Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No shortcuts to quality

I'm working on a re-cap of the K+5, RT5 weekend. And that, not surpisingly, is a lot of stuff to digest, puke into a big post, and then spend the rest of the week culling and rearranging the puke a bit. It's very much like one of those Saints game posts that never make it up until three weeks after the next week's game. (Just in time for football season, right?) Anyway try not to sleep on me in the meantime.

Superdefomed doesn't hate the couch
Rising Tide 5: Capture the Magic

If you attended the conference and have some impressions or ideas you'd like to share, one thing you can do is visit the RT blog and leave a comment here. But be polite. Some of those kids are kind of sensitive.


Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat... I mean "vanished" oil out of the ground.
Despite persistent denials from BP last week, thousands of pounds of weathered oil is being pulled from under the surface of Pensacola Bay every day.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Worst. Episode. Ever.

Treme really has jumped the shark.

Photo by Times-Picayune's Matthew Hinton. Feel free to add your own caption.

All "legitimate" claims

BP told us they would pay "all legitimate claims" derived from the Gulf Oil Gusher.

As Dambala has told us repeatedly, it isn't reassuring to have Ken Feinberg emerge as the Great De-legitimizer.
The administrator of the new claims process for victims of the Gulf oil spill said Sunday most of the individual claims reviewed in the first week lacked the minimal documentation to be paid. "There are thousands of claims that have been filed with no documentation at all," Ken Feinberg told state officials at the Southern Governors' Association convention.

If they're lucky, in another 5 years, BP victims de-legitimized by Feinberg can take heart that they'll be granted a hollow victory in federal court. That's if they're lucky. If they're unlucky it may take them 20 years to find out they don't get any justice.

The oil has un-vanished again

Are they sure this isn't just microbe poo?

Despite "All Clear," Mississippi Sound Tests Positive for Oil

Sunday, August 29, 2010

And the Chet Traylor dream dies just like that

Also District 2 dismally comes down to Richmond vs Cao. (Dismal is not an unfamiliar modifier for District 2 elections.)

At Rising Tide yesterday I got the impression that Richmond's problems may actually be even worse than current information suggests. But I'm still unable to understand exactly why the current information has not received more attention in the so-called mainstream press. Clancy DuBos and Stephanie Grace both seemed to agree that the LSED grants at the heart of the scandal are commonly understood as a poorly managed "slush fund" through which any state legislator can direct money to shell non-profits. But at the same time they both agreed that as long as that is done according to received convention, it isn't anything worth talking about. But if the received convention is tantamount to systemic misuse of funds intended to go into neighborhood programs, isn't that alone worth reporting on? The system appears to suck regardless of whether or not its rules are being followed. (And according to Dambala, they aren't.) Why should political reporters let that go unchallenged?

Even more depressing is the wholly predictable event that a story these outlets have sat on throughout the primary will become fair game in the general election. And I'm sure we'll hear a lot about how well liked Joe Cao is to boot. Frankly I think Cao is a little weird, myself.

On Friday morning, a contingent of Rising Tide attendees participated in a volunteer event at the Second Harvest Food Bank where they helped assemble food packages to be distributed to families in coastal Louisiana.

Box assembly
Cousin Pat attempts to properly orient a package of paper towels for inclusion in a food box as the sounds of Steve Perry vocals serenade the crowd exactly the way a seal being clubbed to death might.

It was a hot hot day outside at the warehouse and the packing was preceded by a near hour long press conference through which the volunteers patiently stood and waited in the heat. Just as the talking ended, everyone began walking to their packaging lines to begin the work when, all of a sudden, Congressman Cao took the mic and called everyone back so he could add a few words.

With the group reassembled, Cao proceeded with a bizarre series of extemporaneous remarks about how people often don't understand politicians... something about what happens on judgment day... and I'm pretty sure there was something to do with the variety of vegetables available near Pahokee, Florida. It was as confusing as it was pointless and, in retrospect, no longer as funny as it seemed at first. And that about sums up this dismal congressional race too.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dispelling Myths

Another Katrinaversary is upon us and with that comes, of course, a fair amount of heavy personal reflection for everyone. In a city of rituals, it's no surprise that a multitude of public happenings are planned around this time of year to commemorate the events of five years ago that changed everyone's lives. One such ritual happening I've become accustomed to attending is the Rising Tide new media conference which drops tomorrow morning at the Howling Wolf. (Yes, the very same "hallowed ground" which recently hosted the Airsex Championship. I hope we can come together as a nation and forgive RT for presuming to build their event there after all that venue has been through.)

The conference aspires to foster the opportunity internet media presents to citizens to better inform themselves and one another about the challenges their community faces. The front page of the Rising Tide website reads

We come together to dispel myths, promote facts, highlight progress and regress, discuss recovery ideas, and promote sound policies at all levels. We aim to be a "real life" demonstration of internet activism as we continue to recover from a massive failure of government on all levels.

I very much like that little block of text. It says an informed, engaged public can debunk and overcome damaging untruths which emerge either through general laziness or from powerful institutional malefactors. This is, in my opinion, the very best of what internet media offers us. And, as everyone living in New Orleans for the past five years should know, that tool can often seem like a Godsend.

In a recent Times-Picayune column Jarvis DeBerry described New Orleanians' fanatic obsession with dispelling myths.
It’s simple, really: We stand up for ourselves. We stand up because often the criticisms of this place seem as misinformed as they are unrelenting. We stand up for ourselves because we figure that speaking the truth — in all its complexity and all its ugliness — is better than keeping quiet after pretty-sounding lies.

Rising Tide presents a program of speakers and discussion panels relentlessly bent on speaking the truth "in all its complexity and all its ugliness". 2008 RT keynote speaker, author John M Barry maintains a document entitled What You Need to Know About Katrina-- and Still Don't -- Why It Makes Economic Sense to Protect New Orleans on his website. 2009 keynote speaker, actor Harry Shearer, recently published this article in Vanity Fair listing Five Myths About New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina The panelists and honorees have been among the best of examples of New Orleanians unwilling to, as Jarvis puts it, keep quiet in the face of pretty-sounding lies.

In 2010 the keynote speaker at Rising Tide is author and journalist Mac McClelland. McClelland is currently the human rights reporter at Mother Jones Magazine where she maintains a blog entitled The Rights Stuff McClelland has spent this summer dispelling the massive spew of myths coming out of BP and various governmental authorities concerning the progress of the Deepwater Horizon oil gusher.

This week McClelland wrote a post in which she responded to various national media outlets including this especially stupid piece of work by Dan Baum who have largely papered over the city’s numerous lingering problems in favor of a happier narrative.

McClelland concluded
Seventy percent of New Orleanians say that America has forgotten about their struggle to recover from Katrina. This Sunday, President Obama's coming to pay attention to it for a day. Last time he spoke at Xavier here, a year after the storm, he said that "lessons can be just as easily unlearned as they are learned." Or, if the post-disaster, everything-is-fine-now headlines now coming out of the Gulf are any indication, they can also never be learned at all.

I hope to see you tomorrow at Rising Tide where we'll do our best once again to sort out the lessons from the lies.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Send more microbes

Apparently the magical ones we found last week couldn't eat it all.

Maybe they should try making boom out of magical microbe hairs.

The power of suck

T-P: Congressional party primary turnout may end up 'in the teens' on Saturday

Perhaps if there had been more substantive reporting on the candidates in the mainstream press, we wouldn't have this problem. It isn't like there hasn't been any information out there to talk about, only that no local media outlet has deemed it newsworthy for some reason.

Instead, we get bland summaries of the candidates' fund raising efforts which tell us next to nothing about who is backing these candidates and why. Reporting on political campaign fund raising this way leaves the impression that we are comparing some innate physical talent of the candidates to draw money toward themselves. And, naturally, the one who demonstrates an ability to suck the most money in is the most innately qualified for office. Then we wonder why we tend to elect such profoundly sucky candidates.

