Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Live From New Orleans (Technically Chalmette), More AIG Outrage, Volunteerism, Katrina Cottages, And Healthy Tortillas

Hi everyone. Continuing with our road trip, tonight we stop in Louisiana, and Anderson Cooper is coming at us live from a construction site in Chalmette, where he is currently surrounded by very enthusiastic volunteers. It seems our anchor has decided to reflect the casualness of the situation with his wardrobe. Gotta say, the economy might be in the crapper, but it's a good day when the Silver Fox is rocking the tight t-shirt. That's right, I said it.

Okay, okay, shallowness out of the way now. Oh no, wait! I forgot to do my facetious woo hooing. It cracks me up how the crowd treats the broadcast like a rock concert. Woo hoo!!! Anyway! As Anderson intros, he brings up AIG and whether or not the bonus debacle is "crippling the Obama administration." Oh, c'mon. Over-dramatic rhetoric alert. He's lucky he's wearing that shirt...

Things kick off in a real way with a Dana Bash piece all about AIG and how mad everyone is suddenly. The senate democrats are so mad, they want to impose an excise tax. The house democrats are so mad, they want to sue . And the Republicans? They want Timothy Geithner's head. I swear, this is like Grandstanding Central. As Dana notes, Congress has had plenty of time to guard against this stuff. Not to mention the fact that the bonuses are a very small percentage of what we're paying them in the first place. It's an infuriating situation, yes, but my blood remains unboiled.

Back live to Anderson now and he further drives home my grandstanding point by noting that some of the very Congresscritters who are oh so angry over this bonus thing, have actually received campaign contributions from the now hated company. Dodd, McCain, Clinton, Romney, Biden, the last guy in charge who screwed everything up, and yes, even our current commander in chief. Lookee there. When the cash comes out the partisanship goes away. See the whole sorry list at opensecrets.org.

We're then joined by Ed Henry live and he discusses the new question as to when exactly Geithner knew about the bonuses and when he subsequently told President Obama. Plus, the republicans want to know why, when AIG asked for even MORE money, they didn't use that as leverage to stop this kind of bonus crap. The response is a bunch of BS from Larry Summers in the form of a video clip. You know, I love my prez, but his economic team? They're testing my patience.

On now to Ali Velshi in the studio to talk more about the timing of the AIG bonus revelation. He's all comfuzzled about the new outrage because apparently he reported this as far back as January. "We were talking about it. We were reporting it right here on CNN," says Ali. Well, no freaking wonder I feel like I'm in some sort of deja vu spiral! Remember how I said it seemed like we'd heard this song before? We HAVE! We have heard this song before. Sometimes I feel like the media and Washington are conspiring together to make me go crazy. As Anderson throws out to commercial, he asks us, "How mad are you?" Oh, I'm about a six. What the hell kind of question is that?

Next up, we have a piece from our anchor on the volunteers who are helping to rebuild houses for Katrina survivors. The one they're working on today is for a woman who has been living in a FEMA trailer since after the hurricane. I can't even imagine. The good news is, volunteerism is actually up. I guess people can no longer give their money, so they're giving their time. Anderson talks with CNN Heroes winner and St. Bernard Project founder, Liz McCartney, who thinks that volunteering puts things in perspective for a lot of people. Word to that. If you can afford it, definitely click the link and help her organization out.

Transitioning to Tom Foreman at his wall, and we are once again playing that lovely parlor game: "winners and losers" of the economy. This is kinda unintentionally comical. Fundraising charities? Losers! Animal rescue? Losers! Child welfare agencies? Losers! Yeah, children suck! Okay, yeah, that isn't how they mean it, but lordie. As for the winners, we already know volunteerism is up and apparently the veterinarian field is hopping. Oh, also? The military is no longer having trouble recruiting. Well, I guess crashing the economy is certainly one way to fill the ranks. I've got a cousin in boot camp right now. It's all about the economic stability.

Moving on now to a Sean Callebs piece that makes me want to repeatedly bang my head against the wall. Okay, so, FEMA gave Louisiana $75 million dollars to build Katrina Cottages, which are a kind of permanent housing--in other words, way better than trailers. BUT after having the money for TWO YEARS they have placed zero Katrina survivors. Zilp. Zippo. Zilch. Sean talks with State Representative Neil Abramson, who asked for an audit. The findings? Everything there is FUBAR. Still. The real cake-taker though, is that FEMA can actually ask for the money back if the state doesn't have 500 cottages built by September WITH families living in them. So far? They've built one.

This of course is leading people to wonder what the hell will come of the $4 BILLION the state is set to get from the stimulus bill. Good lord, y'all. This is just astonishing. Also, not to go Debbie Downer on a very good piece, but once again I'm wondering why it seems that Anderson has to physically be in New Orleans for us to hear about this stuff. They could have been following up on this continuously. C'mon 360. After his piece, Sean talks with us live and Anderson notes that St. Bernard Project has build 200 homes and the state has only built one cottage. Puts it into perspective, doesn't it?

Panel time! As always, we have our man David Gergen, and tonight he's also accompanied by Money magazine's Donna Rosato and innovation consultant Frans Johansson. Like last night, they take questions from the crowd, but I actually enjoyed this discussion much better. The Frans guy is a little more detailed this time around, but not much more. I was pleased to hear Donna tell that college student about occupations with loan forgiveness programs. It's great she wants to go into nonprofit work. Unfortunately, most of it pays for crap. Also of note to me was the Gerg throwing out Jack Welch's name. I have a friend who predicted that was coming and her head is probably currently exploding. Oh Gerg, we can pretty much write your lines at this point, can't we?

Back to Anderson now, confusing the hell out of me. He's inside the house with volunteers working and initially I thought this was a taped clip, but no. The Silver Fox, keeping us on our toes. Instead of woo hooing, now we've got electric saws noises. (Oh! Speaking of noises, what the hell is with that "whoosh" sound effect? SO annoying.)

Next up, we have a Ted Rowlands piece on a healthy tortilla created by Alonso Arellano, a southern California restaurant owner. Yes, I said tortilla. It's relevant, I promise. See, business for Alonso was way down, but then he reinvented and wah lah! Huge hit. Business is up and he's creating jobs. Yay for the little guy!

Anderson has popped back outside again to talk with Frans about innovation. "Is reinventing yourself the key to surviving this recession?" asks Anderson. Frans thinks it's critical. Yes, we should all be like Madonna. Heh.

On now to the very sad news that Natasha Richardson sustained a critical head injury in a fall on a ski slope. We're joined by Dr. Stephan Mayer, neurologist. One of the few times when CNN's resident doctor could actually talk about something in his specialty and he's no where to be seen. So where is that slacker Gupta tonight? Becoming a daddy for the third time. Congrats, Sanjay!

As for Natasha, it seems what happened is pretty rare, given that she was walking and talking after the fall. It's scary how something that appears relatively minor can turn out not that way at all. I hope she's okay. Some of the unconfirmed reports out there sound pretty dire. After the talk with Dr. Mayer, Anderson tells us that Natasha is actually a friend and sends his thoughts and prayers. Reporting on a friend has got to suck.

Well, we're not transitioning to something happy before you go to bed, but I suppose it's better than nothing. The "shot" tonight is Japan's new ladybot. And she is very creepy. Anderson muses, "maybe you can entertain friends and scare children with it." I don't even want to think about the nasty things going to be done to that robot. Don't pretend like that didn't cross your mind. Anyhoo! Not a bad show. Pretty good, I'd say. That'll do it.

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