Saturday, March 31, 2012

Just don't eat there

If you're in New Orleans and the restaurant you've booked thinks so highly of itself that it makes you sign a contract in case of no-show, you don't need to eat there. Even in the post-Katrina Landrieu-Treme-Hospitality-Zone Era of rampant Disneyfication there are still plenty of places you can go and eat just as well for cheaper and with less hassle. But during Jazzfest, which brings with it the most trend-conscious asshole type of tourist imaginable, some of the trendier places can obviously get away with this sort of thing.

Friday, March 30, 2012

For some reason this is more difficult than it seems

Yes! It's that thing we've been begging for for 10 years.
In a long story on SI.com about the general success of the New Orleans Hornets under the league's ownership, the possibility of dumping "Hornets" as the team's nickname is suggested as likely to happen once the team has a new owner.

So here ya go, New Orleans. You've never been all that comfortable about having stolen this team from Charlotte in the first place. You've been frustrated by its subsequent flirtation with Oklahoma City. You were only really only staring to get excited about the New Orleans incarnation of the franchise when the one superstar it drafted suddenly left to play on a supposedly bigger stage. And, of course, you still complain incessantly that the one name everyone agrees is probably the most appropriate is still absurdly maintained far off in the Utah desert.

Anyway, I'm sure we've all been stowing away all our best ideas for years. And now comes our big chance to air them out. So watchya got?


Nothing comes to mind? Well, nothing good anyway. Here's Dave Gladow's stab at it which is, you know, a starting point but we're obviously not where we want to be yet. Usually Twitter is good for this sort of brainstorming but so far we're coming up with a mix of lame jokes and embarrassing cliches. Or maybe it's just me. All I've got so far are these.

The New Orleans Marsh Fire

The New Orleans Flood and/or Hospitality Zone

The New Orleans Basketball Reasons

The New Orleans Benzes Brought To You By Coca-Cola

Something is obviously missing here so let's get to work on it. At the very least, let's dump the teal.

Coke sprays bandit signs all over the Hospitality Zone

New Orleans has been virally marketed upon and is reacting... um... virulently.

Lunanola writes:
The following is a letter I sent this evening to elected officials and law enforcement; I’m tired, so it was brief and to the point.

Honorable Mayor Landrieu, Councilmembers Palmer and Clarkson, and NOPD 8th District Commander Walls:

The attached photos depict advertising associated with the NCAA Men’s Final Four event for Coca-Cola products — spray-painted on sidewalks and pavement (including flagstones) in the French Quarter and Faubourg Tremé (and perhaps other) neighborhoods in our city. I ask, is this really how we want companies to behave when our city hosts national events?

This advertising is also prohibited by a recently adopted New Orleans ordinance

I've borrowed one of her photos here. I hope that's okay.

The ordinance she cites was passed last year by city council as part of their then very heated crusade against "bandit signs"

Tighter enforcement of laws barring illegal dumping and "bandit signs" will begin in earnest in mid-September, after an amnesty period designed to get violators to tidy up. Bandit signs include placards, posters and other advertisements affixed to trees, utility poles, light fixtures, street signs and parking meters. It also includes signs displayed in parks and playgrounds or along neutral grounds.

Starting Sept. 12, the city plans to dispatch employees to "photograph, count, log, remove and dispose of bandit signs and litter," according to a news release. "Owners" of most signs will be fined $25, with signs affixed to trees garnering a $50 penalty.

It wasn't immediately clear how officials will determine culpability if a sign's origin is unclear or disputed. A law authored by City Councilwoman Stacy Head and authorized by the City Council in June states that a sign itself serves as evidence that people or entities identified on it authorized its placement and can be billed for the cost of removing it.

Exceptions to the prohibition include newspaper display boxes, signs on public property leased to private businesses, and campaign signs, which may be posted 48 hours prior to and following an election. Realtors also may post signs 24 hours before and after an open house.

Here are some examples of the sort of signage the council members may have meant to shut down with this ordinance.


Cats are people too

Event Parking

Pick Up After Your Dog

Le Krewe d'Etat signs

I-Witness Story

Recall Stacy Head!!!

Meanwhile the giant Mercedes-Benz logo installed atop the Superdome this week doesn't appear to be much of a problem. But, of course, the Benz bandit sign is an example of the "public property leased to private businesses" clause in this ordinance and thus an exception. Probably we can say the same for the Mr. Peanut bandit sign park on Simon Bolivar Avenue. But these coke ads appear to have slipped through the cracks somehow.

Probably this is by design. Coke's official response today is that they have "misinterpreted their permits" but actually guerrilla marketing campaigns like this thrive because of the controversy they generate. In this case, the ginormous Coca-Cola beverage corporation wants to be seen as a roguish outlaw much like the kids in this TV advertisement they've created here.

You see The Man doesn't want you to be creative and express your subversive enthusiasm for a global consumer product. But Coke knows you better than that and they're going to express that enthusiasm for you, Stacy Head's stodgy ordinances be damned! All they're asking is that you "open your mind" as the tagline to this ad reads... presumably by imbibing the neurotoxic artificial sweeteners in Coke Zero.

Apparently the people at NOLA.com (itself pretty much a glorified ad company) were impressed. The headline above Michelle Krupa's report on this episode currently reads "Coca-Cola sidewalk ads spark fury among French Quarter residents, New Orleans officials" but that's only after it was changed from this more congratulatory statement which I screen-captured because.. well I had a feeling there would be some editing to come.

Chalk ads cause sensation

See the ads caused a "sensation" on the popular viral mediums. In other words, mission accomplished, Coke!

All we've really learned here is that when high-profile events come to town, our city is pretty much going to get painted like a whore by advertisers whether we agree to it or not. The city leaders have already demonstrated a clear understanding of this phenomenon and are currently taking steps to ensure they aren't left out of the action next time. Once the Mayor gets his "Hospitality Zone" board up and running, this sort of thing won't be a problem since there will then be an appropriate channel through which the bribes permit fees can be distributed.

And then it's the residents who will have to go vigilante. Anybody know where to buy a bucket of gray chalk?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Another day, another SWAT siege Uptown

This one has a sword, apparently.
An irate man seen with a sword on Upperline Street is involved in a standoff with police, authorities said. The 22-year-old was “irate and out of control,” and armed with a sword and other weapons, said NOPD spokesman Garry Flot.

Could be he's just LARPing in anticipation of this weekend's Game of Thrones premiere. Or it could be that he's one of many residents in sore need of our dwindling mental health services.
An abstract by Dr. Potash written in 2008 gives an historical overview of what happens when chronically un-medicated mentally ill folks are unable to get help. The end result is often death in high-profile cases that hit the media. The one we all know the best is the death of Officer Nicola Cotton and her 8-week-old unborn child, killed in the line of duty by a gentleman known in the mental health community, discharged from a mental health hospital to the streets of New Orleans unable to access greatly needed medication to control his delusional, violent behavior. But as time marched on and our cries for help were heard, services for the mentally ill began to come on tap. LSU responded by setting up two emergency trailers, 10 beds apiece, known as the MHERE (mental health emergency room extension) to provide a safe place for folks to be evaluated. They opened a 20-bed inpatient detox unit that would provide medical assistance to those who desired to go into a rehab facility but first needed medical detox. They leased 32 beds on the old Depaul campus for short-term psychiatric hospital stays, not nearly enough, but at least the beginnings of some level of inpatient health care for this population.

How could it be possible that now, 2012, a decision was made to eliminate these services by over 50% as a means to balance a budget? Closing this week will be 10 emergency beds, the entire 20 bed detox unit and 9 inpatient beds at Depaul — all beds that were full to capacity.

