Wednesday, June 06, 2007


After "a combined 95 years of living in greater New Orleans", John Vinturella and his wife are moving to Cincinnati.

Update: A Hearn quote about sackcloth and Ashes comes to mind, but I'll refrain.


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Nailing it 

Greenwald's "The great right-wing fraud to repudiate George W. Bush" gets it precisely right, with help from a very candid analysis by "Crunchy Con" Rod Dreher, whom Greenwald quotes:

[It] seems to me that we conservatives need to avoid falling into a historical revisionism that allows us to portray ourselves as passive victims of a feckless president.

[As] the last wheel comes off [the Bush] presidency, and the GOP comes to grips with what this presidency has meant for the Republican Party and the conservative movement, there will be a strong temptation to resist owning up to our own complicity. Success has a thousand fathers, after all, and failure is an orphan. This failure is not President Bush's alone. The Republican Party owns it. The conservative movement, with some exceptions, owns it....

It doesn't take much courage to stand up for conservative principle to a president as weak as this one has become. It would have taken real courage to stand up for conservative principle in 2002, 2003, 2004, even early 2005. How many did?...

It is tempting to blame Bush for everything. But it's not fair, and it's not honest. Bush is today who he always was. The difference is we conservatives pretty much loved the guy -- when he was a winner.

Heh, indeed. Read Greenwald's entire piece.


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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Yesterday you probably heard the good news about the foiled terrorist plot to blow up jet fuel supply tanks and pipelines at New York's JFK Airport.

I love the response at Hairy Fish Nuts:

You mean these assholes didn't fly to Iraq to throw themselves on the flypaper? I guess they didn't understand that's what they were supposed to do, stupid terrorists.

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Dollar Bill indicted 

When I learned that Rep Bill "Cold Cash" Jefferson (D-LA) was finally indicted on 16 federal charges including racketeering, soliciting bribes and money-laundering, I thought back to his re-election over Karen Carter last fall. Back then I said:

What an embarrassment-- and just think, this little snafu will pale in comparison to the bad press Jefferson will get when he is indicted this spring and eventually goes to trial, and damning testimony is aired, and he "honorably" refuses to heed calls for his resignation. If Dollar Bill thought his last campaign was "grueling", well, he'll have a whole new appreciation for the word after the next 18 months or so. And the media stormcloud which chronicles Jefferson's legal travails should help his district's recovery.... [Borat pause] .............. Not!

I concentrated my blame on the West Bank voters who voted for Jefferson over Carter (70-30%). Back then I said:

Southern Louisiana is fighting for its life, and it needs federal help to attract federal tax dollars to repair levees and wetlands on both banks. To the rest of the country, Appearance is Reality. They perceive Jefferson as corrupt. Both parties in Washington D.C. perceive him as corrupt, and expect that he will be indicted next year. The Dems have stripped him of his Ways and Means committee seat, and he is the GOP's favorite example of corruption. He was rated as the least effectual member of Congress. Jefferson is stubbornly committed to staying in office even after getting indicted-- an eventuality he expects to happen. We may see a sitting Congressman on trial; a Congressman from a region that is trying desperately to repair its corrupt reputation while it repairs its flood protection and economy. These are Meta-issues that should trump any particular "local" issues.
Yet none of these "Meta-issues" about Jefferson's reputation and future ineffectiveness seemed to matter to most West Bank voters, who were largely outside of Jefferson's "machine". I believe a decisive portion of West Bankers decided to vote for Dollar Bill because it was in Derrick Shepherd's long-term interest, or because of Karen Carter's comments in Spike Lee's film (that were widely promoted by Sheriff Harry Lee's anti-Carter mail campaign).

Busting a political machine is not an easy job. I totally understand the votes from people in Jefferson's New Orleans network; they must remain blindly loyal to the end. Same goes for Jefferson's top supporters: Mayor Ray "Politics of the Past" Nagin, and DA Eddie Jordan. Nagin and Jordan's supporters also did what they were told; Jefferson helps "their guy", so they held their nose and voted for him. But what I don't understand are "strategic" conservatives and West Bankers who were outside the machine and still voted for the "crook" over the liberal. They couldn't support a "junior Hillary" socialist so they reelected Dollar Bill because he'd be a thorn in Pelosi's side, and a "great boon" to the GOP (among other things). Suddenly issues like abortions and gays and dehydrated evacuees crossing a bridge became front and center for a populace suffering from the worst natural disaster in the nation's history. Suddenly the "swing vote" groups that held the key to this election believed they would have no say in future elections. ("Better another 18 months of Jefferson rather than 20 years of Karen Carter" was the reasoning-- the same sort of twisted logic "Couhig Conservatives" used to support Nagin over Landrieu). An unfamiliar liberal scared them more than a fraudulent, racketeering, money laundering crook who was committed to staying in office during his trial.

In my next post I'm going to do a profile of State Senator Derrick Shepherd, the West Bank's "favorite son". This spiritual character has built his own Marrero Machine, and many West Bankers re-elected Jefferson because it improved Shepherd's future chances of being "promoted", yet again, to higher office (after the inevitable indictment).

