Saturday, May 22, 2010

Federal Flood Cocktail recipe 

2 parts purple kool aid from the vat of formaldehyde we got in the back store room with Huey Long's Michael Brown's brain in it

1 part Naturally Nagin chocolate liqueur

dash of sauvignon blanco

serve in a cracked ACE tumbler with ice

garnish with ball of ants
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bunny 

Karen alerts us to this Wapo Investigations blog post:

The Houston-based company's efforts to repair Navy facilities following Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina were deemed shoddy and substandard, auditors say, prompting one technical adviser to claim that the federal government "certainly paid twice" for many KBR projects because of "design and workmanship deficiencies," according to a report (see PDF here) released today by the Defense Department's inspector general.

The report, released following a Freedom of Information Act request, says the U.S. Navy hired KBR, Inc., then known as Kellogg, Brown and Root, in July 2004 to repair Defense Department facilities after Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. The federal government agreed to pay the company $500 million over five years.

At the time, the company was a subsidiary of Halliburton, the Texas oil company, whose former chief executive is Vice President Dick Cheney.


Of course, the contract was awarded prior to Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina, but Brown was there for our men and women in uniform-- to give them substandard repair service at massively inflated costs.

Here's a primer on Brown Root's early history.

And here's what happens when a Louisiana native named Bunnatine Greenhouse calls them on their cronyism and waste:

Bunny Greenhouse was once the perfect bureaucrat, an insider, the top procurement official at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Then the 61-year-old Greenhouse lost her $137,000-a-year post after questioning the plump contracts awarded to Halliburton in the run-up to the war in Iraq.
...
Greenhouse, whose case has also become a media event, unloaded more of her burn-the-house-down allegations on PBS's "Now" last week because, let her tell you, Bunny Greenhouse didn't grow up on the black side of the segregated tracks in Rayville, La., to run from a fight -- even if that includes the vice president of the United States.

"[Expletive] yourself!" former Halliburton chief executiveand current veep Dick Cheney snapped at a senator last year in an exchange related to Greenhouse's allegations.


No, Big Time. FYYFF, you kellogg brown root down motherscratcher!

[Video here]



We're Talking Root Down, I Put My Root Down
And If You Want To Battle Me, You're Putting Loot Down
I Said Root Down, It's Time To Scoot Down
I'm A Step Up To The Mic In My Goose Down
Come Up Representing From The Upper West
Money Makin' Putting Me To The Test
Sometimes I Feel As Though I've Been Blessed
Because I'm Doing What I Want So I Never Rest
...
I've Got The Flow Where I Grab My Dick
...
Tears Running Down My Face 'Cause I Love To Do It
And No One Can Stop This Flow From Flowing On
A Flow Master In Disaster With A Sound That's Gone

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So the new recovery czar Douglas O'Dell wants to know where all the hundreds of billions went to. Isn't that precious?

Well, first, do your fucking homework and learn what a bullshit number you're throwing around.

Long term recovery dollars are actually in the 17 billion ballpark.

If you want to know where the rest of the money went to, I guess you had to "be there". Were you there to see all those thousands of blue tarps covering rooftops after the storm? (If not, consult old Google Maps. You won't see one on my old house. Half the roof caved in but we didn't get one.) Put a 3000 dollar price tag on each of them, courtesy of the local Cajunburton.

Were you there during the debris clearing? Well, then put your best subcontracted price per ton on all that.

Were you there when we paid our flood insurance premiums all those years? Yeah, well, that's part of your figure, too.

Were you there when New Orleanians like mominem and Ricardo G. are finally getting out of their (toxic?) FEMA trailers this week?

Were you there, at Restaurant August that Thursday night in November 2005, sitting with drunk Texas contractors who were ordering bottle after bottle of Crystal? They said ... "do you think we're gonna let the locals rebuild New Orleans?" Yuk yuk yuk. Nossiter was there, probably trying to find the racial angle to his latest story. I was there. I struck up a conversation and got their business cards. Ask them where the billions went.

I'd like to see Nagin and Blakely appropriate President Bush's rhetoric when they respond to O'Dell, in a sarcastic over-obvious way. (Currently they do it in an semi-serious way.)

The fundamentals of the recovery are strong and getting stronger. The local housing market has bottomed, so buy some dirt. These new weak Category 3 floodwalls are the best levees the world has ever known. (Until they catastrophically fail... then it's "no one could've predicted...") 2006 or 2007 or 2008 or 2009 will be the tipping point, just you wait (and wait... and wait) You're either with the recovery or against it.

It's frustrating, isn't it, when feckless leaders tell you everything is fine while billions are wasted and nothing is being accomplished? Yes, it's frustrating when such people are re-elected while you think everything is going to hell. Yes, perhaps other reality-based Americans have had the same feeling over the past six years or so. Join the club.

The Marsh Arabs in Iraq are enjoying their restored wetlands, while New Orleanians live around the fastest disappearing land mass in the world, inside WEAK CATEGORY 3 levees, trying to rebuild during hurricane season.

Where' s the leadership, where's the money?... Bush's latest appointee asks. Wonderful questions, those. How courageous of you to ask them in the Year of Our Lord two thousand aught eight.
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Gun rental 

The Gambit Weekly has had a string of excellent feature articles, and this week is no exception. Alison Fensterstock's piece on the unheralded closing of Big Daddy's strip club in the French Quarter is engrossing, and chock-full of interesting details and anecdotes.

For example:


In the 1970s, Big Daddy's was one of many topless go-go joints on a street in transition. Bourbon street's days as a glittering hub of jazz and burlesque were behind it, and its future as a slick tourist attraction with "gentlemen's clubs" was years away.

