Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sounds like a job for a ham sandwich

Oh dear, who do we kill?

The increasing murkiness of the battlefield, as the freewheeling rebels advance and retreat and as fighters from both sides mingle among civilians, has prompted NATO members to issue new “rules of engagement” spelling out when the coalition may attack units on the ground in the name of protecting civilians.

It was unclear how the rules are changing — especially on the critical questions surrounding NATO’s mandate and whether it extends to protecting rebels who are no longer simply defending civilian populated areas like Benghazi, but are instead are themselves on the offensive.

“This is a challenge,” said a senior alliance military officer. “The problem of discriminating between combatant and civilian is never easy, and it is compounded when you have Libyan regime forces fighting irregular forces, like the rebel militias, in urban areas populated by civilians.”

I thought we went over this yesterday. Any civilian you kill is easily reclassified as a combatant provided you remembered to bring your drop weapon with you.

Attack of the Death Panelistas

I have to say one side benefit of Obama being the one to plunge us into a murderous adventure in a faraway land this time, is that it gives us an opportunity to watch Republicans try and figure out how to be anti-war* which yields some deliciously crazy things.

*Not really anti-war. Just anti-what's assumed to be Obama's war. Neither party is actually anti-war. That really would be crazy.

Fete Francaise

Two years ago today we would have just gotten back from our week in Paris.

This weekend, I already think I know what I'm doing for lunch.

Corner balconies
Lots and lots of vacation pics

Picking the poison

For all the furor that rail transit critics like to generate over the dark spectre of (highly profitable) "levitating trains to Disneyland" you rarely hear them complain about the sorts of things we actually use rail transport for in this country, such as daily of shipments of poisonous chemicals through your neighborhood.
While Millar called the switch to bleach a "blessing," he cautioned that railroads, which are federally regulated, are allowed to carry many dangerous chemicals through urban areas, opening the door to accidents and terrorist attacks.

"If your city got successfully attacked, it would be a serious blow to the tourism industry, not only of New Orleans but of the country and maybe even the world," he said. "So you have more reason than most people to know what's being transported through your city."
Such accidents do, in fact, happen. And when they do they're much more serious than "a blow to the tourism industry" as that consultant so distastefully puts it. They affect the safety and health of actual residents who, if they're lucky, will spend subsequent decades fighting the railroad in court over an ever-diminishing compensatory sum. Take, for example, this quick trip down memory lane via the T-P archives.

Judge approves CSX settlement amount - Firm owned track where fire erupted
Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA) - Wednesday, April 3, 2002
Author: Susan Finch Staff writer
A class-action lawsuit over a 1987 chemical tank car fire that spewed fumes and ash into a Gentilly neighborhood moved closer to an end Tuesday when a judge approved a $220 million partial settlement to be paid by CSX Transportation Inc., owner of the track where the tank car was parked, and its insurers.

How much of the $220 million goes to each of the just over 9,000 plaintiffs, after deductions for their attorneys’ fees and the costs of administering the case, will be decided in later hearings before a special master appointed by Judge Wallace Edwards, who is overseeing the case. Checks will likely be ready for distribution this fall, one attorney said.

During a five-hour hearing at City Hall, Edwards also agreed to reserve 40 percent of the $220 million from which to pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys, who have fronted the cost of pursuing the case for 14 years. But he warned that doesn’t mean the lawyers will get 40 percent.

The CSX settlement is the second in the massive case, which went to trial in 1997 and ended with a New Orleans jury concluding nine companies were negligent in the accident caused when the chemical butadiene leaking from the tank car caught fire .

Six of the companies reached a $215 million settlement with residents in 2000, and that money has been parceled out. Attorneys got just over 38 percent as fees. Negotiations with two remaining defendants in the case are continuing.

By agreeing to the $220 million settlement, CSX avoids having to pay punitive damages set at $850 million by Judge Wallace Edwards, who has presided in the long-running case. It also makes the company’s appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court moot.

New Orleans attorney Russ Herman, testifying as an expert in class-action cases for the plaintiffs’ management committee, advised accepting the CSX settlement now, given the fact that lawmakers both in Louisiana and in Congress are increasingly inclined to do away with punitive damage awards. Had the accident happened in 1997, when the case went to trial, punitive damages would not have been an option because the Legislature had already changed the law.

Edwards agreed: "A settlement like this, to me, is like a bird in the hand versus two in the bush," he said. He added that the case has been "an unbelievable struggle" that he’s eager to end and move on to other things: "I’ve got a new John Deere tractor that has four-wheel drive and a bush hog on it," he said.

More than 200 people packed into the City Council chamber for the hearing, and many others were left outside because there weren’t enough seats. Joseph Bruno, an attorney for the residents, said that no one who objected to the settlement amount was denied entrance.

Special master Patrick Juneau had overruled all objections that were filed before Tuesday, but he had asked the judge to hear those who were complaining for the first time.

One of them, Clementine Mims, said, "I feel $220 million isn’t sufficient enough for the 14 years I and my son have lived in fear of (contracting) cancer" from breathing fumes from the chemical fire . They have also suffered financial damage, she said.

New objections filed Tuesday will be addressed at later hearings before the special master.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The choice

I might be more willing to buy into this "free-market-choice-will-force-schools-to-be-better" argument if I thought that parents really had a "choice" to do much other than shut up and go along with the program.
With increased transparency and equal access, perhaps we wouldn’t be convinced that information such as what we actually pay as parents above and beyond what all our taxes go to in the public schools should be kept under wraps. This doesn’t mean that I don’t understand where parents are coming from when they refuse to talk about the equipment fees, the charges for each field trip, the constant pleas from the parent-teacher organizations and the schools themselves to please contribute to their annual funds and their fundraisers for your child’s education. On one level, it doesn’t seem like so much compared to, say, sending your child to a private school, where I’ve known people who have had to borrow from their children’s grandparents to pay tuition. To kvetch about a few hundred for these extras when people are shelling out thousands seems downright ungrateful. No matter what, you have to know that if you have children, you’re gonna be paying something. Get over it and keep bringing your child to school on time before you get slapped with fines and a visit from a social worker.

More from the NOPD protection racket

If you want to play cowboy in this town, there's a guy you have to see first.

The NOPD officers were complaining that the out-of-town guards didn't have appropriate paperwork and worried that the NOPD cops would lose out on details, Branch said.

Branch testified that Roussel told him he would take care of the problem. Roussel told him he was "best friends" with NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley and had even served as best man at Riley's wedding.

Branch was impressed. "That's a lot of stroke," he testified.

The Texas businessman testified that he gave Roussel $500 in cash in a clandestine meeting inside a Home Depot "storage building" for the assistance. Branch said he gave Roussel two other $500 payouts for assisting with subsequent security matters.

This first incident is apparently in the context of a "post-Gustav" security opportunity. There's just no way to measure the perpetual economic boom provided by life here in the disaster zone. And of course the "subsequent security matters" derive from Entergy. And it's all quite cute in its predictability and whatnot.

Imagination at work

This NYT story about how G.E. gets away with paying practically nothing in U.S. taxes is a couple of weeks old but shouldn't be passed over.
Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.'s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan “Imagination at Work” fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.

It also dovetails well with the below listed "Quote of the Day" since the current President with a (D) behind his name has seen fit to appoint G.E.'s CEO chair of his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. In fact, Obama's relationship with Immelt and G.E. makes us uncomfortable for all sorts of reasons.

