Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shadow TARP

It's virtually impossible to shock anyone at this point with the sums of cash shoveled out to the money trusts during the bailout. But this $7.7 trillion in secret Fed lending that occurred on top of the now famous $700 billion in TARP shouldn't go without mention.

The multi-trillion dollar secret subsidy paid out to prop up the money trusts is especially egregious when one recalls it occurred during a time when Congress could have considered using that money to prop up actual homeowners. The above-linked Bloomberg report hints at this very thing.

Congress, at the urging of Bernanke and Paulson, created TARP in October 2008 after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. made it difficult for financial institutions to get loans. Bank of America and New York-based Citigroup each received $45 billion from TARP. At the time, both were tapping the Fed. Citigroup hit its peak borrowing of $99.5 billion in January 2009, while Bank of America topped out in February 2009 at $91.4 billion.

Lawmakers knew none of this.

They had no clue that one bank, New York-based Morgan Stanley (MS), took $107 billion in Fed loans in September 2008, enough to pay off one-tenth of the country’s delinquent mortgages. The firm’s peak borrowing occurred the same day Congress rejected the proposed TARP bill, triggering the biggest point drop ever in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. (INDU) The bill later passed, and Morgan Stanley got $10 billion of TARP funds, though Paulson said only “healthy institutions” were eligible.

Mark Lake, a spokesman for Morgan Stanley, declined to comment, as did spokesmen for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.

Had lawmakers known, it “could have changed the whole approach to reform legislation,” says Ted Kaufman, a former Democratic Senator from Delaware who, with (Ohio Senator Sherrod) Brown, introduced the bill to limit bank size.

So instead of even considering breaking up these "too-big-to-fail" trusts or providing direct relief to homeowners facing foreclosure, Congress was content to let the TARP sum they knew about go toward propping up the money trusts even as they were receiving an additional $7.7 trillion in secret aid from the Fed. And yet they're still telling the rest of us that it's time to make "shared sacrifices" with regard to our Social Security and our Medicare. It's a wonder no one who says such things isn't getting punched in the throat on a daily basis.

Not that the potential throat punchers aren't out there. It's just that they're all wasting their time at self-indulgent rallies and getting pepper-sprayed by police.

In the September 2008 meeting at which Paulson and Bernanke briefed lawmakers on the need for TARP, Bernanke said that if nothing was done, “unemployment would rise -- to 8 or 9 percent from the prevailing 6.1 percent,” Paulson wrote in “On the Brink” (Business Plus, 2010).

The U.S. jobless rate hasn’t dipped below 8.8 percent since March 2009, 3.6 million homes have been foreclosed since August 2007, according to data provider RealtyTrac Inc., and police have clashed with Occupy Wall Street protesters, who say government policies favor the wealthiest citizens, in New York, Boston, Seattle and Oakland, California.

The Tea Party, which supports a more limited role for government, has its roots in anger over the Wall Street bailouts, says Neil M. Barofsky, former TARP special inspector general and a Bloomberg Television contributing editor.

“The lack of transparency is not just frustrating; it really blocked accountability,” Barofsky says. “When people don’t know the details, they fill in the blanks. They believe in conspiracies.”

Maybe if the #Occupy kids would spend a little less time in the drum circle and the Teabaggers would get off of that whole "What the queers are doing to our soil" business, they might actually manage to channel their shared legitimate outrage into something productive. Sounds silly to you? It's actually the banks' and their lobbyists' worst fear.
A well-known Washington lobbying firm with links to the financial industry has proposed an $850,000 plan to take on Occupy Wall Street and politicians who might express sympathy for the protests, according to a memo obtained by the MSNBC program “Up w/ Chris Hayes.”

The proposal was written on the letterhead of the lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford and addressed to one of CLGC’s clients, the American Bankers Association


The CLGC memo raises another issue that it says should be of concern to the financial industry -- that OWS might find common cause with the Tea Party. “Well-known Wall Street companies stand at the nexus of where OWS protestors and the Tea Party overlap on angered populism,” the memo says. “…This combination has the potential to be explosive later in the year when media reports cover the next round of bonuses and contrast it with stories of millions of Americans making do with less this holiday season.”

And hey talk about your "getting past the polarization" moment. Somehow I don't think this is the kind of bi-partisanship Clancy Dubos had in mind, though.


Hey look, the Senate just got "past the polarization and got something done." Clancy would be proud.
WASHINGTON -- The Senate voted Tuesday to keep a controversial provision to let the military detain terrorism suspects on U.S. soil and hold them indefinitely without trial -- prompting White House officials to reissue a veto threat.

The measure, part of the massive National Defense Authorization Act, was also opposed by civil libertarians on the left and right. But 16 Democrats and an independent joined with Republicans to defeat an amendment by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) that would have killed the provision, voting it down with 61 against, and 37 for it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Haven't even opened this link myself yet

I am going to just leave it here until I'm somewhere I can drink as soon as I see the phrase "bucking the trend".

City Business: Home prices down in most major U.S. cities

Vic Stelly is the Devil

Amazing that this one piece of moderately reasonable tax reform is remembered as the worst thing ever to happen to Louisiana. It's certainly an indicator of how nutty things have become in this state over the past decade but I think it's a mistake to describe the ascendance of right wing orthodoxy as a growth in "partisanship" as AP reporter Melinda Desaltte does here.

Meanwhile, as partisanship grew in Louisiana, the tax changes -- which had been led by Republicans and approved with overwhelming bipartisan legislative support -- became a flashpoint to determine who is a fiscal conservative, with anyone who supported the Stelly Plan deemed liberal.

"That's what's so funny. It was not a conservative versus liberal idea. It's not like it was a big liberal tax increase handled by Democrats. It was handled by Republicans," said Stelly.

Lawmakers in 2007 voted to reinstate itemized deductions eliminated under the Stelly Plan. A year later, lawmakers rolled back the income tax brackets to before the enactment of the Stelly Plan.

Stelly said he still believes the plan was a good one, and every so often he writes a letter to newspapers or calls a radio talk show to defend it.

"Would I change anything? I wouldn't change a period or a comma," he said.

Is this what happened? Did "partisanship" really grow in Louisiana between 2002 and 2008? Sure, in some sense, we can describe the new situation as more "partisan" if we understand that to mean more purely and radically Republican. Isn't it more accurate, though, to write in an article like this that the balance of power shifted significantly toward a more conservative Republican politics? Why can't Deslatte just do that? Writing "as partisanship grew" disguises the true nature of the situation by suggesting the existence of a counterbalancing power concentration on the radical left in Louisiana which is simply ludicrous to even ponder.

For some reason, though, if a moderate position suddenly becomes "too liberal" for the political palate, it can't be because the center has ratcheted rightward. It has to be the result of too much "partisanship" the inference being that "both sides" have failed once again to "get past the polarization and get something done" as Clancy Dubos recently chirped. There must be some style guide to conventional bullshit journalism that demands this be so.

He performed that way

I happened to catch a goodly portion of "A Very Ga Ga Thanksgiving" last week. (Don't ask. I was at a party where other people controlled the remote.) This was my first opportunity to actually consider Ms. Ga Ga for more than a moment. My observation was that she is either a real-life version of a character in a Christopher Guest movie or her entire act is an Andy Kaufmanesque gag played at the expense of the entertainment industry. If it's the latter, I'll admit to a grudging respect for her as a satirist but either way it's a pretty damning statement on the surreal stupidity of popular culture altogether.

Anyway what was my point here? Oh yeah. Herman Cain. Pretty much the same situation.

Welp, it's been fun, Lou Gehrig

Reggie Bush is an idiot


Monday, November 28, 2011

Fun fact for tonight's game

Wondering why Sean Payton wore this hat to his press conference this week? Well, for one thing, his team shares LSU's embarrassment of riches at the running back position. For the first time this year, the Saints expect to have Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, and Chris Ivory available. And while it doesn't seem likely that 4 backs can be worked into an NFL offense in an effective and equitable manner the way the Tigers have done with their 4 (5 if you count Terrence McGee.. 6 if you count JJ), take a look at how well they've done distributing the ball among their top three so far. Here are the stats after 10 games.

