Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Rising Tide Conference

Again many, many thanks to the organizers of the conference -- it was well presented and superbly organized.

Here are some squibs about what I took away from the conference:

Loudest and most applause:
Shane Landry was applauded more than once for his opinion that Louisiana should secede from the Union. "We have food and we can turn on the lights. That's all you need for a civilization."

Most emotional moment:Peggy Wilson's lengthy attack on Mitch Landrieu for vaguely defined offenses which she had heard about but couldn't go into detail on. She was very exercised on the subject, her voice was raised, and there was an obvious emotional animus. One conference organizer walked out on her when she would not clarify her accusations.

Most ill considered remark:
Someone who should have known better said "I am not interested in hearing a blogger's opinion of Bush. I want to hear about that person's daily life and struggles." (my paraphrase from memory) The arrogance of the Washington press corps touches down in N.O.

Most divisive neologism:"Carpet-blogger" I suppose I fit in that category, since I am not living in New Orleans. It makes me feel unwelcome.

Best categorization of Louisiana politicians:
"Corruption aside, they're entertainers and clowns. So when there is something serious for them to do, they are completely incompetant." Greg Peters (my very poor paraphrase.) This struck me at the truest thing I heard that day.
We elect our politicians for their entertainment value, not for their ability. I think maybe that's because we're really a colony of the US, and extractive economy, so our politicians are not really in charge of things here. The owners are, and they live out of state.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Disaster for fun and (especially!) profit.

Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | Disaster capitalism: how to make money out of misery:
"It's all going to be private enterprise before it's over,' Billy Wagner, emergency management chief for the Florida Keys, currently under hurricane watch for tropical storm Ernesto, said in April. 'They've got the expertise. They've got the resources.' But before this new consensus goes any further, perhaps it's time to take a look at where the privatisation of disaster began, and where it will inevitably lead.

The first step was the government's abdication of its core responsibility to protect the population from disasters. Under the Bush administration, whole sectors of the government, most notably the Department of Homeland Security, have been turned into glorified temp agencies, with essential functions contracted out to private companies. The theory is that entrepreneurs, driven by the profit motive, are always more efficient (please suspend hysterical laughter).

We saw the results in New Orleans one year ago: Washington was frighteningly weak and inept, in part because its emergency management experts had fled to the private sector and its technology and infrastructure had become positively retro. At least by comparison, the private sector looked modern and competent."

University presidents continue to delay meeting with AAUP

New Orleans CityBusiness -- The Business Newspaper of Metropolitan New Orleans:
"An investigation into the layoffs of nearly 300 New Orleans-area professors was stonewalled this week when none of the university presidents would meet with the association conducting the probe.

“We hoped to interview the president of the institutions by the end of August,” said Jordan E. Kurland, associate general secretary for the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of University Professors. “But they questioned the way we wanted to proceed and proposed different procedures. They were not able to meet under our system that we’ve used for the last 80 years — and used pretty well. So we’ll likely work out something that meets both of our needs.”

The AAUP’s mission is to advance academic freedom and shared governance at colleges and universities. About 45,000 members are in the AAUP, which consists of faculty, librarians and academic professionals at two- and four-year accredited schools."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


The images below were all made in August 2006 in New Orleans. I may be able to post more later, but these show some part of what New Orleans looks like today. The two on top were taken at the Yacht Club during the Rising Tide conference last weekend. (Thanks to the organizers of that, BTW#. Great job!)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Now THIS could make a difference.

New Orleans CityBusiness -- The Business Newspaper of Metropolitan New Orleans:
"BATON ROUGE — 'The Road Home' pilot program began in earnest Friday as 42 applicants qualified to receive financial assistance for losses from

Hurricane Katrina totaling almost $1.5 million.