In addition, it seems the Obama administration is pulling strings for GE overseas, applying diplomatic pressure on behalf of the company. India has resisted efforts to limit nuclear power industry liability in the event of a catastrophic failure like Fukushima, Three Mile Island, or Chernobyl. A senior U.S. government official said recently that India will still have to “bring its nuclear-liability regime in line with international norms” to ensure that U.S. nuclear equipment suppliers feel comfortable doing business in India. In addition, bribery seems part of the act — WikiLeaks recently released a U.S. diplomatic cable that reported money was offered to lock down Indian legislators’ support for the nuclear pact. According to Brahma Chellaney, a professor at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research and former adviser to India’s national security council, the Indian government has been weakened by scandals and therefore despite the best efforts of the Obama administration “it is safe to say that the Indian [liability] legislation will not be amended to accommodate the interests of GE and Westinghouse.”

While it's hard work imagining a world in which two plutocrats like Obama and Immelt aren't the close partners they are maybe we can imagine starting to work on it a little bit.

Quote of the Day

Jonathan Schwarz:
It really feels like we're back in the nineties, trying to walk people step by step through the reality that bad actions are not transformed into good ones when the president carrying them out has a (D) after their names.
And that's just from the comment thread. Read the whole post.

Feeding "Ham Sandwiches" to Afghans

More from Rolling Stone's article on the Kill Team
Given the lack of response from their superiors, the soldiers of 3rd Platoon now believed they could kill with impunity – provided they planted "drop weapons" at the scene to frame their victims as enemy combatants. The presence of a weapon virtually guaranteed that a shooting would be considered a legitimate kill, even under the stricter rules of engagement the military had implemented as a key element of counterinsurgency. A drop weapon was the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card. And in the chaotic war zone, they were easy to find.

Welcome Back to the Gulf!

Welcome Back to the Gulf

That is, if you can get past security.
Like some lame iteration of Groundhog Day, the hundredth time I try to pull onto the Elmer's Island access road from Highway 1 in southern Louisiana—some 200 days after the last time I tried it—I am, once again, stopped. Last year, it was cops blocking the road. Now it's private security hired by BP.

"You have to get permission from central command to come on here, and then you'll probably have to be escorted by an official," the security guard tells me.

"How hard is it to get permission?"

"Usually pretty hard." She says a local reporter couldn't get through recently.

This cheered me up

Gill's column about these ridiculous St. Aug parents and students agitating in the streets for the privilege of having themselves beaten with paddles is pretty funny.
The Josephites, under prompting by Aymond, ordered a temporary paddling ban, but 500 students, parents and alumni took to the streets Saturday to demand an immediate resumption. This makes New Orleans the only place on earth where campaigners believe children have been insufficiently abused in a Catholic institution.

Moring any better yet?

The Kill Team
How U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan murdered innocent civilians and mutilated their corpses – and how their officers failed to stop them. Plus: An exclusive look at the war crime photos censored by the Pentagon

Pleasant morning

How's yours?

A new paper in Conservation Letters calculates that the numbers of whales and dolphins killed in BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster could be 50 times higher than the number of carcasses found.

Update: Oh and also Obama would prefer you didn't know that.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


A veritable gusher of unsecured data

NEW ORLEANS -- BP says one of its employees lost a laptop containing personal data belonging to thousands of residents who filed claims for compensation after the Gulf oil spill. The oil giant disclosed the potential data security breach to The Associated Press on Tuesday. But BP spokesman Curtis Thomas said the company doesn't have any evidence that claimants' personal information has been misused. Thomas said the company mailed out letters Monday to roughly 13,000 people, notifying them that their data was in the computer.

Keep in mind, also, that the estimated 13,000 individuals whose personal info has been compromised is a BP number so we'll have to wait and see how solid that is.


Monroe and Opelousas actually have more in common than do Bucktown and Carrollton.


I've just been informed that the Jefferson Parish delegation's plan referenced in the link above has failed.


If we've already established that Gulf Coast Claims Facility claims processors are not allowed to say they are independent of BP, and those same processors are funding Governor Jindal's reelection campaign, can we say that the Governor is independent? Do we consider him a subcontractor?

Update: Speaking of independence from BP, what do we make of this?

Institutional pressures work in small, subtle ways and you better believe British Petroleum and Ken Feinberg know this.

They also know that LSU, the university where Jack Weiss is a respected leader in law, has received millions upon millions of dollars from British Petroleum. Now, I wouldn’t insinuate a direct quid-pro-quo is in effect, but the idea that those amounts of money don’t linger somewhere in the back of Mr. Weiss’s mind as he selects these judges is not so easy to dismiss. Especially these days, as Bobby Jindal is turning the destruction of Louisiana’s higher education into an art form, cutting millions of dollars to universities already financially hurting.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Perhaps they will recommend "Crescent City Clear"

If Ray Nagin had nominated Gary Solomon and Jeff Thomas to tell us what to do with the Sewerage and Water Board, there might have been some measure of public indignation. Funny that when Mitch does that very thing, we get shrugged shoulders all around.

Boustany: Against it after having been for it

Which in this case represents progress.
U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, told the state Senate's redistricting committee Monday that he opposes moving any Acadiana parishes that he now represents in the 7th district to a Shreveport-based district. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, emphasized his opposition to carving the capital region into as many as four districts.

This argument over whether or not Catholic and traditionally French Acadiana has enough "in common" with Bible Belt North Louisiana is fun even though it seems a little dated from a certain point of view. Modern Louisiana outside of Orleans Parish seems increasingly to have become a monolithic land of Teabaggery to many of us.

I don't mean to sound like I'm pulling a Richman here, but after 50 years of saturated mass culture via radio, television, and now the internet added to the steady disappearance of traditional lifestyles in the ever-shrinking Louisiana wetlands, is it not going too far to say that Cajuns as we once understood them are themselves becoming "fairie folk" who exist only in the images produced for the sake of tourism marketing? Today, at least, Boustany doesn't think so.

Boustany deflected questions about his thoughts on the north Louisiana districts, instead focusing his testimony on Acadiana.. "You're taking French speaking rice farmers and crawfish farmers and putting them in north Louisiana," he said. "It's very disruptive. Folks across my current congressional district are opposed to that."
Over the winter, Menckles started us watching the unbearably stupid HBO series True Blood* which I've observed also tends to place "French speaking" Louisiana persons and settings along the I-20 corridor for some reason. Has Charlaine Harris drawn up a redistricting proposal yet?

*Still not as stupid as Treme which is currently doing to New Orleans folk culture what the previous 30 years of marketing has done to the Cajuns.

Quote of the Day 2

Charging different amounts based on the hardware is like charging people different prices for listening to the same music on headphones vs. speakers.

Comes from this explanation (if you can call it that) of the NYT's new paywall.
For starters, the plan is confusing. You get 20 page views for free. You can also get around the paywall five times per day if you come via a search engine. Or are reading one of their blogs. Or come via a link from another site, which might mean I can link to NYT stories, but why risk it? Top news is sorta free and certain stories might be free. Maybe. Then, if you're a paper subscriber you get the website for free. Okay, so what's the paywall. For $15 for every four weeks (not every month), you get access to everything on a laptop/desktop or a smartphone. But not an iPad (um, unless you use a browser, I guess). For $5 more you lose the smartphone access, but gain iPad/tablet access. Huh? Exactly. For $35 every four weeks you can get the NY Times on both a smartphone and the iPad. Oh, and if you pay, you still see all the ads. And, finally, this is the introductory pricing. Who the hell knows what the final pricing is. So sign up and expect to have to pay more later. Isn't that appealing?