I suppose if you ask the the purveyors of this bland uninformative reporting, they'll tell you it's how they maintain an assurance that they are being fair to every candidate. But pretending that fund raising numbers don't convey information beyond just comparative numbers really isn't being fair to their readers or, for that matter, to anyone but the most well-financed candidate as Clay points out in a comment to a below post.
The MSM will find AZ's posts... Right after Richmond has the Demo nomination all locked up and he faces Cao. $Bill Jr. (after expose) vs. Cao will push Cao back to DC.

And that just sucks all around.

Breaking somewhere on the internets

Feds may be probing Riley for his supposed shoot-the-looter order after all. Don't have a link yet.

Still don't have a reliable source outside of "Rush Radio". In the meantime, everyone should watch the Frontline report on police activity after Katrina that aired last night. Not a single person in any position of authortity during that time ends up looking any good at all.

Undead letter office

The following was meant as a comment to this AZ post featuring a highly questionable piece of political advertising. But it was too long for the comment form so I put it here. I'm pretty sure Dambala checks this space from time to time.

Dude. You don't think this is a pretty slimy ad? I mean put Richmond's well documented problems aside and just look at this.

In this spot we get one unidentified young white girl relating to us a poorly defined encounter with (someone we are meant to assume is) Richmond during which she "felt threatened" although it isn't made at all clear what "threatening" behavior was on display. We aren't told where they are. (The text says "a bar in Baton Rouge." The girl does not say anything about where they are which also seems strange.) Nor are we given any other information about the context of their conversation.

Then we are presented with the young lady's account of what might be interpreted as a fairly brash statement by the person we are left to assume is Richmond. Although we don't know. We don't even know who she is. We have no idea, in fact, just what sort of happening, if anything, is being described to us at all.

We are treated to several repetitions of that tag line, though. A completely unsubstantiated and unexplained line. Delivered by a mystery person. Who we know was "really bothered" by it.

On the plus side, she has a nice hat.

I watched that ad tonight during the news and immediately thought, "Who the fuck are these slimeballs?" Thanks to Open Secrets, we learn that they are a shadowy new post-Citizens United style PAC registered by New Orleans attorney and Juan LaFonta donor, Stuart H Smith.

Smith's tactics are similar to those of a group of wealthy Texas oilmen, whose fortunes have helped fuel the high-profile, conservative American Crossroads outfit, and Appalachian coal companies, who have similarly joined forces to call for the election and defeat of candidates of their choosing.

Like these energy firms, Smith is exploiting campaign finance law changes in the wake of federal court rulings earlier this year. The most notable of these are Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission. And Smith has expressed a desire to tap individuals and corporations for unlimited amounts to get his message out.

The Open Secrets article also names Baton Rouge attorney and frequent Republican donor Jimmy Burland as Assistant Treasurer of LA Truth PAC.

According to the reporting you've(Dambala) done here(on his blog), I am beginning to conclude that Cedric Richmond is probably a pretty shady dude. But equally distressing are underhanded campaign tactics like the ad you've (again Dambala) posted here (in the above-linked post). These LA Truth PAC guys seem like pretty bad dudes too. What else do we know about them?

If you'd like to hear, ask questions of, or possibly throw fruit at, Dambala in person, now would be a good time to register for Rising Tide.

Update: Long form video provides some of the context not provided in the ad. Note that the physical tension appears to have been initiated by the girl's boyfriend. Overall it's a lame bar non-fight that these kids decided to make into something for whatever reason. Seeing the way the ad cuts even that information up makes it all the more reprehensible.

Don't get cut off at the Serpas

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

The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint on Thursday, August 26, 2010, in the Algiers area, beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M., and concluding approximately 5:00 A.M. Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have proper documentation, i.e., proof of insurance, and a valid driver’s license if requested.

The New Orleans Police Department would like to, as always remind motorists to drink responsibly and use a designated driver.

H/T Rick

If anyone is interested in asking the Chief why he favors this policy of peppering the city with Stasi checkpoints, you will have an excellent opportunity to do so during the Public Safety Panel at this Saturday's Rising Tide Conference. Yes you can still register (Only $25). If it doesn't sell out, it's $30 at the door.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Failure to communicate

After Katrina, Cops Given OK to Shoot Looters

In one instance captured on a grainy videotape shot by a member of the force, a police captain relayed the instructions at morning roll call to cops preparing for the day's patrols.

"We have authority by martial law to shoot looters," Captain James Scott told a few dozen officers in a portion of the tape viewed by reporters. Scott, then the commander of the 1st district, is now captain of the special operations division.


Scott's address came at a moment of widespread confusion over whether authorities had imposed martial law, a phrase used by then-Mayor Ray Nagin on the radio. In fact, martial law does not exist under Louisiana's constitution. But experts in police training said the use of those words by politicians and in news reports may have fueled perceptions that the rules had changed.

It's near the end of the day and certainly everyone in New Orleans has seen this story by now. But I thought it might be worth looking into the question of whether or not the "grainy videotape" actually captured Scott claiming that "Martian Law" had been declared which is, of course, something we all know does exist in Louisiana.

Update: Attorneys to use 'shoot the looters' defense in Danziger case Oh well. Guess now they have to indict Scott. Or Riley.

Tax credits

The most inefficient and stupid way to spend a disaster recovery allocation. Taking into account all the bonds, tax credits, and other benefits extended to businesses throughout the GO Zone regions of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, the package is expected to cost the country about $9 billion in federal revenue by 2015, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. But while the cost of the tax breaks can be quantified, assessing the return on our investment is more difficult.

GO Zone states tended to issue bonds on a “first-come, first-served basis,” reported the Government Accountability Office in 2008. The result? Real-estate investors who bought luxury condos near the University of Alabama football stadium won big in Tuscaloosa because they were able to take advantage of an incentive that allowed anyone buying property within a GO Zone, even a condo, to take accelerated depreciation (a front-loaded tax credit) on purchases. In Mississippi, beachfront vacation homes have come back bigger than before the storm thanks to the incentive for real-estate investors. Meanwhile, affordable housing for the people who work in the region’s tourism industry continues to lag, as nonprofit developers struggle to sell the act’s low-income-housing tax credits in a recessionary market. Analysts say the federal government should have directed resources toward fulfilling specific recovery goals, rather than letting states draw down the money according to market whims.


Salon: Ex-FEMA chief plans live broadcasts in New Orleans
Michael Brown will take his radio show on the road to mark the fifth anniversary of Katrina
Pray that no one disturbs him while he's eating.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Might just give up flying altogether

You people are just gonna have to come to me. Unless you don't like being strip searched either, I guess.

Baton Rouge is a slow town

Shoes take a bit longer to drop there sometimes.

Miracle Microbes

They make things vanish with no nasty side-effects
A newly discovered type of oil-eating microbe is suddenly flourishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists discovered the new microbe while studying the underwater dispersion of millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf after the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

And the microbe works without significantly depleting oxygen in the water, researchers led by Terry Hazen at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., reported Tuesday in the online journal Sciencexpress.

Okay well let's be open minded and put the fact that this research is funded by a $500 million BP grant on the back burner for just a minute. Is anyone else curious about this line?
Hazen suggested that the bacteria may have adapted over time because of periodic leaks and natural seeps of oil in the Gulf.
In other words, the miracle microbe exists because we dump so much oil into the Gulf. It's a classic counter-intuitive case of we-have-to-kill-the-ocean-to-save-it. Thanks, BP! I only hope these microbes are as delicious as they are beneficial.

Update: I wish someone would please figure out what kind of super-microbe is eating all the hurricanes this year. Probably an unexpected benefit of global warming, I'll bet.


Stephanie Grace seems ambivalent about it here but she also gives Ray Nagin too much credit for a decision he didn't make.
2) Mayor Ray Nagin rejected the idea of shrinking the footprint.

After surveying the angry reaction to the green-dot map, the mayor declared that no area would be deemed unprotectable or unserviceable, and as few homes as possible labeled beyond repair — though, in his inimitable way, he said there were certain areas he’d advise against resettling. (He didn’t identify them.) The result is exactly what the advocates of aggressive land use policies had predicted: Some flooded neighborhoods have bounced back, while others are contending a pattern of spotty habitation known as the “jack-o-lantern effect.”

