Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy 2008! 

After an excruciating 2 3/4 year hiatus, the legendary Ricky P. is coming back! (I've often said that Ricky was the best political blogger in LA. So don't feel any pressure, Ricky.)

Droogs: get your daily recommended dose of Timshel.

(H/T Jeffrey)


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Is this true? 


Unbowed by days of caustic protests, the New Orleans City Council on Thursday unanimously approved the demolition of four sprawling public housing developments, launching a new era in the troubled history of a social safety net launched in the World War II era.
The unanimous decision, which put to rest some predictions of a racially split vote, handed a major victory to President Bush's housing aides, who have pushed for mixed-income developments as a way to restore an original goal of public housing: to provide transitional housing to help people elevate themselves from poverty.

City Council President Arnie Fielkow: "It's my hope that the word 'project' will never again be used in place of what should be 'transitional homes'."

Is it true that an "original goal of public housing [is] to provide transitional housing to help people elevate themselves from poverty"? In the fever swamps of internet chatter, amidst all the "hand up not a handout/teach a person to fish" wisdom, there's a helluva lot of emphasis on the "temporary" aspect of public housing. Fixed income elderly and mentally challenged or disabled residents are obviously not going to be "temporary" tenants. They're unlikely to "elevate" themselves in terms of income, right? So, is "transitional homes" the right term, here?

My incredibly limited understanding of this topic is that the original goals of public housing were not always clear, and evolved over time. (For example: public housing for the "submerged middle class" became housing for the poorest of the poor.) Housing projects were built to replace slums and redevelop inner cities, but they were built sturdy yet spartan so as to not compete directly with most private landlords.

Jeffrey has dealt with this topic, and the fact sheet G-Bitch points to is informative as well. [Update: Mominem has a collection of housing posts here.]

An example of a seemingly alternate view is here.

What's the historical truth here?

Informed commentary on this matter, pointing to contextualized arguments and facts, is welcome and appreciated in advance.


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Friday, December 21, 2007

"Holy Highway" I-35 

Via Atrios, this CNN story is amusing:

If you turn to the Bible -- Isaiah Chapter 35, Verse 8 -- you will see a passage that in part says, "A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness."

Now, is it possible that this "highway" mentioned in Chapter 35 is actually Interstate 35 that runs through six U.S. states, from southern Texas to northern Minnesota?

I'll say "No".

Some Christians have faith that is indeed the case.
Churchgoers in all six states recently finished 35 days of praying alongside Interstate 35, but the prayers are still continuing.

Some of the faithful believe that in order to fulfill the prophecy of I-35 being the "holy" highway, it needs some intensive prayer first.

Why would that be?

The woman who came up with the concept of "Light the Highway" is a Texas minister named Cindy Jacobs.

She says she can't be sure Interstate 35 really is what is mentioned in the Bible but says she received a revelation to start this campaign after "once again reading Isaiah, Chapter 35."

Jacobs also points out that perhaps there is a link between the area near this highway and tragedies that have happened in history, such as the bridge collapse on I-35 in Minneapolis last August and the assassination of JFK 44 years ago near I-35 in Dallas. That's why prayer certainly can't hurt, she adds.

Yes it's true that you might stop off I-35 in Dallas and hunt for a souvenir Harper fragment. But don't forget other scenic monuments to tragedy down the road: Koresh in Waco, Whitman in the UT tower, and George Hennard at the Luby's in Killeen (which is close enough).

Holy, holy, holy.

Also, I thought I-35 was going to be the satanic Nafta Superhighway that will usher in the New World Order with "Amero" tollbooths and such... perhaps instead of 35 days, it will take 350 years of prayer to properly prepare the "holy highway".

There's also the Snake Farm, which, I was told, was a front for a brothel. The code phrase was supposedly, "Can I have change for a penny" and they would take you to the back room.

