Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween milestones

Mark Moseley calls attention to the fact that today is the 6th anniversary of the creation of Sandy Rosenthal's Levees.org watchdog group. And I suppose he's right to do so. For all of of the self-aggrandizing bullshit emanating from Levees.org over the years, I can't say that they've necessarily been on wrong side of things big picture wise.

It's nothing novel to observe that we live in a world where embarrassing self-importance is a pre-requisite to "success" in anything even when it comes to fighting the losing although largely righteous battle Levess.org has. But by being the enormous egotistical crybabies they've been they have, in fact, managed to at least delay the inevitable calcification of the myth that New Orleans was flooded by a "natural disaster" rather through the negligence and dishonesty of Corps of Engineers' flood protection "system in name only."

Of course in the long run, the same mistakes are going to be repeated by the same people regardless. But thanks to Sandy, fewer of us can claim to have been totally ignorant of just how that happened. So, yeah, congratulations.

Meanwhile, October 31, 2005 was also the first day that New Orleans offered library services to the public after Katrina. I remember it as though it were something I blogged about only yesterday. One advantage of having done that is that I, unlike apparently anyone else in the city, can actually remember this having happened at all. I guess Sandy Rosenthal wasn't the only self-important loudmouth stupidly trying to combat the inevitable collective amnesia these past 6 years after all.

Happy Halloween

This is actually a Fleur-de-Lantern we carved a couple of years ago. I wanted to do something New Orleans or Saints themed this year but Mercedes-Benz wouldn't cough up the money for the naming rights.

Who Dat Halloween

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Beefy Mac is the new Juicyfruit

Note: The following was cut from one of the "lost" Yellow Blog Saints posts that never quite got finished these past two weeks. Meanwhile this just came out of the oven.

Beefy Mac

I'm calling it "Roast Beefy Mac" as I intend to heat it up and serve on pistolettes tomorrow as Roast Beefy Mac Po-Boys. It's not a disaster but could use some refinement. I think if I had added the tomatoes before I built the cheese sauce I could have cooked some of the excess water out of it. Anyway, it doesn't matter. Enjoy the game.

We've long understood that Drew Brees suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. Athletics happens to be just the sort of profession that can channel this kind of illness productively. But make no mistake. It is certainly an illness. Here's Sean Payton describing Brees' symptomatic behavior.

We had a diversion this week where we were at a different hotel. We were at a JW Marriott. We’re never there. So typically the night before we play games, we have a certain snack and it’s always the same. It’s cheeseburgers, pizza, spaghetti, cold cuts, salad, there’s always this lasagna, and then there’s this beefy mac that Brees likes. It’s just beef and macaroni and I think there’s maybe a couple other people, but there’s not many that eat it. We get to the buffet on Saturday night and I’m there first. The players are still finishing up their individual meetings and I’m kind of hobbling through and looking at the food and there’s no beefy mac. There’s no lasagna which is what I like to eat, so I’m thinking there’s no chance of these guys getting a long-term deal with us. They don’t have Brees’ meal and they don’t have what I like. So I sit down and I’m eating the spaghetti and pizza and finally Drew comes in. I said, ‘We have a little issue here,’ and he asked, ‘What’s that?’ I said never mind and I watched him and he’s meandering around, so he goes on to plan B and he takes a hamburger patty and chops it up over spaghetti and tries to make this homemade beefy mac I guarantee you it was on the menu list that had to be prepared and they didn’t get it done. It’ll be the last time we’re there. I asked him if this has ever happened and he said it’s happened a couple other times.”

The only thing missing from this story is the part where the Beefymacless Brees, while "meandering around" the strange hotel, informs Payton of the exact number of minutes remaining until Wapner. Were this not Drew Brees and just some dude (Sean Canfield, for example) pacing madly until he gets his goulash, we wouldn't be complaining about the J.W. Marriott buffet staff right now. Instead we'd probably be asking some public library staff somewhere if we could have him removed for disturbing the other patrons.

But it is Drew Brees and Drew Brees threw five touchdowns vs 4 incomplete passes this past Sunday night so we're celebrating. Already we're swapping recipes while fantasizing about citywide Beefy Mac cookoffs, wondering if Jimmy Graham should be nicknamed Hamburger Helper. We actually floated that name on Twitter earlier and the Tweeps came back with "Grahamburgular" which is now our number one choice for a Halloween costume this year. (Barely displacing killer cantaloupe which is easy to conceptualize but not to construct.)

Anyway the really great news is that with Brees as a role model now maybe we can convince Jenny McCarthy that vaccinations might actually be a good thing after all. Oh and we get to throw in a reference to "Kraft Dinna"

Try to tell us something we don't know

I have a slightly different take from Somerby's criticism of Digby here although I do lean much more toward Somerby's, really Matt Taibbi's, point that Wall Street #Occupiers and Tea Party denizens do, in fact, have a common complaint against our feudal uberbankers.

Somerby seems to think Digby suffers from too much "blue tribalism" to want to accept that. And that's probably true, but at the same time I don't think she's wrong to be pessimistic about the potential for these two iterations of impotent rage to ever amount to anything. But the reason it won't matter doesn't have anything to do with Digby's distaste for Culture War incorrect Tea Partiers. Worrying about the difficulties of populist coalition building only matters if you don't know that we're living in a post-republic here and have been for several decades.

In a post-republic like ours, the political theater doesn't have any substantive effect on the direction of the government. The government is always selected from among the same class of elites who take largely the same policy direction from the same oligarchs regardless of whatever cultural tribe the theater claims is in ascendancy. To understand this, one need only read Glenn Greenwald's Salon column where he regularly describes in meticulous detail the remarkable continuity running through the Bush and Obama Administrations particularly with regard to civil liberties and foreign policy. This piece on the so-called "End of the Iraq War" is a decent example there.

Populist "movements" like the #Occupy protest or the Tea Party (which was actually more of a corporate astro-turfing stunt that grew into a populist movement but that's a meaningless distinction here) are ultimately irrelevant in the political calculus. This is so partially because 1) as stated above, the elected decision makers will govern according to the desires of the oligarchs anyway and also 2) because whatever message the participants think they're sending will be described by the elite press in a way that fits the tribal theater narrative. In regard to number 2, the inevitable scenario Taibbi describes here is already what's happening.

There is going to be a fusillade of attempts from many different corners to force these demonstrations into the liberal-conservative blue-red narrative.

This will be an effort to transform OWS from a populist and wholly non-partisan protest against bailouts, theft, insider trading, self-dealing, regulatory capture and the market-perverting effect of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks into something a little more familiar and less threatening, i.e. a captive "liberal" uprising that the right will use to whip up support and the Democrats will try to turn into electoral energy for 2012.

Tactically, what we'll see here will be a) people firmly on the traditional Democratic side claiming to speak for OWS, and b) people on the right-Republican side attempting to portray OWS as a puppet of well-known liberals and other Democratic interests.

So it may be true that the people in Zuccotti Park calling themselves "99 Percenters" and the people we saw marching around last summer at Tea Party rallies are disaffected as a result of the same mass robbery of working class America by a corporate and financial elite. But it is just as true that their political outrage is completely irrelevant in the grand scheme. Otherwise none of this would have been allowed to happen in the first place. Our elites take what they want because they can. And the reason they can is because they count and the rest of us don't.

But this has been true for many decades now which is why I tend to take such a dim view of the OWS protesters... or any protest movement for that matter. The futility of their impotent public rage is so obvious that one is forced to assume that they are either utterly clueless or, more likely, motivated by some misguided sense of self-importance. In a few years ("when feeding time has come and gone"), we'll no doubt read a New York Times Magazine feature on some young marketing careerist who got his or her start making contacts with other careerist "creative class" campers in the park this year. It will appear in the same issue where we read a review of MTV's Real World Occupiers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Halloween

I know it's only Thursday but here it is anyway.

