Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Lakeview, Kenner, St. Bernard: Death traps?

BBC NEWS | Americas | New Orleans 'sinking even faster':
"It is based on new satellite radar data taken from 2002 to 2005, which show that New Orleans sank by an average of 0.22 inches (0.5cm) a year during that period.

But the study says some low-lying areas are subsiding by more than one inch (2.54cm) a year - raising concerns about the city's future.

The scientists name overdevelopment, drainage and natural seismic shifts as the main causes.

'My concern is the very low-lying areas,' said lead author Tim Dixon, geophysicist at the University of Miami. "I think those areas are death traps. I don't think those areas should be rebuilt," he said.

Update: Here is an image from the New Scientist.

Notice the red spots on the levees along the MRGO.

Free wireless? -- well, yes and no.

Wired News: New Orleans' Free Wi-Fi Is Scarce:
"'Everyone thinks the free service is working, somewhere,' Thornton said. 'We're just not exactly sure where.'

New Orleans' Chief Technology Officer Greg Meffert said a thousand people use the system, which runs on donated equipment at 512 Kbps -- faster than dialup but not as speedy as broadband.

But Joe Laura, owner of local internet provider Superior Wireless, is not so sure. Laura said his thriving business is proof that not many people are using the city's free wireless. He's swamped with 95 percent corporate clients, a big increase from before Hurricane Katrina. They gladly pay for his service, he said, because the free one is inaccessible or weak.

'The city is making it sound like everyone can have free access,' he said. 'But with New Orleans the way it is right now, we have problems even helping an RV park with full connectivity.' Laura does not think the problem is unique to New Orleans. Other cities are struggling, too. 'Hooking up an entire city with free Wi-Fi access is just not logistically possible, especially with the state our city is in.'"

BE on the lookout for Tom Fitzmorris's cookbook | COOKBOOK: Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Food:
"A new cookbook, Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Food, (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, $19.95) reflects its author's love of the city where he was born one Mardi Gras and his relish for its food.

Fitzmorris pledged to donate half the profits from this edition to Habitat for Humanity."
Found this item in the Houston paper. Is it in the T-P too?


The Daily Advertiser - - Lafayette, LA:
"“If the atmosphere and the ocean behave as they have in the past, we should have a very active season, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into storms that produce as much destruction as last year,” said Gray, who has headed the hurricane forecast team for 22 years.

The forecast listed an 82 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall in the U.S. this season, compared with the long-term average probability of 52 percent.

It listed a 69 percent chance of a major hurricane making landfall on the East Coast, including the Florida peninsula, compared with 31 percent long-term, and a 38 percent chance of landfall on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle to Brownsville, Texas, compared with 31 percent long-term.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

This will make us all feel safe and warm.

Levee slumps; repairs to take weeks:
"With hurricane season only three days away, the Army Corps of Engineers on Monday announced that a 400-foot section of earthen hurricane protection levee being rebuilt near Buras High School in Plaquemines Parish slumped by more than 6 feet overnight Saturday, and repairs could take three to six weeks."

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Evacuation glitches. :
"The problem has worsened in recent years as coastal populations have grown.

Florida authorities now plan to advise residents who live in areas vulnerable to storm surges to go to higher ground within their counties, to a friend or relative's home, or to a shelter. Those who are not in storm surge zones or mobile homes should just hunker down, as most newer homes can withstand hurricane-force winds.

Emergency managers also stress that each family needs a plan for evacuations. Larry Gispert, emergency management director for Hillsborough County, marveled that a study of people who hit the road before Floyd indicated that most did not know where they were going.

'How dumb is that?' he said."

Nice. Real nice.

N.O. to get free wireless access:
"Achieving a technological milestone it has been striving for since Hurricane Katrina, the city has reached an agreement with EarthLink Inc. to provide free high-speed wireless Internet access for a large portion of the repopulated city.

The service will be available in Uptown, downtown, the French Quarter and Algiers by Sept. 1, and eventually could be available to the entire city. The free service will be provided as long as the city rebuilds, and EarthLink hopes to profit from the deal by selling higher-speed wireless service to those who want it.

The city views the Wi-Fi access as an important tool for business owners and residents throughout the city, who in some cases don't have telephone or cable service.

'It's more important than a gee-whiz factor,' said Greg Meffert, the city's chief technology officer. 'Wi-Fi is a pretty geeky thing to get hugged over, but I've been hugged in the street over this.'"

Thursday, May 25, 2006

T20 miles of levees, and how many have been fixed?

Team pushes for levee system overhaul:
"From the White House and Congress to local governments in storm-ravaged southern Louisiana, the Independent Levee Investigation Team called for a sea change in standards, practices and attitudes that it says is necessary if levees in New Orleans and elsewhere are to be safe enough to protect homes and residents.

'I myself, personally, wouldn't purchase property and move into New Orleans if the intent of the nation, the state and the locals is to keep doing things the same way,' team leader Ray Seed, a geotechnical engineer from the University of California-Berkeley, said at a New Orleans town hall meeting Monday.

'We've got to dig a whole lot deeper to be safe next time. We've got to be 1,000 times safer than we were when Katrina arrived . . . and that will take political will.'"

Another hurricane for N.O. this season.

New Orleans seen top target for '06 hurricanes |
"The forecast gives New Orleans a nearly 30 percent chance of being hit by a hurricane and a one in 10 chance the storm will be a Category 3 or stronger, meaning sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour (178 km per hour), said Chuck Watson of Kinetic Analysis Corp., Savannah, Georgia a risk assessment firm.

'Given the state of the infrastructure down there and the levees, gosh, that's just not good news. But that's what the climate signals look like,' Watson said."

