Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"The largest payout of U.S. currency in Fed history..." 

... went to Iraq, in planes, loaded with hundreds of tons of cash, stacked on pallets.

Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) asks "Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone?".

I'm sure everyone got their money's worth.

---
In other (related?) news:

1. "A man sentenced to death in Kuwait for the 1983 bombings of the U.S. and French embassies now sits in Iraq's parliament as a member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ruling coalition, according to U.S. military intelligence."

2. "At least one of the Iraqi generals under suspicion for involvement or having advance word of the attack is said to be an intelligence officer, according to U.S. officials. If that's proven to be the case, the involvement of Iraqi generals in an attack on American forces raises questions about the loyalty and trustworthiness of Iraqi military officers at the highest levels."

3. Fifth U.S. helicopter goes down in Iraq in last 18 days.

4. The "Troop Surge" continues... in Afghanistan!

While the country debates the Bush administration's "surge" of American troops into Baghdad, a similar American buildup has begun in Afghanistan. As in Iraq, it comes in response to rapidly escalating violence, and in Afghanistan, too, one question is whether the reinforcements are too little or too late.

By extending the deployment of a brigade of the 10th Mountain Division even as the 82nd Airborne begins to arrive, the Pentagon will bring the U.S. troop level to 24,000. That's 50 percent more than at this time last year and about six times the number of American soldiers who were in Afghanistan at the time of the battle for Tora Bora, in early 2002. The administration, led by Vice President Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, stoutly resisted calls for expanding either U.S. or allied forces then. Let the record show: They were terribly wrong. Successful wars begin with a large troop deployment that tapers off as objectives are accomplished and security is restored. In Afghanistan U.S. troop levels started at rock bottom and have steadily risen over the past five years, even as security has worsened.
3 comments DiggIt! Del.icio.us

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

In a fix 

Mechanical engineer and drainage activist Matt McBride is alarmed:

Earlier this week, after speaking with multiple extremely reliable sources, I learned the following jaw-dropping news...

During the December 30, 2006 rainstorm in New Orleans, one of the very large 1000 cubic feet per second (cfs) pumps was shut down at Drainage Pumping Station 3 on the London Avenue canal for approximately thirty minutes. This reduced the pumping capacity at the station by nearly 25%. The reason for this was that the depth in the London Avenue canal - specifically the depth at its weakest section just south of the Mirabeau Avenue bridge - was too close to the Safe Water Level of four feet. Therefore, a pump had to be turned off in Station 3 to keep the water from rising any further.
...
Incidentally, this marks the second time in a two week span that the 4 foot Safe Water Level in the London Avenue canal was approached or exceeded.

This is shocking. This is huge. It means that my concerns about permanent reductions in New Orleans' pumping capacity due to weakened canal levees and walls are legitimate, and that those worries have already been realized at least once already. The true rainy season in New Orleans (outside of hurricane season) doesn't start until April and lasts for over two months.

What it also means is that personnel in the Corps' New Orleans District have failed to report this information publicly, even when given the explicit opportunity to do so on at least two different occasions when they have been asked directly about the strength of the London Avenue canal walls in public forums.


Read the whole post, and the links therein.
2 comments DiggIt! Del.icio.us

White House expected to oppose Dems affordable housing measure 

Times Picayune:

House Democrats are moving swiftly to target an estimated $500 million this year for affordable rental housing along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast and put the brakes on the demolition of New Orleans' public housing until alternatives are identified.

Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said they also plan to investigate the slow pace of Louisiana's Road Home recovery grant program as part of an aggressive new focus by the Democratic majority on the post-Katrina housing shortage.

"Our challenge, being in the majority, is to make something happen, to get people back into their homes, to really do what everybody including the president promised would be done, whatever it takes," said Waters, who returned last week from her third trip to Louisiana.
...
Frank, chairman of the committee, said he will resuscitate legislation passed by the House last year to steer $500 million toward the construction of affordable rental properties from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the congressionally chartered housing finance companies.

"We're ready to pass a bill," Frank said in an interview last week. "That bill could be passed by June. We could have money flowing soon."

Standing in the way, however, is expected opposition from the White House, which was against the plan last year.

Among those on the hot seat at Tuesday's hearing will be Roy Bernardi, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees public housing in New Orleans and plans to demolish four major developments -- C.J. Peete, B.W. Cooper, St. Bernard and Lafitte -- to make way for mixed-income communities.

