Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

Be on the lookout for Ray Nagin handing out "Dollar Bills" from an ice chest.

This was what Halloween was like last year, just two months after Hurricane Katrina.

Monday, October 30, 2006

"We have more than that at the 4:00 mass on Saturday"

That was Community Support Organization advisor Terrel Broussard's reaction to the level of participation at the last Unified New Orleans Plan district-level meetings. He added that if more people don't start showing up for planning meetings, the legitimacy of the process may be questioned.

The solution: UNOP managers Steve Bingler and Troy Henry are revolutionizing civic participation in New Orleans with the "21st Century Town Meeting®".

Another problem with civic participation, according to WWL's Garland Robinette, is people who scream and shout at public meetings. Well, Bingler and Henry have seen to taking care of that.

It's important to ask exactly who Robinette is referring to in his imagined world, who is being affected by the approach Bingler and Henry are using to engage citizens, and critically, if any group of people benefits over others.

Robinette disparaged civic participation, falsely, on WWL Thursday while interviewing Bingler and Henry on the Unified New Orleans Plan process (right-click to download the mp3 recording -- another essential interview not available on the WWL archive).

When the Bring New Orleans Back Commission aired their final report -- and it was a public meeting -- you could barely hear what the report was about because of the protestors that came up to the microphone. And this, I would think, is as volatile as the BNOB thing. How do you control that part. How do you communicate along these lines. The people that plan on coming to the Saturday meeting, are they gonna hear a lot of screaming and shouting, or facts and figures and what's being done?

Funny ... I don't remember seeing Robinette at the last BNOB meeting. And I don't remember "protestors" screaming and shouting over the presenters. True, there were some angry people with legitimate concerns about the BNOB plans, but everyone used the public comment period granted after the formal presentations for those frustrations to be expressed, and they adhered to the two-minute time limit.

It's useful to recall that the BNOB plans were drawn up without civic participation. Whatever the merits of its recommendations, and despite participation by the intellectual and business elite of New Orleans, citizens weren't polled to reveal what they wanted to happen in their neighborhoods before the BNOB plans were completed.

It may be true that some people stand up at some public meetings and rant. I'd say the problem is more that it's the only time they feel like they've been allowed to meaningfully participate in a political process. By the time they get to a microphone, all they can do is vent all that pent up frustration -- and that is a failure of the political process in a profound way. There ought to be a better way to channel people's thoughts and feelings before they get in front of a microphone.

Which leads me to the Unified New Orleans Plan process. Bingler and Henry claim to have a solution to orderly civic participation in the AmericaSpeaks "21st Century Town Meeting®":
AmericaSpeaks’ 21st Century Town Meeting Town Meeting restores the citizens’ voice in public decision making by creating an opportunity for the general public to give those in leadership positions direct, substantive feedback on key public issues. Each meeting effectively restores the balance of the 'political playing field' by engaging thousands of general interest citizens at a time (up to 5,000 per meeting), effectively and quickly summarizing citizen input and widely disseminating the results through media coverage. AmericaSpeaks’ role as neutral convener increases confidence among citizens and decision-makers that the content, process and outcomes are fair and balanced.

Considering the results at Saturday's Community Congress, I'm unimpressed. I don't find the use of technology to collect citizen input as the problem. I merely question its utility and accuracy when there's extremely limited participation. That's not necessarily AmericaSpeaks' problem, but I would think that the non-profit would be concerned about participation, and establish, minimally, an acceptable statistical threshold of representative participation. Instead, the organization may be more interested in using New Orleans as a proving ground for its methodology than in making sure the outcome is demonstrably robust. From the outset, AmericaSpeaks may be, intentionally or not, misrepresenting the current character of New Orleans. For the organization to claim that "more than 100,000 New Orleanians ... have not returned to their city following Hurricane Katrina" when the actual number is twice or three times as large, is about as accurate as saying that more than 10 people have returned.

In the WWL interview, Bingler said that 1500 people turned out for the 13 planning district meetings across the city on October 14th, with attendance as low as 75 in some districts, and up to 200 in others. Compared to over 100,000 homes destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people still homeless, 1500 is a pitiful number. Nevertheless, gullible Robinette accepted Bingler's response that, thanks to Bingler's "polls," he could say that the few who attended those meetings were representative of the demographic cross-section of those districts. Really? I wouldn't say that Bingler's claimed complexion of the District 4 planning meeting I attended reflected the actual demographic character of District 4.

It's true that at Saturday's Community Congress, instead of the emotional outbursts Robinette imagined, thanks to AmericaSpeaks, there were people participating in "even-handed input" using a "set of interactive, very simple keypads ... to express preferences and priorities associated with a number of different areas." On the other hand, the people who attended aren't the types who normally feel disenfranchised from the political process. It's also true that the questions people were asked to answer were extremely banal. Of course people want good schools and hospitals.

What was immediately apparent walking in the door was that there were a lot of empty tables (which might be considered an improvement from previous venue fiascos), and that of the 200 to 250 people in the room (far fewer than the 1500 at the last citywide meetings), about a third were AmericaSpeaks facilitators, planners, or students monitoring the process. As Michelle Krupa reported in The Times-Picayune from actual AmericaSpeaks participant poll results, the vast majority were relatively wealthy white residents from dry neighborhoods, compared to about a 67 percent black population in New Orleans pre-Katrina, having an average income of less than $30,000.

Now, imagine that January 15th rolls around and the citywide UNOP plan emerges, but there's more investment going to well-off, predominantly white neighborhoods, than to poor black neighborhoods. Imagine what that could do to the process.

Rather than balancing the political playing field to create a fair outcome, by empowering a minority population with the ability to make decisions about what will happen for the majority, AmericaSpeaks may actually be creating the conditions, and the evidence, for a process that may be criticized as illegitimate if the rest of the population disagrees with the outcome.

And what of the use of multiple choice responses fed into a process using keypads. Is the use of technology in the planning process a pancacea, or the latest filter to control opinion and outcomes by controlling access to the machinery of decision making, and hence, access to money and power?

