Sunday, September 30, 2012

Eroding coastline, eroding newspaper

Here's an excerpt from Bob Marshall's final column for the Times-Picayune

Of course, there's another reason smaller storms are now causing more marsh destruction and consequent home and road flooding. It's the fact that shall not be named by our congressional delegation: global warming. The build-up of greenhouse gases mainly from fossil fuels is causing the sea to rise at an accelerated rate because water expands as it warms and because water that once was frozen on land as glaciers and ice fields is melting and flowing into the seas.

This isn't a theory. It's a fact recorded by measurements at tide stations over the last few decades. And the rate of sea level rise in southeast Louisiana is about four times the rate of the rest of the continent because we are sinking at the same time the Gulf is swelling.

The graphs on this page explain that. They are not computer models or projections. They are measurements of what has happened and continues to happen. You can see all these facts online here.

And part of what they tell us is that storm surges on the other side of our levees are becoming higher and more dangerous with each passing season, because even small storms have more water to push our way and much less marsh and swamp to diminish their speed and power.

Read the rest.  After that the T-P moves on to its reduced publishing schedule and a reduced share of the New Orleans media market.  This is bad news for the employees the paper laid off in order to make this transition. Not only the talented writers it will no longer sell as part of its diminished product but also the support staff no one seems to be mourning this week.

Today Monteverde lost his job.

He was just one of more than 200 Times-Picayune employees who were told today that their services would no longer be required as of Sept. 30. Eighty-four of the cuts came from the newsroom staff, which numbered 169 — a 49 percent cut.

Besides the newsroom slashing, the paper's entire marketing department was fired save one person. All special sections employees, the library staff and human resources employees were also presented with severance papers.

The writers, I feel bad for, but they'll mostly be ok.  The rest.. well if you've been planning to boycott what's left of the paper now would be the time to start.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Trying to establish a pattern

Last week (September 21) the checkpoint was at Orleans and Basin.

This week: Carondelet and Calliope

Probably can't find it every time but I'm going to start trying to keep track of where they are when we do.

Lamar told me to do my homework

But my eyes are tired from staring at screens all day so I don't wanna.  Instead I'm using it as an excuse to do nothing tonight on the grounds that none of these the things I could post will be.. um.. homeworked enough to publish until tomorrow.

I've got three unfinished drafts right now.  One is about Civil Service reform, one is a Rising Tide panel review, and one is about football.  But they all are too much work to finish right now.  So, instead, here's Lamar's Ashley acceptance speech where he tells us all to do our homework.

Rising Tide 7 - Ashley Award - Lamar White - Cenlamar blog from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

Oh and speaking of Lamar and homework, here he is explaining that John White is cribbing his from a $12,000 per month PR flack.

Charcoal filtered

Hey, if it's good enough for vodka, right?

Snuggled between the Mississippi River and the wetlands bordering Barataria Bay, Myrtle Grove has been identified by coastal restoration experts as an excellent place for a river sediment diversion. The diversion would allow the river to periodically coat adjacent wetlands with mud-rich water the way it did before levees were built and annual flooding was brought under control. But a coal storage depot proposed by RAM Terminals, LLC, is also planned for the same spot, raising concern that toxins from the coal will damage marsh grasses needed to anchor river silt and eventually build new land.

Case of the missing sic (pun intended, I guess)

This is an article noting that the Stolthaven chemical storage facility in Braithwaite has been fined a second time by DEQ for failing to take adequate precautions against the release of hazardous materials into state waters during Hurricane Isaac.

I expect we'll be hearing more about Stolthaven's negligence in the near future. But, in the meantime, I noticed these typos in the article where it quotes a letter from Stolthaven management.
"Efforts are currently underway to recover material retained onsite," the letter said. "It is unknown at this time whether, or in what cuantities, the materials listed above in Attachment 2 remain in teh stormwater contained within each tank farm containment area."
Usually that's no big deal to me but, this being the final full week of the Times-Picayune as we knew it, I couldn't help but wonder if the errors were Stolthaven's or the T-P's. Obviously somebody could benefit from more robust editing, in either case.

I did find one clue when I enquired (sic) at the Stolthaven website.

Stolthaven New Orleans - Hurricane Isaac
For media enquiries concerning
Stolthaven New Orleans please
contact Darrell Wilson,

Update: And now I'm told that "enquiries" is (sort of) acceptable but favored in the British spelling. "Teh", on the other hand, is relegated strictly to LOL Catz.

The River Parish Mystery Plant

I haven't seen a print edition of The Advocate in probably 15 years or so.  I know there were some free copies available around town this week. But I didn't get a chance to snag one.  Does anyone know if they still publish a puzzle?  Because  it looks to me like they just decided to fold the brain teasers right into the reporting.

Take this story for example. It's about a "mysterious" industrial project of some sort which, according to scuttlebutt, may be sited in St. James or Ascension Parish some time in the near future.   
Sites in St. James and Ascension parishes are being eyed for a “large” but mysterious industrial project that some officials have described as being bigger than the $3.4 billion Nucor Corp. steel mill being built in Romeville, St. James Parish officials said.
Who is building the plant? No one can say! What will it produce? No one will tell! Obviously all of the "officials" and "stakeholders" either named or unnamed in the article know the answers to those questions and, I get the distinct impression that the reporter knows as well.  But he's not telling us either. No, I'm not sure why, but man does that make it fun.

Here's what we do know about that so far. We know it's a "large but mysterious industrial project" that might be bigger than Nucor. The article also tells us it's "tied to the energy sector," and that it is nicknamed, "Project Frontier"

There's more "what" but before we get there it's helpful to note some of the "why"s. For example, there's this sentence which appears to give us conflicting information.
A county in Texas also is being looked at for the project that appears to be tied to the energy sector and is trying to take advantage of Mississippi River access and low natural gas prices due to advances in shale exploration, parish officials said.
How is a "county in Texas" going to "take advantage of Mississippi River access"? We aren't told.  But it does raise the specter of interstate competition for an economic development project which, of course, always necessitates the following.
..the prospective facility was mentioned as part of a broader discussion on local tax incentives during a closed gathering of representatives of major St. James Parish taxing jurisdictions about a month ago at the Parish Courthouse in Convent, St. James Parish officials said.
Who is discussing tax incentives for the giant mysterious "energy sector" natural gas thingamajig on the river? Practically every elected official of consequence in St. James Parish, to start. The Advocate names several who attended this strategy meeting.
St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel said the officials had gathered to discuss “what we can live with and what we can’t live with, and we needed all of the stakeholders’ opinions.”
What can they live with? Roussel isn't ready to say.  He also isn't giving up any details about the project because, 
Roussel said he could offer few details on Project Frontier, such as what company is behind it, because he has signed a non-disclosure agreement.
The same goes, of course, for the whole of the St. James Parish  taxing authorities assembled at the meeting. The same, again, goes for Ascension Parish officials who, the reporter hints, are just as well coordinated and, of course, every bit as mum.
Ascension Parish officials had less to say. Parish President Tommy Martinez referred calls Wednesday to Mike Eades, president and chief executive officer of the parish’s chief economic development arm.

Eades declined comment Wednesday.
In all, The Advocate points to 10 Parish and State officials who have probably signed a confidentiality agreement with the major gas refinery project they're currently negotiating tax breaks with.  And now that we know that, the big "mystery" of just who they're planning to give that away to hardly seems like the most relevant fact anymore.

Note: According to The Hayride, it's probably a Gas-To-Liquid fuel refinery to be operated by either Shell or Sasol. The Advocate leaves hints that point to this as well but... for whatever reason... doesn't just come out and say it.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rebecca Solnit is an asshole

Um... wrong. Your elected officials never deserve your praise. The second you stop complaining and join in the cheerleading is the second democracy fails to function.  Anyone who tells you different is an elitist apologist. End of story forever.