But Frank said Congress can withhold demolition funds unless HUD provides guaranteed replacement housing for the low-income public housing residents displaced by the storm.

"Don't tear down public housing that low-income people can live in until you have a plan to replace them," Frank said. "We are prepared to provide funding, but not to shut down public housing so you can remove some people."
...
The two lawmakers won't limit their review to rental housing. They both voiced concerns about Gov. Kathleen Blanco's Road Home grant program for homeowners. More than 103,000 people have applied for grants, but fewer than 400 have had closings and the average grant amount is $79,693.

Waters said Congress "will literally have to rewrite the program" to get money in homeowners' hands quicker. She said the state and federal governments are so concerned about fraud that they have slowed the payment of recovery money to a trickle and hamstrung recovery.

"If you owned a house and it was on the rolls, they ought to have an expedited process where you qualify for $50,000 or $75,000 to get started," Waters said. "Then, if you jump through more hoops you can get more, but the problem is people need the money to get started."

I like everything Waters and Frank say here.

Among many other things, Rep. Maxine Waters D-CA was a supporter of Nagin's re-election. In fact, she introduced him during his second inauguration as a "hero". Rep. Barney Frank is one of the sharpest policy minds in Congress, and, now in the majority, he is a stern parliamentarian (hee hee).
11 comments DiggIt! Del.icio.us

White House: Pro (storm) Surge? 

I wanted to excerpt and preserve this T-P story for future use:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials based in New Orleans on Monday defended a White House budget recommendation that would temporarily shift $1.3 billion to complete construction of West Bank levees and levee walls, instead of reserving that money for east bank hurricane-protection projects.

But during a briefing with reporters, the local corps officials also confirmed that the White House had turned down a third alternative, which would have allowed the corps to reshuffle its available money another way: to build a flood gate to block storm surge at the Industrial Canal and another structure at the intersection of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

Instead, the budget from President Bush would remove $1.3 billion from money included in a fourth supplemental appropriations package, approved last year, that's now reserved for armoring parts of the levee system, building permanent pumping stations on the ends of three western New Orleans canals, and bringing nonfederal levees in Plaquemines Parish up to federal standards.
...
The corps would use the money to complete West Bank levees and flood walls that were approved as part of an earlier third supplemental appropriations package, but whose costs have gone well over initial estimates.

The alternative rejected by the White House would have allowed the corps to spend money from either supplemental appropriation in a way some corps officials felt would have provided the best protection to both banks of the river.

The article goes on to quote a USACE director who notes that dramatically increased labor costs as well as a post-storm study that urged "dramatic and comprehensive changes in the way individual levees and walls should be built" are reasons why the the initial federal flood protection appropriations and estimates are grossly inadequate.
0 comments DiggIt! Del.icio.us

Today's Girls, TODAY'S Leaders 

A local student's perspective is included in the recent Newsweek story on celebrity "Girls Gone Wild":

One-day marriages aside, why wouldn't girls be fascinated by [Britney Spears] and her celebrity pals? These 21st-century "bad influences" are young, beautiful and rich, unencumbered by school, curfews or parents. "They've got great clothes and boyfriends. They seem to have a lot of fun," explains Emma Boyce, a 17-year-old junior at Louise S. McGehee School in New Orleans. But fascination and admiration are two very different things. As they get arrested for driving drunk and feuding with their former BFFs, the Brit Pack makes it easy for young women like Boyce, a top student and accomplished equestrian, to feel superior to them. "My friends and I look at them to laugh at them," adds Boyce. "Our lives seem pretty good by comparison. We're not going to rehab like Lindsay."
3 comments DiggIt! Del.icio.us

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hearsay 

Treat these as rumors, although I did get them from a reliable insider.

Some knowledgable Saints fans who were at the Bears game said that Deuce was injured on the third or fourth play of the game. Supposedly, he twisted an ankle, and though Deuce wanted to keep playing, Coach Payton decided his effectiveness was diminished and did not to use him as much as he originally planned.