What is the message to people who have more to say than what they're permitted to input in a keypad? For some people, the message may be that their story isn't important. Their voice isn't important. UNOP isn't interested in the fact that they feel like they haven't been heard before. UNOP isn't interested in anything they have to say, or scream or shout if they feel that's what they need to do. The only acceptable input is to enter preferences into a keypad, and the menu of choices to think about will be supplied. Once those preferences are indicated, they'll be posted on a Web site. It's all there for everyone to see (eventually) on the Web site (if you can find it). Of course everyone I've met whose involved in the UNOP process cares about the people struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina, but the process design may send a message of disinterest or disregard.

It might be that the Community Congress isn't an appropriate venue for people to comment on the process -- that the Community Congress is an opportunity to vote on a narrow range of planning choices. Still, the "21st Century Town Meeting®" sounds like a whole lotta mumbo jumbo for what we in the United States have for over 200 years more popularly called a ballot box.

No, no, no. We've outlived that antiquated technology. As Steven Bingler can frequently be heard to say, in apology for poorly-planned meetings that collapse into chaos and accomplish little of substance, "somebody once said democracy's a very messy process." No, he can't remember who said that. It might have been him, as a way to ameliorate his own failure to create the conditions for public input in an organized manner (it has also been said that it may be personal style to create chaos as a way to divide and conquer in forums with potentially contentious groups). It certainly may be true that issues can be controversial and emotional, but the means to decide on those issues without bloodshed and chaos absolutely do exist, and have worked for over 200 years in this country, as long as the affected participants feel like they've had a fair playing field to express their views.

It's all wires and chips and keypads and groupware and passing information and receiving information and a bunch of gratuitous terminology to make modern civic participation sound sophisticated. But civic participation using paper and ballot boxes doesn't require high-tech contracts. It only requires the large-scale participation of an informed public, a box to collect their preferences, and fair counting. The same problem that renders ballot box elections illegitimate, however, appears to be plaguing the UNOP/AmericaSpeaks process: Participation.

I'd like to call for the use of a technology that's not quite as antiquated as the ballot box, which isn't trademarked, and which may be more helpful with public participation: Buses.

I have to question the expenditure of $2.3 million on a "21st Century Town Meeting®" when it might be more effective, and a better guarantee of participation, to send planners out to the places where New Orleans residents have been displaced, or to bring those residents to planning meetings in New Orleans. It may be true, as was mentioned at the Thursday UNOP Community Support Organization meeting, that planners will eventually be sent to "diaspora" cities. I just wish that mass transit were built into the process a long time ago -- like before the UNOP process began -- like right after Hurricane Katrina -- and for that vision failure, I place blame, and shame, on Ray Nagin, who still doesn't seem to understand what's going on, and how buses could be part of the solution for the city's problems.

It's important to try to understand the reasons why participation in the planning process has been so low. It's true that over 200,000 New Orleanians are still displaced far outside the city. That's a problem Concordia should try to resolve through outreach. But there are other factors. People are working. They have busy schedules. They may need transportation. They have families, and children who may need child care. A lot of people I've talked to simply can't attend some of these meetings when they're scheduled. Maybe more than one meeting place and time needs to be made available.

Loyola professor Virginia Olander wrote an opinion which was printed in the Times-Picayune on Saturday in which she mentioned how teachers need to understand Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs when they go into a classroom. Teachers can't teach effectively if they're competing for the attention of kids whose basic needs for sleep and food and stable homes aren't being met. It's the third time I've heard Maslow's Hierarchy mentioned since Hurricane Katrina. Lisa and Valerie have both mentioned it too. It's true -- a lot of people are just struggling to survive. They may not be able to afford the luxury of attending planning meetings, and may expect that someone will look out for them to make sure that planning for their neighborhoods' recovery will be taken care of.

I talked to a pair of black women from the Treme neighborhood as they were exiting the Community Congress. They weren't exactly critical of people who couldn't be there, but they did say that if it were important enough, people would be there. They seemed to be placing blame on citizens themselves, but it's also important to recognize that both women were living in their houses. Others may not be so lucky as to have a house they can live in right now, in particular if they were renters before. On the other hand -- as it occurred to me later -- they might also have been inferring that the planning meetings, like the Community Congress, were lacking in the type of substance that would attract many people.

Then one of the women said, "they can have a second line here, but they can't make a meeting." They're right. There have been some very well-attended second line parades in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. At the same time, both women suggested I should try to understand better what people are experiencing. They both underscored how hard they've worked to fix their homes, and how hard they were working to plan the rebuilding of the city. They expected the same level of commitment from others.

I think the second line comment merits investigation. Why is it that people can attend a second line but not a planning meeting? Is it that their informal communications networks are more effective than UNOP's more traditional outreach approach to date? Is it that second line parades are considered more valuable as community building experiences than official planning meetings? Do official planners understand how to communicate with these people? Apparently not -- and who could blame them. The Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs are fairly secretive operations -- or at least fairly inaccessible to the outsider. But precisely because of the strength of those organizations, it might be a good idea for Concordia to tap into those parade networks -- maybe hire some club leaders to stimulate interest in upcoming planning events, or move planners into those networks to conduct planning activities.

It shouldn't take months to figure out this stuff. I'm not saying the job of outreach is easy or obvious. I just wish we could stop hearing excuses for the lack of participation, and I wish it were stated openly what the consequences of low participation rates may have on the perceived legitimacy of the process later. Instead, it seems we were treated to the Henry-Lukensmeyer corporate team-building show, with each in turn running onstage to shake hands, and calling for the audience to give rounds of applause to various speakers.

I'd like to see Concordia not just apologize for the shortcomings of the planning process it's managing, but start to actually deliver on its promises of more participation, and more transparency. And when it promises to make available what it says is one of the most important deliverables in its celebrated extensive data collection process, the Recovery Data Atlas, citizens ought to be able to see it before they're expected to use it. The atlas wasn't available as promised before the Community Congress, nor at the Community Congress, nor on the UNOP Web site (still). Citizens were told at the Thursday CSO meeting that the atlas wouldn't be available on time because it was so good, and Concordia wanted to surprise everyone at the Community Congress. We're still waiting to be surprised.

