Friday, December 18, 2009

War on Christmas - 2009

Oh, don't you remember the fervor of the War on Christmas back in 2005?

American society was about to crumble because the most extravagant Christians were not allowed to do things like put nativity scenes in the middle of busy intersections or follow you around all day yelling Christmas carols into your ears. Anyone saying "Happy Holidays" was threatened with midnight disappearances to Bill O'Reilly inspired reeducation camps in order to save what was left of our country. Glenn Beck was weeping, but he wasn't a major factor on television yet. Several high profile culture warriors released well timed books on the subject (how did they know it was going to be a topic du jour?) of the coming cultural takeover of American society driven by people...like...me.

Wasn't that fun? It was really important, too. So important, in fact, that the "War On Christmas" meme has been mentioned less and less each year following 2005, despite cultural conditions staying relatively static.

I mean, maybe people are focused on other news stories right now, but I can think of more than a few rather big national news stories the press could have focused on in the final quarter of 2005. Can you name anything more important on which we could have spent our time back then?

But it isn't like the "War on Christmas" is over. It seethes right below the surface, on Facebook status updates and chain emails from folks I know who really believe I am mindlessly supporting a cabal of elite individuals who plan to strip me of my culture and traditions. (They think about this while shopping at Wal-Mart, I'm sure.) Talk radio still hammers the narrative, asking breathlessly for callers to describe how badly affluent, caucasian Christians are oppressed during this woeful time of the year.

Take for example the "kid who got suspended for drawing Jesus on the cross from his public school" meme. How outrageous! Talk radio yammers. If he had drawn a picture of Obama, he'd still be in school! They say. Brainwashing! Oppression! Badness! Outrage! RARRR!!

Until the real story comes out. The real story you won't hear about on Fox News or talk radio. The local media screwed the pooch here and got almost everything wrong. Because the story fit so neatly into the precanned "War on Christmas" narrative, it got play.

No, the teacher hadn't instructed them to draw things that make them think of Christmas.

No, it wasn't a sketch of Jesus on the cross, it was a picture of the student himself on the cross, with eyes 'X'ed out to signify death.

No, the kid didn't get suspended, but he did have to see the school psychologist.

NOW, the father disagrees with the above statements from the school and maintains that all this is about the school oppressing his family's religion. He is demanding compensation from the school for "all the suffering" this has cased the family while inviting the press to publicize the story. There is no indication how the story first came to the media's attention, but the father's quotes give me some idea.

(Remember, folks, only godless liberals take public demands for compensation to frivolous lawsuit status.)

Just as a hypothetical, had the student actually done anything to hurt himself or others, after the teacher had seen such a drawing, the same press driving the "War on Christmas" meme would instead be driving the "Why Weren't Warning Signs Heeded?" narrative.

But we don't get to hear about a teacher doing their job correctly, effectively, and with regard to a student's welfare, or how a school has rather appropriate operating proceedures and didn't overreact to a situation. We hear instead about how that teacher hates Christmas, and how this public school is doing its part to rid America of religion.



.

The Old Dirt Road

An old Jeff Foxworthy joke went something like this: If the directions to get to your house include the phrase "turn off the paved road," you might be a redneck.

To which we now add Or living in America during the Great Recession.

A few thoughts on this:

1. Do not tell Ray Nagin that this is how some localities are cutting back on "services."

2. On the other hand, some gravel roads might be better maintained than our current roads in New Orleans.

3. "First world" standards are just one big crisis away from "developing world" standards of living.

.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Conservative Nuance

Like my link to an article on liberalism earlier, today's heavy opinion focuses on real conservatism defended on rational & thoughtful grounds. It is another article I'll be going back to for a long time.

There isn't any demonization of liberalism to be found behind that link, so if you're looking for soundbytes and zingers, it ain't for you.

I can only imagine how different our nation would look today if those individuals who play conservatives on TV, radio or politics sounded anything like this.

HT: The Daily Dish.

.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Water(less) World

Speaking of how taxes are spent, let us look at how metro Atlanta and Georgia handle water resources.

Before this autumn, northern Georgia was suffering from a rather severe drought. This wasn't its first drought, as we went through several while I was in college. This has been going on for years, and yet little has been done in the realm of figuring out how to manage water resources more appropriately. Their latest "attempt" to do so is called the "Water Contingency Task Force" made up of mostly Atlanta business types. Martin Matheny at Beyond the Trestle describes one of the Water & Power's big ideas thusly:

What interbasin transfer means, in simple terms, is that a region that needs water, say Atlanta, finds a place that has water, say Lake Hartwell, and starts piping water out to fill their own needs. Right now, interbasin transfer is illegal. It needs to stay that way, because if it becomes allowable, every lake, river, stream, and puddle in Georgia is fair game to satiate Atlanta's thirst.

Your tax dollars at work. The rest of Georgia is responsible for subsidizing metro Atlanta's subpar urban, suburban and exurban planning.

Because that is far simpler than "Instead of building a reservoir, spend less, create more jobs, and fix the pipes."

Two thoughts:

One, hopefully the real estate bubble bursting taught metro Atlanta developers a thing or three about overbuilding, but I'm not going to hold my breath on that.

Two, we must figure out a way to pump New Orleans' water to metro Atlanta and charge those business types by the gallon.

.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Taxes

Let us hear again about how bad high taxes on the top margin of American income earners would be. How it would destroy the business class of America and lead to national ruin. Let us hear again how we should return to the good ole days of American pie, baseball without steroids, olde tyme values and low taxes.

Whoops.

To be clear, I am no fan of high taxes. My views on taxation have more to do with getting a return on investment on tax dollars spent and doing the job right when the job is done with tax dollars. This has little to do with the false big government vs. small goverment choice, or liberalism vs. conservatism. The real difference lies between effective government and kleptocracy.

Back in the good ole days of the 40's and 50's, we had taxes so high modern "conservatives" would all die of shock. And yet, how we spent those tax dollars made us the most powerful nation the Earth has ever seen.

But don't let actual history get in the way of talk radio narratives.

.

Friday, December 11, 2009

2009 Prediction Roundup

These are some predicitons I made in December of 2008. Let's see how I did.

- Obama's first year won't be as bad as Republicans think it will.
Check
- Obama's first year won't be as glorious as Democrats think it will.
Check
- A federal universal Health Care package eerily similar to Romneycare is going to make it to the floor this year...
Check
- ...but union card check will happen first.
Wrong
- Bail outs will continue and any financial institution or heavily unionized industry will qualify.
Wrong (bailouts were not extended to other heavily unionized industries as I suspected)
- There will be no terrorist attacks on US soil in 2009.
We have a few weeks left but I'm going to go ahead an mark a check here.
- Oil prices will remain low in 2009.
Check
- Our likely recession will not last past 3rd Quarter 2009.
Check, but barely. We had 2.3% growth in Q3.
- There are going to be some serious power play issues among Pelosi, Reid, and Obama.
Check (see healthcare debate)
- Assassination attempts on black politicians by white supremacy groups will be the formula plot of the 2009 Fall TV lineup. It's no "family/individual getting cash it shouldn't" or "family/restaurant-on-top-of-bar finds out part of neighbor's property really belongs to them" but it'll be there.
Wrong. Not a single one...

So for my 2009 predictions, I'm 7-3. I can live with that. I'll have some 2010 predictions up in the coming week or so.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Epic Sports Bet Fail

Ah, social media. Not only can you use Facebook to connect with friends, you can update your status to make bets with your friends that include them drinking beer, driving their trucks to your house, with all their guns and ammo in tow, taking your 60" television, and unloading their ordinance upon it.

And then Youtube lets you share the video of this behavior to the world.


.

GOP for Nagin (con't)

Meanwhile, in Chocolate Moose Party news, let us consider the fact, ONCE AGAIN*, that the GOP had a huge hand in Nagin's 2006 reelection. You can talk about busing evacuated voters in from Atlanta and Houston all you want, so long as you mention the GOP's behavior in the same breath.

