Saturday, October 15, 2005

Floatin' in No Orleans 

Spasticrobot points to an intriguing house plan.
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Don't you think maybe we could put it on credit? 

Record numbers of displaced Louisianans, living on a VISA and a prayer, are filing for bankruptcy prior to the new rules kicking in:

Upcoming changes in federal bankruptcy law will make recovery that much more difficult for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The new law requires consumers filing for bankruptcy to jump through numerous hoops including filing mounds of paperwork on a strict schedule, proving they lack the capacity to repay certain creditors, and requiring them to take a credit counseling course before they can even file.

People who have lost everything may be trapped by a system that gives virtually no leeway, regardless of the circumstances....

The old bankruptcy law contained a provision that loosened filing rules for people who had been through a hurricane or flood. Early this year, a congressional easing was defeated in a party-line vote to have a similar provision included in the new bankruptcy law, exempting victims of natural disasters from some of its more onerous provisions. The new law goes into effect Oct. 17.

The new law is called the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. Why in the world would an entire political party oppose such benificent legislation?

Stupefying, huh?

I can't wait to see credit card rates drop through the floor, since, you know, so much abuse will be prevented and so many more consumers will be protected after Oct 17th. Why don't you call your CC company today and ask for an estimate of savings they plan on passing on to their customers? What minimum amount will they be able to guarantee?

Speak to a manager if necessary. But don't take "No" for an answer.

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Friday, October 14, 2005

"Need some wood?" 

Yeah, I could use some lumber to rebuild my house, but these dumbass tariffs only add insult to injury-- especially in this tight building market.

Anyone out there decide to have a custom home built in a (ridiculously) competitive locale? Please share.

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

HFPST is my norbizness, and norbizness is good! 

Crackin' good shot, here:

Reading this account of a conference call with rat-faced, chinless GOP shill Ken Mehlman, it occurs to me that a miraculous thing has happened: apparently, not nominating a firebreathing lunatic who explicitly vows to overturn Roe v. Wade and roll back most New Deal legislation has caused rank-and-file conservatives to begin to doubt the word and/or judgment of the President (by the way, have fun battling the crazies like James Dobson and Pat Robertson on this one).

Congratulations, it only took y'all about 4.75 years of wanton fiscal management, cronyism, broken promises, infantile happy-talk about foreign policy, multiple scandals involving members of the White House and Republican leadership, failure to utilize the veto, deepening debt, rampant corporate welfare, and unfulfilling lip service to your pet prejudices to drive that particular point home. Sorry you're abandoning a rotten, derelict ship of state at such a late point in time; most of us ditched any hope of a financially sound country operating in any sane manner years ago.

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Local Gubmint flying to the rescue!! 

The City Council quietly tabled discussion of the (urgently needed) removal of the NOPD residency requirement... for six months!!

And the School Board decided East Bank schools should remain closed until summer, at the earliest.

Those of us with the revolution behind our eyes need to get up and organiiiizzze.
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All in all it's just another leak in the wall 

From a T-P article on levee reconstruction:

The steel-and-reinforced-concrete vertical wall used along many local waterways, known as an "I-wall" design, has proved to be unexpectedly weak in many areas, including the 17th Street and London Avenue drainage canals. There, engineers who have studied the breaches believe that sections collapsed without being topped by storm-surge waters, pointing to a possible role for human error of design, construction or maintenance in the flooding of large portions of the city.

"Unexpectedly weak?" Review this ultra-robust "I-wall" design for yourselves.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

It's fun to read the sweet mint tea leaves 

...don't you think?
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Let us feed you 

USA Today:

A Department of Homeland Security official tasked with helping local businesses get post-Hurricane Katrina contracts resigned in frustration last week because he could not secure catering work for local vendors.

Doug Doan, a business liaison at DHS, lined up a group of Louisiana chefs and restaurants to provide 26,000 meals a day in St. Tammany Parish to people without power and unable to cook for themselves.