Gosh, that's just not good news.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Some right-wing pundits know nothing about N.O. politics.

"WELCOME (BACK) TO THE MACHINE. The Perfesser is displeased by news of New Orleans Mayor Nagin's reelection:

I predict substantially less support for New Orleans reconstruction. Betweeen the Louisiana delegation's absurd overreaching in demanding a huge amount of pork-laden funding, and this, they've managed to squander a lot of the sympathy that was present in in September. Louisiana's political class isn't just greedy -- it's greedy and stupid. Louisiana will pay the price. And probably complain of unfairness when it does.

It is interesting that the Perfesser portrays the voters of New Orleans as part of the 'political class.' Given the general American non-involvement in political decision-making, maybe they do qualify. From that point of view, voters who pull the wrong lever are as blameworthy as their politicians, and as deserving of retribution. In fact, from the Perfesser's formulation, we may further infer that the minority that did not vote to reelect Nagin -- and the rest of the state's residents, I guess -- deserve what they get, too.

Vote right or lose your Federal aid -- an intriguing new vision of political reform. It puts the Perfesser's Porkbusters enthusiasm in a whole new light.

UPDATE. The Perfesser directs us to the ravings of Vodkapundit:

Here's the deal, Louisiana. We're going to help you. We really are. You are our neighbors and our countrymen and our friends, and we love you today as much as we ever did, in spite of and in no small part thanks to all the weirdness and flaws down your way. It's hard to see it from where you are, but we're helping you now, in our slow and ponderous way. We're not going to let it end like this.

But like every deal, this one has two parts, and I'm going to state yours very bluntly: You people are going to have to get your act together...

Get it? They're like drunks! And Vodkapundit's dishing out the toughlove. Not knowing how much vodka was involved in this punditry, I can't say if VP intends to go down there with a bullhorn and a whip and implement this plan himself, or whether he expects someone else to do it, like the Federal Government, or Superman."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Monday fire blogging

This fire destroyed about 8 acres of lumber near Jennings, Louisiana, last night. I was passing on the Interstate and took this picture from an overpass about half a mile away. The fire was huge, with flames rising above the tall line of pines that surrounded the site on three sides.

But, hmmm, it doesn't look so big when reduced to this size.

'People died . . . because safety was exchanged for efficiency and reduced cost.'

New Study of Levees Faults Design and Construction - New York Times:
"Most of the major breaches in the New Orleans levee system during Hurricane Katrina were caused by flaws in design, construction and maintenance — and parts of the system could still be dangerous even after the current round of repairs by the Army Corps of Engineers, according to a long-awaited independent report to be published Monday.

'People didn't die because the storm was bigger than the system could handle, and people didn't die because the levees were overtopped,' said Raymond B. Seed, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and the chief author of the report, in a weekend briefing for reporters here.
'People died because mistakes were made,' he said, 'and because safety was exchanged for efficiency and reduced cost.'"

Penguins return. Otters too. - News - Hurricane Penguins Heading Back To New Orleans:
"MONTEREY, Calif. -- A group of penguins rescued from the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina are heading home after a stay at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Nineteen penguins will return to New Orleans on Monday. The Aquarium of the Americas is scheduled to reopen next week.
. . . . . . .
The penguins entertained visitors from around the world during their stay in Monterey, but their caretakers and fans in New Orleans are anxiously awaiting their return.

'I'm on pins and needles and in fact, I think the whole city here is. I can't leave my house without people saying, 'Almost there Tom?,' or, 'When are they coming back?,' and that's been since they were evacuated out there,' said Tom Dyer, of the Aquarium of the Americas."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

New Orleans Nagin Wins Mayor Election Due To Black Vote

For all that has changed in the big easy since Hurricane Katrina, seems to me that there remains one thread of continuity. The African-American citizens of Orleans Parish took this year's voting "right" seriously. Yesterday's mayorial elections produced 5000 more voters than the primary elections last month which is not the norm in Louisiana. Voting advocates concentrated more on get-out-the-vote efforts rather than the political and legal challenges seen as a prelude to the primary, and, surprisingly, no new lawsuits were filed in advance of Saturday's elections. It will be interesting to note how future election strategies emerge.

Nagin's had a nine month experience since Katrina. How he applies what he's learned will be evident in the manner in which he guides the city through the landscape of rebuilding.

Mapped info here -- a breakout of the number of registered voters in Orleans Parish organized by the floodwater depths throughout the parish.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Look like I was taken in by the Jason Leopold story alleging that Karl Rove would be indicted this week. Didn't happen, obviously. My apologies. It will be hard to trust Truthout after this. But congratulations to Kos, Americablog, Atrios and others who didn't fall for it.

Death toll jumps to 1577.

State officials say that for weeks after it made landfall August 29th, Hurricane Katrina kept claiming Louisiana victims in other states.

The state's official Katrina toll jumped 22 percent to 1,577 deaths, when the Department of Health and Hospitals added 281 more victims to the count. Texas alone accounted for 223 deaths of the increase.

And the work is far from finished.

Only 32 states, representing 480 deaths, have filed their reports with Louisiana officials.

State Medical Examiner Louis Cataldie said he and his staff are preparing to examine every case to determine whether each death was indeed storm-related.

Time to vote.

TODAY. Go. Vote.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Another "ill wind" story. Flood damage not covered | News | Judge: Only wind damage covered:
"Insurance companies do not have to pay for hurricane-related flood damage if homeowners had coverage only for wind storms, a federal judge ruled Thursday in a lawsuit over disputed insurance claims in the wake of Hurricane Rita.