Another result of Nagin’s decision: over time, the conversation has shifted. There’s no real point debating the wisdom or fairness of piecemeal, property-by-property redevelopment, because it’s a done deal. Now, the city’s challenge is to manage the consequences, to properly target recovery resources and figure out how to pay for a sprawling infrastructure that supports a smaller population on a reduced tax base.
I don't like the way Grace characterizes the "done deal" as a choice between shrinking the footprint and "Jack-o-Lantern" effect. The choice that was never taken seriously or implemented was honestly rebuilding all affected neighborhoods at once. Instead, (some but not all) flooded areas of the city were asked to pick their poison from among demolition via bulldozer or demolition via neglect.

Keep in mind that Nagin was actually for shrinking the footprint before he was against it so we really have the green dot reaction to thank for at least rhetorically winning that argument. In truth, Nagin only deserves credit for caving to public pressure. But that's as far as it went. While nothing as brash as bulldozing entire neighborhoods ever became official public policy (although there was some talk at the time that it should) we ended up with a kind of shrinking by neglect of many of the green-dotted areas.

It's taken five years to even begin resolving the glaring health services problem in New Orleans East, for example. The East and the Ninth Ward have also suffered from lack of attention in infrastructure restoration as well as transportation services. All of which was occasionally justified with the shrug-shouldered argument that residents weren't returning to those area as quickly as they were to others. There's a sort of obvious chicken-or-egg question begged by this argument but even that isn't difficult to answer. The city was forcibly and totally depopulated by one external event beyond the control of its residents. Those residents deserve to return to the same services to which they were entitled prior to the event. Arguing that they suddenly don't deserve or need those services because they have been temporarily removed is patently unfair and hostile policy. I live in a house. My house is hit by a meteor. I need a house again. The fact that I'm not currently living in one does not refute that point. But this was the Nagin policy. As an alternative to actively shutting your neighborhood down, we will wait until you either prove yourself worthy of our help or blow away on your own. Jack-O-Lantern is a mark of laissez-faire policy, not the result of over-ambitious rebuilding.

Meanwhile, as we've seen this week, Road Home's inefficiency and overtly discriminatory practices have also restricted growth in the East and in the Lower Nine and prevented poorer citizens from rebuilding in all parts of the city. In this context, the Nagin laissez-faire approach to recovery essentially penalized homeowners and neighborhoods for having already been victimized by flooding and by Road Home. In fact, it was during this time that the city's most noticeably aggressive recovery project involved knocking down as many troubled properties as possible while shoveling the federal funds for this to friendly non-profits and contractors. It was sort of a big scandal at the time. Made all sorts of news.

But I kept wondering how it would have been any different from just bulldozing the green dots in the first place. Much of the consequences of that action we were most concerned about have, in fact, been realized. Five years later, New Orleans is a smaller economy more reliant than ever before on tourism and entertainment as its sole lifeblood. Its historic neighborhoods already gentrifying before the storm are becoming more so while the parts of town where the majority of the city's middle and working class people lived have had to struggle for the progress they've made. And so when we read that the city's population is "richer" but smaller this isn't exactly a cause for celebration.

And so now five years later we're starting the process over again. Mayor Landrieu recently released a list of recovery projects which, if implemented proplerly, could represent a first step in the right direction.

While not everything on the list is something worth getting excited about, one does find a number of public service, police and fire department buildings scheduled to be rebuilt. Which is interesting since, according to General Russell Honore, all that stuff has been done already.

But there is good news. Post-Katrina tax incentives have had a dramatic impact. The region has more hotels and restaurants than it had before the hurricane, and its major infrastructure -- sewer, water, public service buildings, police and fire departments, National Guard -- has new or rebuilt buildings. Federal money has transformed the schools in New Orleans, reorganizing them into charter schools, which are a far cry from pre-Katrina's dysfunctional schools operating in dilapidated buildings.

One thing that could hurt the rebuilding program this time around is the promotion of false "We Are OK enough" narratives favored by clueless boosters like Honore or, always the problem, marketing professionals worried about the city's image in the eyes of potential tourists. We've already seen the effects of this uncomfortable tension on efforts to ensure the safety of our seafood in the wake of the oil disaster. And the Landrieu people do appear susceptible to this sort of thing themselves quite often. But, if we are looking for reasons for optimism, we can at least be grateful that the fight to maintain the "footprint" is, in fact, a "done deal" conceptually. Time will tell whether or not it can be made so in reality.

Update: I started writing this post when I read Stephanie Grace's column on Sunday. But today's Grace column is just as relevant to it.
Former Mayor Ray Nagin may have cast himself as the face of the city’s post-K period. But due to circumstances beyond the new mayor’s control, plus a few directly under his control, Landrieu could wind up going down in history as New Orleans’ recovery mayor.
That’s partly because Nagin himself left so much undone, so many decisions either unmade or in desperate need of rethinking.

Quote of the Day

Unfortunately, I don't get HBO so I haven't had a chance to see any of Spike Lee's If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise yet. I am very much looking forward to it, however. What most impressed me about Lee's When the Levees Broke was its scope. Lee's greatest success there was gathering and transmitting the wide and rich variety of perspectives on the flood from all sorts of New Orleanians (and St. Bernardians) from all neighborhoods and from all social and economic categories. More than any other outside media project of its time, Levees captured the enormous complexity of the flood and its impact on all of us.

I hope that Creek can replicate at least some of this. Last night I followed the tweets of people who were watching and I noted strong reactions. Some were favorable and others not so much. But because I can remember many viewers being less enthusiastic about Levees than I was I don't think I can gauge the success of Creek from these reactions. Nobody seemed bored, though, which is a good sign.

One Tweeted criticism that I noticed popping up a lot was Lee's over-reliance on celebrities like Brad Pitt and Sean Penn whose opinions and faces we already see too much of. I can see how that might be a problem but, again, I'll reserve judgment until I see the movie. On the other hand, I do think that Jarvis DeBerry's reaction to the presence of another somewhat lesser celebrity I'm not too fond of is worth noting as is the entirety of this morning's column.

Lee’s documentary reminded me of just how tired I am of former Tulane historian Doug Brinkley, who’s been an unreliable source on life in New Orleans for quite some time now. Dismissing our civic pride, our love of place, as mindless and knee-jerk boosterism, Brinkley diagnoses us all as having an inferiority complex. We celebrate ourselves, to hear him tell it, because deep down we hate ourselves.

That’s psychobabble of the highest order. New Orleans has problems now and had problems before the storm. That’s indisputable. But our high regard for ourselves, our traditions and our city is hardly a facade. Our love for this city is not a pathology and does not deserve to be treated as such.

Monday, August 23, 2010

"Employers sense in me a denial of their values"

I suppose that could be an autobiographical line but, in truth, it's just one of many of my favorite quotes from A Confederacy of Dunces whose 30th anniversary is being celebrated in spectacular fashion by Loyola University this year.
The observance began during the summer, when every freshman received a copy of the novel as part of background reading to prepare for the move to New Orleans.

On Friday, there will be bus tours to some of the sites in the novel, including the statue of Reilly that stands in front of the Canal Street building that used to house D.H. Holmes department store, marking the spot where Reilly is waiting for his mother as the book begins. Faculty members will lead discussion groups all over the Uptown campus, and the Monroe Library will feature an exhibit of “Dunces” covers representing the 35 languages into which the book has been published.
More information about the Loyola program can be found here. As a long time advocate of the idea of a C.O.D. driving tour, I am pleased to see them running with this.

The genius of A Confederacy of Dunces is that it does for New Orleans what The Simpsons does for the rest of America. Each is an exploration of the general absurd incompetence of just about everything and everyone. And neither can be fully appreciated unless one sees this essential truth as a sort of reassuring discomfort. New Orleans is a place that magnifies and rewards that sensibility. On any given day one finds oneself saying "goddammit nobody knows what the hell they're doing" only slightly less often than one says, "Oh thank god they don't actually know what they're doing". Dunces is such a singular work of literature for its success in capturing that.

By contrast, it's the utter absence of anything like this satirical perspective in a pretentious TV melodrama like Treme that makes it such a miserable failure. Or maybe it just lacks the proper theology and geometry or something. This is just a thought but this may help explain why no one has succeeded adapting Dunces for film yet. They don't know how to properly render the realism in the humor. Maybe it needs to be animated.

