Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Senate Report: Disband FEMA

The Raw Story | Senate investigation of Hurricane Katrina says FEMA should be disbanded:
"A bipartisan Senate report investigating Hurricane Katrina will assert that FEMA is so flawed and beyond repair that it should be disbanded, RAW STORY has learned.

According to a story set for tomorrow's New York Times, 'The report, which is scheduled to be released on Thursday, says that the effort by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to 'retool' FEMA will not work.'

Officials for Homeland Security tell the Times that they're 'not impressed' with what they've heard about the report."
And good riddance.

Still unprepared.

Guardian Unlimited | World Latest | Report: U.S. Unprepared for Major Disaster: "The U.S. is unprepared for a disaster of Hurricane Katrina's scale, according to a Senate inquiry that lawmakers said Wednesday took a critical look at failures in responding to the storm.

The final report is ``fair and tough, and it charts a course to strengthen our nation's emergency preparedness at all levels,'' leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee wrote their colleagues.

The Associated Press on Wednesday obtained a copy of the letter written by the committee's head, GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, and the top Democrat, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. The report's title is ``Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared.''"

Who is calling?

Yesterday I got a recorded message in which a man asks me to call my state senator to ask him to vote against Senate Bill 655. The argument is that the bill benefits "big oil" and refers to the windfall profits the oil companies have made lately. But the caller does not explain what the bill does.

I looked up SB 655, and it seems to say that if anyone in the state sues an oil company for environmental damage, the state may step in and sue as well. But even the bill's digest (pdf) is difficult to understand without legal training and experience in the field of remediation law. Can anyone tell me what this is about, and who is making these automated phone calls? I'm suspicious.

A thoughtful reaction to Alfonso Jackson's preference for "the best"

Polimom, Too: Myths, strawmen, and "the best" for New Orleans:
"It's impossible to know the context of this quote, but it's presented as if he said it in a single paragraph. If he did, then the U.S. Housing Secretary has apparently bought into one of the most damaging myths accompanying New Orleanians: that poor = criminal. This is a strawman that has caused astounding damage, and by lumping everyone together in the same breath, he compounds the problem."

More bad news: Pumps catching fire.

Beleaguered but vital New Orleans pumps catching fire:
"Three massive drainage pumps, each of which can move 7,500 gallons of rain water per second out of city streets, caught fire during stormy weather on Wednesday and will be out of commission for at least a month, Sewerage and Water Board officials said."

Damage from being immersed in salt water.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

More corruption. But not in Louisiana.

Audit: $7.8M Overpaid on Katrina Contract - Yahoo! News:
"The government overpaid by 20 percent on a $39.5 million, no-bid Hurricane Katrina contract for portable classrooms because the Army Corps of Engineers passed up chances to negotiate a lower price, a federal audit says.

Government Accountability Office report on the contract with Akima Site Operations LLC, a subsidiary of an Alaska Native-owned firm, said the government wasted at least $7.8 million on the classrooms in Mississippi. It's the latest in a series of audits detailing waste of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in the hurricane recovery effort."
Take that, Tancredo.

Not that I don't appreciate it, but . . .

I wonder why someone is checking in to this site more than a hundred times a day. It's flattering to get so many hits, but I think someone's browser has gone haywire. I think the source of all the hits is in Alaska.

ABC26 poll shows Landrieu lead.

No link here, but just go to the site and click on the headline that reads "ABC26: New mayoral poll."
Landrieu and Nagin lead with Forman a close third. Severteen percent still undecided. Nagin has lost almost all his white supporters.

Hoping against hope. | Next hurricane season looms over energy in Gulf:
"About 22 percent of Gulf oil production and 13 percent of gas production is still out of service, according to a government report Wednesday. Concern that the storm season, running from June to November, may bring further disruption helped push oil prices to records this week.