One of the architects of that strategy even went on to become the current national leader of the Young Republicans. She used the Nagin election, and her work on it, to prove her colorblind bonafides after several Obama jokes on her Facebook page called her racial sensitivity into question.

Nagin's got plenty of "outsider" popularity as a "run government like a business" candidate...


* (Because I am never, ever, ever going to let my Republican-leaning friends forget this one.)

.

The Oyster Guy

No, not that oyster guy. The the other oyster guy. The one that is ingloriously digging carbon levels out of oyster shells. Is he part of the Vast Climate-Change Conspiracy too? (HT: The Daily Dish)

When we had this discussion in November, I made the following comment:

That's the strength of having a lot of scientists around the world running tests and tests and engaging in research and peer review.

If one small group loses credibility due to shenanigans or incredibly incorrect predictions, it does not reduce the credibility of the entire body of work worldwide, because it is usually the scientists themselves who disprove the work of other scientists. That's generally how science works. That's where their overall credibility comes from.


Despite the emails from the University of East Wherever, and their "validation" of the far-reaching and decades long hoax that legions of unnamed scientists have pulled on the whole world in the interests of recieving more research dollars, endowed fellowships and TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION!1!, the numbers coming out of that university represent only a small part of the worldwide body of knowledge on this subject.

Even if you invalidate all their numbers and all of their studies, there are still mountains of statistical data, compiled by folks like the oyster guy, that the deniers have zero answer for.

.

Long vs. Palin

A University of Georgia professor examines the similarities between Huey Long and Sarah Palin. His thesis is that both are populists who did/will move their respective parties to the left/right. Though allowances are made to Long & Palin's respective differences:

The analogy is not exact. Huey Long was by many accounts a brilliant thinker and politician. Former President and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft proclaimed him to be one of the finest legal minds he had ever encountered. Sarah Palin has yet to exude intellectual brilliance.


I still maintain that Palin shares far more similarities to a different Louisiana populist: Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans. (Chocolate Moose Party! 2012!)

Update 4:30pm: I forgot to add a link to Christopher Hitchens' spot on Palin's Dangerous Populism.

Thoughts?

.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Probation = Not a Good Thing

Again, I thought Charter Schools were supposed to solve all these problems.

First of all, I like how this article came out on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at 6:31pm. One wonders which issue of the paper it ran in, and how many people read that issue while preparing for Turkey Day. I follow these issues, but I was traveling then. Dangerblond had to tell me about this, and I had to go back a few days to find it online.

Turkey Day. Indeed.

The Orleans Parish School Board only has "local control" over a handful of schools. (Please see chart and post at G-Bitch) Nine of them are accredited through SACS (like Ben Franklin High School, OP Walker and Warren Easton), but not all of them are. One would think that the administrative staff OPSB pays out of NOLA's property tax dollars would be able to keep up with what is going on at their schools more frequently than every two years.

But, as we can see from the chart, all four charter schools on probation with OPSB are either non-network charter schools or are not directly overseen by the OPSB Superintendent.

So, instead of one system of oversight here, we have six: the Louisiana Board of Education (well paid as they are), overseeing the OPSB and threatening to take away schools if performance isn't there; the OPSB that contracts out the charters; and the charter organizations of each individual school.

And yet, charters are politically sold to us as a way to get bureaucracy out of the way of childrens' learning.

Let us look now to the charges that brought on probation: two are on probation for academic reasons and two are on probation for financial reasons. The financials come down to ineffective auditing practices at two schools. This means the chartering organization has to spend money hiring accountants and auditors (or contractors) to do this work, while the OPSB has their own auditors and accountants to audit the auditors. So much for getting bureaucracy out of the way of childrens' learning.*

The acadmic probations hit one school due to test scores and another due to attendance. These are problems that face almost every school - but what will happen to these charters if the problems are not resolved? Well, if they aren't brought up enough, the charters between the OPSB and the people running these schools will be revoked or not renewed. That means some other organization (and perhaps several) will bid for the contract to run these schools. How much turnover will this cause each school?

How does high (or entire) staff and teacher turnover help test scores or attendnace in any way besides lowering it? How many years will the new staff need to adjust to the new way of doing things? How many years will the students need to adjust to the new staff during their adjustment period?

And yet, these events are the exact selling points for charter advocates.

Now, I don't want y'all to get this idea that I in any way support the system that was here before. I don't want y'all to think that I'm completely against the idea of charter schools (I have many friends who do fantastic work at charters). My problem is this "system", which looks to have a lot of the same problems of whatever existed here before.


*(though the "fix" for this "red tape" would be to contract the same company to audit the schools and audit themselves auditing the schools - coming soon from a politician's mouth, I'm sure of it)

.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A Nation of Too Many Laws

"To be clear, then, evidently it was too much law that got us into the war on terror, and yet there's too little law to get us out of it."

-Dahlia Lithwick


One of my greatest complaints about the Bush Administration was their nebulous and disingenuous handling of United States law and how it related to the Global War on Terror (GWOT). While I'm not one of those "Bush is to blame for - insert problem here -" partisans, on this matter, his Vice Presiden and Justice Department take plenty of blame, and I've thought so for years.

Our nation has fought terrorists before, and won. No, make that: won handily. We caught them, tried them, jailed them if they were convicted and executed those whose crimes warranted such. We have done this with, literally, hundreds of violent terrorists throughtout our nation's history (depending on your definition of terrorism, which we have seen in American politics is as malleable as popular culture would like it to be).

But all that changed during the Bush years, with all the talk of the "new kind of war" and the collective memory loss that we had been down the tragic road of terrorism before. To say nothing of the politization of the conflict.

But the most undermining to What America Is was done to us by that administration, convinvcing us, for a time, that we should not use our own laws in the prosecution of the terrorists or the persecution of the war. It is shameful and political that members of that administration continue to try and erode confidence in America's own legal system even as the new administration plans to use it.

Because restoring faith in our own, established system of justice is one of the changes I believed in and voted for last year.

.

Georgia GOP Leadership Implodes

Not that Georgia Democrats will be able to do anything about this, but the folks in charge of the Georgia GOP are getting caught up in a firestorm of scandal.

Strangely enough, it seems that this behavior will be called out best by other Republicans in Georgia. Good on them.

If Tiger Woods' private life wasn't the media's main concern these days, this would be all over the news. For a lot of the same reasons.

And just like the Woods thing, where an international celebrity's private life unravels at the first sign of trouble after years all the insiders helping him get away with it, the hits just keep on coming for the Georgia Republicans. Because while Tiger is a towering figure in sports, he is just one man and his fortune comes from advertising money.

The Georgia Republicans do it with lobbyists and tax dollars.

Update: Could the Lt. Governor be next?

.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

United in Celebration

There will be many, many things written about Saturday's SEC Championship Game. Alabama downed Florida in perhaps the biggest and most anticipated college football showdown in years.

Luckily, there is only one SECCG wrap up you need to read, as Doug Gillet at Hey, Jenny Slater! brings you covereage of V-T Day from Atlanta.

Prepare yourselves, fellow New Orleanians, for the last battle of the four year struggle will be fought on Poydras Street on New Year's.

.

Friday, December 04, 2009

NOLA World Cup

As futbol dignitaries from around the world meet in Cape Town to draw their group assignments for next summer's World Cup in South Africa, I am reminded of two things.

1. I need to procure a US National Team jersey before the summer, so I can rock it when watching games in the early morning hours CST.

2. When the United States gets the nod to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, New Orleans MUST rally to get games played here in the Superdome.

Any game would be a fine day. But I dream bigger. Hosting a South American, African or Carribean National Team here would be magnetic. Hosting a game with the Irish or Italian National teams would be appropriate and celebratory. We already have the parade gear for all of these things.

But the chance to host a game between the United States and France? In New Orleans? In the Superdome?

Be. Still. My. Heart.

.

Not Just Nagin

The value of Ray Nagin is that he says things other politicians are thinking and doing but leave unsaid. This is his one real non-zero-sum game theory intrinsic value. He just doesn't understand why anyone would think what he says is wrong. This is why he sees nefarious motives behind all his critics - the only reason they would criticize someone for being right is if they have an underhanded agenda.

