What the world needs is less shootings and more mothers, I think. Sunday afternoon, gunmen fired into a crowd watching a Mother's Day parade, injuring 19 people. CNN:
Abdul Aziz believes he was standing right next to a shooter Sunday when gunmen opened fire at a Mother's Day parade in New Orleans, injuring 19 people.
"Everyone around me, except me, was shot," he said. "I was pretty fortunate to get away."
Aziz, 33, a photojournalist, was at the second-line parade when gunfire broke out at the corner of Frenchman Street and North Villere Street.
Second-line parades, which involve dancing and brass bands, are a New Orleans tradition. They happen most every Sunday, except during the hottest months in summer, according to Aziz.
"We turned off of a main thoroughfare to a smaller residential street, and that's when the shots rang out. I was standing, I believe, right next to the shooter. I saw muzzle flash, but unfortunately I didn't get a chance to see who the shooter was," he said.
I realize people were out taking Mom to brunch and so on, but still, you'd think there might be more concern over an incident like this, no? I'm not sure if I'm more shocked about gunmen shooting up a Mother's Day parade or the uneasy silence over it.
David Cay Johnston on how sports are used as a tool to steal from taxpayers.
Even if you like football (I don't -- as far as I'm concerned, this week's game should be called the Concussion Bowl), you have to wonder why the owners get to make obscene amounts of money while taxpayers foot the bill for their cash-cow stadiums. Professional sports are the perfect illustration of the "socialize losses, privatize gains" principle so beloved of corporatists!
The tenth Super Bowl played in New Orleans, and the first since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005, will kickoff in a stadium that has received more than $470 million in public support since the storm, as taxpayers have footed the bill for renovations and upgrades in the face of threats from ownership and the National Football League to move the team to another city.
In the aftermath of Katrina, New Orleans was desperate to keep the Saints from skipping town. The NFL and Saints owner Tom Benson seem to have taken advantage of that desperation, leveraging it into hundreds of millions of dollars in public support — from the city, state, and federal governments — for renovations to the decimated Superdome, which housed Katrina refugees during and after the storm. In 2009, the state committed $85 million more to keep the Saints in town and attempt to woo another Super Bowl, all while signing a lease worth $153 million in a nearby building owned by Benson.
Talks headed by then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue led to a plan to fix and renovate the Superdome with $121 million from the state, $44 million from the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, which oversees the facility, $156 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $15 million from the league. Blanco said a rushed bond deal followed.
Ultimately, the financing cost the district more than three times its $44 million commitment, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from state documents and interviews. [...]In April 2009, Louisiana negotiated a new lease to secure Benson’s promise to keep the team in New Orleans through 2025. The state made $85 million in fresh Superdome improvements, adding luxury seating and moving the press box. A company owned by Benson, Zelia LLC, bought the 26-story tower next to the stadium that had stood mostly vacant since Katrina and renovated it. At the time, Benson put the total cost at about $85 million. The state then signed a $153 million, 20-year lease for office space in the building, which now houses 51 state agencies, according to the Louisiana Administration Division.
[...]“A lot of folks in New York made a ton of money,” [former state Treasurer John] Kennedy said. “Louisiana taxpayers didn’t do so well.”
The Superdome certainly needed renovations following Katrina. But its original construction was financed solely by taxpayers, and Benson, who is worth roughly $1.6 billion, didn’t contribute and repeatedly hinted that the Saints would move to San Antonio, Los Angeles, or another city unless taxpayers ponied up. Kennedy, the state treasurer, told Bloomberg he went into negotiations with the NFL and Benson “with a gun against my head.”
Ironically, it was the activity of two of his top deputies that ended his career. On Thursday, Letten announced his resignation after the actions of former first assistant US Attorney Jan Mann and assistant US Attorney Sal Perricone. Via the Washington Post:
Resignations of U.S. attorneys under a cloud of scandal are rare. In an unusual step, Deputy Attorney General James Cole traveled to New Orleans on Thursday and informed the district’s federal judges that the Justice Department had appointed a career prosecutor to investigate the allegations of misconduct in Letten’s office.
Letten’s resignation, effective Tuesday, comes eight months into a scandal that sparked the Justice Department investigation of his top deputy and a second veteran prosecutor in connection with anonymous online criticism of a man whose company is the target of a federal inquiry.
