Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I know there are people applauding this for whatever reason, but I don't see it.
John Georges, who took over a small family company and transformed it into a billion-dollar business, completed a deal Tuesday to buy The Advocate, the largest daily newspaper in Louisiana.
I guess this helps put the TPStreets fiasco in context.  NOLA Media Group must have figured they had to do something to compete with Georges' apparent plan to expand The Advocate's presence in New Orleans. Maybe that's not so bad since that means putting more of the former T-P staff back to work.  But it also means they're all working for John Georges.  Good for them.  Probably not so good for us.

Will be fun, though.

The Romans had em. And they didn't do too bad, right?

Marble freaking columns.
Al Copeland's survivors are negotiating with Jefferson Parish officials to erect a statue of the late fried chicken king in Lafreniere Park. The Parish Council is scheduled Wednesday to vote on an agreement letting the family pay to build a performance stage in the Metairie park, along with an "arched entryway" and "a paved and brick walkway leading to the Al Copeland Memorial Statue," according to public records.

The idea evolved from an overture that the Copeland family made in February to the Lafreniere Park Advisory Board, board Chairman Ginger Crawford said Tuesday. The initial proposal was for pedestal supporting a life-sized statue of the flamboyant businessman holding a box of Popeye's fried chicken and a checkered racing flag, a speedboat at his feet, all set amid columns.
There is a sketch of the proposed statue at the top of that article which you really must see.  According to follow-up statements from JP Councilman Ben Zahn and from the Copeland family, the design is still very much open to discussion.  I think someone today suggested they find a way to incorporate some Christmas lights.

In any case, I really do hope they keep the columns. There really is nothing that could be more exactly Al Copeland than that.

Did somebody say T-P the streets?

Rolling the Avenue

Okay, no, not quite like that, anyway.

NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune will launch an additional print publication that will appear three times a week on newsstands beginning this summer. TPStreet, focusing on breaking news, sports and entertainment, will appear in a tab-size format, publishing on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The new publication will cost 75 cents.
You have to hand it to Ricky Mathews et al for showing some robust balls here. "Here's yer goddamned print edition, suckers!" they seem to say as they open their browsers to NOLA.com and mash down on the Control and P keys.  No, they won't deliver copies of TPStreets to home subscribers.  That's just how much they think of it.. or of you.  Shouldn't you be greeting them at the gate as liberators, anyway?

Besides just having the thing show up on your doorstep takes away the fun of the hunt.

Did you find TPStreets on your corner this morning? Send a pic in to NOLA.com today! You should be able to distinguish the fun-size paper from  The Advocate which is (still) (sort of) an actual newspaper. Though, you might end up mistaking it for The New Orleans Street Exchange which is not.. although it is an actual street paper which TPStreet is not.  Got it? No? OK well maybe look for the one with the free 8 pack of Crayolas or the package of Famous Amos attached. That's probably it.

If you're lucky you'll pick up one of five TPStreetses each month that contain coveted Golden Tickets. The Tickets are good for a ride on the Great Glass Elevator at Canal Place. It will take you up to the NOLA Media Group offices where the tour will show you the machine that shrinks newspapers by breaking them into a million little pieces and beaming them onto small screens.

Like this but with a more obnoxious child making the decisions.

One city, many voices

The so-called  "Second Battle of New Orleans" fight to defeat the riverfront expressway has passed into mythology. It has become a fable with two distinct morals depending on who is telling the story.

For preservationists, it is their finest hour; their most unambiguous victory over the most demonstrably evil (in their minds, anyway) machinations of short-sighted development. And they allow this moment of righteousness, their big win in the Good War, to inform an almost reactionary revulsion to every and any big project that comes along.

But the Good War wasn't all that great if you happened to be on the wrong side of the atom bomb. And that's still how they feel in 7th Ward where Claiborne Avenue was eventually sacrificed to the interstate once the French Quarter was made off limits.

Long gone oaks memoralized with Faux Oaks (Foaux?)

There the elevated expressway has settled into the mythology as the primary cause of every symptom of urban decline to befall the area ever since.  Never mind that crime, under-employment,  and general disinvestment in education and social services have plagued the entire city, and every city in the nation, for half a century. In the 7th Ward, everything begins and ends with that damn highway.

This is not to say that they don't have a right to complain.  The expressway may not be the root of all evil, but its placement sure didn't helped matters. But regardless of its actual impact, to the people who live in its wake, it's a constant reminder to them that big decisions aren't made with them in mind.

Interestingly, both of these not-entirely-true narratives come into play as we start to hear rumblings about the expressway being torn down and the "Claiborne Corridor"  queued for "revitalization." The preservationist crowd will see it as an opportunity to make reparations for the collateral damage they inflicted in the course of their holy war to save the French Quarter. And, no doubt, there will be support from residents eager to finally slay the dragon expressway that trampled over their neighborhood.

Hopefully, though, enough of us will be able to view the next "battle" in its own context rather than through the obfuscating fog of the last war. Lovell Beaulieu (imperfectly) pokes through some of it in a recent Tribune column about the planning process.
Another similar streetcar line is now being planned for North Rampart and St. Claude avenues. That line, which has now journeyed from the planning stages to an imminent reality, will take riders from the city’s downtown theaters and shops all the way into the Bywater, Marigny and Holy Cross neighborhoods. 

The new Rampart line did not go unnoticed by key people in attendance.

“This is just another thrill ride for tourists,” stated Jacques Morial, who lives a block from the interstate and who is determined to make sure that the communities that bore the brunt of urban decay with the highway construction in the 1960s aren’t left holding more broken promises after its planned demolition.

Morial pointed out how the Interstate that was built in the 1960s devastated the 6th and 7th wards from a cultural standpoint, as well as having a spillover effect on the 8th. When those decisions were made, African Americans had little if any political clout, and even less economic sway. Now, the conversation continues to happen behind closed doors, and it all adds to the negative perception and reality of the Livable Claiborne Communities conversation.

Nothing without us is for us,” said Morial.
Our current Mayor is fond of catchy slogans.  One of his favorites, and probably the most pernicious, goes, "One Team One Fight One Voice One City,"  as if civic governance is something we should liken to a football game where all the residents are always on the same "team."  There are many lies in this condescending little chant. The most obvious question it always raises in my mind is, how can we have a "fight" with only one "team" participating?

Of course a city contains many different voices, many opposing teams participating in many fights and the outcomes have real winners and real losers. That's just politics.  To pretend otherwise is to deny the losing side of these every day struggles, not only the material spoils, but also the recognition due anyone with a valid but opposing argument. In other words, the Mayor is telling you that when you  are priced out of your neighborhood by "revitalization" or an expressway is built on top of your house, it isn't because you lost an argument to a different "team." It's because, you actually never existed at all.

But there are winners and loser in every "Battle of New Orleans."  If the life and times of the Claiborne Expressway serve as an object lesson in anything, certainly this should be it.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


The Advocate: HOLY CRAP

Maybe somebody should do something.  It looks like a lot of people are willing to.

Looking back at NFL Draft Weekend (mostly) in quotations

Prologue: One day before Tharold Simon Day in his hometown of Eunice, LA, the former LSU corner  managed to get himself arrested
“Tharold was out celebrating the draft with some of his friends, and things got out of hand,” Dies said.

When the officer learned the vehicle was Simon’s, he approached Simon and asked him to move the vehicle. Simon did not cooperate initially and began talking disrespectfully to the officer.

“I own Eunice,” Simon told the officer, according to Eunice Police. “You are going to be mine.”
Oh dear. Eunice isn't the most valuable property to own on the Monopoly board, by the way. Simon might have been better off with the get out of jail free card in this case.

He ended up going to Seattle in Round 5 so the arrest didn't affect his draft stock all that badly. As an object lesson, though, this might not be the best example to follow. 

Round 1: Saints safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper tweet gracefully about having to compete with Kenny Vaccaro now.