The Great Beefy Mac Schism

No doubt there will be a sharp rise in the popularity of "Beefy Mac" in New Orleans for at least the remainder of this football season. Maybe longer. I'm a little surprised "Crunk" has maintained the shelf life it has so I'm not sure I have a bead on the lifespan of fads anymore.

I do know that more than a few of us are planning on adding some version of the dish to our game day repertoire. And so it shouldn't surprise anyone that some of us are planning on experimenting. Expect Saints tailgaters or party hosts to soon offer their guests Beefy Mac Po-boys, Vegetarian "Beefy" Mac, Curried Beefy Mac, Bacon Beefy Mac, Beefy Mac - Juicyfruit Sorbet, you get the idea.

This morning, what passes these days for the Times-Picayune's Food section offers a recipe by Ritz-Carlton M Bistro chef Emily Dillport that includes andouille. When your baseline for a dish is a mixture of canned tomatoes, Hamburger Helper, and Kraft Dinna there's obviously plenty of room for elaboration. But it's safe to say that the four elements, ground meat, tomatoes, pasta, and cheese sauce roughly define the consensus concept of the dish.

But here's where the trouble comes in. While we're all pretty much in agreement about what the essence of Beefy Mac is, the actual dish Drew Brees consumed prior to his demolition of the Indianapolis Colts last weekend is a radically different affair.
Undaunted, Brees called an audible at the line - the buffet line, that is. Displaying the quick-thinking skills requisite to his occupation, he felt the pressure and improvised.

"He takes a hamburger patty and chops it up over spaghetti and tries to make this homemade beefy mac," Payton said, half in jest, half in awe. "I asked him the question, 'Has this ever happened?' ... He said, 'It's happened a couple other times. And I said, 'So this is what you do?' And he's going through this thing."

Brees' improvisational culinary skills must have satisfied the gridiron gods of superstition. A night later he enjoyed one of the greatest games of his stellar career on Sunday night, passing for five touchdowns and was 31-of-35.

Brees may have had traditional Beefy Mac in mind, and it may be what he eats prior to most games. But last Sunday Night, when Brees threw 5 touchdown passes vs just 4 incompletions while leading the Saints to an almost unimaginable 55 point victory, he did this fueled by hamburger patties crumbled over spaghetti. This presents Saints fans with a gastronomic... and perhaps even spiritual.. dilemma.

Saints fans preparing their repast on future Sundays are free to create whatever delicious iteration of Beefy Mac their culinary imaginations will allow. But those seeking a deeper communion with Breesus at the moment of his transubstantiation will pay closer attention to his supper as described in the gospel according to Sean. There is no mention in scripture of whether tomatoes, or even marinara sauce was present. We do not know what kind if any cheese was applied. (One tantalizing clue here. Brees actually suffers from a range of food allergies including lactose intolerance.*) We know only that there was spaghetti and there was chopped (or perhaps crumbled) hamburger patty. But if we take a fundamentalist approach to interpretation, we have only two ingredients at our disposal.

One can easily imagine Saints fans dividing themselves into camps. Some may argue for a strict emulation of Breesus' example, while others may more liberally produce concepts they believe he would find pleasing. The church of Breesus may, in fact, be dealing with a full-on Beefy Mac schism here.

But this doesn't have to be a problem. We're a pretty tolerant fan base, after all. When preparing to entertain large groups of people, it's generally a good idea to design a menu that accounts for a wide variety of tastes, allergies, and religious orthodoxy. My advice is, go ahead and do that Beefy Mac and Pumpkin Pie thing you're thinking about this weekend. But maybe make a smaller pan of burgers and noodles just to keep everyone comfortably in the fold.

*Even more intriguing is this note from the article on Brees' training diet.
At home Brittany often makes wheat- and gluten-free pasta with marinara sauce, with a soyburger chopped in it."
Yet another Beefy Mac variation from Brees' own household!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Separated at Birth?

Recently reelected Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne

British actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson AKA "Mr. Bean"

The Wisdom They Will Sell Us

I've always been curious about whether two or more of those annoying Twitter spam bots could accidentally have a conversation with each other. If, for example, the "Fuck You" bot picked up Herman Cain tweeting "Fuck You, Commie!" at various #Occupy protesters, would the "Red Scare" bot not be inclined to respond to both of them? Could the two bots then trigger each other multiple times? How long could that be maintained? And how exactly would such a thing would be curated by the Library of Congress?

Anyone who spends significant time on Twitter already suspects that random robots blurting incidentally related content at one another may not be too readily distinguished from what the human users regularly produce anyway. Well, except we're pretty sure most of the robots aren't being paid by news organizations to disguise paid advertising as regular content. That's what we have celebrities for.

Specifically, that's what we have these Saints players for.

The parent company of The Times-Picayune is paying five New Orleans Saints players to send out messages on Twitter encouraging their followers to visit the newspaper's Saints website. Under a contract with Advance Digital, players Drew Brees, Lance Moore, Tracy Porter, Pierre Thomas and Jonathan Vilma each tweeted praise for the newly redesigned Saints community on NOLA.com this month and included a link to the site, urging their Twitter subscribers to check it out.

Now it would be silly for anyone to ignore the fact that high profile athletes aren't in the business of monetizing their notoriety through endorsement deals of all kinds so it shouldn't surprise anyone that the players would sign on to whore themselves out like this. Commercialized whoring is basically the essence of their profession anyway. This is all just part of the package for them.

Advance, on the other hand, is... technically... a newsy-journalaministic conglomerate of sorts and thus has at least some responsibility to be somewhat ethicsish in their approach here. Ideally, we would say their responsibility is to refrain from engaging in deliberate deceptions where their paid advertising is presented as independently generated content. Obviously they disagree with that. Instead they prefer to fulfill their obligation by having their own reporter produce a newsish story about how perplexing the ethical dilemma is for the company.

"The intention here is to promote a new product, the Saints community on NOLA.com," said John Hassell, vice president of content for Advance Digital. "It's a new kind of space and a new kind of marketing for that space."

The idea of paying players to promote the news site raised a red flag for media ethics educators who say it can create the appearance of an inappropriate relationship between reporters and the subjects they cover.

"On its face, that is an obvious conflict of interest," said Al Tompkins, senior faculty for broadcasting and online at The Poynter Institute and the co-author of four editions of a "Newsroom Ethics" workbook. "The problem is you're creating a dual relationship with the very people you're covering." The Poynter Institute is a school for practicing journalists.

On the other hand, Garland Robinette thinks it's perfectly fine to have a "dual relationship with the very people you're covering" and he claims to be a hard thinking kind of guy so that's one contrary opinion. I also recall Clancy Dubos had a few authoritative words to lend to the subject a while back too.

Now here’s a fact that somehow has escaped the media’s attention, even though it is common knowledge: The following year, in October 2007, Robinette contracted a rare, life-threatening disease and was given less than two years to live. To make matters worse, his vocal chord was severed during a medical procedure, leaving him unable to speak. Now he was faced with the prospect of either dying within two years or surviving without being able to earn a living.

Robinette made a decision that people facing their own mortality often make: He turned to a passion he felt he had not fulfilled in his life, which was painting. It is undisputed that he is a gifted artist. He decided to open a studio and use his remaining time to paint, but he needed money to do that.

Here’s where the media narrative picks up again. He asked several wealthy acquaintances to lend his wife money, secured by a piece of property she owns on the Northshore. He was asking a personal favor, no doubt about it, but anyone who knows anything about borrowing money knows that no bank would ever lend $250,000 to a dying man, particularly one who would not be able to work even if he survived.

Fred Heebe, who has extensive real estate holdings, agreed to make the loan. This was in October 2007

You see, Fred Heebe offered Garland (through his company, not his personal finances) a $250,000 loan with which this dying man could build an art studio. One hopes that the construction proceeded at an accelerated rate. It would have been a shame to let Garland pass from this Earth without the building necessary to create one last painting of that Louisiana landscape Freeport-McMoran once hired him to help explain away their despoilment of.

