Saturday, March 18, 2006

Can we evacuate to Ft. McClellan this summer? 

The most auspicious, ardent and transcendant King of Zembla brings us two important links whose content must be shared at once.

The first implores us to consider the following expenditures:

In the aftermath of Katrina, the feds spent $10 million to renovate and furnish 240 rooms in Alabama that housed just six hurricane survivors, congressional investigators found.

Authorities also spent $3 million on 4,000 beds that were never slept in and blew a fortune on ice that was not needed . . . .

The Government Accountability Office's review of 13 major contracts revealed that poor planning by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and miscommunication resulted in widespread waste. The renovated rooms in Alabama, for example, were in military barracks at the Army's Fort McClellan . . . .

Of more than 700 contracts worth $500,000 and up, more than half were doled out without seeking lowest bids. Many went to firms like Bechtel and Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root, which have close ties to the Bush administration and the Republican Party.

Fort McClellan is located in that fascinating stretch of America betwixt Atlanta and Birmingham. I'm glad millions of Katrina funds could be spent on room "renovations" there, instead of... oh I don't know... say, installing 170 of these puppies? (Ashley has more here).

Anyway, in light of the above facts, let us turn our attention to the weather forecast:
A new study of hurricanes during a recent 35-year period has found the strongest link yet between rising ocean temperatures and the intensity of hurricanes, backing up ominous forecasts for another destructive Atlantic storm season.

"We're in for another bad year from everything we can see at this point," said Judy Curry, a climate expert at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Curry's new research found that rising sea surface temperatures were the single most reliable long-term indicator of hurricane intensity around the world from 1970 to 2004.

The new research, which appeared in the respected journal Science yesterday, is expected to fuel the growing debate about the risks of global warming.

"It's a very important message to get out because this is a long-term trend, and it's not going to go away," Curry told the Daily News. "The cross-your-fingers, close-your-eyes and hope-for-the-best strategy that we used for [Hurricane] Katrina isn't good enough. We need to assess the risk and figure out how to manage it."

The new research comes on the heels of a benchmark forecast predicting another severe Atlantic storm season.
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The forecast is ominous for New Orleans, where city leaders are still trying to figure out whether to rebuild low-lying areas devastated by Katrina last year.

Utmost thanks, again, to the most benevolent King of Zembla for sharing these reports.

We remain your humble and faithful servants.
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Friday, March 17, 2006

Have a visually stimulating St. Patti's 

I don't think there's a political blogger with better graphics and pictures than Arvin Hill. He does some fierce work, and I'm glad to see him posting more regularly.

That said, I will note that Michael at 2 Millionth has been really stepping up in that department lately, with great photoshop pics that I'm sure you've been noticing.

Good Job!

Er... I mean, Well Done!
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Oh Blackwater keep on Rollin' 

While paying a hefty fine at the Main Library branch downtown, one of the many Blackwater Mercs bursts unto my space at the Customer Service counter, proceeds to unroll a huge map of the city, and loudly growls: "Now where the hell is Royal Street?"

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Friday quotes 

1. "The only people who think this wasn't a victory are Upper Westside liberals, and a few people here in Washington." (Charles Krauthammer, Inside Washington, WUSA-TV, 4/19/03)

2. "We're all neo-cons now." (MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 4/9/03)

3. "I will bet you the best dinner in the gaslight district of San Diego that military action will not last more than a week. Are you willing to take that wager?" (Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 1/29/03)

4. "What's he going to talk about a year from now, the fact that the war went too well and it's over? I mean, don't these things sort of lose their--Isn't there a fresh date on some of these debate points?" (MSNBC's Chris Matthews, speaking about Howard Dean--4/9/03)

5. "It is amazing how thorough the victory in Iraq really was in the broadest context..... And the silence, I think, is that it's clear that nobody can do anything about it. There isn't anybody who can stop him. The Democrats can't oppose--cannot oppose him politically." (Washington Post reporter Jeff Birnbaum-- Fox News Channel, 5/2/03)

