Saturday, May 24, 2008

Yeah, what he said 

Suspect Device:

The USACOE built & rebuilt & repaired levees & floodwalls are stuffed with newspaper and leaking. The backup systems for their emergency response plans are not in place. Their actions are incomprehensible. They have no credibility left and should either be removed from the project, forced to outsource to competent contractors (like the Dutch), or at the very least be placed under the close and direct supervision of a civilian board of scientists & engineers. A heavily armed civilian board of scientists & engineers, so lessons may be taught, as needed.

FEMA, charged with planning and preparedness in the event of emergency, is still trying to figure out what the fuck to do if an emergency does in fact happen, and has gone so far as to consider removing their collective thumb from their collective ass but is determined not to be too hasty about it. Cameron parish, quite literally flattened by hurricane Rita, lies mostly untouched, forgotten, rebuilding stalled by constantly changing FEMA elevation guidelines which have put the cost housing out of reach for residents.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

From the LBJ political playbook: 

Update: I watched the video of the interview , and I would just say Hillary Clinton's RFK assassination reference was ill-advised. (So the title of this post should be taken with a few more grains of salt.) She flatly and thoroughly denied the story (linked below) that she was in talks with the Obama campaign about the Veep spot.

The NY Post reports (via Balloon Juice):

Hillary Clinton today brought up the assassination of Sen. Robert Kennedy while defending her decision to stay in the race against Barack Obama.

“My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don’t understand it,” she said, dismissing calls to drop out.

My head is still spinning. Why would you ever say this?

Title ref here and here. LBJ was a "gambling man".

I'll have an analysis of Hillary Clinton's campaign in coming days, but this sort of comment makes me think twice about this kos diarist's analysis. (I don't totally agree with it, or trust the article, but now I think there may be something to it.)

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It never rains in Death Valley 

so that's why they have a brown field.

Just kidding.

These photos were taken from a Blackhawk helicopter by Mike Wilson and the 244th Airborne on a Tiger Stadium Fly-by on their way to Ft. Sill and then on to Iraq on 4/19/08. Click to enlarge.

Thx to Greg L. for sending the pics, which have been previously posted at LSU fan sites.


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For whom the disaster tolls 

I haven't said much about the earthquake in China (death toll 51,000 +), or the cyclone in Burma (death toll 78,000 - 217,000). Obviously, these were horrible catastrophes. But... after such things, I'm always intrigued at how a spoonful of "miracle" helps the catastrophe "go down", so to speak.

Yesterday the number of confirmed dead in China rose by 10,000. However, this dreadful news was accompanied by a handful of "miracle" stories. Somehow these stories enable humans to cope with the thought of these overwhelming tragedies.

I just get tired of people explaining post-catastrophe "miracles" in terms of God's purpose or plan. Scores of thousands die, but we're supposed to think God miraculously intervened to save a particular soul here and there. There were "reasons", you see. It was all part of the "plan".

Perhaps, in any large scale catastrophe you're bound to have some amazing survival stories. Perhaps it's overwhelmingly probable that there will be some. Maybe dumb luck and contingency are the real "reasons".

But if humanity requires some "miracle" survival stories after a disaster, can't we ever have the following scenario occur?:

Five days after a horrible earthquake, a national TV audience rejoices as rescuers uncover two men buried in rubble. They're alive, and breathing! It's a miracle, the media proclaims. As the men are being pulled out and put into an ambulance, a reporter asks one of the survivors to describe how he feels.

"Well, I'm so happy to be alive! If my partner and I hadn't enjoyed that nooner in the supply closet, we wouldn't have been in the safest part of the building when it collapsed. I guess being a sexually active gay couple really paid off this week. Heh. And while we were trapped in the rubble, we promised each other that if we ever made it out alive we would get married in California. It was the thought of getting married that kept us going, that helped us survive. That, and drinking each other's urine. Apparently God had a plan for us, because everything happens for a reason."

One time. That's all I ask. One time.

"I do not believe in miracles. I have seen too many." -- Herodias, from Oscar Wilde's Salomé

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"This madness is ripping the guts out of entire segments of society" 

Here's the "money quote" (pun intended) from a must read Cunning Realist post:

Last week, several indicators showed Fed-created liquidity at its highest level ever. Consequences: a new bout of dollar weakness, gold up about $70 in the past few weeks... and of course oil at $130. And, most important for policymakers during an election year, a surging stock market (until Tuesday). While the Fed was doing its best imitation of Arthur Burns in '72, Bernanke, Paulson, and even Greenspan (not spending his days in a Venice gambling hall, apparently) all claimed that the worst of the credit crisis may be over. So why do the extraordinary measures continue? This madness is ripping the guts out of entire segments of society: wage earners, prudent savers, Social Security recipients and fixed-income retirees, independent truckers, mom and pop restaurants and retailers, the rural poor, long-distance middle class commuters -- basically anyone who doesn't own an oil well, corn field, or sit in front of a half-dozen trading screens in midtown Manhattan.

