Friday, August 31, 2007

Out with the new in with the newer

Table 1, the Hicham Khodr operation at Washington and Magazine which opened right after the storm, is already shutting down. It will be revamped to offer "everyday affordable and takeout-friendly dining."

Judging by what's been going on on Magazine Street lately, I'd guess it would have to reopen as a Quizno's. Yes there is already a Quizno's directly across the street, but putting another at the Table 1 site would be in keeping with the current pattern of opening a sushi place right across from a sushi place.. which is right next door to a gelateria.. which is two doors down from a gelateria.. which is just across the street from a coffee shop.. a block over from a coffee shop.. across from another coffee shop.. next door to a nail salon.. across the street from a nail salon... all of which is interspersed with day spas.. and more coffee. Okay so you get the point.

Yes I am trying to break the mood here

I would have done it there but Leigh has, understandably, closed her comments for this post in which she expresses a bemusement similar to what I experienced reading Ashley's commenters on Tuesday. However, before getting too upset, I think it's important to take a step back and remind oneself just how stupid and irrelevant these little internet forums actually are.

This is something I jokingly pointed out yesterday in referencing my usually well-informed mother's lack of familiarity with Daily Kos. It also calls to mind something RT2 keynote speaker Dave Zirin said in this column published in the Houston Chronicle.
In most cities, bloggers practice a peculiar virtual cannibalism, tearing each other apart for sport. But at Rising Tide, among people young and old, black and white, I saw my first glimpse of what can be termed blogger solidarity. It stemmed, as one told me, from "the necessity of coming together after Katrina."
In other words, most people see your little internets as toys and treat them as such. Try not to take them too seriously.

Other than that, I agree with everything Leigh says except the part where she refers to Ashley as a "sane voice". I'm not so sure I can sign on with that.

I'm bad at keeping track of stuff*


HUD has (finally) approved $117 million in CDBG money for New Orleans ($200 million statewide). This money is now being made available because.. back in June.. LRA approved the city's final rebuilding plan. At that time , Ed Blakely was attempting to use this approval as a "letter of credit" against which the city could borrow the cash from... some unnamed financial institutions. Does anyone know if this money has, in fact, been borrowed?

Update: And the answer is: No, stupid, we gave that up ages ago!
N.O. still sifting projects

New Orleans recovery director Ed Blakely, who is leading the effort to allocate the city's $117 million share as part of a $1.1 billion recovery plan, has not settled on specific projects beyond saying some will be located in 17 target zones where Mayor Ray Nagin has vowed to spend public money for tax incentives and other measures to spur private investment, Forbes said. The plan was unveiled in March.

"They're not at the point where they're able to say, 'We need to spend $12 million on doing this particular project at this cluster site,'¤" he said, "but we're continuing to work with them to get there."

Forbes said Blakely's most solid plan so far appears to be using $10 million, combined with unspecified blighted properties throughout the city, as collateral to borrow several hundred million dollars to finance the recovery. Blakely initially said he could secure so-called "blight bonds" using abandoned lots only, but investors have been cool to the idea.

Blakely asked the LRA in June to confirm in writing the $117 million allocation, which he said he would take as a "letter of credit" to a private bank to borrow that amount. The city would use the money, Blakely proposed at the time, to jump-start infrastructure repairs, which the federal government must reimburse but cannot finance on the front end.

However, Forbes said Thursday that Blakely appears to have backed off that plan.

"At this point, the blight bond is the only thing they're talking to us about using as a loan-loss reserve to back up some of those leveraging attempts," he said.

Mayoral spokesman James Ross on Thursday confirmed that "the city will not need to secure a loan to advance these projects."

Ross said city officials still don't know which projects will be first in line for the cash but are "conducting a cost analysis" now to figure it out. Even with a firm list still elusive, though, he said the city expects to begin drawing down money in September.

So now I have two new questions:
  1. What's up with the blight bonds? Why are they a more "solid plan" now that something unspecified other than "abandoned lots only" are involved?
  2. When are the cranes coming?

Updater (or is it Upperdate?):
Ah, well there you go. Pricey cranes aren’t always on horizon
NEW ORLEANS - City recovery czar Ed Blakely’s pledge to have “cranes on the skyline” by September is challenged by more than slow-flowing recovery dollars.

A nationwide construction activity boom created demand for cranes the likes of which equipment manufacturers, distributors and contractors have never seen.

Jindal is Bad

But John Maginnis is worse.. lately anyway.

See Adrastos

Fake Game # 5

Thank God that's over. No more fake football. Now the kids will spend the next week weighing in with all their prognosticating and what not... including this site.. which is generally one of your more reliable "contrary indicators".. but more on that later. For now, here's what we learned last night:

  • If the Saints find themselves in a position this season where Tyler Palko has to play, we know things will have gone horribly wrong already. But I wonder why Coach Soupy, who had to pick from three young QBs to fill the role of clipboard boy this season, went with the least composed of the three. Palko looks lost and panicky out there. I know he's young but.. it should be more apparent just what it is they see in him.

  • Uh oh the kicker sucks. This will figure into our final prediction.

Meanwhile in actual football, LSU managed to pull off the rare feet of winning 45-0 and looking really crappy in the doing so. But I guess seven takeaways can do that for you.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


How is it even possible that Dambala is blind to the evil portents in play here?

I declare Summer (un)officially over

I took the bike in to work today for the first time since that late July through early August phase when we had the 100 degree temps go on for weeks. Since today we're relaxing in the cool, balmy 90's, and since There are no tropical cyclones at this time, and since tonight, we are expecting to see actual real football played, I believe it is time to move right on in to Autumn. Who's coming with me? If you are, you should immediately go home and turn off your air conditioner.

And now my bike has a flat! That should teach me to dictate to the seasons.

Tales from the email

  • Yesterday I sent my mother.. who currently lives in Nashville.. a link to Shelley Midura's much celebrated open letter to the President. Today she responded.
    Wow that was really good. Unfortunately, it will not make a difference, and probably only the people in New Orleans will read or know about it.
    To which I replied,
    Maybe.. except that it made Daily Kos yesterday.
    Prompting.. of course.. the punchline,
    It made what? What is that?
    Just in case anyone needed reminding how small this little internet echo chamber actually still is these days.

  • Daisy informs me this morning, that her electricity bill in San Jose, CA is $11.54. Daisy says she runs her a/c pretty much all the time up there in the Summer and from what I am given to understand, her living quarters are not too different from mine in New Orleans. My Entergy bill this month is $354.00.

Jindal is Bad

Fighting the perverts over there (Idaho) so he doesn't have to fight them over here (Louisiana).

Once more.. when in doubt...


When in doubt, contract it out

It's as if all of city government were just one big bursar's office.

NEW ORLEANS – The city of New Orleans has selected a Kansas City, Mo., company to help document and measure Hurricane Katrina damage to roads.

HNTB Federal Services Corp. will assess nearly 15,000 segments of roads, including more than 1,400 miles of roadway.

The company will ensure that the city's Department of Public Works meets deadlines for hurricane funding under the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Public Assistance Program.

“This important, fast-paced project could help the city of New Orleans receive up to $140 million for essential repairs, including roads, sidewalks and drainage support,” said HNTB project manager Anne Compson.

Roads remain in poor condition more than two years after Katrina. Roads were first damaged by flooding and later during debris removal and demolition of homes and other buildings.

“Repair of the roads will improve other recovery efforts and the quality of life for the citizens of New Orleans,” Compson said.

