Saturday, January 24, 2009

City Council pay raise 

Adrastos excerpts a section from the T-P Saturday politics column which reads like a pay raise "trial balloon" floated by unidentified City Councilmembers. (My guess is that Stacy Head is definitely one of the "floaters", but that's just based on the way I read the story. Explanation below.) Da Paper's weekly politics compilation is a real treasure. The writing is wry and loose, and there's often little jewels of information buried throughout.

And when I say "loose", I mean loose. I laughed my ass off when I read this sentence from the same story:

[T]here is no question [City Councilmembers'] pay is far below market rate for executives in decision-making positions, and well below what most of them could earn in the private sector.

Don't you just adore that "most"? Not all, but "most" of the Council could earn more in the private sector. Precisely how was that determined? Which Councilmembers are included in the "most" and which aren't? ... Too funny. I think it should read "most, if not all" or "many, if not all"... but "most" by itself makes me laugh. So does this part:

The low pay dates to the 1950s, when the city's mayor-council form of government was created, and when serving on the council was seen as a part-time position for men with "real jobs" as lawyers, insurance agents or business executives.

In fact, the position now eats up more than 40 hours a week for members who take it seriously.

"For members who take it seriously"... chortle! Do "most" on the current Council take it seriously?

Adrastos thinks one of the Hyphenated Cynthias is behind the pay raise trial balloon, but I think he's off base. A close reading of the article seems to indicate that the idea comes from the members who joined the council in 2006:

Shortly after the current council took office in 2006 and new members saw their bank balances start to shrink, some of them began talking about proposing a pay raise to take effect after the 2010 elections.

We're talking about some "new members", here.

Now, some members again are thinking about proposing a raise for their successors -- or, if they are re-elected, themselves.

Some members "again"... I'm assuming this refers to the same "new members" from 2006. That is: Head, Fielkow, Midura and Carter. Earlier the article stated that "several" Councilmembers are having salary considerations. So pick three of those four, and you probably have a good idea of the pay raise advocates. However, since Midura is going to face a stiffer re-election challenge than the others, and since she already voluntarily relinquished her take home car to save the city money, I really doubt that she's going to press the pay raise issue, assuming she is in favor of one.

Also, the T-P politics column informs us:

(WEDDING) FILM AT 11: The marriage of politics and media will take on new meaning this spring when state Sen. Cheryl Gray ties the knot with Patrick Evans, the former TV newsman...

Congratulations to the happy couple on their engagement!


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Friday, January 23, 2009

"This is all we have" 

Just in time for MLK and inauguration day, the latest Atlantic magazine features Barack Obama's face on the cover, coupled with the disturbing title question: "The End of White America?".

Oooga booga!

Actually, despite the awful title the article isn't as bad as you might expect. With only a passing mention of Obama, the article begins with the demographic projection that "whites" will become an American minority in 30 years or so.

Author Hua Hsu describes white anxiety over the coming "post-racial" future, and finds a way to launch into an extended discussion of the rise of hip hop, which Hsu believes is a significant and powerfully symbolic development in American culture.

Then Hsu interviews Christian Lander, the author of the Stuff White People Like blog.

For Lander, whiteness has become a vacuum. The “white identity” he limns on his blog is predicated on the quest for authenticity-- usually other people’s authenticity. “As a white person, you’re just desperate to find something else to grab onto. You’re jealous! Pretty much every white person I grew up with wished they’d grown up in, you know, an ethnic home that gave them a second language. White culture is Family Ties and Led Zeppelin and Guns N’ Roses—like, this is white culture. This is all we have.”

Don't forget Gwinny Paltrow's Goop website. "We" got that too!

Landry seems to think that Family Ties, Led Zeppelin and GNR represents some sort of cultural paucity, while I consider it an embarrassment of riches! Alex P. Keaton, Axl Rose, and the second side of Led Zeppelin IV... What more do you need? Our caucasian cup runneth over!

Hsu ends his piece where he should've started; by dismissing the stupid "End of White America" title and looking ahead.

Karl Carter, of Atlanta’s youth-oriented GTM Inc. (Guerrilla Tactics Media), suggests that marketers and advertisers would be better off focusing on matrices like “lifestyle” or “culture” rather than race or ethnicity. “You’ll have crazy in-depth studies of the white consumer or the Latino consumer,” he complains. “But how do skaters feel? How do hip-hoppers feel?”
[W]e aspire to be post-racial, but we still live within the structures of privilege, injustice, and racial categorization that we inherited from an older order. We can talk about defining ourselves by lifestyle rather than skin color, but our lifestyle choices are still racially coded. We know, more or less, that race is a fiction that often does more harm than good, and yet it is something we cling to without fully understanding why—as a social and legal fact, a vague sense of belonging and place that we make solid through culture and speech.

