Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Clinton: Neglect of NO deliberate policy

'Deliberate' Neglect Laid to Bush In Policy on Katrina's Aftermath - January 30, 2006 - The New York Sun - NY Newspaper
Senator Clinton told a largely friendly audience here Saturday night that the slow pace of government-sponsored reconstruction following Hurricane Katrina was the result of a deliberate decision by the Bush administration and may have been motivated by a desire to discourage Democratic voters from returning to the devastated region.

"I think that basically we are now watching a deliberate policy of neglect take root," Mrs. Clinton said during an appearance at a fund-raiser for legal services charities. "It is deeply troubling for any American to believe that your government would abandon such a huge part of our country and such an important part of our history."

Monday, January 30, 2006

If congress is afraid of asking, maybe private citizens can get an answer

Unemployment rate proves its vulnerability to reality

Louisiana's hurricane-ravaged economy got a bit of surprising news last week when the state labor department reported that the unemployment rate had dropped by nearly half. Tempered enthusiasm is in order, though, since facts, in this case, get in the way of percentages.

The state's jobless rate, which officially dropped from 12.1 percent in November to 6.4 percent in December, has long been spun in various directions by various interests, depending upon how the economy is doing.

By the time Katrina and Rita had done their respective numbers on Louisiana in August and September, the state had lost more than 205,000 non-farm jobs, including enough in the New Orleans area to completely wipe out 40 years of job growth, along with 11 years statewide.

Plaquemines homeowner says her home was bulldozed before she could even see it

Plaquemines Parish President Benny Rousselle has allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to take over land for levee work, but one homeowner said the bulldozers got to her home long before she could.

It was a challenge for Pamela Berthelot to find anything left of her three-bedroom home in Lower Plaquemines. Berthelot said she felt robbed of the chance to find more, because she said bulldozers tore down her house without her permission, before she could even see it.

“When we got here, there was nothing here, it was just this: empty,” said Berthelot.

Bertholet said satellite photos showed her home survived the storm, in spite of being pushed off its foundation and onto the shoulder of her street. Although it was badly damaged, she thought she could have saved something when she returned in mid-September.

'Deliberate' Neglect Laid to Bush In Policy on Katrina's Aftermath

Senator Clinton told a largely friendly audience here Saturday night that the slow pace of government-sponsored reconstruction following Hurricane Katrina was the result of a deliberate decision by the Bush administration and may have been motivated by a desire to discourage Democratic voters from returning to the devastated region.

Mrs. Clinton said she suspected that the assignment of President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, to oversee the relief effort indicated that political mischief was afoot. "Cynical minds might suggest that the destruction of the Democratic vote in Louisiana was a mixed blessing. If you rebuild New Or leans, all those Democrats might come home," she said during a 90-minute public interview conducted on an auditorium stage by a former television host, Jane Pauley.

Governor Blanco's approval rating is at 38% and its more than possible that the dive in ratings has to do with the neglect discussed by Sen. Clinton.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Shell, other business returning.

Shell's return ... is very, very significant," says Mark Drennen, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc. "It has been a major corporate player in New Orleans historically, and its loss would not only have been a huge economic blow, it would have a been a very serious blow to our recovery efforts as well." Among large manufacturing firms, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are back, along with a sizable share of their workforces. About 90 percent of the hotels have reopened. Most of the major law firms have also returned. In the city's Central Business District, Hertz Investment Group has opened four office buildings - and all are more in demand than before Katrina. "We have been pleasantly surprised by how many of our tenants are back," says Gary Horwitz, chief operating officer of the Los Angeles-based firm. "The leasing activity is as strong as we've ever seen [in] the Class A office market in New Orleans."

A nifty brief history of New Orleans Canal system

Nola.com: For centuries, canals kept New Orleans dry. Most people never dreamed they would become Mother Nature's instrument of destruction.
In 1871, city surveyor W.H. Bell sounded what is thought to be the first alarm about the dangers posed by the big outfall canals. He told city officials to place pumping stations on the lakeshore, otherwise "heavy storms would result in water backup within the canals, culminating in an overflow into the city."

That warning was ignored, and in 1915 the most powerful hurricane then on record hit the city and proved him right. The storm's surge pumped the lake 6 feet above normal. The outfall canals flowed over their meager levees, and much of the city flooded. New Orleans' brand new drainage system was overwhelmed, even before the storm knocked out the electrical station that ran the pumps. The death toll reached 275.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Baker shows guts, defies Bush

That's Republican Congressman Baker

Calling the Bush administration's approach to hurricane recovery in Louisiana a potential "death blow to the state's economy," Rep. Richard Baker vowed Friday to continue fighting for his legislation to bail out homeowners and help the region rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

It's great to see an honest man, not falling in lockstep with his party. And here's Boustany showing some independence too:

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, says the Bush administration is being “short-sighted” in opposing a property buyout proposal to aid Louisiana hurricane victims and needs to do more than just say no to the state congressional delegation’s ideas.

Miracles and wonders. I guess all politics is local after all.

Where'd that extra $18 billion come from?

da po'blog has a great post about Bush's magical loaves and fishes kind of appropriations mumb0-jumbo. How did the money set aside for NO suddenly burgeon from $67 to $85 billion? Bush voodoo?

thanks to bayousaintjohndavid at Moldy City for the tip

Nope, just the fog in Bush's head

New York Times,
The White House was beset by the "fog of war" in the crucial days immediately after Hurricane Katrina, leaving it unable to respond properly to the unfolding catastrophe, House investigators said Friday after getting the most detailed briefing yet on how President Bush's staff had handled the events.

