Saturday, October 22, 2005

From Da Paper 

Today's Editorial:

If Mr. Bahamonde is telling the truth -- and there's every reason to believe he is -- then Mr. Brown is not just an incompetent former bureaucrat, he is a perjurer. Congress shouldn't allow him to get away with lying about his actions or those of his agency, not if lawmakers want this country to be able to cope efficiently with disasters.

It's not enough that Mr. Brown is no longer in charge at FEMA. The fact that he remains on the agency's payroll as a consultant and has just been given a 30-day extension of that arrangement is an outrage. A FEMA spokeswoman told The Los Angeles Times that Mr. Brown is "pulling all the documentation together" for the investigation into the Katrina response.

That's not a job that Mr. Brown should be entrusted to do, and it's certainly not a job he should be paid to do.

This was a 10/14 Letter to the Editor from Foster Campbell, Public Service Commissioner, apparently channeling the spirit of the Kingfish (and the Silver Fox):

Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the Legislature must soon face the task of rebuilding New Orleans and south Louisiana. They should consider a tax on foreign oil and gas processed in Louisiana.

Such a tax could invigorate our economy, restore our wetlands and bring our people home.

Hurricane Katrina's damage to Louisiana was no surprise to those who have studied coastal erosion and flood control in south Louisiana. As they use our natural resources and harm our wetlands, major oil companies profit from politics tilted in their favor.

While other states turn them away, these companies process foreign oil and gas in Louisiana virtually tax-free to supply America petroleum products. They have crushed all previous attempts to modernize Louisiana's 85-year-old system for taxing oil and gas. The major oil companies must now acknowledge their moral obligation to assist Louisiana in this unprecedented time of need.

I propose a 4 percent tax on oil and gas processing to generate $4.8 billion per year. I would use the proceeds to eliminate the state income tax, the state severance tax, the state sales tax on business utilities and the state corporate income tax. This will leave $1.2 billion, which could be bonded to yield $10 billion for immediate coastal restoration and levee repair.

The impact at the gas pump will be spread across the country, and I estimate no more than a nickel a gallon.

The people of Louisiana welcome the president's offer of federal assistance, but how soon after the news crews leave New Orleans will the deficit-ridden U.S. government turn its attention elsewhere?

Louisiana needs consistent funding to overcome hurricane devastation.

On a side note, I love State Treasurer John Kennedy's solution-oriented approach since Katrina. He's quietly positioning himself very effectively for the next campaign.
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I have a bottle of Katrina flood water 

what should I do with it?
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Dark Kristol 

Billmon calls this Weekly Standard editorial "so duplicitous that it cements Bill Kristol's claim to be the most talented intellectual hooker in Washington."

I have to agree, even though I have a remarkably strong tolerance for Kristol (something I'll never understand). Consider the following excerpts:

Unless the perjury is clear-cut or the obstruction of justice willful and determined, we hope that the special prosecutor has the courage to end the inquiry without bringing indictments.
One trusts that the special counsel will have the courage after conducting his exhaustive investigation to reject inappropriate criminal indictments if the evidence does not require them, no matter how much criticism he might then get from the liberal establishment that yearns to damage the Bush administration through the use of the criminal law.
We trust that Fitzgerald, who has an impressive record as a prosecutor, will call it as he sees it. A large part of any prosecutor's duty--especially that of a special counsel--is to have the courage and judgment to refrain from bringing charges when such charges would be inappropriate.

So, what's your point again, Billy K.? You hope Patrick Fitgerald will have "the courage" to resist bringing indictments? The COURAGE?!? Are you freaking kidding me?! Kristol has to wonder over and over about this guy's COURAGE!?!


Let's unpack how degenerate this is: Patrick Fitzgerald has prosecuted terrorist killers and mob hit men. He's one of the best attorneys in the country. The guy is utterly apolitical and fearless. Totally unbought. Tougher and smarter than just about anyone...

And he has to get a lecture on "courage" from a grinning little shrimp like Kristol, who's concerned about Fitzgerald kowtowing before the "liberal establishment"?! How absurd!

Fitzgerald has already forgotten more about courage than Kristol will ever know.

Read these WAPO profiles (here and here) for more context.

(The above is an evil Skekses who is worried that a missing piece will be found, and that light will be restored to the world, and that soon his rule shall end.)