The last time the Saints brought in a first-round pick into an already clogged position group was in 2011 when the team traded back into Day 1 to take running back Mark Ingram. Reggie Bush became the odd-man out months later, but responded shortly after the Ingram pick via Twitter, "It's been fun New Orleans."

Neither Jenkins, nor Harper responded in a Bush-like fashion Thursday night after the Saints selected Vaccaro:

"Ya'll welcome @kennyvaccaro4 to the fam!! I think that was a solid pick! Lets get it ... Who Dat!!," Jenkins said via Twitter.

"Want to welcome my new teammate @KennyVaccaro4 to #WhoDatNation," Harper said via Twitter.
Maybe Vaccaro can make an impact quickly. We like safeties so we'll be rooting for him to succeed.  We're mildly confident he won't go broke, anyway.
“I’m going to build my mom a nice little house somewhere in Texas,” Vaccaro said. “I don’t think she wants to stay in Brownwood anymore. That’s about it. I’m going to save my money.”

Last year’s No. 15 pick Bruce Irvin signed a 4-year, $9.34 million contract. That’ll serve as a good barometer for Vaccaro’s expected windfall.

“I’m going to invest a lot in my family, just sit on it, and in about 10 years or whenever I can go travel or something,” Vaccaro said.

Meanwhile, the Roman Harper Falling Down Tumblr is still active for your consideration. 

Round 2: A moment of silence to commemorate the passing of the final consequence of "Bountygate." Screw you, Roger Goodell. Moving on.

Not sure if Governor Jindal has seen much game film but he did offer this comment after day one was complete.

For the best NFL analysis and prognostication, you can never go wrong looking to state and local politicians. 

Round 3:  Fuck yeah! Steve Gleason

Anyway, who did they pick?
If you’re not excited now, a quick glance at pre-draft bios should change that.

Armstead, a 6-foot-5, 306-pounder, opened eyes with a 4.71 40-yard dash and benched 215 pounds 31 times at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

Even more impressive – he chose Arkansas-Pine Bluff over major colleges because the head football coach allowed him to participate in track and field.

He started 37 games at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, including his final 32 games. He was a FCS first-team All-American in 2012 as well as his third-straight All-SWAC honor.
Armstead's 40 time compares well with Vaccaro's 4.63, by the way. He probably won't start as a rookie, but he does offer the Saints an opportunity to bring back that tackle eligible formation they were so fond of a few years back.  Saints fans have been demanding that Zach Streif's missed opportunity for glory be made right.  Perhaps Armstead is the man to do the job.

Never Forget

Round 3 (again, after much mischief): Running Back Chris Ivory on being traded to the Jets:

"I put the work in every day and every week. I just feel like it's my time. ... I feel like I can go out there and do some great things with the opportunities I'll be given, and I know I'm going to make the most of it. With every little glimpse I had in New Orleans, I did great things. If I'm getting more than six and seven carries a game, the sky is the limit for me."I can do some great things and put up some crazy numbers in New York."
This trade stings for Saints fans.  Granted, a good portion of Ivory's lack of opportunity on the field is related to his inability to stay healthy. But when he's out there, he looks like the most special talent of anyone in that "crowded backfield." In trading Ivory, the Saints are choosing to commit to the largely disappointing Mark Ingram instead.   Right now, there isn't much public confidence in that decision.

The Ivory trade allowed the Saints leverage enough to deal back up into the third round and pick very large Georgia defensive lineman, John Jenkins who despite being, "breathtaken" by the event, had many things "to be honest with you" about "at the end of the day."

What do you think about being a Saint?

I don’t mind being a Saint, I’m kind of happy though to be honest with you.  I was down there when I went to junior college and I got accustomed to that area. I was down in the Mississippi Gulf Coast area, so I know a lot of people and supporters out there that I get to see again.”

What’s the journey been like to go from the gulf coast to now playing for the New Orleans Saints?

“It was a journey, but at the end of the day it was a blessing, a true blessing, a road of…I can’t even describe right now I’m so breathtaken right now, let me just gather my thoughts really quick.  It’s crazy.  As a child when you start playing this sport, you think that you want to be a professional athlete and then it’s just a dream but when it comes true, it’s like wow, I can’t believe this is happening right now.  I’m just caught up in the moment.  To answer your question, to be honest with you, I never thought the dream of being in the NFL would actually happen, I just tried to seize every moment I had, every step I took.  Going to Gulf Coast, I never thought I would be playing for a big time school, going to Georgia I never thought I would be going to the NFL.  I just seized the moment every chance I was able to playing big games and being around my teammates, that’s all I thought, that was my mentality.”

Did you know how much the Saints were interested in you?

To be honest with you, I knew Coach (Bill) Johnson was really interested in me.  I talked a lot to him at the Senior Bowl and I talked to him quite a bit at the combine.  To be honest with you, after that, we really didn’t talk, but I knew that he was interested in me.  After I got an understanding about how the process works, how people didn’t want to deal cards like a chess match or a poker game so to speak, I knew that some teams, like Coach Johnson, I could sense that he was really interested in me and he told me he wanted to come get me.  It was a blessing and I’m glad he came and got me to be honest.”
To be honest with you, it's kind of nice to know that Jenkins doesn't mind being a Saint. We're glad he took the time to say so since, at 359 pounds, we figure it isn't that unusual for a person to be "breathtaken."  And we've got to hand it to the Saints as well.  It takes a lot of nerve for them to trade up for a big fat defensive tackle from Georgia given the whole Jonathan Sullivan experience, to be honest.

Round 4: A moment of silence in memory of Chris Ivory.  Screw you, Roger Goodell. Moving on.

Intermission: It was about this time in the day when we learned about this
LSU running back Jeremy Hill was arrested early Saturday in connection with a fight at an LSU-area bar that left a man unconscious, arrest records show.
Maybe Hill was inspired by Simon's having emerged from a brush with the law relatively unscathed, but his situation might be a bit different.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Saturday that based on what he knows about the incident, he is not sure if Hill violated the terms of his probation.

“If there is a new criminal violation that he is found guilty of or if there is some violation of the probation that was imposed, it could have an impact of his sentence,” Moore said.
So, you know, the world continues turning in Baton Rouge.

Round 5: Oklahoma receiver Kenny Stills
"I have a pessimistic outlook to everything, so I told my family I didn't expect to go (in the draft on Friday during the second or third rounds)" 

Stills gets points for that one. But then he loses points for going on to talk about his faith in "God's plan" for him.  Unless he means Old Testament God's plans, because those do, in fact, tend to engender a pessimistic outlook.

Bonus points: The selection of Stills also places him among Ricky Williams and Bobby Hebert in the NFL's most proud cross dressing tradition.

Round 6: Tarleton State defensive end Rufus Johnson:
"I am an aggressive player and a wonderful pass-rusher"
Humble people, those Tarleton State kids.

Uh oh: Mickey Loomis on the Saints' remaining veteran free agents.

Loomis said during his Saturday afternoon post-draft press conference that defensive end Sedrick Ellis, wide receiver Devery Henderson and linebacker Scott Shanle probably wouldn't be part of the team's plans in 2013.
They'd better hope that Stills pans out in this case. Because, without Devery, this team is pretty thin at receiver. (Despite this, I think Devery is still even odds to be back.  Payton spoke before Loomis and sounded more open to it than this.)

Weird: After the draft, the Saints signed Tulane Quarterback Ryan Griffin as a free agent. Griffin apparently was inspired by this to get on Twitter for the first time ever.
Griffin recently opened up a twitter account and has only one tweet, which he typed out Saturday evening from his home in Westlake Village, California: "WHO DATTTTTT!!!!!"
Griffin graduates with several Tulane passing records, which may or may not be worth anything. But to finish college in 2013 with just one career tweet... that's just weird. 