And I pray for any soul who is driving I-35 in Dallas when an ice storm hits. Lord have mercy. The resulting clustermess clustermuck is so jarring, so surreal, so dangerous-- it'll shake anyone's faith.

And whatever you do, don't become a Philosophy major at an historically Presbyterian college near I-35.

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Hindsight about HUD's available units 

Walking around town today I saw some black and white posters by that looked similar in style and size to the infamous "condo" posters that Vitty-cent urged the FBI to investigate. I hope that's just a coincidence.

At the DNOPH web site, there is a fact sheet entitled "Busting Vitter's Myths". One of the facts they bust is Vitter's claim from October that there were 400 HUD/HANO units currently available. DNOPH says that while HUD actually claimed only 250 units were available, an internal HANO memo confirmed that these units never existed.

The Times Picayune seized on the available units angle of the public housing story, yet "the activists" didn't seem to vigorously contest the numbers. The Times Picayune uncritically repeated HUD's claims and exaggerated the number of available units in the subheadline to one of their stories. They reported as "fact" that "hundreds of units were available right now". According to their own reporting, which seems entirely based on HUD's claims, that "fact" wasn't true. Consider this timeline of the diminishing available unit numbers:

10/06 "Housing Recovery Act Endangers Reform" T-P op-ed by Sen David Vitter: "HUD/HANO has another 400 available public housing units right now."

12/16 "Far From Full: Lost in the debate about the demolition of N.O. housing developments is one fact: There are hundreds of units available right now": "Even as some protesters spoke of low-income people being "kicked to the curb" by demolition plans, federal officials said nearly 300 units in public housing complexes across the city are either ready for occupancy or nearing final inspection."

12/17 YRHT: "Either call HANO/HUD on its claim about the 300+ available units, and/or divert some protest energy towards immediately filling them up! Either you catch HANO/HUD in a(nother) lie, or you help 300 families who are suffering from this crisis, and demonstrate the urgency of the situation. You just got thumped by a front page Sunday morning feature titled: 'FAR FROM FULL: Lost in the debate about the demolition of N.O. housing developments is one fact: There are hundreds of units available right now'".

12/19 "Housing officials describe surplus BUT ACTIVISTS AGAINST DEMOLITIONS DISPUTE CONDITIONS": "Federal Department of Housing and Development officials said the local public housing supply outstrips demand. Currently, 1,762 public housing units are occupied and nearly 300 are available or within weeks of being ready at eight Housing Authority of New Orleans complexes and at scattered housing authority sites."

12/20 T-P Editorial: "the city doesn't seem to have the severe shortage of public housing that demolition opponents say exists. There are 154 units available today, 132 awaiting inspection and 802 that are being repaired or renovated, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development."

HUD says 154 units are available, and the T-P editorial board says "the city doesn't seem to have the severe shortage of public housing that demolition opponents say exists." Well, if a reporter is willing to follow an elderly public housing activist back to her home for an inspection, why can't T-P reporters do similar legwork to verify HUD's claims about available units?

In October, Senator Vitter said 400 units were available "right now". Then the T-P reported as "fact" that "hundreds" of units were available "right now". Days later, the number of available units "right now" was down to 154. Does even that number hold water, especially in light of DNOPH's claim that last year HUD acknowledged that the "250 prepared units...never existed"? Neither the T-P nor the activists were willing to find out for sure.

Why didn't activists press hard on this dubious, evolving HUD number upon which the T-P based so much of its reporting and editorial opinion? Wasn't this a politically exploitable "soft spot"? If the T-P was forced to retract its false subheading about the "fact" that "hundreds" of units were available "right now", and if HUD was shown to be lying about the 154 unit number-- a distinct possibility in my view-- wouldn't the activists be in a very strong position to demand a second opinion on, say, HUD's rehab vs. redevelop cost numbers? Couldn't any HUD number be credibly disputed at that point? What if the activists presented 154 displaced families who were willing to fill up the available units, and what if HUD was unable to come up with the 154 units that they claimed? How would that look? How would the T-P look? Wouldn't that be a political winner?