Darren Sproles: 51 carries 348 yards 2 TDs

Mark Ingram: 93 carries 340 yards 3 TDs

Pierre Thomas: 72 carries 340 yards 2 TDs

Also of note, Drew Brees' 54 yards rushing this year is his highest total as a Saint. But maybe now that Zach Strief is back to full strength we won't have to see too much more of that.

Zach Strief for MVP

Basically that's what this boils down to.

On Oct. 30, the Saints strolled into St. Louis as huge favorites against the Rams, who were winless at the time. The Saints left embarrassed, and Brees was battered like he’d never been battered since joining New Orleans in 2006. He was sacked six times and hit at least an additional 10 times.

It added up to a 31-21 victory by the Rams and a lot of tape for the rest of the league to look at. The season could have spiraled out of control right then, but it hasn’t.

That’s because the Saints limped out of St. Louis knowing something like that could never happen again, and it hasn’t. Brees hasn’t been sacked -- or even pressured very much -- since that day.

That’s because the Saints finally have figured out who their five best linemen are, and they’ve finally been able to get them all on the field at the same time. It just took about half a season for all the pieces to be on the table.

All he needs is one touchdown and he's got the thing sewn up.

Today's must read

I know it's a Saints game day and all but do yourself a favor and read these one-liners from a retiring Rep. Barney Frank as he slags on GOP "front-runner" of the month, Newt Gingrich.

Of course, Newt will not be the GOP nominee but we've covered that already.

We can now attend this Saints game without fear

Just imagine if we all had to write letters of apology for every obnoxious thing we ever tweeted. Thanks to Sam Brownback for not letting us live in that world.

Changed history

It's bad enough that Times-Picayune writers routinely include the name of the Superdome's "naming rights" sponsor when referring to the stadium in articles although they are under no real obligation to do so. Their editors will tell you that the paper's style guide calls for a full official name in the first reference to a facility within any article. But this cop-out requires us to accept that the practice of selling off the full official name of a public building to foreign corporate interlopers for the benefit of one parasitic nominal owner of the publicly subsidized local sports franchise is a legitimate activity in the first place.

Anyway, if they're going to do that, is it too much to ask that they not apply this questionable nomenclature retroactively? For example, the event described by James Varney here did not occur in a building bearing the name he gives it.
In two games against the Giants as the New Orleans Saints' head coach, Payton has administered sound beatings to Big Blue, thrashing them at home and on the road. The last of those came in 2009 when the two teams, both undefeated, met in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Saints whipped the Giants by three touchdowns in what proved the true launching point for New Orleans' championship run.

Occupy Newcomb Boulevard

Exclusive Uptown neighborhood illegally fences off a public space. Somehow nobody gets pepper sprayed.

Friday, November 25, 2011

20 weeks of roast beef po-boys

This will be fun. The Tracey's vs Parkway meme was starting to get a little boring. And also disappointing personally because I recently had to admit that Parkway's is better.

: In the above article, Brett Anderson references this Sara Roahen story in the latest New Orleans Magazine which is a can't miss.

Telling on you

People tweet mean things about politicians every day. But only Sam Brownback will call the principal's office on you for doing that.

But as it turns out, Brownback’s office watches Twitter for comments about him. Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag told the event organizers about the comment, “so that they were aware what their students were saying in regards to the governor’s appearance,” the Wichita Eagle reports, also adding: “We monitor social media so we can see what Kansans are thinking and saying about the governor and his policies.”

Brownback’s office flagged the tweet to the event organizers, who in turn passed the complaint on to Sullivan’s school. This got her called to the principal’s office

Most wonderful time of the year...

Holiday magic smells like pepper

The usual Black Friday shenanigans across the country were marked by the emergence of a new trend: pepper spraying people at Wal-Mart. On both coasts, shoppers scrambling for video games at the discount retailer were met with a face full of burning as clouds of Megyn Kelly’s “food product” were blasted into the unruly hordes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The worst college football game of the year

LSU-Arkansas is the most annoying series in all of college football. It shouldn't be, given its history of close games with major consequences. But because it happens on a Friday during a busy holiday week, most of us are barely thinking about it until it's right upon us... even when it involves the numbers 1 and 3 ranked teams in the country. So instead of a highly anticipated, high-stakes rivalry game, this always feels more like one more stupid chore to squeeze into an already jammed up schedule at the worst possible moment.

What's more, being a result of the last SEC expansion, the "rivalry" here is largely manufactured right down to that embarrassing "golden boot" thing nobody wants. Actually, I'm told it's starting to take on some significance for people who live closer to Arkansas but who would care what such people think? Anyway, if the game lives up to its typically awful reputation, this is where we see LSU finally drop a game. And then we can cue up even more whining about a playoff from all of the usual whiners.

Happy damn Holidays.

Pension Paperwork

Ordinarily, this wouldn't be a big deal.

The WVUE-TV story also raised questions about whether there was a rush to get Serpas into the system before his 50th birthday -- May 9, 2010.

Kathy Bourque, director of the state's Municipal Police Employees Retirement System, told The Times-Picayune that new members cannot join the pension system once they reach the age of 50. But that provision is moot in Serpas' case because he had previously served 20 years with the NOPD, Bourque said.

Without doubt, Serpas' return to New Orleans will have a major effect on his retirement package. Though Serpas' $180,000 salary in New Orleans is less than it was in Nashville, his New Orleans pension is based on a percentage of his three highest-earning years in the city.

If Serpas remains chief for another 18 months, he'll be able to retire and collect an annual payout of at least $144,000. Had Serpas not returned to the NOPD, his highest possible payment would have been about $55,000 annually.

Except it kind of is a big deal because at the same time the Chief of Police is (maybe, possibly) trying to game the pension system (although not gaining much by it), the City Council is demanding that rank-and-file employees contribute more out of their take home pay and changing the way their benefits are calculated.

Under the first proposed ordinance, employee contributions into the New Orleans Employees' Retirement System fund would rise from the current 4 percent of a worker's pay to 5 percent in 2012 and to 6 percent in 2013.

A second ordinance would change the formula used to calculate a retiree's monthly benefits package. Currently, pension payments are based on an average of each member's highest salary over 36 consecutive months of his or her employment. If the ordinance passes, pension payments will be calculated based on the highest 48 months of salary starting in 2014, and the highest 60 months starting in 2015. The result is likely to be lower benefits for many workers.

The Times-Picayune editorial page called these changes a "step in the right direction" and very nearly went full Scott Walker declaring municipal pensions an "unfair and unsustainable" taxpayer subsidy.

Maybe they'd have some sort of argument if everyone were picking up the $144,000 annual that Serpas is on schedule to receive. But we all know Serpas is worth so much more than the rest of these parasites.

Depressing thought of the day

Some idiot on Twitter is under the impression that the near century-old term of art "bankster" was just coined by Buddy Roemer last night.

Fucking kill me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not born yesterday

This is all well and good but I wish people who are old enough to know better would stop writing that "the dissolution of due process and individual rights" suddenly began with George W. Bush. The truth is, we've always only had a very slight and tenuous grasp on either. And, of course, many of us depending on who we are or what our #standing is, need not apply at all.

Wonder what the issue is

During the fourth quarter of last weekend's Saints-Falcons game, I biked over to Tracey's so I could catch the end of an exciting game with some friendly company. As I've noted before, it's a great place to be during a game. Good food, good drinks, and a big big game day crowd that often spills out onto the sidewalk and into the street.

Being a Saints-Falcons crowd, the folks were particularly rowdy on this Sunday. I could hear them shouting from as far away as Prytania Street. I was in the bar by the time the Saints kicked the winning field goal, but I wouldn't be surprised if the resulting cheer was audible from further away. Whoever runs the sound there is savvy enough to play Rebirth's version of Casanova whenever the Saints win (which is what they do in the Superdome under such circumstances) and the people in the bar did that thing white people do when they hear this music which is pick up napkins and wave them about as they second line around the room. And then that quickly moved outside and into the street and probably would have gone further had the marchers not been halted by the sudden realization that they had no band with them. Somebody had fireworks for some random reason and started setting them off. It was quite the scene.