Epilogue: There were a school record nine LSU players drafted over the weekend.

Les Miles says:
“I wish I could get about half of those guys back,” he said, “but I’m afraid they’re gonna pay ’em much more significantly.”
Running back Michael Ford, who left early, ended up going undrafted. Given Jeremy Hill's uncertain status now, it's worth wondering if he might like to be able to go back too. Ford ended up signing with the Bears so it looks like he'll be ok
"It feels great, amazing," said the 5-foot-10, 215-pounder from Leesville, who passed on his senior season. "At the same time it was disappointing. They said I have a chance to compete for the No. 2 job. I just have to go up there and work hard, I just want to play football."
Backup running back in Chicago probably pays "significantly" more than it does at LSU where you're mostly paid in gratitude.  The gratitude is commonly expressed in various challenges to bar fights.  So it sounds like Ford comes out ahead provided he makes the team.  If not, maybe Simon will let him borrow Eunice from him on the weekends when he isn't using it.

Also, screw you, Roger Goodell. You are just the worst.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The only post on the internet about the NFL draft

This week's American football news begins high in the Andes.
Veteran NFL linebacker Scott Fujita, who enjoyed his most successful seasons with the Saints, signed a one-day contract with the team so that he could retire as a Saint, the club announced Monday.

Fujita was a big part of the team that came together after Katrina and enjoyed the best run in franchise history, with two NFC Championship game appearances and a Super Bowl title.

“I’ve been fortunate to play in this league for a long time and for some great organizations, but there is no doubt that my times spent in New Orleans were some of the best years of my life,” Fujita said. “The way the team and the community embraced us when we first arrived, and the way they continue to do so, even today, shows how deep this connection is. I’m honored to be a part of this organization and so proud to retire as a New Orleans Saint.”

Fujita, 33, signed his contract provided to him by the Saints in Machu Picchu, located in the Andes Mountains in the Urubamba Valley in Peru, South America. He is accompanying former New Orleans Saints teammate Steve Gleason on an adventure of the fabled Inca tribe in the South American mountains.
The Saints released a photo of Fujita signing his contract.

This means the Saints, who open the season at home this year, could set up Week 1 as Scott Fujita Day.  It would be a terrific way to put the "bountygate" experience to bed by celebrating the retirement of one of the saga's primary victim/heroes.

It's also a perfect way to end the coming Summer Of Falcons Hate which we're all very much looking forward to. The Saints face the Falcons at home in Week 1.  The next 4 months of obnoxious fan trash talking will tax the internet to its capacity.  If you've got large files to download, or cute animal streaming to observe,  better get that out of the way now.  Also that gives us plenty of time to figure out how to finally dress that statue.

In the meantime, the only problem anyone is trying to solve revolves around the Saints and the 15th draft pick in  tonight's first round.  I'm still not a big fan of the NFL's new(ish) prime time 1st round format.  I get that it's essentially a reality show but I still think the draft works better as an all-day weekend event; like a football game would be if you didn't have to actually sit there all day and pay attention to it.

One thing they have gotten right, though, is inviting guest presenters with some tie to each team to announce later round picks at the podium.  This year, for example,  the Saints 3rd round pick could be broadcast by live video stream from Scott Fujita at Machu Pichu. Of course it won't. And that's why the draft sucks.

But it's still a sucky thing that no one can ever stop talking about. Like pilates or Jimmy John's sandwiches or NyQuil. Here are some of the things that have been said in the process.

Everybody: The Saints' defense was terrible in 2012. The Saints should probably draft a defense. Who are some defense guys in this year's draft? Let's draft them.


Handwerger: The Saints are kind of terrible at other positions also.
While there’s depth in the sense of numbers on the roster, there’s a lack of depth in the sense of experience and ability at receiver.

The same could be said at tackle.

Losing tackle Jermon Bushrod to Chicago in free agency was big. Certainly he’s not an elite player in the league. But he is solid and he did start for the past four seasons.

The position is open for Charles Brown to swoop in.
Oooh. Nobody wants to watch Charles Brown do any swooping out there. Let's see if we can avoid that.

Malbrough: The Saints are pretty terrible at picking defensive guys anyway. Also, times are more desperate than you may believe.
The Saints desperately need an infusion of young cheap talent because they are tight against the salary cap but acquiring that young talent is made harder by the loss of their second-round pick for the bounty investigation penalties.

Sports are like everything else in life in that the good times never last forever. If we can live in a world where Angela Hill isn’t on your TV everyday and I can’t gleefully read Roger Ebert savage a horrible movie, you best believe the Saints won’t be fun to watch with Drew Brees every Sunday forever. If the Saints are going to be a serious contender in 2013, Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton must nail the draft starting Thursday and their history lately is spotty at best.
Better to go get a guy who will immediately help the Saints get better this season before age and the salary cap eat everybody's face next year.  Malbrough thinks that's Tavon Austin which is probably not true. But the principle is still a good one.

The Saints need to become a much improved team immediately in a championship-or-bust season. An offensive player might be more likely to help them do that.

On the other hand, it's always more enjoyable to get drunk and do fun stuff such as drafting Barkevious Mingo AND Tyrann Mathieu. The argument in favor of the latter is especially compelling.

Firstly, there's a HUGE difference between taking a knucklehead in the first round and taking one in the third. And secondly, there are two kinds of knuckleheads. There are knuckleheads who are just fucking assholes, who do things like kick people in the face and steal from friends/teammates/roommates and beat women up and shit like that. Fuck those guys. And then there are good kids who aren't trying to hurt anybody or anything, but they do stupid shit because they're just looking to have a good time, and they're young and dumb and they think it'll never come back to bite them in the ass. Right up until it does. Maybe more than once. Because, this just in, they don't always "learn their lesson" the first time. I sure as hell didn't when I was in my early 20s, and I damn sure didn't have any reason to think I'd keep getting pass after pass because I was hot shit.

All indications are that Mathieu is the latter. And that's okay with me. Maybe he never gets his head out of his ass. I'm willing to take that risk. Because I genuinely believe that he's trying to get a grip upon his shit. And because the worst-case scenario just doesn't bother me all that much. The world isn't going to end if the Saints take a chance on a guy in the third fucking round and it doesn't work out because he just can't put the damn bong down. I'll get over it, and so will you. It wouldn't be the first time, nor will it be the last. We lived through Jonathan Sullivan, for crying out loud.

Meantime, would you not be entertained?
We would be. Quite much so.  Wang's theory of knucklehead varieties scans very near to Matt Taibbi's equally strong, "Draft The Weed Guy" rule.
To quickly recap: guys who batter cheerleaders with bricks or commit armed robbery or drive drunk with loaded pistols in their glove compartments are genuine character concerns, but a kid who just likes to smoke weed... that's every college student in America. You want your star athlete, if he's going to have a vice, to be a pothead. In fact, hopefully, he's going straight from practice to his TV, blazing up and watching cartoons all afternoon. That means he's not getting in real trouble. Yet every year, great talents like Percy Harvin and Moss and Sapp plummet in the draft because of failed weed tests, and smart teams scoop them up, put them on the Whizzinator therapy plan, and cash in big-time.

As for me, I'm never very good with constructive advice so I can't say with any certainty what the Saints should do.  I can say with some considerable uncertainty that if they take any of the tackles or any of the receivers who are not Tavon Austin, I'd be okay with that.  Reid even suggests a tight end. I might be okay with that too.

What I am pretty good at is telling people what not to do. And in that regard, not drafting the guy with the broken spine or the guy with the fake girlfriend sound like good bets. Also, while we're at it, let's not trade Chris Ivory. Just in case we need him for later. Like when all of the running backs inevitably are injured by November.

And that's all I've got. Now I'm off to Machu Pichu Tracey's to watch some of this debacle spend quality time with the Mrs.  Be sure to tweet your complaints legibly.  And we'll see you all in the Summer of Hate.