CR later links to this bracing compilation of FedSpeak. Read the whole thing.

And as far as Arthur Burns in 72 goes...

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

N.O. CityBusiness:

As [Recovery Chief Ed] Blakely approaches nearly 18 months on the job, he has defined his time frame. As an appointee of Mayor C. Ray Nagin, Blakely sees 2010 — the end of Nagin’s administration — as a clear target.

I would assume a new administration would want their own people,” Blakely said. “Like any good bureaucrat, I would tender my resignation and if they wanted me to stay, I would consider it. What I’m hoping is I would have worked myself out of a job, but hopefully I would not have worked myself out of affection for the city and the city for me.”

"Like any good bureaucrat", Blakely would resign? Why? I thought he was special. Didn't he clearly state last year that "I’m not like you. I have power. I can speak to the President of the US." And wasn't he the dose of cold reality that would shake up New Orleans, and help repopulate the town with energetic non-buffoons?

And why would Blakely assume that "a new administration would want their own people" when he is one of only 6 people in the world who can properly rebuild New Orleans? Wouldn't it be reckless of him to resign out of bureaucratic custom, when the city needs his expertise to survive? Why would a new administration "want their own people" when the best possible candidate already has the job?

Such questions hurt my crane-ium.


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St. Paul Saints spoof Sen. Craig 

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

[The St. Paul] Saints promotion: Not quite a bobblehead

Sunday's giveaway is a miniature bathroom stall with a couple of lower legs and feet - a spoof on the airport episode involving Idaho Sen. Larry Craig at the Twin Cities airport last summer.

Hopefully, the New Orleans Saints will be similarly inspired.

Update: There's job opportunities in the Twin Cities.

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News Items! 

"Sleeping on the Wet Spot":

Despite more than $22 million in repairs, a levee that broke with catastrophic effect during Hurricane Katrina is leaking again because of the mushy ground on which New Orleans was built, raising serious questions about the reliability of the city’s flood defenses.
Donald Jolissaint, chief of the corps’ technical support branch in New Orleans, denied the problem at the 17th Street Canal is serious.

“I personally do not at all believe that this little wet spot is anything that is going to cause a breach or a failure of any kind,” he said.

Wheeling and Dealing:

FEMA has offered... Hurricane Katrina victims still living in emergency housing the opportunity to purchase their agency-provided mobile homes.
FEMA spokesman James McIntyre said the agency won't sell units that test high for formaldehyde. He could not say what FEMA has determined to be a safe level.

Judy B reminds us that FEMA originally bought these trailer homes after Katrina, then tried to sell many of them, then offered to buy them back (after toxicity concerns were raised), and now they are trying to sell back the remaining ones that don't "test high for formaldehyde".

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jindal being interviewed for Veep? 

From a recent NYT article, titled "McCain to Meet Possible Running Mates"

Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, and Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, have both accepted invitations to meet with Mr. McCain at his home in Arizona, according to Republicans familiar with the decision. One Republican said that Mitt Romney, a former rival of Mr. McCain for the presidential nomination — is also expected to visit him this weekend.
Of all the names being mentioned as Mr. McCain’s potential running mate, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, the 36-year-old first-term governor of Louisiana, is not only the youngest and least experienced, but also the only one who is not white. Yet in a year in which Democratic voters have raised few objections to such traditional “obstacles,” Mr. Jindal may be especially attractive as Republicans seek a way to offset the “post-racial” and youthful appeal of Senator Barack Obama.

I'm still standing by all my earlier predictions that McCain won't select Jindal, and that Bobby is cultivating buzz to get the keynote address for a presidential run of his own. But... I would love, LOVE to be wrong on this one. Almost all of the alleged "strengths" that Jindal brings to the ticket are actually weaknesses, in my view. And I would relish the opportunity to participate in the "vetting" of Jindal.

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Real Appeasers 

From Fareed Zakaria's Newsweek piece titled "Who's the Real Appeaser?":

President Bush chose an odd place and time to claim that talking to "terrorists and radicals" in the Middle East is like appeasing Hitler in the 1930s. As Bush was speaking in Israel, his preferred strategy ["a mix of isolation, belligerence and military pressure"] against [Hizbullah] was collapsing next door in Lebanon.

