Friday, December 22, 2006

My District 6 property tax bill is so strong, it can knock the balls off a buffalo at fifty paces. 

The price of reform-- especially when other city districts decline to reform-- is steep.

The price of recovery-- especially in a city stricken by man-made catastrophe-- is steep.

For example, I live in a nice house and my 2007 property tax bill is in the low five figures. Ouch. (But at least my house is reasonably assessed.)

Yesterday, while contemplating this unwelcome bill, the drain in front of my house failed during the rain and street flooding. We suffered no major damage, but it was disconcerting to see the water rise into our lawn.

The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans needs $5.7 BILLION to repair its damaged infrastructure. That's billion with a "B"-- "B" as in "Buffalo".

I mean, is that even fathomable? According to my calculations, every N.O. resident would have to pay nearly $30k EACH before we could adequately fund our $5.7 billion sewer and water service repair bill. And how much more to repair and rebuild other essential infrastructure needs... I shudder to think.

New Orleanians are paying through the nose for taxes and insurance, and accepting the highest risks because they believe in the survival of this city and region, its people and its culture.

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Merry Christmas, Big Oil! 

Do we really need to give incentives to Big Oil when crude is over $60 a barrel (and probably permanently above $50)?

Oil companies have profited immensely from the infrastructure which has helped erode Louisiana's coastline. Yet some greedheads think Big Oil still deserves "royalty relief". That is, "relief" from royalties which they hardly pay. Royalties which Louisiana must put back into restoring wetlands which support Big Oil's delivery infrastructure.

What a virtuous circle! Surely the sacred free market must be operating at peak efficiency here.

At a time of record profits, Big Oil resists paying royalties to cover the environmental damage they have caused, and then lobbies for tax "relief" for the royalties that they do pay.


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Now this from the Houston Chronicle:


The five oil companies that signed agreements with the government last week to begin paying royalties on some Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production can terminate those deals, if other operators negotiate more favorable terms.

The Interior Department, trying to redo botched contracts that already have cost American taxpayers nearly $2 billion, reworked these deals with Shell Oil, BP, ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil Co., and Walter Oil and Gas Corp.

Interior officials had failed to include price triggers in lease agreements signed in 1998 and 1999 for acreage in the deep waters of the Gulf.

Under the agreements announced last week, the five companies agreed to pay royalties on production dating back to Oct. 1. But in exchange, Interior officials agreed not to seek royalties dating back to 1998.

Royalties going all the way back to October 1st? Really? You mean it?

Wow. And that's the absolute most they'll have to pay. If other companies cut a better deal later on, then these five companies will get what the others get. (How much more generous could it be, anyway? Will a new deal have them pay royalties going back all the way to December 1st?)

Oil companies "negotiating" with Bush's Dept of the Interior about royalties is like Mark Foley "negotiating" with NAMBLA about punishment for his sex chats with former pages.

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Update: The Times Picayune has a relevant op-ed on global warming (not online yet) by Tulane Law professor Oliver Houck which concludes:

Towards the end of Michael Tidwell's "Bayou Farewell," a recent lament on the collapse of the Louisiana coastal zone, the author is standing on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and experiences an epiphany. He sees drilling rigs to the horizon, pumping oil as fast as possible out from under Louisiana waters, for sale to refineries around the world, producing the carbons we burn, which then go up into the air, and heat the earth, and elevate the seas, over an already drowning Louisiana coast, which is already subsiding, and we cannot wait to drill more.

It seems a form of suicide.
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Thursday, December 21, 2006

"The Computer Broke for Some Reason" 

Last week, I missed this Think Progress article on Boysie Bollinger. Thanks to Lafayette Dems for linking to it:


Bollinger Shipyards is part of an emerging scandal over the costly Coast Guard fleet-building program. Four years ago, the Coast Guard-- "in an astonishing abdication of responsibility"-- handed off the $17 billion program to Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman "to plan, supervise and deliver the new vessels and helicopters." (The program is now "foundering" as the estimated cost of the program has ballooned to $24 billion. Continuing problems have "delayed the arrival of any new ships or aircraft.")

Bollinger Shipyards is a business partner of the two military contracting giants, and Bollinger's company is responsible for some of program's worst mistakes:

Boysie's company blames their costly mistakes on their computer "breaking for some reason".

Oh.

Previously, Boysie has said that President Bush is "probably the best friend Louisiana has".

Oh.

Fa la la la la.
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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

ICF = Infinite Cluster F***? 