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Monday, June 04, 2007


The Wall Street Journal reports:

When the Bangladesh army intervened to abort a flawed election in this Muslim nation of 150 million in January, the U.S. and United Nations both offered tacit support for the coup.

But now the army-installed caretaker government is back-pedaling on its pledge to organize a quick, clean vote and then relinquish authority. And the once-bloodless coup is turning into something more sinister. Since January, an estimated 200,000 people, including hundreds of leading politicians and businessmen, have been jailed under emergency rules that suspend civil rights and outlaw all political activity. According to human-rights groups, scores of others, seized by the troops in the middle of the night, have been tortured to death or summarily executed.

Bangladesh's new rulers insist the crackdown is needed to reform what international watchdogs such as Transparency International have frequently ranked as the most corrupt nation on Earth....

But critics say the outcome amounts to this: With the support of the U.S. and the international community, what used to be the world's second-largest Muslim democracy, after Indonesia, has turned into the world's second-largest military regime, after Pakistan.

Everything I've read about Bangladesh (which isn't much) indicates the country is a snakebit basket case. They're either getting flooded, or their government is screwing them over with graft and corruption. (That sounds familiar, actually.) So maybe this military coup really was the "best" option, all things considered. I don't know. But the United States' record in these areas is rather hideous. Consider that our best covert "coup" achievement in the 1980's was supporting the Afghani mujahadeen against the Soviets. It helped bring down a superpower. But a decade later some of the outposts we built in Afghanistan were being used by bin Laden to train Al Qaeda recruits.

For now let the record show that-- despite Bush's pretty rhetoric about promoting freedom and ending tyranny-- his administration supported a military coup against a Muslim democracy, which installed a "temporary" dictatorship that might last years (or decades). Bangladesh's population is about six times the size of "liberated" Iraq's population.

Speaking of Iraq:

The pace of American troop deaths increased this weekend as 14 more servicemen were reported killed in Iraq... Twenty-one soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were wounded.

The makeshift bomb blasts were part of a brazen series of attacks throughout the country by Sunni Arab insurgents, Shiite fighters of the Mahdi Army and other gunmen using rifles, rockets, huge bombs and chlorine canisters. ...

At least 15 American servicemen were killed in the first three days of June, a pace that exceeds the daily fatality rate in May, when 127 troops were killed. May was the deadliest month since the invasion of Falluja in November 2004.

In the northern city of Mosul, a Christian priest was gunned down as he left his church after Sunday services. In Baghdad, a director of the Iraqi Central Bank and his brother were shot to death in the dangerous neighborhood of Ameel. Thirty-one bodies were found scattered about the capital, where sectarian murders are once again on the rise.

In Iraq, we invaded and occupied a Muslim country to remove a dictator and promote democratic elections. Civil war resulted.

In Bangladesh, we tacitly approved a military dictatorship so that "flawed" elections in a Muslim country could be voided. Massive human rights abuses followed.

As President George W. Bush said on 1/20/05:

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors
It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

Freedom isn't free, y'all.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

"Where efficiency and maximized profit are not the civic religion" 

Scout picked out a great excerpt from Dan Baum's final New Orleans Journal piece. (Baum's "N.O. Journal" is probably the most perceptive New Orleans blog of all time; certainly the best written.) Here's a slice:

The city’s unique appreciation for the present makes life there rich indeed...
New Orleans endures as the national repository of the loose-jointed Huck Finn spirit we Americans claim to cherish. While the rest of us pare down our humanity in service to the dollar, New Orleans is a corner of America where efficiency and maximized profit are not the civic religion. As I drive past endless repetitions of Wendy’s, Golden Corral, Ethan Allen furniture, Jiffy Lube, Red Lobster, and the like on my way back to Colorado, I realize that I haven’t spent a dollar anyplace but locally owned business in four months. A long time ago, David Freedman, the general manager of the listener-supported radio station WWOZ, described New Orleans to me as a kind of resistance-army headquarters. “Everyplace else in America, Clear Channel has commodified our music, McDonald’s has commodified our food, and Disney has commodified our fantasies,” he said. “None of that has taken hold in New Orleans.” In the speedy, future-oriented, hyper-productive, and globalized twenty-first century, New Orleans’s refusal to sacrifice the pleasures of the moment amounts to a life style of civil disobedience.

Today, I'll be living richly in the moment with family and friends at the Freret St. Festival.

My birthday was Thursday, but I didn't really acknowledge it here at YRHT. It felt like any other day. But since "any other day" in New Orleans is a celebration, that was more than enough for me.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

"They can make their decisions" 

Today's Washington Post reports:

Today, the first day of hurricane season, few dispute that the city is safer than it was before Hurricane Katrina. But as time passes and rebuilding costs mount, the idea that the federal government will provide protection from the worst of hurricanes here seems ever more remote.

After Katrina's catastrophic inundation, many declared "Never again!" With that message, Congress ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to study how to protect the city from flooding in Category 5 storms, the most devastating on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The idea still has strong political appeal.

