Friday, June 29, 2007

Obama pays attention

First Read:

"Twice in almost the same breath, Obama made a point that the president needs to be 'in touch with the needs of New Orleans before the hurricane hits' and that 'we've got to have a president who understands the reality that people in New Orleans were being neglected prior to the hurricane.'


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Feds fail New Orleans: the Details

From Think Progress

EPA allowed toxic chemicals to harm poor Katrina victims: A GAO report revealed that EPA publicly downplayed the risk of asbestos inhalation, which is often released during home demolition, to city residents and failed to deploy air monitors in predominantly African-American neighborhoods. Furthermore, EPA waited nearly eight months to inform residents that short-term visits could expose them to dangerous levels of asbestos and mold.

FEMA ignored its own hurricane plan: Prior to Katrina, FEMA created a “Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Backup Plan” which forecasted specific consequences and action-plans in the event of a hurricane. But “post-Katrina FEMA documents demonstrate that that the plan was never implemented.” The day before Katrina hit, FEMA Deputy Director Patrick Rhode sent an e-mail to Michael Brown’s assistant with the subject line, “copy of New Orleans cat plan,” stating, “I never got one — I think Brown got my copy — did you get one?”

FEMA guaranteed billions in profits for big companies: Following Katrina, federal agencies “doled out more than $2.4 billion in cost-plus contracts,” which “offer companies no incentive to save money or keep costs from ballooning.” FEMA was responsible for nearly 94 percent of all of the hurricane-related cost-plus contracts, with the remainder being issued primarily by the EPA and U.S. Air Force.

Some very interesting comments at the end of the article. Did Chertoff really wait 36 hours before turning over authority to Brownie?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Calling it by its real name.

State Farm accused of Katrina racketeering
Wednesday's lawsuit on behalf of Mississippi Gulf Coast homeowners is the first in which Scruggs and his legal team accused an insurer of violating the civil Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act, commonly known as RICO.

Scruggs, who helped negotiate a multibillion dollar settlement with tobacco companies in the mid-1990s, said he had filed similar civil RICO suits against tobacco companies. They are tougher cases to build, but can carry stiffer penalties, he added.

"The facts call out for this kind of remedy," he said. "It puts their license to do business at risk if they lose (the case), for one thing."

About time someone called them out. Racketeering is exactly the right word for it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Jefferson bans taqueria trucks

Jefferson bans taqueria trucks

What a dumb idea! These taco trucks provide great food at a great price. Even Houston doesn't restrict them as heavily ad Jef Parish.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Republican Robo-calls?

I got a robocall from "unknown number" yesterday. The speaker introduced himself as "your favorite Kennedy" in a bad Boston accent (that disappeared from time to time), and he proceeded to rail satirically at the "big Democrat spenders" in the Louisiana legislature. No mention, of course, of who was responsible for the call.

I'm pretty sure this stuff is illegal. Anyone else get a similar call?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Damn straight!

New Orleans residents ‘deserve better,’ marchers say -- Baton Rouge, LA
This Road Home mess has led us everywhere but home,’’ ACORN’s Gwendolyn Adams said at the Capitol. “We are not refugees. We are citizens.’’

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Shame on St. Bernard

Cops shot pets after Katrina

The deputies have claimed they shot only dangerous animals, but another pet-owner described hearing them joking about holding "target practice" with the pets.
Pretty ironic for St. Bernard cops to be shooting dogs.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Not a good headline.

From the Times Picayune

All Road Home money has been committed

One month later? Pumps problems.

This is the recent word on the faulty pumps.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The faulty drainage pumps that the Army Corps of Engineers installed before last year's hurricane season still have mechanical flaws, according to a Corps report released Friday that also criticized the pump contracts. Sen. Mary Landrieu immediately called for a federal investigation.

Although the pumps have been overhauled, critical deficiencies remain a year later, the report said.

The review by three Corps engineers backed up the findings of a May 2006 memo by a Corps mechanical engineer working on the $32 million project to put 34 pumps at city canals. The memo warned that the pumps were faulty and would not work if needed to remove water during a hurricane.

BUT, just last month, the GAO said they found no improprieties in the contract.

WASHINGTON — The investigative arm of Congress, the General Accountability Office, found no impropriety in the awarding of the contract to install pumps around New Orleans.

