Friday, November 11, 2005

My favorite is the coconut 

I immediately thought of Hubig pie lover Yatpundit when I read this portion of a T-P article on business insurance payout woes. Hubig's will survive, but many other small businesses won't:

Andrew Ramsey, a police officer and a third-generation owner of Hubig's, said 10 delivery trucks were lost or damaged during the storm. Fortunately the company's baking factory didn't flood, but wind damaged the roof, baking ventilation equipment and cooling systems.

Ramsey said his insurance adjuster couldn't see enough damage to his building to trigger the interruption insurance policy, and because it was impossible to test Hubig's equipment while the power was off, it was assumed to be OK. Ramsey rejected the adjuster's offer to wrap things up with some money to take care of the evacuation, arguing that his business, which has not restarted, has sustained a real interruption.

Though Ramsey's insurance company has said Hubig's should be able to operate, the city's Health Department has sent the company a letter saying it is unfit to open because of the holes in the building. Meanwhile, Ramsey has had a hard time getting his insurer to accept that though municipal water flows to the building, it was undrinkable, and though there is gas service, there's not enough pressure to light industrial ovens.

"Our business interruption insurance is basically proving to be worthless," Ramsey said. "We are hemorrhaging money. We've done everything we're supposed to do. I need my legitimate coverage to kick in."

Ramsey promises that Hubig's will be back, but he wonders about what the damage to the larger economy will be if other business owners are going through what he is going through.

"Every hour of every day that we don't have the ability for someone to find a job, they're going to find a job in Atlanta or wherever they are. They're not waiting around to make pies if when they call, I say, 'I don't know,' " Ramsey said.

"This is why the mayor, the governor and Robert Wooley need to be involved in this. They are losing people at a staggering rate."

Y'all have a good weekend, I'll be back Monday.
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Bush won't commit to Cat 5 levees for S. LA, but... 

... from our most-benevolent King of Zembla we learn:

[The Bush administration has] now borrowed more money from foreign governments and banks than the previous 42 U.S. presidents combined...

Throughout the first 224 years (1776-2000) of our nation's history, 42 U.S. presidents borrowed a combined $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions according to the U.S. Treasury Department. In the past four years alone (2001-2005), the Bush Administration has borrowed a staggering $1.05 trillion.

You're going to stop borrowing money from our Saudi and Chinese bankers now!?!
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A good decision 

As age old North versus South Louisiana rivalries bubble up, it is gratifying to see a conservative from the north LA say the following:

After a lot of soul-searching and a lot of arguing with people I respect, I have come to the understanding that we need to rebuild South Louisiana. We should grant the resources and the money to getting those people back on their feet. It is the right thing to do, culturally, economically, and from a humanitarian prespective. I don't necessarily agree with it, but I understand it. I support the effort.

It may shock many South Louisianans to learn that there are plenty of folks above the I-10 who are not on board with the coastal restoration/rebuilding effort. They don't necessarily think it is worth the cost and sacrifice. Like many throughout the nation, many N. Louisianans don't see the necessity of it. So, South Louisianans must make their case and change minds throughout their own state in order to better make their case (in a unified manner) to the nation as a whole.

The best, shortest argument I've found is this: America, you have a choice. Your local gas pump is connected to the infrastructure in our wetlands. You can pay to protect it now, or you can pay much more to rebuild it after the next superstorm hits (plus suffer through a brutal gas price spike and perhaps a recession).
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Veteran's Day 

I like the pictures over at Schroeder's place. Go take a look if you haven't seen them.

Firedoglake has some worthwhile sentiments and links as well.
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There's an underwater dance club... 

My friends know that I'm a big fan of genius/inventor/organist Quintron and whimsical puppeteer Miss Pussycat. Their Spellcaster Lodge in the 9th ward took a serious hit from Katrina, and they put up some photos at their web site. Here's one of Quintron and Miss Pussycat overlooking their demolished backyard (photo by Tony Campbell):

Here's a recent article on their new album and tour. Plus some of Q's comments on wetlands restoration.

On Halloween they performed in Chicago where my friends Ratboy and Ratgirl attended the show. (R & R decided to move to Chi-town last month.)