“You get what you pay for, and what they paid for was wind damage,” said U.S. District Judge Richard Haik in a ruling that seemed to leave a bad taste in his mouth. “… I wish I didn’t think that. I am not a fan of insurance companies.”

Attorneys for homeowners had argued that under Louisiana law, insurance companies must pay total losses on a destroyed home when at least some of the damage was caused by a hazard covered by insurance — unless explicit notice is given otherwise on the policy application."

Blackwater bilking NO recovery funds.

In the Black(water):
"Tens of thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims remain without homes. The environment is devastated. People are disenfranchised. Financial resources, desperate residents are told, are scarce. But at least New Orleans has a Wal-Mart parking lot serving as a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center with perhaps the tightest security of any parking lot in the world. That's thanks to the more than $30 million Washington has shelled out to the Blackwater USA security firm since its men deployed after Katrina hit. Under contract with the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Federal Protective Service, Blackwater's men are ostensibly protecting federal reconstruction projects for FEMA. Documents show that the government paid Blackwater $950 a day for each of its guards in the area. Interviewed by The Nation last September, several of the company's guards stationed in New Orleans said they were being paid $350 a day. That would have left Blackwater with $600 per man, per day to cover lodging, ammo, other overhead--and profits."

OK, I've already used the "ill wind" thing. But this at least is good news.

The Daily Advertiser - - Lafayette, LA:
"Herman Schellstede and Harold Schoeffler thought the future of wind-powered electricity lay only in Texas. But after positive national media coverage last week, it appears the winds of energy change may blow in Louisiana after all.

The entrepreneurs and co-founders of New Iberia-based Wind Energy Systems Technology were featured in an extensive piece on National Public Radio a week ago, detailing their plans to build a $250 million wind farm off the Galveston, Texas, coast. The next day, they got a call from Louisiana land officials, granting them permission to put up an 80-foot monitoring tower off the coast of Port Fourchon."

The Washington Post discovers the obvious.

WP: The changing face of New Orleans - Highlights -
"Disparities in wealth and in the distance of evacuees from their ruined houses are dictating, in many cases, which neighborhoods will be part of the city's future and which will be consigned to its history. For a city that was two-thirds black and nearly one-third poor before the storm, the uneven pilgrimage back to New Orleans has already changed voter turnout and seems certain to transform the culture and character of the city, making it substantially whiter, richer and less populous than before.

This article, part of an occasional series about two severely flooded streets in the city, examines an affluent white and a poor black neighborhood that appear to have reached their tipping points"

Hyperbole? Not really. It really looks like a tsunami of debt. - Wave of debt sweeps over New Orleans:
"The city itself would have run out of money to pay for essential services this month had not its lead banker, JPMorgan Chase, and its financial consultant, Peter Kessenich, the managing director of Public Financial Management, negotiated a $150 million loan with a syndicate of U.S. and foreign banks last week. That will help fund its operations through 2007.

The city also owes investors $878.6 million, including nearly $500 million in general-obligation bonds that it normally would pay off with property tax receipts. But this year's tax bills have not gone out yet, five months late. And a recent assessment cut city property rolls by 24% while the likely tax collection rate is pegged as low as 50%. The water board depends on a share of those taxes to fund a portion of its operations."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Reader's comment from TP Everything New Orleans:
"'Entergy does not deserve any CDBG money, at all! The state better not give them any of that money. Shame on them for making billions of dollars off of their consumers and not putting any aside for an emergency! Shame on them for being underinsured. Shame on them for trying to receive money for projected profit losses.' - motye511 "

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Why does Corporate America hate New Orleans?

CorpWatch : Entergy Holds New Orleans for Ransom:
"Entergy Corp. was the last Fortune 500 Company still based in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina struck. Now its headquarters has not only abandoned Louisiana for the debatably fairer climes of neighboring Mississippi, it is also threatening to leave the Big Easy quite literally in the dark; that is, unless the federal government grants it the $718 million it demands to maintain and rebuild its gas and electricity infrastructure damaged in the storm. Entergy’s wholly owned subsidiary, Entergy New Orleans LLC (E-NO) supplies all of the gas and electricity to the Crescent City. It isn’t that Entergy can’t afford to rebuild; it’s that it would rather keep its profits and let the federal government absorb the losses. E-NO took its first step weeks after the storm, filing for bankruptcy to protect its assets.

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

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


More from the Corpse? Not ready for duty, sir.

Two floodgates might not be ready:
"Two of three floodgates designed to keep storm surge from blowing out floodwalls along drainage canals probably won’t be finished by the start of hurricane season, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official said Thursday.

Col. Lewis Setliff, commander of the Task Force Guardian levee rebuilding effort, said the gate on Orleans Avenue Canal should be completed by June 1. But it appears the gates and pumps for the 17th Street and London Avenue canals might take longer, he said at a meeting Thursday in New Orleans."

Ellen Degeneres speaks out.

New Orleans CityBusiness -- The Business Newspaper of Metropolitan New Orleans:
"'There is still no power,' Degeneres said in an interview Wednesday. 'If this was Washington or San Francisco … anywhere else, this wouldn't be happening. People are not taking this seriously. It's not OK for this to be happening in this country.'"

Entergy? Whaa???