Sen. David Vitter's wife Wendy, a capable attorney, volunteered to donate her services for free to N.O. District Attorney Eddie Jordan's office to help with the backlogged caseload. She received no reply to her offer.
4 comments DiggIt! Del.icio.us

Uggh 

Recently, various Democratic Party Presidential contenders got to pick their "theme songs" for a recent DNC event, which would be played as they strode to the podium to give a speech. Here's the details, plus my snarkasm.

AP reports the presidential candidates who addressed the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting Friday got to choose their tunes. Some candidates requested two songs, one that blared as they approached the stage and another that played as they left the podium. (Watch videos of the candidates' speeches here.) The selections:

John Edwards: "This Is Our Country" by John Mellencamp.

As one who watches mostly sports on TV rather than music video channels, I'm unfamiliar with this "little ditty".

Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut: "Get Ready (Cause Here I Come)" by The Temptations and "Reach Out," also by The Temptations.

Smokey Robinson has a better chance of becoming President than Dodd.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York: "Right Here, Right Now," by Jesus Jones and "Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" by Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

Couldn't possibly have selected two lamer songs.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio: "America the Beautiful"

I stand corrected. If Clinton had chosen "America the Beautiful" instead of Kucinich, the wingnuts would have had a field day once they inevitably discovered that it was written by a lesbian from Wellesley-- HRC's alma mater.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois decided against using any music in keeping with the somber tone he sought to convey.
He wants a somber tone at a DNC meeting? I don't see how that will be possible once everyone is revved up by the scintillating Jesus Jones chorus.

Wesley Clark, who hasn't indicated whether he will run, entered to Johnny Cash's "I Won't Back Down."
Good choice. This is Cash's version of Petty's song, which has an interesting political history according to Song Facts: "George W. Bush used this in his 2000 Presidential campaign. When Petty found out, he threatened to sue, as he did not support Bush. Bush stopped using the song but won the election anyway. Petty's home state of Florida decided the election when Bush won the state by a very slim margin. Petty performed this for Al Gore at his house an hour after he conceded the election (the second time) to George W. Bush."

---

Update:

I enjoyed Prince last night. He got the whole family up and dancing.

8 comments DiggIt! Del.icio.us

Sunday, February 04, 2007

What's in a name? 

In a splendid post, We Saw That dismantles the Ouachita Citizen's hypocrisy and (perhaps) its racism as well.

A couple months after the OC publisher labeled the Democratic Party as "racist" for using Bobby Jindal's real first name (Piyush) in a press release, the Citizen writes an editorial which makes a point of identifying Democratic Senator Barack Obama by his middle name (Hussein), which he never uses publicly.

The right wing's "little elves" began floating this non-story in December. But now that the Ouachita Citizen made a point of using Obama's middle name (but not Sen. Lieberman's) in an editorial, the question becomes: is the Ouachita Citizen editorial board racist by its own definition?
1 comments DiggIt! Del.icio.us

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Clown Derby 

On its subscription page the conservative National Review magazine claims it is "written for intelligent readers". Oftentimes I think the writers at the NR have a very liberal definition of intelligence.

Recently, National Review Online luminary and former illegal alien John Derbyshire wrote a post which said "The World's Smartest City... is not New Orleans" and linked to this article.

This gratuitous slap comes a few weeks after Derbyshire's first visit to New Orleans where, basically, he strolled through the Riverfront Mall, couldn't find a book store, and promptly declared the city "unattractive" and "lifeless".

Unattractive? Really, John? You wanna go there, do ya?

Actually, New Orleans is one of the nation's "smartest cities" according to this ranking of most-educated cities. But Derbyshire doesn't care about these sorts of things. He has his own pet theories that he's searching to reinforce.

Kevin Allman properly vivisects Derbyshire's earlier piece here. Go read it. My favorite portion of Allman's commentary is his response to Derbyshire's complaint that "I didn't see a bookstore the whole two days poking around New Orleans." Kevin simply says:


Aside from the fact that I can think of, say, six bookstores within a few blocks of Jackson Square (including the one in the home of William Faulkner), did it ever occur to you to ask someone?

That's rich. On his virgin visit to New Orleans, Derbyshire poked around town for two "whole" days, went to the mall, couldn't find a bookstore, and then considered himself qualified to declare that New Orleans is "lifeless", and was so before Katrina.

No wonder that Prof. Brad DeLong designated the Derbster as the "stupidest man alive" for being a former "illegal alien" who now criticizes illegal immigrants.

