Saturday, September 01, 2007

"They love it in great big gobs" 

Mark Schmitt introduces us to Sen Larry Craig's replacement, Lt Gov Jim Risch. After Katrina, Risch said:

Here in Idaho, we couldn’t understand how people [in Louisiana] could sit around on the kerbs waiting for the federal government to come and do something. We had a dam break in 1976, but we didn’t whine about it. We got out our backhoes and we rebuilt the roads and replanted the fields and got on with our lives. That’s the culture here. Not waiting for the federal government to bring you drinking water. In Idaho there would have been entrepreneurs selling the drinking water.

First off, what kind of greedy monster sells drinking water to dehydrated and dying disaster victims who just lost everything in a flood?

Secondly, Mark Schmitt utterly demolishes Risch's historical comparison of the Katrina aftermath to a burst dam the government built for some whiny millionaire ranchers. Hundreds of millions of tax dollars went to build the dam, and $850 million in reparations went to 15,000 Idahoans who lost property when the dam burst (11 people died). Then, hundreds of millions in tax dollars went to fix all of those federally built irrigation systems for those hardy, self-sufficient Westerners who can't even supply their own water.

Schmitt gets to the heart of the matter.

This, not Larry Craig's awkwardly closeted sexuality, is the hypocrisy that matters. This hypocrisy consists not in a failure to reconcile public and private life, but in two public positions that are in absolute contradiction to one another: The belief that people must make it on their own, with no "whining" and no help from government, coexisting with a staggering, slavish dependence on government - and the federal government, and thus taxpayers of the rest of America, in particular.

In a foreshadowing of Risch's comment about the New Orleans victims, the author Marc Reisner, whose 1986 book Cadillac Desert is the finest account of these Western politics, quotes one of the Teton dam's earlier opponents about the culture of this part of Idaho: they "get burned up when they hear about someone buying a bottle of mouthwash with food stamps. But they love big water projects. They only object to nickle-and-dime welfare. They love it in great big gobs."

That is the absolute truth about so many conservatives, especially the "hardy" rural ones. They relentlessly "farm the government" for billions in aid, and comfort themselves by railing against the "dependency" of poor, urban disaster victims huddled in a drowned city.

Yes, I agree this woman is in rough shape... but she didn't have a fiver, so I couldn't sell her any water. It's just that simple. You see, I'm an entrepreneur, ladies. I'm self-sufficient because I earn my money. And if you're too much of a stupid welftard dependent to bring cash to a catastrophe zone, I don't have any sympathy for you. My water is for paying customers only.

Two years ago, among other gratuitous digs on New Orleans, Senator Craig stated that "A rookie cop on the ground in New Orleans, they pay him or her $17,000 starting pay and then wink and say, 'You'd better make the rest of it on the street.'" Looks like Craig's replacement is cut from the same stupid cloth.

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Links and comments 

1. Harry Shearer was excellent in his live interview on Bill Maher's HBO show last night.

2. The front page story in the T-P contrasting the GOP reactions to the Vitter and Craig sex scandals was also a joy to behold.

The different responses have some suggesting a double standard, based on societal discomfort with homosexuality and others questioning whether it had more to do with political calculations.

No kidding.

Vitter acknowledged calling the Washington escort service after journalists found his telephone number in the records of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called "D.C. Madam." Vitter's number appeared six times between 1999 and 2001, while he was a member of the House. He has not been charged.

Oh, it's up to at least six traceable calls, now, is it? (Previously the T-P had reported at least five calls had been made to the "D.C. Madam".)

Most of Vitter's Senate colleagues dodged questions about his wrongdoing and gave him a standing ovation when he apologized to them at a closed-door luncheon. In Louisiana, Republican politicians were quick to offer their support for his record in Congress. Vitter does not face re-election until 2010.

Among House Republicans, Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-Kenner, a candidate for Louisiana governor, so far is the only major Louisiana official to suggest that Craig should quit the Senate.

At the time of revelations about Vitter's connection to the D.C. Madam, Jindal offered a guarded statement saying he was "disappointed" in Vitter's action, adding "This is a matter for the senator to address."

Asked Friday about the disparity in treatment, Jindal spokesman Trey Williams said that "Sen. Craig pled guilty to a crime in a court of law. Any senator that meets that criteria should not hold office."

Vitter's office did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

So, what exactly is the ethical standard the Jindal campaign has set here? No Senator who "pleads guilty in a court of law" should remain in office? Does that only cover the "crimes" Senators commit while serving in office? And does that standard apply to other elected officials, or just Senators?

How should we view Vitty-cent's public assault on a Republican woman while he was State Rep? (He became enraged and threatening when she asked him about rumors that he supported a gay rights bill. Heaven forfend!)

3. In an article about Councilmember Shelley Midura's outstanding open letter to President Bush, the T-P's Frank Donze writes:

It is unusual for the District A member to lead the charge in criticizing a Republican president, as Shelley Midura did this week.

Democrat Midura's defeat of Jay Batt in 2006 ended Republicans' 26-year hold on the District A seat, but it's still strange to hear the representative of the district that includes Lakeview and Carrollton accused of trying "to rile up her liberal base," as one conservative blogger said this week of Midura's "open letter to President Bush."