More on that "continuity in politics" thing

See Celcus

Keeping Them.... Buffooney

I believe Greg Peters recently coined the term "Baghdad Blakely"

From Anderson Cooper's show last night:
KAYE (voice-over): Blakely says he has spent a couple of hundred thousand dollars on a library and supermarket, not exactly the major rebuilding he promised residents.

(on camera): You had promised cranes in the sky by September.

BLAKELY: They're there. They're there.

KAYE: We came here to the very spot Dr. Blakely directed us to, just off Interstate 10, so we could see the cranes that he says are already in the sky for ourselves.

No cranes here.

Update: What exactly could this mean, btw?

Updater: Could be nothing. See discussion here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


It's an emotional morning. Like most of us, I find myself replaying personal memories from two years ago today. I woke up on the floor of a gym in Alabama where I watched Katrina come on shore on a big TV. It missed us. I saw it happen. I started to get an inkling of how bad things might be in the middle of the day when I heard about the damage to the Superdome. It wasn't until that evening.. and really on into the next day.. that the severity of the levee breaches became clear.

On the drive up to Nashville I had no idea how long I would be away.. that when I got back home it would be a home without Consuela.. that when I got back to work it would be without Daisy... without the building I worked in...

All of this plays in my mind as though it were yesterday. Maybe if I had been obsessively counting the days, I would have a less warped sense of the passage of time since the flood. Maybe not. Two years later life continues to stand still as it happens. Maybe some of the more talented writers on your NOLA blogroll can explain why that is. Just know that the events of that day are so tied to the events of every day here that.. it can sometimes seem like one... really ... long.. day.

This puts me in mind of the discussion last weekend during the RT2 writer's panel. It was generally agreed that while writing in and about New Orleans today it is difficult to avoid the fact of the Federal Flood, the writers on the panel took pains to make it clear that we are not "defined" by it. I took this to mean that since life in this "part of the world" did not begin with the flood, it's not a very good starting point from which to write.. particularly fiction.. about us. I imagine this is part of the reason why titling a cop drama about New Orleans, "K-ville" strikes a discordant note with many of us.

In truth, the matter is more complex. The fact of the event influences every aspect of our lives today, but those lives were shaped and defined long before the event happened. The way it affects us is more a function of who we were to begin with. In a sense, this flood, and its never-ending stream of accompanying storylines is perhaps more defined by us than we are by it.

As someone who reads and writes primarily about politics, I find this to be especially true. While the flood and its after-effects are THE issue locally, the politics itself is still driven by the same rules, trends, alliances, prejudices, and influences that existed before. Maybe not enough has changed to placate the reformers, but I manage to see this as a dismal comfort of sorts.

I imagine that observers of everyday life in New Orleans perceive similar patterns of continuity. We are not so different than we were prior to 8/29/05. For example, the last thing I wrote here before the flood was a post titled, "I Must Be Hungover". If that doesn't tell you how little has changed, I don't know what does. It is this continuity that reminds us that while we are still listing on a sea of warped time, we are still in possession of the means to regain our bearings... such as they are.

Maybe we are not OK.. but then maybe we never were. At least we are here wherever or whenever that might be.

Paying Attention

Are you paying attention?

  • Bush: 'We're Still Paying Attention'
    NEW ORLEANS -- Two years after Hurricane Katrina left New Orleans 80 percent underwater and claimed 1,600 lives across the Gulf Coast, President George W. Bush said the recovery is still a priority.

    The president and first lady Laura Bush are in New Orleans to mark the anniversary. At a New Orleans charter school, Bush said that things are getting better in the city, day by day.

    "I hope people know we're still paying attention. We understand," Bush said.

    At a wreath-laying ceremony elsewhere in the city, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin lamented the fact that more recovery aid hadn't reached residents since the storm, and the man who directed the National Guard in the storm's aftermath warned residents to be ready to adapt to a tough lifestyle.

    "You will never build the levee big enough to keep the water out of this city," Lt. Gen. Russel Honore said.

  • Meanwhile:
    President Bush plans to ask Congress next month for up to $50 billion in additional funding for the war in Iraq, a White House official said yesterday, a move that appears to reflect increasing administration confidence that it can fend off congressional calls for a rapid drawdown of U.S. forces.

    The request -- which would come on top of about $460 billion in the fiscal 2008 defense budget and $147 billion in a pending supplemental bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- is expected to be announced after congressional hearings scheduled for mid-September featuring the two top U.S. officials in Iraq. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will assess the state of the war and the effect of the new strategy the U.S. military has pursued this year.

Of course the Times-Picayune and the Yuppie Left would tell you that we don't deserve federal relief funds because we hang pictures of Huey Long on the walls of our restaurants. That money will be spent much more responsibly by the adults running things in Iraq.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

They write letters


Note: Yes, I misspelled Shelley. Par for the course around here. The error has been corrected.

Update: I'd say the kids are all in agreement here.

Keep circulating this.

Updater: Bush ate at Dooky Chase tonight.
At the eclectic table, Bush was flanked by Norman Francis, chairman of Gov. Kathleen Blanco's Louisiana Recovery Authority, and by the Rev. Fred Luter. On the other side of Luter was LRA member Kim Boyle and next to her, Saints quarterback Drew Brees
Couldn't they have sent Fujita? At full speed perhaps?

The fucking T-P rats just can't help themselves.
The 66-year-old restaurant is known for its large collection of African-American art, none of which was touched when looters ravaged the establishment immediately after Katrina. Ironically, one of the smaller pieces is of a pensive Huey P. Long, the former Louisiana governor and senator seen as a symbol of the state's reputation for graft and corruption often cited as a reason to limit the flow of federal aid to Louisiana since the storm.

You know that could just as easily have read,

"Huey P. Long, the former Louisiana governor and senator seen as a symbol of the state's tradition of populist government that actually responded to the needs of the poor and built and maintained infrastructure largely at the expense of the extractive industries exploiting the state's natural resources who are now so near and dear the current President's heart."

Instead they just couldn't help but feed the local self-hatred. Expect wild applause and chuckles tomorrow from the Yuppie Left.

Updaterest: Midura's letter has been DKosed! Keep it circulating.

Home Solutions of America Inc

Quite a versatile bunch, aren't we?

DALLAS - Home Solutions of America Inc. said its Louisiana subsidiary, Home Solutions Restoration of Louisiana Inc., has been selected to build $12 million in New Orleans-area infrastructure projects.

The projects, awarded in July and August:

- Four kitchen renovations for the New Orleans Public School System;

- Renovations at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport;

- Construction of a new Veterans Administration pharmacy;

- Renovations on the Saulet Apartments;

- A Canal Street condominium build-out;

- Repairs to St. Paul the Apostle Elementary School;

- Renovations to the Slidell Housing Authority building; and

- Renovations to the Salvador Liberto Jefferson Parish office building.

“These new contract awards and the significant increase in work this year in New Orleans reflect the increasing activity surrounding the rebuilding of Louisiana and the surrounding areas,” said Scott Sewell, company chairman.

The company has diversified its business "so that it is no longer reliant on money flowing to the Gulf Coast for rebuilding efforts," he said.

But, "Louisiana and the nearby areas still represent significant long-term potential for growth. Construction and renovations in the region are still just ramping up and should represent continued growth opportunities," he said.

At RT2 this weekend, Sarah Elise Lewis spoke about putting together a searchable online database of power relationships that would allow one to plug in a name like.. say... Scott Sewell and discover what businesses or organizations he had ties to as well as what governmental boards he might sit on or what government contracts he might hold. I am blown away by this idea. As it is, Home Solutions is a Dallas company.. and we know that Nagin spends a great deal of time there..but this is mere conjecture on my part. As it is, Opensecrets lists a Scott Sewell of Delta Energy (probably a different Scott Sewell) who is a Vitter contributor. But that's about all I've got without Sarah's supertool.

