Sunday, April 30, 2006

Impeach Bush banner flies over Jazz Fest


The story from a reliable source who attended Jazz Fest today was that a plane was flying over the fairgrounds pulling an "Impeach Bush" banner.

I'd like to shake the hand of the person who paid for that.

Hat tip: MM.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Are you out of your mind?

Lynne Jensen has a nice touch with this Eddie Bo story in The Times-Picayune:

"You've got to be out of your mind if you can't feel it, because people around the world feel it," Bo said.

"It's hard to play with other musicians when you are away from home," Bo said. "I mean they study; they have the art down to a science. But there's something here you can't explain. I've been trying to figure it out and I can't. And people ask and I tell them as well as I can that there is something here in New Orleans that just flows."

It's that energy that will draw musicians chased away by Hurricane Katrina back to the city, Bo said.

"Wherever you go, you're going to always want to come back to this feeling."

Desperate acts of violence

"We are resorting to desperate acts of violence because we know the establishment of democracy in the United States will be a double defeat for us," Bush said in his weekly radio address as he saluted the emergence of a permanent government.

Doh! My bad -- I misquoted!

Well it's just too bad for soldiers like Kenner native Lance Cpl. Derrick Cothran, whose funeral motorcade stretched for three miles, that Bush couldn't have been honest about the sacrifice that would be required of Americans before he ordered an invasion of Iraq.

And it's just too bad President Bush couldn't be in New Orleans to honor him, and to answer for the misguided cause for which he died.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Is satellite radio dying?

Some people once feared that satellite radio might kill local radio (myself included).

It now seems that the appropriate question to ask is, is satellite radio dying?

What about market-segmented commercial radio operated by gimongous media corporations? Will it be able to survive in the future?

As a proponent of the more interesting results that free-form, locally-produced broadcast content can provide, I certainly hope so.

I mean, do you really need to hear "More Than a Feeling" with less feeling ten more times today? Or hear the latest fashion tips? Or find out what happened on Teen Idol last night?

The Washington Post is reporting that XM radio is bleeding revenues in order to sign up subscribers faster than its competitor, Sirius.

Sirius is playing the same game, gushing revenues to beat XM to new subscribers.

The investment is futile. Satellite as a medium for content is yesterday's technology. Satellite might be used as a conduit in the future, but as a content provider, it's a goner.

There is a technological transformation just over the horizon which will drive a stake into the heart of satellite radio, while simultaneously jolting commercial radio out of its bland, drive-you-into-the-grave format.

Wi-Fi is the future.

When you can get put a Wi-Fi radio in your car, and listen to any station in the country, there won't be any logic to having a gazillion stations around the country, each formatted identically, playing the same songs, over and over ad nauseum, until your finger gets tired of hitting the scan button.

Instead, you'll be able to listen to unique formats that come out of the far corners of the globe. And people in other parts of the world will be able to listen to unique stations like WWOZ and WTUL out of New Orleans.

What only non-commercial stations once provided, commercial stations will soon be providing as well. It'll be like 70s FM again, when the spawning of new spectrum found DJ's willing to experiment. Bands like Pink Floyd might never have found success back then without the advent of FM.

Wi-Fi is going to create a whole new ball game. It'll be harder for stations to find a niche that pays, and the ones that don't might not find the revenue to survive. But that will just open up frequencies for smaller operations, and possibly non-profit organizations that better serve their communities.

The future sounds great, and I just can't wait!

Now, if we could only beat back the cable company monopolies that are fighting public access wi-fi.

Make Levees, Not War Day

Via New Orleans Network:

New Orleans Our ( is encouraging all New Orleanians and lovers of New Orleans to wear a "Make Levees, Not War" T-shirt to Jazz Fest, work, or just around town on Friday April 28, 2006.

On that Friday, the first of Jazz Fest, we will have a high concentration of visitors. What a perfect time to send the message that we need better levee protection. Just imagine the impact it would make if thousands of people were sporting the same message.

Show your solidarity New Orleans. Either paint your own shirt or purchase one at Metro Three, 2032 Magazine, 558-0212 or LeMieux Galleries, 200 Metairie Road location, 837-4044.

This is not an endorsement – you can get your "Make Levees, Not War" T-shirt, and other thoughtful T-shirts, at other shops as well. Furthermore, I'd encourage locals (and locals lovers) going to Jazz Fest to be ambassadors of the city by wearing a New Orleans-themed shirt through the entire festival.

What "moral authority"?

On the watered-down ethics bill passed by the Republican-ruled House of Representatives, Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said, "We're losing our moral authority to lead this place."

No Chris, you never had moral authority. You were given the privilege of serving the American people by winning a civil election.

Your job is to make laws, and enforce laws, that protect Americans from being ravaged by the powerful.

Your job is to answer to the needs of hard-freakin' working Americans who are being screwed by corporations lining the pockets of the criminals currently running the White House and Congress.

Yours is a civic duty. Leave your morals and your authority in your church where they belong.

Anyway, did you really want to argue that the Republican leadership is moral? Now that's a good one! I can't wait to hear the comedy show monologues!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

News flash: Chickenboy picks up a hammer

Photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque, posted on Yahoo.

It's just shy of eight months since Hurricane Katrina blew the levees wide open and flooded New Orleans. If it had been Al Qaeda, President Bush's opportunistic cabal of image-handlers would have made him stand on top of the rubble of a devastated house with a bullhorn the very next day to proclaim that we would honor those who died, and those whose homes were destroyed, by rebuilding the city, by rebuilding the levees to withstand anything nature could throw at them, and by rebuilding Louisiana's dying coastal marshes.

I sound like a broken record according to one recent comment:

it is so bad why don't you get the hell out. All i think your doing is trying to get sympathy for the hurricane just like everyone else. ... If you know that the Bush administration sucks then you could have expected something like that so you could also expect to have to do something for yourselves in the way of help. So really...quit bitching about it and as much as i hate to quote a blathering idiot, "get off your asses and do something."

I wish I could do something about it, but unfortunately, the gubmint takes all my money in taxes and sends it to Iraq.

I wish I could do something about it, but unfortunately, fools like you voted for an idiot to run the country.

I wish I could do something about it, but unfortunately, as a nation, we expect our government to serve us, not f*ck us over.

I'm not complaining for myself. I made out okay in the hurricane. I'm complaining for the benefit of over 200,000 other New Orleanians who haven't been able to return to their homes because the White House and Congress haven't made it a priority.

Hurricane season is right around the corner, but the levees still won't be ready, the pumping stations are still broken, people who are unemployed still find it difficult to get work in the rebuilding effort because contractors are getting away with hiring illegal immigrants (don't expect any I.C.E. enforcement against corporate lawbreakers here!), we still can't get a commitment from boneless chickenhawk Bush to build a state-of-the-art Category 5 storm protection system like the Netherlands has, and we still can't get a commitment from him to restore Louisiana's coast.

On the bright side, it's true that every time Bush comes to New Orleans, he explores the devastation a little more. I hope he keeps coming back. Hell, as much as I hate the guy, I wish I really could cheer for him every time he comes to New Orleans. I would too.

Imagine the guy standing on a levee waving a huge New Orleans fleur-de-lis flag! That's what we need to see. That would inspire the nation. A challenge issued to Congress and to Americans to build with confidence a flood protection system that is the envy of the world would raise the stature of America. That's leadership!

Instead, where is the courage? Where is the understanding?

What's to celebrate about Bush's visit to New Orleans today?

