Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Another One of Those Emails!

As I mentioned in a previous post,  that going forward I can no longer ignore emails that perpetuate falsehoods just to win a political argument.   I recently received an email entitled

"What is a billion .. TAXES TAXES"  and sadly it's another one of those emails that uses mythology and faulty logic to make a point.  


The email's fundamental argument that our government is wasteful is without question.  And an argument that Louisiana state government has long been corrupt and wasteful can be substantiated.  However, the implication that the vast majority of Hurricane Katrina victims will profit from tragedy is tantamount to Ann Coulter's comments about 9/11 widows.  This email, as it is currently circulating is misleading, biased and quite frankly tinged with prejudice.   So let's take a close look at this message.  Comments from the original email are in black.   My comments are in blue.


--- beginning of email message ---


Subject: What is a BILLION???


According to Snopes.com the first section of this email began circulating in 2003 and the references  to New Orleans added later



The next time you hear a politician use the word "billion" in a casual manner, think about whether you want the "politicians" spending your tax money.

 A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in one of its releases:

A. A billion seconds ago it was 1959.

B. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.

C. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

D. A billion days ago no one walked on the earth on two feet.

E. A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate our government is spending it.

If the email stopped here it would make a powerful point and give anyone pause to reflect but it continues. Here's what was added post Hurricane Katrina

While this thought is still fresh in our brain, let's take a look at New Orleans. It's amazing what you can learn with some simple


Louisiana Senator, Mary Landrieu (D), is presently asking the Congress for $250 BILLION to rebuild New Orleans. Interesting number - what does it mean?

U.S. Senators Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and David Vitter, R-La., introduced the Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief and Economic Recovery Act, as a comprehensive piece of legislation to provide long-term relief and much-needed assistance to the people of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. The funds were not just requested for New Orleans but all

of the Louisiana Gulf Coast affected by Katrina.    




Note:  The email does not mention the Republican David Ritter and falsely implies that all of the funds would be spent in the pedominantly African American city of New Orleans.


A. Well, if you are one of 484,674 residents of New Orleans (every man, woman, child), you each get $516,528.

 B. Or, if you have one of the 188,251 homes in New Orleans, your home gets $1, 329,787.

 C. Or, if you are a family of four, your family gets $2,066,012. 

 Ok let's think about this.  No one is going to give a check for $516,528 to an indvidual.  That's is ludicrous. 

If your entire neighborhood is destroyed a lot more needs to be repaired than just your residence.  The depris needs to be removed.  Power lines, gas lines and water mains need to be restored.  Streets need to be rebuilt not just repaved.  Schools, hospitals, police stations and fire houses need to be rebuilt.  The levees need to be rebuilt, not just restored to their previous levels which were woefully inadequate. Small businesses need to be restored. And yes, individuals that lost everthing need food, shelter and clothing.

Quite honestly, I don't know if $250 billion is too much or too little.  Do you?


Washington, D.C. HELLO!!! ... Are all your calculators broken??

This is too true to be very funny

This is not all true and that is not funny


--- end of email message ---



Excerpt from


Aired January 11, 2007 - 23:00   ET




CNN's Susan Roesgen discovered that a lot of people, though, are still in limbo.




ALAN RUBIN, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: I came back two weeks after the flood and then I -- I evacuated and I was still gone for three months.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What you're about to see inside this home is just what Alan Rubin saw a year-and-a-half ago -- the unbelievable damage from water that rose all the way to the rafters. Nothing has been done to this house because the family is still waiting for help promised by what's called The Road Home program.


The program has $7.5 billion in federal money to fix up houses like this, or help homeowners start over. But how much did the programs say it would take the Rubins to fix up their home? Just $550.


RUBIN: First, I was astounded by the absurdity of the number. And then, the more I thought about it the angrier I got.


ROESGEN: And in Louisiana, a lot of people are angry. Nearly 100,000 homeowners have applied to The Road Home program, and fewer than 200 have actually received any money. That's less than 1 percent.


One reason is The Road Home program didn't really get started until six months ago because it took the federal government nearly a year to agree to fork over the money. And Road Home managers say fixing housing is a huge job.


