Thursday, April 27, 2006

Stupidest Internet Series of All Time

Can it possibly get any stupider than Jeff Sadow's "Stuck on Stupid" series? I've made passing references to the series and I'm sure that other local bloggers have as well. Hell, Your Right Hand Thief demolished the fifteenth entry in the series just two weeks ago, but like our Louisiana's own Energizer Bunny of stupidity, Professor Sadow just keeps going and going; the series has had two new entries since.

Stuck on stupid XVI is largely premised on the idea that Blanco's decision not to federalize the La. National Guard somehow impaired the response to Katrina. This post came weeks after federal officials, including "top Pentagon officials" have publicly stated that the decision was the correct one. To be fair to the professor, this could just as easily be a sign of intellectual dishonesty as stupidity.

You really need to readStuck on stupid XVII in its entirety (and follow the links) to grasp the extent of the stupidity, or intellectual dishonesty. The following rather lengthy excerpt will have to do:

One of his subalterns, Angie LaPlace, commissioner of elections, argued otherwise, saying that FEMA did not take into account the stupidity of Orleanians. This was an extraordinary event, LaPlace helpfully reminds. We don't expect people to be election experts. We don't think the average person would know the election process well and how to get a ballot and how to vote.

Perhaps LaPlace is even denser than Ater, because she doesn't seem to be aware that all anybody needs to know about how to voter early/absentee in Louisiana already is posted at her own department's website. If she does, then in her mind an "election expert" is someone who knows how to point, click, read English, and find a 39-cent stamp, skills she apparently doubts most people have.

While it's clear these dunderheads know how to loosen demagoguery into the public discourse, its equally evident they apparently can't understand federal laws. 44CFR206.233 makes plain what qualifies as an expense qualifying for a Public Assistance grant from FEMA , paid to governments:

(a) General. To be eligible for financial assistance, an item of work must:
(1) Be required as the result of the major disaster event

Since New York postponed its election two weeks because of its response to the terrorist attack on the day of the election, it's clear the disaster itself caused the postponement. But in no way was the "voter education" campaign required for New Orleans to hold its delayed elections.

To begin with, the link to the federal law doesn't make things clear at all. I can't fault Sadow for the fact that it's a lengthy statute, but the references to section 206.233 that I found were marked "reserved". However, Sadow's use of links is often somewhat questionable (more on that in a bit). Even if I missed it (I didn't spend much time looking at the link), my cursory glance showed contradictory passages. I guess that I mustn't be one of those "election experts" that Laplace referred to either, at least I found the last sentence of the above somewhat hard to understand. Okay, the "voter education" campaign may or may not have been necessary to hold the election (not sure how it factored into the court's decision to proceed with the election), it was certainly necessary for the election results to have any chance of standing.

You can decide for yourself whether the "point, click, read English..." part reflects stupidity or intellectual dishonesty. I won't fall into the trap of accusing Sadow of elitism. Familiarity with a computer is less a function of socio-economic background than age, although both factor in. At any rate, there's the whole issue of computer access for evacuees.

Finally, Sadow tends to link to his own posts in a manner that most would find objectionable, especially coming from a professor. It's an entirely acceptable practice for a blogger to refer back to his previously expressed opinions; it's an entirely different to link back to your own posts when you're using a link as a corroborating footnote. As an example, most bloggers and readers would find it perfectly acceptable for me to refer to "my previously expressed opinion" of Mayor Nagin. If I had learned to blog from reading Sadow, I'd refer to a mayor who refuses to even explain his decisions. In Sadow's case, if you try to follow the links, you find more references to Sadow's previously expressed opinions without any corroborating links. For example, try finding anything in the last post mentioned that lends any credence to Sadow's assertion about Ater's desire to become head of the state Democratic Party. He's actually three-for-three in the second paragraph of that post. Maybe Sadow's just stuck on himself.

BTW: I wasn't planning on posting today. For personal reasosomewhat been somewhat tired and in a bit of a fog since last Friday night, not all up to anything involving sustained thought. Fortunately, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to spot the flaws in the "Stuck on Stupid" series, wouldn't take a political scientist either.

Update, of a sort: Gratifying, but unrelated quote:

And it's never a bad thing to remind people just how stupid conservative bloggers really are

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

That's Got To Be Embarrassing

April 7, press release from Republican congressman Chip Pickering:

Gulfport based Necaise Brothers Construction to lead on debris removal

Congressman Chip Pickering praises the Corps of Engineers today for awarding a new competitively bid federal contract for debris removal to a Mississippi contractor in compliance with the Stafford Act. The Corps will announce that Gulfport based Necaise Brothers Construction will lead on debris removal as the prime contractor.

April 21, Pickering Press Release:

New law codifies geographic set asides for disaster recovery federal contracts

Thursday night, President George W. Bush signed Congressman Chip Pickering's "Local Community Recovery Act of 2006" (HR4979) into law. The act clarifies the Stafford Act to ensure Mississippi companies can receive significant prime federal contracts and in the future, contractors in disaster areas across our country may be given preference through geographic set-asides of federal contracts.

April 22, Jackson Clarion-Ledger article:

Firm loses cleanup contract

By Joshua Cogswell

Necaise Brothers Construction of Gulfport lost its $150 million debris-removal contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Friday.

The corps cited inevitable delays resulting from protests filed by three competing companies as a reason for canceling the contract. One of those companies is the current contractor, AshBritt Inc. of Pompano Beach, Fla.

AshBritt Inc. will continue the cleanup, which is expected to be completed by May 31, according to the corps

Interesting paragraph in Pickering's official biography:

Chip served as George W. Bush’s Co-Chairman of Mississippi for Bush 2000 and Bush 2004. Chip’s ever growing record of achievement has earned him a reputation as an effective voice for Mississippi’s interests, a rising star in the Congress, and champion for the changes that are transforming America’s economy in this century and beyond.

If Necaise Bros. had a heavy hitter like Pickering in its corner, one has to wonder how AshBritt held on to the contract:

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.

Barbour's approval ratings have improved considerably since Katrina. Judging by recent history, I doubt this will have any effect at all. At least this time the state's largest paper has noticed:

AshBritt: How much Katrina money is enough?

AshBritt, the Florida-based company that's been in charge of debris removal on the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, just can't get enough of making a profit from the misery of Mississippians.
But the bottom line is that a Florida company with strong political and/or business ties to President Bush and Gov. Haley Barbour monopolized the debris removal business when Mississippi companies needed the work.

AshBritt danced with the ones who brought them - and wrung every drop of Katrina money it could get out of hurricane-ravaged Mississippi in the process.

I doubt it will affect Barbour's (or the Republican Party's) popularity in Mississippi.

What Happened in Florida?

Now that we've all heard the news and seen the editorials:

FEMA sent out thousands of letters to people on the Gulf Coast last week that say they must give back payments that it now deems to have been excessive -- and FEMA wants its money in 30 days.


Given FEMA's track record thus far, it's hard to believe that the agency will prove competent at figuring out who owes what. People who spent weeks trying to deal with FEMA on the phone after the storm may well be plunged back into that hell as they dispute these bills

I'm curious about whether anything similar happened in Florida after the 2004 hurricane season. I remember hearing stories about people in Miami receiving FEMA checks after a hurricane that hit Tampa. There was even speculation that administration was using FEMA to buy the election. Does anybody from Fla. know whether there were ever any follow up audits? Since repayment letters have also gone to Texas and Mississippi, it's probably a variation on the squeaky wheel phenomenon rather than a red state/blue state thing, but I am curious.

