Sunday, May 28, 2006

"Mayor" Nagin -- LEAD!!!

Give us a plan this week addressing what you're going to do about the increasing crime problem in New Orleans. We need a prime-time press conference, with a Q&A to follow. We need you to stay on script, and we need you to leave the Mr. Cool clown routine in the closet.

Time Magazine:

It struck me as self-aggrandizing to compare New Orleans with Iraq. But I would hear the analogy again and again as I talked with people who had spent years fighting and losing the battle against violent crime in New Orleans. The U.S. Attorney talked about the need to win citizens' hearts and minds. An FBI agent compared the city's gangs to a jihadist movement: small, loosely organized and hard to track.

Most people who study crime in New Orleans see it in the context of a panorama of failures: the broken school system, an economy that hasn't adapted to modernity and shamefully easy access to guns. But the factor that may be unique to New Orleans is a justice system that has lost all credibility.

Even one murder should be vilified, but the per capita stats don't look good either:
So far, 33 people have been murdered this year--almost half of them in the month of April alone. A man assaulted two women in a bar in the French Quarter last week, and then shot and killed a man who came to their aid, police say. Today there are far fewer people in New Orleans and thus fewer dead bodies. But the number that matters most is the per capita figure. If this rate of killing continues, New Orleans will have an annual crime rate of roughly 45 murders per 100,000 people. (By comparison, New York City's murder rate last year was 7.)

One significant weak link in the system:
From 2003 to 2004, Elloie, one of 12 judges, was responsible for 83% of cases in which a suspect was released after a bail reduction, according to a Metropolitan Crime Commission study. Since Katrina, Elloie has issued either no bail or low bail in at least four cases involving assault rifles, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Bayou Boogaloo

It's the first ever Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo Festival, Saturday, May 27th:

Mid-City Art Market, Art in the Heart of New Orleans, will celebrate its 2nd anniversary in conjunction with the Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo Festival on Saturday, May 27 along Jeff. Davis between Bienville and the end of Bayou St. John. It will return to its home in City Park's Botanical Gardens beginning June 24 and continuing the last Saturday of each month.

Local and regional artists selling painting, pottery, jewelry, glass, metal, furniture, textiles, photography, and accessories.

Mid-City is a culturally diverse neighborhood and the festival will honor that with some of Mid-City's favorite restaurants including Parkway Bakery, Juan's Flying Burrito, Mona's, Asian Pacific, Nola Java and many more. Icy cold soft drinks, beer, frozen margaritas, iced coffee and snowballs will chill the day.

A day of music showcasing local musical luminaries including Anders Osborne, The Kevin O'Day All Star Quartet with Walter "Wolfman" Washington and James Andrews, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and Delta Funk, the Revealers and many more. Casa Samba, the city's premier Brazilian music and dance ensemble, will entertain throughout the day on the neutral ground.

The Bayou Boogaloo will also feature a children's art activity tent, and a business fair with realtors, builders, contractors, and many non-profit organizations.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

How not to say you're sorry

2,458 American soldiers killed in Iraq; 17,648 injured.

Oh well ... there may have been a couple of mistakes:

QUESTION: Mr. President, you spoke about missteps and mistakes in Iraq.

Could I ask both of you which missteps and mistakes of your own you most regret?

BUSH: Sounds like kind of a familiar refrain here.

Saying, "Bring it on"; kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people. I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner, you know. "Wanted, dead or alive"; that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted. And so I learned from that.

BUSH: And, you know, I think the biggest mistake that's happened so far, at least from our country's involvement in Iraq, is Abu Ghraib. We've been paying for that for a long period of time.

Bush team practices Category 5 response

The Times-Picayune:

The table-top exercise looked at evacuation plans, shelter capabilities, communications, command-and-control and coordination between front-line emergency responders and Washington, D.C., said White House spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo. ...

President Bush was traveling and did not take part.

Did not take part?

Isn't that President Bush's role in the event of a disaster -- to be traveling and vacationing?

Kenneth Lay convicted


I wonder if grandma Millie can get her money back now for all the power Enron "jammed right up her a------ for f------g $250 a megawatt hour!"

And finally, can we get an answer now to the question, Did Cheney know about Grandma Millie?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Require non-resident worker registration

Jefferson Parish deputies are looking for Edmundo Cerda-Anima in the sexual abuse and beating death of Sandra Adams at Lafreniere Park.

An arrest warrant was obtained today for a suspect in the beating death of a woman who was abducted while exercising in Lafreniere Park.

Jefferson Parish sheriff's deputies said they are seeking Edmundo Cerda-Anima, 25, on a first-degree murder charge in the killing of Sandra Adams, 51, of Metairie. They said they developed Cerda-Anima as a suspect with help from the Wichita, Kan., Police Department, although the connection was not immediate clear.

The announcement came after deputies impounded a white Ford Expedition similar to the getaway vehicle that they were seeking in Adams' killing.

Deputies seized the vehicle Tuesday evening at an apartment building in the 500 block of Eisenhower Avenue, about a mile south of the Metairie park, a resident of the building said today. The resident, Karen Brown, said the vehicle had been driven by four construction workers who moved into the building three to four months ago.

Another article is describing Cerda-Anima as a 25-year-old Mexican national and construction worker. His immigration status is not known.

Again, I reiterate my belief that all non-resident workers should be required to register for a work permit -- that is, those workers who aren't local residents, whether they be domestic or foreign. This would make it possible to do background checks to ensure that we aren't allowing criminals into our neighborhoods, and into our homes. The construction industry is an easy place for people to hide who don't want to be found. I'm not just talking about immigrants. I'm also talking about the proliferation of pretty wicked-looking workers from other states.

Recall that two other recent murders were probably perpetrated by people working in the rebuilding trade. There was the hit-and-run murder of Toby Beaugh on Magazine Street just before Mardi Gras. Just a couple of weeks ago, there was the shooting of Tommy Clark in the French Quarter while he was escorting two women who were assaulted by the perpetrator.

I recall that when I worked in England some years ago, I had to register with the local police. Seems pretty sensible, doesn't it? Of course, the process only works when people enter legally, and when there's enforcement.

We need tighter control on who's coming into the city to work. It would be very ironic indeed if Cerda-Anima turns out to be an illegal immigrant at a time when President Bush hasn't been enforcing immigration laws in New Orleans. Outside of a publicity raid on Lee Circle a couple of months ago, no other actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been publicized. I certainly am not seeing any ICE officers anywhere in town, and even when I saw them back in October, they admitted that their explicit instructions were to not do any enforcement activity.