Yep. We figuted it might take a few years for FEMA to start doing its job.

Monsters and Critics

It will take about three years to get all New Orleans` Hurricane Katrina victims who want a temporary trailer into one at the current pace. A review by the New Orleans Times-Picayune shows only 2,796 trailers in Orleans Parish had been occupied as of Jan. 24, 14 percent of the nearly 20,000 ordered. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said most of those are private trailers on private property. A group of mass trailer sites are expected to begin opening this week in the city. Only 151 trailers for people left homeless by the storm have been set up. Ten sites of 413 trailers are expected before Mardi Gras.

Bush just a little premature about "plans."

New Orleans Times Picayune
A day after President Bush rebuked local and state officials for not producing a hurricane recovery plan, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said his administration is just weeks away from delivering a voluminous document that will detail the city's strategy for rebuilding neighborhoods, restoring public services and resurrecting the region's wrecked economy.

Nagin's promise came on Friday after his Bring New Orleans Back commission accepted the last of six reports from subcommittees advising the mayor on education, culture, health care and other matters.

New Orleans dying as it waits for Washington to get its act together.

Vickie Bassetti, 66, owner of Bassetti Fine Art Photographs in the French Quarter, said Friday that residents are feeling "more abandoned than ever" by official Washington.

"The reality is being ignored or it's more than they are capable of coping with," she said. "They have other agendas."

Tulane University history professor Lawrence Powell said that Washington is treating New Orleanians "like we're some kind of Kleenex that you can just use and throw away."

Washington doesn't seem to care that Louisiana supplies energy to and receives river-carried waste from a large part of the country, he said. "Then they tell us we are stupid to live down here."

He was especially annoyed by the first lady's comments about government's slow pace, saying, "It may work that way under Bush, but it didn't work that way under Lyndon Johnson."

Friday, January 27, 2006

What part of the word 'Plan" is Bush having trouble with?

Gov. Kathleen Blanco said she felt “kicked in the teeth” by Bush’s remarks, including assertions that Louisiana failed to produce a plan for recovering from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Blanco said the state has a plan: U.S. Rep. Richard Baker’s 4-month-old bill to create a $30 billion revolving fund to buy out owners of heavily damaged homes, pay off their mortgages and redevelop communities.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Rude Pundit says Katrina stories not going away

The Rude one, who has a fondness for NO and had dont some very good first hand reporting of the damages there, has a longish piece on how Bush and the feds have angered even Republicans like Vitter. He ends it with a paragraph about my home town that I coulnd't resist quoting. (My house is on the parade route.) Careful, though, rated R for language.

The Rude Pundit:
"The Rude Pundit actually recommends heading up the road a piece to Lafayette, Louisiana, which has its own grubby-souled Mardi Gras. Not as elaborate as New Orleans, it's a helluva party. And no Katrina corpses to be found."

Demolishing a city's history

Chron.com - Houston Chronicle: "Preservationists say the city would tear down structurally sound, historic buildings under a much-criticized plan to cull the city of homes in danger of falling over in the wake of Hurricane Katrina."

What the Corps isplanning for the canals

You want details, Blagueur gives you details.
INR : "The company submitted a design that uses a row of 8-ft-dia bow-thruster propellers like those used to hold oil and gas rigs in position when drilling in deep water. The Corps is testing design viability with a 24-in. valve thruster at Alden Research Laboratory in Holden, Mass.

'It was a no-brainer for me,' says Charles Nelson, company president. He says the firm is familiar with the technology from its oil and gas work. 'You ask me what’s the biggest propeller I can think of and I say a bow thruster,' he says."

Codrescu: New Orleans libraries in peril

How do you rebulid a library system when no one much cares about readingany more?
The Villager : "Public libraries are indispensable to poor communities like New Orleans, because they serve as cultural centers for people who still have the integrity not to surrender to television and video games. Public library buildings are also useful for sheltering a great number of people. If anyone in government would have given any thought to public libraries in New Orleans, they might have built them to serve as shelters in a disaster. The storm that ripped the roof right off the scandalous poverty in our city also exposed the shabby treatment of programs intended to better community life. The complete lack of foresight and imagination by the bureaucrats in charge of public monies is beyond appalling. It’s criminal. Libraries may not be the first priority in a city beset by thousands of personal tragedies and hundreds of major and urgent needs, but they are an irreplaceable piece of the complex puzzle of urban civilization. Take away the library and what you have is a mindless shopping mall. "

Study shows loss of 80% of NO black population.

There's a good chance NO will turn into a disneyland replica of itself. A vanilla NO is not something to be desired.

Study: Boston.com: "'There's very good reason for people to be concerned that the future New Orleans will not be a place for the people who used to live there, that there won't be room in New Orleans for large segments of the population that used to call it home,' said Logan, who studies urban areas.

The study used maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that detailed flood and wind damage and compared them to data from the 2000 U.S. Census to determine who was affected and in what numbers.

It found the hurricane-damaged areas of New Orleans were 75 percent black compared to 46 percent black in undamaged areas of the city. It also found that 29 percent of the households in those areas lived below the poverty line, compared with 24 percent of households in undamaged areas."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

White house stonwalls congress, won't support Baker bill

New York Times:
"The Bush administration, citing the confidentiality of executive branch communications, said Tuesday that it did not plan to turn over certain documents about Hurricane Katrina or make senior White House officials available for sworn testimony before two Congressional committees investigating the storm response.

