Thursday, June 30, 2011

And now, less hope

Mike Freeman: The owners are wrecking negotiations I guess I should be more specific now that we've got multiple lockouts going on. Freeman's post is about the NFL.

Don't touch my car

Does it ever occur to them that some of us might have reasons for not always locking our cars?
It is the second statement — implying the officer opened the vehicle and locked it without the owner’s permission — that has raised red flags.

“Not only is it a violation of your basic right to privacy, and not only do they not have the right to open your car without probable cause or permission, but what if they lock you out of your own car? How do they know you didn’t leave your car unlocked for a very good reason?” said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana.

Guggenheim’s note is part of a new community policing initiative to prevent crime and educate the public on how best to protect their vehicles, said NOPD spokeswoman Officer Shereese Harper.

I leave my car unlocked on purpose. I do this because I've learned the hard way more than once that protecting the $5.00 in stray nickels lying on the floor is not worth the trouble of having to replace a broken window. Instead I just make sure not to keep anything valuable in there and leave it open so people can help themselves to the lint and change if they like. The car itself, well, nobody is breaking in to steal that anyway.

The last straw came a few years ago when somebody split the driver's side door handle leaving it permanently damaged. Now the only way to access the car when the windows aren't rolled down is to climb in through the passenger side and open the driver's side door from the inside. This isn't too inconvenient when I've got someone riding along who can get the door for me but it's annoying when I'm by myself and a serious pain in the ass when it's raining.

Anyway since I'm down to just one functional door, and I don't entirely trust that one, I like to leave it open. If Serpas comes behind me and locks me out, I hope he's ready to lend me his BATmobile for the rest of the day.

Good news and bad news

The bad news is what's left of the American democracy is dead. The good news is it will die a hilarious death.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Funny thing about Gill

I always just assumed he knew the names of the high powered Johns who frequented the Canal Street brothel but, like Clancy, wasn't sharing due to some sort of gentleman's understanding between boozy swells or whatever else you want to pass off as "protecting sources". Maybe someday Serpas will shake it out of them.

Anyway, that and more comes up in Moseley's must-read summary of the Vitterverse.

Update: Slabbed was on this last year.

Shock Doctrining Civil Service

1) Corrupt pols contract out numerous city services in order to avoid Civil Service rules and direct more and more unaccountable money to cronies.

2) Inevitably, a bunch of people go to jail.

3) New administration claims the only way to fix this problem is to get rid of the pretense of having civil service rules in the first place.

Am I getting that right?

Stockholm Syndrome

BP exerts too much influence over oil spill cleanup, Louisiana official tells senators
Garret Graves, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana, praised BP for providing $1 billion to begin environmental assessment work, but also said government agencies can't compete with the "armies of attorneys, marketing firms, PR campaigns, lobbyists, scientists and other consultants" the company has assembled.

"It is a modern-day case of Stockholm syndrome whereby responders are dependent upon the financial resources of and have repeatedly shown signs of empathy toward the responsible parties who hold them financially captive to the detriment of the will and best interest of the public," Graves told the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife.


I just received the following solicitation in an email from the New Orleans Saints.

Junior Saintsations Registration Now Open

Registration to be a 2011 Junior Sainsation for the New Orleans Saints is now available. To register, fill out this form and mail it along with the fees listed to Junior Saintsations/St. All-Star P.O. Box 1062 Mandeville, LA 70470. Interested participants can also register online by clicking here.

The Junior Saintsations will perform in the Pregame show on Sept. 1 when the Saints return to the Superdome for their game against the Tennessee Titans.

The Junior Saintsation program is a great opportunity for young ladies 5 to 17 years of age to learn basic dance and cheer techniques from the 2011 Saintsations while making friends and having lots of fun!

The Saintsations are zealous in their involvement in the community and always look forward to any occasion that they can work with young people.

In addition to participating in this amazing season with our Saints, as a Junior Saintsation you will receive a practice t-shirt, the official Jr. Saintsations uniform, pom poms, an autograph session with the
Saintsations and a 2011 Saintsations team photo.

Every Junior Saintsation will be required to attend the practice on Sunday August 28th.

Certainly the Saints would not take so committed and bold of a step as mustering the Junior Saintsations (For a September 1st appearance, no less!) if they were not confident a solution to the NFL lockout was imminent.

One step away from Baghdad Bike Lanes

Iraq: France's Alstom signs high-speed rail line deal The baby of the empire always gets the nice toys.

Update: Tangent About those bike lanes.
Now, City Councilman Eric Ulrich, R-Ozone Park, has had enough, saying the agency has forgotten its core mission — fixing the roads.

“Why can’t we just we get back to basics and worry more about paving the roads and the streets than we are about installing bike lanes and putting in pedestrian plazas where communities don’t want them?” Ulrich told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

The roads in Baghdad look better than the roads in Queens. I think I have a right to be upset.”

The harsh words came at a City Council hearing on the pedestrian plazas installed by the DOT. Ulrich wasn’t alone as several others talked about a belief there is an anti-driver bias.

I'm not so sure what's going on in New York City and elsewhere is best described as an "anti-driver bias" though. I've made this point before but I tend to skew pro bicycle and anti-bike lane. Bike lanes not only make getting around less convenient and more dangerous for cyclists but they're more importantly a means of policing and ticketing a heretofore unharassed pool of vehicles, which seems to be the fashion these days.

While I like living where I can bike or walk to most day-to-day destinations, I'm not an evangelist about this lifestyle. I recognize that most adults either need or prefer to drive most of the time and that's okay. I also sympathize with their perception that their lives are being made more difficult. While urban cores in older cities may be re-engineered to become more bike or pedestrian friendly, this is far less true of the suburbs. I also happen to think we're living in a time when suburban living is becoming less and less desirable for those who can afford to move back to into the gentrifying cities. So, in addition to everything else, the bike lane is itself a gentrification tool as well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stop it

If I find out any of you have created an @nolabigfoot account on Twitter, I will hunt you down and.. um... mess with you.

Wal-Mart in the news

Wal-Mart sinks millions of dollars into the balkanized quasi-public New Orleans school system.
Some of the biggest individual recipients have a major presence in the city: Teach for America, which has more than 200 instructors in local classrooms, received almost $17 million; and the KIPP Foundation, a charter school operator that will be running nine schools in New Orleans this fall, received about $9 million.

The Recovery School District, a state body that took over most New Orleans schools after Hurricane Katrina, received $667,000.

Among other local recipients: The Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, a group that counts most New Orleans charter schools as members, got about $375,000; the Urban League of Greater New Orleans got $200,000; John Dibert Community School got $250,000; charter operator ReNew got a total of $500,000 for two schools that it runs; and the UNO Charter School Network got $230,000.

The Louisiana Legislature recently passed a law allowing corporate donors to sponsor charter schools in return for control over the allotment of admissions slots and governing board seats. Do these donations entitle Wal-Mart to anything?

Maybe they just wanted this guy instead.

BATON ROUGE - The head of the state's emergency services division is leaving his post to take a similar job with Wal-Mart Corp.

Mark Cooper, who has headed the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness since 2008, will become a senior director of emergency management for Wal-Mart International, Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Tuesday.

There will definitely, probably, be some people running in these elections

It's all very exciting.

Heart of Downtown?

What is this guy talking about?
"I figured it was time for us to share some of that success, especially after Hurricane Katrina,'' Feil said in a phone interview from his New York office. "We saw such devastation in (City) park, which I realize is the heart of the downtown area."