"There was not a single T-shirt shop on the street then, if you can believe that," says Eddie Jones, who played keyboards with the Southside Blues Band in Big Daddy's courtyard patio between 1976 and 1978. The patio, between Big Daddy's and Unisex Love Acts next door, has featured female wrestling and male strippers, but in the mid- to late-'70s, it was an extra stage for Big Daddy's dancers, magicians, contortionists, escape artists, fire-eaters and live bands.

Bourbon Street in the 1970s, Jones remembers, was not for sightseers — or the faint of heart. He recalls a night when police lobbed tear gas grenades into the Bastille nightclub on Toulouse Street. At Funky Butts, a biker bar next to Molly's on Toulouse, "you could buy any drug you wanted," he says. You could even rent a handgun there.

"Rent" a handgun? That's amazing. Are we talking monthly, daily or hourly?


Goodness.

As for Big Daddy's, I've only been in there once and it was because Lovely and her friend forced me to go inside with them. "Pretty seedy" would describe both the atmosphere and the dancers. That's not necessarily a criticism-- I wouldn't mind it if I were there by myself or with male companions... but it's sort of uncomfortable when your wife is at the table. I wanted to appear courteously interested without ogling. Then Lovely made a big deal about how I folded and inserted the dollar tips in the dancer's garter belt. Where'd you learn to do that so well? (Certainly not in the nineties at Centerfold's watching "Natasha" do her goth dance, and certainly not with Ratboy at the Onyx, where a dollar goes a looooong way.)

"I think I saw some guy do it like that in a movie."

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Standing on the street at night, I notice Marcus looking at something. Far, far into the distance, I can barely discern a vaguely humanoid figure approaching. Squinting hard, I can't decide whether the shadow is male or female. Marcus, however, has made an assessment.

"Ooooh Wee! That girl could put Viagra out of business."

"How can you tell this far away? And from the front, no less."

"Oh I can tell alright."

"Um, please don't use your line when she walks by."

"Which one?"

"You know. You ask her how she's doing, and she says 'fine', and you say 'it shows, it shows.'"

A vat on the rooftop of the banquet hall erupts into a geyser of water and steam. Huge sheets of hot water rain down from the roof about 20 feet away from us, splattering the building and sidewalk. We observe the watery commotion for about half a minute, and then simultaneously return our attention back to the approaching woman, who is much closer now.

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"Imported brand of sin" 

Bad Bet on the Bayou pg 98

What they objected to was Hemmeter's imported brand of sin. George Schmidt, a bandleader, summed up that view in an interview with National Public Radio. "It's his immorality, it ain't our immorality," Schmidt said. "Now he's trying to tell us what we are supposed to be, you see. And we don't want to be that way, I can assure you. This city is suddenly going to be turned into... a gambling theme park, and we don't fall for that kind... of Disneyland crap down here."
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Race for the prize 

I agree with Dambala's belief that "race" is a myth, and that race and culture are confused, often purposely (by people of all pigments), in massively unhelpful ways.

This is why I have the label "race" in quotes. "Race" and culture should be discrete notions, but of course acting as if they are discrete notions ignores so much history.

I approach the subject-- or the persistent confusion-- of "race" elliptically in this blog, because I think ignorance and language strangle the topic. Also, I'm also probably too cowardly, too often.

During a recent conversation about "race", an associate of mine recently said "I'm not African-American. What does that even mean? Don't call me that. I'm black." Unhelpfully, another associate of mine jumped in with the complaint that he couldn't be proud of his "white French Cajun heritage" without being called racist. I wanted to ask why he included the word "white" in his description-- surely he feels closer to black cajuns than many white non-cajuns... but I didn't.

One of the most racist comments I ever heard was yelled at Barry Bonds in San Francisco while he trotted to left field between innings. The guys in the stands behind me yelled something so hideously crude I couldn't believe it. I was gobsmacked. "Here, now, you say this?" I thought. I acted like I hadn't heard them, but everyone heard them, including Barry Bonds. Unfortunately, Barry was in left field looking directly at me, like I said it! Between each pitch, he'd shoot the coldest, hardest stare I'd ever felt ... at me! I turned... white. I nearly pissed my pants. He seemed so large, and so close, and so intensely seething. Wide-eyed, I motioned with my thumb and eyes toward the guys behind me. It's not me, it's them. Shoot that stinkeye at them, Barry. It was incredibly uncomfortable. Lovely and I left early, and I think Barry hit a home run that game.

Another profile in racial courage by Mr. oyster.

I'm extremely cognizant and protective of my eldest daughter's race-consciousness, or lack thereof. She's five, and was blissfully unimpressed by differences in skin color until about a year ago. I don't think I've ever used the terms black people or white people around her. So, this year, occasionally, very rarely, she has started talking about peach people and brown people. I just listen and don't "correct" her. (As if the incredibly crude terms "black" and "white" are bursting with descriptive accuracy.) I'm sort of waiting to see where the contamination will come in. She asked who Martin Luther King was this year and I told her he was a great person who wanted everyone to love one another.

Eventually history and/or someone else's prejudice will have to be discussed. I just don't have the heart to introduce it into her mind. Perhaps I should bite the bullet and just do it. Yeah, maybe when we're riding the streetcar this spring I'll pipe up with a charming little "didja know?" I can tell her about when there used to be a metal screen in the middle of the streetcar, and the "peach" kids got to sit up front while the "brown" kids sat in the back. It's different now, but that's how it used to be. Why, why, why? she'll ask. That's what I'm afraid to endure: the thousand why's and follow up questions-- I just don't have the heart for it right now. But that conversation is coming sooner than later.

