Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"I didn't apologize!"


Quotes of the Day

Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson addresses a community budget hearing:
Clarkson, addressing the sanctuary, swore she would “never do anything to offend you.” She had “opened a business out here in the ’70s,” she said. And she recalled telling international television viewers after Katrina that the East should not be turned to green space, she said, offhandedly mentioning that she had been living in Algiers. A few voices started rising at this point, and the conciliation vanished from Clarkson’s tone. “Excuse me, excuse me – no, I’m going to finish,” Clarkson said. “I’ve never been treated like this in my lifetime and I won’t have it.”

Defending her record, Clarkson said she visits eastern New Orleans whenever she’s invited or something important happens. “I don’t know what else I can do to say how much I care about you,” she said.

Clarkson’s comments about yesteryear referred to her childhood, she explained, and she “had a very happy childhood, I’m not apologizing for that,” even though no one was asking her to apologize for her childhood. Clarkson continued, explaining how her father’s best friend was Morris Jeff Sr., a “black Ph.D. who I adored,” Clarkson said. This resulted in groans.

“Please don’t be so rude,” Clarkson pleaded, before continuing with her memories.

She concluded by apologizing for offending people and, in the same breath, added that she “didn’t appreciate the treatment.”

On a similar note, King Henry VIII of England addresses petitioners during the "Pilgrimage of Grace" uprising.

How presumptuous then are ye, the rude commons of one shire. . .to find fault with your Prince. . . . Wherefore, Sirs, remember your follies and traitorous demeanours, and shame not your undoubted King and natural Prince. . . ; and remember your duty of allegiance, and that ye are bound to obey us, your King, both by God's commandment and law of nature. . . . Withdraw yourselves to your own houses, every man; and no more assemble, contrary to our laws and your allegiances; and to cause the provokers of you to this mischief to be delivered to our Lieutenant's hand, or ours, and you yourselves to submit you to such condigne punishment, as we and our nobles shall think you worthy. For doubt ye not else, that we, and our nobles, unrevenged. . .thus we pray unto Almighty God to give you grace to do your duties, and to use yourselves towards us like true and faithful subjects. . .or put yourselves, your lives and wives, children, lands, goods and chattels, besides the indignation of God, in the utter adventure of total destruction and utter ruin by force and violence of the sword

What do these leaders have in common? Well, for one thing, I think we all agree neither should ever be given command of a helicopter.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Everywhere with Helicopter

Cue Ride of the Valkyries or something.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Tuesday that four helicopters will begin attacking a marsh fire in eastern New Orleans today by dropping baskets of water on the smoldering acreage. Landrieu said another five helicopters are expected to join the firefight on Wednesday.

The UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters are equipped with Bambi buckets and will start dropping water at a site about 500 yards from the main fire, according to the mayor and the National Guard.

The chopper attack is a reversal from what we've been hearing since late Sunday when people in the city first started to notice the smoke.

The decision to dump water from the air came less than 24 hours after Landrieu and his top aides insisted that such a response wouldn't extinguish the fire any more quickly than simply letting it burn itself out, an eventuality officials predicted would take no longer than three days.

Fire Superintendent Charles Parent during a Monday afternoon news conference said, "After consulting with our partners on the state and federal level, we feel that a water drop would probably be ineffective at this time because of the large size of the fire."

But criticism of the official response has mounted, particularly when it comes to Landrieu, who is slated to host a long-planned community meeting this evening in eastern New Orleans.

The criticism began mounting today when "Disaster consultant" Ray Nagin sent out a tweet.

Come on leaders

And since, as we all have learned, irrelevant people snarking on Twitter is never ever something we should blow off or take lightly*, things quickly spiraled out of control. People began sharing playlists, taking photographs, joking about nutria, until finally when the first fake "Marsh Fire" twitter account appeared, it was time to take action.

Unsurprisingly, the call to action came in the form of a tweet from Jackie Clarkson.


Holy fucking shit! Jackie Clarkson, the same Jackie Clarkson who declared war on barges during the spring flooding of the Mississippi River, is once again ready to mobilize.

So to re-cap, today will be remembered as the day that Jackie Clarkson ordered a helicopter assault on a marsh fire because Ray Nagin tweeted that she should. I know I'm inspired. I wonder if they'll call the Copter Man.

*Nugget, bitches! You know who you are

Deadly Indifference

Former FEMA stooge and hypocritical disaster book author Michael Brown endorses plan to hold Hurricane Irene aid hostage to yet another round of GOP spending cuts.

Asphyxiated Circle

I was downtown this morning for a mandatory long term disability insurance consultation. I thought it was pretty clever of them to schedule it during a city-wide public health hazard.
NEW ORLEANS -- Thick smoke continued blanketing parts of the metro area, as a massive marsh fire kept burning in eastern New Orleans.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu said that the fire is now over twice the size of City Park's 1,300 acres. Landrieu made the comment after finishing a morning flyover of the fire Tuesday.
City Park is pretty big. But if Nagin had done this flyover he would have told us the plume was bigger than the Gulf of Mexico. Not that it would have made any difference. I still had to go to this insurance thing anyway. The good news is, I was pretty sure the meter maids weren't out so I didn't bother paying to park. Also the heavy smoke masked the usual urine stench I'm accustomed to when passing by the dumpsters on Girod Street. Oh and I snapped a few pictures of the nastiness.

City Hall
City Hall Smoke

Tulane and Elk Place
Elk Place

Lee Circle
Lee Circle smoke

Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 Ashley Award Presentation

Congratulations, once again, to G-Bitch.

Rising Tide 6 - Ashley Award Presentation - Dedra Johnson, G-Bitch from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

Nobody mentioned this over the weekend, but I have a vague recollection that G-Bitch actually coined the phrase "Federal Flood." Anybody out there want to confirm or deny that?

Update: Okay so the "Federal Flood" coinage is still a mystery. But a least I now remember where I first saw it discussed as being associated with G-Bitch.

The club is open

I know it seems lazy to recycle an old post. In fact, Oyster has gifted us with the colorful though probably accurate term "masturblogging" for the practice of referring to and over-quoting oneself but on this 8/29 I find that I'm in much the same frame of mind I was in during the last one when I wrote what I've reproduced below. And anyway it's not bad shit, for me anyway.
So maybe holiday still isn't the word to describe what happens during the days surrounding 8/29. Maybe not yet. On the other hand, for five years now, it has been a time for city-wide recognition of the most significant historic event of our lifetimes. It has become a time most New Orleanians are becoming accustomed to marking with reflection, family, service, and, yes increasingly, celebration. I expect that, as years pass, the celebratory nature of the event will continue to grow. August 29 is and will continue to be a time to remember tragedy but also to count blessings, reconnect with family and neighbors, and, if the previous five years are any indication, engage in civic dialog and service in remembrance of an event that reminded us how important our community is to us. At times during the week of innumerable gatherings, parties, symposiums, parades, concerts, readings, and so forth that sprung up around 8/29, I found myself referring to it as "Bizzaro Mardi Gras" in conversation. But I'm beginning to see it as a kind of Thanksgiving.

And then the post went on into the gritty details of re-capping RT5 but I came back to this point about the holiday here.

It is often said that there are four seasons in New Orleans and that those seasons are Carnival, Festival, Hurricane, and Football. Isn't it only fitting, then, that this newest holiday on the NOLA calendar sits almost exactly on the emotional cusp of two of those seasons? This line of demarcation between segments of the year also marks the end and beginning of yet another year since the disaster. Falling as near as it does to Rosh Hashana, it's tempting to think of 8/29 as the NOLA New Year.

