Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The next big disaster.

Bird flu is now endemic throught most of Europe, plus Nigeria and Iraq. With each new country infected, chances are greater that the flu will become an epidemic, and a serious danger to the human population.

German cat gets deadly bird flu:
"A domestic cat in Germany has become the first European Union mammal to die of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.

The cat was found dead at the weekend on the Baltic island of Ruegen, where dozens of birds infected with H5N1 have been found."

Comparison of congressional, White House reports on Hurricane Katrina response

This comparison offers a quick glimpse into how many ways there really are to say "we flubbed this disaster."

Monday, February 27, 2006

Blanco Will Discuss Katrina Lessons Learned

BATON ROUGE, LA- Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco travels to Washington, D.C. this weekend to join her fellow governors for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Healthy America forum.

During the weekend, Governor Blanco will address Katrina lessons learned in a Governors only session, chair a meeting of the Southern Governors Association, hold a private meeting with DHH Secretary Michael O. Leavitt to discuss Louisiana´s health care rebuilding process, and join Governors in meeting with President George W. Bush.

First Gentleman Raymond S. Blanco will discuss his Louisiana Summer of Service initiative in an address to the gubernatorial spouses.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

$100 million canbuy a lot of support--and silence a lot of objections

U-A-E gave 100 (m) million dollars for Katrina relief:
"The Bush administration says the United Arab Emirates contributed 100 (m) million dollars to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The donation was made weeks before a U-A-E firm, based in Dubai, sought approval of a deal to handle terminal duties at six major American ports, including New Orleans."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Important N.O. health news--great news.

2theadvocate.com News:
"Louisiana's charity hospital system and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are entering into negotiations to build a shared hospital in New Orleans to replace their damaged facilities, which were flooded by Hurricane Katrina.

The VA and LSU, which runs the charity hospitals, planned to sign the agreement at an afternoon news conference at the state Capitol.

The agreement would be a significant step to reconstructing the safety net hospital system on which thousands of uninsured New Orleans area residents depended before Katrina."

Powell makes very big commitment to N.O.

WWLTV.com :
"Protecting this city and the rest of low-lying south Louisiana from killer hurricanes will entail not just building higher levees but restoring wetlands, upgrading pumping capacities and strengthening existing flood defenses, President Bush's adviser on Gulf Coast recovery said Thursday.

Donald Powell made his comments at a summit about levees and their importance in rebuilding this hurricane-battered region. The summit was hosted by Greater New Orleans Inc. and the Southeast Louisiana Business Coalition, two business groups.

'Hurricane protection is a complex issue,' Powell said. 'It involves restoration, it involves wetlands, it involves canals, it involves pumping stations, it involves levees, it involves height.'"

White House finally makes serious move to improve hurricane response

Lets see if they can follow through. (I have serious doubts.)

White House Katrina report highlights

Generally the recommendations call for streamlining, better communication, better coordination, better use of federal resources. Includes a hurricane education program for schools.

Complete report here.

This is how the AP led the story:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House cited failures by the Homeland Security Department and other agencies in planning, communications and leadership in a report on Hurricane Katrina Thursday and proposed a broad reworking of how the government would respond to the next catastrophe.

The 228-page report by White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend urges changes in 11 key areas - mainly in better disaster relief coordination among federal agencies - before the next hurricane season begins June 1. The White House study took a softer approach than a scathing House report issued last week, focusing on proposals to fix problems without singling out any individuals for blame.

Don't forget Rita -- NWS Report

Official NWS reports on Hurricane Rita. Includes Southwest, South-Central La. and Texas.