In the comment thread below the prior post, Carmen points out that a power database might help examine the City Council's assessment processing contract
The reason this stinks like a mother****** is because the assessors wouldn't see everyone who waited in line, didn't hire on extra staffers, and essentially set the pegs on the board for this contract. I want to know who's behind it. Let's get them out of here, too.

Also... AZ has a bunch on this already. Apparently Sewell is also tied to Bennetech.

When in doubt, contract it out

I'm not necessarily saying that I have a better solution for handling the 5,000 plus property assessment appeals coming to the City Council, it's just that the standard mode of governance in colonial war zones like New Orleans and Iraq is to find an outside contractor to throw money at as quickly as possible.

As a result, the council is seeking proposals, due today, for a firm that will manage the complex process and handle much of the work reviewing the 5,262 appeals. The plan is to have a contractor hired by the end of the week; the job could be worth in the neighborhood of $500,000, said the council chief of staff, Ron Pursell said.

This article is the first on this issue to treat in detail the effect of a millage rollback on the actual tax bills of the property holders.

If the new assessments were a shock to many New Orleanians, new data show the city's tax rate could fall dramatically as a result of the new values.

By the end of the two-week roll review period -- during which assessors heard from thousands of constituents, in many cases lowering their appraisals -- the total taxable value of the city's real estate was up 45.4 percent from the previous year.

If that number stands, the tax rate necessary to collect the same revenue as last year would fall by 31.2 percent.

In real terms, the millage rate would drop from 175.19 mills to 120.5 mills. That's only slightly higher than the rate of neighboring Jefferson Parish, and it's far lower than that of St. Tammany Parish, which has been luring homeowners from New Orleans for decades.

One mill equals $1 in tax per $10,000 in actual value.

Such a drop would make an appreciable difference on tax bills. For instance, a homeowner whose appraised value jumped from $200,000 to $250,000 would actually pay less in taxes next year than he or she did this year. And the tax bill for a house that went from $350,000 to $500,000, a seemingly steep increase, would go up by only 6 percent.

But.. of course...

By law, taxing agencies, the largest of which are the City Council and New Orleans public schools, must "roll back" millage so that assessment increases do not result in automatic tax windfalls. They may, however, then "roll forward" the rate to the previous amount, although doing so requires a two-thirds vote.

The argument over the assessments cleaves between those who trust the city not to "roll forward" the millages to meet next year's financial crisis and those who don't.

Those who are less trusting might be inclined to see things differently if
  1. The new assessments were not so egregiously high.
  2. The appeal process were not so bizarre and burdensome on homeowners.
  3. The city was not aggressively demolishing properties without notification.
  4. All other operations were not being conducted by an administration that abhors transparency and a disingenuous recovery director who can't wait to get to work on his book.

Let me make it clear that I understand this process was initiated by some well meaning folks who wanted to do away with the old (even more) byzantine, elitist, and inequitable system of property assessments in New Orleans. But when untrustworthy folks are in power, such reform movements are often hi-jacked into something even worse than what existed before.

I could be wrong.. God knows I often am.. but if in two years, the property taxes on my apartment building demand that my landlord sells out to condo developers and puts me out on the street.. well I hope I at least get to say "I told you so."

Keeping the Brand Out There

There was a shooting about a block away from my place this morning. I heard about five or six shots go off while I was getting dressed. I spent a little time talking with the neighbors to see what was going on but nobody knew anything more than I did. But then I had to get to work.

Hopefully this event makes the news tonight so that America doesn't forget us and our brand during this second anniversary of the Federal Flood.

Update 11:10 PM Still no clue what happened. None of the neighbors have any idea (at least the ones I've had a chance to speak with) .. and there's nothing on the news. Maybe no one was hurt. It sounded like a lot of gunfire though.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Again... just too damn much going on today

State Treasurer Kennedy switches to Republican Party

BATON ROUGE, La. -- After months of speculation about a party switch, state Treasurer John Kennedy announced Monday that he is running for re-election this fall as a Republican, after serving two terms as a Democrat.

Kennedy's re-election campaign sent out an e-mail announcing the switch. In it, Kennedy said he spent more than a year grappling with the decision.

"I have concluded that the Republican Party is the party that best reflects my values today," Kennedy said.

Kennedy highly "values" Mary Landrieu's Senate seat in 2008. And in.. perhaps the only... state in the country trending heavily Republican, he's likely got a nice shot at it.

Guide to Yuppie NOLA

Oh that horrid Gambit Best of New Orleans survey! Yup, it's back. You know it. You hate it. You question its methodology. If its results were in any way reflective of reality, you'd probably move to Houston.

I'll spare you the nitpicking since Schroeder has already sliced the thing up nicely this morning.

But if you are looking for one piece of evidence beyond all others that indicates the amount of shame earned by the Gambit and the organizers of this survey, it is this:

Best Local Legislator:

Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal has legislated 100 percent of the time in favor of Geroge Bush's perpetual Iraq meat grinder. Is this really the best we can do?

Aside: In case you needed any more fire here, Chris Rose was voted "Best Local Columnist" For the record, I voted for Jarvis Deberry.

Will the last rat to jump ship at DOJ please turn off the lights?


Two things:
  • How far up the food chain at DOJ is Jim Letten? Is he looking for a promotion?

  • I really wanted to write one big RT2 round-up post.. but there's so much going on this morning, I'll probably end up posting a series of thoughts on the conference as time allows.

Jindal is Bad

Monday cronies and corruption edition
Powered by Enron!

Also.. I didn't notice if any of the Daily Kingfish folks made it to RT2 this weekend. Which is a shame since Chad Rogers was there.

Futures Market

After Saturday's RT2 session, a few of us were kicking around the idea of a futures market in LA political corruption sort of modeled after the nutty terror futures intelligence gathering operation floated by the Pentagon a few years ago.

Since political corruption is itself a kind of raw form of black market capitalism, why not employ the infallible tools of the free market to help predict and perhaps weed some of it out. At the very least, it seems a more efficient means of sophisticating up the local corruption than the current tact of barely funding the Inspector General's office.

So.. if we are going to start betting on investing in future prosecutions, where should we look for the latest odds? American Zombie? Punditbook? Surely someone wants to get in on this racket.


This is, obviously, going to be an emotional week.

If you're ready.. go see what Cousin Pat's got up already.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Placeholder Post

I'm unsurprisingly far too liquored up this evening to provide any useful commentary on yesterday's massively successful RT2. I'll try and pull something like that together tomorrow.

In the meantime, here is a collection of folks who may help you piece together the crucial details:

Varg, to whom I probably owe at least three beers.

Dangerblond: Warrior Princess

Clay in his seersucker suit

Ray and his "sucky" liveblogging

More later...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Local Indie Media Kingpins

Fans of Josh Neufeld's online comic, After the Deluge, will want to check out this interview on NPR's News and Notes which also features AntiGravity Magazine publisher Leo McGovern who has, himself, been immortalized as a character in the A.D. series.

Fans of multitudinous other buffoons of the local indie media scene will find them on display tonight at Buffa's Lounge.

Stuff to Do

You're kidding, right?

Fake Game #4

I seem to remember a rather poor pre-season performance by the Saints last year against Dallas that had everyone worried. I'm just saying, pre-season football is strange. Don't put too much stock in the game results.