[Afterwards, while having drinks at a bar, Ratboy, a huge Saints fan, met and chatted with recently fired Arnold Fielkow over drinks. I haven't yet heard the details of that conversation, but I've been told they are spicy.]
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Thursday, November 10, 2005

"You have to remember, I've been everywhere" 

Always known for keeping his impulses tongue ego modesty in check, Geraldo Rivera recently came to New Orleans to launch his new daytime show, "Geraldo at Large". This T-P column notes some of his reflections on Katrina:

Rivera was here before and during the worst of the Hurricane Katrina experience, and was seared by it.

Interviewed during a premiere-day breather on Monday, Rivera said he'd vote for Mayor Ray Nagin if he lived here.

"I feel so for him," said Rivera. "I see him now as a tragic figure."

He also spoke with empathy about retired New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass.

"After the storm, they've been really roundly criticized for the exaggerations," Rivera said. "There weren't 10,000 deaths, there weren't rapes happening in every open field.

"But I saw two dead bodies myself at the Convention Center. I saw them and filmed them and broadcast them. I saw babies there that had not had a proper meal in two, three, four days. I saw a population ignored."

He saw law enforcement block escape passages out of the city.

"There is no way on God's green Earth, if that was South Beach, that those people would not be able to walk over that bridge," Rivera said. "That glaring exposure of the race and class divisions in this country was never, in my very long experience, more clear, more graphic, more hurtful to me, than it was in New Orleans.

"And anyone who says otherwise is either full of s - - - or has a political agenda. They either weren't there, didn't see it with their own eyes or they have as an agenda blame-shifting.

"They don't dare do that in front of me, none of them[*]. I don't care how strong they are. No one dares say to me that it wasn't the most horrible natural disaster ever to befall not only the United States, but the whole first world. Period.

"Baghdad has nothing on New Orleans."

A flood-ravaged neighborhood served as background for his anchor stand-up Monday.

"I'm looking right now at the neighborhoods destroyed by the breach of the (London Avenue) canal," he said. "This is unbelievable. You have to remember, I've been everywhere -- Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Israel, Colombia -- there's never been anything like this."

C'mon, Geraldo! "Baghdad has nothing on New Orleans"!? If that's true, then maybe we really have turned a corner in Iraq. But what do I know? He's been everywhere. He's seen the effects of 2 million dead in Cambodia, and he's implying the flooding in New Orleans is more "unbelievable"? Gracious! Get some perspective.

I love grand statements about the Crescent City more than anyone, and I doubted that anybody who'd witnessed the devastation first-hand could wildly exaggerate the Katastrophe in New Orleans... but then, I didn't factor in Rivera.

* Who is the "they" Geraldo keeps referring to? Critics? Media? Fox? Hannity?
Nixon apologists?... What say you?
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Do the big enchilada, don't blow it 

At the DP I found a Wapo piece titled "Burdens of Past Limit New Orleans's Future: Poverty, Corruption Weigh on Recovery".

The litany of problems faced by New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is unmatched by any other U.S. city in recent history. Billions of dollars in public and private funds are going to be spent on rebuilding New Orleans, but those efforts could be undermined by forces that have long beset the city -- a tradition of corruption and dysfunction and a weak economy that clouded New Orleans's future years before the rains began in August.

"Always broke. Worst school system in the state. Highest crime rate in the nation. Shrinking population. All the corporations have moved out," said Bernie Pinsonat, a political analyst in Baton Rouge. "Any poll I do, the rest of Louisiana thinks, 'New Orleans is a deep, dark hole, and no matter how much money we send, it doesn't seem to get better.' "

City leaders know they must change the reputation and the reality that fuels it if they are to make good on their pledge to deliver a "better" New Orleans. Danatus King, president of the city's NAACP chapter, warns against "the sins of the past and the mistakes of the past."

"We have a chance to do the big enchilada," said Bill Hines, a lawyer and former chairman of Greater New Orleans Inc., the chamber of commerce. "Let's hope we don't blow it."

After reading and internalizing that last quote, I think I finally understand my special purpose.