Nagin doesn't believe in transparency, because he doesn't think he holds anything back. I think at this point, if there is anything he won't say on camera, we can accept that he really doesn't know it.

But let us not believe, for one single minute, that this is only a New Orleanian problem. Let us not believe, for one single minute, that this is only a Democratic or Republican problem. Let us not believe, for one single second, that this is only a black/white problem. Hiring contractors previously convicted of felony corruption goes on lots of places and is a practice engaged by many governments.

This is why transparency in government contracting is so important, not just in New Orleans, but everywhere. People must be able to see the process, know who they are paying, and know their tax dollars are not just lining pockets. I think about this every time I see a school falling apart, a pothole in a road, when a new development springs up in the Atlanta or Gulfport suburbs, or a thousand other times when I know a government contract is involved.

And if any contractor fails to do the work right (or on time, or on budget), or is convicted of corruption, or who hires illegal immigrants through subcontractors so they can engage in wage theft - they should never, ever, ever get another government contract again ever. Let them go work for private business, if private business will hire someone with such a record; but don't ever let them near a tax dollar again.

Most politicans disagree with what I just said, but would never admit it. For all his faults, at least Nagin doesn't mind going on the public record with his opinion.

All the more reason to encourage Palin/Nagin 2012 - Chocolate Moose Party, Baby!

.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Tweet or Twit?

It was only a matter of time before someone had to update their Twitter and Facebook accounts from the altar during a wedding ceremony. I mean, more power to him. At least his wife seemed cool with it, so she obviously knew what she was getting with that ring. It is their wedding after all, and not everyone is cool enough to riff the scene from November Rain.

I have only two questions:

What is the over/under on this guy being a Georgia Tech graduate?

What did he tweet from the first night of the honeymoon?

.

If You Cannot Afford an Attorney

The New Orleans Public Defender's office has said that, due to budget cuts, they are going to stop defending those idigents charged with crimes like rape and murder. This announcement may sound more like bombast than substance, but it ties into many important issues facing our criminal justice system from a policy standpoint.

My thoughts on this are rather extensive, and I hope our in-house attorney (Sprout) will share his thoughts on this matter as well.

While the knee jerk "My-tax-dollars-shouldn't-pay-for-criminal-defense" crowd will think this is a good thing, our legal system says quite another. Without access to a defense attorney, charges of rape and murder brought against indigents will have to be dropped. It doesn't matter if the DA's office is on the ball (finally) in getting cases together and prosectuing criminals. If there is no defender to represent them, a public defender if they cannot afford their own, they walk.

I have several thoughts on this issue.

First of all, this is why we have to take indigent defense seriously at all levels of government. This is one of those government responsibilities that should have concensus. Without adequate representation, our common law says we let those charged with crimes go, because we are a nation of laws. It is no wonder that entities with problems paying for indigent defense have deeply flawed criminal justice systems.

Second, shame on the Public Defender's office for playing politics with this issue. Especially if you plan to play politics in uncreative ways that agitate the general public and turn them against you. I have a gut feeling this is one of those plays to smear the City Council's stand on making the city budget work, which is why the statement itself is so inflammatory.

For example, if this was really about securing adequate funding for the Public Defender's office, instead of not defending major crime cases, they would state their intention to defend ONLY major crime cases, because that is the most supportive of public safety and in the interests of justice. Keep the system moving on the dangerous, high impact stuff.

Stop all defense of minor drug possession offenses, non-DUI traffic offenses or whatever non-violent municipal violations are taking up your work load. Let folks charged with non-violent offenses walk. That makes up the majority of your workload anyway, so cutting time spent in those areas would both endear you to the public (for prioritizing correctly) and strike back at the city that uses such offenses mainly to collect fines.

You'll also start emptying Orleans Parish Prison of minor offenders, freeing up space for those charged with major crimes.

(As an aside, this should be even more evidence that criminal prosecutions are prioritized inefficiently by the local system. That we go after non-violent offenders so hard in a violent crime plauged city suggests there is an underlying, foundational flaw.)

Third, where the heck is the state in all of this, as they are the ones who should be responsible for the Public Defender's budget?

Fourth, this is why social scientists talk about the "tiered" criminal justice system, where indigent defenders end up represented poorly in certain locales. It may not have to do with the dedication or ability of the public defender themselves, it has to do with not having enough hands on the work and hours in the day.

Such inefficiency at the hands of government undermines the interests of justice. With insufficient defense, innocent people can get convicted and guitly folks can have their convictions overturned on appeal (for insufficient defense). Credibility of the system becomes strained and this leads to an even less robust system.

Thoughts?

.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Benefits of Skepticism

This story sure does pull the heartstrings. In all kinds of directions.

People, pay attention. We have something called the "scientific method." We have it for a reason. It should be used whenever there is a supposed "miracle cure" for anything. This is also why we have "peer review" and "research universities."

We have to know the difference between snake oil and real medical advances. And we have to be able to accept that something may fall somewhere in between, where we are allowed to study limited utility to find out where something works for real, and where it is just make believe.

I hate to sound like a cold and heartless SOB, and I selfishly hope I never understand the simmering desperation of a parent whose child cannot communicate. How quickly must those parents swallow the faintest hint of hope for any form of normalcy?

But, at some point, we have to accept that there are still disadvantages and ailments that our current level of technology cannot relieve. We have to accept that sometimes our hopes will be dashed. We have to accept that sometimes, something just doesn't work. No matter how much we want to believe it will.


.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Um, whoops...

Yeah, about those carbon offset credits that the ManBearPig-In-Chief has been pandering at you to buy? Yeah, you might want to hold off on that purchase.

Seems a hacker got into the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit computers, and uploaded over 1000 incriminating files documenting that climate 'scientists' have been manipulating and hiding data that is counter to the 'global warming crisis' that OwlGore and others have been fueling their Gulfstreams on.

I'm sure that the MBP-I-C will have a perfectly reasonable explanation for all this, just as soon as we can figure out which country without an extradition treaty with the US he's hiding in...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Social Justice & Wages

It is unfortunate that the social justice aspect of the Catholic Church often goes ignored in today's soundbyte culture. Selling controversy is so much more successful for media's bottom line than actually investigating problems. Living in New Orleans and having a family with ties to Loyola University New Orleans keeps me up to date on social justice research I might not have come across.

Such as this Just South article on wage theft from the Jesuit Social Research Institue.

The report speaks for itself, but can also be applied to many other issues facing the country. Look at this through almost any problem facing our nation today, and you see where it fits into the puzzle.

For example, if you ever wanted to know the issues at the root of the illegal immigration situation, they are all spelled out in this report. Unscrupulous employers prefered illegals not because "they do work Americans won't" or because other demographics "refused to work hard," but because their legal standing makes them easier targets for exploitation.

This report also ties into the health care crisis and reasons for the recession.

Wage depression at this economic level reduces buying power and savings abilities of workers, and allows unscrupulous employers to appear more productive. That appearance leads to corruption of both individuals and business values. I can only imagine how this plays out in the bidding process for government contracts.

As far as health care is concerned, eliminating thousands in wages to workers at this economic level increases demands on ERs due to lack of preventative medicine.

This isn't the only puzzle piece, and fixing it won't be a silver bullet, but working against wage theft will be a big part of the solution as we rebuild our economy on a reality-based model.

.

Tears in Tigerland

Swigging tears of unfathomable sadness can be a lonely endeavor for an LSU fan more used to drinking any number of syrup-mixed-with-grain-alcohol options on Bourbon Street.

Luckily, they're Orleans-Parish-late to the party in this year's SEC. Us Dawg Fans in Tigerland salute your one-second-left-on-the-clock-spike, and will share another round with you before packing up the truck for Shreveport. At least you guys didn't lose to Kentucky. At home.

Best/worst LSU messageboard meme: "We need someone young and famous to die real quick." So all the TV's will stop talking about this. Unfortunately, one channel never will.

