Saturday, September 30, 2006

Radio, Radio 

I'm gonna be a guest on a streaming radio show tonight that will be taking a "comprehensive look at New Orleans". Scout will be on the program, as well, and she has all the details here.

Please have a listen if you're interested. Teaser: there will be a surprise musical guest!

Whatever you do, don't get "overwhelmed by indifference and the promise of an early bed".
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Update: The surprise musical guest was the Frogman.

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Preeverts should be handled politically? 

Regarding the scandal surrounding Rep. Foley's "Perv Emails" to minors, Josh observes:

[One] detail here isn't getting enough attention. Rep. Alexander (R-LA), the first member of Congress to be alerted to the problem, says he contacted the NRCC. That's the House Republicans' election committee, a political organization entirely separate from the House bureaucracy and the Congress. (The head of the NRCC this cycle is Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY).) That is, to put it mildly, not in the disciplinary and administrative chain of command of the House of Representatives. Considering that the issue involved a minor, it seems highly inappropriate to discuss the matter with anyone not charged with policing the House. More to the point, however, you tell the head of the NRCC because you see the matter as a political problem. Reynolds is the one in charge of making sure Republican House seats get held. If an incumbent might have drop out or be kicked out you want him to know so that he can line up someone to replace him. You at least want to keep him abreast of the situation if you think a problem might develop. I cannot see any innocent explanation for notifying the head of the NRCC while not [informing] the full membership of the page board. [The Democrat on the Page Board was not informed of the problem.]


SF Chronicle:

In a scandal guaranteed to anger parents, a prominent House Republican has resigned after the revelation that he exchanged raunchy electronic messages with a teenage boy, a former congressional page.

Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., who is single, apologized Friday for letting down his family and constituents. Once his resignation letter was read to the House late Friday afternoon, Republicans spent the night trying to explain — six weeks before congressional elections — how this could have happened on their watch.

Near midnight, they engineered a vote to let the House ethics committee decide whether an investigation is needed.

Among the Republican explanations during the night:

-- The congressional sponsor of the page, Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., said he was asked by the youth's parents not to pursue the matter, so he dropped it.

-- Alexander said that before deciding to end his involvement, he passed on what he knew to the chairman of the House Republican campaign organization, Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-N.Y. Reynolds' spokesman, Carl Forti, said the campaign chairman also took no action in deference to the parents' wishes.
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Glad the "Politics of the Past" are safely behind us (pt. 2 in an ongoing series) 

Times Picayune:


[Rep. William] Jefferson is scheduled to unveil more endorsements -- including elected officials, members of the clergy and community leaders -- at his Canal Street office Monday at 10:30 a.m. There has been widespread speculation in political circles that Mayor Ray Nagin will back Jefferson, one of the few local elected officials to endorse Nagin's bid for a second term.

So the farce will soon come full circle. Nagin, who used innuendo about Mitch Landrieu's family to win re-election (with the help of the highly-educated "Couhig Conservative" voters), will likely reciprocate William Jefferson's endorsement with one of his own. I will make it a point to be front and center at that announcement. I CAN'T BLOODY WAIT to hear Nagin's "good reasons" for endorsing the corrupt Jefferson machine over Karen Carter or Joe Lavigne. Someone please, please tell me how re-electing Jefferson is good for New Orleans? I wonder if Couhig will be at the endorsement, or will he have a scheduling conflict? Can we get a reaction from him, either way? I swear, this political farce will have more laughs than the comedy show Nagin had slated for the Katrina anniversary.

For months I've been trying to understand the thought process behind the Couhig Conservatives. I've been searching in vain for ONE GOOD REASON as to why a conservative should have voted for Nagin over Landrieu. Just one reason that makes sense, that's all. Yet no one could furnish it. The Greater New Orleans Republicans couldn't provide one. The head of the Tulane Republicans couldn't provide one. Rob Couhig couldn't provide one. Mike Foster couldn't provide one. Boysie Bollinger couldn't provide one. Chad Rogers couldn't provide one. What are we left to conclude, then?

Answer: the worst.

