Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The long-term health and ecological effects from the BP oil disaster remain vague, but the federal investigation into the tragedy is finally getting a head of steam. Last week the presidential commission looking to the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion said that both BP and contractor Halliburton were aware weeks before the catastrophe that the cement mixture used to seal the bottom of the well was unstable, yet they went ahead with the job. Citing a letter delivered to the commission Thursday by chief investigator Fred H. Bartlit Jr., the commission announced three laboratory tests on the cement conducted by Halliburton, including one just a week before the accident, indicated the cement mixture didn’t meet industry standards. The results of that final test were not, however, forwarded to BP, whose own internal investigation into the explosion blamed Halliburton’s cement mixture for the mishap. The feds also cordoned off several square miles of Gulf water above the site where the rig exploded for a possible criminal investigation into the incident. Obviously somebody screwed up. Figuring out who, and assigning commensurate liability, is vital.

What an embarrassing joke the Lafayette Housing Authority has become. As it stands, the authority’s board of commissioners has little authority, with HUD looking over its shoulder and federal investigators probing whether taxpayer funds were misappropriated, in effect doing what the board failed to do following an independent audit released in July. Last week, Director Walter Guillory and Deputy Director Jonathan Carmouche resigned, and as Guillory made a dignified exit from the office following his resignation, board member Leon Simmons got into a physical altercation with a TV cameraman, calling members of the media “some damn buzzards.” Meanwhile the board — most of its members reinstated by District Judge Ed Rubin after City-Parish President Joey Durel legally and correctly canned them — has been holding its impotent meetings during the day in an apparent effort to ensure that fellow board member Donald Fuselier, an attorney and the only board member with a full-time job, who wasn’t canned by Durel, cannot attend the meetings, prompting board Vice Chairman Joe Dennis to call on Durel to dismiss Fuselier. Can this get any more petty and convoluted? You just wait.

We’ve long considered The Times-Picayune to be arguably the finest daily newspaper not just in the state but the region (although Baton Rouge’s Advocate verily kicked its butt at the most recent Louisiana Press Association awards). So it was with a great deal of bile rising in our collective throat that we greeted The Times-Pic’s endorsement last week of Sen. David Vitter for re-election. The nod, while acknowledging Vitter’s “serious sin” and the utter lack of a bipartisan bone in his body, cited the philandering pol’s ability to bring home the bacon. Sigh. Vitter is a New Orleans native, and his earmarks have probably favored his home town, so we can understand the newspaper’s parochial fidelity. But considering that our junior senator is such damaged goods — even Louisiana’s top elected Republican, Gov. Bobby Jindal, has declined to endorse him, and most Republicans were probably holding their noses when they voted for him Tuesday — and in light of the Picayune editors declining to make endorsements in other races important to metro New Orleans, we just wish they had sat this one out.

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