He actually got out of the French Quarter, got off of St. Charles Avenue, and toured a flood-damaged home! Then, he used the occasion to underscore the need for more funding -- piecemeal, but as I said, maybe there's hope ... certainly not unless we complain!
After touring the ravaged home of Ethel Williams in the Upper 9th Ward, President Bush called upon Congress to make sure a $4.2 billion request to help homeowners rebuild and another $2.2 billion request to elevate and strengthen levees are "kept intact for the people of Louisiana."

He recognized the vital importance of volunteers:
Bush placed his arm around Williams, who evacuated to Texas after Hurricane Katrina, and told reporters that the metro area still needs another 2,500 volunteers to help rebuild.

"If you are interested in helping the victims of Katrina, if you want to help them get back on their feet, come on down to New Orleans," Bush said. "It's a chance to give something back to your country."

He recognized the suffering of someone who was displaced (but failed to acknowledge those who remain displaced):
In a light moment, Bush, who formerly served as governor of Texas, joked with Williams: "She's made it clear she's glad to be out of Texas and back home."

He recognized, obliquely, the importance of New Orleans' diverse communities, and actually picked up a hammer for the cameras:
After leaving Williams' home, Bush stopped at the future site of Habitat for Humanity's Musicians' Village on North Roman Street. The non-profit has plans to build 74 single-family homes on an 8-acre tract near Bunny Friend Playground, as well as seven two-family homes for older musicians and a music center, which might be named after Ellis Marsalis.

The plans also call for building at least 150 other homes nearby.

There, Bush, assisted by Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Mayor Ray Nagin and Congressman William Jefferson, raised roof beams for a single-story house currently under construction. Bush and Nagin then climbed on step ladders and drove nails into the house's wooden frame.

Yeah chickenboy, keep it up. You might even start to turn the corner on your abysmal popularity ... uh, except that Iraq war sure is a problem ... and then there's the deficit and national debt that you're passing on to future generations ... and your friends in the oil business who are making billions on the backs of hard-working Americans ... and your horrendous handling of the Iran problem ... your refusal to deal with global warming ... your lying, cheating, and stealing while robbing Americans of their liberties ... and on and on.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Screwing the American dream

Like the "Mission Accomplished" banner, Americans should by now know that the more ostentatious the banner, the bigger the lie.

Bush's approval rating continues to spiral downward. He has only a 32 percent approval rating, and 6 out of every 10 Americans say they disapprove of Bush.

The fuhrer decider.

Meanwhile, an Illinois state legislator is acting on that discontent, by trying to initiate a procedure that it hopes will lead to Bush's impeachment (edited for clarity):

State Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood) has sponsored a resolution calling on the General Assembly to submit charges to the U.S. House so its lawmakers could begin impeachment proceedings [on the president emperor for lying, cheating, stealing, murder, incompetence, and negligence].

Monday, April 24, 2006

Primary election analysis

Once again, I salute Dan Swenson (assisted here by Matt Scallan) for a fine map. Actually, I used to do exactly this kind of work in another life, so I can say that while the data is not that remarkable (although it's remarkable that it's available from the Louisiana Secretary of State so quickly), the presentation is very nicely done.

Nagin is doomed. The anti-Nagin vote was more than 70 percent.

The only caveat to that prediction is turnout. I was most astounded by the extremely low turnout for this race. It may suprise outsiders who cling to unflattering stereotypes of New Orleans, blacks and whites in New Orleans tend to vote at much higher rates than other parts of the country -- off the top of my head, typically more than 60 percent turnout and up. It's possible that people aren't interested in voting because they're never returning to New Orleans, or they couldn't get their absentee applications and ballots sent in time, or they couldn't get back to the city to vote.

I resent the assumption by some analysts that higher black turnout would favor Ray Nagin -- because Nagin is black. I firmly believe everyone should have an opportunity to vote, and when they do, most blacks and whites in New Orleans will vote for the candidate who will do what's best for the city. That's why whites voted in such significant numbers for Nagin four years ago; and that's why blacks voted in such significant numbers for Mitch Landrieu.

What you can't see in the T-P map above is the percentage of the black vote that Landrieu won in predominantly black precincts. Landrieu may not have won those precincts outright, but he did win significant numbers of votes in those precincts, which explains why he won about as many precincts as Forman did, but beat Forman by ten points.

On to the next round.

Then, finally, could we please start rebuilding the friggin' city!!!

And this just in:

Calling Nagin a friend, Forman, who received 17 percent of the votes cast Saturday, said the mayor has served the city well, but it is time for a change.

"The man is tired," Forman said, standing along the Mississippi River in Woldenberg Park, a project built on his watch as Audubon Institute president. "He’s worn out."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Signs stolen, normalcy returns?

The house that once had posted the "More candidates than voters" sign was complaining today that someone stole all of their campaign signs -- something I was familiar with during the Bush-Kerry race (i.e., Bush people stealing Kerry signs, not the other way around), but I never lost my Mitch sign.

Nagin is leading, with Mitch a close second, and Forman far behind.

161 of 442 precincts - 36 percent

Ray Nagin (i) 10,639 - 33 percent
Mitch Landrieu 9,397 - 29 percent
Ron Forman 6,672 - 21 percent


Here's where.

Read or listen to the 4/22/06 Democracy Now segment in which host Amy Goodman interviewed Ray Nagin and Mitch Landrieu.

Meet your IQ candidates.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Broadmoor lives!

Rising from the dust of moldy atomized sheetrock and dessicated sludge, fortified by the abdication of local government, rose a newfound sense of civic belonging in New Orleans, of neighbors finding each other and forging a new compact based upon the need for security and companionship.

One of the stories told a few weeks ago at a forum on the Kobe earthquake was how Kobe citizens spontaneously began planting fields of sunflowers on the bulldozed lots where homes once stood. The movement may have been inspired by a young girl who was killed in the earthquake.

A Japanese documentary, "Haruka's Sunflowers", told the story:

"Haruka" is the name of a little Japanese girl who died in the disaster. Haruka Kato lived with her elder sister and the parents. She was the only victim of the family. In summer, 6 months after the earthquake, something strange happened in the now vacant lot where Kato's house used to be. Lost of sunflowers bloomed in the very spot where Haruka died.

The sunflower became a symbol of renewal around Kobe, appearing not just on vacant lots, but on flags flown above the ruined streets, on billboards and buses. The sunflower represented more than physical renewal, but spiritual and civic renewal as well.

One of the most positive outcomes of the Kobe disaster was that citizens discovered they could overcome the distance that separates people settled into routine urban lives. In the wake of the disaster, they found they had to rely upon each other, so they bound together for security, to help one another, and to combat a vision to rebuild the city that didn't include them. In citizens' councils, they created their own vision for the future which, to be sure, required compromise, but the authorities were forced to work with them to create an outcome that everyone could live with.

Similarly, from the ruins of Hurricane Katrina, civic associations formed across New Orleans, at first when "new urbanist" planners suggested that some neighborhoods would better be bulldozed than be rebuilt, and that they be converted into green space.

Pre-Katrina, people took for granted that they always had gas and electricity, that they could count on the police to patrol, that they could expect that the garbage would be picked up on schedule (most of the time), when ... well, you couldn't really always count on the Sewerage and Water Board ... anyway, people took for granted that the government was supposed to do work for them.

Now, New Orleans citizens have seen the complete breakdown of government authority at all levels (the breakdown was there before, but wasn't revealed until a natural disaster ripped away the curtain of lies). Now, New Orleanians know they can't take for granted that local, state, and federal authorities will do what they're supposed to do. In neighborhoods where residents may not have known each other, suddenly they found each other, and began organizing themselves for mutual aid and security, demanding that their vision for how their neighborhoods would rebuilt be respected. The fight isn't nearly over yet.

