Saturday, September 30, 2006

My Offshore Oil Revenue Sharing Compromise

Since the House and Senate seem to need a little help.

No new drilling anywhere off any coast.

From all existing oil and gas drilling, divide the revenue as follows:

50% of offshore royalties from all oil and gas goes to state where extraction occurs to be used how the state sees fit (in federal waters, it would be the state with seaward boundaries adjacent to where extraction occurs)

40% goes to a federal fund dedicated to coastal restoration and hurricane protection in states that allow drilling

10% goes to the U.S. Treasury to be used as Congress sees fit
That way, no one gets offshore drilling they don’t want. The states who give up the most to have drilling off their coasts get the most back. And everybody gets a little bit of the profit.

My offshore oil revenue sharing compromise mirrors the MMS’s division of onshore royalties:
Distribution of revenues associated with onshore federal lands is split 50-40-10, with 50 percent of the money going directly to the state within which the specific lease was located. Forty percent is sent to the Reclamation Fund of the U.S. Treasury. This special account finances the Bureau of Reclamation's water projects in 17 western states. The remaining 10 percent goes to the Treasury's General Fund.

Friday, September 29, 2006

"They're sick people; they need mental health counseling."

That’s a quote from Florida Rep. Mark Foley expressing how he feels about internet pedophiles.

Here’s another quote (PDF page 2) attributed to Foley:

Maf54 (7:48:00 PM): did you spank it this weekend yourself
ABC News says that’s an instant message he sent to a 16-year-old page.

He resigned. And, whoopee, there’s a Louisiana connection:
The page worked for Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., who said Friday that when he learned of the e-mail exchanges 10 to 11 months ago, he called the teen's parents. Alexander added, "We also notified the House leadership that there might be a potential problem."
A “potential” problem? That sounds like an actual problem to me. Of course, in politics, a problem like this is only a problem if someone finds out about it. So, I guess, 10 to 11 months ago, it was only potentially a problem.

I certainly hope no one was covering this up. If “House leadership” knew about it and didn’t do anything, that ain't right, especially when:
Federal authorities say such messages could result in Foley's prosecution, under some of the same laws he helped to enact.
Not cool.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Lot of Americans Saw a Good Game Monday Night

“Good Game” comes from a Saints fan’s perspective. “A Lot of Americans” comes from the ratings:

The New Orleans Saints' return home to the Superdome on Monday Night Football drew the highest rating ever for ESPN and was the highest-rated program of the night on any network, broadcast or cable.

***

It was the second largest cable audience ever behind the 1993 NAFTA debate between Al Gore and Ross Perot on CNN.
Which leads me to my favorite sign seen on TV in the dome:
Thanks, America. But the Saints are our team.
Should we keep winning, instead of being considered “America’s Team,” I propose the country opt for the President’s preferred term: “That Part of the World's Team.”

Monday, September 25, 2006

"Jesus in Cleats"

And so has Reggie Bush been anointed. The savior of the Saints franchise. The Black-and-Golden One who will liberate Saints fans from their eternal torment. The deliverer of the chosen season-ticket holders to the Promised Dome.

Imagine 70,000 people on one city block, on one special day, all there for one purpose. Imagine over $100 million going into bringing those people together. Imagine a Super Bowl atmosphere, complete with the media frenzy and global interest in what is happening on that day on that block.

Sounds magical, doesn’t it?

Now, imagine that the city block the masses have come to is in Gentilly, or Mid-City, or Lakeview, or the 9th Ward, or New Orleans East. Imagine that they are not there to sit in a comfortable seat and watch grown men play a game on artificial grass, but have come together to be part of the action and participate in the rebuilding of that neighborhood. Imagine how much work could get done.

Yeah, I know. I don’t believe in magic either.

I will be one of those fans in that number this Monday. I plan on seeing Rebirth at the pre-game show. I will then head home and turn down my TV and turn up my radio. I will yell at the TV (and more strangely, the radio) and lil’ po’ boy will imitate me, leading to yet another words-we-say-only-around-daddy conversation.

If the Saints win, I will be elated. If the Saints lose, I will still be elated. Okay, I will be deflated first, but elated afterwards that they’re at least losing at home again.