Tropical Weather - National Weather Service - Lake Charles, LA

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Blanco plan finds many supporters

New York Times
Bush administration officials, including the president, have repeatedly urged Louisiana to come up with a workable housing plan. Several here suggested the new proposals might come close. "I commend them for it," said Mtumishi St. Julien, chairman of the housing subcommittee of the Bring New Orleans Back commission, Mayor C. Ray Nagin's rebuilding panel. "The fear in New Orleans has been about a buyout. People need to be made whole, but the very first priority is to bring our people home. This was designed to bring our people home." Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, a nonprofit group in Baton Rouge, said the plan seemed reasonable. "It's not just a blank check," he said. "If you look at it over all, it seems pretty well balanced. Nobody makes out like gangsters. This one has a dollar amount, and it sort of assumes the little guy will have a more difficult time with resources."

Don't trust the Corpse of Engineers. The levees still need more work

The Army Corps of Engineers needs to armor all levees in the area as soon as possible, update models used to establish storm threats to the region -- and rein in top officials who are issuing assurances the region will be safe by June 1, engineers monitoring reconstruction of New Orleans' hurricane protection systems said Monday.

In a progress report, the External Review Panel of the American Society of Civil Engineers said the corps' ongoing examination of the massive failure has been generally satisfactory. But it offered a number of recommendations that chairman David Daniel of the University of Texas called "urgently important."

The most immediate concern is to address the threat to levees posed when water overtops them, triggering rapid erosion and possible collapse.

The corps has determined that much of the flooding from Katrina was caused when overtopping led to the disintegration of large sections of levees, most notably along the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet. Overtopping also caused failures of the Industrial Canal floodwall by scouring the inland side of the levee supporting that structure, the corps said. Other failures, notably along the London Avenue and 17th Street canals, appear to have occurred even without overtopping.

NAACP wants elections postponed

WWLTV.com | Local News
The Department of Justice should postpone upcoming elections in New Orleans until displaced voters have been located, NAACP officials said Saturday. "We're worried about the voting rights of our people in New Orleans who are not, for the most part, in New Orleans," said Bruce S. Gordon, NAACP president. "People should still have a say in what happens in the communities that were ravaged by Katrina."
Unquestionably correct.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Good news for NO homeowners

More U.S. Aid Will Be Sought for Louisiana - New York Times
Facing complaints that it has not done enough to rebuild New Orleans, the Bush administration announced Wednesday that it would ask Congress for $4.2 billion more to compensate Louisiana residents whose homes were severely damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The money will come from $18 billion that the administration said last month it would request from Congress this year for hurricane relief.

The announcement was praised by Louisiana officials who said that the $4.2 billion, when added to $7.7 billion in rebuilding money approved by Congress last year, would be enough to help anyone in the state who owned a storm-wrecked home.

NOLA.com has the complete congressional report on the government's response to Katrina

It's a pdf. Click here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

You learn something new every day.

In 1838, a young French Quarter apothecary, Antoine Amadee Peychaud, concocted a drink of Brandy and bitters as a pain reliever that was served in a French egg cup called a "coquetier," which became the word, "cocktail," and has remained a mainstay in bars and restaurants in New Orleans and around the world.

What does the War on Terror have to do with Katrina?

Obfuscating the truth.

White House political antennae appear to be very sensitive to at least one phenomenon -- impending public relations disasters. The bad news in this case was a New York Times report that while the President's staff was warned as early as Monday evening, Aug. 29, 2005, that flood waters had breached levees in New Orleans, White House officials professed ignorance of that fact well into the next day, even though time was of the essence in dealing with the disaster.

The truth was bound to come out, but when it did last week the West Wing staff had a contingency plan: a speech by President Bush revealing details of a supposedly foiled plot by al-Qaeda to crash an airplane into the Library Tower in Los Angeles, the tallest building on the West Coast. Mr. Bush said the terrorists were thwarted by "the combined efforts of several countries to break up this plot."

As propagandists, the folks in the White House are experts. Whenever they sense bad news, they invoke 9/11 and the terrorist threat, even though the basic facts of the attempt on the Los Angeles tower had been disclosed earlier. This time it drew headlines in some newspapers on a day when no one story dominated the news, and overshadowed revelations about what the President knew about the breach of the New Orleans levees and when he knew it.

Another scary video -- Katrina from the Beau Rivage parking lot.