One example of how neighbors have collectively begun to take over where government has failed can be seen in the Broadmoor neighborhood where residents got together to replace street signs which the city couldn't, or wouldn't, replace. These street signs are like Kobe sunflowers -- symbols of a renewed sense of purpose, of pride in place, of neighbors learning how to work together, of strength in civic organizations. It's the new New Orleans.

4/21/06 clarification: Though these signs are posted on Nashville Avenue, what I think is the border of the Broadmoor neighborhood, my understanding is that they were actually made primarily by members of the Claiborne-University Neighborhood Organization.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

One billion cars by 2020

About one car for every six people.

Say goodbye to the coast? This is serious sh*t man! We have to kill the machine that profits from destroying the environment.


An alternative to raising your house

Another use for that big cypress or live oak in your yard ...

Free Spirit Spheres.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The WaPo circus

Ha ha -- that's very funny Washington Post -- "A 20-Ring Political Circus."

The problem I have with the article is that you didn't delve into any of the serious issues that aren't being addressed by the "circus" -- and that's what we pay you to do. Is everything about the election season a "circus," or are there some serious candidates?

I know the candidates aren't being very forthcoming -- so embarrass them for not answering. You are, after all, supposed to be the elite paid professionals of the press industry, aren't you?

How, for example, can some candidates say that all residents won't be able to return to a city where they are citizens? Is that even a constitutional stance?

Alternatively, how can some candidates say that all residents should be allowed to return, when the city of New Orleans is weeks away from bankruptcy (despite Mayor Nagin's claims to the contrary)?

How about reporting on the mayoral candidates' views on the recent FEMA building guidelines?

Oh, but then you'd actually have to get a reporter to pick up the phone -- you'd have to actually pay your reporters to do their jobs. That you aren't really makes you the mockery of your industry.

You see, the difference between bloggers and the mainstream press is that you guys have the access to newsmakers. We don't. So we go for the scraps, reporting on the peripheral details, breaking inside scoops when we can, and offering criticisms of the mainstream press.

Instead of making a mockery of the city, how about doing the job we pay you to do? Because a top-tier newspaper that only reports the surface details of what is, at the very least, the most important mayoral race in contemporary America, deserves equal mockery.

Iraq is worse than Vietnam

The cost of the war in Iraq has tripled:

from $48 billion in 2003 to $59 billion in 2004 to $81 billion in 2005 to an anticipated $94 billion in 2006, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. ...

Annual war costs in Iraq are easily outpacing the $61 billion a year that the United States spent in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972, in today's dollars.

Why? Is it really desireable to have guys in the armed forces who only know how to shoot a gun, while hiring contractors to do the work that armed forces personnel could be doing, learning skills they could apply when the leave the services?
In and around Iraq, 53,000 people -- 52,000 of them contractors -- are maintaining and rebuilding lightly damaged equipment, a senior Senate defense aide said. Indian workers are refurbishing U.S. Humvees for $6 an hour.

Meanwhile, in a related story, are we getting our money's worth in the CIA? What used to cost $200 million a year, is about to reach $1 billion. I wonder how that compares to intelligence spending during the Cold War. Anyone want to take a guess? Anyone remember Osama bin Laden?

Hold on to your wallet

Allstate Insurance may be picking your pocket.

Can we now demand a little more than meeting and press conference transcriptions from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Times-Picayune? In covering the 3-1 vote by the Louisiana Insurance Rating Commission to approve a 52 percent Allstate rate increase, I'd say they could have done a little more research.

In fairness, maybe the research couldn't be done before the story went to press (but hey, me -- a ranting little blogger who does this for free -- I found the evidence in a matter of minutes).

How is it that "insurance companies logged a record $44.8-billion profit last year even after accounting for the claims of policyholders wiped out by Hurricane Katrina and the other big storms of 2005"?

Thankfully, Peter G. Gosselin wrote an April 5th story for The Los Angeles Times answering that question, while also documenting how Allstate screwed Floridians after Hurricane Andrew:

A quick check of Allstate's regulatory filings from the mid-1990s through 2004 showed that the insurer earned $6 billion more in premiums in Florida than it incurred in losses. Add to that the premium earnings for last year, and the total rises to more than $6.6 billion.

Asked about what happened to that sum, Allstate spokesman Mike Trevino responded: "What Mr. Liddy meant to say is that … the four hurricanes wiped out all the profits Allstate earned from our homeowners line of business," not all lines.

Overall, the company made money.

This graphic accompanied the LA Times story:

Beam me up Scotty!

Photo credit: Khampha Bouaphanh -- Fort Worth Star-telegram.

This photo (reprinted in The Washington Post) and others like it were featured in a BAGnewsNotes post back in September. The blogger, Michael Shaw, questioned why images from inside the dome didn't reflect the reality of print accounts:

I just never came across images of the despair as so painfully described in the written accounts. ...

All I found were more of these beautiful (some might even say almost spiritual or mystical) depictions of the sun's rays piercing the dome (with most evidence of decrepitude or suffering left to the margins, usually at "ant size" scale). Beyond these remote, long angle shots, I only came upon a single close up from inside the building after Tuesday. (The picture showed a fairly clean man posing while holding up a sign for help.)

Related: New Orleans showed its tits, but all it got was ...

Now, BAGnewsNotes is up for a Webby award in the political blog category, competing with The Huffington Post and the CJR Daily.

Congratulations Michael!

The Webby awards site might be interesting to browse if you have the time and are interested in some of the best of what's out there on the internet.

Speaking of Scotty (a long bizarre aside), Canadian-born actor James Doohan's ashes were scheduled to be launched into space, along with astronaut Gordon Cooper's ashes, and the ashes of 185 other people. The launch may have already occurred (I think I read about it somewhere).

Scotty's exploits as the redoubtable Chief Engineer aboard the Enterprise inspired many students to pursue a career in engineering. Because of this the Milwaukee School of Engineering granted Doohan an honorary degree in engineering [ah, those nutty Milwaukeeans -- must be the long winters].

In Star Trek lore, Scotty was born in the town of Linlithgow, Scotland in the year 2222.

Doohan's ashes are to be sent into space at his request. Space burial firm Space Services, Inc. confirmed that he had arranged for his cremated ashes to be released into Earth orbit, and are scheduled to be on the Explorers Flight, a Falcon 1 rocket launched from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base in 2006 (a March 2006 launch failure may delay this flight). The remains of more than 120 others will also be on the flight, including astronaut Gordon Cooper, Mareta West (the astrogeologist who determined the site of the first spaceflight landing on the moon), and Star Trek writer John Meredyth Lucas, who died in 2002.

Space Services, Inc. was selling the opportunity to send a message into space with Scotty.

Liars are impeached

It is not an option. This is what the Constitution tells us we should do with presidents who lie to the American people. It's the most egregious crime of any that could be committed against our democracy -- especially when the lie isn't about a blow job, but is instead a deliberate and systematic issuance of lies in the prosecution of a questionable war where now 2,375 American soldiers have been killed, 17,269 have been wounded, and the long-term costs soar well beyond a trillion dollars.

John Nichols' thoughts reflect my own on the Rumsfeld uproar:

Doesn't the current crisis have more to do with the administration's misguided project of regime change and nation building than with the approach that Rumsfeld has taken to it?

If the problem is with the project, then shouldn't the focus be on the serious task of removing Bush and Cheney, rather than the cosmetic change of names of the office of the Secretary of Defense?