.

Fantastic Story

Local jam band helps bring business to Sandpiper Lounge on Louisiana Avenue.

Looks like the college kids are moving beyond the Boot. Don't worry, this is a good thing.

.

Beyond the Trestle

JMac from Athens has moved his blogging (yet again) to a new platform. He can now be found at Beyond the Trestle's new URL.

On an unrelated note, this housekeeping post is post number 1501 for Hurricane Radio.

.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Charter Schools ARE Better

They catch corruption quicker than public schools.

Maybe this complex and elusive "audit" concept, coupled with real, professional "accountants," can be used in other areas where government money or resources are involved. The ramifications of this discovery could be endless.

You could probably head off a lot of school system waste this way. Like when a staffer is using state vehicles for personal travel. Or when the human resources continues to pay individuals who no longer work for them, at the expense of individuals who do work for them. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in savings we could find, if only we apply "audits" and "accountants" across the board.

Hell, do you think this concept could work when applied to other government functions, not just in education?

I'm glad we have charter schools around as laboratories for best practices. We never would have figured this out on our own.

Next week: Will a charter school prove that the use of Excel spreadsheets can keep you better organized? What about calendars for the planning of future events? Can email speed communication? Stay tuned!

.

.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Going Away

Don't tell me, let me guess: This scene is the result of hundreds of liberal agitators just out to embarass Sarah "MHM" Palin.

And another question: why isn't the mainstream media reporting this story???


Palin/Nagin 2012. Chocolate Moose Party. T-Shirt Ideas welcome.

.

Good News All Around

The best way to reign in out-of-control, nonsensical bonuses for substandard Wall Street executives is to remind the firm's investors that the more money the masters of the universe make, the less money the investors make. You remember the investors, right? Those folks who put their cash up to risk so the masters of the universe can find ways to make the money make money.

Also, in a stunningly bipartisan move, US Rep. Ron Paul (R - Texas) got an amendment passed in Congress that would allow Congress to audit the Federal Reserve. This is a big, big win. While I'm not totally comfortable leaving the Fed at the whims of an organization that can alternately be controlled by the likes of Denny Hastert, Tom DeLay or Nancy Pelosi, such overwhleming success and support can only lead to deep reforms. Which are desperately needed.

.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Of Lawyers & Politics

On a note related to the last post, Sara at Going Through the Motions posts a fantastic treatise on the profession of law, and how it can relate to professions and politics.

Some good quotes in this one.

This is exactly how the free market is supposed to work--if someone is indefensibly injured or damaged by a corporation, the corporation pays. And if I am able to obtain dismissal of the case or keep the verdict/settlement low, then the case probably wasn't as meritorious is plaintiffs first believed.


Of course, with as many attorneys as I know, this is an important read. I am also forced to include the following graphic that only relates tangentially to the subject matter:




.

Taken Apart: ATL Style

Some rather interesting exchanges with the Atlanta blogs I read, all regarding the mayor's race in Atlanta (no pun intended).

This week the question surrounds the journalistic integrity of the Atlanta Progressive News (and outlet, I admit, I didn't hear of until blogs I read went after it.

Going Through the Motions started it, but now Drifting Through the Grift and Creative Loafing (Atlanta's version of the Gambit) are piling on.

Now comes the Loaf's response to APN's response.

.


.

Taken Apart

Hitchens dismantles Palin. One thing manufacturing a controversey will earn you is controversey. Just like playing professional victim will draw you even more scrutiny.

Even as Andrew Sullivan and the writers at the Daily Dish go silent to focus all their energy on investigating Palin's allegations, all this is just giving her what she wants.

Her supporters will hear none of the criticisms. They will accept exactly zero inconsistencies in any of her behaviors or words. The mere temerity on the parts of some to investigate and verify her words only serve to validate the worldview of the Palinites. She is persecuted because of their inquiry. They are persecuted because they support her. They are the "true Americans" who don't understand us fake Americans who do not adore her.

Her greatest political value isn't a policy plan - it is that she pisses liberals off.




.

Indexing Rogue

More fodder for Sarah "Media Hate Me" Palin's "Media Hate Me" narrative: Slate creates an index for her newly released book.

I'll have to print this out and run to Borders, just to verify the accuracy and/or context of a few things. Like:

Rock, Kid
________approval of as "pro-America" with "common sense ideas", 300



I mean, I have to know how this fits into her American life story.

(Sprout, let me know if you pick up a copy of this tome and please, please, please review it on your blog.)

.

Monday, November 16, 2009

These People

Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is enemy action.

An apartment building burned down in St. Bernard Parish, making 19 families homeless. There is instant speculation that arson was the cause. I don't like to jump to conclusions, but there is a context to look at here.

The Parish has been at the center of a racially charged post-Katrina/Levee Failures reconstruction situation. At one point, property owners were forbidden to rent units to anyone other than blood relatives, in a place where the overwhelming majority of property owners were white. Though later changed, now renting requires an arduous permitting process. Some renters have faced harassment and eviction. Several Parish ordinances have succesfully been challenged in Federal courts as discriminatory in effect and intention.

This is not the first arson on record. One property owner who applied for a renter's permit found her property burned down after the town meeting. Be sure the read the comments, if you think I'm taking this out of context.

...

I've held the thought recently that the Ft. Hood shooter's actions may have more to do with his psychological profile than his religion. He may yet prove to be a terrorist, but that description should follow from his actions and, more importantly, his intentions - not his religion. I think the individuals calling this an act of domestic terrorism are being premature.

This prematurity has not stopped many people from labeling the Ft. Hood shooter a domestic terrorist all over the airwaves and internets.

Because murder is murder is murder. Someone can be murdered over money, someone can be murdered over a political agenda or to strike fear into the hearts of a population. Deciding which murder equates to terrorism depends on the intent of the murderer.

Just like arson is arson is arson. A building can be burned down for insurance money, or a building can be burned down to run out those who live there, or strike fear into the hears of a certain population. Deciding which arson equates to terrorism depends on the intent of the arsonist.

I think the individuals calling the arson problem in St. Bernard domestic terrorism are being premature, even though there is a far more insidious pattern already established in this part of the world.

Though I do look forward to all the major news outlets, talk radio and pundits who will turn their investigative expertise onto this problem, what with their renewed interest in exploring the causes and effects of domestic terrorism right here at home in the USA. We wouldn't want political correctness to prevent us from seeing any warning signs, now, would we?

Me? I'm going to wait until all the facts come to light before drawing any conclusions.

.

Friday, November 13, 2009

One Hell of a Law & Order Episode

So, they're bringing the terrorists to New York for trial.

The biggest complaint from the neocon right? This decision will make the United States a target for future terrorist attack. Because invading two countries, secret prisons, and interrogations that are widely considered torture "kept us safe."

Actually prosecuting the terrorists? Too dangerous, they say. Can't have it.

You know, the neocons had many, many years to send these individuals up the river with military tribunals or courts martial. Justice could have already been done, and we'd be arguing the legal ramifications of it.

Instead, these terrorists have been sitting around in Cuba, neither "prisoners of war" nor "criminals" but "enemy combatants," a dithering legal definition cooked up by the deciders of Cheney and Bush to undermine international law as well as our own Constitution.

Because any intelligence of a clear and present danger to the United States and her allies was given up long ago, or has a utility so diminished as to be laughable weighed against the interests of the persuit of justice. So why wait, let's get on with the trial that had to happen at some point. Because it would have happened at some point. Nobody is going to forget who these guys are and what they did.

It is time the families had a little justice.

Trying the case in civilian court? I don't know how wise that is, I can only hope Holder doesn't screw this up, but I have to have faith. We squared away the Oklahoma City bomber. We handled the terrorists who tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. We've handled domestic terrorist organizations like the Klan and the Mob. And, though we used international courts, we've rid ourselves of plenty war criminals through legal means.

This ain't our society's first rodeo, is what I'm sayin'.