Heebe may have filed the expense under "lobbying" but according to Clancy it was more of a charitable act. Sort of like the Make-a-Wish Foundation. And since Clancy is such an old hand at this, I trust that him to understand the nature of "dual" or conflicting relationships in a small community like New Orleans and therefore acknowledge his application of such experience in this case.

Additional wisdom is supplied by Advance's John Hassell.

Hassell, however, argued that because the posts include a reference to the fact that they are sponsored, or paid for, there should be no perception of conflict. Each tweet includes either the word "endorser" or the diminutive "spon," short for sponsored -- both preceded by the hashtag symbol -- to indicate that the messages are advertisements.

"There's full transparency. There's no suggestion that the act of paid endorsement by a player reflects on the coverage of The Times-Picayune," Hassell said. "The Times-Picayune sports department coverage of the Saints is bar none the best and there was never an intention of suggesting these paid endorsements reflected on that coverage one way or the other."
Here Hasell is telling us that the appearance of the cryptic and extremely rare to Twitter hashtag #endorser as well as the not-quite-a-word tag #spon in the text of these manufactured enthusiasms tweeted by Saints players are what constitute "full transparency" according to Advance Publications.


Well maybe after you see it in action you'll feel better. Here's a screenshot I took of Drew Brees' Twitter feed last night where he promotes the #spon-sored NOLA.com content as well as directs you to the accounts of his fellow whores in case you would like to follow their whoring as well.


Uh oh neither tag appears! Now Drew is perhaps new to this, but he may need to be reminded of Advance's policy on "full transparency." Just for that, I say we withold his Beefymac until he learns to do it right.

Meanwhile here's Tracy Porter promoting more NOLA.com content. In this case he points to teammate Jabari Greer's blog, which is actually not that bad although nobody paid me to say so.


Whoops! Still not quite getting it. Oh well, keep trying guys! Although this is already the year we learned that online sports journalism may be able to write itself, it obviously hasn't quite yet perfected the art of selling itself. Not until we get those Twitter bots to behave properly, anyway.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

And now to ruin your dreams this evening

This is, um, apparently a commercial for the Norwegian oil company Statoil.

Oyster pairs it with this Lens op-ed from Louisiana Bucket Brigade director Anne Rolfes, as if that somehow makes it okay. You should probably read Rolfes' article anyway. That is if the video doesn't burn your retinas out first.

Quote of the Day

(Chris)Matthews complaining about deceit is like monkeys complaining about smelly poo.

Budget hearings are underway

Pull up a chair and pass the BeefyMac.

Here's a preview from The Lens:
The $494 million budget proposed by Landrieu last week cuts spending in nearly all departments, with only a few agencies related to public safety and recreation seeing increases. Though the police department will see some new hires in 2012, the increases for the NOPD and fire departments will largely go to pay for costs related to pensions. The departments that took the biggest hits this year are the New Orleans Public Library, which is funded primarily through a millage but has in previous years also gotten support from the general fund. This year, it will receive none, compared with $180,000 last year, if the mayor gets his wish. Other departments taking big hits are: City Planning, the Vieux Carre Commission and the Registrar of Voters.

In order to fund even this austere budget the Mayor is going to have to ask the City Council for a millage roll forward which should make for some interesting snark from councilmembers or at least one fond reminiscence from Jackie Clarkson about the time her family paid their property tax bill in ration coupons.

It looks like The Lens sent Jessica Williams to tweet this morning's hearing. You can scroll through that here or just wait until the video is available.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's still hurricane season

For one more month, actually.

Quote of the Day

Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz on last night's game:
At halftime -- and I'm not making this up -- the Southern University band marched into a formation that read "34-7." Now, when the band is dogging you, things are hitting rock bottom.

And, no, he is not making that up. Always good to see the Southern band perform.

Play more night games

This is the "small" gumbo they will serve you at Stanley for $5.75. Not everything on the menu there is as terrific a bargain although everything there is great value whatever the price.

Stanley Gumbo

The scoop of potato salad is $2.00 extra but it's worth it. The gumbo itself is incredibly rich with andouille, chicken, shrimp and oysters. The broth has a hint of something almost sweet to it like ginger maybe? But not too much. This was thoroughly satisfying... but then we ordered unnecessary and delicious sandwiches anyway.

The Saints should play more Sunday night games. It affords fans the opportunity to have lunch and wander downtown rather than having to spring out of bed and hurry to catch kickoff. Also it gives Sean Payton time to hop all the way up to the press box on one leg. Which, quite obviously, is where he should stay from now on if Sunday night's score is any indication.

Somewhere during the third quarter Menckles started telling me she was feeling too sorry for the Colts to really enjoy what was happening. But she wasn't around for this. And neither of us was around for this but I certainly heard enough about it growing up to not feel so bad about seeing some of those demons exorcised.

More later. Also with the weather turning nice it might be about time to break out the gumbo pot at home sometime this week.

Adding additional also: I'm just getting a look at the T-P's annual Dining Guide published in yesterday's edition. Brett Anderson again has Bayona among his "Top 10" New Orleans restaurants. I must have given Bayona a good four or five tries over the past five or six years (which is quite a lot for someone of my means) and continually fail to see the big attraction. But because people keep writing about how great it is, I keep getting suckered into going back. Will it happen again? Maybe!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Louisiana Lameride

Note: The Saints stuff isn't quite ready yet. I wanted to hammer it out this evening but the social calendar demands attention elsewhere. Luckily the bullshit introduction part is about tomorrow's elections and that is finished... although not very good. But here it is anyway. Feel free to skip it.

It's Election Day Eve in Louisiana. The junk mail has all been collected, the robo-calls are still rolling in, and soon elves will be working in the pre-dawn hours to fill the neutral grounds with festive holiday signage. And yet we can't help but notice this election season is missing its usual magic. Normally by this time we're all busy looking over our sample ballots, arguing about major media endorsements, and placing our final bets on the results.

But today, for various reasons, we've got other things on our minds. Sure, football season is always a bit of a distraction but this week we've got light shows at the Superdome, a one-legged Saints coach who has handed administrative duties over to his vicodin pusher, a disintegrating offensive line, and mass panic in Baton Rouge.

Meanwhile, for spectacle, we've had to divide our attentions among a grandstanding Mayor and Police Chief playing Rambo for the cameras, the non-stop laugh riot that is the barnstorming Republican Presidential debate series, and, of course, the continuing hi-jinx of the self-important assholes currently #occupying Wall Street.

It's not like the candidates haven't tried, though. The Lieutenant Governor's race, at least, has been worth the price of admission in entertainment value. The final week's flurry of mudslinging and editorializing and general chicanery is summed up well in this Mark Moseley column. Previously we noted Billy Nungesser's questionable unauthorized appropriation of Drew Brees' image for his campaign. This week, Gambit also pointed out a list of local elected officials whose support Nungesser is erroneously claiming as well. So we'd like to thank Nungesser for at least taking the time to be as flamboyantly dishonest and disgusting as he has. The remainder of the candidates have, of course, been dishonest and disgusting but they all somehow lack Nungesser's panache.

Despite the slight comic relief, though, the elections remain dull for two important reasons. For one, everybody knows Bobby Jindal is going to be re-elected. As far as we're aware, the most serious candidate to even make a feint at opposing the Governor this year wasn't even technically eligible to participate.

For another, all of the statewide races are Republican-only affairs. Louisiana isn't exactly a stranger to one-party politics. There are still those among our number who were old enough to vote when the ballots were full of Ds instead of Rs and we understand the way ad-hoc coalitions can serve as de-facto parties within one inadequately descriptive capital letter. But as this Jeremy Alford piece illustrates, those cakes aren't fully baked yet. So it's difficult for the casual observer to look at this year's ballot and feel too... well excited isn't the word... assured, maybe? Probably this election is best understood not through the top-ballot match-ups but rather through the proxy battles that become evident as we go down the ticket.