Property > People

Gambit: Suspected Marigny child deserter faces lesser charge than guy who wrote six words on wall several blocks away

They'll need to bring it more in line with the NFL code of fan conduct

The city council is planning to revise its ordinance restricting free speech on Bourbon Street according to court filings shared by Gambit

Because they can

Entergy to raise rates in New Orleans

Of course they will.  Entergy is authorized to do whatever it has to do to maintain its profit margin in the wake of an outage event like Isaac. In fact, it's practically legally obligated to do that. 

Serpas Signal

I think we should start offering prizes to the first person who spots the checkpoint each week. Last week they were set up around Orleans and Basin.  This week.. who knows!

The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint, in Orleans Parish, on Friday September 28, 2012, beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M. and will conclude at approximately 5:00 A.M.  Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation available if requested, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc.
So if you're headed out to the People Say Project's District B candidates' forum tomorrow night at Handsome Willy's bar, be aware that Serpas may be out to penalize you for your shameless act of civic engagement that evening.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

No we didn't forget

September 25, 2006


During a candidate's forum last night, Stacy Head's former chief of staff and current candidate for her old District B council seat Eric Strachan attempted to establish "independence" from his former boss.

While Horton has been the only candidate openly critical of the seat’s previous representative, Stacy Head, her former chief of staff opened his remarks by pledging his own independence from her.
“I’ve got this experience working under two strong-willed City Councilwomen, but I will be my own man,” Strachan said. “I will be an independent voice on this council.”

Today we read that Head does not plan to make an endorsement in this race

In other words, Strachan likely sees his association with Head as a liability.  And so she's helping coordinate his strategy of establishing independence. Funny how that works.

Thar be Dragons

Aaron Broussard is feeling puckishly glib this morning.

Broussard, who resigned from office in Jan. 2010 amid a federal probe, entered a guilty plea to two counts, including a conspiracy to commit bribery, theft and wire fraud and theft from a program receiving federal funds. Broussard faces up to 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

At 23, I came into politics as a dragon slayer. At 63-years-old, I am going out as a dragon,” Broussard said to reporters as he entered the federal courthouse to enter his guilty plea. 
Broussard is expected to make a plea deal  with regard to the River Birch prosecution, or as Broussard colorfully put it this morning,

You see.. because Jim Letten actually plays the drums.. and Broussard is "singing".. and IT'S FUNNY, DAMMIT!!

Anyway, in the meantime, we're told that this NOLA.com article on River Birch background is the first in a series of six such reports. So there should be plenty to sing about.


Drew Magary on Roger Goodell:  FIRE THIS ASSHOLE

Goodell is a fraud, someone who has spent his career diving under his father's halo in the hopes that some of the light will shine on his dumbass, too. For years now, he has been little more than an eager hatchet man, doing all the shameful things that owners are too chickenshit to do themselves. The worst part was that he would cloak all this in the kind of faux nobility that suckers like Peter King always fall for but makes the rest of us want to shit on our rugs.
Saints fans to America: "Welcome aboard, everybody! No no.. no problem at all.  We're pretty used to being the canary in the coal mine around here anyway." 

Update: More from TBogg who references this Huffpo report on the the referees' contract negotiations. The refs are arguing with the league over their pensions.  The NFL wants to freeze the refs' defined benefit and replace it with a cheaper 401k

In facing a pension freeze, the NFL refs have plenty of company. Corporations across the country have been trying to switch their employees from traditional defined benefit pension plans to cheaper, less reliable defined contribution plans. Just one example is Con-Ed, which recently locked out workers as it tried to phase out employees' traditional pensions and move them to 401(k)s.

A lockout, it should be noted, is different from a strike. The workers do not elect to stop working -- they are forced to do so by management, putting them on the defensive. (Writing at The Nation, Dave Zirin and Mike Elk compared locking out 119 referees to "using an Uzi on a field mouse.") The prevalence of lockouts during labor disputes has soared in the weak economy.

But in this case, employees are squaring off with an ownership that doesn't pretend to be under financial duress. According to Forbes, the average NFL team is now worth $1.1 billion, up 7 percent over the previous year. To draw a blue-collar parallel, the league is a bit like the manufacturer Caterpillar, which has been pressuring its workers to bend to concessions despite the company's record profits.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Post production

Rising Tide 7 this past Saturday appears to have been a success.  I spent the day there taking notes and being a pain in the ass and whatnot and I'll share my observations on what did and didn't work once I get a chance to go over everything, review the tapes, that sort of thing.

Meanwhile, though, here's Varg with some thoughtful reaction to the "Community or Commodity" panel discussion.

It's OK as long as you play in New York

Jets' Pace on Reggie Bush: 'We had to put him on out'

We'll be over here holding our breath waiting for Roger Goodell to suspend the Jets' coaching and front office staff for the rest of the season. 

Upcoming public forums of interest

A group calling itself Concerned Classified City Employees is meeting Tuesday Sept 25 to discuss the Mayor's push to scrap the civil service system.  The meeting is that the Little Zion Baptist Church at 4821 Earhart Blvd.  This reform is a big big deal that's kind of out there under the radar right now. Check out this recent Gambit feature by Charles Maldonado for some background.

The final "Mayor's Community Budget Meeting" thingy is tonight at the Gentilly Baptist Church, 5141 Franklin Ave from 6-8 PM. This is the District D meeting that had to be pushed back due to Hurricane Isaac.  Like the 2012 New Orleans Saints, these meetings may not be all that productive but they sure are entertaining.  If enough people show up, maybe they can push this one into overtime.

Update: District B Candidates forum at St. George's Church tonight. Follow along at Uptown Messenger

Friday, September 21, 2012

Serpas Signal

The pleasure seekers are out there tonight.

The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint, in Orleans Parish, on Friday September 21, 2012, beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M. and will conclude at approximately 5:00 A.M.  Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation available if requested, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

They'll robust up and we'll robust in

Just as the Baton Rouge Advocate launches 7 day delivery of its New Orleans edition, NOLA Media Group prepares to launch some sort of counterattack.

This is getting silly.  Or, if you like, they'll be digital age children but so what?

Efficient markets theory of iPhone theft

Last night Ros and I were standing on a street corner downtown when some drunk bros came by looking for directions to their hotel. They were equipped with smartphones and knew the name of the hotel as well as the name of the street it was on. (Although none of them could pronounce Chartres.)

We figured out pretty quickly where they needed to go and tried several times to tell them. But they stubbornly kept trying to ignore our advice and figure it out with their phones.

Here's how they used their GPS and internet enabled phones to do this. One of them had, earlier, taken a dark and blurry photograph of the hotel which he was holding up at arm's length and comparing with the scenery around us in order to judge their location "by the angles of the light" or something. Meanwhile another one kept insisting, "But we're not on Chart! This isn't Chart!" and trying to lead them off in the wrong direction.

We eventually pointed them the right way but I can't help but think that maybe this is why nature provides the French Quarter with iPhone thieves. Someone has to get those resources to where they will be used more efficiently, right?

Ride the red bus

Like many New Orleanians who occasionally find themselves having to traverse the "Hospitality Zone" even though the Mayor has made clear that area belongs more to the tourists than the residents, I'm very much looking forward to being stuck in traffic behind one of these giant obnoxious double-decker tour buses.

Yes, I'm looking forward to it for a couple of reasons.  First, I'm reasonably certain the none of the buses will keel over and die in the middle of the street no matter how hard they are worked. 

Second, now that I've seen the route,

I'm reminded that only a few years ago, our city fathers tried to waste a federal public transit grant building a streetcar that would have served the same purpose.

convention ctr streetcar

So at least this way the tourists will be funding their own amusement ride (to the tune of $40 per adult).

I'm a little confused, though, about this.

Meg Lousteau, executive director of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates group, said there's potential for the buses to draw tourists across the city. "But we hope this won't continue to overload the French Quarter with visitors," she added.

Peter Boese, the National World War II Museum's director of sales, said he hopes the new bus routes will bring tourists who might otherwise remain in the French Quarter to other parts of the city.

"If they have the means to venture out and explore the rest of the city, it's going to be a great opportunity for them to see other attractions," Boese said.

