Saturday, March 24, 2007

Mahervelous 

I found this excellent Bill Maher rant at the Rising Hegemon.

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Debate 

I think having a Presidential debate in New Orleans is a tremendous idea.

Here's a quick question I would like posed to the Republican nominee:

You've recently pandered to Rev. Pat Robertson, who previously warned that God sends catastrophic disasters in response to things like "Gay Day" festivals. Do you believe that God had a hand in the devastation following Katrina, including the faulty levees that flooded New Orleans?

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Alternate query: do you believe that the earth is 5,000 years old, as the Bible implies, or do you believe it is closer to 5 billion years old as science suggests?

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She's right! 

Emily Metzgar says we need to make improving Louisiana's transportation infrastructure a top-tier policy issue in 2007. I agree with her 100%.

In a post titled "LA's transportation crisis", she writes:
Louisiana likes to market itself as the transportation hub of the hemisphere. But that slogan rings hollow when you can't drive north out the state, when congestion on I-10 slows commerce to a snail’s pace, when the single highway connecting one of the nation's most important oil and gas ports is regularly flooded by even the mildest of tropical storms, and the funding mechanism in place to maintain the state's roads and bridges is wholly inadequate for the job at hand.
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It's not enough for candidates to say "I want to improve Louisiana roads." Voters must insist that candidates present specific plans for improving those roads. Anything else is just empty rhetoric tossed to a desperate electorate.

A safe and well-maintained transportation infrastructure is the key to Louisiana's future economic development. It's an issue that ought to be front-and-center in this election season-- right up there with education and health care.

The only thing I'd add is a word or two about the desirability of light rail commuter trains, and a reminder that Flood Protection should also be a "front and center" election issue.

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Previous road posts ...(heh)... here and here.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Our Improvisor 

From Mayor Nagin's speech to a group of Black Newspaper publishers:

It's people like you who give me strength and give the people of New Orleans strength, and we will prevail. I believe Almighty God has a special plan for this moment. It's not by accident that Democrats are controlling Congress right now. That's not an accident. One of the things that propelled us into power was the Katrina fallout. Republicans are now sitting back and saying, wait a minute, maybe we should have done better, but it's too late.





Let's review: According to Ray Ray, God sent Katrina becasuse he was angry at America for being in Iraq. But afterwards, God wanted New Orleans to remain a Chocolate City, so He helped re-elect Nagin. Then God became angry at the Republicans, so he sent the Dems to Congress.

I wonder what that crafty, omnipotent Deity will do next? I'm sure Nagin will explain it to us after the fact.

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And yet, conservatives still tell us that "a case can be made" that reelecting Nagin was the right move because he is an "improvisor", and that's what New Orleans needs.

Of course, I suppose a "case can be made" that Nagin's shiny head serves as a public reminder to regularly polish one's vibrator.


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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Nice 

Last year, the Houston Texans decided to extend QB David Carr's contract, and not draft Vince Young. Today, the Houston Texans are finally dumping David Carr and are investing $48 million in unproven QB Matt Schaub.


Heh, if New Orleans politics were as bad as Houston Texans management, we would've reelected both Ray Nagin and William Jefferson. Ha!

Wait a second--

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You've got mail 

Some family friends from out of state mailed us a present in honor of Pearlgirl Deuce's birth. A very kind gesture, to be sure.

But, erm, how can I put this? ... We opened the package to find a book about how parents cope after their teenager commits suicide.
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Yikes.

Then we realized that, somewhere out there, two grieving parents probably received our Deluxe Diaper Genie with Classic Pooh fabric cover (which we were expecting).
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What an awkward situation this is. Should we call our friends and alert them to their "mix up"? Should we ask if a trade can be arranged with the grieving parents? Is that improper? Also, should we ask if the grieving parents would kindly "Fed Ex" the Deluxe Diaper Genie with Classic Pooh fabric cover to us? That would be great.

We could really use it fast, because, you know, life is pure hell when you have a soiling newborn and no Deluxe Diaper Genie with Classic Pooh fabric cover. What could be worse?

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Seriously, while the above situation is slightly exaggerated, it reminded me of a movie premise I recently thought of-- I'm sure it's not original at all, but I hadn't heard it before and it struck me as funny. This is a very unpolished bare bones rendering:

A stressed and depressed young man has a crappy job, no luck with women and has an overbearing and manipulative family. During a docor's check up, he takes some tests and the doctor reluctantly informs him that he has an incurable disease and only a year to live. Initially, the man is devastated. But then he makes an important decision about the rest of his life: he will spend it authentically. He will live it the way he wants to, with no apologies, compromises or regrets. So, the man promptly tells his boss and his family to "shove it", and packs his bags for a trip around the world. The young man maxes out all his credit so that he can travel in style. He enjoys the finest things, and is suddenly more attractive to the ladies. He seizes each day as if it were his last and has the most joyful time of his life. A year passes and the man, now back home and deeply in debt, returns to see the doctor. He asks, almost in exasperation: "What gives? Aren't I supposed to be dead by now?"