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Katrician, Heal Thyself 

Kathy at Liberty Street describes the Houston Chronicle's story on the Katrina evacuees who are losing housing assistance, and whose lives are unraveling.

There are over 700 comments to the story, all of them just bursting with holiday charity. These warmed my heart:

saa106 wrote:

"...spay and neuter...not just for dogs and cats. If you get a job you wont have so much time to play hide the 'larger welfare maker'!!!"

MajorD wrote:

"I hate these types of reports from journalist who are so compassionate about the poor, and forgotten... Merry Christmas to those who are responsible adults."
Thanks, Houston.

There's an important element to the Chronicle's story that is overlooked by the 700 comments, and it involves the landlords' response to the new DHAP program:

In the last month, a second displacement of hundreds of people has become more pronounced as the process of transferring the FEMA program to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development got under way. The shift between the two agencies has not been seamless with many local landlords, who accepted FEMA money before, opting out of the program that will require tenants to start contributing to their rent payments March 1. So far, 48 landlords representing 68 properties have said no to the HUD program, said Spurgeon Robinson, the director of Harris County's Disaster Housing Assistance Program, or DHAP.

Plenty of landlords in New Orleans are also "opting out" of DHAP, to a much greater degree than expected. HUD doesn't make it the transition easy for landlords, either. Landlords must go to an office in the abandoned CJ Peete projects, wait a long time, and do paperwork and watch a video. This is so they can understand their tenant's new program, mind you. If you call the office, there's no response, and-- apparently-- unless you get there early in the morning, they'll turn you away and say come back tomorrow at 8:30am. (Yesterday, after repeated calls were rebuffed by automated recordings alerting me to full voicemailboxes, I went to the office without an appointment to sign up for the DHAP program and was turned away.)

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lakota declare independence from U.S. 

Libertarian Brent Sanders alerted us to this news item:

The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States, leaders said Wednesday.
A delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department on Monday, announcing they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the United States, some of them more than 150 years old.
Lakota country includes parts of the states of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

The new country would issue its own passports and driving licences, and living there would be tax-free -- provided residents renounce their US citizenship...

The treaties signed with the United States are merely "worthless words on worthless paper," the Lakota freedom activists say on their website.

The treaties have been "repeatedly violated in order to steal our culture, our land and our ability to maintain our way of life," the reborn freedom movement says.


A sneering paleface once asked Crazy Horse, "Where are your lands now?" Crazy Horse replied, "My lands are where my dead lie buried."

Luckily, this new country won't be much of an issue because the President has made his views on tribal sovereignty very clear:

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"Something ugly came to pass" 


Stacey Head apparently blew a kiss to the "outside agitators".

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Playing into your opponent's hands 


Sharon Jasper, a former St. Bernard complex resident presented by activists Tuesday as a victim of changing public housing policies, took a moment before the start of the City Hall protest to complain about her subsidized private apartment, which she called a "slum." A HANO voucher covers her rent on a unit in an old Faubourg St. John home, but she said she faced several hundred dollars in deposit charges and now faces a steep utility bill.

"I'm tired of the slum landlords, and I'm tired of the slum houses," she said.

Pointing across the street to an encampment of homeless people at Duncan Plaza, Jasper said, "I might do better out here with one of these tents."

Jasper, who later allowed a photographer to tour the subsidized apartment, also complained about missing window screens, a slow leak in a sink, a warped back door and a few other details of a residence that otherwise appeared to have been recently renovated.

photo by T-P's Ted Jackson

People Get Ready (read the whole post):

...few people would trust the views of Sharon Jasper who seems to be arguing for why she should be allowed to return to the St. Bernard development because she can’t afford the deposit and utility bills in in her Section 8 property. She could probably make a down payment on a modest house with that 60 inch television in her living room.