Update: Following the Loyola links a bit, we get to this Blogger site which meticulously photographs and describes settings from the book. I'm not sure if these locations comprise the Loyola bus tour but it's certainly worth a look anyway.

So disappointing

Is there anything those state movie tax credits haven't sullied in some way?
The Comiskey plan, pitched in late 2006, was to build a swanky two-story community center in the park, complete with indoor basketball court, and to make a film documentary about the project along the way. By promising to shoot a film -- one that was to air in seven parts -- the producers became eligible for lucrative state tax credits, which would be sold to help cover the project's $10 million price tag.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Kiss of death?

Jeff Duncan on Saints backup QB Chase Daniel:
Daniel is the definition of gamer. He's not the most spectacular practice player in the world, but the guy turns it on when the lights come on and the competition intensifies. From Monday to Saturday, he's ordinary. But on game days, he's often extraordinary.

In that respect, he reminds me of Jake Delhomme. Saints fans crucified Jim Haslett and Mike McCarthy for not playing Delhomme over Aaron Brooks in the early 2000s. But the fact is Delhomme was a terrible practice player. He never showed enough in practice to warrant starting over Brooks. But when the lights came on, Delhomme was money. The guy, as Rick Venturi once told me, had ice water in his veins.
Um... in case nobody remembers this, Jake Delhomme is a pretty below average quarterback who has a terrible habit of turning the ball over. The fact that he was a popular Saints backup had a lot more to do with frustration over Brooks never living up to his promise than anything else. Well there was that as well as some other issues drunken talk radio callers like to dance very near to every now and then. Anyway, at the very least can we please not set up Jake Delhomme as the paragon of quarterbacking excellence we wish our players to emulate?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

This is a funny town in a lot of ways

This morning I drove by here and there was a line around the freaking block.

NFL Opens First Shop For Women In New Orleans
The NFL has done its homework and is giving the first NFL Shop for Women a try here in New Orleans. But it's a test marketing venture, so the shop won't be here for long.

NFL female employees model their favorite Saints clothes at the new boutique style NFL Saints Shop for women. The store can dress you, head to toe in black and gold.

"New Orleans has such a passionate and robust female fan base, we thought this was a perfect place to test our new concept," said Tracey Bleczinski, NFL Vice President of Customer Marketing and Sales.

I understand the hot item of the morning was a Who DatTM hair frosting product but patrons were disappointed to learn that Jeremey Shockey had pre-ordered most of the stock last week. Shockey, spotted later ducking out of Pinkberry, refused to answer any questions.

Dangerous People

So rude and unpleasant. Must not realize that asking real questions is coarse behavior.

Friday, August 20, 2010

David Vitter is the Teflon Douche

I hear what you're saying out there. Women are a crucial swing vote in Louisiana. Yadda yadda yadda. But the unavoidable fact in this race is that no matter how horrible David Vitter actually is, or whoever his staff beats up, the President of the United States is still too uncomfortably not-white for Louisiana voters to do anything other than reelect Vitter in a massively cathartic "fuck you" election.

I know we all would like to change the repeating show here but this TV only has one channel.

Don't get headed off at the Serpas

I'm being told tonight's traffic checkpoint will be in the "Lakeview/Lake Vista area" tonight between 9 PM and 5 AM. Plan accordingly.

Kudos to NOLA.com

It's been a while since I've treated myself to a NOLA.com comments thread so I don't know if this is a brand new development.

This morning I read Jarvis DeBerry's column about a federal court decision (sort of) in favor of black homeowners discriminated against by the Road Home program. I say sort of because the court also said those homeowners are basically SOL even if their complaint is valid... well just go read the story.

Anyway, I noticed that, although the comments do contain some of their customary quantity of stupid, they don't fall all the way off the neanderthal racism cliff we've seen them plummet over in the past. I don't know how strictly they're being monitored for that but I do notice that DeBerry is actively participating in the discussion by responding to comments and keeping the conversation on point. Again, I don't know how new this is but it's a practice many of us have long suggested for NOLA.com and it's encouraging to see Jarvis take the time to do it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ocean 3/4 full kind of report

Always depends on how you look at it.
Roughly three-quarters of the oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s ruptured well is still in the environment, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official told a House panel Thursday. 

The estimate contrasts previous pronouncements by administration officials that only about a quarter of the oil remains to be addressed.

Bill Lehr, a senior scientist at NOAA, said at a House Energy and Commerce subpanel hearing Thursday that federal officials have only confirmed that 10 percent of the 4.1 million barrels of oil that leaked into the Gulf have been either skimmed or burned. 

Federal officials used a different estimate of how much oil leaked from the well — 4.9 million barrels — in preparing a report this month saying that only about 25 percent is still left to be recovered in the water. But critics say using that higher baseline skewed the numbers.


Remember those two months we spent putting Top Hats and half-lids on top of the well and then taking those off and putting other stuff in their place while siphoning some of the oil onto boats (when we weren't pausing for storms and lightning and stuff) but never agreeing on how much was captured or siphoned or even how much was really flowing out of anywhere? One wonders if the point of all that wasn't just to keep anyone from being able to put an accurate number on how much oil got into the Gulf in the first place much less how much is left now.

There be dragons

The vanishing part of the map.

Scientists Map Gulf Oil Plume

Follow-up on Parasol's

Go see Peter's write-up at Blackened Out.

If history is any indicator, sometimes divorces work out best for both parties. (See La Petite Grocery and the Schultes; Tommy's and Irene's.) But it is nearly impossible to replicate atmosphere, especially when it is based on 58 years of history. Will Tracey's have the raffish qualities of Parasol's dining room - the low ceilings, school cafeteria chairs, and dim lighting? Will customers order their sandwich at the kitchen window and then make their way to the bar to pay separately for their Barq's in the bottle and bag of Zapp's? Will the bar flies follow to Magazine Street?
Well we do know they plan to Second Line the barflies down the street on August 29 so I'm guessing at least some of them will. I know I'm figuring on being in that number anyway. Will make for good hair of the dog after celebrating another successful Rising Tide the night before. How many days left until that, BTW?

FWIW, I don't think you'll find a better representation of the ideal New Orleans style roast beef po boy than the one they make at Parasol's. There are other examples that are as good and everyone has his or her favorite. And it's my impression that these favorites are dictated by location as much as anything else. It's hard to conjure up a more classic New Orleans location than the soon-to-be-ain't-dere-no-more Parasol's. I'm glad the sandwich itself won't be lost, but I will miss the experience of buying one there.

But I thought it all vanished

Sand berm defense against oil from Gulf of Mexico spill gets $60 million financing installment

Privatizing Iraq

Pulling out (sort of... I mean Brett Favre pulled out of football once or twice too) and sending in the contractors.
To protect the civilians in a country that is still home to insurgents with Al Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias, the State Department is planning to more than double its private security guards, up to as many as 7,000, according to administration officials who disclosed new details of the plan. Defending five fortified compounds across the country, the security contractors would operate radars to warn of enemy rocket attacks, search for roadside bombs, fly reconnaissance drones and even staff quick reaction forces to aid civilians in distress, the officials said.
In a way, we're pretty lucky in New Orleans. Our post-disaster laboratory experiment has mostly focused on perfecting the practice of turning our children's education over to private management. In Iraq they're working on privately operated armies. Not that we didn't get a taste of that too for a while. But, just think, next time they send in a private army to pacify an American population, it'll really know what it's doing.

Meanwhile, the best summary of the Iraq (sort of) pullout comes from The Onion
Obama also noted that during the war more Iraqi insurgents died than American troops, which, he admitted, isn't necessarily the best way to determine a war's victor, but is nonetheless still preferable to the other way around.

