Thursday, March 30, 2006

“As Is”

The New Orleans Public School system is auctioning one of their flooded buses on eBay.

If that’s not funny enough, check out these gems from the description:

* Exclusive Limited Offer!!! Own A Piece of History!!!

* Historic 1993 International Blue Bird Orleans Parish Schools Bus #93-97

* Only 147,797 Original Owner Miles.

* Buyer is responsible for shipping/delivery.

* This bus is sold "as is".

* This is a collector's dream come true.

* We will provide a certificate of authenticity attesting that this bus was at the Orleans Parish Schools Almonaster Bus Barn and was flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina!
And this clarification added this morning:
Please understand that this bus has been flooded. It does not run. The title the winner receives will be for salvage. The condition of the vehicle is as one would expect if the electrical connections and substantial portion of the engine had stood in possibly brackish water for [at] least ten days.
The questions are good, too:
Q: Is there any chance that this bus may have been ridden on by any of the famous musical 'graduates' of the NOPS system, such as Juvenile, C-Murder, 504 Boyz, Louis Armstrong, or Delfayo Marsalis? That would certainly increase the value if so. Could it possibly have ever given rides to such other famous NOPS 'alumni' such as B-Stupid or Man Man? Is it possible there may be any leftover drugs or guns or other incriminating evidence left on the bus? Please let us know, it may increase your bids.

A: Due to the vintage of the bus it is unlikely that Louis Armstrong and Delfayo Marsalis rode on it. The others may have but we have no recorded evidence of it. As to drugs, this bus was flooded and the mold has probably eaten all of the drugs by now. As to firearms, this bus was flooded and any likely metal objects are rusted by now. But given what it is, with all its limitations this bus is a tremendous value.

***

Q: I am somewhat curious as to why these school busses, somewhere around 1,000 of them, were left to be destroyed by Hurricane Katrina rather than used to evacuate the residents of New Orleans to higher ground BEFORE the hurricane struck New Orleans? Sounds to me like total incompetence on the part of New Orleans officials. I was just curious, is all. Thank you in advance for your answer. Cc: Sean Hannity Rush Limbaugh

A: FYI - There were 260 buses flooded from Hurricane Katrina. We will not engage in the judgement of competence and/or incompetence of New Orleans officials.
I am glad someone has a sense of humor at NOPS. However, if the school system has already received insurance or FEMA money for the ruined buses and then profits from these sales, would that cause any problems?

UPDATE: I am told there are no problems with insurance or FEMA. Not with the actual bus, or its reasonably hand-drawn facsimile.

You Don’t Have to Go Home

But you can’t stay at the Superdome for the next hurricane:

If a major hurricane threatens New Orleans this year, the city will no longer provide a "shelter of last resort" as it did last year when the Superdome was opened for people who chose to stay or were unable to leave.

"Our goal is to ensure that we create an environment where it makes more sense to leave rather than stay," Ebbert said.
I didn’t see the use of the Superdome as a shelter of last resort as one of our failures during Katrina. If anything, because people stayed at the Superdome and not at their houses, more lives were saved.

Many people did not die the day of the storm. Many died waiting to be rescued in the days after trapped by the floods or were not rescued in time. The rescue effort was already hampered by inadequate planning, lack of resources, and the enormity and complexity of the operation. If the 20,000 people at the Superdome had stayed at their houses, it would have added to the problems, and no doubt would have added to the death toll.

Katrina has taught us where not to be during a hurricane. But, she has also taught us that an evacuation plan with no destination plan or repopulation plan is not a good plan.

The DHS and FEMA were in town this week to talk about a plan. Any discussion of evacuation must end with a destination. An article in the T-P asks, “By rail or bus?” If that is a question the local and state governments are asking, I hope there isn’t a one-way ticket involved.

The government’s performance up to this point has been a de facto one-way ticket for a lot of residents. Contraflow effectively moved the mobile population out before the storm. Although less effective, the rescue operation got people out after the storm. But, there hasn’t been a comparable all-out effort to get people back in.

Now that we know what happens when the levees break, it’s a good idea not to use the Superdome as a shelter of last resort. It served its purpose in the last hurricane. But if the city takes this option away, they need to replace it with an effective evacuation plan that doesn’t need a last resort.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Out of Place

I saw this yesterday coming over the Old Hammond Highway bridge – a big American flag painted on the roof of a church.

It seemed out of place.

Not because it was a splash of red, white, and blue on a backdrop of black, white, and gray. It seemed out of place because it was a symbol of the unity of our nation offset by the most obvious example of how our nation forgot one of its own. While the flag has 50 stars together on one blue background, for three days last year, we were one star. Alone. On our own. Swallowed by the blue.

