Saturday, December 31, 2005

Abandonned by government, man finds mother's body.

On the Left Tip.
Robert Green naturally assumed that his mother's body would be found in the recovery effort and would be taken to - well, to wherever the bodies of the victims of Katrina were taken. The process he had to go through to even get that information was ridiculous. For weeks after the hurricane he literally got the runaround. Finally, they provided Joyce's X-rays and their own DNA samples to what seemed like the right agency to locate his mother's remains. They called the Coroner's office every day. Nothing. No Joyce.

Finally Robert's twin, David, had had enough. Enough of being forgotten, enough of the runaround, enough of being told that their mother's body couldn't be located. He loaded up on shovels and a pick axe and tools and returned to the vicinity in the 9th ward where he thought his mother's body may be located. He recognized a landmark from that harrowing day and, not three minutes later, found the remains of his mother. This happened today. He didn't have to dig - he didn't need the pick axe or saw or shovel.

All that was left of Joyce was her skull, clothes, and skeleton - the ravages of four months of being the abandoned dead had taken its toll.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Saints to play all games in Louisiana in 2006 Times-Picayune:
"Tagliabue said the team would train and play its eight regular-season home games in Louisiana, at the Superdome and Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. The Superdome is undergoing repairs and should be football-ready by mid-September.

Tagliabue said he told Saints players that playing games in Louisiana in 2006 is not a one-year experiment.

'Our goal was to make it a multi-year effort,' Tagliabue said"
Thanks Tagliabue, now can you do something about the crazed owner.

NOAA will run out of greek letters if this keeps up.



Grassley goes after Red Cross records

Lawmakers intensified their scrutiny of the Red Cross on Thursday as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee asked the organization for correspondence, minutes of board meetings and other records.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, questioned the effectiveness of the agency's Board of Governors in a letter requesting an array of documents. He said the review will determine "whether the current board and governance structure meets the high level of competence and engagement" that is expected of the agency.

The agency has come under fire from critics who say it failed to respond quickly enough after Hurricane Katrina. In particular, they believe the response in some low-income, minority areas was inadequate. Others have faulted it for balking at cooperation with grass-roots organizations even as it collected the bulk of hurricane relief funds.

Doubts about the levees raised during planning --- then ignored

More evidence that Katrina, like the Challenger disaster, was the result of bad judgement and corner-cutting. It was a man-made catastrophe, and responsibility falls directly on the Corps of Engineers.
Bea said the discussion in the 16-year-old "design memo" points to the key decision that created fatal problems on the 17th Street Canal levee and could reveal a systemic problem that will show up during investigation into the London Avenue and Industrial Canal levees, which also breached during the Aug. 29 storm. "From all the data we have, from all the documents made available to us, that exchange highlights where the key mistake was made in the design process, and how it was allowed to stand," Bea said this week. "The design engineers didn't account for the weak layers in that swamp, and the Vicksburg office picks that up in review. But the New Orleans office says it's our professional judgment this is OK. In our business, that's an acceptable answer. But it's an answer Vicksburg can disagree with -- but it didn't. "And from the documents we have, the issue is never raised again. At least not until Katrina comes along."
. . . . . . .

"It's pretty clear, looking back on it with the information we have available at this point, that Vicksburg didn't like what had been done," he said. "We'll never know why they didn't pursue it."

Tickner, now living in North Carolina, could not be reached for comment. Fred Bayley, the chief engineer in the Vicksburg office at the time, retired in 1993. Now 73, he said he doesn't remember the issue or much of the details of the project. What he remembers most about New Orleans is the challenge its tortuously weak and layered soils posed for engineers.

"Even if you took borings every 5 feet, you might not get an accurate picture of what you were dealing with down there," he said. "Everything you did down there was a risk, because of those soils."

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Chiseling by mortgage company draws investigation.

As if flood victims didn't have enough to deal with, now mortgage companies are delaying insurance payments.

Over a dozen formal complaints have been filed with Attorney General Charles Foti's office, alleging that Countrywide has received insurance money meant for homeowners needing to repair their homes, but held on to the cash for an unreasonable amount of time, Foti spokeswoman Kris Wartelle said. Many such insurance checks require a signature both from the homeowner and the mortgage company before the homeowner can receive the cash. One Louisiana homeowner told investigators that Worldwide held his $111,000 in insurance payments for more than a month, forcing him to produce $50,000 to pay contractors repairing his storm-damaged home, Wartelle said.

No, Alaskan oil will not solve this.

"Since oil began to be drilled in 1859, the world has consumed 900 billion barrels - nearly half of the planet's reserves (according to an oil industry expert quoted by the Wall Street Journal), which means we'll have oil for another 50 years at the most," said Francisco Mieres, a professor of postgraduate studies on the oil economy at Venezuela's Central University.

But because consumption is increasing every year, driven by economic growth rates like those of China - which have ranged between seven and 11 percent a year - "oil will perhaps only last until 2030, even including reserves like Alaska's and the Athabasca tar sands" in Alberta, Canada, Mieres told IPS.

"Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job"

Call it the wrong phrase at the wrong time but "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job" was named today as US President George W Bush's most memorable phrase of 2005.

The ill-timed praise of a now disgraced agency head became a national punch line for countless jokes and pointed comments about the administration's handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster and added to the president's reputation for verbal gaffes and clumsy turns of phrase.

Paul JJ Payack, president of Global Language Monitor, a nonprofit group that monitors language use, says Bush's statement in support of the then-director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency may be remembered for years to come.

Katrina music.

They're trying to wash us away.

Blanco: January session likely

Time to abolish the levee boards.

Bosnia agency to help with identification of dead

The International Commission on Missing Persons, created in 1996 and based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, reached agreement with Louisiana health officials. They plan to perform DNA tests on as many as 350 bone samples, CNN reported.

Nearly 1,100 bodies were recovered in the wake of Katrina; 170 have yet to be identified.

Katrina didn't discriminate by race or income -- only by age

Four months after Hurricane Katrina, analyses of data suggest that some widely reported assumptions about the storm's victims were incorrect.

For example, a comparison of locations where 874 bodies were recovered with U.S. Census tract data indicates that the victims weren't disproportionately poor. Another database, compiled by Knight Ridder of 486 Katrina victims from Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, suggests they also weren't disproportionately African-American.

Both sets of data are incomplete; Louisiana state officials have released no comprehensive list of the dead. Still, they provide the most comprehensive information available to date about who paid the ultimate price in the storm.

The one group that was disproportionately affected by the storm appears to have been older adults. People 60 and older account for only about 15 percent of the population in the New Orleans area, but the Knight Ridder database found that 74 percent of the dead were 60 or older. Nearly half were older than 75. Many of those were at nursing homes and hospitals, where nearly 20 percent of the victims were recovered.

Lack of transportation was assumed to be a key reason that many people stayed behind and died, but at many addresses where the dead were found, their cars remained in their driveways, flood-ruined symbols of fatal miscalculation.



More incredible waste not tied to Louisiana "corruption."

Yahoo! News:
"'Based on our work related to prior emergency response efforts, we have raised concerns regarding weaknesses' within those programs, the audit by Homeland Security Inspector General Richard L. Skinner said.

Moreover, 'when one considers that FEMA's programs are largely administered through grants and contracts, the circumstances created by hurricanes Katrina and Rita provide an unprecedented opportunity for fraud, waste and abuse,' the report found.

'While DHS is taking several steps to manage and control spending under Katrina, the sheer size of the response and recovery efforts will create an unprecedented need for oversight,' the report said."
This article is hard hitting. It documents the numerous ways that the taxpayer is getting ripped off by multi-level sub-contracting, whith each level adding more cost. It costs as much to put a blue tarp on a roof as it would to completely re-roof the house with standard shingles. And the top contractors won't talk about what they do, or show their books.
From blue tarps to debris removal, layers of contractors drive up the cost of recovery, critics say. Top-tier contractors say it's the only way to get the work done.: "Critics acknowledge some administration is needed, and that the sheer scale of the various jobs leads to increased overhead costs. Still, the difference between the price of the contract and the money collected by those doing the work appalls them, they say.

'When you have this nesting, or tiering, you're losing a lot of money to friction as it goes from sub to sub down to the worker bee who's actually turning a wrench or putting on a blue tarp,' said Steve Ellis, vice president of programs at the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Keith Ashdown, a colleague of Ellis', decried the 'blank-check mentality' that he said often results in overspending in the wake of disasters. 'I guarantee we're going to come back to this after everything has been reviewed and find we paid (upscale retailer) Nordstrom prices when we should have been paying Wal-Mart costs,' he said."

Note to congressmen who thought Katrina money would be wasted by "corrupt" Louisiana politicians.

The Times, Sunday Times:
"The American Red Cross was facing fresh embarrassment over its response to Hurricane Katrina today as it emerged that at least 19 agency workers stole more than $200,000 from the victims' fund.

Prosecutors in California have charged 49 people in connection with the fraud in which workers in a Red Cross call centre in Bakersfield are alleged to have handed out code numbers to friends and relatives entitling them to collect relief cheques of up to $1,565 (£908).