This will give you some idea of the size of the storm surge.

Sheehan connects the dots.

WWLTV.com | News for New Orleans, Louisiana | Local News
Sheehan, who grabbed the national limelight during her extended vigil outside President Bush's ranch to protest the death of her son in Iraq, said the slow recovery in New Orleans is intimately tied to the siphoning of federal dollars for foreign wars.

Bayoustjohndavid had a post on this two weeks ago.

That $85 million figure bush keeps throwing around is bogus.

NOLA.com: Times-Picayune Updates
When pressed about what his administration is doing to help the victims of last year’s hurricanes, President Bush has recently taken to pointing to an eye-catching number on the bottom line.

Typical is his statement during a Jan. 26 White House press conference: “The Congress has appropriated $85 billion to help rebuild the Gulf Coast. ... I want to remind people in that part of the world, $85 billion is a lot.”

Some Louisiana lawmakers do not dispute the heft of that number, but they do question whether it accurately reflects reality on the ground, where long-term housing and infrastructure repair has become a priority.

For starters, no one can say with any precision how much of that total has actually been spent so far. The finest point the administration can put on the figure is “more than half.”

No unity, no progress.

Blanco bills going down in flames
With four days left before adjournment, the governor's push to create a single levee board for southeast Louisiana is on life support, almost certain to be replaced by scaled-back legislation that preserves autonomy for the West Bank. A bill to consolidate the seven New Orleans assessors into a single office died in committee with little chance of resurrection, while legislation that would consolidate sheriffs, clerks of court and other New Orleans municipal offices languishes in a Senate committee that is widely viewed as hostile to the bill's chances. Bottcher said the governor knew when she called the special session that several issues would be contentious. "I think what's happened is that you have some folks who are trying to hold on to a past and to a place that has certainly changed," Bottcher said.

Nothing ever changes in Louisiana.

This is an obvious ploy by the lege to return white govt. to NO.

WWLTV.com | News for New Orleans, Louisiana | Local News
Former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial strongly denounced the Louisiana Legislature for failing to approve a bill that would allow displaced city residents to cast their votes at satellite polling places around the state in the April 22 election.

The failure of the bill caused a walkout of the Legislative Black Caucus Monday.

A similar bill pushed by Governor Kathleen Blanco narrowly passed a House committee Tuesday but was expected to face an uphill battle in the full House, which already rejected the first proposal.
. . . . .
“If an Iraqi in Houston can vote in an election in Baghdad, then certainly somebody in Baton Rouge ought to be able to vote in an election in New Orleans,” said Morial.

Exactly. Democracy in Iraq, but not in NO?!

Watered down levee board bill

WWLTV.com | News for New Orleans, Louisiana | Local News
Following what appears to be the end of Walter Boasso’s bill to combine southeast Louisiana’s levee boards into a single board, some lawmakers are proposing a compromise that they hope combines the single approach idea while leaving local autonomy in place. Senator Butch Gautreaux is proposing to have all of the local boards form a consortium that would come up with a unified hurricane protection plan to present to the federal government. At the same time local levee boards would still exist and have control over projects in their respective areas.
Now that they've killed real levee board reform, we get this silly "compromise" that lets the NO levee board continue it's high-rolling ways, complete with golf courses, its own police force and its own airport. C.B. Forgotston may be right. --- quit wasting money and send them all home. Let 'em face the voters.

Monday, February 13, 2006


total neglect . . . total incompetence

The 600+ page Katrina Report is a whole lot of paper filled with a whole lot of words that documents the obvious . . . our government's total failure!

Motion Filed to Stop Katrina Evictions

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 13, 2006

About 12,000 families made homeless by last year's hurricanes are scheduled to be forced out of their federally-funded hotel rooms Monday, but lawyers for the evacuees were hoping for a last-minute reprieve.

"We have provided the court with statements from people showing they have not been treated fairly by FEMA," said Bill Quigley, an assistant dean of the Loyola University Law School, who filed the motion with civil rights attorney Tracie Washington.

