Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Eddie Compass resigns...is that enough?

Today we witnessed the departure of the City's #1 police officer (see: story). Never Again asks, will Mayor Nagin do the honorable thing and follow Compass' example? Not likely, but we can hope.

In the meantime, I would like to say that I am sorry to see Chief Compass leave. My humble opinion is that the greatest faults that led to most of the problems within the NOPD were mostly not his fault. But he resigned we assume because that's what he felt leaders in such a situation must do. Good luck, Chief.

Uncle Speed

Don't you dare read any more of this!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

An Open Letter to Michael Moore

Dear Mr. Moore,

The purpose for my writing this to you is to answer some things you said and didn’t say in a letter immediately following Hurricane Katrina slamming into the Gulf Coast. Considering all I've been through this month and what your gross opportunism represents to my fellow citizens and myself, you're lucky I'm even willing to attempt to be civil with you. However, you wanted to make this tragedy suit your political aims, and I feel I am honor bound to reply point-for-point.

First, Mr. Moore, you compare “lost” military helicopters to you losing your car in a Sears lot once. Not sure what one has to do with the other, but I have a suggestion - try looking for the car with the serious front-end suspension damage (that's a joke). But I digress from your real point. You ask where the helicopters were. Here's the answer: They were on their way. Anyone with the slightest understanding of military logistics, understands that roughly every soldier in the field has 10-20 supporting him in the supply areas. Perhaps a soldier of your considerable, ahem, well, you know, might require a slightly higher number, but you get my point. So, when the soldiers were called for, which by most reports was on Wednesday after Katrina hit, they started moving. The faster units, such as 82nd Airborne, got there quickly, while more cumbersome units, e.g., Air Cavalry, got there a little later.

Your letter to the President shows that you, to put it as mildly as possible, are ignorant on a very fine point of law; I would like to enlighten you. The President, any President, can't send Federal troops in to any state, unless invited by the Governor of said state. It's called the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which effectively ended Reconstruction. It's very important, though apparently not important enough for Gov. Blanco or her staff to understand, or for you to consider in your open rant.

Second, Mr. Moore, you ask where the Louisiana National Guard (LANG) is, or was given the time that has elapsed. Well, that, too, should be asked of Gov. Blanco. Those are her forces to command. Two units were headed back from Iraq in October before Katrina; in fact, because of the storm, they're return was expedited thanks to the Defense Department. Though that doesn't seem to be your point, rather you really wish to say that LANG soldiers don't take the same oath all other soldiers take. Furthermore, they aren’t trained to be combat soldiers, but instead were tricked and only signed up to be relief workers and get free college tuition. Please, before you disparage their honorable service, bother asking a representative sample of these fine young men and women what they believe their duty is.

Third, no weather personnel stated that the storm was headed to New Orleans on Thursday. This is an outright lie, Mr. Moore, and I defy you to prove this point. In fact, as of Friday night, no one thought the storm would head any further East than Mobile. You should know your timeline a little better.

Fourth, you state Bush was in San Diego on Tuesday. So what? He already planned to visit, and NO ONE knew what was about to unfold in New Orleans. A better question would be to ask where Mayor Nagin was during the same timeframe. Rumors are that he may have been anywhere from Baton Rouge to Dallas, but unlike you, I don't have to deal in rumor and innuendo to make my point. Please state for the record what role during the formative moments of such a crisis do you really think the Federal government plays. Obviously, you expect your readers to fall for your trap that the Feds are responsible for being everywhere at all times.

Fifth, no level of funding for the Army Corps, whether increased or not, would have made a difference in this storm. Have you ever visited New Orleans? I’m not referring to the touristy parts, but the residential areas to the North and East of the French Quarter closest to Lake Pontchartrain. If you have, you would be familiar with the size of our levees and might begin to fathom how long it would take to raise them to the necessary levels. Also, the 17th Street Canal breach, something near and dear to my family and friends, was recently enhanced. However, according to some at LSU, these levees may not have been topped at all; instead they may have buckled due to faulty construction. Explain how more money would solve this. Also, last I saw, the Army Corps had plenty of personnel in their New Orleans office, despite your insinuation that they’re all busy rebuilding Iraq.

