Friday, April 27, 2007

From bad to worse 

1. Norbizness is taking a long sabbatical.

2. First Draft finds a CityBusiness report which states:

"Bush has promised to veto a Gulf Coast [recovery] package, which totals $2.38 billion out of $121 billion in the Senate and includes the 10 percent waiver.
Bush also vows to veto any new funding or legislative attempt to waive the 10 percent match."

3. Iraqi blogger Riverbend and her family have decided to leave Iraq. She writes:

We are choosing to leave because the other option is simply a continuation of what has been one long nightmare- stay and wait and try to survive.
It's difficult to decide which is more frightening- car bombs and militias, or having to leave everything you know and love, to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain.
Refugees like Riverbend's family won't be welcomed into the U.S.. I guess the 2 million other Iraqi refugees like Riverbend are just "Cut and Run Surrendercrats". They don't understand that freedom isn't free. They don't understand that they must stay in their warzone hell or else the terrorists will follow them to other countries.


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Black Swan Dive 

I don't know why the market keeps rising despite a housing slump and troubling GDP reports of 1.3% It would be lovely to think this trend could continue ever-upwards, but that's not how I'd bet.

Of course, the last time I expressed similar sentiments-- "here's a top!"-- the Dow promptly rose 12% in the ensuing months (despite a severe drop at the end of February that may later be viewed as an early warning sign).

So don't ask me about "Mr. Market". I barely know the chap.


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Jindal and Iraq 

In yesterday's Times Picayune, there was a front page reprint of an AP article on the troop withdrawal legislation passed by the Democratic Congress. In the attached "Roll Call" insert box there is a list of how Louisiana's Representatives voted on H.R. 1591. But, for whatever reason, the Roll Call box neglected to document how Rep. Bobby Jindal voted on H.R. 1591 -- "The U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Act 2007". Through other sources I found that Jindal dutifully followed the GOP party line, and voted "Nay" on the resolution. I found it strange, though, that the T-P article didn't list Jindal's "nay" vote, while it listed every other Representative's vote. Must've been an oversight.

So, yesterday afternoon I called Jindal's local office to ask how he voted and what his position was on the bill. The person I spoke with didn't know what I was referring to, and told me to call his D.C. office. When I called them they put me on hold while they "checked" on what his position was, and how he voted. After a surprisingly long wait, they said they didn't have any information at that time about his vote or his stance, and that they would send me a letter explaining his position.

In terms of constituent services, that was not very impressive.

It might be interesting to go back to June 16, 2006. That was the day when Jindal voted FOR House Resolution 861, which declared that "the United States is committed to the completion of the mission to create a sovereign, free, secure, and united Iraq". That was a pretty big commitment then, and still is today. Based on that "Yea" vote, it would seem that Jindal was part of the "victory is the only exit strategy" camp. But then, interestingly, after the November elections Jindal was asked about the War in Iraq in this interview . Here's what he said:

For quite a while, I've been reminding the administration of the President's own ideas when he ran against Al Gore -- when the President said that he was not for using the American military for nation-building.

I continued to remind them of that because he said that six years ago on the campaign trail and I agreed with him then. It's certainly a good thing that Saddam (Hussein) is gone, but, I also think that we certainly need to be aggressively shifting responsibility to the Iraqi people.

I don't think our troops need to be there forever. I don't think we can force the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds to live together if they don't want to live together peacefully. They have to decide that for themselves.

What happened to Jindal's commitment to a "secure, united Iraq"? What if Iraqis decide to *not* be a "united" country? Do we force them to unify if they want to split in three? And if Jindal sincerely thinks we need to be "aggressively shifting responsibility" to the Iraqis, what's wrong with a timetable to lessen the "nation-building" burden our troops are currently bearing?

As hundreds of South Louisianan U.S. Marines ship off to the deadliest province in Iraq, one is led to wonder: what precisely is Jindal's view about the Iraq war? Is supporting the current "surge" strategy consistent with Jindal's belief that troops should not be used for nation-building? Is it inconsistent for Jindal to vote in favor of a resolution declaring an open-ended U.S. commitment to a "united Iraq", and then say that Iraqis have to decide for themselves how to live together? How can one be against nation-building, but pro "Surge"? And how does voting against timetables and deadlines help aggressively transfer responsibility to the Iraqis?