But I can not pretend like this Monday’s game is the best thing that has happened in the recovery of New Orleans. I felt the same way about Mardi Gras. People want to make this a symbol that the recovery is going just fine:

Joe Horn said that the quick repair of the Superdome should give people a sense of hope that the rest of the city can bounce back.

"If you can rebuild a place that's 1.9 million square feet," Horn said, "you should be able to come back here and rebuild a 3,000-square foot house."
I am not so sure that a functioning Superdome is a symbol of a functioning city. If the city were functioning properly, this game would not be such a big deal. It would be expected.

Make a list of all the services a city needs to function. From health care, to police, to firefighters, to electricity, to sewerage and water, to small businesses, to infrastructure upkeep, to housing – none of them are “bouncing back.” Limping back, maybe. But no bouncing.

This Monday we will prove to the nation that we can still put on a world class show – even when we haven’t yet recovered. But the next day, will anybody be trying to prove to the city’s residents that we can put on a world class recovery? Anybody?

Let me repeat: I will be in that number. I will be distracted for a day by Jesus in cleats (“Cleatus” for short?). But it’s only one day, and I am not waiting for a savior to come down from on high to fix New Orleans. I don’t believe in Jesus in a Tyvek suit.

People are making money off this game. That’s why there is so much attention. The NFL and ESPN want this game to be like a Super Bowl so they can make Super-Bowl-like money off of it. I didn’t expect a lot of the real news of the recovery to be told this weekend. The money makers want this Monday to be pleasant for all the money spenders. The news need not always be pleasant.

Edward R. Murrow said in 1958:

We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.
We in New Orleans are not, for the most part, wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have gotten over our built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. We had to.

But the rest of the country lives in a pre-Katrina world. They will be sitting on their fat surpluses Monday night distracted, deluded, amused, and insulated from the totally different picture we see down here every day.

I am not saying don’t enjoy the Saints or don’t go to the game. I know I’ll be enjoying the game. I’m just saying that this game will not change my opinion of the recovery.

Only a recovery will change my opinion of the recovery.

EDIT: Yes, symbolism.
"When people come in here and see what's been done in less than a year's time," says Doug Thornton, general manager of the building and the driving force behind its revival, "they are going to say, 'If the Superdome can be rebuilt after that tremendous destruction, my house can be rebuilt, my neighborhood can be rebuilt and my city can be rebuilt.' So much of this recovery is about confidence and belief. You've got to want it to happen. You've got to believe it. This is symbolism."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Saudi Arabi?

Hmmm…

Louisiana, the second-largest oil refining state in the U.S., is proposing to crude-producing nations to turn farms into an oil refinery, said Dane Revette, the state's director of energy development.

The Gulf Coast state has two existing refineries whose stakeholders include foreign oil companies -- one from Venezuela and the other Saudi Arabia. Revette, who is attending today's Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting in Vienna, is conferring with officials from OPEC and non-OPEC countries while there in hopes of building a third, he said.

***

Kuwait, the fourth largest oil producer in the Middle East, has expressed interest in building a U.S. refinery and has held talks with Louisiana state officials, Kuwaiti officials have said.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Final Word on Federal Money Coming to the Gulf Coast

Not that I am obsessed or anything…

This is what the President was saying when he visited the area August 29:

I've come back to New Orleans to tell you the words that I spoke on Jackson Square are just as true today as they were then.

Since I spoke those words, members of the United States Congress from both political parties came together and committed more than $110 billion to help the Gulf Coast recover. I felt it was important that our government be generous to the people who suffered. I felt that step one of a process of recovery and renewal is money.
In a report released yesterday, the Government Accountability Office, the agency that “studies how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars,” gave a different number (page 72 of the PDF):
To date, Congress has appropriated approximately $88 billion of federal support through emergency supplemental appropriations to federal agencies for hurricane disaster relief and recovery efforts related to the 2005 hurricanes.
The GAO report seems to agree with my breakdown:
* September 2, 2005 – $10.5 billion in a disaster relief bill

