Monday, August 31, 2009

American Zombie Reveals Identity

Our society's Global War On the Messengers (GWOM) continues. Because it is always easier to go after someone talking about the problem than to actually fix the problem...

Local blogger identifies himself while facing libel litigation.

With the MSM concerned with entertaining rather than real reporting, the burden for keeping public officials honest falls to whoever has the wherewithal to do it. But if you choose to do so, watch out! There are many legal tools the status quo can use against you.

I'm sure there will be much more to this developing story.

Now all we need is a "Support Our Zombies" ribbon.


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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Honore for Senate?

A real, pragmatic conservative with a military history and a track record of competency? Count me a fan. Bonus? He'd be the only African-American Creole in the Senate. And he'd be from the South.

This is the kind of individual that can bring the GOP back from crazy land. Will they go for The General or will they stay with the ineffective, scandal-prone, partisan hackery of Vitter? The answer to that question will determine a lot about the GOP in 2010.

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Blame it on the Preservationists?

I guess the "blame-the-teachers-for-the-state-of-schools" argument was so successful, folks are now taking up a "blame-the-preservationists-for-the-state-of-disrepair." This has been going on for a little while, but the article is a large pointing finger.

"Please pay attention only to the preservationists," goes the narrative. "Blight has nothing to do with different contracting rules for contractors recieving FEMA money and contractors recieving block grant money," they say. No mention at all about how "well" that block grant money was handled last time.

The narrative also does not discuss the obviously tremendous absentee/neglectful landlord problem in this city. It is one thing when an owner is having trouble quickly restoring a primary residence, it is another thing entirely when the owner is stalling the process until large planned developments increase the value of the property years from now.

Brunswick, Georgia had a tremendous blight problem eroding its stock of historic homes. Their new mayor and city council went to work - identifying problem structures, contacting owners, and giving the owners a reasonable but not dragging timeframe in which to respond (six months). Then they set about proceedings to acquire and demolish blighted structures in order to allow for updated buildings accessible to low and moderate income families. (Example of a working city plan (PDF))

Brunswick is much smaller than New Orleans, but they have been able to pull off historic preservation while removing or remediating blight and increasing housing and homeownership opportunities for low and moderate income families. This can be done.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Don't Go Easy



For its the end of history
caged and frozen still
there is no other pill to take
so swallow the one
that makes you ill

-Rage Against the Machine

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rationality & Sex Crimes

Major tip-of-the-hat to GriftDrift, who compiled the following links you should read.

While the nation is shocked, and will continue to be shocked at the horrific case of kidnapping and sex slavery coming out of California, we are again called to try and understand why some sex offenders are ever let out of jail and why it is so difficult to keep up with them.

Helpfully, the State of Georgia provides quite a good example. We don't track dangerous sex offenders well because we are too busy tracking people who aren't really sex offenders.

Yup. Let that sink in for a moment.

Right now, dangerous sex predators roam the streets of the Peach State, while someone who made a bad decision as a teenager sits in jail because she can't make her $10,000 bond. Worst part of this? The sex crime she was convicted of IS NO LONGER A CRIME IN GEORGIA THAT REQUIRES REGISTRATION AS A SEX OFFENDER.*

Most people registered as sex offenders aren't really sex offenders as the term is usually defined by the public. When you hear that a "registered sex offender" has moved to your neighborhood, you think the worst: child molester, rapist, felon. You don't think, "teenager having sex with another teenager," "public urinator" or "individual who visits prostitutes." Yet, that's the majority of "sex offenders" in our nation.

Once such a determination is made, Georgia (and many other states, to be fair) then spend millions tracking and legislating the lives of these people. This is expensive and time consuming. The bigger the floor, the more cracks. The more cracks, the more a determined predator is able to get through them, and wreck some child's and some family's life forever.

An official state agency admitted that, of Georgia's 17,000 registered sex offenders, only 30% were potentially threatening, only 5% were clearly dangerous. "Just over 100" were considered "predators."

Which individuals would you want your state to focus the majority of its legislation and law enforcment capability on?

Oh. You don't believe me? You think I've officially jumped the shark and am advocating or excusing the worst behaviors imaginable? Quit your inferred justification.

I want law enforcement and legislators to coordinate their practices most effectively to make society safer from legitimate threats. This is no boo-hoo rehabilitation-based progressivism on my part, this is about using government resources where they are the most effective and eliminating inefficiencies that directly lead to the harm of children and citizens.

Update: A fantastic open letter to Governor Perdue from Icarus at Peach Pundit.

Update 2: The original post stated this as "NO LONGER A CRIME IN GEORGIA." This type of activity is still a crime under sodomy statutes in certain instances based on age. However, most of these crimes are considered misdemeanors now instead of felonies, and some misdemeanors do not require registration as a sex offender. No one writing the law, however, seemed to understand the concept of ex post facto, to extend the new rules to crimes already on the books.

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Disappointment Is

Lots of cities have blight problems. Lots of cities have school problems. But what happens when they are one in the same? New Orleans has 40 school buildings boarded up and mouldering, and being caught at the crossroads of ineffective government is only keeping the problem around.

The buildings were in bad shape before the flood. They are in worse shape after the flood. They are in even worse shape now that nothing has been done to them for 4 years. Why not? Because Feds, state and local officials are still haggling over how much damage was done, and how much federal aid that damage qualifies for, and where the money for remediation will come from.