6. "I'm waiting to hear the words 'I was wrong' from some of the world's most elite journalists, politicians and Hollywood types.... I just wonder, who's going to be the first elitist to show the character to say: 'Hey, America, guess what? I was wrong'? Maybe the White House will get an apology, first, from the New York Times' Maureen Dowd. Now, Ms. Dowd mocked the morality of this war.... (MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 4/10/03)


7. "Do you all remember Scott Ritter, you know, the former chief U.N. weapons inspector who played chief stooge for Saddam Hussein? Well, Mr. Ritter actually told a French radio network that -- quote, "The United States is going to leave Baghdad with its tail between its legs, defeated." Sorry, Scott. I think you've been chasing the wrong tail, again. "Maybe disgraced commentators and politicians alike, like Daschle, Jimmy Carter, Dennis Kucinich, and all those others, will step forward tonight and show the content of their character by simply admitting what we know already: that their wartime predictions were arrogant, they were misguided and they were dead wrong. Maybe, just maybe, these self-anointed critics will learn from their mistakes. But I doubt it. After all, we don't call them 'elitists' for nothing." (MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 4/10/03)

8. "Over the next couple of weeks when we find the chemical weapons this guy was amassing, the fact that this war was attacked by the left and so the right was so vindicated, I think, really means that the left is going to have to hang its head for three or four more years." (Fox News Channel's Dick Morris, 4/9/03)

9. "Speaking to the U.N. Security Council last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell made so strong a case that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is in material breach of U.N. resolutions that only the duped, the dumb and the desperate could ignore it." (Cal Thomas, syndicated column, 2/12/03)

10. "When the president does it that means it is not illegal." (Richard Milhous Nixon May 1977)

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Most of these I received by email from David "Flaming Liberal" Bellinger.

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Update: 2 Millionth Web Log has more.
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May a thousand Fleurs-de-Lis bloom 

There's been a very welcome explosion of excellent political blogs from New Orleans since Katrina. Here's a list.
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1% 

I had a weird feeling all day yesterday while driving around the historic N.O.. It was a full moon on the Ides of March. Thanks to Schroeder for the reminder.

Remember that March 15th was a day of assassination. Caesar neglected a prophecy and got stabbed in the back by his right-hand man, Brutus, and other Senators. But that wasn't why I felt weird.

I drove Magazine St and passed 4905-07, a dilapidated double, and recalled that Lee Harvey Oswald lived there while in New Orleans during the summer of 1963. But that wasn't why I felt weird, either.

So later I walked down Prytania Street and some trash was blowing down the sidewalk. Nothing unusual there, but I grabbed some of the trash, and while I was depositing it into a nearby garbage can, I saw that I was holding a Times Picayune/States Item from November 23, 1983. The front page declared it was the 20th anniversary of JFK's assassination, and had a photo of the Kennedy family standing and kneeling in front of the eternal flame in Washington D.C.. I must say, that felt a little weird. (More on what was in the paper in another post.)

Then I perused the 3/15/06 edition of the Times Picayune, and read about upcoming St. Joseph's and St. Patrick's celebrations. I recalled Dennis Leary (a JFK assassination buff) one time saying that his approach to the whole event was through the lens of Irish and Italian gangs going at it-- something he'd seen on the Boston streets, only writ large: very large. Then I thought of the Jane's Addiction lyric "The gang and the government are no different..."

There was also an article about the reconstruction of legendary Mosca's restaurant on the West Bank. Mosca's was not only an epicenter for garlic and red gravy, it was the epicenter for Carlos Marcello and his many associates. I doubted that a food article would allude to this connection, but I was wrong:

Times-Picayune:

The Mosca family fled Katrina to Jackson, Miss., eventually ending up in Chicago Heights, Ill. It's where Provino first got into the restaurant business, following in the footsteps of his mother-in-law, Juliette Angelloti, who in the 1930s owned a restaurant in nearby Dyer, Ind.