Also, of course.
At the urging of Trust for Public Land officials, Feil, who made the donation with the stipulation that he not be named, has agreed to attend a ceremony at Big Lake today to honor him.
Can't be honored, if you don't let them name you, I guess.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The next commodity bubble

Shale gas.

In the e-mails, energy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts voice skepticism about lofty forecasts and question whether companies are intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves. Many of these e-mails also suggest a view that is in stark contrast to more bullish public comments made by the industry, in much the same way that insiders have raised doubts about previous financial bubbles.

“Money is pouring in” from investors even though shale gas is “inherently unprofitable,” an analyst from PNC Wealth Management, an investment company, wrote to a contractor in a February e-mail. “Reminds you of dot-coms.”

“The word in the world of independents is that the shale plays are just giant Ponzi schemes and the economics just do not work,” an analyst from IHS Drilling Data, an energy research company, wrote in an e-mail on Aug. 28, 2009.

Obviously the only way to solve this problem will be to Frack, baby, frack.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Brownie Plodder and the Deadly Indifferences


A crowd of maybe 10 reporters on assignment, four or five bookstore employees, and a few random stragglers slumped into two rows of folding chairs outside of the Garden District Book Shop last night to see former FEMA director and Arabian Horse enthusiast Michael Brown talk about his new book, Deadly Indifference: The Perfect (Political) Storm: Hurricane Katrina, The Bush White House, and Beyond The title itself is intriguing. "Deadly Indifference" sounds like someone's attempt to mock a cop buddy movie that tanks at the box office. It also happens to be the title a second rate mystery novel just in case people aren't confused enough. And if they aren't annoyed enough, there's also the grating use of "Perfect Storm" as well as that enigmatic "And Beyond" thrown in to help with that. I haven't read the book yet. I'm waiting on a library copy and I wasn't about to drop $24.95 on it last night. Gambit's Kevin Allman points us to a review by Paul Bedard that appeared in U.S. News and World Report if you're looking for Cliff's Notes.

Deadly Indifference a

The main thing that Brownie got across at this talk was that the "Deadly Indifference" referenced in the title of his book doesn't characterize the Federal Emergency Management Agency under his charge at the time of the flood so much as it applies to, well, possibly everybody. But more specifically, he means to tell us that individuals affected by disasters are themselves so unprepared, so deadly indifferent to the hazards that stalk their lives, that they make things difficult for the FEMAs of the world. Only Brown preferred to use "firefighters and rescue workers" as his avatar for emergency management in his examples repeatedly citing 9/11 as his case reference of choice.
“I don’t care how angry you are. I just want you to read it and think about, are you ready?” Brown said. Not being prepared for the dangers you know your environment poses risks not only your life, but also the lives of others. “We owe it to all these firefighters and rescue workers to be as prepared as we can. As powerful as we think we are, Mother Nature is more powerful than anything we can imagine.”
Depending on your point of view this is either Brown's version of "ask not what your country can do for you" or "people shouldn't live there." Either way it's a cop out for someone hawking a book about the "lessons learned" from a disaster his agency largely failed to cope with.

Despite opening his talk proclaiming his readiness to "have open discourse" about his failures, most of the "lessons" Brown wanted us to learn were about the people who failed him. He took a few obligatory shots at former Governor Meemaw, at Ray Nagin, and also, with the eager prompting of T-P reporter John Pope, at George Bush who he paints as an aloof "frat boy"
On Friday, he described Bush as “a jocular, fun-loving frat guy” who didn’t seem to understand the magnitude of the threat that Katrina posed or the breakdown that ensued after the storm passed and the floodwaters drowned New Orleans.
Brown illustrated this by telling us about a time that Bush annoyed him by picking on the suit he was wearing which was pretty funny considering Brown's own reputation as something of a "jocular" fashion maven himself.

Others on Brown's list of deadly indifferences included Anderson Cooper for being too unhappy on TV about search and rescue operations, rogue truck drivers for failing to move supplies into the city, and the Stafford Act for placing bizarre limitations on the process of rebuilding. That last one most of us would probably agree with although it was interesting that Brown chose to bring up the exceedingly complicated controversy over the new hospital complex in order to talk about it. Throwing in a line about how the old Charity Hospital, "probably needed to be torn down anyway" didn't help to clarify matters.

But mostly, Brown emphasized to us that we, as individuals, should learn how to make FEMA's planning go more smoothly. For example, Brown shared with us his experience evacuating from his Colorado home during a recent wild fire emergency. While Brown had managed to round up his three dogs and drive down to a pre-determined rendezvous point, he was disappointed to see his neighbors arrive there less promptly and with varying loads of (I guess trivial) personal possessions in hand. I tried to turn this on its head by asking Brown what lessons emergency managers can themselves learn to better prepare for the fact that people are going to behave with less than optimal efficiency in these situations but he didn't really answer that choosing instead to talk about putting GPS on supply trucks.

There was some attempt made by his hosts at the Book Shop and by Brown himself to characterize his appearance in front of the small and not at all deadly or indifferent crowd as courageous in some way. But actually Brown exhibited a kind of fake magnanimity toward the audience that mostly came across as trying too hard. One man showed up in a "FEMA Sucks" T-shirt. Brown made a bee line for him attempting to win him over, "Hey I gotta get a picture of that shirt!" A woman delivered a sequence of marginally coherent attacks at him, the Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Patent office, various other offenders all while Brown smiled a bit too broadly and pretended to understand what she was talking about. Finally he awkwardly slapped the table inviting her to sit next to him. I think he was just trying to have his picture made sitting with a black person. Anyway the whole thing came off as desperate and more than a little sad.

At the end I presented him with a copy of River Road Recipes to sign for me. He gladly took it and said a few nice things about the Junior League. When I reminded him of his reputation for being perhaps a bit overly familiar with the Baton Rouge dining scene, his face snapped back to that fake smile again. He might as well have been shouting, "See? Look how great a sport I am!" Again, just sad. At least I have something to remember him by.

Michael Brown's autograph

Thursday, June 23, 2011

So.. uh.. you don't remember nothing, then.

Reputed Boston mobster James 'Whitey' Bulger and his girlfriend drew little attention while living in Grand Isle

"They knew nothing about that man. ... I knew nothing about it, I just thought he was another guy with them," said Rome, 84, who admitted that he'd actually forgotten about Bulger until a call from a reporter. "I really thought nothing about it so that's why I can't remember nothing."

Think I'm just going to stop reading librarian blogs for about a week

If I have to read another one of these assholes write the words "Laissez les bon temps rouler" I'll be heading down to the convention center with a machine gun.

How many free agents?

I have yet to read a report on the supposedly forthcoming CBA that explains this clearly.

Free agent terms have yet to be disclosed, but it looks like veterans with four or more accrued seasons will become unrestricted free agents. That means close to 500 veteran free agents will soon be available on the open market.

Every veteran with four or more years? Surely they mean every veteran not currently under contract with four or more years experience.

Oh thank God that's over

WDSU offers a handy score sheet on the just-completed Legislative session. Some good. Some bad. Okay, well, mostly bad but that's hardly a shock. Probably the best news is that the prison privatization plan failed. The most sensationally bad news is the passage of the corporate schools bill. Meanwhile the most materially bad news, though, might be in the redistricting plans just because of the continuing damage they'll be inflicting until the next census. It's either that or the Legislature's infuriating failure to end the NFL lockout.