Until that decision is made, neither the locals nor the state can demolish the buildings. Doing so would remove many chances of recieving remediation money. Without the remediation money, the buildings cannot be effectively renovated. I don't know if this would be considered a "donut hole" or a "catch-22" but I do know that it is all FUBAR.

If I was a health care reform opponent, looking to promote the idea that government cannot fix anything, I'd have my ass down in New Orleans with a camera and a pile of FOIA requests.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

How To Destroy a School System

I meant to post this earlier in the week. Oh, if only all news stories were as well done as this one, newspapers wouldn't be a laughing stock.

Jefferson and co. did far more damage than $90,000 in a freezer. And what happened wasn't the fault of a single teacher, new or experienced. How scary is this? I'd wager you can find this type of behavior all around the country, but no one cares to look.

One other thing: when the prosecutions geared up, a lot of apologists claimed that this had something to do with race. That the white power structure was going after successful black citizens. Not much was made about how damaging this behavior was to the primarily at-risk black youth the defrauded school system served.

Progressives, Tea Party attendees, whoever you are, if you want to make government more effective, make sure your tax dollars aren't being wasted, ensure your community enjoys prosperity, and promote true equality - don't spend all your time complaining about all the national stuff far, far away. Go down the street to your local school board and start getting involved. It will provide the greatest return on your investment of time and activism.

(HT: American Zombie.)

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Inferred Justification

Newsweek is currently running several articles on lying. Not surprisingly, one article decides to explore why people believe lies in our political arena. This being Newsweek, and the national debate being what it is, one author takes on the lies at the heart of the health care "debate" and uses the "Iraq ties to 9/11" research as a basis.

Of course, this doesn't tell us much we don't already know. (Or, if it does, it will be dismissed outright for reasons the article explains....)

Liberal bias aside, the "inferred justification" part is what I find most interesting. People believe whatever they want, and then search for things to back up those beliefs. They disregard information contrary or challenging to things they believe. This has far reaching effects for policy considerations and only increases divisions within the American population.

This is why we have so many rhetorical gymnastics involving politics.

Inferred justification will explain about 90% of the things said about New Orleans and Katrina this week. (Case and point is the comments section at SWGA Politics, still going.) New Orleans is under sea level. People chose not to leave when they all could have. People just sat around waiting for someone else to save them. The governor screwed up and the Feds were not to blame. The Feds screwed up and the governor was not to blame. The Mayor was in a boat saving people. The levees were bombed by the President's plane. Etc. Etc. Etc.

This is dangerous as it erodes our shared history. It allows us to live with unchallenged false notions. It erodes the intellectual curiosity of our society to become a more perfect union. It allows us to ignore things we disagree with and get too defensive about it to accept other ideas. Innovation is stifled. Bad decisions are excused. Justice is postponed. Excuses are made. Stagnation sets in.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Health Care False Choices

JMac has a column this week in the the Athens Banner Herald about how Georgians are likely to be against health care reform, even though Georgia has an extremely high level of people without health care.

Reading this column and the comments, I am reminded of the many false choices and false logic that pervades how we talk about health care specifically, and many things in general. Here are a few that I thought of:

1. People "deserve" their staions in life. Poor people are poor because they're lazy and rich people are rich because they work hard. This is just as ridiculous as the idea that all rich people did something wrong to poor people in order to get rich.

2. Profit is always a good thing, and the more profit a business can make is just that business doing business in a better way. Telling business to abide by rules that limit profit is always a bad thing because profit is always a good thing. This is the example of taking things out of context. The idea of the perfect market is just as utopian as the idea of a perfect commune. If increasing profit requires cutting corners we don't want to be cut, we don't have to allow them to do business here.

3. If there is $1 of profit to be made, someone will create a business to make that $1. This is my response to those who say progressive taxes or regulations are "punishments" to business. They are not punishments, they are payment for access to our markets. If you do not like the rules, you don't have to do business here. Just like a non-union workplace, some other entreprenuer who wants to make my dollar will be along directly.

4. There is just as much, if not more, public money paying rich people to be rich than paying poor people to be poor. The Georgia legislature approved their statewide power monopoly to raise rates on all consumers in order to pay rich people to build nuclear power plants that will make those rich people richer. Maybe this isn't a bad thing. Maybe rates will go down once the nuclear plants come online. Maybe it will be better for the environment. Maybe the payment to those rich people to make more money was an overall win for the state.

But I dare say, a lot of the same people who approved such a measure show up at town hall meetings and tea parties angry and railing against socialism - which is, in their minds, government interference in private business.

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Danny Boy



Threatening the East Coast.

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Health Care Politics

What if the Democrats acted like the Republicans? An interesting thought excercise.

Money quote: "The insurance companies will greet us as liberators."

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Interstate Love Song

I came across this business while following links on the Fall Line Freeway in Georgia. I'm sure the Stimulus would have had less opposition if it highlighted funding for projects like this.

Though I'm sure opposition groups would have had much fun at the expense of the "freight shuttle" currently under development at Texas A&M. This despite the possible advantages such a system could bring, especially to LARGE PORT CITIES.

The proposal for Interstate 14 was signed into law when Bush was President, which also included the Savannah - Augusta - Knoxville Interstate 3. That would have been a more helpful interstate back when I was in college.

Though neither project was funded by the Bush era legislation.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Discourse

My Mom was telling me some rather ridiculous and unsolicited political jokes this weekend. I called to ask her about her week, and this is what I get. There are some rather important things to discuss, but this is what she wants to talk about.