Par for the Corps

I can't improve on the Washington Post headline

Par for the Corps:

"Somehow, America has concluded that the scandal of Katrina was the government's response to the disaster, not the government's contribution to the disaster. The Corps has eluded the public's outrage -- even though a useless Corps shipping canal intensified Katrina's surge, even though poorly designed Corps floodwalls collapsed just a few feet from an unnecessary $750 million Corps navigation project , even though the Corps had promoted development in dangerously low-lying New Orleans floodplains and had helped destroy the vast marshes that once provided the city's natural flood protection.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's failures didn't inundate a city, kill 1,000 residents and inflict $100 billion in damages. Yet FEMA is justifiably disgraced, while Congress keeps giving the Corps more money and more power. A new 185-point Senate report on what went wrong during Katrina waits until point No. 65 to mention the Corps 'design and construction deficiencies' that left New Orleans underwater. Meanwhile, a new multibillion-dollar potpourri of Corps projects is nearing approval on Capitol Hill.

That's because the Corps is an addiction for members of Congress, who use its water projects to steer jobs and money to their constituents and contributors. President Bush has opposed dozens of the most egregious boondoggles, but Congress has kept funding them and the Corps has refused to renounce them -- while New Orleans has remained vulnerable.

Even Prather, the agency's public representative on the Hill, complained in that private e-mail that the Corps has sacrificed its credibility by defending its indefensible projects -- he called them 'swine' -- just as the Catholic Church defended its wayward priests."

National reporting on N. O.: This time it's the medical system

City full of patients, devoid of doctors - "
• Only a quarter of the city's doctors have returned since the disaster, and specialists are particularly scarce.

• More than half of the city's hospitals remain closed. Most of those that have reopened function at greatly reduced capacity as they grapple with the crushing demand for care. The burden is spilling over to suburban hospitals and the few area clinics that have reopened.

• About 40 percent of the region's residents have no medical insurance, double the pre-Katrina rate. This is largely because tens of thousands of people have lost jobs that included insurance.

• The federal government has provided relatively little help for rebuilding damaged medical buildings or enticing doctors to stay.


"There were at least three methods of failure working against that floodwall, but in the end, a thin layer of clay won the race, said Raymond Seed of the University of California, Berkeley."

TIME: Did the hurricane drown the gangs? What Happened To The Gangs of New Orleans? -- May 22, 2006 -- Page 1:
"New Orleans was on track to finish the year as the deadliest city in America, again. Crime had become atomized here--it was part of the culture, the air, the dark humor of the place. Under normal circumstances, criminologists believe, there are two ways to stop a cycle of gang violence: either dismantle the gangs or disrupt their business. In New Orleans, both happened overnight. Hurricane Katrina sundered what no man could, sending the criminals fleeing in all directions. So now there was a mystery: What would happen next? What would become of the criminal population when stripped of its neighborhood affiliations, its drug suppliers and a well-worn black-market infrastructure? This is a story about what happened to the gangs of New Orleans. But it is also a story about a culture of killing and what it takes to change it."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Very fine interactive animation of NO flooding Everything New Orleans

Don't know how to post a link, but it's the front page of today's TP. It's prety alarming-- looks like just about everything failed.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

More on Rove: He's so indicted.

Like I said. BIG.

Karl Rove Indicted on Charges of Perjury, Lying to Investigators

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent more than half a day Friday at the offices of Patton Boggs, the law firm representing Karl Rove.

During the course of that meeting, Fitzgerald served attorneys for former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove with an indictment charging the embattled White House official with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 hours to get his affairs in order, high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said Saturday morning.

Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, did not return a call for comment. Sources said Fitzgerald was in Washington, DC, Friday and met with Luskin for about 15 hours to go over the charges against Rove, which include perjury and lying to investigators about how and when Rove discovered that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA operative and whether he shared that information with reporters, sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said.

It was still unknown Saturday whether Fitzgerald charged Rove with a more serious obstruction of justice charge. Sources close to the case said Friday that it appeared very likely that an obstruction charge against Rove would be included with charges of perjury and lying to investigators.

Saturday Moon Blogging

I've been out the last two nights, since it was so clear and cool, trying to get some shots of the full moon. It's a learning process for me since I have just started "digiscoping"* What I learned is that a. the moon is a very bright object and b. finding it with a 60x scope mated to a 3x zoom (does that total 160x?[math update: that's 180X]) is something of a challenge. You can watch the actual movement of the moon at that power. That's part of the challenge, readjusting your scope every few minutes as the moon tends to move out of frame. So this is what I have after lots of frustration, plenty of mosquito bites, and the wonderful serenade of the frogs in my pond/bog. Enjoy.

*Mating a small digital camera with a spotting scope. In this case a Fuji FinePix F10 and a Bushnell Elite 80mm scope.



*Rove Informs White House He Will Be Indicted*
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report

Friday 12 May 2006

Within the last week, Karl Rove told President Bush and Chief of
Staff Joshua Bolten, as well as a few other high level administration
officials, that he will be indicted in the CIA leak case and will
immediately resign his White House job when the special counsel publicly
announces the charges against him, according to sources.

Details of Rove's discussions with the president and Bolten have
spread through the corridors of the White House where low-level staffers
and senior officials were trying to determine how the indictment would
impact an administration that has been mired in a number of high-profile
political scandals for nearly a year, said a half-dozen White House
aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National

Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources confirmed Rove's
indictment is imminent. These individuals requested anonymity saying
they were not authorized to speak publicly about Rove's situation. A
spokesman in the White House press office said they would not comment on
"wildly speculative rumors."

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, did not return a call for comment

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Eschaton-- Now we know how contracts with FEMA were awarded.

Eschaton: "

I'm glad we're upfront about the fact that the federal government has been turned into a massive patronage machine. Local corruption is for amateurs:

Jackson, a former president and CEO of the Dallas Housing Authority, was among the featured speakers at a forum sponsored by the Real Estate Executive Council, a national minority real estate consortium.

