Friday, May 18, 2007

Challenge the presidential contenders to present their N. O. plans.

We now have Clinton and Edwards on the record about their plans for New Orleans' recovery. It's time to get Obama, Richardson, Giuliani, McCain, and all the rest of the presidential field to be specific about their plans. New Orleans needs to be one of the premier campaign issues. How will each candidate work for the restoration of one of America's great cities.

Clinton wants to rebuild Charity, create a jobs program, and provide Cat 5 protection.

You can find some information on Democratic candidates' stances here. Does anyone have a list of comprehensive statements on New Orleans by presidential candidates of both parties?

Update: Better link to Wayward Episcopalian

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

AAUP Report: Post-Katrina some universities did not respect faculty rights

The AAUP, the major national watchdog over universities and their faculties, has concluded that there were serious inadequacies, omissions, and perhaps even purposeful injustices in the practices of several Louisiana universities concerning the firing or laying off of tenured faculty in the aftermath of Katrina. The report found that several institutions did not follow their established policies, prepared poorly for disaster, provided poor rationales for "draconian" actions, avoided necessary faculty consultation, terminated more faculty than necessary, provided inadequate notice to faculty, violated due process, neglected adequate measures to insure alternative placement of faculty, ignored faculty tenure rights, and perhaps used the emergency to get rid of faculty who "were disliked by those in authority for having previously opposed or criticized their actions . . ." The report deals with the LSU Health Services Center, UNO, SUNO, Loyola and Tulane. (An attached report deals with Katrina-related matters at Our Lady of Holy Cross College.)

The full report can be found at:

From the Advocate:

The American Association of University Professors took aim at the post-Hurricane Katrina decisions that resulted in many faculty losing their jobs.

Even the unprecedented hurricane, the report released Tuesday says, did not justify actions that harmed the future of higher education in southeastern Louisiana.

Administrators ignored proper procedures with a “nearly universal departure from (or in some cases complete abandonment of) personnel and other policies” in the aftermath of Katrina, which struck in August 2005.

Particularly targeted in the report are the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, the University of New Orleans, Southern University in New Orleans, Tulane University and Loyola University, where an AAUP special committee conducted investigations.

“Widespread failure to adhere to stated policy almost universally created serious, sometimes inexplicable, lapses in protecting academic freedom and due process,” the report states.

The report states the number of faculty terminations “exceeded the inescapable or minimal needs of the institution, sometimes substantially.”

Monday, May 14, 2007

SLU President forces out nationally recognized wetlands ecologist

Update: The pdf of the Ponchatoula Times article on the demotion of Paul Keddy is at the following link
Click on the large orange "Download" button.

This story in today's Morning Advocate seems inexplicable, almost surreal. SLU President Randy Moffett is forcing Professor Paul Keddy, who, according to an SLU press release, only a few days ago received a prestigious national award for his work in wetlands ecology.
Despite national honor, ecologist being reassigned

Advocate staff writer
Published: May 13, 2007 - Page: 1b

HAMMOND — Southeastern Louisiana University wetlands ecologist Paul Keddy received one of the top prizes in wetlands sciences this past week, but says he is being forced to leave the university.

Keddy said recently that he lost his endowed professorship as of this September and the university has offered to give him a six-course teaching load for an academic year. But, “they know I can’t handle that,” he said, because of a neurological disability that he had when he was recruited to campus seven years ago.

On Wednesday, Keddy was one of six people recognized with a National Wetlands Awards by the Environmental Law Institute. The institute is joined in making the awards by several federal agencies including the National Marine Fisheries Services, National Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

I have asked contacts in the university community to see if they can dig up more detail. On the face of it, from this article, this seems a spectacularly ill-advised move on SLU's part. Keddy's accomplishments, as described in his vita, are truly impressive and his dismissal will reverberate nationally throughout the academic community to SLU's detriment, and to the detriment of every Louisiana university. Losing his expertise will greatly damage efforts at hurricane protection in Louisiana as well.

Here is another blog post from Professor Zero on the subject.

I have a pdf on the incident from the Ponchatoula Times (local newspaper near SLU), if I can figure out how to post it. It gives more details than the Advocate article. The reporter is clearly astonished at the move by SLU president Randy Moffett.

And take a look at Keddy's campus website for a sense of what he has accomplished.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Cheney implicated in hookergate?

Professor Zero and I are apparently on the same wavelength today. I find that he has a nice post on the possibility, surfaced by Wayne Madsen, that Dick Cheney may have been one of the D.C. Madam's clients. I wanted to blog on this, but he was there first.
Professor Zero Scroll down. No permalink.
Link: The Madsen article. See post for May 13-14, 2007. (Correction, that should be May 10, 2007. Scroll down to May 8, too.)

Madsen says he has three different sources for this, but he has been wrong before.
I had confirmation, though, from a friend in Washington that the story is being talked about everywhere in D.C., and they're just waiting to see which major news organization will break it first. Since ABC now has all the records, it would seem logical that they would file it, but we know how reluctant the major networks are to offend the powers and principalities.

I wonder how the holy rollers in the Republican party will spin this. I predict the following: "Don't you know the man has a heart condition?"- "Have some sympathy for his wife and daughters." "He's just getting massages." "After all, he's a red-blooded patriotic American, not a pansy like you liberals." "It's Clinton's fault, he did it first!!!"