She told me that she recieved the jokes on email, and scolded me for no longer having a "sense of humor." I asked her to forward them to me so I could post them here. I love exposing nonsense that is passed around the internets.

She asked me if I was going to report her to the "snitch line."

So now that my political conversations with my mother, tenuous during the best of times, have devolved into vocabulary I routinely heard from my at-risk 7th graders, I proposed that the phone call was, in fact, an intergalactic communication. Because she is obviously living on another planet.

I thought about that level of discourse while reading about JMac's strange encounter with a local business proprietor who disagreed with his politics.

I also think about how lucky I am to be able to converse reasonably about politics with SAWB, Dante and DADvocate.

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Do You Want To Kick Everyone's Ass?

Cliff breaks down a phone survey.

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Losing the Media Battle

Ready for all those infuriating, "why-didn't-they-help-themselves" posts by people elsewhere who are going to talk about the Katrina anniversary? I've got a good place for you to start.

Jeff at SWGA Politics has been watching Katrina programming on the Weather Channel and has this to say about the situation:

But I found something particularly disturbing about the footage that was shown, something I didn’t pick up on at the time as we were first seeing all these images come out.

Remember all those people waiting at the SuperDome and other locations throughout NOLA and surrounding areas? They were waiting for someone else – the government in particular – to come save them.

These people were either so delusional or so beaten down by their own government that they thought it was the government’s job to save them! Rather than taking action on their own to get themselves OUT of the situation they found themselves in, they sat there and waited to be “rescued” by the government!


The comments section is a must read, also.

Many, many thanks to GriftDrift for both pointing out the post in the first place, and effectively defending history in his own right.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Intimidation

I heard about this on Saturday, and I wasn't sure if anyone was going to say anything about it. The subject goes to those individuals who put their words to websites and what affects that can have.

Several local education blogs have been shut down or have gone incognito in order to keep their jobs or protect the jobs of their friends and colleagues. It seems that the powers that be would rather silence the messengers than address the real problems those people bring up.

This weekend, the situation arose over The American Zombie, an anonymous blog that reports on the shenanigans that infect the politics of New Orleans. That blog has ruffled feathers and stepped on toes, to put it lightly. Liprap's Lament reports on some folks who showed up to the Rising Tide conference to look for people. One can only wonder what would have happened had anyone been found.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

That's a Wrap

Rising Tide IV is now in the books, but it is never over. I think a lot more of this conference showed up on Twitter than I know how to read, so I'm sticking with responses on the web that I can make sense of.

The Ashley Morris Memorial Excellence in Blogging 2009 award goes to Ashe Dambala at The American Zombie. Jacques Morial accepted the award on the Zombie's behalf, as AZ is an anonymous blogger. The acceptance was eloquent and is posted word for word on his blog. Another transcript and video can be seen on Humid City.

Maitri liveblogged the whole thing.

NOLAdishu has the highlights from Harry Shearer's keynote address.

You can catch a good run down of the politics panel at Suspect Device.

Updates will doubtless be continuous on The Rising Tide blog.

Finally, I cannot wait to see the summaries posted around the NOLAshpere, especially from insightful folks like Pistolette.

I know you wish your city had a conference like this, as Rising Tide has been an outstanding program year after year. Maybe next year I can get some of the other Hurricane Radio contributors to make it down to the show.


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Friday, August 21, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Zombie Relations

Your lunch break click of the day also comes from Foreign Policy, a little thought excercise on how the emergence of zombies would affect international relations.

Money quote: "neoconservatives would argue, zombies hate us for our freedom".

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Health Care Lies & The Liars Who Tell Them

Not surprisingly, it comes from Foreign Policy. You knew the Eurpopeans would get mad at each side of the debate in our country for yammering on about their systems.

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When It Rains, It Pours (On Students)

People are going to be surprised when charter schools fail for the same reasons regular public schools do. Case and point? One of the most successful charter schools in Orleans can't get the district to fix their roof. And the rains are just tearing the building up. The most telling quotes come from the RSD officials. One quote saying this may have been a problem before the RSD took over.

Well, Jack, that was 4 years ago. And I don't think anyone gives a f*** whose fault it was for getting that way, but it is now your fault the thing ain't been fixed. You weren't hired to repeat the mistakes of the old OPSB, you were hired to fix them. I'm sure this isn't the first you're hearing about it.

The next quote saying they have little money and many needs. Well no shit, Sherlock. It took you this long to figure that out? Riddle me this, if you buy all those new textbooks and FOSS systems and Promethian interactive projector screens, and you leave them all out in the f****** rain, what happens?

And that it will take six months with students in the buiding to get things patched is ridiculous. You couldn't have this done in the summer, when kids weren't around? Nooo, wait till schools in so the kids can concentrate while listening to the soothing sounds of powersaws and nailguns. It is like no one in that office owns a calendar.

I hope the good folks of Illinois are paying attention to this crap. The guy in charge of all this is going to be looking for a political job in your neck of the woods sooner rather than later. It would do you good to pay attention to his track record.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Narrative & Health Care

Today's lunch break article is a three page examination of how our culture responds to emotion over logic and reason. While they could have applied this matrix to almost any issue (the Iraq War, Disaster Recovery, the Stimulus), they applied it to the most emotional issue facing us right now: health care. Read the whole thing at Newsweek.