FEMA has said it will stop payment Monday for hotel rooms across the country for 12,000 families made homeless by last year's storms.

FEMA trailers sit empty, unused

Hope, Ark. -- Hurricane evacuees staying in hotels provided by FEMA were recently forced to leave due to the set deadline.

Many evacuees were forced to find a new place to live while trying to get back on their feet after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

There is an available housing solution, but for some reason it is not being used.

At least 9,000 FEMA trailers are sitting at the Hope Municipal Airport in Hope, Arkansas. Local officials have sent requests to FEMA to see why the trailers are sitting at the airport, unused.

U.S. Representative Mike Ross is meeting with FEMA officials on Thursday (Feb 9) in hopes to get some answers as to why the trailers are sitting at the Hope Municipal Airport and not being used for evacuees.

This makes no sense at all! Seventy-five percent of those made homeless by Katrina could have housing . . . the trailers have been available for months now. FEMA paid for them and continues to pay for security to protect them . . . as they sit empty in Hope, Arkansas. All the while paying for Katrina evacuees to live in hotels . . . hotels from which they will be evicted today! Is there any part of the hurricane relief that the federal government can accomplish successfully? Folks, no matter your race, religion, sex, age, or physical condition . . . you cannot depend on the federal government to do anything that resembles adequate assistance in the face of disaster. Pandemic bird flu? Get ready to treat yourselves!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Washington ignores a drowning city, while military asks for orders to help

The Washington Note
FEMA and Michael Brown were not the only players informing the White House that immediate action was needed, apparently a number of senior military officials in the region "offered" immediate assistance, particularly with regard to the levee. I do not know if these appeals for action and offers of assistance by the military were formalized or informal.

However, the particular officers who had concerns about what was unfolding with Katrina felt as if they had no authority to take any kind of action in a domestic humanitarian relief and disaster effort without getting cleared by the White House.

Their concerns make sense to me -- but while they waited and watched, and made appeals to the White House through, at minimum, informal channels, many people drowned who did not need to die.

-- Steve Clemons

Friday, February 10, 2006

More WH lies exposed. No one knew? Like hell!

Print Story: Documents: White House Knew About Levees on Yahoo! News
Print Story: Documents: White House Knew About Levees on Yahoo! News: "y LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer 13 minutes ago

The earliest official report of a New Orleans levee breach came at 8:30 a.m., hours after Hurricane Katrina roared ashore. Word of the possible breach surfaced at the White House less than three hours later, at 11:13 a.m.

In all, 28 federal, state and local agencies reported levee failures on Aug. 29, according to a timeline of e-mails, situation updates and weather reports — a litany at odds with the Bush administration's contention that it didn't know the extent of the problem until much later. At the time, President Bush said, 'I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.'

After the levees gave way, thousands of people were left stranded on rooftops and hundreds died of the flooding and its aftermath.

Democrats say the new documents raise questions about whether the government moved quickly enough to rescue storm victims from massive flooding."

Documentation pinpointing fundamental errors by Gov't

Ivestigators now have the documentation to pinpoint some of the fundamental errors and oversights that combined to produce what is universally agreed to be a flawed government response to the worst natural disaster in modern United States history.

A Huge OOPS for FEMA and the White House

Marty Bahamonde/FEMA

A photo taken by a federal emergency official the day Hurricane Katrina arrived showed the broken 17th Street Canal levee in New Orleans.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 — In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bush administration officials said they had been caught by surprise when they were told on Tuesday, Aug. 30, that a levee had broken, allowing floodwaters to engulf New Orleans.

But Congressional investigators have now learned that an eyewitness account of the flooding from a federal emergency official reached the Homeland Security Department's headquarters starting at 9:27 p.m. the day before, and the White House itself at midnight.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Is it going to be a fair election on not?