At least I can still talk on the phone while driving anyway.

I miss all the golden opportunites

Free copies were given to all the reporters in the room.

Anybody got any extras?

Update: This can't be right. Not after most of us spent so much time trying to find ways to avoid having to listen to him.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This week in oil disaster news

Cementing contractor settles with BP Company agrees to pay BP $75M to settle claims

Meanwhile Tranocean has published the results of its internal investigation. Surprise! They find BP negligent.

Mississippi brown shrimp catch is off by nearly one million compared to this time a few years ago.
Traci Floyd, director of the state Department of Marine Resources Shrimp and Crab Bureau, says 903,908 pounds of brown shrimp were caught in the two weeks after the brown shrimp season started on May 25. She says that compares with first two weeks of 2007 when the catch was 1.96 million pounds.

Mark Stewart, an Ocean Springs shrimper, said the shrimp have been small and scarce in Mississippi waters. He says that has resulted in low prices.
This morning on WWL radio, Bob Delgiorno was confusingly describing the low price paid to shrimpers for a scarce and low quality product as a "shrimp glut." Clearly that's not what this is.

Feinberg says he's making progress.
Although it's still quite difficult to pin down what that actually means.
The biggest lingering question is: What claims are still out there? The uncertainty rests mostly in the fishing industry, where the true measure of the spill's economic pain is still unfolding. Only 24,000 fishers, crabbers, shrimpers, oyster harvesters and seafood processors have sought final payments so far, and half have settled. The vast majority of them -- about 11,000 -- took the quick payment option of $5,000 for individuals or $25,000 for businesses.
Also there are thousands of fishers who are currently relying on government assistance and periodic (although stingily disbursed) interim payments from GCCF for subsistence alone. And, of course, the long term damage to the fisheries won't be fully known for many years.

Finally, the deadline to submit oil spill related "restoration" project proposals to the Natural Resource Trustees set up by BP on behalf of five Gulf Coast states is this Saturday.

Louisiana will receive a minimum of $100 million for "oil restoration" projects from the trust but will have to compete for a share of an additional $300 million with Texas, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama. Despite initial optimism that this money could at least serve as a modest beginning to the massive funding needed to mitigate Louisiana's dire coastal erosion problem, this language appears to restrict the projects to Macondo clean-up only.

Trustees determining early restoration projects are guided in their selection in part by criteria laid down by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. The projects must "contribute to making the environment and the public whole by restoring, rehabilitating, replacing or acquiring the equivalent of natural resources or services injured as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill or response, or compensating for interim losses resulting from the incident," according to a recent presentations made by Drue Banta, an attorney for the Governor's Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration, and Stephanie Morris, an attorney for the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator's Office.

The projects also must "address one or more specific injuries to natural resources or services associated with the incident." And they must "seek to restore natural resources, habitats or natural resource services of the same type, quality and of comparable ecological and/or human use value to compensate for identified resource and service losses resulting from the incident."

The good news is there may be more money available at some point once the National Resource Damage Assessment is complete.
That money will be deducted from the final bill presented to BP and other responsible parties after completion of the overall Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, which is anticipated to take several years.

The bad news is many observers believe BP is trying to manipulate the NRDA process.

On today's episode of something strange in the bookdrop

It's Emily the Strange which, as best as I can tell, is a marketing icon designed to sell crap to young girls who like to believe that buying specifically themed crap makes them "different" from everybody else who buys crap. Anyway now we have this doll for some reason.

Emily in the bookdrop

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dammit, Jackie

You're supposed to manning the cannon just in case this sort of thing happens. I mean, it's right freaking there, even.

Can't ever understand the lines

I was out of town over the weekend when the City Council redistricting proposals were released but they're available on the Council's website here if you're interested.

All things being equal, I prefer to see a map that best adheres to most people's geographic conceptualization of the city, as abstract and dynamic as such ideas may be. To my eye, proposals one and four achieve something like this better than the other three do. The choice between those two depends mainly on whether you think it's a more egregious aberration to remove either Treme or the Fairgrounds from District D.

None of these maps solve what I've always thought was the oddest gerrymander in the city which is the majority white District A's joining of Lakeview to deepest Uptown. It doesn't take much imagination to cut off A at Claiborne avenue and then make up for that by extending it eastward probably to about Paris Avenue. But I don't have the population figures in front of me and don't feel like looking them up right now. Maybe this would have made more sense pre-Katrina.

On a tangentially related note, I was on Canal Boulevard yesterday afternoon and decided to follow up on some speculation I had read on Twitter that the multiple John Labruzzo yard signs visible there were placed in front of vacant houses the suspicion being that this was done without consent of the property owners.

I did manage to find this one sign in front of an apparently unoccupied house. See below.

Labruzzo Sign

Labruzzo house

But the other three signs I passed were in front of occupied buildings. I wonder if it makes more sense to just gerrymander District A into Bucktown.

Well, sure

It only makes sense that the state that's already applying something like this model in order to remove its citizens's right to local self government is perfectly fine with using it to balkanize public education according to social status the way we do in New Orleans as well.

As difficult as it is to stay one step ahead in the awfulness sweepstakes, the Louisiana Legislature is doing is certainly trying.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Also if there's time left over maybe they will buy a theater

Mayor Mitch Landrieu to divert $16.2 million from 2011 budget to cover 2010 shortfall

Of note:
Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin told the City Council today that the shortfall owes to "skyrocketing employee health care costs and lower revenues than projected," the news release states.
Moments like these are when I most like to remember that Obama didn't even want single-payer universal care on the table. Neither did Mitch's sister, come to think of it.

Whiz Kidding

Pay more, get less What could be more brilliant?
In a section laying out privatization scenarios, the report states "in addition" to a planned premium increase instituted by OGB pre-sale, Chaffe's valuation of the agency assumes that a purchaser will increase premiums to maintain a pre-tax operating margin of 4.5-7%. The premium increase in 2013 would range from 4.8% to 7.6%, depending on the operating margin the private company was seeking, the report's analysis states.

[Read the Chaffe report yourself here (part 1) and here (part 2).]

The leak to the Advocate has leant ammunition to critics of the administration's plan.

"Premiums will rise and coverages will lessen," state Sen. Butch Gautreaux (D) told TPM in an email. "The cost of doing business will rise by more than 10 per cent and profits will have to include corporate taxes and ROI [return on investment] to stockholders."

I have to admit I didn't even read Jan Moller's Happy Birthday card to Bobby Jindal last week. But thanks to Clay's heads-up reminder that we had already developed our own term for Moller's characteristic Jindal hagiography, I thought it might be worth a few minutes to see if the Molleresque was still a viable genre of newsprint.

Indeed it is. Because Moller is the T-P's heavy load reporter at the capitol, and because I find his twitter feed especially helpful and informative during the legislative session, I am mystified that he continues to write about Jindal with such unblinking sycophancy. My best guess is that it's easier for a political reporter to define "success" in terms of personal advancement rather than policy accomplishment. Moller spends a lot of time and text marveling at Jindal's rise going so far as to liken his career to that of a show business prodigy.

In music and the arts, it's common for participants to peak in their 20s and 30s. The same goes for athletes, who are typically finished, or on the sharp downslope of their careers, when they hit 40.

But politics operates on a distinctly different clock. Forty was when George W. Bush began his famous conversion from privileged party boy to the devout teetotaler who would become governor of Texas and serve two terms as president.