"He wanted to get out of Chicago Heights," Johnny said of his father. "It was too Mafioso. Then he wound up in New Orleans. Turns out it was the same thing."


"Turns out", eh? My, how things just "turn out".... (Anyway, for more on this read John Davis' excellent "Mafia Kingfish", now out of print and missing from all the local libraries). I refer to Marcello in this post. Also, in a previous post I brilliantly juxtaposed a Carlos Marcello quote with a quote from the movie 8mm. I will do so again, and add a new quote from Tiny Revolution. Here goes. Hold on to your hats, folks:

8mm:
"There's three rules in life: One, there's always a victim; two, don't be it."
"And three?"
"I forgot what three is."


Carlos Marcello:
"Three can keep a secret if two are dead."

Ali Farahnakian, paraphrased by Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution:

If when you die, the cause isn't assassination, you're not taking enough chances.

Hmm, food for thought. Next on my reading list is Ultimate Sacrifice (read the Publisher's Weekly review at Amazon, it made me wanna order).

Do I have the "Crime of the Century" all figured out? Of course not, but it fascinates me, especially living here in New Orleans where so much (bad stuff) was going on in the 60's. LBJ, Mafia, CIA, lone gunmen... any finite set of facts about what happened can be twisted like a snake to fit one's preconceived notions (and then, like a snake eating its tale, you begin self-consuming). Personally, I look at it in reverse order, with the assumption that a conspiracy to assassinate JFK is made much more likely if his brother, Robert, was killed in a conspiracy. The facts in that case totally dispute the lone gunmen theory, in my view.

There's an interesting epilogue to the Carlos Marcello affair occuring right now. I believe that his heirs or associates finally were able to sell off his vast land holdings on the Westbank to the Shaw Group and an L.A. home builder for quick development in the aftermath of Katrina. Affordable housing is desperately needed here now, and these lands are some of the few available large parcels that can be used for large scale construction (20,000 homes). Marcello purchased this land a long time ago, and tried to steer interstate development through the area, so that he could resell it for commercial purposes (along the long-delayed I-49). For a variety of reasons, this never happened. Now, finally, this area will be used for moderately-priced residential homes. Interesting, huh? Who knows what someone might find one day in their backyard? (Again, I'm not totally sure these are Marcellos' former holdings, but I'm pretty sure. I'll endeavor to confirm it.)

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Update: Jeffrey says there is a copy of "Mafia Kingfish" available in the Louisiana Reference section of the Main branch, and he should know. (I lost my copy in the flood.)

Update #2: I checked in person, and it ain't there. As far as I can tell, every copy of "Mafia Kingfish" in the Orleans parish library system is lost or "missing".
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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Assessments 

I'm considering compiling and posting a database of residential assessments for every address I see (in my district) displaying a campaign sign promoting an incumbent assessor for April's election. Next to the assessments, I would provide a conservative Fair Market Value estimate of the property for comparison purposes. Big color photographs might also be useful.

What you'd see would be BIG BIG Mansions on St. Charles Avenue with tiny tiny little tax assessments. And the owners of the mansions want to keep it that way. They don't want reform. They just want their local puppet in there making excuses as to why his or her constituents shouldn't have to pay their fair share of property taxes (which fund the city's schools, parks and firefighters... etc.)

So I just may start that database, in order to show how a "narrow circle of wealth holders" are so invested in parochial politics that they'll maintain a ludicrous, bassackwards system just to continue avoiding an unpleasantly large tax bill. Even after Katrina, these rich folk choose short-sighted greed over reform. It's exactly this sort of thing which gives ammunition to the New Orleans-haters in the rest of the state and country.

