Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Meme watch: Nobody could have predicted

First, the obvious one.
For nearly a decade, scientists have told city and state officials that New York faces certain peril: rising sea levels, more frequent flooding and extreme weather patterns. The alarm bells grew louder after Tropical Storm Irene last year, when the city shut down its subway system and water rushed into the Rockaways and Lower Manhattan. 

On Tuesday, as New Yorkers woke up to submerged neighborhoods and water-soaked electrical equipment, officials took their first tentative steps toward considering major infrastructure changes that could protect the city’s fragile shores and eight million residents from repeated disastrous damage.

And then, Kevin points out in an earlier comment thread, some fine foresight on the part of Mike Bloomberg on Sunday. 

President Obama asked Craig Fugate from FEMA to call me earlier in the day and offer any help. I assured him that we had, we think, everything under control but we appreciate the effort.
No thanks, we're all good here!

All of these health care facilities are taking additional precautions to prepare – including bringing in more staff. A lot of them do have backup generators and any outages are not expected to be more than hours or at most a day or so, so they'll be fine, they think
They thought wrong
At a news conference Monday night at the city's Office of Emergency Management in Brooklyn, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the back-up power at the hospital had failed, prompting the emergency evacuation of patients.

"The one thing that we had not counted on, New York University's hospital back-up power—in spite of them making sure, ensuring us that it's been tested—stopped working. And we're working with them to help move people out," Mr. Bloomberg said
The one thing they hadn't counted on was the one thing nobody could have predicted. Oddly, they seem like they're still kind of counting on it even today.
The failed backup power generators that led to the evacuation of the New York University Langone Medical Center in Manhattan are adequate, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

"Our generators are fully compliant with all state and federal regulations and, using good prudence, we test them all the time as we have to do anyway," Lisa Greiner told HuffPost.
So they stand by their failed generators. How long before they admit they were "generators in name only"?

Anyway despite what Bloomberg says above, this was not the "one thing they hadn't counted on." There was also this.

"We have visited every crane site and every construction site in the city, and with the winds that are expected we think they have appropriately tied down all of the equipment. But if there's a gust that's a lot more than anybody had counted on, things could start to blow."
The gusts must have been "a lot more than anybody had counted on"
A partially collapsed construction crane dangling ominously from the top of a unfinished New York City skyscraper is "stable," but the site's construction company and a crane expert worry that its heavy boom could smash to the street below.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today that "the Department of Buildings has determined that the crane is currently stable," but winds remaining from superstorm Sandy remained too high at the top of the 90-story luxury high rise building for crews to work on it.
There's an awful lot here that Bloomberg said he was on top of just a few days ago and yet is suddenly turning out to be a heavy load of nobody-could-have-predicteds. Why isn't Bloomberg being subjected to the same heavy (and unfair) criticism others have received?

Getting the band back together

It's not quite been 24 hours after landfall but already some of our old friends are offering their critiques of Hurricane Sandy and the federal response.

Here is Arabian Horse enthusiast, former FEMA Director, and best selling author, Michael Brown speaking to the Denver Westword  (link via Gambit)
Brown expects that in the coming days, there will also be comparisons between Obama's quick response to Hurricane Sandy and his slower response to the attacks in Benghazi, which has become a challenging campaign issue for the president.

"One thing he's gonna be asked is, why did he jump on this so quickly and go back to D.C. so quickly when in...Benghazi, he went to Las Vegas?" Brown says. "Why was this so quick?... At some point, somebody's going to ask that question.... This is like the inverse of Benghazi."
 Yes, the response was too quick. Hard to believe Obama had them mobilized on an empty stomach.

Ray Nagin has been tweeting some benign well wishes to the victims. Most of us think that's nice. But at the same time, his name has been unfairly drawn into the spat between New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Atlantic City Mayor  Lorenzo Langford. We are not often quick to defend Ray Nagin but here's Jarvis DeBerry explaining that these comparisons are based on persistent and damaging myths about the evacuation of New Orleans prior to Katrina.
Those criticizing Langford accuse him of encouraging people to hang around, which they say makes him like our former mayor. Nagin's failures are myriad, legendary even, but those accusing him of not properly warning New Orleanians of Katrina's danger are either misinformed or lying on purpose.

Given that the city is largely poor, that no storm had struck in 40 years, that it has only one interstate highway and that a 2004 evacuation nightmare had led many to say "never again," you might consider it a marvel that on the Monday morning Katrina arrived the overwhelming majority of New Orleanians were gone. We hadn't even given the storm a thought till late in the day Friday.
Now maybe later when Langford inevitably tells us rebuilding Atlantic City will depend on getting some casinos up and running, there might be something to this. But for now leave C. Ray alooone. He's got enough to worry about.

Also, the dangling crane on the NYC skyline has brought forth Ed Blakely like some sort of ill-advised bat signal. But if Blakely is angling for a job this time, it looks like he's going for political pundit rather than disaster consultant.
US political legend holds that there will be an incident, a surprise in late October in a presidential election year, which will separate the candidates at a point where one moves so far ahead that he wins by more votes than anyone anticipates. Is Hurricane Sandy the 2012 October surprise for Obama?

Given the close race, it will take a deciding deed or moment for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney to pull away in the last dash to victory. There is no doubt Sandy is a political storm and not just a weather event.
Ugh. Well, the good news is when he sucks at this stuff, nobody suffers.. I mean, unless they read it.

Anyway, if the citizens of New Orleans could offer the people affected by Sandy at least one bit of our own advice, it would probably be, whatever you do, do not hire Ed Blakely.  A few years ago, as he was preparing to leave us, I put together a helpful timeline of his tenure here just in case someone might need that information for later.

Meanwhile, is Veronica White's book still in print? This seems like the moment it was written for.

More meme watch

Wait. How come they don't get to "buck the trend" like we do?

But whether the economy as a whole wins or loses is up for debate. Some analysts are arguing that Sandy could act as a kind of grisly stimulus package, mostly thanks to the billions of dollars that will be spent repairing flood and wind damage. The idea isn't totally out there: unemployment in post-Katrina New Orleans actually fell in the aftermath of the storm. And some academics say that reconstruction after storms in well-prepared areas can boost the economy.

But storms in general, and this one in particular, rarely deliver the kind of stimulus Keynesians are hoping for this week.

One-off catastrophes tend to have a negligible long-term effect on the larger economy, positive or negative, even when there is a tragic human cost. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, while regional unemployment dipped, national GDP growth slowed, if only slightly, says Erwann Michel-Kerjan, co-director of the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center. Sandy, orders of magnitude smaller, will hardly register on the national radar.

Meme watch

How soon before we begin to hear any of the following:

1) Why would they build a city in such a dangerous place?

2) Why did they not evacuate? Didn't they hear the warnings?

3) Should they be allowed to come back? Wouldn't those people be better off with a fresh start?

4) Why would anyone who lives in such a place not take the personal responsibility to own a car in case they need to evacuate?

5) Doesn't this present New York city with a "silver lining"? A "blank slate" upon which to re-imagine itself?

6) Why should a cab driver in Detroit care about rebuilding a city in a flood zone?

Tanker run aground by Sandy. Staten Island, NY.

Barge pushed through Industrial Canal floodwall. New Orleans, LA 2005.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Nobody could have predicted

New York City is a mess right now

Con Edison intentionally cut power to tens of thousands of people in an effort to protect equipment from rising flood waters. But the flooding was more extensive than expected.