On a related note, something caught my eye in an article about FEMA reorganization a couple of weeks ago:

Defenders of the existing system say FEMA functioned well under the Department of Homeland Security during the barrage of hurricanes in Florida in 2004.

"That's the exception to the rule," Davis said. "2004 was an election year in a key (electoral) state. Plus the governor has a personal relationship with the president."

That sounds like a myth taking hold to me. I have no first hand knowledge, but I don't recall FEMA being praised for its preparedness and immediate response. I thought that FEMA won people over with its willingness to write checks after the fact. Again I have no first hand knowledge, but the perception (or misperception) could effect not only FEMA reorganization, but perceptions of Louisiana as well.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tardy Election Blather

Note:Couldn't post yesterday, not much to add now to the analysis at: Library Chronicles,Right Hand Thief,Third Battle, adrastos, and others (those were the ones I saw before a very busy day).

Hard to believe how wrong I was about Watson; knew that it was somewhat incompatible with my belief that Nagin was underpolling, but not that incompatible. With a little forethought, I should have predicted either Nagin or Watson to do surprisingly well. Race wasn't going to go away as a factor no matter how bad Nagin's performance, throw in fear of land grabs and disenfranchisement,NIMBY and talk of welfare queens and it's surprising that it wasn't more of a factor (I'm not saying that all of Nagin's vote was race based). Watson's poor showing can only be explained,IMO, by the fact that nobody wanted to waste his vote on a protest vote.

Hard to reconcile Watson's one per cent vote with Couhig's ten per cent. Two different demographics, but you'd think the fear of a wasted vote would be the same. Either those voters had no real preference between Forman, Nagin and Landrieu, or they had no real preference between Forman and Landrieu. My guess is the latter. I don't think that many of those voters expected Couhig to make a runoff, but they did fear that, if they didn't vote, Nagin might not make a runoff. That vote's Landrieu's to lose. Any "angry white" voters that might otherwise hate the Landrieu name enough to sit out the runoff have seen the pictures of Nagin and Jackson.

Nagin's smartest move (at least his smartest "clean" move) was to turn all criticism of his performance into criticism of his performance during the crisis. Most of the people who blame the city for what happened live in the suburbs (of some city) or in rural areas. He succeeded in making most of the criticism of his performance look unfair, at least to some voters.

Other than that, I'm not sure how many white voters Nagin was expecting to reach (directly, at least) with the mention of Bollinger and Canizaro. That was designed to let Forman's rich backers know that they could still do business with him. I'm not sure if a month is enough time for the backing of few wealthy investors to influence the perception of many white voters, he just needs the financial backing of a few of them. He also wanted to reassure the media that he hasn't turned into a demagogue. Judging by the T/P's profiles of Landrieu and Nagin, the mayor doesn't need to worry about biased coverage, yet.

I missed Jeffrey's comparison of Bush and Nagin when it first appeared at Library Chronicles, I've long been struck by similar but somewhat different similarities. To begin with, I think that Nagin's business background makes him an autocratic executive who hates to even explain his decisions. I'm not sure whether Bush really is an autocratic executive or just plays one on TV. Both govern in campaign mode and both are adept at turning administrative mistakes into political pluses.

There are more, but those explain the logical progression from NIMBY to Chocolate City.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

It's Working So Well With Insurance Checks

Apparently, it's not enough for finance companies to earn extra interest by holding onto homeowners' insurance checks. Now they want to be able to do the same thing with recovery authority buyout checks. From today's Picayune:

Among other critics, the Housing Policy Council of the Financial Services Roundtable, a banking group, has recommended using insurance payments as a model for checks given to homeowners for rebuilding. This would mean making the checks payable to the lender and homeowner, to ensure that they are used for repairs or to repay mortgage debt.

It's too soon to say whether that's the beginning of a serious push, but I expect to hear all about how Louisiana needs to prove that it's no longer anti-business. Wouldn't even be surprised to hear that no companies will be wlling to write mortgages in La., etc.

When I wrote more on the LRA health plan later, earlier this week, I had in mind an interesting, even important, post that would virtually write itself. That feeling quickly gave way to the "OMG, it's midnight, my term paper's due at eight in the morning, and I haven't even done any research yet" feeling.

I still think that astonishment is the correct response to reading:

Louisiana has the nation's only statewide system of public hospitals, and is also unique in how it pays for health-care services to the poor and uninsured. In other states the burden of caring for the uninsured is shared among the private and public hospitals, and federal dollars that reimburse hospitals for uncompensated care to the uninsured are spread out as well.

In Louisiana, the charity system gets virtually all of the federal "disproportionate share" dollars that compensate hospitals for the free care they provide for the uninsured

At least, I found it astonishing to find out that Louisiana's private hospitals suffer because they don't get enough uninsured patients. That certainly seems to contradict everything I've heard about both public and private hospitals being overwhelmed by the costs of dealing with the growing number of uninsured patients.

Alas, that easy to write, clever (well, sarcastic) and possibly even important post never materialized. It's definitely an important subject, but disproportionate share financing is a complicated part of a much bigger problem, with quite a bit of money (pdf. for La. see p.12) involved. Hate to cop out again, but more on this later.

Last Minute Election Predictions

Apologies in advance to whoever posted Thursday that the four front runners (Nagin, Landrieu, Forman and Couhig) were going to be on WWL radio that afternoon-- looked, can't find the post. That added to my growing suspicion, that the Gambit endorsement didn't reflect a Landrieu surge so much as a Forman fade that was primarily benefitting and/or caused by Couhig. Forman's tanking and he knows it. So my no longer bold prediction is Nagin and Landrieu both in the mid-twenties, Forman and Couhig both mid-teens. The Couhig surge/ Forman fade probably came too late for Couhig to make a runoff.

Two wild cards: Watson and Nagin underpolling.

I don't think Nagin benefits from race nearly as much as he benefits from a sympathy backlash from people who think he gets unfairly blamed for things beyond his control. I can understand that, but it's not his performance during the crisis that made me vote against him. Still, I see a lot of the don't know/won't say vote as Nagin.

I really don't know what to make of Watson, nothing between 5% and 20% would surprise me. I'm probably reading too much into the fact that even my mother-- a seventy-something year old white woman who recently moved from Carrollton to Metairie-- likes Watson and not only for the Nagin attacks. Unfotunately, because of the exchanges with Nagin, people didn't notice how strong he was on the issues. I've got to think that being the one candidate who really seemed to care about the displaced, had to have helped him. It's a shame that he wasn't taken more seriously, but, then again, I scoffed at his candidacy until the last week or two.

City Council:

At large: Thomas in easily. Optimistically predicting a Fielkow/Clarkson runoff for the other spot. Clarkson's commercials were much better, don't know if she got the NIMBY backlash she should have, I didn't hear anything of it if she did.

District C: From yard signs an Early/Booth runoff. If people really vote race, Carter must benefit from being the only serious black candidate. Wonder how much weight the Hatty Anderson endorsement carries.

