Friday, June 30, 2006

Global warming: "Get it" while it's hot

Climate analysts Kevin Trenberth and Dennis Shea of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. disagree with hurricane forecasters William Gray and Max Mayfield about what the causes are for higher ocean temperatures.

Everyone agrees that ocean temperatures have increased.

Gray and Mayfield have argued that temperatures have increased due to a long-term cycle known as the Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation.

Trenberth and Shea, on the other hand, argue that global warming is not something to think about in the future, but that the destructive effects of global warming are being visited upon us right now.

Last year ... the temperature in the tropical Atlantic, where many hurricanes originate, was about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1901-1970 average.

The year produced the most named storms on record, using up the alphabet of names, plus six Greek-letter storm designations.

It also brought the most intense Atlantic storm on record (Wilma), the most intense storm ever to hit the Gulf of Mexico (Rita), and the most destructive storm on record (Katrina). ...

In a study described in the Geophysical Research Letters, Trenberth and Shea said that the present rise in temperatures is only partly caused by the oscillation. ...

In fact, they said, about 0.8 degrees of the extra temperature appears to have been caused by global warming. The oscillation accounted for only about 0.2 degrees, they said. They attributed the remainder to the after-effects of the 2004-2005 El Nino warm-water current in the Pacific Ocean and year-to-year variability.

Rebuild "America's Wetland" -- smarter

Are we missing the forest for the trees?

Warmer Atlantic may increase hurricane intensity

Global warming dissembling

Thanks for the oil!

Dumbyass' glacial pace of action on global warming

China's future contribution to global warming

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

I'm just askin'

How do 200,000 people evacuate from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania without camera images of highways crammed with bumper-to-bumper traffic?

And "the Susquehanna levees stand at 41 feet"?!!!

Is there something we can learn from this, or am I over-simplifying the facts?

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A New Orleans ascension

Markus is poetic today, reminiscing about his father, an architect of some of the most unique landmarks in New Orleans:

My father designed this church. I recall standing as a very small child in the back and watching him climb perhaps fifty feet of scaffolding to reach the top of the buttresses to inspect some work. To a very small child it seemed as if he had ascended the very ramparts of heaven to consult with God about the progress of the work on His house. It is one of the most vivid memories of my childhood, one I can call up clearly at any time.

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The "war on terror" homecoming

Writing for The Nation, Jeremy Scahill reported that the Bush administration paid Blackwater mercenaries $950 a day to patrol New Orleans, totalling over $33.3 million, between September and December 2005, and "well surpassing the amount of Blackwater's contract to guard Ambassador Paul Bremer when he was head of the US occupation of Iraq." Meanwhile, New Orleans is being shortshrifted of funds needed for "job creation, hospital and school reconstruction, affordable housing and wetlands restoration."

Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky:

"Ask any American if they want thugs from a private, for-profit company with no official law-enforcement training roaming the streets of their neighborhoods. The answer will be a resounding NO."

Who does Blackwater recruit into its mercenary army?

Among Blackwater's ranks are "Chilean troops trained under the brutal rule of Augusto Pinochet":
"We scour the ends of the earth to find professionals murderers," company president Gary Jackson told the Guardian. "The Chilean commandos are very, very professional murderous, and they fit within the Blackwater system."

Concluded Scahill:
Blackwater's sweetheart deals, both domestic and international, are representative of how business has been done under Bush. They are a troubling indicator of a trend toward less accountability and transparency and greater privatization of critical government functions.


Mercenary executions in New Orleans

Blood Is Thicker Than Blackwater

(Hat tip: New Orleans Network).

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Ray Ray's myopia

I'm feeling like I need to make a big announcement soon. In the meantime, checking in with a couple other local bloggers this morning, bayoustjohndavid has a post that merits considerable attention:

I don't know where this came from but there seems to be this incredible perception that we have done no planning.

Ray Nagin

And bayoustjohndavid's now finding the recently-celebrated Times-Picayune advocacy journalism falling off into LEAP score territory:
I'm usually a fan of the paper's op-ed writers, but I can't remember the last time that one of them wrote a column that would earn more than a C.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Benefit for wounded NOPD officer

6/29/06 update: The event raised $50,000 for Gonzales. Donations accepted at any First Bank & Trust location.

There will be a benefit for NOPD officer Andreas Gonzales today:

New Orleans, LA – The New Orleans Police Department will hold a benefit at “Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World”, 233 Newton Street, in Algiers, Wednesday, June 28, 2006. The event, which kicks off at 7 p.m., is to assist Police Officer Andreas Gonzales, who was seriously injured in a shooting on May 22, 2006.

Officer Gonzales was shot four times by 21-year old Eddie Harrison III, a convicted felon, during a brief struggle after Harrison fled the scene of a traffic stop involving an acquaintance, 17-year old Joshua Hall.

Currently, Officer Gonzales is undergoing intense rehabilitation at Touro Hospital. He was partially paralyzed as a result of his injuries.

There will be food, music and a silent auction. Members of the NOPD are asking citizens and the business community for gift items to be auctioned at the event. Donations are also still being accepted at any First Bank and Trust location.

Tickets for this event are $25.00 and can be purchased at Blaine Kern’s and the following locations.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ray Ray's vision thing

Understatement of the year:

"I've come to the strong realization we're not set up for post-Katrina."

Ray Nagin

Well, Ray Ray, welcome to our world! Unfortunately, you're about ten months four years too late!

And what's this, Ray Ray actually has a vision for the future of the city he thought he'd share with his vassals:
Despite the bleak financial situation, Nagin painted a hopeful picture of the city he would like to see when his term ends in 2010.