You know what I find "strange"? Quoting conservative bloggers from Houston, about City Councilmembers in New Orleans. Blogger Owen Courreges doesn't understand that Midura represents the most conservative district in New Orleans. Of course he's going to make "strange" speculations about the motivation behind Midura's open letter to Bush. Instead of observing how so many New Orleans blogs rallied around the letter, and how they cheered Midura's clear debunking of the pernicious $116 billion (or 114 or whatever) talking point that many local bloggers have repeatedly criticized ( and which has obviously made a serious impact among clueless conservatives nationwide)... instead of investigating any of those angles to write about, Donze picks a quote from a conservative Houston blogger and tells us how "strange" it was to read his observations about Midura's attempt to rile up her vast "liberal base" in District A.

Why such remarks were included in the article at all is the "strange" thing.

(For the record, I generally like Donze's reporting, and look forward to his politics articles on Saturdays in the T-P.)

4. The Flaming Liberal alerts us to this item, which indicates that Senator Vitter might not be the biggest or most serious name in the D.C. Madam's black book.

Citizens for Legitimate Government (CLG) has learned that so-called DC Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, filed a pro se "Motion for Pretrial Conference to Consider Matters Relating to Classified Information" under the Classified Information Procedures Act.

This filing alerts the government that Palfrey's defense will likely involve the disclosure of evidence and identities presently deemed "Classified" by the U.S. government.
[Palfrey says:] "There is something very disturbing and I would daresay highly secretive about the existence of my truly bizarre case. And I intend to uncover exactly what this is here."

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Conservatives celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the Federal Flood 

John Hawkins from Clownhall:

Two years after Katrina, everywhere you turn, there are people carping, whining, and kvetching. Just why hasn't the pity party for the citizens of New Orleans run out of booze and chips yet? [...]

Let me tell all the citizens of New Orleans something that should have been told to them 18 months ago: it's time to stop playing the sympathy card and get over it.

Nobody is owed a living for the rest of his life because he had a bad break two years ago. Yet, we still have people affected by Katrina who have FEMA paying their rent. How sad and pathetic is it that these shiftless people are still leaching off their fellow citizens? Since when is being in the path of a hurricane supposed to give you a permanent "Get Out of Work Free" card?

If no one is "owed a living" after a "bad break", then I guess the $1.1 million in average compensation to the 9/11 families should be returned, then. But I must warn you: don't expect New Orleanians to give up their "permanent Get out of work free cards" without a fight. We love those cards, and the street value on those things is insane.


GOP presidential hopeful Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) said Friday it is "time the taxpayer gravy train left the New Orleans station" and urged an end to the federal aid to the region that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina two years ago. [...]

"The mentality that people can wait around indefinitely for the federal taxpayer to solve all their worldly problems has got to come to an end," said Tancredo.

Near my desk, I have a bottle of brownish "gravy" that I scooped up from the floor of my federally-flooded house in November of 2005. It has aged well. If Tancredo would like me to use this gravy to prepare a dish for him, I would be happy to do so.

Joseph Farah of WorldNutDaily:

To the people who think of the federal government as some big insurance agency that makes everyone whole following disasters of every sort, I have an even harsher message: Farah to race-baiters, blame-gamers – drop dead.

I am so sick of hearing about how Hurricane Katrina was a manmade catastrophe. Not so. We have plenty of manmade catastrophes involved with New Orleans. I can name them: Nagin, Obama, Edwards, Clinton. But, I have news for you: Katrina was a real storm. And there are more of them out there with New Orleans' name on it.

Ah ha! The Federal Flood wasn't "man-made", it was "Obama-made". Mystery solved.

Not to be left out, the White House chimes in with this doozy from its "Fact Sheet":

Today, The New Orleans Area Has The Best Flood Protection In History, And Work Continues On Improvements.

"The Best Flood Protection in History"? Well, I guess if it's on the White House "Fact Sheet", it must be a "fact", right?

It's amazing to think that less than two years ago Gulf Coast Recovery Czar promised us "the best levee system known in the world", and "today" New Orleans is already enjoying "the best flood protection in history".

Mission Accomplished!

Update: Ashley responds to a piece written by conservative Steve Chapman of the Chi-Trib editorial board (and who is also featured in Human Events).
Update #2: It's amazing how many people-- many of whom deny climate change and believe the world is 6,000 years old-- consider themselves well-equipped to discuss why New Orleans is "doomed" based on geologic, hydrologic and meteorological grounds. Maybe it's in the Bible somewhere, perhaps in the book of Jobless.

Also, it's amazing how many people-- many of whom wholeheartedly support this President's horrendous nation-building misadventure in Iraq-- are so remarkably fatigued by the Katrina aftermath and its survivors.
Update #3: More lunacy at Wizbang! . Cassy Fiano writes:

We've spent more on rebuilding New Orleans than we did on the Marshall Plan, for crying out loud. At what point does enough become enough? I mean, sheesh.
I'll say it again: shit happens.

Apparently shit happens on a blog, too. New Orleanian Paul from Wizbang! ably responds in the comments. Btw, adjusted for inflation, the Marshall plan cost America about $100 billion, "but as a comparable share of U.S. Gross National Product it would be in excess of $500 billion" in terms of current GNP. People think New Orleans has received a hundred billion because the Bushies have relentlessly linked the two in every statement they make, just like they linked Iraq to 9/11 to argue for war.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

"A difficult position indeed" 

Dead Pelican publisher Chad Rogers says "Those who are crying for Craig's resignation and not Vitter's are in a difficult position indeed."