Mary Wenger of the US Attorney’s office in Sacramento, California, said today that she expected more charges as the investigation progressed. Ms Wenger said that preliminary calculations suggest at least $200,000 (£116,000) had been stolen, adding: 'We expect that figure to grow.'"

Bush Team Rethinks Its Plan for Recovery

Bush Team Rethinks Its Plan for Recovery
That's s Post's headline. Had us going for a minute. We thought maybe we'd see some new thinking on Katrina recovery. But the article is only about Bush's attempts to shore up his falling poll numbers.

Would Louisiana be better off without the Saints? :

The Saints are contractually obligated to remain in the city until 2010, with the state paying them more than $180 million to do so. But there are ways out of that contract. After the 2006 season, the Saints can pay Louisiana $81 million to leave town. And because of a clause in the contract, the Saints can leave without penalty if the Superdome is unusable.

The NFL will announce in the next week where they will practice and play for 2006, league spokesman Greg Aiello says.

'We would like to have the Saints play as many games as possible in New Orleans next year,' Aiello says.

But even if the Saints leave, the Superdome is a moneymaker for the city. Events and meetings keep the building occupied 45 to 50 weekends a year. That's why Gov. Kathleen Blanco has said rebuilding the Superdome is a priority.

'In some ways, the state might be better off without the Saints,' Tulane's Roberts says. 'They are expensive, and the building remains a magnet . . . "

Blanco profiled in NY Times

New York Times:
"'People can't stop comparing her to Rudy Giuliani,' said State Representative Troy M. Hebert, a Democrat from Jeanerette. 'When 9/11 came, he looked like he was doing something. I'm not sure he was. But he looked like it.'

But Ms. Blanco is fighting back. She points to several important victories in a special legislative session last month - including the state takeover of New Orleans's failing schools - as evidence of decisive action. And she is planning a media blitz, using weekly newspaper columns and regular radio appearances to outline her reconstruction plans."

LA professor helps to defeat "intelligent design"

"A proponent and product of Hammond public schools, philosophy Professor Barbara Forrest says her work to debunk intelligent design stems from her desire to protect the integrity of public education.

'It's because of the good education I got in the public schools here that I am able to do what I do,' she said.

Rob Boston, assistant director of communications for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, calls Forrest the country's leading social historian on the creationism movement.

'I'm not aware of anybody else out there who's done the research and understands the movement like she does,' Boston said.

His group, along with the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union, helped the 11 parents in Dover, Pa., who sued their School Board for backing intelligent design."
For one thing, she found that older versions of ID textbooks used the word creationism" everywhere that the phrase "intelligent design" appears in the new versions.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Wrestling With Memories Amid Mounds of Trash - New York Times

New York Times:
"If you are wondering how the people of New Orleans are faring these days, you might try the following: look around your living room and imagine that everything in it is slathered in mud and mold. Now consider what it would be like to don all manner of masks and other gear in order to go in there like a demolition worker and get rid of every last thing.

For some residents, only when they are carrying out this grim ritual do they come to terms with what the hurricane has wrought."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Move coastal towns?

A plan by the Louisiana Recovery Authority would move coastal towns 20 miles inland. It's hard to imagine most of the population cooperating without some incentive. Better housing, perhaps? Better roads? What would induce people to move?

New York Times
Now Louisiana planners are proposing an idea that would have been unimaginable here a few months ago: moving an entire string of seaside towns and villages - and the 4,000 longtime residents who live in them - 15 or 20 miles inland to higher and presumably safer ground. "If we could get 100 percent participation, which admittedly is extraordinarily difficult, if possible at all, we could conceivably take the entire population of Cameron Parish largely out of harm's way for future events," said Drew Sachs, a consultant to the Louisiana Recovery Authority. He has been asked to develop bold suggestions for rebuilding the state's coastal region in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Most important read: On the failure of the levees

Levees Weakened as New Orleans Board, Federal Engineers Feuded - Los Angeles Times

NEW ORLEANS — When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New Orleans levee officials joined forces in July 1985 to protect the city from a long-feared hurricane, the two agencies could not agree on how to proceed. It was the beginning of a dysfunctional partnership that ushered in two decades of chronic government mismanagement.

Corps engineers wanted to install gates in front of the city's three main internal canals to protect against violent storm surges from Lake Pontchartrain. The Orleans Levee District, the city's flood protection agency, preferred to build higher flood walls for miles along the canals. For five years, neither side yielded.

But in October 1990, a deft behind-the-scenes maneuver by the levee board forced the corps to accept higher flood walls. As Senate and House negotiators gathered to craft the Water Resources Development Act of 1990, Louisiana's congressional delegation quietly inserted a lobbyist's phrasing ordering the corps to raise the levee walls.

"It was stealth; legislative trickery," recalled New Orleans lawyer Bruce Feingerts, who lobbied for the levee board. "We had to push every button at our disposal."

The gambit was a crucial victory over the corps by the Orleans district, the most powerful and well-financed among 18 Louisiana boards that supervise more than 340 miles of storm levees across the hurricane-prone southern half of the state. The corps had to abandon its floodgate plan and shoulder 70% of the project's costs while allowing the Orleans board to hire its own consultants to design the strengthened levees.

But their fractious partnership proved disastrous. While the corps and the Orleans board settled into an acrimonious 15-year relationship, spending $95 million to buttress the city's canal levees, their shared supervision failed to detect crucial weaknesses inside the flood walls before Hurricane Katrina struck.

"No one felt the urgency, none of us," said Lambert C. Boissiere Jr., a former Orleans levee commissioner. "The corps and our own engineers told us the levees were strong enough. They were all dead wrong."

I'm dreaming of a . . .

wo days before Christmas, the holiday spirit was nowhere to be found in a second-floor ballroom at the Astor Crowne Plaza hotel on Canal Street on Friday. "I don't even care about Christmas now," said Ashira Francis, who lost her rented eastern New Orleans home and everything in it to Katrina. "Once I get into a house I can worry about that." "What Christmas?" echoed Harriet Atkinson, another eastern New Orleans resident displaced by the storm. Atkinson and Francis are among those living in about 8,000 hotel rooms across the state and 37,000 rooms around the nation where the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been housing residents displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, at a cost of $3 million a day. But now, with some having lived in those rooms for several months, FEMA officials are making a concerted effort to get all of them into long-term housing.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Congress provides nice chunk of change for recovery.
On Thursday, Congress passed the Defense Appropriations Bill that was sent over by the Senate Wednesday night which included 29 billion dollars for the Gulf Coast and excluded provisions related to ANWR drilling.
States such as Louisiana who were hard hit by Katrina and Rita have been totally uncertain of their fates since they have been crippled by the hurricanes.
The House of Representatives passed the Senate’s correction to the Defense Appropriations Bill that was passed late Wednesday night by the Senate. The bill reallocates $29 billion from FEMA to immediate, direct hurricane relief for Gulf Coast residents.
“This bill includes immediate, much-needed relief the people of the Gulf Coast have had to wait far too long for,” said Sen. Landrieu.
“The outlook was cloudy yesterday morning as our vital hurricane relief funding was stalled by a political standoff over a section of land more than 3,000 miles away,” Sen. Landrieu said.

Better levees=cheaper gas? I like the argument, Sidney.

The Daily Advertiser
ROUGE - Securing a share of offshore oil and gas revenues is crucial to the state being able to restore its coastline and build levees strong and tall enough to withstand powerful hurricanes, a coalition of state, parish and congressional officials said Wednesday. Parishes Against Coastal Erosion and the America's Wetland Campaign offer an online petition at their Web sites ( and www.americaswetland. com) asking state residents to urge congressional approval of sharing the $5 billion the federal government earns each year from production off Louisiana's coast.
. . . . . . .
Sidney Coffee, Gov. Kathleen Blanco's adviser on coastal issues and chair of the new Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, said the nation got a taste of Louisiana's importance when hurricanes Katrina and Rita shut down oil and gas production and oil prices skyrocketed.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Taking advantage of disaster.

Hey, you knew what the terms were when you signed the mortgage.
Some lenders are charging prepayment penalties of more than 9 percent to people using insurance checks to pay off homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Eleanor Greenidge, had a mortgage principal balance of $71,500 on her Lakeview home, which was lost in the August hurricane. A payment from her insurance company covered much of the principal, but Greenidge's lender demanded that she pay early payoff penalties and interest fees totaling $6,673.

Her lender is Ocwen Loan Servicing. Just so you'll know.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Conservative scholars say taboo word.


That's CONSERVATIVE scholars.

Katrina was only Cat 3!!!

Katrina hit the Gulf Coast as a Category 3 hurricane, not a Category 4 as first thought, and New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain likely were spared from the storm's strongest winds, the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday.

New Orleans' storm levees were generally believed to be able to protect the city from the flooding of a Category 3 storm, but portions of the levee system were either topped or failed in the storm, leaving up to 80 percent of the city under water.
Hey, corps of engineers and levee builders-- attention, lawsuits approaching.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Are there any stupid FEMA jokes?