I also agree with Dambala that studying Anthropology can be an extremely helpful way to remove racisms, provincialisms and other dumb theories about "race". I was never saddled with racist encumbrances at home. Somehow, heroically, my grandfather grew up in Selma Alabama during the turn of the century-- and yet, early on, just two generations separated from his slave-owning ancestors, he concluded that Christ's love was colorblind. He totally rejected racism and became a pastor at one of the oldest un-segregated churches in the nation (up North). My parents never uttered a racist word, or shared a racist view. No jokes, no derogatory slang. Nothing. It simply wasn't in them to begin with. I daresay it's not in me. Not that I deserve much credit for how I was brought up, and for not having to overcome notions inculcated in my youth, like many of my friends had to do. (Note: the absence of a racist upbringing doesn't mean I fully understood "white privilege" or the plight of the "black underclass" or many, many, many other applicable things. I was just basically lucky to have the parents and grandparents that I did. The best thing I developed on my own was a keen eye for when stereotypes were broken, rather than confirmed.)
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* (title ref-- song not relevant to substance of post)

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Piss off, Ambassador 

Newsweek Ambassador Crocker:


I think many people understand by now that this fundamental mistake—underestimating local rivalries and the intensity of resistance to occupation—was repeated on a grand scale in Iraq. That is not to say that Saddam Hussein did not deserve to be removed. Let's be clear about this, because I think it's something many Americans today, especially American liberals, have failed to recognize. Internally, in Iraq, Saddam was the most murderous, vicious ruler the world has known since the fall of the Nazis, with the possible exception of Pol Pot in Cambodia. He terrorized pretty much everyone in the country, even his inner circle. I was serving in Baghdad back in 1979 when he turned a congress of his Baath Party into a public purge, ordering dozens of his former comrades to leave the room and face immediate execution. Regionally, he invaded two of his neighbors. In the case of Iran, he touched off one of the bloodiest conflicts since World War II. He invaded Kuwait and subverted or attempted to subvert the Gulf states as well as Jordan and Syria. And I haven't even talked about weapons of mass destruction, which he undoubtedly wanted and which we genuinely thought he had acquired.

Thanks for being clear enough so that even a liberal could understand.

Quick question: If Saddam was more vicious and murderous than anyone since Hitler (He wasn't. Pol Pot was, but let's grant your point.), why did we assist him?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_support_for_Iraq_during_the_Iran%E2%80%93Iraq_war

[More here.]

These facts, that make patriots like Rep. Joe Wilson so mad, came from an investigation of the Iran Contra affair. Pruning Shears recently summarized the scandal quite pithily saying The Iran Contra scandal was


an entire shadow foreign policy being run out of the White House that involved selling weapons to the very regime that took our people hostage in order to secretly and illegally fund a civil war in a country of zero strategic importance

Surely our moral leaders Reagan and Bush called Saddam out, and denounced him for being so bloodthirsty-- right? They didn't wait till he invaded a rich monarchy, and then slather the rubric of human rights over their overwhelming military response. Surely.

In 7th grade I was horrified to learn that Iran was sending waves of children with green key necklaces into battle in its war against Iraq. I figured, with my simplistic manichean worldview, that iraq had to be relatively "good" if iran was that "bad". Later I became a bit wiser when I joined Amnesty International and learned Iraq was bad as well. The only difference being, he was "our" bad guy. (Notwithstanding the covert arms dealings with Iran.) With AI, I wrote letters to Congress and the President imploring them to stop aiding Saddam, because of his multitudinous human rights abuses.

So I don't need a lecture about how bad Saddam was-- I was a freakin' teenager and knew that he was "bad"!! I repeatedly raised my concerns, in writing, to conservatives in power. THEY. DID. NOT. CARE. ONE. IOTA.

So kindly fuck off, Ambassador, with your oh-so-patient explanations of what liberals need to understand. Of course Saddam "deserved" to be removed. He "deserved" to be removed back in the eighties, when we were assisting him and snot nose liberal teens like me were dismissed as part of the human rights dreamers who didn't understand realpolitik. But the 2003 Iraq War wasn't about "deserve", was it? Further, are we supposed to remove everyone who deserves to be removed?
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Thomas Frank WSJ:

Conservatives of the 1930s, led by an upper-crust outfit called the American Liberty League, certainly felt that way. "That Roosevelt was a dictator there was no doubt; but Liberty Leaguers were not quite sure what kind," wrote the historian George Wolfskill in "The Revolt of the Conservatives," a 1962 study of that organization. "Some thought he was a fascist, others believed him a socialist or Communist, while others, to be absolutely sure, said he was both."
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extremist rhetoric against obama 

Southern Baptist pastor prays for Obama's death.



GOP House member says "Obama is an enemy of humanity".



Glenn Beck says Obama is a "racist" with a "deep seated hatred for white people"



Rush Limbaugh says Obama "is racism".



Fascist rope a dope bullshit


‘SILENCE EQUALS ASSENT:’ WHY POINTING OUT CONSERVATIVE LUNACY MUST BE DONE RWNH


Rush LIMBAUGH: Now that's -- I don't think that's naïveté, it certainly is ego. But, folks, we're dealing with a guy who is out to destroy the whole concept of the West -- western civilization, the West in terms of a geopolitical organization of nations, out to destroy it. We've never seen anything like this.
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GOP pantheon 

Click the link to GOP.com's "Republican Heroes: see them all"

So glad that there was an official, exhaustive collection at our disposal.

There's Ike, Reagan and several black Republicans from distant history that the average conservative wouldn't recognize if their lives depended on it.

Today, Ike would be too liberal to get the GOP nomination. And Lincoln is ... controversial.