"By the end of this month, victory, to a certain extent, will be ours, and we can finally welcome our troops back home," Obama concluded. "That is unless they are one of the 50,000 U.S. soldiers who will have to stay in the region for the foreseeable future."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fuzzy Math

Or maybe it vanished
A congressional investigator forwarded his lengthy correspondence with NOAA congressional affairs specialist Michael Jarvis over the same issue. NOAA isn't coughing up numbers for Congress, either, even though the numbers are even more important now that an independent study from the University of Georgia found that up to 80 percent of the oil is still in the water. It's hard to swallow the official government estimate if they can't even show their work.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

JAMA: Gulf seafood not so safe after all

Again, we await the deafening chorus of "my bad"s from the media, Governor, and President

Reggie Bush is better than you

So quit criticizing and know your place or some such.
Let's put a fan through training camp, two-a-day practices for 2 weeks straight, 100+ heat everyday, full pads, live contact, etc! Yeah!!!!


Parasol's Who Dat Flag
Parasol's November 27, 2009

Killing New Orleans.

The Carreras' started negotiations last March with current owner Billy Hock to buy the building on the corner of Third and Constance Streets.

The owner put it on the market for almost double what I was willing to offer,” Jeffrey Carreras says. “I wasn’t going to pay that much for the building. I’ve been here for 12 years. I know the condition the building is in."

On July 28, the Carreras learned that a couple from Clearwater, Florida purchased the building and the business. The new owners could not be reached for comment.

Adding to the Carreras' heartbreak: the name Parasol’s stays with the building, according to the original lease agreement.

“That was the crusher for me and my wife,” Carreras says. “It knocked the wind out of us.”

Carreras says they will be out of the building by August 31. They are gathering up the memorabilia, the menu and the employees and moving one block north to the space currently occupied by the Irish Garden bar and restaurant at 2604 Magazine Street. They’ll reopen with a new name — Tracey’s — but the same, familiar faces.

When asked if he knows what the new owners' plans are, the shock and anger in Carreras' voice is palpable. F-bombs fly. The negotiation to buy Carreras' liquor license and other operational functions of the business did not go well, he says.

I can't wait to see the new Parasol's, though. I'm guessing new wood floors, booth seating with "gourmet" chicken salad wraps and maybe some hot wings or something on the menu. Or maybe they'll just open another Pinkberry. People seem to like that.

UGA report: 79 percent of oil has not been recovered

I'm sure it will elicit immediate "my bad"s from everyone

I don't see it

I know that Brees thinks it's showing "leadership" to say things like this no matter what the circumstances are. But so far my feeling is that the offense can only regress this season. Unless Ladell Betts can be Mike Bell, that is. But that seems really really unlikely right now.

The defense has a chance to be a bit better. But given the way they relied on timely turnovers last season, it's entirely possible for them to play better football overall with poorer results on the scoreboard.

Anyway, that's what I'm thinking at this point. And we haven't even seen this year's drink prices in the Dome yet.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Actual books in actual libraries

Gaston Drills an Offshore Oil Well

Obviously the first question is, how does an alligator even end up with a drilling permit in the first place? Is it because of some obscure exemption to the moratorium? Is he operating on behalf of Anadarko? Isn't this really a job for Clovis Crawfish anyway? We know Jenny Giraffe would be a total disaster and I'm pretty sure Epossumundas is some sort of eco-hippie. But at least Clovis would probably know how and where to dig a hole. Right? Of course the most likely explanation is that MMS isn't very good at distinguishing Gaston from any of the other reptiles they regularly do business with. Or maybe they thought it was David Vitter.

Anyway, you go to drill with the cartoon animal you have, I guess. And if you can't find a good geologist anywhere, the crabs always are good for a tip or two as we learn on the very first page. (Italics appear in the original. The Gaston books typically include a glossary of italicized terms at the end.)

Gaston the green-nosed alligator kept his money in a box in the bank of the Atchafalaya River. A friendly crab told him of a promising fault a few miles offshore. Gaston decided to invest his savings in an offshore drilling operation.

So Gaston chooses a rig, hires some guys, and soon the spudding can begin on his well. Things move along in a boring-to-children-terminology heavy but still strangely uninformative way for a few pages. Gaston very much enjoys playing cards with his crew and sampling the galley food. And then.. Drama!

A strong wind turned into a storm. They had to shut down and secure the rig. A rumble from below indicated oil rising in the bore hole. There was danger of a blowout. Gaston sent all of the crew except for one to the safety capsule. Gaston and the husky roughneck strained to close the heavy valve that would prevent the blowout. The computer was down and could not do the automatic shut-down.

The storm blew over. Gaston dived into the water to place a wet Christmas tree over the well. This would hold back the oil until the pipeline could be connected to the oil-producing equipment.

I guess we'll have to reexamine our doubts about Gaston's drilling permit. For one thing, it was smart of Gaston to pre-stage most of his crew in the safety capsule. From what I understand the Deepwater Horizon was equipped with many of these safety capsules (here's what they look like). But, as we all know, not everybody was able to make it to one during the emergency.

Also, one can't help but be impressed with the fact that, even though, "the computer was down", Gaston and one "husky roughneck" alone managed to accomplish in moments what the industry's leading engineers armed with the most sophisticated equipment, robotics, and... um... old tires and golf balls and shit could not do for months this summer.

Finally, Gaston swims waaay down to the ocean floor and installs the heavy and complex Christmas tree array of valves and steel on top of the wellhead all by his own self. The illustration depicts Gaston doing this as he reclines backward in the water while caressing a starfish in one hand. How's that for an"ultimate shutdown" BP? Does Gaston know anything about coastal restoration? There's a lot of work to be done and we sure could use someone with that kind of talent to...

Gaston was happy to have struck oil. He returned with the crew boat to get pipe. Gaston, now the richest alligator in Louisiana, was glad to be home again.

Oh. I see then. Guess even alligators know when it's a good time to vanish.

Open for Questions: Gulf Seafood Safety with Dr. Jane Lubchenco

Submit your questions now

Perhaps there will be recipe advice. Perhaps they can tell us how to remove the oil and Corexit taint from our freshly fished Gulf President.

Note: We will never be able to remove the taint from this President.

Zombie Dollar Bill

Maybe. Dambala has dug some dirt. I'll add that Richmond's family owns a non-union construction firm which also doesn't reflect well.

Adding: It also doesn't mean any of his opponents is any better as a quick glance through the AZ comments suggests.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

And now they are telling me Morstead is hurt

I hate fake football

I was supposed to write something about football by now

It's been tough sledding in blogoworld lately. A lot of stuff sitting in the "Drafts" folder that I keep saying I'll get to when everything calms down. But who knows when that is? Usual disclaimers apply. The blogging will continue to be extra-crappy until such time that it becomes just crappy again. On Monday night, r and I caught the Madden Gras (Fat Madden) festivities downtown. Maybe I'll get back to that later but I can't let the Saints kick off tonight without first sharing this photo of r kissing Joe Horn after the parade.

Kissing Joe Horn

This is very well deserved

Dave Eggers wins American Book Award for 'Zeitoun,' set in New Orleans

When I read Zeitoun last year I thought it was the best among many many Katrina-related books published in the wake of the flood. I wrote about it at the time in a post which you should be able to find by clicking here. But I've noticed lately that the Yellow Blog archives are acting kind of screwy and so any posts that happen in the first five days of any month are liable to end up hidden from view for some reason. But I can still go back and find them so I'll rescue this one bit.
In Zeitoun, Dave Eggers relays the story of local painter and contractor Abdulrahman Zeitoun who stayed behind during the Federal Flood to watch over his home and some of the properties he owned around town. Zeitoun spent the first few days after the storm traveling the city in a canoe, rescuing people from flooded buildings, and feeding abandoned animals until he (along with three other men) was abducted from his own building by armed security personnel and locked up at the "Camp Greyhound" temporary prison constructed in the Union Passenger Terminal.

When I read Zeitoun this summer, it made me very angry. But, like Clio, I was grateful to see this story told so well by Eggers. Zetioun stands among a very small number of "Katrina" books that manage to tell a real story about real people without falling back on ornamental cliches or guilt-driven defensive rationalizations about "Why New Orleans Matters". Instead, Zeitoun simply assumes the reader will understand that the people here "matter" because they are people. The fact that the events reported upon constitute a violation of that assumption makes the horror of it all that much more poignant.

