06 May 2008

Photo du Jour: Buy a Hand Grenade--Oh, and Fix the Coast

I hate Hand Grenades (TM) from Tropical Isle. I also hate big oil. But big oil doesn't literally make you puke like that nasty green concoction. (Does it include vermouth?) This aerial message sign circled over Gentilly and Mid City and the Fairgrounds throughout the afternoon on Sunday--along with the ever present other one.

03 May 2008

They're Tryin' to Wash Us Away . . .

04 August 2007

Demolition du Jour: The Twi-Ro-Pa Mills Building

Came across the demolition of the Twi-Ro-Pa Mills building on Tchoupitoulas in the Lower Garden District last Saturday on the way over to the Port of New Orleans HQ for the "New Orleans Riverfront: Reinventing the Crescent" presentation.

Another building just goes away with no fanfare . . . No re-development possibilities with this structure??? Please. Detroit, St. Louis--here we come . . . (the gadfly continues to kick ass).

03 August 2007

Map du Jour: NOAA Interactive Storm Tracker

Stumbled across this site yesterday--a NOAA ArcIMS application that provides the ability to display and search all historical hurricane tracks going back to 1851. (Click on "query storm tracks" link on splash page). The ones shown in the sample image above are Betsy (1965), Camille (1969), Georges (1998), and our fair lady Katrina that Miserable Bitch (KTMB). In the query bar, use the shift key to select multiple storms to produce a view like seen above.

Rollin' on the River

Congratulations to Swede Viktor (left) and Minnesotan Matthew (right) on completion of the their 59-day, 1,900 mile canoe expedition of the Mississippi River. They started at the Mississippi headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minnesota, in mid-May and arrived in New Orleans about three weeks ago. Additionally, there were two other expeditions of the River (two other guys from Minnesota also in a canoe and a lone Canadian in a kayak) that arrived in New Orleans two days later.

02 August 2007

Throw The Insurance Companies Out!

It is time to toss the insurance companies out of Louisiana, and start a grand experiment in state-run insurance for health, homeowners and auto. I know, this sounds crazy - the state is not particularly good at running much of anything - but in all honesty, the insurance situation in Louisiana could not get any worse. Not even in the hands of our politicians. Here is why it will work.

First, nearly everyone in the state needs insurance for home, auto and health. However, all insurance companies are extremely selective and refuse coverage for those most often in the greatest need. Those with pre-existing health conditions, for example, most often have the hardest time getting decent health insurance. For homeowners in New Orleans, there is no way to get a new homeowners policy, unless it is through the state-run Citizens Corp. And we all know about the auto insurance debacle. In Louisiana we have one of the highest rates of uninsured motorists in the U.S.

Additionally, we pay some of the highest premiums in the U.S. for all three of these types of insurance policies. Here we are, living in a relatively small, poor state, and a large portion of people's (and corporate) income goes to insurance. Then, one small incident (a little roof damage from a wind storm, high blood pressure, a fender-bender) and your insurance company drops you like a hot-potato.

Potentially, without costing anyone any additional money (what you pay in premiums now to insurance companies would go to an insurance tax), and potentially with future reduction in insurance costs as risks get spread out, we could take over all of the homeowners, auto and health insurance in the state, and provide a comprehensive insurance plan that does not kick people out for any reason. The young and healthy help to keep the health insurance costs stable for the old and sick; hurricane-free Shreveport helps to reduce homeowners insurance costs for those in New Orleans.

Most importantly, by offering universal insurance coverage, especially health insurance, we would attract many businesses to Louisiana that currently pay very high premiums for their employees in other states. For example, if you are a corporation with a small presence in New Orleans and headquarters in Houston, but are paying on the average $500 per employee monthly for health insurance for your Texas employees, the free health insurance in Louisiana would be a big incentive to move a greater portion of your operations to New Orleans. If that same corporation moved 1000 employees from Texas to Louisiana, they would save $500,000 in health insurance costs monthly. And that is just health insurance; there would be considerable savings in auto and business insurance costs for that corporation as well. Companies that moved to Louisiana would become considerably more competitive globally as well as in the U.S.

Of course, there are legitimate concerns about the ability of the state to manage such a large system. But as bad as things are with the insurance industry in Louisiana, and in New Orleans in particular, it would be difficult to imagine creating a worse system. Big and progressive changes are needed for recovery and growth in South Louisiana. This single move - tossing out the private insurers that don't care about anything besides massive annual profits - could radically improve conditions in the state. Additionally, we would create such a better business environment that other states would be forced to do the same thing in order to keep their businesses from moving to Louisiana to become more globally competitive.

31 July 2007

The F Word

Actually the F words. FEMA, flooding, federal and formaldehyde are some f words that come to mind. FEMA has spent $4.3 billion in federal money providing rent subsidies to house Katrina victims. $4.3 billion? How is that possible - if the federal government was planning on handing out this kind of money to pay for temporary housing, why instead did they not spend some portion of that to renovate flood damaged homes in New Orleans for these same people? At the end of this debacle, there are going to be tens of thousands of New Orleanians living in places such as Houston, in rental properties, that will be no closer to returning home than they were 20 months ago. $4.3 billion could have gone a long way to buying or rebuilding permanent housing in New Orleans for these same people. This policy creates a dead-end for those in need, and a stream of dependable federal money for rental property owners in large cities outside of New Orleans. Quit spending money out-of-state, and start paying to bring these people home.

Also, our nearly empty FEMA trailer parks are designed to slowly sicken and kill the very people that they are supposed to temporarily protect. Not only did FEMA decide to convert our parks, open spaces and other public areas to FEMA trailer parks, and then subject local residents to barely livable conditions monitored by security guards in a concentration camp-style communities (see the Baton Rouge Advocate's previous attempts at talking to residents of these facilities for proof), FEMA has purchased trailers that contain formaldehyde at relatively high concentrations. Nice - I guess that is one way for the federal government to handle these poor, displaced people in the long-term. The plan must be to sicken these people so that they have to abandon the trailer parks for assisted living homes. The FEMA trailer parks are a disaster, all of the residents should be offered free rebuilt homes in New Orleans, and the federal government should immediately remove these carcinogenic, tin death traps and restore our parks and open space so that local kids have a decent, safe place to play.

29 May 2007

Aerials du Jour: Recent Images of New Orleans from Space

Long before Google Maps and Google Earth were introduced, the extensive catalog at NASA's fantastic The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth provided plenty opportunity for me to waste hours and hours while mesmerized by tens of thousands of photographic images of the planet. Some were taken from Space Shuttle missions and some from the International Space Station (ISS). Below are some recent shots of New Orleans (link will direct to origin page where high res version can be downloaded):

27 September 2007
The Missisippi River, Bayou Lafourche, Bayou Terrebonne, and
Bayou Teche Ridges all very apparent.

21 November 2006
The evident spoke pattern of streets of Uptown.
Ever notice Naploeon Avenue and Barataria Boulevard have
nearly identical alignment? Hmmmm.

26 February 2007
New earthwork can be seen along the levees along MRGO
and the Intracoastal Waterway in New Orleans East.

26 February 2007
Imagine the further extent of damage if New Orleans East's proposed Orleania mega-development had happened in the late 1960's/early 1970's. Only half of the acreage within the levee protection system in "the East" is currently developed.

18 November 2006
Look how wide MRGO appears in this oblique.
Not quite that wide when dug 40+ years ago.