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High Five 

The Washington Monthly reviewed "Tinsel", an observant book about the surbabanite culture in the Metroplex during Christmastime. It quoted this delicious paragraph from the book, which I will reprint.


Where the LBJ [Freeway] meets U.S. 75 is an interchange of stacked ramps called the High Five, which is so revered by drivers that the Dallas Morning News asked its readers to send in their most stirringly artistic photos of it. Lately a few citizens have been leaping to their deaths off the High Five. I can think of no greater compliment to the builders of intricate freeway spans than to attract both poetry and despair.

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Who dat say dey never seen a 'dat'? 

Balloon Juice reminds us of this oldy but goody.

And if by some chance you are still not convinced, how ‘bout this quote of sheer genius:

[Utah Rep. Chris] Buttars doesn’t disregard evolution completely, rather he believes God is the creator, but His creations have evolved within their own species.

“We get different types of dogs and different types of cats, but you have never seen a ‘dat,’ ‘’ he said.
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Nixon neutralizing enemies 

“He told us he was going to take crime out of the streets. He did. He took it into the damn White House.” --Rev. Ralph Abernathy, talking about President Richard M. Nixon


Wapo:

In 1972, in one of the most bizarre and overlooked chapters in American political history, [journalist Jack] Anderson was the target of a Mafia-style hit ordered in the White House itself. Two Nixon operatives admitted under oath that they plotted to poison the troublemaking investigative reporter at the behest of a top aide to President Nixon. Ultimately the plot was aborted and the conspirators were arrested a few weeks later, as part of the Watergate break-in.

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Hitchens decalogue 

Read the whole thing if you haven't, but I quite like this line in Hitchens "The New Ten Commandments" piece in Vanity Fair:

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. This ostensibly brief commandment goes on for a long time—for four verses in fact—and stresses the importance of a day dedicated to the lord, during which neither one’s children nor one’s servants or animals should be allowed to perform any tasks. (Query: Why is it specifically addressed to people who are assumed to have staff?)

Nobody is opposed to a day of rest. The international Communist movement got its start by proclaiming a strike for an eight-hour day on May 1, 1886, against Christian employers who used child labor seven days a week.


Some May Day history here.

Not totally unrelated, here's some Po Boy history.

The video version of Hitchens' piece is below. However it is condensed and doesn't have all the neat little digs that are present in the article. Some of which, like the highlited one above, made all the difference for me.

http://barkbugsleavesandlizards.com/?p=2488

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"I wish... the Constitution vindicated limited govt. But it doesn't" 

I direct everyone (but especially the so-called "constitutional conservatives" who keep citing the tenth amendment in opposition to health insurance reform) to consider the following seductive argument by Austin Bramwell:

The Fourteenth Amendment reads, in part:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Now, what does that all mean? Nobody knows! These words are almost totally opaque. Clearly the states are prohibited from doing… something. From doing things that are... well, things that are fundamentally bad. That’s about as close to the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment as one can reasonably hope to get.

In its the very opacity, the Fourteenth Amendment sweeps aside the system of limited and enumerated powers created by the Founders. For the Fourteenth Amendment also gives Congress the power to enforce its provisions by “appropriate legislation.” In other words, Congress gets to stop the states from doing anything that’s fundamentally bad. What’s fundamentally bad? Well, that can only be for Congress to decide, since it’s the only branch of government expressly empowered to enforce the Amendment. Thus, Congress might prohibit the States from discriminating on the basis of race. It might also prevent the States from denying access to free health care, or refusing to advance the progress of minority groups by affirmative action. So long as Congress deems a policy to be a fundamental right, it can force the States to uphold it.
...
In its original meaning, the Fourteenth Amendment enforces all fundamental rights against the states, whether embodied in the Bill of Rights or not. The Amendment gives Congress and the Federal government virtually unfettered power to rule over the States.

I wish it weren’t so. I wish... the Constitution vindicated limited government. But it doesn’t. If we want to actually acquire limited government, a good first step is to be honest about this.
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wikileaks tape shows that we need to watch more war video 

Pat says "Drink in these images. Drink them deep. This is war, and war is hell." Indeed.

There's a false distinction between deciding to go to war, and waging it-- this is part of what war looks like. Hideous, horrible, tragic. Innocents will be slaughtered. This is what you sign up for when you go to war. Though not all war crimes are equivalent, war entails them. They will occur. Because of this, war is a crime. But sometimes it is necessary.

The key idea is the decision to go to war in the first place. Bush decided that waging a preemptive war while already being engaged in another conflict was a desirable course to take. He "doubled down" on a war of choice, and threw in a massive nation-building exercise for good measure. It was a war marketed with false claims and sold to the American people with false choices-- we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud, better fight them over there than over here. Little sacrifice will be required-- keep shopping, and tell your liberal friends to be vigilant and watch what they say.

In college I had a Newsweek quote from a military commander explaining why video footage of the first Iraq War wouldn't be made public. It showed Iraq soldiers getting mowed down and sliced in two from Apache helicopter cannon fire. The commander said (I'm quoting from memory) "If we let the public see that tape, there would never again be any war."

My view: Roll film!
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Did Sen. David Vitter Lie at the 2007 Press Conference? 

Re: David Vitter's prostitute scandal is target of Louisiana Democratic Party video, New Orleans Times-Picayune, By Bruce Alpert, April 28, 2010 -- http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2010/04/david_vitters_prostitute_scand.html

Dear Blogger:

Quoting Edward Chervenak, a University of New Orleans political scientist, from the referenced article, "Everyone knows Vitter had an affair with a prostitute, so the only thing that could hurt Vitter is some previously unreleased bit of information."