While there is no question that Rumsfeld should go, there ought to be some question about whether extracting one rotten apple from the barrel will cure what ails this administration.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

B.G.S.M.B.R.W.R.P. #60399-7

Coincidentally, I drove by the Broadmoor Green Space Migratory Bird Refuge and Wetlands Reclamation Project just a day before The Times-Picayune printed a story highlighting the project.

Carey Herman and her husband Paul Rogers are doing their share to fulfill the Bring New Orleans Back Commission's desire to turn parts of the city into green space.

Since the T-P didn't post theirs, here are my photos of the B.G.S.M.B.R.W.R.P:

Perhaps Editor B should consider creating a green space for his sewerage situation. Heck, maybe there's even some grant money to be found to promote these kinds of projects.

Hey -- you have to give it up for New Orleanians who, despite their tragedy, setbacks, and frustrations, can still find their sense of humor!

Oh ... in case you're wondering who Ms. Herman and her husband are entrusting to fix the problem in the future, it ain't Ray Nagin, and if it were up to Ron Forman, he'd probably find a way to turn it into a mediocre golf course for his rich patrons.

"I hear the voices"

The theocratic monkey boy king pronouncicated:

I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best.

1) Should he be medicated if he's hearing voices?

2) Bravo! The president of the United States reads the front page. I'd have hoped he could get a little further into the paper -- maybe read two or three papers. And is he holding the front page right side up?

3) "I'm the decider?" Uh ... your eloquence is staggering. Where did you go to college? What a pity for Yale!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Still looking for justice

In the new New Orleans, we don't sweep violent crimes under the rug. Every life is precious.

There are still no leads in the hit-and-run homicide of Toby Beaugh.

The NOPD 2nd District meeting is every third Tuesday of the month, at 7:00 p.m., typically in one of the meeting rooms on the second floor of Touro Hospital.

Louisiana Weekly endorses Mitch

The Louisiana Weekly:

In a city wounded in the months after Katrina with racial and economic divisions, he must have the potential to bring together people of vastly different backgrounds and ethnicities to a common sense of purpose.

For that reason, for the African-American community, we cannot in good conscious recommend the re-election of C. Ray Nagin. ...

Ray Nagin has built a reputation nationally that inspires humor and contempt rather than the compassion this city needs to rebuild. Perhaps, the media took the Mayor's words out of context, but few real attempts have been made by Nagin to repair that image. The country is out of patience with our Mayor. ...

There is only one candidate who can bring Black and White together --Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu.

Hello Reston

The main reason why I look at the statcounter data of visitors to PGR is to find new Katrina bloggers. Almost daily, PGR gets multiple hits from a peculiar location. I also find curious the fact that the server is a proxy.

It could just be a market research company -- or is it a cover for something else? Anyone know of another "research company" in Reston? Am I just paranoid?

Then again, it might just be AOL -- the evil empire. Or should we question why America Online is based in Reston, and why it has with such fervor tried to take over the world of internet access?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

You gotta get the plasma

I'm sitting in a coffee shop on Magazine Street.

Rob Couhig just walked in and is introducing himself to everyone as Rob Couhig -- as though people wouldn't recognize who he is. I don't really think on my feet fast enough to say anything -- or didn't really care. I'm supporting Mitch. I didn't really want to talk to Couhig. Missed opportunity?

People might not know who he is, given the conversation I'm overhearing. People are more interested in the merits of different kinds of plasma televisions.

Meanwhile, an infant daughter cries incessantly in her high chair.

Risen from the dead

Happy Easter.

Army Corps of Engineers: Murderers

Again, I must emphasize that I *do not* place blame upon individual engineers and scientists at the Corps of Engineers. Many of them are my friends. Hell, Mrs. Schroeder used to be one of them. Ninety-nine percent of them -- outside of the command structure -- truly want to do the right thing. They are constrained from doing so by: 1) a contradictory mission to both develop and preserve navigable waterways; 2) a budget process subject to local, and especially federal, political agendas; 3) political favoritism, which creeps into the permitting process for projects that violate the Corps' core principles; and 4) the military protocol to obey orders.

Having said that, and with all due respect, love, and admiration for the people who are trying to do the right thing, the Corps of Engineers as an institution is guilty of negligent homicide and is liable for the tens of billions of dollars in damage to people's homes and livelihoods.

Realitique has a post which links to a pair of Robert Lindsay photos of a Katrina casualty. I recommend that caution be used in considering whether to view the photos, and I wholly recommend against anyone viewing it who is faint of heart.

As I've stated elsewhere, I believe the Corps can do its job, but its mission needs to be clarified, and its decision-making process needs to be isolated from political shenanigans. At the same time, Corps projects need to be subjected to independent review. There are many more people more qualified than I to talk about how the Corps should be reviewed -- and many of them are my friends who work at the Corps. Their voices need to be heard.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Butler for mayor ... of Gretna?

Now that really would be ironic justice!

I'm not sure she's getting the biggest bang for the buck with a billboard facing the West Bank Expressway, just inside Gretna, but then again, she probably doesn't have many bucks and I'd bet the rent is cheap.

M- pointed out that she's probably thinking she's can reach displaced voters commuting into New Orleans. Maybe she's appealing to some of the criminals displaced to the West Bank. Perhaps she befriended a few when she spent time in the slammer herself.

In fairness, I should say that I like Kimberly Williamson Butler.

"What?!!," you say.

It's true. In a previous life, I used to run into her at City Hall. She was always extremely cordial, interested in who I was, and willing to help. She struck me as the sort of person who would go the extra mile to help someone out -- a "can do" type of person.

I think she was exiled from City Hall because she didn't fit in with the boys' club. I remember being struck by the fact that in the normal course of conducting business, there was time for things like fantasy football conversation. Now, it's probably true that hard-working, very capable people can play games during the day in between hours of high productivity. On the other hand, it's highly unprofessional behavior, and quite alien to those who have no interest in such nonsense, and who are simply there to do a job.

Yes, I like Kimberly Williamson Butler -- as a person. I can also say, however, that in my television channel surfing, I've stopped a couple of times on one or another evangelical stations to see KWB being praised for doing the work of God to save the city of New Orleans. It may require the work of God to save the city, but to immodestly allow yourself to assume a messianic role is a little whacked. I know someone who was once invited to attend a service at KWB's church. She said she'd never seen such craziness -- pentecostal baptist lunatics speaking in tongues, falling on the floor, and running around the room. My friend never went back to that church. It does explain a lot about KWB though -- why for example she seemed to be struck with a bolt of lightning in spontaneously declaring herself a candidate for mayor, literally on the heels of saying she was a lousy clerk of court.

Simply amazing! I love Kimberly Williamson Butler. You know, I don't like the way she draws attention away from things we need to be talking about -- serious things -- but my God, what a character! She offers more of what I've sometimes come to think of as the "magic realism" of living in New Orleans at this particular time in history. I couldn't have dreamt up a more interesting character!

4/16/06 update:

Butler for mayor of Disneyland (via Humid Haney, via Boing Boing), Butler for mayor of Toontown, and despite the possibility of a law suit by Disney and ongoing ridicule, the image remains on the KWB Web site.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Broadcasters scramble for eyes and ears

Overlooked in the Tuesday Times-Picayune story about the changing broadcast market is the fact that the media market is about to get a dose of fire and brimstone religion once the reprieve from Arbitron and Neilsen ratings is lifted, and once the ratings reflect the fact that more than half of New Orleanians no longer live here.