“We were expecting tides at 10 to 12 feet,” Mr. Miksad said. “Not only did we exceed those tides, we went up to 14-foot levels, which no one expected,” he said.
What should they have expected?

Unlike New Orleans, New York City is above sea level. Yet the city is second only to New Orleans in the number of people living less than four feet above high tide — nearly 200,000 New Yorkers, according to the research group Climate Central

The waters on the city’s doorstep have been rising roughly an inch a decade over the last century as oceans have warmed and expanded. But according to scientists advising the city, that rate is accelerating, because of environmental factors, and levels could rise two feet higher than today’s by midcentury. More frequent flooding is expected to become an uncomfortable reality. 

With higher seas, a common storm could prove as damaging as the rare big storm or hurricane is today, scientists say. Were sea levels to rise four feet by the 2080s, for example, 34 percent of the city’s streets could lie in the flood-risk zone, compared with just 11 percent now, a 2011 study commissioned by the state said.

Toxic soup?

One of the most polluted bodies of water in New York is flooding

The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn is gross. An EPA Superfund site, the agency describes it as “one of the nation’s most extensively contaminated water bodies.” The contaminated water “poses a threat to the nearby residents who use the canal for fishing and recreation.” 

Dewatering subway lines

One thing that's different between a flood here and a flood there is there the water starts receding after a few hours.  Here it can take up to a month in some cases.

Of course we don't have this problem of getting it out of the tunnels.

While the authority said it could not predict when service might be restored, officials estimated that pumping water out from flooded under-river tunnels could take anywhere from 14 hours to more than four days. It is possible that the subway system will return at partial capacity as floodwaters are pumped out of the system and imperiled equipment is inspected for potential water damage.


Ground Zero construction site in Manhattan filling with sea water.

Photo from NBC

Ray Nagin tried to tell them they needed to do something about that hole in the ground.

Mayor Paul Ryan

After the election is over, this is going to be one heck of a budget fight.  Today the mayor borrowed a slogan from the mid 1990s in order to roll out his own Clintonesque strategy of implementing the draconian austerity measures advocated by conservatives while falsely presenting them as a  "progressive" alternative.

On the one hand he tells us,

Landrieu blasted Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration for recent state cuts, specifically to the DA's office, the indigent defender's office and the mental health system.

"The state is not meeting its obligations," he said. "This path of austerity on the state level will not lead us to success."
And yet in practically the same breath, his budget proposal raises utility rates, attacks pensions, and threatens layoffs. If you're going to speak out against "austerity" your argument is weakened if you aren't ready to offer an alternative program.

In the 90s,  a reactionary Republican wave election brought us the Gingrich House of Representatives.  But it was Bill Clinton who implemented welfare reform and the "reinventing government" cutbacks.  It's always the so-called "progressive" who ends up doing the actual dirty work.

Well maybe there's a story in New York City after all

Gawker: Manhattan Is Flooding and Sandy Hasn’t Even Hit Yet

There are some pics there of flooding in Manhattan, and New Jersey and this one from Brooklyn.

Happy hunkering, up there! Also after this is all over, you might want to think twice before pulling that lever for Mitt.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

People shouldn't live there

Please don't take what I'm about to say as downplaying the serious threat Sandy poses to life and property along the East Coast, particularly in coastal and rural areas prone to flash floods. Already cable news is reporting flooding in Virginia and expecting more in Delaware and Maryland.  When Irene came through New England, it caused devastating river flooding there as well. These are bad things we don't wish on anyone.

But while this is going on The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore is planted in Battery Park in New York because that's where the story is, I guess. The only thing Sandy is going to do to New York City is convince them that they are better at living through something they choose to believe is an "intense storm" than are the poor stupid uncivilized folk who live along the Gulf Coast.

On the other hand, if there really is trouble there, I look forward to arguing against  using federal tax dollars to rebuild flood prone Manhattan and, of course, sending a stream of Bywater hipsters to entrepreneur Brooklyn back to life.

In any case what it will definitely not do is engender a greater understanding in our northern cousins of the threats we face around here on an annual basis. On the contrary, their experience will only strengthen their resolve to leave us to fend for ourselves in the future. After all, they will have made it through a Cat 1 storm okay. Why should they put up with our whining, right?

"Sometime in the future"

The NBA requires 2 years notice on this.  Benson hasn't even started the process yet. 

"I feel strongly that we need to change that name,’’ Benson said. "When the Jazz was here that meant something to New Orleans. So we have to have something like that. Sometime in the future we’ll get a new name and it will be that much better. Maybe one that relates to our community a little closer than the Hornets do.’’
He's 84.  He knows this, right?

Blissfully Jackie

Jackie Clarkson, because she hits a perfect sweet spot being of precisely the right age and from precisely the right social circle, is kind of a living cartoon of genteel white privilege.

But it's important to remember that she represents a phenomenon that embeds deeply within the class of people our system approves for leadership roles. (After all Jackie herself currently holds a city-wide elected office.)  I hesitate to use the word "elites" to describe the people we elect to even the most modest local offices.  But, yes, even these people are the products of such empowered, privileged rarefied environments that, except for those few possessed of superhuman empathy, none of them have even the slightest conception of the obstacles most of us are faced with.

And yet we elect these people to represent us and somehow call that democracy.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Does anyone else remember what a "Friedman Unit" is?

Here. Wikipedia has immortalized it.

The term is in reference to a May 16, 2006 article by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) detailing the repeated use by columnist Thomas Friedman of "the next six months" as the period in which, according to Friedman, "we're going to find out...whether a decent outcome is possible" in the Iraq War.[8]

As documented by FAIR, Friedman had been making such six-month predictions for a period of two and a half years, on at least fourteen different occasions, starting with a column in the November 30, 2003 edition of The New York Times, in which he stated: "The next six months in Iraq—which will determine the prospects for democracy-building there—are the most important six months in U.S. foreign policy in a long, long time.

In general terms, it can apply to any hollow promise of meeting a politically attractive benchmark that no one will bother to check on later.  But temporally speaking, it's usually 6 months
"We should be seeing a real difference inside six months," criminologist David Kennedy said in an interview Friday after speaking at a Loyola University symposium on lethal violence.

Kennedy's ideas are the basis for a new component of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's "NOLA for Life" murder-reduction campaign.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Obviously we should privatize what's left of the space program


WASHINGTON — The United States is facing a year or more without crucial satellites that provide invaluable data for predicting storm tracks, a result of years of mismanagement, lack of financing and delays in launching replacements, according to several recent official reviews.

The looming gap in satellite coverage, which some experts now view as almost certain to occur within the next few years, could result in shaky forecasts about storms like Hurricane Sandy, which is now expected to hit the Northeastern Seaboard early next week. 
In the future, we will just ask Red Bull to send some guy up in a balloon to jump through the hurricanes from space to tell us where they are. 

Serpas Signal

It's a busy day for the chief.  This morning at the Loyola crime symposium, he was momentarily confronted by hecklers.
The "armed gang" the hecklers were talking about there was NOPD because, you know, clever irony and such. Serpas went on to pile on his own gang members by threatening to take away their civil service protections and basically insult their overall existence as regular humans who own phones and talk to people they see during the day.