By the way, if you're thinking it seems like there are a lot of these police standoffs with mentally ill Uptown residents, it's because there are. This is the second such incident in the past four months and at least the third in the past three years that we can remember having heard about.

It's not too unreasonable to expect more. This week, LSU officials warned again that Governor Jindal's budget will necessitate even greater cuts.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Leaders of LSU's public hospital system said Tuesday that Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget overestimates revenue for its hospitals and clinic network next year and that the system would have to impose cuts to close a multi-million dollar funding gap.

University hospital officials told the House Appropriations Committee that the 10 hospitals and their outpatient facilities that serve the poor and uninsured face an estimated $43 million in cuts in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

"We don't see what's in the executive budget as a standstill, flat budget for us," said Fred Cerise, LSU's vice president for health affairs, disagreeing with a Jindal administration assessment about the governor's proposed 2012-13 budget.

Meanwhile, another $41 million proposed in Jindal's budget recommendations for the hospitals is tied to several assumptions, including the sale of a New Orleans mental health facility, that haven't happened yet. If the assumptions don't pan out, the hospitals could face further reductions.

"We're at a point in our budget where a reduction in funding means a reduction in services," Cerise told lawmakers.

And who knows, maybe Jindal is right. Maybe it is cheaper to treat our city's mental health crisis via the occasional SWAT assault than it is to maintain all of these other services and facilities. On the other hand, we may not be accounting for the hidden cost in chickens.
NEW ORLEANS -- Investigators with the Humane Society are working to unravel clues in a case where chickens are being targeted and killed in the Ninth Ward.

After five pet chickens were found killed and placed in a plastic bag in the Ninth Ward, the Humane Society is looking for the person responsible.

Probably will be okay as long as we keep that sort of thing out of the Hospitality Zone... unless you can convince visitors it's part of some sort of voodoo ritual in which case it looks like we may have suddenly created some jobs.

Like a food truck without the truck

Where will J'Anita's suddenly pop into being next?
When J’Anita’s closed its kitchen inside the Rendon Inn recently, J’Anita’s proprietor Craig Giesecke said he was looking for another line of work but did leave the door open that someday the noted – though highly nomadic — bar food operation could return somewhere else. It’s taken just about two months for the next opportunity to walk through that door.

Giesecke and his wife Kimmie have a new plan in place to run the kitchen at the Blind Pelican (1628 Saint Charles Ave., 558-9399), a newly revamped and reopened tavern in the Lower Garden District not far from two of J’Anita’s three previous locations. This doesn’t exactly signal the return of J’Anita’s, though Giesecke plans to serve some of the greatest hits he’s taken on his journey through a succession of tavern kitchens.

“This will not be another version of ‘J'anita's at Someplace,’ but staples like the St. Chuck Duck, the Best Fish Sammich and a few others will certainly be on the menu,” he says. “We'll start with a small menu and work our way into things. At this point, at least, I might be a little more seafoody than in the past. I'll also have the smoker out back, so the pulled pork and house-smoked cheeses will certainly be in the mix. The place also has a pizza oven, so that opens all kinds of possibilities.”

Whatever, at least it's back within stumbling distance of Yellow Blogging World Headquarters. We do enjoy that duck sammich. Oh and those bacon-wrapped cheese-stuffed apricot thingies, I hope they bring those back too.


Here's a bit of Long family trivia for you this afternoon. One popular fact about Huey's taste in literature refers to his fondness for The Count of Monte Cristo. The favorite quote among Huey's biographers is, "The man in that book knew how to hate, and until you learn how to hate, you'll never get anywhere in this world," which is a colorful way of saying Huey, like any master politician, appreciated a good revenge story.

Another often remarked upon Long literary favorite is the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley frequently quoted by Huey and Earl. In Earl of Louisiana, A.J. Liebling refers to it as the "family anthem."

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

And so it is with these favorite Longist themes in our mind of well calculated revenge and the importance of remaining the master of one's fate in the fell clutch of circumstance, we invite you to enjoy NOLA Defender regular contributor Dead Huey Long's take on Sean Payton and the Saints' bounty scandal.

Roger Goodell cannot stop the New Orleans Saints with fines, suspensions, and draft picks. Primarily this is because—and here’s a pro-tip from the ol’ Kingfish—the New Orleans Saints have the overwhelming support of the people and Roger Goodell is just another bully.

I'd pull a larger quote but you should just go read it all there.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Keep smilin'

Parcells: If Payton asks me to coach Saints, that’s what friends are for

Homebuyers get Hospitality Zoned

All well in keeping with the priorities.

Storm relief intended for home buyers is redirected to Superdome
The Superdome money comes from about $75 million that was earmarked for soft-second mortgages, loans that are given to first-time homeowners that can be forgiven if the resident stays in the house for a set amount of time.

"If it comes down to sending money to the Superdome or putting people back into their homes, that's an easy call to me," said Sen. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans.

The exact use of the money was contested during the meeting. Peterson and Murray said they'd seen documents saying the money would be used for operations, but Forbes maintained that the money would go to paying off the cost of repairs to the building that was not covered by FEMA.

Which leads us to wonder if these specific "repairs not covered by FEMA" might have been paid for by this fund.

Crews spent the weekend sketching and painting a Mercedes-Benz logo on top of the Superdome roof. A spokesman for the Superdome said Sunday there will be a Mercedes logo painted on the center of the top of the roof, along with "Mercedes-Benz Superdome" printed on both the east and west sides of the dome.

Update: Cedric Richmond has asked to have this stopped.

Also, somewhat related, we find this from The Lens

A legal notice in Monday’s Times-Picayune announced that the public is welcome to peruse and offer comments on a draft year-end report that explains how the city spent tens of millions in federal money in 2011. At issue is a regular annual report from the city’s Office of Community Development, called a Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report, which goes by the unfortunate acronym of CAPER.

“The document is available for public review,” the notice reads.

But rather than being given access to the lengthy report, a Lens reporter who went to the office left empty handed and later was told to route the request through Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s communications office.

Landrieu spokesman Ryan Berni has not responded to a request to provide the report – or to explain why the public report wasn’t immediately available to a member of the public who asked to see it.

It’s unclear whether people not identifying themselves as a reporter would get the report or the runaround.
So I suppose, if anyone wants to make a field trip down to Poydras Street and ask to see the CAPER report, this is your cue. Who knows, maybe they gave all the money to the Superdome.

"Can't play the game"

Mitt to uninsured: Drop dead... literally


From one of the approximately 50,000 pieces of SCOTUS tea-leaf reading I've seen in the past hour.

"Congress’ capacity to react in a sensible way also came into some question"

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Still Un-vanished

BP's mess still hasn't vanished.

Although just today they were congratulated by Mayor Landrieu for their magnificent contributions to our Hospitality Zone.

To build a private zone

It's possible that the Mayor means this ironically, which I am told is the hip way to sell out but, frankly, I have no idea how one keeps up with such things.
Landrieu, who served as the state's top tourism official during his seven-year tenure as lieutenant governor, pointed to New Orleans' authentic culture as a major draw for visitors.

"What you saw here today is empirical evidence that this is creating jobs, creating tax revenue," he said, adding that tourism officials have set as a goal of attracting 13.7 million visitors -- with an $11 billion economic impact -- by the city's 300th anniversary in 2018.

"That's our big World Cup," he said. "That's our Olympics."

I don't mean to come down too hard on the value of a healthy tourism industry. It's probably better overall that more people want to visit our city than don't. But it's this notion that our city exists solely for the purpose of drawing and catering to these visitors that has done us more damage than our leaders seem to be aware of or care about.