"I believe we should order the Corps to achieve Category 5 protection over time," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said during a presidential campaign stop here recently.

But nearly two years after the storm, with the feasibility of protecting the city to that level under study, a project to defend the city from less-ferocious storms is proving far more expensive than anticipated. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has signaled that its commitment does not extend to Category 5 protection.

How far does Bush's "commitment" extend? Only to 100 year storm protection. The Post does a good job of putting that in context:

For any given year, the roughly 1-in-100 chance of a storm overcoming the defenses might sound like attractive odds.

But it is far below local expectations, for several reasons.

The 1-in-100 annual chance means that, over a lifetime, such an event is more likely to happen than not. Moreover, protection against the 100-year storm is far less than would be necessary for a Hurricane Katrina, which is considered a 400-year event, and certainly less than what could withstand a direct hit by a Category 5.

Finally the 100-year protection leaves the New Orleans area at far more risk than other well-known flood projects: The system in the Netherlands, for example, is designed to withstand a 1-in-10,000-year storm, the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee in Florida is designed for a 1-in-935-year event, and the Mississippi River flood works are designed for a 1-in-800-year flood.

Not surprisingly, a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 95 percent of residents here want to see Category 5 protection, even if it costs more.

What I want to know is, who are the 5% of local residents that don't want Category 5 protection, "even if it costs more"? The "Couhig Conservatives"?

In response to questions about better protection for the city, [Gulf Coast Recovery Czar Donald] Powell said the administration is "committed" to the 100-year-flood protection, and says he will support spending more money to get to that level.

Previously, Powell said "the federal government is committed to building the best levee system known in the world". Now he says he will "support" weak Category 3 flood protection-- the bare minimum we need to be semi-insurable.

But [Powell] turned aside questions about Category 5 protection, noting that extensive new studies set to be released this summer will inform residents how likely they are to be flooded when the new 100-year project is finished.

"Then they can make their decisions," he said.

Oh, so that's how it's going to go down. Powell is basically saying: "New Orleans is not going to get more than WEAK CATEGORY 3 flood protection (with partially armored levees and pumps built by Bush cronies). But we will give y'all a map so you can calculate exactly how f*cked you will be the next time the levees or pumps fail, or when a major storm hits the area".

Thanks, Powell. That's mighty white of you.

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Cat 5 study will likely be delayed 

From yesterday's T-P:

Another trouble spot is the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Study, better known as the "Category 5" study, of alternatives for protecting all of south Louisiana from much larger hurricanes. The study is expected to include alternatives for levees and gates to block storm surge, as well as barrier island and wetlands restoration to reduce the height and strength of surge before it reaches the levees.

But [USACE General] Van Antwerp was expected to be told that the study might not be complete by the end of December as required by Congress. That's because of problems with access to a huge state-of-the-art Cray computer at the corps' Environmental Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss., which also is being used for work on the risk assessment, and other Louisiana and Mississippi environmental projects.

After the Federal Flood, the White House resisted every push our state made towards Category 5 flood protection for South Louisiana. They politely listened to Senator Vitter's request for Cat 5 protection, and promptly rolled him under the bus. They listened to Blanco's request for Cat 5 protection, and promptly rolled her under the bus, too. Then, last year, the White House "gutted" the preliminary "Cat 5" USACE report of its specific proposals, and rewrote it to suit their own policy preferences. The Bush administration disingenuously claimed they were waiting to see what "science" said about Cat 5 protection for Louisiana. But when when the "science" began arriving in the USACE preliminary report last year, the Bush administration effectively neutered it. Instead of informing Louisianans about potential flood control projects that would give us hope and enable us to plan our lives better, the Bush administration inappropriately modified and edited the Army Corps of Engineers' report, and replaced any mention of specific solutions with a preliminary "decision matrix".

Now we learn that the Corps' "Category 5 study" will likely be delayed past the December due date that Congress requires. They say they can't get enough time on the supercomputer. Well that predicament should suit the Bushies just fine, for they've resisted the idea of Category 5 protection for South Louisiana at every turn. They don't think we need the highest category of storm protection, and they certainly don't want to pay for it on their watch. So they've been running out the clock ever since the Fall of 2005. Louisianans are paying outrageously high insurance premiums while they watch Gulf waters devour their state. We need help fast. But now it looks as if we'll have to wait a little longer, into 2008, before USACE completes the "Cat 5 report" (which the White House may then edit to suit its own ends). They can't get enough time on the computer, you see. Other projects apparently have priority-- I wonder what those projects are, and who gave them priority.

In any event, let me spare you the suspense about how this will turn out. I predict that, when the USACE report finally comes out in 2008, it will not suddenly transform the Bushies into fervent supporters for Cat 5 flood protection for South Louisiana. No, they will view Cat 5 protection the same way they viewed it back in 2005; as too costly and too complex. President Bush will make no firm commitments or appropriations for Cat 5 levees and wetlands restoration. His adminstration will continue playing "run out the clock" with Louisiana, a stricken state that has no time to lose.

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