I can't help but wonder if any of this raucousness could be heard just around the corner on Jackson Avenue in front of the Finger Lick'n Wings where the neighbors are trying to deny the owner a liquor license.

Concerns about what neighbors described as repeated disruptive block parties at a Jackson Avenue chicken wings restaurant led the Coliseum Square Association to withhold its support for a liquor license at the establishment Monday night.

The owner of Finger Lick’n Wings, Marlon Horton, has said that he originally envisioned his competition for customers as small sandwich shops in the neighborhood, but discovered that many customers prefer takeout orders or delivery because he cannot sell alcohol with his food. On game days, “it’s like crickets” in his restaurant, because sports fans are all at restaurants like WOW Cafe and Wingery that can sell alcohol.

Horton extolled the good behavior of his business, noting its well-kept storefront and dedication to fighting litter, but many neighbors complain that he has frequently held large parties that consume all of Jackson Avenue. Horton replied that his local fame as bounce artist 10th Ward Buck means that any event at his store draws a large crowd, but said he was willing to sign a good-neighbor agreement to stop having any parties.

With all the commotion going on just around the way at Tracey's (where they also serve chicken wings, by the way), you'd think the folks would be welcoming of the festive atmosphere. But for some reason they're not so excited. Why is that?

Print is dead

Not too long ago we were beside ourselves with indignation to learn that Army Corps of Engineers contractors were stuffing our floodwalls with old newspapers. Friday afternoon, we learned what kinds of materials one might substitute in the post-print era.
Test trenches cut into a problematic levee being raised south of Marrero unearthed logs, concrete chunks, tires, hubcaps, a hot water tank and a shopping cart, according to a blistering report by the West Bank levee authority that questions the levee’s structural integrity. The testing also revealed sections of wet and poorly compacted clay that prompted a levee authority official to dub it the “jelly doughnut levee,” according to the report released Friday.
I guess that once we've decided we can call pizza a vegetable and pepper spray a food product, we're not really that far off from making jelly doughnuts out of old water heaters and shopping carts, much less calling them levees.

But that's not the interesting part. What's interesting is this little bit that comes in at the end.

Officials with Phylway Construction of Thibodaux, which has a $28.8 million contract to raise the levee, have not returned repeated calls seeking comment in the past several months.

The corps’ own inspectors had faulted the company for refusing to cooperate with efforts to resolve the debris problem.

In August, the corps directed Phylway to stop using a Waggaman borrow pit owned by the River Birch landfill in favor of the Willow Bend pit in Donaldsonville.

A River Birch official said the landfill had simply leased out a portion of its corps-approved pit and that it was up to Phylway to ensure any woody debris was removed from the clay.

That's not just any jelly doughnut. That's a River Birch filled jelly doughnut. There's bound to be all sorts of interesting things stuffed in there.. although mainly bullshit and money. But this is all very much in line with the flavor profile at the Slabbed kitchen so we'll let them sort this out for us.

A food post, essentially

Thanksgiving is coming in a few days and those of us who Mitch Landrieu hasn't chased out from under the Calliope overpass are scrambling for last minute groceries, maybe sprucing the house up a bit, and digging through the old recipe box.

I keep a lot of recipes in my email inbox. Mostly these are the ones I've collected through correspondence either giving or receiving instructions. And so it isn't surprising that almost all of my holiday recipes are in there. It's convenient having them searchable, especially right now when people are asking me questions.

This morning I dug up my oyster dressing recipe and sent it to Rosalind per her request. The text is reproduced below which means now there's somewhere else this recipe is archived. Although oysters are pretty expensive due to a 50 percent drop in production following the BP disaster most of us are still going to put this recipe or something like it to use.

Oh but I made a few changes anyway based on a tip I read about this morning. Let me know what you think.

Okay so usually if you're doing this, you'll have a turkey happening somewhere so you'll have access to the neck bone which gets boiled with some onion and celery and garlic and pepper and salt to make a stock. BUT if you don't want to go to the trouble and if, in fact, you have no turkey to work with chicken broth will substitute quite well. Just remember you'll need a lot of it.

Same goes for the innards. A key ingredient in the dressing is the turkey liver and gizzard but if you do not have these you know you can get chicken gizzards and liver at any reputable grocery.

Anyway so here's what you do. Get at least one but probably two whole sticks of butter pepper spray and melt them in a big pot. (I say probably two because if you're cooking for a lot of people you'll probably want to make a lot of this.

Add to the melted butter chopped onion, celery, bell pepper, mushrooms, garlic, and parsley pepper spray and saute.

While that is going on, break about 4-6 eggs cans of pepper spray and beat them with a fork. To this you add the liquor from your oysters pepper spray and temper it with hot broth pepper spray so that it doesn't scramble up when you add it to the pot. You do this by adding a little hot broth pepper spray at a time and stirring until the egg and oyster liquid pepper spray is warm.

While all this is going on, I like to season both the egg mixture pepper spray and the sauteeing vegetables pepper spray with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, sage, and Italian seasoning pepper spray. You may be tempted, as I always am tempted, to add red pepper pepper spray but I would advise against it. It's not necessary to make this very spicy.

Okay so you've got this pot of vegetables sauteed. If you have giblets pepper spray (chopped up real well), add them and let them cook. Next add your oysters.

When all of that has softened up, you will need to add some kind of bread crumb. In my house, we typically use Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing Pepper Spray -NOT CORNBREAD- but the Riesling's herbed French bread crumbs are also very popular and should be showing up in the grocery right about now and I have used them and they do quite well.

Anyway, when you put them in they will soak up the liquid pretty fast so you will want to start adding the egg and oyster liquid pepper spray mixture a little at a time. And you will run out of that fairly quickly at which point you will have to keep adding whatever broth pepper spray you have available. Remember you're about to bake this so you'll want it to be fairly wet. As it continues to cook it will get more and more brown. Most people add some Kitchen Bouquet pepper spray when they're about done to round out the nice dark color.

And so you use some of it to stuff the bird, of course, but the rest just goes into a pan and bakes on its own. I'm a little fuzzy on cooking time since this usually just goes in the oven at some point on a different rack from the already cooking turkey but just use your best judgment. If you're doing it on its own, let's say 25 minutes at 350... but that's just a guess.

Maybe too much pepper spray? Adjust to meet your particular taste.

Update: Or maybe throw in some Corexit to balance out the Louisiana Sweet Crude taste in your oysters which can be a little too "chocolate milky" for this dish.

Also somewhat related. Every time I think I've seen the greatest thing ever, along comes the greatest thing ever.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Quote of the Day

Dead Huey Long:
For a kingly sum of $200, the organizers of the Po-Boy Festival offered the chance to skip the lines and climb above the fray, where VIPs could be apart from the ruckus while still being a part of it. I reckon some folks thought this was a good investment, though let me take this moment to remind you of the old sayin’ about a fool and his money. To be a VIP at the poor boy party is to miss the point entirely, and to offer this luxury is a wrong-headed move on the part of organizers whose mission it is to preserve the spirit of the sandwich.

No confidence

Kira Orange Jones on the BESE district she was just elected to represent:
In a brief telephone interview Saturday, Oranges Jones made clear that she does not see simply duplicating the New Orleans approach across Louisiana as the right strategy. She pointed out the important role played by voters in other parts of her district, including Jefferson and the River Parishes.

"I'm still learning about what makes these parishes diverse and each school district unique," Orange Jones said. "I'm committed to doing that."
It's refreshing to hear the Teach For America stooge who ran with mostly out-of-town PAC money behind her and refused to appear at any debate or community forum during the campaign admit that she really doesn't know much about the district she's going to represent.

At the same time, it's disappointing to see the Times-Picayune gloat this way about the results.
Saturday's runoff, in which Orange Jones toppled incumbent Louella Givens, amounted to the first definitive referendum on the city's mass experiment with autonomous charter schools, which now educate more than 80 percent of public school children in New Orleans. And taken together with the results of last month's primary and two other runoffs, it marks a shift in philosophy on the 11-member board that could usher in stark and controversial changes in the way all of Louisiana educates its children.