Friday, April 21, 2006

But This Way the Hurricane Doesn't Know Either

From Stephanie Grace's Thursday column:

And in the Tuesday forum, when everyone other than Nagin said the city is not ready for the upcoming hurricane season, the mayor said that they just don't know what's in his plan. That, several pointed out, is the point: Nagin has never exactly bothered to keep his constituents in the loop.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Funniest Quote of the Campaign

Well not quite the funniest, but pretty funny:

When someone affiliated with the Gambit has something nice to say about a member of the GOP, immediately put a hand on your wallet as the high-brow weekly is decidedly, and not too infrequently obnoxiously, liberal. This week’s issue where the politically progressive paper endorses the candidacy of Mitch Landrieu for mayor also contains a cartoon that vilifies the GOP.
my emphasis

Source of the quote: a Forman campaign email, or a link on a Forman campaign email:

The Couhig - Landrieu Conspiracy

Home · About Ron ·Action Plan · Get Involved · Events · Donate · News · Contact Us · Privacy Policy

We thought you would be interested in excerpts from an Editorial today in the Bayou Buzz

April 20, 2006
The New Orleans Mayor´s Elections Gambit
A BayouBuzz Editorial by Michael Baham

(Michael Baham is the youngest elected member of the Republican State Central Committe. Baham's writings have appeared in the New York Times, Gambit, the Times Picayune, and his weekly column on political events is a regular feature on

Excerpts from the BayouBuzz editorial (link to full story below)

".....So why is voting for Rob Couhig, the most unapologetically aggressive candidate in the race for mayor, such a bad idea?....

Because a vote for Couhig is in effect a wasted vote..


"...Since there is no chance of Couhig making a runoff, a vote for the bombastic Republican businessman is in essence a vote for a Landrieu-Nagin runoff, as ballots cast for Couhig would likely go to Forman, whose message and credentials are attractive to GOP voters ....."


"...Forman earned his spurs in the community not in the field of politics but by putting together world-class family attractions. Forman has much to show for his thirty-plus years with the zoo.

The same cannot be said for Landrieu during his time in office. While he casts himself as a reformer and his personal integrity cannot be questioned, Landrieu has been in office since 1987 yet he refuses to accept any responsibility for the sordid state of politics in New Orleans...."


"...On April 22nd, the voters of New Orleans have two real choices: they can support a charismatically challenged man who would truly represent the fresh start city residents claim they want or they can punt to a May runoff between Nagin, who tries to be all things to all people, and Landrieu, a man with one eye on his sister's re-election in 2008 and his other on a future run for governor."

"....This election is too important for Republicans to be duped by a liberal journalist into "writing Couhig's name in the snow" to the benefit of the Landrieu clan."


Click here to read the entire Editorial

Forman approvingly quotes someone who calls Gambit high-brow? See why I'm so baffled at the mainstream respect that BayouBias gets? Hard to say which is funnier, calling Gambit high-brow or calling Gambit obnoxiously liberal. The cartoon, of course, refers to This Modern World. For somebody who's so involved with GOPUSA to smear Gambit for an association with Tom Tomorrow, well, what can I say? Other than, he brags about his association with GOPUSA, and that he supported Wilson a week earlier.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Double Minded Man is Unstable in All His Ways.

James 1:8

I believe the phrase was used a little bit over an hour into the debate.

Clarification: As I recall the phrase from bible school, it was sometimes used as a gentle warning against temptation, sometimes used as a stern admonition about straying from the paths of the righteous. I don't recall it ever being used as a euphemism for being mentally unbalanced. That said,Watson did admonish Nagin about double mindedness. Of course, whether you're talking about Jerry Falwell or Thomas Watson, it's presumptuous to assume that what may just be an ingrained speech pattern is,in fact, a coded message.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Too physically drained to finish up on LRA health plan tonight. It raises, IMO, issues that go beyond health care.

Most heated debate yet. Replay should be available Wedsnesday afternoon. Heated exhange between Nagin and Watson should be about fifty minutes in.

It got personal for me tonight. In response to a question about downsizing city government, the mayor bragged about laying off 3000 employees (an admittedly necessary move). Now I wouldn't accuse him of smug narcissism for that alone:

# 7. Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of others

Coming from a mayor who's made no effort to trim the payroll at the top, I find it somewhat disturbing. After all, a department that had gone from 400 to 20 employees was apparently still paying its director and deputy director full salary two months after the layoffs, even though the director had not returned from the evacuation. Throw in the fact that the mayor has scoffed at the notion of scaling back huge pay raises for upper level staff, pay raises that he insisted were necessary to fill top positions with the best possible people and, well.

If you missed Countdown's worst person in the world, take a close look at the crazy Kim link.

Um, Don't They Have Editors For This?

Online defintion:

crime rate
n : the ratio of crimes in an area to the population of that
area; expressed per 1000 population per year

Today's Times Picayune:

Crime rates drop in N.O.Fewer people in town means less violence
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
By Trymaine Lee
Staff writer
A smaller population in New Orleans helped cut overall crime 68 percent in the city during the last three months of 2005 compared with the same period in 2004, New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley announced Monday.

In an unrelated media note, hard to say which was the worse reponse to a quetion last night:

MATTHEWS: If you believe that if say you approve of the president‘s

performance, you have a better shot of getting some money from him.

FORMAN: I think you have to work with people


BOULET: You know, Ray, cool cities have universities downtown, and

cool universities are downtown.

I don't think she was being tongue-in-cheek, I think she had trouble with a question she should have seen coming. At any rate, Forman won the tie breaker for naming Giuliani a great mayor that he considered a role model.

The more I think about it, the less likely I think it is that Couhig and Landrieu worked something out. I think giving Couhig an opportunity to attack Nagin, was far smarter than trying to put him on the defensive with a tough question. With Couhig at the top of his game, would you rather him counterattacking you or attacking one of your two main opponents? We'll probably see that tactic repeated if the format's the same in the remaining debates. Maybe not, it might grow old fast.

printed transcript

Monday, April 17, 2006

If you saw tonight's debate, you might have noticed that one of the opening sound bites repeated a common myth about New Orleans. Seymour D. is definitely correct that it's one of those seemingly minor misconceptions (amount of Katrina aid and soaring crime rates caused by Katrina evacuees also come to mind) that contribute to a totally distorted national perception.

Had planned on posting about today's article about the dead zone (the one in the Gulf, not the Stephen King novel), but really nothing to add to what Right Hand Thief and 2Millionth Web Log have already posted. Take the time to read at least one, especially if you live another part of the country and somehow found yourself reading this.

Update: Didn't recognize the voice in the intro, apparently it was Utah's Bob Bennett. Unfortunately, Matthews' opening question was only about rebuilding a city that's below sea level, not 10' below. Would have been a better chance for a candidate to correct the myth, or for them all to drop the ball. Watson should have read my post last Thursday, he only used the levees of mass destruction line once and he used it lamely.

The LRA Health Plan

Saturday's Times Picayune article on the Louisiana Recovery Authority's draft report on state health care brought to mind two or three thoughts that have occured to me in recent months. Conversely, my reaction might have been a reflection of my own preconceived notions.

The first is that, upon seeing newspaper articles about Baton Rouge's replacing of New Orleans as the state's financial and population center, the average North Louisiana Baptist gets about as excited as the average 13 year old boy looking at a Playboy centerfold.