With David Vitter -– enjoying a lock on the Republican nomination, and riding high in the polls against his likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Charlie Melancon, in the November general election, given the current environment, one would be hard pressed to quibble with the words of Prof. Chervenak.

But, here is the dragon fly in the ointment, the previously unreleased information to the general public, that I feel should overturn the Vitter reelection applecart.

After the publisher of Hustler Magazine Larry Flynt discovered that Sen. David Vitter’s telephone number appeared numerous times on a list of calls to the D. C. Madam-—the late Deborah Jeane Palfrey, and after Vitter emerged from a self-imposed exile from the public, a press conference was held by the Senator.

In a statement, in a timbre as bitter as vinegar, at the press conference in Metairie, LA, on July 16 2007 -– with Vitter’s wife standing next to him, Vitter strongly asserted that nothing happened in New Orleans. Clearly Vitter’s remark was a flat-out emphatic denial of having adulterous sexual relations with Wendy Cortez, and Ms. Cortez has submitted to a polygraph examination -- which supported her contention that she exchanged sex for money with David Vitter at her apartment in the New Orleans French Quarter.

Vitter’s opening statement taken from a You Tube video of his July 2007 press conference at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxlqiDn2zM8&feature=player_embedded -- “Unfortunately my admission has incurred some longtime political enemies and those hoping to profit from the situation to spread falsehoods too, like those New Orleans stories in recent reports. Those stories are not true.”

“Not true” you say Senator! And oh what a tangled web we weave . . . .

In Vitter’s world of lying paranoid-schizophrenic behavior, given so many dishonest denials, and accusatory remarks, perhaps the below letter of apology -- written, and signed by David Vitter, under the threat of a lawsuit by Vincent Bruno -– a dual office holder in the Republican Party, and delivered at warp speed to Vincent Bruno’s home via courier -- somehow “conveniently” slipped the Senator’s memory.

Vitter’s carefully crafted “signed” letter of apology to Mr. Vincent Bruno, and the authenticity of the letter has been authenticated personally by Mr. Vincent Bruno:


{July 27, 2002

Dear Mr. Bruno:

On Thursday July 25, a caller on a WTIX radio call in show asked me if I would agree to participate in a radio debate with you. I said I would not because you are a “thug and a liar.”

This was an emotional response on my part prompted by numerous ugly rumors which had been repeated about my family and me.

After the incident, I realized that you may believe these rumors and allegations. I cannot say that you know them to be untrue and lied by repeating. Therefore I should have not said that you are a thug and a liar.

With this in mind, and in an abundance of fairness, I hereby retract my statement about you referenced above. Please accept my sincere apology.

By copy of this letter, I would ask Jeff Crouere, the host of the radio show, on which I made my original statement to broadcast my retraction using at least an equal amount of time.

Sincerely,

David Vitter
cc: Mr. Jeff Crouere and Mr. Ed Butler}

Nowhere that I know Vincent Bruno repeated “rumors” regarding Vitter having an affair with a French Quarter prostitute, but actually alleged that Vitter was having such an affair. From a May 31, 2002, column -- “CONGRESSMAN IS ACCUSED OF HAVING AN ALLEGED AFFAIR WITH PROSTITUTE” -- written by Mr. Chris Tidmore of the Louisiana Weekly -- http://www.louisianaweekly.com/weekly/news/articlegate.pl?20020603p:

“In what is becoming a high stakes political battle between some of the most prominent members of the Louisiana Republican Party, Bruno has charged that a prostitute, who stated her name to be Wendy Cortez, allegedly confessed to him to having a paid sexual relationship with the Congressman. ”

Additional quote from the Chris Tidmore column:

“Bruno, who supplied documentation of detailed accounts of his meetings with Cortez, along with specific testimony that she provided against the Congressman, claims that he only came forward with the prostitute s name and personal information when pressed as a means to protect his integrity.”

And the column goes on and on with facts and accounts quoted by Mr. Bruno giving causes and reasons to support that Vitter had indeed conducted a philandering liaison with Ms. Cortez.
No doubt, Vincent Bruno was not repeating rumors as Vitter so cleverly wrote, but outright asserted that Vitter was having an affair with Wendy Cortez. And to think and to assume that Vitter was not informed of Bruno’s charges in the May 31 column would be preposterous!
Furthermore, writing an apologetic damage control letter eating crow, with a healthy serving of humble pie -–likely wishing and hoping to avoid a court room appearance testifying under oath, had Vitter not indeed been “intimately” engaged in the horizontal bedroom “boogie-woogie” with Ms. Cortez at her Dauphine and Dumain apartment, is unimaginable if Vitter’s hands were indeed clean!

So for Vitter to engage in even more lies and accusatory chutzpah and hypocrisy -- while addressing the public at the July 2007 press conference, -- professing repentance, and asking forgiveness, has the pungent stench of some stuff floating in a facility about to be flushed and Vitter is as creditable as a holocaust denier.

Trusting a habitual “liar” -– void of morals and decency, an officer of the court -- possessing no respect of the law or for his family -- to represent Louisiana in the Senate would be like trusting the ill-intentioned serpent Aesop brought in from the snow, and Louisiana deserves better -–much much better.

Aeschylus, a Greek dramatist and playwright, said in [500] B.C., "In war, truth is the first casualty.” Unfortunately, David Vitter represents such a casualty of politics. And note that the caller in the phone call to Vitter in the You Tube video, played on MSNBC for Larry Flynt and Wendy Cortez, challenging Vitter to sign an affidavit is the writer of this column.