Now that’s brazen disregard for how many of us who pay her rent with our taxes settle for a fifteen-year-old television and struggle at the same time to pay our own rent while trying to get back into a home. I have no doubt that Times-Picayune photographer Ted Jackson intended to get that television in the frame. Writer Coleman Warner should have asked Ms. Jasper about the television. Maybe she can’t work — that’s one thing — but we don’t expect to see lavish luxury on the public dole.

Are those punkass agitators oblivious to what this looks like because they’re used to extravagance being provided for them without appreciating the value of work themselves?

B.Rox (this is the whole post):
Something tells me the picture of Sharon Jasper sitting next to her widescreen TV on page A-14 of today’s Times-Picayune will not advance the cause of public housing.

To recap: Ms. Sharon Jasper-- the housing victim that activists point to-- is "tired" of her "slum" apartment (pictured above), with the leaky sink faucet and the warped door.

Is former St Bernard complex resident Ms. Sharon Jasper related to former St. Bernard complex resident Ms. Kawana Jasper, who is featured in this video that many nolabloggers posted?


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Stay on target. 

As usual, David at Moldy City makes a good point:

I do think a golden moment is slipping away. The secretiveness and outright dishonesty that led to the bloated sanitation contracts seem to be fading from public memory. Oddly enough, the mayor's dishonesty about his own voting habits is helping to protect his reputation for integrity. Nagin might be upset about the recent media questioning, but he shouldn't be. Much better, from the mayor's point-of-view, that reporters ask how his voting habits than ask about why the "champion of transparency" kept the details of the garbage collection contracts secret for so long. Even though the mayor was caught in a blatant lie, he's not being portrayed as a corrupt politician who gives rich contracts to cronies then makes up numbers and makes up facts to hide the truth; he's just coming across as our loose cannon mayor who blurts things out without thinking. I suspect that it even gives some people the impression that he's too stupid to be a crook.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Asking "why" 

Listen, YRHT likes Sen. Chris Dodd when he stands up and does good things (as opposed to supporting Lieberman over Lamont in the CT primaries, or voting to authorize the Iraq war) . But, quite simply, quite obviously, Dodd was born to be a Connecticut Senator. I think his Presidential Campaign is polling around 1% nationally, and 5% in his home state. And it's not for a lack of (corporate) money.

So, progressives like Jeffrey and Athenae may wish to ask themselves, "Why isn't Chris Dodd a serious Presidential candidate? Why isn't he? He seems pretty good, and he's standing up against baseless FISA legislation (because, he claims, the "disasterous" Iraq War he supported "taught" him to make principled stands against bills based on spin and not facts)... so what gives?"

"Why not Dodd?"

What's your answer to that? Hell, forget the aforementioned digs about Dodd's PAC money and support for Holy Joe in the CT primary. Those are piddling details. They aren't the real reasons Dodd's not competitive. Is it his skill set? His policy positions? His physical appearance? Or something else?

Why has Dodd not gained any political traction in this Presidential race, despite his (belated but courageous) stance on issues like telecom immunity?

Why does Presidential candidate Chris Dodd-- who has a smart resume, and who occasionally acts like a "better Democrat"-- still have numbers lower than the margin of error in every poll? Think about that for a while, and if you arrive at a tentative answer, please put it in the comments. I have a view about this, but first I'd like to know yours.

And think broadly here, too. Dodd is just an example we're using. If we put Dodd (or someone like Dodd) in any presidential contest, in any year, against any field, he'd still be an also-ran. Why is that?

Why is that?

We apparently need a descriptive post about this all-important "why", and I'll put my view up later.