I guess we should amend that to "collapsed". Also, just to be clear, the "Hitler" whom Zakaria refers to is Adolph Hitler (also known as "Der Führer", or, if you subscribe to Pastor John Hagee's view of history, God's "hunter".) Anyway:

We are trying to handle Lebanon with one hand tied behind our back. We will not make contact with the Syrians or the Iranians to find out if their interests are identical, or to discern the contours of a deal. We have little political leverage and we refuse to engage in a process that might give us some. "It's a much broader regional problem," says [Hizbullah expert Augustus] Norton. "When I was advising the Iraq Study Group I noticed that though the members disagreed on many things, the one on which there was unanimous support was the need to make contact with Iran." One of the group's members, Bush's own Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, made precisely this argument last week.

Perhaps Gates noticed that violence has declined in Iraq largely because the United States decided to engage with Sunni militants whom it had regarded for years as sworn enemies, giving cash to those whom we called terrorists only a few months earlier. In fact, this administration's few successes have come when it's agreed to talk with its adversaries. Bush authorized negotiations with Libya and North Korea—both of which he regarded as terrorist states and one of which he placed in the Axis of Evil. As for Iran, we've talked with Iranian officials on several occasions over issues relating to Afghanistan and Iraq. James Dobbins, the administration's representative in the 2002 talks to form the government in Afghanistan, described the Iranians as "straightforward, reliable and helpful. They were critical to our success." President Bush's remarks on the solemn occasion of Israel's 60th anniversary may have been political. But much worse, they were dishonest.

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I love myself for hating Nixon and the Blackhearts 

From Evan Thomas' review of Nixonland:

As a politician, [Richard Nixon] told a friend, he would do anything, make any sacrifice, to get where he wanted to go. "Anything," he said. "Except see a shrink."
Profane and paranoid in his private rants, Nixon played the statesman in public, denouncing racism and intolerance. He was content to have demagogues like Alabama Gov. George Wallace rage at "pointy-headed intellectuals, swaydo-intellectual morons tellin' [regular folk] how to live their lives." Wallace's raving "made Nixon look respectable when he couched the same sentiment in four-syllable words," writes Perlstein.

Nixon's media coach during the 1968 campaign was a young TV producer named Roger Ailes. When Ailes was putting together televised panel shows, highly contrived to "meet the candidate," he hit on a clever idea for a citizen panelist: "A good, mean, Wallaceite cab driver. Wouldn't that be great?" suggested Ailes. "Some guy to sit there and say, 'Awright, Mac, what about them n----rs?' Nixon could then abhor the incivility of the words, while endorsing a 'moderate' version of the opinion." Perlstein reports that "Ailes walked up and down a nearby cab stand until he found a cabbie who fit the bill."
Roger Ailes, of course, went on to create Fox News—"fair and balanced"—which routinely afflicts and outmaneuvers the old establishment press.

I'll be referring to these quotes in a future post or two.



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My name is erl 

And, "to the greatest extent in the history of oil futures trading", I'm doing the continuous contango dance.

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I'll Stop Calling This Crew "Orwellian" When They Stop Using 1984 as an Operations Manual 


According to a senior government official who served with high-level security clearances in five administrations, "There exists a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived 'enemies of the state' almost instantaneously."

Cryptogon has much more about MAIN CORE.

Nighty night.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

BHOddy language 

Why did Fox News use "BHO" to abbreviate Sen. Obama's name in its "info-crawl" graphics throughout tonight's primary coverage , while using "HRC" and "MAC" for Clinton and McCain? Obama doesn't use his middle initial, never mentions his middle name, nor does anyone else in his campaign (to my knowledge). And if Fox is going to use Obama's initials, why don't they use McCain's as well? McCain's full name is John Sidney McCain III. So, if we're going to be fair and balanced, shouldn't "MAC" be "JSM", instead?
Update: Newshounds is on to the story, and posts some FNC freeze frames.
I have a confession to make. "Body Language" is probably my favorite Queen song.

One night at a daiquiri place in Houma, Lovely and I waited an hour to hear "Body Language" come on the jukebox. It was really late by Houma standards, near midnight, and the daiquiri shop was about to close. We were the only two customers in the joint, but I'd paid my fifty cents, and wanted to hear my song in all its gorgeousness and gorgeosity! Finally, it came on, and I was feeling the groove. After about a minute into it, the manager from the back room marches out and pulls the plug from the jukebox. Immediately, the barmaid behind the counter yelled "Thank you!", as if some excruciating pain had been removed. Lovely and I were pretty irritated, but we left and then laughed about it all night.

So this video (especially the shower scene) goes out to the Daiquiri grotto on W. Park Ave in Houma:

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It's your money 

Responding to a WSJ letter-writer who contends that Sen. Obama is "weak on economics", Frank Oslick of Washington noted:

Sen. Obama's backers include Warren Buffett and Paul Volcker. Sen. John McCain's backers include Phil Gramm and Carly Fiorina.

