Saturday, July 05, 2008

The ultimate crime 

While fondling my new hand-held cellular device, I wondered if I should test it out by sending a text message and a photo to Mayor Ray Nagin, State Sen. Julie Quinn and State Rep. Walker Hines.

The text message would say "Huzzah!", and would be accompanied by a photo of me speeding through a "photo enforced" intersection while smoking a trans-fat french fry, with my two daughters visible in the background, helplessly strapped in their carseats.

Because, you know, having safe streets is important.

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15 years ago "we turned the corner" on racism; it's been that way for a long time, now. 

Big Man from Raving Black Lunatic passes along the latest news from Friendship, Arkansas:

A rental home where a mother with three biracial sons lived burned to the ground only days after she says people set a wooden cross ablaze in her yard.

Both sheriff's deputies and FBI agents are investigating the Friday morning fire at the home of Loretta Marie Slaughter-Shirah, saying they believe it to be arson.

Slaughter-Shirah said the nearly 6-foot-tall cross, draped in a white sheet, was set on fire last week. In the time since, she took her children to live with her mother nearby her destroyed home.

No one was home at the time of Friday's fire.

"I thought I had the right and freedom to live where I wanted to live," said Slaughter-Shirah, 23, a Louisiana native who only moved to Hot Springs County two weeks ago.

Well, waddya expect from some dumbass backwater in Arkansas?... I mean, over here in God's country, we can't even remember the last time anyone but "outside agitators" stirred up trouble between us and the co--

Alert! Alert! A recent news item from Metairie has been brought to our attention:

More than four weeks after someone burned the letters KKK and the shapes of three crosses in the front yard of an African-American family's Metairie home, the grass still refuses to grow. And the family has not rushed to remove the symbols.

"We left it out there because we want people in the neighborhood to know that there are people in their own backyards that believe in this garbage," said the family's patriarch, who asked not to be named...

The property, in a predominantly white section of northeast Metairie, is home to a 35-year-old chef and a 34-year-old cosmetologist and their three children. They had lived in the house only five days when the symbols were discovered.
Perhaps the hardest part for the couple was explaining to their 9-year-old son why there were so many police cars in the yard last month, the meaning of burned crosses and the Ku Klux Klan, and why someone might not like the boy because of his skin color. It was a painful conversation the father said he never imagined having to have in this day and age.

However, I was truly heartened to see this front page article in today's T-P:

Exceeding organizers' expectations, 200 to 300 people gathered this morning around the northeast Metairie home of Travis and Kiyanna Smith to denounce vandals that chemically burned hate symbols into the African-American couple's lawn and to take turns digging up and resodding the defaced patches of grass.

Dubbed "Uproot Hate," the Independence Day event was organized by a coalition of churches, synagogues and mosques.

"History teaches us that silence is rarely an effective response to bigotry," said Rabbi Robert Loewy of Congregation Gates of Prayer in Metairie as he delivered the statement of purpose for the interfaith ceremony staged on the Smiths' lawn at the corner of Homestead Avenue and Live Oak Street. "We gather to affirm the American values enshrined in that Declaration of Independence."

Very nice. While I ate hot dogs and got a sunburn by the pool, hundreds of anti-racists came together in Metairie to celebrate the Declaration of Independence by "righting" an ugly wrong.

I've been informed that "old" is someone who is fifteen(+) years older than you are. Kind of a moving target.

Similarly, we always seem to hear that the country turned the corner on "real racism" about 15 years ago. Of course, fifteen years ago I was hearing that same refrain.

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Can you surveil me now? Can you surveil me now? 

Somewhere between the Circle K and an Uptown poker den, I lost my phone Thursday night. So I called the NSA to see if they could help me track it down, since they "probably" already had detailed, real-time information about my phone's exact location.

But they wouldn't help me.

So I asked them if they could at least send me a copy of my "Contacts" phone list, so I could replace the phone numbers I lost.

They said, "What's the point? You don't call most of those people anyway."


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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Important points all collected in one place 

David writes a great post about a crucially important issue for Louisiana. Please read it, and tag it for later reference.

