Saturday, April 26, 2008

Your relatives are so big, I'm starstruck 

Enjoy watching this hypnotic Singularity post.

And this Moby video goes out to Dennis Kucinich.

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You're so COOL, Boysie! 

Jeffrey alerts us to this T-P story:

James Bernazzani, the head of New Orleans' FBI office, a silver-maned, tough-talking, Harvard-educated, larger-than-life crimefighter sent to squash public corruption in a jurisdiction notorious for it

Gracious, Times-Pic! Did you stain your pants writing that encomium?

was reassigned to the agency's national headquarters Friday after he publicly flirted with a run for mayor.

The abrupt transfer marks the end of Bernazzani's three-year tenure in New Orleans, a tumultous period during which he carved out a prominent niche as the face and voice of a very public war on corruption.

The FBI confirmed the move in a statement sent Friday in response to queries from The Times-Picayune.

"The recent media attention regarding a possible run for mayor could create the appearance of a conflict of interest," the statement read. "Even the appearance of a conflict must be avoided for the public to have the highest confidence in the FBI."

Bernazzani, meanwhile, said late Friday he's not sure if he'll return to Washington, hinting that his political ambitions in New Orleans are still alive.

So... I wonder who got Bernazzani so "hot to trot" about running for Mayor in 2010? What wonderful heroes of New Orleans politics courted him, and perhaps contributed to the media attention that led to his abrupt transferral?

Recall that The Gambit Weekly recently reported that:

Our sources say some heavy hitters (read: financial backers) with conservative leanings want the tough-talking Bernazzani to consider running for mayor of New Orleans in 2010.

Conservative Jeff Crouere at Citybusiness confirmed this report:

Several prominent New Orleans business leaders have approached Bernazzani about becoming a candidate in the 2010 race for mayor of New Orleans. They have promised to raise the necessary funds for the FBI agent to be a major figure in the race.

Dollars to donuts the conservative business leaders who approached Bernazzani about running for mayor included the likes of Boysie "W is N.O.'s best friend" Bollinger and Joe "sun-starer" Canizaro.

That's right. I bet Boysie, the same GOP earwig bigwig who-- in a "devious double game"-- supported Nagin's re-election in New Orleans while campaigning against him in the rest of the state, is now all about installing a new "law and order" mayor in 2010. There's a lotta crime on these mean streets, y'know. (To his credit, Canizaro endorsed Mitch Landrieu, who had promised a nationwide search for a new police chief.)

Once again: after supporting the only 2006 mayoral candidate committed to retaining Warren Riley (the current ineffective police chief), now Boysie is (likely) trying to draft a "tough-talking... larger-than-life crimefighter" to clean up all the resurgent crime during Nagin's second term. Ain't that special?

AND IN DOING SO, it appears Boysie and others contributed to Bernazzani's sudden transferral during this ultra-crucial six month period. WTFG, Boyzee!

Update: the rise in violent crime during Nagin's term goes unabated.
Update #2: Clancy Dubos writes a bit more about the "gaggle of Uptown swells blowing smoke up [Bernazzani's] butt and telling him what a great mayor he would make".

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Design feedback 

From this blog ranking site, we learn that the mighty YRHT design-- unchanged since June of 2004-- barely beats the likes of this blogskin in a head to head contest, and consistently loses to this one.

Sadly, the YRHT design is ranked near the bottom quintile of rated blogskins, winning a mere 37% of contests between it and other "skins".

While it's difficult to understand why everyone doesn't love the majesty of this background graphic, votes are votes. The netizens have spoken. Humbled, YRHT acknowledges that its design is dated and perhaps stale. Perhaps a change is needed.

Update: In the comments Jeffrey writes:

When I see that recently defrosted windshield at the top of my screen dripping down upon yet another Bowie/Ramones inspired pun on diaper fetishism I know I'm reading YRHT.
That's pretty funny.


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"Very hot! Very hot!" 

The Reduct Box writes:

From the Washington Times: Governor Bobby Jindal is escorting Senator John McCain around New Orleans today and by all accounts it’s not just for exercise. Between the Leno gigs and DC Press club speech, Jindal’s playing his VP ambitions about as cool as a Freshman at the Senior prom.

