Friday, June 30, 2006

AHHHHHHH!! NewsFlash - Smoking in La. restaurants to be banned Jan. 1:
"BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. Kathleen Blanco signed a smoking ban on Friday that will prohibit all smoking in restaurants in Louisiana, but not in bars and casinos."

New Orleans just part of larger policy of neglect and war.

Bill Quigley: Gutting New Orleans:
"People in New Orleans wonder if this is the way the US treats its own citizens, how on earth is the US government treating people around the world? We know our nation could use its money and troops and power to help build up our community instead of trying to extending our economic and corporate reach around the globe. Why has it chosen not to?

We know that what is happening in New Orleans is just a more concentrated, more graphic version of what is going on all over our country. Every city in our country has some serious similarities to New Orleans. Every city has some abandoned neighborhoods. Every city in our country has abandoned some public education, public housing, public healthcare, and criminal justice. Those who do not support public education, healthcare, and housing will continue to turn all of our country into the Lower Ninth Ward unless we stop them. Why do we allow this?"

Double-plus good news. | News | Oil, gas royalties plan clears House:
"WASHINGTON — Louisiana’s decades-long dream of getting a big share of federal offshore oil and gas royalties came much closer to reality Thursday as the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that could eventually bring the state $2 billion a year from production in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a separate but related move in Congress, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., reached an agreement with the Republican leadership in the Senate on a deal that would bring billions to the state over the next two decades from new oil and gas production in the Gulf."

No comment necessary | News | Ex-GOP chief in EBR accused of bank fraud:
"A former East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party chairman was arrested Wednesday after being accused of illegally diverting $11,500 from a Baton Rouge bank where he worked as a loan officer, authorities said."

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I don't get it. | News for New Orleans, Louisiana | Local News:
"City officials announced Wednesday that a master rebuilding plan would be unveiled within a week.

Many residents have been asking when the city would lay out its plan to revive communities and whether it would include the individual plans developed by neighborhoods.

Mayor Nagin said recovering from a disaster like Hurricane Katrina is unprecedented and would take time.

'It's nine months after 80 percent of our city was under water, as I look at New York and I look at what they have done, it's five or six years and they're still planning to reconstruct the World Trade Center, so there's no manual, there's no precedent for this, we really don't know if we're going to fast or too slow.'

City officials did not give a specific date for the unveiling of the master plan, but they said a comprehensive zoning plan would also be presented at that time."
Only a couple of days ago Nagin said that the plan wouldn't be ready till the end of the year. Is this a different plan or something?

Vitter echoes Jeff criticism of Corpse.

New Orleans CityBusiness -- The Business Newspaper of Metropolitan New Orleans:
"Jefferson Parish Council members say they have had it with the lack of information coming from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The council lambasted the Corps after its representatives failed to show for Wednesday’s council meeting. The Corps was expected to report on the status of levees, pump repairs at the 17th Street Canal, roof conditions at West Bank pump stations and the Harvey Canal sector gate project.

After receiving information the sector gate would not be completed until December or January — despite earlier assurances from the Corps it would be finished in August or September — District 1 Councilman Chris Roberts said the council “is having to pull teeth” to get accurate information from Corps representatives." | News | Vitter claims corps missing vital deadlines:
"WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. David Vitter blasted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday, vowing to write a letter to President Bush outlining the agency’s deadline failures in protecting the New Orleans region from flooding.

Delays in shoring up levees, improving water pumping capacity and installing hydraulic protection gates led the list that Vitter said he will send to Bush today."
Coincidence or conspiracy? :)

Salon: Thumbs down on Brinkly book.

In too deep | Salon Books:
"Though every tributary the floodwaters take leads to the White House, Brinkley seems strangely reluctant to follow their currents. 'After Katrina, the Gulf South region -- and the United States as a whole -- needed compassion. What it got instead was the incompetence of George W. Bush, who acted as though he were disinterested in a natural disaster in which there was no enemy to be found ... Bush's slow response to the Great Deluge made Americans ask if he was a 'bunker' commander in chief ... relying too much on cautious paper pushers such as Brown and Chertoff for advice.' This criticism is curiously muted, coming as it does at about the midway point of the book rather than serving as the author's conclusion. Moreover, it's a feckless point, practically offering Bush supporters a side door to slip their man through: Bush was too concerned with the war on terrorism to effectively address a natural calamity. I know a few apologists who absolved Bush of all major blame, but I don't know anyone, much less friends and family on the Gulf Coast, who thinks that Bush's major problem was that he relied too much on advice from Brown or Chertoff or anyone else.

Even if much of the misery that followed in the wake of Katrina could have been prevented, what people wanted to see was the commander in chief be such, not to take advice from subordinates but to give them orders, instead of acting, in the words of Lewis Black, like 'someone watching a TV movie of the week and saying, 'Wow, look at all those goddamn special effects!'' Is it possible that Douglas Brinkley doesn't know that what Americans wanted to see was someone who said the buck stops here, not someone who didn't seem to know there was a buck in the first place? The last thing Americans wanted to hear after the levees broke was a series of ideological debates over whether primary responsibility for action fell on the state or federal government, yet this is exactly what B"

Blanco asked to veto telco bill.

The Daily Advertiser - - Lafayette, LA:
"Blanco, after the meeting with mayors, closely questioned the proponents.

'I wasn't just overjoyed,' said Ellington, who accompanied BellSouth President William Oliver of New Orleans and CenturyTel representative Julia Thornton in the meeting in the governor's private office.

Oliver said Blanco was very detailed, getting down to words and phrases in the bill.

'She was as interested in that bill as any bill I've ever seen her interested in,' Oliver said."

My bet is that she'll side with local governments. There isn't much love anywhere in Louisiana for Bellsouth.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Keep their feet to the fire, Madame Governor | News | Feds want to meet Blanco on Gulf lease dispute:
"Federal officials want a face-to-face meeting with Gov. Kathleen Blanco to discuss her objection to the August sale of federal leases for oil and gas exploration off Louisiana’s coast.

The Blanco administration has agreed to the meeting with two caveats:

- It must focus on ways to address the governor’s concerns.

- It should include high level officials, such as, the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior or the director of the Minerals Management Service.

Blanco is attempting to block the federal government’s lease sale as part of her push for the state to glean some of the billions of dollars going into the U.S. Treasury."
It's impressive to see that she's willing to carry through with this plan, and is playing hardball. How many governors have I heard complaining about how Louisiana doesn't get their fair share of oil revenue. This is the first one who has put something on the line to change that.

Deuce McAllister's plan. - NFL - You have to see New Orleans to believe it:
"The people of this region have a great spirit,' said McAllister. 'All they want is a chance. Just give them a chance and they will take it from there. But they love it here. That is why they will come back. It's home; it's how we are. We may not live here, but this is our home.'

McAllister would like every athlete from every team that plays in New Orleans over the next months to take time for a tour of just what we saw. Only then will they begin to understand the extent of the destruction and how much needs to be done. I think it should be mandatory for every NFL team which plays the Saints in New Orleans to go on a bus ride the day before the game. The team needs to go into Lakeview and the Lower 9th and everywhere else that the city, and its citizens, suffered.

It would be just as beneficial if every member of Congress likewise visited New Orleans. If they did, it would be hard to believe they would not be inspired to fix what is wrong -- and do it right for a change."
Not a bad idea. No one who has seen the devastation comes away unchanged.

Suit filed against HUD | News for New Orleans, Louisiana | Local News:
"A lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges that a federal plan to demolish four sprawling public housing complexes in New Orleans is discriminatory and violates international laws that protect people displaced by natural disasters.

The suit was filed by several residents against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Housing Authority of New Orleans, or HANO. HANO was effectively taken over by HUD four years ago because of mismanagement."

A victory for the governor, and for Louisiana.