The problem, is how the past administration dithered on what to do with these individuals. Any decision could have been made, and the ramifications would now be academic. Instead, they just kept them around, waiting for some solution to present itself to fix this problem.

Now it is the new administration's problem. This is the change we voted for, the end of half-measures and the return to acting boldly and trusting in our laws.

.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Updating Blogroll Open Thread

I've made a lot of updates to the blogroll on the right. You'll notice many changes.

Let me know if there are any regularly updated blogs or websites I ought to add somewhere to the right. I know there is a lot of good writing that I'm not reading because of my schedule. Let me know (and let me know what section to put it under).

Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Thanks.

.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The One Twenty Theory

Like Florida Gators fans who don't believe college football was played before 1990, we now have a political equivalent.

.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

With a Wail of Sirens

An amazing post and touching read by Icarus at Peach Pundit. If there is only one link on this post you read, that should be the one.

Tip of the hat to Drifting Through the Grift.

Contrast that well thought out post to the rage you hear from others. We're going to read a lot of filth and hear a lot of bile on the radio in the coming days. The tragedy at Ft. Hood provides just another opportunity for right-wing demagouges to engage in the inferred justifications that drive their ratings and sell their advertising.

"The shooter is a Muslim therefore he is a terrorist," the meme will read. He may yet prove to be a terrorist, but his actions and motives will demonstrate that, not the religion he was born into.

In the end, I think that his psychological profile will likely demonstrate eerie similarities with such indivudals as Klebold & Harris, Cho, Zinkhan, Whitman. This killer, like so many, found some justifcation for violence in his internal dialouge, and he would have found it had he been born Protestant, Catholic, Jew or had become atheist. Ostracism, the perception of failure in the personal life, the warning signs unheeded, those who knew him looking back and wondering why they didn't say anything.

When I saw the Ft. Hood headline, I could almost write the profile down without looking. What religion or ideology do these justifications come wrapped in? How will this killer rationalize his actions? Call it "terrorism" if it helps you sleep better at night, ignoring the similarities between every other shooting spree our nation goes through year after year. What matters is the action, taking the lives of those who were going about their day a moment before, in the safety and routine of just another day.

What's worse, as soon as I heard the religion of the attacker, I could have written down the right-wing response just as quickly. Turn on almost any radio, pundit show or website, and you'll see it. You'll hear it. This broken record is skipping again. Hell, the interwebs are already drowning in sewage.

Because that's how we like to treat problems in our country - oversimplification, rationalization, and generalization followed by demonization of any who try to investigate any deeper. Heaven forfend we should ever look at something terrible, examine the circumstances and try to figure out what went wrong.

Monsters were always monsters, right?

.

Provincial Education

Barrow County principal forces resignation of 24 year old, female teacher for having private Facebook page, engaging in normal adult behavior and posting about it. And he tried to do it in an underhanded way. No mention of any job-related performance issues, this is completely related to her private life.

In a just world, this principal would be have his job immediately terminated because he obviously is not focused on what actually goes on at his school, and is spending too much time stalking his employees on Facebook.

In other news, right-wing darling, victim of left-wing agenda, morally upstanding role model Carrie Prejean admits to making suggestive video for an ex-boyfriend while she was 17 years old, but adds publicly that she was not engaged in "sex" on tape.

.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Stupak - Pitts & You

Liprap, Dangerblond & I have been at it today over the Stupak - Pitts Amendment to the House health care reform bill. Lots of folks think that Stupak is a huge blow to women's reproductive rights. I think it provides exactly zero change from the current status quo.

I've been directed to read several of the thousands of partisan descriptions of what damage Stupak will cause, but I don't really need to read much more into it than the text of the amendment itself to know what I need to know.

...No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.


I missed where any current federal subsidies are authorized or appropriated to cover any elective pregnancy terminations under our current way of doing things. I know for damn sure the GOP Congress didn't authorize or appropriate any such subsidy between 1994 and 2006, and I'd bet a well-appointed Texas ranch that Ol' Dubya never approved of any such thing between 2000 and 2008.

And call me crazy, but I'm sure Obama and the Dems in Congress didn't sneak something like that by us in the last 9 months.

So pardon me while I don't get too excited over an amendment that changes nary a part of the status quo. And you know why I'm really not worried about it? The amendment won't mean one damned thing in regards to women's reproductive rights. You know why? Because now, this bill will not be passed, will not be reconciled and will not be signed into law.

Bet you wish we'd signed onto that "line item veto" thing now, hunh?

The GOP and insurance comapanies should kiss the toejam of Stupak's feet, because he killed health care reform to the sound of rousing applause of the now self-destructing pro-reform party while bringing exactly zero blowback on the opposition.

I blame Nancy Pelosi, who probably won't realize the magnitude of this until she's being voted out of the Speaker's chair in late 2010.

I mean, the writing was on the wall as early as September that health care reform will fail if this issue wasn't resolved.

You might notice who isn't complaining - insurance companies. One would wonder why that is.

Oh, yeah, and now Big Media breathlessly realizes this is a juicy controversy with which to sell advertising. Get ready, because the week is young and the meme is just getting started.

Big thoughts? This is why I laugh at sky-is-falling types. Right wingers went apeshit Saturday night when the House bill passed (I mean, they've been going apeshit for a while now, but the volume had kinda slacked off recently because I guess they thought they had this thing beat). It passed and the chorus of "OH NOES!11!111!! TEH SOCIALIZMZ!!1!" plastered all over my Facebook feed and radio waves. I guess they really don't understand the legislative process in the first place and the theory of the Democratic circular firing squad in the second.

Because no sooner had the cheering stopped echoing around the House on their historic "victory" than you could hear the locking and loading of intraparty strife weaponry gearing up to sink any chance at health care reform for the next generation.

Frankly, I'm surprised they made it this far. Since I get most of my news from Slate, I reckon I was more prepared for this than most. They've been talking about this for months.

For example, one resolution (floated in August) to the intraparty strife is to create a private, non-profit organization dedicated to supporting elective pregnancy terminations for women at or below, say 200% of the federal poverty level. Matter of fact, why doesn't an organization like that exist already? Women & progressive allies saying "Sinn Fein" and taking care of other women?

Kinda like progressives getting together, saying "screw the government" and starting up our own health care non-profit co-op. Getting our "pro-reform" legislators to remove roadblocks for such would be far easier than passing a 1,900 page "comprehensive health care plan" that no group of reformers can get together to pass legislatively.

But I guess if you've got to learn a lesson (like the GOP 2006 - 2008), learn it in spectacular fashion while everyone is watching.

Because get your popcorn. This is gonna be messy, public, and very, very loud.

.

Generations

I grew up dreaming of nuclear winters. Books like Children of the Dust and Airship 9, movies like Red Dawn gave these dreams their images. The nighly news gave those dreams their framework.

Then, 20 years ago tonight, everything changed. It was the end of so much more than the Cold War, but the end of hostilities that first began in 1914. Events that night seemed to wash away the past and sweep me up into the dreams of a promising future. This news seemed so unreal, few people looked too hard for the "why," lest we ask questions too loudly and wreck that which had taken a life of its own.

Tonight, as old rivals and new leaders gather in Berlin to knock down symbolic dominos painted by schoolchildren, I think about the generation that has come since that night, and why it would be difficult to explain these things to them.

The lamps went out all over Eurpoe in 1914, and Edward Grey never saw them again during his lifetime. It is humbling to be a part of the generation that saw those lamps lit again.

.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Storm Warnings



This is not welcome news. I knew Ida was out there in the Caribbean, but you'd think that this late in the year, weather patterns would have shredded all organization from any tropical system to have already hit land once.

Keep a weather eye on the horizon...

.

Health Care Alternatives

Well, we'll see what happens in health care today in the decisions of the House of Representatives. My money would bet the under, take the status quo and the points. Reform of big industry comes hard in this country, especially when the "plans" of reform are so difficult to wrap your head around.

That being said, I ran across an interesting post by Steve2 at Alexandria (a group blog that DADvocate contributes to from time to time).