By that point, he said, he hopes the population west of the Industrial Canal -- what he calls the "Mid-City bowl" -- will have surpassed pre-Katrina levels; that there will be "clarity" about whether and how eastern New Orleans will be redeveloped; that most public housing developments will be reconfigured; that tourism will be close to pre-Katrina levels; that a Canal Street makeover will be complete; that riverfront development will be under way; and that public schools will be showing marked improvement.

Susan Simon, I know how you're feeling:
It has been many weeks since Mayor Ray Nagin was re-elected. Where is he?

Anyone elected at such a crucial time in New Orleans' history should be giving us weekly updates, words of encouragement and state of the city speeches. He failed to communicate to us right after the storm and now he is failing again. I need to know what is happening!

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Hot Wheels

Slate in a comment posted in Markus' Wet Bank Guide:

My grandson found some Hot Wheels that we salvaged from storage (don't ask me why we bothered!). He keeps them in a special container and tells me every day that those cars "made it through Kantrina", as he pronounces it. He gets it.

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City Council to vote on plan for Carrollton & Claiborne lot

A Carrollton resident asked me to promote the following City Council meeting:

We are asking for residents, concerned citizens and media to join us in our fight for good redevelopment.

Meeting in City Council Chambers June 28, 7 p.m..

Please forward to friends, especially the following neighborhoods: Carrollton/ Claiborne//Broadway/Upper St. Charles/Fontainebleau/Mid City.

This is a major issue in how the old Town of Carrollton shall be redeveloped and ultimately, the entire Carrollton Corridor all the way to City Park. The value of our property hinges on retaining the authentic New Orleans architecture facing major thoroughfares. The possibilities are: beastly or beauty.

*Note the only issue before the council shall be either to grant a variance to Walgreen or not to do so. There is no vote by the council concerning a Grocery Store. Granting the variance will allow for a suburban designed store with parking facing Carrollton, and the store placed in the rear behind the parking. Carrollton Ave has a design standard which requires the Urban concept of placing the store near Carrollton with the parking behind the store. Upholding this Ordinance is consistent with historic neighborhoods surround by residential property.

The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 28th at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers. We will be emailing over 8,000 District A residents, notifying them of the meeting and attaching a flyer. We encourage forwarding the flyer to those who may be interested.

More at Third Battle of New Orleans.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The mosquitofish

Gambusia affinis, the Sewerage and Water Board's mosquitofish, displayed at the Festival of Neighborhoods on Saturday. Residents can order them to fill unused pools and other areas where mosquitos are breeding now.


State health officials say it is that time of year when the West Nile virus traditionally rears its ugly head: late June. Kyle Moppert, Office of Public Health entomologist, says the dry spring will actually help boost the mosquito population this summer:

"Now that were starting to get some water, your going to see large hatches of mosquitoes," says Moppert, "therefore, dispose of any water in your yards and around your yards."

Moppert says they cannot predict the severity of this year's West Nile outbreak, but reminds residents that 177 cases of the virus were reported last year, and 11 people died.

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Compared to what?

Quoting Xavier President Norman Francis, that's how Ben Johnson answered the criticism that Ray Nagin is taking too long to coordinate with neighborhood organizations and come up with a master plan to rebuild New Orleans. They say that no other city has had to do what New Orleans is now required to do.

Johnson, the President and CEO of The Greater New Orleans Foundation, was interviewed on WWL this morning. The GNOF is the recipient of a $3.5 million Rockefeller grant to facilitate the neighborhood planning process. He estimated that the total bill to knit together neighborhood plans will be $8 million, and that it won't be ready until December.

The New York Times targeted Ray Nagin for criticism twice last week (here and here) for failing to come up with a master plan ten months after Katrina.

Don't we have the pro-business mayor? Shouldn't he be familiar with project management?

As a friend suggested on Saturday at the Festival of Neighborhoods, one question the press needs to ask Ray Nagin is, where's your project worksheet? What target dates do you have for yourself and your administration to accomplish the specific tasks required to rebuild New Orleans? Or are you really just managing from crisis to crisis as Mitch Landrieu suggested in the mayoral race?

There is a school of thought, by the way, which argues that the planning process should go slow if that's needed to get it done right, but we wouldn't know if that's what Ray Nagin is doing -- he doesn't say anything!

Compared to what? Compared to the need of citizens to rebuild their lives is my answer to that!

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Organizational dysfunction at the Corps of Engineers

I couldn't find the audio in the WWL archive, so I'll have to summarize one of the best interviews I've heard post-Katrina: WWL's Tommy Tucker talking to civil engineer Bob Bea about why the levees failed.

I caught the interview while channel surfing this morning. It actually aired between 7 and 7:30 a.m on the 101.9 "Perspectives" program.

We all know about the countless engineering flaws that led to levee system failures around New Orleans. What hasn't been explored at length is the role of bureaucratic dysfunction at the Corps of Engineers in created those failures.

I've written in other posts (here and here, for example) about my confidence in the scientific and engineering capabilities of friends I know who work at the Corps of Engineers. Many of them lost their homes too, and are feeling that the vitriol aimed at the Corps of Engineers is directed at them personally. On top of their own personal tragedies, they're feeling that they haven't been given a right to grieve for themselves. In fact, they've been working constantly around the clock since Hurricane Katrina, and haven't had an opportunity in many cases to deal with their own personal situations.

As I've said before, it's not enough to target the engineering failures of the Corps of Engineers, but to truly prevent future engineering problems, we have to first understand and address the political pressures that led to institutional failures. The science about how to build levees right has always been there. The Corps of Engineers knows how to do it, so why did the levees fail?

The answer, elaborated by Bob Bea in the Tommy Tucker interview, can be found principally in post-Betsy politics. As it began levee improvements after Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans in 1965, the Corps was frequently criticized for cost overruns and delays. The Corps has always been a victim of politics, but in this case, the role of politics was deadly.