The White House this week also formally notified Representative Richard H. Baker, Republican of Louisiana, that it would not support his legislation creating a federally financed reconstruction program for the state that would bail out homeowners and mortgage lenders. Many Louisiana officials consider the bill crucial to recovery, but administration officials said the state would have to use community development money appropriated by Congress."

Monday, January 23, 2006

Homeland Security warned about Katrina in advance

The Homeland Security Department was warned a day before Hurricane Katrina hit that the storm's surge could breach levees and leave New Orleans flooded for weeks or months, documents released Monday show.

An Aug. 28 report by the department's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center concluded that a Category 4 or 5 hurricane would cause severe damage in the city, including power outages and a direct economic hit of up to $10 billion for the first week.

"Overall, the impacts described herein are conservative," stated the report, which was sent to Homeland Security's office for infrastructure protection.

"Any storm rated Category 4 or greater ... will likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching, leaving the New Orleans metro area submerged for weeks or months," said the report, which was released by a Senate panel examining the government's breakdown in responding to Katrina.

The documents are the latest indication that the federal government knew beforehand of the catastrophic damage that a storm of Katrina's magnitude could cause.

So why did Bush say "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees"? He sounds like Condi saying that nobody thought anyone would fly planes into buildings. (I tried to use an excuse like that once on my mother. "No one thought that playing with gasoline might set the garage on fire." She didn't buy it."

Sunday, January 22, 2006

70% of the damage; 54% of the money

Nola.com: :
"But the rub for most Louisiana officials came with the set aside of $11.5 billion in Community Development Block Grants, a pool of federal dollars that allow states large flexibility in the spending. No state — in other words, Louisiana — can get more than 54 percent of the cash, or $6.2 billion. Mississippi will get at least $5.3 billion.

Blanco keeps pointing out that Louisiana is estimated to have 70 percent of the damage of the two states.

'That just means that we don't have as much money to cover as many people and as many troubles as Mississippi's gotten,' Blanco said on WWL-AM.

Mississippi, however, has more congressional clout, including a senator who is chairman of the committee that appropriated the money. U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran pushed for the block grant cash, which wasn't part of the request for hurricane assistance made by the Bush administration."

Only 16% of New Orleans' flood protection repairs done

The Corpse of Engineers at work? This is par for the course for that over-rated agency. What needs to happen to light a fire under these guys?
"At the halfway mark between the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina last year and the beginning of the 2006 hurricane season June 1, the Army Corps of Engineers has completed only 16 percent of its planned repairs to New Orleans' battered flood protection system, according to corps representatives."

Nagin said what everyone was thinking.

New York Times:
"MAYOR C. RAY NAGIN of New Orleans was greeted with yowls of protest last week when he declared that it was God's will for New Orleans to be a 'chocolate' city. Whites shouted racism; tourist groups threatened to cancel bookings; even his friends rolled their eyes at Mr. Nagin's penchant for saying the wrong thing at the wrong moment.

But one group, the displaced black residents of New Orleans, might have welcomed Mr. Nagin's message. The city, nearly 70 percent African-American before Hurricane Katrina, had lost some of its largest black neighborhoods to the deluge, and many fear it will never be a predominantly black city again, as it has been since the 1970's.

Indeed, race has become a subtext for just about every contentious decision the city faces: where to put FEMA trailers; which neighborhoods to rebuild; how the troubled school system should be reorganized; when elections should be held."

Big changes in view for NO police

Sounds like a great idea, and well past time to do it. NOPD has been a festering sore for New Orleans for too long. USATODAY.com :
"The plan would involve New Orleans and Orleans Parish, as well as Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. The coastal region was home to roughly 1 million people when Katrina hit on Aug. 29, but now it has a population of less than 600,000. Those jurisdictions had more than 4,900 law enforcement officers before Katrina. Now they have fewer than 3,500. (Graphic: Coping after Katrina)

Beyond the structural changes, the plan would require unprecedented changes in local politics. It would take power away from municipally appointed police chiefs and publicly elected parish sheriffs, who for generations have been influential because of their power to dole out jobs and government contracts.

Such officials now say they are willing to give up some autonomy because they are facing a new political truth: Without some guarantee of security, the region's massive rebuilding effort — and its campaign to lure commerce and taxpaying residents who help pay police salaries — could be hobbled from the start."

Friday, January 20, 2006

Gulf oil production will lag for another year

WWLTV.com :
"The Gulf of Mexico's offshore petroleum industry is far from recovering from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and at least one-sixth of the region's normal daily oil production will still be off line at the start of next storm season, a federal agency says.

Katrina and Rita destroyed 115 of the Gulf's 4,000 production platforms and damaged another 52, according to a report released Thursday by the Minerals Management Service, which manages federal offshore leases.

The storms' combined fury -- much stronger when they swept across the Gulf than when they hit shore -- also damaged 183 pipelines, including 64 classified as major. As of Thursday, only 22 had been returned to service, the MSS said."

Regional interests oppose levee plans

This was entirely predictable. NIMBY.NOLA.com:
"Aiming to guard ongoing flood protection projects and local tax revenue, West Bank politicians, civic leaders and residents have launched a campaign against an effort in the Legislature next month to merge southeast Louisiana levee boards under a single authority.

The parties, working in part through the grassroots Committee For Westbank Hurricane Flood Protection, are bolstered by the fear that a regional superboard would focus on parishes devastated by last year's hurricanes and ignore the West Bank's fragile levee system, which experts say would have been crushed by tidal surge if Katrina made landfall 30 miles farther west."