* September 8, 2005 – $51.8 billion in a disaster relief bill

* December 31, 2005 – $5 billion in a spending bill (along with $24 billion diverted from already authorized funds, but not new money)

*June 15, 2006 - $19.8 billion in a spending bill
Okay, maybe I am obsessed.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Somebody Define “Double” for Me

Because I don’t think I know what it means in the context of oil reserves:

In a development that could double the nation's oil reserves and result in a boon to Louisiana and its offshore industries, Chevron and two partner companies announced Tuesday they have produced oil on the outskirts of U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico,

***

The discovery is significant to the nation because it is the first time oil has been produced in a 300-square-mile geological region called the lower tertiary trend that is thought to hold 3 billion to 15 billion barrels of oil. The nation's current reserves are about 30 billion.
How can “3 billion to 15 billion” barrels “double” 30 billion barrels?

I readily admit that I know nothing about Big Erl and how it operates. But am I missing something in the math here?

And, dammit, Louisiana is part of the United States:
J. Larry Nichols, chairman and chief executive officer of Devon Energy, was effusive about the Gulf's prospects in conference call Tuesday morning.

***

Compared to other regions in the world, the Gulf of Mexico is politically stable and close to oil and gas markets, he said.

"This," he said, "could not have happened in a better place."
It’s good to see that Louisiana (i.e. the United States of America) is considered “politically stable” when being compared to “other regions in the world.”

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Do You Think This Guy Has Ever Been to New Orleans?

An opinion letter in The Oregonian:

Katrina had an up side

Monday, September 04, 2006

New Orleans was, and is, a corrupt, crime-ridden swamp. Not one dime of taxpayers' money should be spent to rebuild it. Help the individual victims of Katrina, yes. Pay them each whatever it takes to help them, but nothing for rebuilding.

Keep the river channel open for traffic, but do not fund any other infrastructure. Let us take advantage of what Katrina has begun, to rid ourselves of this lesion on our Gulf Coast.

BARRETT MacDOUGALL Southeast Portland
I would just say that New Orleans *is* the infrastructure to “keep the river channel open for traffic.”

40 Acres and a Mule

Whatever the history of this phrase, it has come to be used as a colloquial term for a promise made by the government that is never fulfilled.

With that in mind, read this passage from a Reuters article recounting a Labor Day speech given by Nagin:

Standing in the ruins of the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin envisions for the crowd a city rebuilt from Hurricane Katrina with new houses standing high above the reach of killer storms and grinding poverty.

***

'Build your mansion,' he urges the audience, many of them former homeowners of modest means who have not received any federal housing aid.

'Let the first floor be for parking and storage. And on the second and third floor, put your Jacuzzi and your master bedroom,' he says. Even with federal aid, few in the audience will be able to build a big home, much less a mansion, but the audience hoots approval at the thought.

'You going to get your money,' Nagin promises.
A two-story mansion and a Jacuzzi, indeed.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Repairing Tires with Class

Between my car, da po’ wife’s car, and my work vehicle, we have suffered 11 flat tires since Katrina. Of those, six tires needed to be replaced.

Given my proclivity for collecting nails and screws with the inside of my tires, I quickly became aware of a shop in the 9th Ward [EDIT: Make that Bywater (I think) because it is upriver of the canal] on St. Claude that specialized in repairing tires. For a while, it was the only place close to the 9th Ward that could fix a tire. I never had to use its services, but I did notice on my many work trips to the Lower 9th the long line of customers that did need a good plugging.

During spring break, when many visitors were taking “the drive,” the line of cars with flats or slow leaks waiting to be fixed stretched a block and a half down St. Claude. Since many of those waiting looked like they weren’t from these parts and like the type of people that couldn’t change a tire on their own, I remember thinking the shop’s owner could charge whatever he wanted and those sorry suckers would pay it.

Little did I know that owner Joe Peters was a World Class NOLA resident:

I asked him if he raised his prices a little during that time. "Stayed the same," he answered. "$8.00 to fix a tire. Same today. I don't want to get rich on poor people."
I recommend Joe Peters of St. Claude Used Tires for the position of New Orleans Recovery Czar. He's consistent and doesn’t want to get rich on poor people.