Note: Skekses have absolutely no relation to Skooks.
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Friday, October 21, 2005


A tremendous must-read from Justin Raimondo. Niger, Plame, Italy, Chalabi, Ledeen... it's all there. How much has Fitz unravelled, and how much can he prove?

Here's the final graph just to get you over to

Before Fitzgerald is done, we'll see the warlords of Washington hauled before a court of the people. We'll hear the whole sordid story of how a band of exiles, at least two foreign intelligence agencies, and a cabal of neoconservatives inside the Pentagon and the vice president's office bamboozled Congress and the American people into going to war. As the indictments come down, so will the elaborate narrative so carefully constructed by the War Party in the run-up to war be exposed as a tissue of fabrication, forgery, and fraud.

Fiat justitia, ruat coelum: Let Justice be done though Heavens fall ...
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Where's that confounded bridge loan? 

The Small Business Administration is denying over 90% of the loan applications to Louisiana businesses destroyed or disrupted by Katrina. Same for home loans to Katrina victims.

After Hurricane Charlie struck Florida last year, the SBA approved 42% of all loan applications.

My business was in the "core" disaster area, and was totally destroyed by the floods after the hurricane. Absolutely nothing could be salvaged. Thousands of others are in the same situation, and desperately need a helping hand. For example, several weeks ago First Bank held a free seminar for folks applying for SBA loans. It was scheduled for 9am at Smiley's restaurant in Harahan. I arrived at 8:45am and the place was already crowded out the door. They added another seminar at the First Bank on Manhattan on the West Bank for 1pm. I pulled into the packed parking lot at 12:45 and there's two guys from the bank standing outside handing leaflets with info on a third seminar which they hastily scheduled for 2:30pm at the Holiday Inn. The second seminar was already full. So I went to the Holiday Inn and there was a conference room with 200 chairs. And that nearly filled to capacity by the time the seminar started!

People simply wanted to know how to get help, and First Bank helpfully obliged.

It's very, very disheartening to think that of the HUNDREDS of business owners who went on a wild goose chase for SBA application hints and info, only about 10% of us will be deemed "worthy" of assistance (unlike our favored neighbors in Florida and, presumably, Tejas).
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Tour LaHouse 

LSU is building an advanced storm-resistant model home. It will be available for tours on Fridays and during LSU and Saints gamedays at Tiger Stadium.

The web site here says:

The LaHouse project is designed to showcase solutions for Louisiana's unique climate and conditions. The educational center will exhibit a range of ways to have greater comfort, quality, durability, property value and better health with less energy, water, waste, pollution and damage from storms, termites, mold, decay and other hazards.

"Low-cost, mainstream and high-end strategies for both new construction and home improvement are included and will be continually added to LaHouse," [LSU AgCenter housing specialist Dr. Claudette Reichel] said.
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Can't trust that liberal MSM! 

Atrios informs us of coordinated newsmedia "Editorials" throughout the country supporting Bush's Gulf Coast Wage Cut.

I'm sure this is the first time such shenanigans occurred, too.

Maybe all these newspapers can also tell their readers that Louisiana is corrupt like Iraq; and that, unfortunately, America simply can't afford to rebuild both Baghdad and New Orleans. (Sorry, N.O.; perhaps if you were known as the Red Crescent City things might've been different.) That seems to be the basic party line this week. Sort of a Tom Benson-style attitude: bleed 'em when they're up, kick 'em when they're down...

See, Louisiana now has to prove its financial responsibility to the same GOP powerholders who have put the LBJ era to shame in terms of fiscal recklessness. That's right: after Iraq, Medicare and the Highway Bill... Louisiana has to prove itself to the rest of the country before it receives needed federal help after an unprecedented natural disaster.

I wonder: has the business culture of Louisiana produced anything on par with the billion dollar frauds like Enron (TX), Worldcom (MS), and HealthSouth (AL)? (Not to mention the emerging Wood River hedge fund scandal in holier-than-thou IDAHO.) Has LA ever ripped off the growing American "investor class" like these businesses in neighboring states?