'We just have to basically hope that we don't have a hurricane come back into the Gulf of Mexico this summer,' said Matt Simmons, founder of Simmons & Co. in Houston, an oil and gas industry investment bank. 'We haven't fixed yet, by any stretch of the imagination, everything that got broken.'"
What are the odds that there will be a hurricane in the Gulf this summer? Something approaching a certainty I imagine. Is Mr. Simmons joking?

Texas' patience wearing thin?

That's what the headline implies, but the article seems to say otherwise.Storm Evacuees Placing Strains on Texas Hosts - New York Times:
"Houston's school system has also experienced fighting between local and New Orleans students in its schools — 27 students from the two sides were arrested in one melee — but school crime is down over all.

'It has been a challenge,' said Terry Abbott, a spokesman for Houston Independent School District, 'but generally the vast majority of the children are well behaved and many are grateful to be here.'

But results on standardized tests suggest that 'the students from Louisiana were substantially behind the Texas kids,' Mr. Abbott said."
This is mainly about the aim of Texas politicians to grab some of that Federal money for Katrina relief.

Nothing wrong with keeping the spotlight on New Orleans

DNC meeting set to begin in New Orleans:
"The choice of New Orleans for the Democratic National Committee meeting that begins Thursday was part of a political calculation, as is a three-day agenda for the 400 delegates that combines party business with community service.

Eight months after Hurricane Katrina and the widespread criticism of the administration's response, Democrats hope their reconstruction work leaves an image with voters that lasts through the congressional midterm elections.

'It's reinforcing an impression that is widely held among the public and one that will be a critical theme for Democrats across the country - namely that this administration is dangerously incompetent,' said Steve McMahon, a Democratic strategist and a longtime adviser to party chairman Howard Dean."
That quote is followed of course by some Republican complaining about how this is dirty partisan politics. Hee hee.

Whoo-hoo. A heavyweight gets after the insurance scammers

Judge sues firm for denying Katrina claim:
"A federal judge who would have presided over some lawsuits that policyholders filed against insurance companies after Hurricane Katrina is instead waging his own personal legal battle against the insurer of his Gulf Coast home."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"Vitter blasts corps' levee work delays"

Times Picayune:
"New Orleans will enter the hurricane season in six weeks without important pieces of its storm protection, not because Congress is dragging its feet, but because the Army Corps of Engineers is waiting for congressional authorization that it already has, Sen. David Vitter told corps officials Tuesday.

Vitter, R-La., said critical projects such as armoring levees and moving pumping stations to the lakefront could have begun under an emergency financing bill passed last year that included broad authorization to cover any flood-control repair work.

'The bill we passed last year was written very broadly to provide a wide range of authorization to avoid these kinds of delays,' said Vitter, who presided over a meeting in New Orleans of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. 'It's been frustrating to me that they (continue) to hold up (work) while requesting additional language.

'Clearly we'll be entering hurricane season more vulnerable than we would have been had this work been done.'"
The Corps, afraid of criticism and lawsuits, wants Congress to dot every "i" of its proposed levee rebuilding. Leaving New Orleans with substandard protection for this hurricane season.

Dead zone linked to farm subsidies

Dead zone linked to farm subsidies:
"Meanwhile, a new study has traced almost 80 percent of the nitrogen-based fertilizers largely responsible for the low-oxygen zone to a relatively small number of agricultural counties in the Midwest that are heavily subsidized by the federal government to grow their crops.

The study from the Environmental Working Group in Washington says conservation programs intended to offset the runoff of fertilizers from farms have come up woefully short. In some of the counties highlighted by the study, the group said, for every $500 that goes into subsidy programs that could increase fertilizer use, a scant $1 is spent on conservation programs."
An important story, with a very impressive thesis: that the dead zone of the Gulf is actually a direct result of Federal farm programs. The writer points out that important farm and business (e.g. fertilizer) interests will oppose changes to remedy the problem.

Unscientific Poll: Landrieu leads.