What is the thought process, here, if it's not nefarious? Is it this:

During these crucial years, we need a leader who "understands business", who thinks outside the box, and who isn't encumbered by the "politics of the past". Therefore, we must re-elect an incompetent embarrassment who will (likely) support Dollar Bill Jefferson, because Nagin will keep the Landrieus down and the state Democratic party weak.

Is that it?

Here's an idea: if you hate New Orleans that much, please kindly leave it. It's been a rough year. We don't need active saboteurs right now.
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Friday, September 29, 2006

Looka! CP's back! 

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Musical Musings 

From Evacuee we learned that Master P has written a "stage musical about the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina". The "stage spectacular" is titled "Uncle Willy's Family", and Master P considers it the most important thing he's ever done.

That's cool.

Perhaps someday he will write a companion musical titled, "Uncle Willy Wonka's Family".

Or perhaps he can collaborate with R. Kelly and call it "Trapped in the Closet, with a Skeleton (pts 1-28)".
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Getting shit on 

WaPo reports:
The contractor that botched construction of a $75 million police academy in Baghdad so badly that human waste dripped from the ceilings has produced shoddy work on 13 out of 14 projects reviewed by federal auditors, the top official monitoring Iraq's reconstruction told Congress yesterday.

In a House hearing on what has gone wrong with reconstruction contracts in Iraq, Parsons Corp. quickly became the focus, taking bipartisan heat for its record of falling short on critical projects. The Pasadena, Calif., firm was supposed to build facilities at the heart of the $21 billion U.S.-led reconstruction program, including fire stations, border forts and health-care centers. But inspectors have found a litany of flaws in the firm's work. The one project reviewed by auditors that was being constructed correctly, a prison, was taken away from Parsons before its completion because of escalating costs.

Paying $75 million for a building that rains shit? Chreezus, was Parsons' subcontractor a G.G. Allin acolyte? This is the company "at the heart" of the Iraq nation-building, and the results couldn't be crappier. How can we possibly expect Iraqis to "stand up" quickly if they don't have serviceable infrastructure? This sort of poor workmanship and war profiteering is wasteful, bad for morale, un-American, and gives aid and comfort to the terrorists. It means our troops will have to stay in Iraq that much longer.

What a disgrace. Of course, this being Iraq, the stench of Bush cronyism is thick here, too.

Parsons Corp. is a Bush contributor which currently "manages" the "rebuilding" of some Orleans Parish schools, and recently got a quarter billion dollar FEMA contract to "manage" the building of temporary houses after the next disaster. Sweet!

Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao was on Parsons board of directors until President Bush selected her for his Cabinet. This fact is not mentioned in her Dept of Labor bio.

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Update: Related stories at Norbizness and Billmon.
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Matrices 

Hmm.

Remember when the White House forced the US Army Corps of Engineers' to create a lame "Decision Matrix " instead of an actual plan for Category 5 flood protection for Louisiana? After the Bush administration's heavy censoring "editing", all we were left with were a set of "principles" for a plan, not a plan itself. The White House apparently had "fiscal concerns" about protecting South Louisiana (the fastest disappearing land mass in the world). So rather than make a firm commitment and show leadership on this crucial issue, the Bushies opted to pass the buck to the next administration, with the excuse that they were "studying" the problem to see what "science dictates". What an uncharacteristically high regard for "science" the Bush administration has shown on this (one) issue! They are so... enlightened!

Well anyway, certain political leaders in our state got the message that the White House was opposed to anything more than Cat 2/3 levees for New Orleans. Sen. David Vitter, for example, now thinks the term "Category 5 protection" is unhelpful, and he has stopped using it. Worse, "OUR" Mayor, C. Ray Nagin, acts as if the new levee improvements for New Orleans are unbreachable and totally satisfactory. In fact, during a nationally televised interview, when he wasn't insulting Ground Zero, he was knocking on rebuilt Cat 2/3 floodwalls with his fist, like that proved how reliable they were. (How reassuring! I think I'll send that video segment to my flood insurance provider and see if they'll give me a discount because the new floodwalls passed Nagin's "knock test".) So, just realize that long ago Nagin stopped talking about the need for Cat 5 protection for S. Louisiana.