Ronald Reagan was still a Hollywood actor -- and a Democrat -- when he turned 40 in 1951. It would be 16 more years before he became governor of California and 30 years before he became president.

Jindal, by contrast, has been a high-level political operator since an age when most people are trying to find a career path.

We're all too aware that Jindal sees his career in these terms. It's been clear for some time that the Governor focuses far more intensely on advancement than he does on governing. In this sense Jindal and Moller are just on the same wavelength. Maybe they share the same astrological sign or something. Should we have gotten a birthday card for Moller too?

Would be a tragedy

We cannot let Zach Strief end his career as a Saint with zero touchdown receptions.

High Kabuki in Baton Rouge

T-P's Jan Moller tweets that the Legislature just failed to override Jindal's stupid veto of a 4 cent cigarette tax renewal. Oh well. It was a fun development to watch on Twitter, anyway. Given the lawmakers' tone, one might have thought they were discussing a regicide.

Apparently it was all too much for Juan LaFonta.
Rep La Fonta: I'm not coming back. It's hard to work here when it has become theater.

Yeah yeah I say something like that at least twice a week myself. This morning over here I watched a visiting zookeeper make an eight year old boy race with a chicken to see who could pick up a spilled cup of seeds the fastest. I think I would have preferred if they'd just staged an actual cockfight. Also moments ago, someone called to ask me where the nearest pay phone was located. Why would you... I mean... could you just make your call from wherever you... oh nevermind.

Anyway, somehow I think I'll make it through and so will Rep. LaFonta.

I'm not so sure we can say the same for Speaker Tucker, however. That guy sounds like he's been driven downright loopy by the day's excitement.
Tucker on #Jindal: "I believe in this man. I want him to be president. But he's wrong on this."


I'm flying out to California tomorrow. Can't say I'll be sorry to miss this while I'm gone.
A gaggle of White House hopefuls will descend on New Orleans during the next three days for the Republican Leadership Conference, where they will seek the favor of more than 2,000 party faithful eager to topple President Barack Obama in 2012.

The event, previously known as the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, has become one of the largest annual GOP gatherings nationally, and it promises to offer candidates -- announced and unannounced -- an opportunity to hammer the president, further establish their conservative bona fides and gain face time in front national reporters and grassroots party activists. The event includes a two-day straw poll of paid attendees, with the results announced Saturday.

Maybe someone will save me a coffee mug, or a teacup as the case may be.

Time to build

Mitch is right.

The only marginally cogent argument against this hospital project was its negative affect on people living in its footprint. That matter is now a fait accompli. I and others have been arguing that it always was anyway but, for a time, I could at least momentarily understand the point of view of people who were unable or unwilling to see past this issue to the next move. The trouble is, anyone with the slightest sense of how things work in this town, can't give these people the benefit of the doubt for long.

A key factor, if not the factor in New Orleans' decline relative to other American cities has been the smothering grip on progress exerted by its social and economic elites. Ever content to remain the richest club in a poor and shrinking city, New Orleans' socialites resist any and every effort to grow the economy. They dress this conservative agenda up as "preservation" but it's better described as ossification. What gets "preserved" are old buildings, staid pageantry, anything that might make easy packaging for a hotelier or a filmmaker to sell. This keeps the New Orleans brand out there and helps enlist the aid of your duller intellectuals and interloping Jazzfest fans who don't want their getaways to Culture Disney disrupted.

I hate to have to give this lecture over and over but, as the Mayor points out, on the few occasions when the preservation elite loses these fights, the city ends up winning big.

The project's naysayers offer a familiar refrain. There was opposition to the Superdome in the 1970s, the Convention Center in the 1980s and the Arena in the 1990s. The Dome was threatened with dozens of lawsuits and was called "the world's biggest pimple." The Arena was called a "gamble." But today those three visionary economic development projects provide this region with an annual economic impact upwards of $2.8 billion.

Quite simply, if done right, the UMC has the potential to be the largest, most catalytic economic development project in this city's history -- surpassing the Superdome and Convention Center -- and will place our city and state at the forefront of innovation and change in America.

We'll be watching the T-P idiot page this weekend for some smug asshole's rebuttal to Mitch's op-ed. Maybe David Simon will say something.


Math (or economic policy in this case) is hard. Better to pretend it's less relevant than "Coke or Pepsi?" than to actually explain anything. Besides, the notion that our press is failing our democracy by abdicating it's responsibility to inform people and that somebody should do something about that is sooo 2004.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wait. What?

Gambit: City made verbal offer to buy Le Petit Theatre for NORD programming
This afternoon, Ryan Berni, spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, wrote, "The administration was approached by members of the Board at some point. We were interested in the possibility of using Le Petit for NORDC [New Orleans Recreation Development Commission] programming and to create a theater center. We got to the point of making a verbal offer which was declined." Berni clarified soon after: "it was discussions with board members and not a formal presentation to the full board." Asked whether the "theater center" would have been a somehow reimagined Le Petit with the current board, and how much the city was willing to pay for the building, Berni declined comment.
No, really. How much was the city willing to pay for a "NORD theater center"? I mean how much was the city willing to pay to turn a building over to the "quasi-private" NORD board to manage, and where was that money going to come from?
NEW ORLEANS - The city of New Orleans may be forced to make new budget cuts as the administration identifies what sources say could be a $3.5 million shortfall in the current fiscal year.

Sources say that department heads at City Hall have been warned about the situation and have been told they should begin identifying possible cuts.

Did they also consider, perhaps, buying the Chevron building just for the hell of it?

The Wilhelm Schnitzel Fallacy

Actually I read this three times and I still don't know what it means.
If he can get the zoning changed, Stover’s adjusted plan calls for running a Japanese grocery store as well as a coffee shop in the building, which is owned by his boss at Hana’s. This entrepreneurial vision has its Facebook fans, but has not been met with smiles by neighborhood groups.

Curmudgeons, in Stover’s view, they oppose his plans not because they have anything against coffee – PJ’s coffee shop founder Phyllis Jordan stood up at the meeting to speak against Stover’s plan – but, typically, because they see spot zoning as a slippery slope.

You allow one variance and the next thing you know, everyone wants one.

That’s the thinking Stover tagged as the Wilhelm Schnitzel Fallacy, a reference esoteric enough to snap Planning Commission members out of their mid-afternoon reverie and start some meeting goers googling on their PDA’s.

To little avail. While the “content-free” Uncyclopedia contains a satirical reference to Wilhelm Schnitzel in a long burst of frat house humor involving Kaiser Wilhelm, the Fallacy goes unexplained.

Clearly, more serious detective work was in order.

Reached by phone, Stover offered no apologies and at least a partial explanation of Schnitzel’s Fallacy:

“I come from comedy and I wanted to make the point, so I just came up with an absurd name,” he said.

And the point, exactly? The fallacy? That spot zoning doesn’t have to open the door on a million similar requests, Stover explained.
If I understand even a little of this properly, and I'm not sure I do, the Wilhelm Schnitzel Fallacy can describe any theory the person citing it wants to claim is too stupid to merit an opposing argument. I actually like this tool and hope to apply it to all sorts of crap in the future. Take HBO's Treme, for instance. Please. (Ha! See what I did there?)

Anyway, the real reason I bring this up is I notice this proposed business is apparently some sort of Japanese-grocery-coffee shop. A few years back, we expressed our concern that every new business opening on Magazine Street appeared to be of either the coffee bar, gelateria, or sushi restaurant variety. It was only a matter of time before they began to merge. The only surprise is that it's happening on Carrollton. Of course Magazine is all about Pinkberry and Pilates these days so the trend is set anew.