Serpas: If you do not recognize that serving the community is the first thing you do, you're going to get fired. Don't sit on your cellphone and talk to people through the window, or you will lose your job. #nola

Serpas: The new orleans civil service system stands apart from the 21st century. We suggest that it needs to be updated to the 21st century. Our civil service rules don't differentiate between police and other employees. Right now police officers enjoy job protection if "they breathe really good." The new system: How did you serve the neighborhood and the community, and how did you serve the department that you work for? We want to flip the relationship with the cops through the use of an evaluation system that's linked to quality of service to the people.
New Orleans is a violent city with many serious problems.  One of those problems is the chief of police is an evil evil man. 

Speaking of which, I hope you weren't looking forward to enjoying your pre-Halloween weekend unmolested by this evil man and his emotionally abused armed gang. 

Tonight October 26, 2012, the New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Section will conduct a Sobriety Checkpoint beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M. and concluding at approximately 5:00 A.M. in Orleans Parish.    Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have proper documentation, i.e., proof of insurance, and a valid driver’s license if requested.

We noted yesterday that the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Department  will also be running a checkpoint tonight. So if Serpas doesn't get you, maybe Steven Segal's former teammates will.

(Note, if Steven Segal really does get you you may be in more trouble than just a trip to the drunk tank. On the other hand, maybe it's God's will.)

Where is W when Freedom needs him?

Last week In These Times reported on a conference call between Mitt Romney and "self-described small business owners" where Mitt suggested that they instruct their employees about voting.

I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope, I hope you pass those along to your employees.

Here in an op-ed for The Hill, University of Oregon professor Gordon Lafer points out that President George W Bush would have condemned such tactic.

These are the kind of banana-republic tactics that our government regularly condemns when they occur abroad. The Bush Administration, for instance, rejected Ukrainian elections as illegitimate, in part because international observers found that managers of state-owned enterprises had “instructed their subordinates to vote for [the ruling party].”

One step beyond even the Kochs is GOP mega-donor Bob Murray, who required employees at an Ohio coal mine to attend a Romney campaign event. The resulting photo-op could have been at home in the old East Germany – candidate standing before a crowd of miners, replete with banner reading “Coal Country Stands With Mitt,” with no notice that miners were attending under the direction of their boss, forced to give up a day’s pay in order to serve as human props. Again, we routinely condemn such charades when carried out by foreigners. The Bush Administration criticized Armenia’s elections, for instance, after observers reported that “factory workers … were instructed to attend the incumbent’s rallies.”  But what we reject for Armenians and Ukrainians, the business lobbies now want to institute at home.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Golden age of punting

We've all got front row seats to greatness.

Morstead is currently on pace to set NFL records for the best net punting average in a single season (44.88 yards per kick) and in a career (39.9 yards per kick) - though he needs 64 more punts to officially qualify for the career mark.

And when it comes to gross punting average, Morstead is flirting with one of the oldest records in NFL history, set by Sammy Baugh in 1940. Baugh averaged 51.4 yards per punt that year, and Morstead is averaging 51.24 yards per punt this year. His career gross average of 46.5 yards per punt also ranks second in NFL history.

Um... no

Stupid memes and journalistic groupthink were baked into American politics way way waaaay before there was ever such a thing as Twitter. Please find something else to scapegoat.

If anything, Twitter (and the internet in general) has at least made the process by which the stupidity develops more inclusive and transparent. Small victory, maybe, but still not the root of the problem.

Update: Drum tries to clarify his thoughts a bit and concedes the point about transparency. But still he's missing the larger issue.
Debate coverage is an extreme case. Reporters should actively want to develop their own opinions about the candidates' performances. They should actively want to avoid letting the rest of the herd influence them. That's just common sense. After they've done that and put their thoughts down on paper, they'll want to get reactions from various folks who have campaign roles, but even then there's no real reason they should be interested in reactions from other reporters. There's no reason to be afraid of having a different take than everyone else.
Well, yes, they certainly should think for themselves when developing their own report.  But I'm still pretty sure  Twitter isn't  what's keeping our political campaign pool reporters from each being his or her own freethinking intellect. There is a universe of newspaper archives from the past several decades which will explode that theory pretty quickly. 

Return of the Carnival arms race

Every few years one of the major Superkrewes touches off a new one of these "Who's Got The Biggest Float?" pissing contests
NEW ORLEANS - Calling it the longest and one of the most spectacular floats in Carnival, leaders with the Krewe of Endymion on Thursday unveiled sketches for a new super float paying tribute to the former Pontchartrain Beach amusement park.

The “Pontchartrain Beach, Then and Now” float, which will be 330 feet long and capable of holding more than 230 riders, will make its debut in next year’s parade on Saturday, Feb. 9. Sketches of it were unveiled to krewe members and reporters Thursday at Mardi Gras World.
In recent times Endymion has kind of settled in as the world's one and only unchallenged hyperpower in this field, however.  As impressive as the Orpheus parade is, it's hard to imagine them even trying to match this thing. Meanwhile Bacchus, the original Superkrewe, might as well be parading "horses and bayonets" when compared to this aircraft carrier.

Of course, Endymion's true advantage here is being the only krewe that uses the more spacious downtown parade route.  It allows them to stretch their floats to Olympian proportions.. along with their egos.
Krewe captain and founder Ed Muniz said that plans were originally for the float to debut in 2016 or 2017 for the krewe’s 50th anniversary, but that the timing of next year’s Carnival coinciding with the Super Bowl (Feb. 7, the weekend before Endymion) made for a better debut, with the media spotlight focused on the city.
Because (1) Endymion is the highlight of the spotlight or.. something like that.  And, (2) as everyone knows,  the national media spotlight can't wait to focus in on a local amusement park that went out of business 30 years ago.

Note: For the record, there are still plenty horses and bayonets to go around during Carnival.

Krewe of Carrollton parade 2009 (Photo by me)

Rex Parade 2007. (Photo by djpfoto)

Serpas speaks

Tomorrow Loyola University will host an all day symposium on violent crime in New Orleans. The schedule is available at this link where it is indicated that NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas will participate in the opening session. 

Perhaps he will address the latest (in a long string) of reports of  bullying abuses by his department  addressed at City Council yesterday.

One 21-year-old wrote of being stopped by an officer who told her she looked too young to be out at night. The officer told her to put her hands on the hood of his car, then he banged her with the car twice. She ran, her leg bleeding, and hid in the back of a truck, she wrote. A second officer found her there, threw her onto the ground and pressed his knee into her face, then booked her into Orleans Parish Prison, she wrote.

Or maybe he'll be able to clarify his comment this week at a community outreach event where he suggested poor public perception of NOPD derives not so much from incidents like those described above but from the press' failure to provide him with better PR.

"Our media has failed us. They've taken our greatest freedom -- freedom of speech -- & turned it into a for-profit business."

For profit, even!

Of course someone could always just ask him how much longer until the DWI checkpoints finally bring the murder rate down.

By the way, I know it's close to Halloween when the kids like to pick up a few daiquiris and take in a wholesome, not at all trailer-trashy, evening at the House of Shock.  But  if you're traveling through East Jefferson tomorrow night on your way there, you might want to leave the good meth at home.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office has announced a DWI checkpoint for motorists at an undisclosed location on the East Bank of Jefferson Parish Friday night. The checkpoint is scheduled for 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., according to Col. John Fortunato, spokesman for the department.