(Bill Hines, btw, is one of the great civic and business leaders of New Orleans, and an inspiration to your humble bivalve. The play on his Wapo quote is in light-hearted jest, of course. Read this CityBusiness pdf to learn more about him.)

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"Stories of Endurance" 

The I-10 Witness Project
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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Willy Pete caught on tape 

The smell of victory...
15 comments DiggIt! Willy Pete caught on tape" Title="" target="_blank">

Someone pinch me! 

Houston company relocating to New Orleans.

(H/T Evacuee)
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Oh, Doctor, Doctor 

Da Paper:

A Maryland congressman is urging his fellow Democrats to hold the party's 2008 presidential nominating convention in New Orleans as a signal of national support for the city after its devastating losses from Hurricane Katrina.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., made the suggestion after party officials announced that their 2008 convention will be held Aug. 25-28. Declaring New Orleans as the host city for the party's national convention, Cummings said, would demonstrate to its residents that the city "has not been forgotten."
The decision on a convention site will be made by Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and party leaders, after reviewing bids from a dozen or so cities with sufficient convention and hotel facilities.

Uh oh. When Howard Dean came to New Orleans in July during Essence Fest, he gave a speech at (now closed) Twiropa. He did a decent job, but I was shocked at how few elected officials came out to see him. No mayor, no senator, no congressperson... if memory serves, I think a N.O. city councilperson introduced him. What a way to roll out the red carpet for a new party chairman!

He had a decent stump speech (we'll have a 50 state strategy, Bush lies and is incompassionate, Dems have values and can't forget Louisiana...). But Twiropa was hardly full, and-- worse-- during his speech he had to tell the crowd by the bar to be quiet. They were talking over him. Dean said "I realize this is New Orleans, but can you keep it down?"


Hopefully the Doctor had a good time here, but I could easily see how the lack of hospitality by Louisiana Dems could backfire. Big time. Plus, I'm sure the fundraising receipts at Dean's speech were pitiful as well. It's a shame, because a convention like that would be a huge economic boost.

Dean has a good handshake. I told him to "Go get 'em" and he robotically thanked me for attending. I went with my friend the Big Event who was disappointed afterwards because... it wasn't a big event.
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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"What a hollow feeling." 

From the Advocate:

Port Fourchon Executive Director Ted Falgout, a longtime levee protection and coastal restoration advocate, doesn't like to say "I told you so." But Monday, he said just that to a U.S. Senate committee.

Thirteen months before Hurricane Katrina struck, Falgout testified before a U.S. House subcommittee about Louisiana's coastal land loss and warned that "a well-placed Category 4 hurricane would cause the price of gasoline to go up $1, double the price of natural gas and cause huge loss of life."

"This would throw this country into an immediate recession and its impacts would dwarf the costs of protection," he told the Subcomittee on Water Resources and the Environment of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in July 2004. "I pray that the next time I testify it is not to say, 'I told you so.' "

"Well, now I get to say it. I told you so. What a hollow feeling," Falgout said Monday to three members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation during a field hearing on revitalizing south Louisiana's economy at the state Supreme Court in the French Quarter.

Falgout told committee chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and fellow Republican Sens. Craig Thomas of Wyoming and David Vitter of Louisiana that Port Fourchon plays a key role in support of 18 percent of the nation's oil supply.

"We should all be very thankful that Port Fourchon did not receive a direct hit from either storm (Katrina or Rita). If either had been just a few miles closer, my dire projections of 2004 would have been grossly underestimated," he said.

Falgout said any plan to build a sustainable coast must include levee protection, coastal restoration and critical energy infrastructure support.

"It could have been implemented at a fraction of what these storms have cost this country," he said. "Until this nation truly comes to the realization of what's at stake here in coastal Louisiana and makes the proper investment to sustain it, we will most likely remain on a collision course with an unprecedented energy shortage in this country.

Word has never been so up.

At the conclusion of the hearing, [Sen. Ted Stevens R-Alaska] said, "Rome wasn't built in a day and you won't rebuild New Orleans in a day."

Thank you for disabusing us of that illusion.

"I'm confident your region will thrive again," he added, noting that Alaska created a disaster fund after a devastating 1964 earthquake and said the United States should consider doing the same thing.

