Friday, March 31, 2006

What F***ing Napkin?

Is the mayor trying to insinuate that the K&L offer was scribbled on a napkin in some crowded restaurant? Of course he is:

"People seem to think I could have done a deal on the back of an envelope or a napkin, and I just don't do deals like that," he said. "I didn't even know who these people were, and I've seen more presentations on debris than you can imagine, and I think 98 percent of them are b.s."

I was ready to forget about the whole matter, but his chief administrative shill had to write a letter to the editor mentioning that napkin again:

We do not accept contracts offered on napkins in restaurants or at public forums

Notice how the administration keeps mentioning napkins in restaurants while being very careful not to say that the K&L offer was scribbled on a napkin?

It seems to be an accepted fact that the written offer was first given to the mayor at a public forum. Beyond that, we know that Dan Simpson of K&L insists that the offer was written on K&L stationary with K&L letterhead, while the mayor insists that he can't remember all of the details of each of the literally hundreds of offers he received, but that he doesn't accept offers scribbled on napkins in restaurants.

If the mayor wanted to insist that, due to cutbacks, the mayor's office only had the resources to examine offers from known companies, it would at least be plausible. Of course, I would feel compelled to point out that the mayor's office was the least affected by layoffs of any department in city government other than police and fire (yes, the mayor's office was less affected by layoffs than permits or inspections). If he wanted to insist that the offer somehow got lost in the shuffle, that would be understandable. Instead he and his staff just keep talking about napkins in restaurants.

update: Though she apparently has doubts about the claim, author Poppy Z. Brite seems to believe that Nagin made the claim. I'm probably making too much of it, but evasive non-claims seem awfully cowardly from someone who claims to be providing strong leadership.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Local paper:

"There may be instances where we have to evacuate people from trailers when we're not evacuating the city," said Terry Ebbert, homeland security director for New Orleans.

International wire service (via Libary Chronicles):

"Today the population stands around 200,000 to 225,000 people in New Orleans," said Orleans Parish Homeland Security Advisor Terry Ebbert. "Our goal is to ensure that we create an environment where it makes more sense to leave than to stay,"

"We want all 225,000 people to get out of the city," he said.


Residents will be ordered out not just for hurricanes, but for tropical storms, too, he said.

Ebbert's been in charge of the city's office of homeland security for three years; he should remember that the voluntary evacuation order for Hurricane Ivan" wasn't lifted until approximately 14 hours before it made landfall. How far in advance will he be telling everyone to get out of the city?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Debate

Tangents not a candidate by candidate breakdown

It was good to see that city finances were finally addressed as a paramount issue in the election. Had I been able been able to post more last week (at least more than quick cut and paste jobs), I had hoped to explain that city finances were a more important issue for the mayoral election than levee repairs or federal compensation for failed levees. Good thing I didn't do that post, might have led to delusions of grandeur, or at least relevance. Although, nah, like I said, delusions.

Because all the candidates would agree that the federal government should take responsibilty for the damage caused by the failed levees, shouldn't any candidate who makes that a major part of his campaign or features signs in his commercials withdraw in favor of Tom Watson? If the job of the mayor is to convert the rest of the country to our way of thinking, who better than a preacher? He should have no problem finding a text to preach from.

Sure the real,human issue of resettlement seems more important than the dry, wonkish matter of city finances, but remember the original reason given for the "reduced footprint" was the city's inability to provide essential services to the entire city. Even now that the mayor is emphasizing concerns about flooding in statements about the "rebuild at your own risk" policy (for certain areas), he does add, "understand we're concentrating city resources in the areas that are in the immediate recovery zone."* Clearly, the issues of resettlement and city finances are inseperable.

Now to the actual debate, on the whole it was managed much better than the first one, but how could it not be? Even the questions were much better (again, how could they not be?), until Michael Hill's pointless question about whether the candidates had actually picked up a hammer themselves. You'd have to respect Peggy "dreamworld" Wilson for calling him on it, if she had done so differently. Any points she would have gained for pointing out the question's irrelevance were lost by whinily "resenting" the question.

"Third Battle" gave a good candidate by candidate rundown in the above link. A few thoughts though:

I wish that some candidate other than Wilson would start emphasizing the importance of transparency and information. It might have saved the city at last one recent headache. I'd even like to hear what the mayor would have to say on the subject. If he made the case that explaining his every move would have slowed down the city's efficiently planned recovery, I'd certainly listen. Of course, explaining the failure to share information might involve the actual sharing of information.

I like Boulet, I would consider voting for her if I weren't afraid of a Nagin/Forman runoff, but why is she getting a free pass on the free medical care proposal? Along with Couhig, she seems to be the only candidate that accepts the fact that even though the federal government is responsible for the city's immediate crisis, we can't count on it to help the city out of that crisis. So how does she reconcile that fiscal realism with a call for free health care?

Does Couhig even acknowledge that the federal government is responsible for the city's immediate crisis?

I said that I could tolerate wedge or identity politics more in a candidate than in an incumbent, but Watson was pushing it with that "not wanting my people to return" exchange with Couhig.

The spend money to make money model might work for a cash cow like the Audubon Institute, but it doesn't work for strapped city governments. After talking about the fact that city's broke, Forman goes on to suggest that the city create four new high-paying positions!? Wouldn't they quickly turn into patronage/political payoff positions anyway?

Leo Watermeir gave a good rundown on the three frontrunners in today's Picayune:

Of Nagin, he wrote: "the most knowledgeable and confident. If I knew nothing of his record, he'd get my vote." Of Landrieu: "the most polished speaker, but what does he say?" And of Forman: "unimpressive when he gets beyond his campaign slogans."

Of course, you can always form your own opinion by watching the debate, video available either at or through WGNO.

*Have to ask, is my memory faulty or does the reporter of the linked story have a faulty memory? Or did his editor fail to correct him on the proper usage of the word steadfast? Opening paragraph:

All along, Mayor Ray Nagin has been steadfast in his commitment to residents of New Orleans' flood-ravaged neighborhoods that they -- and not the government -- should have sole authority to decide whether to rebuild or relocate.

Really, I thought I remembered the mayor expressing doubts about that part of the Canizarro plan. I'm not deliberately being petty; but I don't believe the mayor's been steadfast in anything post-K. Except, of course, his refusal to share information.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Have to admit That I did a second rate job on my post about Chad Rogers. For a much better exposé of a similar site, see Your Right Hand Thief. I'd say ignore the bozos, but somehow their opinions make it into mainsteam news coverage.

FEMA Flood Maps

Probably delayed:

Although federal officials said Monday that new advisory flood maps are critical in guiding thousands of local homeowners waiting to restore or rebuild their homes, they acknowledged they are unlikely to meet their self-imposed deadline of releasing the maps by the end of March.


The new figures were originally supposed to be released in January, and then were delayed until mid-March. Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency now say they expect to make the advisories public by the end of March, nearly seven months after Katrina.

Insert your own comment about claims that the state and city need to get their rebuilding plans together, but there was good news:

Paulison also committed that FEMA will rebid all of its contracts -- such as debris hauling and trailers -- to be certain the federal government is getting the best value possible.

"They have not been rebid yet," he said, "but I have committed to that and we will do that."

A funny comment (from another DHS official) preceded that statement:

"We have a tendency to overpromise," he said.

Apparently Paulison's spokesman missed the memo:

This week, FEMA said the contracts wouldn't be rebid after all. In fact, they have been extended, in part because of good performance, said Michael Widomski, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Just a reminder:

"A lot of the contracts that were previously awarded without competition are completed or are beyond the point where it would be economically feasible to re-compete"

Now I'm not a political strategist, but it does seem that, even though the administration deliberately gave itself an out in October, it still finds the subject somewhat embarrassing.

