October 29, 2007

We Will Not Be Protected from a Hurricane Four Times More Likely to Hit Us than Katrina until 2011

posted by m.d.

CORRECTION: The original title was wrong, as pointed out by mominem in comments. It said: "We Will Not Be Protected from a Hurricane 25% as Strong as Katrina until 2011." A 100-year storm is four times more likley to come in any year (if my math is correct here) than a 400-year storm. But, not necessarily 25% as strong. I hate being wrong. The following info is still worthwhile, however.

If that:
Dozens of construction projects launched by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the New Orleans region from the most catastrophic floods are behind schedule by an average of nearly eight months, an internal audit shows. Local officials are concerned the completion date will have to be pushed back a second time.


Local officials worry that the corps now will miss its revised June 2011 deadline for getting the region protected against a 100-year flood — a flood so bad it has only a 1% chance of hitting in any year. The corps pushed back its original January 2010 deadline earlier this year.
Katrina was a 400-year storm. The US Army Corps of Engineers is building a levee system capable of handling a 100-year storm.

I just thought I would point that out to the rest of country.

Our New Governor Speaks Bubba

posted by m.d.

I don't even speak Bubba:
WALLACE: Governor-Elect Jindal, you ran four years ago and lost in some part because of the discomfort of some people from your state with voting for the son of an Indian immigrant.

This time around there were bumper stickers, Bubbas for Bobby. Can you speak Bubba? And how did you reach out to them? How did you break down the barrier?

JINDAL: Well, two things. I think the reason we lost last time was more of a lack of familiarity. We came out of nowhere in the polls. We were polling at 3 percent when we got in, surprised a lot of people by getting in the runoff, had six weeks to introduce myself to a large portion of our population.

This time, we traveled to every of one of 64 parishes multiple times. We probably traveled and met with more voters than all my opponents combined.

I think once voters got to know who I was beyond what they saw on T.V. and read in the newspapers — they know I'm a fiscal conservative. They know that I'm pro-life, know that I've been endorsed by the NRA.
And Chris Wallace called Jindal "a GOP rock star."

Rock on, Bubba Jindal.

October 28, 2007

The Black and Gold Worked

Saints won. Now let's try black and white.

I Am the One in Five

I didn’t realize I was superstitious until the Kentucky game. And I didn’t realize the role of superstition in my life until the Auburn game.

I walk under ladders. I step on cracks. I curse the gods. I don’t eat black-eyed peas and cabbage on New Year’s Day.

I do or don’t do all these things to prove a point. Superstitions are for the superstitious. Not for me. And if the universe somehow does punish you or reward you for your adherence to superstitious ritual, then I like succeeding with the universe against me. And what better excuse for the occasional failure than “I was battling the universe. What do you expect?”

Though I am okay with what the Fates might have planned for me, I realized a couple weeks ago that I am not okay with my actions stepping on the happiness of others.

Before this year’s LSU/Kentucky game, I wore my LSU 2005 Championship t-shirt for every game. I didn’t really do it for superstition. It’s the only LSU shirt I have that fits me.

But, the day of the game, I had some friends over. We started the partying early, and when the evening game started, I just wore whatever I had been wearing all day. And LSU lost.

I needed an explanation for what happened. Why? Why Kentucky? LSU played good enough to win. How could they lose? What was different?

The shirt. I didn’t have the shirt on. My choice of apparel doomed my team.

Did it really? Doesn’t matter. Superstition exists because it served a purpose at some point in humanity’s social and biological evolution. Who am I to deny that which made me human?

So, the Auburn game comes along – another evening game. It is also election day, and, as a news person, I have to work. Guess what: I forget to wear the t-shirt again.

Before the game, I call my wife from work and tell her that she or my son – somebody – must wear the t-shirt. I or my family can not be blamed for destroying LSU’s championship hopes.

Confident that the Fates will be satisfied with my game day audible, I continue about my work. My job is to coordinate three live shots at the candidates’ headquarters by phone. I stay on the phone the entire night. There’s three problems with that:

1) I can’t hear. My right ear is worse than my left ear, which isn’t that great. And I really can’t hear on the phone, especially with all the background noise at the candidates’ headquarters, including some very loud congos at one of them. This resulted in quite a few exchanges like this: “What? Say it again. I can’t hear you. Huh? Nevermind.”

2) I pace around when I am on the phone. This is not good when using a phone with a cord. Fortunately, nothing expensive got knocked over.

3) One of the monitors in the control room was set to the LSU game. I could see them losing, which increased both my difficulty in hearing the live shots due to the distraction and increased my pacing due to the anxiety. (An aside: Patrick Swayze’s Roadhouse was on another monitor and a lot of us found ourselves watching it. Strange.)

LSU was losing. I didn’t understand. My wife was wearing the t-shirt. Universe, what more do you want?

I later learned that my wife forgot to put on the t-shirt, until the fourth quarter. She told me that she put the shirt on, and LSU then score a touchdown to go ahead. They fell behind briefly, and then the crazy touchdown pass with one second left. And the shirt was on.

A few days after, I read about this poll that says one in five sports fans have some superstitious ritual they perform for their team to win. While I am not superstitious in general, I am now the one in five. Until it doesn’t work anymore.

Also, since I can’t decide on a color scheme for my blog, I will travel the superstitious route and go with my team-of-the-day’s colors. Go Saints.