The finding was presented to U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu in a private Thursday briefing of a report expected to be released next week.

Though the Louisiana Democrat said she was pleased with the news, she blamed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with misleading New Orleans area residents last summer by telling them pumping capacity was adequate.

This back-and-forth does not inspire confidence.

Another Katrina death?

NEW ORLEANS - A former New Orleans police officer charged in the videotaped beating of a man after Hurricane Katrina apparently shot himself to death about a month before his trial, authorities said Monday.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Why did Bush choose Crawford?

I spent the last week in west Texas, doing what I am calling "roadside archaeography" which means, taking pictures of old buildings before they disappear. Really was a great time. Spent most of a week on the road, more than 2500 miles of driving and lots of pictures. Pandora the Dog behaved herself all the way. No accidents, no complaining, --- actually she slept most of the time, and missed seeing the wild turkeys and the big elk. She did, however, get an introduction to cows. She pointed. Yeah, right, cows are prey, Pandora.

I used my Delorme gps receiver, and loved it (though sometimes it WAS distracting-- like when I had it searching for restaurants). It mostly let me concentrate on the road, and on possible picture-taking opportunities. Mostly it was good for directing me to the older parts of towns (usually it took me directly to the courthouse, or the one traffic light in town.) I based in San Angelo for four days, and took long circle routes south, west, and north. Pictures will follow.

But here's what the post is really about:

What about Crawford and Bush? Why did he decide to locate there?

My route home from San Angelo took me through Waco, and Crawford is just a few miles west of Waco, and only eight miles or so off my route. So I drove to see what's been going on there in terms of changes, new houses, buildings and so forth since Bush has been there. (He bought the place in 1999, just before running for President the first time.) Crawford is nothing special. There are some signs touting the Bushes, and a souvenir shop which was closed when I went through. And on the way to Waco (which is also nothing special) I started wondering why Bush had chosen that part of Texas for his "ranch." It's halfway between Houston and Dallas, so the oil connection was the first thing I considered. But , if W wanted to stay close to the oil business, why not live IN Houston or Dallas the way his father did? Or Midland/Odessa? Another consideration might have been scenery or climate. Crawford has neither. It lacks the stark beauty of West Texas, and the climate is hot and humid. Then I remembered the Texas Transportation Corridor (TTC), which I had read about a year or so ago. The TTC is a grandiose scheme to connect a Pacific port in Mexico, most likely Lazaro Cardenas, with a huge mega highway that will run through Mexico, cross the border and continue through Texas to a "port" in Kansas City Missouri, where goods will be unloaded and go through customs. Closed containers, say, from China, unloaded at Lazaro Cardenas by Mexican labor, could be driven on Mexican trucks directly to the geographical center of the country. Imagine the savings -- AND the profits. The corridor would continue on into Canada. It sounds like a pipe dream, but there are already concrete plans and agreements with Mexico to begin the deal. The mega-highway will include, according to the Texas Department of Transportation, "separate lanes for passenger vehicles and large trucks, freight railways, high-speed commuter railways, infrastructure for utilities including water lines, oil and gas pipelines, and transmission lines for electricity, broadband and other telecommunications services." It would be a huge project, and if completed it could change the face of the country. Part of the aim, I assume, is to bypass east coast and west coast US ports -- who would this benefit? And I'm sure there are lots more "beneficiaries" that I cannot imagine now, but who are eagerly hoping to grab some piece of this pie. That would include anyone who had land near the new TTC. What about Bush, then?

Ok, so when I got home late last night, a quick Google search confirmed my suspicion. Crawford, and Bush's "ranch," are immediately adjacent to one of the two proposed routes of the TTC. It the project materializes (and why should he not expect it to, if he has any influence in the Department of Transportation and in Texas politics?) his land will be immensely valuable.

I saw that Cindy Sheehan is selling her Crawford acreage to some L.A. radio personality. She should hold on. What do you think?

/Here are links to the sites that have the full story. Just cut and paste. The outline of the scheme -- Trans Texas Corridor. Includes links to other, coordinating sites.,_Michoac%C3%A1n Mexican port of Lazaro Cardenas,-97.543611&spn=0.01,0.01&q=31.5825,-97.543611-- Bush's ranch location. -- maps -- click on the link to Map 3 Hilllsboro Waco