Greater Baton Rouge Business Report:
"More than 1,300 Daily Report readers logged in and their expectations for who'll be the next mayor of New Orleans are pretty clear: Mitch Landrieu. The lieutenant governor commanded 71% of the votes in the preference poll, followed by Ron Forman with 13%. Incumbent Ray Nagin, expected to fare far better in the actual vote, received about 10% of the votes."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

It's an ill wind that blows nobody some good.

TaxProf Blog: Kirsch: Cheney Tax Return Shows Katrina Tax Benefits for Non-Katrina Charitable Contributions:
"It appears that the VP is a major beneficiary of the Hurricane Katrina tax relief act. In particular, he claimed $6.8 million of charitable deductions, which is 77% of his AGI -- well in excess of the 50% limitation that would have applied absent the Katrina legislation. The press release indicates that the charitable contribution reflects the amount of net proceeds from an independent administrator's exercise of the VP's Halliburton options -- apparently, the VP had agreed back in 2001 that he would donate the net proceeds from the options to charities once they were exercised."
What disasters do these guys NOT make money off of?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Why this election will violate blacks' right to vote.

Louisiana Weekly .:
"If a voter applicant living in New Orleans has reading problems, they can register in person at the Registrars office and an election official will assist them in reading and filling out the application. In contrast, a voter applicant living outside the city must fill out the Mail Voter Registration Application form without the benefit of any assistance from election officials. The registration form has 19 separate instructions and includes the following language (my emphasis added):

AFFIRMATION: 'that I am currently not under a judgment of full interdiction or limited interdiction where my right to vote has been suspended, that I am a bona fide resident of this state or parish...If I have provided false information, I may be subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 ($2,500 for subsequent offense) or imprisonment for not more than 1 year (5 years for subsequent offense), or both. Any false statement may constitute perjury.'

The vocabulary in this excerpt, which includes Latin as well as English, would challenge most college educated readers. I had to find an attorney to explain to me what 'full or limited interdiction' means. Yet the applicant, who could be as young as 17 years old, is asked to sign the 'affirmation' at the risk of fine and imprisonment. Elsewhere on the application, the 40% of the New Orleans residents who lack the reading skills to find an intersection on a map are asked:

'If you use a rural route or and box number, draw a map in the space labeled 'Give Location.' Write the names of the crossroads (streets) nearest where you live. Draw an X to show where you live. Use a dot to show any schools, churches, stores or landmarks near where you live and write the name of the landmark.'

Good luck. Like most voters, I'd rather wait in line at the Registrars office than have to decipher this form and risk a stretch in the Orleans Parish Prison."

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Well, DUH!! | News for New Orleans, Louisiana | Local News:
"Widespread criticism of the government's sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina was largely deserved, the Homeland Security Department's internal watchdog concludes in a report rapping the agency for focusing on terrorism at the expense of preparing for natural disasters."
Isn't it a helluva coincidence that every time this administration monumentally fucks up, they smear and attack their critics as looters, deadbeats, traitors? Then a few months later, when the furore over their giant fuckup dies down, a report is quietly issued which says that the critics were right all along. It must be nice to have the media in your pocket they way this gang does.

Plaquemines left out of levee plans. :
"The government's announcement has sent shock waves through the communities of fishermen, orange growers, sulfur miners and oil field workers. The fear is that if the government decides not to spend about $1.6 billion to strengthen and heighten the levees down here, it may be impossible for folks to get flood insurance."

It's a tough call. $1.6 billion for about 14,000 people.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Another national publication on the N.O. elections.

Hotline On Call: New Orleans Dispatch:
"There are only two certainties in the New Orleans mayoral race: It is one of the weirdest, most unconventional races anyone has ever seen in American politics, and it will have historical consequences.

In less than two weeks, on April 22, New Orleans voters will choose one of 22 candidates in the primary election. The first and second place finishers will face off in a May 20 run-off election. Less than two weeks after the mayor is decided, on June 1, hurricane season will begin."
I don't have a horse in this race, but I have heard some really pitiful stories about Forman's administration of the Audubon Zoo. I was kind of sorry to see that the Picayune endorsed him.