What I'd really like to know is what are the Saints going to do with Antonio Pittman since he isn't as valuable a special-teamer nor as strong a runner as Aaron Stecker.. and they've got to find a way to keep Pierre Thomas.. right?

Calling in the Dragon Slayer squad

The utterly predictable Louisiana Governor's race took it's most predictable turn to date this morning as the Times-Picayune rushed to the aid of GOP candidate Bobby Jindal. Jindal had come under fire in recent weeks over some of his published writings on the nature of Catholicism. Despite Jindal's complaints that his opponents are unfairly making an issue of his religious beliefs, these articles are indeed fair game in the campaign because
  1. These articles are published publicly under Jindal's own name
  2. Jindal himself frequently makes a campaign issue out of his spirituality.
  3. Some of the stuff is downright nutty
However, the lede in Jan Moller's T-P item may as well have been written by a Jindal staffer.
BATON ROUGE -- Before he began climbing the ranks in the Louisiana Republican Party, gubernatorial front-runner Bobby Jindal, the conservative son of Indian immigrants, endured years of emotional and intellectual struggle as he left behind his family's Hindu faith and embraced Catholicism.

It's a journey that is detailed in seven articles Jindal wrote between July 1994 and February 1998, and which became the focus of intense controversy this week when the Louisiana Democratic Party launched a TV commercial in North Louisiana accusing Jindal of insulting Protestants.


Citing words culled from one of the articles, the Democrats' ad says Jindal "insulted thousands of Louisiana Protestants" by describing their beliefs as "scandalous, depraved, selfish and heretical."

But the picture that emerges from a full reading of the articles is not one of intolerance or bigotry, but rather of an inquisitive young man who went through an intense period of struggle and revelation as he transitioned from a skeptical Hindu to the deeply religious Roman Catholic who now rarely misses a chance to inject spirituality into the campaign dialogue.

Doesn't your heart just ache for this conservative young son of immigrants and his intense period of struggle and revelation? If it's this kind of intense intellectual inquiry that transitions one into the sort of adult who votes 100 percent of the time for George Bush's bloody, "scandalous, depraved, selfish and heretical" (according to most mainstream Christian doctrine anyway) Iraq war, then no, I'm sorry I'm not buying it.

It isn't surprising that the T-P would be so quick to protect it's precocious wunderkind. In LA Gubernatorial elections, the major media generally stands ready to send in the cavalry after the most conservative "business friendly" candidates. It also isn't terribly surprising that Jindal and his supporters would cry "owee" once these allegations began to surface.

What is disappointing, although perhaps not surprising, is the stupid and dishonest way in which the LA Democratic party has made the response easy for Jindal by badly mishandling the "Jindal on Religion" material. Democrats had been making some headway with a series of breaking-the-Jindal-myth style ads. Having established that Jindal was.. well.. less than honest or genuine about nearly everything he has taken on in public life, Democrats had an opportunity to "catapult the propaganda", so to speak, by maybe floating the fact that Bobby Jindal claims to have actually confronted and exorcised a demon and maybe wondering aloud just what kind of charlatan we were dealing with here.

Artist's conceptualization of Jindal's demon

Instead they chose to triangulate after the Protestant vote by seriously misrepresenting some of Jindal's milder theological musings thus putting themselves squarely on the defensive side of the "religious intolerance" charge. It may be the dumbest thing I've seen Democrats do.. and I lived through the Dukakis campaign.

This blunder will make an already difficult to defeat Jindal that much more secure as the campaign reaches its anti-climax. Unless something drastic happens between now and October, Bobby Jindal could win in the primary.

The last time a candidate became Governor of Louisiana without having to face a runoff opponent was in 1987 when incumbent Edwin Edwards called "no mas" after having run second to Buddy Roemer in the primary. Roemer's upstart campaign was fueled by widespread dissatisfaction with government "corruption" in the wake of a federal prosecution of Edwards on racketeering charges brought by a Republican appointed US Attorney. Roemer was the Jindal of the day in the LA media establishment.. himself something of a flaky young conservative wunderkind "reformer" who promised to "Slay the Dragon" of Louisiana corruption. And slay it they did ushering in a bold new "Roemer Revolutionary" era of... popping rubber bands, legalizing gambling... and waiting for David Duke to show up.

Twenty years later, Jindal is running on a similar "Roemer Revolution" platform. He is riding the latest anti-corruption wave generated by a new series of federal prosecutions brought by a Republican appointed US attorney. He also.. it would seem.. has a similar buzz among the LA media establishment to Roemer's Dragon Slayer Squad. And now, with Harry Lee's endorsement, Jindal the juggernaut may be uncatchable.

This is not to say that such things are preordained. But they are being allowed to transpire by professional political operatives in the LA Democratic party who are paid to understand that they are happening.

Defeating a heavy favorite like Jindal takes more than just telling the "truth about his record".. although that is necessary. A successful challenger would find a way to tap into an overriding and voter moving source of energy. And right now, in Louisiana, that energy cometh from anger.

Ultimately, the real problem for Jindal opponents is that they have no candidate able to tap into the anger that's out there right now. This election... like so many these days... is primarily about hatred. People hate the government.. they hate everything that's happened since the flood... they hate "corruption"... they hate the rampant crime in New Orleans... a lot of the state just hates New Orleans. As atmospheric background they also hate the tanking economy and the war.

A smart candidate can easily tie Jindal to most or all of those negatives I just named. But there aren't any smart candidates out there. As a result, Jindal gets to play the role of the "outsider" come to... like Roemer... "slay the dragon". It's golden.. and it may be too late to do anything about it.

As I'm writing this.. it occurs to me that there is indeed one candidate waiting in the wings with a particular talent for campaigning upon a wave of fear, anger, and hatred. But I'm not so sure we're ready to open that can of worms just yet....

Thursday, August 23, 2007

New Inspector General wants more "sophisticated" corruption for New Orleans

You know.. in order to catch us up with the civilized world.

NEW ORLEANS - As former New Orleans City Councilman Oliver Thomas resigned after admitting to accepting bribes, Robert Cerasoli, the city’s first inspector general, began planning to ensure similar backdoor contracts do not reoccur.

Cerasoli said he is shocked the city has nothing in place to prevent corruption in awarding city contracts. The inspector general’s role is to prevent and detect corrupt and unethical practices in city government, Cerasoli said.

“It’s real simple. There should never be one person who decides who should get a contract,” Cerasoli said. “Corruption in other cities is so sophisticated (because of their rules) you wouldn’t find briberies. It’s very unusual you’d find someone passing money in an office somewhere.”

Ed Blakely believes contracts should be meted out by a "coterie of people" with "emergency" powers who don't have to listen to "all these other groups". Maybe that will sophisticate up the corruption a bit.

Note: Title edited slightly post-publication

One more year and I'll be vested in the pension program

At least that's what it says in the letter I got from Google inc. this week in conjunction with my FOURTH ANNIVERSARY of Yellow Blogging. Last year, I marked the passing of this irrelevant moment with a link-filled three-year recap-type thing. You may revisit that today, if you like, since the past has not been much altered since then.

Maybe it's the hangover talking (again) or maybe it's just the fact that August in New Orleans is a bad time to take meaningful stock of things, but I can't bring myself to add anything regarding the year just passed except to say that life continues to become increasingly strange. And since my most recent ruminations upon the nature of blogging are available for view in a comments thread at Moldy City, all that is left to do on this occasion is post a Youtube video.

So here you go, your Yellow Blog Fourth Anniversary musical performance. It's, of course, GBV (old GBV) on the Jon Stewart show (the old Jon Stewart show).. and the wisdom they will sell us..