The Corps began modernizing its project management and accounting systems, subjecting projects to cost-benefit analyses that compromised engineering best practices. At the same time, however, Congress began using appropriations as a weapon against the Corps (unless a member of Congress wanted a pork-barrel project in his or her district). The Corps was forced to make do with whatever appropriation it was given. Therefore, when, for example, the Corps was designing the specifications for how deep to drive sheet pile into the peanut butter and jelly sandwich composition of soils along the 17th Street Canal, an institutional decision may have been made to ignore previous studies done by the Corps in the Atchafalaya Basin in the 1960's which showed how to do it right.

What did Bea mean by peanut butter and jelly sandwich soils?

As New Orleans drained swamps by digging canals in the 19th century, and later began reclaiming land (as in Lakeview) by dumping fill on top of what was previously swampland, a layering of soil firmness was created. Firmer clays could be found down deep, below a stratum of loose swamp material, on top of which was layered more firm soils. When sheet piles were driven into that soil, they were only driven down to the level of swamp material, not down to the deeper clay. As a result, when Lake Pontchartrain began pushing against the canal walls during Hurricane Katrina, the walls and the soils they were embedded in, literally slid across the deeper clays as you could do with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich if you slid the two pieces of bread across one another.

It would have been better to build bigger and higher levees along the 17th Street Canal, but after Hurricane Betsy, homes were already built close to the canal, so the decision to use levee walls was made. That levee walls were constructed instead of dirt levees wasn't the problem. The Corps of Engineers can, and does, improve its engineering skill all the time. It knew how to build the levee walls, but then failed to do it right because of institutional failure created by political pressure.

The big question is when and why that institutional failure produced faulty engineering. As Tommy Tucker put it, scientists should have been pulling the wagon, not politics.

Should individual Corps engineers have spoken up if they knew the designs were flawed? That assumes that someone knew what was happening in a multi-tiered decision-making organization. It also assumes that the Corps had a system in place for self-criticism.

Bea argued that the Corps had, and still has, an organization that kills the messenger who bears bad news. I know that to be true. That's why, notwithstanding the fact that individual engineers know why the levees failed, the Corps as an organization keeps trying to publicly defend its actions.

In part, that might be due to the patriarchal military hierarchy of the Corps. It is also, however, a function of how the political goals of whoever sits in Congress and the White House percolate through the organization.

I've said before, and Bea said it as well, scientists at the Corps of Engineers need to be isolated from politics and bureaucratic dysfunction. There also needs to be an independent review process outside of the government -- something like the NSF-funded organization within which Bob Bea has been operating since Katrina.

We do need to know what the specific engineering faults were, but they may occur again if the institutional problems at the Corps of Engineers aren't addressed.

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Maps: FEMA Advisory Base Flood Elevation

FEMA has developed Hurricane Katrina Surge Inundation and Advisory Base Flood Elevation Maps (referred to as, “Katrina Recovery Maps”) to aid Orleans Parish property owners to repair or rebuild structures to newly determined advisory coastal flood elevations. These maps are based on Flood Recovery Guidance for Orleans Parish that FEMA published in April 2006.

Holy crap! Anyone feeling like you deserve to be issued a college degree after all of this?!!

Find your map on the FEMA Web site.

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Photos: Festival of Neighborhoods

The Festival of Neighborhoods was a great event yesterday in conjunction with the Mid City Art Market at the City Park Botanical Gardens. There was everything from unrealistic high-tech architectural ideas, to very practical maps showing who is planning on returning to their neighborhoods.

More photos at Yahoo.

There's also an audio post about the Festival of Neighborhoods at Community Gumbo.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Heckuva job Ray Ray!

Where are Rob Couhig and Virginia Boulet now that their man is back in the mayor's office?

What became of their brainstorming meetings with Ray Nagin on that Monday after the election?

We got the National Guard, but what's the longer-term plan to stop the loss of officers from the NOPD and fix the court system?

I was working on a post yesterday detailing a host of issues that require mayoral leadership, but found in letters to the editor today that I'm not alone in my frustration at the lack of leadership in City Hall. Here are a few opinions on other things happening this week which suffer from the absence of executive leadership.

On the lack of a master comprehensive plan to rebuild the city:

This administration lacks someone with compressive vision and planning skills. The administration's apparent lack of interest in these issues coupled with the absence of experienced and visionary planners in City Hall are sure signs of future confusion and wasted resources.

Lake Douglas, New Orleans, Times-Picayune letter to the editor.

On the resignation of the public transit chief, Jimmy Reiss:
We don't want to hear "Sorry, Mr. Reiss, we will miss you." We want to hear that Mayor Nagin inserted himself into the process, knocked some heads together and got his plan adopted or at least intelligently discussed.

If the mayor does not step up to the plate now and stay there, this will be a bullet point in the national articles 10 years from now about how we lost the city of New Orleans. Or, rather, how the mayor lost it.

Lisa Jordan, New Orleans, Times-Picayune letter to the editor

At the last BNOB public hearing a couple of months ago, when Ray Nagin outlined which parts of the BNOB plan he would accept, the mayor said that one of his most urgent priorities would be establishing temporary housing for workers. I called for that months ago -- possibly even in September. We need a WPA-style effort like San Francisco did after the 1906 earthquake. But has anyone heard the mayor talk about the issue again? Meanwhile, trailer parks remain unoccupied:
We all know that New Orleans is in urgent need of people to do the routine work to get New Orleans moving again. We also know that many of these people have tragically lost their homes.

Then how does one explain the great number of trailers that are set up and yet to all outward appearances unoccupied?