Or is FEMA itself just a joke?
Much to the chagrin of anxious homeowners eager to rebuild their lives and homes, FEMA announced Tuesday it would be another couple of months before it releases what many homeowners have been waiting for: new flood elevation maps.

Many residents complained they have been unable to rebuild without knowing if—or how high—they might have to raise their homes.

Cat 5 levees aren't enough

Houma Today:

This is a must-read for anyone is southeast Louisiana. We will need some very smart technology to solve the problem of protecting New Orleans and the wetlands. The Dutch have been in this business for hundreds of years, and we need to be listening.
New Orleans is clamoring for a bigger, stronger levee system that will prevent a repeat of the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina. But Dutch engineers say that’s not enough: It will also have to be a smarter levee system.

The Netherlands employs the latest in safety principles and digital technology to design for the long haul. New Orleans levees were outdated long before their target date for completion. The Maeslant barrier is designed to last at least a century. Another structure, the Eastern Scheldt barrier, is meant to last twice as long.

The Dutch say thinking ahead is the only option in designing flood defenses: Plan obsessively. Look at the big picture. If things change, adjust. Those are clich├ęs, perhaps, but they’re based on hard-won experience from 1,000 years of fighting floods.

With New Orleans’ short- and long-term security and rebuilding efforts hanging in the balance, the political pressure is intense to build Category 5 hurricane protection, and build it quickly. But Dutch engineers also caution it would be a mistake to rush forward and build without a clear strategy.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Arlo Guthrie's train trip on the City of New Orleans

Independent Online Edition > Americas:
"His idea was quite simple. He would board the train and he and his musician friends such as Willie Nelson - who long ago released his own version of the song - would stop off at the towns along the route to play fundraisers to buy new music equipment for the destitute musicians. They would also collect donated instruments and gear. This past weekend their journey finally took them to the Big Easy where Guthrie and Nelson and special guests such as Ramblin' Jack Elliott played two sold-out concerts."

Clinton in NO :
"Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton toured areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina and expressed concern Sunday that efforts to repair the city's levees might not be enough to protect New Orleans' residents from future hurricanes.

'There is a need to go back and find out what went wrong,' Clinton said. 'What more do we need to do to protect this area?'

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Stuart Waits told Clinton that a breach at the Industrial Canal, which contributed to the widespread flooding, should be repaired by June 1, just in time for the next hurricane season. But unless the corps is authorized to strengthen the levee's existing structure, and given enough money to do so, the levee likely won't withstand more than a Category 3 hurricane.

As Congress considers $29 billion in hurricane assistance that would pay for levee repairs and upgrades, Clinton, D-N.Y., said she hopes her colleagues in Washington understand the importance.

Streetcars back on Canal

Nice! :
"The clackety-clack is officially back. New Orleans on Sunday resumed its streetcar service, which had been out of commission since Hurricane Katrina wiped out the utility poles and metal tracks used to propel the city's trademark mode of transportation."

Operation Flabbergasted

Go here.

Coincidence? Or Conspiracy?

We don't think that it's any coincidence that Bush came out with his levee plan the day after Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco testified before the House, and made it clear that Katrina was not a natural disaster, it was a man-made one. Levees! She said, and she kept saying it in the face of the attacks by partisans like Rep. Boo-yer. We heard it from a very reliable source today that the White House was burning the midnight oil to get our a plan, any plan to counter the bad press that they were getting because of that hearing. (I didn't know that they were that sensitive, but I guess a failed war,and a story about unconstitutional wiretapping meant that Karl Rove had to come up with some happy news.)

Friday, December 16, 2005

This time FEMA may be right

CBS News:
"The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday decried land-use restrictions that are holding up the placement of thousands of temporary trailer homes for Hurricane Katrina evacuees in much of Louisiana.

Half the state's 64 parishes _ Louisiana's equivalent of counties _ have barred such trailer parks, and most of the rest have various restrictions, FEMA said."
When the city council says NIMBY to trailers for returning evaucees, we have to side with the evacuees. Like a wise person said to me today, "If they think it's awful to have to look out their front window and see trailers, imagine what the view is like from inside the travel trailers."

Orleans population estimate: 100,000, twice that after holidays

Orleans population estimate: 100,000, twice that after holidays:
"Nagin says city officials are expecting a population explosion after the holidays when more schools reopen.

The current population estimate is about 25-thousand more than city officials gave six weeks ago.

The city had about 462-thousand0 residents before Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29th, breaking levees on three canals and flooding 80 percent of the city. Even so, Nagin said, significant areas had little or no water.

In addition, he says power lines are back in about three-quarters of the city, and almost all of it has good drinking water.

However, earlier this week a BellSouth manager told the City Council that about 40 percent of the city won't get phone service until January or February."
Bellsouth is just a bundle of laughs. First they take back the building they promised. Then they say that 1-=20 percent of their workforce will not return to New orleans. And now they are vying with some third-world tellephone companies in the amount of time it takes to restore service.

Where's Bush? Not in New Orleans.

"It's the responsibility of local officials to design the new New Orleans, but only the federal government is big enough to guarantee the money and provide the determination to make any plan a reality. What institution but the federal government can restore the wetlands south and east of the city into a buffer that will absorb much of the impact of the next hurricane? What institution but the federal government can break through all the jurisdictional barriers and push this halting process forward?"
Hey, that's the Washington Post's headline, not Blagueur. Don't blame us.

Why Congress might not trust us
Early this morning (between 1AM to 6 AM), once again the main evacuation route out of New Orleans and other parts of the Metro Area was blocked. Interstate 10 at the Metairie Road underpass once again flooded.

After the taxpayers waited 26 years for the pumping station to be designed and after spending $45 Million dollars to build it, the pumping station failed to keep the Interstate open.

This may be some consolation to New Orleanians who are dealing with chiselling insurance companies.

Even Trent Lott is having trouble with those guys. We heard on the radio that he's in such financial straits over this that he may have to retire. It's an ill wind . . .
Yahoo! News:
"The case is part of an ongoing wind-versus-water-damage showdown between insurance companies and thousands of storm victims. The issue is whether a wind-driven storm surge is the same as flooding. The companies contend they shouldn't have to pay for water damage for those who did not have flood policies.

'Today I have joined in a lawsuit against my longtime insurance company because it will not honor my policy, nor those of thousands of other south Mississippians, for coverage against wind damage due to Hurricane Katrina,' said Lott, R-Miss. 'There is no credible argument that there was no wind damage to my home in Pascagoula.'"

Big story: Bush finally proposes levee plan

Online NewsHour:
"DONALD POWELL: Well, this is the second phase, Margaret, of the president's initiative to rebuild the levees stronger and better. And the second phase includes, as the mayor outlined a moment ago, it includes three areas.

First of all, it includes closing the three internal canals. And it also includes arming the existing canals with concrete and stone to make them much, much stronger.

And the third component is, is rebuilding pumping stations at the mouth of the canals where the water will flow back into the lake.

One thing I might add also is there are $250 million committed to restoration of wetlands. And there is a long-term study part of that, that the commitment is in excess of $4.5 million to study the entire hurricane protection agenda."

In other stories -- Chalmette, St. Bernard still unprotected. More later.

Update: I've bumped this, so that you can see it next to the reactions -- read especially the ones from Van Heerden and the Corps of Engineers.

The Corps' reaction to the Bush plan
"The Army Corps of Engineers said the plan for improved levees that is being pushed by President George Bush is a good one for the areas where levees breached but will do nothing to protect the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans East or St. Bernard Parish.
“The authorized level for this project does not resist the Katrina storm in these areas,” said Don Hitchings of the Corps.

The plan calls for closing off the levees at the London Avenue, Orleans Avenue and 17th Street Canals by June 1, 2006.

In addition the levees will be built over with concrete and pumping stations would be positioned near Lake Pontchartrain within two years.

The plans are based on the standard of a true Category-3 and Congress used 100 miles per hour winds as their gauge for satisfactory flood protection in the short term.

The Corps has also been given two years to come up with a proposal for Category-5 protection."

Yes, the Lower 9th, East NO, and St. Bernard are left out of this plan. Let's hope that this really is just a "down payment," and not the "whole nut."

Charlie Melancon on the Bush levee plan. "
'While this money will go a long way in securing appropriate hurricane protection, it highlights the importance of projects like Morganza to the Gulf. These plans were approved and ready for authorization in 2000, and they were passed out of the House in three separate WRDA (Water Resource Development Act) bills. But full authorization has been held up by a political process, effectively delaying real construction work on an important component of hurricane protection"

Main points of the President's levee plan.

Fact Sheet: Protecting New Orleans From Future Flooding:
"Billion For The U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers.

Before the start of next hurricane season, the existing Federal levee system will have been restored, including:

* Rebuilding and raising levees and floodwalls to their design height;
* Correcting design and construction flaws; and
* Accounting for settling and compaction.
* By the end of 2005, we expect to have repaired all breached areas.
* We are also dedicating $250 million of these funds to high priority wetlands restoration efforts that will also provide additional flood and storm protection to the greater New Orleans area.