The year and a half I did not live here, I lived in another country. I was there during September 11, 2001. I watched live on CNN International as the WTC burned, as the second plane hit, and as the two towers fell. I hurt because people hurt. And I hurt more because it was happening in America.

Though I don’t see much use for patriotism, I felt it that day. I felt more American, even living in another country. I felt more connected to my country, even being far from it.

It was fleeting. Our President’s missteps after September 11, 2001, reminded me that patriotism is only good for excusing nationalistic furor. Wrapped in a flag, our President had hoped to justify murder.

It didn’t work. Murder is not an American value. The imperial wars we are fighting around the world do not make me feel more American.

And the flag set in the destruction left by the levee breach does not make me feel more American. It reminds me more of how this part of the world is different from the part of the world that is "American," that America takes care of, that America is interested in. Seeing the flag near the breach reminds me more of conquering armies planting their symbol of victory into the soil of the foreign lands they have laid to waste.

We were at war with America and didn’t know it. And we lost.

Hundreds of Americans died who would not have died if the levees had been built properly. Dozens of them died in Lakeview where this red, white, and blue mural was painted. No one can wrap those deaths in the flag and make it go away.

The United States can ensure Katrina never happens again. If it diverted the resources it dedicates to imperial wars in foreign lands to the Gulf Coast, we would be protected. If hundreds of billions of dollars were dedicated to life rather than death, I would feel more American. I would feel patriotic. I would feel that the American flag was not out of place in New Orleans.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

While We Make Plans...

Entergy has a request:

The three Entergy Corp. utility units in Louisiana will seek a combined $1.35 billion in federal funds to pay for damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita — money the company says is needed to avoid big rate increases for its customers.

***

Without help, Entergy New Orleans has said rates will have to at least double in the city, stymieing economic recovery.
The federal funds Entergy is asking for will most likely come out of the CDBG funds, which would leave less for housing. If Entergy’s needs are to be met, as well as all other non-housing and infrastructure needs, then that $4.2 billion in community development block grants that’s bouncing around Congress right now is essential for the state to go through with its housing plans.

Here’s how Governor Blanco explained it in early March:
We fought hard for the additional 4.2 billion (dollars) in CDBG funding that allowed us to announce our housing plan. If our combined total of 12.1 billion (dollars) in housing and hazard mitigation that comes from FEMA is realized, I will invest it in four key areas: one -- the first area is 7.5 billion (dollars) to owner-occupied housing; the second is 1.75 billion (dollars) to affordable rental properties; the third is 2.5 billion (dollars) to infrastructure; and the fourth is 350 million (dollars) to economic development.
Entergy’s request represents half of that infrastructure number. And notice the figure needed for the housing plan is more than what we have now at $6.2 billion in CDBG money.

The Mayor signed off on his plan to rebuild New Orleans last night. The “Failed Levee Homeowner Recovery Program” is part of that plan, which must be approved by the state. If the state is relying on the extra $4.2 billion to come through for its plan, we can assume that the Mayor’s plan relies on it, too.

Now that we’ve made all these plans, what happens if the $4.2 billion doesn’t go to Louisiana?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A Horror Movie Set in New Orleans

Written, produced, and directed by the Army Corps of Engineers (wmv).

Filmed at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute:

As part of the ongoing IPET study, Rensselaer engineers were selected to build and test small-scale centrifuge models of sections of the flood-protection system from several locations in New Orleans, including the 17th Street Canal and the London Avenue Canal. They are attempting to replicate conditions during Hurricane Katrina by subjecting the models to flood loads.
Let’s hope there is no sequel.

Rebuilding the Gulf Coast with Flood Claims

New numbers:

Congress has agreed to boost the borrowing power of the federal flood-insurance agency, which is fast running out of money needed to meet some 225,000 claims from Katrina and Rita.

The legislation, passed by voice vote in the Senate late Thursday, allows the National Flood Insurance Program to borrow up to $20.8 billion from the Treasury, up from the current ceiling of $18.5 billion.
That’s a little different from what I said before.

Here’s a revised breakdown of money Congress has “committed to rebuild the Gulf Coast”:
* September 2, 2005 – Bush signs $10.5 billion disaster relief bill

* September 8, 2005 – Bush signs $51.8 billion disaster relief bill

* December 31, 2005 – Bush signs defense bill which includes $29 billion in hurricane aid, of which $5 billion is new funds and $24 billion diverted from the already authorized $62 billion.

* March 16, 2006 – House of Representatives passes bill with $19.1 billion in hurricane spending. That's not a final number, yet.

* March 16, 2006 – Congress raises NFIP borrowing limit to pay flood insurance claims to $20.8 billion.
Total to date, including insurance borrowing: $88 billion.

Total to date, not including insurance borrowing: $67 billion. That number hasn’t changed since December.

When the Senate passes the new spending bill, add the final number to both totals.