Monday, March 27, 2006

To be Fair to Sportswriters

our list of the eight teams from which we guarantee the national champion will emerge

Different writer than the LSU/NIT(if it's lucky) guy.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Little Matt Jr.

Do conservative kids grow up saying, "I want to be like Matt?" Do other states have their own Matt Drudge wannabes? Well, Louisiana has its own Drudge imitator, Chad Rogers of The Dead Pelican. The format of both sites is the same, with a mixture of political and general interest stories, as well as the occasional "exclusive." In both cases a strong conservative slant comes through both in the selection of stories deemed noteworthy and through the use of misleading headlines. This weekend, for example, the DP has the headline, "THIRD WORST GOVERNOR" for a story on Blanco's low job approval ratings and, apparently, the only newsworthy endorsements were those of Republican ex-governors Roemer and Foster of Republican Secretary of State candidate Mike Francis. Also, the exclusives that both sites run seem to be designed to pressure or embarrass Democratic politicians or administrations.

That last item was particularly laughable:

The story behind that story is one of frustration, going back to the Foster years. The owners of the domain name "" have been trying for years to work out a deal with the state for them to either buy or lease the name. While the parties involved want to make money from the deal, they also want to promote the state in a positive way. But the state is not interested.

And this sparks another concern. Dean Cooper, one of the stockholders in the project and owner of Geaux Web Technologies, says that the domain name could be used to point to ANY kind of web site- EVEN PORN SITES!

Let me give Matt Jr. a not-so-exclusive, domain licensing has been a problem since the beginning of the internet. That kind of thing happens all the time, there were even a few lawsuits a few years ago. Most of the law suits were thrown out if trademarks weren't involved, sometimes the party with obvious interest purchased the domain name, more often not. He's really going to have to try a little harder if he wants to make the administration look bad.

None of the above would concern me in the least (he has as much right to his conservative blog as I do to my liberal one), but, for some odd reason, the Times Picayune seems to find his observations on the mayoral election noteworthy. Admittedly, I found the now controversial commercial questionable; mainly I thought that it didn't address any of the real issues in the campaign. However, I've yet to see a commercial by any of the three front runners that does.

Frankly though, I did have the same questions as Mr. Rogers about the commercial. Well, I didn't have the question about makeup-- I just don't notice whether other guys are wearing makeup. However, I did wonder that somebody just happened to film him rescuing stranded flood victims, but considering the number of film crews in town and the fact that everybody who stayed seemed to have a camcorder, it really didn't seem all that odd. What seems more unlikely, that somebody would film Landrieu during the hurricane or that Landrieu would be crass enough to stage a rescue? I think that even William of Occam would call it a coin toss. Still, because the commercial raised an obvious (if easily answered) question, it did show poor judgment. I just can't understand anyone considering it a major controversy.

It is interesting that somebody so interested in the appearance of impropriety in a political campaign would be so unconcerned about the appearance of journalistic impropriety on his own web site. Mind you, I'm not suggesting anything untoward, it just seems oddly curious that the two ads on Rogers' website this weekend are for Mike Francis and Geaux Web. I seriously doubt that there's any quid pro quo involved, but Rogers does seem to have a strong interest in appearances.

Poor recruiting + no point guards = NIT (if you're lucky, LSU)

That's what the senior basketball writer for CBS Sportsline wrote at the end of December.

A Couple of Worthy Causes

Didn't see this email on time for the rally, but the link is still good, as well as the idea about calling the governor.

A site dedicated to getting the state to move from tents back home to provide real healthcare to the stuggling people of New Orleans after Katrina. The taxpayor owned Charity Hospital is in New Orleans, Louisiana and the Governor is our employee. As employers we say open the hospital. Call Governor Blanco tell her to end the suffering and save some lives open the hospital, she has the power. 1-866-366-1121 Concerned for Charity Hospital

Rally tomorrow at Charity Hospital 2pm to save the hospital bringing back medical care for the poor, quality medical educational resources, and jobs. Please come share your support for a hospital that while not perfect did save thousands of lives over the years. Bloggers please link to

I don't know if the ad for appeared in the online edition of today's Picayune, it's full page ad on A-28 of the print edition. It's nice to see somebody mention Jeff Bingaman on the subject of offshore royalties. We've been too inclined to give Democrats a free pass, because it's the Republicans who control the purse strings. It's a hell of a lot harder to pressure the GOP if the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee doesn't back you, no matter what his reasons are. Pat myself on the back time: I have mentioned him in comments on national blogs since at least the first week of December.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

I wasn't able to post much last week, but there were a couple of small items that I wanted to mention.

On Friday the 17th, the Picayune ran an editorial in which it said:

Then there are local problems. The Canal-Carrollton intersection has been repaired, for example, but the power isn't on. An Entergy spokeswoman said the company is waiting for a notice from the city. That's ridiculous; by now the power company and local officials should have their act together.

Did anybody else notice how quickly (after the editorial ran) that traffic light started working? It would be hard to argue that increased transparency would slow down the city's recovery.

$10B is a lot of money, but I found this story interesting. That's a lot of money for what may be a gamble, but if CH2M Hill offered to do the job for $10B...

It's probably way too early to get excited about a lawsuit over flood damages, but you've got to love the sound of this:

A suit seeking to have a judge decide whether hurricane damage in the New Orleans area was a problem caused by man or an "act of God" has been moved to New Orleans federal court.


Polozola also ruled that the Louisiana insurance commissioner should not be a defendant in the case and just three insurance companies — State Farm, Allstate and American — will remain as defendants.

At issue is the cause of damage to property during the hurricane. Most homeowners insurance policies say they do not cover damage caused by flooding. However, some attorneys have contended that since New Orleans was flooded by levee breaches, the damage was man-made and should be covered.

I'm not expecting much, if anything, to come of it, still it could cause the insurance companies to pressure the Republican congress on behalf of Louisiana. Nice thought, but I guess The Assassin never turned on The Angel back during the glory days of The Rock Hunter Organization, when wrestling was real.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Disclaimer: haven't felt up to doing much the last few days, but I had planned on updating my post on this article by Bob Marshall, with links to this article from last week's T/P, this old editorial by Mike Tidwell, and even this post of Tim's. Obviously, today's paper would make any such post pointless. Since I see that oyster has even linked to Tim's post, I'll just limit this to a few comments.

Though I no longer disagree with Tim's post as strongly as I did on first reading, I still think that he overstated his case--imagine the local reaction if a national journal had used the example of a hurricane approaching across Lake Borgne to illustrate ineffectiveness of coastal wetland restoration as a form of hurricane protection. More importantly, I didn't see the point; I didn't see any real likelihood that money that could go to increased levee protection would get diverted to coastal wetlands restoration, until I saw yesterday's paper. As oyster points out, the article does end with a couple of caveats:

"You'll get a lot more benefit from wetlands during a fast-moving storm, because the surge has less time to build," Kemp said. "But in a slow-moving storm -- something that just sits over the area for days -- then you'll eventually just be overwhelmed."

The type of wetlands in a storm's path also are important. For example, that 1960s study by the corps was based on storms that had come ashore in southwestern Louisiana, which has many miles of healthy freshwater marshes crossed by natural ridges forested with oak trees. Southeastern Louisiana's coastal marshes are built on young river deltas and are much thinner and more fragile, with few ridges.

"Even before the amount of erosion that has taken place in southeastern Louisiana, you probably wouldn't see that level of surge reduction as they did in that study," said Joe Suhayda, a retired LSU professor. "So the type or quality of the wetlands is very important.