Providing Better And Stronger Protection - An Additional $1.5 Billion

Today, Federal Coordinator For Gulf Coast Rebuilding Donald Powell Announced New Actions To Provide Additional Safety And Security Measures In Order To Address The Large-Scale, Catastrophic Effects Of Another Hurricane Katrina. By providing safety and security for the residents of New Orleans, these actions will promote a favorable climate for reinvestment and new economic enterprise.

The additional protections include:

* Accelerating the completion of previously authorized levee projects;
* Armoring levees to improve reliability;
* Closing the three interior canals (17th Street, Orleans, and London Avenue);
* Installing state-of-the-art pump stations at the lakefront; and
* Raising the existing non-Federal levees to Federal design standards.

Nagin on Bush's new plan

Times Picayune:
"'Nagin praised Bush's commitment to nearly double an earlier $1.6 billion package for levee repairs and improvements, saying the president had responded to local residents' call for action.

'I want to say to all New Orleanians, to all businesses, it's time for you to come home, it's time for you to come back to the Big Easy,' Nagin said. 'We now have the commitment and the funding for hurricane protection at a level that we have never had before.'"

Blanco on the Bush levee Plan Local Breaking News Weblog:
"'Today's announcement of an additional $1.6 billion for levee reconstruction by President Bush and Don Powell is an important and necessary step in the rebuilding of South Louisiana, and I thank both of them for it. This commitment will reassure the people of South Louisiana that their homes and businesses will be protected. Business can start to move back, people can begin to return home and schools can begin to re-open."

LSU expert Van Heerden on Bush's plan :
Angela: Is the plan enough?
Van Heerden: It’s just the beginning. Bringing it back to pre-Katrina levels will only give us enough protection for a Category-2 or a fast-moving Category-3 storm. If we had a slow moving Category-3 pass west of the city, it could still flood the whole city.
Angela: What do you think of the concept of closing the canals and armoring the levees in concrete?
Van Heerden: Both are very good ideas. The armoring would certainly keep some of the levees that got overtopped from being breached and putting pump stations at the lake, really adds to the strength of the system because you can incorporate the system into the Lake levees.
Angela: What about the Lower Ninth and St. Bernard?
Van Heerden: Until we come up with floodgates to deal with the flood intensification in the funnel and also the potential of waves crossing MRGO from Lake Borgne and chewing up the MRGO levees, no, this isn’t going to help at all."

Get ready for more expense. This time insurance. :
"Homeowners around Louisiana will face larger insurance bills to help cover the borrowing a state-created insurance company will do to pay for insured home damage after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The State Bond Commission agreed Thursday to let the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. borrow up to $1.4 billion to cover claims. That borrowing will be paid off gradually by assessing private insurance companies a regular fee that they can pass onto all their Louisiana customers -- by increasing premiums by as much as 20 percent each year until the debt is paid."

Confirmed! Benson is truly barking mad.

KRT Wire :
"And what would a cold, damp December night be without a Tom Benson update.

WWL Radio's Kenny Wilkerson told us that Benson met with Saints' front-office personnel on Wednesday and told them that the club's Metairie practice facility, built entirely at taxpayers' expense, was not available because FEMA and the National Guard had yet to vacate the premises, and that greater New Orleans was 'uninhabitable.'

No word on whether his pants were on fire."

Could we make that last line into a bumper sticker?

"Finger affirmed a heavily discussed story involving Benson telling his staff in San Antonio that New Orleans was 'unlivable':

'Benson has told his staff that a return to Louisiana isn't possible, saying the state doesn't have the infrastructure to support the Saints while it recovers from Hurricane Katrina.'

Finger further notes the blatantly obvious:

'Benson, who already has severed ties with many employees who were in favor of staying in New Orleans, is pushing to keep the team based in San Antonio and to play home games in the Alamodome, which is keeping most of its fall 2006 weekends open to accommodate the team.'

And obviously, the San Antonio Express-News is doing its part for Benson by skewing the truth."

Was the Corps blocked from making repairs?

Times Picayune: :

"In another indictment of local oversight of levees in the New Orleans area, a U.S. Senate committee heard wide-ranging testimony Thursday about lax maintenance, confusion over who was in charge of emergency repairs and even a report that the Army Corps of Engineers was blocked by a local levee official from trying to fill breaches in the London Avenue Canal.

'We wanted to fill in the London Avenue Canal with fill,' corps Col. Richard P. Wagenaar said in an interview with Senate investigators released Thursday. 'And he (an unidentified levee district official) said, 'They're not doing that. Over my dead body are they going to fill that canal.'"

The :
"Wagenaar said Thursday that a West Jefferson Levee District employee blocked the corps from getting to the failure.

'He literally blocked our equipment,' Wagenaar said. 'They would not let the Corps of Engineers operate.'

The head of the West Jefferson Levee District notified on Thursday of the account said his crew started repairing the breech because no other agency was on site.

'They're full of bull,' Harry 'Chip' Cahill, president of the levee district, said of Wagenaar's account. 'Nobody was doing anything.'"

Oh, yeah. We gotta get to the bottom of this -- FUBAR!

The Myth of "below sea-level"

This is a terrific article and deserves to be read in full. New Orleans could have been three feet ABOVE sea level, and it still would have flooded.
"Of all the myths surrounding Katrina -and there are thousands of them- the biggest one by far is that New Orleans flooded because it is below sea level. I know you've all heard it and I know many of you have repeated it. It's simply not true. It's a myth.

Before I explain it, I'm forced by history to give you the following warning. Understanding the reasons behind New Orleans flooding requires you to A) Read the whole post. B) Think. If you are unable or unwilling to do both, then here is something else to spend your time doing."

read more

This bodes well for the future.

Come on, New Orleans, there's no excuse for this. None. Get it together or you'll shoe geeks like Rep. Buyer are right. :
"Money problems at the Sewage and Water Board kept workers from showing up early Thursday morning when the I-10 Mounes underpass flooded with almost four feet of water causing traffic to be rerouted from around midnight until 6 a.m.

The pumping station has eight times the capacity of the previous system

The state spent $25 million to build a pumping station that would drain the railroad bridge underpass, but last night the station sat empty and the pumps remained turned off.

To save money the Sewage and Water Board quit paying workers for coming in on their time off, so when the call was made last night for operators to come in no one showed up."
You spend $25 million on a pump and your forget to turn it on?

Codrescu on Kabacoff (?) and company.

The Penny Post:
"Is it all gone? For the time being, yes. But Mr. G will survive, he’ll emerge from this stronger: New Orleans will be a smaller city, the better to accommodate the myths of “culture.” A whole lot of inconvenient culture will be gone, along with poor artists and the just-plain poor. Without the embarrassment of reality, there is no telling what the arts might be worth."
I don't think there's any doubt about who he means by "Mr. G."

New Orleans -- Booze and Gambling. Aaaaah!

Sazerac Re-Introduces Whiskey:
"After a 116-year absence from the market, the Sazerac Company of New Orleans is pleased to reintroduce its Sazerac Rye Whiskey, bottled in the original late 1800's package. This whiskey has been eight years in the making and once again joins the Sazerac family to represent the true 'Spirit of New Orleans.'

The Sazerac Company is one of the oldest family-owned companies in New Orleans, dating back to 1850 and the coffeehouse of the same name. It was at the Sazerac Coffeehouse that rye whiskey grew in popularity as the primary ingredient of America's first cocktail -- 'The Sazerac.' This historic cocktail included rye whiskey along with Peychaud's Bitters, Herbsaint Absinthe Liqueur and a lump of sugar. Today, the Sazerac Company proudly owns, makes and distributes Peychaud's Bitters, Herbsaint, and Sazerac Rye Whiskey."

I left in that last paragraph because I wanted to keep the Sazerac recipe.

Harrah's gets a break
The Louisiana Gaming Control Board has approved an initiative to allow Harrah's New Orleans to open with lower requirements concerning the number of employees and payroll amount. The casino will be expected to, with time, achieve higher standards in both areas. This plan still requires the approval of the Joint Legislative Committee, which will meet today on the subject."

NPR returns to NO
"After 89 days of broadcasting from Atlanta, National Public Radio affiliate WWNO-FM will return Monday to its studios at the University of New Orleans, general manager Chuck Miller said Thursday.

Miller, music director James Arey, broadcaster Farrar Hudkins and afternoon announcer Jack Hopke have been working double shifts since September, broadcasting by satellite from Georgia Public Broadcasting's studios."

If Harrah's is returning, it's only fair that NPR gets to come back too.

BayouBuzz concurs with Blanco - Louisiana Politics and News:
"In her remarks to Congress, Governor Blanco said, “Katrina was a natural disaster. The levees failing was a man-made disaster. People would have walked home from the Superdome had the levees not failed. Congress would not be having these hearings had the levees not failed”.

