Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Why is 60 percent the magic number?

Time now to toot my little horn -- something I don't like to do -- but I find it curious, as did oyster that the Times-Picayune opinion pieces are starting to sound more like local blog posts, or, as he said, we're sounding more like Times-Picayune opinion pieces.

On the Baker bill, I think I was out there before the Times-Picayune (or Lolis Eric Elie at least). My thinking has always been that the Baker bill was a start in the right direction, but I've objected to it because it didn't provide enough compensation to owners. I always wanted to know why 60 percent was the magic number to compensate owners for homes damaged by federal levees. Why not 100 percent compensation? You can go back to read my posts made in November and December for more of my arguments on the Baker bill.

To me it seemed like a boondoggle for developers courtesy of taxpayers and former homeowners. I've been offered the rebuttal that 60 percent is the best we can realistically expect to get from Congress. Really? What car dealer starts by telling you the lowest price he can offer you?

I've also been promoting the idea that the federal government should accept its legal responsibility for damages -- it's not an issue of charity. It's an issue of owners' right to compensation for damages.

Now, Lolis is on the same wave length, but that's not the end of the story. Lolis quotes local pundit and blogger C.B. Forgotston for the thrust of the piece:

C.B. Forgotston, an independent government watchdog, says the federal government is getting off easy. The failure of the levees, not the strength of the hurricane winds, destroyed New Orleans. Those levees were built by the Army Corps of Engineers.

"The federal government destroyed my house and possessions. Why should I accept 60 percent?" Forgotston said.

"If you left your house this morning and returned this evening to find that the Corps of Engineers, by mistake, incompetence or negligence, had bulldozed your house to the ground, would you accept 60 percent payment for your loss?

"The only difference in that scenario and what happened was that the damage was done with water instead of a bulldozer," he said. "Legally I would be entitled to pain, suffering and living expenses for the last five months. But as a compromise, all I want is to be put back financially where I was in August." ...

The Baker bill sidesteps the question of who is responsible for the destruction of New Orleans. It seeks to ensure that neighborhoods as a whole will be rebuilt, instead of a piecemeal rebuilding in which residents who can afford to pay for the work on their homes will come back. ...

Currently, the Baker bill may be our best hope for rebuilding. But it shouldn't be confused with a just settlement.

By the way, it's a powerful post by oyster I linked to above. I strongly recommend you read it.

Ahem ... I won't take down the link to C.B. Forgotston's site in the sidebar, but I'm not linking to him in this post because he doesn't reciprocate for other local bloggers.

2/01/06 update: A spectacular lightning storm tonight has me out of bed thinking about this a little more. Until now, most of the press reported the Baker bill as the only plan out there to help homeowners, describing the 60 percent solution as the best homeowners could expect, rather than asking how the 60 percent number was determined, or why it couldn't be increased. Before the bill goes back out to the White House and Congress, we ought to try to improve it. I have to say, I've tried to contact Baker's office a number of times to get an answer to the 60 percent question without reply -- kind'a makes me wonder ...


At 2/01/2006 08:37:00 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Time to let loose the lawyers. The whole reason for the 9-11 victims compensation fund was to prevent the victims families from taking down the insurance and airlines industries.

I saw let the fun begin. Let's not only get 110% from the feds, let's take down the insurance companies as well. They don't want to write in Louisiana? Fine. Let's arrange to deprive them of the funds they need to write anywhere else.

At 2/02/2006 11:56:00 PM, Blogger Nabil said...

Feel free to forward. For previous postings, see: .

This long sojourn was something of a self-imposed
sabbatical, enhanced by a profound sense of inertia.
Interestingly, the blog connected to this listserv
still attracts a solid 29 hits a day -- no less, no
more. I'm convinced that the National Security
Administration [NSA] has simply hooked my blog up to
its listening network through 29 separate software
nodes. Perhaps that sounds like a conspiracy theory,
but it makes a lot more sense to me than the idea that
29 different (or same) people check this blog daily
when it's been inactive for nearly 6 weeks now. I'm
equally convinced that the FBI visit that my parents
were treated to on my behalf in the spring of 2003 was
triggered by the NSA listening program. In other
words, they were listening to me (in Jordan at the
time, with MSF), and they sent the FBI to check up.
Perhaps we should be reassured that they're on the
beat, that they didn't ever really harass us, or that
we can all feel safer that we're all being watched --
except that every time Bush repeats the assertion that
it's a "limited" program monitoring the activities of
those with "suspected ties to al-Qaeda," I'm reminded
that he means me, and I'm part of a "limited"
phenomenon. Folks always wonder why European Jewry
didn't get out of town when the writing was on the
wall in the 1930's. I think I know why -- the
crawfish boil scenario. That is, if you throw
crawfish into boiling water they struggle to get out.
If you heat it up slowly, they don't even struggle.
Analogy certainly works.