Yet while LA is laying on the ground, dying, suddenly-- as far as we're concerned-- the GOP has been born again under the light of fiscal prudence! Say "Amen"! These faithful auditors suddenly think deficits do matter, and that we shouldn't spend beyond our means to support a state that has just been brutally crushed by catastrophe. They don't have the testicular fortitude to defund an Alaska Senator's "Road to Nowhere", but (contra President Bush!) they sure as hell can balk at rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. According to some reports, even the essential funds for Cat 5 levees and Coastal restoration are in jeopardy. The budget is just too tight for such frivolities.

Clearly, Louisiana has had enormous problems with corrupt officials over the years. Recent critics have said we are still "too corrupt" but they don't have the courage to name names. They'll say "Louisiana is corrupt" but "not my Senatorial colleagues". Or, "New Orleans is corrupt", but "not the mayor". Let's name names, people! Elections are on the horizon; why not help the voting public un-elect the crooks! (Unless, of course, the crook is preferable to the opponent.)

Let's wait until next week, and see how bad Lousiana looks in comparison to, say, our beloved Senior Officials in the White House. I wonder if the same folks who "tsk tsk" Louisiana will be so vocal about the Bush administration.

My suggestion is as follows: after Patrick Fitzgerald finishes in D.C., we invite him to head an open-ended, independent, unfettered corruption probe in the "gret stet". Allocate the Bunkie Syrup Mill monies to fund his office.
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I'm late, I'm late for a "very important" date 

On Aug. 31, [N.O. FEMA official Marty Bahamonde] e-mailed [FEMA Director Michael] Brown from the Superdome to tell him that thousands of evacuees were gathering in the streets outside the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center without food or water and that there were "estimates that many will die within hours."

"Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical," he wrote.

But less than three hours later, Brown's press secretary said in an e-mail that "it is very important that time is allowed for Mr. Brown to eat dinner" at a Baton Rouge restaurant that night before appearing on an MSNBC talk show. "We now have traffic to encounter . . . followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc.," the e-mail said.

"OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!" Bahamonde wrote in an apparently hastily written response to a colleague at FEMA after the message was shared with him. "Just tell her (the press secretary) that I just ate an MRE and crapped in the hallway of the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy retaurants. Maybe tonight I will have time to move the pebbles on the parking garage floor so they don't stab me in the back while I try to sleep, [but instead I hope her wait at Ruth's Chris is short....]"

Bahamonde said he hopes his testimony will effect change "so that no other child, no other senior citizen, no other special-needs patient, no other parent and no other community in this country will have to experience the horrors and tragedy that happened in New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast."

Michael Brown is currently a highly compensated advisor to FEMA. Perhaps this weekend he will recommend that his Floridian associates enjoy Dreamer-- after a leisurely meal, of course.

Photo from Katrina Fridges via Todd. Final line of above email quote was taken from the T-P print story graphic of the actual emails. Misspellings have been corrected.
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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls... 


Dying Time's Here

[L]awmakers considering Louisiana's request for $32 billion for Gulf Coast rebuilding were told that Mississippi would need tens of billions of dollars of its own to restore its coastline.

Gulf Coast lawmakers and state officials have been pushing for vast infusions of federal aid since Katrina hit Aug. 29, killing more than 1,200 people and forcing hundreds of thousands to evacuate.
But Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., chairman of that panel, earlier had said flatly that Congress cannot afford Louisiana's request.

"This is just not going to happen," he said.

Umm, $32 billion roughly covers the cost of Category 5 levees for New Orleans and coastal wetland restoration. Without exaggeration this is the absolute bare minimum needed for Southern Louisiana to survive. If the GOP controlled congress isn't even going to fund these essential projects, that's tantamount to a death sentence for this region. Metzgar, Forgotston, and the LABI rightly say Louisiana needs to reduce taxes, red tape, and corruption. Yes, of course. But without federal help towards protective infrastructure investments, those reforms won't matter a bit. Business growth will not occur in New Orleans if the area is uninsurable. Period.

Similarly, this informative site contends we are "taxed to death". No, not quite. In the wake of Katrina, we were flooded to death; and it will happen again if federal tax dollars aren't used to rebuild our coast and our levees. I know it's difficult for some to fathom, but floods are worse than taxes.

So long. And thanks for all the redfish.

Update: Other articles I've read on Duncan's comment indicate that he was referring to the $250 billion package, not the $32 billion dollar proposal. The above Yahoo article I linked to seemed to indicate that Duncan was referring to the $32 billion dollar figure. Let's hope that was incorrect.

