the only institution with the resources to cope, couldn't act without a declaration from the president overriding all other authority....

More...




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Saturday, September 10, 2005

stunning

Stunning in the most literal possible sense.   I'm putting the whole page from Bob Harris' site because it's just so... stunning.



Bush orders FEMA to protect Upsidedownland E-mail
Wednesday, 07 September 2005

Image

Picking up on a thought bouncing around back at TMW after a Chris Floyd post, I thought I'd find out for myself exactly which Louisiana parishes were and were not included in George W. Bush's declaration of emergency effective August 26th, which you can also reach by clicking the map itself.

I checked the parish map against the White House's own press release, posted on their own site.  I have tried to figure out how this is my own mistake, but I can't find it.  And the results are frankly so bizarre I had to make the graphic in order to properly show you.

Welcome to upside-down-land: the areas at risk for Katrina were quite remarkably the areas not included in Bush's declaration of emergency.

What the hell?

Compare and contrast with the full and specific statewide list of parishes and the services they will receive issued after the storm hit.

Is this really what Bush authorized before the storm hit?  Are they really that incompetent?


PS: Putting to rest any nightmares, the map doesn't correlate in any way I can find with demographics, income, voting patterns, campaign contributions, or the like.  If I haven't made an obvious mistake, I'm just hoping now that the press release simply got the list of "emergency" and "non-emergency" parishes mixed up.

In other words, more galling incompetence in the White House, albeit trivial, is really the best-case scenario.

Otherwise, we're looking at more galling incompetence of a frighteningly non-trivial kind.


UPDATE: I've received numerous emails explaining that all of the coastal parishes were already declared disaster areas because of Tropical Storm Cindy, which struck in June.  Checking with FEMA's own website... nope.  Only five coastal parishes -- Jefferson, Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, and St. Charles -- seem to be covered here, and only on a limited basis at that.

This is explicitly confirmed by the presidential authorization of August 23, as posted on the White House website.

I'm still hoping and half-expecting to find I've overlooked something.  I hope so.  Honestly.  I do not exactly enjoy this, and I hope this is my own mistake in some way.  But I've looked and looked on the White House and FEMA websites and Googled my fingers half off, and while I do find several parishes coming in line for various types of aid piecemeal at various times over the last several years, I cannot yet find anything which even comes close to accounting for the diagram above.  It still appears that while northern Louisiana was covered, much of Louisiana directly in the storm's path was simply not covered by the president's declaration at the time the storm hit.


UPDATE 2: I've tried calling FEMA general number repeatedly, but the phone is ringing endlessly with no answer.  Not even a machine or voicemail.  They seem a bit overwhelmed.  I'm reluctant to take anyone's time there anyway right now anyway.  Instead, I've sent polite emails to the public FEMA email addresses that seems relevant, asking for a brief explanation of the above once things have calmed down.


UPDATE 3: My inbox has received many dozens of emails from people pointing to August 29th (post-storm) documents, which supposedly fill in the blanks but are entirely off the point.  We're looking for a pre-storm explanation.  Please check your dates carefully.

Key Official In Clandestine Service of CIA To Retire

from washingtonpost.com

By Dana Priest and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 9, 2005; A05

Robert Richer, the second-ranking official in the CIA's clandestine service, has announced his retirement, telling colleagues that he lacked confidence in the agency's leadership, according to current and former intelligence officials....

...Other government officials disagreed with that assertion and said Richer's departure involved disputes over "operational issues" that they would not specify, and a clash of personalities between Richer, a former Marine, and Goss and his top aides.

Last year, Richer's predecessor and his boss resigned after clashing with Goss's aides. During Friday's meeting, Richer said he and his boss, the deputy director of operations -- who cannot be named because he remains undercover -- had been frustrated by Goss and his staff in their efforts to implement certain measures, sources said.... Richer subsequently met with national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley to explain his decision....

Richer has served for less than a year as the number two in the spy service, having been promoted from being chief of the Near East division.

More...

Friday, September 09, 2005

From Meatfilter



--
-Tom
Bookmark my Blog at:
http://publiusarchive.blogspot.com/
Mostly political news and rants from the radical Center

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Gone Bad


Somehow...  Appropriate.

---

From whitehouse.gov

Check it out.  Emphasis mine.

For Immediate Release

Office of the Press Secretary
August 27, 2005

Statement on Federal Emergency Assistance for Louisiana

The President today declared an emergency exists in the State of Louisiana and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the parishes located in the path of Hurricane Katrina beginning on August 26, 2005, and continuing.

The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the parishes of Allen, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Caldwell, Claiborne, Catahoula, Concordia, De Soto, East Baton Rouge, East Carroll, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Franklin, Grant, Jackson, LaSalle, Lincoln, Livingston, Madison, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Pointe Coupee, Ouachita, Rapides, Red River, Richland, Sabine, St. Helena, St. Landry, Tensas, Union, Vernon, Webster, West Carroll, West Feliciana, and Winn.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding.