5/25/06 update: Some may interpret my remarks as being xenophobic. Quite the contrary. I welcome the contribution anyone wishes to make to the rebuilding of New Orleans. Allowing violent criminals into the city -- especially criminal immigrants -- will definitely lead to mass xenophobia. Nothing would be worse for the city, or for respectable, hard-working immigrants.

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Justice failed under Nagin

Crime is one issue that will be going on my list of issues that need to be on Ray Nagin's agenda. As I've said before, I don't remember Nagin having much to say about a rising murder rate in New Orleans pre-Katrina. The criminal justice system was broken, and he did nothing.

Now, post-Katrina, when criminals are making a comeback, Nagin is a Johnny-come-lately to the crime problem.

It's long overdue time for criminal justice reform to occur in New Orleans.

Since Eddie Harrison III was released from prison on an armed robbery conviction, while Ray Nagin was mayor of New Orleans, the city failed to prosecute Harrison three times before he shot NOPD officer Andres Gonzalez on Monday:

At age 17, Eddie Harrison III pleaded guilty to felony armed robbery in May 1999 in the Jefferson Parish case and was sentenced to five years in prison. He completed his sentence and was eligible for a first-offender pardon effective Oct. 10, 2003, according to the state Department of Corrections.

A month after his release, Harrison went back into police custody on new felony charges in Orleans Parish. He was booked with aggravated assault with a firearm, being a felon with a firearm, automobile theft and possession of a stolen automobile. The Orleans Parish district attorney's office refused the charges weeks later, records show.

On July 6, 2004, Harrison was booked with aggravated battery, but Orleans Parish prosecutors last year decided not to pursue the case.

The most recent charges before Monday's incident occurred Jan. 7, when Harrison was booked with resisting an officer, possession of a stolen vehicle and altering a vehicle identification number.

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Map: Demographic support for Nagin

In this exclusive PGR analysis, Both Nagin and Landrieu attracted considerable votes from both whites and blacks, but black support for Nagin was decisive, and crossover support by whites put Nagin over the top.

Precincts more than 50 percent African American voted more than two to one for Nagin: 35,874 for Nagin; 14,550 Landrieu.

Precincts more than 50 percent Caucasian voted almost three to one for Landrieu: 9,247 Nagin; 24,685 Landrieu.

Precincts 50 percent or less African American or Caucasian, and which have significant Hispanic or Asian populations:

Hispanic: 1508 Nagin; 2130 Landrieu.

Asian: 1126 Nagin; 1483 Landrieu.

Precincts that voted for Nagin were on average 85 percent African American, 11 percent Caucasian, 2 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Asian.

Precincts that voted for Landrieu were on average 21 percent African American, 69 percent Caucasian, 5 percent Hispanic, 3 percent Asian.

The balance of votes not accounted for in this analysis were absentee ballots, which split 50-50 between Nagin and Landrieu.

One reason for the support by blacks for Nagin is that, notwithstanding his verbal gaffes, (or perhaps because of them, as bayoutstjohndavid has argued), blacks understood Nagin as a person, and where he came from. When neither candidate distinguished himself on issues, blacks voted for the candidate with whom they felt they could more closely identify, and that candidate was Nagin.

All of the people I talked to in New Orleans East on Saturday had traveled into New Orleans to vote. All seemed very committed to exercising their right to vote, even though many were having a difficult time deciding who to vote for. A couple of girls I talked to drove in from Houston for the day. One had already voted for Nagin, the other seemed extremely troubled by the election, expressing frustration that she didn't have enough facts to go on. The two sat together in their car for a long time talking it over before the undecided girl went in to vote.

The New York Times did a demographic analysis of the election illustrating the trend of black support for Nagin.


Map: Nagin v. Landrieu election results

Map: Precinct percentages for Nagin and Landrieu

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Ray Ray needs a spanking

Ray Nagin, hot on the heels of an upset victory over a more sensible choice for mayor, displayed a flippant disregard for business at a church service speech he delivered on Sunday:

Responding to a reporter who said he overheard a pair of corporate powerbrokers at Landrieu's election night party Saturday say that Nagin's victory would prompt them to move their companies out of New Orleans, the mayor said he will continue to reject the kind of patronage that has defined the city for generations.

"If they decide they want to opt out of that, then I don't know where they're going to go," Nagin said. "Where are they going to find a New Orleans of 1840? It just is not there. So I hear all that rhetoric about them leaving. I don't believe it. Business people are predators. And if the economic opportunities are here, they're going to stay. . . . I hope they stay, but if they don't, I'll send them a postcard."

With his handlers circling him like nervous cats, Nagin, who showed no desire to walk away from the microphones, smiled wickedly as he pledged to welcome his former supporters back.

"Once they get over the shock of me winning this election, I think they will be OK," he said. "Six million dollars is a lot of money. I wish I would have had that. I probably would have advertised in Africa somewhere."

New Orleans of 1840? What's that supposed to mean? Send businesses that quit on New Orleans a postcard? Will you be able to afford the postage? Advertise in Africa? Is that your constituency?

Will somebody among Nagin's advisors putting together the 100-day plan please -- I mean PLEASE! -- tell the man to shut his effing trap!

I had a draft of this post working when I read on the front page of this morning's Times-Picayune that some business leaders had the same reaction to Nagin's gaffe:
"If we're encouraged to leave, then I think it gives many of us doubt on whether we should stay here. Frankly, I'd like to see the rhetoric change," said Gregory Rusovich, president and chief executive of TransOceanic Shipping Co. Inc. "We are struggling to keep our business in Louisiana, which is not the easiest place to operate a business."

At least there was one positive comment on Sunday by Nagin. This is the kind of message we need to hear more from Nagin:
"Here was a young brother who was out there doing what he was doing, taking advantage of this economic boom that is hitting the city. That's the New Orleans I want to see, where whites and blacks and Asians and Hispanics are all working together to expand this pie. And it's going to be a big pie."

Lolis Elie in The Times-Picayune interpreted Nagin's victory as a gesture of solidarity by black voters:
Black voters weren't going to spank Nagin in public, especially if white voters were going to join in the spanking.

Nagin would benefit, I think, from a vigorous spanking.

I truly hope I'm wrong, but Nagin voters might come to regret their decision:
The outcome of the election on Saturday reminds me of what former New York Mayor Ed Koch said when he lost his re-election bid to David Dinkins: "The people have spoken. It is now time for them to be punished."

Bill Wessel
New Orleans

Monday, May 22, 2006

Congratulations on your victory Ray Ray

Ahem ... although built upon a campaign slandering an entire family's service to New Orleans -- including an incredible service to African American New Orleanians like yourself. Nice.

But really, congratulations. I wish you the best. As your opponent said, there really is no margin for error. We have one chance to get it right. I hope you got the message.