After discussing the huge strides the agency has made in doing business with minority-owned companies, Jackson closed with a cautionary tale, relaying a conversation he had with a prospective advertising contractor.

'He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years,' Jackson said of the prospective contractor. 'He made a heck of a proposal and was on the (General Services Administration) list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said something ... he said, 'I have a problem with your president.'

'I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'I don't like President Bush.' I thought to myself, 'Brother, you have a disconnect -- the president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn't be getting the contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don't tell the secretary.'

'He didn't get the contract,' Jackson continued. 'Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe.'
Secretary Jackson needs to resign. Immediately."

This is just incredible, but it explains everything about how incompetent and arrogant FEMA has been in dealing with the aftermath of Katrina. Why were there so few local contractors? Obvious: they didn't like the president.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Wait just a minute here.

I thought the state budget was in great shape. Why the cuts?

New Orleans CityBusiness:
"The $74.5 million in state cuts to higher education in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina forced New Orleans-area colleges and universities to eliminate faculty, staff and academic programs.

The cuts represent a nearly 6 percent dent in the state’s pre-Katrina higher education budget of $1.24 billion.

National education experts are not surprised by the reduction.

“Higher education is a fair-weather expense,” said Travis Reindl, director of state policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “When there’s money, higher ed gets plenty of it from the state. When things go south, higher education gets kicked in the shins.”

Since Katrina, all public and private universities in the New Orleans area have restructured following student enrollment decreases."

McMoRan sure backed down quick.

The Daily Advertiser :
"After being hit by a veto from Louisiana’s governor, an energy company said today that it would alter the technology of a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in order to alleviate environmental concerns and win approval of the project.

McMoRan Exploration Co.’s plan for the Main Pass Energy Hub was rejected Friday by Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who said it was not clear whether the terminal’s technology — using billions of gallons of seawater annually to heat the supercooled gas brought in by tanker ships — would harm valuable commercial fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Under federal law, the governor had the right to reject the proposal. She made her decision two days before the deadline.

New Orleans-based McMoRan said it would alter its plan and use natural gas, rather than seawater, to warm the liquefied gas — a process the company said would be much more expensive and put a squeeze on tight natural gas supplies."

If it was so easy for McMoRan to change course, why didn't they simply do this in the first place? Were they playing chicken with the Gulf environment?


ABC 7 News - New Orleans Real Estate Market Booming:
"The 2,200-square-foot house promises three spacious bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths - a bargain at $175,000. Except for the fact that the home, located in one of this city's previously elegant neighborhoods, has been gutted to the studs and has no drywall, no wallboard, no fixtures. 'Home was flooded by Katrina,' reads the advertisement posted by the listing agent at one of the city's largest real estate firms. 'Ready to turn into your dream home.'"
New Orleans real estate market is BOOMING?!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Advocate headline this morning: "Nueva Orleans."

Hispanic workers likely to affect N.O. culture:
"Before Katrina, Hispanics accounted for 3 percent of New Orleans’ population, with just 1,900 Mexicans showing up in the 2004 Census. No one knows for certain how many new ones have arrived, but estimates put the number between 10,000 and 50,000."

NY Times take on the NO mayoral election

Conservative White Voters Hold Sway in New Orleans - New York Times:
"The city's changed demographics made themselves felt all week as a tight race for mayor headed toward the May 20 runoff.

Black officials have run City Hall for decades, but with the population dispersal caused by Hurricane Katrina, white voters — especially conservatives — hold the keys to the drab 1950's building downtown. Both the incumbent, Mayor C. Ray Nagin, and his challenger, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, need this group, and both are now flirting with it, flaunting endorsements from conservative white also-rans in the April 22 primary.

But the electoral dance has to be delicate in a city with long memories and short fuses. Hurricane season is bearing down, last year's catastrophe is ever present, and decades' worth of decline has not gone away. The challenges: do not scare a traumatized electorate, but do not lull it either; and distance yourself from prior black mayors — deemed corrupt by whites — but not too much."

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Some of the media at least are keeping the story alive

VOA News - Long After the Deluge, New Orleans Still Suffers:
"Words and pictures don't do justice to the horror that is New Orleans. News reports about elections and tardy federal responses and this year's brave mini-Mardi Gras miss the aching sadness.

Eight months -- eight months -- after Hurricane Katrina ripped the heart out of the place they call 'Big Easy' -- then drowned her for good measure -- the already poor, already rickety place still lies sodden, eerily quiet and half empty. It is a city, still, of blue-tarp roofs and white relief trailers and 'Katrina code' porches sprayed with X's demarking dead people and pets.

The sweltering Louisiana summer is about to cook the mounds of moldy, mud-caked mattresses and books and humble photographs, the tattered teddy bears, wads of insulation and other refuse of lives once so jauntily lived in this birthplace of jazz."

The Devil's in the details -- Amtrak not ready for evacuation plan - New Orleans, Amtrak Differ On Evacuation Plan:
"But Amtrak officials say they don't know when an official agreement with city officials will be completed, citing a wide gap between what the national passenger railroad can offer and what city leaders want. For example, New Orleans officials have asked for surplus passenger cars to be stockpiled near Union Passenger Terminal, the Amtrak station in New Orleans where evacuating residents would board the trains. Amtrak officials say their spare-car inventory is so low that the railroad can barely handle its own maintenance needs. Amtrak also is concerned about how hospital patients and nursing-home residents evacuated on stretchers would be secured aboard the trains."

9th Ward documentary to be released on Katrina anniversary

New Orleans CityBusiness -- The Business Newspaper of Metropolitan New Orleans:
"On Monday, after more than 11 months, Rue and his collaborator Gabriel Dayan finished filming. The more than 250 hours of footage they shot will help tell the tragic tale of the Ninth Ward before and after Hurricane Katrina and how the city, state and federal government have struggled to piece together a city battered by the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.