On the horizon:
Also on Thursday, the House Financial Services Committee approved a bill to improve the financial viability of the NFIP by giving FEMA greater authority to raise rates and increasing fines for non-enforcement of the mandatory purchase requirement. The measure would also increase the program's borrowing authority to $25 billion.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Katrina Cottage Conundrum

Actually, what FEMA does is the conundrum. I just liked the alliteration.

The T-P asks, “Where would you rather live?” Your choices: a “Katrina Cottage” or a temporary trailer.

Obviously, a resident would want to live in the safer and homier Katrina Cottage. And, you would think that FEMA would want that resident to live in the safer and *cheaper* of the two:

FEMA is spending about $75,000 to deliver and install each of the 23- to 28-foot trailers for storm victims. A Katrina Cottage can be set up for less than $60,000, manufacturers say.

And with hurricane season fast approaching, many worry about the ability of FEMA trailers to weather storms. The Katrina Cottage, which under one model would be made of concrete and steel, would be a far safer structure.
Some have already extolled how well the Katrina Cottage satisfies our current housing need.

But, FEMA always has an excuse as to why they are powerless to do the right thing:
The 1974 Stafford Act, which governs the assistance FEMA offers in the wake of disasters, prevents the agency from spending money on permanent residential construction.
Katrina Cottages can be converted into permanent housing. They don’t have to be. But, they can be, so FEMA says they can’t use them.

However, the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (pdf), which amended the Stafford Act, does specify a situation when the federal government can provide permanent housing:
The President may provide financial assistance or direct assistance to individuals or households to construct permanent housing in insular areas outside the continental United States and in other remote locations in cases in which-- (A) no alternative housing resources are available; and (B) the types of temporary housing assistance described in paragraph (1) are unavailable, infeasible, or not cost-effective.
This “plain English” explanation of the amendment definitely makes the Katrina Cottage the clear choice for FEMA:
[The amendment] Explicitly authorizes standing FEMA policy to build permanent housing structures when it is not reasonable or cost-effective to import direct housing units (i.e. Mobile Homes and Travel Trailers).
So, the only reason FEMA can’t provide permanent housing to New Orleans is that pesky geographical requirement of being “in insular areas outside the continental United States and in other remote locations.” Of course, if we accept Bush’s continuing reference to the Gulf Coast as “that part of the world,” then we are *not* part of the USA.

Conundrum solved. Let the Katrina Cottages commence.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Foreseeing the Unforeseen

3/10/06 headline: Corps: Floodwall break caused by unforeseen stresses.

That means the Army Corps of Engineers is off the hook.

3/14/06 headline: Floodwall failure was foreseen, team says.

That means the Army Corps of Engineers is back on the hook.

Today:

The key to learning why the 17th Street Canal floodwall failed during Hurricane Katrina may lie more in what designers didn't do than in what they could have foreseen, experts now say.
To me, that means the Army Corps of Engineers stays on the hook. (I am using “on the hook” here as the opposite of “off the hook” or “free of blame,” although I do realize that “on the hook” probably doesn’t mean “culpable,” though it should, dammit.)

I think the ACE is trying to get itself off the hook. Ed Link, program director for the Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force which is investigating what went wrong with the 17th Street Canal levee and floodwalls, thinks when it comes to foreseeing or unforeseeing, the media is misconstruing his words:
"Our position on this is that, very simply, whoever did the design just did not consider this particular mechanism," said Link, a University of Maryland senior fellow who is head of the corps-sponsored Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force. "We, IPET, made no value judgment whether it should have been considered or could have been considered.

"If that was inferred by our comments, it was inaccurate."
Why would the media infer from the task force’s comments that the levee failure was caused by unforeseeable circumstances?
The executive summary of the task force report, which Link said he wrote without input from the corps, said "this failure mechanism was not anticipated by the design criteria used."

When task force panelists and corps engineers were asked if that meant the design systems used by the engineers of the day could not have foreseen this type of failure, they answered "yes."
That seems more like a clarification than an inference.

Bottom line: If the levee failure was unforeseen, then the government is not liable for the damages caused by the breach. If it was foreseen, then the government is liable. That’s an important distinction.

The Mighty Charity Hospital

I didn’t know this:

Charity Hospital, the cornerstone of the downtown hospital system, was built in the 1830s and, at one time, was the largest hospital in the world.
Wow, at one time the largest hospital in the world. Now:
It opened a triage center in the New Orleans Convention Center immediately after the hurricane and now continues to operate in an abandoned department store, treating about 4,500 patients a month in tentlike facilities.
Why is Charity Hospital important?
Swamped with a twofold to threefold increase in indigent patients since Hurricane Katrina closed Charity Hospital in New Orleans, Jefferson Parish's public hospitals are running alarming budget deficits and begging for help from the state.