Update: Mea culpa! Apparently Professor Zero is a woman, not a "he." My male chauvinism is showing.

Update and correction: This story is all over the internet. A google search for "Cheney DC Madam" brings up 639,000 entries, though I was not able to find any that were not borrowing from Madsen. -- I misspelled Madsen's name throughout -- it's not Madsden. I have corrected it above.

Wow! Update: This DC Madam scandal is evidently spreading pretty far, involving the Cunningham case, a Maryland prosecutor, and perhaps this woman.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

More catching up.

I had heard rumors about this story shortly after Katrina, but I don't think anyone around here had any idea how much aid was turned away by Bush and the Feds.

Blanco and Landrieu issued statements -- which will go unheard by FEMA, and ignored by those who continue to blame Blanco for everything that went wrong after Katrina.

Apparently the Homeland Security Committee of the Senate is going to investigate, but the chair is Joe Liebermann, so I don't expect it to accomplish much.

UPDATE: Landrieu goes after Rice on this issue. Good on her! P.S. The article also says that Landrieu's subcommittee is going to call ICF to account on May 24. Their top executives have just gotten massive bonuses for doing a terrible job getting money to people whose houses have been destroyed.

One story among many.

FEMA has created roadblock after roadblock to recovery. Even in Mississippi. Here's just one story about how FEMA audits are now second guessing local authorities who tried to clean up after Katrina without proper FEMA paperwork.

NEW ORLEANS -- Local officials said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has needlessly dragged out the process and has not clearly defined what prices it considers reasonable.

FEMA said it audits all Katrina projects to root out waste and fraud. Millions of dollars are at stake for cash-strapped communities still struggling to rebuild.

Some communities said that if FEMA doesn't reimburse their expenses, they may have to borrow money or raises taxes to cover debris-removal contracts.

Mike Womack, director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said two dozen Mississippi counties and cities could be affected.

Womack said they could lose a combined $18.4 million because FEMA questions whether they paid too much for the work.

Blanco speaks bluntly. And good on her!

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) went off. Not in a girls fighting, "Hold my earrings!" kind of way. But in a blunt manner befitting a chief executive who endured the worst natural and engineering disaster in U.S. history, who continues to battle Washington for federal assistance, and who is not running for reelection.

We met in Blanco's imposing office on the fourth floor of the state Capitol in Baton Rouge on Wednesday. After watching her testify pleasantly before state legislative committees on behalf of her insurance reform package and for an expansion of Louisiana's Child Health Plus program, I was floored by her "bring it on" forthrightness as she talked about her dealings with Washington after Hurricane Katrina.
. . . . . . . .
Blanco had a message for the hundreds of members of Congress who have come through Louisiana since Katrina. "They have seen with their own eyes," she said. "They need to look in their own hearts to decide what they would want to happen in their own states if something of this magnitude did as much damage. Where would their people be?"

Must read.

This article details two N.O. stories.

First, surprisingly, it is not possible to film the FEMA trailer camps. There are "national security" concerns, and you could get arrested.

Second, and astoundingly, the White House and other federal agencies knew that the levees were failing by midnight Monday August 29, 2005. They just forgot to tell the state. How many died because of that?

There's just not enough outrage to go around lately.

Catching up.

I've been away from blogging for an eventful few weeks. So I missed several stories -- and I'm going to post them now, simply for the record. Most of these stories are somewhat stale, but they illustrate how the same sorry screwup agencies continue to keep New Orleans from recovery.

First there was the story about the defective pumps -- which were not able to prevent New Orleans from flooding last week. The pumps that W's brother Jeb sold us. It turns out that the specs for the big were taken from the company's catalog. Nice work. That's creative. Just let the company you want to help out write the specs for your bid request.

NEW ORLEANS – The Army Corps of Engineers, criticized for how it handled the bidding for post-Hurricane drainage pumps that proved to be defective, is defending its use of the winning bidder's own language – down to the typos – in laying out the specifications.
. . . . .
Portions of the specifications were taken verbatim from the catalog of MWI, a Deerfield Beach, Fla., company whose top officials have been major contributors to the Republican Party. MWI employed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Bush's brother, to market its pumps during the 1980s.

The pumps proved to be defective, putting New Orleans at risk of a second flooding after Hurricane Katrina. Last year's mild hurricane season, however, spared the city from having to rely on the pumps.

But there wasn't much outrage about this nationally, since this kind of inside dealing, to-hell-with-people corruption is everyday news with this administration. And if you google "New Orleans pumps" you'll find hardly a peep out of our local congressional delegation about it all. The governor and Mary Landrieu "expressed outrage" that the pumps weren't working, but that's about the size of it. More details about MWI's sorry record is to be found at Politically OUtspoken

Not to be outdone by the Corps in reassuring the public is FEMA which announced an easy plan to get rid of dangerous formaldehyde fumes which build up in the trailers they have supplied:

NEW ORLEANS -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency said the risk from formaldehyde fumes in new government-issued travel trailers, which has cropped up as an issue since Hurricane Katrina, can be reduced by opening vents and windows.

While acknowledging the existence of formaldehyde concentrations in its trailers, FEMA dismissed findings by environmentalists that the trailers pose serious health risks.

Remember when the EPA secretary told New York police and firemen that it was safe to work around Ground Zero after 9/11? Such caring people.

More later.