Sixth, on Day Three, where do you propose that the President land Air Force One? Debris, looters, snipers in the area, and more vital assets being needed in the area, and you think the President should stop for a visit. I wouldn't even suggest that Hillary Clinton, were she to become President, do such a foolhardy thing. Get a little perspective here.

Seventh, I believe, when you compare Katrina to an F4 tornado stretching from New York to Cleveland, Mr. Moore, you could only honestly be referring to the far western edge of New York state. The hurricane force winds, which spanned roughly 120 miles, a wide distance for sure, were nowhere near the hundreds of miles between NYC and Cleveland, which you seem to be deftly implying. If that wasn’t your intent, you should be clearer for those who may be geographically challenged or use a less confusing example. Also, an F4 tornado has winds above 200MPH; so again, Mr. Moore, you are either ignorant of facts which are readily available on the Internet or you purposely exaggerate to bolster your point; in other words, you lie… again.

Eighth, do you realize that, despite relying upon a theory about global warming, you misapply accepted science within this very same field, that, were it to become true, would lead to LOWER temperatures in the Gulf, not higher? Also, those pesky scientists and a few public officials, not to be confused with Leftist environmentalists and their fellow traveler Communists, predicted this storm for 40 years, ever since Betsy in 1965. Those of us who grew up here were fed a steady Summer diet of warnings about what would happen when the “Big One” hit; some were crazy-sounding, some more plausible, but all bad, so there's plenty of blame to go around, not just for Bush and the GOP.

Ninth, Mr. Moore, you claim that others will politicize this catastrophe, while you politicize it yourself. Let me state for the record - I'm a New Orleanian, first, and a Republican, second, and that span is daily increasing. Mr. Moore, you and everyone else who finds political advantage to my, my family's, and my friends' losses are nothing better than vultures preying upon our misfortune. If you really care, you can help out and shut the hell up, in that order.

Tenth, Mr. Moore, the poor of New Orleans have only liberal welfare policies and local corruption and incompetence (almost all Democrat, btw) to thank for their endemic poverty. Those who chose to stay home, not just the poor, stayed home out of ignorance of and desensitization to the dangers of such a storm. My wife and I had reservations at the Pelham hotel downtown along with several friends. I thank God everyday that we changed our minds Sunday morning; I do not think my .38 with three full clips would have been sufficient (and I wouldn’t have returned the ammo to Kmart). If what LSU is surmising, my fellow citizens may have needed evacuation because of incompetence and/or mismanagement on a grand and, possibly, criminal scale by the Army Corps, Levee Board, and building contractors. If you needed to see white folk, Mr. Moore, why didn't you take a look to Lakeview, Gentilly, or Chalmette? Oh, wait, that would require basic curiosity, intellectual honesty, and the testicular fortitude to come down here to help those you claim to champion.

Finally, I wish you the best in your future endeavors. Despite almost completely disagreeing with your politics, I feel those such as yourself can play a vital role in our politics. However, please refrain from using our misfortune to advance your goals; I'm positive you're capable of making your case without our help.

Sincerely,
Scott

Don't you dare read any more of this!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Cover-up has begun...

Not really begun, as much as continues. As noted previously, the City of New Orleans posted an official emergency plan on its website: http://www.cityofno.com/portal.aspx?portal=46&tabid=26.

Fortunately, knowing this might happen, I saved the relevant portion:

Conduct of an actual evacuation will be the responsibility of the mayor of New Orleans. ...The city of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas. ...Special arrangements will be made to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves or who require specific life-saving assistance. Additional personnel will be recruited to assist in evacuation procedure as needed. ...Approximately 100,000 citizens of New Orleans do not have means of personal transportation.
This link worked not just a couple of days ago, however, now it appears I do not have sufficient access to view the plan. Or, perhaps, it's down for maintenance and retooling to fit circumstances.

Or they're just plain embarrassed.

Don't you dare read any more of this!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Against Nagin - Portrait of Ineffective Government

I have a somewhat unique point of view that I’d like to share with you over the next several months.