“We are off to a great start, and thousands more homeowners will be served

in the coming weeks,” said Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco. “The Road Home program launched the day the state of Louisiana received federal dollars for compensation. We opened 10 Housing Assistance Centers statewide this week and are closing on the first disbursement accounts in record time."
This is great news. I don't understand why it hasn't gotten more play in the media.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Chalmette Rockey and his Potemkin trailer.

Attytood: "Rockey I": If it sounds too good to be true...:
"Now comes Rockey, a plain-talking character who lost it all in Katrina, who nearly died in the hurricane, forced to hang onto a rope for four hours (some of that was captured on film), and now wants to government to do more for Katrina victims. And what a difference a year makes -- not only did Bush, not in Crawford but hard at work in the White House, meet with this 'average American,' but check out the glowing praise our president received in return."
. . . .

This guy is a symbol of the misery that so many people in Louisiana and Mississippi? If we didn't know any better, this couldn't have been more of home run for Bush if the whole thing had been set up by Karl Rove.


In fact, we had a hunch -- that maybe, just maybe, Rockey Vaccarella had a background himself in GOP politics.

And, whaddya know? Turns out that the earthy Vaccarella -- a highly successful businessman in the fast-food industry -- is indeed a Republican pol, having run unsuccessfully under the GOP banner for a seat on the St. Bernard Parish commission back in 1999.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ugly rumor out of Houston.

I'm hearing rumors about a very bad situation in Houston, involving elderly Katrina evacuees. Charges include negligence, fraud, embezzlement. Some elderly people, helpless and weak, are being exploited by FEMA sub-contractors. Some have died.

And this only took a year. Imagine that. - Gonzales vows federal aid to fight New Orleans crime - Aug 22, 2006: "Gonzales said he will immediately send 10 federal prosecutors from other locations to New Orleans to help prosecute federal firearms-, drug- and immigration-related violations.

The temporary assignment of prosecutors from the Justice Department in Washington and other locations is designed to provide needed assistance until nine assistant U.S. attorneys can be hired, trained and placed in the New Orleans office, he said Monday."

More FEMA crap.

Mayor: B.R. is doormat for feds: "Holden told the Press Club of Baton Rouge that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has not fully reimbursed the city for expenses it incurred last year in housing up to 15,000 Katrina evacuees, about 5,000 alone in the RiverCenter, a downtown Baton Rouge convention and performance facility. Aides said the city has sought more than $27 million in federal money and has received $23.9 million so far."

The Cajundome in Lafayette hasn't been paid yet either.

What?! We have to understand WHAT?!! It was a huge storm? No shit!

Bush repeats pledge to aid recovery: "'I also want the people down there to understand that it's going to take a while to recover. This was a huge storm,' Bush said at a Washington news conference, where he also asked for patience in dealing with the escalating violence in Iraq."

Spike Lee's Requiem: When the Levees Broke

Watch it. Make copies. Send them to your friends who don't have HBO.

It's important.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Jefferson took gifts from Jackson while plotting to take away his company.

Lexington Herald-Leader | 08/20/2006 | Behind the cash in the freezer:
"Jefferson seemed to work as hard for iGate as if he were the owner of the company. He went to Louisville for demonstrations. He pressed the Army to test the technology for use by the military, introduced Jackson to political and business stars, including Bill Clinton and Bill Gates, and went with Jackson to Nigeria to help sell his product. Jefferson even found an investor willing to put millions of dollars into iGate.

At the time of the U.S. Open, Jackson might have appeared cocky about his important supporter. What he didn't realize was that the congressman, while appearing to help, was stealing his company, piece by piece.

And Jackson was paying him to do it.

That, at least, is the view of FBI investigators and federal prosecutors, who have recounted secret meetings in Washington and Louisiana where Jefferson plotted to take over the company from Jackson -- a man he didn't think was up to making the company a success."

Good article on Bush attempt to pre-empt state governors power over National Guard.

The Daily Advertiser - - Lafayette, LA:
"BATON ROUGE - To Tulane historian Doug Brinkley, the crucial moment in post-Hurricane Katrina politics occurred Sept. 2 when Gov. Kathleen Blanco refused to relinquish control of the Louisiana National Guard to President Bush.