Most locals are familiar with how dramatically New Orleans media, in particular radio, changed after Hurricane Katrina. The Times-Picayune suddenly became an investigate newspaper, and radio companies merged resources and announcers as United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans to report on such things as the whereabouts of lost friends and family, on the condition of different neighborhoods, and round-the-clock interviews that helped shape our understanding of what was happening in our world turned upside down. I tuned in 870 AM every opportunity I could while I was in Pensacola so I could pick up WWL (yes, the signal actually traveled that far -- a little fuzzy, but AM has the advantage of distance over FM).

United Radio Broadcasters was slowly replaced months ago with the dull standard of niche formats, playing the same songs by the same artists over and over ad nauseum. WWL, however, continued to focus on local issues, continuing with its call-in format, broadcasting on both 870 AM, and 105.3 FM. A couple of months ago, the WWL parent company attempted to revert back to music programming on 105.3. In the last week, however, Entercom ditched the music format to resume broadcasting the same call-in program heard simultaneously on 870 AM.

I suspect that a few things are happening at Entercom: 1) They came to realize that most people don't bother to hit the AM button on their radios; 2) they found out that they had more listeners on 105.3 when they were doing issues programming; and 3) they wanted their signal to get to listeners inside of buildings downtown (FM can do that, AM is next to impossible).

I'm not especially pleased with the objectivity of WWL hosts. I wouldn't mind if hosts expressed their opinions, if only they played against their own biases and asked their guests tough questions. The most egregious biased offenders are Garland Robinette and Spud McConnell, who frequently use guests to confirm their own views, and to confirm the views of listeners who tend to hover around to catch the three hours of Rush Limbaugh in the middle of the day. They also tend to pontificate endlessly before asking their guests a question (Robinette prefacing seemingly every question with a boast about how he was a business owner for a year, McConnell more often than not mumbling, stuttering and rambling), then asking the pardon of their guests so they can break for the 10,000 commercials per hour the station airs. Still, I celebrate their use of the airwaves to stimulate the minds of their listeners, rather pander to the mindless lowest common denominator.

There are few-to-no alternatives on the radio. I don't consider any TV changes as meriting attention, a view summarized by Groucho Marx quote I read recently in Amy Goodman's, The Exception to the Rulers: "I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book."

One glaring shortcoming in the Times-Picayune story was the changes in programming left of the dial, including local headlines on WWNO (a small feat, but long overdue), and WTUL's budding Saturday morning community affairs program, Community Gumbo. It may not have been within the scope of the article, but there also was no talk of alternatives that have blossomed since Katrina -- like blogs, and citizen journalism found at New Orleans Indymedia.

I view the local interest in issues programs as a promising sign that New Orleanians have a long attention span for news that really matters to them. I hope the media market continues to experiment, and to expand the available offerings.

4/18/06 update: I forgot to mention -- one of the really cool things about WWL broadcasting now on 105.3 FM is that I can switch back and forth from 105.3 FM to 1350 AM for Air America without moving the radio dial.

Landfill approved over popular opposition

Despite popular opposition to the idea of building a landfill in an open marsh, the DEQ and Corps are allowing the Mayor Ray Nagin to use emergency powers to open up a new landfill in New Orleans East:

The state Department of Environmental Quality will allow the opening of a new construction landfill in eastern New Orleans despite the vehement opposition of a coalition of neighborhood residents and environmentalists, department officials announced Thursday.

The Chef Menteur Disposal facility, located at 16600 Chef Menteur Highway adjacent to the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, will also receive emergency authorization under the Clean Water Act today from the Army Corps of Engineers to begin accepting waste, corps officials said Thursday. The facility could take as much as 6.5 million cubic yards of debris, officials said.

The corps and DEQ approvals were the last remaining regulatory hurdles keeping the landfill from accepting waste, meaning the facility could open immediately. However, officials from Waste Management of Louisiana, which will operate the landfill, could not say Thursday when the facility will be ready to accept waste. ...

"We know it's against the wishes of the community and the City Council," he said. "It's hard to find anyone who's for it except DEQ and Waste Management. "We're talking about exactly the same kinds of problems as with the Gentilly landfill - a vulnerable location where the whole area flooded. It's right next door to Bayou Sauvage in a wetland area with a high water table. The only thing different is this one isn't built on top of an old dump.

Rev. Vien Nguyen, pastor of Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church:
For starters, Nguyen said, the landfill is just 0.8 miles from the nearest apartments in the neighborhood, not three miles as Nagin claimed.

Moreover, Nguyen said Nagin's decision to place a disposal facility there flies in the face of the mayor's public statements encouraging communities to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. The neighborhood has been actively planning its future, Nguyen said, and many residents have begun rebuilding. He and others fear a new landfill nearby will hurt those efforts.

Republican legislators should be fired

The Daily Advertiser
Apr 12, 2006

Louisiana Republicans are betraying the Constitution. Charles Boustany, Bobby Jindal, Jim McCrery, Rodney Alexander, Richard Baker and David Vitter have forgotten that Congress is a co-equal branch of government and it is not subordinate to the president.

What Republicans do not realize is that the corruption of their party is so blatant that even a child can see it. Republican leadership has allowed big corporate contractors in Iraq and New Orleans to steal taxpayer dollars, endangering the lives of our troops and undermining rebuilding plans. They have created an inept homeland security agency, security policies that sell our country to the highest bidder, and allow our president to spy on Americans unchecked. The Republican-controlled House and Senate have created the largest deficit in the history of mankind.

Louisiana needs to fire all of these Republicans and send Democrats to Congress. Mary Landrieu has been pleading for a remedy for coastal erosion and Charlie Melancon has been fighting for our Louisiana citizens for years.

The Democratic plan is simple - hire the best and brightest Americans we can find to manage our government agencies (instead of unqualified cronies), create an agenda that emphasizes real security for our nation, work for strong economic growth, provide affordable health care for all Americans and legislate for retirement security. If Republicans have amnesia, let me remind them that good Democratic programs created the largest middle class in the history of the world.

Richard Warren
Disabled American veteran

Flood Washington

The Gulf Restoration Network:

Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finally admitted failures in the design of New Orleans flood walls. Lt. Gen. Carl Strock told a Senate Subcommittee,"We have now concluded we had problems with the design of the structure. We had hoped that wasn't the case, but we recognize it is the reality."

Experts from the National Science Foundation countered that potential problems have been known for some time. They cite a 1986 corps study that warned of just such floodwall failures. As New Orleans rebuilds, we must ensure that the nation learns the lessons of Katrina and that the possibility for future, similar Corps' mistakes is addressed.

Legislation to do just that was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate. Called the Water Resources Planning and Modernization Act of 2006 (S. 2288), the bill will update the Corps project-planning guidelines, require a strong independent review process, improve wetland management, and shift the Corps' priorities away from pork-barrel projects.

Please take a moment to urge your Senators to support this important legislation, and then urge five friends to send the message as well.

Visit the Gulf Restoration Network to send your message.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Marlin Gusman, sheriff?

Thank goodness U.S. Marshalls are doing the job which, apparently, Gusman isn't doing:

Using jailhouse telephone records, U.S. Marshals Service deputies have determined that the inmate, Donald R. Tucker, made his usual daily round of calls Sunday about 2 p.m. but missed several opportunities to use the phone after that, according to the records and law enforcement sources involved in the case. The sources said they suspect that Tucker, convicted on carjacking and gun charges in March, may have escaped as early as Sunday afternoon.

Gusman: "Uh ... I have some leads ... uh ... this is a sensitive police investigation ... I'd be compromising the investigation if I told you anything else."
Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman said Tucker probably escaped Tuesday morning with help from somebody "inside the prison." Gusman's office declined further comment Wednesday on whether Tucker may have escaped earlier, except to say that the circumstances of the escape remain under investigation.

