Saturday, October 06, 2007

Jindal: "We certainly don't need outside agitators to cause problems." 

Earnest thanks to N. La. Lady who points us to a Shreveport Times opinion piece by Tannie Bradley. It confirms N. La. Lady's original report about Jindal using the loaded rhetoric of racism while he stumped in North Louisiana during the Jena 6 demonstrations.

[Race] is a part of the very fabric of American culture. Although it has no real biological basis, it has real meaning to us as individuals. No matter how it's negotiated, challenged, denied, or ignored, it's ever present in our lives.

On Sept. 20, the day people from throughout the nation gathered in Jena to march in protest of the unjust treatment of the Jena 6, gubernatorial candidate Bobby Jindal was in Shreveport speaking to students at LSUS. When asked about the impact of racial conflict in Louisiana, his response was déjà vu — unpleasantly reminiscent of the words and attitudes of southern politicians of not so long ago. When asked to comment on the demonstration in Jena, he said, "We don't need anybody to divide us. We certainly don't need outside agitators to cause problems." Accusing "outside agitators" of causing problems is a scapegoat and an attempt to avoid taking responsibility for the unresolved issue of race and fair and equal treatment.

Initially, mominem was skeptical that Jindal would be stupid enough to use such phrasing. In a comment at this post, mominem stated:

I think if Jindal actually said it it would be devastating to his campaign and credibility. It would be national news. I also think he’s smarter than that.

Well, apparently, Jindal's not "smarter than that". Unfortunately, while I felt N. La. Lady's report was likely true, I was much more skeptical than mominem that it would be "devastating" to Jindal's campaign. I know for a fact that rival campaigns have been informed of Jindal's blunder. Yet, even though these campaigns have nothing to lose, they are apparently too scared to make an issue out of it. The other campaigns (except Georges) were too scared to attend the Jena 6 marches, and now they are too scared to call out Jindal for echoing the awful loaded phrases of past segregationists (and their latter day spiritual heirs).

Why is that?

On a side note, I enjoyed seeing Seymour D. Fair and mominem at Deutsches Haus last night, as the families celebrated Oktoberfest.

Zum Wohl! Ja wohl!

Apparently the police have decided that this year (of all years) is the time to crack down on neutral ground parking at the Deutsches Haus.

I guess, you know, it's all about priorities. In the murder capital of the U.S., it's now a priority for the police to suddenly ticket cars parked on the Galvez neutral ground outside the Deutsches Haus. And if, say, a Yuppie culture-killer in the Treme complains about a procession of mourning musicians, the police will proritize that complaint and twenty police cars will swarm in and officers will start grabbing at horns and seizing drumsticks from our culture-keepers.

But if there's an attempted rape on a 17-year old in the French Quarter, the perpetrator can stroll away without a care in the world, knowing the NOPD won't respond promptly to the 911 call. Why is that?

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Vitter pays his respects to Sheriff Harry Lee 

From the T-P we learn that our junior Senator joined hundreds of mourners at Lee's viewing in Westewego:

U.S. Sen. David Vitter attended the viewing with his wife, Wendy. He and Lee shared an adversarial relationship over the years. Still, Vitter said Lee's death was a loss to the entire community.

When asked his fondest memory of Lee, Vitter said, "... his passion and his loyalty and the fact that he always told you where he was coming from, agree or disagree."

Don't worry Vitty, any secrets Harry Lee knew about you, Interim Sheriff Newell Normand knows as well. Heck, if some rumors are true, Newell Normand might be even more intimately familiar with the local dirt on Vitter than Harry was. (YRHT will endorse Newell Normand in the upcoming election election for Jefferson Parish Sheriff. He's capable and competent.)

The T-P article says that after services in Westwego, there will be a automotive funeral procession taking Lee's body to its final resting place in Lake Lawn Cemetary in Metairie. However, the article had no information as to whether African-American males driving "rinky dink" cars would be allowed to participate in the procession, or, if so, whether the Gretna Police Dept. would permit them to cross the Crescent City Connection.

R.I.P., Harry.

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DiFatta the matter is... 

Visit Adrastos for all the latest on St. Bernard Parish Councilman Joey DiFatta. First he was running for State Senate, then he withdrew from the race due to chest pains, and now the T-P informs us that DiFatta was doing the Larry Craig toe-tap in public rest rooms.

Joey DiFatta is a former member of the Republican State Central Committee, the governing arm of the state GOP. In his campaign web site he pledges to "defend our conservative values from extreme liberal groups".