Representing FEMA, Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Department of Homeland Security, named William Lokey as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: FEMA (202) 646-4600.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Feckless- Errant- Mulish- Aimless

(From Kos)

FEMA won't accept Amtrak's help in evacuations

FEMA turns away experienced firefighters

FEMA turns back Wal-Mart supply trucks

FEMA prevents Coast Guard from delivering diesel fuel

FEMA won't let Red Cross deliver food

FEMA bars morticians from entering New Orleans


Then there's this:

GULF COAST CRISIS: OFF THE GULF COAST

Navy ship nearby underused
Craft with food, water, doctors needed orders

By Stephen J. Hedges
Chicago Tribune national correspondent
Published September 4, 2005

"ON THE USS BATAAN -- While federal and state emergency planners scramble to get more military relief to Gulf Coast communities stricken by Hurricane Katrina, a massive naval goodwill station has been cruising offshore, underused and waiting for a larger role in the effort...."
"...The role in the relief effort of the sizable medical staff on board the Bataan was not up to the Navy, but to FEMA officials directing the overall effort."
--
-Tom
Bookmark my Blog at:
http://publiusarchive.blogspot.com/
Mostly political news and rants from the radical Center

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Federal Safety Net

This is a brief excerpt from an ongoing email discussion group to which this blog is loosely related. The following is a portion of a comment one of the conservative posters made (I believe it's context is appropriately represented), along with my reply (corrected for some spelling errors)
.
On 9/5/05, B.A. wrote:
... and also believe in policies that actually consider what is best for my fellow man instead of rallying behind 60 years of completely failed liberal policies which led to nothing but economic disaster, corruption, and dependent poverty.


I'm not sure what "completely failed" liberal policies that you are speaking of. First, we were never as liberal (spelled s-o-c-i-a-l-i-s-t) as any number of other western nations; we have always had a hybrid system. Second, during those years of "failed liberal policies" how was it we managed to become the dominant economic power on the globe?

And last but not least, history teaches us that pure (or nearly pure) capitalist systems can have catastrophic failures. I suggest you read up a bit more on the Hoover administration from 1929 when the market crashed to the onset of the depression when there were far too many goods chasing far too few dollars, leading to a domino effect of layoffs and further economic depression, to the episode where the army, with tanks attacked peaceful starving veterans, bayoneting them and their families on the Mall in Washington DC. And let's not forget about the total collapse of the banking system in early 1933 during the last days of Hoover's administration.

It was unmitigated disaster, and it was exactly why liberals wrenched control of the government for so long afterwards. People remembered what happened.

It is my opinion that it is no coincidence that pure free-marketers have been able to come back so strongly as the last of the leaders and businessmen who lived though the Great Depression have passed the reigns on to people who have never known anything but prosperity. Soon The Great Depression will pass out of living memory.
It can happen again if you systematically trash all the safety nets our fathers worked so hard to build.

Hear That Long Snake Moan part 1

There probably isn't a more fitting eulogy regarding the cultural dominance of New Orleans over this country (and the world) than this essay by Michael Ventura on the cultural roots of Rock & Roll, Gospel and of course, Jazz music.

From where do they spring? Read on! This is one of the best cultural histories I have ever read, and is extremely enjoyable.

It's long out of print, but seems to be required reading in a number of college courses, based on a Google search. I scanned the first half some time ago and present it here (look in the comments at the bottom of this post for the text, as I have not yet perfected my FTP skills).

I'd be happy to scan the second half (bringing it to the modern day) if anyone were to ask.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Primary Responsibility

The cycle has become familiar: first the nation gets blindsided with some scandal or calamity, then people start to ask questions then the noise-machine revs up, reassigning blame and responsibility with any but the administration.

As noted in Daily Kos, in case you've been hearing that it was the Governor and the Mayor that were responsible for coordinating the NO disaster relief, it would be wise to consult the Department of Homeland Security (which has subsumed FEMA) web site:

Emergencies & Disasters
Preparing America

In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness. Educating America's families on how best to prepare their homes for a disaster and tips for citizens on how to respond in a crisis will be given special attention at DHS.

Not to say that the Mayor and the Governor did the best possible job, but they were not responsible for the relief effort
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Saturday, September 03, 2005

A seriously cool Katrina-Hit neighborhood info Wiki

Be sure to zoom in and click on the balloons for information on what's going on in that neighborhood:
http://www.scipionus.com/

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Friday, September 02, 2005

Grover Norquist: A Government "Small Enough to Drown in the Bathtub"


I guess he got his wish.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

What is it About That Middle Monkey?

A friend sent me this pic.

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If You haven't Seen This Yet, Better Read It

Remember that nice $600 (or whatever) check you got in the mail from Uncle Sam, and the promises to make the tax cuts permanent? This should be a reminder that there is no free lunch. From Editor & Publisher:

Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen? 'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues By Will Bunch Published: August 31, 2005 9:00 PM ET


...The [Army Corps of Engineers] 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."


... From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:
"The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don't get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can't stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we have isn't that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can't raise them...."