As a tangential clue, though, I'll point you to Bob Somerby's post today about Chris Mattews' relentless and unchallenged propaganda. Yes, Somerby is characteristically hyperventilated, but perhaps justifiably so. He understands the media's pernicious scripts and stories and narratives, and in this passage he briefly touches on how such things could factor into a voting decision:

we’ve come to believe that this mountain of [media] narrative would vastly affect a Clinton White House. (Trust us: These fools would have driven Gore into the sea.) Since it’s clear that liberals and Dems will never have “what it takes” to resist this misconduct, we think this conduct must be considered in casting a primary vote.


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Football and Giving 

Derrick Brooks edition.

Warrick Dunn edition.

Speaking of football, Brett Favre received an award, and Maitri is going to Lambeau to see him in the playoffs. (This concerned 2006 YRHT post about Favre's swan song now seems ridiculous.)

Gentilly Girl has some fine thoughts about toys for tots and inspired giving.

Last but not least, this classy Saints fan was sauntering along the upper level in the Dome Sunday afternoon. Buy his new "Make wetlands, not war!" shirt. It's a great stocking stuffer, and a percentage of the proceeds go to The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. I got mine in person at the Dirty Coast store on Magazine, and they wrapped it up like a po-boy for me.

Update: Folks like Ashley, Liprap and Greg could all use a lesson about "increasing the peace".
Update #2: Up to 25 FSU Seminoles may be ineligible to play in the Gaylord bowl due to a cheating scandal involving an internet course. The Seminoles are the defending Emerald Nut Bowl champions, and are playing Kentucky in the prestigious Gaylord Bowl.


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Hilarious "Hillary's Heroes" series continues! 

The kids at 99.5fm are at it again. This time it's Hillary and Fidel Castro.

Here's what 99.5fm does. They take a photo of Hillary Clinton-- she's a Democrat, btw-- and they place it next to a photo of a famous Communist dictator... and presto!... they have an instant "editorial cartoon". It's funny because Hillary is perceived as a liberal, and liberalism is tantamount to communist tyranny, so naturally you need only to group the two together for the audience to get the "joke".

Can't wait for the next hilarious installment. I hope it's Pol Pot.

On the other hand, here's an editorial cartoon about our homeboy Jindal. He's the new sheriff in town, you see, and he's gonna straighten things out.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Notes on recent T-P articles and Op-eds 

1. Shorter Mayor Ray Nagin: the irksome Times Picayune doesn't understand that I'm entitled to my own facts. I just wish the T-P editorial board received the same scrutiny that I do.

(Yes, Nagin is going after the same editorial board that gave him a hugely influential front page editorial endorsement for mayor in 2002, and which buried their 2006 endorsement of Mitch Landrieu in the middle of the week, preventing Mitch from using it in his final media buys prior to election day.)

2. Shorter Mayor of Oxford, Mississippi: we sympathize with how difficult it is for New Orleans to recover from the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina. But please don't take out your debate snub on us. See, we've suffered too. Our reputation was hurt by the man-made disaster of the 1962 race riots, and we look forward to redeeming ourselves on a national stage, and changing people's perceptions about Oxford that were due in part to unbalanced media reporting.

3. Shorter Front Page story on Public Housing: [As YRHT noted on Tuesday], the current purported availability of hundreds of empty public housing units seems to undercut the message of protesters who claim that mass demolitions are an untimely, counterproductive move in a city suffering from an affordable housing crisis.

It's surprising to me that Jeffrey's "political backlash detector" was silent on this issue until incendiary posters started appearing. My detector has been pegged in the red since this housing debate approached a low simmer. What's the gameplan, here? What's the endgame? What's the angle or hook that will get get widespread political support? HUD Sec. Alonzo Jackson and corruption? Nagin and the demolition contracts? What?

Either call HANO/HUD on its claim about the 300+ available units, and/or divert some protest energy towards immediately filling them up! Either you catch HANO/HUD in a(nother) lie, or you help 300 families who are suffering from this crisis, and demonstrate the urgency of the situation. You just got thumped by a front page Sunday morning feature titled: "FAR FROM FULL: Lost in the debate about the demolition of N.O. housing developments is one fact: There are hundreds of units available right now". What's the response to that? "They're lying"? "We don't believe those numbers"?... That's not going to get it done.