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The worst person in New Orleans

"I have to write a book. That's what I do." --Ed Blakely

New Orleans's tough-guy-academic planning-guru war-czar appears on the cover of this week's Gambit doing more of what he does most; wagging his finger and ruminating on his own many virtues with the aim of bullying everyone else into being as impressed with him as he is with himself. Just like any televangelist or insurance salesman or economics professor Blakely is a con man who trades in pure bullshit. But Blakely's con is worse, of course, because it 1) Leeches off of the already stunted and threatened recovery of a city from a major disaster. 2) Subtly promotes elitist and anti-democratic governmental mechanisms which can only lead to more corruption, more exclusion, likely even more disaster in the future.

The following are excerpts from Dr. Blakely's Gambit interview that may give you an idea of what I'm getting at.

The buffoonery begins right out of the gate. Gambit lobs its first softball by asking a question about "lessons learned" or something... which amounts to, "Hello Dr. Blakely. You may begin talking now" And he does so in his own convoluted fashion of using many words to say very little before arriving at this:

....Then there's what I call a disaster, where some significant portion of the city is hurt. You have to have a staging plan for that. We didn't have a staging plan. People came back pretty much willy-nilly. In Oakland, we had a staging plan. ... We had to stage people in, and we had to build roads and infrastructure and so forth. ... And in New York, same thing, no staging plan. So there's enormous confusion about getting big equipment in and out, and how you get it in and out, and so forth. Then there's a reconstruction program. I think cities ought to have emergency orders and things like this so you can get through the processes. And there ought to be a coterie of people in the nation that can help.

GW: So, a nationwide fast-response team?

BLAKELY: Yeah. In every U.S. federal district there ought to be a rebuilding/redevelopment team, because there's always something going on.
Let's leave aside, for the moment, the usage of three very unique ("what I call") disasters for the purpose of drawing unfair and useless comparisons. (There is plenty more of that throughout the interview.) Let us also note without comment Blakely's emphasis on the success of efforts in which he was involved compared to the hopelessness of those managed by others. (There will always be more of that as well.) Most importantly, in this exchange, Blakely makes plain that he sees a need for a kind of national shadow government.. or "coterie of people" who stand ready at all times to override government procurement and contracting rules in the wake of ("what I call") disasters in order to.. you know... "cut red tape" or something whenever and wherever there might be "something going on." Last week, BSJD called out a lot of local bloggers for not pointing out the city administration's utter disregard for governmental transparency. I think this is a pretty big example of that.

A few moments later, he repeats this theme.. citing.. another example of.. you know.. something else wonderful he has done.

In San Francisco, it's called the Bay Area Council. I just testified before them last Friday. They are already planning for the next earthquake, and what the recovery plan is going to be from a major earthquake. They have a number of scenarios. That sort of commission or body should be in place. It's very interesting. The first meeting I came to here, the RPC (Regional Planning Commission) sent a representative to the meeting. And we had it in Shreveport. And [the RPC representative] was begging for time on the agenda and didn't get it because the Chamber of Commerce and all these other groups felt they had prior right to determine the future of the city. So we should have a structure in place, probably a regional structure in place, not just a local structure, that would allow us not just to respond to a disaster but also to plan the region in a continuing planning process.
Now Blakely talks in bullshit but he's after something so I'll try to translate a bit. What we have is a model that grants some sort of emergency powers (even.. for years.. perhaps.. after the "emergency" has passed) to a "regional" authority that isn't tied too closely to "all these other groups" (the actual citizens organized into their various.. and yes.. variously interested political groups such as neighborhood associations, or labor unions, or chambers of commerce, etc.) to "determine the future of the city." Seriously, how does this sound good to anyone? Anyone who isn't tied directly to the "coterie of people" with all these emergency powers that is.

But then there's already an effective method in place for separating people from their democratic right to be informed about.. much less have some say in.. the future of their own city. It generally has to do with shaming the local buffoons over all their horrible corruption and ineptitude. We already know this to be a major tool in Blakely's box. Unfortunately it also happens to be a favorite topic of Yuppie Left publications like Gambit Weekly who are all to happy to give Blakely additional openings.

GW: Oliver Thomas just pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges. How much do you think our reputation for corruption hurts the chances for recovery?

BLAKELY: The state has an image, and, unfortunately, Oliver Thomas stepped into the state's image. I don't think this comes as a surprise to the rest of the nation. We have a state image; it's not a local image. I was writing an article for the American Planning Association Journal, and the editor sent back from my article, "Why aren't you talking about corruption as one of the things that interferes with your capacity to do your job?" And I said, "If I did that, then I would be talking about the state. What I want to talk about is what I'm doing." I have to accept certain things as given in any situation. This is one of the things [Professor and management guru] Peter Drucker says: You accept the business as it is, then you start to change it; if you don't accept the business as it is, you can't change it.

Never mind the slight feint at arguing that the "state" and not "I" the city is the center of the "corruption" problem. Blakely really wants to use the "business as it is" as an excuse to consolidate power and limit transparency.

Our most pressing need today is internal reform of our existing policies and procedures. By internal, I mean the state, too. Our administrative procedures in this state are way too cumbersome to do business, much less business in an emergency. For example, when I was in California, after a freeway went down -- it melted down in seven hours -- it was predicted it would take no less than six months to repair it. It came up in seven days, because the state's emergency procedures went into operation. They already had qualified construction companies, and so forth. They had to go to four construction companies and ask for bids. They let the contract in 13 minutes. It would take three months for us to get a competitive bid out.

This almost sounds reasonable.. except that Dr. Blakely has defined "emergency" in such a way that it includes the ongoing rebuilding process. Currently the Mayor's reticence to relinquish his "emergency powers" and the ongoing lack of transparency in city government is a major complaint among those who allege the process is tainted with unmitigated cronyism.

I have a hypothesis: The more the red tape, the more opportunity for corruption.

I have another one about how corruption and cronyism springs from unnecessary "business friendly" government policy unchecked by democratic oversight... but that's pretty much what we're at odds over here isn't it.

That and.. this.

GW: How close are you to getting the $1.1 billion in funding to jumpstart your recovery target zone? Where is the money falling short -- and why?

BLAKELY: We received $200 million from the state to jumpstart our FEMA process. We received $117 million about a month ago. ... The $260 million bond issue is going out, I think, in about a week or so. The blight bonds are being sized -- we just brought on our advisors. I'm getting very good feedback from very good people about issuing that. I've got $100 million of that under wraps already, which will be recycled up to three- or four-hundred million. So where I'm short is that $300 million that is held up by the Road Home Program. The rest is pretty much in place.

Let's put that another way:

There's more in this interview. And if you enjoy reading Ed Blakely go on and on about what a brilliant guy he is as much as I do then I recommend reading it.

Really. Read this article. Blakely even states some opinions that I'd be willing to endorse.

GW: Many Third World cities have functioning neighborhoods and government services that work well only in certain areas. Mexico City is a good example. They also have heavy policing issues because of widespread poverty and crime. Is that where New Orleans is today?