Katrina's dead. A sad and gruesome story.

Recovery mission still on for Katrina's dead - International Herald Tribune:
"When August Blanchard returned to New Orleans from Pennsylvania in late December, his mother was still missing. Family members, scattered across the country, had been calling hospitals, the Red Cross and missing persons hot lines, hoping she had been rescued.
But Blanchard, 26, had a bad feeling. Twice, he drove past the pale green house on Reynes Street in the Lower Ninth Ward, where he and his mother, Charlene Blanchard, 45, had lived, yet he could not bring himself to enter.

It was not until Feb. 25 that one of Blanchard's uncles nudged the front door open with his foot and spied Blanchard's hand."

Thanks to carla for pointing this article out.

New Orleans. It's Official: Nobody Cares - Yahoo! News

Yahoo! News:

Harry Shearer

Sat Apr 8, 2:25 PM ET

It's now three days after the Corps of Engineers admitted, in Senate testimony under oath, that its design and construction mistakes--not local levee boards, not state officials, not any of the other finger-pointees--were responsible for the breach of the 17th St. Floodwall which inundated much of central New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Nothing in the NYT or WashPost, nothing on the networks. This indicates that somebody in India might care. NPR? The last piece on this issue from them was this, in which our federal government took 800 pages a month ago to deny what the Corps just admitted this week. The fact that a high-ranking official of a federal agency took the blame for the worst man-made disaster in American history should, by all reasonable criteria, be some kind of news in this country.
I'd write more about this, but I'm busy not caring about the Moussaoui trial."

Petition for N.O. levees |


" "



And sign our petition too.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Amazing how long the congress took to learn this.

Fed inspectors: Katrina contracts wasteful -
"Government agencies paid inflated prices for goods and services in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in a system riddled with waste, three government inspectors general testified at a congressional hearing Monday.

It was the first time the three government auditors -- inspectors general with the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense and Army -- publicly disclosed figures on government waste in the Katrina recovery effort.

The inflated prices were a result of poor planning as well as a lack of proper oversight, the three said."

Trent Lott accuses State Farm of Fraud over Katrina Damage

Lott Lawyer: State Farm Destroying Papers - Yahoo! News:
"A lawyer for U.S. Sen. Trent Lott (news, bio, voting record) said Monday that State Farm Insurance Co. is destroying documents that could show the insurer has fraudulently denied thousands of claims by Lott and other policyholders whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina."

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I know politics makes strange bedfellows, but this is bizarre! Times-Picayune Updates:
"Former FEMA director Michael Brown might be joining St. Bernard Parish as a paid consultant."

Yes, you read it right. THAT FEMA Brown.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Jeebus. Can't these Bush people get anything right? Study finds serious problems in handling of Katrina aid from abroad
"Federal auditors laid out a scenario of omissions, missteps and bureaucratic nightmares that caused the loss of money and other donations sent from abroad to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The Government Accountability Office attributed the errors, which involved as many as eight government agencies, to the United States' lack of experience as a recipient of huge amounts of aid from others.

'Given that the U.S. government had never before received such substantial amounts of international disaster assistance, ad hoc procedures were developed to manage the acceptance and distribution of the cash and in-kind assistance,' the GAO said in remarks prepared for delivery to a House committee Thursday."
Can't find the money spent or lost in Iraq. can't find money given to Katrina victims. A shoplifter and indicted embezzler in the White House. Thre pedophiles in the Department of Homeland Security. Libby says Bush told him to leak. Condi says we screwed up a thousand times. Rummy says she doesn't know what she's talking about. Fitz says there's a conspiracy in the white house to protect leakers.

And now the birds have mysteriously left the sanctuary in St. Martin. Maybe it is the end times.

