Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Southern Scrap: More Than Meets The Eye [updated]

According to the Coast Guard, all 70 of the vessels that broke loose in the Industrial Canal during Hurricane Gustav belonged to a company called Southern Scrap.

'Loose Ships Sink Levees'


The loose vessels produced some of Gustav's scariest moments as they careened around the waterway, with some crashing into an interior floodwall, a bridge and industrial warehouses. At least one barge knocked holes in a nonfederal floodwall -- one not responsible for protecting New Orleans residents -- and there were fears that the next big storm could unleash barges in an unprotected industrial area and sweep them across open parking lots toward a federal floodwall that protects the Upper 9th Ward.

The rest of the Times-Picayune article outlines Coast Guard suspicions that Southern Scrap may not have followed it's own mooring plan :

Capt. Lincoln Stroh, the Coast Guard's New Orleans sector commander, wrote in his order to Southern Scrap that the "company has not shown the ability to follow (its) Heavy Weather Protection Plan as hurricanes approach this Port."

But the Times-Picayune avoids providing critical context. People should know about Southern Scrap and it's history.

First, let's remember that Southern Scrap has a history of failure when it comes to securing it's Industrial Canal assets as storms approach. That link leads to a T-P story from just a few weeks that details a court ruling allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with a lawsuit against Southern Scrap dating back to an unsecured drydock that sunk during Hurricane Katrina. Two other companies are moving forward with their own suits against Southern Scrap because their barges were damaged attempting to navigate the drydock wreckage. Additionally, the Port of New Orleans is suing Southern Scrap for the damage done to the Florida Avenue Bridge.

After their failures during Hurricane Katrina, Southern Scrap was somehow given the latitude to implement their own plan to secure vessels on the canal for Gustav without any oversight. The ongoing lawsuits related to Katrina represent critical context that T-P readers were denied.


--


But unfortunately that's not the only boat the T-P's been missing in its coverage of Southern Scrap.

As the paper does point out, Southern Scrap is a subsidiary of Southern Recycling which is a subsidiary of Southern Holdings. Or I should say it was a subsidiary of Southern Holdings.

Briefly, Southern Recycling (and largely, Southern Recycling and Southern Scrap can be discussed as one and the same), is one of the largest recyclers of scrap metal in the United States. It is a major force within that industry and gets a lot of fat contracts to help the government dispose of old ships.

Southern Recycling and the above umbrella Southern Holdings were founded by the extremely politically-connected Diefenthal family. Edward L. Diefenthal is one of the most active and loyal Republican donors in the South, having given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates all over the country. The Diefenthals are also amongst the cabal behind David Vitter's Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority (see this link also), a PAC that funnels untold amounts of money to Republican campaigns. Edward L. Diefenthal is amongst Governor Bobby Jindal's biggest financial boosters, which may be why we're not hearing much from the Governor's mouth about the barges.

It must be pointed out that Diefenthal and Southern Holdings sold Southern Recycling/Scrap in 2006 to a European company for just over $160 million and in no way am I insinuating that Diefenthal himself should have tied the barges. However, it may be helpful to ask whether or not his political influence had anything to do with the lack of oversight awarded to his companies, particularly since ownership only changed hands very recently and since Diefenthal still lists himself as CEO of Southern Scrap in campaign donations from this year.

It is also helpful to remember that Diefenthal only sold off Southern Scrap/Recycling after it became abundantly clear, especially to the politically connected, that it would be impossible to preserve the 'Hurricane Highway,' the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, on which Southern Scrap relied to move big ships. That was after Diefenthal and other monopoly men dependent on MR-GO like shipping magnate Boysie Bollinger worked desperately to prevent or delay work on this critical security project on which the future of all of SE Louisiana depends. (Boysie Bollinger is another principal behind Vitter's LCRM and served on the BNOB commission, ensuring that MR-GO closure was not made a priority by that body's levees subcommittee)

Though the push to close MR-GO has been ongoing for decades, one wonders why even after the Katrina disaster so sinisterly exposed the risks of continuing to preserve the man made channel, it has still taken over three years to begin work. And at a relatively reasonable $25 million, it certainly wasn't the funding or the price tag that held things up. Of course that $25 million only pays for the plug and does not fill in the channel or restore the wetlands around it, but it's a critical first step that we should have taken years ago but did not because of the inordinate political influence of selfish millionaires like Bollinger and Diefenthal.

Now I think that's pretty critical context.