N.O. courts merger is signed by Blanco: "
A proposal to merge the Orleans Parish Civil and Criminal district courts and their related offices into a single court system has been signed into law by Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

The governor signed Senate Bill 645 by Sen. Willie Mount, D-Lake Charles, on Friday, one of more than 600 bills she has approved, Blanco spokesman Roderick Hawkins said Tuesday.

The bill is identical to one filed by Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, who is the lead co-sponsor of Mount's bill. The court merger bill and a proposed constitutional amendment to consolidate the seven Orleans Parish assessors' offices into one in 2010 were Blanco's top priorities in the recent legislative session."

Sign the bill, Kathleeen.

Blanco feels squeeze on smoking ban:
"Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus and an opponent of the measure, said he and officials of the Louisiana Restaurant Association will make a pitch to Blanco today during a 5 p.m. conference call to veto Senate Bill 742 by Sen. Rob Marionneaux Jr., D-Livonia."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

'Breathtaking' Waste and Fraud -- but not necessarily in Louisiana.

'Breathtaking' Waste and Fraud in Hurricane Aid - New York Times:
"Among the many superlatives associated with Hurricane Katrina can now be added this one: it produced one of the most extraordinary displays of scams, schemes and stupefying bureaucratic bungles in modern history, costing taxpayers up to $2 billion."
Read this article. It mentions two cases of Louisiana corruption, but many more by people from all around the country. And the most expensive losses are attributable to FEMA waste and abuse.

90% of public housing will be gone.

“Ethnic Cleansing” in New Orleans:
"The Hope VI program allows only about 10% of the original population who used to live in public housing to come back. Public schools, healthcare services will be reduced or removed all together to discourage people from returning. Even if they return, there will be no public housing, no public healthcare and not enough public schools for them and their children. The reality is that those “who've been planning the recovery process never wanted poor people to return to the city in the first place”, Lance Hill, the director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University told the New York Times. “And they haven't made it easy” for them to return to their homes. In other words, the victims will be further victimized.

“That’s tantamount to ethnic cleansing,” said Mike Howells, a member of United Front for Affordable Housing. “We know who is going to be shut out as a result of that” added Howells. Furthermore, vacancy rate in New Orleans, especially in areas less affected by Hurricane Katrina is very high but rental is beyond reach for low income people, and landlords are opting to keep their properties closed, further reducing the availability of housing for rent."
"We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Richard Baker (R-La), September 09, 2005.

Nagin says to wait till end of the year for plan.

Reuters AlertNet - New Orleans mayor sees rebuilding plan by year-end:

But some think he's moving too slow --- and they're right.
"'We are behind the curve in that and we do need to make strong bold decisions on the ground here to do the right thing, which may not always be politically easy, or politically popular, but we need a plan about where to focus activity and resources and rebuilding,' Republican Senator David Vitter said late last week, echoing a New York Times editorial.

Standing next to him, Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu agreed that city planning needed work.

'It's a challenge,' she said. 'The rubber hits the road right here, in the parishes, in the neighborhoods, on the ground.'

Discussions throughout the city range from whether some neighborhoods should be turned into parks, if the city should concentrate resources or replicate what it had, and which areas and houses should be elevated.

To do that, many want a grand vision.

'It is getting late,' for a plan, the Times-Picayune newspaper said in an earlier this month editorial faulting 'a lack of leadership and coordination'.

It said it was encouraged that Nagin seemed 'ready to get the planning process moving' but called for a citywide plan."

Monday, June 26, 2006

What now? Roving bands of transvestite marauders?

New Orleans CityBusiness -- The Business Newspaper of Metropolitan New Orleans:
"Davis said it wasn’t supposed to be like this. They survived Hurricane Katrina’s Category 3 winds and the ensuing looters. They reopened despite the long odds of doing business in a devastated city. The last thing the Magazine Street shop owners expected to threaten their survival was a crime ring of transvestites."
These guys are giving all transvestites a bad name.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

ICFI contract worth 3/4 of a billion dollars. | News for New Orleans, Louisiana | Louisiana State News:
"The housing program will give rebuilding and buyout grants to Louisiana homeowners with major damage from the storms, capped at $150,000, depending on the extent of the damage. ICF will be responsible for working out many of the details, as well as hiring subcontractors and employees to do the home inspections, housing counseling and grant distribution.

ICF won the contract to manage the program earlier this month after helping to develop the Road Home plans, garnering criticism from Republican state lawmakers, who said there were ethical conflicts in the selection. The company, however, was cleared by the state ethics board to be eligible for the contract after agreeing to end its existing contract with the state.

The 1,500 person company worked on response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Andrew. Its planned chief program executive for the Road Home program was the deputy federal coordinating officer for operations in the response to Sept. 11 attacks.

The housing contract with Louisiana will be lucrative: ICF estimated in its bid that its management of the program would cost $756 million. The other finalists' estimates varied widely; ACS State and Local Solutions Inc. estimated a cost of $425 million and BearingPoint Inc. pinned the cost at $912 million.

Cost was only one of several equally-weighted criteria used to measure the applicants, said Suzie Elkins, director of the state Office of Community Development in the Division of Administration, which awarded the contract and is working on the final contract negotiations.

An evaluation team of state and national officials, including several experts in housing, looked at prior experience in large scale programs, the subcontractors planned, plans to employ Louisiana residents, ability to quickly hire hundreds of employees to do the work and other criteria, Elkins said.
That's approximately 18% of the money that the state is scheduled to receive from the Federal govt. for the "Road Home" project. (If my severely-impaired math skills aren't deluding me.)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

More on IFCI

A quick look at the website of Fairfax, Virginia-based ICFI (the company that will administer the billions of dollars that are about to come into the state for Katrina recovery)indicates that they have not dealt with any project as large in scale as Katrina recovery. (Who has?) It is a firmly established private company, with 1600 employees. Its backers, Stifel Nicolaus, William Blair, and UBS are big players in IPOs and investment banking.

On May 11, 2006 ICF filed for an IPO offering of $75 million. Possibly this is in order to capitalize what is likely to be an extensive expansion to undertake the Katrina contract. Here's info on the company, its managers and stockholders.


IPO Home

Does anyone know how long it takes for the SEC to approve an IPO?

Dealing with talk about corruption.

Doug Brinkley was on "The Colbert Report" last week. The way the show is supposed to work is this: Colbert makes insanely right-wing points, and the guests are supposed to counter with common sense. So if Colbert says "Corruption and crime are back in New Orleans. So everything is back to normal, right?" The guest is supposed to counter with "Stephen, why are you dealing in stereotypes instead of dealing with the fact that most of the city is still in a state of ruin. And corruption is no worse in New Orleans than in any other bigh city, and it's on a far smaller scale than the corruption of the independent contractors hired by the Federal government to supply the troops in Iraq, or provide busses for New Orleans." At least that's what someone who wanted to defend New Orleans would say. But that's not what Brinkley said. He essentially agreed with the Colbert right-wing persona.

So the facts are that yes crime is back to normal levels in NO -- at least the murder rate says so. But FBI statistics show that violent crime increased everywhere last year, and New Orleans is not alone in dealing with it.

As for the infamy of Louisiana/N.O. corruption, we have largely passed the era of flamboyant Edwin Edwards politics that so fueled our reputation as a state where anything goes, but only if the governor gets a "taste." Under our last two governors, for the past 11 or so years, we have not had a single major statewide scandal. New Orleans continues to turn up cases of "brother-in-law" politics, but I would bet that any great city in America has a similar record. This is not to excuse this petty corruption, but only to say that New Orleans dosn't deserve its special reputation. Real corruption would involve the paying of bribes to get building permits or licenses to do business, or kickbacks by state employees. As far as I know that isn't happening in New Orleans, and the biggest corruption stories are coming from FEMA -- with their multi-layered sub-sub-contracts given to politically favored firms from out of state, and their abolutely insane notion of giving out $2000 credit cards to people who probably never had had a checking account. Did they expect responsible spending?