I agree.

For example, Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bobby Jindal has called on Senator Craig to resign, but not Senator Vitter. Why is that? Last month Vitter was forced to apologize for repeated calls he made to the D.C. Madam. He is currently an "unindicted co-conspirator" who may be called to testify in the D.C. Madam's upcoming trial, where she faces up to 55 years in prison for racketeering and money laundering. Vitter has refused to explain his "sins" with prostitutes (one of them apparently a Congressional staffer, an indirect suboordinate of Vitter's). However, Vitter did vaguely dispute certain "New Orleans stories" (presumably about his affair with French Quarter prostitute Wendy Cortez, and about his patronage of the Canal Street Madam's Brothel).

Jindal says he's currently waging a "war on corruption". He believes that Louisiana must become a "national model for government ethics", and that "Louisiana's long history of corruption and scandal" threatens our state's future. Yet, while he finds time to call for Idaho Senator Craig's resignation, he has not called for Senator Vitter to similarly resign. Why, precisely, is that? Is Jindal serious about his "war", or is he content to fight it with one hand tied behind his back?

Here's what the Idaho Statesman has to say about their Senator:

Sen. Larry Craig needs to resign.
[W]e cannot abide an elected official who didn’t disclose a lewd conduct arrest until the story broke 77 days later — a lie by omission and a violation of the public trust. We cannot believe Craig can effectively serve Idaho, under the shadow of his guilty plea on a lesser charge of disorderly conduct. We cannot afford, as a state with but four congressional representatives, to have a senator who merely provides fodder for bloggers and late-night talk show hosts.
On Tuesday, Craig most needed to talk not about the future, but to instead address his June 11 arrest and his Aug. 8 guilty plea. He offered Idahoans few answers and no reason to provide him the benefit of the doubt.

I think Jindal and other Republicans who have called for Craig's resignation should re-evaluate their response to the Vitter scandal. The above editorial might serve as a good template for their analysis.

Didn't Vitter lie to Christian Ministers during his 2004 campaign for Senate when he met with them and declared that the rumors about him visiting prostitutes were not true? Didn't he violate the "public trust" when he illegally solicited sex again and again and again and again and again? After enduring Katrina, Rita and the Federal Flood, can Louisiana "afford" to have a Senator who provides "fodder for bloggers and late-night talk show hosts? In his apology, did Vitter offer Louisianans "answers", or reasons to give him the benefit of the doubt about all the other rumors and reports?

Now, if it's really all about politics, I suppose Jindal could simply say that he believes Vitter should resign immediately and that Meemaw should agree to select a Republican replacement. Or, if Blanco won't agree to that, he could call on Vitter to resign once Jindal wins election and is sworn in as Governor.

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John Cole clears it all up 

In a splendid Balloon Juice post, John Cole explains GOP family values.

Family Values- Admit to nailing as many prostitutes as you can from New Orleans to Washington, DC, so long as they are female and the governor of your state can not name a Republican in your place.

Not-Family Values- Denying that you rubbed your foot against another man’s foot in a bathroom stall, a clear indication you have teh gay.

Also, John Cole quotes Cap'n Feathersword, who was struck by a strange thought after learning of the coordinated efforts by GOP Senators, the RNC, and the White House to get Craig out of the Senate. Feathersword writes:

However, if the [GOP] party wants to start drawing these lines, then one has to wonder why David Vitter isn’t getting the same push. He didn’t plead guilty in court, but unlike Craig, he openly admits he broke the law and solicited prostitutes. Others serving in Congress at the moment have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors of more import than disorderly conduct without being forced to resign. If morality and credibility are at issue, why isn’t Vitter being held to that standard? It’s either that Louisiana’s Democratic governor would appoint a Democrat in his place, or that Vitter’s transgressions involved heterosexual sex and therefore are less objectionable.

Update: From Chad Rogers' blog we find Russ Douhat's post on the Vitter double standard. Read both.

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Krugman's column: "Katrina all the time" 

Two years ago today, Americans watched in horror as a great city drowned, and wondered what had happened to their country. Where was FEMA? Where was the National Guard? Why wasn’t the government of the world’s richest, most powerful nation coming to the aid of its own citizens?

What we mostly saw on TV was the nightmarish scene at the Superdome, but things were even worse at the New Orleans convention center, where thousands were stranded without food or water. The levees were breached Monday morning — but as late as Thursday evening, The Washington Post reported, the convention center “still had no visible government presence,” while “corpses lay out in the open among wailing babies and other refugees.”

Meanwhile, federal officials were oblivious. “We are extremely pleased with the response that every element of the federal government, all of our federal partners, have made to this terrible tragedy,” declared Michael Chertoff, the secretary for Homeland Security, on Wednesday. When asked the next day about the situation at the convention center, he dismissed the reports as “a rumor” or “someone’s anecdotal version.”

Today, much of the Gulf Coast remains in ruins. Less than half the federal money set aside for rebuilding, as opposed to emergency relief, has actually been spent, in part because the Bush administration refused to waive the requirement that local governments put up matching funds for recovery projects — an impossible burden for communities whose tax bases have literally been washed away.