The film, “New Orleans Story,” is tentatively scheduled for an Aug. 29 theater release, coinciding with the anniversary of Katrina.

. . . . . .

Rue spent days in the impoverished neighborhood filming residents and learning about their lives, culture and concerns.

“There were a lot of matriarchal figures, ladies who helped raise the neighborhood children down the street. They were people proud of their homeownership who worked hard for their homes and had lived there for a long time.

“They were concerned about the youth falling into despair and hopelessness because they were seeing a lot of kids going into drugs and a life of crime. They were used to murders in their neighborhoods.

“But there was a tremendous feel that the government didn’t care, the mayor didn’t care, politicians as a whole were corrupt, and that the affluent African-American people as well as Caucasians didn’t care about them.”"

More signs of life

Lower 9th Ward residents can go home: "If water test results expected Monday are clean, he said, people can return -- and get to work on repairing their homes and having trailers delivered -- immediately afterward in the section of the neighborhood between Claiborne Avenue and the Mississippi River.

His 'look and stay' policy, replacing the 'look and leave' policy in the Lower 9th, 'allows you to rebuild,' Nagin said.

Nagin said he got word Friday from the Sewerage & Water Board and Entergy New Orleans that the sewer, power and natural gas systems are in shape to provide service to at least 85 percent of the homes in the Lower 9th, where a breach of the Industrial Canal during Katrina allowed floodwaters to rush in, pushing hundreds of homes off their foundations."

OK, but how do we blame this on Louisiana?

The Daily Advertiser:
"'Debris contractors grabbed the money and then committed every abuse imaginable,' said U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. 'The Katrina contracts are a lose-lose proposition.'

Much of the criticism concerned FEMA's decision to award large, no-bid contracts to huge out-of-state companies such as California-based Fluor Inc., and CH2M Hill of Denver, Co. The two companies were given multimillion-dollar contracts to purchase, install and maintain thousands of travel trailers housing victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. A fourth company with strong political ties, Shaw Inc. of Baton Rouge, also received a large contract.

'We could not find complete written records ... to determine how these firms were selected,' Matt Jadacki, a special Inspector General for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery told the House panel."

Houstonians accepted NO evacues with open arms? Sure, read the comments to this piece if you believe that.

The uninsured are rebuilding New Orleans: "Touro has traditionally served a portion of the uninsured, Hirsch told me. But with the city's two main public hospitals closed -- the equivalent of the Harris County Hospital District -- Touro is getting a disproportionate share.

Hirsch said N.O. had an uninsured problem to begin with, but Katrina made matters worse. He's hoping for some kind of federal relief. (Good luck with that!)"

New CNN guy -- what a douche!

Media Matters - Beck defended with falsehoods his earlier remarks that New Orleans Katrina victims were "scumbags," he "hat[ed]" 9-11 victims' families:
"But the second thought I had when I saw these people and they had to shut down the Astrodome and lock it down, I thought: I didn't think I could hate victims faster than the 9-11 victims. These guys, when you see -- you know, it's really sad. We're not hearing anything about Mississippi. We're not hearing anything about Alabama. We're hearing about the victims in New Orleans. This is a 90,000-square-mile disaster site; New Orleans is 181 square miles. A hundred and -- 0.2 percent of the disaster area is New Orleans! And that's all we're hearing about, are the people in New Orleans. Those are the only ones we're seeing on television are the scumbags -- again, and it's not all the people in New Orleans. Most of the people in New Orleans got out! It's just a small percentage of those who were left in New Orleans, or who decided to stay in New Orleans, and they're getting all the attention. It's exactly like the 9-11 victims' families. There's about 10 of them that are spoiling it for everybody."

Another Bush voter turns on him.

BayouBuzz - Congress Budget Fight, Presidential Bush Veto Will Guarantee GOP Overthrow:
"With professional[sic] in New Orleans committing suicide over Congress and Presidential disarray, should the Republican Congress tamper with the Katriana relief funding or should President Bush veto a spending plan for New Orleans, the Republican party in Louisiana and New Orleans and within the United States is history.

Already, the GOP are proving they cannot run Congress and the presidency. Their combined numbers are the lowest recorded since the great revolution of 1994.

Americans are fed up with President Bush’s promises to Louisiana and promoting a war that was prorogated upon campaign lies or intelligence incompetence. And this comes from a Bush supporter swing voter who saw a victory for Bush as my patriotic duty. What a mistake. "
Better late than never, but you could have seen this years ago, Steve. It didn't take Katrina to show you.

Yeah? You better be.

Chertoff: We're ready:
"Touring one of the government's main hurricane response centers, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said this week that he is 'very confident' that federal officials are ready for hurricane season and that FEMA's staffing levels will be near full strength in the next month.

His trip with acting Federal Emergency Management Agency Director David Paulison to south Georgia and an earlier stop Tuesday in Florida came as a key House lawmaker demanded specifics on FEMA's staffing to ensure enough experienced workers are on hand by the June 1 start of the 2006 hurricane season.

Chertoff said the agency will meet or at least come close to its goal of filling 95 percent of its vacancies by the start of the season.

'We're hiring as rapidly as we can, and we're prepared to bring all the resources,' Chertoff said as he toured one of the agency's two main communications centers in the nation's hurricane-prone states."

Friday, May 05, 2006

Oh, man, this is such good news.