Anyone who believed that the battle over health-care reform would be waged on facts, logic, reason, and concern for the less fortunate—46 million uninsured—probably also scoffed at Lyndon Johnson's daisy ad.

It never ceases to amaze me that Democrats fail to anticipate this sort of visceral reaction in some of their opponents. It happens every time they're in office.

Do you know why left wing emotional outbursts are always minimized in effect and made into the punchlines of jokes? Because the GOP knows exactly who will come after their plans and what they will say, and they usually have a response set up before they work on any policy. Dems are always caught by surprise by the right wing, which is like getting caught by surprise that the sun will rise in the East.

Luckily, there are still plenty of Americans who get turned off by screaming, emotional fever pitch, hyperbole and being made fools out of. For everyone who feels vindicated by a grown adult's face flushed with rage bellowing at another human being, there are two or three who left their temper tantrums back in grade school. For every nagging soccer mom who prattles on about fake "death panels," there are two or three staying up nights to figure out how the family will pay for the baby's last visit to the specialist or what to do now that grandma's getting worse.

Reform will still happen. It should still happen. We get there with a little bit of pointing out the obvious and lot of sharing the crushing burden of reality.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

I swear I'll vote against all of you...

So Obama looks to be ready to drop the public option from health insurance reform and replace it with independent non-profit co-ops. You're still going to get screwed if you currently have insurance. The government is still going to mandate that pre-existing conditions be covered and you're still going to get a one year* window until you have to go into a government-mandated benefits package. But now our government may just dump the proposed money into these non-profits instead of footing the bill themselves.

So just to be clear, the White House has taken the only admirable part of this health insurance bill and labeled it non-essential. And the sad part is that this move may buy it support from both parties. It may be time to adopt my grandfather's voting method: never vote for anyone marked incumbent.

* To reiterate, that's technically a 5-year window for places like the Land of Make Believe where insurance companies don't adjust rates yearly. So King Friday gets 5 years. The rest of us get 1.

Epic Marketing Fail

(Full disclosure, I once dated a graduate of Nicholls State University.)

Today's marketing ass clownery is provided by Nicholls State University in Louisiana. Their mascot is the "colonel," so you know that someone was bound to come after their previous Old South symbolism. Marketing folks would be called upon and paid thousands to find a less divisive image. Focus groups would be convened, and people would be asked "do you think this is a good idea?"

When most image updates go on this day and age, however, they abandon their previously controversial image for something more cute and cuddly (the Stanford Cardinal is a tree) or some less menacing version of the previous incarnation (Johnny Reb at Ole Miss in a football uniform).

Nicholls State breaks this trend by updating their mascot to a possibly more offensive version. From the vistas of the Old South to the iron fisted, sword swinging grip of the Soviet gulag or Third Reich Germany. They may be the first school in history asked to revert to their previous, less offensive imagery.

Defending the new boondoggle? The citation that more than one person thought this was a good idea.

That their color scheme is red, black and gray does not help the image at all. I know for a fact that other schools with similar color schemes are able to have much more famous and iconic mascots while avoiding public outrage.

(HT: World Class New Orleans.)

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Let the "Kill Bill" Signage Begin





And this is the one behind Tropical Storm Ana which has her sights set on Florida.

Which is getting hit with yet a third tropical wave today.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Utilitarian Calculus

The Daily Dish points us to a critique of the health care plan that involves zero death panels, tin hats or santaria. There is no mention of tyranny or confusion of Medicare's government roots in that article, just cold, utilitarian reasoning. Real, grounded critique.

How refreshing.

There is, in addition, a utilitarian rebuttal!

And they didn't even have to scream at someone to get their points across.

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Local Notre Dame Fans Heatbroken

As the Sugar Bowl attempts to follow Atlanta's lead in hosting a neutral site game for the college football world, they just weren't able to make Notre Dame - Baylor work. But that's what happens when you try to sell a major event involving Baylor. What, was Tulane unavailable?

For those of you living under a rock, the Peach-fil-a Bowl in Atlanta has orchestrated a huge first-weekend-of-the-season-bowl that has been wildly successful so far. Alabama and Clemson opened up the season in the ATL last year. Alabama - Virginia Tech is a sellout to start this season, and the last report I heard had LSU and UNC ready to ink a deal to start their season in Atlanta in 2010. Watch Notre Dame end up starting 2011 against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Now da Supa Dome wants in on the action, and who can blame them? The cash Atlanta makes of college football is huge, and getting two major Superdome games would be a triumph. With the new SEC/ESPN TV deal, a similar game in New Orleans would reap huge rewards for the local economy, but if they want in, they're going to have to hammer out some details quick. Houston & Dallas will not dally if they see a market in this.

New Orleans is right between SEC and Big XII country. Recognized as the two currently preeminent conferences in college ball, they only have a marquee bowl tie-in in the Cotton Bowl, and no shortage of yearly Top 10 teams.

Not stopping there, New Orleans could also feasably arrange for a Big XII - ACC tilt which currently has no marquee tie in. Proximity to the Texas and Deep South recruiting fields won't hurt any organization's plans to sell the advantages of a Supa Dome game.

The only problem is NOLA's distance from the SEC East, ACC and Big XII North teams. But plenty of folks have proven that they will travel with the right incentives.

Could you imagine the following types of start-the-year matchups in New Orleans:

Alabama vs. Texas
Georgia vs. Oklahoma
Florida State vs. Texas A&M
Bo Pelini's return to Louisiana to lead Nebraska vs Auburn

Impossible? Maybe not.