Alford's article focuses on the big-picture fight for control of the state GOP between David Vitter, Bobby Jindal, and Jay Dardenne. Personally, we think this makes more sense as Vitter vs Anti-Vitter right now where Jindal and Dardenne may or may not be rivals for control of the Anti-Vitter faction. We have some ideas about how this could shake out over the next two years but we'll leave that for later. This year Vitter is backing Nungesser as well as Jim Tucker in the contested statewide races. If you're not happy about Republicans but are particularly disenchanted with Vitter, that may give you some motivation to vote there.

Jindal is sitting those races out but is devoting his large war chest to electing a more friendly to him legislature and a more friendly to charters BESE board.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's campaign, with no strong opposition as the Oct. 22 election nears, already has put thousands into the race. A new political action committee formed to influence the eight BESE races -- the Alliance for Better Classrooms -- reported last week raising more than $210,000, including a $100,000 loan from Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby.

Grigsby's PAC is supporting Kira Orange Jones for the New Orleans area BESE seat. They produced perhaps the most ridiculous mailer of this election which features an unflatteringly photoshopped picture of Jones' incumbent Louella Givens and plays up the laughably irrelevant fact of her DUI arrest. Because of this and the fact that Mitch Landrieu won't stop calling our house in support of Jones, we are issuing a rare Yellow Blog candidate endorsement of Ms. Givens. Givens isn't the brightest of bulbs but she does support teachers and oppose privatization so she's got that going for her as well.

So despite the general disenchantment, you may as well go out and vote tomorrow anyway. While the big power players aren't necessarily in the forefront here, they are still very much involved even if their orders are being carried out by proxies.

And hey, that's also kind of how the Saints are operating this week too. We'll take a look at how that happened in an upcoming post.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

#Occupied by Hollywood South?

While relating the events that led to her arrest this week, Naomi Wolf provides the following fact about NYC permitting as it relates to use of public space.

On our exit, I saw that the protesters had been cordoned off by a now-massive phalanx of NYPD cops and pinned against the far side of the street – far away from the event they sought to address.

I went up and asked them why. They replied that they had been informed that the Huffington Post event had a permit that forbade them to use the sidewalk. I knew from my investigative reporting on NYC permits that this was impossible: a private entity cannot lease the public sidewalks; even film crews must allow pedestrian traffic. I asked the police for clarification – no response.

Wolf writes extensively about the abuses of the First Amendment freedom of assembly and speech and the subtle ways in which municipal permitting presumes to limit these essential rights. But apparently in New York, even big money events such as film productions aren't allowed to block public access to sidewalks as that would constitute a First Amendment violation.

So my question is, given that New Orleans is also technically part of the United States, shouldn't the same be true here? Film productions regularly cordon off public streets and sidewalks to the great annoyance of nearby residents, business owners, or just people trying to pass through. A few years ago, the NBA All Star Game was allowed to assume the entirety of Jackson Square for what was quite likely an illegally private party.

New Orleans is scheduled to host a number of high profile sports events in the next few years which may desire the same special treatment granted the NBA. We've just had our Superdome sold out from under us. Will the rest of our publicly owned assets... our very streets, in fact... be far behind?

Market saturation

Maybe on the way to this week's Saints game we'll have a chance to check out some of the "delighters" on display at the new Hyatt.

First, there's the addition of nearly 1,200 rooms to the city's inventory of hotel rooms. There is also the development of a downtown sports district, including Champions Square, which the Hyatt will anchor.

And, finally, the property brings with it new entries into the sparse selection of food options in that area of downtown.

Several restaurants, a convenience store and a coffee shop will also create new employment opportunities.

"We have a few delighters we're ready to unveil," said Michael Smith, the property's general manager. "We're ready. This is a totally new hotel."

Although I have to say I was less than delighted to learn that they had done away with what I was sure was a plan to re-brand the property as the "Yat Hotel" which would have had some kitsch value at least.

Yatt Hotel

Anyway, since the city now has 1,200 new beds on the market, it's strange to see one of our most successful hospitality magnates buck the proverbial trend and push for even more expansion.
Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman is delaying a criminal-justice reform measure that would let New Orleans make a final decision on the total number of beds in his jail, the councilwoman most involved in pushing for that measure said this afternoon.

Of course, these niche business models are difficult to comprehend at first. It may be that the sweet money is in the "extended stay" market right now.

The final number is important because it represents a cap on how much money Gusman can make from housing city prisoners. That’s because the city pays the sheriff $22 a day for each prisoner. Fewer prisoners held for a shorter amount of time results in less money for Gusman’s office.

Critics, including the Inspector General’s Office, say that this payment system gives Gusman a perverse incentive to incarcerate more people and for longer, and Guidry has been among those who have called for an overhaul in the system. Pressed on the issue by a reform advocate about why this system hasn’t been changed this year as she’d hoped, Guidry responded simply: “Unfortunately that didn’t happen.”

The City Council enacted reforms in December aimed at reducing the number of people jailed for minor offenses, giving police the option of issuing them a ticket instead.

Gusman has started keeping inmates longer, according to a report given to the committee Wednesday by Austin. Guidry said she needed to understand why before the group decides on a final jail size.

Art Laffer loves 9-9-9

I don't really have a joke here. Just know that you'll need a really big cocktail napkin to draw this graph.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Ernst Lieb, Former Mercedes-Benz USA C.E.O., Was Reportedly Fired for Misuse of Funds
According to a report in Wednesday’s Handelsblatt, Mr. Leib leveraged his position within the company for private expenditures. The article said he paid golf-club fees through Daimler and granted rentals of vehicles in exchange for flight upgrades. The report also said he used corporate funds to build his house in the New York region; the corporate headquarters of Mercedes-Benz USA are in Bergen County.

“Ernst was repeatedly warned, but he did it again,” said the Daimler executive.
Leib quite recently used Mercedes-Benz funds to fly to New Orleans and sign the deal to rename the Louisiana Superdome a few weeks back.

It wasn't an easy sell.

"Within the U.S. organization it was a very easy sale, to be quite honest," Lieb said. "But with a deal like this we have to go Germany, and we have to have certain approvals there. That was a little bit more difficult. That was a hurdle, but we took it.

Apparently Lieb wasn't as good at getting "certain approvals" as he thought he was. Now I'm wondering about that New Orleans junket expense report. Did it involve a trip to Visions? Usually Aaron Bennett is your man in New Orleans if you need to catch a plane to a football stadium. Maybe we should ask him about this.


It's been fun, LSU football season.
LSU sophomores Spencer Ware and Tyrann Mathieu will be suspended for Saturday's game against Auburn after reportedly failing a drug test, a source told The Daily Reveille on Wednesday.
See you next year!

Fattening the Cow

Governor Jindal has been pushing for the better part of the year now to privatize the state Office of Group Benefits which manages health benefits for state employees. It's a curious scheme given OGB's reputation as one of the state's better run agencies and the fact that the it posted a $500,000 surplus this year.

But Jindal has a yen for selling off state administered benefits programs such as Medicaid payments and his administration seems fixated on selling OGB despite heavy criticism.

They're currently planning to hire brokerage firm Morgan Keegan to help them determine the office's value to a private buyer. Which is one reason, among many, state employees are suspicious about the latest 5 percent increase in their health insurance premiums.

The rate increase, which follows a 5.6 percent hike earlier this year, comes as the administration explores hiring a private company to manage one of the office’s health plans.

Critics have accused the administration of plumping up the office’s cash reserves to make the plan more attractive to private companies.

On today's episode of the NOLA Anti-Saloon League

Prohibitionists fail to produce witnesses for the second time. Will try again later.