FRED TOMBAR, ROAD HOME PROGRAM: This is a program of unprecedented scope and scale. Those billions of dollars that came, they came with strings attached. There are federal and state requirements that govern that money, and therefore, we need to make sure that we meet each of those federal and state requirements.


ROESGEN: And the program is fixing some early mistakes. After the first damage assessment of just $550, the program is now offering $150,000 to repair the Rubin home.


Program managers say it was just a goof. But other families have also complained about what they have been offered. And others are still waiting for any response at all.


ANTOINETTE PAGE, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: You walk further up, that was my living room.


ROESGEN: Antoinette Page's home was so damaged, the city tore it down. But she still has to pay mortgage on it, plus rent to live some place else.


PAGE: This hurts.


ROESGEN: After waiting five months for help from The Road Home program, she's just about given up hope.


PAGE: I'm not saying The Road Home won't help me, but so far they haven't. My husband and I -- we've just been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to each other, working hard, long hours and helping ourselves.


ROESGEN: The question for Antoinette and thousands of others is, will Louisiana's Road Home program get people back into a home, or will it remain a road to nowhere?




COOPER: You know, looking at those pictures, you got to remind yourself, we are 500 days out from the storm. How is it possible that it takes so long for the federal government to dole out the money?


ROESGEN (on camera): Well, you know, when the federal government finally approved it, this plan was supposed to get money to people fairly quickly. But as the company says, that got the contract to dole out the money, hey, it's a complex process. It takes a long time.


And yet I've got to tell you, Anderson, that not only are homeowners angry in this state, the state legislature and the governor are both demanding that this company pick up the pace.


COOPER: Well, increasingly too, you got the state pointing fingers at local governments, local governments pointing fingers at the state. How long, though, can people wait? I mean, that woman, Antoinette, you know...


ROESGEN: Yes. Paying both mortgage on a house that no longer exists and rent. Anderson, a lot of people are in that situation. And I think with only about half of New Orleans population back, you have to wonder 17 months after the hurricane, how many people can afford to come back? How many people will simply give up? And that Road Home Program won't get anybody home.


COOPER: And of course, now the surging crime rate is not helping matters. A lot of people are having second thoughts about -- those who have come home, having second thoughts about being here.


Susan, thanks very much. We're going to talk about that.


We're tracking other costs here in New Orleans, as well. It seems everything is more expensive after Katrina -- $300 a month for electricity, accusations of price gouging. We'll run the numbers.


Plus, the city's new flood troubles -- 35,000 water leaks, 50 million gallons of water wasted a day.


Also, busted by Katrina -- natural gas lines, leaving residents in the cold.






RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To really understand what Mrs. Noriea's problem is, you have to get way down here and look underneath her house. It's a small crawl space.




COOPER: New Orleans underground and under fire. Why is it taking so long to fix all of this? We're keeping them honest, when 360 continues.




COOPER: Welcome back. Coming to you from the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans.


You know, one of the biggest challenges facing this city is the breakdown of infrastructure. Residents are still coping with not being able to get the basic services much of us take for granted. We're talking about heat, hot water, things like that.


CNN's Rick Sanchez joins me now for more -- Rick.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, think about the water pressure. We take for granted that when we're going to turn on the faucet, the water's going to be coming out really fast. There's a problem with that here. And the reason for it is that they're losing every single day about 50 million gallons of water a day.


COOPER: A day?


SANCHEZ: A day. Fifty million gallons of water. This is water that they're paying for to either drink or bathe in. Instead, it's going out in different places.


And then there's another problem. The problem they are having has to do with natural gas. The natural gas that people, again, take for granted that they get to heat their home in the middle of the night.


What happens is in the city -- and I made this tool. I went to a hardware store just to be able to illustrate it. This is just a pipe, essentially, but it's got this bend in it. And what happens, Anderson, is the water after the flooding here because of Katrina, was forced into all these pipes. Well, they drained most of it, but there's still little remnants of it stuck in low places like this bend. It blocks the natural gas from getting through. When it blocks it, then people can't heat their homes, can't work their stoves. You know, it's a major problem.


Take a look.




SANCHEZ (voice-over): Here's one of 35,000 water leaks in and around New Orleans -- 35,000. This is a big one, a main break.