Gusman: "I caught 'em didn't I? So what are you worried about? It's just like giving 'em a weekend pass."
State records show that three other inmates have escaped from Orleans Parish Prison since the jail reopened after the chaotic evacuation of inmates and the temporary shutdown forced by Hurricane Katrina. All three have been captured and the Sheriff's Office said they were never considered a threat to public safety.

Doubts remain after FEMA flood maps issued

According information I learned while listening to a conversation between WWL host Garland Robinette, Toni Wendel of the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans, and a land surveyor who called in, the new FEMA building guidelines are nothing more than the same old 1984 base flood elevation determinations, plus three feet.

I know it's a difficult task to match the real elevations to historic rain-event flooding and the possibility of another flood event, but what's the product of all that hard work? To simply tack 3 feet on to outdated elevations?

There have been a considerable number of reports of subsidence which has occurred since 1984. Furthermore, applying the 1984 flood elevations, plus three feet, is a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn't take into account the widely varying topography of the city.

We discovered in Katrina's floodwaters that the city's elevation is not uniform at all, but varies from block to block, and from lot to lot.

New Orleanians might be grateful that FEMA finally produced guidelines. Now they can rebuild and, very importantly, still get flood insurance coverage. We need to be concerned, however, about preventing property damage from a flood event in the future. We want the flood insurance, but we really want to not have to use it again in the future.

I don't have the answer, but certainly if people are going to have to hire surveyors to measure the elevation of their homes, there ought to be a way to apply a more sensible formula for determining how much people will have to elevate their homes to prevent damage from another flooding event the next time the levees fail.

Additionally, we need people at the federal level to be thinking about Category 5 storm protection, and when they do that, we need them to appreciate the fact that levees are no good without massive restoration of coastal marshes.

Your raised house still might flood again

Dan Swenson, The Times-Picayune:

Notice what's being implied in the new FEMA guidelines for raising flooded houses. By not altering the base flood elevations of 1984, FEMA is acknowledging that the reason why New Orleans homes flooded was not because they were built in low-lying areas, but because the levees failed. The only other explanation -- and I'm not excluding the possibility -- is that FEMA didn't finish the job of reworking new flood maps with new elevation and flood data in hand.

There's something else to recognized in the new FEMA building guidelines. Looking at the graphic above, even after raising the house, it will still flood if there's another flood event like Katrina.

Let me explain, because it wasn't immediately clear to me how the new FEMA guidelines were being portrayed in the graphic. The new guidelines state that you must raise your home if it sustained 50 percent damage from flooding.

What's 50 percent? That's 50 percent of the pre-Katrina market value of the house (not including the value of the land).

How high do you have to raise your house? FEMA is saying that you have to raise your house a minimum of three feet above the ground, or to the base flood elevation, whichever is higher.

In the graphic, the higher elevation is base flood elevation, not the ground. Raising the house the minimum of three feet above ground level still leaves it short of the base flood elevation. The house has to be raised at least to base flood elevation in this case. Therefore, since the house is currently at ground level, six feet below sea level, it has to be raised 3.5 feet to base flood elevation.

Again, notice that in the second frame of the graphic, even after the house is raised, it's still below sea level. If the levees break again, the sea water entering the city would equalize with the city, flooding this house once again.

What's going on here? Why should the government and homeowners spend the money at all to raise homes if they'll just flood again? Seriously -- I'm wondering! Far from trying to be a pessimist, I'm just saying I don't see how this makes any sense. I think a more sensible policy should be implemented.

The implicit concession by FEMA is that New Orleans homes wouldn't have flooded if the levees hadn't broken!

So now FEMA is fixing the problem by asking homeowners to raise their houses a little, but not enough to solve the problem if the levees fail again in the future, and the city floods once more.

Either FEMA is investing confidence in the fact that the levees are really being fixed now, or it's trying to go easy on homeowners, or it's just not making sensible policy -- none of which offers residents any sense of assurance that "adults" are running the federal government.

A more sensible policy would be:

1) A total commitment by the White House and Congress to massive coastal restoration and Category 5 storm protection,


2) Helping homeowners to raise their homes to a level that would truly prevent catastrophic property damage in the future.

Conversation with a homeowner

A co-worker lives out in Kenner. I talked to him this morning to get his reaction to the new FEMA requirements for rebuilding homes that were severely damaged by Katrina flooding (more than 50 percent of the home damaged).

Me: So you know that FEMA finally published the new flood maps – the plan for what you're going to have to do with your house – whether or not you're going to have to raise it. I was just going to ask you about your situation.

MM: Oh, you know what it feels like? It gets you in the gut and does like that to you (clenches hands into fists in front of his stomach).

Me: So, $42,000 for the first foot. $9000 for every foot after that. The minimum you're going to have to raise your house is three feet.

MM: Three to seven feet.

Me: Sure, but the minimum is three feet. Have you had a surveyor come out to your house?

MM: Yeah. That's another expense.

Me: And what was the result? How high are you going to have to raise your house?

MM: Three feet.

Me: So, FEMA will pay you $30,000 to raise your house. You have to pay the rest yourself. So here's the question: Do you know if any of the plans proposed in Governor Blanco's LRA proposal will compensate you for the cost to raise your house above and beyond the $30,000 that FEMA will give you?

MM: I don't know. I applied for the LRA, but I haven't heard anything.

Me: Well, the LRA plan still has to be approved before the money can be disbursed.

MM: Yeah, but how long is that going to take? You know? Then there's the SBA.

Me: So you applied for an SBA loan?

MM: Yeah, but I'm still waiting for an answer on that. You have to wait for everything. Here's an example. You apply for FEMA rental assistance. So you send that in, and wait three weeks. They say, well you didn't give us your insurance estimate of the damages to your home. So you send that. Three weeks pass before you get an answer. Then FEMA says that the insurance company should pay for rental assistance. That's bullshit! I didn't get anything from the insurance company for what they call prohibitive use of the house. That's all by mail. But you never get to talk to a real person. You see? And they give you 60 days to resolve the issue. But I'm hearing that other people are getting money from FEMA. M- knows someone down the street who got $21,000 for rent.

Me: That's a lot of rent.

MM: That'll pay for rent on a place for two years.

Me: You could make a down payment on a house with that kind of money. But now the SBA loan, you have to pay that back. I don't think homeowners should be liable for damages to their homes caused by the failure of local and federal officials to do their jobs. The federal government should compensate homeowners. The federal government is liable.

MM: Well, the SBA gives out grants too. That's what I'm hoping for.

Me: So you won't have to pay that back.

MM: Well, you see, at my age, at 75 years, I'm going to pay and pay and pay and they'll never see their money. So they're going to look at the situation and either give me a grant, or a denial.

Me: But is the SBA going to let you spend some of that money to raise your house?

MM: I hope so. I mean, they're going to give you the money to repair your house. They ought to let you use it to raise your house.

Me: Well, you never know – they're could be a clause in the rules that prevents you from using the money to raise your house.

MM: I don't know. You just can't get a straight answer from anybody. That's the most frustrating thing. You can't talk to a real person. You can't get any answers. You just wait, and wait, and wait.

Me: My view is that they aren't committing the resources needed to help people down here solve the problem.

MM: I don't think they want to solve the problem. They just don't want to spend the money. I'm about to throw up my hands. I'm just tired of this. No one gives you a straight answer. I just want to get back into my house. I just want to get back into my house.

If anyone's wondering, I'd say this guy's about as old school conservative as they come (though I believe there's less that divides true conservatives and true liberals under the Bush monarchy, but that's a topic for another post).