Donald C. Burnham, New Orleans, Times-Picayune letter to the editor

Finally, for rhetorical flourishes, this guy wins the prize:
Mayor Ray Nagin was off humiliating us on the latest leg of his "God & Chocolate Tour." Meanwhile, back here in the real world five kids were shot down in the latest escalation of violence. Poverty and homelessness are increasing and our school system is still dysfunctional.

Heckuva job, Ray!

The only silver lining of New Orleans post-Katrina was the opportunity to finally put our house in order. Under the mayor's "leadership," every one of these opportunities have been squandered.

Now he's off doing a little victory lap although his only success would seem to be managing to be re-elected.

Ray Nagin is a national embarrassment, and his re-election is just further evidence that New Orleans is truly dysfunctional. It's gonna be a rough four years.

Gallivan Burwell, New Orleans, Times-Picayune letter to the editor.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

The daily Katrina slog

This morning I'd like to celebrate The Garden of Irks and Delights, where Lisa is coming out of her shell to express the very real daily slog that she and other New Orleanians are still fighting to recover their lives:

But I am indeed a fish out of water. I am out of my element. Shall I count the ways? Let's just look at the most obvious. I haven't spent a night in my own house, in my own bed, since August 27th, 2005. Sometimes, I lay in bed here with the lights off and I can't remember where I am. I think I'm home but on the wrong side of the bed...or am I in Keswick or in Charlottesville? Or at Renard's? Mom is my best friend, a wonderful hostess and a phenomenal cook. Being here is lovely. But I want to be back in my house. I want a normal life again. I'm tired of all the toil and trouble that has become the way of life in this city. I'm not alone. We're all going through it. Nothing is easy. Nothing is now. (I'm still waiting for State Farm to get their engineer's report so I can start the foundation work that has to occur before any of the other work can be done.) Will this ever end?? I wonder how many people on the Gulf Coast ask this question every day? I wonder how many people here can see a normal life as part of their future?

Meanwhile, the impression of the rest of the country might be that by now New Orleans should be well on its way to recovery. That impression would be false. Ten months after Hurricane Katrina, more than 250,000 New Orleanians remain displaced from their homes, and 80 percent of the city remains devastated.

Lisa continued in her post today with a gut-wrenching, honest portrayal of what it feels like to live this experience:
Katrina Fatigue?

Well, yeah. We have it, too. The million-plus of us who have been living it every day since 9-29-05 in a way much more real than the rest of the world. We're tired of it all and wish every day that it would all just go away and things would be back the way they were before It happened.

The remarkable thing about Hurricane Katrina is the bonding that can occur in the blog forum. I know -- it seems really impersonal (and it's true that I don't know personally many of my fellow New Orleans bloggers) -- but there are things people will say in writing that aren't expressed as honestly face to face. I started blogging before Hurricane Katrina, but with Katrina, blogging took on a completely new and more meaningful purpose -- to defend New Orleans, to communicate to the rest of the country what's happening, and to help create an extended community.

Finally (thanks Lisa), Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post "gets it":
The painfully slow reconstruction of a city taking place today doesn't yield great video; the absence of progress is the story. The 250,000 people who have been unable to return -- more than half the city's population -- are not easily available for interviews. And even if they were, I don't imagine producers getting terribly excited over displaced folks talking about having to stay in motels or trailers or with relatives. ...

And then there is the unsettling quiet. There is no one for miles around -- no traffic, no children, no dogs. ...

If people saw what I saw, however, they would understand why journalism's work here is not done -- not by a long shot.

But slim can't muster any sympathy for corporate media in his no fish, no nuts post:
The problem is not that the story in New Orleans is "too big" to convey, it's that the corporate media wants to move on. There's no margin in continuing to cover New Orleans - unless, of course, it gets hit with another storm this season. Then they'll rubberneck until our necks ache.

And Tim of Tim's Nameless Blog wants to remind everyone that we are not ok.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Are you paying attention Ray Ray?


Right now, the people of the city are being held hostage to whims and foot-dragging, their lives on hold as they wait for their leaders to make decisions — decisions that should have been made months ago.

If there is one individual who needs to step up more than any other, it is Mayor Nagin. His city needs a leader more than a politician in this difficult time. Now that Mr. Nagin has been re-elected, it is time to start spending the political capital his victory earned him. His legacy will not rest on how many people like him, but on the effectiveness of the reconstruction and the safety and well-being of residents in the years to come.

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Rebuild "America's Wetland" -- smarter

I'd like to tie together some interesting recent research which has a bearing on the ability to protect southeast Louisiana from a hurricane in the future.

In a recent PGR post, I linked to a map showing subsidence rates in the New Orleans area averaged about 8 millimeters per year, to as much as 28 millimeters per year, between 2002 and 2005.

Meanwhile, NASA research is showing a very troubling rise in ocean levels due to ice melt at the poles, and due to thermal expansion. Between 1993 and 2002, ocean levels rose 3 millimeters per year on average.

Another post I was working on used maps printed in USA Today which detail the possible impact of global warming, indicating that southeast Louisiana is probably in for hotter, drier conditions, which will lead, ironically, to even faster subsidence as soils become compacted.

For those who don't know, a cruel irony is that southeast Louisiana has suffered from one of its worst droughts in recorded history after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita wreaked their destruction. As a result, subsidence is causing even more structural problems, as houses which were once standing on soft ground before Katrina, were essentially floating on a substrate of -- okay, here goes -- "chocolate pudding" when New Orleans flooded, and are now standing on soil that's becoming compacted from lack of water.

These maps appeared in the May 30th USA Today:

The future will present an even more complex environmental challenge than most people are considering at present. That's going to require some thinking outside of the box, and not looking at every problem as a hammer sees a nail.

Mark Davis, the executive director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, is critical of plans by the Corps of Engineers to leave environmental considerations out of its master plan to protect Louisiana.