Shit my Jackie says

City Council was supposed to hold a hearing on reforming the controversial NOPD detail system today but then decided they would rather not.

A City Council hearing scheduled for Thursday afternoon on a new system to oversee police off-duty detail work was postponed after a long meeting Wednesday night with police officer representatives, council members, Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin and others.

Though details of the meeting were sketchy, the delay may indicate that the city is willing to tweak its planned system to oversee the scandal-prone "secondary employment" system, which a March 2011 U.S. Department of Justice report labeled an "aorta of corruption" in the NOPD.

Ryan Berni, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office, did not immediately return a call for information on the night meeting or why Thursday's hearing was put off.
Luckily, Jackie Clarkson was available for comment, though. And that's always more fun anyway.

Bucking the trend

The Atlantic throws cold water on all the hot entrepreneurialisms loose in these here parts.

In an article titled "Entrepreneurship Is Falling - And That's Great News," Atlantic senior editor Derek Thompson, referring to the much-discussed New Orleans entrepreneurship wave, wrote, "A resurgent economy needs younger talent, but this is also a sign of a broken city with more cultural appeal than business opportunities, which has forced new residents to start their own companies rather than join existing, thriving enterprises."
This time we're so far ahead we're behind. 

BP: "You're welcome"

Just in time for mosquito and roach season.

Louisiana’s coastal marshes can be noisy places with insects buzzing and chirping constantly, but that’s no longer the case in some places.

“What happened after the Deepwater Horizon is when we came to marsh impacted by the oil, they were relatively silent,” said Linda Hooper-Bui, associate professor in the Department of Entomology at LSU.

Preliminary results from field work and lab experiments point to two oil components — naphthalene and methylnaphthlane — to be at least part of an explanation for large declines in insect populations within oiled or previously oiled areas of coastal marsh, she said.
Score one for "gross negligence"

Kicking you off the internet

In addition to the obvious increase in the sophistication with which government and commercial authorities are able to shut down things they don't like on the internet, there's also a steady cultural movement afoot toward shutting everyone up.  Can't put my finger on it exactly, but opinion about amateur online communication commentary (i.e. ordinary people having opinions about stuff) is trending toward a consensus that everyone should be made to shut up.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Countless calculator eyes

Yesterday we noted that, in the New Orleans area alone, we've managed to count 7 incidents of false alarm "suspicious package" sightings in the week following the Boston Marathon bombing.  In at least two of those cases, it was reported that local authorities dispatched a specialized bomb robot to investigate.

You have to believe this was an exciting opportunity for them. "Come on, guys, we get to use the robot!" shout our SWAT heroes as they slide down their poles and leap through the windows of their General Lees on their way out to poke at the latest discarded bindle someone has called in.  Some day they'll have an opportunity to use the drone too but they're still not willing to admit they have one of those.  For now, though, they'll have to play with this toy.

We can call it a toy, by the way, because it was well within everyone's understanding that its only practical application in New Orleans this week was going to be recreational.  If at some unlikely point we're on Canal Street watching the robot confront something we think might actually explode, we'll be sure to adjust our terminology.  For example, the other night, @liprap suggested "Hurt Roomba," which seems about right. 

Whatever you call it, what we can say about the robot is that it was clearly the most calm, level-headed individual on the scene of any of our non-crises this week. But before you take this as a sign that it's time to dump the entirety of your business' manpower in favor of a full staff of cool, calm robots, consider this cautionary tale from today's news.  For about five seconds today, Twitter users were concerned  a bomb might have gone off at the White House.
Journalists inside the White House at the time of the tweet quickly refuted the claim and reported that no blast had been felt at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The AP announced from a separate account moments later that the initial tweet was not true and that hackers wrote and published the incorrect claim.
In the same amount of time it took most of us to read the fake tweet and say, "Well that's probably bullshit," to ourselves, it had already been refuted.  No one had enough time think too much about this information, much less allow it to inform any serious practical decisions.  Well, almost no one, anyway.
Immediately after the fake tweet went live, both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 took drastic nosedives before quickly rebounding.

How could that happen?  What species of sentient creature exhibits this kind of split-second lizard-brained  reaction?  Of course, you're tempted to answer commodities traders.  This Wall Street Journal item would agree with you, anyway.
Keith Bliss, senior vice president with New York brokerage Cuttone & Co. on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, said he heard a slow wave of noise across the exchange floor as traders responded to the first tweet.

"We all started looking at it to figure out what was going on, and just as quickly there was another wave of noise after the AP denied the story," Mr. Bliss said. "Just goes to show, you shouldn't have a knee-jerk reaction to anything that comes across Twitter."
But isn't it as likely that this immediate unthinking reaction in the market was generated by the robots?

The acceleration of Wall Street cannot be separated from the automation of Wall Street. Since the dawn of the computer age, humans have worried about sophisticated artificial intelligence—HAL, Skynet, the Matrix—seizing control. But traders, in their quest for that million-dollar millisecond, have willingly handed over the reins. Although humans still run the banks and write the code, algorithms now make millions of moment-to-moment calls in the global markets. Some can even learn from their mistakes. Unfortunately, notes Weisenborn, "one thing you can't teach a computer is judgment."
Could high frequency trading algorithms be designed to respond automatically to world-changing headlines that flash over the wire? If so, then it would explain the remarkable speed with which so many stupid decisions were made today.  Besides, it's certainly no less likely than a robot writing that headline in that first place.  
Visit the website of Forbes.com and read the earnings forecasts for the New York Times Company, and you will notice the byline "By Narrative Science". Normally you have to open a copy of Wallpaper* to find someone with such a florid monicker. Except of course Narrative Science is not a person but a robot journalist – actually a set of algorithms which take data and turn it into words.
So not only have we automated the task of analyzing and responding to real world market information, but we're also putting the machines in charge of defining it. If we're going to outsource even the practice of bullshitting one another out of our money we're truly scraping the bottom of the barrel of what's left of human usefulness.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Today's moment of stupid

By my count this is the sixth paranoid freak-out over a random object  laying around the metro area has seen in the past 5 days. Please stop.

Archie Bunker episode guide

The People Say Project breaks out the Hulu in order to elaborate on Marlin Gusman's analogy.
Pretty obvious one here: Bunker as meathead equals Landrieu as racist. In other words, the very force the protagonist most despises is the one he actually is.  Just as the New Orleans political family is built on an integrationist legacy, the sitcom family rests on the war between father and son-in-law. The meathead/racist label stings.

When they go to the polls, Archie and Edith find Louise Jefferson in the role of registrar. Archie asks if she’s making a few bucks–some deep racist rhetoric there. Worse, Archie’s name isn’t on the roll and he can’t vote. He begs Edith not to tell the kids of his failure, and demands she vote against Packard.

Two interesting things in this scene: highly bizarre that the Jeffersons control the polls. After all, the evaporation of that condition in Central City has seriously disrupted local politics. Second, is there some notion that Landrieu won’t enjoy the expected dominance at the polls in 2014? Could Archie’s exclusion represent a jab from (people whispered, at least pre-OPP video) potential mayoral candidate Marlin Gusman? The study of Archie Bunker rhetoric reveals no certainties, only deepens the mysteries.
Much more like this. Go check it out

The Mitch and Marlin show is very much like any other typical New Orleans political feud between crooks and phonies. The exaggerated rhetoric tends to obscure the finer points. But the symbolism is true enough that it becomes irresistible... and fun too, of course.

The hazard comes in assuming the intellectual argument justifies the actual positions of either of the combatants. Neither of them is making a particularly coherent argument although it is possible to hope each gets some of what he's asking for.

Gusman wasn't wrong to sign on to the consent decree.  A sweeping OPSO reform absolutely has to happen.  But its mainly Gusman's own administrative practices that need to be overhauled. But rather than acknowledge this Gusman has made some rather bizarre arguments.