Reuters AlertNet - Lawsuit latest sign of contentious New Orleans poll:
"In the latest sign that the April 22 elections will be racially charged and legally contentious, the suit filed at the New Orleans federal court said that Gov. Kathleen Blanco and other state officials had violated the Voting Rights Act by failing to provide for out-of-state polling centers.

It said many displaced residents did not have the means to travel to Louisiana for the mayor and city council elections, which were postponed from February because of the disaster."

It occurs to me that Iraq was able to open polling places in other countries during its last election. Louisiana should be able to open polling places in other states, in places like Atlanta and Houston, especially, where so many evacuees are now living.

Leges try to gut the levee bill

Levee bill faces multitude of threats:
"The governor's bill for levee board consolidation won approval from a Senate committee Wednesday but remained under a cloud of doubt as legislators from all corners of the proposed new levee zone aimed potentially lethal criticism at it."

Well, at least we know that Katrina has not changed everything. Louisiana politicians are just as self-centered, provincial, uncaring, and contentious as ever. Whew! It's almost reassuring.

PS: For a rundown on the principal players, see this article in Bayou Buzz.

Thousands of trailers sit empty

While thousands of evacuees are still living in hotel rooms, costing the federal government millions---
Storm Victims Face Big Delay to Get Trailers - New York Times:
"'It is so disheartening to see people living in houses with water pouring through the roof,' said James M. McGehee, the mayor of Bogalusa, a small Louisiana city near the Mississippi border. Across the state line, Mr. McGehee said, are 'acres and acres' of trailers in holding areas.

For its part, FEMA criticized local governments for rejecting trailer sites in neighborhoods and engaging in protracted negotiations about where the trailers should go. Agency officials also said that private companies, including electric utilities, had contributed to the problem by being slow to provide services."

Aren't we all tired of "the blame game." Just get it done, FEMA.

The Lafayette Advertiser editorializes that Blanco's stand on oil leases may well succeed.

The idea seems to be gaining traction, in Louisiana, at least.

Former U.S. Sen. John Breaux says there is more cause for optimism than ever before about Louisiana's chances of receiving a fair share of offshore oil and gas revenues. Breaux pushed hard for an equitable revenue- sharing plan throughout his career in Congress, but without success. Bennett Johnson, who also represented Louisiana in the U.S. Senate, was unable to get the state a fair share of offshore revenue, even during his tenure as chairman of the Senate Energy and Resources Committee. Other influential lawmakers, including former U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin, also failed.

"This may be the time that the stars come into alignment and we may get something done," Breaux says.

Things are looking better now because of assaults on Louisiana by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The brutal storms focused national attention on the state and on its need for the oil and gas revenue to pay for coastal restoration and hurricane protection. Gov. Kathleen Blanco has taken a strong stand, warning the federal government that Louisiana might oppose future leases off its coast if the state does not get a fair share of the royalties. In the governor's words, "It is abundantly clear that allowing development to occur where inadequate provisions are made for the protection of that development is irresponsible." The amount of oil and gas activity off our coast means little if we have no coastal communities to take advantage of this activity. We agree.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Blanco takes on Bush

NOLA.com: Times-Picayune Updates
In what was widely seen as the sharpest speech of her beleaugured political career since Hurricane Katrina, Blanco admonished President Bush for dodging Louisiana’s requests for aid while announcing an ultimatum to the federal government to give Louisiana a larger share of oil and gas royalites from offshore drilling or face a roadblock to future exploration in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. “If no effort is made to guarantee our fair share of royalties, I have warned the federal government that we will be forced to block the August sale of offshore oil and gas leases,” Blanco said. “It’s time to play hardball, as I believe that’s the only game Washington understands.”

Louisiana deserves its fair share of those royalties, and it's great that Blanco has the guts to go after them. Blagueur wishes her luck.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Times Picayune backs Blanco's threat to cut off oil leases.

EDITORIAL: Louisiana's stick
Louisiana's leaders have made a strong case for getting a larger, fairer share of offshore oil royalties for the state; so far, though, reason and persuasion haven't worked with Congress or the Bush administration.