'If families don´t feel safe, they won´t come home,' she said. 'We experienced a structural failure of our levee system. It needs to be repaired immediately and then strengthened, so our families can come home.'

She is totally right.

While some members of Congress and some media are trying to pin the flood blame on a whole host of Louisiana and New Orleans deficiencies without looking elsewhere, the problem is the canal floodwalls failed and the water came flooding. The reality is that tens of thousands of innocent people have had their lives change forever and need the federal government to repair their lives especially since the federal government through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers appear culpable in the design, construction, supervision and inspection of the levees along with private firms and local agencies."
It's hard to avoid the truth that Katrina fatigue is just another name for beint tight-fisted.

The New Orleans wireless system will include the possibility of voice connection

No wonder Bellsouth is worried. Not just wireless, but VOIP. Yikes!

The New Orleans package can include a phone adapter which then gives the business phone service as well. Its called voice over IP and is very close to a regular phone line. Over 30 businesses have been hooked up. Most do not know that this technology is available.

All voice traffic runs over a secure wireless network to data center and then goes out on a phone switch there. Basically like using a cordless phone with a real real real long range on it. Last week Superior extended their wireless network out to Read Rd in New Orleans east. and 504-488-6028


NO city council -- blind, racist, or just plain stupid? | :
"The City Council took action Thursday that could delay FEMA trailers for hurricane evacuees, citing plans to place the makeshift homes in some locations unsuitable for such housing.

The council voted unanimously to override Mayor Ray Nagin's veto of an ordinance giving council members the power to block temporary trailer parks in their districts.

Nagin said before Thursday's council meeting the ordinance could delay trailers for evacuees from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But council members said FEMA wanted to establish trailer parks in historic areas and playgrounds unsuitable for such development.

'There are alternative sites we have given to the administration so that we could work together,' said Council member Renee Gill Pratt.

Nagin was in Washington and unavailable for comment. 'He hopes to continue to work with the City Council to bring New Orleanians home,' said Tammy Frazier of Nagin's press office."

Local politics! As always there are plenty of bad actors. As always you just know that race is at the bottom of this. So much for concern for acting in a unified way, solidarity and all that. Asses!

Upshaw tells Saints that return to New Orleans likely

ABC News:
"Saints players say a recent meeting with NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw left them with the impression that they'll most likely report to work at the team's undamaged training headquarters in suburban New Orleans next season.

Upshaw met with Saints players in San Antonio and said he favored returning them to their training facility in Metairie and having them split their eight regular season home games between Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge and the Louisiana Superdome, if possible, players said.

'That's the feeling we got. It's all subject to change,' cornerback Fred Thomas said. 'He's not the man who'll make the decision. … They're basically telling us that to give us some light at the end of the tunnel.'"
Fan patience with Benson and with the Saints' losing ways is beginning to wear very thin. This better be resolved in January with a strong commitment to NO and a new coach (or an entire new staff)there will be a mass defections of fans and season ticket holders. Of course, that's very probably what Benson wants -- so he can twist arms at the NLF and move to San Antonio permanently.


Wizbang: "Of all the myths surrounding Katrina -and there are thousands of them- the biggest one by far is that New Orleans flooded because it is below sea level. I know you've all heard it and I know many of you have repeated it. It's simply not true. It's a myth.

Before I explain it, I'm forced by history to give you the following warning. Understanding the reasons behind New Orleans flooding requires you to A) Read the whole post. B) Think. If you are unable or unwilling to do both, then here is something else to spend your time doing."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Washington Post's take on Blanco's Katrina hearing.

Measured but defiant. My thoughts exactly.

Blanco Criticizes Levees, Hails Evacuation Efforts:
"Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) yesterday declared efforts to evacuate state and New Orleans residents before Hurricane Katrina 'an outstanding success' and told members of Congress they would not be investigating the government's flawed response into the Aug. 29 storm if levees protecting the city had not failed.

Over three hours of measured, at times defiant testimony to a House investigative panel, the first-term governor rebutted Republican charges that overwhelmed state and city leaders did not order the evacuation of New Orleans soon enough or provide transportation or relief to poor, sick and elderly residents who did not get out before floodwaters rose."

SBA shafts Gulf Coast businesses.

This came out a few days ago, in the Picayune, I think -- but it's always good to have the Mighty NYT get on the case.

New York Times:
"The Small Business Administration, which runs the federal government's main disaster recovery program for both businesses and homeowners, has processed only a third of the 276,000 home loan applications it has received.

And it has rejected 82 percent of those it has reviewed, a higher percentage than in most previous disasters, saying that many would-be borrowers did not have incomes high enough, or credit ratings good enough, to qualify. The rejections came even though the Federal Emergency Management Agency has referred more than two million people, many of them with low incomes, to the S.B.A. to get the loans."

UPDATE: I was wrong. The article was in the Advocate on Nov. 3.

Politicians competing to propose larger and larger levee programs

"Behind the scenes, negotiations were intensifying over a supplemental spending bill that would cover the upgrades of levees to true Category 3 protection and provide what Louisiana lawmakers are calling the first down payment on upgrading the system to protection against a Category 5 hurricane.

Aides to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., said he is running into resistance from House Republicans for his plan to double the $17 billion Katrina aid package proposed by President Bush. His plan calls for about $3 billion for levee upgrades, almost double the $1.6 billion in Bush's proposal.

In a letter to Landrieu and Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Vitter suggested that $3 billion isn't enough because the Corps of Engineers 'has not included major categories of necessary work' in its spending estimates. He called on Landrieu and the governor to work with him to get the levee allocation increased to $4.75 billion, including $3.75 billion he said it will cost to provide true Category 3 protection and $1 billion as the first down payment 'on higher levels of protection throughout South Louisiana.'

Vitter said that getting financial estimates out of the corps is 'like pulling teeth,' because the agency is under pressure from the White House not to release numbers that would call into question the $1.6 billion proposed by Bush. He said the corps' estimate of Category 3 protection work is low because it doesn't call for upgrades of levees that didn't fail after Katrina struck, even though they shared the same design as those that failed."

Researchers doubt clean-soil findings

Times Picayune:
"After finding high levels of lead at two of 14 sites tested in the metro area, the researchers questioned claims by state and federal agencies that except for a few isolated neighborhoods the city is safe for residents and workers.
'It's premature to make such a broad statement,' said Steven Presley, an environmental toxicologist and leader of the Texas Tech team. 'There is sediment deposited on top of telephone poles, it's in cars, on cars, on top of houses. It's amazing where that sediment is deposited. And what about all the dust that's stirred up when you sweep the streets? . . . Inhalation exposure is just as bad as ingested.'"

LSU expert defends piling tests

Times Picayune:
Van Heerden:
'The fact that the corps found some sheet piling sunk to minus 17 does not negate the fact that we had catastrophic structural failures of the levees in 58 locations around New Orleans,' he said.

'I was fortunate enough to tour a number of the major levee systems and flood control structures in the Netherlands, and their levees make ours look extremely sad,' said van Heerden, who returned from a tour of the Dutch levee system Tuesday. 'As an American, I feel the sooner the Corps of Engineers accepts responsibility, the sooner we can move forward. The Dutch have all the technology that we need, and building a world-class levee system for southeast Louisiana is an extremely doable task.'"

Blanco wants bill drafted for levee district overhaul

Apparently consolidation of levee boards is still very much on the table. It's probably one of the conditions that congress will insist on before approving a new levee program.
Times Picayune:
"The governor's desire for a fast-track change in the levee governing system is a signal that she may now have embraced a levee-consolidation initiative launched by Sen. Walter Boasso, R-Arabi, during a special session in November. At the time Blanco said she was not opposed to Boasso's bill, but she did not actively support it. The proposal was killed in the House despite strong support from the business community.

Boasso said Wednesday that he, like Blanco, supports a two-step process of quick overhaul followed by the longer-term timeline of constitutional changes.

'This is a topic that can't wait 'til past the first week of February,' said Boasso, referring to when a special session is likely to end. Without a special session, the next opportunity for a bill would come during the regular session, March 27 to June 19."

Did the evacuation order really come too late?

The Advocate:
"Appearing before a special House committee established to investigate the hurricane response, the Democratic governor engaged in often testy exchanges with committee members accusing her of waiting too long to move people.

'We got 1.2 million people evacuated, we saved another 100,000 and we lost 1,100; that's the whole story,' Blanco snapped. 'We got people out.'"

Watching the hearings I thought Blanco was very restrained, and on-message. But there were a few times when she showed some sparks of anger. Nothing like the anger I felt when Rep. Buyer (pronounced Boo-yer, as he reminded the audience) launched his long discredited argument about federalizing the National Guard. But good to see.

This just confirms what Blagueur and Moldy City have been saying for weeks.

The Daily Advertiser:
"Criticism by GOP lawmakers of Louisiana's response to Hurricane Katrina may be aimed at denying the state the federal help it's asking for, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Wednesday.

'My fear is that this is all aimed at not giving us the resources we need,' Blanco said after three hours of tough questioning by members of the House Select Committee on Hurricane Katrina.