The above might be overstated, but there has been far too little discussion of whether the reaction to changes caused by Katrina is necessary or whether it makes those changes permanent. In some cases financial necessity makes such adjustments unavoidable, but too often they reflect a lack of forethought or even an attempt to capitalize. I might have read too much into this, but when I read:

Rather than building a new teaching hospital in New Orleans -- which has support from Gov. Kathleen Blanco -- the report recommends that LSU move ahead with a comprehensive study to identify its needs in the New Orleans area, which would factor in a post-Katrina population shift to Baton Rouge.

and find that the one named member of the committee that authored the report is a Baton Rouge Civic Leader, it gives me cause for concern. I'm not questioning Spain's integrity, just his mindset.

The report also reflects another concern that I've had--mainly that the state's recovery effort has been too oriented toward the concerns of big business. Seems to be almost a religious feeling among the state's civic leaders that we need to atone for our anti-business past and reputation.

At any rate, the Louisiana Recovery Authority Support Foundation (the privately funded group that sponsored the study) seems blithely unaware of the dichotomy between cost concerns and medical concerns in the national discussion of health care policy. How else do you explain the decision to commission PriceWaterhouseCoopers to author the committee report on the state's health care future? Couldn't have anything to do with the fact that four of the fund's five committee members are two corporate executives, an accounting professor and Ron Forman, could it?

In tomorrow's posting I'll go over specific objections, I should point out that Building Big Easy had an entirely different take. However, he seems to have misread a key passage in the article:

Katrina essentially right-sized the overbuilt hospital system in Region 1," the report says, referring to the New Orleans area. About half the region's 4,602 hospital beds were knocked out of commission by Katrina, but the occupancy rate for those beds was only 56 percent at the time, according to the report

I'll go into more detail later, but that seems to to be an effort to blame the state for overbuilding by private hospitals.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Did Anyone Else Notice This?

Or even find it interesting:

The votes of 40,000 Canadian citizens who qualify as "Italians abroad," some of whom have never set foot in Italy and many of whom don't speak Italian, played a pivotal role in the defeat of billionaire Silvio Berlusconi in Italy's election yesterday, according to poll results released late last night.

Didn't say it was important, or even relevant, just interesting.

The Times Picayune Supported the Stelly Plan

It really did, back in Oct. 2002. So did Bobby Jindal for that matter. Even LABI was officially neutral, at the time. So I have to wonder whether the editors at the Picayune have questioned that billion dollars in increased income taxes, that the "contractor" in Forman's attack ad accuses Landrieu of having voted for. Do they really believe that Landrieu , or any other politician, would just vote for a billion dollars in new income taxes. So as I follow the chain of events: T/P supports the Stelly Plan, Landrieu votes for Stelly plan, Times Picayune endorses Forman, Forman runs a misleading attack ad blasting Landrieu for voting for the Stelly Plan. Sounds like a second editorial is in order.

It may seem naive to get so riled up about a politician's wildly exaggerated claims of accomplishment or vague attack ads. Fact is, I wouldn't with any other candidate (maybe Boulet). I'd point out the inaccuracies, but I wouldn't consider it a major issue. The difference is, Forman backers don't see him as a politician; they see him as a miracle worker. Guess he performed the minor miracle of being a demagogue without being a politician.

Interesting quote in the second link above:

State Rep. Steve Scalise, the Metairie Republican running for Congress in the 1st District, is comparing his longstanding opposition to the Stelly plan to frontrunner Bobby Jindal's support for it. Never mind that Jindal's support was as a voter at the polls and not as a lawmaker. Or that Congress has nothing to do with state taxes.

Contrast that with this quote from the same writer:

Some observers see Blanco as siding with oil companies against her supporters in the trial bar, but only a small percentage of trial lawyers are engaged in environmental lawsuits.

He may be the most respected political commentator in the state, but John Maginnis is still a partisan hack.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Quote of the Day

The aim of those topping the heap is to avoid alienating anyone, he said, and "the only way to ensure that is to be bland and noncontroversial."

Expert (I found the link oddly amusing for some reason) Ed Renwick on top political analysts. Oh, he was talking about the top mayoral candidates. OOPS, my bad. Just another example of the professor's brilliant insight.

Context of the quote from today's T/P article on land use:

Meanwhile, two candidates nipping at the front-runners' heels, lawyers Rob Couhig and Virginia Boulet, have offered bolder courses. They favor explicit rebuilding plans that include city-driven financing proposals, and even take the politically precarious step of calling for a pause in construction or cessation of city services in the hard-hit neighborhoods east of the Industrial Canal.

It is not surprising that the candidates most likely to win a runoff berth, according to recent polls, would tread lightly around the race's most sensitive issue, said Ed Renwick, director of Loyola University's Institute of Politics. The aim of those topping the heap is to avoid alienating anyone, he said, and "the only way to ensure that is to be bland and noncontroversial."

I seem to remember Boulet specifically stating that services could (and should) be restored to the The Holy Cross neighborhood almost immediately, which would make the above a bit misleading if not technically inaccurate.

Article's actual headline:

Land use is pivotal issue in mayor's race

My preferred headline:

Forman has SECRET PLAN for repopulating New Orleans

At least it sounds that way to me:

Though he would not stop issuing building permits, Forman said he would warn against building in certain areas, which he would name once elected.
(my emphasis)

To be fair, Landrieu has been equally vague, but he doesn't have a secret plan. Ninety per cent of my objections to Nagin have stemmed from the fact that he's been governing in Campaign mode at least since his return from his (post-Katrina) Jamaica vacation and/or from his administration's "we'll tell you what you need to know, when you need to know it" attitude. Forman doesn't sound like much of an improvement on that score.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The State, the City and the ACoE Agree on Something

The landfill may well be safe, but I find it hard to believe that all three could be right about anything:

The state Department of Environmental Quality will allow the opening of a new construction landfill in eastern New Orleans that has been vehemently opposed by a coalition of neighborhood residents and environmentalists, department officials announced Thursday.


The Corps and DEQ approvals were the last remaining regulatory hurdles keeping the landfill from accepting waste, meaning the facility could open immediately


Mayor Ray Nagin, invoking emergency powers he granted himself after Katrina, gave the required conditional-use permit to Waste Management to open the Chef Menteur landfill.

But don't get the wrong idea, the mayor understands the importance of letting people keep trash out of their neighborhoods.

It's no longer a rhetorical question: didn't the mayor give up emergency powers when he took a trip to Jamaica? Seriously it's been over seven months and the mayor's been out of town at least twice for personal reasons. Hearing the WWL reporter end the story by emphasizing that the landfill would only be open for a year and then capped, didn't do much for my confidence-- in either the landfill or the reporter.

In other matters:

Scalia's had a lot to be proud of.

Draw your own conclusions about the first part of the article I cited in the previous post. However, Nagin's running a new ad blaming the state's unwillingness to adopt his plan for the lack of federal money. He might truly believe that the state's at fault, that the White House and Congress wouldn't shoot down any plan that the state presented, he might, possibly. However, if he pushes that on national TV Monday night, I say we don't just vote him out, we run him out on a rail. If he uses his national platform to attack an opponent, even though it means taking the pressure off Washington, we'll know that re-election is his top (or only) priority.

On the other hand, we'll could all end up being happy that WWL isn't hosting Monday's debate. That's assuming that Watson stays on message about the levees of mass destruction and three blocks of New York destroyed compared to 80% of New Orleans.

Ashley seems to have forgotten about Tim. Question, are we really supposed to vote for the candidate who says the most good things about our local universities?