(Not to mention that the Democrats' timetable resolution also included much needed Gulf Coast Recovery funds. But we won't dwell on that ephemera right now.)

In the post-election interview, Jindal also expressed his "hope" that the Bush administration would listen to the Baker/Hamilton Panel's recommendations on Iraq. The panel's recommendations included "withdrawing nearly all U.S. combat units from Iraq by early 2008". That's basically what the Dems were proposing in H.R. 1591. But the President didn't heed the panel's recommendations (or the Dem's solutions), and, based on his voting, neither did Representative Jindal.

Once again, our naive, "ever-hopeful" Jindal is on full display. What is the basis for his continued faith in Bush? How many times does Jindal have to get his hopes dashed by the White House before he gets a clue? Does he honestly think Bush cares one bit about Jindal's views on nationbuilding as long as he keeps dutifully voting "for" Bush's surges and "against" the Dems' timetables? Hell no. Of course, Jindal could instantly get the White House's attention if he started voting his conscience rather than how he's instructed. But I guess that's not gonna happen: he has gubernatorial ambitions, and issues like the War in Iraq have been placed on the backburner. At this point "Iraq" is a political nuisance for Jindal, whose eyes are on the Governor's Mansion.

But for many South Louisianans right now, the war is one of their top concerns. They have loved ones who are being shipped off to the deadliest province in Iraq, into a quagmire that has lasted longer than WWII. I hope Jindal's office does a better job answering their questions about Jindal's votes and views than they did mine.

I can't wait for that explanatory letter to arrive. I'm imagining the contortions Jindal will have to perform in order to seem even mildly consistent:

Rep. Jindal believes that more troops should be sent to Iraq but insists none of them should stay there "forever".

Rep. Jindal believes that we should "aggressively" shift responsibility to the Iraqis, and do so without firm deadlines, ultimatums, metrics and consequences.

Rep. Jindal believes that troops should not nationbuild Iraq. He is also committed to a "sovereign, free, secure and united" country somehow emerging from the current sectarian civil war (which followed a Stalinist tyrant's longtime reign).

Rep. Jindal believes repeatedly reminding the President about his views from 1999-- while voting with his current foreign policy every step of the way-- will have any positive effect whatsoever.

Update: A google search for "Iraq" at Bobby's web sites yielded 0 results.


Update 2: Here's a snippet from the T-P article on Bush's January announcement of his decision to ignore the Baker Panel and instead order a troop "surge" into Iraq:

Both Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-Kenner, and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., declined to take a position on the central thrust of Bush's prime-time announcement: that he was sending more U.S. forces into the Iraqi battle zone.

Jindal, who declined an interview request, issued a circumspect statement after the speech calling for a "sea change" in U.S. strategy, although he didn't explain what he had in mind.

"President Bush's comments tonight indicate that he understands that a change in strategy is needed," said Jindal, a second-term congressman mulling a run for governor this year. "The military commanders on the ground in Iraq must determine the best way for us to be successful and bring our troops home soon."

Inquiries seeking clarification on Jindal's position -- specifically whether he supported or opposed adding 20,000 more troops -- went unanswered.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bush's "Puppy Dog" view of Terrorism 

Via Americablog, we found this op ed by Richard Clarke. He writes:

Does the President think terrorists are puppy dogs? He keeps saying that terrorists will "follow us home" like lost dogs. This will only happen, however, he says, if we "lose" in Iraq.

The puppy dog theory is the corollary to earlier sloganeering that proved the President had never studied logic: "We are fighting terrorists in Iraq so that we will not have to face them and fight them in the streets of our own cities." . . .

How is this odd terrorist puppy dog behavior supposed to work? The President must believe that terrorists are playing by some odd rules of chivalry. Would this be the "only one slaughter ground at a time" rule of terrorism?