Committee member Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, said many lawmakers are being told by their constituents that they don't want more federal aid to go to the Gulf region 'without accountability.'
'There is a lot of Katrina fatigue,' Bonilla said.

Building, labor costs go through the roof

Oh, hell. More expense for rebuilding. But I guess we could have expected this.

Times Picayune:
"The price of building materials was rising even before Katrina blew through, thanks to a flurry of construction activity in China and the rising cost of oil, a key component in asphalt shingles, PVC pipe and other building materials.

Now the wave of post-Katrina storm repairs is leaving some building materials in even shorter supply and adding another layer of price increases known as 'demand-surge.'

'It's a supply and demand enterprise,' said Charles Marceaux, executive director of the Louisiana State Licensing Board of Contractors, which issues temporary licenses to non-Louisiana contractors. 'What you're seeing is the law of economics in a crisis.'
Commodities like drywall or wallboard that cost $8 a sheet before Katrina are now retailing for closer to $10. Electric wiring, which sold for $33 for a 250-foot roll before the storm, now sells for as much as $68 a roll. And the price of PVC piping has more than doubled from $25 to $54 per 1,000 feet."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

From : Benson says fema taken over facility

I haven't seen any confirmation on this, but apparently Benson told his players not tomove back to New Orleans, and that FEMA was still occupying the Saints'training facility. Community

Plan shrinks city footprint

Here's a compromise gruaranteed to satisfy no one. Where are all the people going to go who were part of the "shrinkage"? Oh, I see, that WAS the plan. As the man said, "It's not a bug, it's a feature."

Times Picayune:
"Local developer Joe Canizaro on Tuesday said he and other appointees to the Bring New Orleans Back commission agree that some floodprone parts of the city should be returned to wetland, a key recommendation from the Urban Land Institute that has drawn protests from many residents and the politicians who represent them. Canizaro is co-chairman of the commission's city planning subcommittee.

ULI's proposal, unveiled last month, would temporarily ban development in the city's hardest-hit neighborhoods, including large sections of eastern New Orleans and Gentilly, the northern part of Lakeview, and parts of the Lower 9th Ward, Mid-City and Hollygrove. Development in those areas wouldn't be allowed unless environmental tests and hurricane-protection studies indicate it is safe to rebuild there.

Canizaro is advocating a less drastic plan: for the next three years, residents would be allowed to rebuild in any section of the city, even if it was inundated with as much as 10 feet of water.

'At the end of three years, we'll see who is there,' Canizaro said. 'And if a neighborhood is not developing adequately to support the services it needs to support it, we'll try to shrink it then.'"

Update: The Times Picayune has a handy map.

C-Span's page on Hurricane Katrina

CSPAN's coverage of Hurricane Katrina Hearings, including the hearing with Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin. Worth paying attention to, especially Charlie Melancon at the beginning of the hearing, which got little coverage --- and the partisan vote on subpoenaing the White House.

Blanco's opening statement before congressional committee

The Daily Advertiser

Why does the congress have to subpoena Rumsfeld to get Katrina records?

Times Picayune:
"A House committee investigating the government's response to Hurricane Katrina issued a subpoena Wednesday to force Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to turn over documents but stopped short of sending a similar legal demand to the White House."

Blanco endures partisan attacks :

U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said Blanco's description of a successful evacuation was 'a story that's not acceptable,' and he compared the deaths caused by Katrina to the U.S. deaths in Iraq, saying the nearly 1,100 Louisiana residents who died was half thenumber of people who have died in the war.

'You lost that many in one day,' Miller said.

Rogers pointed to a city plan that provided for evacuation 72 hours before a hurricane was expected to hit the region, and he asked why Blanco didn't step in earlier if Nagin wasn't ready to issue the mandatory evacuation order.

'Clearly 19 hours is not enough time to effectively evacuate the elderly, the car-less, the special needs population,' he said.

Blanco and Nagin said Louisiana wasn't in hurricane forecasters' possible Katrina path until Saturday and the state didn't have 72 hours to evacuate the region.

'We're not going to sit here and be accused of not doing everything in our power,' Blanco said angrily."
. . . . . .
Blanco said she worried members of Congress were looking for ways to justify not helping Louisiana financially to recover from Katrina and the follow-up blow of Hurricane Rita, which she said together wiped out 205,000 homes.

"Down in Louisiana, our people watch the national news and they hear about something called Katrina fatigue. They hear that Washington is tired of talking about the storm and the problems of Louisiana's people and Mississippi's people ... We don't want your pity. We just need a little help," she said.

Bollinger talks levees with Bush. | The Courier :
"With President Bush, Bollinger had weightier conversation, and he didn’t hesitate to deliver some advice to the nation’s leader, chief of staff and the head of the Republican Party.

'I said it is very important he make a statement out of the White House about the government’s plan on hurricane protection,' said Bollinger. 'The president is fully aware of the problems and the issues, and he realizes that it’s very important that he makes a statement on it as soon as possible. He’s very much on top of the issue and he is fully aware of the problems Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are facing.'

So is Bollinger, who New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin appointed to the city’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission and Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s Louisiana Recovery Authority, which is empowered to guide the state through the rebuilding process."

Maybe someone from his own party can convince Bush to listen to Louisiana's troubles. I'm still doubtful that it will change much though.
(Thanks to Houma native Blagueurette for the tip.)

Streetcars will roll on Sunday.

Times Picayune:
"On Sunday morning, New Orleans will get some of its rhythm back when its streetcars roll again.

Monday's experiment in which a historic green Perley Thomas streetcar, one of the 35 workhorses from the St. Charles Avenue line, was tested on the Canal Street and Riverfront tracks 'was so successful' that the Regional Transit Authority bumped up the start date for returning service to the Riverfront line and a portion of the Canal line.

The RTA initially announced partial service would return by Christmas Eve or earlier. On Tuesday, after staff meetings to review the Monday test, the administration opted to proceed with the 'earlier' option, said Gerald Robichaux, the RTA's deputy general manager for operations.

'It's important to the psyche of the city,' Downtown Development District Executive Director Kurt Weigle said about the partial return of the streetcar system."

The streetcars were always one of my favorite features of New Orleans when I lived there. When things got to be too stressful for me in graduate school at Tulane, I could always hop a ride down to the CBD with my buddies Ellen and John, and just get away from the pressure. I loved it when I lived on Perrier and could walk a few blocks and get to class on the streetcar, or just head over to Carrollton for the ride. The Canal st. - Riverfront route is a great start to restoring the whole system.

While others get Christmas dinner with Bush, this is what our elected representatives have to do to get his attention

The Advocate: "With the backdrop of two tents flapping in the bitter cold, Democratic members of a special House committee investigating the Hurricane Katrina aftermath lashed out at the Bush administration Tuesday for what they called its sluggish response.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, and U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., said evacuees in their districts are still living in tents more than 100 days since the hurricane.

'I'm at a point where I didn't think I'd have to be standing here begging for help for our own people,' Melancon said."

What does Rep. Buyer (R-Idiot) not understand about posse comitatus?

The Shreveport Times: "
Under sharp questioning by Rep. Stephen Buyer, R-Indiana, Blanco defended her decision not to agree to agree to President Bush's request that she turn over command of the Louisiana National Guard to the U. S. Department of Defense's control.

'All governors utilize the National Guard because they have law enforcement authority. DOD troops do not have law enforcement authority,' Blanco said. 'If I hadn't had the National Guard backing me up, we would still be rescuing people.'

Col. Jeff Smith, head of the state's emergency preparedness effort, told the committee that the Louisiana National Guard, state troopers and wildlife agents had evacuated the Superdome, the interstate interchanges and the New Orleans Convention Center before federal troops arrived.

Smith said if the federal government had followed the national disaster plan in catastrophic events, 'the troops would have been on the ground' earlier."

More of that phony argument that Blanco delayed rescue operations because she, just like Haley Barbour, refused Bush's plan to federalize the National Guard.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Reddhedd at firedoglake rounds up blog opinions about the administration's reaction to Katrina

And concludes with this opinion.

"We have to do better. How pathetic is it that these residents, who have so little now as it is, felt that the only way they could get members of Congress to listen to them was to take out an ad in a newspaper? Here's an idea for Congress: let's do the right thing for a change, without being bribed or pressured before we are willing to get off our butts."

US State department sued over Katrina records.

The Raw Story:
"Specifically, CREW asked the Department of State for details regarding the myriad offers to assist in relief efforts made by foreign governments during hurricane Katrina, including offers made by Venezuela, the Netherlands, Pakistan and Bangladesh, to name a few. CREW further sought records relating to the U.S. government’s response to those offers."

Hmmmm. Is Castro in the mix here somewhere?

Lone streetcar returns to Canal St.

New Orleans CityBusiness:
"Getting Car 930 to what the Regional Transit Authority hopes will be its new home was not an easy job.

Both of the agency's tow trucks were lost in the flood, so the 37,000-pound car was first hitched to a dump truck, but the hitch broke as the car turned out of the barn. A new hitch and different truck finally got the streetcar under way 20 minutes later.