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For Dessert, a heckuva Brownie 

From Josh, one of the most disturbing news items I've ever read (my emphs):

WASHINGTON - Federal Emergency Management Agency officials did not respond to repeated warnings about deteriorating conditions in New Orleans and the dire need for help as Hurricane Katrina struck, the first FEMA official to arrive conceded Thursday.

Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA regional director, told a Senate panel investigating the government's response to the disaster that he gave regular updates to people in contact with then-FEMA Director Michael Brown as early as Aug. 28, one day before Katrina made landfall.

In most cases, he was met with silence. In an Aug. 29 phone call to Brown informing him that the first levee had broke, Bahamonde said he received a polite thank you from Brown, who said he would check with the White House.

"I think there was a systematic failure at all levels of government to understand the magnitude of the situation," Bahamonde said.

The testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee contradicted Brown, who has said he wasn't fully aware of the dire conditions until days later and that local officials were most responsible for the sluggish response.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who chairs the panel, decried the testimony and e-mail released by Bahamonde on Thursday as illustrating "a complete disconnect between senior officials and the reality of the situation."

"His urgent reports did not appear to prompt an urgent response," Collins said.
Bahamonde said he was stunned that FEMA officials responded by continuing to send truckloads of evacuees to the Superdome for two more days even though they knew supplies were in short supply.

"I thought it amazing," he said. "I believed at the time and still do today, that I was confirming the worst-case scenario that everyone had always talked about regarding New Orleans."

Later, on Aug. 31, Bahamonde frantically e-mailed Brown to tell him that thousands are evacuees were gathering in the streets with no food or water and that "estimates are many will die within hours."

"Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical," Bahamonde wrote.

Less than three hours later, however, Brown's press secretary wrote colleagues to complain that the FEMA director needed more time to eat dinner at a Baton Rouge restaurant that evening. "He needs much more that (sic) 20 or 30 minutes," wrote Brown aide Sharon Worthy.

"We now have traffic to encounter to go to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you."

While New Orleanians were dying, Michael Brown was fine dining.

And we are STILL PAYING THIS CRIMINALLY INCOMPETENT BUSH CRONY a six figure salary to "advise" FEMA!! Worse yet, that's not even the real reason this article is so disturbing. For that, see the above post (if you can bear it).
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Iraqi Christians likely shafted again 

Juan Cole finds an enormously interesting article on the Iraqi election results, focusing particularly on Ninevah province. This connects to one of my pet issues (the plight of Assyrian-Christians in Iraq) so I will quote liberally from the article (my highlites):

WASHINGTON, Oct 19 (IPS) - The early vote totals from Nineveh province, which suggested an overwhelming majority in favour of Iraq's draft constitution that assured its passage by national referendum, now appear to have been highly misleading.

The final official figures for the province, obtained by IPS from a U.S. official in Mosul, actually have the constitution being rejected by a fairly wide margin, but less than the two-thirds majority required to defeat it outright.

Both the initial figures and the new vote totals raise serious questions about the credibility of the reported results in Nineveh. A leading Sunni political figure has already charged that the Nineveh vote totals have been altered.

According to the widely cited preliminary figures announced by the spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) in Nineveh, 326,000 people voted for the constitution and 90,000 against. Those figures were said to be based on results from more than 90 percent of the 300 polling stations in the province.

Relying on those "unofficial" figures, the media reported that the constitution appeared to have been passed -- on the assumption that the Sunnis had failed to muster the necessary two-thirds "no" vote in Nineveh. No further results have been released by the IECI since then, and the final tally from the national referendum is not expected until Friday at the earliest.

However, according to the U.S. military liaison with the IECI in Nineveh, Maj. Jeffrey Houston, the final totals for the province were 424,491 "no" votes and 353,348 "yes" votes. This means that the earlier figures actually represented only 54 percent of the official vote total -- not 90 percent, as the media had been led to believe. And the votes which had not been revealed earlier went against the constitution by a ratio more than 12 to 1.
Thus there seems to be no logistical reason for failing to announce the results for the 340,000 votes that went overwhelmingly against the constitution. Rather, the evidence suggests that it was a deliberate effort to mislead the media by Kurdish and Shiite political leaders who were intent on ensuring that the constitution would pass.