I'm beginning to think that everything Concordia says now is just a ruse to disguise either unintended incompetence, or intended negligence. I'd prefer the former, but neither is acceptable. It's unfortunate that I have to characterize the process that way, because we all want to see the citywide planning effort succeed in an inclusive manner, but I'm just reporting what I see and what I hear.

It's long overdue time for change in the way things are done in this city. What Robinette imagines as the way things have been done, are instead symptoms of the way things have been done. It's time to address the real problems, not the symptoms -- imagined or otherwise.

Who but an urban planner would know how to solve problems, how to make order out of chaos, and how to gather public opinion in an effective manner? Where problems arise, analysis occurs, and the problems are solved.

Turning Bingler's frequent refrain upside down, the results of a democratic process may be "messy" (or politically difficult), but the process doesn't have to be. The process should justify the results -- not the other way around.

As for improving levels of civic participation, there may be hope (maybe Concordia is starting to get it right). As I was leaving the Convention Center, a woman stopped in the road in her Chevy Avalanche to ask me if there was a meeting in there somewhere. I said yes, but the meeting was over. She seemed extremely concerned that she missed it. I observed that she had piles of clothes and other personal possessions in the cab and bed of the SUV, including a kitchen sink. It occurred to me that she might be one of many New Orleanians still living in their cars for lack of anywhere else to go. As she got out of her SUV, I noticed she was wearing hospital scrubs -- so she was working. She admitted as much, and said that she was extremely busy, so she regretted she couldn't attend the meeting. She didn't really understand that it was a neighborhood planning meeting, but she knew somehow that she needed to be there. She asked a lot of questions, so I left her with a flyer and the 877 number to call. Like me, however, she doesn't subscribe to cable TV (hard to do if you're living out of a truck), so she won't be able to participate in the broadcast AmericaSpeaks forums. I suspect she'll be at the next meeting if it's scheduled at a time and place that doesn't conflict with her schedule.

10/30/06 update:
Among the participants I saw walking out of the meeting was Bishop O.C. Coleman from Greater Light Ministries. His entourage of four was far less than one might expect from a self-appointed leader in the community. Where were the buses Bishop Coleman? Coleman was reported to have donated $10,000 to Ray Nagin's re-election campaign. His company, Management Construction Consultant Inspection Inc., received $2.5 million after Hurricane Katrina to inspect the city's sewer and water systems, but MCCI wasn't incorporated until December 2005. A federal grand jury investigation of Coleman and his associate, Rev. Benjamin Edwards, is underway into corruption in the awarding of Sewerage and Water Board contracts to MCCI. Edwards sits on the Sewerage and Water Board. He admitted to spending $269,000 on radio ads and billboards to get Nagin re-elected. Meanwhile, Coleman's "False Prophets" page is still under construction.

Becky Houtman -- The Ballroom Speaks

PGR -- New this fall: Citizen clowns do back flips in the planning fake democracy circus reality show

3/25/2006 Community Gumbo

Here are photos from the Community Congress.

Tags: | | | | | Bush is a moron | Impeach Bush | George W Bush | Bush | Worst President Ever | Ray Nagin | Worst Mayor Ever | Recall Ray Nagin | | | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option | Katrina One Year Anniversary | Unified New Orleans Plan | UNOP | Civic Participation | Planning | AmericaSpeaks | Carolyn Lukensmeyer

Friday, October 27, 2006


Tags: | | | | | Bush is a moron | Impeach Bush | George W Bush | Bush | Worst President Ever | | | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option | Katrina One Year Anniversary

Please tell me I didn't just hear WWL's Garland Robinette say we should nuke Iraq!

"Low-level nukes," he said.

I couldn't get through on the phone to demand that WWL apologize, or fire Robinette.

It's the second time in a couple of weeks that he's suggested the United States should actually consider using nuclear weapons.

The first time was in a conversation a couple of weeks ago when Robinette asked a guest if bombing Iran with nuclear weapons was an option.

Robinette opened up the phone lines on Wednesday's "think tank" toilet tank to ask listeners what the United States should do about Iraq -- stay the course, win the war, or pull out.

In his little tirade -- using that phony, deep-throated radio voice he projects to feign a self-righteous, educated opinion -- Robinette asked ad nauseum why the United States wouldn't just do whatever it has to do to win the war.

He characterized Iraq, and the entire Arab world, as filled with Islamic-crazed terrorists, suggesting that the only way to defeat them, is to hit them hard, over and over again, and to keep pushing them back.

What he fails to recognize is that it is that very attitude which is used to recruit more terrorists. If there's anything we should know by now, it's that the United States can never win hearts and souls by bombing the shit out of poor brown people. What he fails to conjure in his feeble mind is the notion that a lot of those people he's talking about nuking aren't terrorists, but don't want the sort of "freedom" or death tradeoff the United States is offering at the end of a rifle. Maybe Iraqis question the intentions of the United States, since we are the reason why "freedom" wasn't an option for them for over thirty years while the United States propped up Saddam Hussein. Maybe we're the terrorists Mr. Robinette!

Bottom line: People who suggest that we "nuke" countries lack the education and restraint to host radio shows broadcast across the United States, and as Mr. Robinette likes to advertise, streamed on the internet around the world.

Part of the problem is that hate radio has been allowed now for almost twenty years, ever since Ronald Reagan killed the "Fairness Doctrine" in 1987.

The Fairness Doctrine was a quaint FCC policy which Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party argued was limiting debate. What they really meant, was that the Fairness Doctrine limited their radical, right-wing views from being aired, because they would be immediately challenged and lampooned.

Witness the rise of Rush Limbaugh since 1987. Has debate on issues increased? Of course, you'd have to know what broadcast debates were like before 1987, but we could still ask the question, do broadcasters present their views, minimally with objective facts to support their arguments, or do they just ram the American public with the day's talking points to achieve partisan goals? If we still had the Fairness Doctrine, for example, would any broadcaster have allowed unchallenged Rush Limbaugh's statement that Michael J. Fox was opportunistically faking his Parkinson's symptoms to promote stem cell research?