We frequently hear them talk about the "economic impact" of tourism in terms of overall dollars and number of "jobs" created. But such numbers are meaningless when divorced from the questions of how those dollars are distributed, what kinds of jobs are created, and what any of that means for the quality of life most of us enjoy. What good does "$11 billion in economic impact" do given that the bulk of it is experienced by low wage, low benefit, and often part-time or seasonal employers? How proud should our elected representatives be of their accomplishments "creating jobs" that have reduced a generation of New Orleanians to a life of transient hustling?

Like Mayor Landrieu, I'm looking forward to celebrating the 300th anniversary of the founding of the city I grew up in... provided I manage to hang on here long enough to see it. I wonder, though, if we're approaching the point where it ceases to be our city anymore.

The French Quarter is a Neighborhood

I wonder what those of us who call this place home will have left to celebrate once our city fathers have managed convert the most famous and beloved portions of our civic space to a commercially governed theme park.

Senate Bill 573 proposes the New Orleans Hospitality and Entertainment District and gives its loose physical description as "all territories within the boundaries" of Faubourg Marigny, French Quarter, the Central Business District, the Warehouse District, Convention Center District, Louisiana Sports and Entertainment District and any areas connecting them to one another. It also gives the mayor the right to designate an area of town as part of the zone.

The district is proposed as a taxing body with the authority to issue and sell bonds.

The bill calls for the district to have its own board of governors that includes the chairs of the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association, the New Orleans Chapter of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center-New Orleans, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation and the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The mayor will also be allowed to appoint four Orleans Parish residents to the Hospitality and Entertainment District. Those appointees must have "substantial business interests" in the established zones either as "owners or operates of hotels or other tourism or hospitality businesses."

That board would be permitted to levy taxes on hotel rooms, the sale of food and beverages and on in-premises hotel parking at establishments within the district. The proceeds from the hotel tax would be split evenly between the Marketing Corp. and the CVB, according to the legislation.

This legislation proposes to cut out a slice of the city and hand it over to an unelected board of "substantial business interests" who have purview over such basic services as sanitation and security and, quite likely, the authority to tax and borrow on the city's behalf. Earlier this week, we read about, admittedly eccentric, School Board President Thomas Robichaux's characterization of Governor Jindal's school privatization initiatives as "modern day fascism." Robichaux was widely ridiculed for his sensational word choice. But the substantive part of his argument that our public resources are being hoarded away from us by "substantial business interests" and their political cronies went largely untouched. Whatever label one chooses to apply to it, the practice of carving out a sector of the city to be privately managed by unelected elites is concerning. At the very least, it puts the citizenry at an uncomfortable degree of remove from public governance.

The designation of so-called "Hospitality Zones" implies that there are parts of the city where some of us aren't really welcome. Earlier this year, City Council was criticized for imposing a curfew law critics believed was designed to keep black teenagers safely out of sight of visitors. Council's imperfect response to this criticism was to propose extending the curfew city-wide ensuring that no one felt left out. Council has yet to take up the matter of extending the curfew, however. Perhaps, in light of recent events, they're trying to figure out whether or not they should add a dress code. The appearance of this "Hospitality Zone" proposal should make intentions clear, however.

To some degree, this partition already exists in practice. On a somewhat recent early morning visit to Jackson Square... during what Varg likes to call the ecotone... I witnessed a policeman attempt to move a homeless person sleeping slumped over on one of the benches near the Cabildo. "This is a tourist area," the cop said to the man, repeatedly, "You have to move out of here or be arrested." I know Jackson Square is a favorite spot for tourists to visit. But I, like a lot of New Orleanians, like to go there too. This was the first time I'd heard it referred to specifically as a "tourist area" in the sense that non-tourists might be less welcome or even subject to arrest for simply being in a public place. But, lately, the city has made this a matter of unofficial policy.

During the 2008 NBA All Star Game, a minor controversy was ignited by the city's acquiescence to the NBA's request to shut down the public square for use as an invitation-only corporate event. A similar clash ensued during preparations for the horrific Dave Mathews concert accompanying the NFL's 2010 Kickoff Extravaganza. Because we are told a primary impetus behind the creation of the Hospitality Zone is preparing the city to host more major sporting events, we can assume we'll be seeing more episodes like these in the future. This can end up affecting our ability to use our public spaces for civic as well as recreational purposes too. Remember the Mayor was particularly eager to evict the largely peaceful Occupy NOLA demonstrations last year in preparation for the college football bowl season.

Is it too much of a stretch to conclude that declaring whole sectors of the community special Hospitality Zones and restricting the activities of locals within those zones might put a bit of a drag on that "authentic culture" the Mayor is hoping to sell there? Inevitably, the more discerning authenticity connoisseurs are going to catch on to this. Luckily, there's already a fallback in place. We can always sell them air-conditioned bus tours of what this New York Times reporter actually termed the "Jungleland" beyond their Zone.

Harris spit out his sunflower shells in disgust. A luxury motor coach, filled with tourists behind tinted windows, trundled down Florida Street toward the Make It Right houses. Seventeen expletives have been edited out of the following paragraph:

“Every day 20 tour buses come down this street to look at this neighborhood and take pictures,” Harris said. “Don’t tell me they’re just touring the city. If you’re trying to tour the city, then you’re in the wrong neighborhood. They just ride around in the part that’s been devastated. Lower Ninth Ward ain’t receiving a single penny for that. Why can’t I get something? Why does the man driving the bus get all the money? I ain’t a guinea pig. I don’t want to be put under a microscope. We’re the ones that suffered down here, who lost everything. There are still dead people that they haven’t accounted for. It’s frustrating. It took almost seven years for the Ninth Ward to look like what it looks like now, and it still don’t look like [anything].”

Reading through that reminded me of this "authenticity" inspired moment from the HBO fantasy series Treme

That bit is authentic New Orleans—there is nothing New Orleans loves so much as New Orleans—but the show can't get past the desire to be authentic. It feels like a hell of a vacation in New Orleans. Granted, it's a well-informed, nuanced vacation, and Simon has clearly made an effort to ask the locals where to go, but it is a vacation nonetheless. In the first season, a Katrina tour bus rolls up on a Mardi Gras Indian funeral, and we balk at the voyeurism (of course, after being scolded the driver says: "you're right, you're right," and drives off. Everyone must get along!). But the show functions with the same impulse to uncover the "real" New Orleans.

There isn't anything in the Hospitality Zone bill that relates specifically to filming productions like Treme. Of course that doesn't seem necessary anyway as film crews regularly range throughout the city appropriating blocks of parking and sidewalk access at a time. Often they're on the hunt for some of that authentic culture the Mayor tells us is such a great draw for visitors. But, more than anything, they're drawn here by a corrupt wrinkle written into Louisiana tax law. So although the Hospitality Zone ground hasn't officially been carved out yet, the ground has already been broken on its "economic impact" model.

Times-Picayune buries the lede in story about itself

The paper's multi-generational local management is being consolidated with that of other Gulf Coast papers owned by its corporate parent company. The 1500 word article about this somehow manages not to say that explicitly.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Even if Mitt loses Louisiana, Mitt wins in Louisiana

If you're a Republican voting in today's primary (God bless you) it looks like you're likely to check the little electronic box next to Rick Santorum's name on the ballot. (Again, vaya con Dios, my friend. Nicely done.) Santorum holds a big big lead according to this PPP poll released the other day.
Rick Santorum is headed for a commanding win in Louisiana on Saturday. We find him with 42% to 28% for Mitt Romney, 18% for Newt Gingrich, 8% for Ron Paul, and 2% for Buddy Roemer.
That poll is worth your time to read, by the way. PPP also provides us with approval ratings for Les Miles and Sean Payton... whose positions, I've long argued should be elective offices anyway... and Saints' quarterback Drew Brees who has apparently broken yet another record.
Drew Brees broke the all the time PPP record on this poll for the most popular figure we've ever polled, with 94% of likely primary voters rating him favorably to only 1% with an unfavorable opinion. We found Abraham Lincoln at a 91/2 rating nationally on a poll we did in November and that was the previous record.
Brees has surpassed down Marino and now Lincoln in the same year yet remains unsigned. Looks like his price went up yet again.