I know New Orleans needs its universities, and please, no angry comments about the trash joke. That's not my attitude, but one couldn't be blamed for thinking it's the attitude of some of our officials--that does not contradict my previous NIMBY posts BTW. Probably has more to do the relative influence of that part of the West Bank and that part New Orleans East.

Is There Something Wrong With the Severance Tax?

Ron Forman seems to think there is. The head of the environmentally conscious Audubon Nature Institute also seems to object to tying a company's IPTEP participation to its environmental record (scroll down to 4.7). He even seems to have a problem with the homestead exemption. Judging by his latest commercial, Forman seems to be bigger fan of the Industrial Property Tax Exemption than the Homestead Exemption.

Pardon the obvious hyperbole, but it's least as accurate as Forman's attack ad (Forman seems to be too embarrassed to include the ad on his website). Apparently when Couhig reached into his suit pocket and pulled out the sheet of paper that proved Landrieu was a communist, it gave Forman a bright idea. The idea didn't seem to include checking to see how LABI grades legislators. A glance at LABI's website (pdf)) shows that the main tax issues, as far as LABI is concerned, are the severance tax, the IPTEP and the homestead exemption. To LABI, votes to limit IPTEP (e.g. tie it to a company's environmental record) or increase the homestead exemption are votes for higher business taxes.

Admittedly, the homestead exemption issue is complicated, but it would be nice to see someone ask Forman his opinion on it, or his views on IPTEP and severance taxes. If he doesn't agree with LABI on its three pet tax issues, it's thoroughly dishonest of him to run that commercial.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

So this--this is working very well for them

It is private -- like a gated community," said Mark Misczak, the agency's human services director for Louisiana.

Doesn't exactly sound like English Turn to me:

Squeezed into a travel trailer with three children is tough, and Magee said she doesn't feel comfortable letting the children play outside on the dusty gravel that lines the 62-acre park. And while the park is quiet during the day, Spencer said they aren't at ease living among so many strangers, in particular with what he described as drug selling and drug use in sections of the park at night.

The roads that separate the trailers are covered with a limestone gravel that radiates clouds of gray dust with every breeze. Although the trailers border expansive green fields, fences wall off the perimeter of the property.

To be fair, Misczak only described it as fairly safe. He sounded more like a hapless bureaucrat than Grendel's Mother, but I'd say he needs some coaching.

Still, it seems like they could build playgrounds for the kids:

Brun and others said FEMA's philosophy of creating only temporary communities is a problem. Six months after the trailer park opened, nonprofit groups have been unable to overcome bureaucratic hurdles to put up a playground, deciding to open one instead in downtown Baker.

Cosbar said it has been difficult to address the liability problems associated with installing a playground at a trailer park

Especially now that we find out that FEMA seems to believe that trailer parks won't be so short term after all:

As if the nuts and bolts of the rebidding weren't puzzling enough, the contracts are expected to run for five years, considerably longer than the 18-month clock for temporary housing that started ticking when Katrina roared ashore Aug. 29. FEMA officials declined to comment on whether the time frame reflects the agency's belief the trailer parks sprouting along the Gulf Coast will be more permanent than originally expected, but the vendors seeking the work said they have no doubt that was the intent and that they believe the contracts could run their full course.

That second story probably got overshadowed by other news today, but it's worth a closer look:

A spokesman for PRI/DJI confirmed that DJI refers to Del-Jen Industries, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fluor Corp. Fluor, a California-based behemoth in the engineering and contract management world with campaign contributions lopsidedly in favor of the Republican Party, has landed more than $220 million in Katrina-related contracts to date, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense's tracking of federal Katrina work.
But Edmonds pointed to two peculiar items on the announcements about the process. One is that both show "N/A" under the set-aside heading, which appears to contradict FEMA's Nov. 29 guidelines that called the process "a 100% small business set-aside."

Guess FEMA kinda off track pretty quickly:

"I am glad to see that FEMA is finally doing the right thing, or is at least on the right track to doing the right thing," Thompson said.

Now,does anyone really believe that the administration still remembers its October promise about Davis-Bacon? Does anyone remember Davis-Bacon?

More on Loyola

Today's Picayune had a follow-up article on the cutbacks at Loyola. Still no explanation of how Loyola came up with a five year plan to deal with declining enrollment, at a time when enrollment was increasing. However, it repeats the assertion that the cuts were necessitated by "declining enrollment" or "a drop in enrollment," using the terms interchangeably. Probably not worth noting the difference--unless "declining enrollment" becomes the preferred term.

I wouldn't even mention it, if not for another statement by Loyola's president:

The decision to drop programs was based on declining enrollment, Wildes said. "I hear a lot of passion about broadcast journalism," he said, citing a major with many advocates at the meeting. "When I look at enrollment figures, I don't see the translation."

That certainly implies that enrollment in broadcast journalism has been dropping, but I couldn't find any data to confirm or contradict that. Neither a Google search nor a search of Loyola's web site gave a breakdown of enrollment or degrees awarded by major. However, the most recent data that I could find showed communications degrees to be second only to Business in number awarded. Admittedly, that is seven year old data. To be fair, the same data does show relatively few computer science degrees awarded, so I suppose that it's possible that one could justify the elimination of the Computer Science programs as a short term (short sighted) cost cutting measure, the same could be said of the elimanted Education programs. It would be hard to reconcile either with the third paragraph of Loyola's strategic plan:

We live in an exciting age in terms of knowledge. There is a continuing knowledge explosion. More and more people accept the "new" economy as knowledge based. Knowledge is increasingly more interdisciplinary. We must be certain that education reflects this fundamental change so that our graduates are successful leaders and contributors. Learning is not merely a passive process whereby students absorb knowledge. It is an active process that involves the creation of new knowledge. Teaching and research are inseparable.

The impression that I get from reading the plan is that it reflects a rather conservative interpretation of the Jesuit mission. From the plan:

Revise the Common Curriculum to strengthen undergraduate education in the Jesuit tradition.

Strengthen the Jesuit identity of the university.

Although it's hard to imagine that Ignatius (Loyola, not Reilly) would have any more objection to a communications department than a business school, I could certainly imagine that a communications department might be seen as exerting a liberal or secular influence.

Who's Stuck On Stupid?

Okay, Professor, when you said that the world doesn't revolve around Louisiana flood control, I thought that it was a little out of line. So, now two weeks later, you wanna explain what you meant about not needing flood maps to initiate rebuilding efforts? I suppose that was technically true, but did you really think it was relevant? So, who's stuck on stupid? You ever think about teaching in West Virginia or Texas?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

It Might Make Sense

to a reporter or a university administrator, but it sure doesn't make sense to me. I've had all day to think about a story in today's Picayune and I just don't get it. Now, I don't think that I'm a total moron, I do understand this part:

To head off a deficit that could be as high as $10 million, Loyola University announced Monday that it is laying off 17 teachers, reorganizing and eliminating academic departments, and getting rid of some undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs.

Another sad Katrina casualty, I get it. A drop in enrollment reduced the university's income, I get it. It's crystal clear:

Before Katrina hit Aug. 29, Loyola had registered 950 first-year students, the largest in its history, Harris said. The university was closed until Jan. 9, when classes resumed and 750 freshmen returned, Lelong said.

For the approaching fall term, "we're hoping for 700," Wildes said.