Liuzza's reopens Saturday:
"'The restaurant sat for over 2 ½ weeks under 8 ½ feet of water,' Edler said of the corner building at 3636 Bienville St. 'There was nothing salvageable. If it wasn't glass or stainless steel, it had to go in the trash. Everything they see is going to be new.'

Close-reading Liuzza's devotees have likely already noted that Liuzza's famous, globe-shaped (and sized) frosted beer mugs were in fact glass. Edler said the fact that they were stored in the freezer when the storm hit saved them from breaking.

'I'm on my way right now to sanitize them,' she said earlier this week.

The party begins Saturday at 3 p.m., and runs 'until.' There will be free jambalaya and a cash bar where, yes, you will be able to buy frosty mugs of beer."

Research from my university.

The Fox News Effect:
"'Strategic Flirting and the Emotional Tab of Exotic Dancing' by Tina Deshotels and Craig Forsyth, Deviant Behavior, Vol. 27. Sociologists at Jacksonville State University and University of Louisiana at Lafayette interview 112 exotic dancers and find that stripping made them feel they had power over men but 'impeded their ability to create an authentic self and in particular an authentic sexual self.'"

No new leases till we're safe! | News | Blanco renews offshore leases threat:
"Stressing that “time is running out” to restore Louisiana’s rapidly eroding coastline, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Thursday she will follow through with her threat to block the federal government’s next offshore oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico unless a revenue-sharing agreement can be reached with the state.

Blanco put the U.S. Minerals Management Service on notice in late January that she may block impending lease sales in federal waters unless Louisiana gets a share of the federal royalties generated by oil and gas production in the Gulf. A March lease sale went off without a hitch.

The next sale is scheduled for the western Gulf in August."

It took an emergency like Katrina for someone to step forward and say 'no more exploitation' of Louisiana's coast witthout compensation.
"No exploitation without compensation" seems to have a familiar sound, come to think of it.

Ivor van Heerden calls like he sees it. | News | Official: Levees not ready for storm:
"New Orleans levees are prepared for no more than a Category 2 storm this year, the leader of a state team that investigated the city’s levee failures said Thursday.

“It has Category 2 protection at best,” said Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center. “We really aren’t prepared” for a major storm."The repairs being done to New Orleans levees are robust; however, they don’t address inadequate levees that were stressed but didn’t fail in Katrina, he said.

This guy really cares about New Orleans. It's a great thing that we have him at LSU.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Worst Case Scenarios

KLFY Live Doppler 10 Weather Blog:
"The following image has dots to show where bodies were recovered in New Orleans. It also shows where the deepest waters were. The most significant flooding, at least by looking at the depth of the water, happenend along Lake Pontchartrain. While several bodies were recovered in that area, the highest concentration is in the middle of the image near the industrial canal breach in the lower Ninth Ward. This is where the water was pouring in the fastest and people had the least time to react to the rising waters."
Lafayette's KLFY TV has some very good graphics on what might happen in various scenarios involving hurricanes hitting south Louisiana, with emphasis on New Orleans and Lafayette. It's not particularly good news, but it will give you a greater sense of the danger.

The worst case scenario for Lafayette has a category 3 coming onshore south of Jennings, and flooding all the way to the outskirts of the city.

Is anyone looking at how to evacuate that area, or prevent the flooding?

Check out the videos here: Worst Case Scenarios I, II, III

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What were they doing in geography class?

Poll: 1/3 of Youths Can't Find La. on Map - Yahoo! News:
"Despite the wall-to-wall coverage of the damage from Hurricane Katrina, nearly one-third of young Americans recently polled couldn't locate Louisiana on a map and nearly half were unable to identify Mississippi."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

SI's Peter King: inexcusable, irresponsible, borderline criminal national disgrace - Peter King : "
Well, my wife and I were in a car last Wednesday that toured the hardest-hit area of New Orleans, the Lower Ninth Ward. We worked a day at a nearby Habitat for Humanity site on Thursday, and we toured the Biloxi/Gulfport/Long Beach/Pass Christian gulf shore area last Friday. And let me just say this: I can absolutely guarantee you that if you'd been in the car with us, no matter how much you'd been hit over the head with the effects of this disaster, you would not have Katrina fatigue.

What I saw was a national disgrace. An inexcusable, irresponsible, borderline criminal national disgrace. I am ashamed of this country for the inaction I saw everywhere."

King is sizzling mad hot! Great guy. Thanks.

Daily Kos: Georgia10 blogs on New Orleans and Katrina

Daily Kos: Things Aren't Going Swimmingly In New Orleans:
"It seems like every time the citizens of New Orleans and the rest of the affected areas try to lift their heads above water, a lack of leadership and a bungled bureaucracy shoves their heads down again. The roadblocks exist on the national and local level. Whether it's struggling to get funding for re-opened schools or being forced to clean and gut their homes by August 29th or risk having them razed, the citizens of the Gulf Coast know that they must move on, they must live like normal again, but they lack the ability and leadership to save themselves from the hell of their post-Katrina world. It's like the whole world is waiting for them to move on, but time stopped for the Gulf Coast on August 29th, preserving the helplessness, poverty, and human suffering of that day."

Good question.

Panel: Catastrophic storm not assessed:
"The final report on why the New Orleans area levees failed during Hurricane Katrina should address why the system was built without adequately assessing the risk of a catastrophic hurricane hitting the city, an American Society of Civil Engineers panel said Monday.

'It would be helpful to point out to readers that this effort is the first attempt to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment for an entire levee system on this scale,' the engineers from the external review panel said in a letter to Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, chief of the Army Corps of Engineers.

'One question for the (corps) is: Why was the risk not formally assessed prior to Katrina?' the letter said."