So many things aren't clear to me about how this is going to work. Last week I learned that (for the most part) articles accessed through Twitter links are free. But for some reason arranging them all in one logical place on Twitter is out of bounds. This is an especially grating feature of the policy from a library perspective.

We live in a strange time where the leading industry in information technology is devising ways to make information less accessible especially to people without the means to pay for it. I'm going to keep trying to find ways around that for as long as I can. My Android NYT app wants to update right now. I'm wondering if I can keep reading for free if I refuse to do so. Also can I still get everything via rss?

Quote of the Day

From AP reporter Melinda Deslatte's Tweeter Tube:
Congressman Fleming says Shreveport and Monroe don't have much in common. He says he can represent part of Acadiana though.

The current redistricting plan favored by Republicans, and by the Governor, who had previously said "I know my boundaries" indicating he would stay out of the process, would maintain the two North Louisiana congressional districts and extend them southward across the "Pine Line" where the commonalities of place really do break apart.

The outline from Jindal, Alexander and Fleming would mean no major changes for that part of the state. Yet combined with changes to the majority African-American 2nd Congressional District based in New Orleans, it would dictate major changes everywhere else.

With the loss of a district statewide, the long-standing 4th and 5th districts would have to reach well into Acadiana, the capital region or even Lake Charles and Lafayette in order to reach the necessary 755,000 or so required residents. The 2nd District, meanwhile, would be expanded toward Baton Rouge to pick up enough residents and maintain majority non-white composition in compliance with federal law. Together, those parameters make it virtually impossible to draw the remaining three south Louisiana districts without displeasing at least one population center in the state.

Our best guess is that when Jindal said he knows his boundaries, what he meant was he knows which congressional boundaries he wants the legislature to draw. At the moment that likely means keeping the two North Louisiana districts, but also splitting Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes into separate districts. Which of course makes perfect sense as we know those areas have absolutely nothing in common.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Making rules for entrance into the butchery pools

Not so sure comparing the legislature's redistricting session to the chaos of post-Katrina New Orleans was the best way to go there, Clancy. Aside from the fact that some people may find it insensitive, it also doesn't quite scan logically. Rather than flood victims fighting for survival, politicians fighting over a reduced apportionment draws more closely to images of kindergarteners screaming at each other over who gets the rest of the cookies.

That doesn't mean it's inappropriate to bring the storm into this conversation. I'm not sure that Louisiana wouldn't have lost a congressional seat regardless but certainly we can attribute the accelerated ascendancy of Republican political power within the state to demographic shifts wrought by the flood.

Anyway, whatever metaphor helps you visualize what's happening, it's going to be an ugly one. At the very end of this column DuBos reminds us that whatever plan squeezes through will still need to be approved by the Justice Department to ensure that it is in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. I can't help but wonder what weight Kostelka's "little lady" comment might bear on that process.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Beyond the scope of the assumption"

It's the new Japanese way of saying "Nobody could have predicted" which, we all know means somebody sure as shit predicted it and was ignored.

Yukinobu Okamura said Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of Fukushima 1 plant damaged by the March 11 earthquake and resulting tsunami, had insisted on the safety of its quake-resistance design and was reluctant to raise the assumption of possible quake damage, Kyodo news agency reported.

'It is odd to have an attitude of not taking into consideration indeterminate aspects,' Okamura, who heads the Active Fault and Earthquake Research Center, was quoted as saying.

Okamura issued his warning in 2009, based on his study since 2004 of the traces of a major tsunami believed to have swept away about 1,000 people in the year 869 after an 8.3-magnitude earthquake.

His research showed that tsunami had struck a wide range of the coastal regions of north-eastern Japan, the same region hit by this month's disasters, Kyodo said.

The country is facing a grave nuclear crisis since the earthquake and tsunami struck the plant. Its cooling functions failed and radioactive materials were released. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from surrounding areas.

The operator has repeatedly said that the March 11 tsunami was 'beyond the scope of the assumption.'

Dave Duerson's brain arrives at the lab

Smushed Brain

Okay not really. That's actually a chocolate marshmallow brain we fed to the kids attending today's brain exhibit at the library graciously provided by the Greater New Orleans chapter of the Society for Neuroscience. In reality, retired football players' brains are in far worse shape than this.

Anyway, I'm about to finish my lunch coffee and reluctantly spend the rest of this lovely spring afternoon brain-sitting and thinking the various events I could have attended otherwise. There's the NOLA Road Food Festival where every year, it seems, I happen to miss the creation of the "world's largest oyster po-boy". Also a few minutes ago, Rosalind called me while she was on her way to City Park for Hogs For the Cause but was having trouble finding it. ("I'm about to start sniffing the air for cooking pigs.")

But where I really wanted to be today was the Tennessee Williams Festival where Fletcher Mackel, Ellis Hennican, and Jeff Duncan took questions about the Saints and writing about football. From the Gambit account of the panel:
The Saints flirtation with San Antonio after Hurricane Katrina was the next topic, and Duncan said that he still ran into roadblocks when trying to write about it four years later: "The NFL is a powerful Goliath, and people are still scared to discuss what went on there." He added, "One version of the story is the Saints version," and called it "revisionist history. I certainly think the Saints are trying to burnish the legacy of Tom Benson."

"It's OK," Henican told him. "He can't fire you."

"Well, he thinks he can," said Duncan.

I wish I had been there. I really would have liked to ask or at least hear more about the Saints' strongarming of the local media in recent years. As an outside observer I've been nothing short of disgusted.

Meanwhile, regarding the "revisionist history" of Tom Benson's flirtation with San Antonio, now would be a good time to review this YHRT post.

Heckuva jobs all around

And you thought awards season was over.
The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association Thursday presented its 2011 Blue Heron environmental award to the secretary of the Louisiana agency that oversees some state regulations of association members. Chris John, the association's president, said there is nothing inappropriate about giving an award to Scott Angelle, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.

That's right. The oil industry doles out an annual award to its favorite regulator. This is really the best idea since the "Bernardo" award for "Excellence in Recovery". Well, maybe it isn't quite that glamorous, but still it's clear that the industry knows how to take care of the people who take care of it.

Take BP, for example. They'll tell you you can never pay enough for a decent (non-independent) claims administrator.

Nor can you pour enough money into advertising as I discovered this week while reading a blurb about how the company responsible for the latest spill is "helping" and noticed this ad in the corner.

Welcome Back to the Gulf

Welcome Back!

Friday, March 25, 2011

New DOJ report on NOPD Homicide division

Right here, have a look. (PDF) Unlike the civil rights report issued last week, this one is far less sensational and geared more toward making technical recommendations. The tone is far sunnier as well.

With more than 120 contact hours of interviews at NOPD, the Assessment Team found many members of the Homicide Section to be professionally oriented, dedicated to their mission, and hard-working. They understand the diverse strife that both the city and police department have experienced and are attempting to overcome those challenges in order to serve the city in the most effective way possible to make New Orleans a safe and just community.

Interesting also that DOJ doesn't think the homicide rate here is as strongly (or as I read it intractably) gang-related as it is in other cities. Oh and unlike the civil rights report it lays a lot more of the blame for the current high murder rate on the flood.

While an array of economic, social, and political variables have aggravated both the commission of homicides and the reduced capability to clear those crimes, the inescapable glue that binds these aggravating factors together in recent years is ―the storm.‖

Still reading. More later.

Already I found a funny. I'm still trying to figure out what they mean about the murder rate not being driven by gang activity if they simultaneously place so much emphasis on the drug trade.