Instead of the seafood pasta and beef with a red wine mushroom reduction that Doan arranged, box lunches and military rations known as meals-ready-to-eat, or MREs, from outside Louisiana are being served.

Gulf Coast lawmakers, such as Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and other critics have complained about the federal government's failure to steer recovery dollars to businesses in the areas affected by the storm. A list of contracts awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency showed that as of Oct. 3, two of 140 agreements had gone to Louisiana prime contractors.

"Louisiana makes the best food in the world," Doan said Tuesday. "To be bringing in beanie weenies from Florida or peanut butter sandwiches from Ohio at a greater cost ... is an outrage."

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Red, red Rum 

Dick Nixon wasn't able to smile in any human sense. He just bared his teeth uncomfortably, and would declare "Now that's funny!" (rather than laugh) if he found something humorous.

Sec. Rumsfeld, on the other hand, is not at all similar. He's so loose and unforced, it's a pity Franz Hals isn't around to capture his joie de vivre.
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I really want to Than Q 

Murph burned 150 cds, and sent them to Lovely and me in order to help us replace our lost music collection.

To characterize his gift as an aural treasure trove would be a gross understatement. It's magnificent. Impeccable. Even better than we could have assembled had we chosen everything ourselves. We're so overwhelmed and overjoyed by his generosity. (And taste. Thank goodness Murph [and Murphette] have taste! I mean, what would you do if someone sent you 150 suckass cds with goo goo dolls shite on them? That would be kinda awkward.)

The really filthy cool thing about many of the albums Murph burned for us is that there's so many we didn't have, but always wanted... How did he know??? I only met the guy once.

When Lovely was paging through the CD notebook (which is about the size of the L.A. Yellow Pages) she had this look on her face like Jon Stewart was personally inviting her out on a date. And just seeing her that happy made me pretty happy, too.

We're simply overwhelmed by the generosity from Murph, and from the many other bloggers who have opened their hearts and offered their homes and wallets. You know who you are. Thank you so much. Y'all are the dog's nuts, and we promise not to forget that.
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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I want the World to Know 

It's National Coming Out Day!

Everyone should be up front and reveal their true selves... even if the heavens should fall!
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Beware the red-eyed Po Po 

New Orleans Police are working at least 12 hours a day, 7 days a week with only a few days off per month. They've been doing this before Katrina hit, throughout the resulting chaos, and ever since. Now they are living on a docked cruise ship, 2 to a cabin, without their families.

I'm not excusing anything some of them have done, least of all looting and brutality upon an old man. But you cannot overwork these already overworked men and women like this. You are going to worsen the bad cops and burn out the good!

Somehow New Orleans needs to cut several hundred cops who shouldn't be on the force and hire a thousand more quality officers over the next couple of years. Everyone's exhausted and on edge and many more bad incidents are inevitable if we don't get them some quick help.

Update: The next day James Gill's column in the T-P is titled "Beware upsetting our high-strung police". Crappier title, better essay (of course).
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An un-enchanted state 

I was actually tremendously impressed that President Bush was reading John Barry's The Great Influenza while on vacation during New Orleans' flooding. (It sure beats the reading material he had trouble putting down during 9/11.) Truly, though, if there was one book that he should have been reading it is probably that one. This bird flu is serious, kids, and a pandemic (at some point) is a virtual certainty. Read Barry's book and you'll begin to understand. My copy is ruined, but many of his descriptions have been seared into my memory. For example, during the 1918 pandemic, victims' lungs quickly filled with fluid. They suffocated, writhing in pain, coughing so hard that they caused themselves internal injury, and finally became so dark-blue that nurses couldn't distinguish whether victims were black or white.

It seems odd that Bush was so eager to recommend the book, in one way. Barry is (rightfully) very hard on Woodrow Wilson. He is scathing towards Wilson's control of information, especially in regards to downplaying the epidemic so as not to hurt the precious wartime morale. One unbelievable example of this was a huge Liberty Bonds rally in Philadelphia which officials refused to cancel even though health experts said that the flu had moved from military bases into the general population. The big parade wasn't cancelled and hundreds of people were infected. They proceeded to infect thousands more. Over a hundred Philadelphians were dying each day thereafter, for weeks on end. All because the powers that be didn't want to admit that there was a problem in America, because it might quicken the pulse of a Kraut on the other side of the world. (You can see where I'm going here, can't you?)