The T-P gives us a police summary of DiFatta's conservative values.

Kenner police issued a misdemeanor summons to DiFatta in September 1996 in connection with a peeping Tom incident in a men's bathroom at the former Mervyn's department store at The Esplanade mall, according to a Kenner Police Department incident report obtained by The Times-Picayune.

The report states that DiFatta watched a man use the bathroom while peering through a hole in a bathroom stall. The man held DiFatta until police arrived, at which time he was issued the misdemeanor summons and ordered to appear in court.

DiFatta said the man eventually withdrew his complaint, and the case was dismissed. A spokeswoman for the Kenner Police Department said the record was expunged.

Tapping foot in stall

In the second incident, Jefferson Parish deputies working an undercover detail in a men's bathroom at Dillard's at Lakeside Shopping Center in March 2000 stopped DiFatta after he indicated a desire to engage in sex with an undercover deputy in an adjoining bathroom stall, according to an interoffice memorandum written by Sgt. Keith Conley, one of the deputies involved in the investigation.

The report said DiFatta slid his foot into the deputy's stall and tapped the deputy's foot. In the report, Conley noted that such activity is common among men to indicate a willingness to participate in sex.

The deputy inside the stall, Detective Wayne Couvillion, responded by tapping his foot, and DiFatta reached under the partition and began to rub the deputy's leg, the report states.

The detective asked DiFatta, "What do you want?" according to the report, and he replied, "I want to play with you."

DiFatta also used a hand signal to indicate that he wanted to engage in sex and used language that indicated the same, according to the report. Conley, who is now the Kenner city attorney, confirmed the report's authenticity Thursday.

The incident did not culminate in an arrest because the deputy in the bathroom with DiFatta terminated the investigation after several children entered the bathroom, the report states. Conley noted in the report that DiFatta appeared well-versed and comfortable with the routine.


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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Tortured minds use tortured logic 

From today's blockbuster NYT story:

When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.

[Soon] after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document... an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The "harshest techniques ever used" by the CIA? Heh. Not by a long shot.

Still, the NYT article describes hideous, impeachment-worthy machinations by our Compassionate Conservative in Chief.


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Down with CNP? Well you know me... or do you? 

(This post is basically a reservoir of links and quotes about the far-right Council for National Policy. A future post will draw from this information to make a relevant political point about a well-known Gubernatorial candidate from Louisiana. Note: cut and pasted information that is not set off in blockquotes has been separated with "===" signs.)

"I predict that one day before the end of this century the Council [for National Policy] will be so influential that no President, regardless of party or philosophy, will be able to ignore us or our concerns or shut us out of the highest levels of government." -- Louis Elwood "Woody" Jenkins (Newsweek,1981). Former LA State Rep. Woody Jenkins was the CNP's First Executive Director, 1982-85 and was the recipient of the CNP's "Winston Churchill Award" in 1990.

So, what is this Council for National Policy and what do they hope to accomplish? Here's Wikipedia's answer and links:

CNP was founded in 1981 by Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind series of books. Other early participants included Paul Weyrich, Phyllis Schlafly, Robert Grant, Howard Phillips, a former Republican affiliated with the Constitution Party, Richard Viguerie, the direct-mail specialist, and Morton Blackwell, a Louisiana and Virginia activist who is considered a specialist on the rules of the Republican Party.

The council employs about eight people. Its first executive director was Woody Jenkins; later, Morton Blackwell served in this role, which is currently held by Steve Baldwin. Presidents have included Nelson Bunker Hunt of Dallas, Amway co-founder Richard DeVos of Michigan, Pat Robertson of Virginia Beach, Paul Pressler of Houston, and former Reagan Cabinet secretaries Ed Meese and Donald Hodel, as well as current president Kenneth Cribb.

The Center for Religion, Ethics and Social Policy at Cornell University considers the Council for National Policy a leading force in the Dominionist movement. TheocracyWatch, a CRESP project, describes it as "an umbrella organization of right-wing leaders who gather regularly to plot strategy, share ideas and fund causes and candidates to advance the theocratic agenda."[5] Southeastern Louisiana University philosophy professor Barbara Forrest says of the Council for National Policy "The CNP membership also includes a sizeable segment of Christian Reconstructionists: "Reconstructionists espouse a radical theology that calls for trashing the U.S. Constitution and replacing it with the harsh legal code of the Old Testament. They advocate the death penalty for adulterers, blasphemers, incorrigible teen-agers, gay people, 'witches' and those who worship 'false gods'."[6]

How was CNP initially funded?

