Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Endless Vacation 

For some deity-forsaken reason, I woke up with Air Supply's Lost in Love going through my head. It wouldn't stop, and made me half crazy. At one point I wanted to go on a rampage with a +5 morning star, bludgeoning random innocents.

Eventually, I found the right palate-cleanser: the Ramones' Endless Vacation.

It's odd when Dee Dee Ramone, who once had a lengthy romantic relationship with a pet turtle, brings you back to sanity.

We're off to the beach to suspend some time. Back in a few days.

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These things aren't accidents 

Josh Marshall:

I note with interest today, John McCain's new tactic of associating Barack Obama with oversexed and/or promiscuous young white women.
Remember, he hired the operative who put together the Ford/Bimbo ad.

The effectiveness of a political ad is best judged with the sound off. Here we got images of a black man, white female sexpots, and ... I don't know... how many phallic symbol towers are looming in the background?

I know it seems ridiculous, but all of these visual details and sequences are intentional, and they are intended to excite your basest fears and prejudices. If you think I'm crazy or reading into this too far, then you can wait around for the McCain attack ads that associate Obama with male celebrities, or black female celebrities.

You'll be waiting a long, long time.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Maybe more than it seems 

I know the mighty Paul Krugman only has a limited amount of space to talk about a complicated issue, but I wish he would have added a bit more context to this last part of his recent NYT column:

The back story to the current [housing/credit] crisis is the way traditional banks — banks with federally insured deposits, which are limited in the risks they’re allowed to take and the amount of leverage they can take on — have been pushed aside by unregulated financial players. We were assured by the likes of Alan Greenspan that this was no problem: the market would enforce disciplined risk-taking, and anyway, taxpayer funds weren’t on the line.

And then reality struck.

Far from being disciplined in their risk-taking, lenders went wild. Concerns about the ability of borrowers to repay were waved aside; so were questions about whether soaring house prices made sense.
Meanwhile, those traditional, regulated banks played a minor role in the lending frenzy, except to the extent that they had unregulated, “off balance sheet” subsidiaries.

Well, to what extent did they have such "unregulated, 'off balance sheet' subsidiaries? That's the question, isn't it? Krugman makes it sound rather piddly or "minor", so perhaps this Bloomberg news story may be of some interest:

At an investor presentation in May, Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit said shrinking the bank’s $2.2 trillion balance sheet, the biggest in the U.S., was a cornerstone of his turnaround plan.

Nowhere mentioned in the accompanying 66-page handout were the additional $1.1 trillion of assets that New York-based Citigroup keeps off its books: trusts to sell mortgage-backed securities, financing vehicles to issue short-term debt and collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, to repackage bonds.

$2.2 trillion on the balance sheet, and $1.1 trillion off it. Alarming? "Minor"? You make the call.

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cRude punditry 

My alter ego will be posting at The Rude Pundit today, with Eli.

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Grabbing hands grab all they can, every list counts in large amounts 

"All the faults of the age come from Christianity and Journalism." --Frank Harris

Well, perhaps not all the faults.

When intrepid reporters like Lee Zurick are tenaciously investigating blogger-generated stories about OUR defensive Mayor and the NOAH remediation debacle, I'm highly encouraged. This story could and should lead somewhere big.

Mayor Nagin responded to Zurick's first report by saying that the reporter had the wrong list, and that Nagin had the "right" list-- the one that counted. Nagin faulted Zurick for the "inaccurate" report and said: "How is that report helping this recovery? It is not. And it's hurting this city and you need to stop."

So, what does the Mayor's "accurate" list reveal? At the very least, the need for a painstakingly thorough investigation:

Through a public records request, Eyewitness News staffers spent two hours Monday afternoon searching through the files for the home remediation program that Mayor Nagin said would contain detailed information to support the new list.

“There's a list that is backed up by files that have before and after pictures that are used to justify the charges,” Nagin said at the press conference last week.

But the files raise even more questions. Many of the properties detailed in this report didn't have any documentation. The list given to WWL last week by the Mayor’s office had 870 different properties. After removing duplicates, the number came to 838. But Monday, Eyewitness News counted a total of 905 folders for properties.

Many of those folders provided little details. WWL workers inspected about one-third of the 905. 60 of the folders did not even appear on the city's new list. 102 of the folders contained no pictures and only 15 of the ones inspected by WWL had both before and after home photographs. WWL even found one photograph that was taken yesterday, yet the NOAH program has been defunct for a year. One folder was for a street that doesn't exist: N. Conti Street. The homeowner listed in the folder does have a home, however, on N. Tonti.

Very few of the files had any dollar figures in the documentation, so it is unclear if funding for the files and spreadsheet matched.

Everything about this emerging scandal stinks. (Btw, where are you T-P?). The devastating detail in this thing though-- the killer political "hook", as it were-- is in the "remediated" properties that were actually gutted by fresh-faced Christian teenagers who came down to NOLA and busted their asses to help out this stricken city. When the public learns that corrupt cronies used the labors of Christian teenagers to scoop federal recovery dollars... well then we have us a national story.

The Gambit Weekly gets it right when it opines:

Instead of recklessly accusing reporters and bloggers of "hurting the recovery," Nagin should thank citizens like [Squandered Heritage's Sarah] Lewis, the media and bloggers for keeping a watchful eye on city contracts and for trying to make sure work is completed and accurately documented. Those are the folks who are moving our city forward and propelling its recovery — much more so than our feckless mayor and his mindless rants.