So ... finished celebrating? Had a breather?

I hope so, because now it's time to get back to work.

As the mayor of the city, and given the incredible sacrifice this New Orleanian has made to serve the city you represent, it would have been nice to hear you say something today on behalf of Andres Gonzalez, a brave NOPD officer who dared to risk his own personal safety to serve New Orleans residents.

Let me just remind you of something you said in a campaign debate:

"As the population has come up, there starts to be a little uptick in the murder rate, but if you convert that on a per capita basis . . . and you compare that to pre-Katrina, murder is down almost 50 percent," Nagin said.

In retrospect, do you still think that's an adequate answer Mr. mayor? Do you really think that will fly with the family of Andres Gonzalez?

Damn it man? What IS your problem?

Start acting like you appreciate the gravity of the situation. Start acting like this really is a national disaster, and the destiny of one of the world's most unique cultural cities, as well as the well-being of hundreds of thousands of residents, hangs in the balance, hinged upon every word you say to as an indication of whether the future holds promise, or more suffering.

You can't have "one New Orleans," Ray Ray, while criminals prey upon innocent citizens, gunning down police officers who serve to protect.

Andres: You and your family are in our prayers. May God speed you to a healthy recovery and a promising future.

5/23/06 update: Mayor Nagin expressed his regrets this morning, according to WWL radio, saying that Andres Gonzalez and his family were in his thoughts and prayers. I thought it odd that the mayor didn't have something to say about it immediately, yesterday. A handful of other people were talking to the media long before Nagin, including the District C councilman-elect, James Carter. I actually think this sort of incident calls for the mayor to hold a press conference to reassure citizens that he appreciates the impact it can have on perceptions of safety, and that to enunciate his program to fight crime. The problem may be, however, that Nagin doesn't have a plan to fight crime. Instead, when he expressed his sympathies today, he called on citizens to become involved in fighting crime in their neighborhoods. Well, yes, they should, but unless he's calling for citizens to issue armed vigilante justice, we have to wait for the police to hunt down violent criminals. Way to go Ray Ray -- no vision, no planning, no follow through.

5/23/06 update (#2): Via WWL, here's Nagin's comment:
New Orleans Mayor Nagin hopes the shooting of a police officer will help unite the community behind efforts to fight crime.

Nagin says his thoughts and prayers go out to the critically injured police officer and his family. He also is urging all New Orleanians to come together and take a stand.

He wants them to work with the New Orleans Police Department to stop what his calls "senseless acts of violence."

Police on the local and federal level has launched a campaign to get citizens more actively involved in reporting criminal activity and cooperate with authorities to keep crime from resurging to pre-Katrina levels.

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Map: Precinct percentages for Nagin and Landrieu

Related: Map: Nagin v. Landrieu election results

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Map: Nagin v. Landrieu election results

Related: Map: Precinct percentages for Nagin and Landrieu

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

I love Dawn Brown

Yes, the WWL meteorologist -- that Dawn Brown.

I turned on the WDSU radio broadcast on the way home after an evening out to dinner to listen for election results. I was shattered after hearing Ray Nagin tell me that I had "visited the red light district" by voting for the other guy.

I don't think I felt more disappointed to hear that George W. Bush had won stolen his re-election re-selection.

This is personal.

So when I finally got home, I'd already heard all of the meaningless and obligatory "time to come together" platitudes by everyone from the Nagin and Landrieu camps.

I was feeling thoroughly defeated.

Then, I turned on WWL, and there was Dawn Brown, with that great big smile and slightly goofy delivery, talking about something else -- the weather. I have a fondness for goofy girls -- the ones who might be characters in a Dr. Seuss book. Sorry Dawn -- don't take that in the wrong way -- what I mean is that I prefer the goofy humanity in your delivery to, for example, the smarmy professionalism of Dan Milham who's been perfecting the same lines for 150 years.

The point is, I did so need to see that happy smiling face when, expecting Mitch Landrieu to win, my plan was to post the following photo Sunday morning:

I went out to New Orleans East Saturday afternoon and stopped at a polling place to find out what people were thinking as they stood in the voting booths. I didn't hear anything substantive. It was all about how they felt sorry for the mayor. No one could have handled a crisis of the scale of Hurricane Katrina. Nagin had made mistakes, sure, yada yada yada, but Landrieu represented a corrupt political dynasty from the past. Oh ... no ... they couldn't actually name any specific incident, but it just must be true that a family that's so politically active is corrupt.

Maybe, subconsciously, they were really remembering Marc Morial.

Imagine that -- that blacks would actually think that the Landrieu family hasn't fairly represented the interests of black New Orleanians over the years -- or that the Landrieus have been too liberal for God's sake? Too entrenched with the Democratic party machine?

Irony of ironies.

Well, they can thank the Republican party smear machine for creating that impression with ads, signs, and mailers like these:

So what, exactly, is the GNOR?

When they were in a losing position, when their candidate was down, the Republican smear machine attacked Mitch's character with insinuation, and attacked the family name.

I was starting to think yesterday that people who didn't vote for Mitch would be surprised by how much good he would do for the city as mayor.

Now I'm thinking that people will be surprised by how lousy Nagin will be as a second-term mayor.

Expect more government by crisis, no vision, no planning, no follow through, no solutions. In particular, I suspect that there are a lot of blacks in New Orleans East who will regret their vote. They might rebuild, once the insurance money comes in, once the federal grants start coming in, if Nagin stays on top of the Corps levee improvements, if Nagin gets the infrastructure fixed, if the city doesn't go bankrupt, but will they have schools and businesses? Now, people are doing their grocery shopping Uptown. Will New Orleans East ever reach the population density necessary to support businesses with Nagin's leadership?

I doubt it. Maybe I'm overly pessimistic. It's probably time to hang it up.

One last thought, was Nagin mimicking Kimberly Williamson Butler by comparing himself to Gandhi when he delivered his victory speech?

First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. And then you win.

I think I'll be paying more attention to the weather forecast now.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

"I don't care what people are saying Uptown"

Just a reminder of what Ray-Ray said all those months ago, which now feel like years.

I know some people say it isn't fair to judge a person by one poorly-chosen statement, but this isn't just anyone. This is the mayor of a major city. Okay, it's New Orleans. Maybe that makes things different? I don't think so. The whole world made a laughing stock of us at precisely the time when we need people to take us seriously. And frankly, there was too much malice in Nagin's tone to pass it off as just an off-the-cuff gaffe, and the invective pitting one group of people against another was revealing of something Nagin has kept hidden inside.

