Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oh let me guess

The Lens:

Though top city officials have convened a group to advise on a controversial proposed expansion of the Orleans Parish Prison, the group’s meetings are not open to the public because it is not a “formal working group,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s director of intergovernmental affairs told The Lens.

The Landrieu administration has “convened different stakeholders” to gather and share information, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Michael Sherman said in an interview. He said the group will present findings to the mayor’s top staff and Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin will “study the issue.”

It is unclear how, beyond its freedom to ignore public meetings law, the group differs from a formal working group. Internal group correspondence includes references to the group as a “working group.”

Maybe, on furlough days, they all have a big kegger party.


Kevin Drum sums it up

You know, if I'd wanted Dick Cheney as president I would have just voted for him.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Throwing bones to the drug sniffing dogs

Sobriety Checkpoint

New Orleans LA,-As required by the Louisiana Supreme Court, the New Orleans Police Department is issuing a public advisory regarding sobriety checkpoints that will be conducted.

The NOPD’s Traffic Division will conduct sobriety checkpoints Wednesday July 28, 2010 in the Uptown area and Thursday July 29, 2010 in the Algiers area beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M., and will conclude at about 5:00 A.M. Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc., available if requested.

The NOPD would like to, as always, remind motorists to drink responsibly and use a designated driver.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Plug the hole

I wouldn't go so far as to call it "America's Toilet Bowl" just yet but, in its own way, the neighborhood exhibits certain commonalities with the Gulf of Mexico from time to time. For example, a few years back we had a harrowing experience with a seemingly unstoppable gusher. And this summer, we've discovered a rapidly deteriorating hole in the ground that just gets scarier every time we look at it.

July 19
Hole in the road

July 22
Hole in the road take 2

July 25

Hole in the road take 3

So far none of these episodes has caused any insensitive whining from beneath anyone's million dollar golden parachute* but we'll keep an eye out.

*Tony Hayward's £600,000 pension works out to $934,867.15 right now. Not quite a million bucks but you always have to account for those famous BP understated figures.

Crazy Coach Analogies

Les Miles is to LSU as Mike Ditka once was to the Saints The absurd stupidity almost makes the incompetence worth the trip. Almost.


The truth, as I understand it anyway, is that this sort of thing actually happens all the time but after Macono we've acquired a heightened sensitivity to it.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Coast Guard says a towing vessel hit an oil well early Tuesday in a waterway north of Barataria Bay in south Louisiana and there are reports of oil spewing from the damaged wellhead.

Not to say that this is improper. Louisianians live in proximity to an impressive amount of oil and gas production infrastructure and have little idea of its scope or its hazards and the frequency with which they are exposed to them.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Vessels of Opportunity

As in, each prisoner is a vessel of opportunity for BP to control its costs and liabilities.
Hiring prison labor is more than a way for BP to save money while cleaning up the biggest oil spill in history. By tapping into the inmate workforce, the company and its subcontractors get workers who are not only cheap but easily silenced—and they get lucrative tax write-offs in the process.

Edit: Douglas Blackmon's Slavery By Another Name traces the rise of the system of prison labor which built much of the industrial South after the Civil War. It's difficult to read stories like the one above and not see parallels.

Surgical booming

All this has the look of attempting to close the blowout preventer after the oil has already exploded out of the well.

Officials have also discovered a new problem with the strategy aimed at protecting those marshes. Boom that surrounded marshes in some areas were pushed into the wetlands by the rising water, becoming bludgeons that smashed the delicate plant life they once protected.

"Just the mechanical action of the boom being dragged over the marshes is not desirable," he said. "That may cause more damage to the marsh than the oil would if it was there."

Lehmann later referred to the issue by noting that the boom are "terrific technology that has become a liability."

With evidence that the boom that was laid around hundreds of miles of coast may now be a threat, officials are considering a much more scaled-back deployment in the future. Rather than string boom around the coast, the floating barriers will be kept ready for deployment and laid out in areas only when it appears oil will shortly become a threat.

"We'll be more surgical about where we put boom," Zukunft said.

Would have been nice if they had surigically deployed their "terrific technology" the right way the first time around but we can't have everything, you know.


Check out these two AZ posts. Ken Feinberg, the man Obama tapped to administer BP's $20 billion victims' relief account, is not exactly the kind of guy you might want doing that for various reasons. And we're still wondering if someone will tell the T-P that.

Sources: Tony Hayward demanding a trade

Says BP doesn't want to win now.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dangerous people of the internet

Here's an excerpt from a must-read piece by Salon's Glenn Greenwald on the hazzards of internet anonymity:
At least anonymous bloggers are very clear and truthful about what they are: often citizens whose jobs or other interests prevent them from attaching their names to their political expression. By stark contrast, all of these establishment media outlets perpetrate a total fraud on the public by pretending that they have standards for when anonymity will be used even though, as these examples from the last 24 hours alone prove, they routinely violate those alleged standards for absolutely no reason. It just never ceases to amaze how much establishment journalists like Roberts and Phillips love to rail against the Evils of Internet Anonymity when reckless, cowardly anonymity -- for purposes ranging from catty, trivial gossip to pernicious propaganda and everything in between -- is a central tool of their "profession" and of the political class they cover.

As always with this stuff, none of it is about "journalistic integrity" as much as it is about an entitled class of professional communicators and the businesses who own them who presume that they hold some sort of copyright on the truth. And by "truth" we mean whatever sounds most acceptable to the majority of the entitled class regardless of actual fact.

I know it's going on nearly a decade since these hypocritical elites began whining the way they do but I don't think that's any reason to stop paying attention. Sooner or later they're going to find some way to reestablish control over what it's acceptable to say and who's allowed to say it. Money has a funny way of establishing prerogatives.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Grown-ups in charge

Say what you want about the Landrieu people, but unlike the previous administration they do at least try to go about things in a professional nature. They know, for example, to dump the bad news on Friday afternoon.

NEW ORLEANS – City employees will be placed on furloughs and Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his staff will take a 10 percent pay cut, as part of the administration’s effort to stave off a massive budget deficit, Landrieu announced Friday.

As The Lens has already pointed out, the move does put the City Council in an awkward position given that they went to the mat with Nagin over this very issue last year. It will be interesting to see how the Landrieu people handle that situation. Given what's gone on in a separate matter here, I'm guessing they'll try to keep the negotiation out of the public eye. It's what the pros do.