Whatever you do, though, don't get outraged by it. Don't write letters and editorials about it or discuss it for three weeks ad nauseum on talk radio. Don't come together, en masse, and pressure national leaders and presidential aspirants to make ironclad commitments for Louisiana... don't do any of that.

After all, we're not talking about a pay raise for the Legislature, so let's keep our powder dry for the really important stuff.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Gastronomy Domine 

Holy smokes!

Restaurant MiLa is dishing out some of the most scrumptious eats in New Orleans. I swear, my mouth hasn't been that happy since the Nazarene was a corporal. In terms of pure taste, chefs Slade Rushing and Allison Vines-Rushing are doing something very special right now. Take a bite of their Oysters Rockefeller, and you'll see what I mean.

Lovely and I celebrated my mom's birthday at MiLa's the other night, and were blown away. It was so good I made a costly oversight, and forgot to tell our server to put the check on OUR Mayor's City Amex card. Aw well. Maybe next time.

I'm irritated that this clever post title has been used for a long time by a well known UK food blog. I guess it really wasn't as clever as I had hoped. Anyway, here's the reference.


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"...Please take my hand" 

Some Democratic party leaders from Durham, North Carolina were allegedly involved in "satanic rituals" and were charged with assault and rape. You can read the details here. I don't know if the story is overhyped or not, but I'd probably run with it if the leaders were "family values" Republicans, so I thought I'd throw a bone to more conservative YRHT readers by linking to it.

If these poor Democrats have been infected with Satan's demons, perhaps we can dispatch our Governor to NC to help them out.


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Not holding back 

The New Orleans Levee's compilation of (real) news reports on Nagin and crime cameras represents some of the best print journalism I've seen this month, locally.

Nicely done.


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Mr. Clio is right. Brian Bordelon is a warrior (and a saints fan, and former paramedic, and a funny and lively soul... among many other things).

His most recent post at No Pickles updates his circumstances and asks "if anyone has advice or words of encouragement, please send them".

Yes, please do.


(More background here.)

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Entergy: FYYFF! 

One of Ashley's last posts was titled "Entergy throws our heritage into the dumpster". It documented how Entergy did not replace street tiles it destroyed while doing gas pipeline work on Pine St..

Ashley wrote his neighbor Chris Rose about this outrage, and his communication prompted Rose to write an excellent tribute to Ashley after his untimely death.

Well, nine days later the T-P printed a letter by Entergy VP Rusty Burroughs responding to Rose's column. I'm biased, so rather than summarize or excerpt from the letter, I will reprint it in full, and merely highlight selected quotes that irritate me:

"Entergy committed to saving vintage street tiles"
Friday, April 25, 2008
Re: "We'll miss the blogger next door," Living, April 16.

Entergy New Orleans Inc. employees care about our city's historical treasures, and our gas business has a long history of providing the safe and reliable natural gas service since 1835. When we speak about preserving the history of New Orleans, we take that obligation seriously.

In his column, Chris Rose mentioned the destruction of street name tiles during our gas rebuild. For the gas rebuild, Entergy New Orleans is working with specially trained contractors to install new flood- and corrosion-resistant gas pipes. As part of our normal inspection process, Entergy New Orleans managers discovered that a subcontractor's crew had destroyed the street name tiles on six blocks. That crew was immediately terminated from the job. The fact is, of the nearly 1,500 street corners impacted by the rebuild to date, approximately 500 have street name tiles and only about 18 were not replaced -- a clear violation of Entergy's practice. Those tiles will be replaced, and were in the process of being replaced before the article was written by Mr. Rose.

It is Entergy's practice to carefully remove street name tiles, keep them safe while work is being performed and then restore them to their original street corner. We require our subcontractors to follow the same standards, procedures and practices as Entergy.

The discovery and restoration of the tiles was spurred by our employees doing their job well -- inspecting the work of subcontractors -- and would have been completed regardless of who "reported" the story. We regret any inconvenience and we will continue to work hard to ensure the protection of the city's historical treasures during this long rebuild process.