Because.. um...

... they're not the fad right now?
Devices not included in the new driving law are push-to-talk devices, commercial two-way radios and Citizen Band radios.

I'm a little bummed that I'm going to miss the first quarter of tonight's Saints game working late but I'll try and keep up from the road via the Tweeters anyway. Should I have one or three shots of tequila first?

Because we said so

“The FDA is not monitoring fish and shellfish for the presence of Corexit in seafood because it is not considered a health risk,”

Got that? No? Here, then, we'll show you just how safe it is. Just let us get our gloves first..

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dispersing the evidence

I'm just gonna pull one passage from this Mother Jones article because it touches on the dispersant and "vanished" oil issues we keep bringing up. But there's much more than just this to it.

The containment and absorbent boom that BP is deploying around beaches and marshes—largely ineffectively—is designed to do just that: contain and absorb oil. But the Corexit dispersant BP has flooded onto the leaking wellhead 5,000 feet down, and sprayed from the air onto the surface—some 2 million gallons in total—is designed to break up the oil. "Which one is it?" asks Safina. "Do you want to contain it or disperse it? It makes absolutely no sense to be doing both. Let's face it, with pollution, you count your lucky stars if you have what's called point-source pollution, that is, a single identifiable localized source of pollution, like the Deepwater Horizon. So what's BP doing with that? They're turning it into the worst pollution nightmare of them all: non-point-source pollution."

That's because untreated oil quickly rises to the surface, where it can be skimmed with relative ease. But treated with dispersant, it becomes a submerged plume, unlikely to ever float to the surface, and destined to migrate through underwater currents to the entire Gulf basin and eventually the North Atlantic. "Oil is toxic to most life," says Steiner. "And Corexit is toxic to most life. But the most toxic of all is oil that's been treated with Corexit. Plus, dispersants may well kill the ocean's first line of defense against oil: the natural microbes that break oil down for other microbes to eat." The EPA has never seriously examined Corexit's effects on marine life (see "Bad Breakup"). Now it'll get the biggest and baddest field experiment of all time, as the flora and fauna of the shallows and the deep scattering layer collide with the dispersed plumes.

BP's schizophrenic approach to the cleanup becomes more insidious in light of the company's legal liabilities: The Clean Water Act stipulates that BP must pay $1,100 for every barrel of oil proven to have been spilled—$4,300 per barrel if gross negligence is determined. But the use of dispersants clouds estimates of the spill's size, guaranteeing that the true number will never be known—since relatively little oil will ever wash ashore—and guaranteeing that BP's liability will be vastly underestimated.

Go read more

It's okay, they still don't have to give the trophy back

New Orleans Saints tailback Lynell Hamilton suffers torn ACL

Obviously what we've learned here is

Oil Toothpaste kills hurricanes.

NHC: TD # 5 could dissipate later today

Thanks again, BP, for all you do.


Well, sort of. They're bringing back city recycling. Except that it's one drop-off location. From 8am-1pm. Okay so not so great. But something.

We want the list that counts

100 days of Mitch

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu marked his 100th day in office Tuesday by issuing a long list of what he considers his accomplishments in office.

Mercifully, the T-P doesn't print the entire list of 100 "accomplishments" but even the sampling they do offer us indicates that the list is padded with items which qualify more for either the "things that happened" category such as the laying of boom on Lake Pontchartrain necessitated by the Macondo disaster or, more frequently, the "things they want to happen category" like "pledging support" for privatizing NORD.

This isn't to say that there aren't substantive items listed among the accomplishments. Few among us will fault the administration for renegotiating the controversial French Quarter garbage contract or for beginning to dis-entwine municipal operations from MWH contracted services. At the same time, it's difficult to spin some of the painful budget cutting moves you've been forced into as "accomplishments." Once I saw Magic Johnson characterize the AIDS virus as an "attainment" This is sort of like that, I guess.

Anyway, the list we're actually interested in, the proverbial list that counts this week isn't going to be released until Friday.
The mayor was expected to use the occasion of his 100th day to issue a list of 100 bricks-and-mortar recovery projects that his administration intends to get under way soon, but release of that list has been delayed until Friday.
This morning, The Lens has a speculative sneak preview of what it might entail.


It's the secret ingredient in peanut butter chocolate milk crab meat au gratin mole.
Barbour has also said the risk to wildlife from oiling is not as bad as some have been saying.

"Once it gets to this stage, it's not poisonous," Barbour said. "But if a small animal got coated enough with it, it could smother it. But if you got enough toothpaste on you, you couldn’t breathe."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Radioactive smoke

No worries. I'm sure it will all vanish after a few months

USF says government tried to squelch their oil plume findings


Better and not-so-better

BP lawsuits to be heard in New Orleans

A federal judge in New Orleans has been picked to preside over more than 300 lawsuits filed against BP PLC and other companies in the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill.

Previously, BP's lawyers had asked to have these proceedings take place in Houston where, as Oyster explained at length here, the court may have been a bit more sympathetic toward BP.

Note this, however: Carl Barbier, Judge Who Owned Bonds In Gulf Oil Spill Companies, Will Handle Most Spill Lawsuits


Questions remain about Gulf Victims Fund

1) BP is going to make about $5 billion in claims against its own "victims' relief fund". Apparently, BP is its own victim here and needs to pay itself reparations or something.

President Obama appointed prominent attorney Ken Feinberg to oversee the fund.

Feinberg says he will only coordinate the claims for individuals and businesses.

Local governments must still appeal directly to BP for their losses.

"If BP and the White House are saying that while the government claims will come out of the fund, but Feinberg won't handle those claims, you're going to be having more than one hand actually dealing with the fund and will you get inconsistent results, we don't know," said New Orleans attorney Walter Leger.

3) Leger and others are now begging to have more of this stuff go through Feinberg. Which, if you've been reading Dambala at all, you kind of have to sigh at a little.

What do they think this is? Endymion?

Bon Jovi latest rock star to hop on Saints bandwagon

It isn't either a complete Mardi Gras or training camp unless we get a gander at at least one white trashy C-list celeb anymore. Also does this mean Bon Jovi has to defeat Kenny Chesney in some sort of affected cartooney combat now? Please say yes.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Bad blogger

Lots of stuff to get to on a Monday. Links to share, comments to answer, ass to show. And yet life gets in the way. I'm going down to see this ridiculous Fat Madden celebration right now. Meanwhile, check out this CSPAN video of the Saints meeting the President this morning.

More when we get to it.

Peanut butter

Had we seen that one yet?
AT THE MOUTH OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER-- Along the outer marshes of Pass A Loutre, it doesn't take long to find oil-- whether it is a sheen on the water or a coating of oil on a cane stalk.

"It's almost as if you had peanut butter in your hair because the grass is so fine, that oil is going to stick in there and you can't just get it out with one brush of the comb," said Chief Petty Officer James Allendorph of the U.S. Coast Guard.

I would like a peanut butter crab, please.

But do they smell ok?

Crabs Provide Evidence Oil Tainting Gulf Food Web
The government said last week that three-quarters of the spilled oil has been removed or naturally dissipated from the water. But the crab larvae discovery was an ominous sign that crude had already infiltrated the Gulf's vast food web - and could affect it for years to come.

"It would suggest the oil has reached a position where it can start moving up the food chain instead of just hanging in the water," said Bob Thomas, a biologist at Loyola University in New Orleans. "Something likely will eat those oiled larvae ... and then that animal will be eaten by something bigger and so on."

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Where the Saints of football play

Dave Dixon, driving force behind Superdome, dies

Just this Friday afternoon, I happened to be down on Poydras street where I snapped a quick photo of New Orleans' most beloved building and its brand new gold skin.

Where the Saints of football play

The Dome, and Mr. Dixon himself, are reminders of a time when New Orleans was a city on the rise unafraid to grow and build as opposed to the carefully curated, decaying tourist oddity and movie backdrop it has been for most of my lifetime. Maybe I'll live long enough to see it become a city again. Dave Dixon probably would have thought that was possible, or even likely. Me, I'm not so sure.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Declaring victory and leaving

It doesn't seem like that long ago that both federal and BP people were telling us that they'd be here cleaning up long after the well was sealed. But this week the well was sealed and everybody on clean-up detail is ready to GTFO. The hole is plugged, the oil is "vanishing", and it doesn't seem like that comprehensive Gulf Coast restoration project President Obama was praised for slightly teasing at back in June* is going to be necessary after all. Or at least no one is talking about it anymore.