Nelson Baker Hunt, billionaire son of billionaire oilman H.L. Hunt (connected to both the John Birch Society and to Ronald Reagan's political network [YRHT note: Nelson Hunt was also convicted of manipulating the silver market and was a supporter of eugenics]), businessman and one-time murder suspect T. Cullen Davis, and wealthy John Bircher William Cies provided the seed money.

George W. Bush addressed the Council for National Policy on October 9, 1999 in San Antonio, but his presidential campaign refused to release the full text of his remarks, and ordered that tapes of the speech be erased. A few weeks earlier he met with another far right group.

On September 24, 1999, Bush huddled with a motley group called the "Madison Project" at the posh Hay Adams Hotel on Lafayette Square across the street from the White House. Among those gathered were: Michael Farris, of the Home School Legal Defense Association; John C. Wilke, MD, president of Life Issues Institute, an antiabortion group; Paul Pressler, a Southern Baptist honcho and former judge; the Rev. Tim LaHaye, co-founder of the Moral Majority, and successful co-author of scary end-time novels; Beverly LaHaye, his wife, and founder of Concerned Women for America; Marlin Maddoux, the radio evangelist; Paul Weyrich, of the Free Congress Foundation; and the Rev. Peter Marshall, an author and lecturer who promotes "Christian America."

This past weekend Vice President Dick Cheney attended and spoke at the latest CNP meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. This important Democratic Daily post is chock-full of interesting information and links about the latest meeting, and the connections the CNP has to the Dominionist and Christian Reconstructionist movements.

More about the CNP:The Council for National Policy (CNP) is a secretive far right tax-exempt organization that brings together the most powerful radical right activists and financial backers in order to coordinate strategy. The group's membership is secret and its meetings—held three to four times per year—are not publicly announced. According to Russ Bellant in The Coors Connection, Morton Blackwell of the Council for National Policy has said "the policy is that we don’t discuss who attends the meetings or what is said." The organization was founded in 1981 by Tim LaHaye, a leader of Moral Majority and Texan conservative T. Cullen Davis. LaHaye brought together representatives from the Religious Right, the White House, elected officeholders, the political right, and rightwing businessmen and setup an atmosphere that would blend the religious right and "the low-tax, anti-government" right (source). The CNP's newsletters take credit for everything from helping to kill health care reform to blocking regulations restricting religious expression in the workplace (source). In the 1980s, the Council for National Policy was heavily involved in channeling money from the religious right into a variety of efforts supporting President Ronald Reagan's Central America policies ranging from building support in for his policies in the United States to building ties with the international right via arms dealers, mercenaries, and other such forces (source).

Notable members of the Executive Committee have included Oliver North, Gary Bauer, Pat Robertson, Richard DeVos, Tim LaHaye, and Richard Shoff, a former Ku Klux Klan leader in Indiana.

Former Ku Klux Klan leader Richard Shoff? What's up with that guy?

Richard Shoff - CNP Board of Governors (1982). Former Grand Kilgrapp (state secretary) and funder of the Indiana Ku Klux Klan. Financial supporter of High Frontier, a Star Wars group allied with Elizabeth Clare Prophet's Church Universal and Triumphant. Served on board of Jesse Helms' Coalition for Freedom which receives funding from the Pioneer Fund which funds racialist research. Funds and served on board of directors of the Conservative Caucus. [Bellant (CC) 38, 54]

"Another Conservative Caucus board member and funder is Richard Shoff, a North Carolina businessman whose questionable business practices have brought him the attention of local newspapers, trade associations, and the Better Business Bureau. Shoff has also been involved in a number of lawsuits while running sales operations in Indiana and selling log homes from his company, Lincoln Log Homes, in North Carolina. In the early 1970's, he was the Grand Kilgrapp (state secretary0 of the Indiana Ku Klux Klan. Indianapolis police told a reporter that KKK cross burnings were held on Shoff's property during Klan rallies which were hosted by Shoff. According to the head of the Indiana KKK, Shoff was also a generous funder of Klan activities. Shoff claims he has left the Ku Klux Klan in 1973.

"Shoff is also on the board of Coalition for Freedom, a Jesse Helms group that receives funding from the Pioneer Fund which funds racialist research. Shoff is one of a number of TCC [The Conservative Caucus] leaders who are also members of the Council for National Policy. Other Conservative Caucus supporters and leaders who are also members or leaders of the Council for National Policy include Amway leader Richard DeVos, Louis Jenkins, and Robert H. Krieble, John D. Beckett, and Joe and Holly Coors." [Bellant (CC) 54]


Who else is a longtime member of this secretive group with questionable membership? Stay tuned...

