Friday, April 07, 2006

Michael "clotheshorse" Brown may consult for Da Parish! 

Lady Morwen from Dark Rose alerts us to highly disturbing news from the Times-Pic:



Former FEMA director Michael Brown might be joining St. Bernard Parish as a paid consultant.

Brown, who resigned his FEMA post last September in the wake of stinging criticism of the agency's response to Hurricane Katrina, is expected to visit the parish next week. During his visit, Brown and parish officials will discuss the possibility of the parish contracting with Brown as a guide to help it navigate the bureaucracy of federal storm aid.

Jesus, Mary and Judas!! Or, as Lady Morwen asks: "What fresh Hell is this?" Does Parish President Junior Rodriguez have a death wish for St. Bernard?!

Paying Michael Brown to roll up his sleeves and navigate anything is like calling the DHS for baby-sitter recommendations.
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Want a new Hero? 

Consider adding ten-year old New Orleanian Kalypso to your personal pantheon.

In all likelihood, her heartfelt video will be the best 12 minutes you spend online today.

Go watch it.

Big Thanks to Loki at Humid City for finding this treasure.
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Thanks are past due 

After weeks of seeing Jeffrey repeatedly complain about the Times-Picayune not having its regular Thursday "Food" section, I expected to see at least some expression of gratitude over at Library Chronicles when yesterday's paper (complete with food section) hit the stands.

I mean, what more could you want? There were a bunch of food articles and cool recipes including: four[!] remoulade sauces, a Passover pain perdu and an Asian Spice rub.

Yet... nothing but unthankful silence over at Jeffrey's site. A yellow ocean of ingratitude. That's a shame, too, especially since Jeffrey has had time to do the following online chores recently:

1. Write a post on a tedious mayoral debate, and then craft a word picture about Ron Forman's limpness.

2. Disabuse a dullard from a false conservative talking point regarding public housing.

3. Find a James Gill column that other bloggers spent half the night searching for.

4. Select a quote of the day.

5. And who knows what else... does he have a staff of "little elves" working for him, like Malkin, or what?


So I must ask Jeffrey: Where's the love for the local rag, which has performed so admirably in the months after Katrina? You got your precious Food section, and apparently have time to flit all over the internets, yet you can't make a small note of appreciation to Da Paper? Whazzup wit dat?

Barring a very good explanation, I will pray that your weekend's shrimp remoulade turns out bland.
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Respecting the cultural richness of the "gret stet", Louisiana Rep. Mert Smiley (R-Philistine) recently nominated this flaming pile of goat dung for state poem.

Hart Crane that ain't.

Why not nominate something from Humid City contributor Matt Nolan? Or some political lyrics by the Radical Druid?
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Presidential Algebra 

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Petty Pelican 

This evening, an embarrassingly petty "Flash Sheet" headlining Chad Rogers' high-traffic news site prompted some digging. Below are quotes from Chad's commentary about mayoral candidate Mitch Landrieu along with my own analysis.

According to a recent article in The Times Picayune, THE DEAD PELICAN alleged that part of Mitch Landrieu's campaign ad had been staged, and we did so "without any apparent evidence."
Not exactly. The T-P article by Frank Donze was very specific, stating: "Political blogger Chad Rogers also claimed, without any apparent evidence, that Landrieu wore makeup in the spot." Indeed, to my knowledge Rogers never did provide evidentiary support for this claim. He all but concedes this as he writes:

But Mr. Landrieu has made assertions of his own that have "no apparent evidence." In yesterday's New Orleans Mayoral debate, Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu stated that, unlike the "Bring New Orleans Black" plan, his plan to rebuild New Orleans was "more detailed."

Landrieu said that his plan "says what we're going to do on day one, day two, day 30, day 90... so that you actually deal with safety, police, evacuation... you deal with standing up Louisiana government as quickly as possible."

However, a document called "The Landrieu Plan for New Orleans," contained on his web site, contains no such dates... However, there is no specific timeline in Landrieu's plan.
Is this some sort of bizarre attempt to show that the T-P is treating Rogers' baseless "makeup" claim differently than it treats Landrieu's comment? What kind of nitpicking is this, anyway? And why?

It's one thing to say "my plan says I will do this on day 30", when you really mean to say that "I will accomplish this by day 30". It's quite another thing to charge another man with wearing "full makeup" on a staged photo-op during a catastrophe. One is a technical misstatement, the other is a purposeful allegation. I wouldn't try to imply equivalence.