In case anyone's forgotten, here's what Nagin said (emphasis added to the line that I personally found most offensive):

We as black people. It's time. It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild a New Orleans -- the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans. And I don't care what people are saying Uptown, or where ever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day. This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans.

Oh I know, some people are saying Nagin learned from his mistakes and won't make the same mistakes again. Baloney! Nagin's mistakes follow a predictable pattern which I will outline shortly.

First, what do other bloggers have to say about Nagin?

bayoustjohndavid is reminding undecided voters to recall a Stephanie Grace column that was printed in The Times-Picayune long before the mayor's race:
Just as in the past, Nagin didn’t line up the support he needed before opening his mouth, and he didn’t take care of the specifics. It’s all so familiar. ...

If ever there was a time for dreaming big, it’s now, when the city is poised to flourish or founder based on decisions Nagin will make in the coming months -- and without the undertow of inertia that has dragged down big ideas in the past.

But, as the whole repopulation drama has shown, the administration still needs to get a handle on its traditional weaknesses: follow-through and communication with other agencies.

Meanwhile, Tim wrote a letter to Ray-Ray, telling him that this is simply not his time. Instead, wrote Tim, "in this post-Katrina New Orleans, what we need now is a visionary and a leader."

dangerblond's letter acuses Ray-Ray of making her look like a fool:
In front of, well, everybody. Every lousy cab driver in America thinks I got exactly what I deserved for not having enough sense to keep my levees up.

Whoever wins the mayor's race, po'boy is worried about the nation's perception of the results. Meanwhile, Patrick Armstrong answered in a comment that the winner will have to sell the value of rebuilding New Orleans to the rest of the country, and to remind the nation that Americans don't give up on their own. My view is that Mitch Landrieu is the better candidate to inspire the nation:
The national media has been warming up the funeral dirge for New Orleans since Katrina was turning north in the Gulf.

Whoever y'all do elect as Mayor, populist or politician, he's going to need to be ready to take this fight right back at the national media and remind them that, as Americans, we don't just give up on our people or our cities.

Markus, Adrastos, and oyster have joined in promoting dangerblond's Landrieu Dirt Exposure offer to pay $50 to anyone who can furnish any "credible story of corruption by any Landrieu family member or close associate with verifiable source."

To those who worry about the Landrieu family being too entrenched in politics -- i.e., being too good at doing what they do, Slate quoted oyster in a po'boy comment, you "wouldn't want a root canal from someone who wasn't a dentist."

I've spoken at length in another post about why I like Mitch for mayor. I called for him to run long before he declared.

Let me now restate some additional arguments I have against Nagin:

1) Failed leadership: Nagin's problems getting the recovery represent a larger pattern of failing to rise to confront challenges with bold and visionary leadership. I don't recall, for example, Nagin saying anything about the city's failing schools and rising crime rate in the year preceding Hurricane Katrina. Are you satisfied with Nagin's defense of the re-emergence of a murder a day by saying that crime is actually down on a per-capita basis? Allowing buses to flood rather than using them to try to evacuate people is another example of failed leadership. Nagin fails to anticipate problems -- not something we can tolerate in a city in peril of another hurricane strike.

2) Poor planning: The best criticism I've heard of Nagin's style of governing is "ready, shoot, aim." He fails to listen to other people's advice, and seems to conjure ideas out of thin air without thinking them through or airing them with other people. The Canal Street casino corridor idea is one good example.

3) No follow through: I have often said that we ought to have had tent cities raised immediately after Hurricane Katrina so that people could come back to work on their houses, and participate in the rebuilding process. A couple of months ago now, I remember Nagin saying at the last Bring New Orleans Back meeting that he was going to work on getting temporary housing to accomodate displaced residents who want to work. Since then, has anything happened? Furthermore, why did Nagin have to wait for the BNOB before he came up with the idea. Shouldn't this have occurred to him in September -- or better, how about before Hurricane Katrina?

I'll continue to hold Nagin, or Landrieu if he wins, responsible for what happens. If it's Mitch, he better hit the ground running Monday morning. I'm working up a list of questions that need to be answered. I'll post them soon. I would love to see The Times-Picayune do the same thing -- post a list of essential questions that residents need answered on the front page, above the fold, and keep reprinting the questions every day until they're answered. I already know what one of those questions will be: What is the fiscal condition of the city -- stated in tax receipts and expenditures? Jefferson Parish has provided this information, and it was published in The Times-Picayune. Why can't New Orleans do the same? It's a question we all need to know the answer to, because everything follows from the answer that's given. How, for example, will the city be able to pay for services to sparsely-populated neighborhoods?

I'll wrap up this post with a final reminder. When you step into that voting booth, at the very least if you live Uptown, remember that Nagin said he doesn't care what you think. Nagin shouldn't get a single vote Uptown, from white or black voters.

The easy part of the rebuilding process has already gotten underway in areas that remained relatively dry. The hard part is yet to come. Can Nagin really handle it? Has he really proven himself?

It's time for a change!

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Lawrence Welk meets the Velvet Underground

And now, for something completely different ...

This should help you get your mind off of things for a couple of minutes.

La Bandera de Estrellas

I hate wasting my time on this kind of crap -- really -- but I'm driven now to speak up on the Spanish version of the "Star Spangled Banner" ... er, I mean, "La Bandera de Estrellas" -- that's what the United States government is calling its own Spanish version of the national anthem.

Yep, that's right -- Think Progress has the Spanish language version, originally commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education in 1919, as well as a link to the Spanish translation posted on the U.S. Department of State Web site.

So when our own president minces the English language with expressions like this:

"And I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English," Bush said. "And they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."

And when the Senate passes legislation directing the government to "preserve and enhance" the role of English, I just have to say, fine, let's start at the top.

Photo: Evan Vucci, AP.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bush's baby tax

Pete Peterson on PBS' Now:

There's a German philosopher named Bonhoeffer who said the ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world it leaves to its children.

When we sit around here and talk about all these tax cuts and we say it's our money, your money and mine, I think we ought to be honest with the American people. In the first place, it's also our debt and it's our children's debt.

But secondly, a tax cut isn't really a tax cut long-term unless you reduce spending. Because then it becomes a tax increase on your children. So we're inflicting this awful bill not simply on ourselves but most importantly on our kids.

Every baby born today has a debt of tens of thousands of dollars on their heads.

Yesterday, Preznit Bush signed yet another tax cut bill. The main components of this new $70 billion package:
1) Continues an earlier Bush tax cut through 2009, which limits to 15 percent the tax on capital gains and dividend income ($20.6 billion over five years).

2) Extends through 2006 the Alternative Minimum Tax on upper middle-income taxpayers, which only became a problem because of they were getting so many other tax cuts ($33.5 billion over five years).