For a multitude of reasons, I am ready for this New Year to begin. The year that just passed has been extremely difficult for me both in regard to my own personal life and to my hopes for the world in which I live it. But after this weekend's again cathartic and inspiring experience of seeing another Rising Tide come off so beautifully and in such excess of expectation, I can't help but feel re-energized and ready to start again.

I can't say enough about how much it means for me to play the small role I play in putting that event together each year. A healthy community, and a healthy democracy depend upon an informed, literate, and engaged citizenry. I sincerely hope that each Rising Tide inches our community at least a little bit in that direction.

Because I have a special talent for setting a low bar for myself, I've thus far managed to slide through each new year without worrying over lofty goals unmet and resolutions not kept. And as proud as I am of all that I would like to risk it a bit by beginning this new year resolved, above all else, to be a better friend to the people I've spent time sweating, fretting, and bleeding with over the past year trying to make shit happen. Seriously. Call me.

Beyond that, I wish everyone the best in what is sure to be another trying, at times frustrating, but certainly never dull year in New Orleans. Do not fret. The bus will get you there yet. Yada yada. Happy New Year.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Had a great Rising Tide yesterday. As a host and organizer of the conference, I probably shouldn't have muttered that line about how "now we get to talk about something interesting" just as I was introducing the panel that followed the afternoon keynote. While I'm grateful to David Simon for agreeing to appear at the conference, I thought his talk was a little awkward and frankly just wrong in certain ways I'll discuss once I get a chance to review the video. But I should say I was disappointed. I've seen Simon do better than what he showed us. So I didn't feel so bad about stealing his name tag. I wore it while I was dissing him on stage.

Simon tag

Otherwise the program was spectacular. Here's the incomplete re-cap gathered from a bleary eyed review of my Tweeter Tube.
  • Richard Campanella's morning keynote was a perfect place to begin a day long discussion of issues vital to the future of New Orleans. I was most interested in his emphasis on the point that neighborhood geography is best defined by the varied and mutable experiences of the people who live in the neighborhoods and not the rigid result of lines set down on a map by realtors or planners. Also while Campanella is talking, it's fun to play Twitter bingo waiting for certain multisyllabic terms to come up. "Antecedent cadasters" got thrown around a few times. As did "vestigial toponym" Good times.

  • Jordan Flaherty appeared on the Social Media Social Justice panel with two other men and one woman. Their discussion was led by an African American woman. He complained that the conference was too white and male anyway, though. I'm guessing because that's just in his playbook.

  • The oil spill panelists compared deepwater drilling to "prostate surgery", Mary Landrieu to a stand-up comic, and re-conceptualized a metaphor about Big Oil "raping" Louisiana as being "more like consensual sex." Great live-blogging of this panel at Noladishu.

  • Food panel. We may have come upon a scoop with the news that MVBurger is considering a comeback as a cookbook-themed pop-up restaurant. (Pop-up book?)Gambit editor Kevin Allman tweeted that Chef Chirs Debarr is "the bona fide version of what Anthony Bourdain is sold to be." I agree. Debarr is a rock star. The panelists were all very glib and informative. I nominally served as this group's "moderator" but the best move in this case was just to let them talk. So good. Much more on this when the video is up.

  • Brass Band panel. OK I was drunk but I do remember the term "Carverizing" as well as "What do you call a musician with no girlfriend? Homeless."

Congratulations to G-Bitch winner of this year's Ashley Morris award. If you're at all concerned about the ongoing effort to privatize and segregate public education in New Orleans you should be reading her.

And that's all I got tonight while I'm trying to watch this fake football game. I'll have more later but for now Imma hang up and listen.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jiggle the antenna

If, for whatever reason, you can't make it to tomorrow's Rising Tide conference you can still check out the proceedings via the big TV here. If it doesn't work at first, try putting some foil on the rabbit ears or standing on the other side of the living room or something.

BP's paternity test

Who's your daddy, oil?
The Press-Register collected samples of the oil about a mile from the well site on Tuesday and provided them to Ed Overton and Scott Miles, chemists with Louisiana State University.

The pair did much of the chemical work used by federal officials to fingerprint the BP oil, known as MC252.

“After examining the data, I think it’s a dead ringer for the MC252 oil, as good a match as I’ve seen,” Overton wrote in an email to the newspaper. “My guess is that it is probably coming from the broken riser pipe or sunken platform. ... However, it should be confirmed, just to make sure there is no leak from the plugged well.”

Oh boy. The good news is it's likely just leaking out of the platform instead of gushing from the earth this time. The bad news is, the good news has consistently been too good to be true where BP has been involved.

EWE Lombardi Gras keeps rolling along

Actually this is pretty shrewd. By talking about how he would run if only someone would let him, Edwards can take shots at Jindal without being a drag on any potential real life challengers... should anything like a real life challenger happen to emerge. In the absence of serious oppostion, Edwards' theater of the absurd tour is the highest profile vector through which Jindal's record can be attacked right now.
"The finances of the state are in a horrible mess," Edwards said. "We are $500 million in debt that somebody needs to be addressing in the next four years, unless we're going to leave that debt to our children and grandchildren. And there's been a defunding of education and defunding of medical care for indigent people and old people and children. Things are just in a horrible mess.

Someone else could have a chance of winning, "but it's getting awfully late," he said. "It would take a person with resources and the kind of personality and ability that it would take to be a successful candidate. He or she would have had to get started yesterday."

Democrat Tara Hollis, the only challenger so far, "is doing a good job on the Internet pointing out the deficiencies of the Jindal administration," Edwards said. "It's too bad she doesn't have the money to get on the public media to get better distribution. Anybody who is on her list and reading the articles that she is putting out is going to be surprised at what's going on at the State Capitol."

This morning Tara Hollis' website boasts 188 subscribing "members." Meanwhile on Facebook, people are interested in whether or not Edwards should be pardoned. Here's the latest tally in that debate.

EWE pardon

Right now the best way for Hollis or any candidate to get their message out is for Edwin Edwards to talk about how he might like to run on that message.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Quit freaking out about Irene

Unless you live in coastal Carolina, of course. By all means take all of the usual precautions. Gather supplies. Check on loved ones. Secure property. Move to higher ground if you must. It looks like it will be bad where you are but, of course, you've seen this before and you know what to do. Be safe.

But if you live in New York or New England, shut up. If Irene comes near you, it will likely rain and the wind will blow a lot. Bring an umbrella with you if you're outside and stay out of the ocean and you'll be fine. And please don't tell us you know what it's like to be in a major storm because you don't.

The most surreal victory lap since Lombardi Gras

The Edwin Edwards post-prison tour.

Back to the future

Stepping in where once we may have looked for a WCBF "Race to the Punchline" post, Dambala looks at some potential candidates to replace Arnie.

Apparently there's some argument as to whether the special election should take place during the October statewide cycle or be moved to coincide with the GOP Presidential races next March. The date of the election will obviously affect the field. If we push it to the springtime, the polls will be Teabagged to the max and who knows what kind of nutty Republican will try and run for a citywide At-large seat? Is Rob Couhig available? Jay Batt? The ghost of Peggy Wilson? Oh wait. Peggy Wilson is still alive, isn't she?

Sophisticating up the Serpas Signal

Somebody should build us one of these.

Barack Obama: Teabagger

It is helpful and refreshing to call things what they are.