There will be plenty of opportunities for thievery and corruption with the flood of money that is about to wash over the city and state. The contractor hired to spread all that money out fairly should face careful scrutiny. And if corruption shows up in that program, then law enforcement should come down hard. But the company will not even be a Louisiana company. It's headquartered in Virginia. Who do you suppose will get any money that illegally siphoned off from that program -- worth $4 billion dollars?

Anyway, my point is that for a very long time we've been sort of proud of our reputation for rogueishness. We tended to smile at EWE because he was so stylish and up-front about his crimes. But we ought to be able to see that in front of a national audience, aquiescing in calling New Orleans corrupt and crime ridden isbad for the city, bad for the state, and downright inaccurate. Lets deal with crime and corruuption on a case by case basis, and not indict everyone just because they're from Louisiana.

Nasreal Batiste, failed terrorist is from Bunkie. | News | Son's arrest stuns father:
"On Friday, the gentle-spoken 72-year-old Batiste again turned on the television only to discover his own son — who mysteriously left the family farm shortly after 9-11 — may have hatched a similar plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and a federal building in Miami.

Batiste is the father of Narseal Batiste — one of five Americans and two others arrested by federal agents and accused of conspiring with al-Qaida to commit terrorist acts.

“I’m so upset over this,” said Narcisse Batiste, who was first interviewed in Bunkie on Friday evening by WBRZ, Channel 2. “I feel if I could reach I would give all of them a whoopin’. But I can’t reach.”"
When I first read the story I thought that the name Batiste might indicate a Louisiana family. On the Houston news they were calling his group the Keystone Terrorists.

Now this contract should be reviewed very carefully. | News for New Orleans, Louisiana | Louisiana State News:
"Louisiana likely will pass the August anniversary of Hurricane Katrina before the private company that will run the state's $7.5 billion hurricane housing aid program starts handing out assistance checks, according to the bid the company submitted to manage the program.

ICF International said it plans to begin the 'Road Home' program for homeowners in August to accept applications and it intends to have 'full scale implementation' within two months. The Virginia-based consulting firm proposed having all the awards and buyouts doled out by December 2008 and closing out the program completely by 2010.

And none of this can begin until Gov. Kathleen Blanco's administration completes contract negotiations with ICF, which administration officials said Friday were still ongoing."
Sure would like to know who is in charge of ICF -- they're going to be handling a LOT of money. Hope they're not like the other contractors we've seen involved in Katrina recovery or the war in Iraq.

Here's the ICFI website.

I've been looking at some websites about ICFI and their most recent disaster recovery project, Hurricane Charley. Googling The news stories I have found no mention of ICFI but there are indications that progress on recovery is lagging, two years later. Here's one, another, another.

Friday, June 23, 2006

It was global warming after all. What would Katrina have been without it?

Hurricanes: Global Warming Surpassed Natural Cycles in Fueling 2005 Season, NCAR Scientists Conclude - News Release:
"Global warming accounted for around half of the extra hurricane-fueling warmth in the waters of the tropical North Atlantic in 2005, while natural cycles were only a minor factor, according to a new analysis by Kevin Trenberth and Dennis Shea of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The study will appear in the June 27 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical Union.

'The global warming influence provides a new background level that increases the risk of future enhancements in hurricane activity,' Trenberth says. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, NCAR's primary sponsor.

The study contradicts recent claims that natural cycles are responsible for the upturn in Atlantic hurricane activity since 1995. It also adds support to the premise that hurricane seasons will become more active as global temperatures rise. Last year produced a record 28 tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic. Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma all reached Category 5 strength."

So the New N.O. City Council doesn't think ethics belongs in New Orleans?

Ethics board, inspector general deferred:
"Midura had lined up four co-sponsors for a resolution saying in effect that it's finally time for the city to get to work creating the two agencies, long supported by 'good government' groups.

But after a sometimes testy debate, the council voted 6-1, with Midura opposed, to defer action on the issue for two weeks, though some of those voting for deferral promised the council will pass a version of the resolution at its next meeting."
Or what?
This ethics code was supposed to have been enacted 10 years ago. I guess the council thought that two more weeks of delay won't hurt.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Two good things about this veto. | AP Top Stories:
"Gov. Kathleen Blanco on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have expanded the insurance benefits lawmakers enjoy on the state's dime - a measure that generated harsh criticism after the legislative session ended.

'It doesn't make sound public policy,' Blanco said in a news release. 'I want to thank citizens for calling my office and expressing their views. I heard them loud and clear.

'This bill had a very short life span and I'm pleased to have pulled the plug.'"

First, it won't let the leges get away with a raid on the treasury. If they want health care, let's see them work on health care for everyone.

Second, the governor credits the outcry of "citizens" calling her office for the veto. That shows responsiveness and accountability.

Good work, Governor.

Monday, June 19, 2006

TV Alert. Tomorrow -- "Drowning New Orleans." Culture:
"`Drowning New Orleans,'' a National Geographic special that airs June 21 at 9 p.m. New York time, delivers more scary news: Katrina was a bit of a weak sister. A stronger storm making a direct hit might wash the French Quarter all the way to Cuba.

This hour-long program provides a concise, well-illustrated explanation of the storm's destruction of the city's anti- flooding defenses. The Maginot line readily comes to mind."

Giant opportunity for corruption! Giant! | AP Top Stories:
"Lawmakers have agreed on how to deal with the scores of hurricane damaged properties expected to be bought by the state through the Louisiana Recovery Authority's housing program.

Under a bill by Sen. Lydia Jackson, D-Shreveport, which was sent to Gov. Kathleen Blanco on Sunday, a nonprofit corporation will be set up under the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency to receive the property and decide what to do with it.

Several senators said it is their understanding that the Louisiana Road Home Housing Corporation would hold the titles to property bought by the state, but the intention of recovery authority officials is to transfer bundles of land to local groups to make the redevelopment decisions."
This is where plenty of opportunities for graft, corruption and theft will come from. We'd better hope that there are watchdogs, safeguards and audits aplenty on this agency or it will be a giant cash cow for the well-connected, the clever and ingenious, and the pure dumb dishonest.

La. and ND, more strange bedfellows.

Louisiana gov. signs law that would ban abortions:
"Louisiana Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco signed into law a ban on most abortions, which would be triggered if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 ruling legalizing the procedure, a spokesman said on Saturday.

The ban would apply to all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest, except when the mother's life is threatened. It is similar to a South Dakota law that has become the latest focus of the abortion battle."

Inevitable, given the influence of the Catholic church here, but still. . . not a good thing. No exceptions for rape or incest? Stop an minute and think.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Body of Katrina victim JUST found NewsFlash - Man apparently drowned in Katrina floods; body under furniture:
"NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The body of a man who apparently drowned in the floods that followed Hurricane Katrina was found under furniture in his once flooded house, the coroner's chief investigator says."

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Saturday Vegetable Blogging.

Nothing changes: 5 coffins, 5 funerals, 5 families destroyed. Times-Picayune Updates: "
In the bloodiest slaughter to unfold on the streets of New Orleans in more than a decade, five teen-agers were shot and killed before dawn Saturday when one or more gunmen pumped a barrage of bullets into their sport utility vehicle as they rode through a sparsely occupied neighborhood in Central City.

Police had no suspects late Saturday, but based on “the sheer carnage” of the crime, investigators believe the massacre was rooted in an altercation over drugs or was carried out in retaliation for an earlier dispute, New Orleans Police Department Capt. John Bryson said.

“Somebody wanted them dead, obviously,” Bryson said. “They intended these five people to be dead.”