The article even points out that some levees were made of stronger materials than others, it gives the overall impression that the main difference between levees that held and levees that failed was the degree of buffering (provided by wetlands) between the levees and the storm surge. The accompanying graphic was at least somewhat misleading. The headline of the T/P's homepage went beyond that: Wetlands better defense than levees. But, even if the article overstates the case, the basic premise is valid.

Still, if it came down to it, I can't that imagine too much money would be diverted from levee construction to coastal restoration, at least not until some acceptable level of flood protection is reached. However, it's probably realistic to assume that the federal government won't fund both category five levee protection and any kind of large scale coastal restoration project. At some point, there will almost certainly be a choice to be made between more money for levee construction and less money for coastal restoration or less for levee construction and more for restoration. Though nobody would deny that the area needs at least true category three levee protection, not the "category three protection" that we had before Katrina, at what point beyond that would you be willing to divert money to restoration? Though category five levee protection over questionable restoration projects might seem the obvious choice, I can't imagine that fifty years from now I'd want to be a resident of New Orleans nursing home if the Gulf were as close to south and the west as it is to the east. It wouldn't matter how high or how strong the levees were.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Remember that article about the company that offered to pay the city to haul off abandoned cars? Now we find out that the city not only turned down the offer, it chose the most expensive of 14 contract offers to remove the cars. So a city that can't afford to provide basic services, is paying $1,000 per car to have the abandoned vehicles removed. There's more:

More spending matters could arise when the second half of the car job is being considered.

In the short term, the city is simply inking a deal with CH2M Hill to cart off the cars and warehouse them. Future work, on the other hand, will involve a second contract that includes the remediation and recycling of environmentally hazardous materials and then the scrapping of the cars. In theory, the city could make some money back at that point, but the outline of that contract hasn’t even been sketched out yet, let alone advertised, officials said.

Or, the city could end up paying more at that point. I guess it's hard to campaign for re-election and worry about little details like millions of dollars at the same time.

Some Election Related Emails

A friend sent me a link to Anybody But Batt

Personally, I don't like Batt, I lived around the corner from Stuart Hall at the time of the school expansion and it was obvious before the vote that the school administration knew that it had Batt in its pocket.

Now here's the biggie:

Vote for Ron in the Bayou Buzz Online Mayor's Campaign Poll!

Dear Friends:

The Bayou Buzz is conducting a new online poll for the Mayor's Race. Last week, Ron beat out Mitch Landrieu by 31% to 25%. Virginia Boulet, Ray Nagin and Peggy Wilson all scored 9%. "Others" came in third with 12%.

You can take the poll through Sunday, March 26 at 11:59 P.M.

Help us show New Orleans that Ron is the leading candidate by taking the poll today!

Click here now to take the poll!

And, be sure to forward his email to your family and friends who support Ron.

Thanks for your help!

Forman for Mayor
Campaign Team

Yes, I'm on Forman's mailing list. I can't fault him for sending out emails trying to pack forums with his supporters or trying to skew unscientific polls; despite its obvious slant, local pundits do take BayouBias seriously. To me, it would be news if anyone other than Forman, Wilson, or Couhig came out on top of that poll. Still, I can imagine commentators like Clancy using a strong Forman showing as a sign that he's gaining momentum, perhaps becoming the strongest alternative to Nagin. If you don't want to hear about Forman's momentum, you know what to do. Actually, I voted once each for Boulet and Watson, because I'd like to see both get taken more seriously.

Finally, it's not directly election related, but it's a subject of importance to me:



Our jobs, Our community and Our city are on the line!

It’s time to stand up, get organized and fight back!

3,000 city workers laid off!

Public jobs being handed over to private pockets!

No plan to bring our workers back!

THURSDAY, MARCH 23rd 6:00 P.M.



I've never actually met anybody from the organization involved, so I can't vouch for it. I also don't know what goes on in other departments, but in my department (the public library),the layoff and rehiring decisions were marked by apparent favoritism masked by excessive secrecy that turned into dishonesty, all caused by sheer laziness on the part of the top administrators. Actually, I should watch what I say. I can't say that the city librarian actually lied to the staff, he chose his words with a degree of care that the president would envy.

Not that I'd expect anyone to actually care, I was leery of totally doing away with civil service rules or giving charter school principals unregulated hiring and firing power before Katrina, but I can still see some need to move in that direction. If anyone actually cares about the details, just email me.

Read this post from Schroeder.

Now read this article from two months ago:

So goes another post-Katrina reality: In a world in which so much of life in New Orleans is utterly changed, the City Council's role has dramatically changed as well, moved well off center stage in the city's initial planning for its future.

New Orleans' City Charter gives the city a powerful mayor, balancing that by giving the council the ultimate power of the purse. But since Katrina the city has been running largely on federal emergency relief money beyond the council's power to reallocate.

The rest of the council's power traditionally has come from land-use and zoning decisions. But under the state of emergency since Katrina, the council has temporarily lost control of that area as well. Some proposals of the mayor's commission threaten to strip that power permanently.

Think about it, the mayor has been in a stronger position for the last six months than he ever will be again. Also, I have to ask one more time, what kind of mayor takes a trip to Jamaica when we're under a state of emergency.

Monday, March 20, 2006

WTF is George Will Talking About?

Iraq's civil war -- which looks more like Spain's in the 1930s -- began months ago.

In Spain, the security forces were united and in three years were victorious

I know, most people don't even bother to make fun of George Will any more. But, really.

Yet another reason why I pray that we don't have a Forman/Nagin runoff.

Considering what everybody already knows about Bechtel and Haliburton, and some other things, I guess that I should have just come out and asked the question: are there any high ranking Republicans who haven't benefited financially from either Iraq or post-Katrina reconstruction?

Nagin: The Forgotten Interview


I didn't notice this interview when the mayor gave it last month, and I might be reading too much into it now, but while talking about consolidating assessors' offices and courts, the mayor said:

“We’ve already laid off close to 3,000 city workers. We’ve made some tough calls and we need to make some other tough calls.”

“We have to (downsize). I can’t afford it. We can’t afford it.”

He also added:

He said federal aid would keep the parish healthy through this year, but that reducing costs significantly will be essential in 2007.

“We’ll limp through 2006,” he said. “But in 2007 we won’t have all these community disaster loans.”

I can think of a few obvious questions for the next mayoral forum.

Thanks to the former coworker who mailed in the link.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A few things to add to that last post.

Apparently John Ashcroft has entered the lobbying business (from the WAPO):

One of Mr. Ashcroft's newest clients is ChoicePoint, a broker of consumer data that is increasingly being used by the government to keep tabs on people within the United States. The company received millions of dollars in contracts from the Justice Department under Mr. Ashcroft as part of the war on terror and has now hired him to find more.

More at No More Mister Nice Blog

Though it's old news now, I don't recall hearing that Haley Barbour's niece (by marriage) had been awarded a Katrina reconstruction contract.

If you're curious about the Rogers in Barber, Griffith and Rogers, it's the same Ed Rogers who is frequently introduced as a Republican strategist on both MSNBC and CNN. That would be the same Ed Rogers who first attracted attention, during the first Bush administration, as a bit player in the BCCI scandal. That would even be the same Ed Rogers, who joined up with lobbyist and former FEMA chief Josephn Allbaughto form New Bridge Strategies, a company whose mission statement reads (in part):

New Bridge Strategies, LLC is a unique company that was created specifically with the aim of assisting clients to evaluate and take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East following the conclusion of the U.S.-led war in Iraq

Connect the dots. Former Republican Attorney General now representing firms he once worked with as AG. High ranking Republican strategist (and former bagman for the BCCI) partnering with one time Republican FEMA chief to help firms profit from both Gulf Coast and Iraq reconstruction. Same strategist also a business partner with former RNC head and current Mississippi governor in lobbying firm representing corporations that profit immensely from Gulf Coast Reconstruction. To top it all off, the GOP has been so impressed with said governor's handling of post-Katrina reconstruction that there's serious talk of putting him on the next presidential ticket. Yet somehow we're expected to believe that the rest of the Republican Party was surprised and outraged by Jack Abramoff's actions.