The two prosecutors, former first assistant U.S. attorney Jan Mann and former assistant U.S. attorney Sal Perricone, acknowledged using aliases to post comments on the Web site of the Times-Picayune newspaper. The comments were highly critical of Fred Heebe, the owner of a local landfill that was under federal investigation, according to court papers. Perricone, a member of Letten’s inner circle, resigned, and Mann was demoted.
The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the episode, and last week a federal judge increased the pressure on Letten by calling for an independent counsel to probe the matter.
The judge, Kurt D. Engelhardt, also called for the department to investigate leaks of grand jury information to the media by prosecutors in the high-profile Danziger Bridge case, in which New Orleans police officers shot innocent city residents after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and then tried to cover it up.
Last month, the revelations of online misconduct reached Mr. Letten’s top assistant, Jan Mann. A federal judge, in a scathing 50-page order, broached the possibility of criminal conduct in regard to her online activities, as well as those of another senior prosecutor, Sal Perricone, who resigned in March.
The judge also revealed that another federal prosecutor had expressed suspicions about the comments to his supervisors in 2010.
The exposure of Ms. Mann, months after Mr. Letten’s avowals that Mr. Perricone had acted alone, raised doubts about the effectiveness of an internal investigation by the Justice Department. The revelations could also jeopardize hard-fought convictions — including those last year of police officers involved in post-Katrina killings on the Danziger Bridge — as well as continuing inquiries like a bribery investigation that appears to be steadily encircling C. Ray Nagin, the former mayor.
I really hope the Los Angeles District Attorney's office is paying attention. Given that it's under new management, it might be time to give serious attention to online commenting by assistants, anonymous or otherwise. It would appear some guidance on appropriate behavior is in order.
Here's a sample of what Mann and Perricone said about Mr. Heebe via anonymous comments. I snipped this from the the court pleading, which has plenty of other examples:
The text, for the visually impaired like me, reads as follows:
13. Many of Defendant's comments -- particularly those made under his most recent handle "Henry L. Mencken1951" -- involve Mr. Heebe, his family, and his company River Birch, Inc., as well as a federal investigation involving River Birch. In commenting on this ongoing investigation, Defendant made numerous statements about Mr. Heebe which Defendant knew to be false. The comments were part of an effort by Defendant to undermine Mr. Heebe's reputation in the community.
14. This conduct is particularly egregious given that Defendant was the senior prosecutor overseeing the ongoing investigation of River Birch at the time he posted the comments in question. Rather than maintain the degree of objectivity and professionalism expected of federal prosecutors, Defendant plainly prejudged Mr. Heebe's guilt prior to the conclusion of the investigation and then sought to use his insider knowledge in an effort to turn public opinion against Mr. Heebe.
I'm betting this isn't the only case like this. Just the first one.
I don't know. When one loses their home in a storm and the GOP nominee for president comes to town with his entourage ostensibly to offer sympathy and rhetoric, I'd think they should maybe do that. If the idea is to look presidential, then Mitt Romney gave us a glimpse into the rather stern and businesslike president he would be.
Mitt paid a visit to hurricane-ravaged New Orleans Friday for the photo op and empathy moments. Only, it seems he kind of forgot the empathy moments.
Romney and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) spent close to an hour meeting with first responders and local officials. Romney shook hands with National Guardsmen outside the U.S. Post Office and talked with a local resident, Jodie Chiarello, 42, who lost her home in Isaac's flooding.
"He just told me to, um, there's assistance out there," Chiarello said of her conversation with Romney. "He said, go home and call 211." That's a public service number offered in many states.
Chiarello said she will likely seek some other shelter because her home was submerged in the flooding. She expressed frustration about the town's lack of flood protection.
"We live outside the levee protection that's why we get all this water because they close the floodgates up front and all they're doing is flooding us out down here," she said. "It's very frustrating, very. We go through Katrina and Rita and now we're going through Cindy, Lee and now Isaac."
Bill Clinton was the king of empathy. He was better at feeling people's pain than just about any other president I can recall. Barack Obama is not as good as Clinton, but he still gets something across to tell these people that he's on their side.
Telling someone to go home when their home is flooded and they just said so? That's either a case of arrogance or an inability to actually take the 30 seconds out to actually listen to them. I'm sure Mitt was busy gladhanding Bobby Jindal and couldn't really be bothered to think about actual solutions, but that response seems cold, ironic, and downright mean.
Talking about showing his true colors! Does Rush have any advertisers left? Because I have to wonder if they want their products associated with this racist, disgusting excuse for a human being. Via Raw Story:
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday proposed putting “bags of money” around the levees in New Orleans so that “Republicans can get rid of even more Democrats” when poor people drowned because they tried to make off with the cash.