Rusty Burroughs

Vice President
Gas Operations
Entergy New Orleans, Inc.
New Orleans


So, in the two months after that letter was published, what's Entergy done about the missing tiles on Pine and Birch?

They ain't done a damn thing from what I can see. Nada. Zip. Zilch. They ain't done squadoosh. They are squadouchemooks. The tiles haven't been replaced, and the corner looks just as bare as it did in Ashley's pictures which he posted three months ago. But, you know, Entergy's intrepid inspectors had already noticed the missing tiles, and had already initiated the process to replace them long before Ashley "reported" the story.

Yeah, ok.

Again, I'm biased, but there's a faint subterranean tone to that letter that irks me. Here's how Rusty's letter strikes my jaundiced eyes: "Ignorant billpayers, Entergy was on top of this street tile thing waaaay before Chris Rose or his blogger neighbor 'reported' the story. We're in the process of replacing the tiles, and Rose's little story was printed just before we put them back in the wet concrete. He might've caught us this time, a few days before the restoration of the tiles was completed, but don't worry your pretty little heads about it, we got everything under control..."

Ok, Entergy: so where the f*ck are the street tiles?! It's been three months. These are freakin' street tiles we're talking about, not nuclear detonators-- where are they? Every time I drive past Pine and Birch I notice their absence, and it irritates the hell out of me. Like Ashley said:

Entergy, fix it. Fix it now. You're a damned public monopoly, guaranteed to make a profit.

Make it right. It's all important.


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Monday, June 30, 2008

Pay raise vetoed. War on citizens halted. 

What an incredibly unimaginably momentous victory for the "Gret Stet".

The Citizens spoke!

The Greedy Legislature became scared!

The Governor eventually listened!

And the Pay Raise Dragon was vanquished!


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"Monday, Monday, can't trust that day" 

I know the newspaper business is in the crapper, but the Times Picayune's explanation for their butchered Monday opinion page is insulting. Last week, they announced that they would be cutting out an entire page of editorial op-eds and opinion columns from the Monday edition. In its place, they added a short little "viewpoints" section under the letters to the editor, and a boring "by the numbers section" with a few statistics.

I wonder: Did the rise of "blog pundits" factor into this decision, in any way? Do fewer people care about the opinion columns in their newspapers, nowadays, because the internet offers instant opinions out the wazoo?

The T-P said they hoped this editorial neutering would be an "engaging" way for readers to start their week. Yes, they actually acted as if they were adding meaningful content by subtracting what was sometimes the very best page in the entire paper. "Engaging", my ass. This move was penny-pinching, pure and simple. Maybe I'm the only one who misses the Monday opinion columns and op-eds, but I think this decision is indicative of much larger ills at the paper. Right now, the T-P is weak and its underbelly is soft. Two years after winning the Pulitzer prize, Louisiana's premier newspaper is about to be overtaken by the Baton Rouge Advocate in terms of quality and content.

I suppose now would be the opportune time for a local outfit to seriously challenge the "Daily Monopoly". Any takers?



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Sunday, June 29, 2008

60th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift 

Thursday marked the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.

Here's a brief timeline of this important episode in world history:

June 24, 1948: Blockade of Berlin begins.
June 25, 1948: Berlin airlift begins.
May 12, 1949: Blockade ends.
September 30, 1949: Airlift ends.

A magnificent demonstration of American mobilization and resolve. Pretty nifty, huh?

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Louisiana fully unplugs Brain Drain 

Via the DP, we learn of the latest hubbub down in Cajun country:

Cindy Vo faced the audience at Ellender High School’s graduation last month wearing a valedictorian’s vestments.

The American-born daughter of Vietnamese immigrants spoke of high-school memories, friends and the future. Then she recited a sentence in Vietnamese, dedicated to her parents as they looked on.

"Co len minh khong bang ai, co suon khong ai bang minh," she said into the microphone.

The 18-year-old graduate told classmates that the line, roughly translated, was a command to always be your own person.

That part of her speech has resulted in unintended consequences that may affect how local public-school graduations ceremonies function in the future.