Lousteau and Boese are both hoping the buses "draw tourists across the city" but, according to the map published in today's T-P, the route stays well within the "Hospitality Zone" so I'm not sure how this is accomplished.  But then, adding to the confusion is this bit from WWLTV.

Riders can buy a day pass and hop on and off a bus at one of several different tourist attractions. The continuous loop includes stops at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, New Orleans Museum of Art, World War II Museum, as well as the Superdome, Audubon Zoo and Magazine Street shopping area.

If the big red buses are going to the Zoo and to Magazine street, I'd like to see which route they're taking.  Magazine is crowded and hazardous enough as it is.  One would hope we'd be doing our best not to cram it with even more oversized vehicles at this point.

More importantly, shouldn't visitors trying to get across town just figure out how to use the available public transit anyway?   After all seeing how a city actually works is part of the point of traveling, isn't' it? See the real people, hear the real accent, that sort of thing. Gambit's Megan Braden-Perry has spent much of this year demystifying the RTA for first-time riders.  It isn't very hard to figure out. So why sequester yourself in a big red rolling tower with the rest of the adult kindergarten?

Well, according to the bus operator's website, there is always this incentive.

City Sightseeing New Orleans will give you a set of their own Free souvenir earbuds, so you can hear this exhilarating tour in any of 7 Languages: Spanish / French / Portuguese / German / Italian / Japanese / Chinese. Plus look forward to our Kid’s Club Channel and even, hear the tour in that local Cajun accent!

 Well alright then, by all means don't pass up a chance to hear "that local Cajun accent!" It's all part of that "authentic" experience we're selling these days.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"I've got a university"

Huey Long quote, right?  Sure, but it's not his university anymore and it shows.

Jindal doesn’t care much about putting LSU on stronger financial footing and he has made no effort to explain his cuts to students or faculty.

What he may care about is the LSU jobs available to his friends and campaign donors. His history of favoritism in other state departments (not to mention his intolerance of dissent) is well known. Perhaps the only reason he hasn’t yet started stuffing LSU with friends and washed-up legislators is that he only recently acquired a strong majority of the LSU Board of Supervisors.

Now that Jindal is fully in charge — and has, in interim President Bill Jenkins, an eager and accommodating administrator — who knows what’s in store for the main campus?

Huey Long, as someone recently observed, might have had control of LSU, but at least he used his power to transform the university into an educational powerhouse. Jindal, it seems, has much lower and more-practical political ambitions.

Call it an un-viral video

It's two minutes of footage that no one has seen  but everyone is talking about.

Mother Jones published Romney's remarks in two parts yesterday, which is how journalist David Corn says he received it from his source.

"When we put up the full video, the source said -- and I have no reason not to believe him -- that the device that was being used inadvertently shut down or timed-out," Corn told POLITICO. "As soon as he knew that, he turned the camera back on and, at most, one to two minutes were missed. The video came to me as two separate files, and that is how we posted it on the website."

Nevertheless, the omission, first flagged by Glenn Beck's The Blaze, is already causing some controversy on the right. The conservative blog Legal Insurrection sought Corn's explanation and Joel Pollak, editor-in-chief of Breitbart.com, accused Mother Jones of breaking its promise to release the full video. "There is new reason to suspect manipulation," Pollak writes. "Mother Jones's entire story now deserves to be treated with suspicion, if not contempt."
Yes, it's quite suspicious.  That missing two minutes could hold the key to everything. Maybe Mitt finally  reveals the secrets behind Boutnygate. It could be anything.  Luckily the entire internet is on the case.  

On the other hand, they might as well not bother.  It's probably just two straight minutes of this.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Good Governance Inquisition

Mostly because of their friendly-sounding name and also because of their longevity, the so-called Alliance for Good Government's endorsement is always a highly sought-after prize during election season. Tonight the "Alliance" is applying its renowned candidate vetting interrogation to District B City Council hopefuls  and Uptown Messenger is there to witness the revered Good Governance examination in progress. Let's look in now via the "live blog."

(Note: The "Alliance" is also choosing candidates in other municipal races but Uptown Messenger is concentrating on the... well... the Uptown race in District B)

Shhh. Please don't disturb the candidates' concentration in this mentally taxing matter.

First question: If someone calls your office with a pothole growing and growing, what do you do?

Now we know the candidates may be tempted to answer, "Evacuate the area immediately!" But, keep in mind, this is a hole "growing and growing" in Orleans District B not in Assumption Parish. Still, not many people understand just how tricky this question can be. See, in District B, a pothole can, yes, grow and grow. But also, it can present itself in a stunning array of fashions. Prospective councilors may be confronted with a hole dressed in an orange cone,

Hole in the road

Or two

Sinkhole 2011

Or three with a little police tape

Pothole still there

Or one again but with more tape and an abandoned futon

Pothole sofa

Or a big barricade on top and filled with bricks

Bricked up

Or none of that stuff and a single grocery cart instead.

Sinkhole avec cart

So suddenly the problem seems a bit more complicated than at first glance. What the successful candidate will know, though, is that this is a trick question. The answer, as it happens, is the same in any of these cases because 1) It's all just the same hole. And 2) If you just wait around and do nothing for.. say.. 2 years, eventually an attractive shrubbery grows in and the problem takes care of itself.

Sinkhole tree

So tread carefully, candidates. Seriously, tread carefully. There are holes in the road. Also here's the next question.

Next question: What would you do about the Inspector General's office?

Wait. There's an Inspector General's office? Think carefully before you answer.

Fradella thought he was part of a $650 million project restoring the hulking former Entergy power plant on Market Street and turning it into a riverfront tourism and shopping attraction. One explosive email came out in the bankruptcy case of the project’s developer, Market EntStreet Properties.

A person involved in the project, Stuart “Neil” Fisher, sent an email to a business partner in May 2010 encouraging him to finalize a deal to sell the property to Chinese investors. Fisher’s wife, Tamara “T.J.” Fisher, owned half of Market Street Properties.

Neil Fisher’s email notes that another team of developers who controlled the other half of the property was “putting pressure on former Mayor Ray Nagin to talk to (Fisher) about structuring a deal with their company.”

Then the kicker:

“Nagin, of course, would get a piece,” Fisher wrote.
Oh dear.  Okay well, maybe we'll come back to that question later.  We've only got so much time, you know.  Next question.

Next question: What will you do to repair roads?

Wait. Didn't we just do this one? How is this different from the pothole question? If you can pretend you know, the Good Governance Seal Of Approval is yours.  Probably.

I mean, those were apparently the only three questions so that's got to be the trick. Unless this is all just a farce by which an old club of establishment business mucks make everybody come kiss their asses for a while before they just go ahead and pick one of their own anyway. But that can't be it because, then, why would anyone give a shit, right?

Oh I see.  Well, thanks for playing anyway.

Update:  Following along on the "live blog" I missed the fourth question in this inquisition.  Uptown Messenger relays it here in its write-up of the evening.

The final question, about the budget process, also drew differing answers. Cantrell said she would begin the process sooner with her own meeting for District B residents, not just the one led by the mayor. Horton said that, coming from outside the process, he would analyze it and listen to his constituents. Strachan proposed a searchable, electronic budget document for the public, and also said the budget is an example of an issue on which he would try to promote more camaraderie and less strife among the council members. Kaplan suggested better comprehensive planning on issues such as criminal justice, and also described a proposal for innovative programs and new models.
 I'm partial to Latoya Cantrell's idea about holding more public meetings.  Those things are terrific entertainment.

Unusual approach

I can't remember seeing a public official held personally responsible for his or her department's legal fines.

NEW ORLEANS - The City of New Orleans is no stranger to lawsuits requesting government records. But one such lawsuit now has Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas on the hook for monetary damages.
The civil court lawsuit was filed in 2009 by the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center when the city and police department under then-chief Warren Riley declined to turn over police records. Attorneys for the group sued to get files related to a death penalty murder case under the Louisiana Public Records Act.