“We are mere hours away from Tropical Storm Isaac, which everybody’s desperately hoping becomes a hurricane,” the conservative icon pointed out during his Tuesday morning broadcast. “It’s the Democrats’ wet dream that this thing hits New Orleans!”
Recalling the way that President George W. Bush’s administration bungled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina seven years ago, Limbaugh decided to offer the Republicans a few tip on dealing with the current storm.
The first idea seemed reasonable enough: “First thing we do is offer to send 500 bus drivers to New Orleans, paid for by us, to make sure that the buses that were not used by the Democrat mayor during Hurricane Katrina will be used to evacuate people should it become necessary.”
But the next proposal was shocking and cynical, even by Limbaugh standards.
“The second thing that I think the Republicans ought to do is send bags of money instead of sand,” he said. “Bags full of money to shore up the levees in New Orleans.”
“So, we have Romney’s five sons deliver the bags of money to shore up the levees,” he added. “Now this will accomplish much. It will show our compassion.”
“And it will do something else: Once we publicize that we have sent 500 bags of money — well, whatever number of bags — bags filled with money to shore up the levees, what will happen? The poor of New Orleans will storm the levees and steal the bags, thereby putting themselves at risk for the eventual flooding that will happen once they remove the bags of money. And that way, Republicans can get rid of even more Democrats in Louisiana and shore up the state for themselves.”
Progressives have rightfully mourned the recent fate of New Orleans--a poor, predominately black city with a spectacular history that has been failed by our country over and over again.
I just returned from work and play in a city we hear less about, but it shares a lot in common with New Orleans--Detroit. AKA Motown, The 313, Rock City, The D. Detroit City, as the song goes, ain't nothin' to f with.
Most people react to Detroit the same way when they see it for the first time--something along the lines of "holy sh*t." It's frequently compared to a Third World country, with enormous vacant auto plants and many, many desperate people. It's a very dramatic landscape.
The Big 3 took what they needed from Detroit, and what they left behind is...how you say...challenging. There is tremendous poverty, hopelessness, crime, and violence.
But there is so much to love in Detroit. No, really.
I'm not a big Techno expert or anything, but the documentary above captures what I have grown to love about that place--it's rough, it's deprived and sometimes depraved, but out of much blight has risen one of the coolest creative scenes I've ever seen.
Seriously. If you're in the midwest, consider going to Detroit to see the sights this summer. There is remarkable stuff going on in Detroit, wonderful people...and they could definitely use the money. So come, won't you? I'll meet you just after the "continue reading" button.
This is devastating. The working poor of New Orleans must feel like they have a target on their backs. Katrina, the Gulf disaster... now this? Apparently Habitat for Humanity is so worried about legal exposure, they've been stonewalling the residents:
NEW ORLEANS — For more than a year, the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity has insisted there were no defects in the Chinese drywall it used to build nearly 200 houses for victims of Hurricane Katrina, including many in its heavily publicized “Musicians’ Village’’ development in the Upper Ninth Ward.
But a house-by-house canvas of Musicians’ Village by reporters from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and ProPublica found several homeowners who reported serious problems and one who said she had complained to Habitat for more than a year about corrosion and electronics failures believed to be related to her drywall.
The reporters’ interviews with dozens of residents also turned up a second potentially significant problem: Some of the homes that Habitat officials believed had been built with American-made drywall actually contain a Chinese product instead.
As a result, Habitat has begun investigating as many as 50 post-Katrina homes that used the allegedly American-made product. Most of the targeted homes are in Musicians’ Village, which was largely bankrolled by Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis in an attempt to bring musicians back to the city after the hurricane. But some are in other New Orleans neighborhoods.
A Habitat spokeswoman said the investigation has already confirmed that five houses have Chinese drywall and are exhibiting problems associated with the product, such as corroded electrical wiring.
The New Orleans chapter of the prominent non-profit continued using Chinese drywall in the Village and its other New Orleans projects throughout 2009 -- long after other builders stopped -- because it said it had done tests showing that the stockpile of Chinese product it bought from Taishan Gypsum Co. in March 2007 was not problematic.
[...] Three homeowners in Musicians’ Village told reporters of a range of problems, from failed appliances and electronics to corroded metals and jewelry. They also complained about health issues, including irritated eyes and respiratory problems.