Of course, nothing about our being "over there" in any way prevents terrorists from coming here. Quite the opposite, the evidence is overwhelming that our presence provides motivation for people throughout the Arab world to become anti-American terrorists.
In the real world, by choosing unnecessarily to go into Iraq, Bush not only diverted efforts from delivering a death blow to Al Qaeda, he gave that movement both a second chance and the best recruiting tool possible.

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"Just the way it is" 

President Bush's biggest verbal insult to the military will always be his "Bring'em on" comment, where he explicitly invited and encouraged enemy attacks on our troops. It's going on 4 years and 3000 American deaths in Iraq since Bush said,

There are some who feel that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: Bring'em on. We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.

Two years ago, Bush made a much subtler insult, this time to atheists (including those in uniform) when he said:

I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say that you're not equally as patriotic if you're not a religious person. I've never said that. I've never acted like that. I think that's just the way it is. On the other hand, I don't see how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord.

At the time I responded: "what an insult to all the nonbelievers serving in Iraq! Especially to those who might one day run for political office".

After 9/11, Pat Tillman gave up a $3 million Pro Football contract to become an Army Ranger and fight Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. When he was killed in a "friendly fire" fratricide in 2004, the Army covered it up. Then some army commanders disparaged the Tillman family's non-religious beliefs because they weren't satisfied with the investigations of the coverup. Here is how Pat's mother, Mary Tillman, responded to the disparagement:

Pat may not have been what you call a Christian. He was about the best person I ever knew. I mean, he was just a good guy. He didn't lie. He was very honest. He was very generous. He was very humble. I mean, he had an ego, but it was a healthy ego. It is like, everything those [people] are, he wasn't.

So, to review: President Bush is careful not to say that atheists are less patriotic than religious people*, even though he believes "that's just the way it is". Also, Bush doesn't think an unreligious person (like, say, Thomas Jefferson) can be President. A visual might help.

This religious man is Patriotic:

This unreligious man who gave his life for his country is not "equally" as patriotic as others who are religious.

This religious man is Presidential material:

This nonreligious man is not Presidential material:

During a wartime draft, this man gave up chearleading to defend Alabama airspace from the Viet Cong.

After 9/11 this man gave up a million dollar football contract to fight Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

"Everything those people are, he wasn't."

* except when he does interviews with the Washington Times, apparently.

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Does the good outweigh the bad at We Saw That? 

We like the style of We Saw That, and the perceptive analysis of some political news stories. Many other bloggers of all ideological stripes link to the site, as well.

But-- and it's a huge "but"-- the "analysts" at We Saw That sometimes indulge in some of the craziest, stupidest conspiracy bullsh*t around. It's disturbing and embarrassing.

For example:

Rhodes scholars like Jindal are Communists

Catholics aren't Christians

Obama is a Zionist puppet

"Zionism will crucify [us] on a bloody cross of avarice"

9/11 conspiracy garbage

Countless links to this anti-semitic, wack-ass judicial inc. site

I assume most of the visitors to this site are smart enough to separate the good from the bad, and understand that I don't necessarily hold or endorse the views of bloggers I link to... but, like I said, it's embarrassing. Does anyone else feel the same way?


Update: We Saw That responds here.


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Mental health crisis 

A local Fox 8 news report by Sandra Gonzalez described a new facet of the region's "mental health care crisis":

Clash over space for mental health patients

The region's mental health crisis has now escalated into a clash between police and University Hospital. Tuesday was the breaking point for the hospital, when most of its emergency room beds were occupied by patients suffering from mental health problems. They blame police. Police say they are divvying up the load.

It's no secret. The region is in a mental health care crisis. There are not enough beds to go around for people suffering from mental illness. And now there is a clash over space and who's responsible for this shortage.

University Hospital, which is still being reconstructed nearly two years after the storm, has 23 beds in its emergency room. When 18 of those beds were given to people diagnosed with mental health problems, the hospital's C.E.O.,Dr. Dwayne Thomas said that's the last straw.

Police say they have a job to do too, and can't call to see what hospital has space. "We don't have the time to do that. We are not a triage unit. We are the police, and our job is to simply transport people and get them there safely," Arey said.