Dr. Mark Peters, president and chief executive of East Jefferson General Hospital, speaks in blunt and dire terms about the increase in nonpaying patients as well as escalating labor costs, forces that began taxing the New Orleans area's health care system after the Aug. 29 storm.

"The current health care infrastructure around the city is ready to crumble," he said.
It must suck when you are a hospital and you have to treat everyone who walks through your doors.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Iraq

When is it going to end?

The United States on Thursday launched what was termed the largest air assault since the U.S.-led invasion, targeting insurgent strongholds north of the capital, the military said.

***

"More than 1,500 Iraqi and Coalition troops, over 200 tactical vehicles, and more than 50 aircraft participated in the operation," the military statement said.
Iran.

When is it going to begin?
Undaunted by the difficult war in Iraq, President Bush reaffirmed his strike-first policy against terrorists and enemy nations on Thursday and said Iran may pose the biggest challenge for America.

***

"If necessary, however, under long-standing principles of self defense, we do not rule out the use of force before attacks occur even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack," Bush wrote.
2008 can’t get here fast enough.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Devastation without Representation

In the first round of community development block grants, Louisiana got a little over half of the money ($6.2 billion out of $11.5) with well over half of the destruction to deal with.

Bush pledged another $4.2 billion for Louisiana in the next round to make up for the under-representation. But a House committee refused to specify that money for Louisiana only:

It only took one look down the dais at the House Appropriations Committee hearing last week to persuade U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, to hold off on his amendment earmarking the housing money for Louisiana. Alexander is Louisiana's only member on the key spending committee, where Texas holds five seats.

Alexander said that if he pressed for Louisiana to get a share of the grant money, Texas and Mississippi lawmakers would stake their own claims.
While Texas has the numbers on the appropriations committee, the LRA is showing a slide show with some different numbers:
The slide show, which is based on federally compiled disaster statistics, says that of all of the major flood damage to homes from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, Louisiana suffered 77 percent. It says that a lone neighborhood in New Orleans, Gentilly, suffered more housing damage than the entire state of Texas.
More than houses were destroyed by the hurricanes. There is a lot of need on the Gulf Coast. Everyone should “stake their own claims” and let the numbers decide where the limited resources go – not how much clout a state may have in Washington.

No matter what happens in committees, we need more than assurances that help is coming:
[Alexander] decided to hold off based on assurances he said he has received from the Bush administration that the Department of Housing and Urban Development ultimately will steer the entire $4.2 billion to Louisiana.
Can we get that in writing, preferably written in a supplemental spending bill?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Entergy Wants Some, Too

While you are planning on how we should use the CDBG money, don’t forget that it’s not just for housing:

[Entergy's chief executive officer J. Wayne] Leonard said Entergy had not determined how much money it will request from the Louisiana governor's office in federal community development block grant money that will be dispersed for hurricane recovery.

"We're going to ask for what we need," Leonard said, though adding that Gov. Kathleen Blanco has limited funds to deal with a plethora of major problems.

Unless relief comes, the Entergy system, particularly in New Orleans, faces major rate hike pressure that could stall or kill economic recovery and, in a worst-case scenario, force liquidation of the Entergy New Orleans unit, Leonard said.

"Without the help of community development block grants, particularly in New Orleans, the math just doesn't work," he said.
The math works. The numbers just aren’t big enough.

One President’s Facts...

The White House provides us with a fact sheet on the Gulf Coast recovery.

My two favorite “facts”:

1) “Some $88 billion in Federal aid has been made available for relief, recovery, and rebuilding...” (This is my number one for obvious reasons).

2) “President Bush continues to deliver on the Federal commitment to do what it takes to help residents of the Gulf Coast rebuild their lives.” (Some wonder about that).

There’s a lot of numbers in there, maybe even some more “facts.” Take a look.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Paraphrasing SNL’s Weekend Update

The Army Corps of Engineers says they will be ready for next year’s hurricane season...

...as long as there are no hurricanes.

Laugh? Or cry? I laughed.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Why I Love New Orleans Part II

Kimberly Williamson Butler, upon being released from prison:

"I represent every person who feels that their voice hasn't been heard, every person who has been incarcerated, right or wrongly."
“Right or wrongly.” She should have stuck with the “wrongly” part only. It would make what she says next make more sense (if that is possible):
"I can rank myself among many heroes: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Nelson Mandela."
For example, someone incarcerated wrongly:
Mandela spent 27 years in prison for fighting the evils of South African apartheid, then led his country into an era of democracy as its first black president, winning a Nobel Prize in the process.
Someone incarcerated for the right reasons:
Butler spent three days incarcerated on a contempt of court charge stemming from a dispute with Criminal District Court judges, who termed her behavior the height of pettiness.
Can we stop considering her a strong candidate for mayor now?