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Picking Apart Death Panels

Your commuter click for the day takes you to the New York Times, a publication I generally dislike, as they pick apart the "death panel" arguments and their origins.

I used to be sympathetic to critics of the House health plans. I could see where they were coming from on points of policy. We disagreed, don't get me wrong, and we could make snappy comments back and forth, but it was a reasonable discussion.

But at this point, since the same people who are saying we can't afford it are also saying it creates death panels, I am starting to view all their claims with the same credibility rating - zero.

You want to act like the crazly lefties who said Bush was a Nazi and Cheney controled the weather and the PATRIOT Act was going to get all dissidents thrown in Guantanamo? Ok. I'm will extend the same credit rating to you that I ascribed to them - zero.

This is terribly unfortunate, since I prefer discussing policy more rationally. Especially among friends who I know don't believe the garbage, but who oppose the plan reasonably.

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Fun With Tasers

At least Henry Louis Gates, Jr. didn't get tased during his arrest in Cambridge, Massachussetts. Other folks haven't been so lucky. This mother got tased and arrested because of her behavior during a traffic stop. One of the charges? "Disorderly conduct."

That charge just keeps popping up.

The video is a worthwhile watch, though it is a parade of moms and great-grandmothers and protesters and foreign nationals getting tased to the ground.

Some thoughts:

-I am surprised that more people did not sympathize with Gates' situation in the context of police overreactions elsewhere. Sgt. Crowley's during (not tasing Gates) and after action behavior make both men sympathetic figures, however, and it is hard to have a dog in that fight.

-The manufactured controversey that followed the Gates event had far more to do with Gates immediately citing "racism" than Gates actually being black. If he had cited "constitutional intrusions" instead, the event would have a whole different perception. This should demonstrate the relatively low cultural credibiliy of citing "racism" as the reasons behind any event.

-Who is responsible for training police in the use of tasers?

-Maybe instead of crime cameras that don't work, it would be a better investment to put dashboard cameras in NOPD cars.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Clifton Harris & the Next Mayor

Lot of talk about the mayor of New Orleans this week, from Cohen's response to City Hall to the national news discussing Brad Pitt's platform.

Here's another: If you don't already read Clifton Harris at his blog, you're missing out. He's also published in the Gambit this week, titled "Building the Perfect Mayor." A great read.

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Environmentalists Against Wind Power

Well, now that some environmentalists are criticizing the impact of wind turbines, maybe Republicans will start supporting this alternative source of energy.

It will only be a matter of time before this news is all over right wing radio as "evidence" of the idea that all environmentalists and, by extension, all liberals and, by extension, all Democrats, are crazy folks who would rather see us in the dark ages than kill a few birds.

Just wait.

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I Can Has Citationz?

Ariella Cohen wrote a fantastic article about communication in city government. She used for her example the problems of City Hall in New Orleans, but the issues and practices she discusses are relevant far beyond the boundaries of Orleans Parish. Further proof that it ain't about "small government vs. big government," it is all about "effective government."

I saw the article linked to on several blogs, and on even more Facebook pages, so you could tell it was getting some play and making the rounds. Those rounds took it all the way to New Orleans' City Hall, where this article absolutely ruffled some feathers.

A member of City Hall's communications team contacted Ms. Cohen about her sources and allegations. It complained of media falsehoods, bias, the lack of "fairness and balance" and demanded to know why she didn't attempt to contact members of the administration for comment.

You can read a copy of her clock-cleaning response over at Humid City. It is well worth the read.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Resistance is Futile

During my first 4 years of undergraduate work at the University of Georgia, the college probably built two buldings. In my last 2 years at UGA, they probably built 6 new buildings. Since I left Athens 6 years ago, I barely recognize the campus. They've apparently discovered a way to grow parking decks out of the clay.

President Adams may be a tool, but he ain't never seen a capital project he didn't like, secure funding for and see through to completion. I wonder if New Orleans ought to hire him to take the Recovery Czar's vacancy? Replacing an ass who can't get things done with an ass who can get things done is progress, after all.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

First Hand Account

Drifting Through the Grift reports from last night's health care town hall meeting in DeKalb County, Georgia. Civility and actual medical professionals discussing actual issues. What a novel concept. And huge props to Georgia Democrat Hank Johnson for making it happen in such a constructive way.

The AJC's Jay Bookman has a report as well.

Somewhat related, I bet the media really miss Cynthia McKinney. I can only imagine what a health care town hall would be like if she was running the show.

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Ouch

EJ fires a broadside regarding levee policy and history. This one is a must-read, and will require a great deal of thought moving forward.

(HT: Judy B at Thanks Katrina)

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Two



They're expecting this to develop into a named storm, and the five days have it tracking northwest. There are two more tropical waves in the Carribean, with a less than 30% chance of organization. But it is only August.


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Monday, August 10, 2009

"An Example for the Nation"

Let's hear it for civil dialogue. I can only hope folks on both sides of the issue will repeat the news from US Rep Hank Johnson's town hall meeting in Clarkston, Georgia. The news being: there are real people on each side of this thing with legitimate reasons for their beliefs, positions and opinions.

Maybe there is something to having a well organized, balanced event with well stated rules and Georgia Perimeter College Police on hand.

Props to the cats at Peach Pundit, who post pictures and links to video. They also publish links to the twitter feeds from Drifting Through the Grift and Creative Loafing (the ATL's version of Gambit Weekly).