BLAKELY: Well, first of all, you have very big cultural differences. In most of the Third World, the gaps -- and we're approaching this -- between the rich and the poor, the haves and have-nots, are historic. Our country is built on the notion of closing those gaps. I'm not saying it's being done, but that's the whole [notion of] opportunity. We're not in the business of policing people. We're in the business of creating opportunity for people. We have a relatively small police force compared to the developing world because that's not where we are. So I would say the more we use policing and detention as the method of curing our problem, the bigger the problem is going to get. Crime is huge in Mexico City and just gets bigger. Every place I've been where you use policing as strategy, crime gets worse, including South Africa. But when you go to some of the European places, what we're doing in Australia, you get in the front end of the problem, and it's starting to change. Change is happening in the neighborhoods. Change in the opportunity that people have. Recognizing that we don't have two-parent families anymore and putting in daycare centers that involve the entire family, you reduce crime and increase opportunity. That's the only way out of this. And I think we have to decriminalize a whole lot of stuff.

Notice, however, how little any of this has to do with Blakely's actual job here... which... of course he will tell you is.. well... it's the quote at the top of this post.

The problem

Ya think?

Might as well just shut down the blog

All of my posts end up as YRHT comments these days.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jindal is Bad

But LA Dems are worse, apparently.

These new attack ads on Jindal's religious essays are so disgracefully awful and stupid, I don't know where to begin. The main thing is they will fail because they are false, and by being false they will hurt the other Democratic candidates, and thereby play right into the Jindal campaign's hands.

Referring to Jindal quotes like this one

One of the most consequential, and yet neglected, Reformation beliefs is the view that utterly depraved man is incapable of meaningful sanctification.

the LA Dems derive this attack:

Most Americans believe we should respect one another's religion. But not Bobby Jindal. He wrote articles that insulted thousands of Louisiana Protestants. He has referred to Protestant religions as scandalous, depraved, selfish and heretical.

You have to be a real hack to think what Jindal wrote could be fairly characterized as an insult to Louisiana Protestants.

How can you screw up such a slam dunk opportunity to nail Jindal with his own nuttiness? I have further comment on this.. but you have to read the rest of Oyster's post to get there.

Nothing to see here

Oyster writes all my posts for me these days.

Someone else will have to do this

I can't read or write about the Sports Illustrated feature on New Orleans two years after the Federal Flood. I tried.. but I couldn't get halfway through the introduction before this big whopper popped up
I suppose a lesson here is that man-made tragedies can be man-fixed -- and that those Mother Nature visits upon us are harder to get a handle on.
I have nothing more to say to these people.

Jindal is Bad

Atrios edition

Quote of the Day

.. or perhaps the century..

Glenn Danzig: "You're retarded if you think you're gonna be able to change shit."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fake Game #3

Jesus there are still two more pre-season games to go. This is just torturous. As these games go on, there is less and less that is worth noting about them. Here's about all we can say about this past weekend's game:

  • First team offense looked good. Howsabout we don't let them play any more until it matters.

  • You can make a big deal about all the turnovers if you want to but it's a pre-season game. It's not worth worrying about.

  • Can Lance Moore start? Seriously.. he catches everything.

  • Antonio Pittman is just not ready to play. He obviously missed several blitz pickups.

  • Robert Meachem. Bust? Already? Could be.

That's it. That's all I got for this one. The bad news is the Saints don't play a home game that matters until over a month from now. The good news is.. that's about as long as it will take for me to save up enough money for my next Superdome bloody mary.

OT and the politics of nothing much

Adrastos hits the OT nail on the head in demonstrating that there was not much.. you know.. there there.
Okay, so he's a nice guy and doesn't organize dog fights ala Michael Vick. He's still a crook, y'all. I met Edwin Edwards and he was a nice guy crook too. EWE was also an effective Governor in his first two terms whereas Oliver the Actor was too busy schmoozing and betting on the ponies to get anything done other than blocking the return of recycling to Debrisville.

Amidst the dross of Donze's article there were some tidbits that illustrate *why* Oliver would have been a lousy Mayor: "But veteran City Hall observers often noted that Thomas rarely seemed to have a clear policy agenda, picking and choosing issues as they arose.

His interests were unpredictable and sometimes even off-the-wall, shown in the sometimes bizarre resolutions he would introduce endorsing causes as obscure as humaculture, described in his resolution as "a study of the self with 'how to' tools for realigning the self to live at one's maximum potential."

No clear agenda? Off the wall? Sounds like C Ray to me. And like C Ray, Oliver the Actor was known for making bold statements and then crawfishing when the shit hit the fan. Remember when he said post-K that "soap opera watchers" weren't welcome back to public housing? He spent months backpedaling on that one out of fear of losing the all important All My Children vote..

But I thought that "no clear agenda" and "picking and choosing issues" was exactly the kind of "good government" that all the "reformers" on the Yuppie Left have always wanted.

This is exactly why eliminating "corruption" alone does not lead to more effective and responsive government. Of course pols, need to be held accountable to the law. But if they aren't also held accountable to a well articulated political mandate then the result is just as worthless as if they had stolen the whole "cow" or whatever Bernazzani said they're stealing.

I'm, of course, pleased to see so many on the Yuppie Left taking an interest in civic affairs. I think it's very cute. But it would be more pleasing to see them work to affect changes more useful than consolidating boards and picking up litter.

Such things are usually the political agenda of those who have little actual interest in politics. Politics in a democracy is ugly and brutal and it should be. There are real material things at stake. Atrios put it very well last week in a post about rebuilding the Minnesota bridge.
There appears to be genuine disagreement about how to rebuild the bridge. That disagreement has to be resolved somehow. One way to resolve it would be for everyone to drop the David Broder special acid, at which point their third eye would open up and they'd magically have access to the "bipartisan unity consensus" that God demands. Another way is to just defer to the governor, no matter how bad his plan is. A third way is to hash out some compromise behind closed doors without any public disagreement... or public scrutiny or input. Or, fourth, they can do their damn jobs and fight it out.
Politics is about power and who wields power in who's interest. Otherwise you're just sitting around popping rubber bands with Buddy Roemer.. and what's the point of that?

Jindal is Bad

Health care edition
Jindal does have a record on health care, but unfortunately, it is a record that seems to favor big pharamaceutical companies and big insurance, often at the expense of the American people and our soliders.

The rest at Daily Kingfish

Saturday, August 18, 2007

But now we're groping

Because it's Saturday


The ever-quotable Mayor Nagin:

Nagin then offered a provocative take on U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's frequent use of plea agreements, which give defendants a chance to reduce their jail time if they cooperate.

"The interesting thing that the feds are doing that I think is very smart on their part is that they're capturing certain tribes, if you will," Nagin said, referring to the city's political organizations that use catchy acronyms. "They'll capture the LIFE tribe, then they'll capture the BOLD tribe.

"And then they'll get them talking about each other. So I think you're going to see a lot of activity come over the next month or so."

Last week on Moldy City, Oyster wrote:
However, I think as LIFE members like Pampy turn on BOLD members like OT, there will be increased tit for tat as the federal investigation expands. I'm sure OT will be more inclined to give up people in rival political factions (like LIFE) rather than friendlies (in BOLD).

Right now, to me, it seems much more likely that more revelations will expose members of the "old guard", and will remind us of how utterly corrupt things were under Morial, rather than expose Nagin;'s current shenanigans.

Just so you know those two men are thinking along the same lines.. although Nagin a little more hopefully, I imagine.

Also in the politics column this week we learn that Scott Domke of Imagine Software has secured the domain name Naginforgovernor.com "as a lark" in case it should become useful at some point.

Looking better, Big Blue

CLIO still has you beat, though

Friday, August 17, 2007

More things that can only end badly

How much will your dollar be worth next year? The year after?

See chart before answering.

Also.. "You'd think I would have anticipated this moment"

Well, I guess you've covered your ass then

Associated Press

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco is declaring a state of emergency tonight as emergency preparedness workers continue to monitor Hurricane Dean's path toward the Gulf of Mexico.