There’s a powerful political faction in this country that’s determined to draw exactly the wrong lesson from the Katrina debacle — namely, that the government always fails when it attempts to help people in need, so it shouldn’t even try. “I don’t want the people who ran the Katrina cleanup to manage our health care system,” says Mitt Romney, as if the Bush administration’s practice of appointing incompetent cronies to key positions and refusing to hold them accountable no matter how badly they perform — did I mention that Mr. Chertoff still has his job? — were the way government always works.

And I’m not sure that faction is losing the argument. The thing about conservative governance is that it can succeed by failing: when conservative politicians mess up, they foster a cynicism about government that may actually help their cause.

Future historians will, without doubt, see Katrina as a turning point. The question is whether it will be seen as the moment when America remembered the importance of good government, or the moment when neglect and obliviousness to the needs of others became the new American way.



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"It would be different if..." 

On the anniversary of Katrina, Glenn Beck told everyone the difficult "truth" about New Orleans. You see, he'd done his "homework" on the subject, and was gracious enough to share with us the fruits of his intellectual labors. However, he would not sugarcoat THE TRUTH because... he is Glenn Beck, and he has standards. He wouldn't demean his audience with lies or contradictory arguments. So, without further ado, here are some quotes from the CNN transcript of the show, interspersed with my reactions:

BECK: Hello, America. Do not adjust your set, the truth coming your way. Possibly for the first time on Katrina.

Wonderful! It's been a hurricane of untruth after the storm, so I'll be grateful to see the responsible presentation of accurate information to a nationwide audience.

It was two years ago that Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans, and the gulf region. Thousands were left homeless, causing well over $150 billion in damages. And without question, Katrina is the worst national disaster in national history.

Wait. Did you mean to say "natural disaster" there, Beck?

President Bush, Congress responded over $100 billion in aid to rebuild New Orleans.

[Musing to self: How can I craft my reaction to that comment in a way that might be best understood?... Ah yes, I found the words]: Beck, you are a lying scumweasel!

How much do I think should be spent rebuilding New Orleans? Zero. Nothing. Not a dime.

Thanks. Maybe Glenn can host a big dinner for all the New Orleanians who follow his advice and leave town, instead of wasting another "dime" on their doomed homes. They could all celebrate with Beck over green Jello and jazz funeral potatoes, and would no doubt soon forget about the charms of the Crescent City.

Now, the levees were designed to protect New Orleans. They were tragically under-engineered, and they still are. Even as we speak, the city continues to literally sink towards the seafloor.

The protection of the Mississippi Delta continues to wash away with the delta itself. It is disappearing by 25 to 30 square miles, an area the size of Manhattan, each and every year.
President Bush can propose to pledge another $1 billion or hundred gazillion dollars into rebuilding New Orleans. It doesn`t matter. You can`t change New Orleans` doomed geography. As hard as it may be hard to say, or maybe for you to hear, the Big Easy is a lost cause. And we`re throwing good money after bad.

And more importantly, we`re sending people back into a water hole death trap. That`s what New Orleans is.... At the end of the day, Mother Nature always wins.

This is pretty much Sifu Tweety's position on New Orleans, too. Sifu and Beck care too much about New Orleanians, and don't want to see them hurt. For some reason, unlike other "parts of the world" that are sinking or are below sea, New Orleans and South Louisiana are uniquely unsalvageable. Sucks to be us.

Now, it would be different if New Orleans were being built bulletproof for a Category 5 hurricane, like the one that just rocked Mexico just a week ago. But it`s not. New Orleans, the new levees, would be lucky to weather another Category 3, the exact same storm that destroyed it two years ago today.

Wait a second, Huh?! What's this apparent contradiction? After spending his show railing about how we are doomed and more funding wouldn't help, Glenn then says that "It would be different" if we had Category 5 flood protection. Damn straight "it would be different"!

But, if Beck really believes that, then why the hell didn't he devote his show to arguing FOR CATEGORY 5 flood protection? Why didn't he argue for, say, 1000 year storm protection for South Louisiana, or better yet-- 10,000 year storm protection like the Netherlands enjoy? Why did Beck repeatedly claim that N.O. is doomed and shouldn't be funded if he merely believes (like the rest of us) that we need Cat 5 protection and replenished wetlands to survive? That's what his show should have been about: rallying to upgrade South Louisiana's levees and replenish its coastal wetlands. Instead he said we're doomed and shouldn't get more money.

For more information on stronger levees for New Orleans, Maitri provides Tim's powerpoint presentation from the Rising Tide conference here, and Scout has the video of the presentation here.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Powell's vow 

Times Picayune publisher Jim Amoss wrote an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times. In it, he said:

The man-made disaster in New Orleans, caused by the Corps of Engineers' shoddy design of our levees, requires [years of governmental and civilian commitment].

What would a Marshall Plan for New Orleans entail? It would mean a commitment that only the federal government could make -- to restore the eroding coastline and vanishing wetlands of Louisiana, to build levees and floodgates to withstand a 1,000-year storm, rather than the 100-year event now envisioned. It would cost billions of dollars. It would fulfill the promise delivered by President Bush's reconstruction czar, Donald Powell, who vowed after Katrina to build the "best levee system known in the world." It would revive a city that stands at the fulcrum of one-third of the nation's oil and gas and 40% of its seafood, that gave birth to much of our nation's indigenous culture, and that belongs to us all.