"This is a moment that working people and quite frankly history will judge President Obama on his presidency; will he commit all his energy and focus on bold solutions on the job crisis or will he continue to work with the Tea Party to offer cuts to middle class programs like Social Security all the while pretending the deficit is where our economic problems really lie," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters at a breakfast roundtable hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Trumka goes on to threaten to "sit out" the Democratic convention next year which, I guess, says something. But organizing an opposition campaign might be a less impotent means of protest.

What a Guy

Advice and praise from one Dream Punter of Yesterday to the Dream Punter of Tomorrow:
(Ray) Guy said he was at the Superdome in January 2010 and saw the value of Morstead.

"The NFC Championship? He won the game for them," Guy declared. "I don't know who they give the credit to, but (Morstead) kept Minnesota bottled up all day. You have no idea how frustrating it is to think you're finally going to maybe get some field position, and then time after time you don't. I'm telling you, he won the game for them."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Clancy Dubos' paradox of Jindal coattails

Clancy is, I think, telling us that Jindal will aid down ballot candidates this year by boring voters to death through the force of his own popularity or something like that.

Besides, before it's all over, a lot of incumbents might be thanking Jindal for helping them get re-elected this year. That includes a lot of legislators who have issues with Jindal.

No, Jindal isn't about to grow coattails and issue endorsements en masse. Still, I believe his personal popularity will have a trickle-down effect in the statewide elections — and quite a few at the local level as well.

I'm not a fan of trickle-down economics, but I totally buy the theory of trickle-down politics. It goes like this: The governor sets the tone. If the governor is popular and untouched by scandal — and if there are no overarching, divisive issues — voters tend to be comfortable with the status quo.

All recent statewide surveys continue to show that Jindal is popular and that voters think the state is on the right track. That's good not just for Jindal but also for incumbents up and down the ballot.

Okay sure. But also, since he's virtually unopposed, he'll also probably buy a few favors with all this money he's sitting on.

Feinberg's paradox of compensation rules

Aren't these two ideas in conflict?
Last week, Feinberg released highly anticipated new methods for calculating settlements for oyster leaseholders and interim payments for those experiencing new losses in 2011, and both changes could have a significant impact on the flow of money through the program.

The first change requires claimants seeking interim quarterly payments for continuing losses to demonstrate at least a 5-percent revenue growth rate from 2010. A firm hired by Feinberg, ARPC of Washington, D.C., found that a slower growth rate would suggest that ongoing losses are most likely not from the effects of the spill.

Feinberg also agreed to do a case-by-case review to compensate claimants whose spill-related losses have only arisen in 2011, after suffering no loss in 2010.
Also isn't there also a massive damage assessment process currently under way which assumes that the effects of the spill could last for decades?

And while all parties involved expressed hope for reaching a speedy initial settlement, none are expecting the studying to end for many years. Alaska's Exxon Valdez spill showed that oil impacts not only linger for decades, but in some cases they might not even surface for years after a settlement, so the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 allowed trustees to reopen settlements.

Here's the crucial question I don't immediately have the answer to. Does the GCCF process close whatever opportunity individual claimants might have under OPA to reopen settlements at a later date?

"Molestation of a pylon"

Serpas' people keep up safe from all manner of roguery.

So it will be an apple store after all

Just not the kind of apples the rumor mill was wishing for.
Construction is under way at the former Borders bookstore at 3338 St. Charles Avenue. A worker at the Uptown site said it's going to be a "health food store," with offices upstairs, and should be open in about eight months.


Not to go all Pete Finney on you here but, as Pete says in so many words, it's a damn bar fight. Who hasn't been in one of those? What's the big deal? It's not like they did anything serious like get tattoos or receive some sort of compensation commensurate with the billion dollar profit machine they make possible, right?

NOLA's paradox of housing prices

Sunday's Times-Picayune reported that home prices in the New Orleans metro area are dropping for a fourth consecutive year with one notable exception.
Orleans Parish is the bright spot, the only place that has continued appreciating since Hurricane Katrina, with per-square foot prices rising 24 percent since the storm.

What's happening there? Is the City of New Orleans, which has lost nearly 30% of its population since the flood, boldly "bucking the trend" in a region that has lost 86,000 jobs over the same time period? Or are we just getting better at shunting the poor out to the suburbs?

Meanwhile in other "bucking the trend" news, don't miss Louisiana Budget Project director Edward Ashworth's op-ed from that same Sunday where he talks about a booming Louisiana industry.
Louisiana has one of the country's highest concentrations of payday lenders. That makes sense. Louisiana has the country's second-highest poverty rate. What doesn't make sense is the lack of oversight or regulation, which allows payday lenders to take advantage of people in need.

The business arose as banks across the country left the inner cities, leaving in their wake a growing predatory lending industry of payday lenders, check cashers and pawnshops to supply the continuing demand for cash and credit. With more than 900 stores -- compared to 228 McDonald's restaurants -- payday lenders are now prevalent in every major Louisiana city.
If the housing price data is any indication, I'm guessing we'll see that boom move out to the burbs as well.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Zeno's paradox of Star Caps

Will Smith's pending Star Caps suspension (now three years old) just got extended further into the future at the same time that it was theoretically cut in half.

Because the new policy possibly will utilize only a two-game suspension for players who test positive for diuretics, and because StarCaps contained a banned diuretic, Kevin Williams, free-agent Pat Williams, and Saints defensive end Will Smith would see their suspensions cut in half.

Murphy reports that the suspensions likely won’t be implemented for Week One, which means that Kevin Williams (if healthy) will be playing against the Chargers in San Diego, and that Smith will be playing against the Packers at Lambeau Field.



Why is the only robust public polling of the Louisiana Governor's race this year being done by John Georges?


Somehow, by God's grace perhaps, the offshore drilling industry has "economically survived" the dread moratorium. This plainly demonstrates that last summer's day of prayer in Lafayette was worth it after all.

Is it any wonder, then, that the Republican candidate who best understands the power of prayer is currently polling so well in Louisiana?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Arnie's greatest hits

Two years ago, Fielkow conducted a hearing on the very serious problem of contractor wage theft in New Orleans. At the time, we were grateful to see the councilman take an interest in this issue. Unfortunately not much happened after that as Arnie went on to support more important to him priorities.

Among these were giving Sean Cummings whatever he wants, installing red light cameras everywhere, and naming trees and buildings after soft drinks or potato chips. Or maybe it was peanuts... whatever, it's all about the public-private partnering and such. Just don't call it a sell-out, whatever you do.

Of course there was that one time when Arnie... allegedly.. behind closed doors... in a conversation nobody really knows anything about.. told Tom Benson off real good. We'll always remember that fondly.

Oh and then there's this.

Arnie box

Before he leaves town, let's make sure Arnie tells us where he left the Deduct Box.

Bye, Arnie

If it means that now we don't have to sell every public park in town to a naming rights sponsor, I'm all for Fielkow taking his talents to the NBA or whatever.
In a prepared statement, Fielkow said he is accepting the position of chief executive officer of the National Basketball Retired Players Association. The Fielkows will be leaving New Orleans, the statement said.
Not so bad in an age when our unscheduled public office vacancies typically mean someone is going to prison or reality TV or on some dubiously purposed bus tour of America.

Probably the best thing we can say about Arnie's career in local politics is that it briefly relieved the council of Jackie Clarkson which was pretty nice while it lasted.

The Joe Horn Cooking Show

Today Joe Horn appeared on WWLTV's morning show to hawk his new signature line of barbecue sauces. Of course, no sane people are actually up early enough to watch this happen in real time but luckily the internet is magic and we can reproduce the video for you below.