In the meantime, the hospital is making arrangements to move at least 8 mental health patients into another part of the building to open some space in the emergency room. The city's Homeland Security Director says the state is at fault for not supplying enough beds for mental health patients in the region.

University Hospital tell us it is trying to lease more than two dozen beds through Children's hospital which recently acquired the former DePaul hospital in Uptown.

My sources tell me that, despite the dire need, there's going to be some NIMBY opposition to converting the former DePaul hospital into a clinic for mental health patients, even temporarily. I guess they're worried mental patients will escape and terrorize homes around Audubon Park. They'd prefer such people run rampant in other neighborhoods, I suppose.


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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A dozen years ago I wanted to be a college professor 

... I'm glad that desire passed.


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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

But it's only housing 

As if the New Orleans rental market wasn't tight enough right now, and as if some African American evacuees haven't had enough of these problems already, we learn that 57% of landlords in the metro area discriminated against prospective African-American tenants in a recent study.

The sample size of this study is too small in my opinion, but I have no doubt that a larger sample would yield similar results, if not worse. Frankly, most of the landlords I've spoken to have eventually admitted to one discriminatory practice or another. From my experience, such discrimination by landlords is rampant and widespread. Sometimes it is blatant, and other times it is more subtle. But rest assured, it's not a rarity. Granted, there are many white New Orleans-area landlords who are "colorblind" and treat all potential tenants with a rigorous uniformity. Sadly, though, most don't.

My wife Lovely discovered how bad it was a couple of years ago. One time during lunch hour an African-American colleague of hers was looking for a new residence, and was calling about various rental apartments that were advertised in the paper. He spoke with one landlord about a rental apartment in a desirable neighborhood and was informed that it was no longer available. However, something in the landlord's voice was suspicious, and he decided to drive to the apartment's address and verify that it was occupied. He peered through the windows of the apartment, and found that it was completely empty. So, he came back to the office and told everyone about what he saw. One of Lovely's female African-American colleagues was irritated by this circumstance, and decided to find out what was up. She proceeded to affect a white accent, and called the same landlord, and expressed interest in the same apartment. This time-- surprise!-- the apartment was immediately available and the landlord wanted to schedule an appointment for "Becky" to tour it in person.

This sort of thing happens every day. But, it's only housing.

And Imus got fired for using rapper slang, so it all more or less evens out in the end.

Also, Scout has a "housing" story thay you need to see.

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"National interest requires this restoration" 

Regarding the story below, Jarvis DeBerry writes:

I welcome this new opportunity to inform outsiders that they don't know as much about New Orleans as they believe they do. Those who make no distinction between New Orleans' many neighborhoods and aver that the whole city is lower than sea-level need to be corrected. The truth is more helpful than a lie.

At the same time, it's still important to hammer home another truth: The fact that a home was built below sea level -- as mine was -- does not mean that home cannot be protected. Conversely, the fact that a home is above sea level does not mean it's safe from the government's engineering fiascoes.

The Dutch, who once considered New Orleans engineers to be the foremost authorities on flood control, have since built flood protection systems they expect to fail -- at most -- once every 10,000 years. And still they push to make those systems more reliable. Our government officials emit a long, low whistle when it's pointed out how many billions it will take to really protect New Orleans.*
When it comes to protecting this area, we may never be able to persuade those who think they know it all that it can be done. But we need to say it anyway. There are whole cities in The Netherlands below sea level. Half of New Orleans isn't. The fact that we're the ones more afraid of flooding means there's something wrong -- with this country.

Damn straight "we need to say it anyway", Mr. DeBerry. And thank you for doing so! Let us stand with one another, and follow his example.