3) Extends through the end of 2009 a tax cut letting small businesses write off up to $100,000 in investments in equipment and other depreciable assets ($7.3 billion over five years).

The new Bush tax cut, advanced by congressional Republicans withering in the polls, comes at a time when the United States is at war. The real long term costs of that war -- replacing equipment, paying down debt, veteran's benefits -- may exceed $2 trillion. President Bush is the first president in history to not raise taxes during a time of war. Instead, he's cutting taxes! This is absolutely insane!

Consider the fact that before President Bush leaves the White House (hurray!) in January 2009 (978 days), the National Debt Clock near Times Square will run out of numbers. Also consider the fact that debt reduction was looking so good after eight years of Bill Clinton that the clock's owner, real estate developer Douglas Durst, turned it off. But after just two years of George W. Bush, he fired up the clock again. Notably, it was Ronald Reagan's irresponsible fiscal policies that originally inspired Durst's idea for the National Debt Clock.

The national debt now stands at $8.3 trillion. That's approximately 68 percent of the United States' entire Gross Domestic Product for one year. Well, being one who's never had to learn the meaning of hard work, President Bush just authorized Congress in March to increase the debt ceiling to $9 trillion.

When he signed the legislation on the new tax cut, Bush said:
We believe that our economy prospers when the American people make their own decisions about how to save and spend and invest their own money.

Hey, I couldn't agree more. I'd like my money back that you spent in Iraq George.

Again, Pete Peterson, this time from a later edition of Now:
I want to believe that in their guts, the American people are wise enough to know we're living in a kind of surreal Disneyland world. We're fighting two wars, and I'm old enough to remember the second World War, and I remember the sacrifice. And I wonder if at some level, people in their gut don't understand that this is kind of an economic fiscal Disneyland. And it ain't really true.

George W. Bush doesn't know about sacrifice. This Little Lord Fauntleroy was born with a silver spoon stuck up his backside, which explains why he might have a difficult time figuring out which end is up, and why he doesn't understand the obligation of his class to this democratic capitalist society which makes their privilege possible.

President Bush isn't cutting taxes, he's raising taxes on every single baby born in the United States.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

GoodSearch good for Gulf Coast Restoration

From the Gulf Restoration Network GulfWaves Newsletter:

Now you can raise money for GRN just by searching the Internet at

You use like any other search engine - the site is powered by Yahoo! - but each time you do, money is generated for us. Here’s how it works:

Go to

Type Gulf Restoration Network into the “I support” box and click on “verify”

Search the Internet just like you would with any search engine

Since GoodSearch shares its advertising revenue with charities and schools, every time you search the Internet at GoodSearch, you’ll be earning money for us.

GoodSearch also has a toolbar you can download from the homepage so that you can search right from the top of your browser.

You can keep track of our estimated earnings by clicking on “amount raised” once you designate us as your organization of choice. The more people who use the site, the more money we’ll earn, so please spread the word!!

Inspiring people to rise to the challenge

"He has a knack for stating the city's urgent case and inspiring others to action."

That's the line that stands out for me in The Times-Picayune endorsement of Mitch Landrieu.

I've been telling people almost exactly the same thing.

Mitch Landrieu speaks with an eloquence that inspires people to rise to the challenge of rebuilding New Orleans. I think I heard it most clearly on the night of the primary when Landrieu said, "although we may be bent, we will not be bowed nor broken." He can inspire New Orleanians to rise to the challenge, but I think he'll watch our back as well -- not leave us hanging like Nagin has done.

By contrast, Ray Nagin keeps doing the casual Mr. Cool routine, speaking in dull language off the cuff. His remarks seem to arise out of thin air while he's speaking, almost in reaction to whichever audience he's addressing, rather than as the product of building consensus around well-thought out plans and goals.

Ray Nagin lost so many vital opportunities to sell New Orleans to the rest of the country -- and worse, made us a laughing stock around water coolers and on sensationalist talk shows where scandal is more the nature of conversation than productive solutions.

He could have answered the criticisms about New Orleans going forward with Mardi Gras by explaining how carnival is a celebration of families and neighborhoods. Instead, he sat before Congress and joked about strip clubs and cockfighting, and later called New Orleans a chocolate city.

We need much more. We deserve much more. The rest of the country needs to identify New Orleans as an indispensible cultural and economic engine of the nation.

I think Mitch can do it. He's extremely intelligent, and he can build coalitions of disparate interests. I think he knows that his family's legacy depends upon his success. I think he has greater aspirations, but he's humble in the presence of others.

Keep an eye on him. I know this might sound corny, but Mitch sounded like John F. Kennedy when he delivered that speech on the night of the primary.

I've said it before, but the problems New Orleans faces are a microcosm of the problems the nation will have to confront in the not too distant future -- a multi-ethnic society, an increasingly service-based economy, failing schools, corruption in politics, environmental crisis, the need for more viable smaller neighborhoods and better transportation solutions.

What city isn't dealing with these issues? The United States needs to rise to the challenges of a more competitive and dangerous 21st century. Americans have always accepted the risks and challenges asked of them when they trusted that those sacrifices would be made to create a better future for themselves and their children. We don't have that kind of leadership at the helm of the country now.

New Orleans can be the model for the future. It might look like it's a mess, but that's in large part because the city has always been at the convergence of complicated issues, but through it all, it's coped reasonably well, it's retained the strength of its family ties, and the charm and color of its neighborhoods.

New Orleans has problems -- no doubt about it, but we've also had a more realistic experience with a spectrum of difficult issues than most other places. Hey, at least we're ahead of the nation in that regard. We can either allow others point to those ugly experiences as the example for the future, or we can tackle those issues in constructive ways that demonstrate the way of the future for the rest of the country.

I'm counting on Mitch to lead us into the future. He won't be able to do it alone. We'll need to bring the nation along with us, but if anyone can inspire people to help, it's more Mitch than Ray-Ray.

That's why I'm supporting Mitch Landrieu for mayor.

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Wharf fire

Helicopters are scooping water from the Mississippi River with buckets and dumping it on a wharf fire.

MSNBC/WDSU mayoral debate was pathetic

I didn't watch the mayoral debate last night. I can't stand Chris Matthews and Norm Robinson. It sounds like my attitude was only confirmed by the "moderators" grandstanding their own egos rather than getting citizens' questions answered.

The goal of an interviewer or moderator is to not make himself the focus of the interview:

Robinson, the local anchor, also seemed bent on arguing with the candidates himself rather than having them argue with one another.

Robinson is smart, but instead seems to like to parade his status more than his professional skills.