The RTA spent a week cleaning storm debris from the tracks but the truck bogged down once in mud along the way. Then, when the car began the downtown portion of the trip, police had to clear trucks parked along the tracks to make deliveries or collect garbage.

It took a little more than an hour for the trip, with onlookers, like Roche cheering and waving as the old car went by.

Officials said numerous tests are needed before the car can begin carrying passengers.

'Now that we have the car here we can play with it and see what works and what doesn't work,' said Gerald Robichaux, the RTA deputy general manager of operations.

The RTA is shooting for limited restoration of service by Christmas Eve, Robichaux said. The streetcars would cover the entire Riverfront line and a short distance on Canal Street, if all goes right. The total distance for both lines will only be about 1 1/2 miles, Robichaux said. When the entire system was operating, streetcar routes covered around 18 miles."

Ivor van Heerden estimates cost for Ponchartrain floodgates at $3 billion.

We shouldn't try to nickel and dime this problem.

“When we think about New Orleans and Katrina, what we saw was a catastrophe that’s going to take years and years and years to heal and probably $200 billion,” Van Heerden said. “So an investment of $3 billion is a very, very wise investment when you consider the $200 billion loss.”"

Corps pulls 17th Street floodwall sections

Apparently the floodwalls were built according to specifications, so that means the flaw was in the design. And the Corpse of Engineers did that part. Too bad they are exempt from liability. Nevertheless, they collected evidence to defend themselves if criminal charges are filed.

Times Picayune:
"On Monday, corps workers drilled a foot-long circular core from the upper corner of the first wall section, marked it and put it in an evidence bag for possible use in future civil or criminal legal cases.

The corps workers then used a large circular saw to cut a 4-by-4-foot square out of the wall section, which also was marked as evidence."

No federal bailout for Entergy

I hope this doesn't set New Orleans back, but I agree with this guy. There are many companies in financial trouble after Katrina. And the way I understand this, Entergy was in financial difficulties before Katrina. Thye parent company is doing very well, but won't help out its subsidiary. We shouldn't bail out companies just because they are big. The stockholders are responsible for losses. And we shouldn't make the rate-payers pony up for this loss either. Where is the Public Service Commission on this?
Times Picayune:
"Entergy Corp. investors, not taxpayers, should pay for the $350 million that the company's bankrupt New Orleans utility needs to rebound from Hurricane Katrina, a senior White House official wrote in a letter to an Entergy executive.

'The risk of a financial loss from a natural disaster is one that any investor in a private firm must face, and it would be wrong for the taxpayer to bail out those investors after the fact,' wrote Allan Hubbard, chairman of the White House's Gulf Coast Recovery and Rebuilding Council."

Finger pointing and image polishing.

The Advocate:
"A day after The New York Times accused local and state officials of being 'derelict at producing anything that comes close to a coherent plan' in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the heads of Mayor Ray Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back Commission on Monday blasted FEMA's response to the disaster."

OK, FEMA is worse than bird flu, but this is not the way to answer criticism. The answer is to HAVE A PLAN.

Who will get credit for single board?

:egislator is upset because Blanco is proposing unifying the New Orleans Levvee Boards, after his proposal to do so was shot down in the special session.

The Advocate: "That's great,' Sen. Walter Boasso, R-Arabi said with a tone of voice that hinted of sarcasm.

'I am glad to see they realize the levees are important,' Boasso said of Blanco's proposal. 'It is late in coming.'"

Monday, December 12, 2005

A new U?

Yes. Blageur is now Blagueur. My venerable colleague has pointed out my pitiful French. I concede his superior intelligence, memory, and wit. We are now Blagueur. But out address is the same so it's no big deal.
I'm mortified.

Where did they go?

The wealthy and middle class landed nearby. The poor went further. So the wealthy are in a somewhat better position to be able to return.But no real "diaspora."
Los Angeles Times:
"A Times analysis of address changes after the hurricane also highlights the metropolitan area's sharp distinctions of class and race. Poor blacks from the city were more likely to land farther away in places much different from home. In many cases, those evacuees stayed wherever government-chartered buses or planes stopped.

Evacuees from the suburbs, mostly middle-class whites, tended to find housing closer by in areas similar to their neighborhoods, which minimized the disruption to their lives and left them in a better position to return as soon as circumstances allow.

Despite the initial alarm over a massive migration that would irreversibly scatter the city's population across the 50 states, only a small percentage has landed more than a day's drive — about 300 miles — from New Orleans. Fifty-nine percent found new housing without leaving the storm-damaged area."
The Times provides a handy map of migration patterns here.

Titanic, Challenger, New Orleans.

What do they all have in common?
Newhouse News: "Experts say the New Orleans flood of 2005 should join the space shuttle explosions and the sinking of the Titanic on history's ill-fated list of disasters attributable to human mistakes.

The evidence points to critical failures in design and construction, as well as a lack of project oversight and responsibility that allowed small problems to metastasize into fatal errors. Twisted lines of authority led to cursory inspections, communications snafus and even confusion over such basic information as wall dimensions."

Far from Victory in New Orleans

The Century Foundation:
"President Bush’s series of speeches on rebuilding Iraq while some half a million New Orleans and Gulf Coast families remain homeless or under threat of eviction forces us to acknowledge our nation’s priorities. Since his September 15 speech in Jackson Square, President Bush has said little about Katrina. There have been no grand “strategies for victory” for rebuilding and resettling the Gulf Coast. While Congress approved $60 billion in aid to the region, states and residents affected have received virtually none of it.

While it is perhaps easy to attribute the slow rebuilding efforts in New Orleans to its unique geographical situation and the fact that it was under water for so many days, no other areas of the Gulf Coast are rebuilding either. Even Republican Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi, who often was at Bush’s side during the president’s few visits to the affected region, recently testified that his state cannot rebuild because it lacks the federal funds to do so."

Governor delays New Orleans mayoral election

Reuters AlertNet: "Louisiana's governor has indefinitely postponed the mayoral election in New Orleans on the grounds that the hurricane-wrecked city would not be ready for the Feb. 4 ballot, her spokesman said on Monday."

Governor seeks to consolidate New Orleans area levee boards

Under the authority of the coastal restoration legislation just passed by the legislature. Needless to say this would be a Good Thing. - Louisiana Politics and News:
"Therefore I am charging the CPR Authority to develop and draft language for presentation in the next legislative session that would enable the constitutional abolishment of some levee districts and simultaneously create a new district in the greater New Orleans area with the following objectives:

1. To remove opportunities for political patronage;
2. To demand that focus be on flood related duties;
3. To provide constitutional protection of the new district; and
4. To create regional levee protection."

Should New Orleans be planning Mardi Gras now?

These people have a point. Mardi Gras will be used as an excuse not to fund the recovery, just like "corruption," "being below sea level" and lots of other excuses.
Atlanta Journal and Constitution: "'No doubt it's one of the biggest parties in the world,' Barth said. But if TV viewers see lavish parades, rowdy drinking and women exposing their breasts for beads, 'I'm afraid they'll either think, 'Why should we send them money when they're partying instead of rebuilding the Ninth Ward?' or they'll think, 'They don't look so bad off to me' and believe New Orleans has recovered.'"
WTVY : "Evacuees from New Orleans plan a protest today in Atlanta to the city's plan to hold Mardi Gras celebrations in two months.
An angry and raucous crowd of evacuees chastised New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin last week for approving the festival. He told the crowd he actually opposed celebrating the festival but tourism leaders forced his hand. In Atlanta, a group plans a protest at 2 p-m today on West Peachtree Street ahead of tonight's Saints-Falcons game."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Meet the Press discusses New Orleans

E.J. Dionne has this to say::
"You know, it's remarkable, one month and the war on poverty was over. I mean, it's the shortest war on poverty on record. All kinds of columnists, David and me included, were writing columns about different approaches to deep problems that Katrina unearthed. Lobbyists--the poor don't have K Street lobbyists. They're not in the center of our politics. "
You'll have to scroll down nearly to the end to find the discussion. The pundits applied some mild heat to Bush. Not much, but it's maybe a start. Anyway they seemed to want to say that Bush was embarrassed by New Orleans and hoped it would just go away.

Rally in D.C. Wednesday!

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
"Now the two women have intentionally joined forces on a project dear to their hearts. They are organizing evacuees for a rally in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday -- the same day that Congress reconvenes to take up the supplemental appropriations bill that could fund the rebuilding of New Orleans.

The goal: to remind the nation's leaders that the New Orleans diaspora is still out there, and that its members want the levees to be rebuilt so they can return home and reconstruct their lives without fear of another flood.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has thrown her support behind the rally and helped the women select the optimum date. Their permit for the rally was finalized Wednesday."

Update: Here's the website for the march.

Will the market save New Orleans?