Collectively, since drug trafficking is a causal factor in a significant number of homicides in the city, the successes of these collective efforts would reduce drug trafficking and therefore reduce homicides that are directly or collaterally related to the illicit drug trade. Systemic problems require systemic solutions.

Defining strategic priorities also provides guidance to the organization on the allocation of personnel and resources. Necessarily, some enforcement activities may be reduced in order to provide more personnel and resources to the priorities. For example, enforcement of prostitution, traffic, illicit gambling, and pawn shop details may be reduced in order to have personnel and resources focus on drug enforcement.

Did DOJ just tell Serpas to knock it off with all the damn traffic checkpoints?

Upperdate: One of the first conclusions in the report, unsurprisingly, is that Homicide is understaffed. The report recommends that staffing be increased by at least 10 people or more depending on whether or not you count an additional "cold case" squad. The aim is to assign each investigator a maximum of 6 cases per year. Which may be difficult considering this anticipated bump in the workload.

Interviews with the District Attorney’s staff indicated that the District Attorney is reexamining a significant number of homicide cases that the preceding District Attorney declined to prosecute. This initiative could involve as many as 400 cases and would obviously place a significant strain on the resources of the Homicide Section. Many of these cases are not ―cold‖ in the traditional sense;9 rather, they simply were not pursued for prosecution for a variety of reasons.

Uppestdate: The report also finds that homicide investigators are badly under-equipped. Apparently investigators are responsible for providing tools such as digital voice recorders or cameras out of their own pockets resulting in varying quality of such equipment as well as compatibility issues. Also it goes without saying that their computers suck. Oh and there's this.

When suspects and witnesses are brought to the Homicide Section for questioning, it is essential to have an audio recording of the interview and highly preferable to have a video recording. These recordings are useful for follow-up investigations; helpful in sorting out conflicting statements; important for credibility in the quality of the statement, including demonstrating adherence to civil rights protections; valuable for developing a case for prosecution; useful for prosecutors in presenting cases in court; and important evidence to help internal investigations should an Investigator be accused of improper conduct during an interview. Examining the interview rooms at the Homicide Section offices revealed that only one room had a functioning audio recording system and it was dated. Without the ability to functionally use all of the interview rooms during an investigation—or more importantly, multiple concurrent investigations—the utility and efficiency of the Homicide Section is significantly reduced

Not expecting NOPD to miraculously find the money to resolve any of that anytime soon, let alone provide the increased overtime and more liberal use of take-home vehicles the report also recommends.

Uppesterdate: Another funny,

While there is more work that is needed to fully develop the Scientific Investigation Division, they do have a functional forensic analysis capability. Ironically, NOPD Investigators are not fully aware of the division’s analytic capability. Some Investigators stated that the department did not have a functional crime laboratory. This obviously indicates a communication problem.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Larry Kudlow fails twice

In addition to being an asshole, turns out he's also wrong.

Toyota's U.S. manufacturing arm is preparing for a possible shutdown because of parts shortages from Japan, a Toyota spokesman said. Word has gone out to all 13 of Toyota's factories in the United States, Canada and Mexico. This does not mean that the plants will stop working, Toyota spokesman Mike Goss said, but that they should be ready in case the need arises.

Quote of the Day


“Blowout preventer is a misnomer,” said an engineer who assisted in the probe and who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the investigation. “People have been thinking of this as a fail-safe device, and it’s more of an operating device."


Way back when Stacy Head was blowing kisses at housing activists concerned about the net loss to New Orleans in affordable housing due to the demolition and replacement of the "Big Four" complexes, the consensus was that the "volvo-driving outsiders" were being alarmist. Surely public housing in New Orleans was getting an upgrade, right?


Plans to build 410 new units at the old B.W. Cooper complex stand to be drastically curtailed if Congress doesn't act before Sept. 30 to extend the GO Zone tax-credit deadline by another year, officials from the Housing Authority of New Orleans said at their monthly meeting Tuesday.

If the deadline remains in place, the maximum number of new apartments that will be built at Cooper will drop to 250, officials said -- a decrease of nearly 40 percent.

And that's if they can be built by the end of the year -- no sure bet, given that the Cooper redevelopment hasn't had much momentum to date. Due to a series of lost investors, builders have yet to complete a single apartment there.

The same year-end deadline also looms over Lafitte -- the other of the "Big Four" sites where rebuilding has lagged. Lafitte has finished its first phase of 134 apartments, and officials hope to finish 142 more by the end of the year. Another 100 apartments will be included in a larger building for the elderly that doesn't rely upon tax credits.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Railways pitch plan to run New Orleans Public Belt Railroad
As presented, the railway company would set service rates, though that raised eyebrows with some commissioners, who called it an inherent conflict of interest.

Also under the arrangement, employees of the Class I railroads would assume responsibility for all traffic across Public Belt lines, a task that for decades has been handled by Public Belt conductors and engineers.

While the firms would offer the Public Belt's 200 employees preference for open jobs, buyouts or layoffs consistent with existing labor agreements could be in the cards, Santamaria said.

Railroad companies on board with the plan include the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, CSX Transportation, the Illinois Central Railroad, the Norfolk Southern Railway and the Union Pacific Railroad.

Railroad operators get to set their own rates. A whole bunch of people get laid off. Who could possibly have a problem there?

Tenet Health Care settles out of court in the Memorial case. This just on the heels of reports yesterday that the settlement talks had broken down where we read,

"I think it is going to be very embarrassing to Tenet the corporation. I see a number of embarrassing emails and communications that are going to be released," Legal Analyst Tim Meche told WWL First News.

He says the case will come down to a pair of key claims against the former owners of the hospital.

"One, they were warned that something like this could have occurred and they failed to take adequate steps to ensure the safety of their people," Meche said. "Two, once the event happened they were derelict in failing to act to get their people our of there."
Looks like Tenet has managed to save themselves some embarrassment.

Louisiana to opt out of health-insurance exchanges in federal law

(Louisiana Health Secretary Bruce) Greenstein's decision marks the second time that Louisiana has outsourced an aspect of the new law to federal officials. Last April, the state decided against participating in high-risk pools for people with pre-existing medical conditions that leave them unable to buy insurance in the private marketplace.

On the anniversary of the enactment of the health reform law, The Rude Pundit writes about one of its successes while also acknowledging its failures.
Now, you can say what you want about the Affordable Care Act on its one-year anniversary, which happens to be today, and virtually all of your criticism from the left would be correct. It is a massive giveaway to private insurance companies. It doesn't do enough to rein in costs. It doesn't guarantee 100% of Americans will be covered. And on and on, in so very many ways a massive disappointment (and not, as the nutzoid conservatives would have you believe, a government takeover of anything or a violation of the Constitution).

But here's the deal: Dallas Wiens got a face transplant because of it, not because good, conservative, church-going folk stepped up and had cookie sales, not because the myriad organizations that have "family" in their name gave a goddamn. No, Wiens received the first full face transplant in U.S. history because of the government. The operation itself was paid for by a grant from the Defense Department, which is looking for ways to help soldiers who get horrible scars from combat. And the $1300-$2000 a month in drugs that he will need to take for the rest of his life to prevent his body from rejecting the transplant will be paid for by his father's insurance. That's because Wiens is 25. And that inhuman law mockingly called "Obamacare" raised the age that a child can stay on a parent's insurance to 26. Wiens will turn 26 in May. In June, again, because of changes in the law, he will qualify for Medicare as a disabled person.

The redistricting session of the Louisiana Legislature is every bit as horrifying as one would have expected.