Maybe not the most frightening storm ever but she sure has good aim, doesn't she.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Don't forget your Rising Tide T-shirt. You know all proceeds go to keep their keynote speaker out of jail

Today, the organizers of the Rising Tide conference (Saturday, August 28 at Howling Wolf) announced that this year's keynote speaker will be Mother Jones Magazine's Human Rights reporter Mac McClelland. McClelland has been reporting, blogging, and tweeting from the Louisiana Gulf Coast since early May on the BP oil disaster and its effect on the communities there. So she should have a lot of fascinating stuff to talk about at the conference. That is, she will if she can stay out of jail until then.

McClelland spoke recently with Gambit's Alex Woodward about the difficulties of working around the Coast Guard's infamous "65 foot rule"

These safety zones — will it affect the way you report, or has it? Will it limit your coverage?

The day they announced that I was on my way to Florida for a couple days, and I’ll tell you what, the difference between Florida and Louisiana is staggering. They’ll let you do whatever the f—k you want in Florida. The beaches are open because they don’t want to discourage tourism, so anybody has total run of anything they want — you can take pictures, talk to cleanup workers, there’s no cops, it’s not like here where there’s a creepy police state feel. The only thing I reported on site in Florida was they apparently don’t care. I haven’t experienced it yet, but I bet I will soon. In the next couple days I’ll be back in Louisiana. To be honest I haven’t decided what my strategy is yet, it seems to be kind of stupid to say I’m just not going to follow that. How could they arrest me? Could they really? Are they really going to arrest anybody? Part of me wants to be a jerk and kind of call their bluff.

I was thinking the same thing —

Go try and get arrested? And hope to God you can raise enough donations over the Internet to pay your $40,000 fine?

So if you're planning to register for this year's Rising Tide, you may think about kicking in a few extra crabs as a donation to a McClelland legal defense fund. Looks like they'll need about $40,000.

Chartered buses on an old abandoned highway

We've been through this whole conversation once before but since it's on the front page again today we'll repeat ourselves.

Tearing down the Claiborne Expressway is not a magical means to reviving the neighborhoods it traverses. It won't bring back the dead and gone tree-lined North Claiborne of the mid 20th Century. More likely it will bring about something resembling the South Claiborne of today with its drive-thru fast food and strip malls of dollar stores on every corner.

Or maybe it will make a nice throughway for charter busloads of Jazzfest visitors taking their obligatory Treme Tour. (You laugh, but see it's already taking shape.) And, of course, making it harder to get across town can only further isolate the severely under-served neighborhoods to the east of the Industrial Canal but nobody cares about those people since they don't have near as many second line parades or famous artsy residents as we tend to get back in what the Hollywood fan boys have deemed "real New Orleans".

Planning nerds like to think they can solve fundamental social and economic problems by fiddling with the aesthetics of infrastructure. But all they're really doing is giving the political leadership an excuse to treat roads and buildings as a separate matter from the people those things are supposed to serve. And when that fails, the next step is removing those people since obviously they're what's making all these pretty places so unattractive to visitors. This doesn't take long to come up in the NOLA.com comments.
The Iberville Projects need tearing down, also. They are an eyesore too and they directly infect our biggest tourist attraction. Since tourism is our biggest industry, it makes no since to threaten it with the crime the projects produces.
What the commenter doesn't say is that the most likely pretty piece of infrastructure to replace Iberville is also known to produce an awful lot of crime. But maybe that will be less infectious since it will be located so much further away from a major highway by then.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Digest mode

Busy day. Busy time of year in general, really. Here are some more half-assed bulleted blurbs to fill the space in the meantime.

  • This Digby post about the White House caving to cheap bullying idiots is all well and good but until we draw the logical conclusion that it means the failed White House occupant needs to be replaced with someone who will actually stand up to this shit then we're not going to learn anything constructive from it.

  • Mayor: N.O. needs a new City Hall
    The Chevron building is still available, of course. I wonder if the City Council will agree to buy it for this mayor... and what the rationale will be.

    Meanwhile, this Mayor remains committed to his very critical priority of raising money to make commercials with.
    NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is continuing his pitch for millions from BP to promote tourism.

    The mayor appeared Sunday morning on CNN, talking about tourism and saying local and state leaders will continue to push the head of the compensation fund, Kenneth Feinberg, to make sure Louisiana business owners are made whole as quickly as possible.
    And you know he's got a point. It's expensive to lie pretty enough to make all these dead fish go away. Maybe BP can help them do that too.

  • Speaking of dead fish, check out Bob Marshall's feature from the front of Wednesday's T-P: Louisiana blue crabs are tough, but Gulf oil spill might be tougher

    "Forty percent of the most productive stations are within the confines of the oil spill," said Vince Guillory, a biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which manages a fishery that produces about 30 percent of the nation's blue-claw crabs, a crop with a reported annual economic impact of $237 million.

    "We are quite concerned that we will see significant mortality of larvae as they encounter oil or dispersants."

    Dad had a hard time finding fresh crabs this past weekend, but the boil came out nice and pretty anyway.

    Boiled crabs

  • Senate subcommittee OKs $35.6M for coastal restoration
    Uh oh. Hope they're not raiding Road Home for this too.

  • James Gill on Senator Vitter's Birther pander

    Vitter was not about to confuse matters with the truth, and did not hesitate to play to the gallery. "I support conservative legal organizations and others who would bring that to court. I think that is the valid and most possibly effective grounds to do it," he said.The birthers could only see that as an endorsement, although anyone with a lick of sense knew Vitter was faking it. Whatever the voters want, Vitter will fake. As soon as it became obvious that a roomful of voters wanted stupid, Vitter obliged.

  • The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center has published a new report intended to measure the potential job cost of the oil disaster along the coast. Here's a quick description of the report culled from GNOCDC's newsletter
    This data is meant to serve as a baseline against which the impact of the oil spill can eventually be measured.

    In addition, it provides much needed information on residential patterns along the coast, many months before the Census 2010 headcounts are to be released. This data can be useful for nonprofits and state agencies planning services for coastal populations.

    The brief also highlights some important findings about the economic importance of our coast. Specifically:

    * High concentrations of jobs appeared in many coastal areas prior to the oil disaster. In fact, the coastal periphery was second only to urban areas as employment nodes.

    * Plaquemines Parish was home to 11,687 jobs but only 6,950 resident workers in 2008, indicating that people in neighboring parishes rely on this especially vulnerable parish for their livelihood. Oil-related impacts on the economy of Plaquemines parish, therefore, could reverberate region-wide.

    * In Lafourche Parish, worker residences were more clustered in northern and central areas, while jobs tended to locate at the southern end—namely Port Fourchon, a key node in the regional petroleum and offshore economy.