But Louisiana also has a stick -- the power to oppose the sale of new offshore oil leases -- and Gov. Blanco made the right move by showing that she might use it.

The Gannett Louisiana Newspapers have put together a very impressive special report on Louisiana recovery.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Are you wondering where New Orleans reconstruction money is going?

BBC NEWS | Middle East | US official admits Iraq aid theft

In the United States, a former official has admitted stealing millions of dollars meant for the reconstruction of Iraq.

Robert Stein held a senior position in the Coalition Provisional Authority, which administered Iraq after American and allied forces invaded in 2003.

In a Washington court, he admitted to stealing more than $2m (£1.12m) and taking bribes in return for contracts.

Opan letter to Bush from "Levees Not War"

Levees Not War Homepage
January 31, 2006 Dear Mr. President: We are writing to express our profound dismay at your decision not to support Rep. Richard H. Baker’s “buyout bill” for homeowner relief [see “More Info,” col. 2]—and astonishment at your suggestion that Louisiana lacks a plan. We know you don’t like the idea of establishing “another federal bureaucracy,” but in this extreme case—the largest natural disaster ever to strike the U.S., leaving 200,000 homes destroyed and 400,000 residents in exile—nothing less will do. Baker’s plan is fiscally sound, and respected by conservatives and liberals alike. In your speech from Jackson Square on Sept. 15, you promised “one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen.” But you did not specify that aid would be available only for the 20,000 homes destroyed outside the federally insured flood zones. What do you say to the residents of the 185,000 other ruined homes, and the small business owners struggling to survive? Seventy percent of the city is still without electricity.

Go there. Help out. Write the congress.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The proverbial "spray coffee all over the monitor" line.

Concerning recent finger-pointing over Kartina at the White House.

"The Homeland Security Department and the rest of the government, meaning not the White House, were the ones in the lead for operations," [White House spokeswoman Dana] Perino said. (my emphasis)

In case this comes up in Jeopardy, and for those keeping score at home, they are the legislative, judicial, executive, and the "Who you lookin' at? What?" branches of the government.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Louisina Political Buzz: Special Session, President Bush, New Orleans Elections, Energy

Legislative Call

Governor Blanco has issued the legislative call. Topping the list are Levee board consolidation, absentee voting, insurance matters, the merging of New Orleans´ government offices and formalizing the Louisiana Recovery Authority. Also on the legislative call was the Internet Wireless issue which New Orleans hired me to write and which I personally on my own (without New Orleans asking me to do so) asked Bayoubuzz readers to support. I believe this legislation to be critical for public safety and reconstruction. Also, as Bayoubuzz had urged weeks ago, the legislature will visit New Orleans area but Governor Blanco will give her speech from New Orleans.

Perhaps the most volatile issue on the call could be the consolidation of New Orleans City government. This issue involves jobs and institutions. At issue is the merging the civil and criminal courts, clerks and sheriffs and the municipal courts. Many believe that due to the lack of population those functions should be now simplified and made more cost-effective. With the New Orleans elections set, it will be interesting to see the candidates take position on these issues. Also, with candidates now apparently in the race, it will be important for them to stake there positions on these issues rather than wait until the legislature finishes up.

President Bush

With statewide elections approaching this fall, one of the major issues for candidates in Louisiana will be what they have done to help the Katrina and Rita efforts. On the republican side, already Bobby Jindal and Congressman Baker have come out strong requesting more federal support. Ironically, the number one opponent of further aid appears to be President Bush.

But, to the extent that he is acting (or perhaps not acting)—with the goal of punishing Governor Blanco or Mayor Nagin or to mold local Louisiana politics, he could cause untold damage to the state Republican party—which would be a shame. The President must remember the victims are the people of Louisiana who were harmed by federally controlled and built levees and we have virtually whole parishes ruined.