Finally! FEMA flood maps!

Emmett Mayer III produced a version of the new FEMA map for Orleans, Jefferson, and part of St. Bernard parishes. The PDF is in the The Times-Picayune. The T-P also has a PDF of the pre-Katrina flood map (again by Emmett Mayer III), and a PDF graphic of the new house elevation requirement (by Dan Swenson).

The Times-Picayune analysis of the new FEMA requirements:

The base flood elevations for the New Orleans area inside the levees, last adjusted in 1984, were unchanged. Many homeowners had feared dramatic increases in minimum elevation standards after Katrina's floodwaters inundated the city, and preserving the current elevations is an indication that federal officials viewed the flood as caused by problems with the levee system, not an overpowering storm. ...

But because of an additional "3 feet above grade" proposed standard, thousands of substantially damaged homes may still face the prospect of being raised to remain eligible for the federal flood insurance program. Under the new elevation recommendations, homes substantially damaged by the flood would need to meet the current base flood elevation -- a comparison of the home's height to the expected water level in a 100-year flood -- and be at least 3 feet above "grade," or the ground surrounding the house. Substantial damage is defined as repairs costing more than 50 percent of the cost to completely rebuild the home.

That means it isn't enough to be at base flood elevation. All new construction and the repair of badly flooded homes must feature at least 3-foot piers.

Well that's about as clear as Katrina floodwater!

Even if you can figure out the calculus for whether or not you have to raise your home, additional questions remain about whether or not it's advisable or affordable to raise your home.

1) Why is FEMA asking homeowners to raise their homes if there's an implicit allowance in the new flood maps that the levees will work the next time?

2) $40,000 to raise a house the first foot, and up to $12,000 for every foot thereafter. That's $64,000 for three feet, and that's just the minimum requirement. FEMA will give you $30,000. That's $34,000 shy of what a homeowner will have to spend to fix a problem created by the failed federal levee system. Will the proposed CDBG money being bandied about in Congress and the White house, and Governor Blanco's LRA plan to provide up to $150,000 cover the cost of raising a home? Or is that money just for home repairs?

We're closer to a solution, but we still need the White House to FOCUS on Hurricane Katrina recovery like it cares -- like it matters!

Instead, we get empty platitudes.
This "brings certainty to some uncertain issues along the greater New Orleans area," said Donald E. Powell, the federal rebuilding coordinator. For a resident, he said, "I think it brings certainty so I can get on with my life to rebuild my home the way that I want it."

Don, how about you prove your confidence by buying a house in Gentilly and putting all of your earthly possessions in it? Really! I think that would be a great demonstration of confidence for residents to see.

President Bush: You're getting there, but New Orleanians are still slowly drowning in hopelessness. Your slow trickle of money is not the clear signal we need to hear.

Senator Mary Landrieu:
"It's like the man who throws you a 30-foot rope when you're drowning 50 feet from shore and says he's gone more than halfway," said Landrieu, who has vowed to block Senate action on Bush nominations to non-defense and judicial posts until the issue is resolved. "A noble gesture, perhaps, but it doesn't get the job done."

Is enough money being spent? What about a commitment from the president for Category 5 storm protection and coastal restoration?
The fragile relationship between federal and local leaders was shattered last month when federal rebuilding officials announced that the cost of reconstructing the levees to federal standards had nearly tripled to $10 billion, and that there may not be enough money to protect the entire region.

Since then, officials have reduced the total required to $7.6 billion by, in part, cutting projects that were deemed redundant. Of that, they are recommending that $6 billion be spent for levees, with the additional $1.6 billion for lower Plaquemines Parish still under review.

I hate to be broken record criticizing the White House, but really, George W. Bush is not doing his job.

Are we getting sound engineering recommendations from the Corps of Engineers? I know some of the engineers working on the levees. Many of them live in New Orleans, and are firmly committed to rebuilding. I have complete confidence that they -- individual engineers and scientists -- know how to do the job right, but as has happened in the past, I wonder if their recommendations are getting muddied as they move up the chain of command and hit the budget process. We need peer review of the final Corps recommendations to make sure that recommendations being made down the chain of command are still there in plans recommended by top brass.

Furthermore, if, as The Times-Picayune reported, more than 60 percent of the levee system will be touched and repaired to hold to pre-Katrina standards for a "fast-moving Category 3 storm" by 2010, why not upgrade the investment to Category 5, and set a target of 2012 for completion. As I've argued before, 2012 will be the 200th anniversary of the entry of Louisiana into the United States. Setting a 2012 date for a massive WPA-type project to rebuild Louisiana's coastal marshes and build stronger levees would send a signal to Louisianians that it's to safe invest in rebuilding our lives here.
Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers, said plans for the upgraded levee system would include the replacement of up to 36 of the existing 56 miles of flood walls; armoring the levees; building flood-proof pumping stations near Lake Ponchartrain that could be staffed during hurricanes; and installing permanent floodgates along the canals that broke under the weight of Katrina's storm surge.

The entire system, he said, would be completed by 2010. By June, when the hurricane season begins, he committed the corps to repairing levees to "pre-Katrina levels," with the addition of temporary floodgates on the canals.

Strock's announcement came on the heels of his recent admission that a federal "design failure" caused the 17th Street and London canal levees to breach during Katrina, confirming assessments made by state and independent engineers months ago.

"By 2010, we'll be able to truly say that the levee system will be better and stronger than it's ever been," Strock said.

We need STRONG LEADERSHIP from the White House to get the job done right, but nobody is getting the sense that George W. Bush really gives a shit about New Orleans.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mayoral candidates forum

Residents of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association are hosting mayoral candidates Ron Forman and Mitch Landrieu, who will take questions from the audience and discuss their plans for neighborhood redevelopment.

Carrollton United Methodist Church,
Carrollton & Freret
Thursday, 4/13, 4-7pm

Mitch Landrieu is scheduled to attend from 5:00 - 5:30pm.

Ron Forman is scheduled from 4:00 - 4:30pm (this may change to 6:30 - 7:00pm).

Landrieu best choice for N.O. mayor

City Business endorsed Mitch Landrieu for mayor of New Orleans.

City Business is not exactly an anti-establishment paper. I believe you're making the right choice guys. This bodes well for Mitch!

Bush should be cleaning out his desk just about now

CBS News, July 18, 2005:

President Bush said Monday that if anyone on his staff committed a crime in the CIA leak case, that person will "no longer work in my administration."

The Washington Post, April 6, 2006:
President Bush authorized White House official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to disclose highly sensitive intelligence information to the news media in an attempt to discredit a CIA adviser whose views undermined the rationale for the invasion of Iraq, according to a federal prosecutor's account of Libby's testimony to a grand jury.

The Adventures of Powellocchio

Begins the Wikipedia entry for Pinocchio:

The Adventures of Pinocchio is a story about an animated puppet ...

Which is a good point of departure for the story about a once Secretary of State who went before the world to prove that Saddam Hussein had an active weapons of mass destruction program, was busy reconstituting a nuclear weapons, and was an immediate threat to the rest of the world.

Robert Sheer, in Truthdig:
On Monday, former Secretary of State Colin Powell told me that he and his department's top experts never believed that Iraq posed an imminent nuclear threat, but that the President followed the misleading advice of Vice President Dick Cheney and the CIA in making the claim. ...

"The CIA was pushing the aluminum tube argument heavily and Cheney went with that instead of what our guys wrote," Powell said. And the Niger reference in Bush's State of the Union speech? "That was a big mistake," he said. "It should never have been in the speech. I didn't need Wilson to tell me that there wasn't a Niger connection. He didn't tell us anything we didn't already know. I never believed it." ...