Hell, yeah.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Houston Evacuees, Get Out While You Still Can

Around 1,700 Houston residents showed up at a town hall meeting to tell the Houston Mayor and Police Chief that they want the Katrina evacuees from New Orleans to leave:

“We just want you to understand our situation in this community and we appreciate the good work and the hard work that you’ve done, but we want the New Orleans residents to go home,” said one speaker.

“We can’t walk to a beautiful park that was put in without being accosted. I want to know what you’re going to do about it or do we have to take things into our own hands?” said another woman.

***

Barbara Miller, who lives in the Walnut Bend subdivision, told White that helping the Katrina evacuees after the deadly storm was "a heroic, Herculean and noble effort."

But now it's time to take the city back, she said.
Take things into their own hands? Time to take the city back? Yikes:
In the gun stores and on the shooting ranges of America's oil industry capital, business is booming as fearful locals take their defence into their own hands and buy concealed weapons licences that allow them to travel armed.

Although 9mm semi-automatic pistols are the easiest gun to carry, Jim Pruett, an arms salesman, says that his "looter shooter" - a pistol-grip, pump shotgun retailing at $370 (£200) - is also a big seller. "We've seen a 50 per cent increase in people taking our concealed weapons courses since the Katrina evacuees arrived," he said. "They are scared and they want to be able to defend themselves."
I want Houstonians to be safe. But, I am confident that all the New Orleanians temporarily living in Houston are not criminals. Houston has not become Dodge City.

The Houston residents seem to have an issue with the assistance receiving group, based on this:
John Kirkendahl, who identified himself as a 61-year old attorney, asked White bluntly: "Where do you stand on stopping the FEMA and the welfare money, in stopping the giveaways?" — to sustained applause and cheers.
And this:
When Mayor White said they would be phased out in February, he received boos from the crowd.
Out of the 110,000 to 120,000 Katrina evacuees still living in Houston, around 100,000 of them are from New Orleans. Yesterday, 2,600 evacuees lost FEMA housing assistance and 26,000 are set to lose theirs at the end of October with the possibility of extending their funding to February. We can assume that the majority of those who lost housing assistance or will lose it are from New Orleans.

So, when this town hall meeting occurred, around 28,000 New Orleanians were living off of FEMA money – less than a third of all the New Orleanians in Houston. Now, these numbers are my summation – not the official count. I am going on the news reports I can find.

But the Houston residents who spoke at the town hall meeting did not ask for that third to leave. They asked for “the New Orleans residents” to leave and urged the Mayor to “take back” the city, not just their neighborhood.

If you are a New Orleanian in Houston – and like the majority of them you are not a criminal – that’s got to hurt.

Houston Mayor Bill White has been a friend to the New Orleanians in his city. And at the town hall meeting, he seemed to get it:
"If people want do so something unlawful, then we need to catch them, try them, convict them and lock them up," White said.

"If they're just trying to get on with their lives, then we ought to respect our fellow Americans, and there's not much of a home to go to."
Notice he said “our fellow Americans.”

You know, I have seen a lot of Texas license plates driving around New Orleans, many of them on pick up trucks involved, in some way, in the rebuilding of our city. We appreciate it, but I don’t think they are here for a noble cause. The ones I talk to are here to make money.

I can’t get that out of my head. New Orleanians are in Texas being asked to go home when they have no home. Many who are receiving assitance didn’t have jobs or money before the storm, so they have no jobs or money now. Texans, who had a home in Texas, are in New Orleans, with a place to stay here, with a job, and making money. I don’t get that.

Can we come up with some kind of trade?

RELATED: Oyster says "Thanks, Houston," though Mr. Clio says it should be "THANKS HOUSTON."


Saying Nothing Says a Lot

David Crosby pens “Six things not to say to a New Orleans survivor” for the Houston Chronicle.

I like this part:

Maybe God aimed Katrina at New Orleans. Maybe the Devil did it. Maybe it was highs and lows and prevailing winds and water temperatures in the Gulf. But one thing is for sure — you don't know. So don't tell me you do. I don't want to hear it.
And that’s coming from the pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans.

Can I get an Amen?