About That GAO Review

In a recent post about the GAO's review (pdf) of post-Katrina and Rita contracts, I said:

Makes you wonder if the GAO has somehow managed to retain some integrity, despite the GOP's best efforts.

Actually, The GAO limited the scope of its review to the non-controversial. The report specifically states that it left the contract issues such as competition and pricing to the inspectors general of the government agencies, while it focused on planning and oversight. So, while the reporting on the GAO review mentions politically connected companies, the actual GAO review does not. So to the GAO, wasteful contracts were awarded to companies like the Bechtel corp., Akima and Ashbritt (for more on Ashbritt,just click) because of poor planning and communication.

Well, I suppose that we shouldn't pass judgment until we see the various inspectors' general reports, but it's hard to be too impressed with the GAO report. Still it would be nice to see CNN, The New York Times and the rest of the gang try to reconcile that $62B in contracts that GAO investigated with that $85-$88B figure that they tend to report. It would be even nicer to see somebody ask David Paulison what he meant when he said that we would rebid all those no-bid contracts. Asking him to explain the great leader comment would be optional.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Obligatory St. Pat's Post

Free Moldy City T-Shirt to whomever comes up with the best explanation for these lyrics:

In my blue heaven
There's a bottle of Pontchetrain
Chalmette by moonlight
To take away the pain

That's assuming that I ever start printing the shirts, of course. It's making the even bigger assumption that anybody would want one. I know the Pogues played here a few times (think it was 1988 when I saw them at Tip's), but does anybody know of any close connection between the Irish band and New Orleans, da parish rather.

Since the song's older than the winery, it's probably safe to assume that "bottle of Ponchetrain" is meant metaphorically.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

There's more than $100B figure to object to in the AP article:

The bulk of the bill, $67.6 billion, would pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would boost to nearly $400 billion the total spent on the conflicts and operations against terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

First off, I have to wonder about the $400B figure. My guess would be that the administration's claims about Iraq spending are the mirror image of their claims about Gulf Coast Reconstruction spending--any Iraq spending that could possibly be counted as other spending is, any other spending that could possibly counted as Gulf Coast Reconstruction spending is. More importantly, the reporter refers to the number as money spent on the conflicts and operations against terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Is she on the White House payroll?

The GAO Gets it Right, the AP...

From today's Associated Press reports:

The bill also contains $19.2 billion for cleaning up and rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Katrina struck last summer. That would bring total hurricane-related spending to more than $100 billion.

From today's Government Accountability Office review of post-Katrina and Rita government contracting:

Congress has appropriated over $62 billion as an initial commitment of federal support to the Gulf Coast states impacted by the recent hurricanes.

Makes you wonder if the GAO has somehow managed to retain some integrity, despite the GOP's best efforts. Maybe we can recruit some GAO employees to go to work for the MSM or the SCLM (IYCMD). More on the GAO review in my next post.

Hate to say it, but the AP story was technically correct*, it referred to the $100B as hurricane-related spending not reconstruction spending. I've noticed that in most recent reporting on the subject, it's either referred to as hurricane-related or the amount is referred to with an implicit caveat along the lines of "according to the administration."

Anyone who reads liberal blogs should know the drill by now. The administration, or the right wing media, puts out spin or outright falsehoods. The MSM accepts the spin and reports it. Sometimes, the media catches the spin on its own. More often, after letter writing and blogging (most notably DPB), minor media outlets start to report on it. Finally the major media start to notice, print a correction and start to get the facts straight. Of course, the correction doesn't get placed as prominently as the original story and by then the spin has already been widely accepted as fact.

Unfortunately, it's somewhat worse in this case. I've yet to see even a back page correction in either The Times or The Post, and the corrected reporting is still misleading. The reporters at our major papers should probably spend more time reading GAO reports and less time reading White House press releases.

*In fact, it's only arguably technically correct. It's hard to find a clear accounting of the numbers, but The White House seems to be counting targeted tax cuts as spending. That's a tad inconsistent coming from this administration.

Somebody Has to Ask

Was I the only debate watcher who thought that Nagin's comment about people who fled to Palm Springs was both way out of line and totally irrelevant? Now The Times Picayune tells us that:

Criticism of Nagin's post-Katrina performance aside, his campaign is focusing on the message that when others fled the storm, the mayor remained at his post.

I believe that's part of his basic job description. Just that one statement at the debate (sorry no written transcript available) can be attacked in so many ways.

Palm Springs? Get real, he made nearly half a million a year before becoming mayor and lives on Park Island.

He's going to criticize his opponents for evacuating when, in the same debate, he bragged about how many people we successfully evacuated. In fact, the evacuation was one of the few things that the city and state had a right to brag about (it was the subject of my first post)*.

I want to make sure that I've got this straight, the mandatory evacuation order included everybody but emergency personnel and high ranking officials didn't it? There wasn't an exception for people who thought they might decide to run for mayor was there?

Does he really want to focus on the "remained at his post" bit? We all heard those absurd rumors that flew around when he disappeared for a couple of days, turned out he had evacuated his family to Dallas. The immediate crisis may have been (arguably) over, but it was certainly too early for emergency personnel to leave. BTW, I withheld judgment at the time; not being a parent, I've always been reluctant to criticize the actions of people who have children to take care of. But most of the parents that I've spoken to have pointed out that police and firemen have kids too.

Finally, since the mayor brought up the subject, he didn't wait very long to take a pleasure trip to Jamaica.

*That wasn't intended as a gratuitous reference to my maiden post (I'm not particularly proud of it). It was a gratuitous reference to Jeb's shamelessness.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A couple of things to add to that last post. Between the hiring of a high-powered lobbying firm to present the state's case, more evidence that the floodwall failures were foreseeable, and favorable national publicity, it would seem that the odds have improved that congress will restore the $4.2B that it stripped from Louisiana's housing appropriation. A couple of things to point out, though.

Even when it seemed that Louisiana would get $4.2B, there were some apparent problems with the appropriation:

In Washington for the National Governor's Association meeting, Blanco said she is worried that the restricting the housing money to "mitigation" uses could turn the worst flood-damaged sections of the city into green space, off limits to residential or commercial development.

Under the act, the state could spend the money to raise homes or fortify them against future flooding. The homes also could be purchased outright. But if they are, they cannot be placed back into commerce, only used as green space or wetlands.

My guess would be that a lot of people overlooked that particular story because it came out on Mardi Gras Day. Assuming the money is restored, it will obviously be important to pay attention to the details.

The biggest worry might the FBI investigation into fraud and corruption in the construction of local levees. A week ago, I thought that instead of how much of the damage caused by Katrina and Rita occurred in Louisiana, and start concentrating on how much of the damage caused the Army Corps of Engineers occurred in Louisiana. It should remain in the state's presentation, but I can only hope that everyone who speaks for the state is prepared for the fact that some local featherbedding is bound to turn up somewhere. They won't need to convince me that if any corruption does turn up in the construction of the 17th Street Canal floodwall, it would have no connection to the construction of the London Avenue Canal floodwall, and that neither would have any connection to the levee failures that destroyed St. Bernard Parish, the lower ninth ward, or New Orleans East. Or that none of the above had anything to with the construction of MRGO* and that it was all done under the supervision of the Army Corps of Engineers. They'll need to convince a national audience.