Sweaty cities: New Orleans No. 12, B.R. No. 20

Old Spice Names Phoenix the Sweatiest City in America | Nachrichten |:
"TOP-100 SWEATIEST CITIES IN AMERICA Brought to You By the Sweat Experts at Old Spice 1. Phoenix, AZ 51. Columbus, OH 2. Las Vegas, NV 52. Kansas City, MO 3. Tucson, AZ 53. Evansville, IN 4. Dallas, TX 54. Lexington, KY 5. Corpus Christi, TX 55. Wilkes-Barre, PA 6. San Antonio, TX 56. Cincinnati, OH 7. Austin, TX 57. Harrisburg, PA 8. Shreveport, LA 58. Baltimore, MD 9. Houston, TX 59. Charleston, WV 10. Waco, TX 60. Springfield, IL 11. Miami, FL 61. Moline, IL 12. New Orleans, LA 62. New York, NY 13. Orlando, FL 63. Roanoke, VA 14. Tampa, FL 64. Indianapolis, IN 15. West Palm Beach, FL 65. Des Moines, IA 16. Honolulu, HI 66. Bristol, TN 17. El Paso, TX 67. Salt Lake City, UT 18. Memphis, TN 68. Detroit, MI 19. Fort Myers, FL 69. Sacramento, CA 20. Baton Rouge, LA 70. Chicago, IL 21. Little Rock, AR 71. Dayton, OH 22. Mobile, AL 72. Toledo, OH 23. Jacksonville, FL 73. Cleveland, OH 24. Tulsa, OK 74. Minneapolis, MN 25. Fresno, CA 75. Hartford, CT 26. Jackson, MS 76. South Bend, IN 27. Savannah, GA 77. Syracuse, NY 28. Montgomery, AL 78. Providence, RI 29. Nashville, TN 79. Pittsburgh, PA 30. Columbia, SC 80. Albany, NY 31. Oklahoma City, OK 81. Buffalo, NY 32. Raleigh, NC 82. Asheville, NC 33. St Louis, MO 83. Grand Rapids, MI 34. Birmingham, AL 84. Milwaukee, WI 35. Huntsville, AL 85. Rochester, NY 36. Richmond, VA 86. Boston, MA 37. Louisville, KY 87. Denver, CO 38. Chattanooga, TN 88. Madison, WI 39. Washington DC 89. Flint, MI 40. Wichita, KS 90. Youngstown, OH 41. Omaha, NE 91. Burlington, VT 42. Norfolk, VA 92. Los Angeles, CA 43. Springfield, MO 93. Green Bay, WI 44. Virginia Beach, VA 94. San Diego, CA 45. Atlanta, GA 95. Colorado Springs, CO 46. Greensboro, NC 96. Portland, ME 47. Charlotte, NC 97. Portland, OR 48. Philadelphia, PA 98. Spokane, WA 49. Albuquerque, NM 99. Seattle, WA 50. Knoxville, TN 100. San Francisco, CA Contact: Kristen Rubi PainePR (213) 996-3808"

The Sweatiest Cities rankings are based on the amount of sweat a person of average height and weight would produce walking around for an hour in the average high temperatures during June, July and August of 2005 for each city.
No explanation for the numbers after the city names. This doesn't make much sense to me. I don't know why I bother to post it. Except for the SNL jokes about Schwetty Balls.

Details emerge, and they ain't pretty

HUD builds Katrina hall of shame:
"As much as any other impediment, HUD's three-year timetable ensures that many of our people will never return home. Hardest hit by the government's slovenly pace will be the poorest and darkest of our citizens.

The federal role in their permanent removal is as undeniable as it is despicable."

Harry Shearer: HUD Drops the Third Shoe | The Huffington Post

Eat The Press | Harry Shearer: HUD Drops the Third Shoe | The Huffington Post

Go see what Harry says about NO public housing.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Bush gets big bounce from Zarqawi killing!!!

Just look at that monster!

Irma's new album

‘Soul Queen of New Orleans’ shines on album - Jazz -
Though Thomas is known for her R&B roots and her rich, throaty, soulful alto, Billington wanted to take her in a different artistic direction on “After the Rain.”

“I wanted to find some way to showcase Irma’s voice that would show her as being one of the great voices of her time, and it really seemed confining that we would make another straight R&B record,” said Billington, who’s also an A&R executive at Rounder, her label home. “Her voice has gotten so beautiful and so rich as the years have passed.”

The album sounds raw, stripped and pared down compared to the bombast that have marked other CDs.

“It wasn’t something that I had in mind to do, but he wanted to feature me vocally as opposed to having a band and a lot of horns and all of that,” Thomas said. “He wanted to have acoustic instruments, and it worked.”(Check out the album here.)
(Photo by yours truly at the Festival International de Louisiane.)

William Jefferson and the Lafayette, LA / Nigeria / Houston oil connection.

Meet William Jefferson's Political Supporters (
Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana is currently under investigation by the FBI for allegedly taking bribes from a company seeking business in Nigeria and, as I reported last week, the feds are apparently also looking at his ties to São Tomé and to some Americans doing business in that African country. Since then, I've received additional information that points even more strongly to a São Tomé-Jefferson connection.

It gets complicated, but stay with me. First I'll explain the history of a small energy firm called ERHC, which was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, but is now based in Houston. Next, I'll discuss a few people connected to the firm and to a second company called Global Environmental Energy Corp. (GEEC), whose president, Noreen Wilson, has played a key role in ERHC. The cast of characters here includes a Texas wildcatter, a convicted felon, and a reverend whose company invested in an adult entertainment firm. Lastly, we'll get back to Jefferson, who has curious ties to both ERHC and GEEC.

Fascinating. A must read.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Boom town, N.O..

Reuters AlertNet - New Orleans seen a boom town as storm aid arrives
NEW ORLEANS, June 15 (Reuters) - The devastation of New Orleans has made the city a modern American tragedy to many, but billions of aid dollars about to flow may transform the city known as the "Big Easy" into a boom town.

Twisted houses, warped cars and boats closer to highways than water still define the Louisiana landscape more than nine months after Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the state, destroying 200,000 homes and killing more than 1,500.

But Congress has approved more than $10 billion aimed primarily at rebuilding housing in Louisiana, and state officials expect checks to start flowing to homeowners later this summer.

That is addition to billions more from insurers to homeowners and other funds for rebuilding levees.

"This city is getting ready to take off," said Ray Nagin, mayor of the city called the "Big Easy" for its slow way of life. "I think it is going to be the Big Easy on steroids."

Dems kick Jefferson off Ways and Means.

BayouBuzz - U.S. Rep. Democratic Caucus Votes To Remove New Orleans Cong. Bill Jefferson
The Democratic Caucus of the United States House of Representatives on Thursday voted 99-58 to temporarily remove U.S. House of Representative William Bill Jefferson from the House Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. However, the full removal will require a full vote of the members of the House of Representatives. Congressman Jefferson’s district is primarily from New Orleans. So far and up until the vote, Congressman Jefferson has refused to step down.
Seat to be filled with another Louisiana Democratic congressman.

Show me da money! U.S.
June 15 (Bloomberg) -- Congress approved funds to rebuild New Orleans's levees and close a canal that contributed to the flooding of 80 percent of the city last August.

The Senate voted 98-1 to approve an emergency supplemental appropriations package that included $19.8 billion for reconstruction in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, which were devastated by two hurricanes last year. The House passed the same measure 351-67 on June 13 and the legislation will now go to President George W. Bush to be signed into law.

Louisiana will get $3.7 billion to rebuild its levees, $4.2 billion to rebuild destroyed homes and $20.3 million for wetlands restoration.

Here comes a building boom. Let's be careful out there people.

Pretty big news -- why haven't we heard of it?