$32 million down the drain

Nola.com: :
"A bill for busing evacuees from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was $32 million more than it should have been, and the government paid it without question, the Transportation Department inspector general said Friday."

Rebuild New Orleans Commission makes numerous recommendations.

"Members of Mayor Ray Nagin’s Bring New Orleans Back panel recommended “layers of protection” Wednesday to prevent a repeat of the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina flooding, including building jetties and pumps where three major drainage canals enter Lake Pontchartrain and a 300-foot dam on the lake end of the Industrial Canal at the Seabrook Bridge.

The Levees Subcommittee of the panel’s Infrastructure Committee also proposed that a 175-foot-wide weir-like flood control structure be built across the merged channel of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and the Intracoastal Waterway near Paris Road in eastern New Orleans.

The Infrastructure Committee’s Public Transportation and Criminal Justice subcommittees also released their final reports, with the transportation panel calling for a “truly regional transit system” and the continuation of the Louisiana Swift transit service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and the public safety panel suggesting the creation of a regional criminal justice task force made up of local and state officials.

Also Wednesday, the Bring New Orleans Back Commission’s Health & Social Services Committee presented its recommendations to the mayor, including preparing hospitals, nursing homes and other health-care providers for disasters; shifting the health-care focus from institutional care to preventive medicine; and maintaining a university teaching hospital in New Orleans."

Chris Matthews, get a clue!

"On last night's edition of Hardball, Chris Matthews made up a quote that First Lady Laura Bush did not say. Matthews claims that Bush said 'God wants us to rebuild New Orleans', when no such words came out of her mouth. However, Bush did say 'she didn't really think she could speak for God' and then added that she 'believes Nagin wants New Orleans to be rebuilt'."

Race and recovery -- apparently don't mix

United Press International:
"The rebuilding of post-Katrina New Orleans is being undermined by sharp divisions on racial issues, University of Chicago researchers say.

The study by political scientists at the University of Chicago reportedly is the first to analyze racial differences in reactions to the reporting of the flood tragedy and people's attitudes toward the responsibilities of the victims to avoid the disaster.

'This data shows why, four months after the disaster, we still can't decide what to do to rebuild New Orleans,' said Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a team co-leader. 'There is no political will to act.'"

Unscientific NO mayoral poll

Take the poll-- right now Mitch Landrieu is ahead with 41% of the vote.BayouBuzz.com

Is this good news? Or bad news?

New Orleans Industrial Market Reaches Tightest Point in Years:
"Industrial property vacancies in New Orleans have reached their lowest point in five years, according to report released by NAI Latter & Blum. 'Certainly, the available inventory is almost as low as we've seen in the past 10 years--almost a historical low,' vice president & director Rich Stone told CPN. "

First post-Katrina video

SOHH.com :
"Juvenile recently completed an emotional, politically-charged video for his new single, 'Get Ya Hustle On/What's Happenin',' in his hometown of New Orleans.

Juve was the first artist granted permission to film in New Orleans' still devastated Lower Ninth Ward. The video was filmed over a four-day period, and was shot just blocks from where a levee breach caused the entire neighborhood to be flooded.
. . . . . .

Directed by Ben Mor, the video follows three children who find three masks in the city's rubble, which are each inscribed with the words, 'Help Is Coming,' on one side, and the faces of President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on the other."

"Utterly sinful"

2theadvocate.com :
"It is “absolutely and utterly sinful” that federal hurricane cleanup contracts have gotten so little done in 4 1/2 months, said a member of the U.S. House panel set up to investigate the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., spoke after she and other members of the committee toured devastated areas of New Orleans on Thursday and the other two parishes worst hit by the storm — St. Bernard and Plaquemines."

Labor problem: No housing. Still.

Chicago Tribune:
"It all adds up to a labor paradox: The New Orleans unemployment rate rose to 17.5 percent in November even as clothing stores, fast-food restaurants and delivery companies are offering thousands of dollars in signing bonuses to fill vacant positions. So scrambled are the region's demographics that the available workers and the open jobs just don't match up.

'You have a lack of housing in the New Orleans area, utilities out in a good portion of the city, people looking for schools for their children, you don't have day care or transportation,' said Ed Pratt, spokesman for the Louisiana Labor Department. 'Those are just some of the reasons why people are staying put where they are and not going home.'"

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Mayormakes stupid remarks, apologizes

Tried to sound like MLK, now they call him Mayor Wonka.

Chron.com :
"'I said some things that were totally inappropriate. ... It shouldn't have happened,' Nagin said, explaining he was caught up in the moment as he spoke to mostly black spectators, many of them fearful of being shut out of the city's rebuilding.

During the speech Monday, Nagin, who is black, said that the hurricanes that hit the nation in quick succession were a sign of God's anger toward the United States and toward black communities, too, for their violence and infighting. He also said New Orleans has to be a mostly black city again because 'it's the way God wants it to be.'"

Landrieu: reorganization and reform of FEMA, Corps necessary

2theadvocate.com :
"Federal programs and funds to help the Gulf Coast recover from Hurricane Katrina do not go far enough to help, according to lawmakers touring the battered region Tuesday.

'The tools we have in our toolbox are not effective,' said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., on a flight to Gulfport, Miss., where blue-tarped roof dotted the city's houses. She was with a delegation of senators who also planned to tour disaster sites in the New Orleans area. 'We need a new tool.'

Though the federal government has set aside nearly $70 billion for emergency relief and long-term recovery plans, Landrieu said massive reforms at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which distributes disaster relief, and the Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the New Orleans levees that were breached by the storm's surge, also are necessary. And she called on Congress to approve a federally aided regional redevelopment program like the one proposed by Rep. Richard Baker, R-La."