They knew that all eyes would be on Nineveh as the province where the referendum would be decided. By issuing figures that appeared to show that the vote in Nineveh was a runaway victory for the constitution, they not only shaped the main story line in the media that the constitution had already passed, but effectively discouraged any further media curiosity about the vote in that province.

The final figures revealed by the U.S. military liaison with the IECI suggest a voter turnout in Nineveh that strains credibility. On a day when Sunni turnout reached 88 percent in Salahuddin province and 90 percent in Fallujah, a total of only 778,000 votes -- about 60 percent of the eligible voters -- in Nineveh appears anomalous. Even if the turnout in the province had only been 70 percent, the total would have been 930,000.

The final vote totals suggest that the Sunnis, who clearly voted with near unanimity against the constitution, are a minority in the province. It is generally acknowledged that Sunnis constitute a hefty majority of the population of Nineveh, although Kurdish leaders have never conceded that fact.

A total of 350,000 votes for the constitution in the province is questionable based on the area's ethnic-religious composition. The final vote breakdown for the January election reveals that the Kurds and Shiites in Nineveh had mustered a combined total of only 130,000 votes for Kurdish and Shiite candidates, despite high rates of turnout for both groups.

To have amassed 350,000 votes for the constitution, they would have had to obtain overwhelming support from the non-Kurdish, non-Arab minorities in the province.

According to official census data, before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Assyrian Christians and Sunni Arabs accounted 46 percent of the more than 350,000 people on the Nineveh plain. Most of the others are Shabaks and Yezidis. Kurds represented just 6 percent of the population.

But the Kurds have asserted political control over the towns and villages of the plains, with a heavy Kurdish paramilitary and Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) presence.
That Kurdish presence provoked widespread opposition and some public protests among non-Kurdish communities on the plains, especially Christians and Shabaks.

Assyrian Christians are particularly afraid the constitution's article 135, which divides the Christian community into Chaldeans and Assyrians, will be used by Kurds to expropriate their lands and villages in North Iraq.

Michael Youash, director of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project in Washington, has spoken with Assyrian Christian leaders in two district towns, Bakhdeda and BarTilla, on the Nineveh plain where Christians represent roughly half the combined total population of more than 100,000 people.

He says Assyrian Christian political organisations mounted big demonstrations against the constitution in both towns, and that their local leaders are sure that very high percentages in both towns voted against the constitution.

In response to an e-mail query, Maj. Houston, the U.S. military liaison with the IECI, said, "It was my understanding that the Christian communities would be opposed to the constitution," but he dismissed the suspicions of vote fraud in the province.

Saleh al-Mutlek, one of the Sunni negotiators on the constitution last summer and now a leading opponent of the constitution, told reporters, "There is a scheme to alter the results" of the vote. He alleged that members of the Iraqi National Guard had seized ballot boxes from a polling station in Mosul and transferred them to a governorate office controlled by Kurds.

A former U.S. military liaison with the Nineveh province IECI has confirmed a similar incident of seizure of ballot boxes from a polling station during the January elections.

According to Maj. Anthony Cruz, Kurdish militiamen tried to bribe local electoral commission staff to accept ballots that had obviously been tampered with. Cruz also confirmed a much larger ballot-stuffing scheme by Kurdish officials in the province, as reported by IPS in September.

On Monday, the Electoral Commission announced that it would conduct an audit to examine the high "yes" vote, but it is not clear that it will include the results in Nineveh.

So, it appears Ballot Box 13 (among others) may have been transferred from Mosul to a "governorate office". Wow, apparently those zesty Kurds prefer to rig the game of democracy rather than risk playing it. Flush with power, they are in no mood to risk their future independence on a bunch of Iraqi Christians worried about a theocracy.

I wonder where the Kurds learned their ballot-stuffing techniques, anyway?

Assyrian Christian view on the constitution here. Quote from 10/9/05:

"We fully support the democratic process and are making full use of it to clearly and loudly resist our marginalization. We do not believe this Constitution will lead to democracy in Iraq. On October 15, we will go to the polls and ask this government for a better, more democratic Constitution."

So. Apparently we went to war to stand up an Islamic government that oppresses and disenfranchises democracy-loving Christians.