One Musicians’ Village homeowner said that since mid-2009 she has repeatedly complained to Habitat about appliance failures and strange corrosion in her home. She said Habitat officials kept promising to send an inspector, but never did. Other owners said they raised questions but were promised they had nothing to worry about.
When a reporter visited homes that Habitat originally said were made with American drywall, he found that at least three had wallboard that was clearly stamped “Made in China.” Each of those homes also had corrosion and other problems associated with contaminated drywall.
Federal agencies, including the FBI, are participating in the probe and "if we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be forceful in our response," Holder told reporters after meeting with state and federal prosecutors in New Orleans.
The Justice Department has already demanded that the companies involved in the spill, including BP, Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton Co., preserve records related to the accident.
It's been a long time coming. I don't think anyone has doubt there were corners cut and regulations ignored in this case.
But what bothers me is the report that I happened upon shortly after I heard about Holder's press conference.
BP Plc has decided not to attach a second blowout preventer on its leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico and efforts to end the flow are over until the relief wells are finished, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Thad Allen, who spoke at a press conference today.
So, I have a few more questions that are unanswered by this little blurb.
When was the decision made to scrap the effort on the second valve?
Was the decision related to news there would be a criminal investigation?
Was the decision related to orders not to destroy evidence down there on the ocean floor?
If BP's decision is unrelated to an ongoing criminal investigation, what specific factors caused them to abandon the effort?
If I find answers, I'll let you know. It's all too coincidental for my taste.
BP Plc said it won’t be able to stop the flow of oil from a gushing well in Gulf of Mexico until August when a relief well can be finished, and in the meantime it will divert as much of the oil as it can to surface ships.
The diversion strategy, unlike capping the flow, is subject to disruption by tropical storms and hurricanes.
BP is preparing for storms by installing a free-standing riser pipe later this month that will terminate 300 feet below the water’s surface. The pipe will have flexible coupling to allow tankers to depart ahead of a hurricane and safely return when seas have calmed, BP said today in a statement. The oil company didn’t say what happens to the flow of oil if the ship has to disconnect.
The spreading stench of oil, money and destruction off the Louisiana coast should be enough reason for anyone to protest opening more wells offshore. In case it's not, let's just put an end to the myths that offshore drilling is safe, government regulation is bad, and this particular disaster is "Obama's Katrina". It's not, no matter what the AP's Calvin Woodward alleges.
The political subtext of the crisis was clear and increasingly on people's minds, whether from a federal office deploying oil-containment booms or from a Louisiana parish awaiting yet another sucker punch from the sea.
Will this be Obama's Katrina? Should the federal and state governments have done more, and earlier? Did they learn the lessons of the devastating hurricane?
Well, yes. They did. If it weren't for the Obama administration, none of us would know that the flow of oil into the sea was 5 times the rate reported by BP. It was, after all, the federal government experts who exposed the true leakage rate.
On Wednesday night, she reported the findings of federal experts that up to 5,000 barrels a day were leaking from the well. BP had estimated only 1,000. As well, the company told the Coast Guard a new leak had been found. Obama was briefed on these developments on Air Force One while returning at night from the Midwest.
True to form, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, and every other right wing hack has jumped right on the bandwagon.
Halliburton is directly linked to the failure causing the spill and explosion.
In the case of the Deepwater Horizon, workers had finished pumping cement to fill the space between the pipe and the sides of the hole and had begun temporarily plugging the well with cement; it isn't known whether they had completed the plugging process before the blast.
Regulators have previously identified problems in the cementing process as a leading cause of well blowouts, in which oil and natural gas surge out of a well with explosive force. When cement develops cracks or doesn't set properly, oil and gas can escape, ultimately flowing out of control. The gas is highly combustible and prone to ignite, as it appears to have done aboard the Deepwater Horizon, which was leased by BP PLC, the British oil giant.
Concerns about the cementing process—and about whether rigs have enough safeguards to prevent blowouts—raise questions about whether the industry can safely drill in deep water and whether regulators are up to the task of monitoring them.
The scrutiny on cementing will focus attention on Halliburton Co., the oilfield-services firm that was handling the cementing process on the rig, which burned and sank last week. The disaster, which killed 11, has left a gusher of oil streaming into the Gulf from a mile under the surface.
It's not the first time for Halliburton, either.
Halliburton also was the cementer on a well that suffered a big blowout last August in the Timor Sea, off Australia. The rig there caught fire and a well leaked tens of thousands of barrels of oil over 10 weeks before it was shut down. The investigation is continuing; Halliburton declined to comment on it.