What we can't reproduce, unfortunately, is the smell although we have fairly reliable eyewitness (nosewitness?) testimony that it was awesome. Testimony below.

Note: While the local culinary writers and professionals scheduled to appear on Rising Tide's New Orleans food and dining panel this year are certainly no Joe Horns, we expect you might find the discussion worth your while nonetheless.

Apparently the world is safe for democracy this morning

Or maybe not. Well, probably not. Who can tell? Whatever it means, we can rely on the fact that Republicans, who hated the President's disastrous decision to commit military resources to Libya will now just as loudly denounce his disastrous decision not to do that soon enough. Well that and lots of people have been shot, burned, dismembered, etc. Was that worth something? It's anybody's guess, that's why it's fun!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Two Superdomes of dirt

Which, if concession prices are any indication, makes that some very expensive dirt too.

FOX 8:
St. Charles Parish-- Chris Brantley has one great big mess to clean after this spring's opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway.

"We estimate 10 million cubic yards of sediment," said Brantley, project manager at the spillway.

That amounts to enough sand, dirt and clay to fill more than two Louisiana Superdomes.

While the spillway opening drew thousands of people, marveling at the power of the river, those same awesome forces can be seen now on closer inspection.

Although I disagree with Ivor Van Heerden's implication that Louisiana Oystermen are the primary villains here, his point that the river should be employed as a land building mechanism during flood season appears to be supported by the appearance of all this dome dirt.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Serpas Signal

Press release:
(August 19, 2011)- A Sobriety Checkpoint will be established tonight- Friday, August 19, 2011- in the Uptown area. The checkpoint will operate between the hours of 9pm to 5am.

Be careful out there. Not even the Secret Service can escape the long arm of local traffic enforcement.

Busy afternoon

Here go read Matt Taibbi's new article about the SEC's memory hole.

That, it now appears, is exactly how the Securities and Exchange Commission has been treating the Wall Street criminals who cratered the global economy a few years back. For the past two decades, according to a whistle-blower at the SEC who recently came forward to Congress, the agency has been systematically destroying records of its preliminary investigations once they are closed. By whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals, the SEC has kept an entire generation of federal investigators in the dark about past inquiries into insider trading, fraud and market manipulation against companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and AIG. With a few strokes of the keyboard, the evidence gathered during thousands of investigations – "18,000 ... including Madoff," as one high-ranking SEC official put it during a panicked meeting about the destruction – has apparently disappeared forever into the wormhole of history.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bucking the trend

NYT: Stocks Close Down Sharply Over Anxiety on Economy
The latest data on Thursday showed initial jobless claims last week increased by 9,000, to a seasonably adjusted 408,000, and exceeding analysts expectations.

The National Association of Realtors said home sales fell 3.5 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.67 million homes. This year’s pace is lagging behind last year’s, which were the weakest in 13 years.

In another report, the Labor Department said consumer prices rose rose 0.5 percent in July, the fastest rate in four months, pushed up by gasoline prices. It followed a decline of 0.2 percent in June.

Luckily down here in the trend-bucking bubble of the Gulf South perpetual disaster zone, our "job creators" are helping us keep the gloom at bay. Case in point, this actual NOLA.com headline.

Pearl River spill cleanup gives laborers chance to help, make money

Armed with hard hats, life vests and rakes, more than 100 men and women braved baking temperatures and stomached nauseating odors on Thursday to start picking up thousands of fish killed in the Pearl River system late last week by a dumped chemical mixture that depleted much more oxygen in the water than usual.

Dead fish and paper mill waste. It's what opportunity smells like.

Request For Proposals

The City of New Orleans is seeking naming rights sponsors for this great big drain we're all circling.
Motion requesting the development and issuance of Request For Proposals soliciting responses from qualified advertising and marketing professionals for the development of comprehensive advertising and marketing strategies for City assets.

Nagin tweets we didn't see

Nagin's actually in Atlanta today hawking his goofy book. (Yes, I have it checked out right now but haven't quite yet summoned the strength to dive in.) But mostly I'm disappointed that he wasn't around today to give us one more "sell that sucker"* for the record.
Kopplin and the mayor's economic development chief, Aimee Quirk, cast an imminent and significant airport overhaul as critical for the New Orleans region to remain an economic player. Investors want an airport that offers competitive fares and that aesthetically reflects its home town, something travelers for years have complained Louis Armstrong does not, they said.

After three decades of public debate over the airport's fate, including proposals to turn over the facility to a private operator and to relocate it more centrally between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, officials can't wait any longer, Kopplin said.

"Privatization has been rejected. A new airport at another location has been rejected. The time to seize the moment is now - for this airport on this property," he said.

*We refer you to this 2008 WCBF post for some background.

Thrill ride

From last night's District C budget hearing.
As the city looks to create next year's budget, residents said the city's streets are driving them away.

"Most of the streets are like roller coasters and we just want to know if there is any money or any intent to work on the streets in the Bocage subdivision," asked one woman.

She's not kidding either.

Actually the above photo is something I ripped off of NOLA.com back in 2004 but few will argue that there have been many improvements since that time.

The mayor said 2,321 potholes have been fixed, 633 street lights repaired and 131 catch basins cleaned out in District C.

Meanwhile over in District B we're still looking at this sinkhole which has been around since July 2010.

Sinkhole 2011

Only lately the orange cones have been removed which makes the thrilling prospect of backing one's car into a sudden drop all the more possible.

It's probably oil

Although admittedly it's difficult to keep track of which waterborne chemicals are which these days.

Source Of Oil Sheen In Gulf Unknown

It could always be chocolate milk..

Hey, free fish buckets!

Easy pickings when they're just floating up on top like that. Actually you'll probably have to bring your own bucket. Just be sure you get something that resists corrosion.
Officials are referring to the material in the water as “black liquor,” a byproduct of paper-making that has a high pH. Temple-Inland regularly uses acid to balance the black liquor’s pH before releasing the material into the river, which its permit allows it do, said Jeff Dauzat, an environmental scientist from the state Department of Environmental Quality.

But Temple-Inland discovered, even before it was released, that the black liquor was exceeding its permitted levels in the plant, said Jay Wilson, vice president of environment, health and safety at the mill.

The substance has moved about 45 miles from its source through the Pearl River system, Dauzat said. He said if tests from his department confirm that Temple-Inland is to blame for the fish kill, it will be the third time a fish kill has been traced to the plant, although previous incidents might have occurred before Temple-Inland took over operations there.
Oh and hurry too because I can't imagine there'll be much surface fish left to pick from once we go into sand berm mode which we know always begins with very loud posturing.
“I made it very clear that we expect the company to clean up this mess, not only to make sure that it never happens again before they reopen the plant, but also that they’ve got responsibility to reverse the damage that has been done by this discharge,” Jindal said. “He (CEO of Temple-Inland, Doyle Simons) committed to me that they were going to do that. We are going to hold them accountable to that commitment.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sea of Dead or Any One Thing

It's August. Time once again to take a look at that Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone. How did we do this year?

The annual low-oxygen "dead zone" along the coasts of Louisiana and Texas covers 6,765 square miles, larger than average and bigger than the state of Connecticut, but is below the size predicted by scientists as a result of the record-breaking Mississippi River floodwaters entering the Gulf of Mexico this spring and summer, said Nancy Rabalais, chief scientist for the just-completed, annual Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium monitoring cruise.
Bigger than average but not quite record breaking. This year's annual hypoxic mass of dead Gulf water is only the size of Connecticut. Woo-hoo? The sea life seems less enthusiastic for some reason.