I've repeatedly referred to Donald Powell's quote since he made it, but so far the media and most pundits have ignored it. So Amoss's decision to include it in his piece was very heartening to me. Everyone needs to know how drastically the administration has scaled back its promises to New Orleans and the region. The Federal commitment to building "the best levee system known in the world" has instead become a Federal commitment to outfitting New Orleans with so-called "100 year flood protection"-- a level which isn't even appropriate for farmland,, much less a vulnerable urban center. And the President and his Recovery Czar talk about how providing 100 year protection is "meeting their responsibilities" towards New Orleans. I don't think so.

At Rising Tide 2, Tim Ruppert explained why the "100 year level" is often misunderstood, and why it is a woefully inadequate level of protection for the citizens of New Orleans (see vid #2). For example, the Dutch have "10,000" year flood protection for their sub-sea level nation and Londoners enjoy 1,000 year protection from the Thames river. Katrina was roughly a 1 in 400 year event.

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Part of Bush's world 

Greg points us to David Kurtz's TPM post which shows President Bush once again repeatedly referring to New Orleans as a "part of the world".

"[T]he taxpayers and people from all around the country have got to understand the people of this part of the world really do appreciate the fact that the American citizens are supportive of the recovery effort."

"I come telling the folks in this part of the world that we still understand there's problems and we're still engaged."

"We care deeply about the folks in this part of the world."

Re-read those patronizing quotes. They're damnable!

Now, look at the evidence I've compiled here, here and here about Bush's usage of "part of the world". Bush has many very strange speech predilections, but this is one is very revealing to me. It's a subtle, nasty hurtful attack, and if you think Bush is blissfully unaware of phrases that he constantly repeats in particular situations about particular topics... well, you just haven't been paying attention during the past 6 years. If he thinks we like that "part of the world" phrasing, someone should tell him we don't. And if he already knows we don't like it (which seems likely), then... I'd like to show him a part of my American ass he can kiss.

Note: I've made slight edits for clarity after initial publishing.

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Bobby Jindal urges Sen. Craig to resign! 

Think Progress has the link and shows the hypocritical contrast between the GOP reaction to Craig's situation versus its reaction to Vitter's.

I'd love to hear exactly why Jindal thinks Craig should step down, and why Vitter should or shouldn't follow suit.

Remember, Jindal tepidly supported Vitter during his week of scandal hell, and probably infuriated him by abandoning the coordinated talking points Vitter provided to other GOP pols, and instead said that Vitter needed to "address" the prostitution matter. (Hence petty Vitty scheduled his press conference during the day Jindal officially began campaigning for Governor.)

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Why should Craig resign but not Vitter? 

I don't need no steenking bathrooms for my "sins".

The controversy surrounding the stall tactics of Senator Larry "happy feet" Craig has renewed national interest in Senator David Vitter's admission last month that he had "sinned" with prostitutes. Gymnasts everywhere are marvelling at the contortions being performed by some conservative pundits, who are calling for Craig's resignation but not Vitter's.

Both Craig and Vitter admitted to bad behavior that seemed to confirm longstanding rumors about their private lives, which they'd previously denied. In horrendously ineffective press conferences, both Senators had their wives stand beside them as they unconvincingly disputed the full scope of allegations against them. Both also criticized the media and refused to take questions.

Should Craig resign and not Vitty-cent? Both? Neither? Discuss. But please let's not get into the bathroom segregation issue. It's hurtful and demeaning.

No matter what your particular view is, I must note that many Republicans like to point out that Gerry Studds had a gay dalliance (in 1973), and Barney Frank had a pimpin roommate in (1985). For whatever reason, those names became crucial GOP talking points after the Mark Foley scandal surfaced last year. I guess that means that, 33 years from now Dems will be entitled to use the Vitter scandal to excuse the peccadilloes of future Dem pols, as Republicans are doing with Studds.

The intriguing thing about the Frank story is that it first appeared in the Washington Times, a newspaper that also broke other sex scandal stories that have not received similar attention.


Update: Hilarious graphic at 2 millionth.


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Look, up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a crane... no, it's Blakely's ego! 

Months ago, I decided to give New Orleans Recovery Czar Ed Blakely the benefit of many doubts, at least until September came and his promise to have "cranes in the sky" could be evaluated. In a comment to this fine Library Chronicles post, Big Shot informed us that Blakely got a well-deserved skewering on Anderson Cooper 360. If anyone has a link to video of this segment, please let me know. For now, the transcript is brutal enough.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's earned the nickname of master of disaster, after a California earthquake and wildfire. But there are those in New Orleans who say Dr. Edward Blakely is shaping up to be a disaster himself. Among his blunders? Calling the people of New Orleans buffoons after a planning meeting.

MALCOLM SUBER, NEW ORLEANS COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: The question should be, who was the buffoon who hired him?

KAYE: Last December, Mayor Ray Nagin hired Blakely as the city's recovery czar. "Keeping Them Honest," we went to Blakely himself to chart his progress.

(on camera): So, you have been on board since December. What would you say you have actually accomplished since then?

EDWARD BLAKELY, NEW ORLEANS RECOVERY CZAR: Well, first, we have the plan. Secondly, we now have about $500 million we didn't have before.