The Army Corps of Engineers Goes Scoping

At a regional meeting last night on UNO’s campus, the ACE sought public input on how Category 5 levees should be built. They need to have an interim plan ready by June 1, 2006. The final recommendation must be ready by December 2007.

Here’s what they are considering (pdf) in their “scoping” meetings:

In developing the Report to Congress the Corps of Engineers will consider ways to protect south Louisiana from Category 5 hurricane storm surges. The alternatives may include the following:

Structural. Earthen levees or concrete walls with floodgates and other devices.

Structural-coastal restoration combination. Structural with coastal wetlands and barrier island restoration commensurate to the level of structural fortification to protect against a Category 5 hurricane.

Non-structural. Elevating homes and improving evacuation plans, with coastal restoration.

No Action. Maintain current protection against a Category 3 hurricane.
Yes, that would be “No Action” as one of the possible alternatives to provide Category 5 protection to south Louisiana.

Does anyone else feel less safe?

Abortion is Good

This proposed law is bad:

Inspired by recent changes on the U.S. Supreme Court, a Republican lawmaker filed anti-abortion legislation Thursday that would criminalize the practice except to save the mother's life or in rape and incest cases.

Rep. Tim Burns said President Bush's two appointments to the Supreme Court convinced him that now is an opportune time to pass legislation toughening Louisiana's abortion laws and give the high court a chance to overturn or challenge parts of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling establishing a right to an abortion.
It’s not as bad as South Dakota’s law. But it is bad.

Here’s my favorite part about the current state law:
Louisiana lawmakers already have placed language in the law that explains the state only allows abortion procedures because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled they are legal.
They only allow it because it is legal. I hope that’s a joke.

Anyway, da po’ boy generally stays away from debating the legality of abortions for two reasons: 1) I am a po’ boy, not a po’ girl. 2) Abortion is LEGAL, and its legality has been tested over time.

I am pro-abortion. Not pro-choice. Pro-abortion. I think this is an important distinction because I hear some pro-choicers say they support the right of a woman to choose, but they would never want to have or would want their lover/girlfriend/wife to have an abortion.

I don’t get that. I can’t say I support the right for a woman to get an abortion and then say abortion is bad. Abortion is good. When a woman evaluates where she is in the universe and decides that she should have an abortion, she is doing the right thing. And she is doing a good thing.

An abortion is nothing to be ashamed of. However, saying you are pro-choice and with the next breath saying you would never get an abortion is shaming those who have.

I hate that. “I’m pro-choice, but I would never get an abortion.” Or, “I’m pro-choice, but I would never want my girlfriend to have an abortion.” Or, “Abortion is never a good thing, but we need to protect a woman’s right to choose.”

If the right to choose is good, then abortion is good. Does that mean we need more abortions – more of a good thing? No. We need as many abortions as we need. No more, no less.

I will never be pregnant. But, I have been through the process of pregnancy and birth as an observer with da po’ wife and lil po’ boy. And a woman’s body changes during pregnancy. From what my uneducated eye can see, it either takes a while or a woman’s body is never the same after a child is born as it was before. I am talking physical and hormonal changes – changes you can see and changes you can feel.

Making abortions illegal for whatever reason will force a woman to go through these physical changes against her will. Imagine that – forced physical changes. If they are welcome, the physical changes are necessary and perform a function. If they are unwelcome, they still happen. Getting pregnant and having a child changes a woman, whether it is a wanted or a forced pregnancy.

At the end of the day, I look down and I still have a penis (that is, if it was a good day). So that might make me inherently unqualified to opine on the legality of abortion. And, please, let me know if I sound bone-headed.

The thing is, I love women. I really do. All women – and that’s not necessarily required (or recommended) when you have a penis. The result of my love is that I never want a woman to hurt because she made a decision concerning her body and the changes in her body that she can control. I wouldn’t want anyone forcing me to go through physical and hormonal changes that I don’t want to go through. Time will take care of that, and time is something I have no control over.

I never hear anyone say abortion is good. I never hear anyone say a woman who had an abortion did the right thing. I think we need to start saying these things. Hence, the title of this post.

Call me pro-abortion. Or pro-choice. Or anti-life. Whatever. It’s all good.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

$88 Billion is the New $85 Billion

Here we go again, courtesy of CNN:

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday the federal government has committed some $88 billion to help rebuild the Gulf Coast.
The new White House spin number includes an additional $2.7 billion in borrowing power given to the National Flood Insurance Program in February. The NFIP can borrow up to $21.2 billion dollars to pay off flood insurance claims, which is must do.

So, at least $21 billion of the $88 billion number that McClellan gives is money that the federal government is required to pay – not extra money to help rebuild.

Subtract 21 from 88 and you get 67, the actual number that should be used to describe how much money the federal government has committed. The Times-Picayune is using $68 billion, which is a rounded up version.