*To be fair, at least one study has questioned the extent to which MRGO contributed to the storm damage.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Texas, Mississippi and a Zero Sum Game

Despite platitudes about all the Gulf Coast States "being in this together" and the states all needing to work together to make sure that each state gets what it needs, it became obvious last week that the governors of Texas and Mississippi had decided that they were involved in a cutthroat, zero sum game. Haley Barbour even disputed the fact that Louisiana took significantly more damage than Missippi:

After the Senate hearing, Blanco’s Louisiana Recovery Authority released data, compiled by the federal Office of Gulf Coast Rebuilding, showing the state bore the overwhelming brunt of housing damage classified as “major and severe,” at 67 percent.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour took issue with the numbers.

“I’ve seen figures that do not add up to that,” he told the committee.

I hate to say it, but after reading today's paper, I have to agree. HALEY BARBOUR WAS RIGHT:

The slide show, which is based on federally compiled disaster statistics, says that of all of the major flood damage to homes from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, Louisiana suffered 77 percent. It says that a lone neighborhood in New Orleans, Gentilly, suffered more housing damage than the entire state of Texas.

Actually, I had thought that perhaps Louisiana had suffered more damage than Mississippi, but Mississippi had experienced more destruction. Apparently even that's not the case:

Louisiana’s disproportionate share of the devastation is even more dramatic when it comes to homes that FEMA classifies as severely damaged or destroyed——those considered practically demolished by the storms. Louisiana has more than five times the number of housing units that meet that description than the combined sum of the four neighboring states

Since Louisiana sure seems to have the facts on its side, it's good to see that somebody is taking the proper steps to make sure the facts get publicized:

Aware the numbers mean little unless the right people see them, a private foundation supporting the authority has hired former U.S. Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y., to open doors on Capitol Hill

Whoever heads that foundation has my gratitude, my vote for governor if he or she ever wants it.

Even though things seem to be looking much better for Louisiana, I would like to go back to one thing that Haley Barbour said to congress last week:

With the confidence of a man whose home-state senator chairs the key money committee, Barbour struck a calm tone telling the senators that he wasn’t asking for environmental restoration money because he hadn’t fully vetted the proposal yet.

WTF? Is that a reference to Louisiana's request for coastal restoration money? Is he trying to imply that Mississippi has somehow been more frugal because it doesn't the damaged marshes or oil spills of Louisiana? I don't begrudge Mississippi any of the money it needs for reconstruction. However, if Haley Barbour wants to turn this into dog-eat-dog game, I would remind the good people of Mississippi that their own lobbyist-in-chief

AshBritt earlier this year hired the lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers, which was founded by Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and paid the firm $40,000 to lobby the Army Corps and Congress, according to Senate records.

has played some part

AshBritt is hauling debris to temporary holding areas at the four dumps; eventually the federal government will again pay the contractor to move the rubble a few hundred yards to what the corps has designated a “final resting place” at each of the four sites. Contractors say the temporary dumping site is used to separate the debris before taking it to the permanent site.

What's more, the four landowners will be paid again per cubic yard, and Chris Lagarde, an environmental aide to U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., said paying multiple times to move the same piece of garbage is a waste.

in the high cost of Katrina reconstruction.

Friday, March 10, 2006

We Could All Become Buddhists

It is the knowledge of Anicca, impermanence, that heals Dukkha, suffering

What other response is there to Bob Marshall's column in today's Picayune?

What many coastal scientists know, but are afraid to say publicly, is that we are almost out of options. The Gulf has moved so much closer to our back doors that there now remains only one real hope for a long-term future on the delta of the Mississippi River: Let the river go.

The federal government must claim eminent domain on everything south of U.S. 90, then begin managing it as an ecosystem with one priority: Rebuilding land faster than it's being lost to the Gulf

That ain't gonna happen. On why why freshwater diversion projects may be too little, too late:

Perhaps the most graphic example is the Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion project. When it opened a few years ago wetland proponents touted its ability to build as much as two square miles of marsh a year in the battered Barataria Basin. What they didn't talk about was that the basin is losing 11 square miles per year. Do the math.

Of course, Bob Marshall isn't the final authority on the subject, but he is about as knowledgeable a reporter as you'll find, and he clearly cares about the subject. Read the column. For an idea of the amount of area involved, just click. Though not clearly marked, highway 90 more or less parallels I-10 from the Texas border to Lafayette, then circles down through New Iberia and Houma, before starting to follow the interstate again just before N.O. That's a lot of eminent domain.

Hope I didn't seem too self-indulgent with that opening; certainly hope that I didn't seem to trivialize the matter. Normally when I hear people talk about eastern philosophy, I'm reminded of a former colleague who often said, without the slightest trace of irony, "I'm really into Zen." It just sounds dilettantish. By pure coincidence (first book that I'd read on the subject in years, I was attracted by the title), I happened to read a book about Buddhism (among other things) shortly before the storm. Like a lot of people that I've talked to, I couldn't concentrate well enough to do any involved reading for some time after Katrina, so I had a lot of time to think about the subject.

Almost every blogger in town has linked to it, but if you haven't seen it yet, you should watch this video.

In the previous post, I should have included this link to Lusher. The whole broader subject needs a lot more attention, or a lot of little subjects need a lot more attention.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Peggy's Opening Pitch

That information, information, and information bit; it's relevant to more than just the mayor's office or just the city government.

Read this short post by Joe and this even shorter post by Loki. Hell, had I started reading Ashley's blog a week later, I'd have no idea that, post-Katrina, the odds that I'd ever be able to raise a family in New Orleans have become somewhat shorter. Human nature and circumstances being what they are (no conspiracy stuff here), it's all pretty much what you'd expect. Still, Loki got it right: "There's a whole lot around this town that smells real fishy since Katrina."

You might want to think about the above when you read (or reread) the article about teachers' unions in Monday's Picayune. Shorter Scott Cowen (from the article):

We'll put up with unions,as long as they know their place.

Actual quote: "My feeling would be if the unions are flexible enough in what they do and how they do it, then they can conform to the model we're advocating," he said. "Our plan certainly requires flexibility in hiring, firing -- and that flexibility is significantly different than what was available in the pre-Katrina environment.

Also from the article,

Now there's no union contract to get around, Christen said, and she and other charter school principals have the freedom to hire whomever they want without fear of reprisal.

Admittedly, that was taken somewhat out of context, but the flip side of the coin is that charter school principals can fire whomever they want without fear of reprisal. I'm not denying that union and civil service protections create some problems, of course they do. Still, with changes that need to be made, the unscrupulous rushing through the changes that they want, the egotistical pushing through the changes that they think are best, and public employees afraid to speak up, we need more, not less, transparency.

Update: That link to Ashley didn't explain things well enough, I should have linked to his previous post. Thanks Len, for pointing that out. To any out-of-towners reading this, the city's magnet schools are a major factor in the ability of many of the city's families to raise families here. To rush through a change in the admissions policy of one within less than three weeks of Katrina was unconscionable. I know all about magnet schools and elitism, but the change only made it more elitist.

Partial impressions of Tuedsay night's debate (video link in election guide, no separate link or online transcript):

It would have been hard enough for a 90 minute forum with nine candidates to be very meaningful, trying to get away from a rigid format only made things worse.

Two candidates came close to getting outright F's:

James Arey--If Adm. James Stockdale is the F standard in grading debates, I guess we have to give poor James a D. Being a radio host, he's used to being in front of the microphone. He was five time jeopardy champion, so he supposed to be a smart guy and somewhat used to being in front of a camera. I think he I know where he was trying to go on that vanilla tangent, but he didn't get there. I would have expected a lot more. Maybe he just needs to practice with a stopwatch, but longshots don't usually get a second chance.

