Thursday, April 23, 2009

I'm glad Shep dropped the F bomb when saying America shouldn't torture 

Thx digby.


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Wednesday, April 22, 2009


David Bowie's "Heroes"/Helden. Images are from the movie Christiane F. - Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, and they much more fit my interpretation of the song rather than the commercials you've seen which use "Heroes" as a happy soundtrack. (This, of course is the German/English version of the song, of which I'm immensely fond.)

The final verse of "Heroes' occurs in the last 30 seconds of a six minute song. After peaking in a seemingly triumphant, us-against-the-world stance ("we can beat them for ever and ever") and then a repeated chorus ("we can be heroes"), then comes

We're nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we're lying,
then you better not stay
But we could be safer,
just for one day

Then a quick fade out. What an incredibly brave and sobering way to end a song! Since there was a chopped 3 minute radio version of this track, most assume that the lyrics are only slightly less buoyant than the music. Review the album version and you'll see that they are not. Bowie's fractured "heroes" are cognizant of the prevailing darkness around them, and grasp for a momentary respite in fantasy-- or perhaps only the possibility of a momentary respite in fantasy. And that may be enough. Just for one day.

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(Not) everyone loves the Drake 

First, a hearty "Xie Xie" to Jeffrey for this helpful translation.

Second, don't miss the conclusion of the T-P article about Muppet:

Former federal prosecutor Donald "Chick" Foret said that based on [Christopher] Drake's account, the walls [Muppet's lawyer Randy] Smith says insulated Meffert's work at NetMethods from the other St. Pierre-controlled firms appear flimsy.

"It seems to me it's going to be difficult to separate the intent of the various entities when you have the same individuals that were involved," he said. "I think that's a difficult sell."

But Smith noted that soon after Drake submitted his affidavit, the plaintiffs dropped the former St. Pierre employee as a defendant in the civil suit. "I don't know what other kind of deals Chris Drake made, but that sure looks like a deal to me," Smith said.

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Some interesting tidbits from Sunday's T-P story about the new top FBI guy:

Meet David Welker, new face of the FBI in New Orleans.

Glad to meet ya, Mr David.

Welker, 54, carries the lofty title of special agent in charge, but he isn't easily recognized in a sidewalk crowd or on the society page.

A native of Shamokin, Pa., with a degree in Bible studies, Welker left the manicured streets and suburban sprawl of Tampa, Fla., last summer for a city where public corruption seems a pastime and violent crime is a brand. Expectations are high; citizens expect a steady flow of indictments.

It's unseemly when a newspaper drools all over its overfitted storyline like that. Bible Boy has come to slay the dragons in New Sodom! Let's rejoice.

What's interesting are the following quotes the T-P printed without explication.

In his few months in New Orleans, the questions have become commonplace. What's next?

"People are waiting for that big one to fall," Welker acknowledged.

Who, precisely, is the "Big One"? Morial? Nagin? Cheney? Prudhomme? Theydontexplain.

Welker isn't big on tipping his hand, but he does offer top broad listings on his to-do list: No. 1, crush public corruption; No. 2, target gangs and violent crime; No. 3, prevent terrorism.

He is focused on making charges that will stick.
He called public corruption Louisiana's biggest menace.

"I've told people . . . if their quality of life hasn't changed post-Katrina, they need to be looking somewhere and figuring out what's going on," he said.

I am Jeffrey's rolling eyes.

Welker's closest local ally in New Orleans may be U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. Both
referred to an important get-acquainted session, during Welker's hunt for a house.

"I spent a few hours with him, just shooting the breeze, kind of getting to know him and where he's coming from, what his philosophy is," Welker said. "I'm not talking this esoteric philosophy. I'm talking boots-on-the-ground philosophy -- as far as, if I have a case that I'm going to bring you, and it's a chicken case, but it's going to lead to a much better case, are you willing to do it?"

Letten is, he said.


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Mayor Ray Nagin in December asked outgoing President Bush to pardon former City Councilman Oliver Thomas, who pleaded guilty two years ago to accepting $15,000 in bribes, according to the WWL report.

The letter from Nagin seeking the pardon was discovered among e-mails that city attorneys originally said had been deleted from computer file servers, the report states.