I know the numbers game is old, but I still think it is important to be armed against spin.

Here’s my breakdown again:

* September 2, 2005 – Bush signs $10.5 billion disaster relief bill

* September 8, 2005 – Bush signs $51.8 billion disaster relief bill

* December 31, 2005 – Bush signs defense bill which includes $29 billion in hurricane aid, of which $5 billion is new funds and $24 billion diverted from the already authorized $62 billion.

* February 15, 2006 – Congress raises NFIP borrowing limit to pay flood insurance claims to $21.2 billion.

* February 16, 2006 – Bush asks for $19.8 billion supplemental for hurricane relief.

* March 9, 2006 – $19 billion dollar version of the bill is in the House of Representatives.

If the $19 billion dollar version passes the House and Senate, be on the look out for this line:
The federal government has committed some $107 billion to help rebuild the Gulf Coast.

The President Visits Exotic Locales

Bush got out his passport and visited our part of the world yesterday. He went on a tour and took some pictures. And, even though he doesn’t speak the language well, he did converse with some of the locals and tried the cuisine native to the area:

The president tried to focus on the positive. He ordered a meal to go of red beans and rice at a diner and posed for photos with proprietor Kim Stewart.

"Katrina knocked us down, but it's not going to keep us there," Stewart said with a smile. But asked whether [sic] about the pace of recovery, she changed her upbeat tune. "I think things should be a lot faster," she told reporters.

Said Bush: "I fully understand, and I hope your country understands, the pain and agony that the people of New Orleans and Louisiana and the parishes surrounding New Orleans went through."
You would think the President of “her country” would be in a position to make sure “her country” understands. So, if Bush “fully understands” the pain and agony and that the recovery isn’t happening fast enough, he should do more than “hope” the rest of the country understands. It should be his mission as the leader of the Executive branch that governs “her country” to guarantee the entire country understands.

Her country is your country, Mr. Bush. You are not a spectator in the events of this nation. If the country does not understand what is happening, that’s on you. I hope your country understands how little *you* understand.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

All for All, and One for One

Maybe we won’t be getting another $4.2 billion for housing from Bush’s requested $19.8 billion afterall:

But in a draft already put together by the committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., Bush’s intention to steer housing money to Louisiana was removed.

***

The move coincides with a stepped-up campaign by the state of Texas to get a larger share of hurricane financing than it has received in the past. With five members of the House committee from Texas, the state has far more clout than Louisiana, which is represented on the panel only by Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman.
Steam. Coming. From. Ears.

First, the states hit by Katrina and Rita should not be fighting over scraps. Rebuilding American cities should be a priority for the federal government, and enough money should be sent this way so that all at the table have ‘dem bellies full. Instead, we’re spending tax payers’ money in other places, and we get what’s left over. Iraq fatigue, anyone? How about Bush fatigue.

Second, if Louisiana doesn’t get the federal resources it needs to recover from Katrina because it is underrepresented on a Congressional committee, then democracy is dead. And it won’t get a jazz funeral.

You want representation? The Times-Picayune has a nice graphic showing how overrepresented we were in houses destroyed: 67%. That’s numbers from a federal agency, so there’s no padding. And that’s just housing damage. Also, never mind the fact that the majority of housing damage came after the federally built levees failed.

Texas should get all the funding they need. Mississippi should get all the funding they need. Alabama should get all the funding they need. I will not pick sides here. I will not say that Louisiana should get more funding at the expense of others who need it.

But, I will say the federal government is not doing a good job with its citizens’ money. The Gulf Coast is hurting. I don’t think anyone expected the recovery to be easy. But I don’t think anyone expected it to be this hard when dealing with the federal government. For what other reason do we have a federal government than to accomplish that which the states can not accomplish on their own?

Bush is in town today. Looks like a good day for a protest. “A hungry mob is an angry mob.” However, I don’t suggest addressing the President in the Humid Haney way. Okay, yes I do. And, regarding Ashley’s comments in the last post, muthafucka indeed.

Monday, March 06, 2006

This One is for the Westbankers

That includes da po’ boy.

With all this talk of about breaches vs. overtopping and catastrophic flooding, and what people knew and when, and who was warned and what they were warned about, I think the Westbankers need to be paying attention. Katrina was an East Bank problem when it came to storm surge. If the next one goes west of the river, it will be our problem.

This is what the experts were saying about the West Bank before Katrina:

Storm Flooding of the West Bank

If a hurricane approaches New Orleans from any number of tracks from the southwest, water will be pushed from the Gulf of Mexico into Barataria Bay, and funneled by levees along the Mississippi River and Route 310 directly up into the West Bank.
We’ve heard about funneling water before, and it wasn’t in a favorable context. It was talking about the MR-GO:
The role of the canal in the flooding six months ago is not in dispute. Computer models of the storm and photographs suggest that the canal acted as a funnel for water being forced up toward the city, leading to the breaches in the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal that devastated the Lower Ninth Ward.
Remember, it wasn’t the canal itself that directed the storm surge, but its levees in conjunction with the levees that protect New Orleans East that acted as the funnel.