When can we get rid of these jokers?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Ok. You broke it. Now pay for it. Times-Picayune Updates:
"In the closest thing yet to a mea culpa, the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged Wednesday that a “design failure” led to the breach of the 17th Street canal levee that flooded much of the city during Hurricane Katrina."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

First Draft - ACTION ALERT: Send your Beads to Bush

First Draft - ACTION ALERT: Send your Beads to Bush

Seems like a good idea to me. I'm packing up all my beads tomorrow. Let him know concretely how we feel about the levees.

Houston police: Increase in gang killings predates N.O evacuees and Katrina

Houston police arrest suspected gang members:
"Houston police say they've arrested 14 suspected gang members accused of violent crimes.
Two more suspects are sought today as police deal with gang killings that are on the rise.

Investigators say the 14 allegedly belong to the 5-9 Bounty Hunters, a chapter of a gang that began in California in the 1960's. They're charged with crimes ranging from assault to murder.

Police reported 47 gang-related killings in 2005, a more than 50 percent increase over 2004. So far, 2006 has seen 12 gang-related killings.

Captain Dale Brown says the increase in gang killings in Houston predates Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans."

So when Texas politicians complain about New Orleans "deadbeats" and criminals, they should be looking not to New Orleans, but to California as the source of their troubles.

Awriiight!! - Landrieu threatens to block appointments over levees - Apr 4, 2006:
"Frustrated by a lack of progress in rebuilding the state's levees, a Louisiana Democrat threatened Wednesday to block President Bush's appointments requiring Senate confirmation until 'significant progress' is made toward restoring the flood protection damaged by Hurricane Katrina in August.

Saying coastal residents 'cannot wait much longer,' Sen. Mary Landrieu blamed the loss of 1,200 lives in her home state 'to the loss of wetlands as a protection and a lack of levees that held.'"

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

McCrery Baker to return Rudy money

Rush to return Rudy cash:
"Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.) donated $35,000 in Abramoff-related contributions to the Salvation Army in Shreveport, La., and plans to do the same with the $500 he received from Rudy, according to a source in his office.

Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.) plans to donate his $1,000 campaign contribution from Rudy to an undetermined charity, spokesman Michael DiResto said. Baker’s Louisiana colleague Rep. Bobby Jindal (R) gave the $1,000 his campaign received from Rudy to Xavier University’s hurricane-relief fund in January, according to his spokesman."

Hellish and chilling.

But at least some governments are thinking realistically.

Home Office prepares for 'mass burials' if Avian flu mutates | - Health: "

A 'confidential report' has been leaked revealing that mass burials are being considered by the Home Office as part of preparations for a possible avian flu pandemic.

It contains the shocking statistic under a 'prudent worst case' assessment which suggests that 320,000 could die in the UK if the H5N1 virus mutated into a form contagious to humans.

That would lead to delays of up to 17 weeks in burying or cremating victims, the document - said to have been discussed by a cabinet committee - says."

Big News-- Ding Dong the Witch is Dead. Print Page: Nation -- Tom DeLay Says He Will Give Up His Seat: "MIKE ALLEN/SUGAR LAND, TEXAS

Rep. Tom DeLay, whose iron hold on the House Republicans melted as a lobbying corruption scandal engulfed the Capitol, told TIME that he will not seek reelection and will leave Congress within months. Taking defiant swipes at 'the left' and the press, he said he feels 'liberated' and vowed to pursue an aggressive speaking and organizing campaign aimed at promoting foster care, Republican candidates and a closer connection between religion and government."
Buh bye K Street Project. Here comes the prosecutor.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Connecting the dots -- NO to Iraq

The Blog | Harry Shearer: The Army Corps--Who Else Detects a Pattern?: "It has been at least a month since the New Orleans Times-Picayune laid out in detail the story of the US Army Corps of Engineers woefully behind-the-curve debris removal program in the Crescent City, so behind the curve that in my devastated areas of town one would be hard-pressed to imagine that such a thing as a debris-removal program exists."