'It's such a big moment, the Blanco-Bush moment,' said Brinkley, the author of The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. 'Gov. Blanco did absolutely the right thing. She stood up to the president's attempt to take over the National Guard.'

A year later, the president again is trying to take over the National Guard, and not only Louisiana's, but any state's."
. . . . . .

U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, said he could see both sides of the argument, but he favors removing the takeover provision.

"I can understand the governors' concerns," Alexander said. "I can understand the president's concern."

The takeover could be dangerous "if you had a president who would be ruthless," Alexander said.
Gee! A ruthless president?? That could never happen.

NO free of contamination

Final EPA report deems N.O. safe:
"The hurricane didn't cause any appreciable contamination that wasn't already there,' said EPA toxicologist Jon Rauscher. 'There are exceptions like Murphy Oil and some localized events like that. But on a broad scale, across New Orleans, the hurricane didn't cause any appreciable change. At this point we don't envision any more broad testing.'"

An entire generation of leadership fails N.O.

Who's to Blame for State of New Orleans? - "
But the roll of those accused of failing New Orleans is a long one: State and local officials who had no good plan for the disaster, and now preside over a languid recovery. A president who at first seemed remote from the cataclysm, and then made promises that have not been fully realized.

So many did not live up their responsibilities, says G. Paul Kemp, a Louisiana State University engineer and member of Team Louisiana, a group of forensic engineers examining how the flooding occurred. Every time anyone points that out, 'people say, `Oh, we don't want to play the blame game. We've got to get things moving.''

But things are moving agonizingly slow. Piles of debris and wrecked cars are everywhere, and astonishingly, searchers were still finding bodies in ruined homes just weeks ago.

Harried recovery officials say it's only been a year. How much can you expect?

But to Lakeview resident Pascal Warner - who walks through clouds of mosquitoes attracted by a neighbor's fetid, sludge-covered swimming pool still filled with stagnant Katrina floodwater - a year seems like a pretty long time.

'I wouldn't want to spend a year in jail,' the retired stagehand says. 'Would you?' "

Friday, August 18, 2006

Lafayette needs toll roads on new construction. | News | Toll road supporters blast Vitter:
"Supporters of a proposed toll road loop around Lafayette gave U.S. Sen. David Vitter an earful Thursday for his adamant opposition to tolls on highways in the state.

Vitter’s stance drew much attention earlier this month when the Republican senator accused Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s administration of quietly seeking federal permission for tolls on Interstates 10 and 12."

And New Orleans would benefit as well. The completion of I-49 link from Lafayette to New Orleans would create another new evacuation route for N.O., as well as for most of the southern part of the state. But apparently there's no money in the highway fund for the completion of the link. One solution would be a toll on part of the highway. Vitter didn't seem to be opposed to that idea, but according to this article he left some angry skeptics in his wake in Lafayette.

Jon Stewart's Daily Show says Hezbollah to rebuild N. O.

The Daily Show: August 17, 2006 - TV Squad:
"'Hezbollah might be a ragtag group of undereducated extremist militiamen, but at least they're not FEMA.'"

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Lee and NAACP on "black on black" crime

News for New Orleans, Louisiana | Local News |
"No matter how you cut it, whether it’s a racist statement or not, in Jefferson Parish the murder rate is going out of site because our young black people are killing each other,” said Lee in a press conference he called to address the soaring crime rate.

Lee said the majority of shootings are young African-American males shooting each other over drugs.

The Louisiana NAACP, which has at times found itself at odds with Lee, said it couldn't argue with the statistics. Dannatus King, the head of the local group said the NAACP is fed up with black on black crime and would help neighborhoods organize in attempts to combat it."