Back to Katrina affairs. Last night Mr. Bush once
again shook all of us New Orleanians out of any sense
of laissez-faire by pointedly, intentionally, and
brusquely ignoring the long awaited initiatives
necessary to bring back New Orleans. In his State of
the Union, the greatest national disaster
(financially) in US history was all but ignored -- and
New Orleanians are pissed.

Granted, our fine mayor Mr. Nagin has not helped
matters lately, what with his "chocolate city"
comments followed by profuse (and sincere, it appears)
apologies. Many folks are energized by the recently
announced candidacy of Mitch Landrieu (Jesuit
graduate, Louisiana Lt. Governor) ibn Moon Landrieu
(Jesuit graduate, NO mayor back in the 1970's,
namesake for the "Moonwalk," and HUD cabinet secretary
for President Carter). Although I've got nothing
against Ray Nagin, I have to admit that Nagin's
national credibility is shot and Mitch would probably
be a great improvement at this point.

Following Bush's symphony of silence last night, today
LA Governor Blanco announced state intentions to
recover oil and gas royalties which up until now have
effortlessly flowed into that Black Hole known as the
US Treasury (see article below). Now, that's what
we're talking about! Her initiative would "only" bring
in about 2 billion USD per year, but that would at
least give LA state govt enough cash to do something
for itself. Pissing it away to -- oh, so
uncorruptable -- DC is simply getting us nowhere.

Which brings me to the main point of today's posting
-- secession. I have been talking it up for months
now, and have always said that if no significant
federal reconstruction funds materialize by this
summer, it'll be time to start talking secession. As
far as I'm concerned, last night moved the schedule
up. The Gulf Coast is simply no longer on the
national agenda. We're on our own. Period. To
paraphrase our friendly neighborhood Evangelicals:
"the feds help those who help themselves."

Here's a proposal, to "help ourselves". We need to
immediately start a serious petition drive to put on
the November 2006 election ballot a referendum on
secession from the United States of America. If
nothing else, it'll be hard to ignore the symbolic
significance of a secession referendum in any part of
the US. One might argue that this would alienate the
rest of the US, but I don't see how we could be more
ignored than we were last night. I would argue the
opposite -- maybe this would wake DC up on the one
hand, and spread some useful ideas for community
activism in the rest of these United States. So, any
ideas for secession petition logistics are hereby

The argument is as follows: we in the Gulf Coast have
been paying our federal taxes and sending our troops
to die halfway around the world for decades. As of
last night, exactly 50 Louisianians have died serving
in the US Armed Forces in Iraq since 2003. When
Katrina hit, 1/3 of our LA National Guard was in Iraq
-- absolutely useless to their home state. We pay oil
and gas royalties to the tune of well over 5 billion
USD per year. The Port of Louisiana is the primary
export gateway for US grain exports. New Orleans is
the center for one of the few worthwhile cultural
contributions America has ever given the world --
Jazz. Widening it out a bit, the Gulf Coast has big
time gambling coming soon on the Mississippi Gulf
Coast, Keesler Air Force Base, Pensacola Naval
Training Facility (where they learn to land planes on
old carriers), the (bustling) Port of Mobile, Avondale
shipyards, the Biloxi shipyards (where they build
state of the art destroyers), Michoud (space shuttle
gas tanks), Stennis NASA facility (rocket engine
testing facility), etc. In a nutshell, all of this
has been provided to the US Government and society.
In return, all we've ever asked for is protection. In
New Orleans, the levees -- a federal responsibility --
breached. After the breach, recriminations, excuses,
clean-up funding, more. Well, it's time to
take "pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps" to the
next level.

While it may seem purely symbolic at this point, the
utopian vision is as follows: we should push for an
independent nation state with the following borders:
Lake Charles (or Galveston) to the west, Pensacola (or
Mobile) to the east, Lafayette-Baton Rouge-Hattiesburg
to the north, and the Gulf Coast to the south. It's a
little sliver of America, but it's got some jewels.
Export tariffs, oil and gas royalties, transport fees,
tourism, gambling, etc -- we can finance our own
recovery. It's a little sketchy, but there it is.
Who knows, maybe France will send some money over, via
the EU.

Now that South Park is hitting on Katrina, I guess
there's pleny more to say. But enough for today.

In case I don't write anything for another 6 weeks, I
urge you to follow the following blogs, each of which
is kept up frequently and has further links on

Our one article today, regarding secession (I have
saved many more, but...maybe later):,,-5586693,00.html

La. Governor Demands U.S. Pay Royalties

Wednesday February 1, 2006 7:46 PM

At 2/03/2006 04:50:00 AM, Blogger Schroeder said...

Reston, Virginia? Is that where your hits are coming from?

If I were tapping into the blog realm for the NSA, I wouldn't be so obvious as to leave a return address, but I don't have much faith in the prowess of those idjuts -- stupidity explains why they think they need to take more of our liberties to do their jobs.


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