Chairman Kostelka, R-Monroe, several times snapping at his colleagues, many of them African-American Democrats, who are pushing an east-west oriented north Louisiana district that would be more racially balanced than what Kostelka proposes.

At one point, he sought to quiet Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, addressing her only as "little lady."

Finally, at today's City Council meeting, Jackie Clarkson told Chief Serpas to "keep up the good work"

Deal or No Big Deal

It's 2011. Isn't Reggie Bush past whatever prime he had anyway?

Bush seems to be willing to play ball with the Saints, which is a good sign. Oftentimes players' pride gets in the way when they're asked to take a paycut. But Bush seems to understand that his market value isn't the same as it was when he was the No. 2 overall draft choice coming out of USC in 2006.
Yes well that arrow has gone in only one direction ever since.

Meanwhile, there was some interesting speculation on yesterday's Sports Hangover show as to whether or not Tom Benson might be feeling a little vindictive toward Drew Brees when the time comes to sign his extension. Right now Brees is a named plaintiff in players' anti-trust suit against the NFL. Those of us with long memories will note that Benson isn't the sort of guy who tolerates defiant employees well.


We had no idea that could happen
Anglo-Suisse Offshore Partners issued a statement last night expressing "surprise" that what it claimed was a minor leak from a well that's been out of use for some time could have produced miles-long slicks that garnered national media attention. The company has been in the process of permanently plugging the well -- located in a shallow area about 30 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La. Anglo-Suisse owned a cluster of five platforms in that area that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Over the past year, as we've become more familiar with the negative effects of having so much oil and gas infrastructure just offshore, I've come to wonder what it means, exactly to "permanently plug" a well and how many more "surprises" we can expect from the innumerable holes in the ocean floor that have been bored and plugged over the years.

Also wondering if we'll ever be able to accurately gauge the number and severity of such surprises since, well,

The confusion surrounding this latest Gulf spill points up a fatal flaw of America's oil pollution reporting system, which operates via a virtual honor code. Under present reporting protocols, polluters are tasked with the responsibility of turning themselves in when they're responsible for an accident -- knowing all the while that a federal inspector will probably never be dispatched to investigate.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Moment of zen

Former New Orleans Inspector General Robert Cerasoli once remarked that what sets New Orleans corruption apart from what goes on in other cities is that our corruption isn't as "sophisticated" as theirs is. Or something like that anyway.

Four years and one whole IG later, I'm not sure we've entirely caught up yet.

City officials could not immediately provide information on Braden's salary. Braden began working for the NOPD on Monday. She replaces Bob Young, a former NOPD officer who, as a civilian, served as commander of the public information unit for the past couple of years. Young left theNOPD at the end of last year.

Braden's father is a lobbyist and a prolific donor to Louisiana political campaigns. State records show he has donated $18,850 to Mitch Landrieu's campaigns since 2003.

Means testing

Isn't the new "public-private" NORD interesting.

The fledgling New Orleans Recreation Development Commission has vowed not only to improve opportunities for the city's children, but also to equalize the quality of programs and facilities across wealthy and poor neighborhoods.

The goal faces its first challenge as officials scramble to figure out a way to charge identical fees to every child who enrolls this summer in more than three dozen day camps organized by City Hall.

With registration set to open April 4 for 6,600 slots for children and teenagers, overhauling the established rate schedule -- a handful of camps are free, while others charge $10 to $325 per child -- could delay the May 23 start of camp, officials said.

Rejecting that option, they are investigating the possibility of reimbursing families whose upfront costs exceed a to-be-determined threshold.

I'm not sure what city they thought they were providing a "public" service for where they decided they could charge $325 per child. The article lays out an alternate plan under which there would be a citywide fee of $20 paid to a central account for reimbursing the "private partners". Seems like a semi-rational fix but, again, I wonder if we're unnecessarily complicating a process for the sake of giving the "private partners" a sense of ownership.

Update: Hey, is there a discount if your campsite is contaminated with lead?

Ah yes, the classic "nobody could have predicted" defense

Jury to hear Katrina hospital case

Loyola Law Professor Dane Ciolino says, "Tenet will, no doubt, argue that this storm was unprecedented and the aftermath was essentially unforeseeable. Then as a result, they'll argue that their reaction and their preparedness was reasonable."

According to the rest of that story, it doesn't look like the documents will back that defense up very well. See also this NYT report on Memorial from 2009.

Not exactly "anarchy" per se

Isn't this just siding with the bigger beast from that point of view?

Because ...

A group calling itself the New Orleans Anarchist Media Coalition took aim at the force on Monday, denouncing the NOPD for acting "unprofessionally, impulsively and with undue intimidation and force."

They made two demands:

First, for "full investigative powers" for the city's independent police monitor. As is, the police monitor only "oversees" internal investigations into alleged misconduct or the use of force.

Second, they want "the firing of any police officer who engages in or has been complicit to acts of murder, rape, harassment, beatings or any other abuses of their power."

Some rather draconian recommendations for an "anarchist" coalition, no?

Monday, March 21, 2011


We've been involved in these ugly wars for almost 10 years now. People tend to forget about that except every now and again when it accidentally becomes photogenically ugly.

The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel has published two photographs of U.S. Army soldiers posing with the corpse of an Afghan civilian, The Washington Post reports. The photographs are included in the print issue of Der Spiegel being distributed today, but advance copies of the images were sent to subscribers in an email over the weekend.

The Washington Post reports that the photographs depict a moment shortly after the civilian was killed in an incident the Army has classified as a murder.

Of course it won't take long to have the point obscured. For example, who wants to bet that if WWL radio treats this story at all, it will be with a listener poll asking if you are outraged that the photos were published?


I know a lot of people are going to laugh because the only congressman saying it is Kucinich but, as Obama himself has said, "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

Keep in mind also this is a President who chose not to investigate or prosecute the previous administration's unconstitutional abuses of power, acts of torture, unauthorized warfare, etc. but instead told us it was time to "move forward" before going on to, in fact, endorse and expand those policies.

So Kucinich, "shrill" as you may find him, raises an important question. How do we ever get to a place where we're finally checking the growth of the ever-expanding security state, if we never hold its enablers accountable?

Still happening

Report: Oil Comes Ashore On Grand Isle

Obviously we need to ask for more marketing funds.

More: Oil from well being plugged may be cause of beach pollution

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Shrinking the footprint

Politically, anyway.

The New Orleans region south of Lake Pontchartrain would lose six seats in the state House of Representatives, dropping from 25 to 19 seats in the 105-member chamber, under a draft redistricting plan presented Friday by Speaker Jim Tucker.

Could also make for some interesting squabbling over the remaining real estate.

It also forecasts the potential for incumbents to have to battle each other for re-election. Several of those matchups would occur in New Orleans. The Lakeview-based House district represented by Nick Lorusso would reach into Jefferson Parish, absorbing part of the district now represented by John LaBruzzo. The 9th Ward would be combined with a broad swath of eastern New Orleans in a new House district where Reps. Charmaine Marchand Stiaes and Wesley Bishop both reside. A third eastern New Orleans district would essentially enlarge the existing 100th District represented by Austin Badon. The rest of the East would be included in a district with St. Bernard Parish and much of Plaquemines Parish.

In the Senate, J.P. Morrell and Cynthia Willard-Lewis reside in the same proposed district, which covers most of eastern New Orleans, part of Gentilly and reaches south across the river into the West Bank, including Jefferson Parish, areas that Morrell represents now. In Jefferson Parish, Sens. Conrad Appel and Julie Quinn reside in what would be a Metairie-based district. Quinn's current district reached to the north shore, but the population growth there was sufficient for that part of her district to anchor a district that doesn't cross the lake. The new design still would reach into Uptown, as Quinn's current district does.