Blanco, Vitter on same page. | AP Top Stories:
"Blanco, as part of a campaign to get the state a bigger share of federal offshore royalty money, filed a lawsuit claiming that the federal Minerals Management Service has not done enough to protect Louisiana's wetlands from damage from drilling. As part of the suit, she sought an order blocking Wednesday's sale.

U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt on Monday refused to block the sale. But he also said the state would have a strong case when the dispute goes to trial in November.

That led U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie, to say Tuesday that the Bush administration should delay the sale until the legal uncertainties are resolved."

Introducing Pandora

Self portrait

Saturday, August 12, 2006

THIRD BATTLE: Very little of N.O. is "10 feet below sea level"

In fact, almost half of N.O. is above sea level.

THE THIRD BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS: If You Tell a Lie Big Enough and Keep Repeating It, People Will Eventually Come to Believe It PART 2: Utah Senator Bob Bennett: "
Three weeks ago Utah Senator Bob Bennett, who has yet to visit New Orleans or the any of the Gulf Coast post-KTMB, made the following public statement concerning the rebuilding of the city:

'Building a city ten feet below sea level does not strike me as inherently, basically a good idea ... '

THE LIE: New Orleans is a city situated ten feet below sea level.

THE TRUTH: The City of New Orleans is not 'built' ten feet below sea level."
This is a great post. I'm sorry I missed it when it first appeared.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Who is the Louisiana for American Security PAC?

And why are they giving money to a race in Georgia?

Boustany fails to get info from FEMA | News | FEMA to Boustany: Nothing:
"Congressman Charles Boustany Jr. said Tuesday that his call for information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is still being met with silence and he is not happy about it."

So what's he going to do?

Boustany said he will not file suit for the information, which he believes is not protected under federal public records law, because he does not believe that would be productive.

Good work.

Hey, he's not just unhappy. He's angry! Anhd he's going to write a letter about it.

Entergy dodging its responsibility.

Entergy Corp. is raking in millions supplying power to New Orleans' suburbs and three other states, so why can't it use that money to help out its customers in Katrina-devastated N.O.?:
"Despite asking for millions of dollars from New Orleans customers and the federal government to rebuild its shattered electric and gas system, Entergy Corp. on Tuesday reported millions in profits for the third quarter in a row since Hurricane Katrina struck.

Though its earnings were slightly down from last year, Entergy Corp. reported earning $282 million between April and June on revenue of $2.63 billion. Why, then, is the company's subsidiary, Entergy New Orleans, asking for rate increases of at least $45 per month per customer, and why is Entergy Corp. taking the firm stance that it can't help bail out its hurricane-ravaged subsidiary and instead is asking for federal aid of $718 million?

'Rain or shine, Entergy has made money from New Orleans. This year it and its parent company has profited again. Isn't it time they gave something back?' said Betty Wisdom, a member of the board of directors for the Alliance of Affordable Energy."

Two houses in Chalmette

Only a block apart.

This is really sad

I hope this guy gets some help and recovers. He's sacrificed a lot.

Photographer for 'Times-Pic' Arrested As He Begs Cops to Kill Him:
"Published: August 09, 2006 12:25 PM ET

NEW YORK A photographer for the Times-Picayune of New Orleans who has undergone severe personal trauma since Hurricana Katrina hit was arrested Tuesday after trying to get police to shoot him to death. Police said he claimed he was depressed after he found out he didn't have enough insurance money to rebuild his Katrina-damaged home.

They said he was seeking 'suicide-by-cop,' but police who found him tasered him instead.

Earlier published accounts had revealed that he had recently taken a leave of absence from the paper and was undergoing therapy.

John McCusker, the photographer, was being held under psychiatric observation and faces unspecified charges.

He had been one of the paper's key photographers in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. 'Katrina didn't flood New Orleans - government failure did,' he told visiting students from Brown University recently."
One policeman said "he sees it [mental damage from Katrina] all the time now."