Did they put a little Top Hat on it?

Now that it's been patched up, will the Macondo containment dome will remain on the sea floor in perpetuity? Thousands of years from now archaeologists will study the edifice and argue about its purpose.  No one will believe it was the opening act to something called a "junk shot."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Starting to think maybe they should drop an Alka-Seltzer down there

Serious reflux going on 
Enough earth flowed into the formerly plugged and abandoned cavern to squeeze the brine inside the cavern and raise its pressure so that a “frack out” of the cavern occurred, extending to the surface.

Hecox said a frack out happens when hydraulic pressure is raised enough to cause cracks that serve as channels to release the pressure.

The frack out brought up brine, oil and natural gas from surrounding natural formations along the salt dome’s edge to the overlying water aquifer and to the surface.

The movement of the compacted earth into the cavern created instability that led to the sinkhole, he said.

Oh and also, the private schools suck

Which, in and of itself, is the hilarious punch line to all this.


The incontroverible truth is that private schools in Louisiana are, on the whole, significantly worse than public schools, and Governor Bobby Jindal and Superintendent John White, along with the support of the majority of the Louisiana legislature, have decided, as a matter of policy, to strip public funding away from struggling public schools and give taxpayer money to unaccountable, underperforming, and fly-by-night private schools. Stated another way, their policy, as public servants, is to take money away from publicly-owned assets and institutions, and provide those resources to failing and unaccountable religious institutions.

The Louisiana voucher program isn’t concerned with saving education; it’s primarily focused on using public funds to build and promote radical fundamentalist churches.
 There's much more. I won't waste your time with jokes. Just go read.

Update: Also  tomorrow in Baton Rouge there is a mandatory BESE public hearing on John White's proposed new rules for evaluating schools who wish to participate in the voucher program. Should be a lot of fun considering the remarkable week John White has had.

Somebody stop the damn world from turning

Believe it or not there's an overdue Saints post sitting in drafts. The problem with doing these is, while I'm writing them, things continue to happen in the world, some of which are relevant to the post and so compel a reworking of the whole thing just to make it all fit. This problem only gets worse if I let it go a few weeks without publishing.

For example, I might be nearly ready to put the mess back together when suddenly this happens.

 American Hero Poses With Roger Goodell While Wearing “Free Sean Payton” Shirt

In this case, I've just decided to put it here so I can go back to working on the big post without having to deal with it. Should probably do that more often.

Binders full of Social Security and Medicare cuts

Obama's 2nd term agenda:

The agenda includes two major items — immigration reform and budget consolidation — that eluded him in his first term. And in an admission that will irk many of his supporters, Obama said he’d use his leverage — leverage he didn’t have in his first term — not to achieve a more progressive fiscal outcome, but to cut the same deal with Republicans he’s been pursuing for nearly two years.

 More from Digby here.

All God's gifts

2012 will be remembered as the year several Republican candidates for federal office took the time out of their busy campaign schedules to rationalize rape a little bit for us.

The future of internet communications

Facebook is beta testing, within the confines of its own little ecosystem, what an internet without net neutrality will look like.

Keep your damn paparazzi out of my thrift store!

From this week's (final.. like ever) Gambit Public Transit Tuesday.
While walking away, I heard someone yelling, "Excuse me? Turn around!" I didn't think the person was talking to me, but I turned around anyway. The lady was black with dreadlocks and the lady I saw inside of M-V Thrift Shop was a middle-aged woman with greasy blonde hair.

"Why were yuh takin' pictures of the store? Yuh cannot do that!" she yelled with a Jamaican accent.

"I'm a journalist and I'm outside — I'm allowed to. I didn't even take any pictures inside!"

"But why were yuh takin' pictures?"

"So people can know the store exists."

"What is exists? What do that mean?"
Now it turns out that the thrift store owner in this episode might have some legal issues making her nervous but it's not the first time Megan has been scolded by shop owners for snapping pictures. Can someone explain what this particular paranoia is about? People in public take pictures of stuff. Google takes pictures of everything in the world and maps those pictures. 

I understand the concerns individuals have over creeping Big Brotherism when city's police forces have cameras on every corner or randomly harass hundreds of thousands of citizens as a matter of policy.  But that's not what I'm asking about here. What is it about shop owners in particular that makes them so jumpy about customers with cameras?

This can't be good

Mayor Landrieu plans to revamp 11 New Orleans boards and commissions

I'm sure we'll hear a lot about "streamlining government" and "best practices" and revenue estimates and whatnot. But basically this is going to be like Ray Nagin's adventures in "refreshing" municipal boards only done by professionals who know how to divvy up spoils under the guise of "good government"

In other words, we're finally moving up Robert Cerasoli's "sophistication" scale.

Update: The big news, according to T-P anyway, is it rolls NOAH into NORA while consolidating some other things that at least make sense at first glance.  But, again, these reshuffles are always more about which individuals end up with which patronage stream than they are about what the name of the board they're working under is.

More voter prep

NOLA Defender looks at the District B Council race.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Early voting is underway in Louisiana

40,000 vote on Day One.

If you're voting early or often over the next couple of weeks here are some links that might be helpful.

BGR has a rundown of everything on the ballot including the 9 proposed constitutional amendments. I can't stand by all of BGR's recommendations but their analysis is useful.

The NOLA League of Women Voters submits questionnaires to all candidates in local elections and posts their responses here.

The Lens and WWNO are hosting a series of Q&A sessions with Orleans Parish School Board candidates. The first of these is posted at this link. There will be more to follow. 

This week, by the way, The Nation took a look at the amount of money coming in from around the country to influence local education policy in Louisiana. I hope to have more on this in the next week or so but please take a moment to read that article. 

4 of the minor party Presidential candidates are debating tonight. I assume the video of this event will be archived here.

The major party candidates have debated three times.  I don't think any of those debates has been particularly useful to anyone hoping to make an informed decision but you can find them all at CSPAN as well as just about anywhere on the internet you might care to google. Equally as stupid and uninformative are the "songified" versions of these events which you may view for entertainment purposes.  The Townhall songified debate was my favorite.

Um.. what?

Can they do that?

CPC recommended approval of the zoning change, but subject to 14 provisos, including installing wooden gates along its alleyways, limiting signage, ending music at 2 a.m., prohibiting "go" cups, providing 10 off-street parking spots (by forming agreements with neighboring businesses), and creating a trash abatement program, which Loney said the bar already has coordinated.
Who on the City Planning Commission doesn't like go cups and where are they from? 

But but Obamatorium and "economic survival" rallys and whatnot

This must look like some sort of miracle.

NEW YORK (AP) - U.S. oil output is surging so fast that the United States could soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest producer.

Driven by high prices and new drilling methods, U.S. production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons is on track to rise 7 percent this year to an average of 10.9 million barrels per day. This will be the fourth straight year of crude increases and the biggest single-year gain since 1951.

If you're planning to participate in the big "Thank You" march where we carry giant photos of President Obama from downtown Lafayette all the way to Port Fouchon (which I'm sure will be organized any minute now) all we ask is that you take care not to step in any sinkholes along the way.

What will happen in the future

Random things I'm right now at this moment fully expecting to happen.*

If the NFLPA forces Interim Appellate Arbiter Paul Tagliabue to recuse himself and give way to a fake interim arbiter, then Roger Goodell will immediately set off on a backpacking trip through Thailand

On November 3 Zach Mettenberger will throw for negative 20 yards and three interceptions. LSU will beat Alabama anyway. The score will be something like 6-2. Nobody will understand it.

