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"Environmentalists" refuse to accept culpability for disaster

Looking through my postings of the past month, many of them constitute a quest to figure how the fallout from Hurricane Katrina got worsened by ineptitude. Whether it be certain elected officials or governments, we need to understand whose these underperformers are so that we can eject the officeholders from their sinecures as soon as possible, and embark upon the necessary reform of government even more quickly.

Actually, it’s been a bit distasteful of a task for me since usually I am a positive person who likes to see people cooperate rather than combat with each other, and I wish everybody could succeed in the endeavors they desire. Nevertheless, the task I perform (in the process cutting through the usual and predictable uninformed, if not malevolent, analyses that seek to distract us from the truth) is vital, for we cannot move forward unless this mission gets completed satisfactorily.

But into the breach I must go one more time, with the most difficult contributory factor to escalating the disaster of all, most taxing because it is not a person we can remove from power, nor an institution we can alter. It is an ideology which presently brings misery to many worldwide and seeks to increase the power of its believers at the expense of everybody’s freedom.


Political future in doubt, is Blanco slipping into panic or PR mode?

Now that a semblance of control has been established in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the two politicians most tarnished by the whole disaster, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, have gotten heads to start rolling in desperate attempts to give their political careers new life.

New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass without warning announced he was bailing out. The department had met with heavy criticism for its inability to organize and execute after flooding began Aug. 29. Roughly 15 percent of the force, undermanned relative to others, abandoned posts in its aftermath, calling into question the force’s discipline. The force also has suffered an undue amount of corruption within its ranks, reducing its effectiveness and citizens’ willingness to assist it, in the past couple of decades.

However, some of the abandonment was due to officer disgust over Nagin’s refusal at first to crack down on looting. Thus, to deflect from this, it’s likely that Nagin pushed for this resignation, as it would be an extremely odd time for a police chief to just up and leave his officers, after putting in about a quarter century in the department, only a couple of weeks after saying he wanted to stay on for a long time, but just days after Nagin rescinded orders from Compass (that he himself may well have given) about disarming citizens that drew a successful restraining order from the National Rifle Association. That probably was the last straw as Nagin looks for a fall guy to distract from his poor performance after the storm.

Now there's been a report that Compass got the heave-ho because in the polling of the department after the storms, too many phantom officers are being discovered (which may explain why it's so undermanned). If this turns out to be true and Nagin is connected to this, he needs a fall guy to deflect criticism or even prosecution; if not, he was derelict in his duties as mayor to not have discovered this after over two years on the job.

Former Gov. Mike Foster holdover Andy Kopplin fell on his sword for Blanco. Blanco announced her chief of staff in name had been transferred to new duties involving the state’s reconstruction. Translation: he’s been demoted because of the disastrous public relations hits Blanco has taken as a result of her poor performance after the storm and her and her staff’s inability to control the damage to her career (which no doubt will be on display today as she testifies in front on Congress.)

(In his place comes part of the Lafayette Mafia, Regents employee Jimmy Clarke, an old pal of Blanco’s but particularly of her husband’s from their days at the now-University of Louisiana at Lafayette. With having to give former Louisiana Democratic Party chairman Jim Bernhard the heave-ho because of his leadership of The Shaw Group and the no-bid contract it got for post-Katrina reconstruction – a story totally missed by the mainstream media in its fetish for trying to make the Bush Administration look bad – Blanco needed to get another familiar face on board from her campaign and transition team to right her sinking political ship.)

But most interesting was Blanco’s statements about why she was doing this:

“We’re no longer a typical governor’s office,” Blanco said…. “We don’t know if it’s a permanent new structure or will have to last the rest of my administration …” Blanco has realigned duties in all branches of her administration so that each agency has staff and a new mission focused on Katrina recovery.

This smells of the beginnings of panic, or at least an attempt to try to create a "war-footing" image of Blanco in order to dispel a picture of her as indecisive and crumbling under the pressures of office. Either one can’t be good for the recovery trials and tribulations ahead for Louisiana.

In education, Louisiana turns tables on New York

After all that’s gone wrong in the past month with Louisiana’s disaster preparedness and response, it’s nice to see the state make some good decisions, in contrast to the silliness and corruption in other places whose policies and politicians have been held out as a model for our bumbling lot.

Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education almost got it right when it decided to give a pass to fifth and eighth graders on accountability exams being used to determined whether they are promoted and to ask the federal government to count only students in a school for two years in assessing school accountability. The adjustments became necessary in the widespread displacements following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The disruptions involved would introduce extraneous elements unrelated to education in the data, disrupting any valid measure of accountability and learning.

The only thing BESE could have done better was to waive the requirement only for those students who showed up between the first day of school and the Oct. 1 reporting deadline, meaning those in the classroom from the start would have to pass the LEAP test to be promoted.

Contrast this sensible approach to education delivery to that in New York, where the disaster response to the terrorist bombings of Sept. 11, 2001 has been used to draw comparisons with Louisiana’s to Katrina. Here, you have their Legislature trying to circumvent their BESE-equivalent by politicizing history education.

Perhaps the New York Legislature ought to look into better civics education, particularly emphasizing that corruption is a non-no, instead. That would be appropriate after the co-author of the law to appoint a commission to introduce the politicization, Democrat ex-Assemblyman Clarence Norman, simultaneously was convicted of accepting illegal campaign contributions (which means he loses his office – guess he timed that well).

I’m sad that New Yorkers had to put up with this idiot, but it’s refreshing to see our officials in a position to be used as models compared to those elsewhere.