But maybe this is merely how it used to be-- maybe this is already an outdated way of looking at things. “You have a lot of young adults going into a more diverse world,” Carter remarks. For the young Americans born in the 1980s and 1990s, culture is something to be taken apart and remade in their own image. “We came along in a generation that didn’t have to follow that path of race,” he goes on. “We saw something different.” This moment was not the end of white America; it was not the end of anything. It was a bridge, and we crossed it.

I like what that last paragraph says a great deal, and will discuss it in more depth in a future post.


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Late night tribute funk and fury 

As for the pre-inauguration concert on HBO, I had the same experience as Mike Kazin. Somerby has more here.


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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Yum Yum 

Marcelle Bienvenu's "Cooking Creole" column begins

For two days in a row, my husband, Rock, came home with a couple of pints of freshly shucked oysters. He had a hankering for oysters poached in a mixture of onions, garlic, parsley and oyster liquor to toss with pasta.

Full recipe here.


On a related note, sometimes I wish I would've named this blog Sex Death and Oysters and used "thief" as my nom de plume.

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I hate how British officials always sugarcoat and understate the situation 



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"He knows what [the Nagin] administration is capable of" 

I wanted to flag some of Dambala's comments to this post.

But I can tell you that Cerasoli is arming himself because he knows what [the Nagin] administration is capable of and the stuff I'm working on will reflect that.

And yes, the crime camera report is going to be a whopper...I am pretty sure people are going to jail...which people, I don't know.

I think you have to look at Cerasoli as New Orleans' Elliot Ness....he can't trust anyone right now....ESPECIALLY the NOPD. The story I'm working on will reflect that.

Whoah. I don't know what Dambala knows, but the implications of that comment are potentially explosive. It would probably be prudent to treat the above claims with skepticism until more information is available. But I wouldn't be flagging this quote if I didn't have a gut feeling that, sensational as it seems, Dambala is on to something here. Cerasoli is on to something, too-- and I wouldn't be surprised if it all came to a head this year.

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More like this, please 

The Daily Kingfish found this refreshing front-page editorial from a small Louisiana newspaper in Abbeville, Louisiana. It's an absolutely unhedged apology for its past editorial support of Bush. Here's the money quote but please read the whole thing:

We supported Bush editorially for president not once but twice. We now believe he will go down in history as the worst president ever and deservedly so due to his ineptness, incredible incompetence, and his lack of truthfulness, intelligence and compassion. Throw in arrogance and you run the gambit of what it takes to be the worst president in history.
We deeply regret having recommended Bush to our readers and profusely apologize for our mistake in character and judgment.

A lot of other, larger papers could use this editorial as a template for an apology to their readers.


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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We don't know the half of it 

Lovely and I were watching tv and our jaws dropped during Keith Olbermann's interview with NSA whistleblower Russell Tice:

OLBERMANN: Let's start with the review. We heard the remarks from Mr. Bush in 2005, that only Americans who would have been eavesdropped on without a warrant were those who were talking to terrorists overseas. Based on what you know, what you have seen firsthand and what you have encountered in your experience, how much of that statement was true?

TICE: Well, I don't know what our former president knew or didn't know. I'm sort of down in the weeds. But the National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications, faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. And that doesn't -- it didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, you know, in the middle of the country, and you never made a communication -- foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications.

I knew this, but it was still chilling to hear it confirmed on teevee.

OLBERMANN: I mention that you say specific groups were targeted. What group or groups can you tell us about?

TICE: Well, there's sort of two avenues to look at this. What I just mentioned was sort of the low-tech dragnet look at this. The things that I specifically were involved with were more on the high-tech side. And try to envision, you know, the dragnets are out there, collecting all the fish and then ferreting out what they may. And my technical angle was to try to harpoon fish from an airplane kind of thing. So it's two separate worlds.

But in the world that I was in, as to not harpoon the wrong people in some -- in one of the operations that I was in, we looked at organizations just supposedly so that we would not target them. So that we knew where they were, so as not to have a problem with them.

Now, what I was finding out, though, is that the collection on those organizations was 24/7, and you know, 365 days a year, and it made no sense. And that's -- I started to investigate that. That's about the time when they came after me, to fire me. But an organization that was collected on were U.S. news organizations and reporters and journalists.

Now that we've said hasta la pasta to Bush, you can bet that more "embedded patriots" like Tice will come forward with stories that will confirm many dark suspicions.