Still, listen to a frustrated resident explain why it's taken six weeks to get it fixed.


SANDRA MANN, HOMEOWNER: As it's explained to me, is another call comes up that's more of an urgent manner than this and they just take off.


SANCHEZ: Trying to find and plug up the leaks that are wasting $50 million gallons of water a day is a relentless undertaking.


(On camera): You must be like really busy?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're really busy.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): Here's how it happened. The toppled trees and homes lifted from foundations by Katrina shattered pipes. Then there's the saltwater that poured into the city. Salt is corrosive. Now consider the shortage of both workers and equipment to fix them.


MARCIA ST. MARTIN, EXEC. DIR., SEWAGE & WATER BOARD: Prior to the hurricane, we had a team of about 1,200 employees. Today, our team is about 825. Prior to the hurricane, we had a fleet in excess of 700 vehicles. Our entire fleet was lost.


SANCHEZ: Ham strung as they are, water and sewer officials have managed to plug 35,000 leaks. The problem is they still have another 35,000 to go.


You're putting in long days.


ST. MARTIN: We're putting in long days.


SANCHEZ: How long?


ST. MARTIN: In my case, I'm probably working six days a week, between 12 and 14 hours a day.


SANCHEZ: The other problem, natural gas used to fuel 65,000 homes. When gas pipes broke and were exposed to flooding, four million gallons of water poured into them. Most was pumped out, but some remains trapped in lines all over the city. And all it takes is a teaspoon to block the gas.


Just ask 90-year-old Thais Noriea. She's one of about 1,300 returning residents who are repeatedly running out of both fuel and patience. She's lived here 68 years, gets around in a walker. But when her gas goes out, she's left with no hot water, no way to cook, and worst of all...




SANCHEZ (on camera): And no heat?


NORIEA: It wouldn't be so bad this summer because you don't need the heat.




NORIEA: But worth of all no heat. It wouldn't be bad in the summer because you don't need the heat but in the winter you really need it.


SANCHEZ: To really understand what Ms. Noriea's problem is, you have to get way down here and look underneath her house. It's a small crawl space. But you can see right there where her gas line is. And it's a pipe, essentially, but it's got quite a sag in it, like a bend. At the bottom where it bends, that's where the water accumulates. And that water prevents the gas from being able to go into her house. It's a major problem.


CHRIS BALDWIN, BIG EASY SERVICES, LLC: We'll blow the line clear, and then hook it back together until it happens again.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): And plumbers we talked to say, because there's still plenty of water in the gas lines, it will happen again.




SANCHEZ (on camera): Happen again.


COOPER: And it will happen again and again. I mean, 35,000 leaks that are still taking place. How long is this going to take?


SANCHEZ: Yes, think about it. They've gotten to 35,000 and they got another 35,000 more to go. They wouldn't give us a specific date when we talked to folks over at the water board. Although, they say, in their defense, that they really are short workers at this point. They are trying to do what they can with money that they are getting from the feds. And they just don't have the equipment.


Remember, every piece of equipment that they had here is either rusted out or destroyed. So they've had to lease equipment to bring it in.


That project that you saw during that report that we did, it was a backhoe that they had on lease.


COOPER: And it certainly seems like they are working hard enough. It's not a question of that, it's just a lot of work to do.


SANCHEZ: They can't go from one call to the next and get it all done.


COOPER: Rick, thanks very much. Appreciate it.


Still ahead on 360, we'll talk to a man who spent his life right here in the Lower Ninth Ward. And now at 83 years old, is determined to rebuild, and in fact is here rebuilding, on his own.


Plus, skyrocketing rents, out-of-control utility bills. Not in New York City, we're talking about here in New Orleans. Why does it cost so much to live somewhere that right now seems to have so little.


Some answers and the demonstration. People angry here about violent crime. The reaction from city officials, when this special edition of 360 continues.




COOPER: And welcome back. Images here from the Lower Ninth Ward. It looks an awful like -- like it did, well, 500 days ago when Katrina first struck.


We are in New Orleans tonight. Before Katrina, some 400,000 people lived in this great city. That number has basically been cut in half.