"Definitive referendum" is hardly the term for a district runoff where the Secretary of State's office reports a 15.6% turnout. (11.3% within Orleans Parish) If anything I'd interpret that as a system-wide vote of no confidence.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Clancy DuBos wrote something incredibly stupid in this week's Gambit

I'm not even going to go into it right now but it fits in with a lot things I've been thinking about lately regarding the failure of our establishment media to describe our politics honestly. I plan to get back to this point when I have more time to write about the just concluded Louisiana election cycle. Anyway, just know it's out there.

I especially liked the part where he imagines shared traits for an entire generation of young people who he declares, "don't read much, and too many have the attention span of a gnat," just as he holds these same presumed illiterates up as the great hope to end "partisanship." Says so much.

Knowing where the bodies are buried

I would have thought Marcello wouldn't have had a problem with such a thing.
Specifically, Marcello thought workers may unearth human bones, knowing his luxury condo near North Rampart and Toulouse streets sat on part of the city's first burial grounds.

So Marcello hired Ryan Gray, an archaeologist, to do a test dig in April 2010. Four feet down, Gray's shovel struck wood.

It was the first of what would turn out to be 15 coffins from the old St. Peter Cemetery that had to be removed to make way for the pool.

I've changed my mind

I think I like Alabama's new immigration law just fine after all.

Not just for "po-boys" anymore

Oak Street Po-Boy Festival kind of misses the whole point of the sandwich it celebrates, doesn't it?
Hughey and others say the VIP buy-in is simply filling a glaring need for the otherwise free festival, which drew 50,000 people last year. But in a city where everyone has a take on the best jambalaya, cup of gumbo or fried shrimp po-boy around, opinions were mixed in recent weeks about the idea of peddling premium tickets for an event celebrating the history of this everyman's sandwich, which Leidenheimer Baking Co. owner Sandy Whann described as "the ultimate canvas for New Orleans cuisine."

"You've got everyone from all walks of life pulling up to the same bar, elbow to elbow, enjoying po-boys, so we've sort of created a little class warfare" with the VIP pass, Whann said, adding, tongue in cheek: "I hope we don't have an 'Occupy Oak Street' movement."

As the story goes, the iconic sandwich took its name from New Orleans streetcar conductors who went on strike during the 1920s. At their shop near the French Market, Benny and Clovis Martin, widely considered the godfathers of the po-boy, were former conductors themselves, and they vowed not to let the strikers go hungry.

"When one of the strikers entered their shop, the call went out: 'Here comes anther po-boy!' " Leidenheimer says on its website.

Free market medicine

We're told by some of our more popular libertarian minds that the best way to make health care affordable is to free ourselves from all regulation and allow patients to shop around for care at the price they can afford. Of course, we expect that the buyer will beware, but that motto goes without saying in Libertarian Utopia.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

88% of NOLA residents not paying very close attention

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has an 88 percent favorability rating

Josh Marshall needs to brush up on his geography

Obviously the Taliban is infiltrating Libya via Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan.

Remember to vote today

Remember, also, that billionaire NY City Mayor Mike Bloomberg along with millionaire Baton Rouge contractor Lane Grigsby and several close allies of Governor Jindal as well as the local New Orleans plutocracy headed by Mayor Landrieu are all running a pro-privatization stooge in the local BESE race. Plan accordingly.. or not since nobody around here seems to care about the fundamental principle behind public education anymore.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The library part might take a while

Herman Cain: “We need a leader, not a reader.”

It's a motto that makes at least part of this grand plan more difficult to conceptualize.

Cain is apparently already making his post-presidency plans.

“I call it a journey, not just a campaign, because it doesn’t stop,” he said. “We’re in the primary. Then you run for president. You win the presidency, serve four years. (Then you) might have to serve eight at the insistence of the people. Then after that, launch a Cain library,” then a post-presidential speaking tour, he mused.

And along the way, the interns... oooh the interns. It's a sweet ride to be sure.

In fairness, though, theoretical President Cain would be far from the first non-reader to lead us. Ronald Reagan, for example, famously received several intelligence briefings in the form of rather unchallenging videos like this one on the Chernobyl disaster.

And then there's President Obama who reads books by Fareed Zakaria, which really only barely qualifies as reading. In much the same way, Obama's first term in office has only barely qualified as leading.

Anyway, thanks to Cain for pointing out that the fact that those two words rhyme must imply some sort of symmetry between the concepts they represent. We'll keep an eye out to see if we can determine the nature of this relationship.

Zuccotti Park or NOLA Bookfair

Hippies with crazy bikes, colorful hair, and mangy dogs milling about in the streets?


Cafe Brazil

Ratty homemade signage?


NOLA Bookfair

Street musicians?


General air of hipstery pseudo-intellectual everybody-look-at-how-literate-I-am-ism?

You betcha.

Oh wait. Here's what's different. I've been to quite a few NOLA Bookfairs and didn't notice anyone being beaten by police.

Otherwise, they're basically the same event. The only conclusion I can draw from this is Michael Bloomberg's NYPD are actually bigger dicks than NOPD's 5th District goons.

City Council to New Orleans: You can't handle the budget

What if Jackie Clarkson, granted us “the most publicly accessible budget in the history of America, in my opinion,” and nobody showed up to comment? Well we'd all be in for quite the scolding, is what.

Clarkson and the council also suggested that the public does not really care about seeing yet more transparency in the budgeting process.

Councilwomen Stacy Head and Kristin Gisleson Palmer joined Clarkson in challenging Timolynn Sams, executive director of the Neighborhoods Partnership Network, who appeared before the council to make the request on behalf of the coalition this afternoon. They encouraged Sams to get community members to make their voices heard in the budget process.

“Use your network,” Head said. “Nobody from the community is weighing in.”

Earlier in this article, Head tells us her read on community interest in the budget process is measured in emails sent to her which seems like an odd metric since everyone knows better than to correspond electronically with Ms. Head by now.

Fun fact of the day

Buddy Roemer is still a fraud.
Those lurid flyers attacking Kira (Orange Jones)'s opponents are being produced by a PAC which boasts of having Buddy Roemer on its Steering Committee. This is our clownish former Governor who is now tramping round the country in pursuit of the Republcian nomination. His entire campaign is based on his steadfast opposition to PACs.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Emulate China Now Initiative

Hollywood wants the feds to censor the internet just like "16 other countries" already do.
MPAA members during a Congressional hearing for the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) largely evaded questions of the possible censorship and technical security problems from the proposed bill. The movie studio-backed group's representation, headed by executive affairs and policy lead Michael O'Leary, argued that it was acceptable for the bill to enforce a blacklist of websites because such policies had worked well in other countries. The commentary went so far as to imply that there might be a model to follow in countries like China, where blacklists are used not just for generally transgressive content but also to silence political dissent.

Yes, there will be football on this blog again in the near future

But in the meantime, if I had to quickly toss off an observation about last week's Saints-Falcons game, it would look very much like what Wang says here.

In fact, the second half of the fourth quarter and overtime seemed a lot like a battle of which team was more determined to piss away the win. The Saints gave it their best shot, but Atlanta dug deep and found a way. High five! Or something.

Also Mike Smith is an idiot.

Karl Rove tells Baltimore protesters to eat cake

Cut to somewhere inside Rove's head: "Mmmm cake"

via Think Progress


Now that support of Occupy Wall Street is slipping in the polls, how long will it be before Buddy Roemer starts looking for a new bandwagon to jump on?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Privately owned public spaces"

Weird legal territory we're getting into with this stuff.
When the Occupy Wall Street demonstration began on September 17, protesters were quickly blocked from Wall Street and settled into nearby Zuccotti Park for their occupation. But as this morning’s near-eviction by New York Police at the behest of owners Brookfield Properties made clear, Zuccotti isn’t a public park with all the free speech protections that come with public property; rather, it’s a privately owned public space.