I don't care how much the Republicans cry "witch hunt", investigations must commence.

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How to botch an Inauguration Celebration 

No, I'm not referring to the bumbling of the the oath in D.C.. I'm referring to the combined Inauguration day/MLK day celebration at a certain Jefferson Parish public school yesterday.

During the event, the Principal of the [name redacted] school addressed the the entire student body-- plus faculty, staff and a T-P reporter-- and thusly summarized MLK's life work:

Martin Luther King believed that we should judge people not by the content of their character, but by the color of their skin.

Yeah, awkward.

And that remark just hung there, unchallenged and uncorrected, because the Principal didn't recognize the error, and no one bothered to correct him/her because, after all, it's THE PRINCIPAL.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Spare Change you can be seen in 

Yesterday the banks were closed but that didn't stop some old promissory notes from being cashed.

Today we watched the beginning of Episode 44: A New Hope. And speaking of cash, Dan Tague created some celebratory t-shirts featuring his folded money artwork.

View and purchase his other shirts here. (A Dollar from each purchase goes to New Orleans Habitat for Humanity.)

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Pissing in the MiLK of the President's inauguration 

Rush Limbaugh on President Obama:

I hope he fails... I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: "Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails." Somebody’s gotta say it.

Actually, Rush, someone already did say that. Joseph Farah's mustache wrote a column yesterday entitled "Pray Obama Fails". In it, he says:

I want Obama to fail because his agenda is 100 percent at odds with God's.

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No big deal, we saw this coming 

Monday's USA TODAY front-page "Snapshots" statistic blew my mind. In a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup poll taken in January 2001, respondents were asked when the USA would have its first black president. Here are the results:

36% said within 10 years
43% said within 25 years
9% said within 100 years
2% said after 100 years
8% said never, and
2% had no opinion

Whuh... how thuh... but... you can't... WHO ARE THESE 36 percent!! Where do they live? How can I meet them? That's what I want to know. I mean, according to the poll, just before the inauguration of President Bush, over a third of the nation "expected" a black president "within 10 years". That means they either expected a black Democrat* to displace Bush in 2004, or expected a black Dem or a black Republican** to succeed him after 8 years.

You're telling me that over a third of the country expected that scenario to occur? Seriously? I wonder how many of that 36 percent would have put money on their expectation without odds of 100:1 or better? I mean, after 225 years of American Presidents who trace their heritage back to Northern Europe, a third of the country in 2001 "expected" an African American to win in either 2004 or 2008. That's amazing to me.

Now you might say that the 36 percent were not really confidently predicting that someone like Obama would get elected this decade. Perhaps they didn't understand that "within 10 years" meant only 2 presidential contests. But still, you have to think that they had someone in mind if they expected a black president this decade. Who? Gen. Colin Powell? Granted, Powell could have won in 1996 if he had decided to run, but he made it clear he wasn't interested in running for President. So if not Powell, what candidate were these "36 percent" people plausibly envisaging? What African American had solid prospects for national office in 2001? Or did they honestly "expect" that someone they never heard of would get elected in one of the next two cycles?

Perhaps you might say that I'm putting too much emphasis on the word "expect". Maybe the respondents to the poll didn't truly "expect" that America would have its first black president in 10 years. Instead, they merely liked the idea of it, and the "within ten years" answer made them feel all warm and fuzzy and colorblind inside. Perhaps that choice felt like the "correct" answer to them, when they were being polled.

But even if you try to "explain away" the 36 percent, you have to deal with the whopping 43 percent who "expected" a black president within 25 years... that's nearly as mind-blowing! If you believe these poll results then four out of five American adults are basically unsurprised by Obama's election. They more or less saw this scenario coming eight years ago.

No way.

I mean, in 2001 what were the odds against a black president within 10 years? At least 20:1 and probably over 100:1. What about a black POTUS within 25 years? 10:1 if we're being charitable. To put that in perspective, I'd say the chance of the Presidency alternating between two families (GWB, HRC, Jeb!...) from 2001 to 2024 was greater than the chance of a black candidate being elected during that same time period. Yet 4 in 5 adults "expected" to see a black president elected.

How is that possible?

What we're going to witness tomorrow was so freakishly unlikely in 2001 (much less in 2002-03) ... I can't even begin to explain it. All the things that had to fall in place-- having a talented candidate at the right time surrounded by a team that knows how to win... It's truly mind-boggling. In 2001 I would've bet the farm against "an Obama" coming out of nowhere to win the presidency, but USA TODAY is telling me that 36 percent of you would have happily taken that bet-- straight up!

I can't get over it.