Does Serpas know about this?

Apparently having smelled their fill of the greatness, the Saints have rolled out a new T-Shirt slogan.
Several #Saints players wearing black T-shirts that say "D.W.I. Lockout 2011." D.W.I. being a military term for Deal With It.

Mobilizing resources

If you're that worried about looting, you should make use of every tool at your disposal. Moseley suggests we use the BATmobile.
Either way, I think we need to get proactive in apprehending looters, instead of just waiting around for them to strike. That’s why, with hurricane season just two weeks old, I want to propose an innovative anti-looting strategy to the law enforcement entities throughout Greater New Orleans. We need plain-clothes officers stationed in waiting rooms, bars, and any other place where there’s a TV in public view. They need to bide their time until, say, Bob Breck comes on to do the weather report. When Breck reminds viewers that 2011 is expected to be a particularly busy hurricane season, these undercover anti-looting teams can scan the audience for anyone who stands up and cheers, “Oh, goody goody! Can’t wait to swipe all the free warm wine coolers after the hurricanes pass through!”

Then we must move swiftly to arrest these pernicious hurricane celebrants for conspiracy to loot, and any other applicable charge, and haul them to the slammer. Make the NOPD “Batmobile” dual-purpose, if need be. Just get these potential menaces off the streets before the storms come, rather than after. It’s a smart move. Zero tolerance for shoddy levees? How quaintly 2006. We have a higher priority: Zero tolerance for looting.

Okay maybe. But since we know the Batmobile can only accommodate a maximum of 5 detained drivers (the number one non-hurricane-related threat to society) maybe rounding up suspects isn't its most efficient application during a city-wide looting event. Instead, consider using its ample carrying capacity to deploy lightweight preventative resources... such as temporary bandit signs like this one, for example,

Recall Stacy Head!!!

only with "NO LOOTING, PLEASE" scrawled in colorful lettering.

Meanwhile, as far as the secondary concerns of storm season, like flooding and stuff, it looks like we've got that pretty well covered.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Krewe of Eris had it easy

All they had to deal with were 5th district New Orleans police. Other similar groups weren't so lucky. Obama sicked the freaking FBI on them.
CHICAGO — FBI agents took box after box of address books, family calendars, artwork and personal letters in their 10-hour raid in September of the century-old house shared by Stephanie Weiner and her husband.

The agents seemed keenly interested in Weiner’s home-based business, the Revolutionary Lemonade Stand, which sells silkscreened infant bodysuits and other clothes with socialist slogans, phrases like “Help Wanted: Revolutionaries.”

The search was part of a mysterious, ongoing nationwide terrorism investigation with an unusual target: prominent peace activists and politically active labor organizers.

The probe — involving subpoenas to 23 people and raids of seven homes last fall — has triggered a high-powered protest against the Department of Justice and, in the process, could create some political discomfort for President Obama with his union supporters as he gears up for his reelection campaign.

The apparent targets are concentrated in the Midwest, including Chicagoans who crossed paths with Obama when he was a young state senator and some who have been active in labor unions that supported his political rise.


The whole concept behind the UMC in the first place was finding a gimmick by which Tulane could force its way into the conversation.
The UMC Corp. was constituted last year, after a long tussle between LSU and Tulane, as a state-affiliated entity whose governing board includes four appointees from Jindal, four from LSU, one from Tulane and two from other schools. The board has management oversight of the hospital -- including determining the size, scope and design of the complex -- with the state responsible for construction.

Vitter characterized Jindal's letter to the board as a victory, though Jindal and Landrieu both said a three-campus model is inherently inefficient. Jindal said his administration's previous, informal conversations about Tulane becoming a more integrated UMC partner would involve closing its downtown hospital and moving its "intellectual capital, its physicians and its patient base" to the new complex. As it stands now, Tulane's primary interest in UMC is placing many of its residency slots there.

Details aside, the senator and the governor agreed on the broader purpose: confirming the UMC board as an independent entity.

"It's the governor making clear that (the board's) mandate isn't to be put into any box by LSU or anyone else," Vitter said.

Jindal added: "There has been a sense that LSU has been aggressively pushing its vision. ... The board shouldn't be limited by anything LSU has done. Their job is not just to kick the tires, but to be an independent body."

Way back at the beginning of this fiasco, we tried to tell the "preservationists" who were holding up the hospital project that all they were doing was Tulane's dirty work. Now, thanks to David Vitter and the NOLA "preservation" movement, they're getting what they want. Tulane gets a huge share of a pile of federal money they were in no way entitled to before this bullshit began and, of course, a larger share of a smaller hospital.

And that's the story of elite New Orleans in a nutshell. Big fish rule the small pond. Meanwhile the city's economy goes stagnant and the neighborhood remains flattened anyway as collateral damage. Maybe some of these big fish will be happy to buy up the cheap land too.

Jonathan Vilma vs Jonathan Vilma

Vilma good:
I’d say the Saints came out on top in this one as Vilma has led the team in tackles the three seasons he has been in New Orleans and he is easily the leader of the defense, making the calls on the field and running the show.

Well, NFL Network seems to back up this sentiment. He’s ranked No. 37 on their top 100 players of 2011 list. Quarterback Drew Brees waxes poetic about his defensive counterpart in this three-plus minute video.

Vilma bad:
As 4-3 middle linebackers go, Vilma is undersized and has never excelled taking on bigger blockers in the run game, shedding quickly and making the play. He needs to be protected and then can use his excellent vision, anticipation skills, knowledge of the game and speed to get to the ball carrier. New Orleans didn't protect Vilma well enough in 2010, and I also am starting to think that Vilma's speed, quickness and pursuit skills could be in slight decline. He just was not a very good run defender last season. As 4-3 middle linebackers go, I now see Vilma as just a middle-of-the-pack starter.

What shocked me most was that Vilma was not much of a force versus the pass. His coverage skills were just middling, and he was too often beaten. If this continues, New Orleans might have to consider taking him off the field in clear throwing situations.

Of course, unless the lockout ends, this is the closest thing to a pro football contest we're going to see for a while.

Secret keeping

Well, for one thing, it's a press release. Which is, you know, a conduit through which you would like the information you place there to become public and widely distributed. So you can see how that might happen once you... oh nevermind.
Of course, it’s not unusual for politicians to tussle with journalists who cover them. The candid correspondence of many officeholders is likely filled with similar invective toward the press.

But Palin’s emails show that she also was conscious of what was being written about her in new media platforms such as blogs.

In a January 2008 exchange with some of her aides, she fretted about an anonymous blogger who seemed to have access to her administration’s press releases and was using them to criticize her policies.

“Makes me sick to my stomach,” Palin wrote. “How would this blogger have received the emailed presser unless he’s a valid media person (and why would a legit media person bother to be a regular blogger?), or one of our folks sent it to him?”

Palin aide Frank Bailey informed her that it would be easy for a “mole” to get on her press release distribution list. “They probably just emailed and asked to get on it,” Bailey wrote. (It’s not clear from the emails if the Administration ever learned the blogger’s identity.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

W.I.N. buttons for the 21st century

The President wastes everybody's time and money imagining.. wastes of time and money and smiting them.

Meanwhile during tonight's Republican debate all of the candidates spoke gleefully about Paul Ryan's plan to eliminate "waste" by killing Medicare.