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"More wanting to extend mine life" 

In the comments over at the yellow ocean of ingratitude blog, Bayou St. John David wrote a remarkably rough statement that was met with silence.

In a seemingly pointless discussion between me and el stevo about the alleged differences between Republican and Democratic administrations, BSJD brought up the issue of mine safety.

How many miners died (in mining accidents) when Clinton was president, how many since we've elected Bush? Even adjusting the figures for increased mining activity, it's inexcusable.

You can vote to save lives while you're working for bigger change. Unless you believe that small changes prevent bigger changes. Even if you believe that, the fact remains, elect a Republican president and blue collar workers die.

That last line was not political hyperbole.

Now, I'm not even sure I have the stones to write something that strong. But it stayed in the back of my mind, as did the mining issue example (that's a must read link, btw). Then, when I read the following AP snippet in USA TODAY, I was physically sickened in a way that I hadn't been during the various news reports of mining disasters during the Bush administration (there were none during Clinton's term).

Bureau of Land Management inspectors noted serious structural problems at Utah's Crandall Canyon Mine at least three years before two roof collapses killed nine people in August, Congress was told Tuesday.

Yet the government's mine safety agency in another agency — the Labor Department — didn't know of the concerns about Crandall Canyon until after the accident, Kevin Stricklin, a coal mine safety and health administrator for Labor, told a Senate hearing on the accident.

The Labor Department had approved a plan to mine there.
Documents released by [Sen. Ted] Kennedy's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee showed that in November 2004 a BLM inspector noted that pillars of coal, which were holding up the mine's roof, were failing. The inspector, Stephen Falk, said that further mining by pulling out the pillars would be "untenable."

That the mine operators "had thoughts and plans to try pillar recovery was wishful thinking and was more wanting to extend mine life," Falk wrote.

Under questioning, Stricklin said the report would have been helpful and could have shaped the agency's decision to allow mining at Crandall Canyon. The BLM report was done for internal use only, Kennedy's spokeswoman said. BLM is a part of the Interior Department.

I'm sure the eternal conservative vigil for Mary Jo Kopechne will be cited in partisan rebuttals to this article (about the testimony given to Ted Kennedy's committee). That's fine. I take those about as seriously as I do the sudden urgent concern GOP lawmakers now have for oppressed labor unions in Iran.

Bloomberg reports that 3,200 South African miners are trapped "more than a mile underground.
Update: Slight edits for clarity have been made to this post since initial publishing.

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From the rooftops shout it out 

If you're ever tempted to think that, just because I have mad blogging skillz, I must be a pretty cool dude... well, let this post be a preemptive strike on that wrongheaded assumption.

Consider this: A decade ago, when I moved to the New Orleans area, I decided to live in Kenner ("America's City"!). Now, even as a newcomer, I realized Kenner was fantastically lame, but I kept tabs on the New Orleans music scene by scanning the Gambit Weekly for announcements of upcoming shows.

I kept seeing listings for the band Galactic playing at (or near) the Republic. I didn't take much notice of this at first, but every week I kept seeing the band's name, and somehow, subconsciously, I merged the band Galactic with the Republic club. No big sin, right?

Well, 1997 also happened to be the height of popularity for Republica. (Refresher here.) I kept hearing Republica's hit "Ready to Go" played incessantly on my car radio, and some mischievous synapse in my brain connected Republica with my blurred memory of the Galactic/Republic listings in the Gambit. So, after hearing the song on the radio, I'd also hear the dj mention "Republica" and I thought to myself "Hey wait a minute, that's the band I keep seeing in the Gambit! Wow, it's strange that a British group would play here so much-- I guess they simply love to play in New Orleans, and I bet the locals love them as well." Then a few days later I'd look in the Gambit and see that "Galactic" was playing again. "Hey that's that Brit Band that plays the 'Ready to Go' song! I can't believe they're back in town yet again! They sure do play in New Orleans a lot! I should go see them one of these days" And this vicious, self-reinforcing cycle continued on, and on...

For at least two years, I retained this confused notion in the back of my mind, and every time I heard "Ready to Go", I thought to myself how cool it was that Republica/Galactica kept playing New Orleans. I think I even tried to force myself to like the song, because I assumed it must be a "New Orleans thing".

Luckily, after moving to the Crescent City, my wife and some local friends helped me get a proper "New Orleans blood transfusion", and I was able to unravel (some of) these embarrassing confusions. My sincerest apologies go out to Galactic, which is featured in the latest Offbeat.