A recent T-P editorial correctly stated that Louisiana has "a narrow, 10-year window to begin reversing coastal erosion before the job becomes too large and too expensive". That's not a lot of time, especially when so much is at stake. Did you forget how much is at stake? Well, here's a reminder from Newt Gingrich and John Barry from a year ago:

Category 5 hurricane protection for the region, including coastal restoration, storm-surge barriers and improved levees, would cost about $40 billion--over 30 years. Compare that with the cost to the economy of less international competitiveness (the result of increased freight charges stemming from loss of the efficiencies of the port of New Orleans), higher energy prices and more vulnerable energy supplies. Compare that with the cost of rebuilding the energy and port infrastructure elsewhere. Compare that with the fact that in the past two years, we have spent more to rebuild Iraq's wetlands than Louisiana's. National interest requires this restoration. Our energy needs alone require it. Yet the White House proposes spending only $100 million for coastal restoration.

You can tell this was written over a year ago because the phrase "Category 5 hurricane protection" is used. That's taboo now.

Schroeder has more on how climate change complicates flood protection for S. Louisiana. He says: "New Orleans is the test case for how well the United States is prepared to tackle global warming in the future."

* We were recently informed by the Gulf Coast Reconstruction Czar that there is "no doubt in his mind" that President Bush is committed to funding 100 year flood protection-- the bare minimum to meet national flood insurance requirements.

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51% of New Orleans is at or above sea level 

The most important New Orleans news story over the weekend was unquestionably this Times Picayune front-pager titled "Higher Ground":

"Contrary to popular perceptions, half of New Orleans is at or above sea level," according to the study by Tulane and Xavier universities' Center for Bioenvironmental Research.
"Innumerable media reports following Hurricane Katrina described the topography of New Orleans as unconditionally below sea level," the study notes. "This oversimplification is inaccurate by half, and its frequent repetition does a great disservice to the city."

I wonder if the media will revisit Utah Senator Bennett's comment that "Building a city ten feet below sea level does not strike me as inherently, basically a good idea... "

Will National Geographic correct its pre-storm claim that "Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level"?

Hell, I wonder if even the tourist-oriented NewOrleansOnline "fact sheet" can be updated for more accuracy? Currently, it states:

New Orleans is below sea level. Depending on what part of town you are in, you can be from 5-10 feet below sea level. Generally speaking, the closer you are to the river, the higher the elevation.

Is that misleading, or what? It should read: "The majority of New Orleans is above sea level. Depending on what part of town you're in, you can be 5-10 feet above or below sea level."

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Blunder Wall 

Iraq Prime Minister Al-Maliki orders U.S. military to stop construction of a wall surrounding a violent Baghdad neighborhood. Building walls was one of the tactics the U.S. military had used to quell sectarian unrest in recent months. It's obviously a draconian measure, but sealing off certain neighborhoods had reduced death squad violence in some cities in Iraq. Progress was being made in those neighborhoods; security was improving .

I guess Prime Minister al-Maliki gets a line item veto on the tactics we use in the "War on Terror".

Remember: Cleric Al Sadr is the principle supporter of Al-Maliki. And Death Squads associated with Al-Sadr frequently raid neighborhoods and kill Sunnis (and vice versa). This wall would've helped protect a Sunni neighborhood from such threats, but (shia) Prime Minister Maliki ordered the U.S. Army to stop the wall's construction.

But, of course, it's the American liberals and the media who really tie the U.S. Army's hands behind its back. They're always to blame. It's decidedly not Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki, who is supported by radical cleric Al Sadr, who is supported by Shia death squads who battle the Sunni "Omar" brigades...

While we blame the liberals and the media, I wonder what other U.S. Army tactics Maliki will "veto"?

To review: we're betting a trillion tax dollars and thousands of American lives that we can nation-build a sustainable, sovereign, free, secure, and united democracy out of this tribal/ethnic/religious witch's brew in Iraq... unless Maliki objects, of course; and before we break our army, of course; and... and...

The reasons why this "surge" won't work are multifarious and profound. The chances of us finding a long-term military solution to the Iraq morass are terribly slim, and have been for some time.

Reality-based counter-arguments welcome.

Background here.

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The Chronicle of Higher Education reported:

Virginia Tech will award posthumous degrees to the students killed by Cho Seung-Hui in Monday’s shootings.

That's a nice gesture to the deceased, to be sure. But what about Seung-Hui Cho's roommates? Do they get straight A's this semester because Cho committed suicide, or is that policy invalidated because he killed 32 and injured 29?


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