So Riley didn't comply with a request and the city continued to fight it for two years until finally they gave up when Paulette Irons threatened to hold them in contempt.  So they sent Serpas out to take the whipping personally.
To recoup the organization’s legal fees, Bourke went back to court to try to collect under an infrequently used provision in the law in which the “custodian” of government records can be held personally liable for damages.

Irons ruled in Bourke’s favor, rendering a $26,621 judgment against the city. That means the custodian, Serpas, is now personally on the hook for the money – $11,000 in fines and $15,621 in attorneys’ fees – even though he wasn’t chief when the lawsuit was originally filed.
So sucks to be him, I guess.  But, hey, maybe it'll spur the chief to start taking public records disclosure more seriously in the future.  Either that or he can wait for Mitch to scrap Civil Service so that he can force all his employees to contribute to a legal defense fund or something.  You know, whatever comes first. 

Yes we can't

Still don't think Mitt is terribly hurt by this tape but, hey, let's put this on a bumper sticker.

Responding to a question about the "Palestinian problem," Romney said peace in the Middle East is not possible and a Palestinian state is not feasible, telling donors that Palestinians have "no interest whatsoever in establishing peace and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish."

Child abuse

Todd Akin trots out his own daughter for an damage control ad in the wake of his "legitimate rape" fiasco.

UpdateFor fans of stupid political intrigue and general ineptitude.

The website, published on the day the Akin campaign plans a “Missouri Women Standing with Todd Akin” kickoff event featuring Phyllis Schlafly, was pulled down a few hours after it launched, after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch discovered one of the women featured prominently in a photo with Akin is actually a Democratic staffer.

“Corinne Matti, who is pictured on Akin’s site standing to Akin’s left, is a ‘tracker’ for the Missouri Democratic Party,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “Her job, which she does openly, is to attend Akin’s public events and report back to the Democrats. She has been doing it for more than a year.”

Dig a deeper hole and then you'll feel better

All day I've been watching the Mitt show and all day I've been entertaining the notion that none of the "leaks" we've been seeing is particularly damaging.  To begin with, this Politico story about Mitt's whining staffers is mostly just inside bullshit ball irrelevant to anyone other than the pros involved and their future job prospects. But I'm glad I saw it this morning.   It was a timely reminder that any so-called leak coming out of an active political campaign isn't to be taken at face value.

Which is why I'm not so convinced that the initial reaction of the universe to the day's bigger "leak" is correct.

During a private fundraiser earlier this year, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a small group of wealthy contributors what he truly thinks of all the voters who support President Barack Obama. He dismissed these Americans as freeloaders who pay no taxes, who don't assume responsibility for their lives, and who think government should take care of them. Fielding a question from a donor about how he could triumph in November, Romney replied:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.
Romney went on: "[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Now if you're looking around today at most establishment commentators, you're hearing widespread condemnation of Mitt. Some are even going so far as to name this the day he lost the election.

I'm sorry but I don't see it. Mitt's statements to this fundraiser, vile as they may be, are in no way out of step with the main line of American political thought for several decades now.  This is the pure, "we're all being held back by inferior lazy poors and their entitlement state" that has resonated with a majority of voters throughout the post-Civil Rights era.  It's "welfare queen" bashing plain and simple.  Ronald Reagan would be proud.

Furthermore the "candid moment" quality of this helps break through Mitt's usual wooden and obviously staged demeanor that has prevented him from connecting with the conservative base this sort of red meat is aimed at.  Here voters are meant to believe they're seeing the real, unfiltered Mitt. They're meant to take it as a glimpse at what Mitt really thinks when the cameras aren't on and he's not being safe.   I've been pretty firm in my belief that all Mitt has to do to get over the top in this election is to find a way to fire up a conservative base itching for an excuse to get fired up.   I can imagine hearing this might be reassuring for the base block of what we used to call "Reagan Democrats" who might not have trusted Romney otherwise.

Plus there's all the gratuitous racial paranoia thrown in.  
Romney told the contributors that "women are open to supporting me," but that "we are having a much harder time with Hispanic voters, and if the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African American voting block has in the past, why, we're in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation."
It's really almost too good. And it would take a lot to convince me that it's not good for Mitt overall strategically.

Update: Ah see now David Brooks is condemning Mitt.  That seals it for me.  Something is definitely up with this. 

Upperdate: Charles Pierce responds to Brooks' column

The problem with this whole business is it gives openings to people like Brooks to talk about the.. you know... responsible ways we should go about shaming poor people.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Recommended to be read all over

Gambit's Kevin Allman has been doing yeoman's work reporting on the events since the Times-Picayune announced its layoffs and transition to 3 day per week publication beginning in October. In this week's Gambit cover story he re-caps the entire saga.  If you haven't been following along all summer, this article is an excellent opportunity for you to catch up.

And you'll want to catch up before this weekend.  Here's why.  Allman's piece begins.

There are things in your life, rightly or wrongly, you think are never going to change," says Rebecca Theim, a former Times-Picayune reporter now living in Las Vegas. "When I come back to New Orleans, I know there's always going to be a French Quarter, there's always going to be corrupt politicians and there's going to be a Times-Picayune."

So when The New York Times' David Carr reported last May that New Orleans' daily paper would scale back to three-days-a-week publication — which came as a shock to most of the staff — Theim created an online petition to "implore Advance and the Newhouses [the company and the family that own the paper] to maintain the publishing frequency and proud legacy of The Times-Picayune and its other newspapers."

That petition became the pebble that spawned an avalanche of protest — and a summer of rocky publicity for the Newhouse family; Advance Publications and their newly rebranded NOLA Media Group; and the paper's new publisher, Ricky Mathews, who had arrived from Alabama just two months before the news broke. It was Mathews, along with James O'Byrne, editor of Advance's local online operation NOLA.com, who would steer the paper to what was euphemistically being called the "digital transition." (Neither Mathews nor O'Byrne returned Gambit's emailed request for an interview for this story.)
Saturday afternoon at Rising Tide the day's final discussion, "Black and White and Red All Over" will  look at the Picayune's transition to the new NOLA Media Group and what it means for the future of local news in a changing environment.  Kevin Allman and James O'Byrne are both scheduled to appear on the panel.

Back to Arachnoquake

The mysterious tremors near the Texas Brine sinkhole in Bayou Corne have started again.  And the news there continues to resemble a B-horror script

Horton said he has never seen such a combination of tremors before from the same area at the same time.

“Yes, it does lead to a lot of questions and that’s really where we are,” he said. “We have a lot of questions as to what’s going on and not a lot answers.”

He said the long-period tremors could be related to something connected with natural gas, but he cautioned that was speculation.

“There is something going on with these very long-period signals, and we don’t know what it is … I haven’t figured it out yet,” Horton said.
Just trying to help Horton narrow things down a bit.  The tremors could be caused by giant subterranean spiders released by gas fracking operations.

But could also be a sign that Isaac has stirred up enough leftover BP oil in the Gulf to awaken Geauxjira.

At Rising Tide this weekend we'll be talking at length about the effects of oil and gas exploration on our South Louisiana ecology so maybe some better answers will emerge there. 

But keeping all of this in mind, it might also be helpful to note that LSU is playing Auburn this week which, historically, has also tended to disturb the earth in the Baton Rouge area.

Update: I picked the Earthquake Game video in haste this afternoon without watching it all the way through.  Had no idea it carried a religious tag.  Hilarious.

Big weekend coming

There's this concert I figure many people will want to see.

There's the first of what will no doubt be several ABSOLUTE FINAL CHANCEs for the Saints to make something of their season. 

Oh and Rising Tide 7 is coming Saturday. (Register here!) So there may be periodic mentions of these upcoming events this week.  Such as this RT explainer from Mags. (No idea why she writes in all lowercase)

seven years later, rising tide is still basically hoping to do the same thing: draw folks in; blow their minds with brilliant speakers who run the gamut from academics to grassroots activists to politicians to culture-makers and more; get their synapses firing all while offering them a great networking opportunity; and hopefully inspire more folks to get involved in shaping the future of our city.

Saints headed over the edge

May not seem like the right idea, but according to the fake interim coach, that's what they're working toward.