UPDATE: Loose Links and the Greater New Orleans Republicans

1. Mouthpiece background bio on Boysie Bollinger

2. Article detailing the parties for and against closure of MR-GO

Yet for several maritime companies along the Industrial Canal, including Bollinger Gulf Repairs, New Orleans Coal Storage and Lockheed Martin's Michoud plant, the MR-GO offers the sole outlet for ships too large for an alternative route through locks leading to the Mississippi River. If the MR-GO closes without an alternative route opening first, Bollinger Vice President Robert Socha said the repair dock's 300 jobs could go, too. "If one or the other isn't met, Bollinger Gulf Repair would probably cease to exist," he said.

And here's Congressman Jefferson really fighting for the people:

But St. Bernard Parish Councilman Craig Taffaro said his parish cannot wait that long.

"Congress needs to understand the people of St. Bernard lost everything, including loved ones, due to the negligence and lack of responsiveness by the federal government and Army Corps of Engineers in the maintenance of that structure," Taffaro said.

But the port has an ally in U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans. In a statement issued last week, Jefferson signaled his support for keeping MR-GO open until the locks are completed.

"I will continue working with the Port of New Orleans and other interested parties so that New Orleans does not lose valuable business at the port," the statement said. "In the interim, I will also seek funding for the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal lock, which will allow us to close MRGO to commercial traffic."

Jefferson spokeswoman Nicole Venable said the congressman also wanted a floodgate system such as Melancon described. But she warned "not to cut off the (Gulf Outlet) altogether in the face of irrational fears."

Nice to see Congressman Jefferson tending to his constituents - the Bolinger and Diefenthal families. Just look at Edward Diefenthal's campaign contributions from 2004 alone! He gave to the horrific Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and rained $15,000 on the Greater New Orleans Republicans Fund. (Anyone remember them?)

3. Here's a strike against Boysie Bollinger from Oyster's archives.

4. Here's a link to some work by Mike Davis. It's a long, well-researched article.

Here's a quick hit:

Power and status in New Orleans have always been defined by membership in secretive Mardis Gras 'krewes' and social clubs, with the Krewe of Comus and the Boston and Louisiana clubs at the apex. 'Perhaps more than any other city in America,’ historian John Barry has written, 'New Orleans was run by a cabal of insiders...Looking on as if from behind a two-way mirror, these insiders watched and judged and decided.’

Then in the early 1990s, civil-rights activists led by feisty councilmember Dorothy Mae Taylor forced the token desegregation of the Mardis Gras and some of the clubs reluctantly admitted a few African-American millionaires. Despite a few old-guard holdouts (like Comus, which preferred to stop parading rather than integrate), Uptown seemed to be adjusting, however grudgingly, to the reality of Black political clout.

But, as post-Katrina events have brutally clarified, if the oligarchy is dead, then long live the oligarchy. While elected Black officials protest impotently from the sidelines, a largely white elite with overriding common interests - especially prime real estate and Tulane University - has wrested control over the debate about how to rebuild the city. This de facto ruling krewe includes Jim Amoss, the publisher of the Times-Picayune; Pres Kabacoff, developer-gentrifier and local patron of the 'New Urbanism'; Donald Bollinger, shipyard owner and prominent Bushite; James Reiss, real-estate investor and chair of the Regional Transit Authority (i.e. he was responsible for the buses that didn't evacuate people); Alden McDonald Jr., CEO of the largest African-American-owned bank; Janet Howard of the Bureau of Government Research (originally set-up by Uptown elites to oppose the populism of Huey Long); and Scott Cowen, the aggressively ambitious president of Tulane University.

But the dominating figure and literal kingpin is Joseph Canizaro, a wealthy property developer with friends in high places. First and most importantly, Canizaro is a leading Bush supporter with close personal ties to Karl Rove and the White House inner circle. Secondly, he is the power behind the throne of Mayor Ray Nagin, a nominal Democrat (he supported Bush in 2000) who was elected in 2002 with 80 percent of the white vote. And, thirdly, as the former president of the Urban Land Institute, he mobilizes the support of some of the nation's most powerful developers and prestigious master-planners.



5. Notice when the monopoly men were finally forced to cave to reality, they made sure that their puppet David Vitter would take all the credit.

Oh and don't you dare miss this one:

6. The New Yorker describes the "broad-chested and jowly" Boysie Bollinger as also possessing the "carriage of a viceroy." The following passage indicates the repulsive perspective from which this racist dirtbag sees the world:

Bollinger held the view that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was pampering evacuees, by handing families two thousand dollars in emergency help. “I said to the President, ‘You’re empowering people not to come back to work.’ The President said, ‘I don’t think two thousand dollars will do that.’ I said, ‘Mr. President, these people haven’t had two thousand dollars in their lives.’ ” Rather than wait, Bollinger was hiring as many Mexicans as he could find. “I’m hoping the people of New Orleans come back and take a different attitude toward employment,” he said, pulling open the door to a small office building. “But until they do . . .”