"There's nothing obvious about the obvious when it comes to doing what needs to be done," said Davis in an Associated Press story by Cain Burdeau printed by Lafayette TV station KATC 3.

Burdeau wonders if the Corps will consider how re-plumbing the Mississippi River will affect coastal marshes, or plans to plant more cypress; take a short-term approach and just build levees, or use a longer-view Dutch approach that considers unique forces of the environment and geography when designing engineering structures.

A recent Times-Picayune story by environmental reporter Mark Schleifstein offered more encouragement that the Corps of Engineers was attempting to tackle the complexity of the problem, but discouragingly suggested that the changes to the ecosystem are so rapid and dramatic now that there may be little that can be done anymore.

The Army Corps of Engineers task force investigating the reasons behind levee failures in the New Orleans area during Katrina found that many parts of the levee system were lower than authorized, largely because the land beneath them was sinking.

"As a result of subsidence, new Federal Emergency Management Agency Base Flood Elevations maps that will be available for the area in 2007 may not be accurate; yet those maps will form the basis for flood control and establish levels for rebuilding," the report says.

To counteract that concern, the report recommends designing computer models to incorporate the reasons for sinking soils, such as oil and gas production and the weight of the soil itself, and the reasons for rising sea levels, including global warming, to provide forecasts that could be used in designing new levees.

The report also recommends that the coast's disaster preparedness programs incorporate innovative methods of informing the public of the dangers caused by hurricanes, storm surge and inland flooding caused by tropical rainfall. One way would be to use 3-D computer animation to show the effects of predicted storm surge on an area's landscape, including images of existing buildings and roads.

Restoring Louisiana's coastline -- wetlands and barrier islands and shorelines -- is a simple and attractive method to provide protection from hurricanes to New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast, the report says. But it warns that rising sea level and other difficulties in creating effective restoration projects make it unclear "whether such an approach is actually feasible."

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

NOPD community meeting

Find out how the deployment of National Guard and state police to New Orleans will affect NOPD patrols in the 2nd District. The NOPD 2nd District is in an area from Washington Ave. Louisiana Ave. west to Jefferson Parish, and the river north to approximately Earhart Blvd. Washington Ave. and Airline Hwy (see this map of the NOPD District boundaries).

TUESDAY, June 20, 2006
7:00 P.M.

More information about NONPACC meetings can be found online at the NOPD Web site.

Related: There will be a benefit for NOPD officer Andreas Gonzales next week Wednesday:
New Orleans, LA – The New Orleans Police Department will hold a benefit at “Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World”, 233 Newton Street, in Algiers, Wednesday, June 28, 2006. The event, which kicks off at 7 p.m., is to assist Police Officer Andreas Gonzales, who was seriously injured in a shooting on May 22, 2006.

Officer Gonzales was shot four times by 21-year old Eddie Harrison III, a convicted felon, during a brief struggle after Harrison fled the scene of a traffic stop involving an acquaintance, 17-year old Joshua Hall.

Currently, Officer Gonzales is undergoing intense rehabilitation at Touro Hospital. He was partially paralyzed as a result of his injuries.

There will be food, music and a silent auction. Members of the NOPD are asking citizens and the business community for gift items to be auctioned at the event. Donations are also still being accepted at any First Bank and Trust location.

Tickets for this event are $25.00 and can be purchased at Blaine Kern’s and the following locations:

NOPD Eighth District
334 Royal Street

NOPD Second District
4317 Magazine Street

NOPD Third District
1700 Moss Street

NOPD Fourth District
1348 Richland Road

NOPD First District
501 North Rampart Street

JPSO – West Bank
1233 Westbank Expwy.
Harvey, LA 70115

Gretna Police Department
200 Fifth Street
Gretna, LA 70053

Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office
301 Main Street
Belle Chase, LA 70037

Kenner Police Department
500 Veterans Blvd.
Kenner, LA 70062

Saint Bernard Sheriff’s Office
9000 West Saint Bernard Hwy., Site 1 Marlin Dr.
Chalmette, LA 70043

JPSO – East Bank
Clearview Mall, Fourth District HQ
Metairie, LA 70006

Monday, June 19, 2006

Turning point?

I'm hoping that we'll look back on this day as a major turning point in Ray Nagin's administration, and in the rebuilding of New Orleans.


Because Ray Ray put away the Mr. Cool routine and actually addressed the crime problem with a serious attitude, and with a serious call for action, requesting Louisiana State Police and National Guard to help patrol New Orleans.

For responding affirmatively to the request within a couple of hours, Bravo Governor Blanco!

I'll never understand why Mayor Nagin and NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley thought the National Guard could leave the city in the first place.

I called for the National Guard to return on at least two other occasions (here and here).

New Orleanians will not tolerate thugs and murderers.

I hope Ray Ray is now going to get serious and become vocal about the array of other issues that require his attention.

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"Throw me something mister mayor!"

That's what Adam Farrington had to say to Mayor Ray Nagin in a letter to the editor published in this week's Gambit Weekly. Farrington criticized Nagin for failing to show up to speak about the value of the arts community at the annual Mayor's Arts Awards.

Farrinton continued:

My sense of being represented dissipated, and I turned my attention other directions. So we've got four more years of a mayor who has been failing to inspire me.

True, Ray Ray has a lot on his plate to worry about right now, but if he were worrying, no one would know, because he has absolutely no communication whatsoever with the citizens of New Orleans!

I'm beginning to think that the much celebrated "get off your asses" moment on WWL a couple of days after Hurricane Katrina was as much a function of the failure of the federal government to do anything as it was Ray Ray's failure to communicate needs and directives before disaster occurred.