Again, YRHT contends that Bobby Jindal has no real Veep ambitions-- however, he's certainly cultivating the Veep "buzz", which may allow him to get the coveted GOP convention keynote address and set him up for a run of his own in 2012 or 2016. (If he's eyeing 2012, the 2011 gubernatorial re-election campaign would come at a very inconvenient time. Running on a "the job's not finished" platform while hanging out in Iowa and NH would be a tad awkward.)

But the Reduct Box's description of Jindal being "about as cool as a Freshman at the Senior prom" reminded me of some of these Sixteen Candles scenes:

Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald turned forty this year. Jindal is 36, or about half as old as Str8 Tawlk. And Str8 Tawlk will likely choose Pawlenty for Veep, or possibly Crist if a massive vetting failure occurs.

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I read the news today oh noes 

Scout Prime should be declared a National Treasure.

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1. "You know, you think of China, you think of rickshaws and Chinese people with these little funny hats on."

-- Mayor Nagin

2. "That is why we need to go back is to have a conversation about what to do [with the lower 9th ward]-- rebuild it, tear it down, you know, whatever it is."

-- Presidential candidate John McCain

3. "Why does much of New Orleans still look as if the 2005 devastation of Hurricane Katrina had occurred just a few weeks ago?
"The answer is simple. New Orleans abandoned God and personal moral responsibility, turning instead to worshipping the atheistic, secular political state. That secular god has failed miserably, notoriously so in the aftermath of Katrina."

-- "Intellectual" Scuzzbucket Thomas Brewton


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1. Entergy says they will replace New Orleans street tiles. The credit goes to the late, great Ashley Morris.

2. Inflation numbers racket.


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Newspaper recycling is back in New Orleans 

Unfortunately, it's being used as filler in our floodwalls.

Story and video here.

The Army Corps of Engineers says they are satisfied with the subcontractor's work, even though floodwall expansion joints were filled with newspaper instead of sponge rubber sealants, as the contract specified.

Also, if you haven't read John Barry's latest op-ed in the LA Times, you really should.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

"Rebuild it, tear it down, you know, whatever..." 

Let me get this Str8. Presidential candidate John McCain toured New Orleans' lower 9th ward with Gov. Jindal, despite telling the press that we should have a conversation about possibly tearing it down? Really?

[McCain] told reporters he was not sure if he would rebuild the lower 9th ward as president.

"That is why we need to go back is to have a conversation about what to do-- rebuild it, tear it down, you know, whatever it is," he said.

Alan at ThinkNola responds thusly:

You mean we’ve not had enough conversations already? The McCain administration is going to hit the ground talking? At least we now know what to expect. More canned civic engagement while the city moulders.

Basically, he doesn’t know what to do. The Lower 9th Ward will be rebuilt, because it is some of the highest, driest land in the city. The levee walls failed in such a way as to flood the Lower 9th Ward, but had the levees failed on the other side, the Faubourg Marigny would have got it just as bad. People don’t understand that the Lower 9th Ward is not low ground. It is high ground and prime real estate.

Well said.

To his credit, McCain addressed Category 5 protection for New Orleans, saying "It's time to end the studies and it's time to act."

Yes sir! Well, what specific actions do you propose, Senator?

Update: Then again, if the Lord wills our city's destruction because of the Southern Decadence festival, I'm not sure any man-made protection will be sufficient.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What's another word for pirate treasure? 

Well, I think it's booty... booty... I think it's booty... booty... inflated booty... booty bounce.

Dirty South Bureau writes a fine post about a documentary of New Orleans "Bounce" music.

A WSJ columnist advises:
I don't want to alarm anybody, but maybe it's time for Americans to start stockpiling food.

No, this is not a drill.
Reality: Food prices are already rising here much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. And there are very good reasons to believe prices on the shelves are about to start rising a lot faster.