KAYE (voice-over): That's only half of what he says he needs. Blakely's blueprint for recovery is $1.1 billion. Despite the lack of funds, he says he's made progress. In fact, the way Blakely tells it, he's practically rebuilt the city.

BLAKELY: The LSU complex is another accomplishment. Practically every street in the city is being repaired. That didn't happen before I got here. All the signs are up. The city's running.

KAYE (on camera): Do you think that he deserves credit for a lot of work that has been done?

JEFF CROUERE, NEW ORLEANS RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: That's not Dr. Blakely. I mean, those are initiatives that were really done by the Louisiana legislature and other bodies. I mean, I think what he unfortunately has a tendency to do is take credit for things which really aren't his doing.

KAYE (voice-over): Blakely says he has spent a couple of hundred thousand dollars on a library and supermarket, not exactly the major rebuilding he promised residents.

(on camera): You had promised cranes in the sky by September.

BLAKELY: They're there. They're there.

KAYE: We came here to the very spot Dr. Blakely directed us to, just off Interstate 10, so we could see the cranes that he says are already in the sky for ourselves.

No cranes here.

(voice-over): And no plan, critics charge, to help the poor rebuild areas like the Lower Ninth Ward, just middle-class neighborhoods.

SUBER: It's like seeing people who already got something to eat.

BLAKELY: I'm out in the Ninth Ward at least once a week, working with poor people, making sure they are included.

KAYE: He organizes bike tours, where he says he teaches urban planning to residents. But critics say all the peddling is a joke. Blakely is simply not around enough, they say, traveling to a teaching job in Australia and to speaking engagements around the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being paid $150,000 to do a full-time job and getting half-time commitment was really disappointing to a lot of people.

KAYE: Blakely says he rarely travels anymore, though he was rushing to the airport right after our interview.

BLAKELY: People can say whatever they want, you know. I just have to do my job.

KAYE: When, many asked during our visit, will he start getting results?

Randi Kaye, CNN, New Orleans.



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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Before Sunrise 

Adam Nossiter's report on the 8/29 memorial events in New Orleans is very skillfully written, and not without heart:

There were ceremonies — marches, Masses and speeches — all over town Wednesday. But the city hardly needs an anniversary to help it recall a disaster that upended the life of virtually every resident here. The still-ruined neighborhoods and, beneath the surface, the mental scars, are merely exclamation points for what Hurricane Katrina has become for people in New Orleans: a fixed point of reference around which conversations and lives continue to revolve.

At a memorial ceremony at the Charity Hospital Cemetery, Mayor C. Ray Nagin choked up, evoking “the young who cry every time there’s a hard thunderstorm, because they’re afraid another storm is coming.” Mr. Nagin rang a bell at the precise moment a major levee broke two years ago, and the musician Irvin Mayfield, who lost his father in the storm, played a raucous and angry dirge on his trumpet in the sweltering heat.

Unlike Nossiter, many local news outlets, including the Times Picayune, erroneously stated that Mayor Nagin rang a bell at 9:38am to commemorate "the time the levees began to break two years ago". Actually, the levees "began to break" much, much earlier than 9:38am. Anyone who read Disaster should know that fact. Heck, anyone who read the Metro section of today's Times Picayune should know that fact, too.

In a revision to previous accounts of the Industrial Canal failure during Katrina, a review panel now believes the first section floodwall along the Lower 9th Ward failed at 5 a.m., 1 1/2 hours before sunrise on the day Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, rapidly filling the northernmost section of the neighborhood with 6 to 8 feet of water.

That was some 70 minutes before Hurricane Katrina's eye first crossed land at Buras -- 70 miles to the south -- and well before water in the Industrial Canal reached the top of the 12.5-foot-high wall that was supposed to protect the neighborhood from storm surge.
In the newly released scenario, water in the canal rose, forcing its weight against that first section of floodwall, a so-called "I-wall" near Florida Avenue, and causing it to lean outward toward the homes it was supposed to protect, the report said.

The water never reached the top of the wall, never spilled over.

So next year, if Nagin* wants to ring a bell at the time the "levees began to break", he should do it at 5am, when the Nint' Woid began drowning in the dark.

* or preferably Anita Ward

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Distress signal 


1..Here's the "Katrina story" I wrote after evacuating to Florida.

2. A list of 2nd Anniversary events in the N.O. area can be found here.

3. In other news:
President Bush plans to ask Congress next month for up to $50 billion in additional funding for the war in Iraq...

The request... would come on top of about $460 billion in the fiscal 2008 defense budget and $147 billion in a pending supplemental bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

Update #2:

4. Rising Tide's featured speaker, Dave Zirin, writes an op-ed about New Orleans and Rising Tide 2 in the Houston Chronicle.

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We must never forget... 

... that today is Senator John McCain's birthday!

Good luck with your birthday campaign fundraiser, Johnny Mac! I hear that 71 is the new 40.

(It's amazing to think that today some conservative will write a check to the McCain campaign, and then later mumble something about how New Orleans is "doomed" and such a waste of tax dollars.)

Update: In the comments, Leigh points out that the birthday cake's icing wall is about to breach. Photo is from 8/29/05.