As we told you earlier, a lot of the residents are still waiting for financial assistance from the government at pretty much every level, local, state, federal. And as they wait, they're being squeezed out of really every nickel and dime they have. It is the cost of living in New Orleans. And for many, it is staggering.


CNN's Gary Tuchman reports.




GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Real Estate Agent Eunice Ben is taking house shopping in the New Orleans East neighborhood.


EUNICE BEN, REALTOR: This is the den/living room.


TUCHMAN: Before Hurricane Katrina, this home, which is now owned by her agency, rented for about $450 a month. Now though...


BEN: The absolute least that I will rent this for is $650.


TUCHMAN: A lack of livable housing and higher repair costs have driven up rental prices since Katrina by about 40 percent. Eunice says she could get at least an additional $250 for this unit, but wants to give returning New Orleanians a break.


TUCHMAN (on camera): What are you hearing from people, though, when they hear about the prices of the rentals to come back?


BEN: They are ready to rethink their desire to come home.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): A dramatically increased cost of living is not helping the recovery here.


Rinada Boyd's (ph) rent was $400 before Katrina. After her flooded apartment was cleaned up, she was told the rent would be $650. But Rinada (ph) pleaded that she couldn't pay that much. So her landlord's letting her pay $500.


RINADA BOYD (ph), NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: All I got to do is live day by day to try, you know, my best to try to make it through for me and my kids.


TUCHMAN: But not all landlords are doing favors. And the price hikes go beyond housing.


Jacki Adams (ph) lives with her dog in a very dark block because only three families on the street have come back since Katrina. She's wary about leaving her lights on too long because of energy price increases that have been passed on by the local utility company, which says it's just covering its costs, including repairs after Katrina.


JACKI ADAMS (ph), NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Just to live here just costs so much more.


TUCHMAN: Her average $300 bill for electricity and gas has increased by a few percentage points. But she's contesting her most recent monthly bill which shows she used so much power that she owes $925.


(On camera): Do you have a nuclear device in here?


ADAMS: No. No. Someone asked me if I was actually supplying energy to the rest of the block.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): And then there's food.




TUCHMAN: At King's Meat Market and Grocery, the effort is being made not to raise prices. The gumbo special is $19.99, the same price before Katrina. But many other items are considerably pricier because of higher costs.


Those pickled pork tips were 99 cents a pound before Katrina.


And how much is it now?




TUCHMAN: The city is imploring business people not to price gouge, which is happening in some cases. And it's hoping public private partnerships will lead to an increase in the number of available homes.


OLIVER THOMAS, PRESIDENT, NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL: As difficult as the hurricane was, recovery seems to be definitely category six or category seven.


TUCHMAN: New Orleans is getting increasingly unaffordable for many. So 500 days after Katrina, the feeling here...


ADAMS: This is not the way I imagined my life being.


TUCHMAN: ... is frustration.




COOPER: And Gary joins us now.


How extensive is this price gouging?


TUCHMAN (on camera): It's a big problem. I mean, it amazes me, after all the disasters we cover, that we still see people with no consciences.


Went into a convenient store today and I saw a half gallon of milk for $4.90. But the fact is...


COOPER: $4.90?


TUCHMAN: $4.90. I mean, that's more than double what most people pay for milk. But that isn't the main reason people are paying more money. The main reason is business people are passing on their costs.


COOPER: Right. And the costs are high all around.


Gary, appreciate the report. Thanks very much.


As we were telling you, there was a big demonstration here in the city of New Orleans. Thousands of people, residents, taking to the streets, African American residents, white residents, demanding enough is enough.


The crime here, nine people have been killed in the last 10 days. One of the men at the rally today, Council President Oliver Thomas, you saw him in Gary's piece. He joins us now.


Good to see you again, the council president.


THOMAS: Good to see you, Anderson.


COOPER: The message today -- there was a lot of anger out on the streets today. A lot of it was directed against officials, like the mayor, the chief of police, people saying enough is enough. Do you think that message got heard?


THOMAS: Well, I can say yes. As of yesterday, this is the greatest priority we have is to make our citizens safe. You know, right now we can't rebuild this community if people don't feel safe enough to bring their families back, their businesses back, you know, rebuild their homes. It has to be our number one priority. If we can't be safe, we can't be anything.