At the same time, Blanco is sending a request to President Bush asking for a declaration that would allow federal resources to flow to the state should the storm strike any part of the Louisiana coast.

This is a much better model

Ray has found a graphical representation of an acceptable path for Dean which matches Oyster's earlier comments.

Jindal Is Bad

Friday "ethics" edition

Not funny

One of these things is not like the others.

Head Kegger

And you were beginning to think there was nothing to do this evening.

Magazine Street block reopened
Posted by The Times Picayune August 17, 2007 11:50AM

By Leslie Williams

Staff writer

The more than two-year-long blockade of a section of New Orleans' Magazine Street has ended. Traffic began flowing again in the 1300 block of the commercial hub on Thursday.

"Thank you, Jesus!," said Gee Mercadel, the owner of Sophie's Gelato, one of several businesses that atrophied after the normally heavily traveled portion of the street was closed to vehicular traffic at Melpomene Street. "It's the prettiest part of Magazine and it finally is going to get a chance to live again."

"I'm so excited," said City Councilwoman Stacy Head, who credited "the hard work of a lot of different departments working together to get this done."

In celebration of the victory, Head is throwing a keg party today at 5:30 p.m. at the Bridge Lounge, 1201 Magazine St.

Work on the closed section of the street has been at a standstill since about May 2005, when the owners of two buildings, one on each side of the street, got a court to issue stop-work orders. They said their properties had been seriously damaged by a Sewerage & Water Board contractor digging up the street to install a culvert.

The city had kept the street closed to traffic since then because of fears that the damaged buildings might collapse, posing a danger to the public.
I wonder if she'll complain about anyone leaving the party with an open container.


It's always a big deal when New Orleans is treated with anything approaching accuracy in the national media. John Schwartz's NYT piece today on the "patchwork" state of our flood control "system" is such an occasion.
The entire flood system still provides much less protection than New Orleans needs, and the pre-Katrina patchwork of levees, floodwalls and gates that a Corps of Engineers investigation called “a system in name only” is still just that.

The corps has strengthened miles of floodwalls, but not always in places where people live. It has built up breached walls on the east side of one major canal, but left the west side, which stood up to Hurricane Katrina, lower and thus more vulnerable. It has not closed the canals that have often been described as funnels for floodwaters into the city.

And its most successful work, building enormous floodgates to cut off the fingerlike canals that brought so much flooding into the city, had a divisive effect. The gates now protect prosperous neighborhoods like Lakeview, and though corps officials say there has been no favoritism, the effect has been to draw out old resentments and conspiracy theories in a city that never lacked for them.
This is not to say the article is perfect although the tone is about right. Those "successful" floodgates and pumps have been subjected to heavier criticism than Schwartz makes clear.. but he does allude to it and even talks to Matt McBride. I'd much rather have this article in circulation nationally than I would the recent National Geographic debacle.

Update: Dangerblond titles her post with my other favorite quote from the NYT article.

Surveillance Society

The Yuppie Left will never mind its own damn business.

Look, nobody likes litter. But shouldn't adults have better things to do than go out of their way to assert their superiority by taking random strangers to court?

Clown show at 5

CORRECTION: Netvibes recycled a City Business blurb from last month. I stupidly rushed to post it here. There will be no Vitter show today. Errors... regrets.. sure.

Vitter to make statement today in Metairie Wonder if he wants to talk about another "re-branding"

Do not like

Those blue and white lines are looking really.. you know.. bendy or something. This looks like a track that could easily be adjusted further east by Tuesday. That is.. unless we use Mr. Clio's model which suits me just fine.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dystopia No More

Magazine Street is free!

See reports from this bizarre 3-year saga on the New Orleans Metblog here here and here. Also more details in an earlier post from Blake.

Almost forgot the official Liberate Lower Magazine site where there is much more. (Thanks, Leigh)

Champagne and fireworks are in order.. no doubt.

Coming Events You Already Know About

Now that my official posters have been delivered.. and now that everyone else has informed you at least twice already.. I feel that it may be a good time to note that the kids are indeed getting the band back together next weekend for the second annual Rising Tide NOLA Blogger's Conference.

The event, which dovetails closely with the second anniversary of the Federal Flood, is an excellent way for anyone interested in taking stock of the the state of New Orleans two years later to do so.

Quoting directly from the conference's web site:
The weekend schedule of events is organized and presented by New Orleans bloggers in an effort to bring real-life activism to their online visibility. This year, Rising Tide will present author Dave Zirin, engineer Timothy Ruppert ,“Fix the Pumps” author Matt McBride, and panel discussions featuring New Orleans bloggers, authors, community activists and political muckrakers.

Cost is $20.00 which includes catered lunch from Dunbar's restaurant and registration info is available on the web site. See here for more.

Last year's event was a smashing success and... I thought.. a nice way to commemorate the Katrinaversary. This year promises to be even better. So pack your laptop and your two-edged sword and come see the buffoons. Maybe I'll see you there. I'll be the guy smirking gloomily in the back.

Jindal Is Bad

Thursday edition

Land Rush

The following video was posted on NOLA.com. It's the scene yesterday as hundreds.. maybe thousands of New Orleans property owners stood in line at City Hall to protest their ridiculous "reform" assessments.

The more one thinks on this business the worse it seems. Remember, not everyone in line yesterday was seen by an assessor. Worse.. it doesn't take much imagination to surmise that those homeowners with the least means to pay the taxes based upon the new astronomical assessments.. those most in danger of actually losing their homes because of this.. were either unable to make it to City Hall or unaware of/intimidated by the appeals process.

At this point the arguments for "rationalizing" the assessment process strike me as academic while people (mostly poor and middle class people) are in real danger of being dispossessed of their homes as a result of the City's "open high" bargaining gambit.

But this is just the latest in a seemingly endless string of (yes) Kafakaesuqe absurdities emerging from governmental authorities as the NOLA land rush reaches a fever pitch this summer. These days the government wants your house and it wants it bad. If they can't tax you out of it, they may just show up one day and knock it down. Without rehashing the entire demolition list saga again. I'll just add another to the long list of well deserved "Thank God for Karen Gadbois"es. Thanks to the tireless work of Karen and her crew, the City has been made to.. at least.. think a bit more before sending unannounced bulldozers to citizens' doorsteps.

Meanwhile HANO is moving right along with its plans to demolish.. what remains to be demolished of.. New Orleans's public housing and turn the land over to developers who promise to then create...... wait for it........................... coming........... .................... ready? ......................................................... ........ Yup, GOLF COURSES!

But at its regular monthly meeting Wednesday, HANO officials checked off a few more bureaucratic chores needed for the massive redevelopment, approving four "pre-development agreements" with the firms they have chosen to redesign public housing in New Orleans.

Those plans call for a vastly different landscape for low-income housing in post-Katrina New Orleans: A revitalized St. Bernard with two 18-hole "championship" golf courses and a 45,000-square-foot YMCA, free for the complex's public housing residents, and two charter schools.

Wow.. what remarkable chutzpah displayed by this HUD managed housing agency. Note that the golf courses and the YMCA will be free to residents of the re-developed "mixed-income" community. I think that's nice.

The overall scheme does have a certain beauty in that it is an exact reversal of another plan once proposed by George Carlin
I know where we can build housing for the homeless----golf courses...... Land that is currently being wasted on a meaningless, mindless activity, engaged in primarily by white, well-to-do male businessmen who use the game to get together to make deals to carve this country up a little finer amongst themselves.....Golf is an arrogant elitist game and it takes up entirely too much room in this country.....There are over 17,000 golf courses in America. They average over 150 acres a piece. That’s 3 million plus acres, 4820 square miles. You could build two Rhode Islands and a Delaware for the homeless on the land currently being wasted on this meaningless, mindless, arrogant, elitist, racist....boring game.