The doctor runs some tests and comes back and says "I can't believe it, but... you're cured! The disease is totally gone. I've no explanation other than perhaps your new positive frame of mind unlocked your immune system in a miraculous way."

The young man didn't want to hear this. "You mean I'm not going to die? I'm going to live? That's awful news. Do you know how much debt I'm in? I'M TOTALLY SCREWED!!"

So now, obviously, the young man is depressed again. And in the end he either sues the doctor for malpractice or commits suicide or achieves enlightenment or returns to his old job. Whatever the test audiences decide.

Fin.
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That reminds me that the Burt Reynolds film festival and costume party is approaching. My friend Ratboy has suggested that "The End"-- a dark comedy about suicide-- be included among the 3 screenings.

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Up by your soggy bootstraps, welftard! 

Yesterday, at the magazine rack, I made a mistake and purchased a new periodical called "The American". The cover story was titled "The Rebirth of New Orleans", and the graphics resembled Fast Company or a science mag... so I hurriedly put it with my other cool items and waited until I returned home to inspect them more closely.

The American-- which bills itself as "The NEW Business Magazine", and "A Magazine of Ideas"-- is in fact a conservative stealth publication that uses the rubric of Business as a cover for its political mission. It features "special reports" by Newt Gingrich, and articles by Victor Davis Uriah Hanson... etc. Uggh. The New Orleans article (not online) was written by former American Spectator columnist Tom Bethell, who lived in the city during the 60's and actually worked with DA Jim Garrison on the infamous JFK conspiracy trial against Clay Shaw. (Unlike his execrable article on New Orleans' "Rebirth", assassination buffs will find Bethell's diary during the Garrison investigation to be interesting reading.)

So, Bethell begins his piece by arguing that since Bush has "committed $123 billion [trillion]" to the "Gulf region", he is not to blame for New Orleans' slow recovery. This is the "real story", you see, because it flies in the face of the MSM's reconfiguration of events, which, according to Bethell, went like this:

In the public eye, New Orleans after Katrina went from being a city hit by the sort of storm that happens maybe every 200 years to a city victimized, not so much by nature or by local hoodlums or inept officials at all levels, but by a demonic George Bush and his henchmen.

Nothing at all about why the floodwalls failed, or about the need for coastal restoration. Instead, Bethell tells us we were "hit" by a (Cat 1) storm and George Bush gave us $123 billion and we're still bitching and complaining.

That framing leads us to this lovely chestnut:

What no one says in public, but is widely conceded in private, is that, while tragic in many ways, the storm's displacement of families may, in fact, encourage greater independence and better lives for refugees.
Wow, if only every urban area could enjoy the wondrous "kick in the pants" effect of a (man-made) catastrophe! The Revelation of Self-Reliance is never more powerful than when it is received by a person sitting on a cot on the floor of the nearest Asstrodome. Concerns about friends, family and neighborhood melt away when one considers the empowering possibility that "this disaster might work out well for me". That is a beautiful thought for a beautiful mind, don't you think?

Oh, but Bethell is just getting started. He goes on to interview none other than... you guessed it... Rob Couhig! Yes! The American has a full page photo of Couhig standing in front of the Superdome, gazing upward into the bright sky. The caption reads:

Couhig says the city will not be revived by returnees but rather by newcomers who sense the coming opportunity.
Oh.

I'm sorry. I thought I was participating in the revival of the city by returning to New Orleans with my family, but apparently us "returnees" are sorta dead wood. Sadly, we just don't sense the "coming opportunity" like the post-storm "newcomers". We need fresh carpetblooders, and on the double!

I'm not sure why, but Bethell summarizes Couhig's plan for the city. Couhig believes what we need most is "fifty thousand people". Where these people would be housed, neither Bethell nor Couhig can say, but Couhig does think a sales tax repeal for the New Orleans metro area would spark growth. Tax cuts will bring in those vital newcomers!

Then, continuing his intrepid quest to get the "real story", Bethell writes some very interesting paragraphs about the mayoral race which I'll reprint:

In New Orleans, you hear almost as much grumbling about Mayor Nagin as you do about President Bush, particularly among the city's establishment, which was disappointed that the Landrieu dynasty failed to conquer City Hall.
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Nagin won reelection as mayor with mostly black support, but also with the backing of some conservatives and local businessmen. He has repeatedly predicted a coming boom in the city, and he may, in the end, be right.
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Critics portrayed Nagin's reelection, in which he benefitted from absentee ballots cast by New Orleans refugees in places like Houston and Memphis, as the city's refusal to accept the need for change. Yet a case can be made that Nagin was the better choice, more attuned to exploiting the unforeseen opportunities that inevitably arise in a post-disaster period. Nagin is an improviser, not a planner, and that may be what is needed.