Is it any wonder why the American middle class doesn't feel like it's being represented in the public sphere when people like Rush Limbaugh occupy the public air waves with their hate-filled rants and inconsequential filthy partisan attacks?

It's people like Rush Limbaugh who have trained an entirely new generation of broadcasters to promote the view that public participation in politics is futile.

And exactly who is served by that view?

WWL's "Spud" McConnell is worse. He's just a fat redneck hick. He still seems to think that Iraq attacked us on 9/11, and he projects the view that if anyone criticizes (i.e., Rush Limbaugh's arch-rival, Ted Kennedy) the Bush administration's incompetence in the execution of the war in Iraq, it could only mean that those critics are playing into the hands of the terrorists, rather than that they're trying to save American soldiers' lives:

We can't just pull out. I'd rather it be there than here. When you're own political opponents in your country say things, and they are quoted by our enemies ... If I were Ted Kennedy, and they were quoting me ... we're still Americans. I don't know.

Shut your fat ass Spud! Idiot! And by the way, if "you'd" rather be there than here, why don't you enlist?

It's people like Rush Limbaugh, Spud McConnell, and Garland Robinette -- all on WWL -- who are dumbing down civic discussion in our country. That's WWL's secret -- that it promotes an image of professionalism, when in actuality broadcasts programs hosted by dim-witted partisan hacks.

In a conversation with Bobby Jindal the other day, rather than ask Jindal why his OCS revenue legislation failed, and why Mary Landrieu was more successful in promoting her legislation, WWL's Tommy Tucker suggested that Jindal was somehow impaired by the democratic process.

When Jindal conveniently bypassed talking about why critics in other coastal states don't like the fact that Jindal's legislation because it would open up their coasts to oil drilling, he suggested that the reality was that he wasn't going to listen to critics, but was going to do what was right for Louisiana.

"The key word is 'reality'" said Tucker, "the reality of Washington, rather than what you read in your civics books."

Right -- we should burn those civics books and give the Hitler salute!

Again, who is served by disparaging civic participation in our democratic process? Hint: It ain't middle America.

We need to reintroduce the expression "I rightfully disagree" into our vernacular. We need the Fairness Doctrine restored, and we need to confiscate the licenses of broadcasters who spew hatred over our airwaves.

I frequently tolerate WWL because, tragically, in a broad spectrum of radio licenses in New Orleans, there is no other alternative for talk radio where local newsmakers are heard.

I'm afraid that other people just give up on radio altogether, conceding a powerful medium of communication to the purveyors of stupidity and hatred.

We can't give up. We have to fight back.

There is no place for the purveyors of hate-filled speech to exclusively own the means of mass communication in our democracy.

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting -- The Fairness Doctrine: How We Lost it, and Why We Need it Back

PBS' Now -- What Happened to Fairness?

Alternet -- Time for a Digital Fairness Doctrine

Tags: | | | | | Bush is a moron | Impeach Bush | George W Bush | Bush | Worst President Ever | Ray Nagin | Worst Mayor Ever | Recall Ray Nagin | | | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option | Katrina One Year Anniversary | media | Media Democracy | WWL

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Get as much of it as you can get your hands on."

"Buy dirt!"

It's Ray Nagin again, telling a contractor recently to buy real estate in New Orleans, because "dirt in New Orleans is like gold."

It makes me wonder, yet again, (as Dambala pointed out) why Ray Nagin is hesitating to engage pro-actively in a process of recovery that guarantees people can get back into their homes. At the same time, he's joined his former campaign finance director David White in what looks like it could only be a real estate venture, AFO Investments.

So exactly who stands to benefit from Nagin's market-based recovery philosophy -- where the wealthy are allowed to profit from the plight of the poor?

Tags: | | | | | Ray Nagin | Worst Mayor Ever | Recall Ray Nagin | | | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


This almost falls into the pain perdu category, but it really merits attention. It might be the understatement of the year from "our [boneless] mayor":

I am overexposed.

Isn't it curious for an invisible mayor to acknowledge that he has a bad image?

Ray Nagin made the statement in order to put an end to the lobbying effort by Rev. Ben Edwards Sr., at a recent Sewerage & Water Board meeting, to have images of "our mayor" posted in the SW&B building, along with images of board members. Edwards has been a Sewerage & Water Board member since former mayor Sydney Bartholomew appointed him.

Edwards spent $269,250 on radio and billboard ads to help Ray Nagin get re-elected, calling the financial support an "independent expenditure." Hmmm ... if it were an "independent expenditure," shouldn't his ties to the Nagin administration be questioned? I wonder if Nagin's opponent in the mayor's race, Mitch Landrieu, could have gotten some of that "independent expenditure" support from Edwards?

Where does a "reverend" get that kind of money to support political candidates?

God gave it to him, of course. God probably also told him that he wanted Ray Nagin to be the mayor of New Orleans again.

It's also possible that Edwards paid for the ads with bad checks.

I wonder if the sheep in Reverend Edwards flock support his political choices.

And shouldn't the reverend's "ministry" lose its 501(c)(3) status if it engages in political activity?

From a previous PGR post:
Edwards is also in a key position on the Sewerage and Water Board, where he has used his position to steer contracts to friends like Bishop O.C. Coleman of Greater Light Ministries. Coleman, oddly enough, is a principal in a company that does business with the Sewerage and Water Board, Management Construction Consultant Inspection Inc., or MCCI.

Morial, who is the subject of a grand jury investigation, has defended Edwards from critics, saying he likes Edwards' style of stirring things up and of pressuring the S&WB to hire minority firms (no word which minority firms). I have no doubt Morial liked Edwards, in particular if the reverend stirred things up for Morial in the same denominations as he did for Nagin.

Edwards has been on the road, visiting six cities in seven days. Asked what he was doing on those trips, TP reporters Michelle Krupa and Frank Donze wrote that Edwards "burst into a lengthy belly laugh," repeating the line, "we just travel a lot," five times. That sounds like nervous behavior.

Watch for images of Dollar Bill Jefferson around the country. Nagin endorsed Jefferson, despite a federal bribery investigation of Jefferson. Edwards wouldn't say if he was working on Jefferson's behalf, saying he wouldn't reveal who he was supporting until after the 2nd Congressional District election on Novmber 7th.