Speaking of music, John Mellencamp has a new song and youtube video about Jena 6. He calls for Jena to "take your nooses down", and is filled with footage of the march juxtaposed with lynching images and previous civil rights leaders and marchers. Not his best work, and I must admit that I do like Mellencamp's best work.

Unfortunately, others have also released internet videos commenting on the Jena 6 matter. The results are dispiriting.

Hell, since I've already made one embarrassing admission in this post, I'll make another: I like John Mellencamp more than Bruce Springsteen. It's true, I do. *Ducking*

BUT I also realize that this is an answer to the important question Ken Fisher poses to all of us: "What do you believe that's actually false?"

What do you believe that's actually false?

Somewhere, in my weird mind, I've made the aesthetic judgment that Mellencamp is preferable to Springsteen. But at least I understand that this is a false judgment, even though I continue to believe it anyway. (Don't ask why.) It's a trivial matter. No one else is getting hurt. My wife Lovely, on the other hand, prefers Billy Squier to Led Zeppelin. But she doesn't understand the enormity of her error, no matter how many times I try to correct her, nor does she acknowledge it. And that's a shame.


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Because life is about choices... 

From the intrepid Singularity, we learn that former UN Ambassador Josh "the Walrus" Bolton does his best to make my earlier dismissals of an impending attack on Iran seem irresponsibly naive.

"I don't think the use of military force is an attractive option, but I would tell you I don't know what the alternative is.

"Because life is about choices, I think we have to consider the use of military force. I think we have to look at a limited strike against their nuclear facilities."

He added that any strike should be followed by an attempt to remove the "source of the problem", Mr Ahmadinejad.

"If we were to strike Iran it should be accompanied by an effort at regime change ... The US once had the capability to engineer the clandestine overthrow of governments. I wish we could get it back."

"Because life is about choices", eh?

What a handy little locution that is! You can follow that phrase with just about anything. For example:

Because life is about choices, I think we have to consider bombing the Persians who Cheney and Rumsfeld wanted to outfit with nuclear power in the 70's.

Because life is about choices, I think we have to consider "engineering the clandestine overthrow of governments" which proved so successful back in the old days.

Because life is about choices, I think we need a "limited strike" to assassinate a smiling head of state who is not by any stretch "the source of the problem".

Because life is about choices, I think we have to consider "teaching the controversy" of Evolution in science classes.


In the comments Jeffrey notes how "Bolton stresses the importance of making a 'choice' in the same breath where he decries the lack of 'alternatives'".

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ray reviews Dems Gulf Coast recovery plans 

Here's Ray's collected posts and links to the Democratic Presidential candidate's plans for Gulf Coast recovery.

As for the Republican candidates, Ray says:
I looked at Romney and Rudy's sites, and so far both put out statements basically saying "Our hearts and prayers go out to the Katrina victims. Sucks to be you."

I think the GOP platform is "Not Our Problem, Dude", so it makes sense that they wouldn't have to outline their plan to do nothing.

Perhaps "scheduling issues"-- not callous inattention-- should be blamed.

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Glory to the news hosts! 

Big thanks to WAFB Channel 9 for warning viewers about this potentially "disturbing" image in their report about Gay Sex "Hot Spots" in Baton Rouge.

What an incredibly valuable public service this warning was to all the Christian parents in the broadcast area. Because, my first thought is always, always about protecting our impressionable children from godless seculars.

Once I saw that perfidious hole on my TV, parts of mind were instantly activated, and I imagined all the possible degenerate uses such a hole would enable. It was awful. In fact, I still can't stop thinking about what that hole could mean, even when I close my eyes. This is very disturbing material, indeed-- definitely not for the young. Can you imagine how such haunting images might affect young, supple, unsaved men who don't fully understand how the gay "glory hole" agenda destroys our traditional family values?

I can.

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Good News 

Annti had major surgery on her spine this weekend, and is getting discharged this afternoon. Go show her your support.

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Bottomless "bottom talk" 

Initially I thought Hank Paulson would be an improvement over Bush's previous Treasury Secretaries-- John Snow (job) and Paul O'Neill. Not that that's setting the bar very high, but I assumed Paulson would not have accepted the job if he were just going to be a hacktacular parrot. I was wrong. Here's a brief record of Hank's statements on the "bottom" of the housing correction.

A12/25/06: "I don't know whether [housing] has bottomed out... [Whether housing] has bottomed out, not quite bottomed out, or is going to take a quarter or two longer, the thing that we've seen is that other parts of the economy are doing so well that we're just powering through this."