The leading Republican candidate in the mayor's race was Rob Couhig... He came in fourth and threw his support to Nagin in the final round, declaring that the Landrieu clan had failed the city.

I've been obsessed with the conservative case for Nagin's reelection for almost a year now. And I still haven't found a single argument that holds water. Not one! And when I read highlighted sentences like the one above, I become even more certain that I'll never find a legitimate reason as to why conservatives should have voted for Nagin. And yet, many of them did, because "enablers" like Couhig told them to.

Reading between the lines, I suspect Bethell's "case for Nagin" is really an argument he got straight from Couhig. He repeats it faithfully, and sets up a cute little dynamic between (the establishment's) Landrieu versus (the Couhig conservative's) Nagin. The "planner" versus the "improvisor". The "dynasty" versus the "businessman". Truly, does it get more facile than that?

That "a case can be made" sentence is a beguiling pile of merde, isn't it? Here, why not review it again, in isolation, just for kicks?

Yet a case can be made that Nagin was the better choice, more attuned to exploiting the unforeseen opportunities that inevitably arise in a post-disaster period.

Yeah, Nagin has improvised like a political artist, hasn't he? His improvisations on crime (saying everything is fine, keeping the same ineffective Chief) have been... extraordinary. And I loved it when he illegally took people's guns during the post-flood looting. That made conservatives happy.

Better still is when Improvisor Nagin speaks "off the cuff" to the media. That's right: send Nagin up to the microphone and tell him to "improvise" for ten minutes and I promise you he'll make national headlines! In fact, just the other day he "improvised" on the stump, and said the new Democratic Congress was part of God's will. How 'bout them apples, Mr. Couhig and Mr. Bethell? Mayor Nagin's bestest friend right now is Rep. Maxine Waters. I wonder: how does The American rate Waters on matters of business?

Remember: the Couhig Conservatives are smart, educated voters. When they voted for Nagin, they weren't being dumb tools. No, no-- they had their reasons. They understood that Nagin deserved reelection because he was the better... improvisor! And that's what New Orleans needs right now. Spread the word, birds: the new conservative value is "improvisation".

Bethell looks at N.O. charter schools and the upcoming public housing project demolitions, and gets even more hopeful about the city's rebirth. Then he concludes his revelatory article, saying:

Government at every level has become more and more activist and solictous-- almost to the point of aggression. By the time of Katrina, it was providing so many goods and services to so many people that they were finding it difficult to live without its life-support system.... the poor in New Orleans have been reared in an environment that treats them not just as victims but as helpless victims.

The question is whether the aftermath of Katrina... has at last dispelled the inculcated passivity and victimhood that have been especially strong in New Orleans.
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In New Orleans, the deterioration [of the city] has been going on for decades, and, on the whole, the city's leadership, too absorbed by Mardi Gras balls and racial politics, refused to acknowledge it. Then came Katrina...

A change for the better could no longer be avoided. My impression, after a week in the city, is that it has begun.

Shorter Bethell: hopefully Bush's infinite generosity won't cloud the fact that strong storms (and improvising mayors) can make for stronger, more self-reliant cities.

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I guess what I'm saying is this: don't mistakenly buy The American magazine.

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Update: Now I understand. James K. Glassman is the editor of The American. Glassman lived in New Orleans during the 70's and started the alt-weekly newspaper Figaro. He wrote for a ton of well-known publications in the 80's before turning conservative in the 90's. He predicted stocks would fall if Clinton were re-elected in 1996. Then, he founded Tech Central Station and wrote a book in 1999 called Dow 36,000. Talking about the book, Glassman said the following in October 1999:

What is dangerous is for Americans not to be in the market. We're going to reach a point where stocks are correctly priced, and we think that's 36,000 ... It's not a bubble. Far from it. The stock market is undervalued.

At the end of 1999, Glassman thought it was "dangerous" for Americans not to be in the market. Thus, his current optimism about New Orleans' rebirth does not instill confidence.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Naturally Ray Nagin 

This Nagin video is fascinating. Really, truly. I was transfixed. A term paper could be written on his use of the words "we", "our" and "they" in this speech. I mean, where to begin...? Just watch it for yourself if you have 6 minutes to spare.