As the Big Man says, Barack Obama is "the Reggie Jackson of politics". The way Obama kept his cool and seized the important moments during his campaign is the political equivalent of hitting three consecutive (different) pitches out of the park to win the '77 World Series. And maybe if you polled Yankee fans before Game Six, and asked them how many home runs Reggie would hit that night, you would get an outsized proportion who would answer "Three". But that doesn't mean that the odds against him hitting 3 HR's weren't astronomical.

And that doesn't mean that we can't be pleasantly surprised (or shocked) when our wildly optimistic "expectations" turn out to be right, and our coldly realistic expectations are wrong.

Number 44, indeed.

* who did they have in mind?
** again, who did they have in mind?

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

New Orleans crime and punishment 

One of Michel Foucault's central insights might be summarized, roughly, as: there are already enough policemen in the world, you don't need another one inside your head.

Think about that.

But, practically-speaking, who disciplines and punishes the police? Especially the New Orleans police.

Mominem notes the most interesting facet to the story about the Inspector General's request for guns and ammo:

[Leonard Odom, a retired federal agent and Inspector General Robert Cerasoli's first assistant for criminal investigations] said he expects his investigators to work side by side with the city's yet-to-be-named police monitor, which will have authority to look into "civilian and internally generated complaints" against the New Orleans Police Department.

In that capacity, Odom said, the monitor and armed investigators from his office likely will show up at all crime scenes where a police officer has fired a gun.
Odom said he is confident that the Police Department will ultimately deputize his investigators and clear the way for the acquisition of the equipment.

Here are some recent blog entries and news stories about the NOPD. Read a few:

"St. Tammany Parish deputies arrested a New Orleans police sergeant Thursday and accused him of raping three of his stepchildren...".

"All of these shootings happened under an inoperable/useless crime camera."

"In fact, there was not a single representative from the NOPD present."

"Orleans Parish Prison is a torture chamber."

"Because for the second time last night, I was harassed by police in my neighborhood, on the way to the store, for a DWI (Driving While Integrated)."

St Claude NOPD community sign.

“It’s next to impossible to get someone to call you back.” (More here.)

"All it takes is one look at the crime stats for New Orleans to make one fear for both the present and the future of our fair city."

"Both Nagin and Riley have refused to respond to repeated requests to resolve the problem of crime under-reporting."

"Harry Connick recently wrote a letter to the Picayune calling for Police Chief Warren Riley's ouster. It was precipitated by the latest major NOPD screwup: $18K and other evidence has gone missing. Since then Riley has questioned the veracity of a crime survey listing New Orleans as the Crime Capital and quipped about the crime rate: 'Is it the water in the Mississippi?'

"Orleans Parish Coroner Frank Minyard said [Adolph] Grimes was struck by 14 bullets, with two hitting him in the front torso. The other 12 wounds were in his lower back and legs, Minyard said Friday."

"Wendy's killers match the same description." (More here.)

The release of the IG's crime camera report has been delayed for a reason. If Mayor Nagin (unlike Councilmember Midura) is uninspired by the report on take home cars, he's going to go nuts when the IG's crime camera report is publicly released. (Btw, is that what dambala's working on?) And I don't think the NOPD will be too thrilled by the active monitoring and investigation from the IG's office.

And here's a little story that I'll add to the above links. It sounds fantastical, so if you want to prefer that this happened fifty years ago instead of five days ago, please be my guest.

A fortuneteller was leaving Jackson Square after a hard day's work when he got jumped by three robbers. A fight ensued and two of the guys stole the fortuneteller's money ($700) and ran off. But the fortuneteller hit the third dude in the jaw-- crack!-- and he went down. The police came and cuffed the robbery suspect. Just then, an heir to an infamous tomato fortune named Mr. Marcello happened to be strolling along nearby. He knew the fortuneteller and went over to see what was wrong. After the fortuneteller explained to Mr. [first name redacted] Marcello what happened, Marcello grabbed the suspect by his broken jaw and got in real close to his face. The robber shrieked in pain, and Mr. Marcello said to him "When you get out of jail these guys" and he motioned to the police standing nearby "are going to find you in seven different places in the swamp".

The robber looked over at the policemen and gurgled "This man just threatened to kill me!"

One of the policemen corrected the suspect. "He didn't threaten to kill you. He promised to dismember you."

While they were taking the suspect away, the fortuneteller was concerned that he would be blamed if Mr. Marcello fulfilled his "promise". Mr. Marcello told the fortuneteller not to worry. "Nine out of ten of these [policemen] are on my payroll, anyway".

Let's pretend that's just a colorful story, shall we?

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