3/13/07: "It's too early to tell whether [Housing Market] has bottomed. I believe it has. We'll know more in the next month or two."

4/20/07: "All the signs I look at [show] the housing market is at or near the bottom."

6/20/07: "We have had a major housing correction in this country. I do believe we are at or near the bottom."

7/2/07: "In terms of looking at housing, most of us believe that it's at or near the bottom. It's had a significant impact on the economy. No one is forecasting when, with any degree of clarity, that the upturn is going to come other than it's at or near the bottom."

7/23/07: U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said on Monday the U.S. housing market correction was "at or near the bottom".

8/2/07: Secretary Paulson: "No. ... let me be pretty clear about what I've said before. When I said... that there had been a major correction and the housing market was at or near the bottom, I also have said that I thought this would not resolve itself any time soon, and that it would take a reasonably good period of time for the sub-prime issues to move through the economy as mortgages reset. But that as, even though this, and it is a cause of concern, the impact on individual homeowners, and we care a lot about that, but I said as an economic matter I believe this was largely contained because we have a diverse and healthy economy."

And here's today's housing news. It's "ass" bad.

10/02/07 CBS Marketwatch: Flattened by the mortgage crunch, a forward-looking gauge of home sales fell further in August to its lowest level in more than six years, a real estate trade group said Tuesday.

The pending home sales index fell 6.5% in August after dropping a revised 10.7% in July, the National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday. The index is at its lowest level since its inception in 2001.
"This is still absolutely awful, confirming that the existing-homes market is now in freefall," wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics. "This is consistent with existing-home sales falling to just 5 million or so," down 10% from the latest level and 30% from the peak.

Butt... butt... butt... butt... butt... Hank said... (First 4 graphs are from the Sept. archives of Calculated Risk.)

Are you interested in Paulson's statements about the "Strong Dollar" policy of the U.S.? No?

Perhaps your time would be better spent reviewing Bill Gross' October newsletter. Gross is considered the "Warren Buffett of Bonds", and notes Cramer's August Rant as a significant market signpost. Gross writes:

To prevent a housing-market slump from metastasizing into a cancerous self-feeding tumor, Treasury Secretary Paulson will have to coordinate policies that lend a helping hand to homeowners in distress.
But Paulson’s attempt to assist ailing homeowners will be complicated by the free-market laissez-faire policies of Republican orthodoxy. In addition, the rescue effort will be hampered by an uncomprehending press and public who appear to be more focused on revenge and “just desserts” as opposed to the ultimate negatives ahead for housing prices, employment, and economic growth. To use the old saw in updated form, a recession is when home prices in a neighboring state go down – a depression will be when the price of your home does. Well, if that be the definition of modern depression, then 70 million American homeowners will soon be residing in Bush, not Hoovervilles.
Perhaps [Fed Chairman Benrnanke and Tresury Sec. Paulson] now know more than I or Jim Cramer gave them credit for on that raucous day in August. If they do, however, their options are limited by Republican political orthodoxy, the receding willingness of the private sector to extend credit, and a still exuberant global economy. What do they know? I suspect at the very least they know they’re in a pickle, and a sour one at that.

Update: As if on cue, The Cunning Realist has a must-read post on the Fed's Rate Cut (which confirmed that Wall Street owns Bernanke's ass bottom). He makes an excellent counterpoint to Gross, and reminds us that true "Republican orthodoxy" has been largely forgotten* and replaced with happy bubble-pumping Fed "safety net".

I couldn't believe the Fed would be so breathtakingly reckless as to deliver a big rate cut with the dollar at an all-time low, gold at a quarter-century high, oil at an all-time high, and the stock indices near multi-year and all-time highs.
A phrase that's become popular is "a clash of cultures" and variations of it. The description's appropriate. The first culture is one in which policymakers believe they've repealed the natural business cycle. This culture of moral hazard and push-button Fed liquidity makes it possible for 30-somethings to sit in front of computer screens in Manhattan and Connecticut and make millions from the flickering green dots, while that same liquidity debases the dollars held by wage earners, retirees, and prudent savers; it allows mediocre corporate executives to exercise stock options and become fabulously wealthy; it tells stock and real estate speculators that if things go south, someone sitting in an office in Washington will press the "print" button and make everything okay; it makes "bridges to nowhere" possible; and it allows a nation to launch a preventive war and decades-long occupation without a thought about how to pay for it. This culture depends on dollar hegemony.