Why was this doubt, on the part of the secretary of state and others, about the salient facts justifying the invasion of Iraq kept from the public until we heard the truth from whistleblower Wilson, whose credibility the President then sought to destroy?

Public meeting today on LRA housing plan

The Louisiana Recovery Authority is hosting a community meeting in New Orleans today, from 3 to 9 p.m., at NOCCA (2800 Chartres Street). Citizens don't have to be present for the entire meeting -- they can simply make their comments at any time during the meeting and then leave.

The LRA meeting is being held to collect feedback from the public on Governor Blanco's proposed housing rebuilding and buyout plan, "The Road Home":

Gov. Blanco has committed $7.5 billion in federal funds to the homeowner assistance program and $1.62 billion for rental reinvestment. The program relies on the approval of $4.2 billion in hurricane recovery aid under consideration in Congress.

Yesterday the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed the supplemental appropriations bill that includes the $4.2 billion in aid. Gov. Blanco, who was in the committee room in Washington, D.C. when it was approved, said the action "will allow us to fully fund our housing program and will enable our citizens to rebuild, repair or relocate."

The public may comment on the plan through Monday, April 17th, by logging onto, or by writing the Office of Community Development at P.O. Box 94095, Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9095, or by faxing their comments to 225-342-1947.

I also found an online comment form at

The plan will be available in Spanish and Vietmanese. It also can be obtained by calling 225-342-7412.

After the comment period, the plan will go to the Louisiana Legislature for consideration being submitted to the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers the federal dollars.

Inmate escapes OPP

Donald R. Tucker, 23, formerly of Harvey:

Photo: WWL.

I'm troubled by a number of things in the story reported in The Times-Picayune about the inmate who escaped from Orleans Parish Prison.

How does a prisoner escape and no one knows he's gone for hours?

Prison officials didn't know he was gone until an informant tipped off the U.S. Marshal's Service on Tuesday afternoon, Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman said.

Is it possible that other prisoners might escape?
It hasn't been determined how Tucker escaped, Gusman said.

Is it really advisable or desirable to have federal prisoners housed in Orleans Parish Prison (where the local sheriff collects lucrative "rent" from the feds)?
Federal officials use the Parish Prison as one of its "contract jails" to keep federal prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing, the U.S. Marshal's Service said.

Has anyone escaped from the federal tier under any previous sheriff's administration (e.g., Charles Foti)?
He said it is the first time under his administration that anyone had escaped from the federal tier.

Is Marlin Gusman really qualified and competent to continue as sheriff?

Finally, I think either the death penalty, or a life of hard labor building levees without parole would be a suitable punishment:
In the 2004 attack, Tucker and an accomplice, who has since pleaded guilty and is also awaiting sentencing, allegedly jammed a gun in the faces of a 23-year-old man and his 19-year-old girlfriend as they sat in her car at a traffic light near the off-ramp of the Crescent City Connection, police said. They commandeered the vehicle, took the couple to the Fischer public housing complex where, police said, the woman was raped and the man pistol-whipped.

Forum: Rebuilding the Vietnamese Community


Today, 4 p.m., Room 206, Mechanical Engineering Building, Tulane University campus. Allison Truitt of the anthropology department will discuss rebuilding the Vietnamese community in eastern New Orleans.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Can this presidency be saved?

Asks The Washington Post:

He could give meaning to his statement of seven months ago, in an artfully staged speech from New Orleans: "We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action." That's the last we heard of it; what if he decided to show it wasn't just a sound bite to get him through hurricane season?

To which I would respond, how can a man, who can't speak a word of sense without a teleprompter, say anything with meaning?

Who's in charge?

George W. Bush displayed his complete ignorance and incompetence as the President of the United States when, at a Q&A on Monday, he blundered through a totally unsatisfactory bullshit response to a critical question on torture under private contractors -- a question for which he should already have a ready response (full transcript/full video/audio clip).

Q Thank you, Mr. President. It's an honor to have you here. I'm a first-year student in South Asia studies. My question is in regards to private military contractors. Uniform Code of Military Justice does not apply to these contractors in Iraq. I asked your Secretary of Defense a couple months ago what law governs their actions.

THE PRESIDENT: I was going to ask him. Go ahead. (Laughter.) Help. (Laughter.)

Q I was hoping your answer might be a little more specific. (Laughter.) Mr. Rumsfeld answered that Iraq has its own domestic laws which he assumed applied to those private military contractors. However, Iraq is clearly not currently capable of enforcing its laws, much less against -- over our American military contractors. I would submit to you that in this case, this is one case that privatization is not a solution. And, Mr. President, how do you propose to bring private military contractors under a system of law?

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that very much. I wasn't kidding -- (laughter.) I was going to -- I pick up the phone and say, Mr. Secretary, I've got an interesting question. (Laughter.) This is what delegation -- I don't mean to be dodging the question, although it's kind of convenient in this case, but never -- (laughter.) I really will -- I'm going to call the Secretary and say you brought up a very valid question, and what are we doing about it? That's how I work. I'm -- thanks. (Laughter.)

Corruption here? Check Pennsylvania Avenue first!

Two important conclusions can be drawn from Senate hearings yesterday on the $4.5 billion spent by FEMA and Corps of Engineers on Katrina cleanup thus far:

  1. "For all of the state's storied corruption and the defense its officials had to mount that relief money would not be squandered in Louisiana, the lion's share of waste occurred under the federal watch."

  2. "Tens of millions of dollars were frittered away in layers of subcontractors. What Washington and the nation need to realize, the Louisiana contingent argued, is the totals bandied about as earmarked for relief are, in fact, grotesquely inflated by misspending."
How did this happen?
Large companies ... subcontracted from 70 percent to 99 percent of their work. That led to a curious and costly arrangement: overhead and profit margins for the big companies of up to 47 percent, and multiple tiers of subcontractors that sometimes stretched five or six companies deep.
But we're not suppose to know -- soggy furniture and moldy sheetrock is a national security secret, according to Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, in command of the Army Corps of Engineers:
Strock said he didn't believe that information could be shared with the American public.
Well, after you learn how much the overcharges are costing taxpayers, it's easy to understand why the Corps brass might want to keep this secret:
"At one point the corps was in my office, urging me to cancel the (debris-removal) contract and go with them," [St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis] said.

As it happened, St. Tammany's in-place contracts when Katrina hit carried prices of between $7 and $14 per cubic yard, at least 50 percent lower than prices paid by the corps, according to most estimates. Davis estimated the savings to taxpayers in St. Tammany alone at $42 million by forgoing the corps' demand to help.

Oh, but here's where the truth is revealed -- but The Times-Picayune stopped short of naming names. These guys are all in the ... ahem ... front pocket of George W. Bush. If they're giving him a blow job, can we impeach?:
"Bechtel, CH2M Hill -- why do you need them?" [Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.] asked, citing two of the multinational companies that landed prime contracts. "They go out and subcontract 99 percent of this stuff anyway. Why can't you do that?"

When FEMA couldn't answer any questions ...
The senators appeared even angrier when FEMA simply blew off the second round of testimony, the one that featured local officials. A stunned Coburn stopped that portion of the hearing after a few minutes and asked whether any representative from FEMA had stayed to listen or take notes. For a moment no one spoke, and then Strock raised his hand.

"No, general, you're with the corps, not FEMA," Coburn said. "No one from FEMA stayed around to listen to this and hear what's going on? That's part of the problem right there."

Okay, just go read the whole Times-Picayune story written by James Varney.