The question before Judge Lance Africk this week is whether conditions at the jail violate the United States Constitution, as the Southern Poverty Law Center (representing a proposed class of current and future inmates) and the U.S. Department of Justice has argued.

“Are you telling the court that conditions at Orleans Parish Prison, sometimes known as OPP, constitute violations of federal rights for the inmates there?” Rosenberg asked.

"I'm not admitting that," Gusman replied. He would allow that conditions were sometimes "not reasonable" due to inadequate staffing. But he said that the plaintiffs' 30 page findings of fact — the legal basis for adoption of the consent decree that Africk will rule on — was based on "lies and misrepresentations."

"What's the advantage to the sheriff's office of entering into the consent decree?" Africk asked.

“We certainly felt a lot of pressure. After the city had already entered into their consent decree with the police department. I also believed this would be a good opportunity to improve public confidence in what we’re doing," Gusman said. (Note "public confidence" in an agreement based on "lies and misrepresentations.) “I also believed that this would provide the funding we needed to do our job.”

For the Mayor's part, he appears to be making an equally absurd yet opposite argument from Gusman's.  Mitch is dead set against the consent decree reform of OPP yet his argument against it involves a lot of complaining about how badly OPP needs to be reformed.

And yet when we get into specifics, the Mayor actually defends the more egregious practices at the jail.  A major point of controversy has been the "per diem" system which determines the jail's finances
Since 1990, the city, under a federal consent judgment, has paid the sheriff's office a set amount each day for every city prisoner. It's been $22.39 a day since 2003. Gusman said last year he needs as much from the city as he gets from the state, $26.39 a day.

However, the per diem system has come under criticism from nationally known corrections expert James Austin and city Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux.

In a report this month, Quatrevaux's office said that even though "the evidence suggests that this per diem amount is inadequate to sustain the operation of the jail," the arrangement "provides a disincentive for the sheriff to correct inefficient information systems that delay the release of some detainees."
Everyone has, at one time or another, gone on record as being mildly in favor of dropping the per diem system yet nobody ever does anything about it.
“I’m surprised that the administration has had a year to do this and we still don’t have a fixed budget,” (Councilwoman Susan) Guidry said. “This is a perverse incentive to keep people in jail. It’s wrong, it’s not a healthy thing to do and we have had a whole year since the last budget. I don’t want another year to go by without us dealing with this.”

Guidry’s criticism prompted Landrieu’s budget director, Cary Grant, to say that a fixed payment system for Gusman is still “a goal of the Landrieu administration.”

So, Guidry asked him, how many people did he have working on the issue today?

“Today we probably have fewer people working on that than we should,” Grant admitted.
That exchange between Guidry and Grant was from a late 2011 hearing in regard to the 2012 budget.  Many months later, the situation is no different.
The Landrieu administration's disregard for the residents incarcerated at OPP is evident in the fact that for years they haven't done anything to improve the conditions at the jail while continuing to fund it. In his testimony at District Court, Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin admitted that the Landrieu administration was well aware of the problems going on at the jail. Now that the Justice Department is insisting that the city share responsibility with the sheriff for the unconstitutional conditions there, Mayor Landrieu would like us to believe that his hands have been tied since he has no control over Gusman or OPP. But the Landrieu administration has dragged its feet on changing the funding of the jail from a per diem structure that incentivizes filling beds at the jail to one that would increase transparency and accountability. When Laura Coon of the Department of Justice asked Kopplin if the city had done anything to increase the city's oversight over the jail, for example, ordering a forensic audit,  Kopplin admitted that although this was something within the city's power, they hadn't ever looked into it.
During the Mayor's "emergency meeting" address to City Council, complained that the OPSO consent decree amounted to another "blank check" from the city to the Sheriff. 
“During this fiscal year, the sheriff, DOJ, federal judges are all riding up to tell us and the taxpayers of the city to write a blank check and hand it over,” Landrieu said. “We will not voluntarily write an ambiguous, unjustified sum of money to the Orleans Parish sheriff’s office.”
But under the current budgeting process, this is basically what happens every year. If we can reasonably presume the reforms will mean structural budgeting changes the Mayor and the Sheriff have been unable to make on their own, why not just consider this the "blank check" to end all "blank checks"?

Worse, yet, during the fairness hearing, Mitch's attorneys argued that a questionable state law might actually excuse the unconstitutional conditions at the prison anyway

One wonders after a while what the Mayor's aim is in all this. If he's hoping the feds will offer better better financial terms, maybe we can see this behavior as a histrionic negotiating ploy.  In which case, we hope he's successful but that seems unlikely. 

Instead, most of this comes down to regular old turf politics. And that always comes with the attendant rich but hyperbolic metaphors. Thanks again to People Say for delving into those mysteries for us.


The rent continues to inch too damn high

I never even got  chance to try Mais Arepas. I hope they can absorb the increase. Also, there have been various plans for "re-vitalizing" Oretha Castle Haley over the years but this is the first time I've seen anyone talk about making it a "gallery row."

Saturday, April 20, 2013

We'll know something's gone wrong when the explosion happens

Certainly loud enough to serve as an alarm, anyway.
In the risk-management plan, West Fertilizer said the "worst-case scenario" would be an ammonia leak from a storage tank or hose. It didn't specify the likely consequences. The company said the plant had no alarms, automatic shutoff system or firewall.
You may remember we came upon a similar situation during testimony at the BP trial.
Bly said BP's well site leader and Transocean crews misinterpreted a pressure test that showed that change, as well as later pressure changes, losing key reaction time.

"That risk was neither recognized or addressed until it was too late?" Sterbcow asked.

"There were signs that the well was flowing," Bly said. "It didn't seem to be recognized or reacted to."

Actually it was more grossly negligent than that.. if this testimony from this week is any indication.

(BP's vice president of drilling and completions for the Gulf Patrick) O'Bryan described hearing someone ask the rig's master, Curt Kuchta, about activating the rig's blowout preventer, a key piece of equipment intended to shut down the well in an emergency, in the final moments before the explosion. Kuchta said he lacked permission to initiate the device's emergency disconnect system from Jimmy Harrell, Transocean's offshore installation manager on the Deepwater Horizon, O'Bryan testified.

"So after you see the fire and after you've seen mud raining on deck, you recall somebody asking Captain Kuchta about activating the BOP?" Karis asked, shifting focus  for the accident to the Transocean rig crew.

O'Bryan replied: "He was pretty empathic that he couldn't do it unless he had permission."
So on the rig, unlike at the fertilizer plant, there were a shutoff system* and alarms and  in place, but they "didn't seem to be recognized or reacted to." In a way, that might be worse, than having no emergency response system at all.  We'll be able to answer that better once we know more about what went wrong at the fertilizer plant.  Of course, that may take a while because... 
A placid announcement from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board that it's heading to West, Texas, to investigate the massive fertilizer plant explosion shouldn't be remarkable. But it is. Such deployments are rare. Critics of the agency — which is tasked with investigating such accidents — charge that it's mismanaged and prioritizes the wrong investigations. The agency blames someone else, if indirectly: BP.

For the past two years, the Chemical Safety Board's budget requests have argued that its lengthy investigation into the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill is sapping its ability to respond to other incidents. In its 2013 budget request, a document sent to Congress in February 2012 to make the case for its federal budget allocation this year, the CSB wrote that "the burden of the ongoing Deepwater Horizon investigation and a backlog of old cases has further hampered the CSB's ability to initiate new investigations."
And so gross negligence begets more negligence, I guess. 

*Sort of, anyway. Batteries sold separately, of course.

Meanwhile, it's been kind of an eventful week, so it may have been easy to lose the fact of the three year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion today.  Here are a few relevant links.