Boysie then shot an infant and kicked her screaming sister toddler into the river.

Last one I promise:

7. An Advocate article on Believe in Louisiana, a 527 created to promote Governor Jindal's conservative agenda exposes both Edward Diefenthal and Boysie Bollinger as top contributors, each giving at least $100k.

-

What these guys are doing and have done, the inordinate control they have on our political process - it ain't right.

They have a racket and if they don't break the law as it is, we've got to write laws that make it illegal to do what they do. When a social cabal of millionaires can drop $15,000 a pop into a hat that magically produces a mayor and a congressman with original favors to owe, you've got a problem on your hands.

Not too many towns in America that have it quite like New Orleans.

27 comments:

oyster said...

This is a very strong post. Well done!

The political ramifications of this sentence really jarred me:

"That was after Diefenthal and other monopoly men dependent on MR-GO like shipping magnate Boysie Bollinger worked desperately to prevent or delay work on this critical security project on which the future of all of SE Louisiana depends."

Is there any supporting published evidence for this claim that can be quoted or linked to? I'm not disputing it, I just want to have something that I can cite, when I repeatedly use this claim for the rest of my life.

E said...

Yes, there must be. I'll work on it.

E said...

Here we go:

http://saveourwetlands.org/mrgohastogo.htm

Yet for several maritime companies along the Industrial Canal, including Bollinger Gulf Repairs, New Orleans Coal Storage and Lockheed Martin's Michoud plant, the MR-GO offers the sole outlet for ships too large for an alternative route through locks leading to the Mississippi River.

If the MR-GO closes without an alternative route opening first, Bollinger Vice President Robert Socha said the repair dock's 300 jobs could go, too.

"If one or the other isn't met, Bollinger Gulf Repair would probably cease to exist," he said.

E said...

oh here's another interesting passage from that same link:

But St. Bernard Parish Councilman Craig Taffaro said his parish cannot wait that long.

"Congress needs to understand the people of St. Bernard lost everything, including loved ones, due to the negligence and lack of responsiveness by the federal government and Army Corps of Engineers in the maintenance of that structure," Taffaro said.

But the port has an ally in U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans. In a statement issued last week, Jefferson signaled his support for keeping MR-GO open until the locks are completed.

"I will continue working with the Port of New Orleans and other interested parties so that New Orleans does not lose valuable business at the port," the statement said. "In the interim, I will also seek funding for the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal lock, which will allow us to close MRGO to commercial traffic."

Jefferson spokeswoman Nicole Venable said the congressman also wanted a floodgate system such as Melancon described. But she warned "not to cut off the (Gulf Outlet) altogether in the face of irrational fears."

jeffrey said...

Funny. I could have sworn Jefferson was on the podium during the Nagin "mother-of-all-storms" speech last Saturday night. In fact, I think he even spoke for a few minutes. Certainly there were no "irrational fears" being surrendered to at that event.

Leigh C. said...

70 SHIPS???

I don't know if I'm happy to have NOT known that when they were showing the tidal sloshing in the Industrial Canal last Monday or not. I'm seriously pissed now.

E said...

Oh Tidal Sloshing! I love that term. I have to remember to remember it.

Leigh C. said...

Hey, you ARE the one who passed that damn term on, after all.

A more appropriate way to look at it is probably "Oh, SHIT! Too much WATER!"

Anonymous said...

"Boysie then shot an infant and kicked her screaming sister toddler into the river."

Unnecessary and undermines the credibility of the entire post.

jeffrey said...

That's weird, Anon. I thought that line added humor and kind of drove the point home. The "credibility" derives from the cited sources. If anything here lacks credibility, I'd say it's the anonymous comment.

Tim said...

Excellent post until you fell of the cliff with the "MRGO is the hurricane super highway" myth. Yes, popular opinion is that the man-made channel funnels storm surge into St. Bernard and New Orleans. But science says no.

Suggest you check out the State of Louisiana's own study of the question:
http://el.erdc.usace.army.mil/lcast/pdfs/06feb-URS-MRGO.pdf

Some conclusions of that study:
* The MRGO channel does not appear to contribute significantly to peak surbe during severe storms, when the conveyance of surge is dominated by flow across the entire surface of teh coastal lakes and marsh.
* Closure of the MRGO channel by complete filling will not provide significant immediate, direct mitigation of severe hurricane storm surge. Likewise, other closure scenarios--such as blockage or partial filling--will not directly mitigate storm surge.