Offshore Leases

Earlier this week, Gov. Kathleen Blanco strongly suggested that she would not support future offshore lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico unless Louisiana gets a share of the federal royalties generated by oil production there. Senator Vitter and Mary Landrieu attempted to get the general issue in the President’s State of the Union speech. Bush had put a time mark for being energy independent in the next twenty years. The act by Governor Blanco is clear indication that Louisiana wants its fair share especially given the fact that it is not getting it, nor has it ever received it in the past and we have paid the price.

President Bush Late To Fear Bureaucracy

It´s a fair bet that President Bush´s recent ninth trip to Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina will be his last for some time, perhaps this term, given his newly revealed attitude toward aiding the state´s recovery.

The worst that can be said of his opposition to the buyout bill of Congressman Richard Baker--besides that it´s unjust--is that it took him so long to conclude that the plan violates his core values by adding "unnecessary layers of bureaucracy" to his administration´s inadequate response.

So what does Louisiana do about the presidential "kick in the teeth," as the governor diplomatically put it, or the "death blow to the state´s economy" as GOP ally Baker framed it?

Louisiana must soldier on. Congressman Baker is not giving up on his bill, nor should he, despite the long odds against it. The Senate Banking Committee will hold hearings on Sen. Mary Landrieu´s companion bill in two weeks. Congressmen from both parties who have visited Louisiana have said that the federal government has not met its obligations. That case must continue to be made.

Walker Blames Chertoff for Slow Response to Katrina

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff underestimated the scope of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and didn't offer federal assistance quickly enough to the Gulf Coast region, the head of the Government Accountability Office said.

Comptroller General David Walker said today that Chertoff should have appointed an official to direct the federal response before the storm hit Aug. 29 because the National Hurricane Center had forecast that Katrina would be powerful.

After the hurricane made landfall, Chertoff failed to label it a ``catastrophic event,'' which would have required a faster and more comprehensive federal effort to help overwhelmed state and local governments, he said in Washington.

Federal officials, including Chertoff, ``did not act decisively or quickly enough to determine the catastrophic nature of the incident,'' he said in prepared remarks. ``The federal posture was generally to wait for the affected states to request assistance.''

Louisiana’s Former Governors Line up Behind Congressman Baker

Louisiana's three Republican former Governors Mike Foster, Buddy Roemer, and David Treen sent a joint letter to the White House today appealing to President Bush to take a "second look" at Congressman Richard Baker's legislation (H.R. 4100) to establish the Louisiana Recovery Corporation.

"I am very grateful for the Governors' support and their hopes that we may reach agreement on this matter," said Baker. "As we move toward a Senate hearing in two weeks, it will be important for us to continue to make the case that the worst natural disaster in the nation's history merits special, if not unprecedented, national support if our state is to successfully rebuild and recover. I believe the Governors' efforts will help us in making that case, and I thank them for it."

The text of the letter, released with permission

La. Governor Demands U.S. Pay Royalties

Gov. Kathleen Blanco is demanding that the federal government give Louisiana more of the billions in royalties from oil and natural gas extracted off its coastlines, saying she'll block future leases without an increase in the state's share.

Blanco's warning, in a letter this week to the federal agency that manages offshore drilling, comes as the state is struggling to finance up to $40 billion in hurricane recovery and protection projects, and complaining that the federal government isn't helping enough.

The state wants half the royalties from oil and gas produced beyond its three-mile boundary - a sum that could amount to more than $2 billion a year.

from The Times Picayune

Under a federal law that governs offshore drilling, governors in adjacent states are required to agree that federal lease sales are consistent with their states' coastal management plans. Louisiana governors have traditionally signed off on such lease sales, and Blanco's letter will not stop a March 15 lease sale of 4,000 blocks in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration.

But if Blanco makes good on her threat, she could hold up an expected August lease sale.

'Tipping point'

Blanco's effort is the most substantial in the latest push for a share of federal royalties from oil and gas production off Louisiana's coast. The issue has been brought forward every year by the state's congressional delegation, but has never won support in Congress.