The goal of an interviewer or moderator should be to ask questions that elicit useful information.
Over and over, Matthews moved back to trying to draw out the candidates’ positions on national issues unlikely to be of much relevance to local voters.

What was the purpose of Matthews quizzing Nagin and Landrieu what they think about John McCain or Hillary Clinton?

My answer is that Matthews asked about what he knows (useless gossip), or talked about his streetwise prejudices (blaming local politicians exclusively for the failed federal levees). He didn't do any homework to prepare questions that might elicit information that would actually help voters decide which candidate would be the best mayor to rebuild New Orleans.


Bush misses the point on immigration

A few reflections here on Bush's immigration plan announced on Monday night.

I think he missed the point. The problem, and the focus of any immigration reform, should be to strive toward social and economic justice, here, and outside our borders.

People need opportunities to train for jobs that provide living wages, and that help them raise healthy, stable families.

What Bush is offering instead is more security at the border, and a legalization of a system that exploits immigrant workers as slaves, and that undermines domestic workers.

Why, in the first place, doesn't the United States support diversified, sustainable family farms, and support the same model in other countries?

Instead, the United States promotes megalithic corporate farms that require enormous inputs of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, genetic homogenization of crops, monoculture plantations, and cheap labor.

The use of force follows from the failure of better solutions. Sending 6000 National Guard troops to the border won't solve any problems.

How about sending those troops to New Orleans instead, to help gut homes, and rebuild New Orleans?

Here in New Orleans, we know the answer to that question. The justification for the use of troops by President Bush is to promote the interests of his friends in corporate boardrooms. Which also explains why he isn't mentioning as part of his immigration reform forcing employers to comply with immigration law. It's because his friends at Halliburton and The Shaw Group benefit from the gigantic profits they earn from hiring cheap labor. It isn't as though taxpayers are getting more bang for the buck -- corporations are charging the same, but hoarding more of our tax dollars for their executives.

That's the Bush strategy: more juicy contracts to corporations, more juicy tax cuts for corporations, less enforcement of laws to protect citizens, dismantling existing programs to protect citizens, more debt to our children.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Singletary endorses Mitch

Mark Singletary is the City Business Publisher:

The mayor is content to rely on extemporaneous answers for even the most complex issues. Even the hurricane evacuation plan for the city of New Orleans he released last week seems off the cuff and lacks depth. ...

Like so many from New Orleans, I lost everything. My home was destroyed in the floodwaters created by the breaching of the 17th Street Canal. Now I want to know what to do next. I am about to have my home torn down and I need to know if it’s safe to rebuild or not. ...

Landrieu has answered questions about our recovery with detailed responses that relate to his technical knowledge of how our system of government works.

Pretended patriotism

Original photo: AP/Ron Edmonds.

We could use an ace up the sleeve right now

Oyster tends to veer away from the personal in his rhetorically original posts at YRHT. He revealed a different sentiment in a recent comment -- one which might surprise many Americans looking at this from the outside who don't know what a great place New Orleans is.

Here is a commitment to New Orleans shared by many here who, despite having the odds stacked against them, are counting their blessings while bracing for another storm season:

It's still a massive gamble, compared to my friends who are comfortably ensconced in other areas of the country. But my family is lucky enough to have been able to "stay in the game" after Katrina. We're fortunate to still have a lot to risk by staying and helping N.O. rebuild.

What people are gambling is not so much possessions as the possibility that another hurricane will finally break up their family and friends, dissolving their neighborhoods, and a culture that is second to none.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Rails to Trails

With b.rox, May 21st.

The City Business anti-Nagin endorsement

Not exactly an endorsement of Mitch, but the City Business opinion makes clear the unacceptable alternative.

City Business, via Third Battle of New Orleans:

Our mayor’s poor planning capability, illustrated most recently by his incomplete evacuation ideas undeveloped beyond the brainstorming stage nine months after Katrina, have betrayed this city and robbed it of opportunities. ...

The only plan the mayor seems to have is to rely on federal largesse.

The city should be marketing New Orleans fiercely with all the financial incentives the Gulf Opportunity Zone and other programs have to offer. This is not happening in any appreciable way. If it is, the mayor has not communicated that message.

The mayor also has remained mum on the intensifying crime rates that continue to erode the feeling of safety in the city. Murder rates have already returned to the unacceptable levels that existed pre-Katrina. ...

Worst of all, and to his great discredit, the mayor has divided the city by his campaign remarks rather than trying to mend its splintered spirit.

La. Weekly, Gambit endorse Mitch

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. ...

In the months since the storm, justified or unjustified, 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. ...

When both New Orleans, in particular, and Louisiana in general need a spokesman in Washington capable of delivering a plan that will bring us the billions this city needs to rebuild our levees, streets, homes, schools, electrical systems, governmental centers, and business infrastructure, Mr. Nagin has not been effective. ...

For decades, the Weekly has argued that the color of one's skin should not determine his opportunities. Now, many friends of this publication would effectively have us back away from that stand-on the sole grounds that the Mayor is Black. ...

Gambit Weekly:
Four years ago, we enthusiastically endorsed Ray Nagin as our new mayor. We still like many things about him -- his charm, his swagger, and his honesty among them. Unfortunately, Mayor Nagin has not been very effective at getting things done ....

New Orleans cannot afford to wait any longer for Mayor Nagin to "get it." We need a mayor who understands -- right now -- how to make government work for the greater good. Mitch Landrieu will be that mayor.

Some have criticized Landrieu for being "too political" or "yet another Landrieu." Those are shallow arguments. Our next mayor will have to put together coalitions to move New Orleans forward.

Kalypso's New Orleans

A better ambassador for New Orleans would be hard to find.


"Tomorrow is zero hour."

That intercepted communication between 9/11 Al-Qaida attackers remained untranslated by the National Security Agency until after 9/11.

The nominee for CIA director, General Michael Hayden, failed to answer this issue when, earlier this year, he defended the NSA eavesdropping program.

The Washington Post, via Media Matters:

Hayden echoed a claim earlier this month by Vice President Cheney that, if the NSA program had been in place prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, "it is my professional judgment that we would have detected some of the 9/11 al Qaeda operatives in the United States."

Like Cheney, however, Hayden did not mention that the NSA, CIA and FBI had significant information about two of the leading hijackers as early as January 2000 but failed to keep track of them or capitalize on the information, according to the Sept. 11 commission and others. He also did not mention NSA intercepts warning of the attacks the day before, but not translated until Sept. 12, 2001.

Mining the phone calls of tens of millions of Americans, and eavesdropping on phone calls, is the wrong solution to the problem when the problem is incompetence.