Ridge calls for leadership.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Monday that more federal dollars will flow to New Orleans if the city shows it has a plan to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

“You’re going to get a lot. I don’t think money is the issue. I think leadership is the issue,” he said. “The biggest problem is not dollars. It’s how you’re going to spend it.”

LSU expert: little damage if levees had held

If all of the levee systems in the Greater New Orleans area had performed the way they were supposed to, storm surge computer models have shown most of the city would have been spared catastrophic flooding in Hurricane Katrina, according to Dr. Hassan Mashrique, a researcher at the LSU Hurricane Center.

Mashrique analyzed Katrina's storm surge. He said even if the levees had not failed, Katrina still would have topped some levees and flooded parts of New Orleans, but the difference would have been dramatic – with fewer neighborhoods under water and fewer fatalities.

Soil still toxic in NO?

Floodwaters receding from Hurricane Katrina left behind a thick coating of sediment over much of New Orleans. A team of scientists is now claiming the layer of gunk is hazardous to your health. In a paper published in Sunday’s issue of the American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science Technology, the team said unsafe levels of lead found in sediment left behind by Hurricane Katrina could pose health risks to residents, particularly children.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

this is a really good look at reality!

If the same flooding in New Orleans happened to Washington D.C. the attached is the area it would have covered.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Note: Stockpiling for avian flu recommended by Feds

A word to the wise? This deserves much greater coverage. The threat just got a little more serious with an outbreak of avian flu in Turkey. If death rates continue as they have, this flu will kill millions. If the government's response is inadequate, it will be up to individuals to protect themselves. This might mean quarantining yourself for months.

HHS press release
The handbook includes a "Pandemic Flu Planning Checklist for Individuals and Families" and "Family Emergency Health Information Sheet” to help people gather information and resources they may need. The checklist breaks activities into three categories: “To plan for a pandemic;" "To limit the spread of germs and prevent infection;" and "Items to have on hand for an extended stay at home." Examples of specific preparations include:
* Having any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes and vitamins;
* Talking with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick or what will be needed to care for them in another home;
* Teaching children to wash hands frequently and appropriately, covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, and modeling the correct behavior;
* Having ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables, soups, bottled water and cleaning supplies on-hand for an extended stay at home.
Why was this announced on New Year's day, when no one was paying attention?

Don't believe everything you read in the paper. Duh.

Real journalism begins when a reporter suspects there might be another story, a deeper truth, and goes after it. That’s the way George Pawlaczyk responded. He’s the Knight Ridder reporter who debunked the story about 22 hurricane victims tied to a rope, supposedly found dead in a small Louisiana town.

“ … I just read (the initial story) like everybody else and while I was covering stories in Mississippi I just couldn’t stop thinking about 22 people tied to a rope,” he said in a National Public Radio interview. “But after a few days, I didn’t see any follow-up stories, so I got a little suspicious.”

Eventually he went to Louisiana to do his own reporting. In the town of Violet he couldn’t find anyone who would verify the report. Everyone said it wasn’t true, including the fire chief, many town residents and the Sheriff’s Department spokesman, who showed Pawlaczyk a map noting where every body was recovered in the parish. There was no cluster of 22.

That’s the way good journalism works. You keep digging. You go after the facts. You find the eyewitness. Travel to the scene of the story. Seek documentation."
Lots of phony stories and rumors got into the media after Katrina.

New website urges congress Bush to protect New Orleans

Levees Not War

Levees Not War is a nonprofit network dedicated to making the federal government commit to protecting America’s beloved City of New Orleans with category 5–strength levees. The network says the White House and Congress should fulfill the promises President Bush made in his Sept. 15 speech from Jackson Square, and calls for federal action on six priorities without further delay:

• President Bush should visit New Orleans for several days (no more “drive-by photo-ops”), meet the people, walk through the devastated, depopulated neighborhoods (some 200,000 ruined homes); smell the decay; and then tell the people that the government is doing all it can
• The President should appoint an empowered, energetic, high-profile director—someone like Colin Powell—to administer a large-scale public works program for emergency reconstruction (“recovery czar” Donald E. Powell is far too passive)
• The President should support and Congress should pass Rep. Richard H. Baker’s (R-La.) proposed Louisiana Recovery Corporation (the “federal buyout bill”) to repair housing and public works—but ensure that homeowners, not mortgage lenders, are the primary beneficiaries
• Immediate major funding for the Army Corps of Engineers and the Small Business Administration, etc.: New Orleans must have category 5–strength levees, and small business owners need immediate relief or they’ll go out of business (many already have).
• A new Civilian Conservation Corps to help clean up the debris and rebuild the damaged infrastructure, and begin restoring the eroded coastline
• FEMA totally refurbished and made independent of the Department of Homeland Security

From the press release.

Severe labor shortage slows oil recovery

MyWestTexas.com :
"With demand outstripping supply for everything from inspection and repair crews to supply ships to power tools, the price for all of these things is going up. Also on the rise are wait times for some much-needed oilfield services and equipment as competing oil and gas producers sign longer than usual contracts in order to avoid finding themselves at the back of the line.

'There's so much work down here for diving it's unbelievable,' said Jeff Sikut, president of Avondale, La.-based J&J Diving, an underwater pipeline inspection and repair company that is turning away two to three potential new customers a day. Sikut said he'd love to hire an additional 50 divers and take on additional work, but the available labor pool is extremely shallow."