    * Among southeast Louisiana parishes, Terrebonne had the highest absolute number (6,089) and percent (11.5) of jobs in the oil and gas industry, far more than even the urbanized New Orleans metro parishes with much-larger populations. These jobs were particularly concentrated in two Houma zip codes that together are home to over 5,500 such jobs—more than double the number of oil and gas jobs in downtown New Orleans.

    This brief is based on 2008 Census Bureau data from company payrolls. As such it does not capture the thousands of self-employed fishermen not included in company payroll data—indicating that coastal Louisiana is even more important to job creation than our numbers suggest.

    Stick that in your crab soup along with your 11,000 some odd job losses associated with the Avondale closure and suck it down.

    Meanwhile, Businessweek insists we're still bucking the trend (sort of)

  • Finally, a few signs that summer is in full swing. First of all, it's hot. Damn hot. How hot? So hot the streets are melting. Here's a typical New Orleans summertime asphalt sinkhole I found on Carondelet street the other day.

    Hole in the road

    A few years ago, in nearly the same spot, one opened up that was big enough to swallow a car.

    The good news is it's almost time for Saints camp which brings all sorts of ridiculous distractions including new posts from the Ashley-nominated Moosedenied.

    The bad news is we're getting into the thicker part of storm season. And this has brought with it even thicker food metaphors.
    A tropical disturbance in the Gulf oil spill would act as a mixing agent for oil and water.

    --It's a process known as "emulsification."

    --It would create a mayonnaise-like mix of three or four parts water and one part oil.

    Mayonnaise. No remoulade?

Monday, July 19, 2010


What am I not understanding this time?

Update: And now it's leaking straight out of the cap too Oh well. Another day another plan "refudiated"

Well is capped. Oil starts to come up out of the ground. Well must be ruptured beneath the surface, right?

Modern finance

In South Louisiana we leverage our disaster funds to pay for our other disasters.

Now a supplemental appropriations bill that passed the House earlier this month would take $400 million from post-Katrina recovery programs like Road Home in order to fund other projects, including $304 million for Deepwater Horizon-related remediation and investigation. To some Louisiana residents, using any taxpayer money, much less hurricane-relief money, to clean up BP's oil just adds insult to injury. "Any provisions related to the spill should be paid for by the responsible party," says Monika Gerhart, director of policy and government relations for the Equity and Inclusion Campaign, a nonpartisan advocacy organization. "We're not yet recovered. So don't take our housing money."

It all works out because the number of incalculably expensive disasters always goes up.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday CDO

Today I sliced off parts of what could have been several different crappy blog posts and crammed them all together into this one big crappy product which obviously increases its overall market value somehow.

John Georges vs the "Dangerous People" Round 2
The Lens asks some questions about property tax assessments on a Georges property. Georges responds in the comments.

Hornets sale still off by $24 to $30 million
According to this article Shinn and Chouest are "barely on speaking terms" The whole situation is very strange. But then Shinn has a long track record of being involved in strangeness.

BP cap still hasn't failed yet
It's a fun article anyway because it ends on this quote from BP Vice-President Kent Wells regarding the ongoing well integrity testing.

"There's no evidence that we don't have integrity."

Certainly. No evidence they can't buy anyway...

BP buying up Gulf scientists for legal defense, newspaper alleges
The Mobile Press-Register published an article on its website Friday alleging that BP has been offering lucrative contracts and signing bonuses to top scientists at universities around the Gulf of Mexico as part of its defense against oil spill litigation.BP PLC even tried to sign up the entire marine sciences department at an Alabama university. The university declined due to confidentiality requirements the company sought to impose.
I wonder how much they gave Ivor Van Heerden

Read this Matt Taibbi post about the ridiculous media love fest following upon the death of George Steinbrenner.

In no other country do people genuinely love their bosses the way Americans do. They'll go home after 12 hard hours of capricious superiors peeing in their faces, and the very first thing they'll do is call up some talk radio show and denounce the graduated income tax that gives them a break at their bosses' expense. In other countries bosses need to constantly fend off revolts and strikes; in America people tune in by the millions to cheer on an impetuous, bloated asshole like Donald Trump as he ritualistically fires a succession of sheepish sacrificial stand-ins who are clearly chosen for their resemblance to the target demographic. And The Apprentice was just one of many reality shows where people literally jack off to their own job insecurity!

They've got peoples' heads so turned around in this country that this ring-around-the-collar self-flagellating terror at being thought of as poor and subordinate has people reflexively worshipping their bosses, to the point where George Steinbrenner -- a workplace Caligula so stupid and self-centered that he could not be convinced George Constanza wasn't named after him -- is somehow thought of as cute and lovable. George Steinbrenner was not cute; he was the biggest fuckhead of his generation. Steinbrenner was the kind of guy who wouldn't accept that two plus two equaled four if a parade of MIT professors proved it to him on a fifty-foot blackboard. And if you tried to point that out to him, he fired you in the middle of the night, which he thought was funny, except that you were feeding your kids with that money.

Remember that most Americans are like this come Novemeber as Republicans ride to major gains while blaming the unemployed for not having jobs.

Oh and when that happens, Krugman predicts another Government shutdown just like that which followed the 1994 elections.
Also, expect many, many fake scandals; we’ll be having hearings over accusations of corruption on the part of Michelle Obama’s hairdresser, janitors at the Treasury, and Larry Summers’s doctor’s dog. If you don’t believe me, you weren’t paying attention during the Clinton years; remember, we had months of hearings over claims that something was fishy in the White House travel office (nothing was).
Democrats will never get anywhere if all they do is continue making excuses for Wall Street criminals and compromising into impotence on every issue of critical import from health reform to financial regulation. Do they deserve to have their asses handed to them in November? You bet. Do we deserve the horrifying consequences of that? Well of course not but most of us don't really count for much anymore anyway.

Finally, here's a pretty good pairing of two recent opinion columns:

Mark Moseley takes on a common talking point about the oil drilling moratorium

The basic idea of the airplane analogy is this: We don’t ground all airplanes after a single plane crash, therefore we shouldn’t stop all drilling rigs if we have a problem with one of them. Now, if rigs only posed a danger to the workers on them, then the parallel would hold up better. But, as bad as the deaths on the Deepwater Horizon were, it’s the catastrophic risks that oil gushers pose to an entire region that make them so potentially dangerous. This event is so newsworthy because of the resultant oil gusher, not the original rig fire. Everyone understands that, yet this analogy obscures this central, gruesome fact. It equates a fiery rig to a fiery plane crash, and complains that we’re responding to one situation differently than another. But the oil that’s currently polluting five Gulf Coast states complicates things a bit, doesn’t it? Why is the biggest element in this ongoing disaster – namely, the flowing oil – missing from the airplane scenario?