More here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

NOLA longs now for a color-coded terror alert

In the meantime I have to say turning this typical street criminal into the local equivalent of Bin Laden is quite the PR coup for Landrieu and Serpas. Nothing sells a "public safety" heavy budget like having an evil genius to kick around, I guess.

No coincidence or surprise, then, that this reward money for information about the unnamed Al Qaeda #2 or whatever comes directly out of Mitch's campaign fund. Maybe next they'll have some special playing cards printed up as well.

Probably not a brilliant idea

Nungesser should know that using Drew Brees' image as a campaign tool is kind of a no no. Recall that this was a problem even when his mother tried it.

Serpas State

Because the Mayor and his police chief are

  1. Reneging on a policy change that would have jailed fewer people for minor offenses.

  2. Ignoring public input and blowing the whole budget on policing anyway.

They will therefore need to build Gusman's giant jail after all.

Everybody wins!

It's what we always suspected

Stacy Head is actually James O'Keefe.
In one of the more unusual exchanges at the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee’s Monday meeting, a homeowner seeking to demolish her South Saratoga Street property accused Councilwoman Stacy Head of calling her house under an alias, trying to convince the woman’s husband not to demolish. Olivia Bartholomew said Head called using the name Stacy Singleton. By email, Head said she did no such thing.


Zogby has Cain at 45% and Perry (who, incidentally I don't mind telling you, I was correct to think would fizzle faster than Rudy! 2008 once people saw him in action) all the way down at 7% now.

What's boring, though, is that despite all of what we're supposed to believe is wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth on the part of "real conservatives" and just as much despite all the "LOOK OUT FOR THE CRAZY EVIL BACHMANN-PERRY-SANTORUM MONSTER UNDER YOUR BED" scaremongering coming from the Obama apologists, the GOP nominee is going to be Mitt Romney and was always going to be Mitt Romney. And if you don't or didn't get that at any point, you've never known how to pay attention.

Note to reporters

Just because Mercedes Benz is paying Tom Benson for naming rights to the Superdome does not mean they are also paying you. You aren't required to call it that.

Quote of the Day

Jeremy Alford on the current tripartite power struggle in Louisiana politics:
Even if Jindal serves out his second term, the contests for lieutenant governor and secretary of state are all about who will succeed Bobby Jindal — regardless of whether it happens mid-term or in the next round of statewide elections in 2015 — and who will lead the Louisiana GOP going forward. As for the political dynamics, it all comes down to a trio of teams.

That’s three factions fighting over two jobs. It’s like a game of musical chairs, but one in which only Republicans play and the music sucks.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Complete incoherence

Congressional Republicans reaffirming their desire to hold disaster relief hostage to budget cuts.
Rep. Don Lundgren, R-Calif., said that Congress should budget enough money for natural disasters in advance, and when emergencies exceed budgetary limits there's no reason why Congress can't find cuts to pay for those costs.

"I'm concerned about people in natural disasters," Lundgren said. "I'm also concerned about the 12.1 percent unemployment rate in my district and the fact that people are in the toughest economic times they've ever had and they're looking for us to get some serious budget discipline."

Of course the only thing "serious budget discipline" is going to do for unemployment right now is extend the pain of it but keep talking like that.

City Budget is Out

Landrieu expects budget cuts in nearly every city dept.

Light reading downloadable here.

Update: "Strategic layoffs"

Upperdate: More from The Lens Basically the series of well-publicized Community Budget hearings the Mayor ceaselessly congratulated himself for holding are being ignored.

Friday, October 14, 2011

And now, your moment of zen

Delicious, Poisonous Gulf Seafood or #Wegotthis Really Strong Stomach

This afternoon, when we sat down to dress up this week's football notes with something topical we'll admit we really didn't have anything. So, in order to make ourselves feel better, we decided instead to read a bunch of depressing news about the Gulf of Mexico including this pick-me-up item via Drake Toulouse which informs us that the FDA may have underestimated the contamination risk of eating Gulf seafood by a mere factor of about 10,000.

A new study published online yesterday reports the Food and Drug Administration vastly underestimated the cancer risk from seafood when the agency allowed commercial fishing in the Gulf to resume.

Miriam Rotkin-Ellman and Gina Solomon of the Natural Resources Defense Council authored the study where they found that by using flawed assumptions and outdated risk assessment methods, the FDA allowed up to 10,000 times too much contamination and didn’t identify the risks to children and pregnant women posed by eating the contaminants.

In a below post, we plugged tonight's New Orleans Film Festival showing of The Big Fix (reviewed here by T-P's Mike Scott) which itself raises suspicions about seafood safety. Dambala has been talking up the movie (which we personally think looks only slightly cheesy) all week and, in doing so, has been adamant in his claim that we haven't been told the full story of the risks involved.

As for us we wouldn't be surprised if much of this is true but we can also report that we have continued to eat our fill and probably yours too in the meantime. Just last week we enjoyed a delicious shrimp po boy at the Parkway Tavern and then on Sunday we had another one at Tracy's which we also greatly enjoyed.

Although we should say that as much as we wish it were not so given our neighborhood loyalties, we have to admit that the Parkway fare is ever so slightly outclassing Tracy's as of late. May be temporary. May not be significant but there it is. The good news as far as Tracy's is concerned is, it's a great place to catch a Saints game which is exactly what we did on Sunday. They also happened to have these on hand which, yes, we daringly indulged in as well.

Tracy's oysters

So far there haven't been any negative health effects to speak of. Certainly no cancers we're aware of which we think is quite a feat since we're two weeks into Pinkwashing month in the NFL which we're told is designed specifically to enhance our cancer awareness.

Saints vs Panthers: (Usually there are more photos shamelessly stolen from NOLA.com but there's something wrong with their gallery this week and the selection is limited.)

  • How the game was won: Pretty simple. After taking possession with about seven minutes left to play and trailing by four points, the Saints drove 90 yards in 13 plays and scored a go-ahead touchdown in the game's final minute. Because the drive chewed up so much time, there hasn't been as much focus on whether or not Drew Brees called his own play as there was when he led the game-winning drive against Houston. Or, at least, if someone asked that question, we didn't read about it anywhere. Whoever was calling the plays, we did very much appreciate one aspect of that final drive which we'll get to later on in the post.

    Anyway, for the second time this season, we felt very much like we were watching a late 80s - early 90s era Saints-49ers game only now from the opposite sideline. Which is to say it was a hard fought game between an established champion and a hard luck upstart which almost felt... for a minute or two there... like the underdog might get away with a major morale-boosting victory. Only that inevitably gets taken away at the end by an improbably long drive engineered by a Hall of Fame quarterback who really shouldn't be as good as he is given his mediocre athleticism and arm strength. We used to hate the way those games ended. Now, we're kind of getting used to it.

    By the way, nope, no contract extension yet. No idea why

  • Newtonian Physics: Ball goes up in the air, ball falls back to Earth. Too frequently it falls all the way to the Earth where no one could catch it. Despite his having made one or two big plays on the strength of his exceptional athletic ability, we weren't really all that impressed with Cam Newton. Sure, he ran the option pretty well and he does look like he can throw the ball hard. It's just that whenever he has to throw it more than 15 yards, he doesn't do so very accurately. Despite garnering a lot of attention for starting the season with back to back 400 yard passing performances and very nearly chalking up a "coming out" win over the Saints, Newton looks to us like a guy who is going to have start completing fewer passes to open areas of turf before he'll be someone who worries us as an opponent.

    On the positve side, we understand that this pink towel will prevent Cam's head from contracting breast cancer, which is nice.

  • This game was played in Bank of America Stadium: It could always be worse, Saints fans. Remember that. No word on what the stadium ATMs were charging for withdrawals.

  • It's Been Fun Index: It's been fun

    Not too much to report here since Reggie was off this week. Sproles led the Saints in rushing with 51 yards on 11 carries. He also had 5 receptions for 40 yards and lost 3 yards on only one punt return opportunity. "Tank" now has 804 all purpose yards and 3 touchdowns this season compared to Bush's 228 yards and 2 fumbles.