Friday, after taking 1 year old Pearlgirl Deuce to the doctor to determine the extent of her hearing loss due to chronic ear infections, and after taking 4 year old Pearlgirl to see her best friend (same age) who was recently diagnosed with Stage 5 kidney cancer... Lovely and I got to have a "date night". Yay! We went to a fundraiser at Antoine's. There were lots of Pyrates lurking around in the Quarter that night. It was festive. At the fundraiser we sampled Antoine's delectable appetizers in the japanese room upstairs, and then imbibed at the various drink stations. After a couple stiff Manhattans, I settled in for several rounds of... what else?... Pirate's Punch. They were delicious.

The fundraiser (not to be confused with this other fundraiser) was for Ratboy's dear friend who has worked at Antoine's for many moons. His wife developed brain cancer, and recently fell into a coma.

The week before we buried Ashley.

Verily, April in the year of our Lord 2008... has sucked smelly feet.

On the bright side, at least President Bush says there's "no recession" in sight, and Chief Riley says that the “New Orleans police are winning the battle against violent crime.”

And we got a monorail and a fronton in the works. I guess it all evens out in the end.

Update: H/T to The Cunning Realist for the Bernanke Pirate photoshop.
* nsfw

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Jindal will guest on Leno 

The T-P reports:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has been booked to guest on Monday's episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

The appearance, according to NBC's publicity Web site, comes amidst the growing buzz about Jindal possibly being named the vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket.

This is a big opportunity for Jindal. Leno will introduce him to a nationwide audience, but I'm a little concerned about how he'll do on a comedy show. See, previously, Jindal has said he wants to "go down as one of the more boring but effective governors". That's fine, but being boring on Leno is not a good move. And all this distracting talk about Jindal being a potential Vice Presidential candidate will only interfere with Jindal's message about his ethics "reform" legislation, and his (most laudable) investments in Louisiana's roads and coast.

So, here's the dilemma: how can Jindal be an entertaining guest on Leno, while also extinguishing the troublesome Veep "buzz" that's interfering with his message? What to do, what to do...

I got it! Jindal could recycle this old Burt Reynolds bit from the Johnny Carson show! That would kill two birds with one stone-- he would be removed from Veep consideration, and the tv audience would laugh and stay awake as he talks about all the dragons he's slaying in Louisiana gubmint... etc.

Actually, Jindal doesn't want to share the ticket with McCain, but he does want to make that keynote address at the GOP convention. Just don't tell the conservative crowds there that Jindal supports high taxes.

(If Leno could please work "Vitter" into the conversation at some point, this bivalve would be much obliged.)

Update: The Reduct Box has more.

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New Orleans obliterates Dallas 

Hell yes.

Tonight's ESPN score crawl stated that New Orleans Hornet Chris Paul was the first player in NBA history to have back-to-back games averaging 30+ points, 10+ assists and 3+ steals. Could that be true? Whatever the case, it's clear to everyone watching that Chris Paul's performance in his first two playoff games puts him in rarified company.

I do feel bad, though, that the Hornets' success over the Mavs comes at the expense of Dallas head coach Avery Johnson, a New Orleans native. When I went to school in San Antonio in the early 90's, I enjoyed watching Johnson play, especially when he was distributing the ball to David Robinson. I'm thrilled that Johnson eventually won a championship (along with the Admiral), and went on to become a winning NBA coach. I've always adored Avery's positive attitude, and the way words come out of his mouth. I hope he doesn't lose his job after this series, but rumor has it that he will.

Here's a partial list of NBA greats who were also born in Louisiana.

Clyde Drexler G (New Orleans)
Elvin Hayes C/F (Rayville)
Karl Malone F (Summerfield)
Robert Parish C (Shreveport)
Bob Pettit F (Baton Rouge)
Willis Reed C/F (Hico)
Bill Russell C (Monroe)


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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tomatoes for sale 

bark, bugs, leaves and lizards has a ripe one.


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Big Head Stacy and da Mayor 

Three Pipe Problem has some tunes.


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Monday, April 21, 2008

"Office Shop" til you drop! 

John N. Kennedy gets mocked for his chronic political office shopping.
Update: The Reduct Box points us to much, much more.