For the record, here are some time-sensitive promises made in Landrieu's plan, though not dated or grouped in a "specific timeline" as Rogers would like.

"Within 30 days of taking office, have national experts in emergency preparedness evaluate New Orleans' command center and our short and long-term needs. Components of the emergency plan will include... [a list of 6 fairly detailed elements follows]" (p18).

"Within 60 days of taking office, Landrieu's administration will assess all city infrastructure and develop a rebuilding program to support population growth" (p 10).

"Mitch Landrieu will take office in the beginning of June, and will present a new budget to the city council in the beginning of September..." (p8). [It requires some arithmetic, but that's about 3 months, or 90 days.]
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Levee Bead Update 

Scout prime has an updated recommendation for you bead-senders, in light of the Army Corps of Engineers finally taking responsibility for the levee design failures that occurred.

Go, Read, Do.
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I sleep better now that the "grown-ups" are in charge 

My daughter loves the DHS kids site. It's good to know the powers-that-be are looking out for her.


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* SD has more.
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Good Mourning New Orleans! 

The top front page headlines from Da Paper read:

1. Corps chief admits to 'design failure'

2. Rebuilding cash may not arrive until fall

3. Lead found in soil of much of N.O.

4. Study says city should weigh bankruptcy

5. Levees to lack full armoring in storm season, corps says

6. 2 guilty in FEMA bribery case


There's always silver linings, though. 1. The Corps is finally recognizing "reality". 2. At least we expect to get some rebuilding money. 3. The lead predated Katrina, so the storm wasn't the toxic calamity many feared. 4. Bankruptcy is no longer taboo; nowadays it's just another financial strategy. 5. Though not fully armored, the levees are expected to be rebuilt by June 1st. 6. The Coloradan men making the bribes over at the Algiers base camp were caught.

So: Always look on the bright side of life.

Cheers, Bon Chance mes amis... it's not so bad, all you need is enhanced perspective.
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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Beads for levees 


Here's a photo from my second floor balcony, where I'm depositing "levee beads" into an envelope containing my letter to the President. The body of the letter reads:

Like the White House, my family's residence is located in a flood zone. Though we lost everything in the catastrophic floods following Hurricane Katrina, we chose to stay in New Orleans and participate in the rebirth of an irreplaceable American city. Your administration made a commitment to build "the best levee system known in the world", and in order to keep this promise to South Louisiana, I urge you to immediately request that Congress authorize and fully fund the $6 billion needed for a certified levee system to help protect South Louisiana from deadly floods.

Time is of the essence as another hurricane season approaches. Please accept these beads as a token of good will from a concerned family in New Orleans.


(My neighbor's upside down American flag is a signal of distress.)

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Note: Since security measures might delay the receipt of envelopes containing beads, I will urge participants in this wonderful effort to also call or send an email.
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"The worst news since the levee breaches" 

From a recent WP article quoting from an interview with Gulf Coast Reconstruction Coordinator Donald Powell:

Powell said luring homeowners and businesses back to the hurricane-ravaged city "depends on a lot of factors that, I think, are out of our control." Issues with housing, public safety and private investment are largely being decided by local authorities who Powell said "will be in control of their destiny."

In today's Times-Picayune, political analyst John Maginnis summarizes the situation accurately, which shows how misleading Powell's statement is, since so much does in fact depend on "factors" in the Bush administration's control:

In the past couple of months, it looked like elected leaders at all levels were getting their arms around the state's monumental recovery challenge....

Then the state got slammed with the worst news since the levee breaches.... Instead of costing $3.5 billion to strengthen levees to meet federal flood insurance standards, the corps said it would actually take $9.5 billion.
...

In the meantime, the whole recovery effort sits at a broken stop light. No levee certification means no flood maps means no insurance coverage means no mortgage lending means no widespread rebuilding.
...
The frustrating part for local leaders is that... the big money decisions will be made above them; in Congress... Local leaders and citizens will be left to deal with the consequences of increasingly bad choices.
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Support the Whoops! 

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (3/31/06):

And so I think what you have to do is to make certain that you've got the right strategic choices and the right strategic decisions, and you're going to make a host of tactical mistakes along the way. I believe strongly that it was the right strategic decision that Saddam Hussein had been a threat to the international community long enough that it was time to deal with that threat, that you were not going to have a different kind of Middle East with Saddam Hussein at the center of it, and that it was best, once having overthrown that dictator, to set on a course of democratic development in Iraq.