Katrina devastated Mississippi too, don't forget.

The Clarion-Ledger:
"I have had it up to my eyebrows with the lack of reporting on the Mississippi Gulf Coast! I've always loved New Orleans dearly and I'm trying so hard not to allow the national newspeddlers to turn that into resentment.

All day and night, 24/7, all I hear about is New Orleans. If the Mississippi Coast is even mentioned its 'and the rest of the area including Mississippi and Alabama.'

The destruction was thorough, catastrophic and widespread. Human suffering is continuing with families living in tents as the wind, rain and freezing temperatures numb their souls."
She has a point. There are Rita victims living in tents too. We shouldn't let our concern for New Orleans make us forget them.

Harvard studies survivor's mental health

"With names provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Red Cross and numerous other relief agencies, the investigation will monitor 1,000 'people displaced by Katrina' from New Orleans, and 1,000 from other affected areas, including Mississippi and Alabama.

Rather than mere survey subjects, the participants -- spread across the country and representing a broad spectrum of age, gender, race and socioeconomic status -- will be known as the Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group. Their common experience is that all had to leave their homes because of Katrina.
Check for results at www.HurricaneKatrina.med.harvard.edu

N.O. now dependent on illegal Latino immigrant labor

"The sudden rush of Latino immigrant workers to the Gulf Coast in Katrina's aftermath has thrown into sharp relief the existence of an identifiable worker caste, a class of people at once economically essential and socially marginal. It is a national corps of day laborers, and what is happening here provides a glimpse of its inner workings.

It turns on a dime at the whisper of a dollar. Its members, alone or in crews, follow the jobs. They are drawn by word of mouth, dispatched by a nationwide network of staffing agencies, or corralled and deployed by the sometimes shadowy cadre of job brokers and construction subcontractors who provide the link -- and the layers of deniability -- between reputable businesses and the underground economy."

Why doesn't someone make a horror movie here?

Reujers:Katrina victims living in dark, eerie New Orleans
This neighborhood was in a downward spiral," Andrews said. "But with the neighborhood empty, it's real quiet and peaceful. That's the upside.

"The downside is the eeriness of being the only person in the neighborhood," he said.

Despite calls by city leaders, particularly Mayor Ray Nagin, for New Orleans residents to come home and start rebuilding, that eeriness may just get in the way.

"I want to go back, but I'm scared," said Antoine Shropshire, a 41-year-old truck driver visiting his house in the Ninth Ward. "There's no people. It's creepy here. It's too weird.

Why doesn't someone make a horror movie here?

href="http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticleSearch.aspx?storyID=74969+08-Jan-2006+RTRS&srch=new+orleans">Reujers:Katrina victims living in dark, eerie New Orleans
This neighborhood was in a downward spiral," Andrews said. "But with the neighborhood empty, it's real quiet and peaceful. That's the upside.

"The downside is the eeriness of being the only person in the neighborhood," he said.

Despite calls by city leaders, particularly Mayor Ray Nagin, for New Orleans residents to come home and start rebuilding, that eeriness may just get in the way.

"I want to go back, but I'm scared," said Antoine Shropshire, a 41-year-old truck driver visiting his house in the Ninth Ward. "There's no people. It's creepy here. It's too weird.

MR-GO just won't die

The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet has been politically controversial for years. It pits the business interests of the port of New Orleans against residents of St. Bernard Parish downstream. In this way it is reminiscent of the situation in 1927 when New Orleans sacrificed the interests of St. Bernard and Plaquemines to save itself from the flood. MRGO has never been worth the cost to build it, and today serves only three or four ships a week. Nevertheless, it is not easy to shut it down, even though it is a major risk to St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes. In Katrina, the storm surge drove up the MRGO and wiped out the levees on the east side of the Mississippi, wreaking total devastation on the city of Chalmette. You'd think that such a hazard would be reason enough to close this boondoggle.

'The MR-GO is like of one of these horror pictures where you think the mummy's dead and it keeps coming back,' he said. 'This thing keeps resurrecting itself somehow.'"

Friday, January 06, 2006

Not bad. NO should get $8 mil for Mardi Gras sponsorships

Story here.


AP Wire: "New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and two city council members said Friday they have agreed on temporary housing sites for thousands of families that requested assistance after Hurricane Katrina.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco brought in a mediator and representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to meet with Nagin and the council members at the governor's home.

The mayor and council had disagreed over where the travel trailers would be placed, and the head of FEMA blamed the dispute for holding up the placement of thousands of temporary homes."

Louisiana's greatest humanitarian hero dies

Local News | The Pensacola News Journal:
"Hugh Thompson Jr., a former Army helicopter pilot honored for rescuing Vietnamese civilians from his fellow GIs during the My Lai massacre, died early Friday. He was 62.

Thompson, whose role in the 1968 massacre did not become widely known until decades later, died at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Alexandria, hospital spokesman Jay DeWorth said."
He lived nearby, and I wish that I had made the effort to try to meet him.

Such a sad list


Homes in NO to be demolished.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Right thing to do, but not likely to make her many friends

Bayou Buzz
Louisiana Governor Blanco has decided to step into a dispute among members of the city Council of New Orleans and between the council and Mayor C. Ray Nagin over the issue of trailers for Katrina victims.

There has been a controversy brewing over where to place the trailers. Many people in New Orleans and surrounding areas are concerned over the issue of crime. The slogan of “Not In My Backyard” has become a symbol for the issue.