Meanwhile James Gill addresses much of the same topic.
Feldman ruled that it was too much of a leap to impose a blanket moratorium because of a mishap on one rig, enabling politicians to argue that a resumption of deepwater drilling would entail little risk. To believe that, it is necessary to assume BP is the wild man of the oil business and other rigs will be operated with sufficient care to obviate any risk of another major spill.

There is indeed some evidence that BP is the most slapdash company in the business; it has racked up safety violations at a staggering rate. Thus, the argument against the moratorium goes, the spill happened not because deepwater drilling is inherently hazardous but because Deepwater Horizon was a rogue operation.

Maybe it is so, but anyone tempted to trust the oil companies' sense of environmental responsibility would be well advised to take a tour of the Louisiana marshes. Oil spills, albeit on a smaller scale than Deepwater Horizon, are hardly a rare occurrence.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Obama presser

First question: "Did you feel the earthquake, Mr. President?"

Head to desk

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Yeah so Happy Birthday to me, then

No oil leaking as BP begins critical pressure tests in Gulf oil well

New Orleans, Louisiana (CNN) -- A highly anticipated test designed to measure pressure within BP's ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well began Thursday after a delay caused by leaking equipment.

A short time later, BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells announced that for the first time in months, no oil was flowing into the Gulf. This was part of the test, as BP measures pressure in the well to see how it's holding. Higher pressure readings mean the well is containing the oil, while lower pressure means some is leaking out.

Or.. maybe.. Happy No-Flow day to BP for a little while anyway.

Oil industry expert Bob Cavnar isn't buying the official story. He told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Wednesday that the repeated missteps cast doubt on BP's explanation for why the cap was necessary in the first place.

"I don't understand this whole operation," Cavnar stated. "Sunday was the first time I heard the words 'well integrity test.' There's never been any discussion about this in their public disclosure or in anything else that I've seen. ... So I'm completely confused as to why they're taking this risk of damaging the well further. ... They didn't have all these steps worked out."

"They shouldn't be doing this at all," he suggested. "They should be continuing with the relief well to get this thing killed."

Cavnar believes that BP's true goal is to make it harder to measure the flow of oil from the damaged well, because under the Clean Water Act, it will be liable for civil penalties of up to $4300 for every barrel spilled.

Either way, whatever you're celebrating, please don't light any candles near the Gulf of Mexico right now. They've already got controlled burn crews for that.

Place your bets now

BP is laying pretty good odds that they've got it this time.
There was no oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico this afternoon after BP crews managed to shut in the leaking Macondo well.

The company is now conducting a "well integrity test" to determine if the well can remain closed until it can be permanently shut with cement next month.
And if that doesn't work they'll drop one of those square domes on it or something.

Not a good track record with this but keeping my fingers crossed anyway.

Must be some kind of conceptual art thing

What the hell is a "Dome Square" anyway? Is it a paradoxical riddle like a cubed arc, or a Gulf walrus, or... well... Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints, for that matter?

This is not to say having your football team play inside of a mathematical absurdity isn't an altogether attractive idea on some level. But, at the same time, one wonders, who the hell did they hire to write this stuff?
Work is proceeding at a "fast and furious" pace on Dome Square, the new "urban tailgating" entertainment area adjacent to the Superdome, with the delivery date expected in 30 days, the Louisiana Superdome and Exposition District Commission was told Wednesday.

Urban tailgating. Now there's a phrase that conjures up images of rugged, sporting confidence if ever there was one. And by rugged and sporting I mean,

But maybe I'm behind the curve here. After all we live in a time when professional athletes get their own Hollywood style awards ceremony and nobody blinks an eye.

Besides, everyone knows this isn't exactly football season yet. It's football celebrity tell-all book publishing season which a) is awesome and b) happens to coincide with my birthday (today, in case you were wondering). And so I was momentarily bemused but not altogether surprised to learn that the copy of Sean Payton's Home Team: Coaching the Saints and New Orleans Back to Life Menckles bought for me prominently features on the back cover one of the stupidest things I've ever seen a grown man say to large crowd of people.

During the NFC Championship Trophy presentation an emotionally exhausted Payton ineloquently stated

"This stadium used to have holes in it and it used to be wet. It's not wet anymore."

This prompted many assembled Saints fans to momentarily pause from their euphoric weeping to think to themselves "Huh?" (Later they would think to themselves, "Maybe it was the Vicodin talking" but that's a story for another time.) At a later moment that I am unfortunately unable to Google up this morning, Payton would admit that he didn't choose his words as well as he would have liked. Which is why the misstatement's appearance on the back of his book is so strange. I guess we'll just consider it another paradox. That is, unless squared domes have some special moisture-repelling feature we're not aware of.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Or, I guess, getting ready to fail again or something.

After a day of delay, BP is again prepared to test a new cap fitted over the gushing Gulf of Mexico oil leak.

National Incident Commander Thad Allen said at a Wednesday news briefing that testing will go ahead after 24 hours of carefully reviewing plans for the test.

He said the testing would begin shortly

Whatever. Wake me up when the relief wells have finally failed.

And in China too

Analysts Warn of Risks Threatening China’s Banks

A report released on Wednesday by Fitch, the credit ratings agency, said Chinese banks were increasingly engaging in complex transactions that hid the size and nature of their lending, obscuring hundreds of billions of dollars in loans and possibly even masking a coming wave of bad real estate and infrastructure loans.

The report also said that Chinese regulators significantly understated loan growth in the first half of the year, by 28 percent, or about $190 billion, and that many banks continued to secretly shift loans off the books, resulting in a “pervasive understatement of credit growth and credit exposure.”


Blame Games: Dems Give Up On Economy After Weeks Of GOP Obstruction


Summer of Spill lives on

Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, Whoops

French National Assembly approves ban on face veils
The French lower house of Parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a ban on wearing face-covering veils in a public place.

The legislation, part of an ongoing national debate on French identity, is expected to have no opposition in the Senate, which is due to vote on it in September. Once signed by President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has placed it high on his agenda, the ban would take effect next spring.

Okay well maybe they aren't living up to their revolutionary ideals here, but really who is these days?

Last year I was lucky enough to visit Paris where I learned among many other things what it sounds like when I puke in French.

One day I found myself at the Place de la Concorde photographing this marker.

Place de la Concorde

Two women with thick Southern accents came over and asked, "Hey what does that say?"

"Well it says that before the Revolution this sqaure was called the Place Louis XV and then during the Revolution they renamed it Place de la Revolution. It also say that there were executions performed here. This is where they beheaded Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette"

"Why did they do that?"