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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Shelley Midura's open letter to President Bush 

An open letter to President George W. Bush:

August 28, 2007

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for visiting New Orleans for the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the worst federal levee-failure disaster in United States history followed by the worst federal disaster response in United States history. We’re also grateful for the $116 billion federal allocation for the Gulf Coast. That $116 billion has served you well, as your spokesmen often cite it as an indicator of your dedication to our recovery. But, it hasn’t served us as well -- it’s not enough, it’s been given grudgingly, and only after our elected officials have had to fight for it. So I feel I must correct the record about you and your administration’s dedication to our recovery and implore you to take action to make things better.

Indeed, you have allocated $116 billion for the Gulf Coast, but that number is misleading. According to the Brookings Institute's most recent Katrina Index report, at least $75 billion of it was for immediate post-storm relief. Thus only 35% of the total federal dollars allocated is for actual recovery and reconstruction. And of that recovery and reconstruction allocation, only 42% has actually been spent. In fact, while your administration touts "$116 billion" as the amount you have sent to the entire area affected by Katrina and the levee failures, the actual long term recovery dollar amount is only $14.6 billion. This amount is a mere 12% of the entire federal allocation of dollars, billions of which went to corporations such as Halliburton for immediate post-storm cleanup work, instead of to local businesses. Contrast that to the $20.9 billion on infrastructure for Iraq that the Wall Street Journal reported in May 2006 that you have spent, and it’s an astonishing 42% more than you have spent on infrastructure for the post-Katrina Gulf region. The American citizens of the Gulf region do not understand why the federal obligation to rebuilding Iraq is greater than it is for America's Gulf coast, and more specifically for New Orleans.

New Orleans has more challenges and fewer resources than we've ever had in my lifetime in the City of New Orleans. Yet, other than FEMA repair reimbursements, the only direct federal assistance this city has received from you has been two community disaster loans that you are demanding be paid back even though no other city government has had to pay back a these types of loans for as long as our research can determine (at least since the 70’s). These loans are being used to balance the city budget to provide basic services to citizens who need far more than the pre-Katrina basics.

Despite this obvious contradiction, your administration blames local leadership for our continued need for federal assistance. But this argument is disingenuous, Mr. President. There are a host of tasks that only you and your administration can accomplish for our recovery. These are some concrete steps you can take to make good on your 2005 Jackson Square promise:

* Completely fix the federally managed levees
* Fully fund our expertly crafted recovery plan
* Give New Orleans all that you have promised to Baghdad - schools, hospitals, infrastructure, security, and basic services
* Forgive the community disaster loans, as authorized by the new Congress
* Appoint a recovery czar who works inside the White House that reports daily and directly to you and whose sole job is the recovery of New Orleans and the rest of the region
* Restore our coast and wetlands
* Work with Congress to reform the Stafford Act
* Cut the bureaucratic red tape

In turn Mr. President, the people of New Orleans are more than willing to do our part. We have already:

* Consolidated and reformed the state levee board system.
* Consolidated and reformed our property assessment system.
* Passed sweeping ethics reform legislation.
* Created an Ethics Review Board.
* Hired an Inspector General.
* Submitted a parish-wide recovery plan.

Much has changed in New Orleans for the better since the storm, and more progress is coming. Civic activism is at an all time high. For the first time in my lifetime, there is an actual reform movement in New Orleans driven by the people. "Best Practices" has become a City Council mantra. We have a new Ethics Board. Our incoming Inspector General, Robert Cerasoli, is considered one of the elite in the Inspector General world, as is our new Recovery Director Dr. Ed Blakely in that world and our Recovery School Superintendent Paul Vallas in the realm of public education. We are attracting the cream of the crop. Young people from around the country seeking to make a difference in their lives are moving to New Orleans to teach in public schools, provide community healthcare, build housing, work for nonprofits engaged in post-Katrina work, and, in general, do whatever they can for the recovery because they all know what I am not so sure that you know, mainly that what happens in New Orleans over the next few years says something about the very heart of America itself.

Mr. President, we are in fact doing our part locally in New Orleans despite contrary comments by your administration. Our intense civic activity and government reform initiatives are serious indicators of our local commitment to do our part for the recovery. But we are drowning in federal red tape. We are being nickel and dimed to death by your Federal Emergency Management Agency. We are resource-starved at the city level. The mission here is not accomplished. What we need is Presidential leadership, not just another speech filled with empty promises. Our recovery's success, struggle, or failure will be intimately woven into your legacy, for better or worse. What Americans think about America is deeply affected by how this country rises to national challenges, none more significant than post-Katrina New Orleans. Fully restoring New Orleans to its formerly unique and permanent place in American culture is this nation's greatest domestic challenge. Your leadership of our country through this difficult time will serve as an American character lesson for future generations.


Shelley Midura
New Orleans City Councilmember
District A



On 8.24.07 the following exchange occurred between a reporter and White House spokesman:

Q: A couple questions on New Orleans. In a lot of very basic way, the city is still in shambles. There are neighborhoods in ruins. There's pervasive crime and homelessness. Bottom line, two years later, why hasn't the administration done more to fix this problem?

MR. JOHNDROE: Well, I certainly disagree with the premise of the question. As I said at the beginning of the briefing, the federal government has provided $114 billion to the region, of which $96 billion has been disbursed or is available to the states.