The question is: in our free market, why hasn't anyone tapped into the discontent with our current health care providers with a super-low cost health option. The author likens this to WalMart health care. The need and market is certainly there, and one of the strengths of free-market economies is the rise of entreprenuers to fill holes in the market.

As I've stated before, if there is even one dollar to be made, our culture's entreprenuers will create a business to compete for it. So why is there no movement to capitalize on the dollars that folks would spend on discount health care or insurance?

I don't know the answer to that question, but I do know one thing: if health care reform fails today in the House, liberals and progressives would do well to begin seeking non-government, market based alternatives to the health care crisis. Use the freedoms of our system to begin driving the prices down and forcing big insurance to compete for customers.

If they can't pass wholesale health reform with their current political capital, we have to look for other ways to get at this problem. Liberals and progresives should find a way to make health insurance co-ops easier to start. They should start finding a way to lower the costs of becoming nurses and doctors, and progressive activists should start looking to actually become nurses and doctors (as the right wing decided to do years ago in response to Roe vs. Wade). Tax breaks and development grants could encourage the creation of non-profit community clinics so doctors and nurses could still make money without serving corporate interests.

Thoughts?

.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Non-Profits & Property Taxes

Don't non-profits already pay property taxes?

Churches own property, do they pay property taxes? What about private schools? What about charter schools? What about state universities that keep buying up land? What about thrift stores?

And how big a hit would paying property taxes be to non-profit organizaitons that owned property? How do you assess the property value of a non-profit organization?

A Georgia State Court of Appeals ruling now forces me to ask these questions that I never really examined much before.

The long and short of the case is that an Athens non-profit, Nuci's Space, collects money by renting out music practice spaces, instruments, recording time, event space for parties and concerts, and selling beverages to patrons during events. A new county ordinance labels this as "commercial activity," despite the fact that providing below-cost services is both a part of their mission, and any significant money they make from those transactions support the other part of their mission of service -providing mental health counseling to local musicians who have no means of acquiring health care. (Yes, I am a huge Nuci's Space fan, and wish we had anything similar to this in New Orleans) Most of their income arrives from donations and grants, but they do own the Downtown Athens property in which they are housed.

So, of course, the county wants to put the screws to this organization that helps fuel and support one of Athens' more dynamic city brands (that as a music scene).

But what of my questions? If a church isn't already paying property taxes, but they make money renting out their facility for these things called "weddings," can they now have their property taxed becasue they "engage in commercial activity?" What if they engage in bake sales or car washes, even if the purpose of those events is to raise money for church trips or mission work?

Looking down the road, how will this affect major donations and grants that non-profits seek, now that funding organizations know part of their award will have to go to the county? Especially if the funding organizaiton is a state or federal source?

Lot of worms comin' out of this can. Stay tuned.

HT: JMac at Beyond the Trestle.

.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Everything Looks Tougher in "Oktoberfest Germanic"

Blogging from Island City in preparation for the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (not actually going to the game, but watching from St. Simons Island surrounded by family and friends is always a treat), I came across this brutal Georgia/Florida comparison on EDSBS.

You don't have to know a thing about football to enjoy that link, I promise.

Furthermore, and on a strange Halloween/Emergency Preparedness Note, that post reminded me to share the fact that the University of Florida may be the only major state university in the country to have an emergency preparedness plan in the event of zombie infestation. Which may be the only good thing there is to say about the University of Florida.

(HT: MSNBC)

.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Trainwreck "Specter"cle

I just saw some polling for Arlen Specter's reelection and thought it worth posting since I've made some rather strong predictions on the subject. I wonder if he can see the train coming. I'm not sure it would make a difference but does he see his own marginalization? Sestak is gaining tons of ground without even getting his hands dirty. To me the most interesting numbers are the general election comparisons. Against Sestak, Toomey gets 28%. Against Specter, he gets 31%. That means that out of the undecided voters, 3% sure as hell aren't voting Specter. That number has nowhere to go but up unless something drastic happens. And nothing drastic will happen.

Band Aids as Infrastructure

What all has to happen for this country to start taking infrastructure seriously?

Though the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland is closed indefinitely, at least it didn't straight up collapse (like some levees or other bridges you may have heard about recently).

The telling quote is this one: "The rod that fell Tuesday was erected last month during an emergency repair job. It was holding in place a saddle-like cap that had been installed over a cracked link discovered over the Labor Day weekend."

Glad to know this problem was caused by trying to quick-fix another problem.

Is this how we do things now? Risk a "5,000 lb piece steel falling out of the sky" during the evening commute becasue we don't have the stones to properly maintain and fix things when problems arise? Doesn't anyone remember the "stich in time" saying?

You know why the decision was made for a quick fix in the first place. A REAL fix would cost a lot of money, and cause significant inconvenience. Government spending money is bad. Inconveniencing commuters is also poltically unpopular.

How's that working out for you now, folks?

.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Welcome, Uhh, NetRightNation Readers!

Portal to the conservative blogosphere....

Don't quite know what to think of this, but the Ray Nagin Coloring book post showed up on the NetRightNation "state blogs" section.

Under Alaska.

I guess you could color me confused. Maybe something Dante or SAWB wrote on other posts pinged some algorithim they use to search for right wing blogs.

I'm in OK company, though, I saw Your Right Hand Thief's post on Scabies on the same spot. Except his was under the "state blogs" section. For New York.

.

Voting Republican Again?

Dammit. Looks like I might be voting for a Republican candidate again soon. This happens almost every time I go to a voting booth.

I mean, I identify as a Democratic Party member. I'm registered as a Democratic voter. I've been a participating member of a County Democratic Party back in Georgia. I try to be as big a partisan hack that I can in everything I do, as evidenced by my moonbat ravings on this blog. I discreetly work at Super Secret Liberal Takeover Headquarters.

And yet.

I don't see any party affiliation listed on her campaign website. But from what I hear, she's GOP. We'll have to see.

Because I'd much rather have positive, real action like this than deal with nonsense like this. Regardless of party affiliation.

.

Conservatism, Con't.

Icarus at Peach Pundit examines the modern state of conservatism as an ideology by pointing to this column by Jay Bookman, that also examines the modern state of conservative ideology.

Both are fantastic reads, if you follow any politics at all.

One major point, especially in Bookman's column, is that conservatives are better suited to be out of power than in power. This isn't a new observation. Fellow HR contributor Dante has often noted the strenght of the GOP as an opposition party.

Also, be sure to note the Bookman & Peach Pundit comments point that "Ronald Reagan would be considered a liberal by modern conservatives."

That says a whole lot in and of itself.

.

Ray Nagin Coloring Book

SAWB just forwarded me this link from CBS News. How have I not heard of this before? Brilliant.

I noticed on the webpage that Hizzoner's coloring book is part of a sort-of series, the first installment being the George W. Bush coloring book. I bet C. Ray will look on this as a victory, as it keeps his "brand" out there.

A telling quote from the article: "Nearly 4,000 Nagin-related T-shirt and gift designs are available at the Web site CafePress.com, a figure that puts Nagin on par with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and indicted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich."

What fine satirical company our mayor keeps! Palin/Nagin 2012! No wonder he takes off to foreign lands every chance he gets.


.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Entropy & Development

Jeffrey at Library Chronicles links to this op-ed on the Jack O'Lantern effect in New Orleans.

The Jack O'Lantern effect occurs when a neighborhood that was once dense and fully populated ends up with only a few homes surrounded by vacant lots (like a traditional Jack O'Lantern smile). It is reasonable to expect that this would happen in New Orleans after the flood, due to the lack of dynamism in the Crescent City economy on the one hand, and the inconsistencies of various recovery plans and funding mechanisms on the other.

And that is before race and politics enter the conversation, as Jeffrey reminds us: "At the time of the "footprint debate", people were still openly fantasizing about cleansing the city of "undesirable" residents."

After reading that, I found a Daily Dish link to this article on Detroit as an urban laboratory.

With pictures helpfully illustrating the Jack O'Lantern effect in Detroit.