"Um.. it's kind of a long story..."

"Hey, you a Saints fan?" (I was wearing a shirt that indicated so) "Where are you from?"

"New Orleans. You?"

"Oh we're from Lake Charles!" (Big group hug)


Anyway, Happy Bastille Day. I'm thinking of trying Le Foret this weekend. Anybody know anything about it?

"Stunning setback"

BP freezes work on relief well and temporary cap for Gulf oil spill
BP froze activity on two key projects Wednesday meant to choke off the flow of oil billowing from its broken well in the Gulf of Mexico after days of moving confidently toward controlling the crisis. The development was a stunning setback after the oil giant finally seemed to be on track following nearly three months of failed attempts to stop the spill, which has sullied beaches from Florida to Texas and decimated the multibillion dollar fishing industry.
No, really, they wrote that. It says "stunning setback. Who else is "stunned" by any of this anymore? Stunning.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

As if on cue

The Bensons find a way to out-suck Hornets ownership

One of the ways that Glenn Beck is raising money is by way of an auction. He’s auctioning off all kinds of stuff, like a scholarship to Liberty University, dinner at the Glenn Beck mansion or a lunch date with Karl Rove.

But, there’s one recent addition to the auction stands out. Tom Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints, donated “4 Plaza Level Tickets & Exclusive Pre-Game Field Passes to a New Orleans Saints NFC South Home Game of Your Choice”

Based on how disgraceful Glenn Beck’s 828 event really is, any reputable business person or organization should not be helping Glenn Beck raise money for a book launching event. Moreover, given that Glenn Beck called Hurricane Katrina victims “scumbags,” the use of The Saints to raise money for Glenn Beck is even stranger.

Short answer: The Bensons really do think most New Orleanians are "scumbags"

More basketball news

Chouest company charged with dumping oily bilge water
The U.S. Department of Justice charged Offshore Service Vessels, an Edison Chouest company, with discharging oil-contaminated bilge water from one of its research vessels.

Oh wait. No, that's something different. Anyway, well, you can see why that's an easy mistake to make.

New Orleans Hornets and Jeff Bower mutually agree to part ways

The New Orleans Hornets team president Hugh Weber said on Tuesday that the franchise and General Manager Jeff Bower have mutually agreed to part ways, effective immediately.

Right, that's the one. Okay so let's see. Can't keep the front office together. Can't get the ownership situation straight. Can't hire a coach. Can't keep the star player happy.

They just.... they're not even trying. And since they aren't a home-grown institution like the Saints, but instead a transplanted failed con job on the people of Charlotte, why shouldn't we just let them run off to Seattle or wherever they want to fail next anyway?

Unless you're a doctor, I guess

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said the (Danziger) indictment is "a continuing reminder that the Constitution and rule of law do not take a holiday, even after a hurricane."


Does anyone want to take another look at this, then? Or does the "rule of law" apply to working class cops and not to upper class professionals after a hurricane?

Because they haven't been doing their job

Reilly also asked Stanislaus why there was an argument about toxicity of the dispersants after the spill when the government is supposed to be prepared for their use in advance of a spill.

Next question.


"It's about everybody having they own spotlight"

Sorry about the superfluous LeBron post but I thought you should know that you really should be reading this Taibbi post. I like days when the most insightful thing I read on the internet is about sports. And also I like it when better writers say stuff I wish I had said. For example, last week when I wrote
So James is a media-whoring douchebag on top of being a selfish bore about to break the hearts of a long-suffering fan base. It's hard to blame him, though. After all we live in a time where everyone is more or less expected to be a self-congratulatory brat in one way or another. Don't believe me? Go read your Twitter stream for a few hours and come back and tell me our common tongue isn't at least 75% narcissistic bullcrap. It's one of the reasons we confuse activism with modeling.

What I wish I had written was

By any measure it was a landmark moment in the history of human self-involvement, eclipsing previous peaks in the narcissism Himalayas (Nero's impromptu fiddle concert as Rome burned, the career of the prophet Mohammed, Kim Jong Il publishing "The Popularity of Kim Jong Il") mainly because it was a collective effort. You can understand the citizens of Tsaritsyn cheering the decision to rename their city; if they didn't like "Stalingrad," they were getting lined up and shot.

Anyway.. much more. Go read.

What the world needs now

Another Clinton re-tread with ties to Citi Alternative Investments in a key Obama Administration post.

Jindal to city....

Jindal Vetoes City Aid

Gov. Bobby Jindal has vetoed a major piece of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's legislative success story — and cost the city of New Orleans another $3.6 million a year. House Bill 334, authored by state Rep. Walt Leger III, gave the city a permanent source of funding for the state's contractually obligated annual reimbursement for casino-related services provided by the city — a total of $3.6 million a year for police, fire, EMS and other services. The reimbursement is part of the casino support services contract, which is approved every year by lawmakers, but the money owed the city is not always forthcoming. Leger's bill would have removed the need for the city to beg lawmakers (and the governor) every year for money.

Billy Martin fired from afterlife

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner dies from a heart attack

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bitter fish in crude oil sea

Headline reads: NOAA: Gulf seafood tested so far is safe to eat And yet midway through the text of the article we get,
Still, Don Kraemer, who is leading FDA's Gulf seafood safety efforts, said the government isn't relying on testing alone.

"We couldn't possibly have enough samples to make assurances that fish is safe. The reason we have confidence in the seafood is not because of the testing, it's because of the preventive measures that are in place," such as fishing closures, he said.

FDA issued guidance last month that encourages seafood processors to heighten precautions so they know the origin of their seafood.

The federal government plans surprise inspections at docks along the Gulf Coast, though Dr. Steve Murawski, NOAA's chief scientist, acknowledged they can't be everywhere.
Last month we pointed out that chief among the Feds' inspection techniques was having inexperienced inspectors sniff harvested shrimp and oysters for "taint". One supposes the results of these NOAA tests are more encouraging than they would be had they found lots and lots of poisoned shrimp, but, at the same time, is this really a moment to start preaching the gospel of safe seafood? I'm still eating it (especially Gulf oysters) wherever and whenever anyone will sell it to me. But I'm kind of stupid and emotional about this. I'm in no way convinced that every product is one hundred percent un-tainted. And I certainly don't begrudge consumers without sentimental ties to this area their trepidation.