On November 6 Mitt will win Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia.  That still doesn't put him over the top, though.  I'm not ready to guess at what will happen in Ohio and Colorado. Yes, this is a cop-out.

On November 11 the Saints will be 4-4 as they await the Atlanta Falcons in the Superdome. Joe Vitt will lead the team out of the tunnel driving Joe Biden's Trans-Am.

*Expectations subject to change at any moment.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Who can best pilot America's killer robots?

Mitt and Obama should just cut the crap tonight and get down to demo-ing their mastery of the hardware. The winning candidate's answers will sound closest to this dude showing us features from the latest Call of Duty game.

Anyway Obama has probably got this one nailed. Hard to compete with this argument from Greenwald.

But if there is one thing the 2008 campaign should have permanently taught, it is that campaign rhetoric often bears little relationship to what a person will do once empowered. More important, it is almost certainly the case that an Obama-led attack on Iran would generate far more public support than a Romney-led attack, because most Democrats will almost certainly cheer for the former while pretending to be horrified by the latter, will while Republicans would support both (that's the dynamic that made the very same "counter-terrorism" policies that were so divisive in the Bush years become wildly popular once Obama embraced them).

That's true on the international level as well. Recall the 2008 CIA report fretting about growing anti-war sentiment in western Europe and concluding that the best weapon to safeguard against its continuation would be the election of Obama. That's because, the CIA presciently realized, Obama's election would massively increase public support for US wars because it would be a kind, sophisticated, progressive constitutional scholar rather than a swaggering, evangelical Texas cowboy who would be the face of them. Add to all that the Nixon-to-China dynamic - just as only a conservative president could have established relations with the Chinese Communists, arguably only a Democratic president could start a new war in the Muslim world, cut Social Security, etc. - and the picture is far more muddled than many like to depict it as being.

This is not reality This is just formality

In addition to not being very funny, "Romnesia"  is a losing gambit. Voters don't really care about the "flip flop" charge.  Every politician is a "flip flopper." Voters understand and expect this. In Presidential politics they reflexively write off "flip flopping" or "Etch-a-Sketching" or whatever you want to call it as "moving to the center." It's practically part of the etiquette.

It doesn't matter if a candidate momentarily disagrees with his own previous statements. What does matter is when the candidate's statements disagree with reality.   Matt Taibbi talked about this in a recent analysis of the Hofstra debate.
Obama tried to protest, but the moment was past, and Romney looked jazzed. You could see him thinking: "This just saying-anything-that-pops-into-my-head thing is great!" Over and over again he went to that well. The stat about 583,000 women having lost their jobs under Obama – where the hell did that number come from?

It doesn't matter. None of it really matters, at this point. Romney has all of America right now running head-scratching analyses of his tax and jobs plans, trying to figure out if there's any way the numbers fit. But my guess is, independent voters are not reading those dense commentaries, and instead are responding more to the general vibe surrounding Romney's campaign, which is clearly benefiting from the fact that he's being so aggressive that the whole world is left scrambling to react to his bullshit.

This recalls Ron Suskind's famous interview with an un-named aide to George W Bush from which we derive the"reality-based community" meme.
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
And this is precisely Mitt's campaign strategy.  Just keep twisting reality around and around.  Each new version will score you new points while the other side is still trying to figure out the last one. Stephen Colbert coined the term "truthiness" to describe the phenomenon that makes this possible. The particular facts of a matter don't mean nearly as much as the emotional symbolism conjured by the story you tell.

But in order for this to work, it requires some complicity on the part of one's opponent.  Specifically it requires that the opponent play into the gambit by treating your bullshit as a good faith argument deserving of analysis and measured response with an eye toward finding "common ground."

It works like a charm when your opponent parses out your riddle and says things like  "Governor Romney and I both agree that our corporate tax rate is too high" and follows with minor but important distinguishing details that nobody pays attention to.  Because you've already got them playing your game on your terms.

It doesn't work so well when your opponent laughs it off as the "bunch of stuff" it actually is, however.  But those moments are rare and easily isolated or explained away as affronts to the very "civil discourse" you've already made a mockery of.

Framing the lying as "flip flopping"as the unfunny "Romnesia" attempts to do is unhelpful because it obscures the issue.  Instead of calling a bullshit artist a liar acting in bad faith, it charitably allows voters to consider the alternative that he is reasonably moderating his positions in order to broaden his appeal. And while that breaks logic just enough to be funny, it's also well within the bounds of what voters consider the affable foibles of electoral politics.  The joke, in essence, isn't actually on Romney but on all of us and our silly process.  Cute, maybe, but ultimately pointless and counterproductive.

Watch your step

Or maybe carry a divining rod with you or something.
The current failure filled about three-fourths of the cavern’s space with earth. The sinkhole is roughly 550 feet across and has had occasional edge collapses that incrementally increase its surface dimensions, according to figures provided by the parish, DNR and Texas Brine.

Boudreaux said the assumption all along has been that the existing sinkhole would continue to grow, but last week he asked who is to say whether another sinkhole might form somewhere else.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Begin the thawing of Joe Vitt

Today is Aaron Kromer's last day as fake interim head coach of the New Orleans Saints.  Did you remember to buy flowers?

Update: Apparently Vitt remembered. He'll be at the airport to greet the team after today's game. Probably with a bouquet in hand.
To say Vitt has been awaiting this day would be an understatement. His suspension marked the first time in 44 years he has not coached football.

"I missed these guys so bad," he said this weekend.
We missed the eminently quotable Joe Vitt bad too.  Here's to a memorable rest of the season.

Also of note from that ESPN post.

Meanwhile, if former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue delivers a ruling significantly different from commissioner Roger Goodell's when he hears the appeals of players suspended as a result of the NFL's bounty investigation, many league sources told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that they believe Saints owner Tom Benson will petition Goodell to reconsider Payton's one-year suspension.

Uh-huh.  Don't bet on him getting the opportunity.  The likelihood that Tagliabue will do anything to contravene Goodell's actions is less than nothing.  Dan Wetzel wrote a pretty good column about this earlier in the week. 

"To be clear," Goodell said in a statement, "I have not consulted with Paul Tagliabue at any point about the Saints matter, nor has he been any part of the process."

If you have to explain that the appeal process isn't corrupt, let alone specifically note that the new guy didn't consult on the original penalties (even though it would be reasonable to assume he might have), then there really isn't much hope for credibility. And that's especially true from the groups (some fans, some players) who already think this was a witch hunt.

The best process – and judge – needs no defense.

Goodell and the NFL will regret not finding a true independent mind here – there is no shortage of retired judges out there who could've sorted this out. In an actual legal court, Tagliabue would have to recuse himself because of his past. And the idea that this is too complicated for anyone but a NFL commissioner, past or present, is the definition of arrogance. All this does is call into question what, in all likelihood, is meant to be a legitimate process.
 Also, too, Tagliabue is currently representing Goodell in Jonathan Vilma's defamation lawsuit against him. I'm sure he'll have every incentive to be absolutely fair.