Ok, on to my point: similar to the USACE's near-useless "decision matrix", Nagin recently unveiled an "Accountability Matrix " by which the first 100 days of his second term can be "judged". Neither of the matrices have enough specifics or, as David notes, any "financial transparency". They're both basically whitewashed B.S.. For example, in regards to crime, Nagin keeps the crime rate assessments artificially low by averaging out the entire first half of 2006, instead of doing a quarterly or monthly review (which would show an alarming upward trend). Hardly anyone was in the city in January, yet those figures are averaged with June's so as to make the violent crime rate appear lower. Also, the mayor's estimates of total population in N.O. is on the very high end, which helps bring down the averages as well. Similarly, in his economic development graphs, sometimes the "metro area" category is cleverly substituted instead of using just New Orleans proper.

So, I wonder if Nagin got the "Accountability Matrix" idea from the USACE report, or from Rob Couhig, or from the White House itself. Similar names, and similar levels of usefulness, in my humble opinion.

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Now, do not confuse these reports with New Orleans' "Baby Matrix". No, indeed! You should have faith in the "baby matrix". Enjoy his potential. Relish his tutelage under "Morpheus". Let them introduce you to a whole new world of authentic (sporting) excellence. Open yourself to their team's weekly inspiration, as we rebuild Neo-Orleans together.
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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Unsugarcoated 

For the umpteenth time, why wasn't I notified that Louisiana blogger Anntichrist S. Coulter left Blondesense to go out on her own?

She can now be found at Mark of the Beast.

However, for those of you are disturbed by the rantings of, say, Ashley or Greg, I definitely would advise never reading anything Ann writes. Go back to your David Broder, or your Chris Rose, or your Family Circus, or whatever the hell you like to read.

Also, Ernie the Attorney links to a post from Georgia Lawyer that prints the altered lyrics used in Green Day and U2's cover of "The Saints are Coming" which they played before the game on Super Saints Monday. Plus, there's a video where you can relive the performance (unless, of course, you're a malcontent who thought it was "totally gay").
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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Out of profundity 

Here's an excerpt from an article titled "Saints' defense blows Falcons away" in Tuesday's Times Picayune:


The forces of nature brought this city to its knees a little more than a year ago, but its football team brought a still-teetering region to its feet Monday night.

And the afterglow of a resounding 23-3 nationally televised victory over their archrival not only put the Saints atop the NFC South with a 3-0 record, but quite possibly shook all of New Orleans out of it's post-Katrina funk and placed it on a clear path toward its ultimate renaissance.

It's quite a remarkable statement to make in a sports article. "Clear path"? "Ultimate renaissance"? Pretty ambitious talk, there. And you'll find no examples or evidence in the rest of the article to support such a far-flung conjecture.

Yet, I don't totally disagree with it.

The game was the most-watched program in the history of ESPN, the "highest-rated program of the night on any network, broadcast or cable", and garnered the second largest cable audience ever. If you consider the pregame and the repeated highlights on all the sports shows Tuesday, and all the national media coverage, you could say that Super Monday was one long, memorable, positive advertisement of New Orleans. For a nation that experienced Katrina as a week-long television event showcasing suffering, ineptitude, frustration... this was a much-needed "hopeful" coda that had been missing from the "Katrina narrative" for over a year. In grand fashion, New Orleans was able to show the rest of the country that we're working hard to come back as an event city, a tourist city, a functioning city. Over all, I'd say ESPN's coverage of the "Super Monday" was very sympathetic and rightly acknowledged that the game itself was secondary to the larger issues in post-Katrina New Orleans.

But, but, but oyster... a national telecast doesn't strengthen our levees. A football game doesn't rebuild damaged homes....

Well, no kidding. Last night was about group therapy. It was about boosting civic morale. But it was also about business. Anyone want to estimate the economic impact of this "quasi-Super Bowl"? I will confidently assert that it's well over $20 million, all things considered. How important was this game to hotels and restaurants, especially after a lethally slow summer? I would imagine the scale of this football game became a welcome "surprise" development for many of these industries. I wouldn't be surprised if all the positive publicity leads to enhanced tourism across the board, as well as one or two conventions that we wouldn't have gotten otherwise.