Louisiana Gulf fishery (actual photo)

Of course there's always time to work on the extra credit. Undoubtedly there are other fish in the sea to kill, but not everyone thinks to go after the ones hiding out upriver as well.

Several thousand aquatic species in the Pearl River from Bogalusa down into St. Tammany Parish were observed dead or dying over the weekend. And as federal, state and local agencies descended on the river to test it, word circulated that the Bogalusa paper mill may have been the cause.

Then on Sunday, the owners of the Bogalusa paper mill, Temple-Inland, admitted that their mill in Bogalusa had exceeded its allowed wastewater discharge levels and that may have lowered oxygen levels in the river enough to cause fish deaths. Temple-Inland shutdown the mill on Saturday evening.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality did not release a statement until Monday morning, warning the public to avoid foam on the river and any discolored water, and not to eat dead or floating fish.

That statement noted “a slug of partially treated or untreated wastewater reached the river and may have caused or contributed to the fish kill,” but did not name Temple-Inland directly.

A follow-up phone conversation with DEQ communication’s director Rodney Mallett confirmed the wastewater did come from the Bogalusa paper mill but Mallett strongly cautioned that the DEQ cannot yet determine whether that wastewater release was the cause of the fish deaths.

We cannot say that any one thing caused the fish kill at this one moment,” Mallett said.

Sorry about the long quote there. But it's important to note just how cautious these agencies are being before they assign blame for this massive die off to "any one thing" even if there does happen to be a pipeline of dark frothy paper mill goo discharging directly into the Pearl River. As always there could be other "things" to consider.

What if the fish were forced into poorly oxygenated waters because they were swimming away from the sludge, for example? That might be something we could classify as a completely separate "thing". We've already established that when oyster beds are killed by fresh water diversion, we can't blame that solely on the gushing petroleum that water may have been released to counteract. Just like if you were to step into the path of an oncoming bus to get out of the way of the rifle I'm aiming at you, can we really blame this death on "any one thing"? Just who was that negligent bus driver texting, anyway? The point is, these things (all the possible things) must be handled delicately when the reputations of big dirty job creators are at stake.

Sometimes, we get lucky, though. In the case of determining whether or not frothy black sludge is a significant enough "any one thing" to merit our concern the investigation isn't expected to last longer than a week. And that's actually pretty quick for a fish kill investigation. Look how far away we still are from "certainty" regarding the cause of this disease.
Jim Cowan, professor of oceanography at Louisiana State University, has analyzed many of these diseased fish.

"When one of these things comes on deck, it's sort of horrifying," Cowan said. "I mean, there these large dark lesions and eroded fins and areas on the body where scales have been removed. I'dimagine I've seen 30 or 40,000 red snapper in my career, and I've never seen anything like this. At all. Ever."

Cowan can't say with certainly the cause of these lesions.

Cowan said, "We think from chronic exposure to some environmental stressor, and I think the likely assumption that it has something to do with the spill is there."

But the 200 million gallons of crude spilled from the Deepwater Horizon last year is at the top of the list because the highest rate of sick fish are being found in the areas of the Gulf that were the most affected by the oil.

"This whole issue seems to be centered between Galveston and Panama City..." Cowan said. "In fact, almost 50 percent of the red snapper that we caught on some of these reefs had had these secondary infections."

These so-called "hot spots" are of particular interest to University of South Florida researcher Dr. Steve Murawski. Bell caught up to him on the choppy waters 11 miles off the coast of Pensacola, Fla., while he conducted his research.

Murawski said, "What we're going to do is establish a baseline for fish disease. So, even if we don't find any potential pathology now, we can go back two or three or four years from now and see if there was some slow time bomb that was going off."

Also difficult to pin down is the "any one thing" that might be affecting the health of these dolphins.

A key question researchers are trying to answer is whether oil that washed into the Barataria Basin in the months after the April 2010 spill may be to blame for the strandings of 85 premature, stillborn or neonatal bottlenose dolphins that occurred between January and June, said Teri Rowles, director of NOAA's Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.

In addition, a dead adult dolphin found in June in the bay tested positive for oil from BP's well on its skin, she said. A second dolphin carcass found in July also was stained with oil, but the results of tests to determine its source are not yet complete, she said.

The scientists will be testing many of the samples for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a chemical component of oil that is believed to cause birth defects and could be linked to the baby dolphin deaths.

Determining a link is complicated by the fact that a percentage of dolphin pregnancies normally end in stillbirth or abortion, Brosnan said.

Each of these studies is a part of the National Resource Damage Assessment tasked with determining which effects upon the Gulf Coast can be tied directly to BP's Macondo "any one thing" event. The Times-Picayune's Bob Marshall wrote about NRDA back in April.

Fourteen agencies from the federal government and five states, joined by contractors working for BP, are engaged in the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, a process mandated by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 that eventually will result in a huge repair bill to the oil giant. The research work already has cost BP hundreds of millions of dollars, the parties said.

This process is of paramount importance to Louisianians concerned about the future of our delicate coastal wetlands especially since the findings will determine just how much money BP will be made to contribute to that future. So, of course, it shouldn't surprise anyone that BP has involved itself in influencing what these findings eventually tell us.

(Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garrett) Graves also complained that BP must sign off on activities conducted by the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, a consortium that includes BP, Louisiana and other Gulf states as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Graves called on Congress to end this "inherent conflict" between the financing sources and government agencies.

"I think the equation needs to be flipped over," Graves said. "I think the public needs to be in the driver's seat. By being able to control the checkbook, you can control what's in these workplaces, how the assessments are conducted, the timelines of the assessments."

More interesting, though, is the effort directed at limiting our understanding of the scope of the term "coastal restoration."
Before the oil gusher was even capped last summer, BP labeled their recovery efforts associated with the Deepwater Horizon “incident” as “Gulf Coast restoration.” Surely the term was carefully chosen to appeal to Louisianans who associate the word with rebuilding the coast. But that’s bogus, a warping of language right out of George Orwell’s 1984. BP’s efforts to help the region recover from an oil disaster fall well short of coastal restoration, a vastly larger project. Cleaning oiled vegetation isn’t tantamount to replacing wetlands sliced and diced with oil service canals and lost to salt water and petrochemical pollution. To rhetorically link oil disaster recovery to coastal restoration, as usually defined, imbues BP’s work with a significance it doesn’t deserve. And by abusing common parlance to inflate its work, BP obscures the greater coastal crisis Louisiana faced long before last year’s blowout. A crisis the oil and gas industry has greatly accelerated.

So BP is fine with calling whatever activities they're eventually compelled to fund "coastal restoration" projects so long as they're only paying to "restore" (or at least prop up) what was there before their "any one thing" well exploded in 2010. But since Louisianians already know too well that oil and gas concerns like BP have contributed far more than just "any one thing" to the destruction of our coastline, now seems a strange time for them to demand such a narrow focus.

Post-script plug:
If you're going to Rising Tide this year (Only 10 days away! Register here!) you'll be able to hear these issues discussed by the panel of experts listed in this post.
Re-capping the well. The aftermath of the Macondo oil disaster and the future of the Gulf Coast: A discussion about how what's just happened over the past year will affect the land and the people for years to come. Moderated by Alex Woodward.

Alex Woodward is a staff writer with New Orleans alt-media Gambit, covering the environment, arts and culture of south Louisiana. With Gambit since 2008 he has covered everything from marching bands and cold cases to the effects of the BP disaster on the Gulf Coast.