HUMAN EVENTS ONLINE - Bush Administration Quietly Plans NAFTA Super Highway by Jerome R. Corsi:
"Quietly but systematically, the Bush Administration is advancing the plan to build a huge NAFTA Super Highway, four football-fields-wide, through the heart of the U.S. along Interstate 35, from the Mexican border at Laredo, Tex., to the Canadian border north of Duluth, Minn.

Once complete, the new road will allow containers from the Far East to enter the United States through the Mexican port of Lazaro Cardenas, bypassing the Longshoreman’s Union in the process. The Mexican trucks, without the involvement of the Teamsters Union, will drive on what will be the nation’s most modern highway straight into the heart of America. The Mexican trucks will cross border in FAST lanes, checked only electronically by the new “SENTRI” system. The first customs stop will be a Mexican customs office in Kansas City, their new Smart Port complex, a facility being built for Mexico at a cost of $3 million to the U.S. taxpayers in Kansas City. "
How will this affect funding for I-49 in Louisiana? The port of New Orleans?

Americans agree with the Big Guys. War is a failure.

Gallup: Americans Feel We Are 'Worse Off' Because of Iraq War:
"Gallup asked Americans if the war in Iraq had made things better off, the same, or worse off for six entities: the American people, the Iraqi people, the strength and preparedness of the U.S. military, the war on terrorism, the prospects for democracy in the Middle East, and the image of the United States around the world.

The result for that final category was the most clearcut: 6 in 10 Americans said the image of the U.S. was 'worse off,' with only 11% saying 'better off.'

Significantly, 42% said that the people of our country were worse off, with 26% saying better off and 31% 'the same. Gallup called this 'a decidedly negative tilt in attitudes about the impact of the war on the home front.' While in this category, as in all others, Republicans had a more positive views, still only 48% wuld say that Americans were 'better off' because of the war."

The big guys weigh in. The war is a failure. - War on terror called failure:
"Washington is failing to make progress in the global war on terror and the next 9/11-style attack is not a question of if, but when. That is the scathing conclusion of a survey of 100 leading American foreign-policy analysts.

In its first 'Terrorism Index,' released yesterday, the influential journal Foreign Affairs found surprising consensus among the bipartisan experts.

Some 86 per cent of them said the world has grown more, not less, dangerous, despite President George W. Bush's claims that the U.S. is winning the war on terror.

The main reasons for the decline in security, they said, were the war in Iraq, the detention of terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay, U.S. policy towards Iran and U.S. energy policy.

The survey's participants included an ex-secretary of state and former heads of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, along with prominent members of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment."

Strange bedfellows? Zuschlag and Jefferson.

The Daily Advertiser - - Lafayette, LA:
"In the first report on his legal defense fund, Jefferson disclosed that he raised $84,750 last year from about two dozen donors.

Richard Zuschlag, chief executive officer of Lafayette-based Acadiana Ambulance, said he gave $5,000 to the defense fund after Jefferson made a personal appeal for help last year. Zuschlag said he and Jefferson have been friends for a long time, and his company expanded into Jefferson's district three years ago."

Ummmm . . .

Blanco takes serious measures on offshore leasing. | News for New Orleans, Louisiana | Local News:
"Gov. Kathleen Blanco on Wednesday upped the ante in her offensive to get billions of dollars from offshore oil and natural gas royalties for Louisiana, formally objecting to an August sale of federal drilling leases off the state's coast.

Backing up months of rhetoric, Blanco said she sent a letter opposing the sale to the U.S. Minerals Management Service. The objection, officials said, sets the stage for a lawsuit asking a judge to force the federal government to give Louisiana more money."

Why in all the years we have been bellyaching about the raw deal we get from the feds hasn't some governor before this figured out that we have some leverage? Why is Blanco the first to figure this out?

Don't think academic tenure is important? Someday your life may depend on it. | Opinion | Our Views: Do not silence scholars at LSU:
"Universities should be devoted to the free exchange of ideas, even — and especially — when those ideas stir debate.

With that in mind, we don’t think that LSU administrators should be in the business of managing what scholars on campus have to say about matters of public policy.

But that’s what seems to have happened in the case of Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of LSU’s Hurricane Center, which studies the effects of powerful storms on communities such as those buffeted by Hurricane Katrina.

Van Heerden’s specialty is environmental management, and long before Katrina, he warned about what a big hurricane might do to Louisiana’s compromised coastline and communities farther inland. In the wake of last year’s storms, van Heerden became a media darling. That led to his new book, co-authored with professional writer Mike Bryan, called “The Storm: What Went Wrong During Hurricane Katrina — The Inside Story from One Louisiana Scientist.” It recently was published by Viking and promises to get van Heerden even more national attention.

His conclusion, that the federal government is largely to blame for the failure of New Orleans area levees, is shared by a lot of people, experts and nonexperts alike.

Even so, some at LSU were not happy with van Heerden’s frank opinions. He recently told The New York Times that in November, Michael Ruffner, a vice chancellor over LSU’s external affairs, and Harold Silverman, a vice chancellor who oversees the university’s Office of Research, brought him in for a meeting. Van Heerden said it was suggested that he not talk to the press because it could hurt LSU’s chances of getting federal funding. Van Heerden told The Times that he was told to channel interview requests through LSU’s media relations department instead. University officials later dropped the requirement, The Times said.

Van Heerden said he considered the whole affair a threat to his job at LSU where his position doesn't have enure."
There's the whole argument in a nutshell. Tenure protects unpopular opinions. In this case, it's a matter of life and death.

The TP has a very good profile of van Heerden here. Really an interesting man.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Extreme dought Times-Picayune Updates: "
“Be careful what you wish for,” said State Climatologist Barry Keim.

In a ironic twist after most of New Orleans sat submerged in water for weeks, the eight months since Oct. 1 have been the driest south Louisiana has seen in the 111 years that the state has kept rainfall records, he said.
Since October, most locales in the southern half of the state have averaged just 21 inches of rain, down from the usual 40-inch average, Keim said.

What’s worse, other than a minor spike in rain chances beginning Friday and continuing into early next week, the rest of the month looks like more of the same, a National Weather Service forecaster said.

If that sounds bad, Keim said that’s because it is. "

Blanco- backed consolidation bills pass Times-Picayune:

N.O. merger bills get final passage. Bills to consolidate New Orleans' assessors offices and city court systems received final passage Wednesday as the Senate voted to go along with House changes.

A proposed consitutional amendment to consolidate the city's seven assessors into one will go to a vote of the people Nov. 7. The measure must pass both statewide and in Orleans Parish.

Both bills were strongly backed by Gov. Kathleen Blanco as part of a legislative package to streamline New Orleans government.

The assessors merger, Senate Bill 141 by Sen. Ann Duplessis, D-New Orleans, faced strong opposition going into the session.

Who said Katrina would clean up the projects?
"Four public housing developments will be torn down and four others will be retained, repaired and repopulated it was announced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Wednesday.

The St. Bernard Housing Development is fenced off in New Orleans. HUD announced Wednesday that it will reopen 1,000 additional New Orleans public housing units this summer and increase the amount it pays for rental assistance to help bring the city's poor people back.

The four slated for demolition will not be reopened prior to the work being done. They include: St. Bernard, C.J. Peete, B.W. Cooper and Lafitte.

HUD Director Alphonso Jackson said the remaining developments, Fisher, Hendee, Guste and Iberville will be cleaned up and repaired by August to accommodate another 1,000 families displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Close to 1,000 units have already been repopulated."

Maybe this is a good thing, I know the projects have been a mess for years. Still . . . I'd like to see the fine print.

Nagin: Unions Rock! :
"The City of New Orleans was left virtually broke after Hurricane Katrina, so Mayor Ray Nagin could not hide his excitement Wednesday when a major labor union announced it will invest $700 million into the struggling community.