One group of 9/11 families, September 11 Advocates, agrees:
"Our government intercepted two al Qaeda communications, during routine monitoring, on September 10, 2001 -- 'tomorrow is zero hour' and 'the match begins tomorrow,'" the group said in a statement. Those messages weren't interpreted until it was too late. "It was certainly not any FISA court issue that delayed such translation. Rather, the delay was ostensibly due to NSA's overwhelming workload created by its voluminous influx of information that needed to be translated and analyzed on a daily basis."

Would I really care if my phone calls and conversations were monitored if it could save the life of another American?

I do, however, care that any secret activities be done with oversight, minimally, by the FISA court, or congressional intelligence committees -- which they are not!

National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation that Congress was informed about the phone call monitoring program.
SCHIEFFER: `How does the Congress, the Judiciary Committee, exercise its oversight authority on a government program if it doesn't know what the program is?' I think that's a good question.

Mr. HADLEY: Of course, the Congress does know. Now the House Intelligence--these are intelligence programs. They have been briefed to appropriate members of the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee. These were the committees established by the Congress to deal with these matters. These are the committees that we have been keeping appropriate members informed.

Senator Arlen Specter (Republican, Pennsylvania; Chairman, Judiciary Committee) disagreed with Hadley's claim that Congress was being informed about the program:
After we put pressure on with our hearings and legislation which we proposed, the administration started to brief a subcommittee of intelligence and part of the House committee, 11 members, but they still haven't complied with the act to inform the full intelligence committees as required by law. And there really has to be in our system of law, of government, checks and balance, separation of powers and congressional oversight. And, Bob, there has been no meaningful congressional oversight on these programs.

When Hadley said that "a lot of lawyers in the executive branch spend a lot of time to try to make sure that the things we do are within the law," you can be sure that what he meant (as with the administration's defense of torture) is that the lawyers determined how they could create a legal justification for the actions, not whether those actions were constitutional.

So what else is the Bush administration doing that we aren't being told about? Can we count on congressional Republicans to do their jobs, or do we have to wait for the USA Today to come out with another revelation?

Furthermore, has President Bush fixed the systemic problems that occurred under his watch -- has he hired more Arabic translators, and is he now actually paying attention to his Presidential Daily Briefs, like the August 6, 2001 brief with the title, "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US"?

New York Times columnist Frank Rich defends the revelation of the domestic spying programs by the press, answering critics who say the press is making the country weaker:
It's the recklessness at the top of our government, not the press' exposure of it, that has truly aided the enemy, put American lives at risk and potentially sabotaged national security.

I don't think any Bush critics are saying that hunting down terrorists is an easy job. All we're saying is, demonstrate to us that you've fixed the problems that were known to exist, which created the known failures to stop the 9/11 attacks. Then, reassure us that you're fulfilling the oath of your office to defend and protect the Constitution.

If you can't do the job within existing law, then seek to change the law. But never, ever, should a president BREAK THE LAW!!!

When a president breaks the law, the only recourse is impeachment. If the threshold for impeachment, set by congressional Republicans, is lying about what the meaning of the word "is" is, then a program to spy on citizens ought to be well beyond the threshold.

Map: Levee breach timeline

If there were a Pulitzer for Geographic Information Systems graphics, Dan Swenson should have won it. His work providing a spatial overview of when and where things have happened around New Orleans has done as much to help people understand what happened during the storm, and since the storm, as any writer on The Times-Picayune staff. Can anyone really imagine getting a grasp of what's happened without maps?

Now comes this OUTSTANDING movie by Dan Swenson and T-P outdoors correspondent Bob Marshall of events on August 29:

This is the accompanying Times-Picayune article.

5/15/06 update: The New York Times has a lousy example of how not to use GIS in this flood insurance map -- attempting to illustrate (I think) that a lot of New Orleanians should have bought flood insurance.

Aside from the fact that the mix-matched shading makes the map nearly incomprehensible, what's particularly wrong with the NY Times map is that it aggregates data in ways that overemphasize cases where people weren't required to have flood insurance.

The map aggregates homeowners and renters together. There are probably a miniscule number of renters who can afford, let alone who consider, flood insurance. Most homeowners are compelled to consider their flood possibilities and to buy flood insurance because their lender requires it. The map further aggregates data by zip codes, when clearly, most of the zip code boundaries straddle both FEMA-designated flood and non-flood zones.

In actual fact, The Times-Picayune revealed that 67 percent of single-family homes in New Orleans had flood insurance before Hurricane Katrina -- one of the highest percentages of homes insured against flooding in the country.

In March, Dan Swenson also created a much more comprensible map of expected flood insurance payments by zip code.

Going back to February, another T-P graphic artist, Emmett Mayer III created a set of charts for affected parishes which showed the numbers of homes inside and outside of designated flood zones that had flood insurance.

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Clinton preferred to Bush, Jr.

USA Today poll:
Based on what you have heard or read about this program to collect phone records, would you say you approve or disapprove of this government program?

Approve: 43 Disapprove: 51

The accompanying USA Today article.

Clinton preferred over Bush in CNN poll:

When asked which man was more honest as president, poll respondents were more evenly divided, with the numbers -- 46 percent Clinton to 41 percent Bush -- falling within the poll's margin of error. The same was true for a question on handling national security: 46 percent said Clinton performed better; 42 percent picked Bush.

Betting on staying

My comfort was that I had lost little, except time; I could always move on -- though where, I didn't yet know. And then I found I couldn't move. I had to stay.

V.S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River.

Joe Longo is betting on staying:

We can barely afford our note, our jobs are tenuous and hurricane season is upon us.

The dice are in the air.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

No veto needed with Bush signing statements

This Charlie Savage article in The Boston Globe ought to be pretty common knowledge by now, but I'm not sure the mainstream is paying attention:

President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

For example:
The president can tell researchers to withhold any information from Congress if he decides its disclosure could impair foreign relations, national security, or the workings of the executive branch.

Well, that just about covers everything, doesn't it?

Cut and run? You bet.

Lt. Gen. William E. Odom: Why America must get out of Iraq now.

Hat tip: Suz At Large.

Winning hearts and minds

Via Suz At Large, here are a couple of causes extending humanitarian efforts in places where winning hearts and minds is critical.

Spirit of America:

Spirit of America's mission is to extend the goodwill of the American people to assist those advancing freedom, democracy and peace abroad. We provide support to those on the front lines: American military and civilian personnel and people who call to Americans for help in their struggle for freedom and democracy.