The political analyst in me is utterly charmed by the Nagin in this video. There is an almost endearing naivete in the way Nagin talks to his (predominantly black) audience. At the podium, he exhibits the same sort of self-confidence you see in big fish/small pond types. In this speech Nagin says things which he knows are controversial, but he doesn't care because he skillfully ran a "two faced" campaign last summer, and... quite simply... doesn't think he'll ever be held to account for all his disparate and conflicting statements to various groups. Watching this video, I see a narrowly gifted politician who is deeply confident in his ability to win another election without having to watch what he says in the interim. What charms me is the thought that Nagin's serenity will be very hard to maintain when he finally has to deal with a major opponent who will work to un-mask Ray Ray in a nasty, ungentlemanly way (if it's necessary to win). I sense that Nagin thinks he has a bigger political future ahead of him, and doesn't fear a "reckoning day" because thus far he's never had one. Heh. That'll change.

For those who don't have time to watch, Nagin basically said things like: Powerful whites want poor blacks to remain displaced; the Democratic takeover of Congress is part of God's plan; and property values are gonna "go through the roof", so everyone should "buy some dirt" in New Orleans.

Da Zombay has more on the speech.

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And speaking of American Zombie, I largely agree with his views and his logic in this debate.

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Queen Bee won't run for re-election 

(Sign sez: "Lingerie Show")


Madam Governor is not gonna run for re-election. That's good. I'll go out on a limb and predict that there will be a minimum of teeth gnashing and garment rending in da gret stet over this decision. Even among those who thought Blanco had endured (some) unfair criticism after Katrina, no one can excuse the slow pace of her expensive, ineffective Road Home program. It's been totally and completely unacceptable. I mean: especially after the President and Congress held up the allocation of federal funds for the first half of 2006, you'd think the state would be ready to "hit the ground running" with its recovery program when they finally did get the money from D.C.. But no, they weren't ready. They weren't anywhere close to ready. Observing the Road Home's "performance" during the past 9 months has been like watching a slow-motion train wreck-- emphasis on "slow".

For the record: I don't vote for many Republicans, but would have voted for Bobby Jindal over Blanco in a nanosecond. No second thoughts whatsoever. (And to those hacks who were expecting me to formulate some elaborate, "strategic" political rationale as to why I would talk myself into supporting the worst candidate-- sorry.)

To be fair, this 2004 Wapo op-ed on coastal restoration is a reminder of the Queen Bee at her best. I'll reprint the first two paragraphs:

My state dodged a massive natural disaster in September when Hurricane Ivan, which seemed on course to hit New Orleans, veered away at the last minute. The near miss was a dramatic reminder that we continue to face the possibility of a man-made catastrophe.

Had Ivan hit New Orleans, the toll in lives lost and property destroyed would have rivaled anything in recent U.S. history. With barrier islands and thousands of square miles of marsh lost to erosion, there was little left to buffer Ivan's winds and waves. Even with the massive evacuation, thousands could have died in the storm surge, trapped in a city that is largely below sea level.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

These might be clues 

Reuters:

Commodities investment guru [and Quantum Fund co-founder] Jim Rogers stepped into the U.S. subprime fray on Wednesday, predicting a real estate crash that would trigger defaults and spread contagion to emerging markets. [Rogers is selling his $15 million house and is moving to China.]

WSJ:

Blackstone Group, the lucrative partnership that has grown rich taking public companies private, is in advanced stages of planning an initial public offering of roughly 10% of its management company, according to people familiar with the matter. An offering of that size would conservatively value the entire enterprise at $40 billion.

Such a move would give Blackstone even greater financial clout, including more money of its own to invest in deals. But it also may signal that Blackstone partners think the financial market has hit a peak.

WSJ:

It's no secret that the private-equity boom owes a lot to easy conditions in the credit markets. Supersize investment returns have enabled leading buyout firms to launch ever larger funds. But Carlyle Group, one of the largest players, is already considering the endgame. Co-founder Bill Conway has instructed staff to start playing it safe.


The big boys are suddenly "cashing in" and lowering their exposure to risk. I wonder what they foresee.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Baby Love 

Like Bradgelina, the oyster clan is doing its best to repopulate New Orleans.

Thus, Lovely and I are happy to report the St. Patrick's Day arrival of Pearlgirl Deuce (8lb 13oz). Yay!!

Unfortunately, we had to name her Pearlgirl Deuce because Angelina Jolie stole our original name choices ("Pax" if a boy, or "Paxil" if a girl).

I don't think I'll post pictures of PD because she's rather homely... (and you know commenters will feel compelled to lie and say she's "beautiful" instead of saying "Maybe she can join the chubsters" or "I haven't seen features like that since Jabba the Hutt"... etc.).

But, consider this: having a homely daughter might be a good thing! Suppose one day I run for public office-- I sure as hell don't want to have Obama's problems.

Ew.

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Longtime YRHT tolerators might recall that this blog started as a reaction to my first child's birth (at the time I referred to her as "Colicky Loinfruit").

Also, thanks to Ashley for making sure the happy papa had some fine cubano leaf with which to celebrate the occasion.
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I put together an eclectic collection of (mellower) songs in honor of Pearlgirl Deuce. Feel free to enjoy them.

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