Some Terrebonne Parish school officials now say all commencement speeches should be spoken in English only, and they want a formal rule that says so.

Other aspects of graduations under scrutiny for the parish’s four high schools range from admission tickets and special seats for honor students to requiring a prayer be said during the ceremony.

I agree. "If English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for Louisiana". Next time I go down to Houma, I don't want to see or hear a lick of French... or Latin, Greek, Aramaic or Hebrew. If I do, I'll yell "Go back to f*ckin' Afghanistan, you Mooselamafascists!!"

Louisiane, Louisiane... lema sabachthani?

Popule meus, quid feci tibi? aut in quo contristavi te? Responde mihi.


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Early on, Jindal traded pay raises for school vouchers 

You'll never understand a politician by analyzing his or her policies and proposals "issue by issue". Similarly, you'll never understand a political campaign by tracking movement in "the polls". Both methods, at best, are hopelessly backwards-looking.

In my opinion, political campaign dynamics are the most important prime mover during election season (and isn't it always "election season", these days?). The strategic interplay between campaign positioning (narrative, issues framing, attacks), media bias, money and voter mood... that's where the action is. That's what moves the polls, that's what dictates "policy" talk". (I hate to break it to the non-politicos, but so-called "policy talk" during campaigns is mostly the vocabulary of political maneuvering.) So, I base my analyses and prognostications upon political campaign dynamics, first and foremost. I know that seems vague, and perhaps I'll discuss it in more depth at a later date, but I thought that was important to say at the beginning of this post.

So, that background might explain a bit why I continue to view the pay raise issue in itself... as such a silly, paltry, distracting thing. Yet, the media and talk radio in particular continue to discuss it like it's an isolated issue, like it's just some remote volcano that happened to erupt unexpectedly.

Wow, why is the legislature raising their pay? They must be greedy.

Wow, why won't Governor Jindal veto this bill? He must be weak.

And back and forth, and back and forth... Greedy leges, Weak Guv, Outraged Voters/Punditry.

This simple formulation seems good, until you remove one of the "legs" from the stool. If the pay raise bill had not passed through the legislature-- would everything be ok? Or if Jindal vetoed it, would he still be regarded as a "strong reformer" rather than a "weak hypocrite"? Or if the Voters and Punditry hadn't all gotten mad in unison over this, would everything be fine?

For my convenience, I'll reprint a comment I made at WCBF. It's not a groundbreaking insight-- YRHT readers have repeatedly made the same point-- but I think it continues to be relevant during "Jindal's 20 day Baton Death March":

When you're analyzing the politics of this, I think it's useful to consider the strong likelihood that this pay raise deal was part of a deal involving other legislation that is near and dear to the Jindal administration. He won't veto it because it is part of a quid pro quo arrangement with other key legislators who will support (or already supported) his other b.s. plans.

Of course he told them he needed the flexibility to publicly "disapprove" if things got heated, but he told them he wouldn't veto a payraise. So he can't go back on it now and veto it, without making some powerful, lifelong legislative enemies. He's only 6 months into his term, so he's totally f-cked himself on this. When the heat became intolerable, he tried to publicly put the blame back on the Legislature, and, as you noted, his former allies like Jim Tucker felt "antagonized". It was the worst possible play, but Jindal and Teepell had no good options.

Now, I don't know all the different things that might've been promised or subtly hinted at during these backroom negotiations, but now everything that happens subsequent to the payraise kerfuffle should be regarded with suspicion, as a potential part of the deal.

In short, what's outrageous is the deal behind the pay raise "issue". That's what's politically illuminating. That's always been the interesting question. Charged rhetoric about an outrageous "war against the citizens" actually obscures the real issue. Instead of asking why Jindal was "weak" on the pay raise issue, the media should've been asking:

Why is Jindal willing to take the political heat on this (rather small) issue? Why is he willing to look weak at such an important time in his political career? Why is he willing to get mocked and ridiculed locally, while he "vogues for veep", nationally*?