So, from a hurricane coming from the south and west of the Mississippi, the West Bank would be affected in a way similar to the Lower Ninth and St. Bernard Parish in Katrina. The same website maps the flooding on the West Bank from a category one hurricane inside the levee system at 2 – 2.25 meters, or 6 – 7 feet.

However, that is assuming there are no breaches in the levees. In St. Bernard and at the Industrial Canal, Katrina’s storm surge overtopped levees and caused breaches. If the same happens on the West Bank, the flooding would reach 3 meters or around 10 feet. And those projections are for a category 1 hurricane. The Hurricane Pam exercise had more dire projections for a category 3 with a track closer to the city.

I really hope this never happens. But, I really wish Katrina hadn’t happened. Katrina did happen, and people are saying they didn’t anticipate what happened.

Well, what can happen on the West Bank has been anticipated by the experts. Let’s hope our new West Bank Flood Authority heeds the warnings and protects its residents. That goes for the East Bank, too. And the local, state, and federal officials should have a plan ready by now just in case.

Please, let it be “just in case.”

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Minimal Flooding

I noticed an editorial in the Washington Times entitled “No Katrina coverup” that blamed the media for using the AP tapes to bash President Bush, concluding that he had not been warned of the possibility of levee breaches. The editorial made the tired overtop vs. breach claim, but added something new:

The previous day, Mr. Mayfield had actually dismissed the possibility of major flooding in New Orleans. "[T]he forecast we have now suggests that there will be minimal flooding in the city of New Orleans itself," he said. Storm surges were the overwhelming preoccupation. "The big question is going to be: will that top some of the levees?"

In other words, if the president heard any predictions that the levees would be breached, or even reports of breaches as they occurred, the evidence is nowhere on these leaked tapes.
First: If the levees had *not* breached, there would have been *only* minimal flooding in the bowl part of the city of New Orleans. So, in that sense, Mayfield’s statements were correct. He was giving a forecast for the hurricane. He was not giving a forecast for the levee breaches.

Therefore, when Mayfield asks the “big question” about whether the levees will be overtopped, that is what he *can not* forecast. He knows, as the President and the DHS should have known, that if the levees are overtopped, they can breach. What would follow a breach would be anything but minimal flooding, which is why Mayfield went on to say:
...the possibility that anticlockwise winds and storm surges could cause the levees at Lake Pontchartrain to be overrun afterwards is "obviously a very, very grave concern".
In fact, levees in Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes and the Industrial Canal breached *because* they were overtopped.

It was “obviously” a concern to Mayfield. If Bush had any uncertainty about Mayfield’s concern for the levees, he should have asked a question. Because he didn’t, we can only assume that he understood the severity of the possibility of overtopping and had planned accordingly.

Second: The levees in New Orleans East were overtopped overwhelmingly by storm surge. While breaches occurred, it was the overtopping that flooded the east and then caused the breaches. Here, we see an example of how overtopping can be *no different* from breaching.

The fact that Mayfield told Bush New Orleans would see “minimal flooding” does not mean the President can claim that no one anticipated breaches. What the President was really saying is that no one anticipated that Katrina would be a big deal. That’s why he continued his vacation while the city drowned.

If the AP is backtracking on its claim that Bush was warned about the breaches before the hurricane, that’s too bad. He was warned. He received all the information he needed to prepare for the disaster. He just didn’t.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

In Order To Truly Appreciate It...

You have to see Kimberly Williamson Butler’s announcement that she is running for mayor. I can't link to the specific video, but here is the web page. Just look for the 3/3/06 headline, "Kimberly Williamson Butler makes surprise bid for mayor's race."

She starts off by stressing how much she is focusing on being the clerk of court (transcribed from video story):

“My number one priority right now is that I have to pull off this election. And it’s going to be an awesome election.”

***

"One of the most important things I can do right now is focus. So much of this can be a distraction."
That’s laughable in itself because she has been hiding out the past week after a subpoena and arrest warrants were issued for her. And the week she chooses to go missing is the week of qualifying for one of the most important mayoral elections in the city’s history. You would think the clerk of court would want to be involved in that.

After talking about the importance of focus, Butler changes focus:
"I’m not a politician. I’ve never been a politician."
Then, no lie, right after saying that she says:
"I was a politician for two years."
She tries to get out of that contradiction by pointing out what she did before she was a politician:
"But, for 17 years you know what I was? I was a revitalization specialist. And we have a revitalization project right now."
That’s when it happened. Watch the video. I honestly believe that is when she decided she would run for mayor. You can almost see the light bulb turn on. She continues:
"And you know what? I don’t think I’m the right person to be clerk of court. I think I’m the right person to be mayor. I’m going to go qualify."
You don’t announce you are running for mayor that way unless it just comes to you. She probably surprised herself.