I think that this was a catastrophic natural disaster that we all know is going to take some time to -- for the Gulf Coast to recover. And there are a lot of good people in the Gulf Coast Office led by Don Powell, working with the states and the local governments. You know, this is a combined effort, combined effort with the private sector involved as well to rebuild New Orleans and the whole Gulf Coast region.

But these sort of things are going to take -- they're going to take some time.

Update #2: Check out Shelley Midura's diary on Kos!

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Know peace, know beast 

Last night, I watched Sexy Beast for like the 4th time. I find it very entertaining. Don't ask me why or how, but some of the scenes and themes in Sexy Beast remind me of Hemingway's Garden of Eden , which I've also read about 4 times.

Anyway, I got a new laugh from the film last night. After the hilarious intro set to the tune of the Stranglers' "Peaches", and during Ben Kingsley's fierce performance, we meet one of the most sinister film characters in recent movie history: Teddy Bass, "Mr Black Magic himself" (played by Ian McShane). There's a shot of Bass in a black robe, walking around his house, about to attend an orgy... and what's on his wall? An orthodox "Christ the Teacher" picture, just like they got in the Slidell courthouse!

Sorry, I know it's all lost in the telling, but I needed to share the kick I got out of that surprise.

For more informed commentary on movies, please visit my friend Mike Miley and my friend the The Cinema Snob.


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Monday, August 27, 2007

Senatorial stall tactics 

Wow, what a complete surprise! Conservative family-values Republican Senator Larry Craig gets caught doing a gay footsie tapdance with an undercover cop in an airport bathroom. Can we get Rep McCrery's (R-LA) or Governor Crist's reaction to this story? Senator Craig plead guilty to disorderly conduct, but he shouldn't have done so. Perhaps, if the undercover cop were black, Craig could've cited racial fears to explain his nervous behavior, like Rep. Bob Allen (R-FL) recently tried to do.

Townhall's Hugh Hewitt says:

I realize that I did not say this about Senator Vitter, but Craig's behavior is so reckless and repulsive that an immediate exit is required.

Anyone who has the stomach to desire sex in some disgusting airport bathroom is made of stronger fiber than I. That's all I gotta say.

You can find some YRHT commentary about Craig and other closeted "family values" Goopers here, here and here. Also, Michael has a visual depiction of recent "Grand Ole Preeverts".

Update: I guess I do have a couple things to ask, since Senator Craig says his actions, which he plead guilty to, were "misconstrued". Based on his arrival and departure gates, how far did Craig go out of his way to visit this particular bathroom which was notorious for anonymous gay sex?

What is Senator Vitter's reaction to Craig's guilty plea? Does he think he should resign from the Senate?

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"We had trouble keeping them in stock" 

Blogenfreude sent me a link to a recent Vitter post at Politico's Shenanigans blog. Here's the juicy part:

Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, the man who pressured Vitter to admit to paying for sex, tells us his investigative journo Dan Moldea has "nailed down evidence that Vitter had sex [with prostitutes] on more than one occasion." Vitter has denied Flynt's claims that some of his New Orleans constituents serviced him.”

Yes, everyone knows Vitty did it more than once. The question is, did he do some "serious sinning" in New Orleans too? I assume that's the angle Moldea has been investigating.

Also, a friend of mine attended a recent "Politics with a Punch" show, which featured Jeanette Maier (the "Canal St. Madam"). According to my friend, someone in the audience asked Ms. Maier about Vitter's rumored diaper fetish, and Maier replied "we had trouble keeping them in stock"!

That's both humorous and interesting since, during the week after the Vitter story broke, Maier went out of her way to tell the T-P that Vitter "was not a freak" and "was not into anything unusual or kinky or weird". Her recent comments seemingly contradict those earlier assertions, and support the infamous "diapers story" which spread from YRHT to Wonkette to James Carville on CNN in a matter of hours.

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Stages on Life's Way 

Kierkegaardian Louisiana State Treasurer John N. Kennedy announces his switch to the Republican Party, positioning him for a run at Mary Landrieu's seat in 2008. Kennedy instantly becomes my favorite Louisiana Republican, though I like Chris Tidmore a lot, too.


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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Thank you 

Heartfelt Thanks to everyone who made Rising Tide 2 a success, and especially to Ashley Morris, who went "balls out" to do more than his share for the conference. Ingratitude may be the unkindest cut, but working all day after a vasectomy isn't exactly a packet of butterscotch, either.

I'm tired from today's RT volunteer effort, but Jeffrey has collected some good links to RT commentary, and Scout has posted video from Tim Ruppert's outstanding presentation on risk and flood protection.

Update: Sophmom has more.


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It's all about the... 

Obama is in town this morning, speaking at a church on Carondelet. I wanted to go and show him my "O" face my support, but had another important engagement (see below post).

Barack recently said that he would, as President, "seek out people like Tom Coburn, who is probably the most conservative member of the U.S. Senate".

Umm. "Yaay for inclusivity and bipartisanship!" I suppose.

Also Obama "did say he is receptive to the idea of a national catastrophe insurance fund, an idea that Florida's congressional delegation is pursuing as a way to help make property insurance available and affordable".



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Thanks to everyone who made RT2 a success 

Join us today to paint A.P. Tureaud Elementary school at 9am. It's located at 2021 Pauger St..

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