Bucking the trend

Given the amount of time we spend reading about walkable communities, sustainable development, bicycle lanes, artist lofts, etc., particularly with regard to post-Katrina planning and rebuilding, one would think that all of South Louisiana was rapidly transforming into a new urbanist paradise where we all walk to our jobs selling each other organic backyard produce and/or live chickens every day.

Turns out the real trend is the exact opposite.

“I really don’t mind it,” Bourgeois said on his cellphone during an afternoon trip home. “That was one of the concerns my wife had when we moved, the long commute. I really don’t mind it. I’ve lived in New Orleans most of my life, and if we lived in Kenner right now and worked in the CBD (Central Business District), it would take me 45 minutes to get to work anyway.

“Right now, I’m coasting at 70, 75 miles an hour and no one’s in front of me. I can relax a little bit instead of being in bumper-to-bumper traffic. … Once I get on the spillway, I just coast the whole way home.”

The number of workers who make similar trips down Interstate 10 exploded between 2006 and 2010. According to the Census Bureau, commuters who live in East Baton Rouge Parish and work in Orleans Parish grew from 597 to 2,350 (294 percent) in that four-year span. The number commuting between EBR and Jefferson Parish increased from 585 to 890 (52.1 percent).

Those going in the opposite direction went up, too. Between 2006 and 2010, commuters to East Baton Rouge from Jefferson Parish increased from 599 to 900 (50.3 percent); from Orleans Parish, 469 to 660 (40.7 percent); from St. Tammany Parish, 433 to 805 (85.9 percent); from Tangipahoa Parish, 2,059 to 2,310 (12.2 percent).

In 2010, more than 26,000 workers commuted from the nine-parish Baton Rouge metro area to the seven-parish New Orleans metro area, while 22,000 workers commuted in the opposite direction, according to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center.

Given this surprising data,  we might think a high speed commuter rail line between New Orleans and Baton Rouge would make a lot of sense. But the Governor still says we can't have nice things.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"I will say the odor was the heaviest and strongest I have ever experienced in all my time in Louisiana"


LEAN Bayou Corne sinkhole flyover.


One line from this post about the election that explains why free speech and especially why the "illegitimate media" still matters.
But as I have long noted, it's important for ordinary people to talk to each other, to make clear that whatever appears in the headlines does not necessarily reflect what most people think. I noticed a long time ago that people around me simply assumed that everyone agreed with whatever was in the headlines of the Daily Mail, even though there were several issues on which it was clearly difficult to find anyone who agreed with them. If people don't talk to each other, they don't know what their neighbors really think.

Friday, October 19, 2012

3 weeks from election day

Neither candidate gives a shit about the fundamental inequalities that define us. Why is that?
BILL MOYERS: Why are we so passive about this?

MATT TAIBBI: Well, I think the, first of all the poor in this country have been incredibly demoralized whether it's the relentless attention of, you know, bill collectors. Or if you go to poor neighborhoods, you know, I was out in Queens last night interviewing a kid who's been stopped and frisked 70 times already. He's 22 years old. You have this constant interference by the police if you live in a bad neighborhood.

There're all these obstacles to getting up and rising up and having your own voice. And also I think in the media we get these relentless messages that being poor is actually your own fault and that people who are rich deserve to be rich. And a lot of Americans are disillusioned about their situation. They believe, they actually do believe on some level that if they're poor, they deserve to be that way. I think they're, and so they're reluctant to go out and revolt the way maybe Europeans in the last century, early in the last century would have.

Ninth Ward residents tell tour operators their dignity will not be sold

Except, of course, when it will.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - New Orleans tour bus operators wanting to take visitors into the Lower 9th Ward neighborhood may soon have to pay a fee to do so.

After a meeting this month with tour operators and residents, City Councilman Ernest Charbonnet, who represents the Lower 9th Ward, has drafted an ordinance with a yet-to-be-determined fee for companies proposing to provide for-pay tours of the Hurricane Katrina-devastated neighborhood.


Nothing to see, of course.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Now they tell us

Company promises to pay your mortgage for turning your house into a billboard but is several months too late to save the one house in America most suited for such a purpose.

"Mixology station"

Are we not allowed to just call a bar a freaking bar anymore?

Funky Butt Jazz Club owner Shanekah Peterson will reopen her storied establishment at a new location on Freret Street at the end of this year, part of the next wave of new business openings on the corridor that also includes another cocktail bar, an upscale sandwich counter and a coffee shop.

Funky Butt’s new location at 4716 Freret still houses a large vault from the former bank. She said the vault might be used as a mixology station, or a space to pay homage to the club’s French Quarter roots.

“I want you to step in to an era reminiscent of the red light district in the French Quarter,” Peterson said of the Funky Butt.
Not sure if Peterson has applied for the proper vendor's permit to run a "red light district" establishment. Must be part of the next "Ho-Zone" law or something.   Staffing for such an operation, of course, is always easy to come by.
Peterson is excited about the club’s new home on Freret Street. She expects construction to be completed in November and the first show on Jan. 1. Peterson said to watch for Trombone Shorty and Irvin Mayfield as frequent performers.

Uh oh, now how will the consultants earn their bonuses?

Jindal doesn't have enough votes in the Legislature to privatize the Office of Group Benefits yet.

BATON ROUGE -- Opponents of Gov. Bobby Jindal's proposal to privatize services provided by the state's Office of Group Benefits tentatively claimed victory Wednesday with the cancellation of a meeting called specifically to vote on the issue. But Jindal's commissioner of administration said in a statement that the privatization, which would eliminate about 177 state jobs, is still on the table and officials were putting it off to comply with legislative rules.
Jindal has been pushing this thing for well over a year now despite heavy criticism  on the grounds that 1) OGB is actually one of the most efficient departments in all of state government 2) Contracting out the department will reduce benefits and raise costs. And, of course, 3) there's plenty of waste money to be thrown at consulting firms in the process.

For the moment, it seems, he's hit a road block. Tom Aswell has more here.

Call up Lord Stanley, bid him bring his power

Mitt calls upon the landed banner-men to assemble their forces.

Now In These Times has gotten a hold of an audio recording of Mitt Romney talking to “small-business owners” (remember, Romney considers himself a small-business owner) in which he asks them to tell their employees how they should vote.

The key passage is here and you can listen below …
I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope, I hope you pass those along to your employees.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Isaac inconveniently lifted up the rug much of the BP oil had been swept under.

So this is a bit of a surprise

Up until this point in the race I would have thought Cantrell had most of the political establishment support locked up.  Not quite all of it, I guess.

A week after grabbing attention with the largest remaining fundraising war chest, Dana Kaplan bolstered her campaign for the open District B seat on the New Orleans City Council by announcing endorsements Wednesday from Mayor Mitch Landrieu, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond and five other prominent elected officials.
Kaplan picked up Mitch, Cedric, Erroll Williams, Marlin Gusman, Helena Moreno, Jared Brossett, and Walt Leger.  That's quite a cross-section of heavy hitters singing the praises of someone who sells herself as a  grass-rootsy newcomer.

I'm not sure what to make of that. The next year is going to be a rough time in local politics.  Gusman is going to be dealing with federal consent decree oversight of his shoddily run prison. Mitch is getting ready to gut civil service and I'm guessing privatize some city services shortly thereafter. There will probably be another attempt at a "Ho-Zone" style giveaway to hospitality ownership. Water rates will be raised and raised again. The rent will continue to be too damn high.