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Here's the latest attempt by the "powers that be" to curtail a coordinated assessor reform effort known as "I.Q".
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Monday, March 13, 2006

Thank you for your support 

Until Hugo Zoom emailed me, I didn't even know I was nominated for a Koufax award over at Wampum. So, I appreciate my intrepid regular readers for their (completely unprompted) show of support. It means a lot to me. Without y'all, I'd be just some anonymous, sarcastic blogger typing rants at odd hours in some "part of the world".

Whereas, with your reliable eyeballs, and your generous votes... I've become so much more than your average blogger. I'm a recognized online pundit! I'm a mover of opinions, if you will; a raker of muck, a gangster of political science, a lethal phrasemaker, a ... well you get the idea.

So, whatever it is that I do here that keeps bringing you back, thank you for expressing your support and approval. I'm proud to be representing the great N.O. in the "Best State and Local Blogs" category, and am continually amazed that YRHT has some regular readers. It's all the more surprising since I've been outsourcing my blogging work for the past two months to an extremely underpaid chap named Mr. Ranjan Singh over on the subcontinent. See, he has perfected some algorithms that mathematically "interpret" a set of news stories, and then automatically generate YRHT-style entries from that information. For only $13.99/month I can let his algorithms do the work while I save over 35 hours of research and writing time. Plus, I don't have to worry my beautiful mind over these unpleasant current events in Iraq and Gentilly. All my entries are now automatically uploaded while I sip gooey adult beverages by the pool. Even this seemingly personalized post was "authored" from afar. Pretty cool, huh?

So, here's a thought for next year's Koufax awards: how about a category for Best Spam Compilation. That's right, I'm talking about those spambots which infect and pollute blogs, especially here on blogspot. Normally they're just a random internet nuisance. But not always. Take, for instance, this classic post over at Tbogg. In my view, it is still piss-your-pants funny, but when you go on to read the accumulated spam in the comment section, and realize what topics from the post attracted the spambots, it takes on a whole new hilarity. Go see, but read the entire post first.
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Blood in the streets yadda yadda 

Of the top 100 metro areas, Fortune magazine projected Baton Rouge as the fifth hottest housing market in 2006. New Orleans was rated as the sixth hottest market for 2007. This is based on a table showing predicted housing value appreciation in Fortune's Investor's Guide 2006 (print only). Much of California and some of the Northeast will see negative appreciation, while the rest of the nation will see slower growth. Baton Rouge, New Orleans, San Antonio and Houston are some of the exceptions, according to Fortune's crystal ball.

The print version of Fortune's 2006 Investor's Guide has a bull/bear face off on consecutive pages. One guy presents the pessimistic scenario for the stock market, and another guy responds with an optimistic bullish scenario. Oddly, only the bull's version seems to be available online.

I'm not quite a "permabear", like Wall Street Jackass, but I'm very cautious about the near-term future for equities. I've said before that just as the Dow stayed in the 700-1200 range from '68 to '82, I think it's likely to stay between 7,000-12,000 for the next few years-- say, from '97-2010. (My predictions should be viewed for entertainment purposes only. I've never made a stock trade. And I say this fully aware that the markets are near the top of my range-bound prediction.)

(Here's something fun from Jkas. I know it must be tedious for him, but I really wish he'd talk shop more. I also enjoyed this article on billionaire Richard Rainwater from the same Fortune issue referenced above. "Most people invest and then sit around worrying what the next blowup will be," [Rainwater] says. "I do the opposite. I wait for the blowup, then invest.")
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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Koufax awards 

Currently YRHT has one nomination for a coveted Koufax award, and zero votes. (Voting has been extended through Monday at Midnight.)

I'm located in the Best State and Local Blogs category for those who wish to admire the amazing amount of votes rolling in for websites like "Thoughts from Kansas" and "Bluegrass Report". I briefly visited both of these blogs to inspect the competition, and.... well damn, they are a helluva lot better than this place.

Which makes me wonder: with all the quality alternatives out there, how much spare time must you have in order to visit YRHT regularly?

Seriously, you should be rethinking your habits.
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