Barry Cowsill died after Katrina

The body of 1960s singer BARRY COWSILL has been found by police in his adopted New Orleans, Louisiana.

The COWSILLS star was reported missing last year (05) after Hurricane Katrina ravaged America's Gulf states.

Family members launched a public campaign to locate the 51-year-old after his brother BOB spotted his sibling in a video of survivors posted on the CNN website.

But police confirmed they had found Cowsill dead at the Charles Street Wharf in New Orleans on 27 December (05).

There are more ways than drowning to die in a flood.

"The Mirage that Is Derailing the Rebuilding of New Orleans"

Highly recommended article on the history of New Orleans and it's struggle with nature, from the beginnings. Written by a historian who knows what he's talking about. This is a fine piece to bring anyone up to speed on the real problems confronting the recovery.
It has been a losing battle. And yet, though it sounds particularly odd following Hurricane Katrina, the city's efforts have been spurred by the notion that nature favors it. From New Orleans' founding near the mouth of the Mississippi in 1718, the city has banked on geography to sweep it to greatness. Long before technologies circumvented the vagaries of geography, boosters claimed the city would reign over a commercial empire. But the local environs rarely cooperated with imperial visions. The lake and river loom above the city. Much of New Orleans lies below sea level, atop a high water table; there's no natural drainage. And pestilence thrives in the steamy delta. Scholars call this the disjuncture between "site"--the actual real estate a city occupies--and "situation"--an urban area's relative advantages as compared with other places. New Orleans, with access to the river and the gulf, enjoys a near-perfect situation. But it has an equally horrid site.

In aftermath of 60 Minutes, Kusky is still an idiot.

Kusky, an endowed professor of natural science, teaches courses on plate tectonics, the early history of the Earth and on natural hazards and disasters. He made headlines in the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Nov. 22 after an appearance on CBS "60 Minutes." In that program, Kusky said New Orleans is sinking and that it should not be rebuilt.

Since then, Kusky said, there’s been more time to assess what happened and that support for his position is growing.

"It’s clear New Orleans is not going to be the same," he said. "Estimates range that half" the city’s population "will go back. Now, one quarter have gone back. We need to be looking at rebuilding in a wiser way and not putting people in an area that is most at risk."

"Many of the e-mails I’ve had from people there are from scientists who are afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation from others down there," Kusky added in an e-mail message. "But the science must be heard to protect the people and their property."

Right, we retaliate against scientists all the time, "down here." Well, we do call scientists who pontificate on national television outgside of their field of experitse "idiots."

Two stories on how individuals are affected by Katrina's aftermath.

The Peninsula (from the LATimes)

Baltimore Sun

NYTimes on Richard Baker's buyout plan.

The Times seems surprised to hear good sense coming from a conservative Republican. It seems like the political stars are just about right for this. But there are lots of obstacles to the passage of Baker's ambitious buyout plan for destroyed homes and businesses.

New York Times
To succeed, the proposal will eventually require the support of the White House. And the signals, according to this staunch Republican who boasts of near-perfect rankings from conservative groups, have been distinctly mixed.

UPDATE: Bayou Buzz has commentary on the NYT article. It pretty much boils down to this message ro the federal government, "As President Bush has told the terrorist, you break it, you pay for it."
UPDATE P.S.: Um, actually it was Colin Powell who articulated the now famous Pottery Barn Rule: "You broke it, you own it."

The Voice has a fine slideshow of Katrina evacuees in NYC

Go here.

Explain the headline

This very positive article about steps being taken to speed New Orleans recovery is headlined "Official: Politics slowing recovery." What gives?

A state official on Wednesday defended the pace of state government's response to the hurricanes, citing especially a new building code and new charter schools in New Orleans.

But Baton Rouge businessman Sean Reilly, a member of the Louisiana Recovery Authority's board of directors, said he regrets that the agency can't do more to reform New Orleans' political practices that he said are retarding recovery there.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco created the authority last fall in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Blanco staffers run the authority, and a board of people from inside and outside the state oversees its work.

Reilly said the authority is moving quickly and effectively and that criticism of the state's recovery effort is unfair.

Nagin modifies lassez faire approach to rebuilding

WWLTV.com | News for New Orleans, Louisiana | Local News
Mayor Ray Nagin said he will allow people to rebuild in any part of the city that they wish to rebuild in but he won’t guarantee the level of services that will be available to the hardest hit areas in the short term.

Nagin’s commission on rebuilding the city had offered a plan to let residents rebuild for a year at which time the committee would have decided which areas weren’t coming back and would have bought out the owners, forcing them to relocate.

La. politicians involved in Abramoff scandal

McCrery said he intends to give to the Salvation Army $35,000 in campaign contributions he got from Indian tribes that Abramoff lobbied for. Alexander, R-Monroe, said he would give $2,000 he got to a still undetermined charity.

Read the rest. McCrery is just the largest recipient.

A blogger travels through New Orleans and St. Bernard.

WWLTV.com | News for New Orleans, Louisiana | Local News
Mayor Ray Nagin said he will allow people to rebuild in any part of the city that they wish to rebuild in but he won’t guarantee the level of services that will be available to the hardest hit areas in the short term. Nagin’s commission on rebuilding the city had offered a plan to let residents rebuild for a year at which time the committee would have decided which areas weren’t coming back and would have bought out the owners, forcing them to relocate.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Maestri says levee fix cannot be accomplished in time by the corps

Maestri doubts that the Corps can fulfill its pledge of rebuilding the levees to withstand a Category 3 hurricane by next spring. His distrust stems partly from engineering reasons, and partly from the Corps' history. The Army Corps took decades to design and build the New Orleans levee system -- and that system failed in spectacular ways. Given that fact, Maestri questions how the Corps can assert that they already know how to fix those past mistakes. Pointing to a new steel wall that the Corps is erecting along the 17th Street Canal, Maestri notes that similar walls crumpled like tin foil during Katrina along other parts of the levee.