We are so screwed.

NORM is the norm in Louisiana waters

There are three basic classes of pollutants in the waste stream: benzene elements, heavy metals, and NORM (Normally Occurring Radioactive Material). The benzene properties tend to stay on the ocean's surface and are burned off by sunlight but the heavy metals and NORM "fall out" over large areas around the rigs where they are consumed by benthic (bottom feeders) organisms and work their way back up through the food chain. Eventually the toxins enter the human food chain through seafood consumption.

Mercury, thallium, lead, arsenic, are just some of the heavy metals in produced water but the real danger comes from NORM, radium-236 and radium-238. The sheer amount of NORM pumped into the Gulf from produced waters since off shore drilling began is mind boggling. In fact, all we can do is estimate because the EPA or LDEQ (Louisiana Dept. of Environmental Quality) has not done a comprehensive study on the effects of produced waters in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2003, the EPA was supposed to have conducted a comprehensive EIS (Environmental Impact Study) on the effects of the produced water discharge in the Gulf of Mexico but the EIS was never executed (under W. Bush admin.) and the permitting process was turned over to the LDEQ. The LDEQ then eased the restrictions on rig owners allowing them to actually increase the amount of produced water they were discharging into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
More here, including a video interview I can't view at the moment.

Nomadic coffee

Rue de La Course had already hopped across Magazine to its current location a few years ago.* Now its owners want to put their restaurant there instead. Is the coffee shop moving, or just closing? Does this mean Magazine Street has finally passed peak coffee?

*Yes, I think of Rue's pre-Katrina move from what is now the Rum House as "a few years ago" Yes, I'm getting old.

Hospital Redux

See Pat's timeline. Yep. That's pretty much what just happened. As I tried to say the other day, Step 10 on Pat's list

Step 10: Have state and federal officials representing competing intereststs attempt to derail the project at the last minute under the name of hostage taking fiscal conservatism

always seemed inevitable to me which was why the various "Save Charity" preservation efforts were always either intentionally or accidentally working to enable it.

Danger: Exploding Bananas

Bananas Foster explodes, injuring four

Self-referential blog moment: This is very different from Exploding Pie.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Refreshing honesty

One thing Chalmette has that our New Orleans elites lack.
Here's hoping we can all agree that "racist" is the only appropriate label for the person who spray painted "NO NIGGERS" at a Chalmette construction site for affordable apartments. Ditto for the man who called Provident Realty Advisors' Dallas headquarters and left a voice mail begging the developer to reconsider its plan to "build a nigger project in St. Bernard Parish."

Jarvis goes on to describe the disingenuous alternative approach to opposing the apartments which he implies is the more mainstream tack in the Parish although I'm not so sure about that.
Whenever I've engaged with such people, I've found myself wondering if they've invested as much time and energy opposing the racists they say live among them as they have opposing the construction of these apartments. Or is it that they are more comfortable living among racists than they would be living near apartments for the working poor?
This "I'm not racist but.." hostility to affordable housing is the more common flavor over in Orleans where we're all a bit more sophisticated if not quite so honest.

Governing is boring anyway

Grace's only mistake here is writing a column about Jindal's moribund legislative agenda under the conceit that he actually cares what happens to it. As long as he stays on the national fundraising circuit, life is good.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Going for the record

If you're wondering if the Louisiana legislature has room to squeeze in one last crazy order of business before the session ends, you won't be disappointed.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen...

I'm hearing that next on the NATO recalcitrant dictator removal list is St. Aug. All the elements are there. Just one more power mad president defiantly holding on to power in defense of a system of governance based upon gross violations of human rights. When do we begin the air strikes?

Oh wait. I'm told there are no significant petroleum reserves sitting beneath the 7th Ward. So.. nevermind, then.

Vitter-Tucker-Kennedy-Tulane-Oschner Hospital

This was pretty much the plan from the start. Elites get what they want. Neighborhood gets flattened regardless but now with the added benefit of having nothing of value added to the city's health care infrastructure and, of course, far far fewer jobs. Way to go, guys!

My father just screamed at me about this this afternoon because he's somehow decided it's my fault. So I feel compelled to point out that I've been hinting for quite some time that the misguided "preservation" efforts were really all about protecting David Vitter's friends all along. It's not my fault people would rather listen to idiots like Tom Piazza.

Well somebody has to teach Cam Newton how to throw professional interceptions

Panthers center Ryan Kaliwants Jake Delhomme to touch his butt again.

A job for Geraldo?

Mysterious safe found abandoned in Arabi, with receipts dating to just before Hurricane Katrina
The safe was retrieved by deputies and opened by a representative of the company that manufactured the safe. There was no money inside, but the contents included a couple of bank bags with thousands of dollars of cash register receipts. Investigators were not able to determine what business the receipts were from or why the safe was dumped behind a business on Aycock Street off St. Claude Avenue near the Orleans Parish line.

The last entry on the receipts was dated Aug. 26, 2005, three days before Hurricane Katrina struck.

“It’s a heavy safe and someone went to a lot of effort to get rid of it, and the question is why,’’ Chief Deputy Sheriff James Pohlmann said. “It’s also interesting the receipts end just before the hurricane, but the safe is dumped almost six years later.’’

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bandit signs

Fridays are always so lame. Not much going on so I'll be spending what's left of the morning making up a few "bandit signs" to put out later this afternoon. And then... panhandling.

Actually, so-called "bandit signs" are part of what makes New Orleans great. See below for a collection of favorites from over the years.

Stop! Horrifying alarm will sound Dog's eye level sign I-Witness Story Le Krewe d'Etat signs Vote Nagin Yellow/Green Pick Up After Your Dog Ray's Boom Boom Room Wanted Sign Quentin Brown Bad stats Banner Thank You Cao Scoop the Poop Your (sic) on Candid Camera Coldest Beer in the World Prohibited activity Uptown Smokes barker Cats are people too The French Quarter is a Neighborhood Welcome to Brees Circle

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Corporate gated charter school bill is still alive

LA Senate just moved it out of committee.

In my imagination they crashed their "BAT mobile" right through the door

New Orleans police arrest 43 in bar raid
According to a news release, police from several agencies hit the Sports View Lounge, 1708 Elysian Fields Ave., at 10:45 p.m. Wednesday and finished up six hours later. A large contingent of officers locked the doors, apparently searching everyone before letting them leave or putting them in a paddy wagon.

Forty-three of the bar's customers were arrested on charges ranging from probation violation to traffic warrants.

Serpas. Cleaning the streets one traffic violation and/or minor drug possession charge at a time.

Dickie's Dinner Theater

Le Petit sale to Dickie Brennan moves forward.

Worley said Le Petit, the oldest surviving community theater in the U.S., needs more than $1 million in repairs and carries a $700,000 mortgage. The sale of some of the property will help retire that debt, Worley said, while leaving the 365-seat mainstage theater for future productions. A restaurant would be built on the Chartres Street side of the building (eliminating the smaller second stage), and the two operations would share lobby space and the famous courtyard in the center of the theater.

Much hell to break loose in the coming months. And probably drama too, although not the sort that Le Petit patrons are usually up for. Also please read through that Gambit post for a satisfying punchline.

Uh oh

Newt Gingrich 2012 Senior Campaign Aides Resign En Masse: AP Sources

If it involves Twit pics I do NOT want to see them.

Adding: Maybe they thought they'd have a better shot with Buddy Roemer.

Can't anybody here run this scam properly?