Here we are, almost three weeks into a new hurricane season, and 10 months after Hurricane Katrina, yet does anyone know what the plan is to rebuild one of the most uniquely-cultured cities in the world?

What about the report that two-thirds of the water pumped by the Sewerage and Water Board ends up leaking out of pipes before it gets to people's homes? Does the mayor have a plan to address the expensive task of fixing the flood-damaged sewerage infrastructure that doesn't require the use of "the 'b' word" (bankruptcy)?

What about the bloody murder of five teenagers in Central City on Saturday? Is this a good thing or a bad thing for New Orleans' prospects? Does the mayor care at all that these lives were lost? Were they just gangbangers who got what they deserved? Do these kinds of killings adversely affect the image of the city and the willingness of residents and proponents to invest?

It seems these questions haven't occurred to the mayor, but city councilman Oliver Thomas gets it -- he's holding a press conference on the matter. It would seem to me that the mayor wouldn't want to be upstaged in this way, but that would assume the mayor is competent.

What about the recent legislative conquests led by Governor Blanco and passed by the Louisiana House and Senate to consolidate the assessors, criminal and civil sheriffs and courts, including the offices of register of conveyances, recorder of mortgages, and custodian of notarial archives? Has the mayor anything to say about these Cat 5 changes coming over the horizon? In particular, since assessor consolidation will require a citizen vote, wouldn't it be nice to know where the mayor stands on the issue?

What about the cuts to the Regional Transit Authority? Can New Orleans do without a public transportation system?

What about the charter school movement in New Orleans? It seems like a good idea, and the U.S. Department of Education recently gave Louisiana a $23.9 million grant to create new charter schools, most of it for the New Orleans area. Recall, however, that the public school system was $40 million in arrears before Hurricane Katrina -- another topic that the mayor failed to come up with a plan to address.

What about the HUD plan to demolish four public housing developments? I have mixed feelings about the housing developments, but does the mayor? How would we know? He hasn't said a word about it. Is it a good plan? Are all public housing residents, as Oliver Thomas suggested, lazy people who watch soap operas all day, or are some of them hard-working people trapped by poverty wages and crime? How do we save the good ones without rewarding the bad ones? Will moving people into mixed-income neighborhoods affect their prospects if they can't earn more? As a matter of social justice, or even constitutional rights, does it matter that, as I heard on Saturday's Community Gumbo, the animals were brought back to the Audubon Zoo before people were brought back to public housing?
The only things that's being cut are the things that affects poor people. The Aquarium came back. I say it over and over again. We brought back the fish. We didn't bring back the people. We rolled out a red carpet for the penguins to come back in the city. We opened up the zoo for the animals. Certain things are not as important as human lives, but it depends on what's important to a certain class of people.

What about the neighborhood planning process that was spurred on by the mayor's Bring New Orleans Back commission? How does the mayor intend to include neighborhoods in the decision-making process when independent neighborhood planners are being told that their input isn't needed (i.e., when the Lambert Group hired by the City Council to come up with a plan isn't remunerated for autonomous planning efforts)?

What happened when Ray Ray disappeared behind closed doors with former opponents Rob Couhig and Virginia Boulet the Monday after he was re-elected? Did he emerge with a plan? I don't recall. If he did, why don't we know what it is? Is it because even when the mayor has a plan, there's no follow through?

Citizens are left to duke it out for their own survival while the mayor continues his amazing disappearing act. I'm about to say it's time for him to try a new act -- maybe one where he attempts to hold his breath in the Mississippi River eddies for ten minutes -- oops, I said it.

The point is, we need leadership. We'd do just as well, or just as poorly, without the mayor we have now, because he has nothing to say. What exactly Ray Ray does with his time is a mystery to all of us who are waiting for direction.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Neighborhood planning rules to be decided on Saturday

A colleague sent the following announcement:

I am urging you to attend an important meeting this Saturday, beginning at 8:30am, related to the final structure of the group that will oversee the official city-wide and neighborhood planning process.

It is to be held at the offices of the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF):

1055 St. Charles Avenue, Suite 100 (this is the K&B Building located on Lee Circle across the street from the "Circle Bar")

The phone number is: (504) 598-4663

As most of you know, the "planning process" is the means by which the City is to develop comprehensive rebuilding plans for infrastructure, public space and buildings, hazard mitigation, and large-scale housing ("buy-out" homes, abandoned and adjudicated property, etc.). These plans are then used to secure federal recovery funds allocated through LRA, other non-recovery federal grants, private investment, etc. In addition, the process should also be the means by which the city develops land use ordinances and other policies to implement recovery projects. For the above reasons, a unified process, with all branches of city government supporting and involved, is essential.

As you may also know, the beginnings of an official city-wide and neighborhood planning process has been taking shape for several weeks. The Rockefeller Foundation, in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foundation, is funding and developing the framework for the planning process, through the efforts of Steven Bingler, LRA's Orleans Parish Planning Coordinator, as well as with input from other groups and, presumably, city officials.

The lead entity in this process is to be the "Community Support Organization" (CS)). It will oversee the work of planning to be done for city-wide infrastructure projects and neighborhood redevelopment plans for the 13 planning districts of the city.

ON SATURDAY, THE FINAL STRUCTURE OF THE COMMUNITY SUPPORT ORGANIZATION IS TO BE APPROVED by the "New Orleans Support Board," which was created through GNOF to develop the make-up of the Community Support Organization (CSO). The CSO is proposed to include:

(1) appointee from the Mayor's Office

(1) appointee from the City Council

(1) appointee from the City Planning Commission

(1) appointee from GNOF

(2-4) appointees on behalf of "city-wide non-governmental organizations currently working to support the neighborhood planning process"

(5) appointees "selected from nominations submitted by individual neighborhood organizations."