Bucking the trend

RSD services contractor Aramark is already reaping the "trend bucking" economic benefits of Hurricane Isaac.

Aramark was paid even though schools were closed. Instead of paying workers for their scheduled shifts that were canceled due to forces beyond their control, the company pocketed tens of thousands of dollars, while their workers, who already toe the poverty line, were put into precarious situations because of the loss of income.

Shit on the fan could be the problem. Although I would't rule out raccoons

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Yes, well, they still have to live in Charlotte

Around the time the Panthers were taking a 28-13 lead this afternoon, the Goodfellas Social and Pleasure Club second line featuring the Hot 8 and TBC brass bands passed by our door. 

TBC Brass Band

So it's never all that bad.  Angry Who Dat is already cleansing his system.  I suggest you do the same. More later.

"Wipe Away A Useless Frown" or "Analyze And Obviate Disasters Grand"

It probably wasn't as bad as it felt.  It felt pretty bad, though.  The worst kind of bad too. It was bad in an unsatisfying, non-cathartic way like what it would have looked like if the Hindenberg had slowly deflated through a pinhole without all the fire and the HUMANITY and whatnot.

Prior to last week's season opener we had read through enough "season preview" articles to notice that, even though Saints fans' emotions were running justifiably hot, a surprising number of them expressed modest expectations for this year's eventual win total.  So the deflated feeling Sunday afternoon didn't stem directly from the scoreboard.  Rather, it came from the lack of opportunity to let out the offseason's store of pent up rage.

Other than one spectacular touchdown reception by Jimmy Graham, a blocked punt,  and the appearance of Jonathan Vilma on the field to lead the pre-game "Who Dat" chant, Saints fans had very little to get excited about.  The rest of the day was unspectacular with the outcome not very much in doubt most of the way.  Losing the game sucks, sure, but after everything the fans have been through this year, they at least deserved to lose in a more entertaining fashion. Life can be sadly un-poetic like that sometimes.  Some weeks, you get to run out of the stadium screaming in ecstasy or in agony.  And sometimes you just come way scratching your head asking, "Why football happen as it do?" Those are the shitty times.

Saints vs Redskins: (As we are wont to do during football season, we stole some game photos from NOLA.com. We feel it adds robustness to the posts.. so long as Advance's servers don't crash)

  • Roger Goodell is still an asshole: This week's obligatory "Roger Goodell Is Still An Asshole" quotation comes to us courtesy of Fox Sports' Jason Whitlock.

  • What is more dangerous — a symbolic, thousand-dollar bounty system or the Baltimore Ravens opening the season playing four NFL games in 17 days?

    The elimination of bounties will not stop one NFL defensive player from curb-stomping an opposing player if given the opportunity. Goodell’s New Orleans witch hunt won’t make the game safer. Would the elimination of Thursday night football enhance safety? I suspect one day a smart lawyer will argue that it would.

    But that day isn’t here just yet, so Thursday night the Bears and the Packers kicked off the NFL’s season-long money grab. Year 7 of Thursday night football will stretch across the entire NFL season rather than just the second half.

    The Ravens opened the 2012 season on “Monday Night Football” and will play their fourth game on Thursday, Sept. 27, completing as grueling a stretch of tackle football as we’ve ever seen.
    Football is dangerous.  The men who play it shouldn't be subjected to unnecessarily harsh working conditions on top of that.  But Goodell would rather suspend people for unpalatable smack talk. Roger Goodell is still an asshole.

  • "Remember Me" hits still as ineffective as ever: Near the end of the first quarter, Washington took a 10-7 lead on an 88 yard pass from Thurston Howell The Third to a receiver with an even more effete-sounding name.  Just as he released the ball, The Third was knocked to the ground by Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins who was blitzing despite no longer playing for Gregg Williams. Were he still around, Williams might have credited Jenkins with a "whack" or a "remember me" hit which would have been a big coup for Jenkins during the next week's powerpoint presentation.  But Williams is gone so Jenkins (probably) gets nothing.  Even worse, the result on the field is unchanged.

  • Mark Ingram Bust Watch: Everybody complained all week that the Saints didn't run the ball enough. The numbers (10 attempts for 32 yards)  are pretty damning. But, to us, this looked less like poor game planning than it did just a result of the Saints digging a hole for themselves combined with Washington owning the ball for long stretches of time. 

  • The Saints had few opportunities to get the offense rolling at all.  When they did, they frequently put themselves in bad situations with penalties or blown protections.  Simply put, aside from their limited number of 1st and 10s, the Saints weren't in many running situations on offense.  Of their 10 total rushes, 6 of them were handled by Mark Ingram. Poorly.

    We know it's still maybe a little too early to call Ingram a total bust.  But we're pretty sure he's entering his first year of bust eligibility. We'll keep an eye on this as the season goes along.

  • At least Mark Ingram is a warm body: Every season is a derby to see if the Saints run out of running backs or defensive backs first. This season the Saints decided to carry 500 running backs on the roster, just in case they need them for later.  Meanwhile they let Tracy Porter go in free agency.  Porter, now a Denver Bronco, returned and interception for a touchdown last week.  Saints cornerback Johnny Patrick suffered a vaguely described leg injury.  So far they're running out of DBs faster.  Maybe Travaris Cadet can play corner.

    Steve Spagnuolo urges CB Patrick Robinson to hurry off the field before somebody takes his knee out too.

  • The Offensive Line coach is running the team:  Zach Strief jumped offsides something like 50 times. Meanwhile the protection was downright terrible. People who like to act like they know what they're talking about are saying that Jermon Bushrod is even more garbage-like than before without Carl Nix lined up to his right.  It's possible that the unit is contributing to Mark Ingram showing up on the bust-watch. The Saints wasted a timeout because Ben Grubbs' shoe came untied. During another timeout, fans in the Superdome were introduced to the "Entergy Lineman Of The Game" Many began immediately lobbying to have him suited up.

    Jermon Bushrod reacts with the alacrity of a regulated utility monopoly as Brees closes his eyes and thinks about Jimmy John's

    Anyway, the point here is maybe the offensive line coach needs to go back to coaching the offensive line.  He didn't seem particularly useful as the fake interim head coach, anyway. When things weren't looking so great at halftime, Kromer could have at least tried checking in with Coach Payton via pre-paid cell phone or something. It worked for Al-Qaeda, right?

    As it turns out, though, Kromer seems to have other means of communicating with the beyond. At least that's what this quote seems to imply.

    We'll look for signs that he's sensed something he can use this week. 

  • The Redskins' Defensive Coordinator is Jim Haslett: We don't have anything to add here. Just noting that Jim Haslett outcoached Kromer Carmichael Brees whoever the hell is in charge of the Saints' offense. It isn't entirely clear.

  • Meachemwatch: We try to do one of these exercises every year where we track a personnel change the Saints have made and compare statistics between the departed player and his replacement. Usually this works in the Saints' favor because we're inspired by a change we have a good feeling about at the beginning of the season. We started in 2006 when we compared Marques Colston's touchdowns total with Donte Stallworth's. Last year we compared Reggie Bush's and Jeremy Shockey's numbers in Miami and Carolina with Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham. Sproles and Graham ended up setting NFL records last season so the whole thing quickly became a joke.

    This year's stat tracker might not be so funny. We're going to be watching former Saint receiver Robert Meachem's performance in San Diego and comparing it to the various wideouts replacing him on the Saints' roster. For our purposes here, "Not Meachem" will be the sum of the statistics compiled by any receiver not named Colston, Moore, or Henderson. Week One was not so great for Not Meachem.

    Robert Meachem vs Oakland: 2 receptions for 49 yards

    Not Meachem vs Washington: Nada

    Well, actually, worse than nada. Joe Morgan dropped two passes. Morgan is the sort of "camp darling" Saints fans like to get excited about. We admit that we like him. He seems like a nice kid. We know from Twitter that he really likes Spongebob. But as a football player, so far, he's really good at running fast and dropping the ball. So.. uh oh.  But it does remind us a bit of where Devery was early in his career. And, to be fair, Colston had a perfectly craptastic game himself. Joe Morgan might have a future. We're just not sure he's ready to do "Not Meachem" proud this season.