Anyway back to Santorum and his impending "commanding win." Thanks to the screwy way Louisiana Republicans apportion their delegates, here's what that margin will gain for him.
While a strong showing would be a momentum booster for any of the candidates, even a clear winner of the primary might not get all of the state's delegates when the national convention rolls around.

Louisiana's GOP will have 46 delegates at the national convention. Twenty at-large delegates will be allocated proportionally among candidates who get more than 25 percent of the vote in Saturday's primary. If no candidate gets 25 percent, the party says, the 20 delegates remain uncommitted.

According to a party news release, of the other 26 delegates, there will be five at-large delegates elected at an upcoming state convention. Eighteen will be elected during congressional district meetings; three others are Republican National Committee delegates. None are bound by the primary results.
So, of the 20 delegates at stake today, a number of those will certainly go to Mitt. I don't know exactly how the math is supposed to work here. If this poll is any barometer, I'm guessing he picks up at least 5 of the 20. Then after the caucus and the conclave and the Etching and the Sketching or whatever the hell else happens, what are the odds Mitt picks up most if not all of the remaining 26 too? Pretty damn good, I'd say.

Mitt is (finally) starting to pick up the endorsements of angsty twitchy Republicans ready to get the primary fail-a-thon wrapped up. Even especially angsty and twitchy South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint appears to be climbing on board. And even though Louisiana is famous for its political contrarianism, the fact that the bulk of the delegates will be awarded by party insiders like Jay Dardenne and Mike Strain who endorsed Mitt earlier this week, is likely to negate this impulse. But hey, if you're a GOP primary voter, don't let any of that ruin it for you. By all means have fun mashing the meaningless buttons on your ballot today. Really.

And while you're there, please feel free to vote against as many of these Council-At-Large candidates as you can. Lord knows they could use the discouragement.

And also hamburgers

Craig Giesecke on restaurant trends
At one point about three years ago, there were three Asian places in a two-block stretch of Magazine St. A couple of years ago, it seemed everyone wanted to open a small plates/wine bar. These days, we’re seeing way too many frozen yogurt spots all opening at about the same time. Remember right after Katrina when all the taquerias opened? It’s like watching a covey of quail dart first this way and then that across open ground — in unison but with no real thought about where everyone‘s going. We just know everyone’s going.

The burger boom seems like the latest one of these to come and go. I kind of feel bad for the proprietors of the still under construction Charcoal hamburger place at the corner of Jackson and Magazine. By the time they get it open, it'll be time to convert it to a jellied asparagus cafe or whatever the next thing is.

Western Democracy

Restricting your freedom in order to protect... something? Who knows what anymore.
PARIS - France's president proposed a sweeping new law Thursday that would see repeat visitors to extremist websites put behind bars — one of several tough measures floated in the wake of a murderous shooting spree.

The proposed rules, unveiled by Nicolas Sarkozy after the death of an Islamist fanatic wanted for a horrifying series of execution-style murders, have alarmed journalists and legal experts, who say they risk pulling the plug on free expression.

Sarkozy, who is only a month away from an election, argued that it was time to treat those who browse extremist websites the same way as those who consume child pornography.

"Anyone who regularly consults Internet sites which promote terror or hatred or violence will be sentenced to prison," he told a campaign rally in Strasbourg, in eastern France. "Don't tell me it's not possible. What is possible for pedophiles should be possible for trainee terrorists and their supporters, too."

Expecting a flood of opinion columns from US professional journalists about how prosecuting thought-crime is "good for civil discourse" in 3, 2,.....

Let the black flag pants fly

Never mind Brees' hold-out. Zach Strief will step in to lead this rudderless team.

"This season is going to take on an us-versus-the-world mentality," Strief told The Associated Press. "The perception at this point is not positive with us. We've worked very hard, I know as players, to gain respect, not only as a good team but as a good group of guys. That perception will go completely out the window now, and I think that'll be kind of a rallying cry for us.

"It will give us a chance to kind of come together closer than we've ever been and say, 'Look, nobody wants us to even win anymore, and we're going to win for each other, and for coach Payton and Mickey and the guys that essentially took this fall.' "

Is this actually a problem?

RTA operator touts device to prevent people from stealing buses

When was the last time we read about RTA having trouble tracking down a "stolen bus?" Most of us remember several stories about people desperate to escape a flooded city in 2005 commandeering buses and trucks to drive themselves and neighbors to safety. I'm not sure what problem Veolia is going to solve by installing anti-theft devices on their fleet. But at least we might trap more people the next time the world ends.

Friday, March 23, 2012

How many "bad apples"?

Honk if you love Mencken

One of the interesting things about the Perricone reaction is this apparent consensus among the many many columnists and commentators which assumes Perricone's general attitude to be an aberration in the US Attorney's office; that we shouldn't take a serious look under Jim Letten's hood based on Perricone's obnoxiousness.

I have no idea what this supposition is based on. Frankly I'd find it difficult to believe that the aggressively politicized, sexist, and even violent impulses Perricone's own comments reveal that he brought to his job were somehow unique to Letten's Hall of Virtue. Indeed, Moseley, in examining Perricone's interactions on NOLA.com, finds at least one additional commenter he suspects may have been a fellow prosecutor.

Determining online identities isn’t brain surgery. For example, in that same thread a commenter named irishjean wrote, “You obviously didn’t know [Volz].” Which is another way of irishjean saying, “I knew Volz.” After a quick review of irishjean’s comments, I’d bet irishjean knew or even worked with Perricone and Letten. Irishjean certainly sounds like Perricone, with the same cheerleading for Letten, focus on legal stories, and right-wing politics. This stuck out like a sore thumb and I wasn’t even looking for it. It’s a random example, but it shows that most commenters don’t strain to cover their identities on messageboards. It doesn’t require much sleuthing to narrow down the list of their possible identities.

I've read several lamentations about the damage Perricone's activities might have done to the image of Letten's office in the public mind. But if the image conjured is, in fact, a more accurate one than what Letten's fans in the press tend to cultivate then what will we have lost besides a distorting illusion?

Jarvis Deberry turned in his obligatory Perricone column today and in it he hits on this point.
Perricone seems to have spent a great deal of time making online comments, but the time he spent isn't as disturbing as his refusal to be satisfied with the tremendous power he already had as a federal prosecutor. Perricone possessed the power to put people on the path to prison. The feds routinely convict or convince to plead guilty 90 percent of their targets.

That not enough for his ego? He needed something more? He had to go incognito to publicly belittle the subjects of investigations?

In essence, that makes Perricone no different from those he sought to nail on official corruption charges. Isn't that what characterizes the corrupt politician: discontent with the prescribed amount of power? A push for just a little bit -- or a whole lot -- more?

US Attorney is a political office and a terribly powerful political office at that. Shouldn't it be subjected to the most terrible scrutiny as a result? Instead I get the impression that an effort is being made to quarantine this one "bad apple" and defend the rest of the office without giving so much as a thought as to what his presence there might imply?

