Thursday, September 28, 2006

Best of the Katrina books review

Katrina was a test of Bush's faith in smaller government and his fixation on foreign terror, and rarely does history grade a presidency so quickly or so harshly. Because if Homeland Security and its stepchild, FEMA, was what stood between American and the next 9/11, then, as New Orleans learned the hard way, America was in deep trouble.

The full story of Katrina won't be told for years or even decades, but for a first draft of history, Horne's tome is the best of the bunch. Too often journalists books are little more than a series of anecdotes strung together (Halberstam creating the standard that many others have followed), but Horne manages the difficult trick of using personal tragedies to connect to a larger picture. One item that hadn't hit me fully though it's obvious on a map is why did the 17th street canal rupture only on the Orleans side of canal? The answer is the corruption/incompetence of the Orleans Parish levee board compared to the Jefferson Parish levee board - better maintenance on the Jefferson parish side.

What's most impressive is the breadth of subjects covered in Breach of Faith - hurricanes, levees, economics of recovery, Corps of Engineers, politics - Louisiana & Washington. In addition, Horne doesn't have an axe to grind like van Heerden & is far less biased than Brinkley.

The book does leave without much of an ending, but I've never believed that New Orleans can ever recover from Katrina. A shrinking city losing population for four straight decades just does not have the resources, leadership, or vision to rebound. As a case in point, even though New Orleans only has two industries - the port & tourism - it does seem a travesty that FEMA paid $116M for the rebuilding of the superdome, while the NFL just paid $15M.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Best of the Katrina books

Horne's tome is hands down the best. Unlike Storm it's written by a professional writer. Unlike The Great Deluge, the authour has no axe to grind.

Feeling homesick tonight

Got choked up watching my Saints just take a whoop ass make that 5 whoop ass sticks to the Falcons. Some yokel at Chili's tried to argue that the Saints adrenaline would wear off at halftime - no way was the city's adrenaline drowning after only 1 half of football after being without the football in the dome for close to two years. Wish i was down at Pat O's knocking down hurricanes this minute - wish I was ending up trying to sober up at Cafe Du Monde at 2 or 3 in the morning.

Still have fond memories of the 30th reunion. Hard dancing to No Sleep 'Till Brooklyn! at Deja Vu followed by Pat O's before stumbling back to the car slightly before the 5 am time limit on our parking. Thought that none of the others with us would make it to Rock 'N Bowl, but instead we were the last of our car load to stumble in. Some experiences stand out in a lifetime & the 30th reunion was one of them.

Will hope that my hometown enjoys tonight & continues to heal tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

20 down - 28 to go

Now most of the attention if focused on the upcoming elections. The blogging Caesar has the Dems picking up 2 Senate & 11 House seats (+ Sanders & Lieberman), while a left wing prognostication site has the Dems picking up 5 seats for a total of 48 seats (+ Sanders & Lieberman). Tradesports has the GOP controlling the Senate by a healthy margin & the House by a slight margin 52-48.

I'm sticking with the Dems ending up with 48 seats (RI, PA, MN & Ohio) + Sanders in the Senate and adding a dozen seats in the house, and Lieberman losing in another tight race to Lamont.

No point in updating trade metric anymore and I'll wait until the fiscal year estimates start coming in, probably late October, to update our deficit prediction.

For Iraq, the US death toll for September will once again top 60, but our troops will remain until the next president. My prediction today would be that we'd pull our troops back to just Kurdistan within the next 5 years.

Well my Warner wager is looking a bit better again. I'll be curious what hints Hillary gives post-election of her plans.

All other wagers look very solid, especially my troop levels in Iraq prognostication.

At times like this, I do wish that I could just hit fast forward to election night, but life/time doesn't work that way. Well, one more monthly update before the Congressional elections.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Starting to read the Katrina books

Mom sent the Brinkley & Horne tomes, but some desperate for literature fellow ripped off both books returning only the packaging to the mailing place. Fortunately an associate at work lent me Deluge & long suffering sister (lss) gave me Storm.

Ivor van Heerden is not a professional writer and it shows. Book seemed to bounce all over the place, and the last chapter (proposed solutions) was clearly the best. Had never thought of a flood gate over the Rigolets to protect the city or surge gates across Mr. Go to protect the other parishes. Most or all of his suggestions are good ideas i'm sure, but doubt that many of them will be implemented. His main villain is the Army Corps of Engineers, though he also bashes Billy Tauzin (undoubtedly deservedly so). Personal recommendation is to read the proposed solutions chapter (might have been penultimate instead of final) and skip the rest.

I'm enjoying The Great Deluge more than I thought. Obviously compiled in a hurry (he mistakenly states that the St. Bernard Projects are in the 9th Ward - miles off - and then a few pages later correctly states that it lies in the 7th Ward. Only 3 chapters into the book, but main villain is Nagin.

The Horne book is available at the library now, but will be interesting to compare the two of them. Guess I'll read a total of 4 (disaster will be the last one) and provide reviews of all.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Current Theo photo

Haven't had much reason to blog recently. No Friday Night Wine or for that matter Friday Night Pelligrino even.

For politics, the upcoming election will of course have thousands (tens of thousands?) of postings. Have stated before (sorry on labour day i don't link) that I don't believe the Dems will take either branch of Congress & will stand by that today. They'll basically recover the ground they lost in the Senate in '04 and narrow the GOP lead in the House, but there just aren't enough competitive races and $$$ floating around for the Dems to win the needed 16 House and 6 Senate seats. For a hard number, will go with the Senate being 51 GOP, 48 Dems & 1 independent (Lieberman's lead has been ephemeral and Lamont will win by about the same ratio as he won before. Santorum has never been able to cut Casey's lead below 5% and I don't expect that to change. Talent's war chest looks like it will make the difference in Missouri.).

The House is harder to follow if you're not a pol or pollster, but the blogging caesar (who had the temerity to ask for $$$ for the umpteen hours he's put into his web page - have toyed with bidding $25 and see if he'd accept it) has had pretty static number of the Dems +8 for about a month. By the end of this month - a fortnight after the final glut of primaries - the polls should be solid enough to make a pretty close to final prediction. Will go out on a non-limb and state that the Dems will pick up 12 seats to get them within spitting range, but not over the top.

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