....
So my point to you is that yes, I know we've made tactical errors -- thousands of them, I'm sure. This could have gone that way or that could have gone that way. But when you look back in history, what will be judged is did you make the right strategic decisions.


General Anthony Zinni, USMC (ret.) (4/2/06):

I mean there's a series of disastrous mistakes. We just heard the secretary of state say these were tactical mistakes. These were not tactical mistakes. These were strategic mistakes, mistakes of policy made back here. Don't blame the troops. They're the ones that perform the tactics on the ground. They've been magnificent. If anything saves this, it will be them.


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (4/3/06):

And so what I've been really amazed at is the resilience of this political process [in Iraq] against a lot of very tough odds.
...
...[The] United States and indeed Great Britain have put a lot of treasure -- and I mean human treasure -- on the line to try to give Iraq an opportunity for a democratic government.


Reuel Marc Gerecht in the WSJ (3/3/06):

Contrary to what so many in the Bush administration hoped, Iraq's salvation still rides with the two forces that few had foreseen: the religious Shiites... and the U.S. military... if either falters, Iraq will probably descend into hell.
...
The Bush administration would be wise not to postpone any longer what it should have already undertaken-- securing Baghdad. This will be an enormously difficult task... But Iraq cannot heal itself so long as Baghdad remains a deadly place. And the U.S. media will never write many optimistic stories about Iraq if journalists fear going outside. To punt this undertaking down the road when the political dynamics might be better, and when the number of American soldiers in Iraq will surely be less, perhaps a lot less, is to invite disaster.

The Iraqis and the Americans will either save or damn Iraq in the coming months.... the Iraqis really are doing their part-- better than what anyone historically could have expected. The real question is, will Gen. Abizaid and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld do theirs?


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Oyster Summary: Condi believes the strategy of removing Saddam to create a new Middle East will be judged favorably. Unfortunately, numerous "tactical mistakes" have occurred, and the nascent Iraqi political process faces "tough odds" at a crucial juncture. [I would ask: why are we in a position in which we've put a lot of treasure on the line for a project which faces tough odds? And are you seriously blaming this predicament on tactical errors, as she implies? Is she conflating tactics and strategy?]

Zinni rightly responds: isn't the military handling the tactics? Doesn't that mean the Secretary of State is blaming the troops?

Gerecht thinks that "securing Baghdad" soon is necessary, then compliments the "Iraqis" for doing their part and publicly questions Gen. Abizaid's willingness to do his.

Gracious.

This is what it's coming to: rather than admit gross strategic incompetence, neocons will subtly blame the military for failing to accomplish a ridiculously costly and unlikely nation-building effort. Now we hear analysts saying the Iraqis are doing their part, but questioning the ability of our generals to do "their part".

At all costs: support the "whoops" over the troops. No matter how decorated a veteran you are, if you question the neocon's Iraq fantasia, you will be bitterly attacked by people defending leaders who can't admit they made a world-historic strategic blunder. And even America can't afford many blunders like Iraq.

You don't sell "Brand America" very well by choosing to nation-build an ethno/religious cauldron like Iraq under the rubric of fighting terrorism, while subcontracting the job of finding the 9/11 masterminds to Pakistan.

Nor is it very impressive to spend a trillion dollars in the Iraq misadventure, while making a stricken American city beg for its very survival.

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H/T to wongdoer for the WSJ link.
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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Beads to Bush 

Scout Prime has a brilliant idea for old Carnival beads-- send 'em to the Prez! (He's always had trouble getting his fair share of beads, anyway. Let's help him out.) And enclose the following message:

Mr. President:

Please fully fund the additional $6 billion the Army Corps of Engineers needs to rebuild the levees for our fellow Americans in New Orleans.


Oyster approves.
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In case you haven't been reading George Will for the past 7 months... 

Here's a condensed version:
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Well.

I'll save my discussion about thousands of miles of protective "walls" for my illegal immigration column. It's simply a "melancholy fact" that such a massive construction project will be necessary.

Sigh.