Vitter agreed but said, "The best fund is heightened levee protection."

Yeah you right Vitty-cent!

"We have to look at our spending too," [Sen. Craig Thomas R-WY] said, adding that the federal government is cutting spending to reduce the federal deficit.

Since when?

"We're committed (to helping New Orleans and Louisiana), but it isn't going to be the easiest thing in the world."

Well, Senator Thomas, if you fight for us with half the berserk intensity your colleague Senator Stephens displayed when defending his road to nowhere, I'm sure we'll be fine.

The repeatings will continue until awareness improves.
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Why restore Iraq's wetlands at the expense of Louisiana's? 

One of the very cool responses to the storm was the formation of the United Radio Broadcasters network, wherein some dozen or so competing stations (including talk radio giant 870am) all banded together and simulcast a Katrina news show. It was a good source of information, especially for those who were displaced. One of the real finds was Garland Robinette. His bio speaks for itself, but he is new to talk radio. He's quickly become a distinctive, forceful presence on the radio. Garland has also been a stalwart advocate for Wetlands restoration for decades.

Anyway, last week during Garland's afternoon show he had on a guy from Greater New Orleans Inc, a business/development group. I didn't get the guest's name but to my surprise and delight he reminded Garland that we had spent a "billion dollars" restoring Iraq's wetlands. Garland replied that he had forgotten about that, but was glad to be reminded about it.

Now, I've been beating this drum for over a year. (Why did saving Iraq's wetlands take precedence over saving Louisiana's?) I'm sure it's a winning frame, and when you have a winner you squeeze it for all its worth over and over and over. [Note: I usually cite the Bush administration's request for $100 million for Iraqi marshlands restoration. That's a direct, solid comparison. The one billion dollar figure covers other, related projects (including dams and waterworks-- I'm working from memory as I write this). It's something of an exaggeration, in my opinion, for the purposes of my argument. ]

Anyway, yesterday Garland Robinette had the new Gulf Coast Recovery Czar on his show. And guess what Garland hit him with? The Louisiana/Iraq wetlands frame! Of course Czar Powell had no response whatsoever. He said he's still learning "the facts" and would have to return for a second interview.

Now, I'm not claiming to have invented this frame, but I was certainly in the vanguard of its popularization, and I know of no one who has repeated it more than I have done. Louisianans, this is a winner, and we need political winners to help influence policy in Washington.

Why restore Iraq's wetlands at the expense of Louisiana's?

(Like many of my posts, this one has been edited somewhat for clarity.)
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Monday, November 07, 2005

Leadership Deficit 

The gross national debt is now more than $8 trillion. The government owes itself much of that in accounts such as the highway trust fund. When IOUs in those accounts come due, the government just issues itself some more debt.

The net national debt -- the amount that must be financed by borrowing in capital markets, which affects interest rates and the economy -- is a mind-boggling $4.6 trillion.

"Unless the situation is reversed, at some point, these budget trends will cause serious economic disruptions," Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress' Joint Economic Committee on Thursday.

Think of America's financial future this way: A large family goes to a restaurant and stuffs itself on a full-course meal with drinks and dessert. The waitress then hands the bill to the babbling infant in a high chair. Budget deficits make today more enjoyable, but future generations of Americans will have to pay the bills.


Undisciplined government spending has done the unthinkable: It's united experts from two rival think tanks with great influence in Washington -- the left-leaning Brookings Institution and the conservative Heritage Foundation. Both accuse Congress and the White House of a "leadership deficit," punting when it should be tackling issues affecting the nation's financial future.


Congress shows no interest in halting a Medicare drug benefit scheduled to take effect next year. It will cost $700 billion over 10 years, and more after. It's one reason why spending on Medicare, the health-care program for the elderly and disabled, is projected to explode.

Spending has grown twice as rapidly under Bush than it had under Clinton. Remove defense and homeland security costs and spending still jumped 22 percent.

"Everything is going up well past inflation" rates, Riedl said.

Since 2001, spending on education is up more than 100 percent, international programs 94 percent and housing and commerce up 86 percent.