Here's where I feel kinda stupid for scratching my head and wondering about a question that the reporter didn't ask. At least I thought that something in the article seemed odd:

They are part of a five-year strategic plan that had been in the works before Hurricane Katrina pounded New Orleans in August. But the monster storm "accelerated the planning

Huh? Didn't we also read that Loyola had just enrolled the largest freshman class in its history? So Loyola had a five year plan to deal with declining enrollment at a time when enrollment was climbing? Can somebody with a background in higher education explain that one to me? Can somebody with a journalism background explain why that doesn't raise questions?

Personally, I'd like to know how Loyola came up with that 700 hoped for freshman enrollment number, but that wouldn't be an issue if everything else made sense. Like I said, it still seems odd to me. Maybe, a letter writer in today's paper is onto something:

University faculty provide a greater resource than just someone to teach our students, and our universities deserve greater support from local leaders, including The Times-Picayune, than they have been getting

Monday, April 10, 2006

Misc. Stuff

Since Gambit Weekly will almost certainly endorse Forman next week, I have to ask, is New Orleans the only city large enough to have an alternative weekly, where the alternative weekly is more "establishment" than the major daily?

Might need to add John Conyers Blog to my blogroll, and don't forget this?

If you haven't seen it yet (couldn't begin to name everyone who's mentioned it) James Carville had some interesting things to say last week:

"I almost hit somebody on TV when they started talking about 'that corrupt levee board down there,' " he said. "Gimme a break -- the levee board mows the grass! If the levees broke because of high grass, then come talk to me."

Then there's the one about how nobody should live in New Orleans because its below sea level.

"Every port in the world is below sea level!" Carville fumed. "You can't build a port on a hill. You're going to build a port in Colorado?"

More people like Carville better get that levee board message out, because I suspect that federal government (through its media allies) is going to try to use that FBI probe as a huge smokescreen.

Depressing Thought from NMMNB:

What I'm getting at is the fact that liberalism, even in the bluest states, is a mile wide and an inch deep. Too many liberals don't trust their own political beliefs enough to stick with them. Like battered wives, they really want to believe Republicans "can change," that they can stop being mean to the rest of us. So at the first sign of moderation, voters in California, a state where the GOP was considered "dead," made Schwarzenegger governor.

Why I keep "nit-picking" About the Zoo Turnaround

Frankly, because Forman didn't become executive director of the Audubon Zoo until 1977. Now, any New Orleanian over about 40 or 45 can remember what a source of civic pride the zoo became in early-to-mid seventies. Though I was only a teenager, I can remember that when the previous director (strangely, I couldn't find his name in any Audubon Nature Institute-ANI-literature) stepped down the zoo's turnaround was far enough along that his retirement was a cause for concern. The city was assured that the zoo was in good hands as Forman had been assistant director since 1973*, by 1977 (a mere five years after the heated zoo referendum battle) the zoo was already that important to people.

Remember, Forman's backers don't just credit him with overseeing the (already transformed) zoo's continued expansion and transformation into the vast money making machine that the ANI has become. If they were content to do that, I couldn't disagree. I would point out that ANI has public subsidies and tax breaks that a private business wouldn't have, however. But that wouldn't make him a savior; Forman and his supporters claim he oversaw the transformation from the time that the zoo was a huge embarrassment.

As I pointed out when Clancy Dubos gave Forman a near endorsement in Gambit Weekly, Forman's own book describes how the groundwork for the zoo's turnaround was laid between 1967 and 1972. In the section from pp.132-138, you'll find that a private foundation commissioned the study that drew up the plans for the new zoo in 1971. You'll also find the following passage:

On November 7, 1972, voters demonstrated popular support for the new Audubon Zoo...
But the biggest hurdle in the park's history had been overcome. The voting public had finally endorsed the kind of funding that was required for major developments in Audubon Park

That's not taken out of context; it's not. So why does the Times Picayune run an editorial saying:

He turned a third-rate zoo into a family of world-class tourist attractions -- and an engine for economic growth. Where most people saw acres of warehouses**, he saw a riverfront park and a huge aquarium

I guess Clancy Dubos isn't the only newspaper editor who's too lazy to read a major's candidate's book. A mere seven pages of that book. A mere seven pages with pictures.

*Do any Forman supporters actually want to claim or even imply that the assistant director really ran the show from 1973-78. Even if they did, it would still be difficult to give Forman the credit his fans give him.

**Get Real! The move to the riverfront began with the World's Fair. Remember they're calling him,and he's calling himself, a visionary and a savior.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Just a Reminder

New Orleans is not ten feet below sea level, no matter how many people claim that it is. Hate to just borrow from other bloggers, but I had no idea how widespread that myth was. So if you happen to hear anyone repeating the claim, please correct him. If you think it's just a minor factual error, read all the coments on the first link.

Jeb Hensarling Thinks That $100B Is A Lot

In a letter to the editor in Friday's Picayune, Rep. Hensarling of Texas writes:

I have already voted on several occasions to send relief to the Gulf Coast now totaling almost $100 billion

He further adds:

Finally, reforms must be undertaken to ensure that federal taxpayers do not have to write another $100 billion check in the future

Though the overall tone of the letter is conciliatory, he twice mentions an inflated aid figure without actually answering the points raised in either the editorial that he mentions or in another editorial from the same newspaper.

I'll give the congressman the benefit of the doubt and assume that he truly believes that the $100B aid figure is accurate (although he should know that some of it has gone to Texas) and that his reluctance to vote for more aid is based on concerns about waste and fraud rather than the laziness of New Orleanians. However, one has to wonder that he didn't voice these concerns when it came to voting to fully fund Mississippi's recovery. Assuming, that partisan politics had nothing to do with it, one can only assume that his reluctance to fund Louisiana's recovery as fully as Mississippi's is based on an emotional reaction to the enormous price tag of funding Louisiana's recovery.

If Hensarling had done his homework, he had know that the cost of rebuilding Louisiana is so great, because the destruction in Louisiana is so great:

The presentation, among other things, shows that Orleans Parish alone had more homes severely damaged (105,155) than Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Texas combined (100,372).

Of course, he'd also know that the federal government bears some responsibility for the destruction in New Orleans, but that's a slightly different matter.

Whatever the reasons for the congressman's views, they seem to be based more on emotion than logical consistency. One can only hope that the emotion stems from an uniformed reaction to the size of the bill. There are certainly worse things that one could attribute it to.

Update:At the time that Hensarling made his comments, sent out the following email:

Texas Senator Jeb Hensarling visited New Orleans recently. While there
he blasted New Orleanians for wanting a big federal hand out and taking
no responsibility. Senator Hensarling needs to be reminded that
Congress and the Corps are responsible for our suffering.

The MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO is contact any family or friends
who live in Texas and ask them to write a letter to Sen Hensarling and
send it to this address:

Dallas District Office:
6510 Abrams Road, Suite 243
Dallas, TX 75231

The second most important thing you can do is write a letter yourself.
Your own words are best but you (and your Texas family and friends) are
welcome to use the letter below.

Dear Senator Hensarling,

In your recent visit to New Orleans you blasted the citizens of New
Orleans for their irresponsible post-Katrina behavior. This criticism was
especially harsh since the death and destruction that metro New
Orleanians suffered was due to disastrous design and planning mistakes by the
US Army Corps of Engineers -- a federal agency.