October 27, 2007

A Response Like No Other

I have worked in the TV news business for almost eight years. In that time, I have never seen a staged press conference like FEMA put on Tuesday:
FEMA announced the news conference at its Southwest Washington headquarters about 15 minutes before it was to begin Tuesday afternoon, making it unlikely that reporters could attend. Instead, FEMA set up a telephone conference line so reporters could listen.

In the briefing, parts of which were televised live by cable news channels, [FEMA's deputy administrator Harvey] Johnson stood behind a lectern, called on questioners who did not disclose that they were FEMA employees, and gave replies emphasizing that his agency's response to this week's California wildfires was far better than its response to Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.
A press conference is itself a staged event, completely controlled by the people standing behind the podium. They choose the topic, they choose who to let in, they choose who may ask questions, and they even choose which questions will be answered.

But, at least the reporters who ask questions at a press conference don’t already know the answers. They are truly seeking information they don’t have. And, as that information is revealed question by question, answer by answer, it always leads to new questions, and eventually – in theory – leads to the story which must be told.

Those FEMA employees were asking questions that *they already knew the answers to*. Despite their noble intentions, they were doing no more than acting.

Then there’s this:
FEMA employees posed as reporters while real reporters listened on a telephone conference line and were barred from asking questions.
The reporters could not ask questions on the conference call? Does FEMA’s Southwest Washington headquarters not have a speaker phone? A simple email could have gotten the same information out, without the pretend questions.

I can only assume that FEMA’s purpose for the fake press conference – you can not have a real “press” conference without the press there – was for public relations. They wanted the public to see them doing a press conference. A simple email would not have accomplished this.

Why do this? If FEMA’s purpose is to clean their reputation after a disastrous disaster response to Katrina, then an effective response to the wildfires will not do it. With all respect and due empathy to the Southern Californians whose lives have been altered by the fires, the comparisons to Katrina are cosmetic, just like FEMA’s fake press conference. The wildfires are their own disaster, not another Katrina.

The numbers just don’t reach Katrina proportions. This example does it for me: As of last night, more than 1,800 homes were destroyed by the wildfires. As of last night, more than two years after Katrina, there are still more than 1,800 hurricane-damaged homes in New Orleans yet to be demolished.

If you want to know more about FEMA's response like no other, they have a page on their website.

ADDED: While that one statistic does it for me, if you need more, the T-P has it.

October 23, 2007

Fun with Colors

...and fun with two sidebars.

October 5, 2007

The Mayor on the Pace of Recovery

Comments made yesterday by Mayor Nagin on ABC26 News, 3 minutes 11 seconds into the video:
Well, you know, on a scale of 1 to 10, I think it is a six or a seven. It’s been hard. It’s been difficult. The dollars we thought we were going to get were slow to come. A lot of businesses and projects we thought we would move were hindered by insurance costs that are here.

I think that we are seeing the corner. We just haven’t turned it yet. Because the population continues to grow, we continue to improve on certain city functions everyday, and it’s just part of this long road that we’re on.
Link to video in Windows Media Player.

Link to ABC26 News website.

October 2, 2007

More Boots on the Streets

Actually, the same amount of boots. They will just be out there longer, wearing out their soles a little more:
Starting this week, uniformed officers in most New Orleans police districts will be on duty 12 hours a day, five days a week.

The move to 60-hour workweeks, proposed last month by Police Superintendent Warren Riley, means more officers will be on the street to battle the city's seemingly intractable violent-crime problem. The mandatory overtime shifts, opposed by two of the city's largest police associations, are scheduled to end at the close of the year.
The overtime patrols will be in five districts only: 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 7th. These districts are the most violent districts. 136 murders out of the 151 murders in New Orleans this year (that I have counted going by media reports) occurred in these five districts.

Here’s the murder breakdown by district:
1st – 31 murders
2nd – 17 murders
3rd – 2 murders
4th – 13 murders
5th – 35 murders
6th – 27 murders
7th – 26 murders
8th – 0 murders
September had 13 murders by my count. That is the lowest number since February, which also had 13 murders (by my count). Interestingly, none of murders were in the 1st District, which has one of the highest totals for the year (31). There were six murders in August in the 1st District. I hope that is a sign of positive things to come.

At the end of the third quarter of 2007, I count 151 murders this year in the city of New Orleans. In a city with a population of 300,000, that comes to a murder rate of 67 murders per 100,000 residents. We are averaging a murder every 1.8 days, basically a murder every other day. We are on track for 201 murders by the end of the year. If nothing changes, 50 more human beings will die a violent death on the streets of New Orleans. Most of those who die will be black men under thirty, shot to death.

Even with two of the lowest monthly totals for the year, the third quarter still had more murders than the first or second quarters:
First Quarter – 48 murders
*Jan – 17
*Feb – 13
*Mar – 18

Second Quarter – 50 murders
*Apr – 15
*May – 15
*Jun – 20

Third Quarter – 53 murders
*Jul – 14
*Aug – 26
*Sep – 13
My numbers differ from the NOPD’s official numbers because the NOPD records a murder in the month that the victim dies. If a person is shot in February but dies in March, the NOPD records it as a March murder. I count it as a February murder.

Also, I count murders solely by media reports. If a murder has not been reported by the media, I don’t know about it. For example, the T-P article says there were 29 murders in August. I know one June victim died in August, so the NOPD would count that as an August murder. However, I can not find media reports on the other two murders. I can not count them if I have no evidence to cite.

Therefore, my count should be considered the lowest count possible. There are “at least” 151 murders in New Orleans this year. Unfortunately, there might be more that I don’t know about.