"We need a spending cap that helps lawmakers say no," Riedl said. He pointed to the 1990 agreement between Congress and the first President Bush called Pay-Go, which capped discretionary spending and required new spending to be offset with cuts elsewhere.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., the ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, recently introduced an amendment to return to Pay-Go. "There is an old-fashioned idea," he said on the Senate floor.

"Pay for it."

(From the Seattle Times.)
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1.3 is an ugly number 

From Saturday's T-P:

[Army Corps of Engineers] manuals and design documents for the 17th Street and London Avenue floodwalls require a safety factor of 1.3. That means the cushion is 0.3: The wall must be 30 percent stronger than the maximum forces it's built to endure.
"The reason it immediately shows up on my radar screen as being horribly low is because the soils are so variable," [Berkeley Eng. Prof Robert Bea] said. Bea explained that when something is uncertain -- such as the strength of foundation soils -- engineers will raise the safety factor. New Orleans soils are notoriously weak and unpredictable.
Engineers studying the levee system said that although soil failures appear to be a common factor in the canal breaches, they don't have enough evidence yet to say exactly how each wall failed, and some may have failed for different reasons from others. In other areas of the city, levees gave way after being topped. But
the 17th Street and London Avenue canal walls were not topped but failed anyway, suggesting a design or construction flaw.
"A 1.3 safety factor is exceedingly low for a dynamically loaded structure. I don't know of any dynamically loaded structure that is lower than 2.0," said Thomas Eagar, a professor of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studied the collapse of the World Trade Center.

Eagar reeled off a list of typical safety factors. For the structural frame of a building, the safety factor is 1.67. For a bridge, 2. For ladders or scaffolding, 4. Generally, he said, if there is a lot of uncertainty about whether a structure's failure would kill or injure people or damage property, the safety factor will be higher.

Joseph Wartman, a geotechnical engineer at the Drexel University who is on an American Society of Civil Engineers team investigating the levees, agreed that 1.3 was unusually low, and that typical safety factors for most structures vary between 1.5 and 2.0.

"This is a generally accepted guideline that is widely accepted as the standard of contemporary practice," he said. If there is a lot of uncertainty about soil strength -- a common problem in New Orleans -- then engineers tend to set the factor closer to 2, he said.
Bea said that his research shows that the corps has been using the 1.3 safety factor for decades, and that it dates to a time when most levees were protecting rural areas with few inhabitants and little infrastructure.

"The thinking was, those levees are just protecting farmland," Bea said. "But time goes on. We continue to develop, but we are dragging this 1.3 with us. We upgrade the levee system after (Hurricane) Betsy with better flood protection, but that 1.3 is still there. History has moved, but the corps hasn't."

Picture of a floodwall of a N.O. drainage canal here.
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Sunday, November 06, 2005

My sentiments exactly 

(Thanks to the Camp Street Jockey for telling me about the shirts, and to Schroeder for the pics-- he has a ton more at his site.)

Update: This commentary and this one are highly agreeable, too.
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"All those marshlands will be lost in time, like tears in rain..." 

You think my criticisms of the federal response towards rebuilding and protecting Louisiana are shrill? Well, read the below excerpts from this Houma Courier article.
Charges of ignorance, indifference and even mass murder.

In the wake of the president's $250 million supplemental-appropriations request for coastal restoration for Louisiana, those are charges now being leveled at the Bush administration.
[Most] agree that the funding falls significantly short of helping the state meet the burdens of restoring its natural coastal buffers against storm surge and constructing significant levee-protection projects.

Clifford Smith of T. Baker Smith & Son... who has repeatedly stressed the need for coastal restoration to federal officials, laughed when asked for his thoughts on the Bush administration's request... "They honestly don't understand it, even after Hurricane Katrina killed an estimated thousand people and the price of gas skyrocketed," he said. "It's a laugh. It's a joke. It's a crime."

"I've spent 50 years trying to get that message across to Washington, D.C. I ain't been too damn successful."

Smith isn't alone in expressing dismay and disbelief at a proposed funding request that many believe is significantly short of what's needed, what some can only describe as stunning and disheartening given the aftermath of these latest storms.