I'm certain of at least one thing -- Edwards' behavior couldn't be overexposed enough!

Both Edwards and Jefferson are on the PGR tar-and-feather list.

Tags: | | | | | Bush is a moron | Impeach Bush | George W Bush | Bush | Worst President Ever | Ray Nagin | Worst Mayor Ever | Recall Ray Nagin | | | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option | Katrina One Year Anniversary

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The New York Times is for Louisiana

Guess who got the New York Times editorial board to finally advocate for Louisiana getting a fair share of offshore oil royalties?

It wasn't Republican Senator David Vitter or Republican Senator Bobby Jindal.

Here's the story (HT: Ashley).

Tags: | | | | | Bush is a moron | Impeach Bush | George W Bush | Bush | Worst President Ever | | | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option | Katrina One Year Anniversary

2,803 American soldiers killed in Iraq

There have now been 2,803 American soldiers killed in Iraq, 21,077 injured (not counting those suffering psychologically), and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed and injured.

Nearly $337 billion has been spent to date in Iraq. About a half trillion has been allocated for the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Veteran John Shuler wrote:

Most Bush backers are cowardly chickenhawks who love to talk about kicking our enemies' butts as long as someone else is doing the kicking. Have a Republican senator seriously bring up the subject of the draft, and Bush's base of flag-waving patriots will evaporate.

The young Republicans' motto is, "You go join the Army; I'm too busy studying to be the next Jack Abramoff."

If you doubt that many young conservative Republicans will serve in the military now, offer them a ride to the nearest Army recruiting station.

I have no doubts about my patriotic credentials. I don't have to wave a flag, and I don't have to put a magnet on my truck.

The beginning of the end of the insanity of the Bush imperial presidency happens on November 7th. Vote Democratic!

Tags: | | | | | Bush is a moron | Impeach Bush | George W Bush | Bush | Worst President Ever | | | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option | Katrina One Year Anniversary | media | Media Democracy | Fox | Fox News | Bill O'Reilly

Bush's cracking facade

What do you call a long, multi-year flip-flop?

BUSH: We will stay the course until the job is done, Steve. And the temptation is to try to get the President or somebody to put a timetable on the definition of getting the job done. We’re just going to stay the course. [12/15/03]

BUSH: And so we’ve got tough action in Iraq. But we will stay the course. [4/5/04]

BUSH: And my message today to those in Iraq is: We’ll stay the course. [4/13/04]

BUSH: And that’s why we’re going to stay the course in Iraq. And that’s why when we say something in Iraq, we’re going to do it. [4/16/04]

BUSH: We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq. [8/4/05]

BUSH: We will stay the course. [8/30/06]

Now that the Republican party is imploding on its own corruption, hypocrisy, and lies, now that the cherry-picked "intelligence" has been revealed to be a neocon sack of lies thrust upon the American public to drag 2,799 American soldiers in Iraq to their graves, now that it's clear that the flowers and democracy promised by Iraq's "liberation" turned out to be brambles and civil war, now that George W. Bush will go down in history as the worst president ever ...
BUSH: Well, listen, we've never been "stay the course", George. We have been, "We will complete the mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal, but we're constantly adjusting the tactics." [ABC This Week, 8/22/06]

This is what it looks like when Tony Snow-job, the Fox News neocon Newspeak director embedded in the White House, tries to explain the nuances of this muffaletta-sized flip-flop.

Isn't it funny how a policy shift is a nuanced position when it's used to defend a miserable president, but it's a "flip-flop" when it can be used to attack his opponents?

Meanwhile, Bush apologists like Bill "falafel" O'Reilly continue their attempts to make Bush look like an average Joe -- as though that's good enough for the most powerful office on the planet -- rather than an incompetent monkeyass who sold the people's house to his frat of draft-dodging little Hitlers Mussolinis (at least Hitler was competent) so they could take another swing at creating a global empire.
Nobody knows how Iraq will play out in the two years the president has left in office. But what I can tell you is that he is committed to the fight and believes in it with all his heart.

Is that enough for victory? It's impossible to tell. But I'm praying it is.

Compare the following two photos to see how Bush apologists like O'Reilly handle the monkeyboy preznit.

The caption for first photo, posted next to a Bill O'Reilly column:
A spry President Bush hops out of a vehicle last week before boarding Air Force One to attend a fundraiser. O’Reilly says the president is secure in his commitment to Iraq.

The second photo shows close up just what that "spry" northeastern cowboy really looks like trying to "hop" off of his saddle.

Now that Bush is talking about changing course, it's stunningly ironic that even some Iraqi officials are starting to criticize the possibility of troop withdrawal as cutting and running -- the same tactic used by Bush administration when it was criticized for having no plan other than "stay the course." Of course, Iraqi officials have a reason to be concerned. They'll be left trying to fix a nation quickly disintegrating into civil war.

Bill Maher recently smacked down the neocon cabal represented by organizations like the Project for a New Century and The Heritage Foundation (video):
And finally, new rule in two parts: (A) You can't call yourself a think tank if all your ideas are stupid; and (B) If you're someone from one of these think tanks that dreamed up the Iraq War and who predicted that we'd be greeted as liberators, and that we wouldn't need a lot of troops, and that Iraqi oil would pay for the war, that the WMD's would be found, that the looting wasn't problematic, that the mission was accomplished, that the insurgency was in its last throes, that things would get better after the people voted, after the government was formed, after we got Saddam, after we got his kids, after we got Zarqawi, and that whole bloody mess wouldn't turn into a civil war, you have to stop making predictions.

Active-Duty Troops Launch Campaign to Press Congress to End U.S. Occupation of Iraq (HT: The Katrinacrat).

Tags: | | | | | Bush is a moron | Impeach Bush | George W Bush | Bush | Worst President Ever | | | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option | Katrina One Year Anniversary | media | Media Democracy | Fox | Fox News | Bill O'Reilly

"A buzzing fluorescent light that you can't turn off"

For my money, it's his best column ever (it might be his longest as well).