Maybe, if people stop screaming at each other, we can figure this thing out.

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Money Quote

You know, we've been so distracted by these town hall revelers who insist that screaming and shoving others are "free speech," that I almost forgot to make some links about the actual health care dialouge. You remember the health care dialouge don't you? It was what we had before public temper tantrums started showing up on youtube and requiring the presence of platoons of security.* Clever little disorderlies...

Luckily, Cynthia Tucker hits on the most important and fundamental point of the whole health care debate:

The health care market doesn’t function like the market for automobiles or artichokes or flat-screen TVs. If you don’t like the price, you just don’t buy. But you walk away from expensive health insurance at your own risk.


*(Though you can bet Rep. Johnson's attempts to accomodate hundreds more than the space was designed to hold will be ignored to feed the continual right-wing narrative of Dems "silencing free speech and disagreement.")

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Unsustainable Development

In Georgia, more banks have failed than in any other state. There is a reason.

Basically, they're getting a lesson in unsustainability and market irrationality because they built far, far too many subdivisions. Too many banks never met a developer they didn't like, and threw money around without thinking of consequences. They chopped down untold square miles of forest and had the county governments subsidize millions in infrastructure to these remote settlements. They built so many houses and opened up so many lots, that they oversupplied the market and swamped demand. What happened next is that billions of dollars of supposed value just vanished, and the banks along with them. The house of cards came a-tumbilin' down.

(But remember, this is all Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Barney Frank's fault....)

If a tree falls in a ghostdivision, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? What is the sound of an invisible hand slapping your face?

Though it was a joy to play golf at one of these developments down on the coast back in June, in the quiet of the wilderness. It is a joy to walk past my parent's house down to the park-like area that was planned to be filled with 17 individual million dollar homes. The gate to that gated community is always open.

But I cannot enjoy those things, because I know too many people out of work or underemployed or who can't sell their houses now. I think of all the wasted space and money and time and economic dynamism that was thrown away at the altar of bad planning, easy money, and speculation.

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Ha-Ha Monday

This is a sort of blah post in USA Today written by Pelosi and Hoyer. I didn't like the Un-American angle when Republicans were throwing it out and I don't particularly care for it now. But there's a funny joke if you read the comments and it deserves praise. To sum up the article, Pelosi and Hoyer consider the protests that are getting in the way of them promoting their health care plan is Un-American. Specifically: "Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades."

I guess. I keep remembering the saying, "You have the right to speak, but you don't have the right to be heard," but I don't really know where that came from and quite frankly I don't really care. Either way, the sentiment is not as amusing as the reply from Lucius Verginius: "The obvious thing for Pelosi to do is to create a committee to investigate the protestors—call it the House Committee on Un-American Activities."

Overt McCarthy humor is a bit stale these days but a nice subtle joke is still appreciated in my book. Good game, sir.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Save Ferris

This has been a long week of world-ending articles and screaming and shoving matches over politics. I'd like to take this moment to say RIP John Hughes, who created some of the best movies ever and had an enduring positive affect on American popular culture.

But I can't explain that very well in my own words. Luckily, I don't have to. I can simply link to this video of kids in New York City.

Proving again that one of the most positive outlets is a parade, good music, and dancing like everyone else is, too.

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Apocalypse Chosen

Slate compiled information from readers' participation in the "choose your own apocalypse" thought exercise about how the United States would end. Then they broke the choices down demographically and politically. A fascinating read.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Astroturf & Arrests

You know what? I don't care if these town hall shenanigans are "real" shenanigans or "fake" shenanigans. Screaming at other people and getting crazy like this is a bunch of bullshit. You know how I know that?

A Harvard professor recently became agitated in his own home. He started screaming when confronted by police, and got a little "disorderly." The police then arrested him. You may have heard about this little incident.

So why are all these people, who thought that arrest was legitimate, now defending even worse behavior?

Explain that to me.


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Fake America Takes Over

Andrew Sullivan points to the ideological shift in the health care debate, along with some opinons about why this is happening.


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Health Care Debate Turns Violent

Got a link today from SAWB, who used to write regularly on this site before his time evaporated. It is called "You are terrifying us," and it was written by Peggy Noonan of the WSJ. It presumes to speak for the thousands of agitated individuals swarming townhall meetings to disrupt the proceedings. Read her words:

What the town-hall meetings represent is a feeling of rebellion, an uprising against change they do not believe in. And the Democratic response has been stunningly crude and aggressive. It has been to attack.

"Rebellion." "Uprising." "Crude." "Aggressive." "Attack."

And then the repetition of another theme: "For normal people, it’s not all about Barack Obama." Because these folks are all the "normal" folks. Well, guess what? So am I, and I am disgusted by what I have seen. Normal people don't scream at other normal people during a legitimate policy debate. Normal people want to see this country have a good health care system and have legitimate disagreements about how to get there. And if it ain't about Barack Obama, stop showing up to meetings acting like it is all about Barack Obama.

But most damagingly to political civility, and even our political tradition, was the new White House email address to which citizens are asked to report instances of “disinformation” in the health-care debate: If you receive an email or see something on the Web about health-care reform that seems “fishy,” you can send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.

Wait, an email address is most damaging to political civility?? The screaming in other people's faces gets trumped by the White House's version of Snopes.com?

It is the same language that has been used since January by the pundit classes, further dividing our nation on what is essentially a policy question with the rhetoric of war. These "passionate people" have been passionate since the first Tea Parties back in the Spring, where there was talk of secession and the evils of tyranny in Washington.