Privately owned public spaces have proliferated in the past several decades—there are almost 550 in New York City—as a result of zoning concessions the city grants to real estate developers: in exchange for setting aside a nominally public space, property owners such as Brookfield are allowed to bypass height or setback restrictions on their buildings.

But the problem with privately owned public spaces is that they’re no substitution for purely public spaces, because First Amendment protections don’t really apply when the owners of a space are non-governmental.

I don't think any private enterprise owns Duncan Plaza which means, then, that the #OccupyNOLA protesters haven't been faithfully emulating their New York counterparts. Where could they relocate such that they are more in sync with the movement? Where are New Orleans' "privately owned public spaces"?

Piazza D'Italia is interesting in that it is more or less the inverse of what we're looking for. It is owned and maintained by a city run "Development Corporation" but mainly serves as an adornment to the Lowes Hotel making it more of a publicly owned private space.

Our beloved Mr. Peanut Park comes close but it's really more of a billboard than an amenity.

K&B Plaza is just a privately owned office park. Also nobody ever goes there.

Then there's Champions Square which is mostly a state-financed operation through the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District and overseen by SMG. All of which is to say it's a free-money-for-Tom-Benson machine and therefore a publicly financed public space producing a private profit at a vast public expense.

So I'm still kind of stumped here. Is there a local analog to Zuccotti Park's "public-private" partnership? Where in New Orleans do we find the appearance of a public space except with no real obligation to respect the rights of citizens a public good carries with it? That sounds sort of like what Mike Bloomberg is paying Kira Orange-Jones to do to our public schools. The concept is being imported from New York after all.

Random thought

Mike Smith is an idiot.

Clean Teaming all over #OccupyNOLA's behind

Well now that New York City Mayor (and Louisiana school privatization advocate) Michael Bloomberg has reminded a Sandusky-obsessed America that Occupy Wall Street was still going on, speculation has begun as to where the next crackdown might occur.
Rumors have been swirling around various Occupy camps that a series of major crackdowns in recent days -- spanning from New York to Denver to Oakland, with several others in between -- were being done on the orders of Washington. That's unlikely.

But in an interview with BBC News, Oakland Mayor casually admitted that she had participated in a conference call with officials from 18 cities to discuss the OWS movement, tactics for managing its camps, etc.

No word anywhere on which cities might be coordinating their crackdowns although some protest groups are already taking preventive measures.

Meanwhile, it's worth noting that Mitch Landrieu saw fit to call out our local Occupy camp while unveiling his anti-litter initiative yesterday.
Landrieu also served notice that the clock is ticking on the Occupy NOLA encampment that's been established across from City Hall in Duncan Plaza.

"We think that we have been a great host to Occupy NOLA," he said. "They have been there in a peaceful way. But at some point in time, we've got to say 'Look, you've worn out your welcome.'

"At some point in time, it's going to get beyond just a First Amendment expression."

While Landrieu did not offer a timetable, he said the protesters likely will be asked to leave "sooner rather than later."
It doesn't appear as though the Mayor saw fit to elaborate as to what "getting beyond First Amendment expression" actually means much less where he derives his certainty that such a threshold will soon be passed. But it would seem that plans are in the works to "Trash Dat" #Occupy camp "sooner rather than later" regardless.

Glad to see Gambit thinking along the same lines here. Mitch may be looking to disperse OccupyNOLA before the end of the month.

Job Creators

Federal laws that protect our air, water, and wildlife habitats are actually job creators.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Return of the Clean Team

Oh look, they've printed up more crap for us to throw away.

“Don’t Trash DAT!” is New Orleans’ new anti-littering slogan, and it was introduced this afternoon at Basin Street Station, the visitors’ center near the French Quarter. Many of the city’s top tourism leaders joined Mayor Mitch Landrieu for the kickoff of the campaign, which is one of the keystones in the city’s preparation for a particularly busy 18 months of high-profile events, including the Sugar Bowl and BCS National Championship (Jan. 2012), the NCAA Final Four (March-April 2012) and, of course, the Feb. 2013 Super Bowl.

I suppose it could be worse. In Rio, they're preparing for the "high-profile event" of the 2016 Olympics by attacking the city slums with helicopters. In New Orleans, we aren't yet quite third world enough to where the police can lead paramilitary assaults on neighborhoods in the name of sprucing up for tourist season, but we're getting there.

Of course, Landrieu isn't the first Mayor of New Orleans to try and score points with the cleanlier-than-thou neighborhood association set by initiating an anti-litter campaign. In fact, it's something of a tradition; one that always includes new garbage cans in one way or another.

For those who have complained of not being able to find municipal trash cans, Landrieu said that deputy mayor Cedric Grant would be placing more cans around high-traffic areas.

Will Grant be placing the new cans personally? Are these new garbage cans that have been funded somehow in the new miserly city budget? Or is Grant going to just move some stuff around? If they are new cans, will they have the Mayor's name on them? What happens if we need them to be "bomb-proof"?

Paranoid bullies

Our paranoid and helpless bully class responds to the out of control murder rate by making graffiti a felony.
Police will write up spray-painters under a new statute, passed in 2010 under the sponsorship of State Rep. Juan LaFonta, that makes tagging buildings in the protected French Quarter a felony punishable by up to two years in jail.

Previously, it was a misdemeanor for municipal court, with "a slap on the wrist" for punishment, Cavett said.

Still, upgrading spray-painting French Quarter property to felony status plays into the robust jail debate of 2010 and earlier this year, when city officials approved construction of a smaller post-Katrina Orleans Parish Prison and set a goal to reduce the city's incarceration rate, one of the highest in the nation.

Walls and other police officials were unavailable for comment. But the district attorney's office confirmed the initiative, and said it would use the felony statute to prosecute if police brought them cases.

In fact, records show that three graffiti arrests in recent weeks have been handled as felonies; each of the defendants is still awaiting trial.
Our entire law enforcement infrastructure is made up of helpless bullies who are out of ideas.

Adding... I liked it better when we were using the strongly worded (although poorly spelled) letters approach.

Your (sic) on Candid Camera

Attention Taggers

Friday, November 11, 2011

This would be so much better than a Rocky statue

A few days ago I mentioned this Lens column about two cities' neglect of their genuine history in favor of sanitized fantasy. Philadelphia has no statue of Joe Frazier but it does have one of Rocky Balboa. New Orleans has no statue of Homer Plessy but it does have one of Mr. Peanut.

In The Lens Mark Moseley specifically mentions Plessy along with other prominent Civil Rights figures whose connections to New Orleans have gone unrecognized in our civic space. Today, Jarvis DeBerry's T-P column follows up on that a bit by highlighting one institution which, if ever built and opened, can improve that situation at least a little.

Brenda Williams, interim chair of the Louisiana Civil Rights Museum Advisory Board, said Thursday that "we have gotten final approval for a feasibility study" that will help the board decide the best New Orleans location for a museum. She hopes that study is completed within six months and that the momentum for the project then picks up. The Louisiana Legislature approved such a museum in 1999.

New Orleans needs that museum. This isn't just the city where the SCLC was founded. It's where Ruby Bridges made a solitary walk into William Frantz Elementary School. It's the city chosen by 1961's Freedom Riders as their ultimate destination.

All that happened in the 20th century, but there was a rich history of struggle and protest in and around New Orleans before then. In 1811, more than 200 enslaved men on nearby plantations armed themselves with machetes, rose up against those plantation owners and began an unsuccessful march toward New Orleans. In 1842, St. Augustine Church was built with the contributions of black Catholics who wanted a place where they could sit and worship. In 1892, activists pushing for the integration of local rail cars chose Homer Plessy as their plaintiff.

The link inserted into the online version of Deberry's column points us to this story about a preferred location for the museum on the site of the former Myrtle Banks Elementary School at Thalia St and Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.

In the school's early years, a commercial strip then known as Dryades Street thrived down the block from where neighborhood children learned reading, writing and arithmetic. According to the O.C. Haley Merchants and Business Association Web site, by the 1950s there were almost 200 shops, many of them run by Jewish merchants who lived in apartments upstairs. At a time when African Americans were not welcome on Canal Street, Dryades was the place to go for a soda, a haircut or a new suit.