There's a more detailed discussion on my blog at:
http://timsnamelessblog.blogspot.com/2007/01/despised-mr-go.html
Please let me know if you have any questions.

Peace,

Tim

alli said...

Ah, Mike Davis. I'm reading Planet of Slums right now!

I think most of his 25 questions from Sept 05 still have not been answered.

E said...

Though it was intended to inject some humor, as Jeffrey points out, maybe Anon is partially right that the gratuity of the reference deflects attention from very serious details within post.

But does it undermine the credibility of anything I'm really saying? I guess only if you want it to.

E said...

Tim, I have to admit I am not an expert on the mechanics of hurricane protection. I thought it was pretty much consensus that MRGO leaves us more vulnerable. If this is in fact a distortion of scientific consensus, then I have to wonder how it became such a priority for pretty much everyone of importance in SE LA, especially given the powerful interests that had to be overcome to get the plugs paid for.

Anonymous said...

Tim, a quick search of google shows that your "study" of MRGO was paid for by the state of Louisiana in 2006 and awarded to the URS Corporation. Who is the URS corporation? Click down a few links and you will see that URS in 2002 was awarded an Army Corp of Engineers contract to build a new lock system in the Industrial Canal--which is useless if MRGO is closed. This gigantic politically connected engineering firm profits from keeping MRGO open! No surprise their "independent study" concluded MRGO was a harmless ditch. I think that's what the original post was all about: we need to dig deep for the truth because most "information" promulgated by the government is self-serving and is designed to legitmate contracts for the rich and powerful.

bayoustjohndavid said...

FWIW, Scott Sewell also has, or had, a Southern Scrap.

bayoustjohndavid said...

Must have messed up the html, that was supposed to read "a connection to Southern Scrap."

Tim said...

Anon,

So you're saying the State of Louisiana is being manipulated by URS in order to secure work? Please provide your source or proof of this. References to the hidden gunman in the grassy knoll will not suffice.

The research conducted by URS under contract with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources is scientificly valid. It is supported by the findings of many such studies. Please cite one scientific study that concludes the MRGO is the "hurricane super highway."

Peace,

Tim

Tim said...

E,

How did closing the MRGO become such a priority if all the science shows it is not a "hurricane super highway"? Politics, plain and simple. The Corps has for years refuted this nonsense, but the non-stop drumbeat of politicians in St. Bernard, picked up by the Louisiana congressional delegation, resulted in Congress ordering the Corps to plug the MRGO. That's why I'm so dismayed by this and that's why I speak out on it. I don't care one bit whether the MRGO stays or goes--I don't hold stock in Southern Scrap or any other business in the Industrial Canal.

But if we are going to close it, let's be honest about the reasons. I want everyone to understand the facts: closing the MRGO, even if you spend the time and money and material to fill it completely back up to marsh elevation will accomplish virtually NOTHING in terms of storm surge protection.

For the record, the Corps has never swayed in its valid assessment of the MRGO's minimal to inconsequential influence on storm surge. The Corps' report recommending closure of the MRGO states that the channel probably contributes to the loss of wetlands and thus is an ecological detriment to the area.

Peace,

Tim

Anonymous said...

I clicked on "Tim" (above) and see that he works for the Army Corp of Engineers. You really should include that detail in your posts defending the Corp's disastrous track. Indeed, the corp hires "contract workers" in their public affairs office to propagandize for them.

E said...

Tim, Anons,

I think we're going to have to table this one.

Tim, you don't have me convinced. The mountain of evidence pointing to the benefits of closing and filling MRGO forces me to maintain my skepticism of your claims.

But it's a debate to continue some other time at some other place.

Here and now there's the matter of Southern Scrap: their ridiculous influence on high-profile politicians shielded them from oversight and they nearly destroyed the city.

Anonymous said...

that mike davis article 'who's killing new orleans' is still completely relevant.

E said...

Indeed, because it speaks to how racist right-wing political and social networks exercise incredible power over politicians, policy, and the daily lives of regular New Orleanians. It contributes to the lack of oversight of Southern Scrap might help explain why it has taken so long to get moving on MRGO closure.

Tim said...

E,

"The mountain of evidence pointing to the benefits of closing and filling MRGO forces me to maintain my skepticism of your claims."

Feel free to post it at any time.

Peace,

Tim

Tim said...

Anon,

Wait, wait, are you saying that I am less than forthcoming and perhaps hiding something when I post basic, verifiable facts, but I don't mention where I work? Is that what you're saying, Mr or Mrs ANONYMOUS???

Yeah, I thought so.

Peace,

Tim

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