Today we learned also that Quinn is bowing out. So... less fun but still will be quite a show.

Protection racket

Like any lame ass mafia film

The inadequate regulation of details, as well as lack of prohibitions on officers soliciting work, creates an environment where officers can essentially extort businesses to hire detail officers, the report concluded. Justice Department investigators described one business owner who said he was told that if officers weren't hired, no police would protect his business.

The good news about some of these DOJ findings is that fixes do exist for them. It shouldn't be too hard to continue allowing details while also cleaning up the way in which they are assigned and managed.

In other words, Jackie has a point!

Criminal Division

So this was interesting

Two sources familiar with the Justice Department's investigation say the feds have been trying to determine whether BP officials used their knowledge of non-public information about the spill to engage in illegal insider trading.

BP itself has acknowledged for months in public securities filings that the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are "investigating securities matters arising in relation to the incident."

There are no public records indicating that BP executives took advantage of inside information to beat the stock market, where BP shares lost more than half their value in the six weeks after the April 28 disclosure that BP's initial estimate of a 1,000-barrel-a-day spill was wrong. But major BP investors allege in a civil case in Houston that the company low-balled the spill's effects to artificially buttress the stock price.

The interest in possible manipulation of BP's stock price after the April 20 spill may be part of a major change last week in the way that Justice is running its criminal and civil probe of the incident.

James Cole, recently named the No. 2 man in President Obama's Justice Department, has put the department's Criminal Division in charge of the oil spill investigation. That took the lead prosecution role away from the Environment Division, signaling that prosecutors are taking a serious look at possible crimes beyond what caused the spill itself.

BP declined to comment and Justice and the SEC declined to confirm or deny that such an investigation exists.

Maybe the DOJ can take BP into receivership via consent decree the way they're about to do NOPD. After all this kind of dysfunction doesn't just go away on its own.

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating a large oil sheen about 20 miles north of the site of last April's Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.

Pollution investigators have been dispatched to Main Pass Block 41 in response to a call around 11 a.m. to the National Response Center, the federal point of contact for reporting oil and chemical spills, said Paul Barnard, an operations controller for Coast Guard Sector New Orleans.

The sheen was described as about a half-mile long and a half-mile wide, he said. Barnard had no further details around 12:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sock puppets

Your military budget at work

The project has been likened by web experts to China's attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.

The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as "sock puppets" – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.

The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations "without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries".

Well they've probably got a ways to go still regarding that "discovered by sophisticated adversaries" part. Recall that a pilot program executed by the US Army Corps of Engineers was snuffed out by NOLA.com and Sandy Rosenthal which doesn't say much for the level of sophistication we're dealing with.

The "How Wonderful Are We" show --Updated

The Mayor, the Chief of Police and the US Department of Justice are expected to release the results of the DOJ's examination of the police department at a press conference this morning. I'll be shocked if the report says anything other than, "Things were a little weird but the guys in charge now are awesome and they are fixing it." It's what the politically astute Serpas and Landrieu invited DOJ here for in the first place. It's also why the release of this survey which appears to reinforce the theme was timed the way it was.

Update: The preliminary tweetering suggests the DOJ report may be a heavier issue than I thought.

Upperdate: As I was saying in the comments, It isn't yet clear that DOJ recommended any specific actions. If they do not, then there really isn't much point to what we just saw. I just read a report on what might be expected.
It is widely expected that the department's review will eventually lead to formal oversight of the department through a consent decree, which will be negotiated between the Justice Department and the city. Landrieu has already indicated he welcomes this kind of formal oversight, in which the NOPD will have to implement specific reforms outlined in the decree. The effort would be overseen by a federal judge and independent monitor.
But at this point, it isn't clear to me that anyone at the press conference addressed this issue directly.

The gist of the presser still appears to be, "Yes, NOPD is fucked up but this administration wants to fix it" And of course, at this very moment, Serpas is at City Council using the event to push his own questionable wish to subvert Civil Service hiring rules. In other words, I'm not impressed yet. Or shocked.

Uppestdate: Report available online from the DOJ site.

Uppesterdate: From CNN

"Our next step will be to work with the (police) department to develop a consent decree, which will involve federal oversight," (Assistant AG Thomas Perez) said.

Perez said as part of that consent decree, benchmarks will be established to make sure the police department is improving. He said the benchmarks will address areas such as racial profiling and use of force.

Looks like today was a big day after all. Still the Mayor and the Chief made a deft political play and frankly I don't have much confidence that this Chief would have changed much on his own.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


CNN: Official: Spent fuel rods exposed, heightening concerns

The water served to both cool the uranium fuel and shield it. But once the uranium fuel was no longer covered by water, its zirconium cladding that encases the fuel rods heated, generating hydrogen, said Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and a former official with the Department of Energy.

That caught fire, resulting in a situation that is "very, very serious," he told CNN. He said the next solution may involve nuclear plant workers having to take heroic acts. Asked to be more specific, he said, "This is a situation where people may be called in to sacrifice their lives. ... It's very difficult for me to contemplate that but it's, it may have reached that point."

One of these things is not like the others

T-P: More residents satisfied with NOPD's performance, survey finds

Seven of the eight police districts reported boosts in satisfaction. The exception was the NOPD's 5th District, where respondents reported a drop in satisfaction of 8 percentage points.

I kind of like this new Jindal campaign ad

The part where it says "we can't be satisfied with the progress we've made"

Pure gold. And pretty accurate too.

I believe the memo was titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike"

Japan warned over nuclear plants, WikiLeaks cables show

Warnings about the safety of nuclear power plants in Japan, one of the most seismologically active countries in the world, were raised during a meeting of the G8's Nuclear Safety and Security Group in Tokyo in 2008.

A US embassy cable obtained by the WikiLeaks website and seen by The Daily Telegraph quoted an unnamed expert who expressed concern that guidance on how to protect nuclear power stations from earthquakes had only been updated three times in the past 35 years.

The document states: "He [the IAEA official] explained that safety guides for seismic safety have only been revised three times in the last 35 years and that the IAEA is now re-examining them.

"Also, the presenter noted recent earthquakes in some cases have exceeded the design basis for some nuclear plants, and that this is a serious problem that is now driving seismic safety work."

The cables also disclose how the Japanese government opposed a court order to shut down another nuclear power plant in western Japan because of concerns it could not withstand powerful earthquakes.

Keep watching. Sooner or later we'll read about a TEPCO emergency response plan that somehow involves a Gulf Walrus.

On a more serious note, yesterday I posted a video clip of Barrack Obama telling a town hall meeting in New Orleans after the BP Macondo blowout,
There's no reason why, technologically, we can't employ nuclear energy in a safe and effective way. Japan does it and France does it, and it doesn't have greenhouse gas emissions, so it would be stupid for us not to do that in a much more effective way.

At the very least these cables should make it clear that the President was making statements that had no factual basis according to current U.S. intelligence. In this case, the President was telling a crowd of people concerned about one energy producer poisoning their coastline that maybe they should think about investing in another poisonous means of energy production, all while lying through his teeth.

And also as well and such (via Digby)
Back in November, President Obama was in India pushing that country’s government to pass legislation exempting GE from liability for nuclear “accidents.” That idea is probably not going to go very far now.