Please read the whole thing.

*Anyone out there recall that Reagan said "inflation is the cruelest tax"?

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Harry Lee 

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee passed away this morning, and the T-P has the definitive news story on Lee's remarkable career.

As a side note, I want to preserve two bits of information about Lee for the digital record. From the T-P story, this interested me:

Such was [Lee's] popularity with the public that he could occasionally keep company with convicted felons yet never suffer politically. Among his questionable associates were organized crime figures Carlos Marcello and Frank Caracci; Al Payne Sr., a former warden whom Mr. Lee rehired despite a conviction for protecting a bookmaking operation; and Robert Guidry, who pleaded guilty to an extortion conspiracy and testified that he paid off former Gov. Edwin Edwards for the license to open the Treasure Chest casino.

Also, earlier this year, Matthew Fleischer posted a photo of the portrait hung behind Sheriff Lee's desk.

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Imminence Front 

While there are currently undeniable echoes to the Iraq War sales job of 2003, I still agree with Rahul at Empire Notes, who has been prudently skeptical about the possibility of an attack on Iran for years now.

Conversely, Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution believes an attack on Iran is obvious and inevitable. Today, Jonathan cited another report from Seymour Hersh about the attacks he believes are coming. In a post earlier this month, Jonathan cited Scott Ritter as one of the few people who doesn't "suck" in terms of trying to stop the rush to war.

I note this because it's worth remembering the following points that Rahul at Empire Notes made last year:

Predicting political events is almost a sure way to make a fool of yourself. The situation in the world changes too quickly and is too difficult to know in sufficient detail for any “expert’s” prediction to be much better than an ordinary person’s guess.

If, however, you have a highly polarized atmosphere and a community with a strong stake in believing something, no matter the facts, then repeated incorrect predictions, far from discrediting you with that community, can even make you an expert.
Such is the case with the antiwar movement and Iran. Seymour Hersh and Scott Ritter have distinguished themselves by repeatedly pointing to the imminence of war with Iran. In Hersh’s case, he has simply been acting in his own well-established journalistic modality – passing along things he gleans from a large group of dissidents inside the military and intelligence establishments. When this involves hard evidence like the My Lai massacre, Barry McCaffrey’s order to shoot some Iraqi prisoners of war after the Gulf War, or the Abu Ghraib atrocities, his reporting is unique and invaluable. When it involves passing along the complaints and speculations of his sources, it is less so – his sources are not always the most astute of political analysts.

Ritter has not only frequently cried wolf about Iran, he predicted that war would happen in June 2005. When June came around, he followed that up with an article saying that it was in fact happening.
Iran is already by far the most written-about war that never happened.

Perhaps I'm indulging in extreme, Bobby Jindal-scale naivete to think that attacks on Iran won't occur in the next 6 months. (Actual war is out of the question, thanks to our military being bogged down in the Iraq morass). However, I'll again agree with Rahul, who pointed out in 2/06:

Limited air strikes, aimed at taking out Iran’s nuclear capabilities, are always being considered. It’s difficult to see how they could work. They would subject U.S. forces in Iraq to retaliation... They would also subject the world to the possibility of an Iranian cutoff of oil exports..., an action that would hurt Iran badly but would also undoubtedly cause a huge spike in the price of oil at a time when the price is already generating significant domestic political pressure. And, most important, they would have no hope of bringing about regime change.

The above graphic taken from which offers a bumper sticker version for sale. Pretty damn concise, I would say.

Title a play on The Who's "Eminence Front".

"Come on join the party, Dress to kill"

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City Park 

I don't know all the details to the recent proposals for "development" of New Orleans' City Park. Some of them, like the TV station idea, seemed like a bit of a stretch. But in the main I'm sympathetic with Stephanie Grace, who suggests that New Orleanians should be open to adding a few new attractions to the park that would increase public usage and bring in more money to make the place financially solvent.

At 1300 acres, City Park is one of the largest urban parks in the nation. Currently, it is struggling to recover from flood damage, and we're relying on dedicated volunteers (13 year olds, in some cases) for needed maintenance. I'm willing to "compromise" a few acres of green space for an income-generating golf course or children's museum (and the accompanying parking lots). I think "restore the park don't develop it" is a false choice, since there's currently not enough money to "restore" the park, and because the park's master plan calls for additional development (like an amphitheater and skate park).