Any Soldier:
Any Soldier Inc. started in August 2003 as a simple family effort to help the soldiers in one Army unit, thus our name. However, due to overwhelming requests, on 1 January 2004 the Any Soldier effort was expanded to include any member, of any of the Armed Services, in harm's way.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Tourism bankruptcies

Tourism firms file for bankruptcy:

New Orleans Paddlewheels Inc., which operates the Creole Queen and the Cajun Queen day-cruise steamboats, filed for voluntary reorganization May 3 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Louisiana. A sister company, the New Orleans Tours Inc. bus company, also has filed for Chapter 11 reorganization at the Magazine Street court. Both companies continue to operate.

The American Queen steamboat (pictured in the PGR photo above) is operated by The Delta Queen Steamboat Company, which has cruises longer than a day up and down the Mississippi. The Delta Queen Steamboat Co. hasn't filed for bankruptcy to my knowledge, but it was having financial difficulties due to Hurricane Katrina, and moved out of New Orleans for an undetermined period of time.

As for the New Orleans Tour bus company -- does anyone recall that haze hanging over New Orleans on Wednesday? I saw it too, while parked at an intersection. I couldn't see ten feet in front of the car. In fact, it was so thick, I could taste diesel on my tongue. Carl Arredondo said it was smoke from fires on the Yucatan Peninsula, but I know better. It was exhaust from a New Orleans Tour bus I was next to.

Seriously, can we get some traffic enforcement to handle the black smoke pouring out of buses and trucks? Don't we have emissions controls in Louisiana?

It's unpleasant, hazardous to the health of people downwind of the fumes, and adds to a sense of disorder, contributing to the unease about living in New Orleans post-Katrina.

Can we join the Netherlands?

Karien van Gennip, minister of foreign trade in The Netherlands, in the Thursday Times-Picayune.:

We have become, we believe, experts when it comes to protecting ourselves against floods and constructing barriers, gates and levees to manage water. In short we have learned some very hard lessons, but those lessons may be useful to our friends around the world. We want to share our experience with others.

In 1953, at the height of our flood misery, Dutch officials went to New Orleans to learn how U.S. engineers were designing water pumps. Tulane University engineers provided us with a number of those pumps and the United States provided us with helicopters.

Doh! You can't do that anymore! Tulane doesn't have a civil engineering program anymore thanks to Scott Cowen.

Doing the right thing:
We too have a water system dominated by large rivers, with competing needs and interests: commercial, agricultural and environmental. Some of our most valuable economic interests are situated below sea-level, just as in New Orleans.

We too have to be responsible to our citizens, as they will foot the bill for the decisions we make.

Responsible to citizens -- now there's an idea!

Thank you USA Today

It's times like these when I am truly grateful and astonished by the foresight of our founding fathers. They laid out principles of governance which still serve us well today.

One good example is how our founding fathers determined over 200 years ago that a Republican-led Congress, under a Republican White House, would allow our hard-fought civil liberties to be trampled upon in the name of perpetual war.

Their solution? Simple. USA Today would be granted oversight authority, and would print the truth about how the White House is violating our liberties using information obtained through intelligence leaks from the executive branch.

How could they know? It's absolutely incredible! USA Today didn't even exist until some twenty-plus years ago.

The point is, we now know we can't count on the Republican Congress exercise its responsibility to maintain oversight of the executive branch -- especially at a time when we already know the White House has been aggressively invoking executive privilege to weaken out civil liberties in the name of "Homeland Security."

The Constitution is not just a piece of paper we have to put up with when we're at war. It is precisely when our freedoms are challenged that we need to look to the Constitution for guidance.

Is anyone saying that the president shouldn't have the power to find and prosecute terrorists?

Absolutely not! I actually wish he would. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem capable of it.

I question not just the constitutionality of data-mining phone calls for connections to terrorists, I question its efficacy as a tool to find terrorists.

Recall that alarms were going off in various agencies about the possibility of a 9/11 attack, and the FBI knew who some of the terrorists were in the 9/11 plot -- BEFORE they attacked! Why did President Bush do nothing?

What we need is not more intelligence. We need more intelligent people running the White House.

Furthermore, as polimom pointed out, President Bush has defined the goals of the "war on terrah" so broadly (or failed to define them) that we don't really know when we'll have won, and we won't know how many more of our liberties will have been taken from us.

I mean really -- what's next?

Are we to believe that scanning the phone calls of tens of millions of Americans will identify patterns that connect to terrorist cells? Highly dubious. How many terrorists could there possibly be here in the United States -- if any? I suspect there are some, because I have serious doubts about the abilities of the Bush White House, but tens of millions of Americans?

It would seem to me better to trace calls made by known terrorist suspects.

Other than finding terrorists, are there other possible uses of this type of analysis?

Recall what happened under Bill Clinton's presidency in 1998. Using the same sort of phone call network analysis, Clinton was able to identify the friends and family of opponents who were trying to impeach him, and then engaged in dirty tricks to make their lives hell -- like singling them out for exhaustive IRS audits to find evidence to prosecute them.

Oh ... well, er ... that didn't really happen, but you see what I mean. What's to prevent any future president from secretly engaging in activities for political advantage, or revenge.

THAT my friends, is why we have a little piece of paper we call the Constitution. And THAT is why we need a Congress that is informed about all endeavors of the White House, so that we don't have to find out how our freedoms have been eroded by reading it on the front page of the USA Today.

Given the recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showing that "63 percent of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism," it's clear that the majority of Americans are poorly informed about how this sort of erosion of civil liberties without oversight could easily be used in the future for dirty tricks, at the very least -- and at the worst, could be used to more fundamentally undermine our democracy.

Now I'm really wondering what the NSA is up to.

Remembering Louis Rukeyser

Depraved Librarian has a dedication to Louis Rukeyser, celebrating his plain-talking presentation of stock market and economic matters, doing for the dismal science what Julia Child did for the kitchen.

Rukeyser recently passed away.

I remember having to watch Rukeyser's Wall Street Week on PBS for a high school economics class. We learned about the stock market, and then had a contest to see who could earn the most on the stock market with a hypothetical pool of money (I sucked).

I'll miss that dry delivery, crooked smile, and campy sense of humor.

Thanks Louis, and thank you PBS for your vision in providing a program of this type years before cable came up with the idea.

On the Web:

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Nolas

Boyd Blundell, via polimom:

The Nolas have always been a bit of an oddity among the other families in Bush Gardens. They’re not all that well off, but that’s not it. Their closest neighbors on the southern edge of the neighborhood are no better off, but they never seem as unkempt, never quite as scruffy as the Nolas. The Nolas are just weird, but in the eyes of the neighborhood, it has always been a good weird. They are a hospitable family that throws great parties with the best food and spectacular music, and pretty much the whole neighborhood has fond memories of the Nolas and all their weirdness.

It’s been a very bad year for the Nolas; as disastrous a year as anyone can remember.

READ the rest.