Stay tuned. And come see reporter Lee Zurick at Rising Tide III

* watching this title reference link video probably won't make you gay or unitarian

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Mathlete Grrls are the queens of my world! 

The world rolls on,
Time presses.
Ten thousand years are too long!
Seize the day! Seize the hour!

-- President Richard M. Nixon,
quoting Mao Zedong at Peking banquet,
February 1972


Three years after the president of Harvard, Lawrence H. Summers, got into trouble for questioning women’s “intrinsic aptitude” for science and engineering — and 16 years after the talking Barbie doll proclaimed that “math class is tough” — a study paid for by the National Science Foundation has found that girls perform as well as boys on standardized math tests.

Although boys in high school performed better than girls in math 20 years ago, the researchers found, that is no longer the case. The reason, they said, is simple: Girls used to take fewer advanced math courses than boys, but now they are taking just as many.

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Monday Morning Metro abortion 

It's still an untrustworthy Monday, so I was interested to learn that subscribers can sue their local paper if the news and reporting (and punditry?) seems headed towards mediocrity.


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"How Rude!" 

Beware, some Nolabloggers are blogging at The Rude Pundit this week.


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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Derrick Shepherd is such a disgrace 

From Gentilly Girl, we see that YRHT nemesis State Senator Derrick Shepherd is in the news again:
State Sen. Derrick Shepherd was arrested by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office last night, accused of punching his ex-girlfriend and stealing her cellphone and $100, the Sheriff's Office reported.

That seems rather un-gentlemanly. What does Shepherd have to say for himself?

Speaking to reporters after his release early this morning, Shepherd, D-Marrero, said the charges resulted because his mother and sister were threatened and he tried to take action on his own instead of calling police.

Hmm. Shepherd wants us to think he has crazy ex-girlfriend troubles. So exactly what sort of direct "action" did he take?

At a press conference this afternoon, Sheriff Newell Normand said Shepherd broke into the home of his ex-girlfriend, Thaise Ashford, in the 100 block of Cameron Drive just outside Gretna, punched her in the stomach and took her cellphone and $100.

Ouch. Whatever happened, Shepherd was probably pretty rattled after all that drama. I'm assuming police picked him up later at his mother or sister's house, where he was protecting their safety.

Shepherd was arrested at 3701 Lake Michel Court in the Stonebridge Subdivision. Shepherd was on a sofa and a woman appeared to be performing a lap dance on top of him when Detectice Gary Barteet entered the home, Normand said. A second woman also was in the house with Shepherd.

The sheriff's office did not release the names of the two women, but one was described as the community liaison for a local company and the other an unemployed woman from Texas.

Oh... hey, that address sounds familiar. What's the story with that?

Shepherd has long dismissed suggestions that he doesn't live at the Marrero address listed in state papers qualifying him to run for past elections. However, the Stonebridge address is six miles outside the 3rd Senate District he represents. It's the same house where an FBI agent said Shepherd answered the door Aug. 6, during the investigation that led to Shepherd's indictment on federal charges several months ago.
Hmm. It's funny, because Shepherd's political ascent owes something to "residency issues". Back in May of 2005, then House Rep. Shepherd was running for "promotion" to State Senate. During the campaign he actually teamed up with one of his opponents (Wayne Baquet jr, who was funded by John Georges) to successfully oust a third rival, (Shawn Barney, the son of the late Clarence Barney jr) over residency issues. This worked and Shepherd prevailed over Baquet and a few other candidates, outright, in the primary election. The local media endorsed Shepherd at the time, and throughout his rise up the political ladder.

Now Shepherd is allegedly hitting women, stealing from them, and retiring to his non-district residence to enjoy a lap dance party while he says his mother and sister are living under threat.

Update: Gambit Daily's Clancy Dubos interrupts his vacation in the Big Sky state to blog about the latest Derrick Shepherd episode. He gives us some inside dirt about Shepherd having repeatedly passed himself off as the Jefferson Parish DA while he was in law school. In regards to this information, Dubos writes:

If you considered the possibility that maybe [State Sen. Derrick Shepherd] was an honorable guy when he first ran for office and just got sucked into the fast lane, fuhgeddaboutit.
Shepherd did not pick up his alleged dishonesty in the Legislature folks. He brought a truckload with him the day he arrived.
It's wonderful that Clancy can use his thick rolodex to find out such information about Shepherd's chronic dishonesty, but the year is 2008. Shepherd's corruption has already hit the fan, so to speak, and it's pretty easy for pundits to pile on now.

It's irritating, because the T-P and the Gambit Weekly endorsed Shepherd's ascendancy (repeatedly) over the years, and only woke up after he became too politically entrenched.
One of the reasons that "medium information" voters might've regarded Shepherd as "honorable" was because respected publications like the Gambit Weekly endorsed him "wholeheartedly". I think anyone with Clancy's connections could've acquired the "straight poop" on Shepherd a long time ago-- at least enough to disqualify him from endorsement consideration.

Since 2005, YRHT has hinted about a treasure trove of corruption in Shepherd's past. (This post indicated a specific avenue of inquiry, but there were always numerous threads that would unravel the sweater. Looks like the Feds got one.) I wish I could of been more specific, but my research on Shepherd got washed away in the Federal Flood. I've always been very disappointed with the media's treatment of Shepherd (until recently). With Derrick, there was all kinds of shady dealings to be investigated and exposed.

Perhaps, at least, Shepherd's troubles will further complicate Byron Lee's path to U.S. Congress.

"There's a line of decency that starts at the waist and goes no further south."-- Derrick Shepherd, 2004

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