Jeffrey Immelt, the chairman and CEO of GE and a big friend of Obama’s (he was named to an unpaid post as “jobs czar” by the president earlier this year, despite the company’s long record of exporting US jobs to places like China and India), says it’s “too soon” to assess the impact on the company’s nuclear business prospects of the nuclear “accidents” in northern Japan.
Also from the department of disturbingly appropriate names: Immelt.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Prepared to do a heckuva job

Study: U.S. States 'Poorly Prepared' For Radiation Emergency
38 state health departments participated in the survey, including 26 of the 31 states that have nuclear power plants. States with nuclear power plants were asked to consider their responses independent of plant-specific plans and resources.

The study found several gaps in states' radiation emergency preparedness. For one, the survey reports that 73% of states "reported having minimal (53%) or no (21%) plans to conduct population-based exposure monitoring." Meanwhile, only 13% of states surveyed reported having "any written or detailed operations plan for radiologic analyses of biological or clinical samples." And 42% of states reported little or no planning to test first responders for radiation contamination.

Some information about Louisiana's radiological emergency response can be found via the state HSEP website although it looks like a generic description of what "Federal, State, and local officials" are expected to do.
Federal, State and local officials work together to develop site-specific emergency response plans for nuclear power plant accidents. These plans are tested through exercises that include protective actions for schools and nursing homes.

The plans also delineate evacuation routes, reception centers for those seeking radiological monitoring and location of congregate care centers for temporary lodging.

If the Department of Health and Hospitals has a radioactivity response plan, it doesn't publish it anywhere I could find it during the 30 minutes I spent interruptedly searching... although I did manage to find this pamphlet on "The Darker Side of Tanning" which kinda sorta has to do with radiation poisoning. Of course, the fact that I didn't find it online doesn't mean Louisiana isn't one of the 13% of survey respondents who actually have such a plan. So there's at least some degree of comfort we can take given our proximity to the potential hazard.

View Larger Map

Send in the 5th District

Billy clubs, tasers, pepper spray, the whole nine. Let's end this crap once and for all.
"Next Mardi Gras let's have some enforcement of rules banning roping off of public land by individuals for their exclusive use during parades. Let's also have some real enforcement of rules regarding placement of ladders. Most parade goers with ladders flouted the law and knew exactly what they were doing --their ladders should be confiscated."
Amen, NOLA.com commenter person. This Mardi Gras was uncomfortable for a number of reasons chief among those being the inconsiderate behavior of the neutral ground campers during the second weekend.

Prior to that weekend, Serpas and Landrieu said,

Police and administration officials said personal portable bathrooms, sofas and other furnishings will not be allowed on neutral grounds, nor will people be allowed to rope off areas and ladders should not be placed in front of parade lines.
Early on Thoth-Bacchus-Endymion Sunday I took a few pictures.

Space roped off with caution tape
Caution tape

Ladders roped together
Roped ladders

Ladders caution taped together to form a circular fortress

Tent after tent after tent

The tents are particularly annoying. At least a person standing behind a ladder wall can still kind of see the parade. Tents make this impossible. Walls of tents make the majority of the route inaccessible to anyone but the tent dwellers themselves. Days after Mardi Gras, Mayor Landrieu said,
"I think I can say without fear of contradiction it was, by and large, the biggest crowd that was ever on the streets of the city for any parade, " Landrieu said. "The crowds that are normally back past the outer edge of a neutral ground were actually back all the way across the street and into the cross streets."

Maybe there were, in fact, record crowds that day. But maybe they wouldn't have spilled "all the way across the street" if the neutral grounds were actually passable.

St. Charles Avenue on the non-parade side
Crowds spilling into the non-parade side of St. Charles

Major mess on the neutral ground
Tents and other obstructions in the neutral ground

All of this comes back to the matter of the Mayor's and the Chief's will to stand by their stated intent to enforce city ordinances. On Lundi Gras, mayoral spokeswoman Mary Beth Romig appeared on the Bob DelGiorno show on WWL radio and badly misinterpreted what those ordinances say. After some back and forth, Romig concluded that it's fine to rope off space or set up tents in the public neutral grounds as long as you are in that space when the parade comes. That isn't this this NOPD statement told us just a few weeks ago. It says,
Remember the Neutral Ground (Median) is public property and it is illegal to “rope off” or barricade areas for private use.
No conditional language about using what you take there. Not only is Romig's interpretation of the rules incorrect, it's also an admission that the city had no plan to enforce those rules. Strange since there was no similar ambivalence about the letter of the law in Marigny-Bywater this Carnival season.

If tough enforcement of minor ordinances is good for the hippies and punks who live on one side of town, certainly it's good for the soccer moms and dads from Metairie who camp out on the other, right?


I'm far from the first person to point out that the suggested name for a combined UNO and SUNO reads as "Ugh! No" so we'll skip that part. I've read comments elsewhere regarding the expense the state will incur during this "cost saving" combination simply in the logistical act of changing signage, stationery, and various official registrations. I don't think the commenters understand that the Jindal Administration probably isn't looking to invest in that undertaking any further than simply editing a few Wikipedia pages.


If nuking the Macondo well was on the table, why has no one yet suggested dumping oil on the Fukushima plant?

Great moments in energy policy

"Oil rigs today generally don't cause spills"

"There's no reason why, technologically, we can't employ nuclear energy in a safe and effective way. Japan does it and France does it, and it doesn't have greenhouse gas emissions, so it would be stupid for us not to do that in a much more effective way."*

"It's pronounced Noocyoolar"

*Mother Jones: Obama Touted Safety Record of Japan's Nuclear Industry

Update: See also Reactor Design in Japan Has Long Been Questioned

A long time

How long does it take for a city to build one amenity that everyone wants and two administrations push enthusiastically?

Monday, March 14, 2011

We interrupt the horror for this brief absurdity

From the NOLA info alerts:
New Orleans-Superintendent of Police Ronal Serpas is pleased to announce that the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission will host their annual awards luncheon awarding the New Orleans Police Department's Traffic Section the award for having the most DWI arrests in the state of Louisiana by a municipal police department.
I'm sure we're all very proud of the great work being done.

"Worse than a meltdown"

Still waiting for news to get better.

A 1997 study by the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island described a worst-case disaster from uncovered spent fuel in a reactor cooling pool. It estimated 100 quick deaths would occur within a range of 500 miles and 138,000 eventual deaths.

The study also found that land over 2,170 miles would be contaminated and damages would hit $546 billion.

That section of the Brookhaven study focused on boiling water reactors — the kind at the heart of the Japanese crisis.

How many more?

Human exploitation of nuclear energy is barely even 70 years old.

If all workers do in fact leave the plant, the nuclear fuel in all three reactors is likely to melt down, which would lead to wholesale releases of radioactive material — by far the largest accident of its kind since the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago.

Are we to expect a major release of radioactivity every 30 years or so from now on? How much damage can we do?

I think I speak for all of us when I say...

uh oh

TOKYO — An explosion early Tuesday morning may have damaged the inner steel containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, leading to the wide release of radioactive materials there and forcing the evacuation of some emergency workers, the plant’s operator said.

The blast appeared to be different — and more severe — than those that at two other troubled reactor at the same nuclear complex because this one, reported to have occurred at 6:14 a.m., happened in the “pressure suppression room” in the cooling area of the reactor, raising the possibility to damage to the reactor’s containment vessel.

I wish I had something funny to say here but I just don't. Nothing any of us can say from here will make a bit of difference one way or the other anyway. Note, then, that if this is true, it would be nice if we could lay off people for saying whatever irrelevant thing comes to mind. But I guess we can't have nice things.