Just, please, when you develop a portion of the park, do it right. A GREAT example of "doing it right" is the Besthoff sculpture garden which is truly... beyond praise. It is placed next to the New Orleans Museum of Art (another great development) which recently enjoyed a fine write-up in the Wall Street Journal which I will excerpt at length:

Founded in 1910 by Isaac Delgado, a Jamaican immigrant who became a millionaire sugar broker, and who wanted a "temple of art for rich and poor alike," the museum sits in still-beautifully lush City Park. The relatively simple neo-classical building, designed by Chicago architect Samuel Marx, was opened in 1911 and, eschewing celebrity architecture, subsequent additions have retained the elegant primacy of the original central wing. Developing an encyclopedic collection in a relatively small Southern city has not been easy, and yet, appropriate to the city's heritage, among the over 40,000 works there are wonderful examples of French art by Monet, Gauguin, and of course Degas (painted in 1872-73, while he was visiting New Orleans relatives), as well as other European, American, African, Asian and pre-Columbian works. The decorative arts collections are among the best-displayed in the country, with an exceptionally rich array of American and European glass and American art pottery-- the latter another local specialty (Newcomb Pottery). Bucking the musical-chairs trend that characterizes museum directorships, the New Orleans Museum of Art can also boast that its highly respected director, John Bullard, has been at the helm for a record 34 years (beating out the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Philippe de Montebello as America's longest-serving art museum director).
Many of our other museums are capitalizing their collections, setting auction records with what used to be thought of as public patrimony, while engaging celebrity architects to design destination-buildings that reflect a lack of confidence in those increasingly raided collections-- buildings that will require unsustainable amounts of money to run. Concurrently the lure of the for-profit world's salary structure is attracting museum workers who would rather make big bucks than beg for contributions from those who have already made them. But at the post-Katrina New Orleans Museum of Art there are other priorities, all of which are reminders of what used to be the primary activities of most museums. Two years after Katrina, this museum might well be the most vibrant silver lining in the Big Easy's still-hovering cloud.

One time a Japanese tourist walking out of NOMA saved my life with a cold can of Fanta, but that's a story for another post.

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"The responsibility to act upon the higher patriotism" 

Again, YRHT likes some of the political analysis at We Saw That, but is occasionally embarrassed by WST's conspiracy stories about the Illuminati and Zionism, which all-too-frequently pop up. It's sort of funny when these conspiracy theories collide, however, and one wonders how these things can be reconciled in one mind. In short, does WST believe that the dark forces of evil take turns controlling the world?

For example, WST dislikes Bobby Jindal for being an "evil" communist Rhodes Scholar Illuminati scamster. However, in a recent post critical of the "evil" Jindal, WST quotes Myron Fagan (a Hollywood Joe McCarthy) who slags on Rhodes Scholars like William Fulbright. Here's part of Fagan's quote WST printed in a recent post:

One of the most notable Rhodes' scholars we have in our country is Senator William J. Fulbright, sometimes referred to as half-bright. His entire voting-record spells Illuminati.

While far from perfect (read: segregationist), Senator Fulbright was an opponent of the actual Joe McCarthy. In fact, Sen. Joe McCarthy was the utterly loathesome soul who who coined the "half-bright" epithet about Fulbright which Fagan dutifully repeated. In terms of intellectual candlepower, I'd take Fulbright over Fagan and McCarthy combined.

Fulbright's anti-Vietnam War book, The Arrogance of Power, is a text I highly recommend. Many of the book's insights about Lyndon Johnson's handling of the Vietnam war are also directly applicable to Bush and Iraq. I think WST might agree as well.

Interestingly, as this WST post about Ahmadenijhad's warm welcome from the "Torah Jews" would imply, WST would likely approve of Fulbright's alleged anti-Zionism. But that's where it gets confusing for me. Perhaps I, too, am only "half-bright", because I can't sort out where WST might think Fulbright's Illuminati-Rhodes Scholar-communist "evil" ends and where his "worthwhile" anti-Zionism begins. Perhaps WST could clarify.

What I will say is that Sen. Fulbright's career doesn't deserve blanket condemnation (or blanket praise) from anyone. In his defense, I'll reprint one of my all time favorite quotes made by the fiery Arkansan Senator.

To criticize one's country is to do it a service and pay it a compliment. It is a service because it may spur the country to do better than it is doing; it is a compliment because it evidences a belief that the country can do better than it is doing. Criticism, in short, is more than a right; it is an act of patriotism -- a higher form of patriotism, I believe, than the familiar rituals and national adulation. All of us have the responsibility to act upon the higher patriotism, which is to love our country less for what it is than for what we would like it to be. -- Sen. William Fulbright

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