Earlier yrht post on the topic here.
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Not keeping the President's commitments 

I got to hand it to Rep. Chip Pickering (R-MS). For a well-coifed, fresh-faced guy who looks ten years younger than he really is, he affected a fiery, intense countenance while questioning Michael Chertoff during yesterday's House Katrina Committee hearing. What stole the show was Chip's (undisputed) tale of how the debris-removal contracts are being run in his state. I'll roughly summarize it from memory: first the Dept of Homeland Security hands a $3 billion dollar contract to the Army Corps of Engineers. They take their 20% fee (as much as $600 million*) and hand it to a favored general contractor in Florida. This company charges the Army Corps of Engineers $17/cubic foot of debris removed. Then the Floridian company (which has no heavy equipment of its own) works the phones a bit with contractors from around the country and negotiates a contract of $9/cubic foot of debris removed. Then these guys come in (from wherever) and do the actual sh-twork.

All this rigamarole is occurs, supposedly, to avoid local "corruption". You see, tax dollars might be wasted if the gubmint doesn't have layer upon layer of bureaucracy and favored greedheads all getting their share-- to the exclusion of the actual victims of the disaster who want to work.

By the way, no one will be surprised to learn that the locals can do it better and quicker (for $14/cubic foot sans the huge overhead) if direct local contracts were awarded. Yet, when local communities choose to go their own way, and refuse this government contractor's help, then FEMA gets all up in their business-- stalling reimbursements, threatening audits... etc. I'm not kidding! That's what Chip Pickering claimed, visibly seething with rage, as he noted that Mississippians had received 2% of the reconstruction contracts affecting their state. Rep Charlie Melancon (D-LA) forcefully echoed everything Chip said, and detailed how more of the same occurred in the "gret stet".

Their message was simple: President Bush promised that locals would rebuild the Gulf Coast. That is not occurring. Secretary Chertoff acknowledged that was true, and that it should be changed.

Then I think he went on to explain how it is reasonable for (Arizona) roofing companies to charge U.S. taxpayers $2500 to put a blue sheet on the roof of a damaged New Orleans home.

More from Pickering's web site (btw: yes, he's the son of that Pickering):

Pickering said that just as we would be outraged if foreign contractors had rebuilt the Pentagon after 9/11, Mississippians are outraged that contracts to rebuild their state after Hurricane Katrina are going to out-of-state contractors. "I was there when the President stood with all of the local officials and said that local companies and local counties are going to rebuild, recover and clean up. All the local officials gave him a standing ovation. I believe it is our job - your job and my job - to keep those commitments and to keep that promises. And 2% or 12% [of contracts going to Mississippians] is not keeping that promise."

Pickering said we must put an end to the preference of federal national contracts over local contractors. He explained that federal agencies pressure local governments into these arrangements by mandating lower reimbursement rates
and suggesting aggressive and severe audits.

* Chertoff indicated that the 20% fee might be from the net contract, however that is determined under the scenario. He didn't dispute Pickering's $600 million figure, though. Whatever the case, it's hundreds of millions of dollars for... what, precisely?
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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

NYT article by John Schwartz, titled "Panelist on Levees Faults Army Corps Budget Cuts":

Budget cuts have cost the Army Corps of Engineers crucial scientific expertise that might have helped it to prevent levee failures in New Orleans and to do a better job restoring the city's battered flood protection system, members of a panel of prominent outside experts said.

"The corps is, right now, stretched very thin," said Raymond Seed, a professor of civil engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and a lead investigator on a team exploring the levee failures. "They are really struggling."

Members of the team said the corps's problems were so pronounced that its earliest efforts to patch five levee breaches were inadequate and had to be redone after an urgent appeal by outside engineers...
Dr. Seed and colleagues said the corps might not have recognized longstanding soil problems beneath the levees at two New Orleans canals that left the floodwalls vulnerable to forces of wind and water from Hurricane Katrina. Levee failures at those canals flooded much of the city.

"They still have good people - what they have is less of them," Dr. Seed said. "It strikes me as potentially dangerous over the long term."

The reasons for the decline, he said, include budget cuts for the corps and a shift away from the enormous construction projects of the past toward more environmental restoration. The broad government push to privatize functions of government has also contributed to the problem, Dr. Seed said, noting that some functions once handled by the corps, like soil boring and testing, are now conducted by contractors.