The fact is, no one really knows how serious the threat to human health from massive amounts of oil and dispersant is. EPA flat-out admits that they haven't developed any reliable data beyond that which they've been fed by the producers of these products.
In an interview at EPA headquarters, Jackson, who grew up in New Orleans, acknowledged deficiencies in EPA's National Contingency Plan Product Schedule. It is supposed to list the effectiveness and toxicity of alternative dispersants authorized for use combating a spill.

But it is really just a compilation of industry-supplied data, and, in the view of Carys Mitchelmore, a leading toxicologist who teaches at the University of Maryland and has testified five times before Congress on dispersants in the past two months, a useless jumble with test results that simply don't parse.

"When I looked at that contingency table I just couldn't believe it. I thought I must be seeing things because surely they can't be posting this data," she said.

Jackson acknowledges that, "none of the testing that was done prior to this incident was what I'd call extensive and geared toward the long-term effects or effects in the sub-sea."
Instead of doing its job, EPA has largely been taking the industry's word about these products for years. How credible is any evidence they compile now under pressure to go back and do their homework decades past the due date?

We don't even know how much is still being put out there.
Daily doses of dispersant

Since a May 26 directive from the Environmental Protection Agency directing BP "to eliminate the surface application of dispersants," except in "rare cases," the Coast Guard has been routinely approving continued use, according to Richard Denison, a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. A check of Coast Guard records indicates that 40 requests to use dispersants by BP have been made to the Coast Guard since May 26 and that all were approved. It has allowed dispersants to be used virtually every day since the EPA directive, according to Denison. But he said that starting June 9, the Coast Guard began approving use of less dispersants than requested by BP, and also asked for use of small quantities for research to assess the effects and effectiveness of the chemicals -- designed to reduce the concentration of oil spreading through Gulf waters.

On the other hand, we are learning more about how a product like Corexit affects the toxicity of petroleum.

CNN, July 9. 2010: Rush Transcript Excerpt Susan Shaw, Marine Toxicologist:

The reason this is so toxic is because of these solvents [from dispersant] that penetrate the skin of anything that's going through the dispersed oil takes the oil into the cells -- takes the oil into the organs... and this stuff is toxic to every organ system in the body. ...

This stuff is so toxic combined... not the oil or dispersants alone. ...

Very, very toxic and goes right through skin.

We know that humans exposed to a similar combination of these chemicals twenty years ago haven't fared particularly well.
CNN is warning volunteers on the current Gulf Spill of this dire information. The fact that the workers from the 1989 Alaska spill have died, surely will give current workers something to think about.

CNN and numerous other groups including Salem-News.com, have revealed the fact that this is very unhealthy work. Exposure to contaminants is something humans are supposed to avoid, but in this case it is a draw card for work in a broken national economy.

The average life expectancy for an Exxon Valdez oil spill worker according to the CNN report, is 51 years.

We know that this stuff certainly is in the food chain out there.
Oil droplets have been found beneath the shells of tiny post-larval blue crabs drifting into Mississippi coastal marshes from offshore waters.

The finding represents one of the first examples of how oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill is moving into the Gulf of Mexico's food chain. The larval crabs are eaten by all kinds of fish, from speckled trout to whale sharks, as well as by shore birds.

Again, I'm not saying I'm not still eating this stuff. But I'm one of these people who doesn't see anything wrong with texting while driving drunk so who really cares what I'm doing. Others may not have the same kind of tolerance for risk that I do. But I'm not one to deny the risk is there. Part of the reason we're in this mess in the first place is powerful oil companies like BP and their enablers and friends in our political leadership decided that ignoring the catastrophic risks of their activities at everyone else's peril was A-OK.

Meanwhile some folks are plowing right ahead with that message anyway. For the past few weeks, local food writer Lorin Gaudin has been crusading against the "foul rumors" that Louisiana seafood (despite all of the above) could possibly be unsafe. And she's been doing so in a rather breathless and blustery tone with lots of all caps words and exclamation points and stuff.
While it seems utterly ludicrous to me, apparently there are those who BELIEVE that Louisiana seafood is tainted or unsafe to eat!! Unreal. It's time to dispell those foul rumors. In converstion (not really conversing, more like heated debate about restaurant lawsuits against BP) with brilliant, Beard Award winning Jennifer English of The Food and Wine Radio network, I learned there are LOTS and LOTS of people who think Louisiana seafood might not be safe. Now really, can the world possibly think that we Louisianans would eat tainted seafood and more important, that restaurants and chefs, our world famous and fabulous restaurants and chefs, would serve tainted seafood??? Come on people, think.
Yeah, come on, people. Think!! Under what circumstances has any "world famous" purveyor of foodstuffs ever served customers a tainted product?? What a foul ludicrous rumor!! Could anyone believe it?? Apparently some do.

To some degree, I understand what Gaudin is trying to do. Anyone connected to the Louisiana seafood industry has already had their life turned upside down by BP's destruction of Gulf fisheries. In light of this combined with memories of the absurd hostility hurled at everyone in this region following the Federal Flood, it's difficult not to take every factually murky reaction from afar as an insult. But sometimes people are really just worried about what they're eating. And sometimes those concerns are legitimate. There can be a fine line between defending local businesses and downplaying the extent of the damage BP is responsible for. And when it comes to something as crucial as food safety, I'd rather not do any of BP's lifting for them if I can avoid it.

Not at all worried about doing BP's heavy lifting for them is Ivor Van Heerden. Here, Van Heerden participates in a BP propaganda video where he really ought to be ashamed of himself for neglecting to include the obligatory reference to "iced tea".

"The public gets the perception that this is the black, heavy, tarry stuff that is in ship's bunkers and it covers everything and smothers it and just kills it, but that's not the kind of oil we're dealing with," Van Heerden says in a video on the BP website, dated July 1. "It's a very, very light oil. It's almost like diesel, and it breaks down very, very rapidly, especially here in Louisiana where it's very hot during the day and the water has suspended sediment in it so it may actually get hotter, and all of those combine with the fact that we have naturally in our system, the organisms, the microbes that break down the oil."

Ivor goes on to say in this video featured on a BP website that "Most of the heavily oiled areas are sandy beaches" which we know because those are the places that are easiest to photograph (well, outside of 65 feet anyway).Ivor also says that those beaches "obviously are a lot easier to clean up than the marshes." Or it may be easier to just dump new sand on top of the oil there. Although it's not always easy to tell exactly what's happening from 65 feet away while being hounded by privately hired policemen.

Meanwhile, (via Dambala) here's some video footage of Ivor's "very very light oil" coating and killing these oysters. Or at least I think that's what's happened. Better have an FDA guy come sniff them first just to be sure.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Mitch says privatizing it will solve these problems but no one can explain to me how that's supposed to work. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to picking up a Gambit tomorrow.