'All I can say off script is unions rock,' said Nagin.

The AFL-CIO’s pledge included $250 million in direct financing for hopefully 10,000 renovated housing units. The idea was to give lower income people a chance to have a place of their own."

Terrible attack on America!!!!!

Fafblog! the whole worlds only source for Fafblog.:
"Tuesday, June 13, 2006
6/10 Changed Everything

Run for your lives - America is under attack! Just days ago three prisoners at Guantanamo Bay committed suicide in a savage assault on America's freedom to not care about prisoner suicides! Oh sure, the 'Blame Atrocities First' crowd will tell you these prisoners were 'driven to despair,' that they 'had no rights,' that they were 'held and tortured without due process or judicial oversight in a nightmarish mockery of justice.' But what they won't tell you is that they only committed suicide as part of a diabolical ruse to trick the world into thinking our secret torture camp is the kind of secret torture camp that drives its prisoners to commit suicide! This fiendish attempt to slander the great American institution of the gulag is nothing less than an act of asymmetrical warfare against the United States - a noose is just a suicide bomb with a very small blast radius, people! - and when faced with a terrorist attack, America must respond. Giblets demands immediate retaliatory airstrikes on depressed Muslim torture victims throughout the mideast!"

OK, the corruption isn't in Louisiana, but lets blame her anyway. :
"Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the subcommittee overseeing an investigation of post-hurricane aid, called the bogus spending 'an assault on the American taxpayer.'

'Prosecutors from the federal level down should be looking at prosecuting these crimes and putting the criminals who committed them in jail for a long time,' he said.

To dramatize the problem, investigators provided lawmakers with a copy of a $2,358 U.S. Treasury check for rental assistance that an undercover agent received using a bogus address. The money was paid even after FEMA learned from its inspector that the undercover applicant did not live at the address."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Not individual stupidity, but collective stupidity.

Suicides prompt new calls to shut Guantanamo - Yahoo! News:
"Colleen Graffy, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy, told the BBC World Service the suicides were a 'good PR move to draw attention.'

'It does sound that this is part of a strategy in that they don't value their own life and they certainly don't value ours and they use suicide bombings as a tactic to further their Jihadi cause,' she said."

Sounds likd Graffy got the same moronic talking points as Hary Harris. (Same line I used to hear about the people in Vietnam -- don't even value their own lives). Zepp compared these idiots to Col. Klink -- he's being way too generous. Graffy and Harris sound like they could have got on well with Pol Pot. (Matter of fact, seems to me I remember that some of out government people actually did get along with with Pol Pot.) We cannot afford another 2 and a half years of Bush. We must win the House back and prepare articles of impeachment. I don't believethat I have ever read of a worse administration, not just in American history but in all of human history since the dawn of civilization. Perhaps Louis Capet, in the 1780s. The French aristos before the revolution might have been just as defiant of human reason, just as venal and corrupt.

Generations will pass before america regains her moral stature.

Harry Harris. Now officially the stupidest fucking human being on the face of the planet.

From the Sidney (Australia) Morning POst, via Raw Story

Doug Feith will be so relieved. Somebody has replaced him at the top.

They hung themselves with fabricated nooses made out of clothes and bed sheets," base commander Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris told reporters in a conference call from the US base in southeastern Cuba.

"They have no regard for human life," he said. "Neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us."

Military officials said the men, whose names were not released, had been held in Guantanamo Bay for about four years. All three detainees had engaged in a hunger strike to protest their indefinite incarceration and had been force-fed before quitting their protest, base commander Navy Rear Admiral Harry Harris said in a conference call from Guantanamo Bay.

This guy is going to get a medal for this. A mere "heckuva job Brownie" will not do. spectacular idiocy requires the highest Presidential sign of approval.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Shearer on trusting the Corpse

The Blog | Harry Shearer: Reasons to Trust the Corps, Continued | The Huffington Post:
"Today's entry in the surprise-a-week derby from the US Army Corps of Engineers -- the people who last week admitted blame for faulty design and construction of the levees and floodwalls that breached in New Orleans, and are now engaged in fixing the very same 'system' -- is that the promised pumps, which would substitute for the city's own huge pumps which would be sidelined if the Corps-built floodgates had to be closed in event of a storm surge, won't be arriving -- no, not on time, that promise was broken weeks ago -- won't be arriving on the new, later schedule, either."

Sen. Landrieu's Washington Editorial.

Originally published in Washington 's "The Hill"New Orleans CityBusiness -- The Business Newspaper of Metropolitan New Orleans:
"perhaps the only way to address these national problems prudently.

First, it’s a matter of intelligent planning. For years the federal government has tried a piecemeal funding approach for levees, flood control and coastal protection, and it has failed dramatically. But if just half of the $6 billion to $8 billion in federal revenue generated each year by energy production on the Gulf’s Outer Continental Shelf were reinvested into protecting the coast it would provide the funding source we now lack.

Second, it is far less expensive for the federal government to prevent flooding than it is to deal with the damage after it occurs. To date, Congress and private insurers have directed more than $100 billion to post-hurricane rescue, relief, recovery, rebuilding and insurance claims — costs that in many, if not most, cases could have been avoided had the levees held and a more substantial wetlands system still flourished.

And third, it’s fair. Inshore states receive 50 percent of the royalties from minerals produced on federal lands with the help of their state infrastructure. Why shouldn’t Gulf Coast states receive the same share for providing the same support to production off their coasts? There is no fair, logical reason why they should not."

New Orleans man nominated for Darwin award. | News for New Orleans, Louisiana | Local News:
"According to Kenner Police, Weber said he was holding a semiautomatic handgun and listening to a rap song when he imitated the lyrics that called for a gun shot and the weapon went off and hit his friend, Johnathan Beasley, 23, in the chest.

Beasley was taken to Elmwood Medical Center and pronounced dead shortly after his arrival."
But we don't know whther the nominee is the shooter or the victim.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Easy prediction: Construction boom for South Louisiana. Times-Picayune Updates:
"WASHINGTON - House-Senate negotiators neared agreement late Wednesday on a $94.5 billion supplemental spending bill that Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and others say includes the full $4.2 billion for housing and $3.7 billion for levees that the Bush administration had sought for hurricane recovery efforts in Louisiana."

Maybe we can convince Vapid Ditter that something is more important than banning gay marriage -- Katrina recovery!!!

Bush should send the FBI to investigate -- Times-Picayune Updates:
"About 85 million gallons of drinking water - more than two-thirds of the total pumped into the pipes - are leaking into the ground everyday through breaks in New Orleans' hurricane-fractured water system, even after crews this week plugged a 15 million-gallon-per-day crack using a process that cut water pressure, in some cases to a mere dribble, from Uptown to Gentilly."

The leaks -- need to be investigated -- get it? Heh.

Not predictions exactly.

Just some buzzy flies gyrating in my cranium. I hear voices sometimes.

1. Look out. the draft may be coming. I'm picking up vibes from what I'm reading -- Bush won't leave Iraq & the military is stretched very thin & there's talk of a serious shortage of manpower & piece de resistance, the draft boards of this great counrty are organizing, training, and anticipating the use of an emergency draft if any terrorist strike or hurricane or other disaster happens.

2. Clinton (hombre, not senator) is considering a run for Secretary General of the UN if polls show that it won't spike the senator's campaign. Nice work if you can get it.

Take it for what's it worth. But remember I told you.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Louisiana legislators tinker with the Decalogue. | News | Panel edits Ten Commandments:
"“We are not adding any commandments, are we?” quipped Rep. Billy Montgomery, D-Haughton, as the panel finished its editing.
No one besides Malec testified for or against the measure."

Minor changes. One re-defines a chicken as human.