The Observer : "They are victims too of a reconstruction effort that, while its funding remains stalled in Congress, and lacking proper leadership, has been left to the care of the private sector with little interest in the city's poor. As a rapacious free market has come to dominate the rebuilding of the Louisiana city, it has seen spiralling prices and the influx of property speculators keen to cash in on the disaster. The result is one of the most shocking pieces of urban planning that black and poor America has seen: reconstruction as survival of the wealthiest"

More bad news at a bad time: "While many mortgage lenders are giving flooded-out homeowners as much as 18 months to resume payments, others -- especially subprime lenders who serve low-income and minority borrowers -- are turning up the pressure to get their money. Instead of getting extra time, these borrowers are getting strongly worded letters and phone calls saying their loans are in default and it is time to pay up.
'These are empty threats to scare less-sophisticated borrowers into thinking their credit will be ruined into making payments they can't afford to make right now,' said Travis Plunkett of the Consumer Federation of America."

It looks like the Observer is right. No grace will be found in the free market.

FEMA trailers finally arrive. In Arkansas.

"In total, FEMA ordered 20 thousand mobile homes after Katrina for displaced families. The cost was more than 500 (m) million dollars. But as of last week only 889 were occupied and more than 10,000 were empty with about half of those near Arkansas cities."
At this rate FEMA will get everyone housed sometime in the next century.

Bush Advisor:“Has Fallen So Far Off The Radar Screen, You Can’t Find It”

Think Progress :
"Where’s renewing New Orleans? A presidential advisor told me that issue has fallen so far off the radar screen, you can’t find it."

Lafayette activists march in New Orleans for justice.

The Daily Advertiser: "Pautz said Katrina magnified many of the city's pressing issues and prompted the formation of the People's Hurricane Relief Fund and Reconstruction Coalition, which now has more than 100 member organizations that are working throughout the Gulf Coast to address perceived human rights violations in response to the storms.

According to the group's Web site, the coalition is calling for the government to provide money to reunite families, the creation of a Victim's Compensation Fund, public works jobs for displaced residents and resident representation on all decision-making boards.

Pautz said the first step is to talk to evacuees about their personal experiences and hopes."

Westward ho! Land rush in west N.O.

Times Picayune:
"I thought we were going to have the last great gold rush of housing on the West Bank that was going to be spurred by (expansion of) the Huey P. Long Bridge,' Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard said. 'Now because of Katrina, this marketplace is going to be expedited.'"

Dome to be rewmodelled, modernized. Will it matter to Benson?

"If funding can be arranged, the building will boast modernized club rooms, updated luxury suites, high-end concession stands and state-of-the-art electronics, such as high-definition scoreboards and halo boards.
The renovation will stop short of the full-scale $150 million project state officials proposed for the 30-year-old stadium almost two years ago that included corner suites with French Quarter-style balconies, wider concourses and added lower bowl seating. But it will be a clear upgrade over the leaky, aging building that drew criticism from Saints officials before Katrina."
I doubt that anything the state does at this point will change Tom Benson's mind. He wants to go to San Antonio. The only force that can stop him is the NFL itself. This may give the NFL a little more leverage over Benson, though.

Step one: Restore the wetlands.

Levees won't help if the wetlands are gone. "'God help us if we rely too much on what engineering can do for us,' he said. 'Science and engineering can tell you what you may do. They don't tell you what you should do.'"

Complete Katrina timeline -- who did what, when?

The Daily Advertiser provides a log of emails during the hurricane. One thing it shows is that the National Guard was called out early and the orders for evacuation were given early. There is no longer any question about the Governor's actions. But you can be sure that those with an anti-Louisiana political agenda will continue to flog the dead horse.

Death of an American City

New York Times editorial:
"We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum.

We said this wouldn't happen. President Bush said it wouldn't happen. He stood in Jackson Square and said, 'There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans.' But it has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina struck and the city is in complete shambles.

There are many unanswered questions that will take years to work out, but one is make-or-break and needs to be dealt with immediately. It all boils down to the levee system. People will clear garbage, live in tents, work their fingers to the bone to reclaim homes and lives, but not if they don't believe they will be protected by more than patches to the same old system that failed during the deadly storm. Homeowners, businesses and insurance companies all need a commitment before they will stake their futures on the city."

Just what we are asking for in the petition. Don't forget to sign.

TX & LA both had inadequate plans for sick and elderly in Katrina, Rita

Houston Chronicle:
"Thousands of Gulf Coast nursing home residents faced preventable dangers because the safeguards meant to protect them were both ignored and inadequate, according to a Chronicle survey of 45 Texas nursing homes, a review of more than 80 evacuation plans and interviews with officials in Louisiana's 63 parishes.

In fact, some of the most troubling scenes from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita — the elderly sweltering on buses without air conditioning, festering in ill-equipped shelters in schools and churches, or taking refuge in coastal zones vulnerable to another storm — were intended arrangements laid out in approved evacuation plans.

Regulations in Texas, Louisiana and at the federal level require all nursing homes to establish emergency plans that include arrangements for shelter, transportation and supplies to care for the elderly and frail, though they have no additional requirements for homes in areas vulnerable to hurricanes.

In 2003 and 2004, Houston-based nursing home inspectors sent letters warning nursing home officials to be ready for a major hurricane and asking for a copy of their evacuation plans.

Only 44 out of 130 nursing homes in hurricane-prone Brazoria, Galveston and Harris counties supplied them in 2004, according to documents reviewed by the Chronicle. Most of those submitted had obvious problems, including at least two Harris County homes that planned to shelter at an out-of-business hospital."
Perhaps this will give pause to those who like to compare Louisiana's Democratic governor with her Republican neighbors, Perry and Barbour.

Blanco still looking to eliminate levee boards.

"In a memo issued to the newly-formed Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority – and obtained by Eyewitness News – Blanco asks the group to develop plans for the next legislative session that would include language that appears aimed at the single levee board concept.

Blanco charged the group to come up with language that would enable the constitutional abolishment of some levee districts and the creation of a new district in the Greater New Orleans area that would have the following objectives."
It's an absolute necessity that the governor succeed in getting the levee boards consolidated. The CPRA is a good first step.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Another reason to dislike Lieberman.

And a surprise, Stevens has been converted by his visit to N.O. :
"There is an extra federal responsibility in cases where levees fail,' he said, urging other senators to co-sign a letter to the Department of Justice pressing for relief for flooded-out homeowners.

Sen. Stevens is absolutely right. The federal government has great responsibility for this disaster. The government built the levees and canals that were supposed to protect us. Those levees failed miserably, and post-storm investigations have shown that our flood protection system was built to far lesser standards than the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had promised.

Those of us who were flooded out of our homes and scattered across the country appreciate the senator's arguments on our behalf.

Unfortunately, Sen. Stevens wasn't able to persuade committee Chairwoman Susan Collins and Vice Chairman Joe Lieberman to go along. The committee, which is investigating the government's response to Katrina, will be looking at the levee breaches in the coming weeks, and Sens. Collins and Lieberman said they hadn't come to any conclusions yet.

Sen. Stevens has had the benefit of seeing our flooded homes and broken levees in person, and he doesn't need further persuasion. 'People have suffered an enormous loss,' he argued. 'We have to have greater funding for these people who suffered a man-made, not just a natural, disaster.'

Congress, he said, has failed to comprehend the difference. Perhaps Sen. Stevens can help them understand."
It's a sad day when an alleged Democrat is unable to agree on relief for disaster victims with an old mossback conservative free-marketer like Stevens. If he hasn't seen enough evidence, most recently from the admissions of the Corpse of Engineers itself, then he hasn't bee reading the news. But then Stevens bothered to visit. Lieberman is too busy auditioning for Secretary of Defence.

Bush cannot dodge responsibility on Katrina. Even Republicans are angry at him now.

Senior Republicans and Democrats are accusing President George W. Bush and Congress of not fulfilling the promise to do "whatever it takes" to rebuild the Gulf Coast after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Bush made that commitment in an address to the nation delivered from New Orleans two weeks after the devastating hurricane that hit Louisiana and Mississippi on Aug. 29.

But some Republicans and Democrats say the administration has failed to come forward with a comprehensive recovery plan beyond the immediate cleanup and Congress has failed to appropriate the necessary funds.

"We are at a point where our recovery and renewal efforts are stalled because of inaction in Washington, D.C., and the delay has created uncertainty that is having very negative effects on our recovery and rebuilding," said Mississippi's Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, a staunch Bush loyalist, in a speech on Wednesday.

Wait a minute! Barbour's critical of Bush. Pinch me, somebody.
Barbour said there was no money to rebuild highways and bridges; school districts were close to bankruptcy; homeowners whose houses were destroyed were awaiting help with their mortgages, and long-term state and local budgets were shrouded in uncertainty because of Congress' failure to act.

Sen. Trent Lott, another Mississippi Republican, said last week, "Mr. President, we need your leadership to ensure that the federal government fulfills its commitment to help Mississippians get back on their feet."

What happened to Lott? Doesn't he want to sit with the president on the porch of his second home on the Gulf, like Bush promised? Byrd got into the article too, but you could have expected him to come to the aid of the Katrina victims.