Phase 1 testimony in the BP trial wrapped up this week. All parties will now file briefs summarizing their arguments.  Judge Barbier will then be expected to rule on the "gross negligence" question although that may take a while.
Given the case's complexity, legal observers and others say it could be another year before Barbier issues a ruling on the first phase that will outline the percentage of liability to be assigned to BP or its partners, and whether any of the companies should be found to have committed gross negligence or willful misconduct, which could result in a four-fold increase in Clean Water Act fines.

Barbier has given attorneys two months to submit briefs summarizing their opinions about the evidence presented during the first phase of the trial.

So the outcome of the first phase remains in doubt and could be for some time.
Phase 2 begins in September and will focus on determining how much oil actually spewed into the Gulf during the several months that the well was un-capped.

No doubt, the use of dispersants will come into play in making that determination.

Not only is the chemical dispersant that was used to "clean up" the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster of 2010 extremely dangerous, it was knowingly used to make the gushing oil merely "appear invisible" all the while exacerbating levels of toxicity in the Gulf waters, according to a report released Friday, the eve of the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, by the Government Accountability Project.

According to the report, Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf: Are Public Health and Environmental Tragedies the New Norm for Oil Spill Cleanups?, Corexit—the dispersant chemical dumped into the Gulf of Mexico by oil giant BP and the U.S. government in the spill's aftermath—was widely applied "because it caused the false impression that the oil disappeared."

The President's Oil Spill Commission released a report this week that patted everyone on the back for a job well done.... except Congress, of course, where the proverbial mistakes were made.
The report gives the Obama administration a grade of B, the oil and gas industry a B- and Congress a D+. Congress gets credit only for enacting legislation that will funnel 80 percent of any Clean Water Act fines from the disaster to the five Gulf states, money the commission hopes will be used for  coastal restoration.
Way to go, guys.  Not what all that that B- work  is gonna do for this, though.

About 40 minutes by boat west of Port Sulphur in Plaquemines Parish, near Barataria Bay, three small spots of land are all that remain of what was once a much bigger barrier called Cat Island. One is a small, lifeless hook, easily found only by those who remember when the barrier island was five acres. A second, only slightly larger in size, is a vegetative graveyard, populated only by the bases of dead mangrove trees and bits of trash.

“This island was covered in oil,” Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said Thursday, standing just a few feet from the waters of Cat Bay. “Year after year we’d see deterioration in this island, but it was always green.”

Once, the mangrove trees rose eight feet overhead, and pelicans nested around the springtime. When the oil came up from the deep in 2010, the area became the environmental ground zero. After checking up on the island, Parish officials rushed Associated Press photographer Gerald Herbert to the area to take some of the first photographs of oil-covered brown pelicans. For those waiting nervously to see just how bad the disaster would be, there was no more potent symbol than the state bird of Louisiana covered in crude. Three years later, however, there is no sign of birdlife.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Oh dear

Gusman notarized documents connected to Richard Molenaar's bid rigging scheme.

Molenaar -- who has been charged in a bid-rigging scheme involving work at the sheriff's office -- was by then getting plenty of work from Gusman. Records show three Molenaar firms, including Landmark, have raked in well over $1 million in work for the sheriff's office.

Ironically, perhaps, Molenaar may have formed Landmark simply to create the appearance of competition on sheriff's office work he was seeking.

Napkin Ring Du Triomphe

What the hell?


The NFL are criminals and your elected representatives are their enablers.

Local officials told The Lens the upfront cost was worth it, considering the overall economic impact. According to a study released Thursday, the event spurred $262 million in direct spending and $217 million in indirect spending, resulting in $21 million in state tax revenue and $13.9 million in local tax revenue.

However, that study does not say anything about the $800,000 tax rebate. It’s outlined in a deal dated Feb. 4, the day after the Ravens defeated the 49ers. Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed the agreement in March.

The parties to the agreement are the NFL and four of the taxing entities in Orleans Parish — the city itself, the Orleans Parish School Board, the Regional Transit Authority and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation.
But what about all that "economic impact"? 
The school board unanimously approved the arrangement on Feb. 19, with officials saying revenue associated with the game would net them up to four times more than they would give up in tax breaks.

The school board receives 1.5 percent of each type of tax covered by the agreement. That means it would lose $240,000 if the NFL receives the full $800,000 rebate.
Yesterday, when Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was charged with having "for 'many years' engaged in a fraud scheme", it seemed like the feds were more or less stating the obvious. But, no, they were talking about a fraud scheme completely separate from just being an NFL owner. We're still rewarding that with free buildings and stuff.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

They also might just be two guys walking around with backpacks on

But, by all means, please continue to freak out and be stupid.

Update: Truly stupid 

If Ms. Clarkson has not stamped your bathroom pass, you'll have to hold it until class has ended

I tried to understand what Council was doing to the food truck rules today.  Lost track somewhere between the first amended amendment and the second motion to amend the amendment to ensure severability in case the amendments need further review later.  I'm think it means you have to take a GPS with you if you want to go further than 300 feet from a food truck to pee but, again, I'm not sure. You figure it out and tell me.

Yes we Pelican move forward and resilience and some other cliche

In one short week, we will have officially re-named the basketball team and drafted some new football players.  I feel like this represents a significant turn of the corner. It's been an especially crappy sports year when even a suitcase full of paper somehow managed to befuddle the defense at the Superdome.
 At 8:20 p.m., NOPD spokesman officer Garry Flot reported that a SWAT team was on the scene and is sending in a robot to check the package. By 11:40 p.m., word came from the Police Department that the abandoned piece of luggage was full of papers, and that Poydras Street would reopen soon.
On the bright side, one imagines the police were thrilled by the opportunity to deploy the bomb robot.  They  almost never get to do that.  Would it be too much ask if we could get the robot to come out to every Saints game this year.? You know.. for security and all.. but also he could run out and fetch the kicking tee. That way we could fight terror and see something adorable all at the same time.


The House goes ahead and passes the latest internet spying bill.

The US House of Representatives has passed the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protect Act (CISPA).

Lawmakers in the House voted 288-to-127 Thursday afternoon to accept the bill. Next it will move to the Senate and could then end up on the desk of US President Barack Obama for him to potentially sign the bill into law. Earlier this week, though, senior White House advisers said they would recommend the president veto the bill.

Should CISPA earn the president’s autograph, private businesses will be encouraged to voluntarily share cyberthreat information with the US government. The authors of the bill say this is an effort to better combat the reportedly increasing attempts to harm America’s critical computer networks and pilfer the systems of private companies for intellectual property and other sensitive trade secrets.

Past time to do something

I only know the ecological science that read in the papers but this latest flap over whether or not river diversions will actually do more harm than good sounds like the same argument between oystermen and coastal scientists that has been holding up any sort of meaningful action for decades now.

LSU professor James Cowan Jr., a fisheries ecologist, said he was both amused and frustrated by the debate over the Caernarvon diversion “because it certainly wasn’t designed to be a restoration tool. It’s doing what it’s supposed to do (freshening water along the coast to increase the growth of oysters), but it’s not a good model to determine what a sediment diversion will do.”

He said the state's plan to move to sediment diversions is an attempt to “restart an interrupted delta cycle,” mimicking the way the Mississippi River built large segments of the state’s coastline before humans built levees to block spring floods and forced it to stay in its channel, rather than travel down the Atchafalaya delta.

But Cowan also warned that whether or not the diversions are built, the state’s fishers will see significant changes in the location of specific species, including oysters and fish. Even when the Mississippi delta was allowed to run free and contained more freshwater, the types of fish remained similar to today, he said.

Fishers have cited new research that suggests that releasing river water, loaded with chemical fertilizer runoff, into wetlands may only inflict more damage.

The New England study was led by Linda Deegan, an LSU alumna and now a senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass.* Her team meticulously added concentrated nitrogen and phosphorous to tides flowing into an unpolluted coastal salt marsh. The primary plant in that marsh – Spartina cordgrass – also dominates wetlands targeted for some river diversions south of New Orleans.