The Landrieu people are officially ditching Ed Blakely's target recovery zones. Although there isn't much evidence the zones had a whole lot to do with how recovery projects were planned by the Nagin administration in the first place.

When Nagin first came in there was a goofy controversy over the cost of removing Marc Morial's name from all the garbage cans in town. At least those were tangible objects. This is more of a conceptual revision, I guess. I wonder if they'll start taking those "Recovery In Progress" signs down next. Or do they have to change the names on those too?

Where's the outrage? No, really. Where?

Fired BP Contractor Claims Photo Flap Led To Dismissal

NEW ORLEANS --A former BP contractor said Friday evening he was dismissed after taking photos that he believes were related to the use of dispersants and to the cleanup of the oil floating in the Gulf of Mexico.

It's not clear from the story what these were photos of, exactly. The nearest indicator is, "Dillon believes the photos showed how dispersants were being used in the Gulf of Mexico" Okay, in what sense? We already know they're using dispersants. What new information would these photos have revealed? Why doesn't Dillon or WDSU for that matter try to answer that question? If I were going on TV to tell people the reason I got fired should matter to them I might want to tell them why. Of course it did give Scott Walker an opportunity to dig up that video of him getting kicked off the beach again. I guess that's a story.

Oh fun a new cap

New Cap Could Stop Flow of Oil Into Gulf

I have no idea what to say anymore to each new attempt at this. Good luck? Call me when you're sure it works? Call me when you're sure it's failed and you're tired of lying about that? I'd say this is a show that has jumped the shark but I doubt there are any sharks left out there.

In order to try this cap they have to take the old one off first. It's funny because this means they have to warn us that this will result in some oil getting into the Gulf. So, you know, prepare yourselves to grapple with that novelty.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

LeBron stole all the Treme Emmys

This Dave Zirin post is a bit uneven. On the one hand, Zirin is criticizing LeBron James for his selfishness but on the other suggesting that it's a bad career move for him to go to Miami where he'll have to share the spotlight with Dwayne Wade. Still the larger point is a good one.
It's one thing when an endlessly ravenous 24-hour sports media leviathan obsesses over the next move for the most valued free agent in sports history. It's quite another when the athlete himself chooses to bathe in the hype to such an embarrassing degree. Within the lat 24 hours, James has started a Twitter account with the handle "King James", launched a website, and made the decision to further enmesh reality television with the world of sports. It's bombastic nonsense for a player who calls himself King even in the absence of a championship crown.
So James is media-whoring douchebag on top of being a selfish bore about to break the hearts of a long-suffering fan base. It's hard to blame him, though. After all we live in a time where everyone is more or less expected to be a self-congratulatory brat in one way or another. Don't believe me? Go read your Twitter stream for a few hours and come back and tell me our common tongue isn't at least 75% narcissistic bullcrap. It's one of the reasons we confuse activism with modeling.

Anyway, in the meantime, this is interesting.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Hornets guard Chris Paul has left Octagon marketing to join LRMR, the marketing company run by LeBron James and three of his childhood friends. The firm now has three clients; James, Timberwolves guard Jonny Flynn, and Paul
. Is that anything like Ricky Williams signing with No Limit?

Or maybe something else is going on.

I don't get it

Hyatt Regency New Orleans will reopen in the fall of 2011

Okay this is a story about the Hyatt project that's long been stalled due to financing issues. We remember that. So let's see. Well it says that Hyatt announced that they still want to do it and that it'll be done by 2011 and it'll have lots of renovated rooms and coffee bars and and other assorted hotlery. And so we read all the way to the bottom where it says....

In 2008, the State Bond Commission approved the use of $225 million in Gulf Opportunity Zone bonds to finance the overhaul. But finding a market for the bonds was difficult because of the economic meltdown that froze credit markets. It was not clear Thursday if the group had sold all of the bonds.

So I don't get it. What about this story is new since the previous installment? Maybe they think making announcements in the paper will help them raise money?

While all of NOLA whines about some soap opera on cable TV

Hundreds Of Fishermen Missing Checks From BP

"Polishing the beaches"

Shut up

Shut up

Angle Calls Oil Spill Escrow a "Slush Fund"

Who Dat (Dey?) say dey gonna build dem cars?

Cincinnati Gets $25 Million for Streetcars

Everybody wants them these days. I don't know enough about Cincinnati to comment on the route but I hope they're not just planning to spend their infrastructure dollars another amusement for tourists. We can't have them stealing all of our tricks.


I disagree with DeShazier. The Hornets obviously aren't planning to win this year. Why not bring in Shaq so he can retire in Louisiana and give people a reason to go see this crappy team play.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Okay no more from me today

Sometimes you have to know when it's too absurd to discuss anymore.

Obscure 1970’s BP ‘Offshore Oil Strike’ board game bears ‘spooky’ parallels to the current disaster.
The UK Metro reports that in the 1970s, there was a BP-endorsed board game called “Offshore Oil Strike” on the “thrills of drilling.” The game wasn’t very popular, but it now bears a “spooky” resemblance to what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico

Rendered ocean

One question that occurs to anyone who has been watching and reading about oil gusher is how many capped or abandoned wells are down there now and how well-maintained are they?
More than 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells lurk in the hard rock beneath the Gulf of Mexico, an environmental minefield that has been ignored for decades. No one -- not industry, not government -- is checking to see if they are leaking, an Associated Press investigation shows. The oldest of these wells were abandoned in the late 1940s, raising the prospect that many deteriorating sealing jobs are already failing.
When President Obama issued his much-criticized and deceptively incomplete moratorium on Gulf oil production, one strong argument in favor of the idea was that the entire system of governance under which this industry operates needed to be inspected and redesigned. Before we ask millions of people to continue assuming the massive risks of a seabed perforated with poison ducts, we need to ensure that an infrastructure exists to mitigate those risks and respond in a timely fashion when things get nasty.

Clearly nothing like that exists now. The industry does not police itself. The State of Louisiana sure as shit doesn't do it. And for multiple decades now, neither does the Federal Government.
Regulations for temporarily abandoned wells require oil companies to present plans to reuse or permanently plug such wells within a year, but the AP found that the rule is routinely circumvented, and that more than 1,000 wells have lingered in that unfinished condition for more than a decade. About three-quarters of temporarily abandoned wells have been left in that status for more than a year, and many since the 1950s and 1960s -- eveb though sealing procedures for temporary abandonment are not as stringent as those for permanent closures.