Meanwhile look who can't wait to get back out there.
Despite uncertainty about when the federal moratorium on deepwater oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico may be lifted, drilling companies say they are readying to return to work, maintaining their full complement of rig workers at full pay, and making improvements in their rigs to meet new federal safety standards required by the Interior Department.

Imagine that. Despite the repeated howlings of Jindal, Vitter, Scalise, et al, these drilling operators haven't all decided to pick up and move to Brazil and Africa for 20 years because we hurt their feelings for a few months. Turns out they would still very much like to extract their oil from our seabed after all. And they're ready to get right back at it as soon as victory is declared, which might help explain the haste with which the feds and BP are making that declaration.

Meanwhile, Louisiana fishers would like to get back to work too but, despite the great victory, that prospect doesn't look quite as bright for some reason.

Commercial fishing reopened in areas east of the Mississippi River last week, but St. Bernard Parish shrimper Jerome Ronquille expects it'll be a long time before he ventures out again to trawl the marshes outside of Hopedale

"We've got the best seafood in the country, but I don't trust my own product right now," Ronquille said on a recent afternoon in Hopedale, just off a BP-paid shift patrolling for oil. "We don't want to make other people feel sick."

At the other end of Bayou la Loutre in Shell Beach, Darrell Pecar and George Barisich were preparing for their first day back on the water, but they're facing fundamental roadblocks: No one is making ice, and no dock in lower St. Bernard is buying shrimp.

From the same article we learn that many fishermen who have switched to doing contract clean-up for BP are pulling in $2,000 a day while that work still exists, hazardous as it may be. But given that everyone is in such a hurry to declare victory and leave, how much longer can they expect even that stop-gap work to continue? Maybe they should try moving to Brazil.

*Quick excerpt from Moseley's Lens column about Mabus the Savior.
In light of recent history, cynicism in South Louisiana is justified. It’s certainly the safe play for our fragile psyches. If we sit back and expect nothing, there’s no chance of high hopes getting dashed.

But, is this really the best time to adopt such a darkened, unhelpful posture? The national attention from the oil gusher allowed Obama an opportunity to fast-track coastal restoration before it becomes cost prohibitive – and he seems to be taking it! In short, the Obama administration – with its Road Map, its Oval Office promises, and its appointment of Mabus – offers Louisiana perhaps its last, best chance to begin the process of coastal restoration. So is now the moment to sit back with a cranky “prove me wrong, I’ll believe it when I see it” posture?
Or to put it another way, this is all our fault for our stupid lack of faith. We had no idea the darkened unhelpful posture of our individual fragile psyches so affected what happens in the halls of power. Sorry we ruined the coast by not believing. Having failed to show due flattering deference to the authority of the people lying to us we clearly have failed in our duty as citizens subjects. If we are asked to just hop the next shrimp boat to Brazil we'll completely understand.

Update: Just to be clear since BSJD asked, I'm teasing Moseley in fun there. Today's Lens column is far less sanguine about Mabus. Not that I really thought Moseley was a big Mabus fan in the first place. At least not as much a fan as he was of Ed Blakely at first anyway.

Upperdate: Uh oh time to pack up the plantation.
McClelland: BP Fires 10,000 Cleanup Workers
In Grand Isle, Louisiana, cleanup workers (none of whom can be named; you know this drill by now) say their coworkers were either told to go home for Tropical Storm Bonnie and then never called back or fired in a massive and sudden drug test.

"Friday, the day before Bonnie, they sent a bunch of people home until further notice, and a lot of people didn't get the further notice," one supervisor told me. "Then last week, they shut the whole [cleanup operation] down. It was 'Piss in a cup or throw your ID in the bucket.' This was a BP drug test, not a [subcontracting] company drug test. It's the first time BP tested us."

Do they even do drug testing in Brazil?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Literally, "Fat Madden"

Just to be clear, this is an event created to note the release of a friggin' video game.

When: Monday, from 11 a.m. to midnight.

Admission: All events are free.

Events: The official Madden Gras kickoff is at 11 a.m. at the Fulton Stage at the corner of Fulton and Lafayette streets.

Live music schedule: 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Rebirth Brass Band; 12:30 to 2 p.m., Bucktown All-Stars; 2:30 to 4 p.m., Rockin' Dopsie Jr.; 4:45 to 6 p.m., The Radiators, all at the Fulton Stage.

Parade and festivities: The Madden Gras parade departs from Decatur Street at 7 p.m., continuing down Bourbon Street and arriving at 9:15 p.m. at the main stage in Jackson Square, where Galactic will perform. The first copy of "Madden NFL '11" will be sold on the stage at 11 p.m., followed by a performance by Cowboy Mouth.

The after-party: A "Madden Gras" after-hours party, featuring Big Boi, kicks off at midnight at House of Blues. Admittance will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Just what we needed on a Wednesday afternoon. More randomly associated bullet points.

  • Gambit's Matt Davis reports from the Mayor's budget hearing in New Orleans East Monday night.

    There was plenty of emotional testimony about the problems being faced, but the most newsworthy exchange came toward the end of the two-and-a-half hour meeting, when Mayor Mitch Landrieu directly addressed his race in the context of the city repossessing blighted properties from black property owners who have failed to return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. “I want to talk about race,” said Landrieu, responding to the testimony at the end of the evening. “You start taking people’s homes, people start asking ‘why you trying to stop people coming home, Mr.Mitch, looking the way you do’ — do I need to say it?”

    The crowd murmured support for Landrieu.

    “The question is is this about race? Or is about the city?” Landrieu asked. “And when is the day when we start focusing on these properties? Is it now? Is it September? Is it November? Or yesterday?”

    The crowd cheered when he said “yesterday.”

    “I’m just asking, I just want to make sure I heard you,” said Landrieu. “Because I promise you as soon as I lay it down, somebody’s going to lay it down, and there’s going to be a march.”

    “We got your back, Mitch,” shouted several people in the crowd.

    The idea of repossessing vacant properties in New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward has been increasingly on council’s radar over recent months. At a meeting of the council recovery meeting on June 30, consultant Greg Rigamer told council that of 52,800 New Orleans applicants to the state’s Road Home program, 34,921 applicants have closed on their homes and are moving forward, but about 14,000 are showing no sign of progress after having received the money.

    I'm not sure that this is a conversation about "race". The Mayor and the people attending the meeting all seem to want it to be a racial kumbaya moment but it sure reads to me like a room full of comfortable middle class homeowners all agreeing that they don't care if the poor people make it back or not.

  • St. Bernard child, Pistolette writes about the places Dow'na Road after reading Bob Marshall's series about the fishing village of Delacroix in the Times Picayune.

  • Here's another T-P series on soon-to-be-inducted NFL Hall of Famer Rickey Jackson who was, to put it plainly, the best football player I ever watched. Ever.
    Despite the fact he never wore thigh or knee pads -- that slowed him down -- and never taped his ankles, Jackson played in 195 games with the Saints, starting every one, and he started 30 of 32 games with the 49ers. He missed just two in his career when he fractured his right cheekbone in an automobile accident on Sept. 11, 1989. Initially, it was expected that Jackson would miss four to six weeks. On Oct. 1, 20 days after the accident, Jackson returned to the field, starting for the Saints against the Washington Redskins, who, try as they might, were powerless that day to slow Jackson, even though they often double-teamed him with an extra tight end or a pulling lineman.
    When the Saints finally made the Super Bowl this year, a lot was written about the bittersweetness of Buddy D not being there to see it or Archie Manning not being able to enjoy it. Not enough was said about how great it was that Rickey Jackson got to see it happen. During his career, Rickey embodied the collective passion and frustration of the fans more than most players. Having him named to the HOF the same year the championship happened was pretty special for everyone.