Like I said.. Chutzpah.

The most obnoxious and insulting pompous quote I've read since the flood

The state managed Recovery School District has.. typically.. been hiring non-union contractors to do the work of refurbishing the schools it intends to open this fall. The non-union contractors and sub-contractors, in turn, hire undocumented workers, pay them well below prevailing wage.. in cash.. no social security.. no overtime.

During Oscar Madrid's first seven days at Thurgood Marshall, he worked a total of 58 hours. But he was not paid time-and-a-half for the 18 overtime hours, as required by federal law. He said he taped a conversation with Rodriquez that he recounted from memory earlier this week. Rodriquez told him that he doesn't pay taxes and thus doesn't need to pay overtime, Madrid said.

When Madrid questioned further, he said, Rodriquez cut him off. "He told me, 'Take it or leave it,' " Madrid said.

Sitting outside during a lunch break last week, painters hired by SPM said most of them are undocumented workers from Central America with six or seven years of painting experience. Still, some said they had worked up to 240 hours in a two-week period for only $10 an hour -- with no overtime pay.

Madrid said his fellow painters are talented craftsmen who have been doing beautiful work inside the school. But to his mind, both taxpayers and skilled laborers take a hit when low-paying, cash-based subcontractors come to town.

"They're killing the work force in New Orleans," he said.

Such is the way of things in the Bush-Blanco-Nagin wild west of reconstruction. Carpetbagging contractors hired by the state exploit illegal workers with no means of defending themselves. All of this in order to avoid 1) taxes and 2) hiring from the ample pool of skilled, union labor in the area.

Herb Santos, Madrid's boss at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, said many union workers -- painters, plumbers, electricians, laborers -- depend on small, local subcontractors who, he suspected, are being underbid by out-of-town, "fly-by-night" contractors skirting labor laws.

"They're paying cash money with no matching Social Security, no benefits, no taxes, no workmen's comp," Santos said. "My subcontractors can't compete."

Santos sees the results firsthand: Nearly 40 percent of his workers are now unemployed. That compares with 2 percent to 3 percent unemployment rates before the storm. Across the Gulf Coast, union carpenters, electricians and plumbers in hurricane-affected areas are having the same problems, he said.

The laborers union is in similar straits. The last time work has slowed to this level was during President Reagan's administration, said Barry Kaufman, business manager for the Laborers' International Union of North America's Uptown New Orleans chapter. "The biggest lie in town is that we have no workers. That's a bunch of crap," he said.
But all of this is predictable.. standard procedure for reconstruction of US imperial possessions like Iraq.. or New Orleans. But what's truly fun about this story is the quote I've alluded to in the title of this post which comes from Louisiana Education Superintendent Paul Pastorek.. the man whose department is responsible for overseeing these contracts... for making sure that your tax dollars do not go to firms that violate the law or the rights of their employees. When asked about these violations Pastorek said,
"Does anyone expect me to do anything about this?" said Pastorek, the former law partner at Adams & Reese who took the superintendent job in March. "It's not the Recovery School District's responsibility. Our job is education."
In other words.. "Won't someone just think about the children?" which is a Yuppie Left placating way of saying, "Go fuck yourself"

Ewww I don't like the blue one

Just gassed up the Tercel. It's the first time my tank has been more than one eighth full in six months. Maybe I'll get that smashed window fixed someday too. But for now... I'll make sure it gets a fresh layer of scotch tape.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Eagle Eye

What Greg said
Our "no-bullshit" "tough guy" war czar doesn't miss a beat when it comes to cherry-picking excuses for his exit dossier. How's that resume coming?

Adam Nossiter

Oyster catches the hack in the act of once again making things appear worse.. or at least more mean-spirited.. than they actually are for the purposes of.. I suppose.. titillating the national NOLA-haters. I'll repeat the gist of what I commented over there to make this clear.

Jim Letten's and Jim Bernazzani's actual words regarding the corruption in New Orleans were so fair and.. positive, even.. that even I found them acceptable. Again.. a Republican US Attorney and a big mean FBI guy said something about New Orleans that I couldn't find any fault with.

But Nossiter still managed to cut it up and repurpose it to sound like so much boilerplate all-those-Katricians-are-buffoons-ism. I guess he's just doing his part to keep the brand out there.


So now officially begins the countdown toward that inevitable annoying phone call from Dad wanting to know if and when I might be leaving.

Jindal is Bad

Wednesday edition.

Good looking ad. Get it on the air.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Umm... guys

Look it's not that complicated. Rudy is leading.. even among social conservatives.. because he is the candidate most likely to make the hippies shut the fuck up.

Social Conservatives will overlook his slightly more gay/abortion friendly statements because those battles have already been fought and won by George Bush. Bush promised the right he would appoint fundie-friendly judges and he delivered.

In 2008, conservatives want someone to make all the hippies who were right about the war shut the fuck up. Rudy is the guy who will do that for them.

It's the most wonderful time....

MIAMI -- Tropical Storm Dean has formed in the open Atlantic, according to the National Hurricane Center.

It's still far from land, more than 1,500 miles east of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean.

Dean has top sustained winds of 40 mph, just above the threshold to be a named storm.

I love the "it's still far from land" reassurance. Don't they know that's where the bad ones come from?

Alton Brown in New Orleans

Ashley was disappointed with the recently aired episode of Feasting on Asphalt on the Food Network. If you haven't seen the show, it's basically Alton Brown traveling the countryside on a motorcycle in search of "authentic American road food" or something like that. It's not a bad concept and Brown's other show Good Eats is by far the best thing on that channel.

The episode in question.. obviously.. featured Brown and his bikers stopping in New Orleans, Hammond, LaPlace, and Vacherie, on their way up the River Road. The show was inconsistent. But I liked it better than Ashley who points out that Brown seemed surprisingly unfamiliar with the local culture... mystified at the difference between Cajun and Creole culture.. and, worse, expecting to find Southern style sweet tea in New Orleans. The following was supposed to be a comment on Ashley's blog but it got too long so I'm putting it here.. I'm sure he'll read it anyway.

I hate sweet tea... mostly because I tend to take my iced tea at whatever restaurant I'm patronizing whilst attempting to shake off the hangover. In other words.. iced tea for me is kind of a bloody mary for the days when you don't want to drink again. If it were sugary.. it would cause me great distress.

I wasn't as disappointed with Alton in New Orleans. The show is about "road food" after all.. which means that you're not talking so much about high end stuff as you are casual grab-n-go type food. I imagine they ended up at Mulate's because they asked someone where they could find something not-too-fancy. I think Alton was appropriately annoyed by the tourists. I hate those people.. but you knew that already.

The Big Fisherman was a good location. I would have liked to see him go perhaps to a decent po-boy stop.. Parasol's maybe? And I think Hansen's sno balls would have fit the theme.

I thought the stops along the river road were very appropriate.. although I would have liked to see some gas-station boudin show up as everyone knows it to be the ultimate road food of South Louisiana.

I get the feeling.. though.. that very few of the locations are actually planned in advance. So considering that, they did a decent job.

The complete misapprehension of Cajun vs Creole is less forgivable. One would expect a professional culinary expert to at least understand that much. Still, I like Alton Brown. He's pretty much the only thing worth watching on an increasingly unwatchable Food Network.