It also became the headquarters of the local civil rights movement. The boycott, which targeted white-owned shops that limited black people to menial labor, resulted in the hiring of 30 black clerks and cashiers. But there was a cost: some shopkeepers abandoned the area and moved to the suburbs, marking the beginning of the neighborhood's decline.

Across town on Canal Street, Oretha Castle Haley was one of the activists arrested and charged with criminal mischief for sitting at an all-white lunch counter at McCrory's in September 1960. The case received national attention, and the U.S. Supreme Court held that the activists' convictions were unconstitutional.

Dryades Street was eventually renamed in Haley's honor, with both its name and its history making it a fitting home for a civil rights museum.

Efforts at revitalizing the OCH corridor have been going in stops and starts for several years now with some moderate successes although nothing like the what's been happening concurrently along a similar stretch of Freret Street. Recent visits to the up-and-coming Freret by us have included a thoroughly satisfying meal at the High Hat Cafe as well as a thought-provoking performance by motivational comic Lane Sperkus. I've also spent an evening at Cure which serves nice food but, with its snooty dress code and focus on "designer cocktails," is mostly an iteration of evil at its most obnoxious.

The OCH corridor boasts one renowned eatery in Cafe Reconcile as well as a potentially potent arts and entertainment scene anchored by the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center featured on the cover of this week's Gambit. But to catch up with what's happening on Freret, which is clearly the model to be emulated, the corridor has quite a way to go. The Civil Rights Museum would be one more element that could spur that kind of growth and, perhaps, fill an unfortunate gap in our city's recognition of its own history. If they ever get around to building it, that is.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Later than you think

Or maybe earlier than you would have expected previously...

For more than 20 years, trumpeter Kermit Ruffins’ weekly Thursday gig at Vaughan’s in Bywater has served as a dependable, and popular, late-night music option. At Vaughan’s and elsewhere, he embodied the start late, finish even later ethos of New Orleans music.

But no more. In the coming weeks, Ruffins intends to start and end most local performances much earlier in the evening.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a long time,” he said Thursday. “If I can play all those shows earlier, I could be in bed by midnight. So I’m trying to get my fans on board with this.”

Effective Dec. 1, he plans to fire up at Vaughan’s at 7 p.m., and call it a night by approximately 10. His two or three monthly appearances at the Blue Nile on Frenchmen Street will also be 7 to 10 p.m.

At Rock ‘n’ Bowl, where Ruffins generally performs at least twice a month, the change will be more gradual. At first, instead of 9:30 to 12:30, he’ll shift to 9 to midnight. “If our audience stays with us, we’ll go 8:30 to 11:30,” said Tom Thompson, Ruffins’ longtime manager. “We’ll wean them off late-night.”

Everyone gets old, I guess.

Family of criminals

Ronal Serpas sure is one to talk here.

NEW ORLEANS – A group of activists are calling for an investigation into comments made by New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas about the family of a murder suspect.

Members of Community United for Change are pushing for Public Integrity Bureau Commander Arlinda Westbrook to open an investigation into Serpas’ comments about the family of Bobby Troy.

Troy is the suspect in the murder of a Slidell doctor in the French Quarter.

“We're petitioning Commander Arlinda Westbrook to open up an investigation on chief Ronal Serpas for conduct unbecoming an officer, for utilizing police records and information to damage individuals and groups of individuals," said W.C. Johnson, from Community United for Change.

"Throughout the investigation, however, we've determined an incredibly sad fact. Bobby Troy's entire family is a family of criminals," said Serpas Sunday. During the press conference, Serpas then detailed the criminal records of Troy’s mother and brother.

Troy was taken into custody Thursday morning by U.S. Marshals in Missouri.

It's interesting that the Chief would take the conversation in this direction. Both he and the Mayor have made an unseemly habit of presenting us with less-than-professional belligerent public statements like this lately so it's hardly surprising. Anyway if he wants to talk about "families of criminals," there's certainly fodder for that available.

Chief's son-in-law and bodyguard among officers getting paid extra to review traffic tickets, station reports

According to WDSU, records show Hosli's employees at Anytime Solutions are all high-ranking NOPD officers, although the station did not name the employees.

The station posted records showing hours worked by the company's employees over six weeks. The employees' names are whited out on the records, but there appear to be 20 of them. They are paid at rates ranging from $35 to $55 per hour. In the timesheets posted by WDSU, the most a single officer made over two weeks was $1,120.

In one two-week pay period, the city paid Officer Travis Ward, Serpas' son-in-law, more than $500 to review tickets, according to the latest report. Ward is Serpas' son-in-law.

Serpas’ daughter is connected to suspended NOPD officer
The adult daughter of a finalist for New Orleans police chief shares a house with one of the NOPD officers who was present at a Mid-City bar when off-duty colleagues allegedly beat a group of city transit workers, an event that is the subject of a FBI civil rights investigation.

The 28-year-old daughter of Nashville Police Chief Ronal Serpas, Mandy Serpas, lives with her boyfriend, Travis Ward, in a modest home in Venetian Isles. Ward was one in a small group of off-duty police officers partying at the Beach Corner Bar and Grill on Mardi Gras night in 2008. The night’s celebrations were cut short when an alleged brawl between officers and off-duty Regional Transit Authority workers left transit workers beaten, and one fingered in a falsified police report, according to an internal investigation completed by the NOPD in October of that year.

And this one from back in Nashville is probably my favorite given Serpas' enthusiasm for traffic checkpoints.

Cops charge Serpas' son with DUI

Dustin Christopher Serpas, 26, was arrested on DUI charges by Vanderbilt University police after he was found passed out in his car with the driver's side door wide open, engine running and lights on.

"On my approach to the vehicle I found a subject passed out in the driver's seat with his hands resting on the steering wheel," Vanderbilt University Police Officer Joe Evans' affidavit states. "After a few minutes I was able to awake the subject. The subject smelled strongly of an alcoholic type beverage on his breath.

Speaking of preserving the historical memory

Can someone explain why then Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu thought it was a good idea to politicize the State Museum director's office?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The "News Shark" ate my comment

I tried to leave a comment on The Lens website this morning but it got eaten. Maybe they fed it to their horrifying Storify monster. Who knows what's going on over there?

We do know they need your help with whatever it is, though. The non-profit local news site's membership drive is up and running right now. Donors can choose from among a whimsical taxonomy of "membership" levels at which to participate.

Prior to seeing this list I had previously encountered the term "News-hound" which The Lens will allow you to call yourself in exchange for a $250 donation. Less familiar to me was "News-Shark" although I guess that's allowable given the image it conjures of an animal that smells news blood in the news water. In New Orleans, we're accustomed to there being plenty of water as well as blood in our news anyway.

If you like what The Lens does while it isn't eating comments and maybe have space in your home in which to cram one more goddamned coffee mug or tote bag (of course there's a fucking tote bag!) consider becoming a "News-Gulf Walrus" or "News Magic Microbe" or whatever today.

Anyway the only reason I'm sharing any of this with you is because this morning I read this Moseley column about the rather short shrift given by the city of Philadelphia to its very own late boxing icon Joe Frazier, particularly in comparison to that same city's deification of the fictional boxer Rocky Balboa who appears in a series of films you may have heard about. Here's the bit I picked out along with the comment I tried to add before the News Shark carried it away into the news depths somewhere.

Moseley writes,

Now, I don’t write this post merely to slag on Philadelphia, even though they famously mistreat quality athletes who represent their town. (Baseball star Mike Schmidt comes immediately to mind.) New Orleans can’t be haughty, though. While the Crescent City venerates our local sports heroes to an amazing degree, we often have not fully appreciated our talented sons and daughters while they’re living here. (Louis Armstrong comes immediately to mind.)

For example, statues abound in our city, yet we don’t have one for civil rights hero Homer Plessy. Similarly, millions of tourists visit the Crescent City each year, but how many of them learn that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at a meeting in our city? Practically none.