And let's not forget the douchebag who wrote Dow 36,000. He's a Str8 Tawlk advisor, along with Sen. Coburn, who tells McCain what to think about condoms and (presumably) lesbians.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

No friction, no thought 

The Cunning Realist responds to BayouStJohnDavid's comment made to this YRHT post on economic history and inflation.

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Because we need an alternative... to dragon-slaying 

Jeffrey writes a must-read post, vivisecting the Gambit Weekly's belated turnabout regarding its coverage of Governor Jindal. Go read it.

So, the Gambit's Jeremy Alford is now exploring Jindal's "campaign's ties to a pending landfill permit and a conservative 527".

The Baton Rouge Advocate dealt with the landfill issue in October. As for the conservative 527, All Children Matter, Alford says that "reporters and others are busy looking into" ACM. Good. Alford notes some of the scary connections that YRHT touched on last fall:

Besides the group's support of Jindal in 2007, Phillip Stutts, a consultant to ACM's Louisiana chapter, managed Jindal's gubernatorial campaign in 2003. Richard DeVos, the retired president of Amway who created ACM, donated nearly $20,000 to Jindal's campaign last year — with the help of family members.

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New political nemesis on the horizon 

Apologies for the liberal quoting from Andrea Shaw's column in the T-P, but ... yikes!

If an elected official aspires to a higher office, it stands to reason he or she has a reasonable track record and solid constituent support.

It is indeed pretty to think so.

Which makes it baffling that Jefferson Parish Councilman Byron Lee seems to be toying with the idea of running this fall for the 2nd Congressional District seat held by Rep. William Jefferson.

Oh no.

In anticipation of his presumptive victory, Lee has said farewell to his legislative aide, Pam Watson, who landed a job as a vice president at West Jefferson Medical Center, making $175,000 a year.

Where can his wave of confidence possibly be coming from?

Jeffrey highlights the answer to that query here. Shaw continues:

Perhaps from his cousin and ally, state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, who placed a close third in the 2006 congressional campaign. Shepherd, whose Senate district includes a hefty portion of the east bank of New Orleans, wrapped up support from Jefferson Parish's politicians and nearly knocked state Rep. Karen Carter out of the runoff.

Let's hope that if Lee does manage to win Jefferson's seat, he runs a better congressional office than council office.

Many of his 3rd District constituents have complained that Lee is unresponsive and difficult to reach.

Hell, those qualities might make Lee gubernatorial material. ("What I'm really concerned about is the governor not being accessible to us."-- Rep. Jack Montoucet)

[T]o make it easier for Shepherd to get a variance for his construction project in Marrero, Lee yanked his appointee, none other than Shepherd's father, from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. It was a necessary move because the state Board of Ethics forbids appointees and their immediate family members to do business with the boards on which they serve. After the variance was granted, Lee asked the Parish Council to return the elder Shepherd to the panel, which it did.

Some of Lee's constituents took him to task about a fund set up to mitigate the impact of a private landfill on the residents of Waggaman. The account, which receives its last payment from the private River Birch Landfill in 2009, will have collected nearly $700,000 during the 10-year agreement.

Since the landfill is in Lee's district, he oversees the fund. When it was disclosed that a majority of the money went to a nonprofit he created and a private Christian school controlled by a political ally, both in Marrero, residents publicly criticized him for not spending it in the communities where people's daily lives are directly impacted by the landfill.

Lee's argument was that he was fulfilling a campaign promise and that the nonprofit provided school uniforms to needy children throughout his district.

This... is... not ... good. But I'm sure if an Orleans Democrat like Cheryl Gray would run to displace Dollar Bill, the West Bank will find a reason to overwhelmingly support Shepherd's cousin and ally over the liberal from the other parish.

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Back of the class 

So the next "most important game in Hornets franchise history" will be played tonight against the Spurs. I'm a bit worried, but I hope the Hornets can engineer one of their patented breakaway quarters, where they combine defensive stops with spectacular offensive momentum, and go on a decisive run. (However, like NBA HOFer Bob Pettit, I suspect Game 7 will come down to the wire.)

I was surprised to hear Spurs fans chant "Horry, Horry, Horry" in Game 6, when Robert Horry picked D. West, and West fell down, and was writhing in pain on the court. I'd been to a fair number of Spurs games in San Antonio during the 90's, and never witnessed such classless behavior en masse.

What Would David Robinson Say?

Cait informs us that Spurs guard Tony Parker has made French rap videos, complete with Eiffel Tower imagery. Sappy doesn't begin to describe his music, so he deserves this sort of thing.


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H8T moments on St. Chuck 

b,b, l & l posts some great photos. The second one down is my fave.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Well played, Senator 


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