In the first few years of the project, the nutrients ignited an explosion of growth in leaves and stems, but by the fifth year the edges of the marsh began “literally falling apart,” said team member John Fleeger, a professor emeritus at Louisiana State University. The pollutants weakened the root structure and speeded decomposition of the organic soil. The combination of stunted, weakened roots and less stable soil led to increased erosion from regular tidal currents.
This argument gets even more complicated. We already understand that fertilizer runoff is a problem.  US agricultural production  is dependent upon highly explosive nitrogen rich chemicals.  These chemicals runoff into the Mississippi River which, in turn, dumps it into the Gulf. The chemical spill off is known to be the cause of a massive hypoxic "Dead Zone" which appears annually off the Louisiana coast.

Interestingly, it's even been suggested that river diversion projects will help reduce the Dead Zone by allowing the marsh to filter nutrients from the water.
Also, Louisiana, through its master plan for coastal restoration and protection, is planning a number of freshwater and sediment diversions that could put some of the river water into the marsh where plants could remove some of the nutrients in the water, he said
“We wanted to make sure those diversion projects were part of the solution,” Raynie said.
For the Louisiana, though, it's past time for some solution, even an imperfect one, to move from the argument to the action phase.  We'll never know which side of this debate was correct once the coast has melted away into the ocean.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How stupid is it getting?

Here's how stupid.

So that's two "suspicious suitcases" currently being freaked out about.  (Three since this morning's big fun in Mandeville.) The unattended luggage at the Superdome is currently being attended by a freaking robot.  I hope you're enjoying your day. Keep your bags close.

Maybe let's stop thinking of journalism as a giant pissing contest

In the case of a BREAKING NEWS situation, everyone will look at their own little pocket internet for readily available rumors.  It's not necessary for professional newspersons to read the rumors on air for everyone's benefit. (lin via Atrios)
I'd argue that the reason is that in the frenzy of this kind of happening, they fail to realize something important: Scoops are beside the point. When Americans are looking to learn about and understand this kind of horrible event, they don't care whether you got a scoop. They want to understand what happened. I don't think the news organizations, particularly the TV networks, understand this at all.

If you're CNN, you should focus on putting out what you have verified instead of what you just heard.   You have the bigger megaphone. We'll adjust our chatter to fit what you've vetted. 

And nobody cares about your inside baseball competitive bullshit except you.

Paranoid America

Frankly, I'm so old now I can say from experience that none of this is worth getting worked up over.

We've seen it all before... and recently enough that it all looks like a tired remake of an old movie.  The only thing to worry about, really, is how onerous the policy response will be. Will we shut down the post office? Will it be illegal to carry a backpack? Will Tom Benson have Superdome security strip search everyone trying to sneak in a flask? 

Everywhere is anywhere

This NPR story is really about gentrification and the consequences of re-urbanization. The same stuff we've been talking about for months now. But it also drives home another point inadvertently.  Take a look at what gets described as "New Oakland"

When I lived here 10 years ago, I never would have expected to find what I did in Oakland in March — a trio of mustachioed white guys playing old-timey music smack in the middle of Telegraph Avenue on a Friday night.

But, now? That kind of thing goes down on the first Friday of every month. Which is where I was, walking with hordes of people, eating food truck grub, popping in and out of hip bars and art galleries.

This event, known as "First Fridays" or "Art Murmur," takes place in a part of Oakland that once was called Downtown. But after redevelopment, it's now Uptown.

"This is very new Oakland," said Chris Riggins, who performs stand-up comedy at Art Murmur every month. "But the only issue we're having right now is getting new Oakland to accept old Oakland."
 This is from an article about New Orleans that appeared in the recent Bon Appetit magazine.

And yet in recent years, the notion of what eating in New Orleans means has become immeasurably more complicated--in the best possible way. Since Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the levees in 2005, the city's dining ecosystem has not only roared back but has done so deeper and broader than ever. Vietnamese food, long a staple on the city's immigrant outskirts, is now available up and down Magazine Street. Every dive bar in the exploding neighborhoods of the Marigny and the Bywater, whose once-scruffy shotgun houses are being filled by hipsters, now seems to come with a pop-up attached or a food truck idling outside. Falafel, Filipino, barbecue, and "Slavic soul food" are all accepted parts of the city's food fabric. Once proudly insular, New Orleans has grown attuned to whatever food movements are afoot in cities like New York or San Francisco, from farm-to-table to the elevation of the cheeseburger.

All of this has become part of what it means to say "New Orleans food." It is, by any measure, too much for anybody to cover in a long weekend--even two guys with the heroic constitutions of working chefs. But that doesn't mean that Hanson and Nasr aren't going to try. 

The Bon Appetit article suggests that these national trends are blending with rather than displacing what we generally think of as "New Orleans food." In some ways, I'm sure that's true. What is, "New Orleans food", after all, besides a product of perpetual cultural change and in-migration? On the other hand, it's probably more true that the trends  identified in both articles are as interchangeable in the "up and coming" section of any American city as Applebees franchises are in any American suburb. It's okay that we have these things in New Orleans just like it's okay that we have Taco Bell.  But often such events as food truck rallies and Diners en blanc are mistaken for and promoted as "only in NOLA" developments even though they clearly are not.  Sooner or later nobody will understand what that even means anymore. Talk about a branding problem.

Moment of zen take two

This morning the Mandeville police went out in the yard and shot up some empty soda cans

Honestly, we could write that on any given Wednesday.

And now, your moment of zen

Yankee Stadium hat tip to Boston.

It's kind of funny seeing the look on the Yankees fans' faces.  They're trying to be sweet and participate in the thing and all but you can see a lot of them saying, "I still hate this fucking song," with their eyes a bit.  Cute moment.

Here's something else I found.  This is Fenway.. sometime during the late 90s.  Pre-Neil Diamond era, in fact. Would be a better view if the kid in the dopey hat would sit down.

Fenway Park 1998? 99?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Everybody hates Bobby

Hospital privatization needs Senate approval.
Without debate Tuesday, senators approved legislation that says the LSU Board of Supervisors needs the backing of the Senate Finance Committee to privatize the hospitals. There was no discussion of the resolution before it was adopted without objection.

The other day we were talking about the back-to-the-city trend

Morning Call wants to come back to the Quarter. 

If the new location is eventually built, it would be Morning Call’s third location in the metro area and would see the business return to its original neighborhood, not too far from where it first operated.

Morning Call opened in 1870. It remained on Decatur Street in the French Market, not too far from Cafe Du Monde, until it moved to a Metairie strip mall in 1974.

A second location opened earlier this year in the Casino building in City Park.

Also box cutters

In addition to the several falsehoods  listed here that propagated after previous incidents of terror, I can add that the 9/11 hijackers did not, in fact, use box cutters as so many people continue to believe.

Myths like these often contribute to the development of unnecessary and onerous policies enacted in order that law enforcement agencies and security contractors can pretend they are "keeping us safe." It's why you couldn't take things like razor blades or shampoo on an airplane for a decade. We were only just beginning to wake from that fever dream before the Boston bombing.

Now it will be something else.  Probably you won't be required to remove your shoes before running your next marathon but it could be something as absurd. Maybe there will be a crackdown on pressure cookers. That would come at an especially bad moment for the currently "hip" kitchen appliance.

It's also worth pointing out that none of the falsehoods spread after 9/11 or the Oklahoma City bombing happened because of evil people using Twitter which, on balance, probably does more to debunk rumors than it does to spread them.
Twitter beckons us to join every compressed news cycle, to confront every rumor or falsehood, and to see everything. This is what makes the service so maddening during the meta-obsessed election season, where the stakes are unclear and the consequences abstract. And it's also what makes is so valuable during fast-moving, decidedly real disasters. Twitter is a fact-processing machine on a grand scale, propagating then destroying rumors at a neck-snapping pace. To dwell on the obnoxiousness of the noise is to miss the result: that we end up with more facts, sooner, with less ambiguity.