He compared the corps to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was criticized as losing expertise because of budget tightening after it was shifted into the Department of Homeland Security.
The levees of New Orleans suffered more than a dozen breaches because of the hurricane, and most involved water coursing over the tops of levees and floodwalls and scouring away the supporting earth on the other side, leading to collapse. In general, the corps maintains that the flood protection system of New Orleans was simply overpowered by a storm that exceeded the forces it was designed to withstand.

Questions of levee construction are most pointed in the failures at the 17th Street and London Avenue Canals, which showed no sign of being overtopped. In an Oct. 11 letter to corps officials, Dr. Seed wrote that the failures at those levees were clearly the result of unstable soil.

That contention is supported by documents that emerged from a legal dispute in the 1990's over work by a local contractor, Pittman Construction. In the lawsuit, the company alleged that the corps had not provided it with enough information about problems with the soil along the 17th Street Canal. Efforts to build concrete caps and segments of floodwall along the canal were complicated by shifting soil, the company said.

The most important goal will be to ensure that the corps has enough financing to do the job well, said Mike Parker, a former assistant secretary of the Army. Mr. Parker left office in 2002 after he testified that the administration's financing request for corps projects was too low.

Little has changed since then, said Mr. Parker, a former congressman. He estimated that full financing for the current corps should be $6.5 billion a year, about $2 billion more than the amount spent.

"We know what needs to be done," Mr. Parker said, "and then we turn around and don't fund it."

Update: The Dead Pelican points to this story, which submits:

...a lack of coordination between several competing agencies contributed to a patchwork of mismatched levees. Some of the levees were lower than others, some constructed with differing materials and some using different construction techniques. Where each type of levee joined the next, the difference in construction and maintenance led to erosion and a weakening of the levee at that point.
Both groups of engineers agree that the problems with the levee system in New Orleans are deeper than the shoddy construction. Public agencies competing for construction dollars contributed to a mass of mismatched levees. Professor of Engineering at University of California, Robert Bea, has documented over 100 places where flood walls and levees were patched together by various competing levee boards and other government agencies. The differing construction led to erosion and ultimately weakened the levee system itself. Jerome Walters with Soil Strengthening Engineers believes that ultimately, the political climate in New Orleans is to blame. "When you have different governmental agencies competing for public funding, the focus is on money, not consistency," Walters said, "This was bound to happen sooner or later, I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner."

Both engineering groups agree on one thing. It's better to have one agency responsible for the construction and maintenance of the levee system. "With one agency, there is a single construction standard applied throughout the system," said Walters, "And one agency, familiar with the entire system, to perform maintenance and upkeep."

Changing who controls the levees in New Orleans will be a difficult political challenge. For decades, control of the levees meant control of hundreds of millions of dollars. Levee boards, whose members can be either elected or appointed constantly squabble over funding, sometimes diverting maintenance and construction dollars to pet projects. "If New Orleans is to be made safe, the political bickering and outright theft of funds had to stop," said Walters, "These protective barriers are too important to gamble with."

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The situation gets soft and I start to panic 

Sifu Tweety from The Poor Man Institute isn't so keen on rebuilding New Orleans, or even South Louisiana for that matter. In a post titled, "A Shining City on a Flan" Tweety makes an outrageous argument.

New Orleans, and the rest of southern Louisana, is built on pudding, thousands of vertical feet of it. Not "rock" or, like, "packed earth". Spongy, marshy pudding ready to liquefact or just slide away at a moment's notice. Building enormous, futuristic flood control systems without anything solid to put them on or anchor them to is... challenging.

Of course, all of those are highly dubious claims. First of all, Southern Louisiana and New Orleans in particular are not built on just any pudding, they are built on Bread Pudding. And we know how far superior Bread Pudding is to that bland crap over which Bill Cosby used to get so hyper. Second, I think Tweety's "thousands of vertical feet" claim is a bit off-- I believe it's only hundreds of feet in some places. So there! Third: I will steadfastly maintain that preserving New Orleans for even another century is preferable to preserving countless other places (including Burnt Scrotum, NM) for millennia. So "Kiss off" Tweety! Fourth: I'm not sure what "liquefact" means, but perhaps it applies to reports like these (my emph):

The average piece of property in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes has sunk 7 inches over the past decade, a development that will have sweeping effects on homeowners' insurance costs, building prices and flood protection.
"In Terrebonne Parish, which is 2 feet or less above sea level, in terms of adjusting you are essentially reducing their known elevation by 20 to 25 percent," said Tim Osborn, NOAA manager of regional operations in Louisiana. "This is a very important set of elevation marks that will apply to future projects."