I actually met Chris Rose and his wife Kelly years ago at a popular restaurant they frequented before they were married. She's a magnificent woman anyway, but for her to stand by him while they both struggled with his descent into illness -- and back -- she's earned bonus points in heaven. She's a keeper, and I know Chris is good to her. He became a changed person around her.

There isn't a honey-do list long enough to reward that kind of loyalty Chris!

I've both celebrated and criticized his columns in this forum, but he's earned the journalist's "get-out-of-jail-free card" with this last column.

Nice job Chris. Thank you for your courage in going public with your illness -- your "brainstorm" -- and for your effort to shed light on the misconceptions. Thank you for doing it so eloquently. And thank you for explaining that medication doesn't have to mean a change in the way one sees the world.

I only wish you might have clarified further how every person's "brainstorm" is different, how the side effects of medication are sometimes intolerable, and in no way is suicide the inevitable outcome for every person. You also missed another major issue. Symptomatic of the "brainstorm" illness is the logical opposite of depression: mania. It's in fact one of the reasons why some people don't want to get off the roller coaster. The inspiration that comes from the "lows", as well as the "highs", is difficult to let go. And in any discussion about this type of illness in which people can function -- nominally -- fairly well in society, it should be remembered that nobody is "normal".

Still, I can't recall the last time I've read such a courageous personal testimony, and I sincerely hope your treatment continues to work for you.

Chris Rose, "Hell and Back" (my emphasis):

I stopped talking to Kelly, my wife. She loathed me, my silences, my distance, my inertia.

I stopped walking my dog, so she hated me, too. The grass and weeds in my yard just grew and grew.

I stopped talking to my family and my friends. I stopped answering phone calls and e-mails. I maintained limited communication with my editors to keep my job but I started missing deadlines anyway. ...

Hopeless, helpless and unable to function. A mind shutting down and taking the body with it. A pain not physical but not of my comprehension and always there, a buzzing fluorescent light that you can't turn off. ...

In his book "Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness" -- the best literary guide to the disease that I have found -- the writer William Styron recounted his own descent into and recovery from depression, and one of the biggest obstacles, he said, was the term itself, what he calls "a true wimp of a word." ...

"Told that someone's mood disorder has evolved into a storm -- a veritable howling tempest in the brain, which is indeed what a clinical depression resembles like nothing else -- even the uninformed layman might display sympathy rather than the standard reaction that 'depression' evokes, something akin to 'So what?' or 'You'll pull out of it' or 'We all have bad days.'"

Styron is a helluva writer. His words were my life. I was having one serious brainstorm. Hell, it was a brain hurricane, Category 5. But what happens when your own personal despair starts bleeding over into the lives of those around you?

What happens when you can't get out of your car at the gas station even when you're out of gas? Man, talk about the perfect metaphor. ...

I started talking to Kelly about plans -- a word lacking from my vocabulary for months. Plans for the kids at school, extracurricular activities, weekend vacations. I had not realized until that moment that while stuck in my malaise, I had had no vision of the future whatsoever.

I wasn't planning anything. It was almost like not living. ...

Measuring depression is not like measuring blood sugar. You don't hit a specified danger level on a test and then you're pronounced depressed. It is nuance and interpretation and there is still a lot of guesswork involved.

But here's my doctor's take: The amount of cortisol in my brain increased to dangerous levels. The overproduction, in turn, was blocking the transmission of serotonin and norepinephrine.

Some definitions: Cortisol is the hormone produced in response to chronic stress. Serotonin and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters -- chemical messengers -- that mediate messages between nerves in the brain, and this communication system is the basic source of all mood and behavior.

The chemistry department at the University of Bristol in England has a massive Web database for serotonin, titled, appropriately: "The Molecule of Happiness."

And I wasn't getting enough. My brain was literally shorting out. The cells were not properly communicating. Chemical imbalances, likely caused by increased stress hormones -- cortisol, to be precise -- were dogging the work of my neurotransmitters, my electrical wiring. A real and true physiological deterioration had begun.

I had a disease.

This I was willing to accept. Grudgingly, for it ran against my lifelong philosophy of self-determination.

dangerblond -- living on a thin line

Gentilly Girl -- PTSD or Katrina Syndrome?

Ray in New Orleans - III

Monday, October 23, 2006

New this fall: Citizen clowns do back flips in the planning fake democracy circus reality show

What do planners do behind the scenes in the post-Katrina citywide Unified New Orleans Plan rebuilding process?

Who the hell knows?

Speaking of which, the expression about hell being paved with good intentions may apply here.

There's no (real) accountability. There are no financial books to look at. The communications plan relies entirely upon consultants, and marketers, and official media (i.e., big dollar media purchases), rather than on basic grassroots communication. There's no answering for mistakes or unfulfilled promises.

The people we elected to represent us aren't involved in the planning process. If we don't like the job being done by the people appointed to plan the rebuilding of our city, we have no recourse.

What isn't reported anywhere but here in blogs is the conversation that's going on among citizens as they react to what they're going through.

Here's a snippet of one of those conversations:

First citizen:

1) One role for us would be to make sure we ask all the actors what the assumptions are in their model. If they say they are "neutral" process or tech folks, run for the hills and watch your wallets and purses.

2) In every venue, ask the accountability questions: Who benefits ultimately .... Who ultimately do we have to go to get an answer? Who decides? For whom? How did you arrive at that decision? What is the impact of that decision on my neighborhood? Why should we trust you?

3) Many of the decisions that are being made or not made have incredible implications on race and class here. They also have the potential for racial and class conflict the likes of which we have not known since the last century. We need to continue discussions about how that can be confronted for the peace of the city. My question is always: what are the impacts in terms of race and class issues of that decision? I just believe that raising the issue, though sometimes difficult to talk about, needs to be on the front burner. Some believe we can simply draw maps and red dot ourselves to bliss, while ignoring the real Katrina questions. I think it takes hard work inside -- me more than most -- and outside.

4) I hope that the report on the day to day grind of planning of UNOP ... is made available the very day it is finished. That should be a really interesting story. Indeed, what do planners do? It can be the script for a reality show?

Second citizen:
Perhaps what we were discussing without actually saying it was an oversight commitee.