 So naturally the thing to do is shut it off.
Police shut down cellphone service in the Boston area on Monday to prevent remote detonations of explosives, according to the Associated Press.

The Boston Police Department did not respond to a request to comment.

At least 2 people were killed and 23 were injured in explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, according to police.
Just a few years ago the President was asking Congress for the authority to kill the internet in the case of an emergency such as civic unrest or... undefined... something like this, maybe.  The Mubarak government in Egypt appears to have implemented just such a strategy prior to its toppling.  Apparently the response to the Boston bombing involved something like a "kill switch." 

New Orleans, as we all know, is home to more than its share of heavily concentrated outdoor gatherings. To my great consternation, I didn't have enough free time to get out to this year's French Quarter Festival.  According to a dubious counting system, my absence didn't prevent the fest from drawing over half a million participants. Maybe it wasn't actually that many but.. it was a lot of people.

FQF 2008. (I don't have a photo of this year's because I wasn't there. Yeah, I'm a little bitter.)

If I had been down there, though, and God forbid something frightening had happened... like maybe a low flying helicopter or something... I and many others would have benefited from a fast and convenient way to get a handle on what was happening so we could make informed decisions about how to react. In fact, it's difficult to imagine a more panic-escalating move authorities could make in such a situation than the simultaneous disabling of everyone's communication device.

But it's precisely the sort of decision made by people who can't imagine Twitter being useful for things other than just trying to make it into this week's Y@ Speak. Maybe if they'd  use less imagination on impractical and unlikely uses for box cutters this sort of thing wouldn't happen.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Another live music shutdown

Instead we'll just keep playing this broken record, I guess.

A lawsuit filed by Marigny residents in Orleans Parish civil district court on Friday challenges that the bar hosts music "illegally" and noise is "plainly audible" in neighborhood homes and businesses, causing "physical discomfort and annoyance." Judge Michael Bagneris told attorneys representing Mimi’s that the bar must cease its music unless it can present city permits that say it can do otherwise. The lawsuit alleges that the bar has hosted music without proper permits and is not zoned for entertainment.
We can talk all day about the plaintiffs' NIMBYism, but at some point the city is going to have to decide if it wants music to flourish organically or not anymore. Right now it looks like they'd prefer to control and license it as much as possible. 


It's been fun.
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Lawmakers declared Gov. Bobby Jindal's push to repeal Louisiana's income taxes dead for the session after the House tax committee refused to discuss the proposals.
Look, we can all agree by now that Bobby Jindal isn't going to be President.  Do we really have to sit here wasting another couple of years watching him fail at that in slow motion?

Can't seem to win

All last year, they're in trouble for inflicting too much pain.  Now they're in trouble again for pain relief.

Many of the lapses in the league’s complicated system were on display in the spring of 2009 in New Orleans. During a four-month stretch, the Saints’ team trainers noticed Vicodin pills had gone missing. On April 28, 2009, according to a civil complaint later filed in state district court, the team’s director of security, a former FBI agent named Geoffrey Santini, was notified. At the instruction of Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis, Santini installed a pair of hidden cameras in the Saints’ training room.

The footage in the first video is in full color, grainy but unmistakable. Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt, wearing khaki shorts and a black long-sleeved team shirt, can be seen unlocking a metal cabinet in the trainer’s office. Unaware that he’s being recorded, Vitt removes a bottle and pours pills into his hand before locking the cabinet and exiting the room.
Note that Vitt is still facing a separate disciplinary hearing for being a grown man and "wearing khaki shorts" in public. Many thanks to the Post for including that detail.  I also enjoyed reading the part where Mickey Loomis seemed pretty excited to rat out the league to the FBI.
Not long after, Santini called Loomis to discuss the situation and recorded the conversation. During the exchange, the two discussed to what authority they must answer.

“Mickey, I am just telling you that is not how it works,” Santini says. “The law is there.”

“We are not talking about the law,” Loomis responds. “We are talking about the league.”
In any event, it's good to see that OTAs are starting today. Anything for Saints news that doesn't involve another fifty thousand mock drafts and wacky trade advice.

Fletcher Mackel suggesting a trade for Tebow has to invoke some sort of Godwin's law of the NFL offseason. Discussion time is over. Other things need to happen now.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bad policy is bad policy

I agree with much of what Moesely says here about Jindal's strategy

Do we understand yet that Jindal’s so-called tax-swap plan was only a “sleeper,” to borrow a term from hotrodding’s golden age. The revenue offsets in his initial plan were always completely negotiable as long as they yielded an income tax repeal. The higher sales taxes, the closed loopholes, the appeals to simplicity … all that crap was political window-dressing. That’s why it kept changing.

Jindal’s overriding mission, though, has always remained the same: to end the state income tax. As long as that is within reach, Jindal’s “parking job” is only a tactical retreat.

I'm not sure this is something most observers got wrong, though.  Jindal told us as much, himself, in his speech the day "parked" his plan.

"Now, to be clear, I still like my plan, but I recognize that success requires give and take," according to the remarks. "And I recognize that in this instance I need to be the one who gives so that we can have the chance to achieve success. But I'm not going to pout, I'm not going to take my ball and go home.

"Already, several of you have filed plans that phase out the income tax. So, let's work together to pass a bill this session to get rid of our state income tax."
It looked like Jindal had decided to go a similar route to the way President Obama took with regard to health care.
Mr. Obama said early on that he would not repeat the mistakes of Mr. Clinton, who wrote his own detailed plan, only to see it fall flat on Capitol Hill. Instead, the president set out broad principles — an approach that the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, acknowledged at a rally last week, when she thanked Mr. Obama for “the intellectual contributions” he had made to the legislation.

The president’s distance caught Congressional Democrats by surprise. It took them months to realize that Mr. Obama would not weigh in on some issues, like the precise shape of a government insurance plan. One House Democrat called it a “a laissez-faire strategy.”
After a few weeks of feeling intense pressure from all sides, Jindal decided to take a page from Obama's book and play this one hands-off for a change.  Jindal hasn't had to finesse the legislative process too often during his time as Governor so this is unusual.  But the idea that he would just completely drop a key policy aim is absurd given the amount of power he continues to wield.

This reader email to TPM captured things pretty well.
Jindal absolutely expects to get a complete income tax repeal out of this session, and the legislature is still afraid enough of him to deliver it. However, without any of the attendant sales tax increases, the offsets will be only from cuts: heavy, deep cuts to health services and higher education, after six straight years of heavy, deep cuts to health services and higher education.

This is how he will get what he wants: the credit for repealing the income tax with none of the blame for the cuts that will follow. And because his original plan was intended to be “revenue neutral,” he will even get to demagogue the legislature for ignoring his plan and cutting too much, even though the governor could care less about how much gets cut.
Jindal simply does not give a shit about how his ideologically driven initiatives affect the state government's ability to function... at all. This should be crystal clear to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to his administration.

If the legislature gives Jindal an income tax repeal that forces the state to simply eat the estimated $2.7 billion revenue loss, he will sign it.   They probably won't pass something that drastic. Given the chaotic situation, they might not pass anything at all.  But whatever they might pass is certain to fail at the now abandoned "revenue neutrality" benchmark the Governor was never serious about in the first place. 

Moesley suggests that, politically speaking,  this is where Jindal wanted to be all along. I don't discount that. It agrees with everything I've just pointed to here. But I'm also quite confident that if the winds had favored the Jindal "tax swap" plan as presented, he would have happily accepted that.  But the plan itself was bad policy. Which means it wasn't the wrong move for critics to shout the bad policy down as  Moseley seems to imply that it might have been.

Whatever comes next will undoubtedly be bad policy also. And then that can be shouted down too. As for Bobby Jindal's political balance sheet, it's all the same either way.