And white students (from out of town?) sitting in front of bulldozers certainly isn't going to get it done, either.
Update: Excellent commentary on this issue over at People Get Ready. (And I can also say that 1230am is a very welcome addition to the local dial. More at the Zombie, too.)

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Now who's laughing? 

These vids are interesting for reasons that are both obvious and subtle. When a candidate genuinely laughs, they briefly lose a bit of self-control, which is always a rare and revealing glimpse. Other times, the laughter is a response to candidates being forced to answer a difficult question in 30 seconds on national television. The pressure is incredible, the stakes are high, and sometimes laughter is just a nervous response to pressure. Also, sometimes "questions" in a debate or tv interview have objectionable premises, or are framed in ways that reinforce insidious media-narratives ("scripts", if you will). A candidate can give a decent 30-second "answer" to a question about policy on the Sunday Talk shows, but sometimes the premises of the question were so hopelessly skewed, that a straightforward answer actually reinforces the larger media "narrative" about the candidate. So even an answer that is narrowly good on the "merits" becomes a political loser because it plays into a disadvantageous storyline (usually built around trivia).

And then other times you get idiotic political strategists who advise a candidate to purposefully "laugh more" when on TV, because it will display their friendly, human side. And this is important because the idiotic campaign pollster said that support among some narrow demographic (say, white females voters between the ages of 24-40) is "cratering", and this can be addressed by laughing more.

So, I believe some of these things are on display in the above videos. If I were forced to speculate, I'd say that the first two videos showed Hillary and 9iu11iani laughing

1) as an effort to deflect difficult, "narrative re-inforcing" questions

2) as a nervous reaction to pressure, or absurd media behavior

3) as an effort to follow the advice of strategists

The last video is very revealing. Note that, while Obama paused to answer, another candidate chuckled just prior to Hillary, and that sort of gave her "permission" to laugh and fully enjoy the moment. I believe she allowed herself to genuinely laugh, because, in her view, the media finally aimed a zinger at the heart of Obama's central theme about "change". Hillary was enjoying "media-darling" Obama finally getting a taste of some dangerously tough questions-- the sort of tough questions that he hasn't had to deal with for umpteen years, like she has. The reason it was so dangerous was because it made him look inexperienced, and that his "new way" was actually Clintonism, and that the "change" he represented was superficial, like skin pigment. Clinton recognized this dilemma for Obama, and this was the "subtext" of Hillary's hearty laughs. "It's about time he gets the 'treatment'", she was probably thinking. But Hillary realized that she might've enjoyed the moment a bit too much. She might've laughed a bit too hard, for a second too long. So, as a way of quickly explaining her laughs in a reasonable way for the tv audience, she said she "wanted to hear [Obama's] answer to that one". But that comment only refocused attention back to Obama, and raised the stakes. What would he say? How would he handle the question? More importantly, would he respond to Hillary's laughter and comment, as well?

Obama confidently put Hillary down with a witty retort that became a debate highlight. It showed that he not only wants to be president, but plans on it. He's willing to fight for it, and can forcefully respond when the stakes are high and it appears that he's being laughed at. Because he was responding to Hillary, and because he was clever about it, he could get away with a sharp retort without being viewed as "mean". Most important of all, Obama got the best of his more experienced opponent, and used the opportunity to insert the image in everyone's mind of a President Obama being advised by a Senator Clinton.

JFK wouldn't let a moment like that pass without a witty yet sharp rejoinder. And neither did Obama.

Bravo, Barrack.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tis the season 

“There are many of us busy elves working away in Santa’s workshop.”

* ironic title reference link here.

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Bumper sticker on St. Charles yesterday 

Piyush is my homeboy.

What's next? "Big pimpin' wit' Vitty-cent"?

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