They are the same people who completely dismissed those of us who were terrified during the last 8 years when the Bush administration started a misadventure in Iraq, ignored written laws through executive privilige, secretly wiretapped American phone calls, botched Federal disaster response because of political appointees, waterboarded people then defended it as "not torture," asked folks like me "why do you hate America?" when we questioned any of it, and paid not one whit of attention, unless the attention was derisive, when we spoke of the evils of tyrrany in Washington.

And yet, we're out of bounds for saying people shouldn't scream in other people's faces during legitimate debates? Unbelievable.

In this atmosphere, is it any wonder at all that these passion fueled screaming matches have turned into more hands-on clashes in St. Louis and Tampa? Where will the next shoving matches cause police to close down proceedings? Where will the next assault arrest be made? Where will the first police overreaction cause concern over 'jack-booted thugs' and feed the narrative that we are moving towards a police state? How will that increase the tension? Finally, where will the first really big fight break out, the one that really sets things off?

Because this is America. And us "normal" people just can't act "normal" when other people disagree with us.


PS: This means that 7000 diverse New Orleanians can get together to protest crime more peacefully than 1500 retirees in Tampa can talk about health insurance. And you wonder why I live here?


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Thursday, August 06, 2009

RICO Suave

Former US Rep. William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson guilty on 11 of 16 counts. After 4 and a half days of jury deliberations, I am relieved.

Twenty years in prison is too much to ask for, as this system we got will probably give him 5 years in the clink and 10 years probation. They coulda let him keep his passport and escape to self-imposed exile.

Just hold the convictions up on appeal.


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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Keeping the Arts in School

Furthering its mission to confuse the public, the RSD is kicking the artists out of Colton School. Because enrollment for the fall exceeded excpectations and they need space. And yet nearly 180 teachers were released from employment yesterday. And Colton will soon be the home of two KIPP programs. The same KIPP program that runs McDonough 15 in the French Quarter with a... performing... arts... emphasis.

Really? After all the "schools only work when the community is involved" pedagogy classes I took in various Education programs, the people running the local education system that mandated me to take those classes ignores the lesson? Colton could currently benefit from more community involvement than almost any school in the system. It could serve as the hub for nearly all arts education in the RSD, a magnet for artistically inclined students, a resource in a subject woefully lacking in the rest of the LEAP-driven RSD.

Something that might give these kids an outlet besides fighting.

But, hey, let's just close it down. Why use homegrown resources to your advantage when you can keep banging your head into a wall?

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Priorities

If right wingers were as effective at governing as they are at disrupting town hall meetings, maybe they wouldn't have lost in 2006 and 2008. But, like Dante says, these cats are their most effective playing the role of "opposition." He ain't kiddin'.


(HT: JMac @ Beyond The Trestle & Instapundit.)



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Katrina Destroys United States

When I grew up, I knew deep in my heart that the only thing that could destroy the United States of America was the world ending. We'd already tried (and failed) to destroy oursleves. We'd won WWII going away. We'd put men on the moon just cause we didn't have enough to do in the 60's. The Berlin Wall had came down. The USSR had broken apart. The only things we had left to do were to save the whales, reverse the alienation brought on by the middle class moving to the suburbs and figure out how to use the giant cell-phone I kept in the car. We were scheduled to acheive perfect equality once the old generation took their victory lap, retired, and left us in charge of things.

Damn, I miss the Clinton years.

And you'd think that after surviving the Presidency of George W. Bush, we'd be breathing a big sigh of relief. To work in a college football reference, Not so fast, my friend.

If you like thought excercises, Slate is running a weeklong series on the End of the US of A. Complete with a choose your own apocalypse widget and a flip chart forecast of the four most likely scenarios.

How does the week start? With a Katrina reference (albeit the usual inaccurate reference we've come to expect from national media figures). But in an extrapolation of internal collapse there is this truism:

If you feel threatened from the outside, you band together—rather than tear the United States apart, 9/11 galvanized us against a common enemy. The laggard response to Hurricane Katrina, on the other hand, meant that our own government became the common enemy. A long, uninterrupted series of nationwide Katrinas—and a concomitant series of bungled federal responses—is the recipe for collapse.
(Emphasis mine - HR)

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Bug Juice, Anyone?

You probably want to go ahead and watch the video to which this blog post links. I doubt you'll want to wait to read all of this hoo-ha first.

One of the reasons I find the New Order so distasteful is that otherwise thoughtful, intelligent people I know seem to suddenly lack that part of their brain that allows them to reason.

Recently, I had a facebook status that lamented a strange and seemingly widespread position taken by many of my dear friends. That position was this: I just don't see how some people can claim that a public option could be anticompetitive. Those that say so must be insane! And close-minded!

Far from saying anything about the desireability of such a public option, through my facebook status I lamented people's (at least asserted) inability to fathom how a public option could be anticompetitive. Anticompetitive like Walmart.

A public option, being subsidized directly by taxpayers, would undercut current plans which would be unable to compete with a plan that was woefully underpriced. Like Walmart, its ability to undercut other plans so drastically would drive those other plans out of the market. Leaving only the big fat behemoth (and maybe the pricey upscale models no normal person can afford). There would be a difference, however: Walmart must still fund itself; a public option that is directly subsidized by taxes could undercut other plans to a degree Walmart could only dream of.