    Note: Adrian Arrington is on IR for the rest of the year
We had more notes from last week. The new collars on the jersies make the Saints look like Count Chocula. If the Redskins think they're going to have success all year running zone-reads and bubble screens against everyone they're mistaken. The Saints' defense managed to look terrible even as they were tackling well which is.. not encouraging. Oh and get used to hearing about how every single thing that happens in every single game "would have been different if Sean Payton were here" because that's not going away.

But it's already 2:00 am on the next game day and none of that stuff seems all that important right now.  We're taking ourselves to bed where we'll dream of, at the very least, a more beautiful disaster to talk about next week. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Deep cleaning

BP may be asking to destroy Louisiana's coastline in order to save it.

Are campaign staffs even necessary?

If I were scoring the Presidential election purely on debate and style points, I'd have to say that Obama's people are running a fairly on-the-ball campaign given the sorry set of circumstances they have to work with (crap economy, non-reality-based opposition, etc).  And everyone knows what a genuinely terrible candidate Mitt is.

What I'm wondering, though, is will it even matter?  The fundamentals of this election are pretty solid.  High unemployment + de-motivated liberal base + rabid and highly motivated conservative base... even in spite of its disdain for its crappy candidate. It's hard to imagine the random silliness of campaign dynamics or the candidates' messaging operations doing much to change those circumstances. 

In a way, I'm asking the same question about the campaign flacks that I asked about football coaches this year.  Is what they do even going to be relevant this year?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Who wears these pants anyway?

American foreign policy debate works like this.

Our so-called liberals fall all over themselves to prove they can be more vicious and reckless than our conservatives. They blow things up. They imprison people indefinitely (or just kill them) without due process. They work tirelessly to suppress free speech and political expression.

But no matter how hard they work at this it's always a losing proposition politically because the "branding" inevitably comes down to some idiotic fashion analogy. Since they're going to lose anyway, it would be nice if, for once, our so-called liberals would choose an actual liberal policy position hill on which to die.

Also someone with some more sophisticated fashion sense than mine needs to explain to me what the difference between "mom jeans" and "cowboy jeans" is. I suspect it's about as subtle and insignificant as the difference between our major political parties.

Isn't John White's homework overdue now anyway?

Didn't he say these so-called "tougher standards" for deciding which apostles, mythical creatures, and DVD players Louisiana will consider educational enough to receive voucher students were coming out sometime after September 1?

We're starting to get into significant "after September 1" territory now and John White's tough standards have yet to emerge.

But, as Lamar explains here, if White wants to "toughen" the standards for private schools in a way that conforms with the specific directives of the state constitution, he's going to have a hard time passing out vouchers this year.

There is no possible way that Superintendent White or any other elected or appointed official can honestly argue that schools like New Living Word in Ruston or Cenla Christian Academy in Pineville, among others, offer a curriculum “as strong as the state’s,” regardless of the “accrediting body” upon which they may rely. Schools that offer ACE, Bob Jones University, and/or ABeka curricula are inherently, indeed purposely, not as strong or as rigorous. Considering that the vast majority of private colleges and universities in the country and the entire public university system in the State of California can, by law, reject college applicants on the basis of the strength and merits of the coursework they took in high school, many of the schools that Superintendent John White approved for taxpayer funding under Bobby Jindal’s voucher program are in violation of the Louisiana State Constitution.
It’s open and shut.

And that, I imagine, is why Superintendent White is now frantically attempting to change the standards for private schools, to make it appear to the media and the public as if he has suddenly decided to get “tougher.”

Maybe we should give him an extension. 

Update: Well he's got partial credit since he just announced this voucher auditing policy.

Besides auditing funds, the state is considering tougher standards for approving private and parochial schools. Since the schools come up for annual review, the new standards would apply to new schools and ones that already have state approval.

BESE is expected to adopt the tougher standards at its October meeting.

White said one factor that will play a more significant role is whether the academic curriculum is “equal to what is expected of public schools.” Also, teaching methods and effectiveness will play a more significant role.
Yes, well, we hope the state's constitutional standard will play a "significant role."  But um... "BESE is expected to adopt" something in October that hasn't even seen the light of day yet. 

Goodell double down

We've devolved from 1) the NFL making shit up to protect its image, to 2) the NFL stubbornly refusing to admit that it abused its employees while overreaching in the act of making shit up in order to protect its image, to 3) now just a mostly meaningless legal pissing contest.  I hope Vilma spits in their faces Monday.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Gill vs Yoko

NOLA.com has presented us with a subtle but annoying sort of Point/Counterpoint this morning.

James Gill's column today is about a corrupt researcher who pocketed $413,000 in compensation from a gas exploration company to produce an academic flavored report that appears to exonerate fracking.

The Public Accountability Initiative duly revealed that (Charles "Chip") Groat is on the board of Plains Exploration and Production, which paid him $413,000 in cash and stock last year. Since 2007 Groat has received $1.6 million in stock alone from the company, according to SEC reports.

So the frackers' clean bill of health is highly suspect, UT research money is down the drain and the Water Institute is dragged collaterally into the mud. Groat himself has paid no price, unless, contrary to the evidence here, he has a sense of shame. The Energy Institute's director, Raymond Orbach, who didn't know about Groat's conflict, now blows it off, claiming that, although it should have been disclosed, it made no difference to the study's conclusions.

Perhaps Orbach is embarrassed by his own failure to check out Groat's background. Orbach also may have failed to read UT's ethics policy, which includes the standard warning against real or apparent impropriety.

Of course they're standing by the study.  It does exactly what they wanted. Plains Exploration got what it paid for. Groat gets to keep his money. We're certain this study will be cited by every pro-fracking lobbyist and spokesperson from now until the end of time regardless of this controversy no one will remember.  At least Gill was good enough to point it out for us if only just this once.

Unfortunately, in order for Gill to do even this much, he still has to face a subtle counter-argument from his own online editors.  See, in the NOLA.com version of this column, it is paired with a tangentially related photograph of some annoying people nobody likes.

That's Sean Lennon standing there (hands on hips and all) at the invisible podium speaking at a press conference regarding something called "Artists Against Fracking" Yes, that's Yoko sitting next to him.  Also on stage is actor, Mark Ruffalo. As is always the case, celebrities... especially.. pretentious untalented celebrities like these do far more harm than good to any cause they presume to stick their stupid "Artists Against _____" noses into.    Somehow they remain oblivious to this effect they have, though.  Perhaps someday they'll figure it out.  We can imagine it, anyway.

NOLA.com's editors get it, though.  And that's why they've placed this photo here. It's how they bring a slight sense of balance to Gill's column.  On the one hand you've got Gill's point: Charles Groat has produced a corrupt and invalid report at the cynical behest of the oil and gas industry that will undoubtedly be used to further their lobbying efforts.  On the other hand you've got this photo's point: Look at these pretentious hippies.

Well done, NOLA.com.  That is a very robust argument. 

Update: Regarding Plains Exploration, looks like they're expanding their investment in Gulf oil fields so they may be hiring a researcher or two to tell you how safe your seafood is any day now.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Whatever would be the point?

Not sure what Stacy Head thinks might have been different had she been on the inside of this meeting "wrinkling her nose" out instead on the outside wrinkling in.

The city's department heads were invited to the meeting, including Marcia St. Martin, executive director of the Sewerage & Water Board. "I'm sort of Marcia's boss, so being told I couldn't go to her meeting was kind of weird," Head said, wrinkling her nose. Head is a member of the water board.

Entergy executives were also included in the meeting, Head noted. "I am Entergy's regulator as well as other people who are making decisions," she said.

Seems to me there's always plenty of room on the stage at the press conference after the meeting to jam as many of these folks together as are willing to elbow in anyway. We all know that's where the real magic happens.

In any event, letting Stacy sit in on the super secret emergency hunkering of the officials can't have gotten our lights turned on any faster.. given the fragility of the grid and all.