Meanwhile, the devastation spreads.
Offshore, cleanup workers struggled to contain an oily sheen spreading from a well ruptured by the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon exploration platform. Coast Guard officials estimate that some 42,000 gallons of crude continue to leak into the Gulf of Mexico each day. Remote submersibles have so far failed in an effort to close the shattered well's blowout valve, which should have shut off automatically. Boom crews plan to begin burning collected oil on the Gulf's surface as early as Wednesday. - Mother Nature Network
The failed blowout valve? It was manufactured by Cameron International. One look at Cameron's board should tell you all you need to know. They're all Bush/Cheney contractor cronies, here and around the world.
Offshore drilling has been put forward by the Obama administration as one prong of a multi-prong approach to ending our foreign oil dependence. With thousands of barrels of oil spilling offshore, perhaps it's time for the administration to reconsider opening more wells to companies willing to overlook consistent records of failure like Halliburton's.
Natural disasters like Katrina are devastating and unpreventable. The best we can do is be prepared to deal with the fallout, including levees unable to handle the stress of a Category 5 hurricane. The government failed the people of New Orleans and allowed the aftermath of Katrina to devastate New Orleans. This disaster is a man-made mess, beginning to end, engineered by corporate interests. It isn't anyone's Katrina. It's just chapter two of the war waged on our coasts by Bush, Cheney, and their gang of corporate cronies.
Update: Media Matters has a timeline of the Obama administration's response.
As we live through another anniversary of the man-made disaster on the Gulf Coast and the shocking lack of a federal response that caused thousands to die needlessly, thoughts turn again to whether anybody remembers New Orleans and its environs, and whether the proper resources are being deployed to rehabilitate the region. If you listen to the President, of course, his Administration is doing a heckuva job down there. Lots of cabinet members have visited the region, to be followed by the President later this year. The White House has untangled some bureaucracy to allow for more federal assistance to reach the Gulf Coast, and the stimulus has enhanced recovery efforts. And even some local Republicans have praised his approach, particularly the renewed sense of confidence in FEMA.
But that's the White House's spin. And not everyone agrees with it. The Institute for Southern Studies has reported on coalition groups blasting the Army Corps of Engineers for their slow response to restoring the natural barriers - wetlands, marshes, and barrier islands - that could help prevent future hurricanes. New Orleans resident Harry Shearer has more on that. To their credit, the White House has created a federal task force to speed up coastal restoration projects. But on other issues, the ISS has given the Administration low marks.
The Institute of Southern Studies recently released a report that assesses how Washington has handled the storm's aftermath. The ISS asked 50 community leaders to grade the Obama administration's Katrina recovery efforts: Obama got a D+, and Bush was given a D-. If graded on an E for effort curve, Bush probably would have gotten the edge given his authorization of millions in Gulf Opportunity tax credits and bonds, and an extension of time under which developers could use them.
Meanwhile, Obama has done little in seven months beyond distributing $50 million in housing vouchers. Unfortunately, families either won't be able to use them because there aren't enough houses built yet, or the vouchers will be of little use because they only cover a fraction of rents, which have risen substantially since Katrina. He's also instituted a plan to sell FEMA mobile units to families for $1 or $5, but many of those trailers are toxic from formaldehyde leaks.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) did little for recovery and reinvestment in the Gulf Coast area that needed it the most. Since calculations were made based off current population numbers -- many displaced people throughout the country are still waiting to return -- fewer ARRA dollars reached these congressional districts. ARRA's tax credit exchange program, which cashes in states' low income housing tax credits, also excluded the Go Zone tax credits, leaving over 17,000 housing units hanging in the balance.
The Lower Ninth Ward, already struggling prior to the flood, has been particularly slow to return to stability. Only 20% of its residents have returned full-time, and the area has lagged far behind the tourist spots and the Garden District.
The neglect of the Gulf both during and after the storm will not get turned around quickly or easily. I'm tempted to cut the White House a little slack on this one. But on the current trajectory, New Orleans is looking more and more in the post-Katrina period like a restored home for the rich and connected, and a nightmare for the voiceless. And given the moral outrage that the response to the storm correctly engendered, that is unacceptable. We have an obligation to those who were left to rot in the fetid waters, not just to give them a return to the same inequality, but a chance at a better life. Should Obama visit the city before the year ends, he shouldn't go to Bourbon Street, but the Lower Ninth, and he should not just tell them what he will do, but back it up.