  • Prop 8 overturned and there was much rejoicing. That is until some right wing something or other says something stupid in 4, 3, 2....

  • Favre. Shut up. No, make it stop. Seriously.

  • Nagin. Shut up.

  • Here are 100 great (nobody can really pick the 100 greatest) GBV songs with notes on each one including this which pretty much sums up why Pollard is God.
    Let's face it: GBV is to beer as the Grateful Dead is to LSD

  • And finally, there's this Forecasters: Hurricanes' effect on oil unclear Seriously, though, at this point we're more interested in oil's effect on hurricanes. It's high season and everything that appears out there keeps breaking up. Not that we're complaining or anything.

Declaring victory

The advantage of having an official government estimate of the total oil spilled is now they can base some impressively precise looking statistics upon that estimate.

About 75 percent of the oil has either been captured, been burned off, evaporated or broken down in the Gulf, according to a report to be released Wednesday by scientists with the Interior Department and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"It was captured. It was skimmed. It was burned. It was contained. Mother Nature did her part," White House energy adviser Carol Browner said on NBC's "Today" show.

About 26 percent of the oil remains in the sea in the form of light surface sheen or tar balls, or has washed ashore, according to the report.

Yes, I know. It adds up to "about" 101 percent. Nevermind that. What is interesting is that they feel like they have a good handle on the amount of oil left out there even after it all vanished last week. About what percentage has been buried under the beaches?

Update: Interestingly enough, that passage in the AP story I quoted has already been edited to read
Nearly three-quarters of the oil - more than 152 million gallons - has been collected at the well by a temporary containment cap, been cleaned up or chemically dispersed, or naturally deteriorated, evaporated or dissolved, according to a report by the Interior Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"It was captured. It was skimmed. It was burned. It was contained. Mother Nature did her part," White House energy adviser Carol Browner said on NBC's "Today" show.

That leaves nearly 53 million gallons in the Gulf. The amount remaining - or washed up on the shore - is still nearly five times the size of the 11 million-gallon Exxon Valdez spill, which wreaked environmental havoc in Alaska in 1989.

I'm not a fan of AP re-writing their stuff post-publication like this. I suppose taking the percentages out leaves a less exact sounding estimate. But they're still pretty confident that they can tell us how much oil is out there even while they're telling us it all either disappeared or is dispersed out of sight. Strange

Upperdate: Regarding the Valdez comparisons, Cliff observes
I bet you the people in Alaska are really pissed off right now. The Exxon Valdez spill happened in 1989 and they are still cleaning up 21 years later. The Deepwater Horizon spill leaked for months and was supposed to be even bigger than the Exxon Valdez and yet magically the oil on the Gulf Coast appears to be disappearing in record time.

Maybe we should come back in 20 years and ask these oystermen if they still feel like they won the race.

Uppestdate: Good follow-up from WVUE where they really are on the ball these days. Thanks, Tom Benson!
Nichols State environmentalist Kerry St. Pe says there's no way to tell for sure how much oil came out of the well.

"It's an attempt to give the public credible information. So I think it should be viewed as an estimate. There are so many things that can happen," said St. Pe.

The federal scientist’s estimate 4.9 million barrels spilled into the Gulf but they admit that amount could fluctuate 10 percent in either direction.

St. Pe says under the circumstances the estimates are as good as it gets.

"There's no flow meter on that oil coming up so they have to estimate based on their observations," said St. Pe.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Smell tests not passing smell test

WVUE: Gulf seafood declared safe; fishermen not so sure
Some are turning up their noses at the smell tests - in which inspectors sniff seafood for chemical odors - and are demanding more thorough testing to reassure the buying public about the effects of the oil and the dispersants used to fight the slick.

"If I put fish in a barrel of water and poured oil and Dove detergent over that, and mixed it up, would you eat that fish?" asked Rusty Graybill, an oysterman and shrimp and crab fisherman from Louisiana's St. Bernard Parish. "I wouldn't feed it to you or my family. I'm afraid someone's going to get sick."

Back in June when we pointed to this AP article describing the federal seafood taint-sniffing program we were struck by just how fly-by-night and, frankly, bullshitty the whole thing seemed. Here again is the key quote from that article.
The first line of defense began with closing a third of federal waters to fishing and hundreds more square-miles of state waters. Now comes the nose.

Mahan is an agricultural extension director with the University of Florida based in Apalachicola, where some of the world's most famous oysters are culled.

"We're being trained to detect different levels of taint, which in this case is oil," Mahan said last week. "We started out sniffing different samples of oil to sort of train our noses and minds to recognize it."

So what does an oily fish smell like?

"Well, it has an oil odor to it," Mahan said. "Everyone has a nose they bring to it ... Everybody's nose works differently. For me, the oysters are a little more challenging."
Novice inspectors being trained to execute a highly subjective test didn't inspire a great deal of confidence at the time. It was hoped, however, that this was a necessity born of desperate circumstances and that a more reliable testing process would be implemented by the time officials began to consider reopening fisheries. And so now that we've reached that point in time, let's look again at the much more sophisiticated scientific basis on which those decisions are being made.
In Mississippi on Monday, FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said the government is "confident all appropriate steps have been taken to ensure that seafood harvested from the waters being opened today is safe and that Gulf seafood lovers everywhere can be confident eating and enjoying the fish and shrimp that will be coming out of this area."

Similarly, BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said Sunday that authorities "wouldn't open these waters ... if it wasn't safe to eat the fish." He said he would eat Gulf seafood and "serve it to my family."

Experts say smell tests may sound silly but are a proven technique that saves time and money. Moreover, they are the only way to check fish for chemical dispersants, though FDA spokeswoman Meghan Scott said government scientists are developing a tissue test. It is not clear when it will be ready.
Wait a minute. The FDA commissioner is "confident", Doug Suttles says he and his family "would" eat Gulf seafood themselves. And yet, all they have to go on is a testing method that... well we know that it "saves time and money" at least. This is crazy, right? Some people still think so.
Kevin Kleinow, a professor of aquatic toxicology, said he is laying off Gulf seafood until the government releases more specifics about the testing it conducted, including exactly what species are being monitored and what levels of toxic substances are being found.

He said he is also concerned that a smell test won't sniff out dispersants. "Some of them - we've done work on a number of surfactants that are used in dispersants - have very little odor," he said.

In Sunday's post, we pointed out that Governor Jindal and Mayor Landrieu have already demonstrated a preference for comfortable lies that protect business interests close to them over factual information about public safety. The ridiculous photo of the Mayor featured in that post is the result of his gleeful participation in the latest of a seemingly endless string of for-profit cause-poseur vapid art schemes that continually infect post-Katrina New Orleans with the "positivity" at the expense of honesty vibe that Mitch and many others have latched onto.

I suppose by now we're all well accustomed to these. Outbreaks like this really are the herpes of social media. They are quickly passed among the pretty people, thrive on a culture of attention-desperate self-gratification, and often involve a fair amount of prostitution. I don't mean to spend too much time picking on Dear New Orleans. Suffice to say, someone has figured out a way to promote a photography business by exploiting the intersection of current events and the need certain types of people have to be seen taking themselves very seriously. I only bring it up to point out that the Mayor is certainly one of those types of person.

But like it or not, this kind of borrowing civic concern to package a commercial or institutional message via individual narcissism is becoming more and more of the norm in mass communications. Which is exactly why Pepsi is so proud of its "Refresh the Gulf" initiative since it hits every one of those sweet spots. And this is why, we aren't surprised to see Dear New Orleans among the applicants proposing to spend $5,000 of Pepsi money writing on and then photographing Louisiana fishermen for the purposes of... well I'm not sure. Anyway, I'm sorry to say I probably won't be voting for that one. At least not when the competition is this stiff.



* To raise awareness about the Gulf effort through classes and PR.
* To attract 60 persons to each class.
* Raise funds for the Gulf effort.

Turns out, these classes will be "raising awareness" in Chicago which is nice because we know how much the folks up there love their Gulf Lobster. On the other hand, it may have been a better idea to actually conduct the sessions in the coastal communities themselves. We hear the home cooks there are doing wonderful things with Dove detergent these days. You can almost smell it now.