Maybe she could have brought some cool puzzles for everyone to do.

Update: Ah yes, see the puzzles were all on their way to Florida anyway, I guess.

NEW ORLEANS -- City Council President Stacy Head is defending her decision to go to a resort community in Florida as soon as Hurricane Isaac moved out of the area Aug. 29.

But she also didn't mince words for Mayor Mitch Landrieu or his administration this afternoon when Eyewitness News asked her about the reasons for her leaving the city.

“There was nothing I could have been doing any differently in New Orleans and I had the lagniappe of being able to get that stuff done while doing the right thing for my family,” Head said. “I suppose in hindsight everyone could say, ‘Oh, you should have done it differently.’ I did it differently in Gustav. I absolutely did. I made different decisions. In Gustav I sent my husband with my kids to Alexandria.”

Collusion collision

The NFL has bigger legal problems on its hands than just Jonathan Vilma.

Has there ever been an established league that spent more time in courtrooms defending its very foundations than Roger Goodell's NFL?

The facts in the White case are straightforward and damning, and largely agreed upon by both sides. In 2010, the last year of an expiring labor deal, there was no salary cap. Teams were ostensibly free to carry whatever payroll they could afford, but in their summer meetings the owners came to a secret agreement. No one would cross the $123 million boundary, because if some teams spent freely, that would drive up prices for teams that would rather not spend at all.

The imaginary salary cap "came up several times in our meetings," said John Mara, Giants owner and chairman of the NFL's management committee. Still, four teams took the gentlemen's agreement as something less than binding, because after all: There was no actual rule. The Redskins, Cowboys, Raiders, and Saints all spent more than $123 million, despite being warned "at least six times" that serious consequences would follow. And sure enough, the gavel came down. This season and next, Washington and Dallas (the two biggest spenders) will forfeit a combined $46 million in salary cap space, to be distributed among the other teams.

In other words: Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones are being punished for failing to collude with their fellow owners in a secret deal to keep hundreds of millions of dollars out of the hands of NFL players.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Are football coaches even necessary? And other questions

Ok, ok, It's Saturday, it's almost time for actual football.  We're (as usual) way way overdue addressing an upcoming week of actual football on the Yellow Blog.  We're well aware that we've let the Greatest Offseason In Saints History slip by with minimal commentary from us.  Luckily the rest of the entire internet was available to step in and fill that void.

We appreciate that, internet. So, as  a reward to you, we're doing this obligatory football season outlook post in a quick, but mostly pointless and staged Q and A format. You know just like Obama on Reddit.

Q: What the hell happened?
Many things. So many things, in fact, that it actually does us a bit of a disservice to try and revisit all of them in a meaningful way right now.  Besides, most of it is already fading beyond the haze of a Miller Lite soaked week of Isaac hunkering.  But just to see to it that we're all sort of in the same place. Here's what we remember.

See back in January there was this football team.  A pretty good football team.  A football team who had overcome numerous unprecedented perils and hardships such as a re-named stadium,  a broken-legged coach, a beefy-mac dilemma, and a freaking terrorist attack to go on and break every record ever in the history of recording things. They even took the time to wrap all that up in little bows for us, which was nice.

Not only that but, as the legend goes, the 2011 Saints were to be granted a clear path to glory once it was determined that Eli Manning and not icy Lambeau Field was all that awaited them in the conference championship game.  And then this happened.

And that's only where it begins.  About a month and a half later, the skies cracked open and the "Ginger Hammer" (pretty sure that's Drew Magary's term) of justice crashed down upon the grounds at the Saints' facility.  A great fissure was opened in the Earth where emerged a legion of demons with which the Saints and their fans have been doing spiritual battle ever since.

All manner of specters have presented themselves. Among them were convicted felon Mike Ornstein's sent mail file, some sort of ledger nobody ever actually saw, Gregg Williams' colorful Powerpoint presentations, Steve Gleason's documentarian's tape recorder, some bongos,  Louis Freeh.

The world of legitimate punditry recoiled in horror. Which is to say they tripped over themselves in a rush to type up and widely disperse the NFL's official version of these events.  Gregg Easterbrook was a "haughty dipshit" about the whole thing. The Times-Picayune's Jeff Duncan spent the entire summer picking fights with the the "illegitimate" media over the credibility of the NFL's "evidence" against Saints coaches and players. We would say the whole of the national sports media decided that the Saints' Superbowl 44 championship was suddenly illegitimate except for the fact that they had already decided that two years ago.

Sean Payton took up various hobbies such as music, dance, divorce, and public speaking.  Gregg Williams backpacked through Thailand.

And that's just the stuff we can pull off the top of our heads at the moment.  It actually gets weirder than that. Check your nearest novelty T-Shirt shop for clever fashions which summarize the remaining details.  The point remains.  We are dealing with a lot of shit here, people.  Which is why we're happy to be bringing up old shit like actual football for a change.  When we watched that playoff video this morning before posting it here, it was almost a relief to go back to that terrible terrible place where we had left off in January. 

Q: Sean Payton is kind of a bro, isn't he?

Sadly, yes.  We made reference to several of his bro-ish tendencies in our answer above.  But just to drive the point home, have a look at this now famous video of a pep talk Payton delivered to the North Texas squad days before they were demolished by LSU.   

In addition to the "hey Gru Dog" embarrassment, what really strikes us about this video is just how lame and stupid Payton can sound while talking to a football team. (Three claps for lame and stupid real quick. *Clap Clap Clap*) Payton offers so many lost "uhs" and "ums" throughout his rambling, boring obviously off-the-cuff remarks here, we were half-expecting him to address at least some of this speech to an empty chair. Or maybe, since this is football, he could tell us whether or not it is Halftime In America.

Anyway one also wonders while watching this talk whether and how much Payton was paid for this appearance.  Also, if this is, in fact, his usual manner of addressing football teams for money, then will the Saints really be missing all that much during his absence?  More on that in a minute.

Q: What the hell is a Pamphilon?

Well, it's not quite a Franzen, and it's not quite a Snape, but.. well

Imagine what it would have been like if, instead of releasing the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg had just whined publicly about how Robert McNamara and LBJ never returned his phone calls anymore while the actual documents weren't published but rather vaguely hinted at in a series of ambiguously sourced news reports.

That's pretty much where this guy comes in. Filmmaker, essayist, poet, producer, and, well, Franzensnape, Sean Pamphilon released a recording he made of Gregg Williams saying stupid things in the Saints' locker room.  Later during the summer Pamphilon published a blog post  where he went into deep deep detail about how personally affected he was by all of this spiritually.

We don't blame you if you don't feel like reading though Pamphilon's quite robust explication of his delicate feelings in its entirety.  Unless you're a fan of the unintentional humor occasioned by the bared soul of the self-obsessed multi-media artist, that is.  In which case, knock yourself out. Luckily Mike Florio has tried to cull the actual information from it for you here. And there is some although we think we can save you even more time by shortening the entire thing to this.

"Bountygate" by and large is a bullshit scandal that happens to have caught the Saints in exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time. Seeking to inoculate itself in the face of litigation by former players, the NFL wants to demonstrate that it cares about "player safety."

But they don't want to do the hard things that entails like shortening an already brutal 20 game (including the just as dangerous fake games) season.  Quite to the contrary, the owners continue to look at lengthening the regular season.  Or they could make more of a commitment to helping their retirees handle their medical expenses.  But that would go too far in the direction of admitting the game itself is inherently violent.  Instead, the NFL's strategy is to pretend the problem rests solely with rogue employees (players and coaches) who aren't playing the game the right way.

And so here we have the Saints, whose coaches and management have been on the league's shit list for various unrelated reasons in recent years, sitting right there with at least one guy (Williams) who happened to be just enough of a caricature of a neanderthal football coach to make for perfect scapegoating.