Anne Rolfes is the founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. Anne began her organizing career in West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo. It was there that she first witnessed the destruction of oil production. After six years of working on Nigerian issues, Anne returned to Louisiana in 1999 to protect her home state from petrochemical pollution. Anne was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana where many people made their fortunes from the oil industry. She has seen the wealth and the poverty created by oil production and seeks to make the industry more equitable. In October 2007 Anne was recognized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as a Community Health Leader.

David Hammer is an award-winning reporter for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. He led the paper's investigation of what went wrong on the Deepwater Horizon rig and broke several stories about key engineering decisions that contributed to the BP well blowout. His beats since the oil spill also include the drilling moratorium and Kenneth Feinberg's administration of spill claims. He was part of a team of journalists that won the Naonal Journalism Awards’ 2010 Edward J. Meeman Prize for environmental reporting and The Associated Press Managing Editors’ Frank Allen Award for the year’s best overall news writing in Louisiana and Mississippi. Hammer is a seventh-generation New Orleanian and a graduate of Harvard University. He worked five years for newspapers in New England and four years with The Associated Press. In 2005, he won the Dallas Press Club's Katie Award for best wire feature story of the year. After Hurricane Katrina, Hammer returned to his hometown paper to cover Louisiana's multi-billion-dollar recovery programs and won the 2007 Louisiana Press Association award for best coverage of government. As hurricane recovery money flowed to the local level, Hammer shifted to covering New Orleans City Hall. His investigation of bribery in the city's technology office earned him the 2009 Frank Allen Award.

This year Hammer was also recognized by the Society of Environmental Journalists for his coverage of the Deepwater Horizon event.

Bob Marshall is The Times-Picayune's Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has spent much of his career chronicling the people, stories and issues of Louisiana's wetlands culture. Although best known as outdoors editor of the newspaper, Marshall's 35-year career includes extensive work as a reporter and columnist covering professional, college and Olympics sports, feature writing, op-ed columns, and special projects specializing in environmental issues.

In 1997 Marshall was a member of the T-P's three-man team that won a Pulitzer Prize for the series "Oceans of Trouble" which examined the plight of the world's fisheries.

In 2005 Marshall's investigations into Corps of Engineers missteps in building the New Orleans levees and floodwalls was part of the T-P reporting package that won the Pulitzer for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina. In addition, Marshall was a finalist for the Investigative Editors and Reporters award and the Polk Award for his on-going coverage into the causes of the disaster.

In 2007 Marshall was co-author of the series entitled "Last Chance: The Fight to Save a Disappearing Coast," about Louisiana's coastal erosion problems, which won the 2007 John H. Oakes Prize for Distinguished Environmental Reporting from Columbia University.

Dr. Len Bahr is the former director of the Governor's Applied Coastal Science Program who currently publishes the La Coast Post website.

Drake Toulouse is a BP and Gulf Coast Claims Facility critic who writes at Disenfranchised Citizen.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Turns out we can have nice things provided we name them stupidly

Because this project's advocates have stuck with it through several years of stops and starts, New Orleans is on the verge of getting a new three mile cross-town linear park along the right of way originally established by the old Carondelet Canal.
The City of New Orleans owns most of a 3.1-mile linear right-of-way along a former shipping canal and railway that once connected the historic French Quarter to Bayou St. John. The right-of-way is unique in that it traverses a cross-section of the City that captures its two hundred year settlement pattern, ranging from the colonial-era settlement of the Vieux Carre to the mid-twentieth-century suburban neighborhood of Lakeview. It has long been the objective of the City and community to convert this special right-of-way into a greenway, comprised of publicly accessible open space, recreation areas, and other amenities. The project is now one of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s “Committed Projects.” At the heart of the greenway a bicycle and pedestrian trail is desired that would facilitate travel among diverse, adjacent neighborhoods.

The greenway or something like it has long been on the drawing board or in the imaginations of New Orleans residents and now is closer to becoming a reality than it ever has been. This afternoon begins the first in a series of public meetings designed to collect input regarding the types of amenities and functions the park should offer. The Gambit blog provides us with a schedule of topics.

Meetings begin at 4:30 p.m. at Sojourner Truth Community Center (2200 Lafitte St.)

Monday, Aug. 15: Recreational Activities and Programming AND Corridor Education, Employment and Jobs Opportunities

Tuesday, Aug. 16: Greenway Arts and Interpretive AND Transportation, Stormwater, and Infrastructure

Wednesday, Aug. 17
: Land Use and Urban Design AND Housing and Economic Development Strategies

Thursday, Aug. 18: Financing, Operations and Maintenance

Friday, Aug. 19: Health and Environment

A general community meeting on the project will be held at 9:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 20 at Delgado Community College's Student Life Center (615 City Park Avenue).

Two more weeks of workshops scheduled for November 2011 and February 2012 will be announced soon.

If you're attending, please feel free to suggest a few possible naming rights sponsors for Councilman Fielkow's consideration.

The Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday agreed to recommend that the full council consider Fielkow's suggestion that Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration solicit advertising and marketing firms to figure out what city assets might best attract paid sponsorships.

"I believe we have the chance to market and sell everything from advertising on local governmental access (cable TV) channels to potentially some naming rights for some of our city-owned buildings to a whole slew of inventory, " Fielkow said.

Obviously the BP Greenway has a nice ring to it but we should probably endeavor to buy (or in this case be bought) local. Old New Orleans Rumway? Wagner's Meatshaft? Entergy Path Presented by Cox?

Kill Switch

Either Western democracies believe in free speech or they don't. Looks like we're coming down on the side of don't right now.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Chicago School (one day session)

Mitch Landrieu and Andy Kopplin are planning to visit Chicago this week which, we know, has been a hazardous journey for New Orleans mayors in the past so, you know, look out for ticket scalpers, Mr. Mayor.

Apparently he's there to take in a completely different type of sporting event anyway.
...the AP reports that on Sunday Landrieu will run in Chicago's Rock n' Roll Marathon.

The Mayor is an avid runner. He posted a 2:17 in the Mardi Gras Marathon. Chicago's Rock n' Roll Marathon is a charity event featuring live bands along the route. The event can best be compared to, well, NOLA's Rock n' Roll Marathon. (Apparently, they are both part of a national circuit.)

Oh and also they're going to pick up some governing tips from Rahm Emmanuel which should be fun.
Topping his Chicago agenda is a series of meetings Monday with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his top aides, including the police and fire chiefs, to discuss ways to improve public safety and essential city services, city spokesman Ryan Berni said.

We just hope that session doesn't take place in the post-marathon shower.

But perhaps they'll find some time between athletic events to learn something valuable about applying the Chicago way to city governance. Like, for example, how to sell your parking meters to Abu Dhabi.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Kill Switch

Already in effect
The operators of the Bay Area Rapid Transit subway system temporarily shut down cell service last night in four downtown San Francisco stations to interfere with a protest over a shooting by a BART police officer, a spokesman for the system said today.

Last night I read several complaints about Verizon service inside the Superdome. Is Rita Benson trying to squash opposition to the new beer prices?

Thought of the Day

Never mind the story although it is significant. This line tells you about all you need to know.

Louisiana Democratic Party chairman Claude “Buddy” Leach was out of town and did not respond to requests for an interview.

Post-game scuttlebutt

As I said last night, I wasn't at this game so I don't have much here but the following items were brought to my attention via the Twitters and the Teevees and other such modern conveniences.