In comments to a post below, Beth points us to more TPM coverage of the Jindal administration's quest to privatize the Louisiana Office of Group Benefits. The move is widely thought to be a raid on OGB's budget surplus which would likely result in higher premiums and reduced benefits for state employees.

In April, Jindal fired the office's director Tommy Teague for not going along with the privatization scheme and replaced him with Scott Kipper. On Monday, Kipper announced his resignation which TPM implies was probably related to his embarrassing testimony before a State Senate committee regarding a consultant's report critical of the plan.
Early in the hearing, State Sen. Edwin R. Murray (D) wanted to know if Kipper had seen the report, but had a hard time getting Kipper to even acknowledge that a report exists.

"Senator Murray, I have not seen that report," Kipper said at one point. "I have not seen that report."

"So it does exist?" Murray asked.

"I have no knowledge that it exists--" Kipper responded.

A little later on, when the existence of the report had been firmed up, Murray wanted to know, more specifically, if Kipper himself had asked to see the report. Kipper said that he had not, because he does not want his "judgment jaded" by the report while he evaluates bids currently coming in from financial advisers that want to help the state with OGB's privatization.

"The report might tell you there's no need to privatize it," Murray said.

"That might be the case," Kipper admitted.

Help Wanted: New CEO of Louisiana Office of Group Benefits. Seeking a team player with communications skills applicable to fact-deficient environment.

UNO move to UL system approved

Most of the UNO backers I hear from sound pretty positive about this but I'd like to know more. Is there any way UNO could be hurt by moving out of the LSU system?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The shocking reveal

That Medicaid claims contractor the Jindal administration was keeping secret turns out to be CNSI. CNSI turns out to be where Jindal's Secretary of Health and Hospitals used to work.

Click here for a super fun Times Picayune editorial cartoon from 2007 which implied the extremely ethicsy Jindal was poised to slay dragon of corruption.

Sifting though the pieces of the broken prize

The key to getting ahead in the 21st century is to just follow the horror. We may or may not have already passed Peak Oil but there's certainly no shortage of massive disasters waiting to be exploited by the enterprising self-starter. Everywhere you look during these uncertain times, if there are people suffering, there is also money to be made in bullshitting about or just near that suffering.

Wait. All those links I put in the last sentence and I still need this one in order to fit in an Ed Blakely reference. I like this one.

Anyway, if Blakely taught us anything, it's that disaster bullshitting doesn't have to be a one shot get rich quick scheme. If you've got real talent (and just enough chutzpah) you should be able to stretch the thing into a sustained career. This guy, for instance, appears to have been at it for some thirty years now.

Since 1996, courts in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Florida have issued at least 16 judgments against him or his now defunct company, Equity International. They total more than $210,000 and include unpaid bills as large as $16,000 to a hotel in Washington. Nearly half of that debt, $100,000, is owed by Loiry personally to the Internal Revenue Service for unpaid income taxes.

Complaints about Loiry’s business practices have followed him in the three decades since he left his family’s Florida book-publishing business for a career in disaster-zone event production that has taken him from post-war Bosnia to hurricane-devastated Central America to Iraq to Afghanistan.

Most recently, he has been focusing his energies on New Orleans, where, on the first anniversary of the BP oil spill, he held the Gulf Coast Leadership Summit.

Obviously, it's also a great way to see the world, not unlike the way we used to think of military service or maybe a stint in the peace corps. Except without all that icky pretense of altruistic duty and, of course, with a much bigger payoff.

The only thing I can think of that would be better than this is if we eventually move into an industry of bullshitting about bullshitting where guys like Loiry and Blakely start putting out self-help books and DVDs explaining how to get rich doing what they do. Like The Secret but with death and destruction everywhere. Somebody want to help me make a catchy title out of that? Anybody?

Update: Does anybody else remember the surreal moment when Ethan Brown interviewed Ray Nagin for Details magazine?
The writer Naomi Klein, in her book The Shock Doctrine, describes actions like those as “disaster capitalism”: profiteering and privatization in the wake of shocks such as 9/11 or Katrina. So when I spot Alan Greenspan’s memoir, The Age of Turbulence, on Nagin’s desk and ask him about it, I’m surprised to learn that he’s not reading it but The Shock Doctrine, which he pulls from his briefcase.

“I understand exactly the premise that they’re presenting,” Nagin says, holding the book aloft, “that’s for sure. Look, man, after this disaster there is big money! The shock-and-awe piece of what they’re talking about is absolutely correct.” I ask if he’s read the chapter in which Klein laments that the public sphere in New Orleans is “being erased, with the storm used as the excuse.” Nagin replies cheerily, “I haven’t gotten that far! I just picked it up.”
Really was using it as a how-to manual.

Wandering crude

Maybe we're thinking about this the wrong way. Why not start selling the recurring oil slick as a tourist attraction? It's a natural phenomenon that adventure seekers will flock to see. Like the Northern Lights or Old Faithful or Chernobyl.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Not even gonna dignify this with a joke

In which Ray Nagin rails against the scourge of disaster capitalism.

Zombie toxic trailers

Years after FEMA moved Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims out of formaldehyde and mold-infested trailers, the very same government-issue dwellings are once again sheltering disaster victims.

Bought at government auctions or from entrepreneurs reselling them, the trailers are appearing in increasing number along the path of the tornados that ravaged Alabama and other parts of the South last month. Jacked up on cinderblocks above severed tree limbs and piles of trash, the trailers cut a lean white silhouette eerily familiar to anyone who spent time in the Gulf Coast region in the past five and half years.

For many Katrina survivors, the sight of the trailers triggers memories of mysterious rashes, burning eyes and chronic breathing problems linked to the formaldehyde the trailers emit. Yet in Alabama, not even a federal ban on residential use of the trailers can curb the market for these low-cost housing units.

Hey has anyone checked the BATmobile for this stuff?

"Minimal to no handling"

Fine to eat, though, we're sure.
My guess is that NOAA and the FDA will ultimately confirm that there are sick, contaminated fish all over the northeastern quadrant of the Gulf of Mexico. This is a serious issue that has obvious implications for seafood safety as well as for the overall post-spill health of the Gulf. A highly contaminated link in the food chain can wreak havoc on the rest of the ecosystem.

If the government finally comes around to addressing these marine life issues head-on, before this is all through, we could very well see the re-closing of waters once deemed “all clear” for fishing. Stay tuned…

via AZ

Governing is boring anyway

Jindal's legislative agenda continues to fail spectacularly. And yet one gets the impression that the Governor couldn't care less. I know the privatization initiatives probably stung from a patronage perspective but, politically, the only serious potential embarrassment would come if he actually has to choose whether or not to veto a repeal of the state income tax. I doubt we'll see that happen, but it's been a crazy session.

Everything worth saying about the Weiner event

Greenwald says here.
What makes the Anthony Weiner story somewhat unique and thus worth discussing for a moment is that, as Hendrick Hertzberg points out, the pretense of substantive relevance (which, lame though it was in prior scandals, was at least maintained) has been more or less brazenly dispensed with here. This isn't a case of illegal sex activity or gross hypocrisy (i.e., David Vitter, Larry Craig, Mark Foley (who built their careers on Family Values) or Eliot Spitzer (who viciously prosecuted trivial prostitution cases)). There's no lying under oath (Clinton) or allegedly illegal payments (Ensign, Edwards). From what is known, none of the women claim harassment and Weiner didn't even have actual sex with any of them. This is just pure mucking around in the private, consensual, unquestionably legal private sexual affairs of someone for partisan gain, voyeuristic fun and the soothing fulfillment of judgmental condemnation. And in that regard, it sets a new standard: the private sexual activities of public figures -- down to the most intimate details -- are now inherently newsworthy, without the need for any pretense of other relevance.
It might be different if, as Greenwald goes on to say, the same journalistic culture that gleefully rips into a spectacle like this were just as vicious when taking apart government officials who lie about torture or wiretapping or the size of an oil spill, maybe. But in such matters, for some reason, the standard approach calls for deference and discretion.