The responses my facebook status received were what one might expect. How stupid and ridiculous I must be! Plus: forget what my brain might tell me -- one person even commented on how curious it was for someone with government insurance to think such a thing! (Forget first that the insurance I am on and have been on I get or got because of remunerative work I or my father gave to the government. Forget second that this has nothing to do with whether a public option would be anticompetitive.)

One problem with an anticompetitive public option that has upset me over the past few months is the thought that the anticompetitive nature of the public option is precisely what recommends the public option to so many on the Left. Once your anticompetitive public option drives all or most of the private options out of the marketplace, it naturally transitions into a single-payer health system.

What troubles me most about this isn't the idea of a single-payer health system. I understand why some would want such a thing, and I understand there are pros to such a system. (I currently oppose such a thing because I am unconvinced such a system's pros would outweigh the many cons that would come with it.)

What troubles me most is that I feel politicians are not being open about it with the American people. The reason for this seems clear.

If our politicians were open and honest about it, the people would tell them hells to the no, and the government re-conception of health care and health insurance would be dead in the water.

So, I provide you with the link above! Inconceivable that a public option could be anticompetitive, you say? Well, the Left's politicians don't seem to think so. As so many are so quick to point out, these people are not idiots.

A public option is the natural precurser that leads us directly into a single payer health system. It is anticompetitive, and that is what recommends it to those in power. Unfortunately those in power are not being honest with the American people, and in some cases they are being downright dishonest. The American people have a right to know exactly what the changes debated today have in store for them.

Civil Libertarians

So, if it is racist to say the cops acted stupidly with Gates, what is it when you say the cops acted unconstitutionally? What is it when you say it was wrong, and race had nothing to do with it?

And when you say things like this:

Efforts by the government beginning in the late 1960s to prosecute the “war” against drugs opened the door to a much-expanded sphere of control, within which the citizen’s ability to withstand government access to their private lives was greatly reduced. Court decisions in recent years had restored a degree of that lost privacy and curtailed at least some excesses of government power.

Unfortunately, the terrorist attacks eight years ago slammed the door on the re-emerging notion that there are limits to government snooping and control over the individual.


Who thinks the author of that statement is some moonbat leftist? You may be surprised by who this really is.

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Of Guns & Dead End Streets

An elementary school teacher gets carjacked & shot, but is able to return fire as the crooks navigate away from the neighborhood. Lot of trouble to go through for a minivan. Stupid crooks.

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Turnover Kills School Systems

For those of you at home, keeping score, the huge turnover of teachers in RSD schools means that the absolute earliest any RSD school can possibly be accredited by SACS is now 2015. That's if anyone in the RSD is planning on keeping records starting this year in preparation for applying for accreditation in the future. That's of course, if anyone running the RSD knows what accreditation is and why it is important.

Don't be fooled, folks, surplusing so many teachers has nothing at all to do with job performance. And, what the article isn't saying is that plenty of the teachers surplused this time were the TFA and teachNOLA folks who came in back in 2007.

This has everything to do with the RSD having a strategic plan that consists solely of "contract out our jobs to charter schools." That's it. Every single year, there have been "consolidations" that weren't actual consolidations, school closings that were really only school movings, and a contract for 250 TFA kids per year.

Let me be clear, when I first heard of TFA under Clinton, it wasn't supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be filling gaps where it was difficult to staff schools, a noble goal. It was to encourage young people to become teachers, since we were facing a nationwide shortage, another noble goal. It was supposed to give college grads a sort of "internal peace corps" rotation; government service for tuition, something I think is good for the country as a whole.

Nowadays, it is being used as a union-busting, educational experiment empowering tool taking advantage of folks who want to do good deeds. But it ain't their fault. I'm sure there are school districts elsewhere languishing in need of enthusiastic teachers, but the TFA folks are being marshalled into areas with lower need to provide a backbone for the charter school movement. This is especially true in New Orleans.

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Seven Months & Change

After looking at the comments to the previous post, I'd like to take this moment to revist a few points. Number one, during the last election, I told everyone who would listen that either candidate, McCain or Obama, would be better than the previous 8 years. I still feel absolutely vindicated. I think about all the crises Obama has had to face in his first 7 months & change in office, and I like to think about how Ol' Dubya would have responded to them. That picture ain't pretty.

And kudos to the opposition party, who has been able to almost completely erase the last 8 years from the collective memory. This has worked out so well for y'all, I think you may have thrown the last election just to pin all these problems on the new guy. In reality, I think it says a lot that so many people have moved on so quickly. Our American popular culture does not like to learn lessons or self evaluate in the face of consequences. Especially when there are enough neocons still around to call people traitors, terrorist sympathizers or soft on national defense.

Second, the Obama administration has only been here 7 months and change. It takes time to change momentum, especially in a nation as large and dynamic and complex as this one. Moreso if that nation is in an economic freefall.

I'll admit, this administration has lost a lot of luster for me, personally. I wanted to see different things (infrastructure, education, health care) and the GOP initiated/Dem blamed Wall Street bailouts chafe. But guess what? The direction is a hell of a lot closer to what I want to see than anything over the last 8 years or anything proposed by the current GOP.

From defending deplorable actions by the past administration to their "tireless" work to get C. Ray Nagin re-elected, the GOP and their mouthpieces have lost almost all credibility with me. Y'all had your 8 (more like 14) years to get stuff done.

Now, I'm going to give the new guy a lot longer than 7 months and change to define himself.

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