COOPER: Critics will say, you know, why hasn't it been a number one priority six months ago? Back in June, I guess it was the mayor who said, literally, enough is enough. He called in the National Guard. Then on Tuesday, he held another press conference. He said again, enough is enough.


A lot of people here feel like they are hearing those words, but they're not seeing action. What can be done?


THOMAS: Well, it's really the same old story in New Orleans. We went through this in the middle '80s and the middle '90s. e need to talk about how we sustain it, how we...


COOPER: So it's not just Katrina related?


THOMAS: No, it's really not Katrina related. New Orleans has been too violent for too long. Too many criminals going in and out of jail for too long. We need to figure out how we sustain this. It's about time that we make our schools better, our criminal justice system work, and our streets safe.


And you know, we talked about Katrina being a cleansing. Let it cleanse all of those social ills that were wrong about this city. It's time to make it right.


COOPER: And why do you think it -- why has there been this uptick? Is it the wrong people coming back? Is it people coming back and not having their folks around, or not having their -- I mean, their communities around?


THOMAS: One of the problems are the resources. And I've said this and you've said this. We really don't have any problem in this region that money can't fix. But of all the billions of dollars that have been appropriated, very few have gotten into the hands of men and women and families who really want to rebuild this community, who really want to make it better.


At some point, at some point, the money will get into the hands of the people who are trying to rebuild this city and make it a better place. And that's not happening right now.


Criminals, people who want to do the wrong thing, they find their ways back into your community. And, unfortunately, a lot of people can maintain a lifestyle here because of the criminal justice system, because of the easy way of life that they couldn't do other places.


COOPER: Well, you know, I don't think a lot of people get that if you get arrested in New Orleans, there's only a 7 percent conviction rate.


THOMAS: On violent crime.




COOPER: I found 7 percent of the people arrested actually end up in prison. That's staggering. I think nationwide, it's at least over 50 percent.


THOMAS: It has been a history that has been wrong about Louisiana...




COOPER: Is it judges who are too lenient? Is it prosecutors who aren't aggressive enough?


THOMAS: Well, we need to take a look at the state laws. We need to take a look at the speedy trials of violent offenders. If you use a weapon, the laws ought to be stricter, stronger enforcement. We need to take a look at all of it because it seems like the guns and the drugs right now are having a greater effect on this community than Katrina did.


When groups like the neighborhoods (UNINTELLIGIBLE) apartment association, which is open in this area, now are fighting to say, look, you can come back to areas like the Lower Ninth Ward. When their residents hear about crimes, they say, well, why should I? That shouldn't be the case right now. There's too much money in this state not to be able to deal with crime, rebuilding, price gouging, affordable housing. Those shouldn't be our issues right now.


COOPER: Six months from now, do you think we'll be able to stand in front of a house like this here in the Lower Ninth Ward -- or do you feel progress is around the corner?


THOMAS: Well, I'm going to say this. Given what we've been through, if six months from now we don't see some progress in this community, everyone who has anything to do with it ought not be around. They really shouldn't.


COOPER: Does that include yourself?


THOMAS: That includes myself, because we owe the people in this community much more than they are getting. You know, and I'm a citizen. I just moved three of my family members back, my sister-in- law, my late brother's wife moved back into her house, my mother and father. My father is so happy. He's in a king-sized bed in his house. My brother and sister -- I'm almost back in my house.


We owe it to them and other families to make sure they are safe, that their streets are clean and that their tax dollars mean something.


Right now they don't feel like their blood, sweat or their tax dollars mean anything.


COOPER: Council President Thomas, appreciate your voice as well. Thank you very much, as always.


THOMAS: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: Good to talk to you.


So many homes still left in ruins. Tonight, you're going to hear a remarkable man, 83 years old, he's lived here since the 1950s. He is what made the Lower Ninth Ward, the Lower Ninth Ward for so many here. A craftsman by trade. He is rebuilding his own house at his age.


Plus, community outrage hits the boiling point. Take a look.


Enough is enough. New Orleans residents fed up and demanding answers. Why are parts of the city still in ruins? Why have there been so many murders?


Read the rest of the transcript at:




# # # # #


Please feel free to circulate this so everyone will know what's really going on in the Gulf Coast now.

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