I'm writing this entry in Terrebone Parish's brand new Main Library-- Louisiana's "Library of the Year". Deservedly so, I would submit. This is a beautiful building, and an excellent facility for the community.

It's shocking to think that this place (along with everything else around it) is sinking so quickly.

Five? Five Five is for my lonely.

Six six six for my sorrow.

Seven seven... n-no tomorrow.

Eight, eight I forget what eight was for!

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Gotta have Wraith! 

There's slimy, and there's this.

There's callous, and there's this.

There's kicking a city in its ribs when it's already down on its knees, and there's this.

Don't forget; where there's wraiths, you'll often find ghouls.

Before he was elected mayor of San Antonio, judge Phil Hardberger was awarded the Star of Texas Public Service Award for Judicial Ethics and Excellence. An avid pilot and mountainclimber, he once recreated Lindbergh's transatlantic flight and climbed Mt. Kiliminjaro. In the sixties, he worked in the Peace Corps and in LBJ's Office of Economic Opportunity. Before that, Hardberger was a Captain in the USAF.

After all those accomplishments, this manly man, this ethical judge, has decided to focus his efforts on looting a football team from a city that is still reeling from an unprecedented natural disaster.

"I think Tom Benson would like to stay here permanently and I, as mayor of San Antonio, would like to have the team stay here permanently."

Pitiless ghoul. Filthy vulture. Thanks for being so "neighborly", Tejas!
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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

What did one volcano say to the other? ... I lava you. 

Since Josh's tectonic plate "shuffle" last year, I get nervous when excited lib bloggers start using geological metaphors. But Billmon's track record is solid, and I'll forgive him his latest, because I feel similarly. (We'll soon see who had the better sense of this scandal. People like myself who thought that "something would come of it", or the highly esteemed "Nadagate" crowd.)

My belief is that five Patrick Fitzgeralds could unravel New Orleans' corrupt political web inside of six months.

And that's no joke.
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Can we take a look at Ninevah's Ballot Box 13? 

Michael edits together a collection of interesting posts concerning the weird voting results in Iraq's Ninevah province. He observes that Joe Kennedy (nor LBJ, I might add) ever made the mistake of stealing more votes than what was absolutely necessary.

I've previously focused on how Iraqi Christians in that province were systematically disenfranchised. It's not a huge leap to think Sunnis were the ones screwed this time around.

Update: And since we're looking at fishy things, let's not neglect this supposed Zawahiri letter, which the President saw fit to quote from in this week's radio address.
2nd Update: Wallstreet Jackass has some priceless quotes, reminding us that while Saddam got 100% of the vote the new constitution recieved a highly unsuspicious 99%.


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Only as good 

An Insurance Company is only as good as its last check.

A War is only as "good" as the Peace which follows it.

Tom Benson's Saints are as good as gone.
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Monday, October 17, 2005

Take a gander 

At the end of the Bloomberg article on Plamegate (via Americablog) there's this cute little snippet:

In an interview yesterday, Wilson said that once the criminal questions are settled, he and his wife may file a civil lawsuit against Bush, Cheney and others seeking damages for the alleged harm done to Plame's career.

If they do so, the current state of the law makes it likely that the suit will be allowed to proceed -- and Bush and Cheney will face questioning under oath -- while they are in office. The reason for that is a unanimous 1997 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that Paula Jones' sexual harassment suit against then-President Bill Clinton could go forward immediately, a decision that was hailed by conservatives at the time.

My do those two hate being under oath, under any circumstances. I can only imagine the looks on their faces when Wilson's lawyer examines them.

In the past, I've agreed with Somerby that libs shouldn't reflexivley defend everything Joe "Politics of Truth" Wilson has said. However, on the big things, Joe Wilson has been spot-on-mark. Bless him for his "frogmarch" comment (it will be one for the ages), his unwillingness to back down, and his ginormous ballzack.
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The Tragical Misery Tour is dying to take you away. 

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Ha ha ha! I make funny joke! 

One might say: "It's easy to look like a moral giant if you use discretion when visiting those saucy pygmies in Storyville."

Vitty-cent always rises above the Lilliputian fray.

Backround here.


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