Broussard's attacks cast bad light on all Louisiana officials

Not helping Louisiana’s case to score big from the federal government with reconstruction funds are wacky comments coming from local officials such as Aaron Broussard. The Democrat ex-Kenner mayor, ex-gubernatorial candidate now fills the shoes of the likes of Joe and Mike Yenni and Tim Coulon as Jefferson Parish President. But only until the end of this term, if that, if he keeps flapping his mouth like this.

Broussard gained national attention when he said the federal bureaucracy had “murder” on its hands for its slow response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But it was later shown that the story that he rpesented on which he used to base the charge, complete with his teary histrionics, deviated from the truth, placing the death of an employee’s mother in St. Rita’s Nursing Home days before it happened, before the storm even hit (for which the operators of it have been indicted for 34 counts of negligent homicide).

Which means one of four things happened:

  1. It seems inconceivable that the employee, parish emergency services director Thomas Rodrigue, lied to Broussard. Rodrigue claims he didn’t even see the interview and never told Broussard what Broussard claimed he did.

  2. Broussard’s staff was confused about the information when they told him.

  3. Broussard, overwhelmed by everything, confused the information in his head and cemented it in there as fact to be repeated later.

  4. Broussard lied to achieve maximal dramatic effect.
Again, #1 seems unlikely to have happened, and Broussard does not think Rodrigue was lying (why should he lie about his mother’s death; that’s the last think most people who think to do in such a situation). Were it #2, Broussard would have to explain the staff misinformed him and, wracked by the crisis, he did not think critically through their information and took it as fact even if it makes him look unaware and confused. If it were #3, then Broussard should explain that he was overwrought and confused in that time of crisis. While this becomes instant fodder to be used against him the next time he runs for office, showing his judgment questionable and his temperament maybe unsuitable for the holder of public responsibilities, at least his honesty would have been refreshing, perhaps even redeeming for a future political career.

But if it is scenario #4, the most logical thing to do to hide this would be to attack the questioner – which is exactly what Broussard did. The only other reason to explain his behavior would be that #2 or #3 were the case but Broussard figured the admission that goes along with it was too politically risky to allow out.

And as if shooting the messenger wasn’t enough, Broussard accused questioners of bad faith:

Somebody better wake up. You want to come and live in this community and see the tragedy we're living in? Are you sitting there having your coffee, you're in a place where toilets flush and lights go on and everything's a dream and you pick up your paper and you want to battle ideology and political chess games? Man, get out of my face. Whoever wants to do that, get out of my face.

But what’s interesting is that, even as Broussard paints a picture of misery in the parish, life there is getting back to normal for most, at least in its metropolitan part. They’re having coffee, flushing toilets, and turning on lights for the most part now in Jefferson and thus, I suppose, just as likely to “battle … political chess games” as the next guy.

As a result, Broussard either is a liar who makes reckless charges based on nothing or he lacks good judgment in times of stress, either hurricane- or media glare-induced, and doesn’t have the courage to admit it. These are qualities that probably ensure that you won’t see any buildings, roads, or stadiums named after him any time soon, and makes him the poster child for limiting the amount of money that Louisiana gets for reconstruction from the federal government, with lots of strings attached.

If the ranting Broussard symbolizes the politicians who will be getting money to reconstruct Louisiana, instead of $250 billion out of the federal government, we’ll be lucky to get $250.


Stuck on stupid II: The Golden Rule

We sure know how to win friends and influence enemies in Louisiana. After our Democrat political leaders, joined by Republican Sen. David Vitter, criticize the federal government for a month, they then ask the federal government for $250 billion for reconstruction, of which $40 billion is for Army Corps of Engineers projects – waiving any state matching requirement.

To put this into perspective:

  • The $250 billion is not far behind the $350 billion estimated spent on the military aspects and their aftermath of the war of terror since Sep. 11, 2001 – which means in reconstruction terms (leaving out the actual war-making expenses), Louisiana actually is asking for more than countries with 10 times its population which face far more damage.
  • The $40 billion is ten times the annual Corps budget, and 100 times the annual amount typically received by Louisiana which gets more such funding than any other state.
  • Also, it is nearly three times the size of the entire request for coastal restoration efforts in the state.
  • Finally, it is over 13 times the present annual state budget, and around 125 times the present annual capital outlay budget.

    Making matters worse is the pork-laden nature of the request, including such favorites as the project which Sen. Mary Landrieu intervened with which potentially took money away from flood protection for New Orleans and the boondoggle, unnecessary Industrial Canal lock. (Worse, it seems that one of the contributors to the flooding was having the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet channel open, where opponents of the lock’s rebuilding have argued that the Port of New Orleans has deliberately kept the channel open as a bargaining chip for the lock’s rebuilding. The proposal neglects to mandate this closure.)

    In addition, $50 billion of it would being the form of open-ended grants, while $13 billion would go to roads (does that have anything to do with the fact that, over 15 years later, the state still hasn’t finished most road projects it promised to do with a special gasoline tax? Nice, confidence-inspiring track record.) And more extraneous requests are in there – and this does not include the extra social benefits already being paid out by the federal government to displaced people.

    And who would control the disbursement of this money? It seems the nine-person panel would have a Louisiana majority.

    So, let’s get this straight. Louisiana, from some of her federal officials through some state officials all they way down to city and other local governments, countenanced negligence from benign to irresponsible in ensuring proper flood protection and in dealing with hurricanes. And now these same people have formulated a plan wanting the country to pay an incredible sum of money to the state controlled by people from the state to deal with the aftereffects and, apparently, Louisiana’s past inability to utilize our resources efficiently in other areas?

  • The rest of the country is going to look at this and think we’re still stuck on stupid. A little realism, where we look less like unreformed junkies asking for fix because of problems in part we helped to create in our own lives, would be in order in such a request. Remember, after all, the golden rule.