Gentilly map project to help plan rebuilding

Dartmouth News - Project color-codes New Orleans neighborhood for recovery status - 06/05/06:
"As part of ongoing recovery efforts in post-Katrina New Orleans, Dartmouth College's MOSAIC project, helmed by Quintus Jett, a visiting professor at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering, is taking advantage of web-based 'open organizing,' an organizing framework based on the principles of open-source programming. The newest MOSAIC initiative relies on GIS (Geographical Information Systems) to build an online community map showing color-coded levels of recovery. Among those helping to create the GIS map are a group of Dillard University students who are taking part in the project as part of a graduation service requirement."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Some Latin Lover. :
"Lafourche Parish officials reported Tuesday the arrest of a man who allegedly gave beer to his eight-month-old baby, then laughed at the way the infant was acting.

Deputies said they could smell beer on the baby’s breath.

The suspect, Carlos Cruz, was arrested, and while en route to the police sub-station allegedly offered the arresting female officer money and “a night to remember” if she let him go.
. . . . .
Deputies said Cruz urinated in the middle of the intake room before he was transported to the Lafourche Parish Detention Center in Thibodaux, La.
. . . . . .

They said they are checking to see if Cruz is an illegal"
Yes. I imagine it would be "a night to remember." But not fondly.

Snakes are very hard to kill. Times-Picayune Updates:
"BATON ROUGE — Landmark legislation passed in February to consolidate authority over the New Orleans area’s fragmented levee districts came under surprise attack Tuesday by former opponents of the initiative.

Amendments placed on unrelated bills in the House and Senate would peel back some provisions in the levee board overhaul championed by the governor and Sen. Walter Boasso, R-Arabi, setting the stage for a reprise of the emotional confrontation that characterized the controversial political issue four months ago. "

Should we be rebuilding on the backs of illegals? Times-Picayune Updates:
"Illegal immigrants make up about one-fourth of the laborers rebuilding the New Orleans area, according to a study that also suggests they are less likely than their documented counterparts to get protective gear and be informed about health hazards such as asbestos and mold.

These workers are paid about 40 percent less than legal laborers, and they are much less likely to get help for medical problems, according to the report released by Tulane University and the University of California, Berkeley.
This article makes clear why the immigration debate is so complicated in the country. Contractors NEED the cheap labor labor. Any reform ought to extend workplace protection to immigrants, provide a path toward citizenship, guarantee at least a mimimum wage, let them contribute to Social Security, Medicare, and other benefits. It is shameful that New Orleans was first built on the backs of slaves. It shouldn't be rebuilt on the backs of abused, underpaid immigrants.

Here's the CBS take on the same report>

I-49 -- N.O. to Lafayette will be a very good move

The Daily Advertiser - - Lafayette, LA:
"BATON ROUGE - With so much windfall money landing in the state's hands, the I-49 South Coalition wants Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the Legislature to set aside $50 million to jumpstart the project, both for hurricane evacuation and economic development reasons.

At a Capitol news conference, six Chambers of Commerce presented Blanco's chief of staff, Jimmy Clarke, with a specific priority list of projects for the upgrading of U.S. Route 90 to Interstate 49 to connect New Orleans with the southern terminus of Interstate 49 at Lafayette."

A second major hurricane evacuation route for NO, Morgan City, Houma -- less truck traffic than I-10 -- all very good -- It's almost as fast to go the southern route to NO now from Lft -- It will be great when the Lafayette / New Iberia overpasses are finished.

Imagine contraflow on both I-10 and I-49 heading west.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Southerners -- hell all Americans -- need to pay more attention to math and science.

New Orleans CityBusiness -- The Business Newspaper of Metropolitan New Orleans:
"Education officials in the South need to do more to raise awareness of the importance of math and science careers and education, the report said. Again, the report noted a national problem — only half of 2004's high school graduates took four years of math in high school and only a fourth took a course in physics — and said most Southern states lagged behind those numbers."
Take a look at the lists of graduate degrees awarded by Louisiana colleges. You might be shocked to see very few "American" surnames among the science and engineering graduate degrees awarded. Most, at least 80%, are identifiably asian or middle-eastern. Are all our other students going to be pop stars or artists? Or what?

Blanco's threat makes the WSJ. - Governor Seeks Oil Revenue For Louisiana:
"WASHINGTON -- Federal officials want to open part of the Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling this summer. But their plans are being complicated by Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who says she'll try to derail the effort unless Washington shares the proceeds with her state.

Gov. Blanco is bucking an industry she generally has favored, and risks the ire of Washington, which is providing billions of dollars in reconstruction money to her storm-racked state. Even so, she says she will try to block the August auction of offshore oil properties in the western Gulf unless the federal government agrees to help restore the state's wetlands, which scientists say are disappearing at an alarming rate.

These scientists say decades of oil exploration have taken a toll on Louisiana's marshes, which are seen as the most effective way to combat storm surges that accompany hurricanes, such as those of Katrina and Rita, which hit the state last year. It is a problem Congress began addressing last year, when it agreed to provide some $500 million in restoration money. But with federal estimates projecting the state will need as much as $16 billion to restore the Bayou state's marshes and swamps, Ms. Blanco wants a sustained stream of money to address the problem.

Unlike onshore oil drilling, in which the federal government shares royalties from leased lands through a 50-50 split with the state, Washington has never shared the proceeds from the biggest offshore properties it leases to energy companies. Ms. Blanco aims to change this. 'All we want is what the interior states get,' said Blanco spokeswoman Denise Bottcher, who says Gov. Blanco risks angering Congress and the Bush administration just as Capitol Hill is debating the merits of providing several billion dollars in reconstruction money to the state."


Another unexpected consequence of Katrina.

Lexington Herald-Leader | 06/05/2006 | 'Death tax' may live, thanks to Katrina:
"WASHINGTON - A decade-long drive to repeal the estate tax permanently is about to come to a head, but proponents are finding it surprisingly difficult to get their political football into the end zone.

The repeal proposal might be an indirect casualty of Hurricane Katrina, which forced Senate leaders to postpone a vote on the plan in September, when hopes it would pass were high.

Now, with the Senate poised to vote as early as this week, even some of the most ardent supporters of estate-tax repeal predict they will come up short. Some of them are pushing an alternative that would reduce but not eliminate the tax.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., a longtime estate-tax critic, is urging a tactical retreat because he thinks support for permanent repeal is eroding at a time of big budget deficits. And he fears that the political climate would be even less hospitable after the 2006 elections if Democrats win control of either the House or the Senate."
It's an ill wind . . .

(I know, that cliche is getting pretty tired, but killing the repeal of the estate tax is some consolation for Katrina. Not much, but some.)

Friday, June 02, 2006

A Must read article: RFK, Jr. : Was the 2004 Election Stolen?

Rolling Stone : Was the 2004 Election Stolen?:
"X. What's At Stake
The mounting evidence that Republicans employed broad, methodical and illegal tactics in the 2004 election should raise serious alarms among news organizations. But instead of investigating allegations of wrongdoing, the press has simply accepted the result as valid. ''We're in a terrible fix,'' Rep. Conyers told me. ''We've got a media that uses its bullhorn in reverse -- to turn down the volume on this outrage rather than turning it up. That's why our citizens are not up in arms.''

The lone news anchor who seriously questioned the integrity of the 2004 election was Keith Olbermann of MSNBC. I asked him why he stood against the tide. ''I was a sports reporter, so I was used to dealing with numbers,'' he said. ''And the numbers made no sense. Kerry had an insurmountable lead in the exit polls on Election Night -- and then everything flipped.'' Olbermann believes that his journalistic colleagues fell down on the job. ''I was stunned by the lack of interest by investigative reporters,'' he said. ''The Republicans shut down Warren County, allegedly for national security purposes -- and no one covered it. Shouldn't someone have sent a camera and a few reporters out there?''"