1) That you didn't know about this meeting or the development of the CSO suggests that, while it is a good faith effort in moving forward, there remains a serious breakdown in public communication.

2) It has yet to be decided what rules will apply to the CSO for the structure of public meetings, dissemination of information, public notice and comment, and formal decision making (timelines, mandates, etc.)

3) The Council and Mayor have not official approved of this unified process. It cannot take place without their official approval.

4) It has still not been decided how the planning currently being done under the City Council's contract with the "Lambert Group" will be incorporated into this unified process.

5) It has still not been decided how the numerous other non-profits, universities, and other groups, that are NOT APPOINTED TO THE CSO, will be able to formally advise this process and incorporate the volume of work that has already been done.

I am reaching out to you as respected, professional, and talented advocates who have been involved in this process. Your awareness of the process that is unfolding, and, more importantly, your informed involvement is critical to its success. Without you, and without a process that engenders the public's trust and full involvement, our recovery as a city will be seriously diminished from what it could be otherwise.

American soldiers killed in Iraq now number 2500


"It's a number," White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters at the White House.

Well it wouldn't hurt then to point out a few more "numbers":
  • 18,490 American soldiers wounded in Iraq.
  • 4,800 Iraqi police and security forces killed.
  • At least 30,000 Iraqi civilians killed, and probably tens of thousands more.
  • Over $288 billion nominally spent on the war in Iraq. The total spent will go into the trillions after equipment is replaced and lifelong veteran's benefits are paid.
  • With the passage of a new "emergency" spending bill, the nominal amount spent in Iraq will rise to $320 billion.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Rising sea levels

NASA Earth Observatory:

A group of oceanographers announced in June 2006 that sea level rose, on average, 3 millimeters (0.1 inches) per year between 1993 and 2005. This graph shows the increase in mean sea level, measured in millimeters. Researchers attributed about half of that increase to melting ice and the other half to thermal expansion as the ocean absorbs excess energy. ...

From 2002 to 2005, Antarctic ice lost enough mass to raise global sea level by 1.5 millimeters (0.05 inches).

Meanwhile, what's President Bush doing?
President George W. Bush declared June 4-10, 2006, National Oceans Week, encouraging Americans to learn more about the ocean and sustain it for future generations.

"Sustain" it? Really? It doesn't look to me like it's going anywhere.

AWOL Bush turns up in Iraq

A quarter century after deserting from service in the Texas Air National Guard, George W. Bush entered a theatre of conflict, apparently convinced that he could assuage any doubts about his patriotism by telling troops who put their lives on the line every day in a war that has been called more stressful than Vietnam, "Thought I'd stop in to say hello."

Unlike the 2003 campaign photo-op visit to Baghdad, the only turkey on this visit was Bush.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Insurers gamble with house odds


The insurance industry says it has settled over 90 percent of its Hurricane Katrina claims, proving it's meeting its obligations to policyholders. But consumer advocates say insurers settled numerous claims for only a fraction of the actual damages, using numerous exclusions to reduce payouts. Insurance modeling firm ISO estimates Louisiana had $24.3 billion in insured losses, but the state department of insurance says only $12.5 billion had been paid out as of the end of April, the last month for which figures were available.

Without enough money from their insurers to rebuild, homeowners are left with two choices: Give up and leave, or else rebuild by hand, using their savings to pay for labor and materials. ...

Part of what really rankles consumers is the record profits property-and-casualty insurers are posting despite the unprecedented losses inflicted by Katrina.

The industry cleared a $43 billion profit in 2005, an 11.7 percent increase over the previous year and a 15-year high, according to the trade group, the Insurance Information Institute. ...

But insurers say the profit numbers are only half the story: Nearly half the $58 billion in insured losses along the Gulf Coast resulting from last year's hurricanes were absorbed by reinsurers, companies that insure insurance companies. ...

[Eric] Moskau, who is living in Idaho with his wife and two boys, literally hasn't been able to sit still since Allstate cut him the check for $10,113.34 several months ago. He still does not know what to do with his buckled home, for which he is still paying a $3,500-a-month mortgage

Entergy's entropy


Entergy Corp. racked up $10 billion in revenues last year and has $29 billion in collective assets. On paper, there is no question Entergy could comfortably cover its losses and rebuild the infrastructure of its utility business in New Orleans. On May 2, Entergy announced that its first-quarter profit rose nearly 13 percent, as higher energy prices offset disrupted sales following last year's hurricanes. Entergy CEO J. Wayne Leonard received a $1.1 million bonus at the end of 2005, according to SEC records, which coincidentally works out to one dollar per Entergy customer in the Gulf Coast left without power in the weeks following the hurricane.

But the company’s executives feel that if anyone should pay the cost of its getting back into business, it should be ratepayers and taxpayers, and not its own shareholders. And indeed, the government may have little choice but to give in to what critics characterize as blackmail or extortion – or leave a major American metropolis powerless.

Ascii maps

My house, on ASCII Maps:

Hat tip: Richard at Electronic Ephemera, via Lisa at The Garden of Irks and Delights.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Map: Post-Katrina drainage and pumping capacity

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

On the tar and feather list: Sticky-fingers Jefferson

Who argued in a Times-Picayune letter to the editor that he "will not voluntarily permit my constituents to be sacrificed on the altar of an uncertain political strategy in a time of such dire need."

Hey a--hole! What about the uncertainty of a federal investigation which includes some pretty graphic video of you taking a suitcase filled with a hundred G's which you stuffed in your freezer (after $10,000 disappeared)? What might that do for the citizens of Louisiana at a time when we're fighting an image of corrupt politicians every time we have to hold hat in hand begging for money from the rest of the country?