    We also noticed that Sproles is really more shifty and slippery than he is fast. He doesn't outrun people to the edge or pull away from a crowd as often as he just makes himself damn near impossible to lay a hand on. We don't have a joke or an insult or anything to go with that, it's just something we noticed.

  • Diners, Drive-ins, and Diving to the Ground Index: Panthers tight end Jeremy Shockey had three catches for 21 yards. Once again he failed to score a touchdown keeping him tied at zero on the season with whatever Saints backup tackle might happen to score after lining up as an eligible receiver in a goal line situation this year. Also of note, Saints fullback Jed Collins scored his 2nd touchdown of the season giving him 2 more than Shockey and Bush combined.

    Despite not having too much of an impact on the game, Shockey did manage to um.. make his presence known by directing what was described only as an "obscene gesture" toward the Saints' bench after DeAngelo Williams' second quarter touchdown and later refusing to shake hands with any Saints players or coaches after the game.It also probably wasn't necessary for Shockey to make a show later of apologizing via Twitter for having "offended God and mankind" but we weren't too surprised by that either.

    The good news is the whole thing gave Jim Henderson an opportunity to tell us what he really thinks.

    It also gives us an opportunity to make this short list of things that Shockey's absence from New Orleans has not diminished in the least.

    1. The number of Shockey jersies parading around at the Gretna Heritage and "butt rock" Festival remains remarkably high. Fun Fact: Did you know you can quite clearly hear performances from the Gretna Fest main stage all the way across the river and as far back as Central City? Yep. Cowboy Mouth and Skynyrd clear as bell. Thanks, Gretna!

    2. Rest assured, the CBD-Warehouse District night life remains as cheesy as ever. Actually it's almost tragic that Shockey left town just a bit too early to take in the grandeur of the "cocktail lounge and amusement place" that is the Walk On's - Happy's megaplex. Maybe he'll make a cameo appearance there when the Panthers visit New Orleans. Odds are he'll be on the inactive list anyway.

      Oh also, we're told through channels that since Shockey was leasing his downtown condo during his tenure in New Orleans, he can't be the mysterious "former Saints player" who sold his to Aaron Bennett. We must discover who this was!

    3. Finally the Saints' passing game hasn't suffered much. In fact, as far as it concerns the tight end position, matters have been greatly improved. Jimmy Graham had 8 receptions for 129 yards against Carolina becoming the first NFL tight end to post three consecutive 100 yard days in over ten years.

  • This week's massive failure on 3rd and long: This is something new we've decided to track. The Saints may show near the middle of the pack statistically on third down but they do have a knack for giving up at least one huge game-altering big play in a third and long situation in every game. This week, Carolina's Steve Smith scored on a 54 yard pass play on Third and 11 to get the Panthers on the board for the first time and also to inject some emotion into what became an exceptionally chippy game. More on that below.

    We know Gregg Williams likes to be "aggressive" but sometimes there's a fine line between that and stupid. And the Saints are proving pretty good at identifying that line for us once a week.

  • This week's Jordan Jefferson Try Not To Kick Anybody In The Face Award:
    This is actually a tough one since so much was made of two roughing-the-passer calls against the Saints' defense which greatly affected the action. The first penalty called on Turk McBride is the more questionable of the two since McBride clearly made contact with Cam Newton while he was in the act of throwing the ball. On third down. At a point in the game where the Panthers, then down 23-13 had to score or go home. And they did score a few plays later making McBride's penalty the turning point upon which this became a game again.

    Later, a second roughing flag on Shaun Rogers granted the Panthers a few extra downs with which to score a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Rogers' penalty was closer to something we can grudgingly call legit although we frankly aren't in the mood to grant that at this point. Last week we noted that Brees has been knocked around plenty this season but it somehow always seems to be the opposing quarterback who benefits from the NFL's "QB friendly" rules. It could be that some of this is just typical fan's-eye venting but we won't say we didn't let out a hearty "fuckin a" when we read Wang's outburst earlier this week.

    But it would be a mistake to give this week's honor to anyone other than Roman Harper for taking out his frustrations on Panthers' receiver Steve Smith for... slowing down or something.. before his first quarter touchdown. Harper, who quite obviously had been running even more slowly than Smith on the play since after all he didn't catch him, slammed into Smith well after he had crossed into the end zone in order to make some kind of a point.
    Harper admitted that he needs to be able to control himself better, but he wasn't all that apologetic for taking the late shot at Smith.

    "I'm not mad at myself at all," Harper said. "If you're going to score, go score. But you're not going to just walk it in on us like that."

    Unless you badly outrun us, that is. From our perspective watching through the big TV at Tracy's, it didn't look to us as though Smith had done anything blatantly offensive. But judging from Harper's reaction, you would have thought Smith had gone all Brad Wing on him there.

    But what's really great about this is that Harper is sticking by his actions and only sounds more ridiculous the more the two players get asked about it.

    Smith said Harper misread the situation.

    "He felt that I was slowing down and trying to disrespect somebody, and that wasn't my intention," Smith said. "With physics, when you accelerate at some point you have to slow down. So I wasn't slowing down to hot-dog in front of someone, because at the end of the pylons, you have to stop or there's a large blue pad … that you will run into. So I was slowing down, not to disrespect anybody, but to decelerate."

    When advised of Smith's explanation, Harper appeared unmoved.

    "That's a good story. That sounds very legit. You tell him I like it," Harper said. "It seemed like he studied. He learned the names. He filled in all the right blanks. I can't complain with that."

    "Learned the names"? What the hell is he talking about? Look we don't mean to come down too hard on Roman here. We know he takes a lot of undue criticism from Saints fans who don't understand his role on the defense. But he's clearly not in the right about this. At the same time, he does appear to be doing exactly what Gregg Williams wants his players to do so maybe that's where we should forward our complaints... such as they are. Frankly we're more entertained than anything and are very much looking forward to this rematch now.

    Meanwhile, we understand there's some enthusiasm on the Twitters and such for allowing Roman to share the greatest football nickname of the 21st Century with LSU's Tyrann Mathieu. But let's not get carried away with that. If we don't limit ourselves to one "Honey Badger" every ten years we're liable to dilute the brand.

  • Boneheaded play of the game: The Panthers couldn't get lined up correctly to defend what would have been a rushed field goal as the Saints raced against the clock with no timeouts to get the unlikely kick away at the end of the half. Because they had too many men on the field, Carolina was forced to call timeout and give John Kasay time to breathe before the kick which ended up greatly affecting the outcome of what became a close game.

    By some odd coincidence, LSU is playing Tennessee this week. Les Miles was asked to comment on Panthers' stupidity and had this response.

  • Jimmy Graham gave up another sack in this game: He kind of does that a lot.

  • This week's thing to not worry about: Okay so you're a defensive coordinator drawing up your game plan to stop the Saints. What's to stop you from just assigning five guys to cover Sproles, putting the other six on Graham and just calling it a day? Do the Saints even think to get the ball to anyone else? Well, yeah they do, but rarely. Maybe we're not seeing this correctly. Maybe the Saints really are checking down to Graham or Sproles on 50 of their 70 or so plays every week. Or maybe they just don't have much else in the way of ideas lately.

    Or maybe they're just waiting for the right time to make everyone's head spin. Sort of like they did on the winning touchdown here.
    Thomas actually scored on a play that was designed for Sproles - but Brees explained that having Sproles in the game for that play would have thrown up a "red flag" to the Panthers' defense that they were going to throw the ball.

    Zoinks! Pierre Thomas.. the guy Wang calls "Mean Joe Screen" is in the game and that's the alternative to "throwing up a red flag" that maybe the running back is in on the pass pattern? Maybe that's how you're gonna beat 'em, Butch. They keep underestimating you. Or are you underestimating them? Oh it doesn't matter, really. The point is the Saints offense is trickier than it looks right now. It may feel like they're just giving the ball to two guys all day but, early in Act 2 of the season, that's probably a good thing.