From September of 2003 through March of 2005, I served as a Staff Writer for Mayor Nagin’s Office of Communications. During that time I wrote countless press releases, media advisories, and talking points for Mayor Nagin. I also single-handedly researched and wrote the Mayor’s Two-Year Progress Report.

During my time at City Hall, I got to know the Mayor a little more closely than most people, but only through proximity. The Mayor made a habit of keeping his public mask on, even around the office.

Mayor Nagin suffers from several afflictions of personality that make him a liability to the future of New Orleans. Over the next few weeks, I will present a number of arguments against Nagin as a statesman as well as a leader. I encourage anyone to ask questions and voice their opinions, consenting or differing.

Number One on the list of shortcomings:

1. Nagin tends to believe his own press.

I know this because I used to write it. Nagin is not special in his desire to bend facts to make his administration look good. Everyone expects that. But what bothers me is how Nagin claimed credit for “Hollywood South.” His communications staff slapped a label on economic activity that was already happening (to the tune of nearly $200 million in production work over 2 years) courtesy of the Louisiana Film Tax Credit incentive, which was put in place by Governor Mike Foster’s office.

Yet Nagin spent city money to visit Los Angeles and meet with studio reps in an attempt to bring more movies to the city. Hollywood South is smoke and mirrors, a catchy hook to claim credit for something other people had already done. And now, Hollywood South is under a thin layer of petroleum and bio-hazards.

Like most novice politicians, Nagin’s rhetoric does not match his effectiveness. He promises the world and delivers a scoop of dirt. Everyone remember the noble concept of a passenger rail from downtown to the airport? That was a jewel in his campaign rhetoric that went away quickly after I came on board.

Nagin’s special disease is “Talk Big – Act Small.” Where the change requires a tsunami’s force, most of Nagin’s plans have provided the cumulative effect of a wave pool. You cannot deny their effectiveness in small doses – such as “Project Second Chance” and the city-sponsored New Orleans Lightning (a biddy basketball team that won a tournament in Nice, France). But when lives were on the line, in a crisis, Nagin’s poor leadership created crime, anarchy, and ultimately death.

Ultimately, this Mayor is more flash than substance. He has an immense ego, judging his administration’s success by the number of cover shots he has on magazines, how often he sees himself on TV, and how favorable the press coverage is. Nagin enjoyed his honeymoon in politics, that first 18 months where he could do no wrong, bringing credibility and “accountability” to the Mayor’s office as the face of a “New New Orleans.”

The truth of the matter is that, while Nagin's national recognition increased, the city's core problems of widespread povery, blighted housing, and unimaginably bad crime remained. This makes him a poor choice to continue the next 4 years as mayor.

Now in the wake of his inept planning and execution of evacuation for Hurricane Katrina, Nagin now has blood on his hands as well. We'll be talking more about this as the weeks wear on.

Don't you dare read any more of this!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Talk about leadership

Much has been made of Mayor Nagin's and Governor Blanco's leadership in the wake of Katrina's aftermath. Local and national media have been stepping over one another to heap praise especially upon our beloved C. Ray, but some of us, perhaps a lot of us, would like to know a few things, things the media are uniquely capable of reporting to its audience.

First, why wasn't our first line of defense, namely police and fire departments, better prepared for this disaster? Mayor Nagin, the City Council, and other top officials mostly grew up around these parts, so ignorance of what could happen if the "big one" hit is not a viable excuse. If Mayor Nagin knows enough to tell evacuees heading to the Superdome and other last resort shelters to bring several days of food and water, then it is unconscionable for our leadership not to have more than a day's worth of food and water on hand for our emergency personnel.