Not surprising to anyone familiar with academic timidity.

Ivor van Heerden's 'Storm' Draws Fire at L.S.U. - New York Times:
"To many in Louisiana this outspokenness has made Dr. van Heerden a hero. But at his university it has gotten him called on the carpet for threatening the institution's relationship with the federal government and the research money that comes with that. Last November two vice chancellors at Lousiana State — Michael Ruffner, in charge of communications for the university, and Harold Silverman, who leads the office of research — brought him in for a meeting. As Dr. van Heerden recalled in an interview in Baton Rouge, La., the two administrators — one of whom controlled his position, which is nontenured — said that 'they would prefer that I not talk to the press because it could hurt L.S.U.'s chances of getting federal funding in the future.'

The administrators told him to work through the university's media relations department instead."

Damn stupid. But par for the course for academic administrators who are more nervous than rabbits in a dog pen.

Thanks to Wet Bank Guide.

Popsci on how to save NO.

5 Bold Ideas For A Hurricane-Proof New Orleans - Popular Science:
"Shielding New Orleans will require an arsenal of technologies that work collectively. We consulted experts from around the world to identify five innovative solutions that together could provide a category-5-strength de- fense. Although such a system would entail a ground-up reengineering of New Orleans and much of its nearby coastline, the payoff is a city more defensible against nature's wrath than any other. Here's our vision for safeguarding the city. "
Bold maybe, but mostly unworkable.

Ivor van Heerden interview.

Levees Not War: "
The bottom line is, civil works projects like levees are long-term projects, but the Corps’ management is extremely short-term. The colonels come and the colonels go. And if you think about Colonel Richard Wagenaar, the present chief of the New Orleans district, he’s having to clean up somebody else’s mess and before you know it he will be off and we will have another “rookie” running the New Orleans District. "
. . . . . .
IVOR: The state needs to make a decision and do it. It’s been an argument for years and years and years, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be resolved any time soon. We’ve got to say, “What’s best for everybody? What’s best for the greater good?” The problem is that nobody’s doing that. Nobody’s asking what’s best for the greater good. Everybody’s saying I want my piece. I want to be taken care of. And that’s not going to work. You’ve got to ultimately say what’s best for the greater good of everybody? And then set up that system.

Van Heerden has been one of the few consistently correct experts on the levees. As a local, LSU professor, he has a strong emotional bond with New Orlenas. Read the whole thing.

Blanco: threat is not "idle."

Blanco firm on threat to block Gulf lease sale:
"'Some might see this as an idle threat,' Blanco cautioned at the event organized by Women of the Storm to sharpen the focus of the relationship between the restoration of coastal wetlands and hurricane protection as well as the reluctance of some members of Congress to visit the hurricane-torn areas of the Gulf Coast.

'They shouldn't,' Blanco said. 'For decades, Louisiana has made its case. We have asked for a reasonable share of outer continental shelf revenues. And we were snubbed. We were ignored.

'Challenging the OCS lease sale is more than merely getting the feds' attention. It's a way to force them to recognize our problem,' she said. 'That's why I plan . . . to block the August lease sale and fight the legal battle necessary to enforce Louisiana's right to protect our coast and our coastal communities.'"

Full overhaul of levee system needed. Times-Picayune Updates: "
“We say this was a system failure in that the system designed to protect New Orleans failed on many levels, but it also shows how the system — the business model — we use to build these things is so flawed,” said Ed Link, the University of Maryland professor who headed the task force. “The way we determine need, assess risk and go about funding and approving these things is based on a model that might have been appropriate for the way we lived 50 years ago, but is sorely outdated today.”
Link said Congress requires the corps to use an “American business model” that doesn’t measure the cost of failure in human lives and doesn’t free the corps quickly to adjust designs to changing environmental conditions. Those flaws proved catastrophic to New Orleans, a 288-year-old city built on a steadily sinking landscape repeatedly challenged by hurricanes.

“The system was authorized in 1965 and still wasn’t finished when Katrina hit 40 years later,” Link said. “It was funded in a piece-meal basis, and it was built in a piece-meal way. And even as subsidence caused changes in elevations — changes people were aware of — nothing was done. “This is not to offer excuses for any mistakes (in engineering or design) that were made. But it makes it almost impossible for the corps to adapt to problems when they occur.” "

Contrite Corps? Are they learning? | AP Top Stories:
"A contrite U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took responsibility Thursday for the flooding of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and said the levees failed because they were built in a disjointed fashion using outdated data.

'This is the first time that the Corps has had to stand up and say, `We've had a catastrophic failure,'' Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the Corps chief, said as the agency issued a 6,000-page-plus report on the disaster on Day 1 of the new hurricane season."

Harry Shearer: Right on!

Harry Shearer: Where the Corps Leads, Can Politicians Still Be Afraid to Tread? | The Huffington Post:

I have much more to write about this remarkable week in New Orleans, but quite remarkable enough is the fact that the Army Corps of Engineers' culpability for the drowning of this city has finally made major national news, thanks to the report the Corps' own inspection team issued today. Now, who will be the first Democrat, or Republican, to stand up and say, 'HERE is why taxpayers north and south, east and west, have to pony up for the rebuilding of New Orleans -- because we, the federal taxpayers, made a compact with New Orleans that we, through the Corps, would protect it, and we, through the Corps, broke that commitment.

Don't all run to the microphone at once, fellas and gals.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Alleged human Bill O'Reilly slanders American troops to protect the coverup of a massacre

Talking to Wesley Clark, Bill O'Reilly, ever anxious to smear Congressman Murtha and defend the administration against charges of a coverup, attempts to change the subject and minimize the heinousness of the Haditha massacre. In the process he implies that Americans have always engaged in atrocities during wartime. As though it was some homely American tradition.

"'In Malmedy as you know, US forces captured SS forces, who had their hands in the air, and they were unarmed and they shot them down. You know that. That's on the record. Been documented. In Iwo Jima the same thing occurred.'
---- Bill O'Reilly to Wesley Clark at the 3:39 mark in this clip at the redoubtable Crooks and Liars.

Where do such twisted ideas come from?! At Malmedy, German SS soldiers gunned down 71 unarmed American troops. Perhaps O'Reilly was having some sort of brain seizure/attack from reading Nazi apologists who concocted stories like the one recounted below in a more authoritative venue:

With the passing of time this story, too, has been embellished to a point where the surrendered Americans, having recovered their weapons, actually opened fire on the main body of the Kampfgruppe. It is hard to comprehend how supposedly intelligent people can advance a theory that green and terrified soldiers who had already surrendered would pick up their rifles and pistols--they had nothing larger--which hardened Waffen SS soldiers had left lying around, in order to engage tanks and halftracks.

Why did not Clark, who certainly knows better, rise out of his chair in righteous wrath, and smite O'Reilly for sullying the name of American soldiers (apart from the fact that they were not in the same room)? O'Reilly, unable to deny the mounting evidence from multiple sources-- including eyewitnesses, the soldiers who cleaned up the scene of the massacre and took the bodies to the morgue-- that there was a six-month-long coverup which went very high into the Pentagon --O'Reilly unable to deny the evidence, launched a personal attack on Murtha for bringing the atrocity to light. IOW, shoot the messenger.

In fact, Clark held up his end in defense of Murtha against this torrent of spewing nonsense, but how can you counter such flamboyant stupidity? To O'Reilly, presumably there is no difference between a fanatical, disciplined Japanese soldier in a cave at Iwo Jima (where Marines took 26000 casualties, more than the number of Japanese soldiers on the island, and 6800 dead, more than twice the number of the WTC deaths) and a four year old girl.

REALLY, why do Americans put up with such monumental egoistical meat-puppets as the alleged human Bill O'Reilly?

Some D-Day vet or Iwo Jima Marine needs to straighten O'Reilly out.