More reports of contractor abuse of workers' rights

New Orleans CityBusiness:
"Jeffrey Steele came to New Orleans from Atlanta last fall hoping to earn $10 an hour or more in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Steele thought he found a job working for subcontractors of Burlingame, Calif.-based ECC, which has a $500-million contract with the Army Corps of Engineers.

But Glenn Sweatt, ECC general counsel, said Steele was not contracted with ECC.

Steele said he worked from 5:30 a.m. to about 7 p.m. seven days a week from October to December removing debris from Elysian Fields, the French Quarter and other nearby areas.

When pay time rolled around, Steele received just $500 of an expected $5,000."

Generosity in the true spirit of the Koran

Qatar Grants Millions in Aid to New Orleans - New York Times:
"he nation of Qatar plans to announce today roughly $60 million in grants to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina, including $17.5 million to Xavier University of Louisiana, the only historically black Catholic university in the United States.
Skip to next paragraph

Other beneficiaries are Tulane University, Children's Hospital in New Orleans, Habitat for Humanity, Louisiana State University and the March of Dimes.

Nasser Bin Hamad M. al-Khalifa, Qatar's ambassador to the United States, said the remainder of the $100 million his country had pledged would be assigned in the coming months.

'Hurricane Katrina was so devastating that everyone in Qatar and the rest of the world felt a responsibility to really act,' Mr. Khalifa said. More than 50 countries donated money, expertise and materials, according to a tally by Foreign Policy, a magazine published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Qatar was one of several Persian Gulf nations to donate tens of millions of dollars. Saudi Arabia, for instance, gave more than $100 million, and the United Arab Emirates pledged $100 million."

New Orleans Jazz Fest good news

An unquenchable New Orleans still lets the good times roll / Jazz festival draws thousands despite storm devastation:
"Elvis Costello made the live debut of his collaboration with New Orleans songwriter Allen Toussaint Sunday (after a two-song sneak preview the night before during a benefit concert downtown at Harrah's Hotel and Casino), an album called 'The River in Reverse,' to be released in June. The title song is Costello's eloquent, powerful plea for New Orleans.

Toussaint, New Orleans' greatest songwriter, is living in Manhattan until his home is repaired in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans. But he and Costello recorded part of the album in the one remaining studio in the Big Easy last November, just after the first hotel reopened."

I got to see Alan Toussaing on Friday at the Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette. It was a fine set (even without Elvis costello) and if I can I'll post a picture or two. Irma Thomas opened the evening and it was a great New Orleans night in Lafayette. My friends from NO were in (hi, guys!) and we had a good time in spite of the HUGE rainstorm that drenched us all on Saturday, and knocked out the performance I was looking forward to the most. Michaiel Doucet had been scheduled to headline Saturday night, debuting his new album, Live in Louisiana (produced by my old friend's son, Todd Mouton-- it's their best album in years -- go and get it. Now.)

Check out the website
Way Down in Louisiana

Monday, May 01, 2006

Texas plans for evacuation | Statewide hurricane drill to be held Tuesday:
"The three-day drill — being staged statewide for the first time — will test the evacuation response in the first 72 hours before landfall of the worst-case scenario — a Category 5 hurricane.

Numerous improvements are being incorporated into the evacuation plan, including:

•Establishing contraflow lanes more quickly, using shoulder lanes for the first time and preventing Houston-Galveston evacuees from using U.S. 59 north.
•Using the private sector to distribute gas and food.
•Opening shelters as far away as El Paso and Lubbock.
•Providing more efficient assistance to the sick and elderly.
No extra vehicles will be used to clog the freeways to simulate the evacuation exercise."
The evacuation of Houston during Rita was a complete failure. Many just gave up. Or ran out of gas.

Is it really necessary to evacuate the whole city of Houston, after all? Is all of it subject to flooding?

The Corpse of Engineers PLANNED to deceive about the levees

Plans didn't account for area's subsidence:
"As they completed sections of the New Orleans area's hurricane protection system in the 1980s and '90s, Army Corps of Engineers officials assured residents the structures had been raised to standards mandated by Congress.

That, however, was mostly a legal fiction, documents and interviews with current and former corps employees show.

The corps' levees and floodwalls might have met specifications in the plans, but the engineers involved knew the measuring stick being used was out of date.

In fact, many sections of the system were a foot or more below authorized heights because the local office of the corps made a decision in 1985 not to use updated elevation values for projects then under way.

Some engineers familiar with the history of the project, such as the former head of the office's survey section, Wayne Weiser, say the decision was a planned deception that left people nprotected."

The Corpse just keeps smelling more and more rotten.

President Bystander

Springsteen Expresses New Orleans' Pain:
"- New Jersey's favorite son was adopted by New Orleans on Sunday, as Bruce Springsteen — through speeches and song — vocalized the anger, frustration, pain and resilience of this hurricane-battered city at the annual Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Decrying what he called 'criminal ineptitude' in Hurricane Katrina's wake, Springsteen jabbed at the political powers he deemed responsible for New Orleans' slow recovery.

Perhaps the most pointed moment came as he prepared to sing an old song that he had rewritten lyrics to for New Orleans. Noting that he visited the city's ninth ward, perhaps the most devastated area in the city, Springsteen said: 'I saw sights I never thought I'd see in an American city,' and added: 'The criminal ineptitude makes you furious.'

With that, he launched into a song titled 'How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?' and dedicated the song to 'President Bystander.' Its lyrics included the lines: 'There's bodies floatin' on Canal and the levees gone to hell ... them who's got out of town, and them who ain't got left to drown, tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?'"

Thanks Boss.
Why is it that only rock stars and comedians get to speak the truth nowadays?