And for more, as Chester A. RILEY would say, “revolting developments,” regarding Sen. David Vitter, I invite you to check out a previous post: http://righthandthief.blogspot.com/2009/10/open-letter-to-blogosphere-from-david-c_07.html

David C. Bellinger
(404) 762-8779
E-mail: davidc53@juno.com
Atlanta, GA


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Fit and finish 

Over the past two years, I've battled with the notion of saying something at YRHT that would do Ashley Morris justice. Truly, it's been an internal struggle for me. After over-writing and then deleting many a tribute/memorial, I've come to realize I can't do it. It wasn't because Ashley was larger than life (although he seemed that way), or magnificent beyond fault (assuredly not). It's because I'm not talented or subtle enough with words to convey what was there in a satisfactory way. So, the following observations are not satisfactory or comprehensive (in my view), but they'll have to do.

Simply, The Fates put too much on his plate-- physically, psychically, emotionally. They were cruel and relentless in their quest to break Ashley's olympian-sized will, which he often channelled so brilliantly when he ranted on his blog or vented over a beer.

Ashley's technicolor passion for "the only city that ever loved him back" is undeniable. It bleeds through the screen from nearly every blog post he wrote. But beyond the genuine passion shown in his blog personae, he was a gentle and generous friend.

Ashley shared himself with me: sometimes profoundly, sometimes matter-of-factly, sometimes exuberantly, often through implication. Beverages, cigars and laughter were incorporated into the festivities as much as possible. I miss talking to him because I didn't know where his stories were headed. I wasn't bored waiting for my chance to talk.

I miss the beaming pride on his face when he bragged on his kids. I miss the eager anticipation he had for an upcoming parade or concert or Saints game. I miss the comfortable, knowing pauses in our conversations. Like his other friends, over these two years (and increasingly in recent months) I miss the small, seemingly-random moments the most. Unreligious, he was a big spirit in my life.

Ashley shared much more of himself with me than I shared in return, yet he knew me better than I knew him. It's a fact that pains me. Despite triumphing over burdens that would've crushed lesser men like myself, the gods kept piling it on Herr Doktor Morris-- cruelly, relentlessly-- as if they were bent on breaking his stalwart stance.

That he considered me a friend is a deep honor. Selfishly, I can't believe he's not here to take in this high point. The Saints won the Super Bowl and Ashley's not here? How is that cosmically possible? He inspired a character in a David Simon show? Are you kidding me? Ashley deserved this moment. He would have revelled in it. And, selfishly, I'm sad I can't be with him to share his joy.

---
The title refers to an inside joke that made us smile.

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"Flagship" school my ass 

Good.
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"A horrible mistake" 

Marty Beckerman flags this revealing disclosure from the Cato liberty blog:

In a Thursday panel at Cato on conservatism and war, U.S. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and John Duncan (R-Tenn.) revealed that the vast majority of GOP members of Congress now think it was wrong for the U.S. to invade Iraq in 2003.

Grover Norquist moderated the discussion, and asked these conservative Congressional Republicans how many of their GOP colleagues now believe the Iraq war was a mistake, even if they won't say so to the MSM. The replies are amazingly unhedged.

Rohrabacher:

“I will say that the decision to go in, in retrospect, almost all of us think that was a horrible mistake. …Now that we know that it cost a trillion dollars, and all of these years, and all of these lives, and all of this blood… all I can say is everyone I know thinks it was a mistake to go in now.”

McClintock:

I think everyone [in Congress] would agree that Iraq was a mistake.”


What about all that claptrap about fighting them over there rather than over here?

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Tea Party comes full circle, bites tail, begins self-devouring 

"Don't Tread on Me" Gadsden flag poster by fr_slingsandarrows


The AP reports on the latest remarks from Tea Party darling Dr. Rand Paul:
Kentucky's Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul criticized President Barack Obama's handling of the Gulf oil spill today as putting "his boot heel on the throat of BP" and "really un-American."
...
"What I don't like from the president's administration is this sort of, 'I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,'" Rand said in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America." ''I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business."

Ok, let's make this as clear as an un-oiled gulf. As clear as an azure sky of deepest summer:

The original Tea Party revolted against a monarchy that assisted a British company attempting to flood the colonial coast with unwanted tea.

And now the darling of the current Tea Party says it's "un-American" for the U.S. President to criticize a British company that has flooded the American coast with unwanted toxic "tea".

May I propose an updated symbol for the Tea Partiers?







"Don't Tread on BP"





===
H/T @johnmcquaid



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Update: Thanks to DSB, who helpfully made our Tea Party friends a proper flag

















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Update: More history lessons at mosquito coast, and Richard informs us of an exciting new contest.
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"The rat symbolizes obviousness" 

1

2

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Update: In the comments Cousin Pat quips "Portuguese Water Dog Fail".

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Meat is... 

Thanks to my friend Jelly, who introduced me to the Front Yard Farmer blog which chronicles a New Orleanian's adventures in urban farming. It's fascinating because the farmer raises her own meat-- ducks, rabbits, hogs. She slaughters her animals and eats them. It's a good reminder that our food doesn't originate in the supermarket, and that meat was once a living animal. (Unfortunately, she received a death threat on her blog after writing about slaughtering her rabbits. And there's probably other municipal issues involved in her renegade effort, so I hope promoting her blog doesn't hasten the demise of her farming experiment.)

Front yard farmer's latest post, titled "The Conscience of an Urban Farmer", captivated me. I recommend.

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In other food news, Jeffrey's photo of the "Thank you, BP" cake at Breaux Mart has gone viral.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sludge Report 

WVUE Fox 8

BP conceded Thursday that more oil than it estimated is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico as heavy crude washed into Louisiana's wetlands for the first time...


No worries, BP. You can't be right every day. Better luck next time.

WWL 870am:

The Environmental Protection Agency has directed oil giant BP to use a less toxic form of chemical dispersants to break up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Darn the luck! But, truly, how can any dispersant whose name rhymes with a Sartre play have an ending free of nausea?