This morning on WWL radio, Clancy Dubos, as is his wont, argued the accepted local conventional wisdom regarding a news topic. Clancy and many others focus on BP's remarkably horrible safety record and conclude that a drilling moratorium under these circumstances is tantamount to punishing the innocent. But I don't find that convincing. There are serious systemic problems with the way we ignore rather than confront the hazards of industry. And those problems need to be addressed in a systemic fashion.

On the other hand, I'm inclined to agree with critics who argue that the moratorium Obama has imposed doesn't actually do any of this. About a month ago, Ricky P outlined a good start point for what a constructive drilling moratorium and reform process might look like. So far there's been very little action from the Obama Administration on most of those points.

Bureau of disinformation

TPM: Enviro Agency Dramatically Underestimated Oil Spill Effects When Signing Off On BP Lease, Docs Show

Downplaying the risks one government report or oil industry memo at a time.

Said it once already

But I'm pretty much done with the Brits.

Gill: Reviled here, BP cost-cutters rewarded in the U.K.
Pictures of oil-soaked pelicans have been a staple of the British press lately, but the new coalition government has not hesitated to flip the Gulf region the bird.

It is hard to put any other construction on John Browne's new appointment. As BP's chief executive until 2007, Browne bears much of the blame for the spill that has been polluting the Gulf and the wetlands for what seems like an eternity. He instituted the corporate policies that evidently led to the disaster.

Now he has been put in charge of the drive to cut the costs of public services in Britain.
Browne certainly knows how to cut corners and save money. The less he invested in safety and environmental protection at BP, the higher the profits soared. This earned him a reputation as a dab hand at corporate governance and the friendship of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, who made him a Lord in 2001.

The most notable fact of our times is the consistency with which members of the ruling classes are allowed to fail upward in spite of (or perhaps because of) the destruction they leave the rest of us to clean up in their wake.

Meanwhile, GOOD NEWS! BP stock is back up 20% over the past week They've weathered the storm and thank God because they're waay to big and important to fail now.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Quote of the Day

MOJO's Josh Harkinson

Switching from oil to ethanol to save the Gulf would be like switching from cheeseburgers to cocaine to save your heart.

Can't say enough good things about Mother Jones all-around coverage of the BP oil disaster from the very beginning.

We've fallen a bit behind the bloggerating schedule in the past week, BTW. Should pick up soon enough. Apologies in advance of that.

And how was your holiday?

Oil now getting into Lake Pontchartrain.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Fourth

Life is pretty much a given... until it isn't. Liberty is largely an illusion. Happiness is kind of an idiotic pursuit but, in light of the other two, what else are you gonna do?

In case you were wondering I'm taking a slight news break over the holiday. Back in a day or two.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Can't win for Loozing

Here's an interesting study in contrasting perspective. In this week's Gambit, Clancy Dubos wraps up the legislative session listing an unexpected entity among "Da Loozas"
2. Big Oil and the Chemical Association — For decades, these guys have had their way with lawmakers, but this year they failed to recognize that BP changed everything. They seriously over-reached on a bill to gut the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, and they got their butts kicked on Sen. Danny Martiny's bill to ban chemical companies and big business from forcing onerous "hold harmless" agreements on their subcontractors and truckers. Over Big Oil & Chemical's objections, Jindal signed Martiny's bill last week.

Meanwhile (via Timshel) we find this alternate description from Mother Jones of the sway Oil and Gas still holds over State Legislature.

So far, the BP spill has not provided environmentalists with new leverage in Baton Rouge. During their most recent session, Louisiana legislators also considered bills that would have allowed plaintiffs to seek punitive damages for injuries related to "the drilling, equipping, operating, or producing of an oil or gas well" and would have taxed oil processing to fund coastal restoration; both failed. As the legislature adjourned, Darrell Hunt, a lobbyist for the Louisiana Sierra Club, lamented that it had not passed a single bill to tighten controls on oil and gas companies since the spill. "If this situation in the Gulf didn't change the minds of people and get them to vote for those bills," Hunt laments, "I don't know what would."

Yet Hunt did not lobby for the punitive damages bill, or the tax on oil companies, or the contingency bill. "It would have been counterproductive," he says. "The Sierra Club is so goddamn weak in Louisiana that any statement of support on those bills would have been just meaningless." Instead, he spent much of the most recent legislative session fending off a bill, promoted by chemical companies, that would have dismantled Tulane University Law School's Environmental Law Clinic, which has a long record of suing the state's anemic environmental regulators to enforce the law.

So was Big Oil really Da Looza in this session? Or did it very nearly get everything it wanted DESPITE the concurrent fact of the most horrific environmental disaster in the history of the industry? Depends on whether your glass is half-full of petroleum or half-full of Corexit, I guess.

They'll have to be better since there's no way they can be as lucky

New Orleans Saints safety Roman Harper expects Super Bowl-winning defense to be better this season

The Next Big Short

Mark Moseley: BP bankruptcy is a real fear
But, did we really get $20 billion “the next day”? Most U.S. news reports describe the fund as if $20 billion is already in hand, but it isn’t.

“BP has agreed to contribute 20 billion dollars over a four-year period at a rate of five billion dollars per year, including five billion dollars within 2010,” a White House statement said.

Hmm. So the escrow account is really only a $5 billion fund for 2010, with additional $5 billion installments in each of the next 3 years. This assumes BP doesn’t renege, or its stock doesn’t tank, or its liabilities don’t grow exponentially, or oil prices don’t plummet, or their shareholders don’t revolt, or it doesn’t pursue bankruptcy or insolvency protections. Given the circumstances, $5 billion in escrow seems like paltry insurance against the possibility of BP bankruptcy. Perhaps the loss mitigation specialists at BP look approvingly at this arrangement, as the $5 billion payment buys BP six months of precious time. And what is with the 4-year payment plan, anyway? BP couldn’t afford $20 billion over 2 years? That’s disturbing. Won’t they need to, if they are going to pay all the claims in a reasonable amount of time? The terms of this escrow deal raise more questions than they answer.

So BP is on the hook for 3 additional $5 billion payments over the next three years. You could look at that as three years of increasing risk, or an opportunity to start shopping right now for someone to sell you a credit default swap on these escrow payments. If BP goes bankrupt and misses a payment, you clean up big time. It's what Goldman Sachs would do.

Bubble re-deflating

CNN: Pending home sales 'fell off a cliff'
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The experts expected home sales to drop once the homebuyer tax credit lapsed at the end of April, but the depth of the decrease was shocking.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), pending home sales fell a whopping 30% in May. Their index, which measures signed sales contracts but not closed sales, plunged to 77.6 from 110.9 in April. It's even off 15.9% from a year ago when the nation was barely emerging from the recession.