The Detroit article goes further to boost and illustrate the prospective bright spots of having a major urban center empty out, but I'm not sure urban agriculture or urban hunting grounds are sustainable. That's the cynic in me though, I absolutely respect these folks' creativity to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.

One thing that really caught my eye were the real estate prices. Folks in Detroit buying houses at $500 - $2000? The article goes on to explain what buyers are able to do when housing is that cheap.

Hearing such things, I can only think of the history of places like Athens, Georgia, where the urban core's real estate value plummeted with the opening of malls and loss of population to sprawl. The value loss made things more affordable for artists, musicians, writers and the like to move in. You could afford to live somewhere while going to school, waiting tables and spending long nights awake in your studio. Bolder souls opened bars and music venues and galleries, but not the chic "gentrification" style you usually think of when you hear that.

There is a reason Athens became a burgeoning center for creativity, culture and the arts. Hell, I remember sharing band practice space in a giant warehouse on the edge of downtown. The University of Georgia's College of Art rented part of that building for senior art studios. UGA eventually went ahead and bought the whole building, renovating it for their own purposes. Artists and musicians migrated to other parts of town, again, where the rents were cheapest and the noise complaints were fewest.

From conversations with folks in New Orleans, it sounds like that sort of dynamic used to be at play here. Unfortunately, NOLA is bucking the trend. Yes, there are Jack O'Lantern neighborhoods. Yes, there is an overabundance of blighted and wrecked property. Yes, the same city footprint holds almost 130K less people.

But rents and property values here are through the roof, making life harder for the creative classes (or at least the ones I talk to). It doesn't stop there, also affecting the students, the young couples, regular working class putting food on the table and the folks who would be the foundation of our Mom & Pop business class.

Doubtless, this city's culture sustains a self perpetuating group of artists, writers, musicians and the like who have always and will continue to buck the odds. But one wonders what types of things we would see if the pressure valve was released just a little.

And because I would love to find a practice space that doesn't involve a commute to Kenner. I weep whenever I see underutilized warehouses in the Marigny and Bywater, with no sound of horns or drums generated within.

One last thought on the article comes from these two quotes, which seem to place NOLA on par with Chicago, at least in the "efficiency" of government realm:

"In many cities where strong city government still functions effectively, citizens are tied down by an array of regulations and permits that are actually enforced in most cases."

I wouldn't call that "strong" government functioning "effectively," because this happens in plenty of cities, large and small, with dysfunctional governments whose civil service staff thinks they might gain some advantage to stifling citizen creativity (or at least increase some sort of fee to the city coffers). None of that behavior fixes the streets. Hence our discordant public discourse with respect to the role of government, it always seems to engage in that which angers citizens most effectively.

"In most cities, municipal government can't stop drug dealing and violence, but it can keep people with creative ideas out."

Entropy is a product of time and use, but also of misplaced priorities.

.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Traditional Americans

Sometimes a memory only sees what it wants to believe - Black Crowes

Andrew Sullivan points us to this rabble-rousing post from Pat Buchannan.

Quick question, Patty, what America, specifically, do you come from? Is it the one where Christianity was "purged" from schools that taxpayers paid for in exchange for some other religion? Or was it the America that removed religion so Protestant kids didn't have to be exposed to Catholic prayer? Maybe it was the one where children weren't allowed to go to school based on the color of their skin? Perhaps the one where half the population fled areas where this "integration" thing was supposed to take place, and took their tax dollars with them?

Is it the America that sees its Christian faith mocked in movies and television, or is it the America that won't stop flocking to such puerile movies, paying $10 a ticket, and then spends the same money the next week watching a moview where grown men get kicked in the balls and have sex with applie pie? But not too late on a Saturday night 'cause they got to be at church on Sunday?

Maybe that's the America that feels the need to prove how faithful they are to other believers by raising giant Ten Commandments monuments and crosses all over public lands, the "Christian" version of balloon boy's father - doing what they can to turn controversey into a paycheck?

And let's talk about all those shuttered factories being shipped off overseas. Those were great places to work back in "traditional America," weren't they? Oh, how we miss those heady days of child labor, no regulation to speak of and being beaten while asking for better pay and working conditions. What about other industries? What ever happened to the idyllic fields of sharecroppers and the honest day's work boring holes into the West Virginia mountains, dying early from broken backs or blackened lungs?

Oh, you mean more recent than that? I guess we should ask the blacks and the women how they felt about getting paid less than co-workers, if they were able to get those jobs at all.

I reckon that in Buchannan's "traditional America," illegal aliens didn't just walk into America and live high on the hog. No, "back in the day" they had to get jobs in the aforementioned factories and fields and mines, with the same "access" to poor educational conditions and overcrowded emergency rooms that other at-risk populations had access to. All the while, they had no legal recourse if, say, their foreman paid them a pittiance or subjected them to terrifying, dangerous and inhumane working conditions all in violation of US law.

No, we've lost that tradition these days, haven't we? It is so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

And the thing "traditional Americans" have the most to be upset about is the "affirmative action" of Barack and Michelle Obama. You know, the rules that said Obama got to start off election night with 35 more electoral votes than John McCain.

"Traditional Americans" don't need affirmative action. They live by the sweat of their brow alone, in the solemn dignity that comes from NOT being part of a demographic systematically, culturally and legally denied educational, economic and political opportunity for at least 400 years. No, the last 50 years of freedom (which all those good "traditional Americans" welcomed with open arms and smiling faces - not police dogs and fire hoses) should have erased the previous 4 centuries by now.

Get a grip, Patty. The only tradition we Americans have is that of constant change. Things may not be good right now, but they are for some folks. When the folks who have it good look back on these days, their memories will be fond. That's the point, there's not really a time anywhere in the past where it was truly peachy for everyone all at once. In every era from colonization to now, you've got some folks having the time of thier lives, and some folks mired in everything bad society had to offer at the time.

But we keep marching forward, as clumsy as we are, usually looking back to where we were as the idyllic place we left.

It is because we don't like to think about how ugly the past really is. The all-good, traditional America of which you speak never existed. That feeling of loss you have is the same one you felt when momma and daddy told you the truth about Santa Claus.

.

Fox in the Henhouse

More folks are giving Fox News the business this week.

At any other network, accusation of bias might even lead to some soul-searching and behavioral adjustment. At Fox, by contrast, complaints of unfairness prompt only hoots of derision and demands for "evidence" and "proof," which when presented is brushed off and ignored.


But Fox News finds an unlikely fan in the form of JMac at Beyond the Trestle.

In the end, I think we ought to just call Fox News what it really is, which is a very savvy business model that has a built-in base of viewers and guaranteed ad revenues.


What really works is simply not watching the 24 hour news cycle, and its all encompassing focus on Washington D.C., New York City, and today's scandal du jour. At this point, news is so infused with useless punditry that I get more information I didn't previously know from the likes of Lou Holtz and Mark May on College Football Gameday. I have more important things to do than watch talking heads make fun of other talking heads at rival networks while calling the conversation "news."

.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Parallelocandygram



Jeffrey at the Yaller Blog continues his comparison between former President George "Ol' Dubya" Bush and soon to be former Mayor C. "Stands for Cuba" Ray Nagin.


You might think the only common trait between "Heckuva job, Brownie" and "Chocolate City" is the fact that Republicans worked tirelessly to get both re-elected, but there's more. Similarities go beyond delicious instant baked goods, as well.

I had never seen the striking graphic before today, but it is priceless.

.

Some Things Will Never Change

Just when we're sheltered under paper, the rockets come at us sideways.
- Meat Puppets


Finally, someone writes a truthful, easy to read article about missile defense.

The bottom line? Strategic Missile Defenses Don't Work.

The caveat? Strategic Missile Defenses Make the World More Dangerous.

That's really the most simplistic explanation of this subject that I can come up with. The article goes on to describe why.

So, why is Obama supporting any type of missile defense even as he dismantles Ol' Dubya's lunatic money hole of international destabilization? His plan calls for a missile defense sytem that is less expensive and more mobile, but has the same problems of "being ineffective" and "making things more dangerous."