===

INEZ [fixing her eyes on him]: Your mouth!

GARCIN [as if waking from a dream]: I beg your pardon.

INEZ: Can't you keep your mouth still? You keep twisting it about all the time. It's grotesque.

GARCIN: So sorry. I wasn't aware of it.

INEZ: That's just what I reproach you with. [GARCIN'S mouth twitches.] There you are! You talk about politeness, and you don't even try to control your face. Remember you're not alone; you've no right to inflict the sight of your fear on me.

GARCIN [getting up and going towards her]: How about you? Aren't you afraid?

INEZ: What would be the use? There was some point in being afraid before, while one still had hope.

GARCIN [in a low voice]: There's no more hope-- but it's still "before." We haven't yet begun to suffer.

INEZ: That's so. [A short silence.] Well? What's going to happen?

GARCIN: I don't know. I'm waiting.

===

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Yikes 

Noladder points us to a Levees.org interview with Dr. Ivor Van Heerden, who is suing LSU for wrongful termination. According to Van Heerden, "termination" is the operative word for more than one reason.

LEVEES.ORG: Can you share any details about the trial that are not already published in media outlets?

VAN HEERDEN: Yes. It seems that upper level administrators at LSU discussed whether or not to give me a cyanide pill.

LEVEES.ORG: Wow! Do you have a copy of the correspondence?

VAN HEERDEN: Yes, we have a copy of the email exchange.

Until I see the exchange and learn more I'm going to charitably assume this was a sick joke or a very poorly constructed geometry lesson, rather than an actual discussion by LSU administrators of potential wet work. (In this case it's not so "wet", but I still enjoy using the phrase.)

Still, it's pretty difficult to imagine how you make "cyanide pill" a funny punchline. Can't wait to see the email transcript and hear the explanation.

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Beyond Priceless 

Michael Homan presents: Geauxjira.

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"Your point is not well taken, because that is not what it means. I will refuse." 

Associated Press:

BP said Wednesday it hopes to begin shooting a mixture known as drilling mud into the blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico early next week.


In the immortal words of Tone Loc-- let's do it.

Engineers hope to start the procedure known as a "top kill" by Sunday.


Damn skippy. I'm so ready for the spewing to stop. The sheen and slick are already the size of two New Jerseys, and that's just on the surface. Giant oil plumes are underneath, and tendrils are tickling the Gulf loop current. It's imperative to plug this misbegotten seafloor geyser so this disaster doesn't worsen exponentially. Sunday sounds like it will be an important day. I'll be praying for the top kill to work.

It could take several weeks to complete,

Beg pardon?

It could take several weeks to complete,

Come again?

It could take several weeks to complete,

Say what now?

It could take several weeks to complete,

Pardon me while I throw my keyboard against the wall.
...
Ok. Apparently, I've been assuming the top kill would work a tad quicker than several weeks. [Update: I'd like to find out if top kill will stop the oil flow immediately, and take weeks to complete because the oil will be pushed back down the well thousands of feet. In that case, I'm not so frustrated with the idea.]

but if it works it should stop the oil that's been gushing since the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded off the coast of Louisiana April 20 and sank two days later.

Oh, right. Forgot the "if" qualifier. Top Kill is an experimental process that might work-- "several weeks" from now. If not, the relief wells will probably be finished in early to mid August.

"This is all being done at a depth of 5,000 feet and it's never been done at these depths before," said Doug Suttles of BP PLC, the oil giant that was leasing the rig when it exploded.

Yes, we can never forget that BP's on-the-fly problem-solving is equivalent to performing remote heart surgery from the Apollo 13 rocket. The whole exercise is incredibly complicated and dicey and unprecedented-- Unless, of course, you're a Big Oil company assuring the Feds that your disaster plans are totally comprehensive and sufficient. Then this sort of thing is precedented, proven and low risk.

BP's exploration plan had assured the Minerals Management Service that an unanticipated blowout and spill "is unlikely to have an impact [on fish habitat], based on the industrywide standards for using proven equipment and technology for such responses."


Well, despite the Gulf of Mexico being a very big body of water, and despite the unprecedented use of dispersants, and the millions of feet of protective boom... oil from this unanticipated blowout is seeping into our protective, productive wetlands. And it's the thick gloppy kind with an impact more akin to a blanket of death rather than, say, iced tea.

Here's a scan of some recent fortune cookie wisdom I recently received. It's placed on top of Pearlgirl Deuce's artwork. If you click and zoom it, you'll see that it reads: "You will do well to expand your horizons."

Actually, I'll do well if I don't see "well" and "horizon" in the same sentence for a while. Otherwise, there might be trouble. BP's CEO would like me to believe the environmental impacts of this disaster will be "very, very modest". Kind of like the way he wants me to believe that Macondo is only gushing 5,000 barrels per day. I'll offer my response to his suggestions in the form of embedded industrial punk that picks up quite nicely at about the 1:40 mark (lyrics, from which the post title is derived).



If Punk were alive, it would beseech you to

1) Destroy what’s destroying you... and to

2) Never hand over your own power. (And when they ask you to go away. Refuse.)
---

Update: NYT story

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Awaiting Permission 

Since Katrina/FF, Gov. Bobby Jindal has often told audiences around the country that when it comes to dealing with bureacratic hierarchies during a crisis "sometimes, asking for forgiveness is better than asking for permission".

Today, the ever-inquiring Suspect Device writes:

Thanks, Katrina reposts an article from WWL that raises a question:

Jindal said this state is using seven levels of defense to keep the oil out of the marshes, but the best bet remains using dredges to turn broken barrier island chains into a solid line of sand to block the flow of oil. He’s making preparations even as he awaits for permission from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Why the fuck are you waiting for permission?