Moseley says he isn't too interested in learning the identity of the supposed leak who fingered Perricone for Fred Heebe. Of course it could always just be Jeremy Shockey again but shouldn't the possibility of a Heebe collaborator in Letten's office draw at least a little curiosity? It's a particularly compelling question now that we know Aaron Broussard had one too.

A high-level member of the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans was one of dozens of people on a Lake Tahoe ski trip that prosecutors now describe as an illegal fundraiser for former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard.

Fred Harper is the deputy chief of the criminal division of the office, which is led by U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. He acknowledges making the trip about 10 years ago, but denies any knowledge that the outing -- an annual event -- was, in fact, a political money-maker.
Veritable paragons of virtue and good judgment, this team of Letten's is turning out to be.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Jindal's "vouchers to nowhere" plan passes the LA House

Earlier this week the Baton Rouge Advocate opined against the Governor's scheme to de-fund public education in Louisiana, calling it a "vouchers to nowhere" plan.

The reality is that there are at most a few thousand spaces in private schools. Many of those schools might not choose to take the vouchers at all, particularly the elite institutions. The idea that even 10,000 new places might become available through new construction is so financially difficult to accomplish for private education that we doubt they will be available any time soon.

So for all the rhetoric about taking children out of failing schools, the voucher plan simply doesn’t. And in the state’s small-scale version of a voucher program in New Orleans, it is evident that even some of the private schools — for a few, test scores are available — can fail children educationally.

The voucher plan appears to be a political statement aimed at matching those Republican governors in other states who have achieved some form of a statewide voucher program.

Moments ago, the House version of Jindal's horribly flawed political statement passed by a vote of 61 to 42. Voting in favor of the vouchers to nowhere Republican political statement was State Rep Austin Badon. Badon is a candidate for City Council At Large in this weekend's election. Voters might like to know that he prioritizes the Governor's fantastical political statements above the the interests of the city's school aged children. Or maybe they don't care.

Update: Here's the T-P's Bill Barrow's report on Jindal's education agenda as of 11:00 this evening (the House is currently still debating the tenure reform). Barrow writes.

Together, the charter, voucher and tenure changes -- all reflective of policy orthodoxy among Republican governors across the country -- would put Jindal alongside other past and current GOP state executives such as Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Jeb Bush of Florida and Chris Christie of New Jersey who successfully remade the traditional model for public education into a partly privatized system championed by religious conservatives, many business lobbies and libertarian-oriented think tanks.

Council candidate Badon is supporting Jindal's privatization agenda.

Daily Kingfish names the Democrats in the LA House who voted in favor of Governor Jindal's program to gut public education. Note the New Orleans area names on the list.

The NOLA 1%

All in one long roll call on Stacy Head's campaign contributors' list.

Bonnie Bounty Situation

Ok so this creative writing piece by Brad Briggs on National Football Post is in no way to be seen as an actual possibility and he doesn't intend it to be. But for a second it inspired the image of Sean Payton friend and mentor Bill Parcells as kind of the Harvey Keitel character in Pulp Fiction stepping in to fix a fucked up Bounty Situation.

Anyway... carry on

Quote of the day

Joe Horn
“All I’m saying is this right here, man: The man got too much damn power,” Horn said of Goodell, via USA Today. “For him to come down and do that? And, you know, it’s the players’ fault, because they should ask for his damn job. He’s just not a fair commissioner.”

Horn referenced comments from Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who called Goodell a “crook” and a “devil” and a “puppet” and a “dictator” in an interview last year.

“He’s exactly what James Harrison said he was to me,” Horn said. “Everything James Harrison said he was, to me, today confirmed that with the commissioner as far as I’m concerned. And I know I’m retired and it really don’t matter to him but the players, the ones that are active, should ask for his damn job.”

Serpas Signal

Hmm and we're entertaining company this weekend. The press release reads.

The New Orleans Police Department will establish a Sobriety Check Point on Friday, March 23, 2012 in the Uptown area. The checkpoint will operate between the hours of 9pm to 5am.

Officer Garry Flot

You may not have been aware of this but one reason I meticulously curate all of these check point notices is I'm thinking of turning them over to Fred Heebe's forensic linguist, fortune-teller, guy for analysis. I think this "Officer Garry Flot" who's in charge of leaking these plans all the time might actually be Norman Robinson... or possibly Helena Moreno.

Anyway, all of this is an elaborate way of saying I didn't have a joke to go with an invitation for you to read this Lens post by Mark Moseley where he speculates about what we might learn about the federal case against Fred Heebe from what we know about the Canal Street Brothel case... both of which involved disgraced prosecutor Sal Perricone... and how the cases may end up relating to one another.


Shut up, Poochie.

Oh and speaking of things that have the word "Shock" in them, Dave Zirin invents a new term to describe his reaction to Goodell's ruling.
Ask Roger Goodell, and he will say that the suspensions were so harsh because the league needed to protect players and take a stand against the culture of violence that bounties imply. But this fails the most basic of smell tests. If Goodell cared about player safety, he wouldn’t be pushing for an eighteen-game season. He wouldn’t have spent last off-season fighting the NFL Players Association on expanding health benefits or limiting “voluntary” off-season workouts. He wouldn’t be promoting Thursday-night games, which will accelerate injuries by giving players a shorter week to heal.

Goodell also said that the suspensions were so harsh because the Saints executives and coaches “misled” and “misrepresented” what was going on when called to his carpet. First of all, my own sources said that Payton and company arrived in Goodell’s lair with their hats in hand ready to name names like Elia Kazan on sodium pentothal. But even if they did “mislead” and “misrepresent” on bounties, think about the ways that Goodell has “misled” and misrepresented” the public about the true effects of violence in his sport. This is a league with a 100 percent injury rate, a concussion epidemic and a history of sending concussed players into games. It’s why they’re being sued by a large collection of former star players, including Jim McMahon, Mark Duper and Hall of Famers Carl Eller, John Hannah and Chuck Bednarik.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Somebody tell Kenny Chesney to fire up the hot dog cooker

Somebody's gonna have a lot of free time on his hands.

The NFL has suspended Saints Coach Sean Payton for a full year following an investigation into a bounty program the league said the Saints employed from 2009 to 2011, according to internet reports.

New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis was also hit with an 8-game suspension, according to reports, and former defensive coordiantor Gregg Williams, now with the Rams, has been suspended indefinitely.

The punishments come against a backdrop of looming litigation. A growing number of players have filed lawsuits against the NFL and various equipment makers, alleging the parties were insufficiently diligent in making player safety a priority. Goodell has made it clear he wants player safety to be a hallmark of his time as commissioner, pushing for rules changes that protect players on the field and levying heavy fines against players for hits ruled too savage.

Pretty severe, right? You'd think he was doing something really horrible like commenting on NOLA.com or something.

Update: Actually maybe bitter anonymous comments on NOLA.com is exactly how Payton could end up spending 2012.
Jay Glazer said on NFL Network that he interviewed Payton immediately after the news came down, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s punishment is far more severe than Payton was expecting.

“I did talk to him and he’s stunned to say the least,” Glazer said. “I think the entire team thought maybe there’d be a four-game suspension, but not a year. I said, ‘Are you OK?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m not OK.’ He is stunned. He’s going to lose about $8 million. He is beside himself here.”

Upperdate: Of course this could all just be primary season posturing. Once he becomes the GOP nominee, we might be able to get Goodell to "Etch-A-Sketch" this stuff away.

Uppestdate: More later but suffice to say Jeff Duncan is wrong to defend Goodell's hypocrisy here just because Payton is kind of an asshole. We understand that the Payton-Loomis regime has been condescending and dickish toward the local press and we have said as much in the past. But just because the people being punished are dicks doesn't mean any actual justice is being done.

