Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Another war casualty?

In 1995 Congress authorized a massive levee project to protect New Orleans from a catastrophic storm such as Katrina. $430 million was spent by the Army Corps of Engineers between then and 2003. $250 million remained to finish the work. Then the funds dried up. According to an article in today's Washington Post:

"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.'

Also that June, with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the Corps' project manager Al Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for."

What will probably happen now is George Bush will stride onto the stage and portray himself as the strong and macho leader who'll make things right for the people of New Orleans. Most of the sheep-like populace of the country will feel reassured and go back to watching TV. Gas prices will skyrocket even more than they would have without the disaster and the oil barons will rub their hands in glee.

I'd say it's a little late to make amends to the people floating face down in the oily waters of Lake Ponchartrain that now inundate New Orleans. $250 million could have prevented it. $250 million dollars is about what one of those bunker bombs we hit Baghdad with costs.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A bio-break in Berkeley

The thing I love most about my job is that it takes me all over the country. That's a good thing when you live in a town of twenty thousand in the southernmost reaches of Illinois.

I landed in San Francisco late Sunday afternoon and it all came rushing back as it always does. What gets to me first is the dazzling quality of light. The colors are sharp and I'm soon seduced by the way the sun bounces off the stucco houses, pink, green, blue, yellow and white. A trip across the Bay Bridge takes me over to the East Bay where the company I work for, Peachpit, has scheduled several days of editorial brainstorming and training.

After an hour or so in the first meeting this morning, I knew for sure I was in California when our publisher, Nancy Ruenzel, suggested it was probably time for a "bio-break." Everyone in the room laughed, and ribbed her and she took it in characteristic good nature. A little dose of the Bay Area every now and then helps keep me sane.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Is it just me...

...or is the right-wing stranglehold over our nation beginning to crumble?

Bu$hco CEO Dubya now finds himself preaching to the choir about staying the course in his dirty war in Iraq, and even the choir is starting to turn a deaf ear. He goes to the reddest of red states and finds protesters everywhere he looks. They're camped out on his front lawn in Crawford, two thousand of them fill up a park in Salt Lake City after their mayor urged them to do so, and by god, in a little town in Idaho with a population of 138, more than two hundred are there to greet him.

Then there's bloatbag Pat Robertson calling for the assassination of the president of Venezuela. Even Bu$hco has to distance itself from that kind of insanity (as if they probably weren't already thinking about doing that anyway.)

Newt Gingrich calls the near-election of Paul Hackett in Ohio a "wake-up call." Republican senator Chuck Hagel says there is no way Americans will accept the administration's plan for more than 100,000 troops in Iraq as late as 2009.

Every time they fill their gas tanks, Americans feel loathing for the oil companies, and I would think, must see some connection between the oiliest administration in history and the lightening of their wallets.

Even Rush Windbag can't put positive spin on this shit. I think the house of cards is beginning to crumble. And once it starts going down, it'll go down fast. Just look at the poll numbers.

The thing that worries me most however, knowing the boundlessness of their corruption and lust for power, is how they're likely to stage some kind of terrorist event just prior to the 2006 elections so they can get everybody scared and fired up again. Just wait and see.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Elizabeth Edwards for President

This just in from Elizabeth Edwards about Cindy Sheehan. This kind of compassion sure beats Laura's brownies and lemonade:

"This is a mother who raised her son to love his country enough to serve," she writes. "This is a mother who lived the impossible life of a mother of a soldier serving in Iraq, unable to sleep when he sleeps, unable to sleep when he is on duty, unable to watch the television, unable to stop watching the television. And when the worst does happen, when the world comes crashing down and she puts the boy she bore, the boy she taught, the boy she loved in the ground, what does that government say to her? It says we'll do the talking; we don't need to hear from you. If we are decent and compassionate, if we know the lessons we taught our children, or if, selfishly, all we want is the long line of the brave to protect us in the future, we should listen to the mothers now."

Thomas Jefferson speaks

“A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt...

If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake.”

Written in a letter by Thomas Jefferson after the passage of the Sedition Act in 1798

Saturday, August 13, 2005

"I really get me."

"The older I get, the more I enjoy myself as a conversational companion--so agreeable, so insightful, so funny! I really get me! So I think as bloggers, we simply want others to get us--it is a way of sharing that offers few, if any risks."

These words are from my longtime friend Gail in Detroit, whose new blog showcases both her painting and writing. It's worth checking out. (And I'm not just saying this because Gail is the most faithful commenter on this blog.)

But I don't necessarily agree with Gail about there being few, if any risks to blogging. You never know who is reading your posts. You can easily be misunderstood, or in the passion of the moment hurt people, even in your own family, as I did with rude things I said in the aftermath of my bitterness about the 2004 election.

It became real for me how many unexpected readers can find their way to your site when I plugged into my T-mobile connection at a Starbucks while traveling last summer. The guy at the next table overheard me say my name on a cell-phone call. He said, "Michael Nolan from Philadelphia? I was just reading your blog yesterday." He was a political blogger himself, and had done a Google search for the mayor of Indianapolis. He came to my blog because I had mentioned the mayor's name in a post. It was an eerie feeling and made me want to be more careful about what I write.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Now they're bashing the mothers

Cindy Sheehan lost her son in the Bushco insanity of the Iraq war. Like America itself, she has slowly come to her senses and recognizes that she has been raped. She's not willing to stay quiet.