"We really felt all along that the Corps was a group that we could absolutely trust," Maestri says. "They wouldn't do sloppy work, or allow sloppy work. They realized that this community basically lives and dies on the strength of those levees. Now, what's happened -- it's like finding out that your mother lied to you all the years of your life."

Paul Kemp, a scientist with the Hurricane Center at Louisiana State University, says he doesn't trust the Corps' promises, either. Kemp and his team did some of the first studies after Katrina that showed that levees broke even when the water wasn't high enough to go over them.

Kemp says that the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a shipping channel that connects New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico, presents one of the biggest challenges for the Corps. The outlet is lined with earthen levees. They were once 18 feet high. Now, they are a flat plain of mud. They look like an endless row of hills that some giant has squashed.

Louisianan shoots state, self in foot. Asks feds to cut off aid.

Idiocy. This woman lives in New Orleans, and she's asking the feds to stop giving recovery aid. The partisan intent of her post is made clear by the title of her blog "Dummocrats." She'd like to wait until we get a Republican slate of officers in Louisiana before letting the aid come in. In other words, if you don't vote Republican, you won't get any money for recovery. A clever plan. Elsewhere, they would call it blackmail.

Dummocrats: Stop Funding the New Orleans Katrina Recovery - for now at least.
Louisiana politicians cannot be trusted with your money. Don't let them have it. Contact your congressional leadership today, and ask them to turn off the tap for Katrina funding for Louisiana until our politicians are replaced or accept a great deal more supervision in their spending. I posted about this in my personal blog in November,

Now how is Louisiana supposed to pay the FEMA bill

Absurd. The economy is in a sling, and they're asking us to pony up. Does the fire department send a bill when they come to put out a fire in your house?


Louisiana's first bills from FEMA for its share of federal hurricane recovery efforts arrived over the holidays, and they were a doozy: $155.7 million, with a 30-day due date before interest starts accruing.

And more bills are expected to arrive in the coming months as federal officials tally their costs after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Corps promises to fix the levees before June 1

"We've been provided enough money (by Congress) to rehab the levees," he said.

Young also said the corps hopes to decide in the next two to three weeks what kind of temporary structure to build at the mouths of the 17th Street and London Avenue canals to keep Lake Pontchartrain's surge out of the drainage canals. The Orleans Avenue Canal, which sits between the 17th Street and London Avenue canals but did not fail during Katrina, also is being looked at, he said.

"Right now our intent is to stop the surge," Young said, adding that pumps also could be included in those temporary gates.

Permanent floodgates at the front of the canals could take three to five years to complete, he said.

The corps plans to fix the floodwalls using an inverted T-wall design rather than an I-wall design, which would expand the slope of the levees and give them more support. Later this week or early next week, Young said, the corps will formally advertise the T-wall work and will require that the winning company have enough workers to complete the job by June 1.

Film of Katrina through the eyes of those who were there

New Orleans CityBusiness
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Gripping his trumpet, Irvin Mayfield talks about growing up on Music Street and how his father taught him to play. The jazz musician also discusses his decision to evacuate before Hurricane Katrina and his father's choice not to — and the months-long wait his family had to endure before learning Irvin Mayfield Sr. had drowned.

"This is something we're not going to be able to heal from, as a city, for a long time," Mayfield tells New Orleans filmmaker Stephen Rue, president of the Motion Picture and Television Association of Louisiana.

It's part of more than 135 hours of interviews Rue collected and plans to release as a 130-minute documentary. Rue wants the film to give a comprehensive view of Katrina's effects as told by the people who experienced it.

Opening day for N.O. Charter Schools

York Times
But even within some of the charter schools, there is lingering resentment toward the school district for not stepping up to do more. "We never wanted to charter - that was never our intention in the past," said Carol Christen, the principal of Franklin Charter High, which before the storm was Benjamin Franklin High School, the highest-ranked secondary school in the state. "This has been a long ordeal because no one wanted to help us open up the school. This has been a nightmare, a struggle beyond struggle." She continued: "We were determined to do it for Franklin. It would have been tragic if this school didn't open." Franklin probably faces some of the most challenging physical problems of all the charter schools in the wake of the storm because it is far from the city's Uptown area that remained dry during the flood. Franklin, on the other end of town near Lake Pontchartrain, had more than $3 million in storm damage, and is still waiting for electricity to be restored. The school expects 580 students for class on Jan. 17, out of the 935 that were enrolled before the storm.

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

Flash: Lafayette no longer 3rd largest city in the state!!!

That leaves New Orleans with a long way to go before it regains its former status as Louisiana's largest city. The current rough estimate -- which does not factor in the ongoing influx of students and their families returning for the spring semester -- puts it at No. 3 in the state, well behind Baton Rouge and Shreveport but a bit ahead of Lafayette.

Actually, New Orleans is gaining population faster than expected.


The Seattle Times:

That leaves New Orleans with a long way to go before it regains its former status as Louisiana's largest city. The current rough estimate -- which does not factor in the ongoing influx of students and their families returning for the spring semester -- puts it at No. 3 in the state, well behind Baton Rouge and Shreveport but a bit ahead of Lafayette.