Meanwhile, Jabari Greer says "We are Devo!" or something.

: Getting it exactly right, on the other hand, is Drew Magary.

Roger Goodell suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season today. Of course he did. After all, what better way to get sportswriter after sportswriter to bow down in AWE of your far-reaching authority than to hand down a wildly severe punishment to someone who dares defy the commissioner's office?

Read on.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Department of Garbage

The Mayor's Cousin Gary this morning during a Council At Large debate on WBOK:
"When I say we're going to get rid of those traffic cameras, those traffic cameras are going to be removed," he said. "I am going to personally remove them if I have to personally go get a garbage truck from the department of garbage and go run them over with a garbage truck."

And, you know, I'm sure we all appreciate the sentiment. But it's not a sentiment we can reasonably expect Cousin Gary to convert into any useful action should he, through some unforseen series of deaths, find himself the winner of this election. Much like his proposal to sell the airport or Austin Badon's proposed commuter payroll tax (also discussed during this debate) we can safely assume it will be filed directly into the "Department of Garbage" upon arrival on the Council agenda.

Meanwhile, as we noted this morning, candidates Head and Badon both signed on to an agenda set forth by something called "Forward New Orleans" which is basically a business lobbying mechanism pushing several backward ideas such as,

"Protecting economic opportunity" for local, small and disadvantaged businesses, such as by opposing efforts to require companies seeking public contracts to recognize labor unions.

It matters that candidates Badon and Head support Forward New Orleans' backward proclamation that protecting unions is somehow different from "protecting economic opportunity" because, as we have seen, each has applied this sentiment to their actions in office. Doubtless the item was added to Forward's agenda in response to Council's passage by a 4-3 vote this week of an ordinance designed to ensure that city contractors are in good standing with regard to federal and state labor laws. Stacy Head was one of those no votes. The ordinance was denounced by the contractors who showed up that day as redundant to existing law but also because it would "stymie economic growth" in some way that those existing laws apparently don't.
Freddy Yoder, the CEO of Durr Construction Co., called the ordinance "bad law'' that would stymie economic growth in New Orleans. Yoder said laws that address the issues are already in place.
If that doesn't make sense to you, you must not be thinking Forwardly enough, I guess.

Badon, meanwhile has been a major proponent of Governor Jindal's ALEC-driven anti-union and anti-teacher school privatization agenda. (Badon has been listed as an attendee at ALEC conferences.)

And so among the three candidates with major name recognition, two of them have cheerfully signed a backward "economic opportunity" agenda put Forward by a coalition of entrenched New Orleans business interests and have demonstrated through their voting record a willingness to back such an agenda. And, as if matters weren't bad enough already, the recognizable candidate who just so happened to not sign on to the backward agenda is... Cynthia Willard Lewis.

The At-large election is this Saturday. Let's hope we're lucky enough to get hit by a Department of Garbage truck before we have to go and vote.

Send in Seal Team 6?

Most unfortunate headline if taken out of context.

Landrieu wants World Trade Center demolished

Luckily, most of us know what this is actually referring to.

NEW ORLEANS -- The city of New Orleans signed a deal to buy out the lease of the World Trade Center, so what happens to that site next? Mayor Mitch Landrieu suggested Friday that tearing the building down and starting over might be the best option.

The 45-year-old structure at the foot of Canal Street is considered one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the city. But it most recently made news when chunks of concrete from the building fell to the ground below.

And the Mayor is probably right. The WTC building has stood mostly underutilized for decades now despite numerous failed proposals to turn it into hotels or condos or hotel condos. Knocking it down and starting over is probably the best way to put that parcel back into use at this point.

Landmark legislation solves all of the city's problems

The Hester Ordinance

Responding to Hester's heckling and disruptions at some recent meetings, the council unanimously and with no discussion passed two measures designed to control her behavior if she shows up again.

Curiously, the council seemed especially upset by what is perhaps Hester's least obtrusive activity: standing up to take pictures demonstrating the frequent lack of a quorum.

Business lobby group presents anti-union pledge to Council At-Large candidates

Austin Badon and Stacy Head happily sign on.


Wanton police brutality against political protesters is, you know, sooo last year. The only difference between then and now is that now we're used to it enough that it doesn't matter. Oh it will keep happening, of course. It's just that everybody got outraged about that last year so now we're all looking for the new formerly unacceptable behavior we can grant mainstream acceptance to by "reporting the controversy."

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Time for another blogger ethics panel

Blogging for Dummies

Good God, I've always wanted to borrow that joke. Thank heaven for Sal Perricone (AKA "Henry L Mencken1951)

NEW ORLEANS – An assistant U.S. Attorney is in fact the commenter on the NOLA.com web site who penned comments under the pen name "Henry L. Mencken1951," according to U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.

Letten said that assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone admitted on Tuesday that he made the nearly 600 postings under that name.

Perricone's postings as Henry L. Mencken1951 included criticisms of judges and of Letten himself and there were some concerning the River Birch probe.

River Birch co-owner Fred Heebe claimed in a court petition that the comments made by “Henry L. Mencken1951” were actually made by Perricone.

To begin with, it's disconcerting to see professional media persons who the public supposes to be sophisticated about such things, badly botch their internet taxonomy by labeling Perricone a "blogger" in their reporting. Do they not fact check these terms? I'm told Wikipedia is a popular TV journalist's research tool. Let's see what we find there.

A blog (a portmanteau of the term web log)[1] is a personal journal published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries ("posts") typically displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first. Blogs are usually the work of a single individual, occasionally of a small group, and often are themed on a single subject. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.

The emergence and growth of blogs in the late 1990s coincided with the advent of web publishing tools that facilitated the posting of content by non-technical users. (Previously a knowledge of such technologies as HTML and FTP had been required to publish content on the Web.)

Although not a must, most good quality blogs are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via GUI widgets on the blogs and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites. In that sense, blogging can be seen as a form of social networking. Indeed, bloggers do not only produce content to post on their blogs but also build social relations with their readers and other bloggers.

Perricone didn't operate a blog which is essentially an online diary of what the author considers to be pertinent events and/or recommended reading, preferably with an open comments section for reader feedback. Perricone, instead, was a frequent commenter under articles which appeared on a newspaper website. Those are both means of sharing information on the internet but there are technical differences in terminology which one may expect one's grandmother.. or possibly Garland Robinette.. to accidentally conflate now and again but when professional news persons do it, one figures they should know better and wonders if they aren't doing it on purpose.

Why is this important? Well aside from the professional journalistic imperative to get facts correct, misuse of terms in this manner serves to indict by association the entire practice of blogging, social networking, or using the internet for anything beyond mere consumption purposes as a somehow malevolent activity. Lumping all independent use of social media into the same category as newspaper commenters is reductive and deceptive.

This last became a serious issue in New Orleans when Mayor Ray Nagin, who is currently facing federal prosecution thanks in large part to the investigative work of local bloggers Karen Gadbois and Jason Berry, began referring to the frequently racist bile found in the NOLA.com comments as "blogs" in order to attack his critics through this false association.

It's unfair and inaccurate for our press persons to further this misconception. What if, for the sake of argument, I were to suggest that based on what we know of Garland Robinette's acceptance of a bribe from his friend Fred Heebe, that we should be suspicious of anything we read from Garland's friend Clancy Dubos on the subject? Or what about Times-Picayune city editor Gordon Russell whose name turned up on Heebe's "lobbyist" list and who last week treated us to 10,000 words of gossipy gawking at Perricone's online "Mencken" persona? Are Clancy and Gordon also covering for Heebe? It's horribly unfair for us to even suggest that but perhaps only slightly less so than it is to say that commenting on NOLA.com is equal to "blogging."