Apologies for the tortured title reference, but as Soren Kierkegaard liked to say*: "Anything goes!"

* not really


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"Who knew?" 

Of a sudden, Coca-Cola products are displaying little factoids on their labels, helping their customers live healthier lives.

For example, one label says "Who knew soft drinks could be hydrating?"

Another says "A walk during lunch can be energizing and relaxing. Just like a Diet Coke."

[While I was unaware of all these "benefits", I did have an experience with the Coca-Cola company one time. In the summer of 2005, I was advising a cash-strapped, long shot candidate for State Senate (who was running against Derrick Shepherd, among others). After throwing her hat in the ring, one of the first calls my candidate received was from the Coca-Cola company. They were willing to make a maximum donation to her campaign, but first they wanted to know my candidate's view on soda vending machines in public schools. She said she opposed them, and Coke decided not to support her.]

"Hydrating" and "relaxing"... who knew?

I'm still a bit unclear, though. Is it the calcium-stealing phosphoric acid that causes the relaxation, or is it the neurotoxic aspartame?

Indymedia and the Gristmill blog (respectfully) add a little more caramel color to the story:

The history behind the granting of commercial licenses for the use of Asparatame is truly shocking (Asparatame is also known as nutrasweet and owned by the Monsanto corporation)). Before the FDA in the United States granted its approval, it's own investigators uncovered a shocking 95% level of misdirected testing; concealed tests, collusion between corporate and their company-funded research; inappropriate ante-mortum issues; withholding of material facts; alterations of records: lying to investigators, lost records, no records; falsification of reports, bribery, and poor test methodology or design.


Why would the FDA allow [aspartame]? In 1981, a company called Searle owned the patent on aspartame, already known, paradoxically, as Nutrasweet. The company's CEO? Donald Rumsfeld -- not too far removed from serving as Gerald Ford's secretary of defense. Don't believe me? Check it out.

Then-president Ronald Reagan had appointed a man named Arthur Hull Hayes as his FDA chair. In 1981, Hayes approved aspartame over the objections of several internal panels.

Rummy, of course, would go on to greater things, but not before engineering the sale of Searle and its suddenly quite valuable Nutrasweet division to Monsanto (which in turn sold Nutrasweet to a private-equity firm).

A walk at lunch can be relaxing. Just like a Diet Coke, or this soothing instrumental by Operation Ivy.


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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Are you better off than you were eight years ago? 

From Saturday's front page WSJ article titled "Trapped in the Middle":

Are you better off than you were eight years ago? For a growing number of middle-class Americans, the answer is "No."
Nationally, median household pre-tax income in 2006, though slightly higher than in 2004, fell to $48,223 from an inflation-adjusted $49,477 in 2000, according to the Census Bureau. Weekly wage figures from 2007 suggest the decline persists.

Recessions often depress middle-class incomes and moods. What's unusual about these declines is that they occurred during the economic expansion that began in 2001 -- the first time that's happened during a prolonged expansion in at least 40 years. The main reason: The benefits of prosperity have gone disproportionately to the families at the very top.

Adjusted for inflation, income of the top 1% of earners grew at an annual rate of 11% from 2002 to 2006...
Across the country, some Americans are feeling increasingly grim. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 41% of respondents rated their lives as better than five years ago, and 31% said they were worse. That response is even glummer than in 1979, when, amid rising economic malaise, 25% of respondents to a similar survey rated their lives as worse.
But though the U.S. lost one million manufacturing jobs between 1980 and 1990, the 1990s turned out to be a good one for the middle class. Median income, adjusted for inflation, rose 11% between 1990 and 2000.

I don't think 11% inflation-adjusted growth over 10 years is anything to do cartwheels over. That sort of performance should be the norm, not the exception. Here are a couple of comparative WSJ graphics (click to enlarge):

Twenty three million jobs were created during the Clinton Presidency. Median household incomes rose significantly. Remember that.