Good question.



Picture from LA Gov's office of oil impacting wetlands.

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Election results 

David Weigel of the Washington Post reports on the following electoral shellacking in Arkansas, which may be of local interest:

In Arkansas's 1st District, restaurant owner Rick Crawford rolled past Princella Smith, an African American Hill staffer who'd racked up support from establishment conservatives and appeared in multiple stories about the crop of 2010 black Republican candidates. Crawford won 72.8 percent of the vote to 27.2 percent for Smith.

Ms. Smith was Rep. Joseph Cao's director of communications, but distanced herself from her more liberal former boss during her campaign to become the first black Republican woman to serve in the House. Despite the encouragement of Newt Gingrich and other Republican "party insiders", and 2010 being declared "the year of the black Republican", Smith lost badly. What's next for this rising star in 2010? Will she go back to working for Cao, whom GOP Minority Leader John Boehner described as "the future" of the party?

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It feels like the first time... 

Must admit, I liked Chris Rose's Gambit column this week.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Good morning. It's 10:59 in the A.M., and that means this is Perspectives 

I'm your host, Lionel Oyster and here is a collection of Macondo oil gusher opinions that I found interesting, amusing, or stupid. (Perhaps in that order.)


1. Gen. Honore advises President to "Go Draconian" (5/14/10):

[CNN Anchor DON LEMON]: Yes. I was just going to say that, you know, for people who live there -- you're from there, I'm from there, but it's also -- it's not just -- we talk about the economic impact and we talk about the environmental impact. It's really the way we socialize, you know, with our food and when we meet and greet in the summer, it's part of the fish fries. In the winter, it's part of our gumbo. In the spring, it's part of our etouffee and our crawfish.

It's really the way we come together there. So it has -- it's even much more. It's the social impact on that region, right, General?


[GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, U.S. ARMY (RET.)]: Yes, sir. It is personal as how we live and what we do every day. It's a part of the economy that drives New Orleans, which is the fun driver for the state.

The state of Louisiana, primary income other than oil right there, is tourism. And the food in New Orleans drive a lot of visitors there.

Look, we've got to go Draconian, Don. The president's going to have to appoint and take charge of this thing. He may have to seize [BP's] assets and charge them a billion dollars a day until that thing gets close.


2. Bill O'Reilly says "[BP has] got to pay every bill. Every pelican that gets wounded, they got to pay the pelican's mom."


3. Rep. Charlie Melancon, on the oil gusher

We're the United States, and I would have thought if this was going to happen, it would have been in maybe a South African continent or some third world country that just looked the other way or said, you know, if there's still such a thing -- and I'm sure there is -- kickbacks, that that would have happened there and not here in the United States.

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60 Minutes story on Deepwater Horizon disaster 

The interview with Deepwater Horizon's chief electronics technician Mike Williams is tremendously compelling television. [Update: More details on William's story at Suspect Device.]


Watch CBS News Videos Online

Professor Bea: "Houston, I think we have a problem." (Indeed.)


Watch CBS News Videos Online

As the video notes... the (remote but potentially catastrophic) risks are still out there. And if I hear another apologist for the greedheads lecture me about the virtues of self-regulation, self-certification and voluntary compliance, I'm going to get huffy puffy. And that's a promise.

More cbs links and additional, extended coverage here:

Extra: "I'm Gonna Die Right Here"
Extra: "As I Got To The Next Door, It Exploded"
Extra: "It Was A Ranging Inferno
Extra: "We Were In Bad Trouble"
Extra: "We're Gonna Burn Up Or We're Gonna Jump"
Extra: "I Must Be Dead"
Extra: Capturing The Disaster Extra: Warning Signs
CBSNews.com: Complete Coverage Truthout: Article on Whistleblower
Photos: Gulf Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Yay! BP sucks hard 

The T-P has some encouraging news:

In the first step in nearly a month toward stopping a massive Gulf of Mexico oil leak, BP said a mile-long tube was siphoning most of the crude from a blown well to a tanker ship after three days of wrestling to get the stopgap measure into place on the seafloor.

But (there's always a but)

Researchers, meanwhile, warned Sunday that miles-long underwater plumes of oil from the spill could poison and suffocate sea life across the food chain, with damage that could endure for a decade or more.

And SkyTruth has an updated oil gusher volume estimate that's probably more accurate than anything else you'll find:

[I]t's clear that SkyTruth's early alarm back on April 27 -- that the spill is actually much worse than the official BP and government estimates -- was valid, and conservative. By May 1 we had exceeded the official estimate of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster (about 11 million gallons); and by our count, at a rate of at least 1.1 million gallons (26,500 barrels) per day, we're closing in on 28.9 million gallons (689,000 barrels) spilled so far...


BP tried to insert the tube Friday but had to take it out for adjustments:

[T]he initial attempt to connect the mile-long pipe leading from the drill ship to the tube failed, and the device had to be brought back to the surface for adjustments.

“This is all part of reinventing technology,” said Tom Mueller, a BP spokesman, on Saturday. “It’s not what I’d call a problem — it’s what I’d call learning, reconfiguring, doing it again.”


Listen, Mueller, when you are "learning" and "doing it again" at the expense of our coast-- that's what I'd call a "problem". It's really cool that you're formulating experimental solutions on-the-fly which have never been tried before at such depths, but the classroom for your educational troubleshooting seminar is... a slow-motion environmental catastrophe! You're supposed to already know these things. Otherwise you've been "imagineering" all this time, and off-loading remote yet catastrophic black swan risks.

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