This is something I think about quite often. New Orleans is especially vulnerable to having its historical memory overwritten by more saleable tourist-friendly caricature. Case in point, a few years ago, I brought some visitors to see the St. Louis no. 1 Cemetery. The attraction for them was the supposed tomb of Marie Laveau. Of course so much of what we know about the "Voodooo Queen" is folklore as opposed to fact that the Laveau we know and sell to tourists is practically every bit the fictional character that Rocky is. After we had made our obligatory "X"es we took a walk around the cemetery during which one of our party remarked, "Holy shit, it's Homer Plessy. What would he be doing here?" We also happened upon the resting place of chess champion Paul Morphy which elicited no similar exclamation.

Spend any amount of time in the French Quarter within earshot of a "Vampire Tour" or a typically misinformative buggy driver and you'll understand this pretty well. The stories we tell ourselves and others about our city may not even be as interesting or inspiring as the factual stories we forget but, for a lazy and exploitative tourist industry they're profitable enough and thus do quite well. There may be no statue of Plessy but maybe someday someone will build a statue of this or that Treme character we can all be proud of. It's hard to compete with established branding.

The city could endeavor to affect some positive influence in such matters but a look at the ongoing budget hearings reveals inadequate support for its institutions responsible for preserving historical and cultural memory. Museums, libraries, arts programs are all underfunded. The public schools are being dubiously entrusted to a byzantine system of semi-privatized management. Even the city's idea of regulating tour guide companies seems mostly to consist of a drug testing shakedown scheme.

In fact, the most visible investment the city makes in shaping the way it is perceived by visitors involves folding BP's spin on the quality and sustainability of Gulf seafood into a series of BP funded commercials. For an administration that likes to claim it is operating with "eyes wide open" it doesn't do very much to help us and others see the city as well as we could.


It's been fun, Rick Perry. I would have said let's get rid of Ubeki beki beki stan stan but that's me.

Broken record says once more: This whole process is just a goofy farce to keep us mildly entertained until Mitt gets nominated. It always was.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


Herman Cain has blown up to full Sheen mode now. What does it mean, though? Well, not a whole lot. Mitt was your nominee from the beginning of this stupid process which is bound to get even stupider between now and next November. Only 12 shopping months left...

Sympathy for the Devil

I've always kind of been pulling for Team Satan myself, anyway.
Mississippi voters head to the polls today to consider a radical anti-abortion measure that equates abortion with murder and would outlaw some forms of birth control, but Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant (R) warned yesterday that if the personhood amendment fails, “Satan wins.”

Joe Paterno has a few things to say

That was kind of rough. Let's get some autotune on it and see what happens.

Ah, here we go.

All these commissions and hearings were just exploratory wells

Any actual facts uncovered will have no bearing on litigation
BP, Transocean and cement contractor Halliburton filed motions late Monday in federal court in New Orleans seeking to keep certain government oil spill reports out of the civil case. BP also wants a judge to bar plaintiffs' lawyers from using past criminal, civil and regulatory proceedings against the British firm in the civil case

Serpas signal?

Breaking news via the NOLAinfo email updates. NOPD tends to use these as a PR tool. Anyway, here's what they're proud of today.

In an effort to enforce the city’s new Aggressive Panhandling Law, the Eighth District made six (6) arrests for Aggressive Panhandling, over the weekend. Remember to report any suspicious persons or activities you see in your neighborhood...

8th District is the French Quarter. The notice doesn't specify whether anyone from the infamous "Party Patrol" was among the arrested.


Everyone knows about the recent rash of home invasions in Uptown New Orleans. Imagine what would happen if Serpas decided to just let the perpetrators go as long as they apologized.

Sell some dirt

Nagin's New Orleans house on market

No word on whether or not he's planning to move in next door to Sean Payton's family.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Why I don't bet money on sports

I'm only just now seeing this YRHT analysis from last Friday of the LSU-Bama betting line. In it, Oyster correctly saw big trouble for bookmakers who had Bama as a 4.5 to 5 point favorite.
Man, what a weird line. In a big game like this, you figure Vegas is baiting the stupid money with that fat number, wanting them to pile on LSU (in effect a sucker play where the oddsmakers are happy to have uneven books). But... I really don't think so this time. And if they got the line "wrong," it would've already quickly jumped down from 5 to 3.5 or so. Now they're stuck with a bad line on their biggest college game ever. What can they do? Even if they drop it to 4 or 3.5, I don't see the casual bettor unloading on Bama. And if Vegas takes the line to 3 or under, which would probably lure some casual money on the home team, they run the very real risk of getting "middled." (Say the Tide wins by 4, bookies have to pay all the bets on LSU +5, and all the late money on Bama -3.)

When I saw that line toward the end of the week, I figured it meant Bama was a lock to win going away. I thought "baiting the stupid money" was exactly the idea. When I see a big number like that I always tell people to bet the favorite.

And frankly that would have been the right play had Alabama placekickers managed to post the 12 points that would have reflected the degree to which the rest of their squad actually outplayed LSU Saturday night. But 4 missed field goals later we're reminded once again it's always stupid to bet on this stuff. And I mean like Alabama Senator level stupid.

Big sell off

Last week we learned that the Jindal Administration had just cavalierly pissed away an $80 million grant to extend broadband service to underserved rural communities in Louisiana citing their usual hard-headed ideological puritanism as a justification.
Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater said that, "from the start, we've always said there were implementation and sustainability problems in the grant that had to do with a top-down, government-heavy approach that would compete with and undermine, rather than partner with, the private sector and locals."

Don Whittinghill's post on the Education Talk blog translates this for us.
The original grant approval was based upon Louisiana’s agreement to bring high-speed Broadband to universities, K-12 schools, hospitals, libraries and other hubs in unserved and underserved areas of Louisiana. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency awarded a grant for a project that proposed to construct 900 miles of new fiber-optic infrastructure. The new network would have connected with the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative, a more than 1,600 mile network connecting Louisiana and Mississippi to a national network.

A year after the state began the project NOAA, with $5.3 million of the initial $15 million in state funds and $431,747 in federal funds already spent, the State took control and changed the entire plan to rent rights-of-use from commercial providers. Problem is that there are no commercial providers to provide the services required, no 900 miles of fiber-optic and few commercial providers willing to invest $90 million to do so. Shades of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the 1930s when most farm and rural town families could get no electricity from existing electrical generating stations whose management believed it would take too long to recover the investment cost.

And that, in a nutshell, is what Louisiana voters (well the 36% of them who turned out anyway) just signed up for another 4 years of. No service or infrastructure project.. even one backed by millions of dollars in free federal grant money.. is going to get done unless it can be sold off as a private money mine.

Same story with your prisons, same with your health services, same with your schools. If it can't be run as a privatized scam for someone's commercial benefit, your Governor's position is it's just not something you really need.

Preservation for you, demolition for me

New Orleans has more than an adequate supply of preservation experts both professional and amateur. So there are always any number of opinions available as to whether this or that building is historically significant enough to be spared a razing.

But ultimately the only factor that has any bearing on what action is taken is whether or not the property owner has the financial and political wherewithal to impose his or her will.

Football overload

Congratulations to all of the local sports heroes who managed to pretty much dominate our existence over the weekend. I've long said that our four seasons in South Louisiana are Carnival, Festival, Hurricane, and Football. Clearly we're at least neck deep in the latter right now. Or more likely in over our heads. Here's a video I apparently shot with my phone in the Quarter Saturday night during the LSU-Bamaegeddon event. At least I think that's where it came from. It might just be something I dreamed.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Quote of the Day

Jonathan Schwarz
There's apparently no better place to hide things in 2011 America than in a book.

That's pretty good but there are a couple things I should add. Schwarz is implying that not enough people talk about Obama's "pitchforks" meeting with the bankers when it is, in fact, basically common knowledge. At least I know I've seen it all over the various media and internets during the past few years and I'm pretty far from the center of any informed conversation about anything.

Second, seriously, I think a blog is about as effective a hiding place as a book is nowadays anyway. Nobody has time to read past 140 characters or process information beyond just clicking "like" anymore. And even if they did, I know I certainly wouldn't recommend they read anything by Ron Suskind in the first place.