Certainly you know that the US Army Corps of Engineers has sole
authority over the design and construction of New Orleans' flood protection.
And even though Katrina missed New Orleans, the federally built levees
failed catastrophically all over the City.

Dan Hitchings, the Director of Task Force Hope with the US Army Corps
of Engineers says that "the Corps is accountable to the people and to
Congress for the performance of the flood protection." Clearly it didn't

It is time for the federal government to acknowledge the Corps' causal
role in the flooding. And it is high time that Congress provide the
resources necessary to make the citizens of metro New Orleans whole.

This begins with 1) setting aside the appropriate funding to compensate
homeowners, 2) providing the necessary funding to restore Louisiana's
coastal wetlands, and 3) improving metro New Orleans' flood protection
to withstand a Cat 5 storm surge.


Good idea, although it should be addressed to Rep. Hensarling. Since the Corps has since admitted to faulty, I would mention that. He can also be contacted via email:address

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Horror

Just when you thought the mayoral debates couldn't possibly be any more of a joke.

David Vitter, Get Your Mind Right

From da po'blog:

Vitter acknowledged that coming back to Congress to ask for another $6 billion will be difficult after the administration has already requested more than $100 billion in recovery funds.

I was afraid that the artificially inflated $85B figure ($67B in recovery spending + $18B in flood insurance payments) would quickly hit a nearly unbreakable ceiling of $100B, I just didn't expect one of our own senators to accept the exaggerated number.

Just to recap, over a month after I first wondered where the $85B figure came from and almost three weeks after DPB pointed out where it came from, the T/P finally ran began to question the figure. I was happy to see The Picayune point out that even the $67B figure was inflated, it bothered me that none of the articles mentioned the biggest and most obvious part of the exaggeration (the flood insurance payments) before paragraph seven. I figured that nobody--normal readers, editorial writers at other papers, U.S. senators-- reads as far as paragraph seven. Now that the flood insurance payments are over $20B of a largely fictitious $100B figure, it would be nice to see the T/P mention it in paragraph one of a story--where even David Vitter might read it.

Of course, this isn't the first time that this administration has misstated the facts enough to fool even critics without actually telling a blatant lie. Wonder if we'll hear a heated exchange between Scott McClellan and David Gregory about what's been done with the $100B.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Beads For Bush Update


I'm inclined to agree with Suspect Device on this, but I'd hate to see something like this fall flat and the publicity can't hurt.


Did anyone just see that? Lindsay Graham just started laughing while Harry Reid was speaking during some kind of bipartisan press conference on immigration. Had to duck his head behind Reid for a solid three minutes, then some senator I didn't recognize let loose with an audible guffaw. Now Leahy's whispering to both of them while Kennedy speaks. Don't know if it will be rerun. The Leahy whispering seemed more a matter of telling them to straighten up than him being disrespectful.

Correction: I thought that I had the wrong Pat. That was Roberts, not Leahy.

Question Answered

Can't say that I care much for the answer:

While many debates have included the Rev. Tom Watson, WWL chose not to invite him. The station instead used a selection process that weighed fund-raising heavily, which prompted an angry response from the pastor.

"They didn't want to see money I was putting into my campaign, they wanted to see external funds," he said Wednesday, "the kind you get from cutting deals and the kind that has included nepotism and corruption in City Hall."

Obviously, with 23 candidates, there needs to be a selection process, but a candidate who's appealing to the poor and displaced is going to have a major fund raising disadvantage. As others have pointed out, the problem of money in politics is exacerbated by the fact that the media only seems to take well-funded candidates seriously. Candidates don't just need money for paid air time, they increasingly need it for free air time. In this case, the local situation only made a national problem worse. The hurricane almost certainly had a greater affect on the ability to raise money through very small donations than from large donors.

I haven't exactly made a secret of the fact that I don't like Nagin, and CW has Watson hurting Nagin. However, Watson is one of the three candidates I could see myself voting for, even if he is a distant third. I just don't see a Watson administration as the disaster that some think it would be.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Misc. Stuff

You might even find some of it interesting.

Ignored this story when I saw it last week because I didn't have anything to add. As if there's anything wrong with just posting "THIS MAY BE IMPORTANT", even worse, I assumed the story would get more attention. What's one of the main non-ego reasons for blogging? If you haven't seen his comments on other blogs, thanks to Philadelphia blogger Pursuing Tzedek for doing so much to call attention to it. It might seem minor, but it terms of bang for the buck, it seems like a no-brainer. I can't see where there'd be any of the usual problems with FEMA assuming responsibility for local government functions, and of course the churches that might normally house groups of volunteers have been wiped out.

FEMA plans to stop funding bus service on June 30. I wouldn't expect the federal government to come through on this one. Couldn't help but notice that it's another agency with its own PR person. I know, NORTA needs to put out updated information on routes and schedules, but I do wonder how many information/public affairs NORTA and other agencies have. It would be nice to see the city's entire budget (down to payroll) made public before the city needs to make the really tough choices.

In a similar vein, the city's fired 86 cops in the last four months. No mention of how many have resigned without being replaced. In an angry comment on another blog, I wondered about the lack of police presence outside of "the sliver." Obviously, it would be too soon for the city to have replaced any lost officers yet, but I have to wonder if the city's even budgeted for their replacement. Remember, the October layoffs barely affected the NOPD.

What happened to Tom Watson tonight? They didn't say what the criteria for determining participants actually was. If it was polling, I can think of a number of legitimate reasons why Watson might under poll. Maybe it was like basketball and he got suspended for a game for repeated interrupting or eating into other candidates' times. If so, look for Peggy Wilson to miss the next game.

Need to mention Beads to Bush.

The Army Corps of Engineers finally admitted that design failure caused the breach in the 17th Street Canal Levee. Hope that I'm wrong, but I have a feeling that we're about to see a smokescreen. It's been five months since that probe was announced and we haven't heard anything yet.

Finally, did Jimmy Smith watch Tommy Myers play? What's he mean that Tommy Myers had a serviceable career? I suppose Halle Berry's okay looking.

Bob Schieffer Used To Be A Liberal

Not really, but Tim Graham of the National Review and The Media Research Center said that he was:

Once again, the Republicans mysteriously agreed to four debates with four liberal-media moderators, and whatever Charles Gibson provided in the second, surprisingly balanced, townhall-style debate, Bob Schieffer took back in a shockingly slanted performance in the final match-up.

They really are shameless, does anybody believe for one minute that Tim Graham didn't know that Schieffer's brother had been Bush's business partner, or that Schieffer himself had been Bush's frequent guest in the owner's box at Texas Rangers games. Of course not, but we'll now hear Graham and his ilk cry about the moderate Schieffer being replaced by the liberal Couric. We'll probably even hear all about how she called Reagan an airhead!

Wiggle Warning?

Okay, everyone knows that the projected cost (I still hate that headline) of protecting the New Orleans area has increased dramatically. You have to wonder if we're going to hear that Bush only promised to make New Orleans safer. No great prescience there, I think everyone expects to see an effort to abandon Plaquemines. Even Louisiana conservatives are suggesting it. I almost hate to ask the question, but don't conservatives love to point out that liberal professors are paid by the state or by the people of the state?

Let's see, the regular army told Bush that he needed to commit more troops to secure Iraq. He wouldn't commit. The Army Corps of Engineers tells Bush he needs to commit more money to make south Louisiana more secure. He still won't commit. Insert your favorite old picture.