What the Saints appear to have been "guilty" of amounts to little more than locker room grab ass. But Roger Goodell has exerted the full imperial authority of his office to bend that into something more conveniently sinister. And so now the Saints will have to play a season without a coach.  Of course the fans are still expected to pay full price for this at the gate. But, as Jeff Duncan might say, they have only themselves to blame for that. 
Q: Is there some sort of Robust Digital Alliance that might help us make sense of all this?

Why, yes, as a matter of fact there is!  One of the unqualified good things to come out of this ridiculous offseason is it has allowed the Saints-focused blogosphere or "illegitimate media" to really come into its own.  In particular the guys behind SaintsWin and Angry Who Dat have done an amazing job of staying a step or two ahead of the Bountygate related bullshit coming out of the league office all summer while the incomparable Wang has continued his usual work of helping us all maintain (relatively) level heads as well as a healthy sense of humor.

But that's not all.  We've also become big (or bigger) fans along the way of Who Dat Social Club and the SB Nation affiliated Canal Street Chronicles as well as several others one or more of which we are probably still leaving out of even this extended sentence.

The chatter there, and also, of course, on the Twitter, has provided a populist counterpoint to the naturally more cautious (and in the case of big bloated outlets like ESPN, frankly, compromised)  professional media.  Don't get us wrong here.  Many.. most, really.. of our local pros do outstanding work. Journalists actually do a different type of work than what bloggers do anyway. But the looser and more agile bountygate debunking on the blogs and the twitters provided perhaps this year's most compelling example of what the internet does at its best.

A few weeks ago, WIST radio even recognized this fact and started promoting five of the above-mentioned blogs on their site and in on-air spots. Other than Gambit, WIST is the only traditional media outlet we know of who has recognized local bloggers in quite this fashion.

Q: If Roger Goodell really cared about player safety, would he allow any games to be played with untrained scab referees on the field?

No. He would not.  But.. well here we go with that.

Q: Are we still living in the Golden Age of Punting?

Yes. Yes, we are.  And Vikings punter Chris Kluwe demonstrates this for us in essay form

Q: Uh oh, does the kicker suck? 

Garrett Hartley will be the Saints' only kicker to start the season. Some of us still aren't so sure he ought to be.  

Q: How many running backs is too many?

Well if recent experience is any guide, by about Week 12 or so, there's no such thing as too many running backs.  The Saints, this year, have elected to keep five. This is only prudent. Hell they've already burned through about 17 linebackers and the season hasn't even started yet.  We are relatively certain all five of these running backs will see some action due to attrition.  Keep watching the waiver wire for a potential 6th or 7th guy too just in case.

Q: At what point in the season will some anonymous fan manage to stick a Falcons decal on the punter's helmet in the Gleason statue?

Rebirth statue
The sooner, the better, really. But we're hoping for before the Falcons visit the Dome at best.

Q: Speaking of Falcons decals, can anybody explain what the hell is going on here?


No.  Good God, no.  Don't even... just stay the hell away from that thing. 

 Q: Now can we have our goddamned coach back?

What, because of this? Not very goddamned likely. Nice try, though. 

Q: Are football coaches even necessary?

Well that's precisely the thing we're all hoping to find out, isn't it? More to the point, we're all kind of hoping the answer is, no, they aren't.  We already know football coaches are basically dicks anyway.  They crash motorcycles carrying their much younger employees/girlfriends, they cover up for their child molesting buddies, they go for it on fourth down from their own 30 yard lines in overtime.

Some of these offenses are, perhaps milder than others.  Some of them are even strangely amusing, we suppose. But still, is any of them actually necessary to maintaining the essential operations of a football team? Especially when we consider a veteran professional team, we should reasonably conclude that the adult men involved there are talented, well trained, and certainly well compensated enough to be responsible for their own performance.

Besides, it's just football, right? Tackle the man with the ball, hit the dude in front of you, advance in the general direction of the goal line. How hard can that be?  We spend so much time reading about how we're supposed to revere this or that "football genius" for devising an impossibly complicated system to achieve the simplest of goals that we're beginning to suspect the whole thing is nothing more than a racket anyway.  Why not dispense with such bullshit and just let the players play?

We'd love to let 2012 be the great experiment to test this hypothesis for us.  But we're afraid the data here will be corrupted.  Instead of just saying fuck it, throwing up a big "Do Your Job" poster or a hologram or something and letting the players run their own game, the Saints insist on filling the empty coach's chair.  Twice, even.  Given our brief look at each replacement in action this pre-season, we have no idea what to expect from either.

Joe Vitt said some interesting things about osmosis and about "expectancy levels"but he had to go away during the "infantile stages" of the season so that offensive line coach Aaron Kromer could be much less funny for the first six games. We have no idea how to read Kromer right now.  But the fact that we're having to figure out any coach at all right now has us discouraged. Instead of a bold experiment in coachlessness, 2012 figures to be merely an exercise in muddling through.

Q: So then what is the expectancy level for this team?

Last week Ralph Malbrough wrote this for WWLTV.com.

The 2012 Saints are Evel Knievel trying to jump his motorcycle over 50 school buses. It’s either the coolest thing you’ll ever see or complete disaster. I’m convinced this season has only two endings for the Saints. A few weeks ago I was thinking maybe 2012 would be a bloody street fight where Drew Brees and the offense drag them to 10-6.


After the San Francisco 49ers ripped the Saints guts out in January and threw them into the worst off-season in the history of football this story can’t have a so-so ending.
Either Drew Brees is getting handed the Lombardi trophy from a suicidal Roger Goodell in the Superdome or by December we just want 2012 to end as quickly as possible so we can put the nightmare behind us.

No middle ground.

Similarly, Saints fullback Jed Collins informs us that Mercedes-Benz' motto  "Das Beste oder Nichts”  means “the best or nothing" so I guess he's on board with the high stakes thing as well.

We like this theme.  We aren't sure it's right but it is very dramatic which makes it fun.  We're pretty sure that if the Saints pushed their way through all the insanity to a storybook 11, 12 or 13 wins, Roger Goodell would rule that reversed to 5, 4, or 3 anyway.  But Roger has already made things difficult enough as it is.  The Saints' offensive talent alone is too much to convince us anything like Malbrough's "complete disaster" is a realistic possibility.  But we can definitely see this team struggling to a mediocre record.  Since we're not expecting them to get to "Das Beste" we're left to go with the closest we can imagine this team coming to "Nichts" Let's call that 7-9.

But hey look. This should, in no way, be read as us expecting a downer season.  On the contrary, we're expecting to have a ball.  Because whether the Saints win 2 games or if they win them all, fans are still going to show up week after week to air their many many grievances in their accustomed act of seasonal civic catharsis. Who Dat Social explains this a bit here.

With all the talk about Bountygate fostering an “us against the world” mentality, they don’t understand that in New Orleans there has always been an us against the world mentality.

New Orleans is like that kid who realizes by the third grade that nobody thinks like he does: nobody else likes to eat peanut butter on his cereal, wear flip-flops in winter, read medieval French poetry even though he doesn’t speak French. New Orleans is out there, and always has been. And knows it. And loves it. People from the Crescent City routinely consider themselves New Orleanians first, Americans second, Southerners only by geographical accident (which, however, doesn’t mean we despise Yankees any less than our more Baptist neighbors).

“Us against the world” is almost a synonym for New Orleans.

Regardless of what happens on the field this year, the fans have a good deal to get off their chests.  They should have no trouble doing that.

Speaking of civic catharsis, we've been plugging the idea in recent years that, in post-Katrina New Orleans, the New Year actually begins on August 29.  It's well established thought now that the four seasons here are Carnival, Festival, Hurricane, and Football.

The 29th falls at or near the emotional barrier between the latter two of those and marks a period of remembrance as well as transition. This year the NOLA New Year was occasioned by an intense exercise in remembrance very near to the point of reliving. Tonight, as we finish typing this the first cool breezes of fall are blowing in outside. Football season begins the new year tomorrow in earnest and we are reminded that whatever gets knocked down by the wind or by the Rog, eventually stands back up again.

Upturned tree
Harmony and Prytania December 2005

Tree at Harmony and Prytania
Harmony and Prytania September 2012