And yes, maybe, ideally, we should have all our priorities in the perfect order and we should be collectively gutting houses rather than watching burly millionaires wrestling over pigskin. And maybe New Orleanians should also be gutting houses instead of celebrating Carnival. But if you subtract things like the Saints and Mardis Gras, then this place ceases to be New Orleans.

It's not easy for outsiders to understand that Carnival was a profound experience back in February; and so was this Saints game. I had tears of joy during both.

New Orleanians are not about efficiency. We are about having fun. Sometimes we dance when we should be working or sleeping-- even after a disaster. But we have fun, and people like to have fun with us, and our city is willing to accomodate those other funlovers, because we are in the "business of fun". And Monday was hugely stimulative for our business.

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I feel it necessary to say more... (Ok, first, lemme explain something: even though I consider myself a New Orleanian, and have lived here for a decade, and am becoming irrevocably woven into the fabric of the city, in many ways I'm still just a student of New Orleans. So, I often say "we" but you should realize that I don't speak for lifelong New Orleanians. In subtle but significant ways, I could be way off when I describe the culture here.) As a mere student, though, I feel it necessary to say that yes, we live in a tourism-based city that's in the "business of fun". However, don't be fooled into thinking that "fun-loving" New Orleanians are simple, superficial hedonists. In certain ways, I would instead liken New Orleanians to the Ancient Greeks whom Nietzsche venerated. We're superficial: out of profundity!

We understand that Lent comes after Carnival, and that football games don't fix broken levees (and schools and streets). But we also understand that a celebratory dance can (and should) follow a funeral. And Monday night, there was dancing in the Dome-- and the celebrants understood why it was a profound New Orleans experience, and don't need to be reminded that they have work to do after the dancing stops.

Yes, Ash Wednesday will always follow Fat Tuesday. Thank you, professors of the obvious-- We get that.

But there are REASONS why we celebrate like we do. There are REASONS why we come together in a rebuilt arena and wear costumes and yell so loud we forget who we are and chant in unison, and deliriously hug people we've never met when our "boys" cross certain white lines on the field. There are REASONS to have memorable, emotional, unifying experiences with thousands of other people in a catastrophe-stricken city. The Superdome wasn't merely a place where we could vent our many frustrations. No, the pretext was the football game, but folks instinctively knew that this gathering was becoming an important cultural celebration of rebirth and renewal. And that "New Orleans emotion" intensified enough to pierce through the corporate "veil" of a Monday Night Football telecast into millions of homes. But it wasn't just "raw" emotion. I think many viewers understood that New Orleanians are culturally unified in profoundly deep and unique ways. So, the delirium at the Dome was like the jazz dance outside the cemetery... we believe it is appropriate and important to celebrate like that-- especially after a tragedy! And... quite simply, no one else does it like we do.

We invite you to come see for yourself.

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Update: Ashley and Mark have much more.
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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"And we'll all be reunited..." 

During the most significant game in the history of the New Orleans Saints, the Superdome overflowed with hope and joy for everyone to see.

I couldn't be prouder of our team, our coaches, our fans or our city.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

It's a beautiful Super Saints Monday 

Don't make it go away.

Maitri sez there's nearly a "Mardis Gras" atmosphere in the Central Business District. I can't wait to be part of it.

I wanted to actually do some football handicapping on the game itself today, but I can't figure out if Roxy's boys were up to any trickery with the Saints/Atlanta line.

See, in an effort to have even amounts of money bet on both sides of each contest, oddsmakers set a"line" that tries to balance the perceptions about likely outcomes among potential bettors. (They're not trying to predict the final score.) However, for a variety of reasons sometimes bets come in heavily on one team, and the line must be moved in order to draw more action towards the "other" team so that sportsbooks can comfortably rake in the "juice" or "vigorish" with little risk of loss.

However, some sports bettors believe that, on certain high profile games, oddsmakers sometimes set a trap. The oddsmakers might have a definite opinion about a contest that goes against conventional wisdom, and they set a "trap" line that actually encourages lopsided "action" bets to one side. Of course this is gambling, and flies in the face of the goal of a sportsbook: safe profits based on good odds that deliver reliably "balanced" betting. So, many might disagree that they do this, but I'm in the camp that thinks they do.