Now, finally, we're getting more specifics about Jindal's pay raise deal with the Legislature. And these details confirm exactly what Ryan at the Daily Kingfish suspected way back on June 12th: Governor Jindal traded pay raises for school vouchers! Jindal was in on the pay raise from the very beginning! He bought off key legislators from day one!

So now that we've established that Jindal's pay raise deal with the Legislature was for vouchers, we should ask the natural follow up question: Why are vouchers so darn important to Jindal? Why is he willing to cut backroom deals, break promises, enrage his former supporters, and hurt his veep chances... over school vouchers?

Heh. Well.

Perhaps I should've been more explicit about connecting certain select posts I've written over the past year concerning Bobby Jindal, Woody Jenkins, Timmy Teepell, Melissa Sellers, Ruth Ulrich/All Children Matter, and the CNP. So let me take this opportunity now to connect the isolated dots in a clearer, more relevant manner:

Public education is where the rubber hits the road for these people. The radical right/lunatic /CNP/Christian Reconstructionist fringe that bankrolls conservative Republicans like Jindal quite literally believe that public education is where "it all went wrong" in this country. They believe impressionable young children are indoctrinated by secularist, anti-Christian government schools... and they're basically "gone pecans" after that. They believe that public education shatters family values and creates the government dependency which leads to all the social ills that have infected our precious American Christian culture.

And that's why Jindal is willing to take so much heat on this pay raise bullshit. It's tied to the voucher deal, which the Christian Reconstruction Reactionaries view as an essential step towards their long-range goal of removing America's public education system.

The reactionaries in the CNP have no interest in quality public schools. Similarly, it's not in their interest to have kids growing up, learning "Darwinism". That's precisely the problem, in their view. They want advocates in power who are willing to embarrass themselves on national TV , and say "New Louisiana" and "the 'best science' includes Intelligent Design" in the same breath. And because dismantling secular public education (through vouchers and Intelligent Design) is part of their core long-term strategy, these CNP reactionaries will pressure Jindal to do whatever it takes on these issues, because they view vouchers and ID as part of the camel's nose that will one day upset the whole tent.

So if the media naively thinks that Jindal should simply veto creationist trojan horse legislation, they're two steps behind the game. Why won't Jindal EVER veto creationist legislation?-- that's the interesting question. And the answer is: because, like vouchers, it's more important to the "powers that be" than nearly anything else.

So, it would be extremely helpful if the media were forced to frame these issues in a more accurate way. Despite Jindal having to expend immense political capital on these things-- he's actually still getting off easy. And if the people in this state who value quality public schools and non-bullshit science could better understand what's really going on, they could play political hardball in a much more effective way. Ask why Jindal felt pressed to make a pay raise deal for vouchers in the first place. Couldn't he argue for school vouchers on its own merits. Why did he feel the need to pay the legislature off? Is this the part of his agenda he believes the legislature will derail, if he vetoes the pay raise?

Instead of news stories about a hopeless recall effort, orchestrated by people who think Bobby Jindal is too "weak" to stand up to the "greedy" legislature, how about forcing Jindal to give an example of a scientific theory or fact about evolution that is being withheld from our precious schoolchildren due to "political correctness". Could he give us an example of some of the "best science" which is currently being withheld from Louisiana schoolchildren? Make the biology major answer that one. And when he talks about how complicated the human eye is, or the second law of thermodynamics-- nail him on it! Make him look stupid.

And if that doesn't work, go for the political jugular: Governor Jindal, does this mean Louisiana science teachers can incorporate John McCain's first-hand account of pleistocene-era hominids into their lesson plans on evolution?

Just askin'.

Update: Funny as it is, I felt a little bit bad about that last dig on McCain. Not anymore. "Anyone will tell you that they’re starting to see a dramatic improvement in the quality of education in the city of New Orleans." (H/T blogenfreude).
Update #2: Also, this Central LA Politics post about Governor Jindal's intent to destroy the Ethics Board is well worth your time.
* Actually Jindal knows he won't be veep, and just wants the national media "buzz" and the keynote address at the GOP convention.

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