Peggy Wilson--gave the best opening statement, all downhill from there. Well, the opening was a platitude disguised as a sales pitch. However, it's a timely platitude--gets to why I disagree with the mayor, even when I agree with him. For the rest of the debate, I would have given her an F until her welfare queens comment. After that, I thought her appearance could only be explained in terms of performance art or conspiracy theories.

Rob Couhig--Are he and Peggy still emailing around copies of that internet hate piece about how the welfare state led to the scenes at the superdome and the convention center? I'm sure everyone saw the one about how generations of dependency on government welfare programs created an underclass full of helpless people who couldn't get themselves to safety. I thought the Gretna police shot that theory full of holes.

Mitch Landrieu-- good job overall, wise not to get sucked into an insult match with Couhig. But I think we're going to hear more about that negative business rating, he needs an answer in his literature and on his website. Should be easy enough considering the kinds of things LABI rates legislators on.

Ron Forman--Was he there?

C. Ray Nagin-- hate to say it, good impression overall. But since reportersand other people like to take one little statement totally out of context, the mayor put in context for us --he was speaking to the NAACP. You see, he made a statement that what was aimed at the members of one ethic group, because he was speaking to an audience composed of members of that ethnic. I don't think it's unfair to hold incumbents to a higher standard (up to a point) than challengers on wedge issues. Which leads to:

The Reverend Thomas Watson: Really solid overall. Made a couple of mildly objectionable statements. Total cheap shot to imply that Landrieu wanted to bring back segregation, because he wanted New Orleans to be as big as it was in 1960. He was right that most of the other candidates were only in the race because of Katrina, but, as Virginia Boulet pointed out, Katrina didn't just affect the city's racial composition, it made Nagin seem inept. Still, if it doesn't go too far,it's more or less harmless coming from a challenger. Inexcusable statement: "I would have ordered an evacuation on Friday." If he repeats it, he better explain it.

I can't see any of the rest even affecting who makes the runoff. Though I was impressed with Boulet.

BTW that wasn't meant as a knock on Forman. If your opponents are shooting at each other (Couhig, Landrieu, Nagin) or themselves (Wilson), stay out of it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

More on the Levees

Somewhat disappointing turnout for today's Protest, but due to the timing of the House Committee's action and the President's visit, it was organized at the last minute. I was the tired looking guy in blue jeans and a dark knit shirt,BTW.

Found out today why Monday's Washington Post Article mentioned the $1.6B levee reconstruction project, when approximately $3B had been appropriated:

He criticized Congress' earlier diversion of $1.5 billion in levee-rebuilding money to non-New Orleans-related projects, saying lawmakers "shortchanged the process" of rebuilding the city. He said Congress must reverse the decision — even as lawmakers were poised to do so. A $19 billion hurricane-relief measure, set for approval by a key House panel, provides $1.5 billion in various Army Corps of Engineers water projects, chiefly for rebuilding New Orleans' levee systems. Link

Almost makes me wonder if we live in some kind of sick, twisted universe where a weakened Bush Presidency could be a bad thing, but I won't go that far. It also makes me wonder if I was the only person to miss the original diversion. I'm sure it was reported, just seems like it would have received more attention--maybe I missed it. It's certainly one more reason to keep a close eye on the katrina budget numbers. I've often wondered why nobody with the resources keeps a regularly updated site on how much gets requested, then appropriated, then actually designated to be spent where and on what. But I doubt that a full time paid staffer with the state government, or some media outlet or some other organization could keep up with it.

Apparently the House Appropriations Committe has voted to restore the $1.5B:

A House committee on Wednesday approved about $19 billion in new emergency funds to help clean up and rebuild southern states, including nearly $1.5 billion for repairing New Orleans levees ruined by Hurricane Katrina last summer...

A full House vote is expected next week.

That brings up at least two obvious points. Of course, we'll have to watch next week's vote and look at the exact wording of the appropriation to make sure the money can't be diverted again. Secondly, it brings up some obvious, if unwelcome, questions about the assurances that we're receiving from the administration and the Corps of Engineers. Was $3B enough to make the levees safe or was $1.6B enough? Or is $3B enough?

On a slightly different subject, I'd strongly recommend ,Cronies by Robert Bryce to anyone who hasn't read it. Something in today's paper made me think of it. I think Haley barbour could teach the Texans a thing or two, though. If I remember correctly, The Bushes really didn't need to be in the subtitle; he tried to make them central figures at times when they were just "get along to go along" profiteers. But it's been a while, read the book if you have time. It's listed in both the New Orleans and Jefferson Parish library catalogs.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Posted without comment

Dear Members,

The leaders of the House Appropriations Committee have stripped Bush's
request for 4.2 billion for housing recovery. Meanwhile, the National
Science Foundation has discovered that the Corps of Engineers ignored
weather data since 1972 showing they needed to build higher levees to
protect New Orleans from stronger storms.

The federal government is responsible for the death and destruction
that metro New Orleanians suffered! We cannot sit back and accept these
decisions! Check your email and tomorrow morning!
Originally, we planned a demonstration, but not now!!! Now, we will

Put 504-269-2650 into your phone memory. Check it if you won't have
internet access tomorrow. We will protest between 2-4pm. Be checking
for the location because Bush will be in town and we will be ready!!!!

Sandy Rosenthal

The Old Code Words Were Uptown and Republican

I guess it's look like us, now. While speaking in Houston, the mayor said of his opponents:

Very few of them look like us

Or is that to blatant to be considered code? During the Jefferson/Barthelemy election, Jefferson made frequent refernce to his opponent's uptown Republican backers, but I guess it would be somewhat embarrassing for Nagin to inject party affiliation into the race--so much better to bring up race.

Will everybody finally admit what should have been obvious in January--when Nagin made his chocolate city remark, he didn't misspeak as a mayor, he spoke very purposefully as a candidate? His appologists said that the mayor only said what needed to be said, he just used a poor choice of words. His opponents basically agreed because they preferred to paint him as inept rather than cynical. You can be cunning and clueless at the same time, just look at the occupant of a slightly higher office. For at least two months, Nagin's been acting more as a candidte than as a mayor.

I don't want to sound too naive, I can understand the inclination to excuse it as politics. I could understand a candidate for office making divisive statements while campaigning, knowing that he would need to be more concilliatory once he had to start governing. But Nagin is supposed to be governing now.

Unfortunately, to call Nagin on it would be to make it an even more polarizing election. It also doesn't help that Peggy Wilson and her uptown Republican backers were so vocal about wanting a February election. If they weren't trying to rush through the election with a majority white electorate (Yeah, Right), they sure gave that impression. Can't imagine what they were thinking. Of course, whenever I think of Peggy Wilson on the city council, I hear her saying, "I don't understand."

To add to that last post, at the very least we need some outside testing of the repair work almost immediately. Beyond that, we need a clear statement of how much has been committed for exactly what repairs. Beyond that, we need a clear answer on whether the administration believes that's all that's required long term. Finally there's the question of whether the repairs will make some areas as safe as they were believed to be, or as safe as they turned out to be. If it's the latter, that leads to questions about rebuilding in St. Bernard, the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans. Who wants to be the one to tell people they need to wait even longer to rebuild? How long can a community wait to rebuild without dying? Where do the residents live in the meantime? The list could get pretty long.

I was somewhat disappointed at how little national attention the story received. NBC nightly news had a short piece, but no prominent mention on any of the network news websites. Couldn't find any mention of it on any of the major liberal bloggers,that theoretically get the media's attention. Didn't even see it mentioned on the second tier sites that I checked--including one blogger who spent time here and mentions the subject frequently. Did see it mentioned on a new blog that I first came across on her site. I was hoping that it if the media ignored it at first, the big blogs that the media pays attention to might have noticed.

Locally, I have to wonder about the Times Picayune. Today, it published a second Washington Post article that defended the levee repairs, but it never published the first article that criticized the repairs. But, I don't want to go on another anti-T/P rant.