Who is doing oversight? I would like to see the contracts and sub contractors. The issue of COI came up with Acorn. I believe that it exists with other entities as well. Any and all decisions, contracts,mou's or entities involved in this process should be clearly revealed and it should be sooner than later.

There will be backlash and we would do well to mitigate it by demanding as much information as possible as soon as possible.

But then again, what do I know?

First citizen response:
My take is that the political leadership from Washington on down just punted into a fake democracy circus, where we are all the clowns doing back flips in the center ring while the consultants sell popcorn to the crowds.

Rather than an oversight committee ... I would just keep asking the questions of accountability which we all talked about last night. Sure the LRA is the lead actor. But what is the city's role, the council and mayor's roles, the planning commission role? Also, how do we say and bluntly state that incompetence of the planners is one of the key issues we would like to discuss?

And that the time parameters involved in this process are so drawn out, that it is so clumsily constructed, that a decision has been made already that the Diaspora is gone, out of it, history. Every day they wait to repopulate, more of the Diaspora lose hope. It is simply not fair, it wrenches my gut to know it. As one of us pointed out, it may indeed happen that as adults, people, knowing their options, make a choice to not come back. Sadly, the don't know their options; some would say their options are deliberately being muddled. But many in the communities I listen to DO ascribe the clumsiness of the process to racism and classism. That may not be paranoia or conspiracy theorists on a kool-aid high. It may be one of the core truths of this process.

If this dialog has you confused, please refer to this helpful diagram.

Community Gumbo recently featured views of the planning process from the last Community Support Organization advisory board meeting, and from a Mid-City neighborhood activist.

10/23/06 update:
The Unified New Orleans Plan Web site recently posted the Concordia Powerpoint presentation delivered to the Community Support Organization advisory board meeting on October 14th (the Web site is down right now -- they must be busy uploading that schnazzy new "Recovery Data Atlas" full of "windshield data" and "grassroots data points" they intend to load into their "action-oriented menu of key projects").

Watch for the Recovery Data Atlas, scheduled to be completed before this Saturday's Community Congress. There would be little point in holding the Community Congress without it, since citizens are supposed to use the atlas to make decisions at the Congress. I'll be interested in seeing what all these fancy planning words mean when translated into practical ideas that tangibly help people get back into their homes, and rebuild their neighborhoods.

The next CSO advisory board meeting is this Thursday, in the City Council chamber, at 5:30 p.m. Note that ticket Nazis were out in force last time. I got ticketed at a metered spot where the meter was broken (i.e., it had absolutely nothing mechanical inside the meter) and the new electronic credit card machine was totally covered. So you're screwed either way. This is, after all, the "New" New Orleans operating under the logic of "our mayor". Another attendee who got a ticket suggested we send them to UNOP or Concordia. I think I will, since they try so hard to convince everyone that their process is open and democratic.

PGR -- What is the narrative of New Orleans?

b.rox -- Deaf

Becky Houtman -- District 2 Planning - Needs and Goals Day

VatulBlog -- Day 417: Bill Moyers On The Internet

Emily Metzgar -- The currency of democracy

Tags: | | | | | Bush is a moron | Impeach Bush | George W Bush | Bush | Worst President Ever | Ray Nagin | Worst Mayor Ever | Recall Ray Nagin | | | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option | Katrina One Year Anniversary

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Photos: Big Easy Rollergirls, 10/21/06

New Orleans needs stronger dikes.

Trixie La Femme.

Ruthie the Duck Lady


Good Neighbor, bad cop

This is one of the houses posted under the City of New Orleans "Good Neighbor" program. The city will confiscate posted properties if owners don't gut the houses and clean the lots. Some owners don't care about their properties, and let them fall into blight (demolition by neglect). In those cases, the city might be praised for applying a strict standard. There are a significant number of New Orleans homeowners, however, who can't afford housegutting, who aren't physically capable of doing it themselves, and who are still displaced far outside Louisiana (Ms. Regina, for example) -- I'd guess tens of thousands of homes fall into this category. Owners can show that they are acting in good faith if they get their home on a volunteer housegutting list, but those waiting lists are months long due to lack of volunteers.

The city's Web site makes it sound like it's offering this program as a gift to help homeowners.

City Offers New "Good Neighbor Program"
In order to provide all of the citizens of New Orleans the opportunity to rebuild their homes and reclaim their lives, The City of New Orleans Good Neighbor Plan has been developed to provide guidelines for the restoration and maintenance of homes in New Orleans. By strategically safeguarding citizen’s property while providing a framework for reinvestment that protects the financial investments of returning citizens against the spread of blight through inaction, the Good Neighbor Plan provides a better sense of security for all citizens.

The city is offering no help at all. Yes, do something about blighted properties, but do it in a pro-active manner. Instead, the city is leaving the rebuilding of New Orleans to volunteers and college students.

For or against the program, my sense is that the city's been talking about homeowners who don't gut their houses as though they're criminals, not victims, and that's what pisses me off. There might not be much that the city could do from a fiscal perspective (with an absent mayor), but it could be a little kinder in its rhetoric.

People interested in volunteering might refer to the city's pdf listing of volunteer housegutting organizations. You can also contact the Arabi Wrecking Krewe.

Sunday music:
Anouar Brahem, Le Voyage De Sahar, ECM, 2005

Tags: | | | | | Bush is a moron | Impeach Bush | George W Bush | Bush | Worst President Ever | Ray Nagin | Worst Mayor Ever | Recall Ray Nagin | | | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option | Katrina One Year Anniversary

Saturday, October 21, 2006

BERG battles again

It's already too late for tonight's bout -- it's sold out (unless you can get some scalped tickets on the street), so you better get your tickets for the next bout as soon as you can.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Monkey boy's conversations with "the Almighty"

Probably because his statements are are so factual (bwah ha ha ha haaa) ... er ... at least they're fun-filled -- Fox News commentator Bill "falafel" O'Reilly got to interview the preznit this week.