It's unfortunate that we're spending so much time on this sideshow about what John Georges once termed the "dangerous people" of the internet because it obscures the actual newsworthy item which is this. A federal prosecutor has jeopardized a case against an entrenched snake of a corrupt landfill owner through a blatant breech of professional ethics. Perricone publicly disclosed inside information relating to an open case he was working on. Clancy, being a law-talking guy himself, seems to have a handle on this although he buries the point under some semi-sanctimony about anonymity as it relates to "guts" and "integrity" and so forth.
Besides, it’s one thing to dismiss my musings as “effluvia.” It’s something else altogether for a federal prosecutor to launch venomous online broadsides at targets of federal investigations.

Attorneys have a legal duty to refrain from making “extrajudicial comments” about ongoing cases. Prosecutors have an added duty not to make comments “that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.” Perricone did both with alacrity.

If Perricone had been discussing this sensitive information publicly in a rant at a corner bar, or in a letter to the editor, or on the air with Garland, or even if he had started an actual blog about it, it would be a serious and shockingly stupid ethical misstep. There's nothing magical about the internet that alters or exacerbates Perricone's offense. The whole world should be saying, "well yeah, duh, what a douche this guy is," but instead we're all looking to call the latest "Blogger Ethics Panel" to order.

Worse, the dedication of so much ink and pixel to "ooh scary blogger" pearl clutching has prevented anyone from asking some relevant questions. Well, almost anyone. Berry, in fact, jumps right to it here opening up the speculation as to just how Heebe was tipped off to Perricone's identity. *

Heebe claims to have outed Perricone through the use of a "forensic linguist" he hired.
The suit says the analysis was conducted by James Fitzgerald, whose work for the FBI "proved instrumental" in the arrest and successful prosecution of Ted Kaczynski as the Unabomber, after a 17-year investigation that included analysis of the mail bomber's 35,000-word manifesto.
What's missing from the Times-Picayune report on Heebe's lawsuit, though, is the fact that Kaczynski was actually turned in by his own family. I'm sure this forensic syntax palm reading phrenologist dude has made quite a post-retirement business for himself glomming on to cases like this, but I'd be astonished if Heebe didn't hire the guy only after having been tipped off by someone.

If the tipster is someone inside US Attorney Jim Letten's office, that's already a pretty bad sign. Remember Heebe has plenty of contacts at the Department of Justice and was, himself, once suggested as a candidate for Letten's post... domestic abuse, though, is kind of frowned on there.

It's also possible that identifying information on Perricone such as his IP address might have been shared with Heebe by the good people at NOLA.com or their clients at the T-P As we've already established, Heebe has "lobbyists" everywhere. Dambala points out this, at the very least, would constitute a violation of NOLA.com's own user agreement and possibly Perricone's own privacy and free speech rights.

Don't misunderstand me, Perricone is clearly in the wrong here. But the specific details of just what his wrongs are matter. As if to illustrate my point once again, here's the T-P's Laura Maggi's lede to a story that just popped up while I was typing this.
The Department of Justice office that will have to determine whether prosecutor Sal Perricone violated internal federal rules or state ethics mandates when he left snarky anonymous postings on online news stories has received more than 1,000 complaints annually in recent years about potential misconduct by Justice employees.

Perricone's alleged ethics violation relates specifically to his responsibilities in his role as a federal prosecutor. They have nothing to do with "snark" or anonymity or whether or not we can call him a "blogger." But for some reason, our reporters insist on shoe-horning all of that into the story. Why is that?

Speaking personally as someone who married into the actual H.L. Mencken's extended family, I am flabbergasted by the proposition that professional newspaperers seem to have lost their taste for snark. At least our friends at NOLA Defender had the presence of mind to seek out the man's own words for insight here.

As for our local tee-vee folk, I wonder if they even know who Mencken was. Frankly I wouldn't be surprised to learn they were still wondering if he was available for comment.

* In fairness to Clancy Dubos, his post also calls for an investigation into the question of whether or not Perricone acted alone.

True to form

I can't be the only person amused at the fact that the Stacy Daily published an op-ed about an Uptown resident being appalled at what she sees in a supermarket checkout line.

Friday, March 16, 2012

What could possibly go wrong?

Well we tried to go back into the Gulf cautiously, but were told that was too job-killy. Oh well.

A whistleblower is alleging for the first time in a yearslong lawsuit against BP that its massive Atlantis oil platform operation off the Louisiana coast faces present and imminent danger. Kenneth Abbott first complained in 2009 that BP had failed to keep required records of the design of pressure-relief systems and other safety mechanisms onboard the Atlantis.

Turning back the clock

"Turning back the clock" is actually an insufficient metaphor. It implies a progressive interpretation of history where issues are decided one time and then never revisited. In reality, though, every victory is temporary. In politics you never really defeat the other side. You just every now and then get to institute a policy which eventually gets undermined somehow.

Take Social Security, for example. Conservatives have always been opposed to the very idea of a retirement trust fund that benefits every citizen. It may have taken nearly 80 years of chipping away but they're finally about to sink it. The same story applies to the current griping about contraception. It's not new. It's just something so-called "progressives" assumed they had "won".

But nothing is ever won permanently because contrary to fashionable belief, power.. even in a democracy.. isn't about changing people's minds through rational discussion. It's about struggle between permanently and irreconcilably opposed interests. The wealthy don't give as shit about your retirement. They can pay for their own. It's completely rational for them to take this position and you're never going to change their minds about it. Religious fundamentalists are never going to agree that women who want to make their own decisions about their own bodies are anything other than "sluts". You're not going to change their minds either. So they need to be made to behave.

But you can only make people who don't want to behave do so temporarily and imperfectly anyway. So you're always having to re-fight old battles. And that's as it should be. But let's not pretend there's anything unnatural or anachronistic about fighting these fights. Otherwise you allow the other side to pretend that they're presenting you with something new when, in fact, they're just trying to bring back something very old.

Texas filed an amended complaint today [UPDATE, actually Tuesday] in its action to overcome the US Department of Justice’s objection to its voter identification law. The complaint now says that the Voting Rights Act section 5, as amended in 2006, “exceeds the enumerated powers of Congress and conflicts with Article IV of the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment.”

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Great moments in bounty hunting

I'm so old I remember watching the game in which this happened.
Former New Orleans Saints kicker Morten Andersen, a legend with the black-and-gold and the NFL's all-time leading scorer, says he was once the victim of a bounty hit by an opponent in 1987.

The incident, now under investigation by CNN, occured in 1987 when the Saints were playing the Houston Oilers in the Superdome on Dec. 13, 1987. Andersen said that on the opening kickoff, when he was unguarded, he took a vicious, blind-side shot from Oilers special team player Walter Johnson.
The hit was controversial at the time. It was discussed all week in the local media afterward and it was openly speculated that there had been a "bounty" involved. There was no league investigation, however, and no one suggested that the Oilers be docked draft choices or anything like that. Not even after this came out.

Two years later, however, when Johnson became a Saint, Andersen said he asked about the play.

"I said, 'why did you do that?' and he said because he was told to," Andersen said. "Walter told me they paid him $1,000 for that hit."

Again. All of this was common knowledge at the time. It was part of Oilers (later Falcons) coach Jerry Glanville's "Man-in-black" image he enjoyed cultivating. No point in being shocked about it now. And, of course, no point pretending what the Saints are accused of is anything new.

Meanwhile, the City Council just passed a "no-filming" ordinance

And I thought Jackie liked to be on TV.