But I get the point. That little anecdote is actually pretty relevant right now. It should at least remind our nation's #occupy pitchforkers, who is trying to protect the bankers from them.

Guess we don't need employment assistance in Louisiana

Just tell them all to levitate their trains to Disneyland by their bootstraps, or something.
The state's social services department is cutting $17 million from its programs, including eliminating an employment assistance program, because Congress didn't renew a block grant Louisiana has received for 15 years, the department secretary announced Friday. To close the gap, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services will scrap a 10-parish pilot program to help people find jobs, and will shrink benefits and support services for former welfare recipients who have found work. The department also will cut the monthly assistance given to grandparents and other relatives taking care of children who are not their own, through the Kinship Care program, from $280 per month to $222.

Guess we don't need internets in Louisiana

Somebody told me they use it to do the volcano monitoring anyway.

Michael Jordan is the 1%

What a dick.
Now that NBA superstars have decided to fully engage in the lockout negotiations and threaten union decertification, David Stern and ownership have decided to unleash their token minority owner from the house to play hardball. According to The New York Times, Michael Jeffrey Jordan, the greatest player of all time, is the owner most determined to bury the union financially. Jordan allegedly wants current players to take a 10- to 20-point basketball-related-income pay cut.


This is the ultimate betrayal. A league filled mostly with African-American young men who grew up wanting to be like Mike is finally getting to see just who Michael Jordan is. He’s a cheap, stingy, mean-spirited, cut-throat, greedy, uncaring, disloyal slave to his own bottom line.

Nike’s “Air Jordan” marketing strategy was based on getting black inner-city kids to worship Jordan and his shoes. Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, the Fab Five, etc., made Michael Jordan a billionaire. The NBA Players Association fought like crazy so the Bulls could make $30 million balloon payments to Jordan in each of his final two seasons in Chicago.

And now Jordan, as the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, wants to be the face of ownership greed and vindictiveness.


Negative Creep

Surprising immigration news from the New York Times. The US recession is so bad now that it's actually bucking the migration trend we're used to hearing Republican Presidential candidates tell us needs to be combated with electrified fences and "aviation assets" and really big magnets or something like that anyway.

Douglas S. Massey, co-director of the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton, an extensive, long-term survey centered in Mexican emigration hubs, said his research shows that interest in heading to the United States for the first time has fallen to its lowest level since at least the 1950s. “No one wants to hear it, but the flow has already stopped,” Mr. Massey said, referring to illegal traffic. “For the first time in 60 years, the net traffic has gone to zero and is probably a little bit negative.”

I happened upon this article because I read Mark Moseley's column where he references his own hit-or-miss "Superman series" of immigration policy satire. Personally, I've enjoyed the Superman columns although I can understand why some may feel that they were presented by a "dude who needs to learn to write for the internet".

Last Wednesday night Stephen Colbert, another satirist of some note, addressed the labor shortage caused by Alabama's new tough immigration law and its effect on this year's tomato crop. (Tomatoes, I should remind you, are a key ingredient in Beefy Mac.)

What's important to note here is Colbert's "modest proposal" about replacing poorly treated and underpaid migrant workers with prisoners is more than just a joke. Captive labor is a very old and well-established means of doing business in Alabama and the whole of the American south for that matter. I highly recommend Douglas Blackmon's Slavery by Another Name which describes the system of labor that neatly replaced slavery in the south between Reconstruction and just the time of the Second World War.
In Alabama alone, hundreds of thousands of pages of public documents attest to the arrests, subsequent sale, and delivery of thousands of African Americans into mines, lumber camps, quarries, farms, and factories. More than thirty thousand pages related to debt slavery cases sit in the files of the Department of Justice at the National Archives. Altogether, millions of mostly obscure entries in the public record offer details of a forced labor system of monotonous enormity.

Instead of thousands of true thieves and thugs drawn into the system over decades, the records demonstrate the capture and imprisonment of thousands of random indigent citizens, almost always under the thinnest chimera of probable cause or judicial process. The total number of workers caught in this net had to have totaled more than a hundred thousand and perhaps more than twice that figure. Instead of evidence showing black crime waves, the original records of county jails indicated thousands of arrests for inconsequential charges or for violations of laws specifically written to intimidate blacks—changing employers without permission, vagrancy, riding freight cars without a ticket, engaging in sexual activity— or loud talk—with white women. Repeatedly, the timing and scale of surges in arrests appeared more attuned to rises and dips in the need for cheap labor than any demonstrable acts of crime. Hundreds of forced labor camps came to exist, scattered throughout the South—operated by state and county governments, large corporations, small-time entrepreneurs, and provincial farmers.

One of the worst lies conservative lawmakers tell when they propose "tough-on-immigration" legislation like Alabama's is that they're interested in protecting American jobs and living standards. Instead, they've been pushing in a very different direction. Remember ALEC? The conservative model legislation mill whose Summer meetings in New Orleans occasioned an embarrassingly stupid protest march? Prisons and prison labor have been at the front of their agenda for quite some time.

Although a wide variety of goods have long been produced by state and federal prisoners for the US government—license plates are the classic example, with more recent contracts including everything from guided missile parts to the solar panels powering government buildings—prison labor for the private sector was legally barred for years, to avoid unfair competition with private companies. But this has changed thanks to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), its Prison Industries Act, and a little-known federal program known as PIE (the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program). While much has been written about prison labor in the past several years, these forces, which have driven its expansion, remain largely unknown.

Somewhat more familiar is ALEC’s instrumental role in the explosion of the US prison population in the past few decades. ALEC helped pioneer some of the toughest sentencing laws on the books today, like mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders, “three strikes” laws, and “truth in sentencing” laws. In 1995 alone, ALEC’s Truth in Sentencing Act was signed into law in twenty-five states. (Then State Rep. Scott Walker was an ALEC member when he sponsored Wisconsin's truth-in-sentencing laws and, according to PR Watch, used its statistics to make the case for the law.) More recently, ALEC has proposed innovative “solutions” to the overcrowding it helped create, such as privatizing the parole process through “the proven success of the private bail bond industry,” as it recommended in 2007. (The American Bail Coalition is an executive member of ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force.) ALEC has also worked to pass state laws to create private for-profit prisons, a boon to two of its major corporate sponsors: Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections), the largest private prison firms in the country. An In These Times investigation last summer revealed that ALEC arranged secret meetings between Arizona’s state legislators and CCA to draft what became SB 1070, Arizona’s notorious immigration law, to keep CCA prisons flush with immigrant detainees. ALEC has proven expertly capable of devising endless ways to help private corporations benefit from the country’s massive prison population.

That mass incarceration would create a huge captive workforce was anticipated long before the US prison population reached its peak—and at a time when the concept of “rehabilitation” was still considered part of the mission of prisons. First created by Congress in 1979, the PIE program was designed “to encourage states and units of local government to establish employment opportunities for prisoners that approximate private sector work opportunities,” according to PRIDE’s website. The benefits to big corporations were clear—a “readily available workforce” for the private sector and “a cost-effective way to occupy a portion of the ever-growing offender/inmate population” for prison officials—yet from its founding until the mid-1990s, few states participated in the program.

It's interesting to me that both Colbert and Moseley have taken a recent shine to fraudulent Republican Presidential candidate Buddy Roemer. Phony as ever, Roemer is currently attempting to glom his campaign onto whatever momentum the Occupy Wall Street Protests could potentially generate. Buddy could probably get himself elected President of Twitter right now. But when one's memory extends to whatever was contained in the most recent 140 character outburst, one tends to forget that during the 1990s push to expand prison labor, Buddy was at the head of the movement. Here's an ad from Buddy's 1987 campaign for Governor where he promises to "put the prisoners to work"

Our modern day version of Roemer, Governor Bobby Jindal, has supported not only the practice of leasing prisoners but actually selling the prisons themselves to private management firms which could then sell forced labor for profit.

If the numbers in that Times article are correct and the flood of cheap illegal migrant labor into the US market has slowed to a negative creep, then the confused rhetoric Republican Presidential candidates have been blurting about the need to fence it out is even more absurd than first thought. Maybe it's time to pay closer attention to their plans to fence it in.