Central Florida Hurricane Center 2006: "This year has been quite a contrast to last year, in that systems have been slow to develop, and when they do, not holding together or becoming very strong. Lets hope this trend continues for the rest of the season."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lamont wins

Lieberman to run as independent. Bad move.

Stomach virus

Don't get it. It's awful.

But that's why I haven't been much on posting the last few days.

LBJ vs. Bush-- very revealing

New Orleans CityBusiness -- The Business Newspaper of Metropolitan New Orleans:
"When Johnson landed in New Orleans the evening of Sept. 10, he went to Washington High School on St. Claude Avenue where many had sought shelter.

Johnson's White House "Daily Diary" describes the scene.

"It was a mass of human suffering. Calls of 'water, water, water' were resourced over and over again in terribly emotional wails from voices of all ages. The people all about were bedraggled and homeless ... thirsty and hungry. It was a most pitiful sight of human and material destruction."

Hardesty remembers Johnson reaching out to the thirsty crowds.

"People were in the shelter and he asked what they needed and they said, 'We need water.' He looked at the officials and said, 'You have a Coca-Cola bottling plant here, don't you?' They said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'You have a 7-Up bottling plant here, don't you?' They said, 'Yeah.' Then he said, 'For God's sake go out there get some soda and bring it back here.'""

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Allstate gambled on Louisiana. . . and lost. NewsFlash - Not buying reinsurance for Louisiana cost Allstate $2 billion:
"BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Allstate Insurance Co. bought reinsurance to cover some of the cost of policies all along the East Coast last year, but not for Louisiana — a gamble that cost it $2 billion in claims.

The company's models did not predict a hurricane hitting Louisiana, attorney Edward Collins told a joint legislative insurance committee last week. It did buy reinsurance in Texas and Florida, as well as New York and other Eastern states, he said.

'You didn't take care of your business, so the citizens of Louisiana have to pay for your mistake?' asked Sen. Don Cravins, D-Opelousas. 'Now that you've had a loss, you put the burden on the backs of Louisiana citizens to pay for your shortcomings.'"
Cravins tells it like it is. They gambled, lost, and now want someone else to cover their markers.

Bye bye Chris (we hope) | News | TD Chris to dissipate over Cuba:
"Tropical Depression Chris, which earlier this week was predicted to become the first hurricane of the 2006 season and threaten the Gulf of Mexico, is now expected to dissipate over Cuba today."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Blanco stands up to Bush's power grab, again.

Way to go Governor. Governors bristle at Bush Guard proposal - Yahoo! News:
"CHARLESTON, S.C. - The nation's governors are closing ranks in opposition to a proposal in Congress that would let the president take control of the National Guard in emergencies without consent of governors.

The idea, spurred by the destruction and chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina's landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi, is part of a House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act. It has not yet been agreed to by the Senate.

The measure would remove the currently required consent of governors for the federalization of the Guard, which is shared between the individual states and the federal government.

'Federalization just for the sake of federalization makes no sense,' said Gov. Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana, a Democrat who had rough relations with the Bush administration after the disaster last year. 'You don't need federalization to get federal troops. ... Just making quick decisions can make things happen.'"
Bush is never satisfied, no matter how much power he snatches. Whatever happened to conservatives' concern for states' rights?

Yeah, I know, that was just coded racism anyway.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Church sign -- altered.

This sign in front of a Ninth Ward church says "Aug us t 28/ Pastor nnvers???" It looks like it was put up the day before Katrina. Or has someone re-arranged the letters?

A Little Church in the Ninth

It seems so strange that everything is so green, and that there is virtually no noise and very few people on the streets.

House + Truck?

When we stopped to photograph this scene, at least three vans and two cars also stopped at about the same time. The kids in the picture are from a youth group that is cleaning up the neighborhood.

Looking toward the site of the levee breach

Lower Ninth near the Levee Breach

This house is a mere three or four blocks from the levee breach. Apparently some houses nearby have already been demolished. Click on image to enlarge.
I'll be posting more pictures as time and Blogger permit.