Second, what happened on the GNO bridge? Gretna says one thing, New Orleans says another, refugees say yet another version. What the hell happened? Without having been there, here's my guess: A) Mayor Nagin tells some refugees to flee over the GNO without consulting anyone on the other side, B) Some of those fleeing include some unscrupulous people who decide the West Bank would be a great place to loot and cause mayhem, especially the Oakwood mall, C) Gretna PD decides it doesn't want that to happen, so they react to protect their citizens and property and barricade the GNO, D) Nagin decides he's on to something, despite having no communication with West Bank authorities, and tells another wave of evacuees to get moving, and E) Warning shots are fired and people are turned back by an understandably zealous police force. If my choices were between sitting on the GNO before the Gretna PD barricade and the Convention Center mob, I'd choose the former; not likely Gretna PD would harm a stationary group of people fleeing what's below. Nice of Mayor Nagin to imply that property and race were the two deciding factors in this case, despite evidence to the contrary.

Third, if it's true that roughly 250 soldiers from the Louisiana National Guard were in the Convention Center, then why were they there and what is the reason for their not attempting to maintain safety and order? Soldiers are supposed to be trained to operate in the absence of, and sometimes contrary to, given orders. However, no soldier can function without supplies. What, if anything, happened here?

Fourth, exactly how many NOPD officers have deserted or are unaccounted for today? We can't rely upon other municipalities to loan us personnel forever, so where do we stand?

Fifth, where were the CDL carrying drivers for all those public buses? The City of New Orleans emergency plan calls for preparing drivers in case of emergency to drive city buses to evacuate our poorest and least able citizens. Yes, it was a weekend and many would have been scared to drive with such a storm approaching. Does this mean, Mr. Nagin, that the emergency plan only operates under sunny skies during the middle of the week?

Finally, how many people can Mayor Nagin blame for this catastrophe before he gets some of the blame himself? (Ok, so that one's rhetorical)

Scott

Don't you dare read any more of this!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

"Amid Katrina Chaos, Congressman Used National Guard to Visit Home"

From ABC News:

" Sept. 13, 3005 — Amid the chaos and confusion that engulfed New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck, a congressman used National Guard troops to check on his property and rescue his personal belongings — even while New Orleans residents were trying to get rescued from rooftops, ABC News has learned. "

http://www.abcnews.go.com/US/HurricaneKatrina/story?id=1123495&page=1

I guess the FBI wasn't available, Congressman.

Don't you dare read any more of this!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Response to "Doomed Cities"...

Dear Mr. Ledeen,

Having been an avid reader of your work on NRO the past several years, I regret that the occasion for our introduction should be one where I take exception to something you've written ("Doomed Cities"). While well written, I must disagree with your characterization of the spirit of my home and the genesis of the problems that have culminated in this particular disaster.

I must note that I'm one of the fortunate who've made it to safer ground. My wife and my parents are in Memphis with me until tomorrow, at which time we will return to Thibodaux (approx. 60 miles SW of New Orleans). This will be our base of operations for rebuilding our lives. I was born in East New Orleans, lived in Kenner (my parents still do), and own a home in Lakeview (1/2 mile from the 17th Street Canal breach). All three are or were under deep water, washing away much of my past with it, but my family is healthy and safe, and for that I am forever grateful.

But I'm here to discuss what you've written.

First, you mention, "dancing in defiance of death was the city's trademark." Perhaps this is something bizarre to an outsider, but there's a poignant reason that our culture operates this way. From my earliest childhood, I and others like me have been taught to celebrate the life, not mourn the death, of a loved one. The ceremony is somber like any other funeral in any other place, but once that's done we celebrate. It's a party, yes, but one where the participants laugh and reminisce about the departed. This isn't something spontaneously erupting, but requested beforehand by the deceased. My father always said, "Don't waste money on some God awful cemetery; burn my ashes and have one hell of a blow out."

Second, if one spends time only in certain, tourist-centered parts of the city, then the impression of an "absence of industry" is unavoidable. However, that just isn't the case. For every image of a looter you've seen, I know of people risking their lives to save our city. Just one family I know has one brother and two nephews in the NOPD and one son in the NOFD. My former business partner, a first-responder during 9/11, is flying Blackhawks for the LANG. I'd have my truck packed with extra gas today, if there were some way for me to get back to my home. And I'm not the only one. (By the way, if you know of a way I can get to the city to start helping, I would be very grateful.) The thugs and animals that are preying on the others in the city are not representative of New Orleans, not to imply that you've stated such, and we will make sure justice is swift and final for those few.