1) Large beer in the newly renovated Superdome: $9.00 Somehow this didn't make the T-P's glowing review of the "upgrades." Note: In 2006 $9 in the Superdome would get you a DOUBLE Bloody Mary

2) Sean Payton said this about evaluating young players. "If they don't bite when they're puppies, they're probably never gonna."

3) Joseph Morgan is this year's Larry Beavers

4) Johnny Patrick yadda yadda yadda... WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO JOIQUE BELL?
"Johnny Patrick has a knee, X-rays were negative," Saints Coach Sean Payton said.

Receiver Robert Meachem also appeared to get dinged when he took a knee to the kidney area. He left the game but appeared to be OK as he stood on the sideline. Payton said Meachem had a lower back strain. Defensive tackle Tom Johnson left the game just before halftime. He said he tweaked his left calf and left the locker room in a walking boot. Running back Joique Bell also had to leave the game late with an undisclosed injury. Payton said he believes Patrick's injury was the only significant one of the game.

5) Cox Sports employs Tim Brado and Solomon Wilcots to deliver play by play and analysis of the fake games. Wilcots steadfastly refused to surrender his notion that Chase Daniel should be pronounced with an "S" on the end. Meanwhile America refuses to surrender the notion that the word Wilcots should actually end with an "X" so it all evens out anyway.

Also Wilcots informed us that an interception by rookie linebacker Nate Bussey which occurred with about eight minutes to play in the 4th quarter of a preseason game was "big time."

6) Joe Horn's Bayou 87 BBQ Sauce: "tastes so good that you'll have to pick up the phone and call somebody!" Discuss.

7) The further adventures of Thomas Morstead Dream Traffic Reporter of Tomorrow Continue discussion.

And that's enough for one fake game I barely even noticed. Saints aren't back in the Dome until September 1. Hopefully I'll find the flask by then.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Gilded Age

Not quite there yet, but this is interesting.

I graduated a top law school in '02. If you had written something like this on your 1L Con Law exam you would have gotten an F, because it's not just a wrong view, it's a view that ignores 60 years of precedent.

Shhhh Morstead is sleeping

They're so cute when they're like this.


Also quiet which is actually kind of nice for anyone who's been following our Dream Punter of the Tomorrow on Twitter lately. The dude has appointed himself personal ambassador to the #whodat nation or something. And, yes, that is every bit as embarrassing as the term "#whodat nation" implies. Of course it could be that he got a hold of some funny brownies.


But it appears, at least at this point, that Morstead is competing with Chris Ivory for this year's Jeremy Shockey Memorial Being Weird On Twitter Award.



So that's something that bears watching. However, today is Menckles' birthday so I'm not going to be around during tonight's game to monitor these sorts of developments. Be sure and keep an eye on that Sean Canfield-Joique Bell connection we're all counting on. Oh and tell Wang to cheer up. I mean even though Reggie Bush and Julio Jones are playing in the same game tonight, it's not like they'll be on the field at the same time. I think there's some rule about allowing "playmakers" to touch like that. It's like crossing the streams or something.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Walker Hines, we hardly knew ya

Today, however, Hines switched gears completely, announcing he's bailing out of his run for secretary of state, and politics altogether. Hines will not run for his seat in the state House of Representatives this fall, either.
Some years back, Walker Hines was among the first political candidates to reach out to the New Orleans blogosphere emailing Ray Shea and Ashely Morris the following statement.
I will do everything in my power to prove to others that I have never overlooked where I came from and why I am where I am today. I spent a lot of time to write this e-mail and am seeking your support and endorsement. You will be pleasantly surprised by my passion, personality, background, and voting record. Unlike my opponent who tells you whatever you want to hear, I will never sacrifice my principles for popularity. I’m a progressive Democrat who believes in the Catholic values of social justice. Please work with me.
Two years later, citing those same "principles," he switched parties. And now today, based upon the unassailable "principle" of not wanting to run against Jim Tucker, Hines is taking his talents probably into lobbying somewhere. Hope he likes coffee.

Austerity Party Patrol

This is not a good time to be a local elected official. As the insane momentum continues to build in Washington for a completely backwards policy of more and more severe budget cutting measures. Increasingly it becomes your job to deliver bad news to people.

The mayor, typically reluctant to expose political partisanship and alienate potential supporters, explained Tuesday that he wouldn’t be able to guarantee that a senior center in Central City would receive the same amount of money as it had in years past because of spending cuts in Washington.

Most recently, a $2.8 billion cut to the federal U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department budget crimped the city’s Community Development Office by about $3.5 million in federal grant money. The grants have long been the city’s main source of funding for social-welfare programs such as senior and childcare centers.

“That debate in Washington about downsizing government, cutting government spending that…is really about us,” Landrieu told a crowd of senior citizens seated together in matching yellow shirts emblazoned with the logo of the city-funded Central City EOC Senior Center.

And as Washington asks more and more Americans to "share the sacrifice" necessary to save corrupt bankers and protect the tax privileges of the wealthy, it also asks local officials like Landrieu to share the sacrifice of political backlash.

Photo via The Lens

Expect the anti-Mitch backlash to get even worse in the coming months as the mayor prepares to go Scott Walker all over city workers.

Meanwhile the City is desperately searching for even more obnoxious ways to squeeze money out of residents.
With the city of New Orleans owed a whopping $91 million in overdue parking fines and late fees dating back at least a decade, top aides to Mayor Mitch Landrieu told City Council members Wednesday that they have pressed the contractor in charge of collections for information needed to go after delinquent accounts.

Officials admitted they probably won't be able to recover anywhere near the entire sum -- equivalent to about one-fifth of this year's operating budget -- but said they are working to recoup as much as possible, particularly in light of recent budget shortfalls.

"We want to be aggressive in making sure we get every dollar the city is owed," mayoral spokesman Ryan Berni said, noting that officials think debt "in the $10 million to $20 million range is recoverable."
Leave aside the question of whether or not the $10 to $20 million in "recoverable debt" created by making navigating the city as inconvenient as possible for drivers is even legitimate in the first place. Let's just grant that the city is bending to the spirit of the times and that being dicks about fee collection is clearly in keeping with the austerity mode. So in that spirit of being "aggressive in making sure we get every dollar the city is owed," with regard to citations, let us suggest that perhaps the city should hire these people.
They fan out, wearing hats emblazoned with the words, “Party Patrol,” and obstruct the paths of their targets. They tell the surprised and unsuspecting tourists they are in violation of the law.

“I’m going to have to write you a citation,” a Hare Krishna says, pulling out a book of fake tickets from his pockets.

The violations include made-up transgressions such as “being too pretty,” “failure to smile” or “not having a good time.” The only way to settle the matter, they say, is to purchase one of their hats for $10 or more.

To locals, the ruse is obvious, but to unknowing tourists who might have had one too many cocktails, the trappings of the Party Patrol create an air of authority and a level of pressure many feel they must succumb to, said Robert Watters, owner of Rick’s Cabaret and president of the Bourbon Street Merchants Association.

It seems innocent enough, but it gets worse.