I'm sure this won't be the last interesting "discovery" from Nagin's lost stash of deleted emails.

"Please judge [Oliver Thomas] by the sum of his life, and not by this one mistake," Nagin wrote, according to the report. "We grew up in the same neighborhood, initially attended the same high school, and played basketball with and against each other."

I can see President Bush saying "Well, hell's bells-- back in the day Nagin and Thomas played basketball together! I didn't know that! That changes everything. If only the Silver Fox had some roundball experience, I'd pardon him too."

Pardon the snark, but I have no particular "take" on this pardon revelation. Aside from resigning, Nagin couldn't do anything that would surprise or outrage me at this point in time. But, purely as an intellectual experiment, please entertain the possibility that Thomas (despite his declarations to the contrary) decided to "sing-sing" to the Feds.

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Today in life school I learned that... 

Let's not forget about the 1953 Bus Boycott in Red Stick:
When Rosa Parks, an African-American seamstress, refused to give up her seat to a white rider on a Montgomery, Ala., bus in 1955, the nation took notice and an early chapter in the modern civil rights movement took shape. But Parks wasn't the first to challenge segregation laws.

Two years earlier, in an episode now largely forgotten in accounts of the drive to dismantle Jim Crow laws and customs, black housekeeper Martha White boarded a Baton Rouge city bus, took the only available seat and refused the driver's order to get up, creating an uproar that led African-Americans to stage an eight-day bus boycott that brought the Capital City's transit system to its knees.


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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Red light camera districts not necessarily safer 

In the comments to the post below, our friend Dambala asks: "Have any studies been done on the actual safety effect of the red light camz?"

Excellent question. The assumption is that red light cameras decrease accidents-- and they might (or might not), decrease collisions at a particular intersection. But they also change driving behavior. Some speeders slow down at photo enforced intersections, but other speeders roar down side streets. Some non-speeders panic and stop more suddenly than they normally would... It's not the easiest thing to measure, but simply looking at the number of accidents at photo-enforced intersections is too simplistic to accurately measure their total effect on safety.

Here are eleven studies showing that red light cameras are associated with an INCREASE in traffic collisions and injuries. (H/T Iced Coffee and Bagel)


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Monday, April 20, 2009

Cedric co-opts traffic camera issue 

I disagree with T-P columnist James Gill about taxing leadfoot speeders with "red light" surveillance cameras, but this bit of information is interesting:

[S]tate Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, is the latest to suggest it is wrong for government to raise revenues by penalizing dangerous drivers. Richmond has filed a bill requiring traffic cameras to be dismantled throughout the state.

As you know, I've been talking up the idea of prospective non-establishment Mayoral candidates campaigning against traffic cameras and (ineffectual) crime cameras. I believe there's hidden electoral power in the issue, if properly framed. So it's disappointing (for me) to see Cedric Richmond making this play, because I'm not in the Cedric Richmond fan club. Richmond doesn't seem to have any mayoral ambitions; he is likely eyeing Rep. Cao's seat in 2010. For the time being, then, this issue is still available to prospective mayoral (and city council) candidates. However, I will be following Richmond's bill closely, and noting who supports and who opposes it.

Also worth tracking is Rep. Cameron Henry's state income tax phase out. Sunday's T-P editorial put it in context:

With massive cuts looming and the budget partly propped up by federal stimulus money, dozens of bills have been filed for this spring's legislative session to hand out new tax credits or phase out major taxes.
[Rep. Cameron Henry] is pushing to phase out the income tax on all Louisianians, reducing it by 10 percent per year until it zeroes out. Trouble is, the income tax makes up roughly one-third of state revenues. If the phase-out were to pass, it would ultimately reduce revenues by roughly $4 billion per year.

This bill is a dilemma for conservative legislators and the Jindal administration. All of them want to present themselves as tax jihadists, and most of them can add and subtract, so they will have a decision to make when they see the budget forecast numbers that including Henry's phase-out. Are they willing to make draconian spending cuts during a recession to avoid looking "weak" on taxes? I think the bottom line numbers from the forecasts will give them pause, especially the Jindal administration. Phasing out the income tax is not the worst idea out there, but the timing of Henry's proposal is perfectly awful. Can't wait to see how Jindal (and others) handle it.


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