Not only are you crooked, and a slumlord, but you're an idiot. As S.M. suggested, at least you could have put the cash in a Swiss bank account like smart crooks do so it wouldn't be traceable, and so it would collect interest. Hey numbskull, you're losing money after adjusting for inflation by leaving your greasy money in cold storage.

Jefferson's complaint that he's being singled out for unfair treatment because other elected officials aren't being asked to give up committee seats just reeks to hell of the attitude that once elected to Washington office, representatives are above the law, free to sell their votes to the highest bidder:

Were I to resign my committee seat based on nothing more than news reports of alleged wrongdoing, that action would be utterly unprecedented and wholly unjustifiable. Therefore, I have declined Ms. Pelosi's demand.

Compelling me to leave my committee post would also be discriminatory. At least one other Democrat and several Republican members are under federal investigation and have not been asked by Ms. Pelosi to resign their committee positions.

I'd say we need a few rule changes in Washington, and a few new faces.

James Gill gets the last word:
We have Jefferson's word for it that his actions were all honorable. That can only mean that he was posing as a crook. But why? Surely it is obvious. He was conducting his own investigation. ...

Of course, if a congressman is going to conduct his own undercover investigation, he must play the role of scumbag in a most convincing fashion. Give it to Jefferson; his performance was masterful. The tapes show he shook 'em down and put hundreds of thousands in a company run by his wife and daughters. He demanded oodles of company stock in return for favors, and even insisted one of his daughters be hired to handle legal work. A better impression of a corrupt official could hardly be imagined.

He certainly fooled his former congressional aide, Brent Pfeffer, and businessman Vernon Jackson, who needed Jefferson's good offices in Africa. Pfeffer and Jackson have both pleaded guilty to arranging bribes. Boy, will they be shocked when they find out they are going to prison for aiding and abetting an honorable public servant.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Photo: America of the poor, tired, flooded masses

Friday, June 09, 2006

Map: Gulf of Mexico temperature

I don't like the way Louisiana is looking like a target.

Source: Weather Underground.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Government by cheerleaders

Can New Orleans really afford a new municipal complex to include a Disney-style jazz museum and performing center? As Lolis Eric Elie argued, don't we already have enough authentic, crumbling historic venues?

And does a $100 million condo complex of units which will sell for between $180,000 and $280,000 agree with the city's need to provide affordable housing for 200K+ residents who lost their homes?

Jeffrey at Library Chronicles:

Building a sanitized park and "Jazz orchestra hall" while ignoring the historically significant landmarks nearby smells strongly of Disneyfication of street culture to me. In fact.. it looks like part of this project calls for building more condos in the very neighborhood Lolis is talking about.

Jeffrey's concerns about voodoo economic forecasts used to boost investment in such projects reflect my own concerns. It's not enough for the mayor of any city, let alone a city recovering from the nation's worst natural disaster, to just say everything's going to be alright:
"For big projects, I don't think money is going to be the problem. I really don't," he said. "We have the world's attention and now if we come up with good projects, they're going to get funded. That's what I mean by money is not going to be our problem."

Were I mayor, I think I'd promote the same sort of optimism, and I don't disagree that people around the world care enough about New Orleans to fund projects. I'm not sure we have the right leadership in City Hall, however, to facilitate the successful completion of essential projects.

Just for starters, could we get a basic overview of the city's fiscal situation? What revenues are coming in, what expenditures are going out. It ought to be simple.

On the other hand, an acquaintence related a conversation he had about the city's financial situation with Mitch Landrieu. Mitch said he saw the city's books, and said that basically there are two kinds of accounting methods: One where you can see clearly what's going on; another where you can't see what's going on at all. Guess which type of accounting Mitch said is being used in City Hall.

So Ray Ray, you touted your MBA in a campaign debate. Could you please just show us you got your money's worth by giving us a basic explanation of revenues and expenditures like Jefferson Parish did (and had published in The Times-Picayune).

Like Jeffrey said, "this looks very much like government by cheerleaders who prefer to do as little homework as possible to get by."

Or, as Ballzack said in Antigravity Magazine, quoted by Jeffrey, "it really seems like a city run by C students."

We need more direction from Mayor Nagin -- SPECIFICS!!!

What's going to happen to the neighborhood charrette process, for example. Will the city respect the efforts by neighborhoods which have been coming up with their vision for how they'd like to rebuild their communities, or is the Nagin administration going to turn that planning process over to for-profit planners?

Alan from Alan's Blogometer, for one, expressed his concern that the neighborhood planning process was going to be taken over by the same private developers who brought us the yuppie Saulet projects on lower Tchoupitoulas (from which I strongly suspect a former mayor pocketed money). Of course, the difference is that private developers are PAID, but when we lowly citizens come up with ideas, there's no money to be made:
At this time my presence may only serve to confuse citizens in Hollygrove who may get the false impression that there is an association between our funded professional effort and your volunteer splinter group who has no official capacity to produce a “plan” for Hollygrove.

This issue definitely requires further investigation.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Map: Subsidence in New Orleans

Between April 2002 and July 2005 ... researchers found that most of New Orleans subsided 8 millimeters per year relative to global mean sea level.

Red indicates the areas that sunk the most, up to 28.6 millimeters each year (just over an inch). Blue indicates the areas that sank the least. An inch a year may seem like a small change, but the researchers point out that the rate observed between 2002 and 2005 is probably at or near the slowest subsidence rate the area has experienced since the levees were first built in the 1960s: sinking probably occurred even faster just after the levees were first built. ... Many parts of the city were already meters below sea level in 2002. Historically, eastern New Orleans has seen the greatest subsidence in southern Louisiana. This part of the city was 3 to 5 meters below sea level when the hurricane struck and consequently saw some of the worst flooding.

NASA Earth Observatory, from Canada RADARSAT data.

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