And that's all we've got this week. Probably time for more shrimp anyway.

It will be tremendously exciting when they nominate Buddy Roemer for President

Occupy Wall Street movement is planning a national convention next year.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Unvanished: Alaska edition

Yes, this story was published today.
It's been more than 22 years since the Exxon Valdez dumped 10 million gallons of crude into Alaska's Prince William Sound, but you don't have to look very hard to find lingering impacts from the spill. You can actually still find oil on the shore there, the fisheries are still struggling, and some bird species haven't recovered. But now Exxon is saying it won't pay up, despite an agreement to cover those additional cleanup costs.

Five years ago, the US government asked Exxon for money to continue the cleanup effort there. In its latest court filing, Exxon appears to be trying to shirk its obligation to pay for additional damages. In its filing to the US District Court in Alaska on September 30, the company argues that the agreement it reached with the government only covers "restoration" work—not additional "clean-up."

It's interesting to see this "restoration" vs "clean-up" terminology being used here. From this article it isn't exactly clear how Exxon actually defines those terms. But they do appear to argue that no further "restoration" work is necessary in Prince William Sound. Last summer, the Times-Picayune reported from Cordova, Alaska and found much there, particularly the herring fishery, never has been fully "restored" although Exxon has managed to recover much of its initial liability.
Twenty-one years later, the herring that once signaled the start of the summer season are largely gone, rendering $300,000 permits worthless. Losses are tallied in divorces, suicides, repossessed boats, depleted college funds, friends who moved away. Cynicism, normally a stranger to small towns, has lodged permanently in people's craws, receiving a fresh injection two years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court whittled a $2.5 billion punitive-damages judgment against Exxon down to $500 million.

In Louisiana BP has also been using the term "restoration" in a slightly different but no less misleading fashion which Mark Moseley speculated about in this Lens column back in July.
We need to tell BP to stop using the term “Gulf Coast Restoration” unless they are referring to long-term projects that replace lost coastal mass. Conflating clean-up with restoration is not only intellectually offensive, it undercuts Louisiana’s ability to educate the nation about the status of America’s most important wetland and the need to save it. Pretty photos of wildlife and seafood festival updates may have a soothing effect, but in no sense do they amount to evidence of restoration. Rinsing out the salt you threw into a gaping wound doesn’t make you a healer.

I suspect BP’s abuse of language is no accident. They know “Gulf Coast Restoration” is a loaded term in these parts. Associating their effort with the larger mission is a way of obscuring how superficial their clean-up has been to date. BP should immediately cease using “Gulf Coast Restoration” in their ads and websites, and replace it with a more descriptive term like “Oil Disaster Recovery.”

More than semantics is at stake. In the coming years, BP will pay billions in fines, and hopefully a huge slice of those monies will be use to fund long-term plans to save the coast. Louisiana must work with Congress and the Obama administration to ensure that we use this money to fund goals that truly address our long-term needs: If we waste this money merely aiming to reconstruct the coast along BP’s absurd March 2010 “baseline,” it will amount to another wasted opportunity, a big one.

What the Alaska experience should make clear is that, despite efforts to advertise it all away, South Louisiana is going to be dealing with the consequences of this disaster for quite a long time to come. For example, Alaska herring, meet Louisiana white shrimp.
The lack of shrimp around Grand Isle has forced some shrimpers to sail west toward Dulac and Delcambre, said Dean Blanchard, owner of a shrimp dock in Grand Isle.

“Our Grand Isle beach is producing less than one percent of the shrimp it normally produces,” he said.

Many fishermen are blaming the lack of shrimp on the oil leak, said Guidry of the Louisiana Shrimp Association.

“I think you will find the parishes that were most affected by oil are down (in terms of shrimp),” Guidry said. “We are just seeing something (a lower number of shrimp), and what we see on the beaches is a minute fraction of what went on in the Gulf. I don’t think we will ever know what it (the oil) killed.”

Guidry cited a study published Sept. 26 by LSU researchers Fernando Galvez and Andrew Whitehead. The study found that exposure to oil causes changes in fish genes that could have implications for future fish populations.

To whatever extent it looks like BP is "being held accountable" now it's worth noting that, like Exxon, they will always have plenty of time and money with which to define that accountability down.

In the meantime, the worst thing we can do is stop paying attention.

This is why there were Nader voters

Greenwald looks at the so-called "Iranian terror plot" all the important people in the Obama Administration have been making hay over this week.
What’s most significant is that not even 24 hours have elapsed since these allegations were unveiled. No evidence has been presented of Iran’s involvement. And yet there is no shortage of people — especially in the media — breathlessly talking about all of this as though it’s all clearly true. If the Obama administration decided tomorrow that military action against Iran were warranted in response, is there any doubt that large majorities of Americans — and large majorities of Democrats — would support that? As I said when discussing the Awlaki killing, the truly “scary” aspect of all of this is that the U.S. Government need only point and utter the word “Terrorist” and hordes of citizens will rise up and demand not evidence, but blood.

Sternly worded letter of the week

Dear Everybody Involved,

You appear to have been awfully naughty.

The Interior Department's new Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement notified BP, Transocean and Halliburton on Wednesday that the companies violated federal safety regulations in the events leading up to last year's Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and could face civil penalties. The issuance of 15 so-called Incidents of Non-Compliance -- seven to BP and four each to Transocean and Halliburton -- are based on the findings of the Joint Investigation Team of the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement and the Coast Guard.

Don't take this the wrong way but we really feel compelled to note the following.

All three were cited for failing to protect health, safety, property and the environment by failing to perform all operations in a safe and workmanlike manner, for not taking measures to prevent unauthorized discharge of pollutants into offshore waters and for not taking the necessary measures to keep the well under control at all times.

We're terribly bent out of shape about what to do here. Please respond if we've hurt your feelings or if you have any ideas about how seriously you should be punished, if at all.

The three parties have 60 days to appeal, after which BSEE will decide about imposing civil penalties.


Your buds at the Interior Department

Also 5318008 upside down spells "BOOBIES"

Michele Bachman during this week's GOP debate:
"The 999 plan isn't a jobs plan, it is a tax plan. ...when you take the 9-9-9 plan and turn it upside down, I think the devil's in the details."
You know what? Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And I guess if it's stuck on 9 and you turn it upside down at 6:00 you can make it right four times but that's not important right now.

The point is 999 is a pretty diabolical idea any way you happen to look at it.

Cain’s tax plan consists of three different 9 percent taxes — one on wage income (investment income is exempt), one on sales of goods and services (including food, housing, and medicine), and one on business income (investments and purchases from other businesses are deductible; wages, however, are not). But most Americans will end up paying all three of those taxes, for a combined tax rate of 27 percent of their income.

That’s because middle and low-income Americans get all, or nearly all, of their income from ordinary wages — all of which would be subject to Cain’s 9 percent wage tax — and then they spend all of their income, which means it would be taxed again by the 9 percent sales tax. Finally, the burden of the 9 percent business income tax would be passed on to them as well, either in the form of lower wages — since wages are not deductible — or in the form of higher prices for goods and services.

The bottom line is that most Americans will pay all three of Cain’s taxes, making their real federal tax rate 27 percent. Compare that to the current tax code, under which someone in the bottom quintile pays two percent of their income in federal taxes and someone in the middle quintile pays 15 percent. The fact is that pretty much everyone making up to around $100,000 a year would pay more under Cain’s plan than they do now.

The good news here for you if you happen to be among the "working poor" which we must assume lies somewhere within Cain's $100,000 or below box, you can probably still make ends meet while paying the much higher total tax rate because Cain promises you'll be working a second job, anyway.