"Obviously the point has been made that because of past inaction, it's even more critical now," said Sidney Coffee, executive assistant to Gov. Kathleen Blanco in the Office of Coastal Activities.

"We've been saying all this time, 'this is what could happen' and now that it's happened, if they're still business as usual in Washington, and there's still the expectation that we have to jump through hundreds of hoops to justify the spending, I don't know what (more) we can do," Coffee said.

Just a thought, Ms. Coffee, but perhaps not appearing "business as usual" in Baton Rouge would be something more y'all could do.

Particularly troubling for some about the supplemental-appropriations request is the state's timetable for spending any money that Congress might authorize and appropriate for coastal restoration.

Whatever the state would spend during the first two years would be covered by the federal government. Beyond that, the state would need to provide a 50-percent match.

For some, it's money the state doesn't have.

Uggh! For a multi-billion dollar problem, that 50% match is a killer.

The meshing of coastal restoration and flood protection has gained numerous proponents during the past several years, with advocates of one noting the necessity of the other.

For many, the two don't compete, but complement each other.

And while work is needed to restore the region's natural buffers against storm surges, improved levees are needed to protect the region's residents, infrastructure, economy and culture.
Without significant levee protection, residents throughout the coastal area remain increasingly vulnerable, and $250 million to attempt to rebuild the coast will not encourage businesses to return to South Louisiana....

"Bayou Farewell" author Mike Tidwell said he believes people should stay away, particularly from New Orleans, until the Bush administration commits to a significant rebuilding effort.

"To stay in the wake of the Bush administration's colossal irresponsibility is to risk the death of your children and yourself. It's time to close down New Orleans and much of the Louisiana coast unless and until the federal government finally does the right thing and learns the right lessons in the aftermath of the worst storm in U.S. history," Tidwell said in a statement this week.

"Either the president just doesn't understand the problem or he simply doesn't care," said Tidwell, who likened the administration's lack of significant aid to protect residents along the coast to "mass homicide."

"Either way, the entire city of New Orleans is being abandoned by the federal government in a way no less callous than our abandonment of thousands of people at the Convention Center and on the I-10 overpass in the days after the storm. We are making this national disgrace permanent and unbearable in its scale."

I'm currently staying in Terrebone parish, which is sinking and shrinking at alarming rates. The nourishing, protective wetlands in this parish are disappearing fast. According to my sources, last year when Gov. Blanco pressed President Bush for money to restore the wetlands, he responded: "[restoration] is not based on solid science". This from the guy who wants us to go to Mars (to prepare for an off-world colony?).

Yesterday I saw a truck from nearby Lafourche parish with side-by-side bumper stickers: one for America's Wetlands and one for Bush. I contemplated pulling him over and making a citizen's arrest. I mean, should someone so out of touch be allowed to drive? It would make more sense to have a David Duke sticker next to an Eracism one.

* (This is Part 3 in our "Time to Die" movie quote series-- here are Parts I and II.)

* Speaking of Lafourche parish, it would be easier for the Governor to make political points down here if she pronounced "Lafourche" correctly. She didn't in her last appearance, to the amusement of the locals.
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You've got jail! 

As usual, Michael at 2 Millionth makes a good point. I can scarcely imagine how many scandals we wouldn't know about if the dimwits in government fully understood how email is stored.

Here's just the latest two:

1. Representative Tom DeLay asked the lobbyist Jack Abramoff to raise money for him through a private charity controlled by Mr. Abramoff, an unusual request that led the lobbyist to try to gather at least $150,000 from his Indian tribe clients and their gambling operations, according to newly disclosed e-mail from the lobbyist's files.

2. Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the head of the federal agency that oversees most government broadcasts to foreign countries, including the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, is the subject of an inquiry into accusations of misuse of federal money and the use of phantom or unqualified employees, officials involved in that examination said on Friday.
In recent weeks, State Department investigators have seized records and e-mail from the Broadcasting Board of Governors, officials said. They have shared some material with the inspector general at the corporation,
including e-mail traffic between Mr. Tomlinson and White House officials including Karl Rove, a senior adviser to President Bush and a close friend of Mr. Tomlinson.
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