One word answer: politics.

There is a lot of government money, and lobbying, tied up in missile defense. That dog has been barking for a lunatic money hole of international destabilization since the Reagan years, trying to fatten someone's bottom line. The only real good we have out of it is the increase in missile technology and radar that have been developed because of the program.

Obama also realizes that, at some point, Republicans more beholden to missile defense ideology (money) will be back in office.

With the technology advances being good, but the deployment proving problematic, Obama wants to set up a vehcile for missile defense investment that is less expensive and less destabilizing.

There is also the "Democrats want America to be weak" meme, propogated by partisan hacks, moneyed defense interests and sustained by individuals unfamiliar with the terms stability, rationality and reality. By keeping some form of missile defense, Obama hopes to quiet at least some of those voices.

.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bicycle Diaries

I wonder what it would be like to live in a city with actual, enforceable bicycle laws. This article in Slate got me thinking about riding bikes, and how we handle it in the South.

As a disclaimer, I grew up on ridiculously bike-friendly St. Simons Island. The locals knew that their bread was buttered on the side of easy living and margarita drinking, and took steps to ensure tourists and locals would be able to move freely from condo to beach without needing a car to do so. Public dollars were spent either widening the bicycle/pedestrian paths that already existed or putting in new ones.

Thus began my animosity towards "pro-bike" culturalistas who constantly eschewed the bicycle path to ride in the middle of narrow two lane roads at all hours of the day. While I can excuse racing bikes who haul ass and don't want to run the risk of running down the dog-walking population of a retirement community, I became livid when the casual cyclist from some northern state would lazily troll down the middle of my lane all helmets, child seats and orange flags a flutter.

I have seen similar behavior exhibited on the streets of New Orleans. As if we didn't have enough bad drivers around this city, we have to deal with an increasing number of bad bicyclists.

For example. Prytania, Magazine and Freret are all too narrow for the existing two lanes of auto traffic and on street parking for either side. Drivers on these streets constantly plow into parked vehicles. Those drivers maintaining the road usually have to cross the center line for whatever reason to avoid obstacles in their own lanes. And yet, each of these roads lies within a street grid where a lower traffic, parallel road exists just a block away.

Now, from one bicyclist to another, why is there any reason whatsoever to add to this automotive chaos a bicycle? I ride all over the city, and have never had the need to stay on any of those three streets for more than a block.

Next example? Esplanade Avenue. There are some parts of this street where bikes don't really have a choice, as several streets nearby run at odd angles. But Esplanade is two lanes on either side, so there is room for most of the route (there are some bottlenecks). But there is still on street parking, people entering and exiting vehicles, traffic moving left to avoid you on your bike, and other cyclists trying to pass your swerving nonsense to the left.

From one bicyclist to another, how is it acceptable to be texting someone while in transit on a bike? On a rough road? With moving traffic and pedestrians all around? As if this wasn't dangerous enough. I ride all over the city, and I get texts and calls all the time while riding. Do you know what I do? I PULL THE F OVER if I need to take the call.



.

Express Lane Catholicism

It is interesting that the Vatican would make it easier for disaffected Anglicans to become Catholic, but mainly from a technical theological standpoint. What it really demonstrates is how good the Holy See's public relations staff has gotten at this point, when a shuffle of Church bureaucratic proceedures makes headline news.

Notice the attempt to manufacture controversey between Catholics and Anglicans on the one hand, and the attempt to stir the culture war "this is about homosexuals" meme on the other.

All in all, this is a notable change in Church circles, but I wonder if it will affect any more than a few thousand people worldwide.


.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Until He Is Dead, Dead, Dead

Because we shouldn't have to suffer this individual to live. Good on the St. Tammany prosecutors office, for denying the plea deal that would have given him life in prison.

.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Unintended Consequences

I guess if Johnny Depp got himself a multi-million dollar pirate themed franchise out of Disney, the proposed pirate-themed museum in the great, historical seaport of DOWNTOWN ATLANTA shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to anyone.

Though folks who grew up in the Golden Isles (where Blackbeard buried treasure), down the coast from Savannah (a city that had to worry about actual, you know, pirates back in the day) might take that a little out of sorts. I guess the plannin' folks couldn't find any better place in the whole state of Georgia for a pirate museum.


I'm just sayin'.




.

Clumsy

in case you realize that sometimes you're just not OK, you level off, you level off, you level off. But its not alright now. You need to understand, there's nothing strange about this. - Our Lady Peace

Ready for Tennessee hangover week to be over, hoping it doesn't snowball into an orange Tennessee hangover season. We do this by....going back to Tennessee.

Doug at Hey, Jenny Slater! has your preview.

I'll only be rooting for one team in Black & Gold this weekend.


.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Interrupt this Program

I was watching/listening to the Obama town hall meeting at UNO when the sound cut out. Thinking I'd lost the connection, I flipped on the browser window. There was a screen of a video camera outside of an aircraft, with the voice of someone cursing and looking for something in the sky.

This was a little unnerving. I wondered what program would break in.

I'm pretty sure it was news of a six year old taking off in his family's baloon aircraft.

I hope this story has a happy ending.

.

Can You Hear Me Now?

First of all, let me be clear:

Yes, he's only been in office 10 months. Yes, he visited the city as a Senator and a Candidate. Yes, the vast majority of New Orleanians were startving for change, and drank deeply from the glass half full of promise and ideas of an Obama Presidency.

When the electoral votes were counted, I danced on the corner of Broad Street and Bayou Road with Vietnam veterans and Mardi Gras Indians.

In those 10 months, we have seen much positive change as a nation. I absolutely believe we are moving in the right direction after the last 8 years of absolute lunacy. I have constantly enumerated why. I also absolutely believe this will take time. I was never one to think that Obama had superhuman abilities, and I knew patience would be required. I will not be disappointed by this Administration's national moves, unlike some liberals to my left.

All that being said, I expected him to take New Orleans more seriously than a a 3 hour, 45 minute visit, with takeout from Dooky's Chase.

I mean, if you aren't even in town long enough to visit the restaurant for your gumbo, can you even really say you've been to New Orleans?

And, what about Mississippi? You're their President too, whether they like it or not.

If the GOP ever wanted to have an issue where they could point out where "Change" and "Hope" were just a marketing strategy, they don't need to make up stuff about health care reform or the stimulus, they just have to point to the federal efforts in the recovery of New Orleans.

However, they won't. They'll keep going back to the well of fantasy-land death panels and birth certificates, because an indictment of Democrats on New Orleans is an indictment against Republicans as well. Politics are about partisan gain right now, not about actually fixing things.

I've said it before, and I will say it again: New Orleans is THE crisis point for domestic issues. Public education problems? Check. Infrastructure falling apart? Bingo. Health care crisis? You betcha. Environmental disaster? In droves. Crime? Yup. Weak metal health facilities? We got that. Housing crisis (of a different nature)? Check. Incompetent federal social programs? Yessir. At-risk race relations? And how. The list could go on.

The problems here are cultural as well as political, so if you can fix them, hell, just show foundational improvement, you have a blueprint for taking on what ails the rest of the nation.

About the only "change" New Orleans has seen in a positive light is the reappointment of US Attorney Jim Letten. He's been the vanguard against the public corruption since the Bush administration. Obama ignored partisan politics and kept him in his position, which was a welcome change from the overpolitization of the Department of Justice under Bush. I was hoping, and still hope, to see more of this type of pragmatism.

There are still things to do, and sending cabinet secretaries (like Arne Duncan's visit charter schools that did not flood) or stopping in for takeout will not give an accurate assessment of what is going on here. The fundraiser in California is important, but not as important as this city.

Updates: Cliff has a more reasoned and patient view of the President's visit.

Leigh C wonders if people are too busy making goo-goo eyes at the adored President to ask the important questions.

Tim knows what he'd like to have heard. (Thanks for the Tweet! I was wondering where those links were coming from.)



.