The men are volunteers with Food for Life, a Hare Krishna organization that claims to provide free meals to the needy. Watters says they harass and intimidate anyone who hesitates to make a donation, verbally abusing those who try to walk away. And in an attempt to close the deal, they falsely claim donations will go to local charities.
I know from experience, these people mean business. I've been harassed by them more times than I care to count. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, I am a frequent target for Party Patrol officers attempting to issue citation for "failing to smile." Once I persisted in my unhappiness with one of these individuals nearly to the point of what would have been violence had I not been restrained by a companion. If that seems to you like an overreaction, you clearly haven't met these solicitors. Consider yourself lucky.
On May 9, during Jazz Fest, two Downtown Development District rangers witnessed a Party Patrol member block the passage of an elderly woman in a wheelchair on Bourbon Street in an attempt to sell her a hat, according to a DDD report. When the rangers intervened, the Party Patrol volunteer, using an amplified microphone, announced for all to hear that the rangers were an illegal organization. He then directed an obscene hand gesture at the rangers.

“They were overheard telling people, often while pointing at the NOPD logo on the barricade, ‘You’re not allowed to have an open container, so you can pay your fine now and receive a hat, or pay a larger fine at the end of the street,’” the DDD report stated. “While relaying this information to confused pedestrians, they also tended more often than not to physically block their right-of-way on each end of the barricade.”

Algiers resident Monique Sullivan, who is scheduled to testify before the city council in support of the proposed NOSCAM ordinance, said a member of the Party Patrol approached her shortly after Hurricane Katrina while she was walking down Bourbon Street with her two daughters.

He claimed to be collecting money for hurricane victims and when she declined to make a donation he “got in her face” and said, “What kind of parent are you? Are you trying to teach your children it’s not ok to help other people?”

“Their tactics are very aggressive,” Sullivan said. “They’re not like the Santa Clauses outside Wal-Mart who ask for a donation and if you say no, they leave you alone. It’s definite manipulation. They tried to use my kids against me and that’s the grossest part.”

During another confrontation near the Walgreen’s on Decatur Street, Sullivan said she challenged the Party Patrol member to tell her where the money goes.

“He said, ‘I am a Hare Krishna and we keep the money. What do you have against it?’” she said.

But when times are this tough, is it too absurd to suggest that the city turn to tougher methods like those of the Party Patrol? At the very least, it will clear up questions over whether the collections are being misappropriated. If the money is going to city, after all, there's hardly any room for doubt in that matter.

And now, your moment of .. wha?

The GNOCDC's newsletter this morning provides the strangest of all possible introductions to this report on regional export industries. The newsletter begins,
On the eve of a new football season, it is a good time to take stock once again of the Who Dat nation's economy − its strengths and weaknesses. So we updated our brief on the regional "export" industries in the New Orleans 10-parish region.
I mean... sure that's as good a time as any, I guess.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Magic Microbes!

Oh wait. No, these are another kind of microbe.
GRAND ISLE, La. (AP) - Grand Isle beachgoers are advised to swim at their own risk this week because there's a lot of bacteria in waters along the public beach and in the state park.

Ken Pastorick, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Hospitals, tells The Courier that the health department doesn't close beaches. It leaves that decision up to local governments or - in the case of Grand Isle State Park - the state park system.

Fourchon's beaches are still closed to the public because of the last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Oh well

Guess the radicals are validated now. As you were, I guess. Will the last person forced out of American middle class life please turn out the lights?

Update: Was it worth it? Views differ!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Game time

It's been a frustrating year in politics. But nobody on the internets gives a better pep talk than Athenae.

Public budget hearings begin tonight

If you're in the Uptown area, tonight's meeting may be for you.
Tonight’s meeting, co-hosted by District B Councilwoman Stacy Head, will be at the Dryades YMCA on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in Central City. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and run until 8. Head and the mayor will be joined by all department heads, including Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas. Between 5:30 and 6 p.m., residents will have the opportunity to speak with department heads about specific complaints.

Speaking of recycled ideas

This morning I got an email from Daisy referencing something that happened seven years ago which sent me on a trip through the Yellow archives looking to fill certain memory holes. While I was doing that, I came upon a post from 8/29/2004 (call it K-1 if you like) containing the following.
The a/c isn't really cooling the appartment very well, or at all really. This is a real problem because, well, do I really have to explain the summer here in the tropics? No I don't. Good because just thinking about it puts me in a bad mood. We still let the air run, but only so as not to cheat Entergy out of their hard earned monthly payment. We have given up on setting the thermostat below 80, mostly because of the ugly way it laughs at us whenever we do so, but also I get tired of the sound of money burning for no purpose.

While I was sitting here reading that... yes, in the same apartment, still... two men were in in the living room with me working on the air conditioner which hasn't worked in about three weeks. Nothing ever changes.

Dead wood

What are we going to do now it's all been said
No new ideas in the house and every book has been read

The above is from a U2 song written about 20 years ago if that gives you any measure of how much more culturally bankrupt we are by now.

Ten or 20 years ago, the nastiest thing you could call an artist was derivative (and that insult was doled out with such frequency it became a limp critical trope). These days, the rubric of novelty is rarely employed, and "Is this doing something new?" isn’t a de facto critical question. Artists are judged, instead, by how successfully they integrate the past, either by fusing it with something else, or dismantling it to the point that it’s nearly (but not entirely) unrecognizable. Regurgitating one’s predecessors isn’t a uniquely contemporary phenomenon, but now that artists have access to everything all the time, it’s become an awful lot easier to pilfer at will. As Reynolds writes, "It can become a real struggle to recall that pop hasn’t always repeated itself and that in the not-so-distant past it has produced, repeatedly, something new under the sun."

The obvious counter to this argument, of course, is that pop culture has always been essentially a commercial celebration of self-involved bullshit regardless of medium. Perhaps the fact that we've run out of new ways to dress up our repackaging of crap year after year can be considered an advance.

Remember the Kill Switch?

Any reason to excuse more censorship.
A senior police official told the BBC that social media contributed to the scale of the riots.

One reason among many we are happy football is back

We get to walk around saying the words Barkevious Mingo a lot.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Daily nag

Sometimes it's easy to forget just how fundamentally stupid our entire national political debate is and just how badly the celebrities paid large amounts of money to un-stupid that debate perform in this function. Usually we forget this when we haven't read the Daily Howler in a while. I think I'm going to start reminding us regularly to get back on that.

The old "definition of insanity" thing

So the only strong policy views in the administration's internal debate mix right now are those of people who were wrong in the summer of 2009.

In that post Delong goes about naming various actions the administration could have taken on its own to better respond to the stagnated economy from the beginning if the President and his favored advisers had not been so goddamned wrong about or, more likely, indifferent to the severity of the situation.


“Then you must begin a reading program immediately so that you may understand the crises of our age. Begin with the late Romans, including Boethius, of course. Then you should dip rather extensively into early Medieval. You may skip the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. That is mostly dangerous propaganda.”

-- Ignatius Reilly Michele Bachmann

I wonder if he's expecting a "Heckuva Job"

Geithner says he'll remain Treasury Secretary

Meanwhile today we're reading about investors moving a lot of money out of stocks and into bonds. Odd thing to do if, as the TV analysts would have us believe, the S&P "downgrade" actually means that US Treasuries are a more questionable investment today than they were last week.

An enlightened gerrymander?

For all their perceived differences, East New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish residents really do face a lot of the same problems.
(Willard-Lewis) said that should resonate to St. Bernard residents who have endured the same struggles as black and white New Orleanians who have worked to rebuild homes and businesses. "As to demographic and political differences, I think people will come around to what we have in common rather than obsess over racial distinctions and party identities," she said.

Morrell sounded a similar tone: "What I've heard in talking with St. Bernard residents is a mistrust and hopelessness about state government, from the Road Home to hazard mitigation and anything else. It's the same I've heard in New Orleans. No difference across skin color or neighborhood."