Or maybe they just want to make sure they aren't being filmed by any of the "dangerous people"

Update: Here's the story on the filming ordinance from The Lens (Ha! Get it?)

The change appears to be aimed at local activist Sandra “18 Wheeler” Hester, who frequently appears at council meetings and has filmed the proceedings while roaming the room.

Flavor enhancers

Uh oh, looks like Mitch will have to ask BP for another round of marketing subsidies.
Scientists have confirmed that oil from BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster has entered the marine food chain.

Research by faculty and students at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. found crude oil from the 2010 spill in zooplankton (photo), small animals that play a critical role in the aquatic food web.

Dr. Siddhartha Mitra with ECU's Department of Geological Sciences and Dr. David Kimmel with the Department of Biology and Institute for Coastal Sciences and Policy worked with students to analyze samples of zooplankton collected from the Gulf of Mexico in August and September 2010. They identified the origin of the oil by examining polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, natural components of crude oil known to cause cancer, reproductive problems and birth defects.

Hey at least these carcinogens are also "aromatic." Could be very useful in preparing our seafood dishes during this Lenten season.


City contractors don't want anyone telling them they have to comply with basic labor laws.

Update: The following council members are not serious about protecting workers' rights in New Orleans
Opposed were Jackie Clarkson, Stacy Head and Kristin Gisleson Palmer.

"We're gonna DO IT, BABY!"

Weird seeing Ben Grubbs' enthusiasm for joining the Saints at this precarious point in time. Kind of reminds me of Barry Switzer's bizarre introduction as Cowboys head coach.

"Politics of the past"

It's important to remember that Bobby Jindal was presented to us as the champion of "good government reform" when we read about these goings on.

State Rep. Harold Ritchie (D-Bogalusa) got his comeuppance on Wednesday one day after he voted against legislation pushed by Jindal. Ritchie, was stripped of his vice chairmanship of the House Committee on Insurance after voting no on a tax rebate for those who donate money for scholarships to private and parochial schools.

He is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee that approved the legislation, HB 969, on Tuesday. Ritchie, during the committee meeting, asked about mechanics of the bill, including how many children might take advantage of it and how many private and parochial schools could accommodate transfer students.

He also posed questions about whether or not accountability standards would be required at the schools offer the scholarships created through the tax rebates.

HB 969 is one of the bills Jindal wants passed as a means of providing subsidized opportunities for children to attend private or parochial schools. Another bill would use taxpayer dollars for the same purpose.

True to form for Jindal, Ritchie was removed the next day by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles). Also true to form, Jindal never does the firing personally, leaving that task to subordinates. In this case, Kleckley is the only one who could have demoted Ritchie.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chinese Democracy

I recently picked up a copy of Poorly Made In China by Paul Midler who relates his experience as a liaison between Chinese manufacturers and the American importers who hire them. The book came highly recommended and so far it has been quite entertaining. Please allow me to share a brief excerpt.
I heard shouting outside my apartment one evening. At first, I thought that an international sporting event was on television and that China had scored a meaningful goal. When the racket persisted, I looked outside and saw that a small group had gathered down on the street for something else.

They were protesters who had come from another neighborhood, and they were standing in front of a building that housed a local government office. The crowd was made up of adult men and women, and some had come as couples. They were upset about a road that was going to be built near their homes. I watched for a while as they chanted slogans. They were not particularly organized, and someone in the crowd told me that they had only heard about the new road project earlier that day.

Protesters in China were typically doubly upset. They were angry over whatever issue they were up in arms about, but they were also frustrated by the futility of their actions. By the time these protesters had learned about the road being built near their homes, it was already too late. The project was in motion and there was no stopping it.

In a democratic country, citizens have options for channeling political energies. They can establish organizations around a common purpose, recruit members, and gather and disseminate meaningful data that might enable everyone to arrive at rational conclusions. They can discuss, debate, raise awareness, lobby politicians, vote -- whatever.

"What happens next?" I asked one woman who stood watching.
"Nothing," she said.

I expected that at some point, someone was going to come out of the building and tell everyone to break it up and go home. The woman explained that the government office was actually closed. Of course it was. These angry protesters had all been shouting at an empty building -- and what was worse was that they all knew it.

I thought about this scene when I read that today in Baton Rouge several hundred teachers and supporters gathered to yell at the State Capitol... which, since the Legislature was in session, qualified as perhaps the most empty building in the State of Louisiana.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Gov. Bobby Jindal called it the most important issue lawmakers would vote on this session, and possibly their entire careers. The governor's legislative package on education reform drew hundreds of teachers to the state capitol Wednesday, forcing classes to close in the Baton Rouge area.

Outside hundreds of teachers and staff covered the Louisiana State Capitol steps in red, holding signs and protesting the governor's plan on education reform.

Unfortunately for the teachers.. for their students.. for the state as whole, the entire exercise is about as useful as the Chinese roadway protest in Midler's book and here's why.

"If we get rid of tenure and they are able to lay off all veteran teachers, and I’m one of those veteran teachers, who the hell going to teach those new teachers what to do?" said one protestor.

"I vote Republican, but this system, this plan that we have, is flawed. It’s not the teachers that’s flawed. It’s the system that is flawed," said another protestor.

Voting. It's one of those "options for channeling political energies" Midler talks about. Consider your energy channeled. Now it's pretty much just all about showing you what you've won.

Mitt will be the nominee

Current GOP delegate totals:

Mitt: 452

Combined Not-Mitt: 431

Chances of either Newt or Santorum dropping out: Not very good.

Mitt will be the nominee.

"The reality is..."

Bobby Jindal is lying again.

Shocked! Shocked!

It's always so heartwarming to see these folks who've made their fortunes stealing from people exclaim to us how shocked they are that there's all this stealing going on once it becomes convenient for them to do so.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.
Yes, of course. The good old days of high "moral fiber" always neatly coincide with the period during which we ourselves were rising, don't they?

Bucking Setting the trend

Well, how do you like this? Looks like the whole country is New Orleans now.
Some depressing facts: Nearly half of people ages 16 to 29 do not have a job. A quarter of those who do work in hospitality—travel, leisure, and, of course, food service. A study of 4 million Facebook profiles found that, after the military, the top four employers listed by twentysomethings were Walmart, Starbucks, Target, and Best Buy. The restaurant industry in particular is booming; one in 10 employed Americans now work in food service—9.6 million of us. Those numbers are growing each year. Even though more and more laid-off, middle-aged Americans are turning to restaurant jobs, as of 2010 about two-thirds of food service workers are still under age 35. And the industry’s workforce is more educated than it was just 10 years ago. In major U.S. cities, about 9 percent more food service workers have been to college.

Food and retail jobs usually don’t pay a living wage—let alone enough to pay back student loans—and they’re supplanting jobs that do. The average restaurant worker made $15,000 in 2009, compared to $74,000 for a manufacturing worker. Factory work, once the default employment choice for many newly minted adults, was backbreaking and monotonous. But, if unionized, it was also stable, full time, and decently paid.

I don't understand the complaint. I thought the point was to be all free and romantic and creative and "authentic" and stuff. Keep whining like this and I'll bet HBO never gets around to making a show about an idealization of your heroic suffering.

Insert Steven Segal joke here

First it was edited. Then it was scraped from his YouTube account altogether. But on Wednesday, Rep. Peter King said there was nothing wrong with videotaping an action-packed raid he participated in earlier in the week with federal law enforcement in New York.

Following inquiries from TPM, the US Marshals Service on Tuesday said they were investigating whether the video King (R-NY) posted, which showed agents kicking down doors and chasing after a suspect in Brooklyn while he tagged along, violated federal policy.