The hope was that Kaplan wouldn't be on board with the big boys with regard to at least some of this stuff.  Or at the very least that she'd be less likely to buy into the bullshit than Cantrell or Strachan would. Now, who knows?

This is going to be an interesting race. I don't know if there's any polling data but if I had to guess I'd say Cantrell runs first with Kaplan making it a runoff. But that's just me throwing blind darts right now.

Update: I find this hard to believe but could this shift from Cantrell to Kaplan have really been all about the blunt? If so, our politics may be even dumber than we like to think they are.

But, at the same time, if that's really the explanation for these endorsements, think about what a significant distortion that minor event would have created in this race.

Upperdate: Speaking of polling data, Gambit is running one of those totally super-scientific online polls for the District B race right now.  When I looked at those results, Eric Strachan had over 50%.  But we already knew the online Gambit audience was a virtual "Faubourg Stacy" anyway.

Uppestdate: I could be way off base in assuming Cantrell to run first. At the beginning of this race I thought she would have been the overwhelming favorite but circumstances have changed as the race went on and I might need to adjust expectations a bit. It would be nice to see some polling data but that's asking for a lot in a council district race. Anyway, I still think this is headed for a run-off as long as the three major contenders stay in the race.

Serpas Signal

It's been a few weeks. They tend to come in bunches.

Tomorrow night October 18, 2012, the New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Section will conduct a Sobriety Checkpoint beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M. and concluding at approximately 5:00 A.M. in Orleans Parish.    Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have proper documentation, i.e., proof of insurance, and a valid driver’s license if requested.

Most recently they've been spotted At Orleans and Basin and then at Calliope and Carondelet. Both are major points of egress from downtown via I-10. Don't know if this is a pattern or not. 

Annual water hike

This morning we momentarily lost water pressure. (While I was in the shower, too just for extra aggravation.) As it turned out it was just a building maintenance issue and the pressure came back within a few minutes. But, as we've learned time and again, one can never be too careful around here so I spent those few minutes searching around for the boil order. None came.

I did notice today that S&WB is getting set to ask for a rate hike.

The 10 percent increase has been in the works for a while, and many people aren't too happy about it. The board recommended a series of 10 percent increases each year until 2020, increasing the average monthly household bill by 140 percent. The rates would be doubled in order to fix the aging water system.
A series of 10 percent increases each year. I wonder if they're planning an annual boil order just before asking for each of them as well. 

Other debate

No idea why the District B candidates agreed to a debate on the same night as the Presidential debate. But if you missed it, you can get the summary here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Presidential Zing-off 2: The Re-Zinging

Yes I bought a box of these. I find it enhances my enjoyment of an otherwise joyless experience.


Right now Mitt and Obama are reviewing their debate contracts and going over their carefully scripted spontaneous remarks, stances, facial expressions, etc. CNN's Candy Crowley is getting ready for her close-up.

Crowley's vision of her role at tonight's debate is in keeping with past town hall debates, but it would defy the expectations agreed to by both campaigns in the co-signed memorandum of understanding, obtained and released yesterday by Time's Mark Halperin. From section 7, part (c), sub-part (iv) (italics mine):
7. Additional Rules Apllicable to the October 16 Debate...
(c) With respect to all questions...
(iv) The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments during the 2 minute response period.
There is hardly any gray area here. Crowley is expected to do nothing except to acknowledge questioners, enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments. Many people -- especially journalists -- would and have objected to that, but that's the agreement.
Don't get too excited. Crowley isn't actually going to ruffle any feathers even if she is technically stating an intention to violate the ground rules. She's only up for that insofar as it advertises Candy Crowley: Independent Journalist in some benign way.

Just this afternoon, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, whose claim to a right of participation in this show is at least based on her presence on the ballot and not her celebrity status as a TV personality, was led away by police for even presuming to attend the debate.  If Crowley were actually a threat to the message, there's no way she'd be allowed to participate either. Rest assured, the scope of the debate will remain well within the agreed upon establishment parameters.

And I'm sure that will be just fine with most professional observers.  If they were pleased with Martha Raddatz's performance during last week's Vice Presidential debate, then we know the bar is already set embarrassingly low.  Raddatz received plaudits from the pundits last week for actually kind of doing her job a little bit as she occasionally insisted that Paul Ryan actually answer a question or two.  But beyond that she pretty much sucked.

In this Democracy Now! segment Geroge Farah and Glenn Greenwald pick apart Raddatz's questioning and the already skewed frame it set for the conversation.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Let’s talk about Medicare and entitlements. Both Medicare and Social Security are going broke and taking a larger share of the budget in the process. Will benefits for Americans under these programs have to change for the programs to survive?
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, can you comment on the question?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, the question is grounded on an assumption that is not just dubious but very vociferously debated among the nation’s leading economists, which is the idea that Social Security and Medicare are going broke. In the case of Social Security, it’s almost impossible to make that case that it actually is going broke. The Social Security actually makes money. To the extent that it is burdened with that, it’s because other government programs, whether it be military spending or all kinds of corporate cronyism, create all kinds of debt that Social Security essentially ends up funding.

And with regard to Medicare, the same thing. Lots of economists have pointed out that Medicare, with a few minor alterations, will be economically sound for many decades. This notion that it’s going broke is something that lots of right-wing millionaires have promulgated as a way of pressuring Americans into feeling like they have to give up their basic entitlements.

And so, to watch Martha Raddatz, posing as an objective journalist, embracing what is an extremely controversial premise in her question, and then watching both candidates accept that assumption rather than challenge them, sort of is the microcosm of how these debates work, which is, they pose as objective, neutral moderators designed to have this wide-ranging debate, when in reality it takes place within a very suffocating, small confine of ideas. And as George has been detailing, that’s what it’s designed to do.

Crowley will pose as tonight's neutral moderator only without the supposed gravitas we were told Raddatz's presence brought to the VP debate.  Let's look at that gravitas in action one more time.  Here were Raddatz's final three questions to the candidates.

1) I want to move on, and I want to return home for these last few questions. This debate is indeed historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time on a stage such as this, and I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion. Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And please, this is such an emotional issue for so many —

Because of course the only correct way to ask about a candidate's views on abortion is through the prism of his(!) faith.

2) I recently spoke to a highly decorated soldier who said that this presidential campaign has left him dismayed. He told me, quote, "The ads are so negative and they are all tearing down each other, rather than building up the country."

What would you say to that American hero about this campaign? And at the end of the day, are you ever embarrassed by the tone?

Because, as we all know, harboring "negative" feelings about the state of the country during an election season is so thoroughly un-American that it makes the troops cry.

And finally there's this.

And I want to talk to you very briefly before we go to closing statements about your own personal character. If you are elected, what could you both give to this country as a man, as a human being that no one else could?

What the... look, I don't even want to start figuring out what that means. But obviously it's quite serious and filled with gravitas and such.

Crowley tonight will only continue this game. And the game is all about pretending our closed election system that pits millionaires against millionaires in a contest to determine which millionaire will further seal the wealth and status of his fellow millionaires against intrusion to the ever increasing detriment to the rest of us.

Just make sure that whatever you do, you don't protest too hysterically about any of this.