*Da Paper has a front page article about ICF, the Virginia company being paid nearly a billion dollars to distribute monies in Blanco's Road Home project.

Two quick questions haven't been satisfactorily answered: who is ICF, and why do we need them?

The article describes a "tense" meeting Blanco had with her advisors, ICF, and "angry [state] legislators" about the (criminally) slow payout process. (Less than a hundred flooded homeowners have received checks thus far.) ICF is having trouble making accurate property valuations (our ridiculously low property assessor "valuations" can't help), and says they will tweak the process and hire local appraisers and will do other things, but, in the opinion of many, this is far too little too late.

To her immense credit, Rep. Charmaine Marchand, D-New Orleans, is "camping out indefinitely on Capitol grounds as a protest of ICF's and the governor's performance".

I totally support her. I mean, hell, couldn't we temporarily solve the state insurance crisis with $750 million* (the amount of ICF's contract)? At least until the market stabilizes... right?

Here's perhaps the "nut" of the story, which comes at the very end of the article:

ICF, which has begun offering its stock for public sale since inking its deal with Louisiana, reacted to much of the criticism Monday in a news release headlined: "ICF International Receives Expression of Support from the State of Louisiana."

The release quoted Blanco saying "the remedy . . . is to move faster, not to start over from scratch."

Blanco's chief budget adviser, Jerry Luke LeBlanc, was also quoted praising the company for responding "to the challenge of getting the program up and running."

Last week, LeBlanc told lawmakers the administration was not pleased with ICF's performance and would consider ending the deal if the firm did not improve.

Marie Centanni, the governor's press secretary, confirmed Tuesday that the administration worked with ICF in crafting the news release.

Why is da gret stet paying this Virginia company so much-- $750 million to a company that grosses $177 million/year-- and helping it sell itself with official praise?

Who is benefiting most from this unpardonable contract? Breach victims, or ICF? Also, who wants to make the case that Louisiana wouldn't have fared better had the Bush administration not submarined Rep. Baker's innovative recovery plan nearly a year ago?

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Much more on this compiled at Moldy City and Adrastos.

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* or almost develop an Anthrax vaccine?
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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Oyster Dome Soup 

Seymour D. Fair (who handed me a yummy Leinenkugel's prior to Sunday's Saints game) instructs us NOT to get him a $50 "gift" card to Applebee's for Christmas.

I suppose there are other options.

For example here's the $40 Reveillon dinner menu at Palace Cafe:

Appetizer

Choice of

Oyster Dome Soup -- An elegant, flavorful oyster soup topped with puffed pastry

Crabmeat Imperial -- With, sweet peppers and green onion in a rich Romano Mornay sauce, baked golden with a cornbread crust


Salad

Duck & Prosciutto Salad-- With roasted pears, chicory greens, toasted pistachios,
dried cherries and blueberry vinaigrette

Entree

Choice of

Seared Lamb Tenderloin-- With fig and butternut squash gratin, wilted greens and currant-juniper sauce

Crab Stuffed Flounder-- With mirliton-potato hash, and citrus butter

Palace Turducken-- Seared duck breast wrapped in wild mushroom and black truffle chicken stuffing and a de-boned turkey leg, pan-seared and oven roasted, served on celeriac-pear risotto with honey-fennel jus


Dessert

Warm apple tart with apple cherry compote over sour cream ice cream and cinnamon tuiles


You haven't "eaten good" till you've dined in our neighborhood.
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How much is a little brain damage worth these days? 

Dallasite Tony "airborne mints enrage me" Creme settles with elderly physician he allegedly pushed in the back on to Bourbon Street. (Background here.)

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In other Metrosexual Metroplexual news, their gonna build a billion dollar stadium in Dallas to attract all foreseeable sports mega-events.

That's cool. The Cowboys are worth it, aren't they?
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Monday, December 18, 2006

Recap 

This weekend I saw girls on roller skates and men in leotards.

The girls were more fun.

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Oh, and what's this? After being outfitted with a bo-valve and a mactop, Greg says he's depressed. I don't wanna say "I told you so", but long ago some of us discussed pre-emptive solutions to assist Greg with his post-op blues. However, we have been subsequently chided by others, in person, for having bad taste. (*Wink*)

Since when is helping the sick poor form? And if it also helps support some single moms and young gals with student loans during the holidays... where's the harm? My only aim is to help one of South Louisiana's greatest graphic artists recover and become productive again. And if that means I have to underwrite some lap dances, I'm prepared to make that sacrifice.


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(Jus' kiddin', R.)
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