Daily Outrage

Monday, April 03, 2006

Hey C. Ray

Where you get your news from, Schweggman's? You sure don't get it from The Times Picayune or The New York Times or The Times Picayune or The Washington Post or The Times Picayune. Where exactly did you get the idea that there's all this federal recovery money that would be freed up if the state only came up with a plan? Did the guys at BayouBuzz tell you to say that? Nah, even they're not that conservative. Well, wherever you get your news from, you're once again blaming the Democrat in Baton Rouge before the Republican in Washington. You were wrong then, you're wrong now. Worthless piece of crap.

Note: video link to debate will be provided when it becomes available. I believe that he's said that the state's lack of a plan prevents the city from getting more federal money in every debate now.

Stunned But Not Surprised

Like everyone else that I've talked to, I'm still totally flabbergasted, even though I wasn't all that surprised in the first place. No, I'm not talking about Saturday night's LSU game, although, in that case, I wasn't surprised but I am still shocked. I'm talking about last week's news that the expected cost of levee repairs had increased dramatically. Of course, the initial Times Picayune story had the numbers wrong, the estimated $3.5B price tag hadn't increased to $6B, it had increased by $6B, it hadn't doubled, but nearly tripled. Understandable, it was breaking story--the details might not have been clear yet, but I do have to wonder at the headline on the T/P's follow-up story:

La. wants more levee money -- and quick

Sometimes I just really have to wonder whether some headline writer at the T/P is just trying to provide fodder for right wing talk show hosts.

Now that I've got the expected T/P criticism out of the way, I must say that nobody should really be surprised. The numbers really never added up. First we were told that $3B (numbers given approximate) would make the levees safe. When that appropriation ws cut, we were told that $1.5B would be enough; then, when the appropriation was restored, we were assured that $3B would be enough. Considering the extent of the known damage to the levee system and the fact that integrity of the entire system has been called into question, was anybody really confident with the $3B figure? It wouldn't be too cynical to suggest that the ACoE felt pressure to keep its estimates in line with administration budget requests; it certainly wouldn't be out of character for the Bush administration to misstate cost projections.

The stated reason for the increased cost seems reasonable:

What the studies we've done have determined is that the rate of subsidence was greater than had previously been thought, and that many of the areas are lower than we had previously thought.

However, a new study indicating that that subsidence rates had previously been understated came out in December. It seems suspicious that the new findings weren't taken into account in the old cost estimates. To be fair, that would mean that integrity and professionalism ultimately won out over political pressure at the ACoE.

Finally, it should be be pointed out that new cost estimates, even with the $3B for Plaquemines Parish, are still about the same as New York's proposed East Side Access transportation project or $5B less than the cost of Boston's Big Dig. Those projects do both serve more people, but they also involve transportation time rather than physical safety.

Unfortunately, seeing that a name that we all know from Iraq and Gulf Coast Reconstruction costs overruns is still making news for its role in The Big Dig, I can't help but worry about that $9.5B figure.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

May I Suggest Terry Ebbert

Apparently nobody wants the job as head of FEMA:

"You don't take the fire chief job after someone has burned down the city unless you are going to be able to do it in the right fashion," said Ellis M. Stanley, general manager of emergency planning in Los Angeles, who said he was one of those called.

But not to worry, The President has an honest and capable candidate lined up for the job:

Mr. Bush, several former and current FEMA officials said, intends to nominate R. David Paulison, a former fire official who has been filling in for the past seven months, to take on the job permanently.

My humble suggestion would be New Orleans' own Terry Ebbert; he would certainly be capable of upholding the proud FEMA tradition of confusing people with conflicting information.

Finishing Up That Last Post

Even before the recent car removal controversy, I would frequently hear suburban friends and relatives wonder if the city was doing to get rid of the debris and wrecked cars and get the traffic lights working. The common theory was that the recovery was delayed by either cronyism and incompetence or because the city was deliberately neglecting the high profile stuff--in order to appear more deserving of outside help. Sad (to me the personally distressing thing) thing is, I could disagree, but not as strongly as I would have liked, not honestly.

My guess would be that, if the average tax-payer could get an open look at the city's payroll before and after Katrina and before and after Nagin took office, at least one to two million dollars in easy, obvious mid-to-upper level payroll savings would practically jump off the page at him. More could be found without much searching. Now $1-2M might seem miniscule compared to city's projected budget shortfall of $80-100M or more, but for a city that, until recently, could afford only two electrical inspectors, the waste was unpardonable. As the T/P said:

The city can fill a lot of potholes and cut a lot of grass for $800,000.

Just to illustrate the point, in my old department(the public library), the permanent staff has gone from over 200 to about 40, yet it still has a media relations person, a director of public services, supervisors who don't have staff to supervise (I believe, but there has been no openness about personnel moves, that there's somebody in charge of branch runs, even though branch runs have not been resumed), as well a city librarian and an assistant city librarian. BTW, the assistant city librarian position was created when the current city librarian took over about a year before Katrina. I only use the library to illustrate the point because it's the department that I'm most familiar with; from what I see when I go down to city hall every month, the situation is similar throughout city government.

One final bit of personal spleen, it's insulting to hear the mayor say that he's made the tough cuts in reference to the layoffs. None of the laid off employees blamed the mayor for the layoffs, I know I didn't. Sending out 2500 impersonal pink slips that nobody blamed him for might have been necessary, but it didn't require toughness. What might have been tough would have been telling the upper level people that he knows on a first name basis that some would need to take pay cuts and others would have to be re-assigned when their positions were eliminated; and that all would need to have similar conversations with their upper level staffs.

Now that I've got that off my chest, I'll get back to the kind of things that everybody wants to talk about like F E M A.

Ourselves and What Army, Pals?

Don't really have time to fully explain the angry comments that I just made on another blog. I will say that on weekends I tend to feel the anti-Prozac effects of a medical treatment most acutely and that I first read the post after last night's game, which wasn't anything like Prozac. AND it's the weekend after my monthly trip to city hall to make my COBRA payment; a trip that always leaves me both angry and mystified. It's unbelievable how easily I can observe so much waste and sloth in a city government that's laid off nearly two thirds of its work force (excluding the police and fire departments). I'd be happy to point it out to anybody who wanted to make the trip.

Like I said, rushed for time, so just read all of the links. I believe that Lolis Eric Elie has mentioned the subject once, other than that, it's been ignored. Also, back in December, I was amazed that an article about the resignation of the head of NORD didn't raise at least two obvious questions. Remember, the article was written two months after the city layoffs and that the agency had gone from roughly 400 to roughly 20 employees. Also remember, the mayor did say that the layoffs were "pretty permanent." In addition to the upper level personnel retained, there also seems to be quite a bit of mid-to-upper level staff retained, including supervisors who no longer have staffs to supervise and each department's individual PR person.

None of the above absolves the federal government for its responsibilty for the city's condition; hell it's even because of the unreliable mail service that I make a monthly trip to city hall.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Old Favorites
  • Political Boxing (untitled)
  • Did Bush Take His Ball and Go Home
  • Teratogens and Plan B
  • Foghorn Leghorn Republicans
  • Quote of the Day
  • October's News(Dec.1)
  • untitled, Nov.19 (offshore revenue)
  • Remember Upton Sinclair
  • Oct. Liar of thr month
  • Jindal's True Colors
  • No bid contracts