Anyway, I shan't pass judgment, but will print a lovely quote from Derbyshire, who felt it necessary to inform his readers that New Orleans "is the blackest American city I have been in." Who the hell cares? Well, Derbyshire does:


I believe race is a real thing, that races differ-- statistically-- in important ways, and that private racial discrimination is not immoral, and certainly should not be illegal. In the current American climate, I think that makes me a "very mild, tolerant racist." (-- John Derbyshire, 2003)

I'm sure Derbyshire has some cute little rationale about how New Orleans' "blackness" makes the city dumber than cities that are less "black". "Statistically" speaking, of course. How do the other NRO writers react to Derb's jab at our city's smarts? A Kos diarist summarizes:


Fellow Corner resident Mark Steyn chimed in: "Derb, I’m with you on New Orleans-- welfare swamp enlivened by occasional transsexual hookers". 01/25 12:30 PM
...
Jonah’s reply: "Now That's a Slogan. Mark describes New Orleans as a "welfare swamp enlivened by occasional transsexual hookers." I love it!" 01/25 12:47 PM

Of course, the "welfare swamp" myth must persist for conservatives, no matter what the real facts are. A 2005 City Journal article explained how N.O. was comparable to other metropolitan areas like NYC (where NRO headquarters are):


Despite the president’s rhetoric, and despite those indelible images from the Superdome and the Convention Center, New Orleans is just as much a black success story as a black failure story.

Yes, New Orleans has a 28 percent poverty rate, and yes, New Orleans is 67 percent black. But nearly two-thirds of New Orleans’s blacks aren’t poor.
...
Despite the images of collective helplessness broadcast after Katrina, New Orleans does not have a stratospherically high government-dependency rate. In 2002, it had 6,696 families on cash welfare, or 3.6 percent, compared with New York City’s 98,000 families, or 3.2 percent. In 2000, 7.8 percent of New Orleans households received Supplemental Security Income, compared with 7.5 percent in New York.

Anyone familiar with New Orleans knows that the city is filled with hard-working people—most of them black. Welfare reform, in New Orleans as in the rest of the country, worked; between 1996 and 2002, Louisiana cut its welfare rolls by 66 percent. The only virtue of New Orleans’s tourism-dependent economy is that those with few skills who want to work can work; the city’s unemployment rate was 5.2 percent during 2004, lower than New York’s 7.1 percent.

I guess I should take comfort in the fact that if self confessed "racists" and "homophobes" like John Derbyshire-- or any of the other conservative pantloads at NRO-- actually liked and understood New Orleans, it wouldn't be the city that it is: a stupid, lifeless, bookless, mall-rich, pigmented, transgendered, welfare swamp... right? Or, at least, that's the characterization that NRO writers would have their "intelligent" readers believe.

In short, the contributors at NRO think New Orleans deserves random ridicule and juvenile cheap shots while it recovers from the biggest (man-made) catastrophe in U.S. history. I'm sure they were doing the same thing to NYC after 9/11, right?

===
Michael at 2 Millionth has more on the City Journal article here.
7 comments DiggIt! Del.icio.us

Thursday, February 01, 2007

 
From First Draft, we learn of this depressing news:

President Bush is expected to shift $1.3 billion away from raising and armoring levees, installing flood gates and building permanent pumping in Southeast Louisiana to plug long-anticipated funding shortfalls in other hurricane-protection projects, a move Sen. David Vitter describes as a retreat from the president's commitment to protect the whole New Orleans area.

Vitter, R-La., who unveiled Bush's plans Thursday, condemned the move in a strongly worded letter to the president and called on him to ask Congress for more money to complete work that he promised would be done-- and Congress financed-- in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"I believe your fiscal 2008 budget proposal would be a step back from that commitment, however unintended," Vitter wrote. "I am deathly afraid that this vital emergency post-Katrina work is now being treated like typical (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) projects that take decades to complete. We will not recover if this happens."
5 comments DiggIt! Del.icio.us  
Molly Ivins passed away last night. Here's an Ivins quote from a list compiled by Norbizness:

Having being properly reared by a right-wing family in East Texas, how'd I turn out this peculiar? I believe all Southern liberals come from the same starting point-- race. Once you figure out they are lying to you about race, you start to question everything.
7 comments DiggIt! Del.icio.us