Now, I suppose if we were comparing Clinton's record to Dubya's, we could be charitable and subtract the 3 million jobs lost during the 2001 recession from Clinton's total. However, the Big Dog could still boast of 20 million net jobs being created on his watch (roughly). On the other hand, after the "Clinton recession", and after the GOP gained control of the government and cut taxes, only about 10 million net jobs were added to the American economy-- a number that is shrinking each month during the current recession. That's pretty damn weak. To put that in perspective, recall that 10 million net jobs were gained during Carter's one term "malaise".

Clinton left his successor with budget surpluses, a strong dollar, low inflation, and a Federal Reserve with plenty of rate-cutting "ammunition". Bush will leave his successor with none of these things.

The Cunning Realist previews Bush's inflation "legacy" in an excellent article from the latest issue of The American Conservative:

Ludwig von Mises once wrote, “No emergency can justify a return to inflation. Inflation can provide neither the weapons a nation needs to defend its independence nor the capital goods required for any project. It does not cure unsatisfactory conditions. It merely helps the rulers whose policies brought about the catastrophe to exculpate themselves.” Yet the universe of “emergencies” has been expanding to include elections, natural downturns in the business cycle, inconvenient stock market weakness, and bad decisions by Wall Street firms— with predictable results.

Inflation’s defining characteristic is expediency. It obviates sacrifice and postpones pain. That makes it a natural complement to many political ventures, particularly unpopular wars. As early as 1965, Lyndon Johnson’s economic advisers worried about rising inflationary pressures. As Johnson resisted calls for new taxes, the deficit for fiscal 1967 came in at $9.8 billion. By the time Congress and the White House finally agreed on a tax increase in 1968, after years of escalation in Vietnam, the deficit was $25.2 billion and inflation was rampant.

Of course, it would get far worse over the next decade. Even as the seeds of inflation planted in the mid-1960s grew, Richard Nixon put pressure on Fed Chairman Arthur Burns to goose the economy for the 1972 election. That dynamic continued and worsened during the 1970s. By the early 1980s, Ronald Reagan was dealing with the consequences of decisions made by Johnson and Nixon over a decade earlier. Part of Reagan’s legacy is the latitude he gave Paul Volcker, as risky and painful as that was, to deal with those problems. Unless one believes the next president will want to take the hit for Bush’s decisions, or that someone with Reagan’s mandate and courage is about to appear, whoever is in the White House a decade from now will probably confront the economic fallout from current policies. But by that time will anyone remember how it all started? How many cursed LBJ or Nixon in 1979? The White House not only knows the answer, it’s counting on the nation’s forgetfulness.

We should note that President Carter appointed Paul Volcker to the Federal Reserve Chairmanship in 1979. (Volcker recently endorsed Barack Obama for President.) In the early eighties, while Reagan was allowing Volcker to "kill" the economy in order to save it, he preached a good bit on how inflation is the "cruelest tax".

The Capital Spectator notes for good measure:

It's important to recognize that history reminds that higher inflation tends to come gradually, almost imperceptibly over time. No one puts out a press release warning that the new inflationary era began last Tuesday at 3:45pm. Rather, the process of transitioning from contained inflation to something less contained unfolds slowly, in fits and starts. Only with hindsight is it obvious that pricing pressures have increased by more than a little.

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Sometimes I forget that comic boy is a ferocious writer, too 

Greg reflects on Ashley's funeral.

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iPlod government 

Senator Barack Obama's Presidential campaign sometimes speaks of his vision of an "iPod government"-- "an effort to rethink public services and national regulations in ways that would make things far simpler and more user-friendly".

Unfortunately, New Orleanians have the bizarro-world version: an iPlod government.

For example, this long pond of unfreshness has been in the street for over three months.

So, it's been three months of standing water (mixed with trash, oil and dirt) because two street drains became hopelessly plugged and N.O. Public Works hasn't come out to fix it. I can assure you that they've been called multiple times by several of the residents of this street. These residents have also spent many hours trying to unplug the drains to no avail. Someone even paid a guy to come out and fix a drain, but he couldn't unplug it.

I know the city has a ton of pressing issues, but this standing water is becoming a public health concern. The French Quarter is all lemony fresh, while this block of Uptown smells sewagey.

Perhaps a "threatening letter" from a high powered law firm will do the trick.


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