But another possibility is that political reporters, largely through social media, converged on a shared and exaggerated reaction that became magnified. E.J. Dionne fingers the role of Twitter:
As the first presidential debate went on, the feeds of progressives went almost silent. After the debate, Obama-leaning commentators might have been even more critical of his performance than neutral analysts were. The negativity built and metastasized to the point where Obama’s “defeat” looked far worse 24 and 48 hours later than it did at the time. To invoke a football metaphor, it would be as if postgame commentary had the power to spin a 24–14 defeat into a 38–3 catastrophe. That can’t happen in sports, but it can happen in political debates.

Be happy with the oligarchs who control your lives and the fake reporters who lie to you about them.  After all you ultimately have only your own "negativity" to blame for your predicament.  Oh and pass the Zingers. Chocolate helps. It really does.

Why are Jindal and Vitter trying to ditch RESTORE?

Throughout the course of the Obama Administration, Senator David Vitter and Governor Bobby Jindal have prided themselves on their principled conservative defense of state and local autonomy in the face of oppressive federal intervention.   But this week, it seems, they've taken sides with Obama's Justice Department in favor of a federal power grab that could work to Louisiana's detriment. Why would such a thing be happening?

There's some disagreement among lawmakers from Gulf states about how a possibly impending settlement between BP and the US Justice Department could affect each state's share of the damages.

Among key points of contention in a potential settlement is the degree to which BP was negligent, which determines the scale of damages. The Gulf Coast states also are concerned about which laws the government uses to assess penalties against BP, which could affect where the money flows and how it is spent.

BP could be liable for between $5.4 billion and $21 billion in civil penalties under the Clean Water Act alone, depending on whether it were found to be grossly negligent, which it has denied. A settlement at the higher end of that range could imply some negligence on BP's part and empower plaintiffs with pending lawsuits to seek higher damages, legal analysts said. As of last month, the two sides were about $6 billion apart on a final settlement figure, according to one person familiar with the negotiations.

The Justice Department is also weighing whether to levy fines through a provision of the Oil Pollution Act called the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations. BP could deduct the costs assessed under the Oil Pollution Act, reducing its tax liability, which legal experts said could be an incentive for BP to settle.

But such a deal could leave the Obama administration vulnerable to criticism that it was giving a tax break to a big oil company weeks ahead of the November election.

Some states are lobbying against heavy use of the Oil Pollution Act, because while damages awarded under the Clean Water Act can cover economic losses, those imposed under the Oil Pollution Act must be used for environmental remediation, and so would be likely to benefit Louisiana because it bore the brunt of the environmental damage. Congress also has guaranteed that 80% of fines under the Clean Water Act would flow to states, while the federal government has greater control of OPA funds.
So there are several balls in play.  The NRDA process could presumably result in funds applied directly to oil spill mitigation, which can mean more money directed proportionally to Louisiana where most of the damage occurred (and is still occurring).  And so naturally we're seeing representatives of other Gulf states balk at that.

GULF SHORES - Alabama political leaders today vowed to fight any deal between the U.S. Department of Justice and BP that would shift control of fine money from the 2010 oil spill to the federal government, away from the Gulf Coast states harmed by the catastrophe.

State and local elected officials said that any settlement with BP should be consistent with the Restore Act, federal legislation signed by President Barack Obama in July. The law stipulates that 80 percent of any penalties under the Clean Water Act should be distributed to the Gulf Coast states.

The 80% rule was installed under a provision of the recent transportation bill. The rule, known as the "RESTORE Act" was heavily pushed by lawmakers and activists in every Gulf state.  Unlike the NRDA process, which appears to tie funds to remediation work related to the BP disaster and leaves the federal government in control of the purse strings, RESTORE would give states greater discretion over how the money is used.

Alabama has appropriated its previous disaster windfalls toward creative investments such as  football condos so no doubt they welcome the opportunity to put their imaginations to work once more.  But Louisiana has anticipated  dedicating RESTORE Act funds toward implementation of its 50 year coastal restoration master plan in accordance with legislation signed by the Governor this summer.  So why are Governor Jindal and Senator Vitter suddenly less enthusiastic about executing that plan?

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., joined most of the Gulf Coast senators in writing a letter asking President Barack Obama to stick to the RESTORE Act, which she sponsored, that would direct 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines to the five affected coastal states.

But Sen. David Vitter, R-La., withheld signing the letter and is siding with negotiators in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration who argue that a greater proportion of funds could go to Louisiana if more of the dollars are funneled through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process and not only the RESTORE Act.

This is a rare case where Vitter and the Jindal administration may be more aligned with President Obama’s Department of Justice, which is leading the settlement talks.

Jindal and Vitter are ordinarily staunch ideological opponents of encroaching federal power and have demonstrated this principled inflexibility often at the expense of Louisiana's own dire needs. And yet here they are defending a settlement which reportedly places more power in federal hands because, they argue, Louisiana's needs (this time) supersede their ideological purity.  Do we really believe Jindal and Vitter have suddenly lost religion? Or is something else going on? I'm honestly asking here because I don't know. But I do have a few theories. 

First, from the looks of things, the settlement talks as reported indicate that the Justice Department is trying to cut BP a deal. While the public face of the settlement may involve "tough talk" and a penalty in the higher end of that $5-$20 billion range, the trick is shunting that money off onto the NRDA side of things allows BP an advantage it doesn't get under CWA.

The NRDA fines are also tax deductible. That means BP would be able write off hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties, thus easing the financial pain it should feel for operating in such a reckless and destructive manner.

In other words, the deal here is BP loses face publicly, the feds appear to impose a tough penalty, but in exchange, the government subsidizes BP for its trouble on the back end.  So we know what BP's angle is here. It's important to keep in mind that what's good for BP might also be good for BP's co-defendants down the road and that some of these co-defendants are also clients of Senator Vitter.

It has also been suggested to me that Jindal and Vitter might also be lending an ear to clients who can benefit  from the sort of work that might be mandated by NRDA more directly than they would from projects funded by the RESTORE act. The speculation there being that NRDA would call for "more dredging and less science" to put it roundly. Recall that during the 2010 Macondo crisis, Jindal insisted on a scientifically questionable  though, no doubt, lucrative to some, berm and barrier island building program.

Some scientists and federal officials suggest that the remaining money allocated for the berms might be better spent on other coastal restoration projects, a move that BP says it would support. The money could be spent, they say, on barrier island restoration, for example, in which dredged sand is used to bolster existing islands, mimicking natural processes.

But state officials are unswayed. “I don’t see a downside to continuing to do this,” Mr. Graves said. “Maybe we’re being too protective of our coast. O.K., accuse me. I don’t have a problem with that.”

The berm project has been a boon to Louisiana industry: although many of the dredging companies working on the project have out-of-state headquarters, all have a major presence in Louisiana. The Shaw Group, the lead contractor on the project, is based in Baton Rouge and has been one of Mr. Jindal’s leading campaign contributors over the years.

Several of the project’s other contractors are also along the Louisiana coast. CF Bean, an engineering firm, is based in Plaquemines Parish, and one of the four dredging companies involved, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, has offices there, for example.

Is Jindal's backing of an NRDA heavy settlement an attempt at a second "bermdoggle"? Is Vitter really standing up for Louisiana or is he protecting a more narrow interest? Or is there something else here that I'm missing? I'm seriously asking because the idea that Jindal and Vitter have suddenly decided to favor a federally directed program over one that works basically as a block grant to states seems more far-fetched than any of it.