Japan battling chain reaction

The risk of a meltdown spread to a third reactor at a stricken nuclear power plant in Japan on Monday as its cooling systems failed, exposing its fuel rods, only hours after a second explosion at a separate reactor blew the roof off a containment building. The widening problems underscored the difficulties the Japanese authorities are having in bringing several damaged reactors under control four days after a devastating earthquake killed at least 10,000 people.

1) Will the Japanese government be able to secure enough funds to mount a robust enough tourism marketing campaign to mitigate their current disaster?

2) Will eco-terrorists seize on this opportunity to impose a "job-killing" moratorium on nuclear power?

3) Is it possible to detect radiation in seafood via a smell test?

4) Has Ed Blakely landed in Japan yet?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Just please don't use the word moratorium

Reuters: Japan nuclear woes cast shadow over US energy policy

WASHINGTON, March 13 (Reuters) - Anxiety over Japan's quake-crippled nuclear reactors has triggered calls from U.S. lawmakers and activists for review of U.S. energy policy and for brakes on expansion of domestic nuclear power.

President Barack Obama has urged expansion of nuclear power to help meet the country's energy demands, lower its dependence on imported fossil fuels and reduce its climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Prediction for 2012: GOP stirs up voters with a winning "Glow, Baby, Glow!" movement

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I don't need to tell you how horrifying the events in Japan are right now. But if you are inclined to help, you do have choices.

Punishing the poor

See this sort of thing is actually the opposite of fiscally disciplined. You're just spending extra money to shame and punish poor people. Somehow there's always money in the budget for that, though. Even in Louisiana.

Fiscal discipline

Every goodie given away to the wealthy paid for by taking something away from the poor. Keeps the books balanced. Very principled stuff.


I hope they nail them.

After a final day of negotiations, the players union formally dissolved itself, a process known as decertification. Such a move is highly unusual, but it allowed players to seek an injunction in federal court to prevent the league from implementing a lockout and to sue the N.F.L. on antitrust grounds.

Among the 10 named plaintiffs in the 52-page antitrust suit filed in United States District Court in Minneapolis are some of the game’s most famous players, including quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Because the plaintiffs are listed alphabetically, the lawsuit will technically be referred to as Brady v. N.F.L.
Almost almost almost could have called this "Brees v. N.F.L." Yet another reason to hate Tom Brady.

Somebody get us a spill cam

What purpose does it serve to not specify the amount?

Mr. Edano said radioactive materials had leaked outside the plant before the explosion, but that the explosion did not worsen the leak and that, in fact, measured levels of radioactive emission had been decreasing. He did not specify the levels of radiation involved.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Call out the instigator

I've been collecting links and reading through accounts of the Krewe of Eris conflict and the associated police raids on a flea market, bicycle shop, and a bookstore in the Bywater/Marigny last week. I'd like to recommend that everyone read through this post by Varg and this one by Lord David as they seem to be the most thoughtful and informative respectively that I've seen so far.

I hope people will also recognize that we've just watched a month long protest in Wisconsin where teachers and janitors and clerks and firefighters and all other manner of unionized working people who are actually fighting for something of substance managed to not charge a police barricade or throw a brick or jump on anyone's car. Whereas, in New Orleans, some artsy types led by someone who "used to winter" here don't want to pay the 10 bucks or so per head it would take to do something self-indulgent with the blessing of the police and suddenly it's revolution time.

I wonder how many of these wintering hippies who throw bricks at police also buy into the often thrown around myths of "union thuggery" conservative pundits use to de-legitimize organized labor. I wonder how many of them also support the contracting out and de-unionization of New Orleans public schools. I'm willing to bet it's more than a few.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It makes a big mess

Krewe of Municipal Vehicles

Two days after Mardi Gras and I, like the Krewe of Municipal Vehicles cleaning up after Orpheus Monday, am still recovering. This was an unusual Mardi Gras for me. For one thing, that transcendental "golden moment" I refer to in the post below turned out to be getting smashed in the face with a door if that gives you any idea. There's a lot to get to but I'm catching up with a lot of other things today so I'll get it together after I've finished uploading all the pictures and recovering from my concussion. In the meantime, perhaps Jarrett Jack wants to post something here. It might help.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The day is out there

Every year during Carnival there inevitably comes one golden moment where we feel as free and happy as we imagine we'll ever be. This has been a fun year, but I'm not sure we've found that moment yet. It never comes when you're looking for it. But maybe it's out there somewhere today. Let's go see what happens.

Happy Mardi Gras


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Gonna be a weird day

Not sure how anyone is going to stand behind all these tents and see anything.


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Quote of the Day

Actually this was yesterday

"It's not going to rain on Iris," said Joy Oswald, spokeswoman for the Saturday morning Uptown parade. "I've been doing this for 59 years and we've always lucked out."

Um... it rained on Iris.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Friday Carnival

It's late in the afternoon on a rainy Friday and I've just put a pot of sliced and seasoned shoulder steak into the oven. It's going to braise for an hour or so in a broth with onions and garlic until it, hopefully, comes out as filler for little roast beef sandwiches like these.

Pistolette PoBoys

I made those mini po boys about a year and a half ago and they seemed like good parade food to me. We're about to find out.

We're also waiting to find out what Endymion is going to do.

The Krewe of Endymion will decide at 9 p.m. tonight whether it will attempt to roll along it's traditional Mid-City route Saturday or will reschedule to Sunday because of threatening weather, according to a local television report.

Thousands of parade-goers battle traffic and crowds each year to see the superkrewe -- known for it's massive floats, celebrity monarchs, and generous riders.

If weather conditions appear too unsafe, the krewe will roll Uptown behind Bacchus on Sunday night.

For all the bellyaching we've done about the obnoxious Endymion crowds... and they are obnoxious... the hatches around here at Yellow Blogging world headquarters are sufficiently battened down so as to survive the assault. I'm not sure all these folks are going to feel the same way, though.

Either way, things are about to get crazy busy around here. But, since I've got few seconds now, allow me to share a few photos from the last few nights.

Druids is usually known for being kind of a rinky-dink production. Their theme is lame. Their floats are recycled from other parades. One egregious example of this being the appearance of one of the Krewe of Pontchartrain's signature floats in the procession.

Captain Sam repurposed

Those of us who were out last Saturday will have recognized Captain Sam.

Captain Sam

But, for what it is, Druids put on one of its more enjoyable parades this year. I especially liked these fire twirlers.

Krewe du feu

The most unusual thing that happened Thursday night was the appearance of not one but two fire engines parked on the neutral ground right behind us.

Fire trucks

It's worth noting that although the fire department brought what had to be the biggest ladders in all of Carnival with them to the parade, they managed to keep them well behind the crowd and so didn't subtract from anyone's enjoyment.

Guests on the fire truck

Chaos didn't present my favorite edition of their typically satirical parade. While most of the floats were topical and creative, they also tended to come from a more elitist and conservative point of view. One float lampooning the health care reform story might as well have been a Tea Party demonstration, while the immigration-themed float struck me as downright racist. I did enjoy this float titled "Unlucky Dogs" which featured the score of every Saints loss this past season.

Unlucky dogs

Muses, meanwhile, was beautiful as always.

Muses marquee

Muses balloon


One quibble would be that I seem to remember them throwing a bit more heavily in years past. But never mind that since we did snag this year's most coveted and infamous throw.


Alright that's enough for now. Time to pull the steak out of the oven and get back outside.