So, it's odd to see a president who has served up so much warmed over neo-conservative/Wilsonian fantasia recommend Barry's book.

Some have complained about Bush's idea to let the military control quarantines and isolations should an epidemic occur here in the U.S.. I don't know if that will work, but I sure as hell don't have any better ideas at the moment. This flu stuff will shake up our world, people. Very similar to how Katrina ravaged New Orleans (only more will die). Cities will become ghost towns, and urbanites will either bunker down or flee to places like Burnt Scrotum, New Mexico. And guess what? The normally hospitable residents of Burnt Scrotum aren't going to want any coughing strangers coming through.

In short, it will be incomprehensibly bad should a rapidly mutating pandemic occur. So many common elements of life will become lethal risks. (Do you send your child to school? Do you go to the grocery? Do you touch your mail?) Can we even fathom, say, a hundred thousand Americans dying in just a few months time?

All I can really tell you is: New Orleanians, don't throw away your respirators or your gloves. Restock your moldy pantries as soon as possible. And cultivate those internet relationships!

Update: Let me be clear. I don't want a quarantine, but should vaccinations prove ineffective or too scarce, I'd prefer that the military secure unaffected areas versus some undisciplined, minuteman yokel. It would hella-suck, and may not even work, but in a ravaging pandemic no one's gonna want to leave the house, much less go on a road trip. Under normal circumstances, New Orleans, a tourist mecca, would likely be one of the first places affected. But under current conditions, maybe not. As we know, it would be an easy city to quarantine if (for example) the flu was spreading throughout other areas of the country. Would you want to close off the city in order to save hundreds or thousands of lives?

Scary stuff.
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President Bush and the First Lady came to town, and dined with the blue-ribbon group Mayor Nagin put together to create a plan to rebuild the city. I hope it was a festive time for all. The First Lady apparently enjoyed her Gumbo Ya Ya at Bacco's and Bush said he only wants to support a local plan (rather than offer one of his own) for rebuilding the Gulf Coast. That's fine by me. Rove has a lot on his plate right now, anyway.

After announcing the creation of the blue ribbon committee, Nagin immediately proposed a new casino expansion for the Central Biz District, to the surprise of everyone. I'm not entirely opposed to the basic idea, as long as it's a very minute fraction of the entire master plan for rebuilding New Orleans. I look at it as a warning to the Mississippi Gulf Coast: we are going to compete for the casino business that was destroyed by Katrina. New Orleans wants the big gaming names to migrate over to New Orleans, rather than rebuild again in Gulfport. I think that has a lot to do with the unfortunate haste with which the proposal has been handled.

Will it work? I don't know. Four or five of the biggest downtown hotels would change names and do multi-million dollar renovations to several floors, and compete amongst themselves for (mainly) tourist dollars. There are some existing contractual obligations with Harrah's that make things sticky. But Harrah's came to town and said they were going to do business to the tune of $30 million/month; and Harrah's accomplished that (mainly by strengthening its entire casino/rewards network, and improving their ability to cater to international "Big Fish" gamblers.)

Will huge corporate "gaming" casinos destroy the culture of New Orleans? Not really. First off, let's not make the Times-Picayune's error and admit that gambling is one of the original, continuous threads of New Orleans culture. It wasn't invented in the early nineties when the Silver Fox started doling out the permits. It's been here since the beginning, and evolved along with everything else. Heck, poker, the insanely popular card game which 60million+ Americans play on a regular basis, was introduced to the U.S. via New Orleans. Would it be so horrible (especially since convention and sporting event business will be down for a while) to have some World Poker Tour events in New Orleans, as well as some more World Series of Poker satellite events? I don't think so.