And now the right-wing rah-rah chorus is going after her. They're calling her an agent of terrorists, questioning her patriotism, threatening to arrest her.

Bear in mind this right-wing chorus is notoriously absent itself from the ranks of the Iraq-liberators. Young Republicans are far more interested in the stock market and their job prospects; they prefer to let the lower classes do their fighting for them.

Cindy Sheehan may represent a turning point. The sheeplike American population suddenly realizes that their children are more important to them than the profits of Halliburton subsidiaries. Duh!

Oh god, I only wish they had realized it sooner. Back in the brutal winter of 2003 I and legions of others marched on public spaces like the Circle in Indianapolis against the war we knew Bushco intended to launch whether there were "weapons of mass destruction" or not. The media (those whores) portrayed us as fools and traitors. We were joined by brave local patriots like U.S. Rep. Julia Carson and former Rep. Andy Jacobs, and ignored by the more timid, finger-in-the-wind, consensus-seeking politicos like Mayor Bart Peterson and Senator Evan Bayh. It's those very consensus builders on whom I blame the war the most. If Democrats like Bayh had had courage, they could have stopped Bu$hco's madness in its tracks.

Now the reality is getting too grim. The spinmasters can no longer hide it. Condi Rice has no clothes. This is a debacle of the worst order.

Take heart and look at this chart of Bush's ratings over the course of his terms.

Follow the trendline... America is angry. Bush will be banished.

Planning for a milliion years hence

I just heard that the EPA is requiring the Department of Energy to certify that the nuclear waste stored in Nevada will be secure for a million years. The D.O.E. is "confident" it can meet the requirement using computer modeling.

How we delude ourselves, as if we could be confident about such a thing. Certain government agencies couldn't even get it right about weapons of mass destruction.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Living on my own again

It's been years—more than twenty five of them to be exact—since I've lived by myself. I remember fondly my life alone in a tiny little apartment in Chicago when I was in my late twenties. But ever since I was 30, E. and I have shared the same home whether it was in California, Indiana, Pennsylvania or New Jersey. Last spring while I stayed behind in Indianapolis to get the house on the market, our son was with me and it was my wife who was by herself, in Philly.

This picture of my workroom here at the cottage shows why I stayed behind. Much of the place is in this kind of state, and I want to get it ready for us to come back to next summer. When I look around I'm amazed at the progress we've made since November, but it's clear this place will get finished up another year, not this one. Funny how I underestimate the complexity of many things I take on in my life. Had I known how much work renovating this cottage was going to be, I'd have run away screaming the first time I saw it. Instead, I was dazzled by imaginging what might be. Ha.

Living alone feels strange after twenty five years. This weekend I find myself wandering around trying to figure out what to do next. Should I paint those windowframes, go to the beach, have a beer, read a book, go to the laundromat, walk the dog, cut the grass or go to Wawa and get a sandwich? Cut free of anybody else's schedule or needs, the lack of structure could be empowering. Instead I'm at loose ends.

It's also problematic because I'm living in a town where I know no one. With my only human contact being with the guy who fills my gas tank or the lady at the liquor store, I feel lost and socially derailed. I need fairly constant social stimulation, and here I am a hermit.

So I've been thinking of buying some canvasses and starting to paint again. I'm restringing my guitar for the first time in seven years. Each night I make a campfire in the firepit my son dug when he first got here. I drink several glasses of wine and stare off into the flames as if they were an engrossing television show or theatre piece. When it gets late enough I go to bed.

I'm throwing myself into my work and getting ready to travel to California at the end of the month, Boston in September, and then I'll make the trek to Illinois to reunite with my family.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The outdoor shower

My wife and son have left New Jersey for Illinois. They're the advance party. I'm down here for a few weeks, finishing up work on the cottage and maximizing my days left on the East Coast. Yesterday I drove 90 miles up the Garden State Parkway to a town called Matawan where I met with a potential author, Geoffrey Hiller, photographer and documentarian extraordinare. He was visiting New York City, and offered to meet me halfway. So there we were in this farily non-descript Jersey suburb, laying plans for a book. Geoffrey's work is breathtaking and crosses cultural barriers into the realities of third world countries. You can see it for yourself by clicking on this link.

One of the things I've always liked most about shore houses is the outdoor shower. The one in our renovation has been a great success, I think. You can see it here about half done. It used to be a storage room with a rotten roof. I tore that off one cold winter day and everyone thought I was crazy. I ripped out the aluminum door (it had been reused from somebody's abandoned house trailer) and replaced it with a door I made from rough-hewn lumber stained blue. Then I stuccoed the walls, put in a new floor and had plumbers add hot and cold running water and a shower head. As time and money permit, I'll lay down a red clay tile floor and maybe paint a mural on the wall on the left. The outdoor shower is the feature that's going to sell this cottage when the time comes.

Inside it's roomy enough for a little bench and some plants. At night you light candles, mostly to discourage mosquitoes. Any time, night or day, rain or shine, the experience of showering with the wind rustling through the leaves and pine needles overhead is sublime.