Monkey boy is once again claiming to have direct communication with (capital 'A') "the Almighty" in such matters committing the United States to an un-Constitutional war against Iraq, which is now a quagmire worse than Vietnam, while risking the lives of thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Oh, but the rest of us who have a more nuanced appreciation of spirituality, and who seek guidance for life and death decisions in more appropriate ways -- like using honest intelligence information and international consensus -- are pitiful heathens:

O'REILLY: The secular progressives don't like you because you're a man of faith.

BUSH: Yes.

O'REILLY: You know that.

BUSH: Yes. That causes me to be sad for people who don't like somebody because he happens to believe in the Almighty.

O'REILLY: But you know that's in play.

BUSH: Absolutely. They think you are some kind of evangelical. God tells you what to do and you go out and do it. And they hate that.

BUSH: I guess that I have pity for people who believe that. They don't understand the relationship between man and the Almighty, then.

Transcripts: part 1, part 2, part 3.

If you want a good laugh (or can stomach it) this is the live action video of the puddin' head we elected who was installed as president going mano-a-mano against the limp and leading questions of Bill O'Reilly. Maybe O'Reilly had a "falafel" session with Mark Foley before the interview to soften him up.

Bill O'Reilly rubs Bush with his falafel, part 1, part 2, part 5, part 6

Tags: | | | | | Bush is a moron | Impeach Bush | George W Bush | Bush | Worst President Ever | | | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option | Katrina One Year Anniversary | media | Media Democracy | Fox | Fox News | Bill O'Reilly

Crescent City Connection

The Crescent City Connection traverses the Mississippi River, connecting Algiers and the West Bank of Jefferson Parish with downtown New Orleans. It sometimes offers spectacular views of the city.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why they fight

Who said:

The stakes couldn't be any higher, as I said earlier, in the world in which we live. There are extreme elements that use religion to achieve objectives. And they want us to leave, and they want us to -- and they want to topple government. They want to extend an ideological caliphate that is -- has no concept of liberty inherent in their beliefs. They want to control oil resources, and they want to plot and plan and attack us again. That's their objectives.

Osama bin Laden? Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki? King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia? Hugo Chavez?

Guess again.

Tags: Bush is a moron | Impeach Bush | George W Bush | Bush | Worst President Ever

End the imperial presidency

Gary Younge, in The Nation:

"Kings were put to death long before 21 January 1793," wrote Albert Camus, referring to Louis XVI's execution. "But regicides of earlier times and their followers were interested in attacking the person, not the principle, of the king. They wanted another king, and that was all. It never occurred to them that the throne could remain empty forever."

Remove the throne installed in the Oval Office. The end of the monkey king's reign of error starts on November 7th.

Tags: Bush is a moron | Impeach Bush | George W Bush | Bush | Worst President Ever

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Nagin hittin' the ganja pipe again?

Ray Nagin, at a speech on Tuesday (HT: Da Po Boy):

“Anybody got a Road Home check in here?’’ he asked sarcastically, but no one in the audience of nearly 150 people raised a hand. “I’m searching for one, just one.’’

You know, that's funny -- Ray Nagin criticizing a program he never got involved with pro-actively -- Governor Blanco's Road Home program to issue home rebuilding grants.

Actually, it's not that funny.

Where the hell is Ray Nagin in the negotiations with Entergy? Where's his advocacy for hundreds of thousands of homeowners being screwed by their insurance companies? Where's his plan to rebuild New Orleans? The NOPD is bleeding manpower -- what's the plan? What the hell does the budget situation look like?

I can criticize Nagin because I'm just a blogger. He wanted the job, and the power, and the salary, and the associated responsibilities. Okay, maybe he didn't want the responsibilities. If he's going to criticize other people for not doing their jobs, he damn straight better make sure he's doing his own job!

Since he hasn't had a damn thing to do with the LRA, when Nagin says he's tried everything under the sun, I'm thinking he's hittin' the ganja, man, back in Jamaica again:
“I’ve tried everything under the sun to accelerate the LRA money. We’ve done everything."

What does Nagin know about Kobe, or Oklahoma City, or New York?
The mayor said when people complain that the city’s recovery and rebuilding should be moving more quickly, he simply responds, “Quicker compared to what?’’ Kobe, Japan, Oklahoma City and New York City were not case studies in quick recovery.

This isn't Kobe, or Oklahoma City, or New York. Nagin ought to do his job, here in New Orleans -- at a minimum, to manage the things in his area of control, like the budget, and to establish a vision for the future. He hasn't produced either. Just one example -- rather than address the schools problem before and after Katrina, he let the state and charters take over. Whether that was the right outcome or not, whether Nagin wanted that to happen or not, he never had a clearly-defined schools plan that he elaborated for the public. He doesn't have a plan for anything that happens in New Orleans. He governs from crisis to crisis, just like Mitch Landrieu said he does, never anticipating what this city and its residents need.

Tags: | | | | | Bush is a moron | Impeach Bush | George W Bush | Bush | Worst President Ever | Ray Nagin | Worst Mayor Ever | Recall Ray Nagin | | | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option | Katrina One Year Anniversary

Recall Ray Nagin

Harry Anderson, frustrated by the shakedown citizens are getting by Entergy, insurance companies, and the city, is leaving New Orleans:

"New Orleans is like a woman you never stop loving, but you can't live with her either. I have never been less sure of anything I've ever done. I always feel like I could live in the French Quarter forever. And if it weren't in New Orleans, I would."

Chris Rose targeted Ray Nagin for much of the blame. As I've said elsewhere, we need a leader to champion our cause. We haven't heard much from our miserable mayor lately. Someone must be telling him to keep his fat trap shut so he doesn't inadvertently cause harm to the true interests he represents. Who are these interests? Let's just say they're the people who have the luxury of waiting until residents who become frustrated decide to give up. Then they'll buy up the properties that look most profitable.

There are things we can do to fight back, and yes, it takes all of our time and energy to do them. One of the things we can do is demand Ray Nagin's recall. We could also camp out on City Hall grounds demanding his plan to address a long list of issues.

Tags: | | | | | Bush is a moron | Impeach Bush | George W Bush | Bush | Worst President Ever | Ray Nagin | Worst Mayor Ever | Recall Ray Nagin | | | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option | Katrina One Year Anniversary