In addition to the Polimom piece that I mentioned,Gulf Sails, humid haney and Suspect Device all have good posts on the subject. From Suspect Device, I see that at least one of the second tier (in terms of readership, certainly not quality) that I was talking about noticed. Should have mentioned 2Millionth Web Log. Apologies to anyone that I left out as of 11:00 Tuesday morning.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I still want an audit

You couldn't read today's Washington Post article questioning the quality of the levee repairs without noticing this sentence:

They say that weak, substandard materials are being used in some levee walls, citing lab tests as evidence.

My first thought was "WTF? Cui Bono?"(Yes, I think in a latin/internet lingo pidgin--plays havoc with the communication skills) Made a comment to that effect on another blog. Though I'm inclined to agree with Tim's comment that "no one stands to profit from levees that fall apart at the first splash of water," I also think it would be naive to rule out the possibility that money and time pressure could lead to the use of local clay.

Of course the main problem is that the numbers have never quite added up. We've been told that it would take $30-60B to build adequate levees, yet we've only had $3B appropriated for levee repairs. Though there have been some back page stories and some blogging about it, there hasn't been a lot of discussion of how safe $3B could make us, even short term. I just assumed that we'd be getting by on a band aid and a prayer, at least for this year. Of course, Washington has yet to commit to anything more long term.

Even assuming the $3B is enough for the short term, the numbers have never quite added up. Reading the T/P's optimistic story on the St. Bernard levees, if the Corps is spending $58M to repair the levees in St.Bernard, hard to see how it could be spending $3B in the area--considering the size of and the amount of damage to the St. Bernard Parish levee system. Even adding in the $25M cost of other flood protection projects in St. Bernard (separate chart in the print edition), the numbers don't quite seem right.

Obviously,I read the T/P story and wondered about the numbers before reading the WAPO story. The Post story refers to the $1.6B reconstruction project. What happenned to the rest of the money for levee repairs? Was it $1.6B all along, with the rest for other flood control projects? Are there any clear numbers anywhere, in the reconstruction allocations?

Even if the concerns raised in the Post article are overstated, and the Corps insists that they are, the Government is only spending enough to fix the damaged levees. That's at best a very short term solution. The federal government needs to acknowledge that, and I still want that audit.

Shorter George Will

If your poor, it's your own damned fault:

The new paradigm is of behavior-driven poverty that results from individuals' nonmaterial deficits. It results from a scarcity of certain habits and mores -- punctuality, hygiene, industriousness, deferral of gratification, etc. -- that are not developed in disorganized homes

That, a nutshell, is what's happenned to the center in this country. George Will has never been a centrist, but in the early eighties he would have merely insisted that the above was a contributing factor to poverty, or the primary cause of some poverty. As Democrats have accepted that it's a cause of poverty, Republicans have become more insistent that it's the cause of poverty. Just one more small example of how as Democrats move to the center, Republicans move to the right.

Update: Gordo has a lengthier post refuting Will's larger claim that anti-poverty programs are inherently ineffectual.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Update: Egg on My Face Time. Somebody just pointed out to me that I wasn't paying attention when I read DPB, the editorial was from the Wash. Times, not the Wash. Post. Feel both relieved and embarrassed. Wouldn't feel right about just expunging any record of my error. And after that petty comment on Ray's blog back in January, I told myself to start watching what I post on weekends.

I see via da po'blog that the Washington Post has been whoring for the Bush administration. I've only got two words to say to the editors of the WAPO, Anticipating Rita. When the editorial board of the Post decides to make nice with the Bush administration, they really do things that only the Rude Pundit could describe.

The Washington press corps condemned Clinton for two semantic evasions (that I recall, both on the same subject), how many will they condone from this administration? To put it another way, can anyone still deny the double standard?

NOMA's re-opening continues today.Schedule of events, for anyone interested. There weren't many people when I was there Friday, I've heard that yesterday's turnout was much greater.

Back to the Katrina tapes, I think that a rhetorical question is the best answer to the overtopping/breaching semantic evasion. That argument is usually presented with in a smug "gotcha" tone--"Don't you Know how much less serious overtopping is than breaching? Are you dishonest or just plain dense?" Since the best reply to a "gotcha" is another "gotcha", the first reply should merely be to ask why "nonserious" overtopping has always been the subject of such serious warnings. I know it's somewhat circular, but KISS first, throw in the technical details later. Once they acknowledge that overtopping is serious, but insist that it's less serious than breaching, the hair-splitting becomes obvious.

The semantic evasion was predictable, the Rathergate counterattack surprised me-- shouldn't have, but it did. I was also surprised to find out that Bush defenders are still repeating the claim that Bush had to call the governor and the mayor to stir them to action. Sean Hannity repeated the claim on Thursday night (transcript not available) saying that of course the president was aware of the danger, he called the governor and implored her to order an evacuation. Glenn Reynolds also repeated the claim (on Thursday, if you want to subject yourself to instapundit)italics quote a fan mail, bold print is Reynolds reply:

I have to admit, it had me spun up for about a half an hour, too. What did Bush know? When did he know it? Then I stopped and remembered... wait a minute! Didn't we already know that Bush knew about the potential of the hurricane in advance, because he made calls to Mayor Nagin asking him to make the evacuation call?

Where is the actual news, here?

The news is that the port-deal publicity is dying down, Iraq's not in a civil war, and we need something to fill the headlines with anti-Bush stuff.

UPDATE: Wizbang notes a Rathergate connection

So the right wing's top blogger and frequent CNN guest didn't actually assert that Bush convinced Nagin and Blanco to make the evacuation mandatory, he just signed off on it. Same thing with the Rathergate attack.

It's long been established that Blanco called for the federal disaster declaration on Aug. 26 before the White House made the declaration. There must still be conflicting claims as to who first called for the mandatory evacuation on Aug. 28. First off, it's somewhat dishonest for even a partisan blogger to only repeat one side of a he said/she said story. It's blatently dishonest for someone who masquerades as a journalist to do so. But (I only bring this up, because apparently it's still a legitimate issue, at least to the right wing) it may be easy enough to resolve the issue. If the president called the governor after the press conference was announced, it seems unlikely that he convinced the governor to convince the mayor to change his mind about what he was going to say at the press conference. If the call came before the announcement, it's inconclusive-- most people were expecting the announcement beforehand.

We know that the mayor and the governor's press conference was originally scheduled for 10am Sunday morning. I can't find any record of what time the press conference was officially announced or what time the mayor and the governor actually went before the microphone. As I recall it, early Sunday morning--before 9:00, I believe it was earlier-- it was announced that there would be a 10:00am joint news conference. I also remember the press conference starting somewhat later than that. Since, at the press conference Blanco stated that

Just before we walked into this room, President Bush called

I assumed that the phone call was the cause of the delay. However, Scott McClellan later stated that the call came slightly earlier:

He got on the phone with Governor Blanco at 9:00 a.m. -- I think it was around 9:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.

As the president was in Crawford, I assume the 9:00 (about 9:00)was central time. I'm almost certain that the press conference was called before then. There must records somewhere in the local media archives of what time the press conference was announced. There must also be phone records of what time the president called the governor. I'm sure that some wingnuts would try to make the case that Blanco and Nagin called the conference, but hadn't decided what to say until Bush called. But how many people would believe that?

I'm surprised to be wasting time on this at this late date, but I'm equally surprised at how often I've heard it said that Bush had to convince Blanco and Nagin to call for the mandatory evacuation. It took some doing to slap dowm the claim that the state of emergency on Friday was Bush's idea. With a little information, we could probably slap down the claim about the mandatory evacuation.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Punchline is Rathergate

Wizbang is the joke. I'm sorry, I meant to say wizbang tells the joke.