You can hear in the background a reporter asking, “Are you serious?” I thought the same thing.

This kind of insanity just doesn’t happen anywhere else – at least in public. I love New Orleans.

Friday, March 03, 2006

"Anything we find now will just be tendons and bones."

It’s now March, and the final sweep begins – or, should I say, the sweep finally begins:

A full six months after Hurricane Katrina, officials renewed the search for bodies Thursday, moving slowly through ravaged neighborhoods with cadaver dogs in hopes of locating 300 to 400 people still unaccounted for.

The search teams targeted 160 houses and 122 debris piles at or near addresses of people still missing.
300 to 400 of the missing were “in the system,” meaning some evidence of their existence should have surfaced by now, like computer records of prescriptions being filled. It is assumed that they would have gotten their prescriptions filled because they need them to survive.

Of the 1,800 people still missing, these are the ones feared dead. Although so many are still missing, the 17-million-dollar Victim Identification Center in Carville was shut down in February and DMORT ceased primary operations in the state March 1. Responsibility for anymore bodies found in New Orleans has been passed to Orleans Parish Coroner Frank Minyard, who is using Rhodes Funeral Home on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard as a temporary morgue.

They are starting in the Ninth Ward, but will also be checking Lakeview near the breach.

I have to believe that they are not going to find 400 bodies in the debris, if only to protect my sanity. The Find Family National Call Center has been excellent at finding the missing still alive, reducing the number from 11,000 originally missing to the less than 2,000 today. So, when they say that they should have found these 300 to 400, I get a little worried.

My sanity might be in peril whether they find the bodies during this search or not, given these statements by the state medical examiner Louis Cataldie:
Cataldie said it is possible some of those listed as missing were washed into the Gulf of Mexico or Lake Pontchartrain after the Aug. 29 storm.

"We're going to do every thing we can to find every body," he said. "But some folks may never be found."
Some of these folks may never be found. Sanity is in short supply.

Defending the AP Tapes

Moldy City calls the Bush apologists' spin a day before it is spun.

And YRHT notes that the debate between overtopping and breaching is, well, not a debate because a catastrophic flood can be caused by both:

I mean, doesn't even a second-rate mind understand that overtopping might lead to a breach? Doesn't even a fool understand that massive overtopping from storm surge-- even if the levees held-- would have similarly catastrophic results?
But let’s play their game, shall we?

Those defending Bush’s “I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees” statement point to Max Mayfield warning:
"I don't think any model can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not but that is obviously a very, very grave concern," Mayfield told the briefing.
Then they say:
But this has nothing to do with the levees breaching; it has to do with them being overtopped--a much less dangerous threat.
Okay. I would agree that overtopping has the potential to be a “much less dangerous threat.” For example, submerge a styrofoam cup into a big pot full of water until the water line almost reaches the top of the cup. The inside of the cup stays dry because it is protected by the sides of the cup. Now make some waves. The water will overtop the cup and accumulate at the bottom. But, once the waves stop, the water stops accumulating and the cup doesn’t fill up.

Now, break the side of the styrofoam cup. The water inside the cup levels off with the water outside the cup. That’s what happened when the levees breached. Lake Pontchartrain leveled off inside New Orleans. That’s a much more dangerous threat than just a little water accumulating in the lower areas of the city.

So, they say, that’s what Bush was talking about. He expected overtopping but not breaching.

Sounds like a good defense, doesn’t it? Not to the Army Corps of Engineers:
Immediately after the storm, corps officials speculated the breached walls had been overtopped. It was the most logical explanation, because water rushing down the land side of the walls would have quickly eroded the levee supporting the walls. Robbed of that critical support, the walls would have been unable to hold the weight of water that reached to the top of the 14-foot walls.
That’s exactly what happened in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes and with the Industrial Canal.

But it would take a lot of water to cause such erosion and scouring – like from the storm surge of “the big one” maybe? Did anyone say we should be preparing for “the big one?”

Yep. Michael Brown did:
"This is, to put it mildly, the big one," Brown said.
So Bush says they weren’t anticipating the breaching of levees but he sat there and listened to his people say they were anticipating the type of storm surge that could cause overtopping of levees which would lead to breaching.

This makes the difference between overtopping and breaching a moot point. The type of overtopping they thought would occur would have caused the breaching they didn’t anticipate.

What’s sad about all this is that Katrina wasn’t “the big one” or the “worst case scenario” for New Orleans. But, given the poor construction of the levees and the bungled rescue, it might as well have been.