On the other hand, for my Post-Katrina columns, I'll use the catastrophe to focus on congressional pork, and the alarming number of unmarried black women with children.
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Certifiable 

Scout prime alerts the blogosphere to our never-ending wrangling with the Bush administration for adequate flood control funding. Basically, the Army Corps of Engineers said they need $6 billion to complete "certified" levee construction and repair in Southeast Louisiana. If they don't get that money, the Corps assumes that there's no 100-year storm protection when it draws its all-important "flood maps" (which determine things like insurance rates and required housing elevations).

Naturally, the administration that said they were "committed to building the best levee system known in the world" has to hem and haw and take days and weeks to decide whether or not they'll authorize this absolutely essential funding. We'll just twist here until they get back to us.

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Our fellow pelican Tim, who is razing and rebuilding his house, understands the importance of the levees to the region. He wrote a very nice, imagistic op-ed in today's T-P. Well done!
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H/T Suspect Device
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The Prosecutor goes Bang... bang bang! 

I just sent a mass email out in support of Tom Delay via this handy FRC petition written by Tony Perkins. It reads, in part:

I am proudly standing beside my friend Tom DeLay. I commend him for his stalwart defense of American values. Let there be no mistake: I believe that political leaders should be held to high standards. But I also believe that Tom Delay has met those standards. I am even co-hosting a dinner in Tom's honor today to publicly demonstrate FRC's support and I have privately told Tom that we stand behind him.

Unfortunately, in my haste to show my support and spread my love for the divine Hammer, I neglected to read the three disclaimers which frame the petition. They warn:

This information is no longer relevant due to its time sensitive nature and is provided for historical purposes.

Aw, fiddlesticks!

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More liberal "games of destruction and character extermination assassination" at Hullabaloo and Eschaton.
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Monday, April 03, 2006

Better 

After complaining about the "IQ" assessor reform campaign last week, I noticed that the IQ website has been freshened, with a new logo that includes the candidates' names, and some links on the helpful links page. Very nice!

Much more importantly, the goal of consolidating the 7 Orleans assessors offices into one has been endorsed by Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans. This group, created in large part by Uptown matrons who were not previously known for their strident, on-the-streets political activism, is a huge new force in local politics (along with Women of the Storm). I firmly believe Governor Blanco would not have called the February special legislative session for levee board consolidation had "Citizens" not been formed and had they not collected over 50,000 signatures in a span of two weeks.

I'm impressed because most of the "movers and shakers" in this group own wildly underassessed Uptown mansions, so fairer and more uniform assessments might impact them the most. Yet, "Citizens" are forcefully advocating reforms that are not in their narrow self-interests! How 'bout that? You could almost say they are seeking a (relative) tax increase for themselves in order to serve the greater good. I applaud this far-sighted, unparochial reform effort, and will heartily support it. For perspective, you gotta remember how conservative rich, white Uptowners have been over the years (in general). Tragically so, in some cases.

After the Katastrophe, "Citizens" responded effectively and admirably, in my view. (Certainly, unlike many other New Orleanians, upper-class Uptowners didn't lose everything in the storm and, generally-speaking, have the resources and connections to successfully organize efforts like these. I'm not saying theirs is the ultimate example of "blood, tears and tears activism". But it's not bad. Not bad at all.)

Here is the CITIZENS FOR 1 GREATER NEW ORLEANS call for the consolidations of Assessors and their reasons for doing so.

On April 10th they will have a public forum on the assesors issue at Touro synagogue. Details here.

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Though legislation and state constitutional amendments will ultimately be needed for the consolidation of Orleans assessors, sheriffs and courts... I think electing candidates who are committed to reform principles is a great start. It's a way of sending a message to all the doubters and haters that our city is changing for the better, and that we deserve the help and funds that we're receiving.

THEN, during or after this reform process, we can initiate ... what's the proper phrase these days?... ah yes: TAX RELIEF! Fair assessments and savings from smaller government will allow for, yes, CUTS IN PROPERTY TAX MILLAGES WITHOUT LOSS OF CITY REVENUES! How 'bout them apples? It will be like Voodoonomics, only grounded in reality! (After all, the city can't run a chronic deficit like the feds.) We can make a big-ass deal about the tax cuts, too, because we know there are some who are entirely devoted to showing how any good thing that occurs subsequent to a tax cut was in fact caused by said tax cut. So, if New Orleans cuts taxes, supply-siders will have more of an interest in the city's success. Everyone wins!

We'll revisit this proposal later.
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