Third, "the fascinating spectacle of human foibles and failures that seems at one with the city" is true; however, those failures are just as often visitors and interlopers, not natives. Not one of the authors you mention was a New Orleanian, and most of the debaucheries witnessed during Mardi Gras are confined to a 10 square block area populated for those two weeks by our beloved tourists.

Fourth, our food is good and our pace of life is slower than many, and ours is/was one of the few 24-hour towns. You can *gasp* walk out a bar with an adult beverage. We enjoy a good time. Our politicians are so notoriously corrupt, as the joke goes, one comes to Louisiana (not just New Orleans) to earn a graduate degree in political corruption. This, however, is not due to the nature of its citizens, but a combustible mix of ignorance and neglect. Again, if you didn't imply this, I'm just a little sensitive at this moment and I apologize.

Fifth, you mention that New Orleans "focuses on things past, not present or future." I'm not sure if you meant this as a slight, but it seemed that way. Perhaps, our city would be better off turning into Houston, Atlanta, or Charlotte, all towns who've lost their souls. Sure their economies are booming, but they've the cultural equivalent of Chinese food, forgotten in 30 minutes. This is a town where restaurant franchises either wait until they're sufficiently established to open here or find their start here. We fight over knocking down 200 hundred-year-old buildings because some opium addict, who happened to be a jazz genius, once ate breakfast there (kind of quaint now, given recent events). You may think this detracts from us, but my fellow citizens and I would have it no other way. And, I expect our tourists wouldn't either. Nevertheless, we don't have that luxury anymore, and I would thank you to not bring it up to a resident again.

If you'd be so kind, I have one request for you and, if you will, your readers, before I move on to helping my family rebuild our lives: If you've ever planned to visit or revisit New Orleans, wait a few weeks and come, preferably with a shovel and a strong back, or visit as soon as we rebuild, which we will do. Despite our tendency to complain about those "damn" tourists walking in front of our cars in a residential neighborhood like the French Quarter as if they were in Disneyland and telling all their friends about how our women expose themselves for plastic beads, we secretly love showing you a good time, which you may or may not remember, but we've been very careful to make sure you're safe.

God bless you, Mr. Ledeen, and your readers. He blesses those who, such as ourselves, take care of themselves, but we will be forever indebted to our fellow citizens who find it in their conscience to help us in this our time of greatest need. God speed, and bless my hometown.

Sincerely,
Scott

Don't you dare read any more of this!

"Coming from you, friend is a 'four letter word'...."

Much has been written and said about the acts of kindness, both great and small, performed in the wake of hurricane Katrina. However, someone needs to document the scandalous behavior of some folks regarding rising rental and real estate prices.

First, I'm not referring to buyer exuberance leading to premium selling prices for homes. That's the price you pay, when you don't operate with full knowledge of the situation. To the buyers, please take a deep breath and consider what's going to be available soon, if it isn't already, in Jefferson, St. Charles, and St. Tammany parishes. It might not be your home, but it's better than being upside down on a mortgage. No, what I would like to discuss is people jacking rental prices as much as 100% higher days following the storm.

Let me explain this in the form of a story:

Family A is contacted by Family B concerning Family B's rental property. Family B is very interested in helping out Family A given the long-standing family relationship between the two (in-laws are best friends, B's daughter was the flower girl in A's wedding, etc.), so Family B offers to rent their property to Family A for $750 a month. Note: This property's pre-Katrina rental price was $550 a month. Given the aforementioned real estate exuberance in the area, Family A gladly accepts. One week later...Family B decides it now wants to sell the rental property, and informs Family A it can now rent said house for $1,000 a month with no lease.

Not that it matters much to the story, but Family A is Uncle Speed's family. I know how small this area can be, so hopefully Family B will eventually recognize themselves in this post.

Our's is not the only story like this here. Buyers please, please, please, think before you get in to this situation. If you're a landlord who did this, God rest your soul and expect the Attorney General's office to be contacting you soon.

Scott

Don't you dare read any more of this!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

An open letter to outsiders attempting to make political hay out of this crisis...