Last few days in New Orleans

I was in N.O. the last three days, thanks to the hospitality of my old friends E. and D. and, also thanks to E.'s patience I spent most of Wednesday tooling around, documtening the Ninth Ward and Chalmette with pictures.

Supper at the Taqueria Corona was terrific as usual, and Wednesday we had a great time watching "The Big Lebowski" at home. E. worked Thursday at Kaboom Books down on Bsarracks St. in the Quarter, and, as usual when I'm in the Quarter, I ran into an old friend from college, a lawyer who was buying cookbooks. It's wonderful how paths seem to cross and recross in tis great town.

My impression of how N.O. is doing is mixed. On Calhoun between St. Charles and Claiborne the renovations and restoration are going great guns, almost every house with evidence of new or ongoing construction and lots of fresh paint. In the upper Ninth, it was a different story. Most houses look untouched since the flood. Plenty of damage, many houses gutted, many not. But the lower Ninth was a vision of the last days of Empire. Most houses don't seem even remotely salvageable. Here and there a brick house escaped complete destruction and has been gutted, but most seem to be completely unslavageable, not even worth gutting, too dangerous to even try to salvage belongings. It's not unlikely that several more sets of human remains will be found in houses that have been tossed around and left crooked, many feet from their original foundations. The area directly around the levee breach has mostly been cleared, and now overgrown with weeds, it could pass for a fallow field in the country, except for here and there a fence post, or a set of concrete steps poking up above the vegetation. Ten or fifteen blocks away, further south, the damage is still catastrophic, broken back houses litter the landscape. Every several blocks, heavy machinery is at work completing the destruction and clearing the lots of houses now turned into rubbish. That's the only activity in the neighborhood. Aside from one or two trailers, virtually nothing gives any sign of renewal.

If you squint traveling through Chalmette you might be able to convince yourself that nothing much is wrong. Large shopping centers seem to be untouched -- that is, till you look more closely and notice that there are no cars in the parking lots, and nothing in the windows of the shops. Off the main drag, the houses seem mostly untouched-- again if you squint -- but a second loook tells you that the devastation was complete here too, though it looks like Chalmette is working hard to come back. Most of the house are shells now, but in N.O. now gutting is a sign of progress. It indicates that owners are intend to come back some day, or at least, intend to sell. It's an optimistic scene compared to the lower Ninth.

There are signs that things may soon start looking up for N.O. when the Road Home money starts trickling, then pouring in. But it seems to me that it's been a long wait for people who have lost everything.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Chris: Aug 2 06, 14:45 UTC

Still a TS. But looking decidedly hurricane-ish.

From Central Florida Hurricane Center
11:34 AM 02-Aug EDT
11:30 AM August 2006
The latest Advisory keeps Chris as a strong Tropical Storm, however some models are starting to get a better handle on the environment around the storm. The ridge to the north may cause Chris to stay further west, and possibly over Hispaniola, but there is enough uncertainty that I think that anyone in the Cone needs to watch, from the islands to the south to Southern Florida.


TIME: "There is no 'post-' Is New Orleans Having a Mental Health Breakdown? -- Page 1:
"'There's no 'post-' to the post-traumatic stress syndrome in this situation,' he says. The stress, in other words, never goes away. 'The event is still unfolding. People are losing jobs. They're moving because they're so discouraged by the situation. There's a lot of uncertainty about the future. It's not easy to live here.'"

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Buried almost a year

KLFY TV 10 - Acadiana's Local News, Weather and Sports Leader | Skeletal remains found in New Orleans home flooded by Katrina:
"Eleven months after Hurricane Katrina hit, firefighters broke through a back door of a destroyed home filled with debris and furniture and found skeletal remains."


Click to enlarge image.
UPDATE: Picture not coming up? Click on the headline.
Floater upgraded to TS, heading NW for the area between FLorida and Cuba.
See discussion here for details.