I used to be a strong college football handicapper, but was pretty mediocre on the pro teams. When I saw the early Saints/Falcons line (Atl -3) it looked like a little trickery was afoot. I thought the conventional betting wisdom was that Atlanta's ground attack was too strong for the Saints, and that they should be favored by more in order to have even action. I thought the line should be -4, and it did move from -3 to -4, but that can be explained by Atlanta signing M. Andersen for PK duties (where the Falcons had struggled mightily). I still think there's more money on the Falcons than on the Saints, though.

So, I really wanted this to be a post that claimed Roxy's boys were setting a "trap line" for bets on the Falcons, and that there must be strong "hidden" reasons to think that the Saints would prevail, and that the Saints should actually be even money instead of -3 or -4 dogs (that's a huge difference in pro football).

But, upon reflection, I can't find the "hidden reasons" behind the "trap" and therefore can't confidently predict that higher powers are betting on the Saints. I don't know where the smart money will be for this game. Maybe there is no smart money for this one.

We know there will be a ton of emotion and noise in the Dome, but I've seen Warrick Dunn and Michael Vick do some amazing things in a raucous Dome. Heck, unlike Brees and Bush, they've actually played there before. I'd previously thought home field advantage tonight might mean 4 extra points for the Saints. Now I'm not so sure. Vick is a nightmare on that fast carpet, and our OL may not be able to make enough holes for Deuce and Bush to spring big runs.

We'll see, I suppose. That's why they play the game... etc.

Still, honestly, in my heart of hearts, I think this game is a toss-up. Therefore the Saints (+4)are a good bet. But I'm biased. I think the crowd will be a factor and that Payton knows how to make winning adjustments. If I remove the Saints emotion it seems like Vegas, alas, has the right favorite. (Lord knows I wanted to argue that this was a "trap" situation, and that bettors should unload on the home team, but there are just too many unknowns for me to assert that.)


Go Saints!
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I like big "buts" 

Baizetown showed us this "excellent and inexpensive" PSA:



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An aside: The post title reminds me of a recent... erm... embarrassing "incident" that occurred at Pearlgirl's new pre-school. The school was holding a big "meet and greet" picnic for parents, teachers and students. Due to scheduling concerns, my wife Lovely and I took separate cars and met each other there. Upon arrival, I noticed that she had parked her car on a side street far away from the entrance to the school. I volunteered to run back to her car and move it closer, because threatening rain clouds were starting to form.

Ain't I just the sweetest?

While I was pulling her car into the parking lot, the opening notes of Sir Mix a Lot's "Baby Got Back" came on the radio. For whatever reason, that song felt oh-so-right, and I turned the volume way up, and started singing along. I slowly crept into a parking space between two monster SUV's, and was sort of hidden, and decided to spend an extra minute or so in the car so I could hear my favorite lyric ("you get sprung") before turning the car off and joining everyone else.

I twisted the volume up another few notches and was rapping along with Sir Mix, and prepared myself to really yell the "sprung" part.

Brief digression: longtime YRHT readers might recall that I've had volume control issues in the past. I seem to think that my car is soundproof, and that my dinky little glass windows safely contain any and all soundwaves within the vehicle.

So, I continue rapping along to a song about butts, and am making really cool hand gestures to some imaginary audience who is giving MC Oyster mad props, and then, I rise halfway out of my seat and scream "Ya get SPRUNG!!". My eyes were closed when I yelled the lyric but when I opened them again I saw a mother and her two daughters standing in front of my car, looking aghast.

I immediately turned the blaring radio down (not off), and smiled weakly and waved as if to say "Ha, you caught me. But don't worry, I'm just a common immature doofus, not some new pervert parent that you have to worry about". Heh.

The mother had a very unimpressed look on her face, and slowly turned, and escorted her daughters to the school picnic. One of the girls kept looking back at me while she walked (expecting me to do some more weird stuff, apparently).

I wasn't very comfortable for the rest of the evening.

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Fun fact: Back in the day my sister and I jammed out to Mix's "Posse on Broadway" record. Seems almost hypnotically dull as I listen to it now, but it was cooler then, and preceded Mix-a-lot's big hit "Baby got back" by a few years. (Two decades later, "Larry" from Mix's "Posse" is still my role model to some degree.)

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