Dear Jackass,

Having evacuated from my home in the Lakeview area of New Orleans (1/2 mile from 17th Street Canal breach), I'm one of the fortunate who've escaped with my family's lives. This excruciating waiting game gives me a lot of time reading over the Internet/watching your interview, and something you've said/written prompted me to respond.

Though your point-of-view is not unique to, rather representative of, a subclass of people who find political advantage in this tragedy, I would appreciate the opportunity to enlighten you, man-to-man, about some facts in this story because, at the very least, I believe in giving you the benifit of the doubt that you have the ability to grow up a little.

Thus far, the Federal response, while not as fast as we would like it (when I say we, I mean those of us who have a stake in this community, and not people who dislike certain politicians), is on a timetable that was known well beforehand. The problems arose, at least in New Orleans, because the leadership structure quite literally fell apart. Our city is a living example of the "Grasshopper and the Ant" parable. Doubt what I say? Look at the orderly restoration taking place in ALL the surrounding parishes and counties. The cops didn't have any stand-by food or water, instead being left to fend for themselves in small, well-armed packs of "official" looting. The firefighters, unable to do their job due to gunfire and being stranded by the NOPD in unsafe conditions, had gone "Alamo style" to the outskirts of the city at Holy Cross College, choosing to protect themselves until order could be restored. No one is reporting this for various reasons, but I know about it because of firsthand accounts from friends in the NOPD and NOFD. When you hear about "rumors" of desertions in the NOPD, know that those "rumors" total between 100-300 officers out of a force of 1500. That's freakin' insane.

The second reason for this problem is something much deeper and more difficult to solve. New Orleans is a segregated community with a large underclass of almost entirely black citizens. The public schools are almost entirely black with a handfull of 1st generation immigrants, with the exception of the three magnet schools. The schools are so deplorable and so much has been written before, I'll leave the description to you to flesh out. Needless to say, if you're born to a poor family, your chances of educating yourself out of poverty are limited. Part of the blame lies with the families, but part of it lies with the rest of us who see the need and avoid getting dirty.

Ours is a service-based economy, so most jobs don't pay well. That's not the Federal government's fault, but our own. What CEO would want to locate his business in a community where the sales taxes are high, the roads suck, and the public schools don't function? We've a hidden tax of private schooling, whereby you pay property taxes to the public system, then pay again to send your kids to a decent school, usually a Catholic one. Ours was not a well-functioning community, before and inspite of Katrina.

No one could foresee the exact outcome of this storm, but our local leaders sure could have prepared better. Ask yourself "why did this only occur in New Orleans?" St. Bernard and Slidell were much worse off, Gulfport and Biloxi were devestated, Long Beach is gone. All these are places with similar demographics, but only New Orleans turned riotous. Can you come up with any reasons from the safety of your perch in Anywhere USA?

In sum, this is a problem we've grown up knowing could happen at any moment, and we obviously didn't do enough to prepare to our eternal shame. If anything I've said has enlightened you in any way or piqued your curiosity, I'd be more than glad to offer more information. However, while I'm still looking at the sattelite photos of my water-submerged house, I'd thank you to stop using this issue and that forum to further your political causes.

Sincerely,
Scott

Don't you dare read any more of this!

All gave some, but some gave all...

This being my first post, I must state that I am one of the fortunate ones in the Katrina catastrophe. My family's alive & safe, we have ample resources to support ourselves, and nearly all (more on this later) of our family & friends have been overly generous & helpful. I am and will be forever greatful for these facts.

However, we did lose our home and whatever belongings we couldn't or didn't think to pack in our cars. My wife & I both lost our home-based businesses. Our cat, Princess, disappeared Sunday morning before we evacuated; we hope she's in a shelter or expired quickly. And this pales when compared to what others have lost.

I write these words, not to blame anyone for the storm, but for how they acted before and afterwards. Man cannot stop Mother Nature, if you will, but he can surely prepare to deal with the contingencies and consequences of her acts.

This is why I feel compelled to write.

Scott

Don't you dare read any more of this!