The Bush defenders aren't content with just the semantic evasions (da po'blog and oyster had more on that) or using the Katrina warning as an excuse to repeat the claim that Bush cajoled Blanco into issuing a mandatory evacuation order (more on that in my next post), now they're engaging in ad hominem attacks on one of the AP reporters who broke the story.

To begin with: SHE'S FRENCH! Or at least, a member of the French-American Foundation (bear in mind, I'm not making this up), and SHE USED TO WORK FOR CBS NEWS-- AS A PRODUCER AT SIXTY MINUTES II. There's no direct connection established between her and the Bush National Guard story; it seems to be enough to be a francophile who once worked for CBS.

Once I realized that I hadn't stumbled upon a parody site, I decided that it was another blogger trying to google his way into the big leagues-- haven't we all (all of us who blog) wasted hours that way? But, judging by the trackbacks, the Rathergate angle seems to be spreading through the conservative blogosphere. It will interesting to see how far up the food chain it goes.

But, who knows? Maybe the geewhizbang fella was right to play up the French angle. The surrender monkeys at the AP seem to thrown in the towel pretty quickly. The same reporter coauthored this story that appeared the following day:

Update 25: Blanco Wrong on Levees, Video Indicates

Hours after the catastrophic storm hit, Louisiana's governor believed* New Orleans' crucial floodwalls were still intact.

In the video, the governor clearly says, "I think we have not breached the levee." Though the story is technically correct, the headline and opening paragraph certainly give a misleading impression. Guess the reporter must be Vichy French.

But, the reporters missed something-- the governor clearly said "we" have not breached the levees. She didn't say the floodwaters haven't breached the levees. What business do they have reporting on Katrina if they don't know the difference between we and floodwaters? Don't they know that levees can be intentionally breached to direct the flow of floodwater. As Hinderaker might say, there's been "endless discussion" about whether the lower ninth ward was intentionally flooded during Hurricane Betsy. Clearly Blanco was saying that we didn't intentionally flood the lower ninth ward this time. Or she might might have meant that it wasn't controlled, directed breaching further downriver. Either way, time to play six degrees of separation with the other reporter.

There's an interesting take on the president, I mean Mr. President at Unreal City (the name that a google search kept me from using) and Leiter Reports, BTW.

*Updated 3/04 Some editions of the AP story say "assured" instead of believed. If the wingnuts want to play semantic games, there's a major difference between "I think" and "I'm sure."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Proleptic Plagiarism*

It's just so easy. I see from No More Mister Nice Blog that John Hinderaker is making the totally predictable (and totally specious) overtopping defense:

But this has nothing to do with the levees breaching; it has to do with them being overtopped--a much less dangerous threat. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, there has been endless discussion about the difference between breaching and overtopping. If these AP reporters, Margaret Ebrahim and John Solomon, really don't know the difference, they have no business reporting on Katrina.

This leads to a few questions for Mr. Hinderaker. So, if you're reading this John, did you actually pay any attention to that "endless discussion" about breaching and overtopping? Did you hear the part about enough overtopping leading to scouring of the levee's other side, causing rapid collapse. In that "endless discussion," did you notice that the breaching was originally attributed to overtopping? Links here and here, I can send you more if you like. I can't imagine that you'd need them, I found those through google; I am sure that you have lexis-nexis and interns at the Claremont institute. Even assuming that you missed the progression from overtopping to scouring to collapse, did you stop to wonder why there was a warning of the danger of overtopping? If overtopping is a much less dangerous threat, isn't danger of overtopping an oxymoron? I find it hard to believe that you're both that uninformed and that incurious. My guess is that you're playing your readers the way a trial lawyer attempts to play a jury. If you really don't know that overtopping was considered a real and dangerous threat, you have no business commenting on Katrina.

Update: heard Byron York and Haley Barbour make the same point on Hardball. Barbour at least gave himself some wriggle room. Byron York insisted on a difference. Seems to be a Republican talking point, will any name Democrats know how to use it against them?

*What can I say, I liked the phrase when I first saw Michael Berube use it. But I wouldn't stoop to old-fashioned plagiarism. Well, I didn't exactly write out Hinderaker's post, but they're so predictable.

Important Info on Helping Unemployed Hurricane Victims

That was the subject line of an email I just received. Rest of the email:

I just learned from that 140,000 workers from the Gulf Coast who lost their jobs because of Katrina are about to be cut off from unemployment benefits. The current deadline is this Saturday, March 4th. Two weeks ago the Senate passed a bill to extend these benefits, but the House is just sitting on it. It's shameful.
Please join me in calling on our representatives to take a stand, and in helping get the word out to others. It takes only a moment.
Color of Change
We shouldn't have to ask the House of Representatives to vote--at the last minute--on a bill which provides something as basic as unemployment assistance for survivors of one of the worst disasters in this country's history. But apparently we do.
Without jobs in the Gulf Coast, and with many Katrina survivors still trying to find stability elsewhere, it is outrageous to cut off support to people who lost their jobs because of the storm. Please join's campaign. It takes only a minute and can make a huge difference for thousands of families from the Gulf.
Color of Change

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Think They'll Try for Breaching vs Overtopping

If you haven't seen the video of Bush being warned about the danger of the levees being topped, Josh Marshall has the video, via Appletree.

The hurricane Center's Max Mayfield clearly warns of the danger of the levees being topped. Seems to contradict Bush's statement about not thinking that anybody anticipated the levees being breached. Unless, someone tries to confuse the issue by saying that everybody thought that the levees would hold if they weren't topped. Which is more or less true, but obviously irrelevant-- doesn't change the fact that the administration was warned. Still, I'm betting that we end up hearing it.

Mardi Gras Index (not what you might think)

If you're on the mailing list for the Institute for Southern Studies you've probably already received Reconstruction Watch's Mardi Gras Index(pdf.): The State of New Orleans by the numbers.

The report states that:

HEALTH AND SAFETY concerns are keeping residents away — from rampant
mold, to pollution “hot spots” such as four city neighborhoods with 100
times accepted safe levels of arsenic. Regulators have offered no
clean-up plan — creating a public health threat compounded by the city’s
gutted health care system.

No argument on the second part; we need a clean-up plan. The report might be wrong about safety concerns--at least concerns about pollution-- keeping people away. People are staying away because of concerns about the levees; are they really staying away because of concerns about arsenic? I think that report overstates that part, I'm afraid that could end up being a major problem in the future.

I found pgs. 18-19, on reconstruction contracting, particularly interesting--mainly because the issue has been largely forgotten. The Picayune has had several excellent articles and editorials on the subject. From a recent Stephanie Grace column:

On top of that, there are expensive no-bid contracts and the wasteful layersubcontractingracts for countless federal contracts.

But I do think that somebody needs to connect the dots for the national media before "$85B is a lot" becomes "$100B is a lot." As a matter of fact, the whole issue of no-bid contracts/ sub-contracting seems to have become the elephant in the room (kudos to the T/P for keeping on it, most recently Monday).

When I first brought up my "Bush or the Republican leadership took its ball and went home theory"--once the contracting came under scrutiny, the administration lost its enthusiasm for rebuilding, I thought that I was stating the obvious. When nobody else picked it up, I wondered whether I was stating the too obvious, like an adolescent pointing out hypocrisywhetherather I was getting into tin foil hat territory.

Whatever the reasons, the problem remains. The fact that even Democrats in Louisiana and Mississippi have grown silent about it makes me wonder whether the tacit threat worked. At any rate, none of the no-bid contracts have been renegotiated. Which leads to another question: when will David Paulison be charged with perjury? If he wasn't under oath, when will he at least be forced to explain himself?

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Old Favorites
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