Update: Maitri also says this quite well.

This is interesting. The dirty trick that launched Anthony Weiner's career

: Obviously the title of this post is completely off-base by the third update but anyway here's Matt Taibbi's take. Again, Anthony Weiner looks to be one serious asshole as a person. But that's what anyone should expect of these people who presume that they deserve leadership positions.

Prison privatization fails

Well at least that worked out okay. Barely.

Meanwhile, if a Governor gets the crap beat out of him during a legislative session and there's no one around to run against him, does it make a sound?

Monday, June 06, 2011

I wonder where the LFF stood on this

Gambit's Tweeter Tube is reporting the the LA house just approved a proposal to erect a 10 Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds. The vote was 91-0.

Family Fun

David Vitter's campaign fund shovels money to the Louisiana Family Forum.

Not sure if those are the tax-deductible donations to the 501C3 half of LFF or just directly to its 501C4 lobbying arm. Anyway it doesn't matter since the money all goes to the same place... and in the case of the Vitter campaign, probably comes right back too.

This investigation continues

Here's where I think it gets interesting.
The rumor about town is that Flanagan's legal fees were actually paid for by Dell and I will address that issue in a subsequent post on Humid Beings. It's apt because Sir Flanagan invoked Dell right out of the gate. He tried to convince the jury that St. Pierre couldn't have been doing anything all that illegal if he was working with this fine, upstanding, national mega-corp., Dell Computers. He also noted that the business practices which Dell conducts in the state of Louisiana, with Veracent as a sub, were a "standard way of doing business" in any state.

This was in reference to the loop Veracent/St. Pierre had created where they would build the cameras, ship them to Dell and Dell would in turn sell them back to the Louisiana municipalities through their state contractor's license.

Flanagan's claim that this process is standard for Dell is absolutely, positively, not-fucking-true. I will merely invoke the name Kim Fury Jennings and let you dig back in the catacombs of AZ. More will come in the HB post.

Much more here. And I assume more forthcoming at Humid Beings.

Eventually this could end up being all about Dell, and not just in regard to dealings in New Orleans.

Shadow government

The firm Jindal has chosen to manage all Medicaid claims in the state is available to us on a need-to-know basis.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Louisiana's top health agency is not disclosing the name of the firm it selected to get the most lucrative contract in state government.

The Advocate reports state Department of Health and Hospitals lawyers said state law prohibits the agency from releasing the firm's name until the Louisiana Legislature's health committees hold hearings on the contract award.

Ensuring the cameras will stay

I'm totally fine with vandalizing the red light cameras. I'm less fine with relying on the self-proclaimed "anarchists" to do it for us and thus diminishing the act's credibility as valid protest.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Let me guess

Stacy doesn't like it when anybody picks on Ron Forman.

Coming up on one whole year

We first photographed the corner sinkhole in mid-July last year.

Hole in the road

Since then, it has developed more fully.

Sinkhole May 16

And, as you can see from the above photo, it has become an attractive receptacle for neighborhood refuse.

Also discarded furniture.

Pothole cover

And sometimes other stuff.

Sinkhole avec cart

Yesterday afternoon I had a few minutes and some sidewalk chalk. I figure if passing vehicles are going to toss trash into the hole as they round the corner, they might as well be given a chance to score points in the process. Made goals from behind wider arcs bring higher scores.

Sinkhole target game

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Duck Hunter

From today's T-P
Neither Pierson nor federal prosecutors identified the landfill owner who paid off Mouton, and court records mention only "co-conspirator A." But other public documents suggest it is Fred Heebe or his stepfather, Jim Ward, owners of the River Birch landfill in Waggaman. Neither has been charged with a crime.

In court records, Mouton said he met co-conspirator A in 1996 during an overnight duck-hunting fundraiser "for a former Louisiana governor." That was the year Mike Foster, elected in 1995, succeeded Edwin Edwards as governor.

"Shortly thereafter, co-conspirator A contacted Mouton and offered to pay Mouton $2,000 a month and, in exchange, Mouton agreed to provide co-conspirator A with insider political information and access to the governor," the court records say.

Mouton didn't register as a lobbyist for his co-conspirator, however.
For what it's worth, most of us would need only the words highlighted in red to identify the former governor in question. There were times during the Foster administration when it was widely assumed that duck hunting was the governor's primary occupation. Buddy Diliberto, who was miffed at Foster's lack of attentiveness to the then very serious question of keeping the Saints in New Orleans, had taken to referring to him as "The Duck Hunter" derisively on the air.

Moments ago I thought I was at the end of my rope

But then I see stuff like this and realize I've got a ways to go still.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Pass the popcorn

Somehow I missed the Fradella story.

Go see AZ for the roundup.

Happy Hurricane Season (again)

Remember, the city's new flood protection system is still behind its completion deadline and woefully below what should be considered a reliable safety standard.
The corps did a good job building metro New Orleans' new hurricane protection system. It will work as designed. But 100-year protection for a major city is the lowest standard of protection in the developed world. The Dutch and Japanese protect urban areas against a so-called 10,000-year flood. So our 100-year protection is not exactly something to brag about.

Also remember that nobody knows exactly how we'll be paying to maintain that minimal protection in the years to come.

But operation of three big-ticket pieces of the levee system -- the Lake Borgne surge barrier and its two navigation gates; the Seabrook surge and navigation gate at the Lake Pontchartrain entrance to the Industrial Canal; and the West Closure Complex navigation gate and pumping station on the West Bank -- would represent the greatest share of the annual expenses for the local levee districts.

The corps contends that the congressional legislation authorizing the levee improvements requires the non-federal sponsors to pay for their operation, and recognizes the obstacle that entails.

"They're staring at billions of dollars that they're going to have to pay for in the near future," said Col. Ed Fleming, commander of the corps' New Orleans District office. In addition to operation, upkeep and a share of levee construction costs, the state also must pitch in for a variety of coastal restoration projects that will protect the new system, he said.

Local officials say there's a limit to the amount of additional tax dollars they'll be able to pry loose from residents still burdened with their own Katrina recovery costs.

Undoubtedly we're looking at more "austerity" coming at us. The T-P buries the lede in this story which identifies the Mayor's clear intention to place the burden of the city's budget problems squarely on the backs of rank and file employees.

And that would be perfectly in keeping with the inexorable post-Katrina NOLA renewal pattern. Everything from the way to school system is managed, to the way neighborhoods are allowed to develop, to the way city services are allocated is... scripted even... for the benefit of political elites, "private partners", and, of course, film crews. If you aren't in any of those ascendant cliques, you basically aren't wanted here anymore. Please do not bother applying for your reentry placard.

Not that these trends weren't already in place before the flooding, but by and large the flooding and "recovery" has been all about accelerating and institutionalizing those trends. And the current administration differs from its predecessor only in its greater competence and efficiency at facilitating the process.