I'm not against the expansion of "gaming" in theory. However, I hate the corporate, generic, shopping mall flavor of corporate casinos. (And I hate that most people like to play slot machines, but c'est la vie.) Lord knows New Orleans can do entertainment and food-- is it possible to transfer those strengths (at least in part) to a hotel with a few floors of slots and tables? I think it could be done. For example, the Bellagio in Las Vegas decided to make room for an excellent little art museum. So if an adult playground in Vegas can successfully integrate some bonafide culture, I'm sure we can do it as well. In that vein, I think there's room for a high-falutin' James Bond- baccarat- "pay the banker"- continental- style gaming experience in New Orleans. On the other end, I've seen several Hard Rock casinos that are somewhat interesting, and have a welcome, relative "edginess". We could run with that style. For example, I'd love to have some of those old scamsters from the Quarter re-employed at a casino exhibition booth, demonstrating various razoos like "cajun bingo".

In short, Gambling is here to stay in America, and I believe people expect to be able to place a wager if they come to New Orleans. So, as long as this casino idea is a very minor portion of New Orleans' overall plan (like the film tax credits) I'm open to it.

Obviously no business incentive should take the place of necessary infrastructure improvements, because these things protect and enable businesses to flourish. I'm referring to levees, floodwalls, canals, wetlands restoration, environmental clean-up, roads, drainage, port expansion, I-49, light rail to B.R., Fiber...etc.

I'll be talking about other, serious ideas soon. But here's a fun one that might have promise: what about a local "New Orleans Idol" show? There's plenty of talent here (as well as folks who think they can sing but can't) plus plenty of neighborhood rivalries, etc... Might be a big hit.
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Monday, October 10, 2005

It's Columbus Day!! Feel the excitement! 

Why not celebrate the holiday by "discovering" the great midwestern town of Columbus.... Indiana?

With good reason, it's called the "Athens of the Midwest". Columbus, IN is one of the most architecturally significant places in the country. No joke. (It's also the headquarters of Cummins Diesel Engines, too.)

Up there, those hoosiers talk so straight it almost hurts.
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Spitzer/Fitzer 2008 

A unity ticket pairing Eliot Spitzer and Patrick Fitzgerald. Whaddya think?

I promise you that they'll get to the (KB)Root of the problem.
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You Kant handle the truth! 

Upon Michael's recommendation, I went over to The Next Hurrah to slake my thirst for more Plamegate speculation.

Now, I know this might be difficult for some of my loyal droogs to believe, but it appears some intrepid netizens have investigated the affair in much greater detail than even I have done.

Amazing-- but true!

As you may recall, the sum total of my analysis on the scandal over the past year can be summarized thusly:

1. "Something will come of it."

2. Fitzgerald is like Ness and Rove is like Capone. And Ness will prevail, just like in that cute Brian De Palma movie!!

Now, I'll give y'all some time to digest the leaden profundity of those titanic propositions. There's no shame here; philosophers from Konigsberg have been stumped by my outrageously circuitous logical maneuverings...

So, by all means, take each claim one at a time if you're particularly uncaffeinated today, or if you're an SMU graduate (I kid, I kid!). And, for the very few who might be able to withstand further thought-experiments on this, travel over to the aforementioned Next Hurrah, where emptyseat is working on a Plame grand unification theory (Oct 9 post).

Update: Simbaud finds another tantalizing distillation of clues (Oct 9 post).
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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Yesterday, Lovely and I went back to our "Mold Sweet Mold" to retrieve some valuables and a few salvageable mementos. It's really getting nasty in there-- there were mushrooms growing out of our carpet! And even though I wore my respirator the entire time, afterwards I felt horrible-- like I'd been on a weekend bender with a gallon of Kentucky Vodka and a carton of unfiltered Pall Malls.

That black mold permeates everything! Hideous, disgusting... I won't be back unless I'm outfitted like Darth Vader.

One other thing I noticed: if contracting firms put half the effort into rebuilding New Orleans that that they do in waging these bandit sign wars, the city will return to normal at record pace.
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