When questioned on the Face The Nation television program as to exactly how his economic plan would bring about an improvement in the economy, Cain responded that his plan would expand employment so much that "the working poor would be able to hold two jobs."

We could ask Cain what he thinks about pizza delivery as a moonlighting option but I'm not sure Godfather's ever offered that service. Besides, as is often the case with Cain when pressed for details, the odds are he has "no idea".

I wonder if Gene's Po Boys is still looking for help.

Foiled by routine maintenance

Remember when Warren Riley told us that Endymion couldn't roll through Mid City because a blighted building might eat your children or something like that?
Many residents said they understood the decision but took issue with how Riley and others characterized their neighborhood as a lawless no-man's land unfit for children.

"The Mid-City area, with all of the blight and with the abandoned houses, makes it a lot harder to control what's going on," Riley said. "We certainly wouldn't want to see some kid getting pulled into some abandoned building."

Mid-City resident Michael Homan said he was particularly struck by the comments made by the Krewe of Iris Capt. Joy Oswald in 2006 about the possibility of parading in Mid-City.

"We will do anything not to go out there," Oswald said. "All my members are calling me very upset. They bring all their children up and they don't want them in that area. Their families will not go in that area. The area is dilapidated. It hasn't come back at all."

That appears to be more or less what Michael Bloomberg is telling the Occupy Wall Street protesters right now.
Protesters will have to clear out of the private Manhattan park where they've been camped out for nearly a month so the owners can clean it, but they'll be allowed to return afterward, city officials said. Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said in a statement Wednesday that the protest has "created unsanitary conditions and considerable wear and tear on the park." He said Brookfield Properties asked for police help to clear Zuccotti Park so it can be cleaned.
Yeah right. Or maybe they're just tired of paying police overtime. Either way it's a pretty lame excuse to try and get the protesters to disassemble.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Long read of the day

On a day when GM is getting ready to launch its first all battery powered electric car we find this article at The Oil Drum about fossil fuel use during the Middle Ages. Really worth a look when you get the time. A quick excerpt:

Our romantic image of the Middle Ages and Renaissance as a paradise of renewable technologies results largely because of our failure to distinguish between thermal and kinetic energy. The Dutch and the Flemish, who dominated the Western European economy from about 1100 to 1700, are famous for their impressive use of wind technology, which took off in the 1100s.

The most spectacular use of windmills appeared in Holland from the late 1500s (16th century) onwards. There, the Dutch applied wind power to a wide range of industrial processes, including paper production, wood sawing, glass polishing and cement production. (See the article: "Wind powered factories: the history and future of the industrial windmill").

The industrial windmill was a marvel of pre-industrial technology, but it explains only partly why Holland became the most important economic power in the world during the 17th century. While sustainable providers of power, windmills could only deliver kinetic energy. To give just one example: you can use wind power to polish glass, but you can't make glass using a windmill. For that, you need thermal energy. And in pre-industrial times, as the history books tell us, the only way to reach high temperatures was to burn wood.

One problem, though: virtually all forests in the region had long vanished by the 1600s. Yet, during the Golden Age of the Netherlands, the Dutch not only made glass, they also produced bricks, tiles, ceramics and clay pipes, they refined salt and sugar, bleached linen, boiled soap, brewed beer, distilled spirits and baked bread. All these processes were based on a massive input of thermal energy.

Moreover, the Dutch produced much more than needed for domestic consumption. They became the largest European exporters of many of the above-mentioned industrially manufactured products. On a more modest scale, a similar production boom had happened in Flanders a few centuries earlier, in which an energy-intensive industry appeared in the near total absence of wood reserves. So how did the Dutch and the Flemish achieve this? By mining peat on a truly massive scale.


I'm the last person to complain about any "cocktail lounge and amusement place" thumbing its nose at city noise and liquor ordinances. But isn't it interesting the way large mega-complexes of out of town chain "breastaurants" get to "ask forgiveness instead of permission," as one person quoted in that Lens story puts it, while independent neighborhood establishments get put through the ringer.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Horse race update

So bored with this. I know there's a Republican debate tonight and I admit that I've been entertained by the ones I've seen so far but I'm probably not gonna watch this one. I decided a few months ago that Romney was always going to be the nominee and today more or less confirms that for me. Wake me up when the actual primaries start... whichever one of them decides to go first.

Meanwhile Bobby Jindal, despite having very quickly endorsed Rick Perry once he became a candidate, has been careful to keep sucking up to all potential Republican power brokers just in case there ends up being an opening in the Romeny Administration's Department of Something Called Volcano Monitoring or whatever.

Despite Jindal's protestations to the contrary, he's as likely to jump on up the ladder now as he ever was. Which means, then, that the increasingly bitter race for Lieutenant Governor could end up being a de facto race for Governor. In which case Jindal wants you to know that he is not trying to hand pick his successor here. No sir, no way. Or maybe he just doesn't want to look like he's doing what David Vitter wants.

Either way it's unfortunate since it basically leaves Kevin Costner, Sammy Kershaw, and Blaine Kern to do the anointing in his stead. As a system of government, that's not exactly strange women lying in ponds distributing swords but it's perhaps uncomfortably close.

You need to get you a job and a edumacation

It looks like Florida Governor Rick Scott's views on higher education track closely to those of a stereotypical daytime talk show audience.
"You know what? They need to get education in areas where they can get jobs," Scott told a right-wing radio host Monday morning. He continued:

"You know, we don't need a lot more anthropologists in the state. It's a great degree if people want to get it, but we don't need them here. I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, math degrees. That's what our kids need to focus all their time and attention on. Those type of degrees. So when they get out of school, they can get a job."

It's no idle sound bite. The governor, an ex-corporate CEO with a checkered business past, is pushing a plan that would all but kill liberal arts and social sciences at the Sunshine State's public universities.

Scott is articulating a limited although quite popular belief that intellectual inquiry exists solely for the purpose of honing marketable skills.

It's remarkable just how pervasive this view can be. It finds expression on the right through business elite political tools like Scott who desire social institutions that only produce efficient and obedient workers. But something like it also gets parroted by education advocates and administrators at all levels and of all political persuasions in search of a utilitarian selling point for better school funding.

"Education is the key" to a better economy, to better jobs, they always tell us. None of this is necessarily true, however. It may be generally the case that specialized training can increase the value of one's labor in specific fields but it doesn't follow that a so-called "highly trained" workforce translates into a higher percentage of employed or adequately compensated people.

In fact, as we saw last week, a central complaint of the "99 percenters" you see getting arrested today is that their level of educational attainment hasn't met their expectation of its supposed market value. Many of the personal messages in these photographs bear that out.

The problem there, of course, is that complaint only makes sense if you believed the con in the first place. 99 Percenters who believe, like Rick Scott wants them to believe, that "education is the key" to the comfortable life and have dutifully committed their time and resources to pursuing whatever bland ambition Scott prescribes for them are understandably feeling a little ripped off right now. Because they've internalized the con, however, they're just as likely to remain disdainful of those who haven't, in their estimation, "earned" the right to demand a fair living standard. Which is why nothing politically useful for "the Left" such as it is will come out of what is essentially a Tea Party for Yuppies.

Meanwhile Scott's conceptualization of education solely as a facilitator of financial or social status attainment will remain the consensus view of both those who have and those who resent being denied such status. And those of us who tend to see education as an end unto itself will remain about as relevant as this talking manatee.

Update: Thanks to Pat for pointing out a concurring argument about Occupy Wall Street here.
It is extremely disturbing to me how quickly a movement opposing our system of prestige and wealth becomes a movement about those who thought they were entitled to succeed in that system. Complaining that a college education hasn't moved you into the material comfort and social strata you wanted isn't an argument against this system; it's a complaint about the outcome of the system that tacitly asserts the value of that system. When someone says "I have a law degree and I work as a barista," the necessary assumption of that statement is that their law degree entitles them to a certain material and social privilege. That privilege is precisely what animates the system they say they are protesting.