Friday, April 30, 2010

River. Of. Oil.

My kingdom for a slow news day.

Oyster discusses the river of oil. This is not a "spill" as spills are finite. It is disingenuous to call it a "leak" like a drippy faucet. No, it is a river of oil flowing from under the sea into your seafood and drinking water, with the smell of petrochemicals in the air.

Of course, Oyster is ever the optimist:

On the bright side, Big Oil had the foresight to obliterate much of Louisiana's coastal wetlands with their oil transport pipes, so there's far fewer estuaries to cordon off now as a potentially disasterous oil slick arrives. Since there's less state to protect, we must be saving a shitload on protective boom. Hi five! If that's not a rainbow lining on a black water cloud, I don't know what is.


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Liprap Has the Story Thus Far

At Humid City.

I missed this on Wednesday, but she also links to this informative piece on oil extraction infrastructure at NOLAdishu.

Moral of the story: we don't know a whole lot about oil exploration in the Gulf. I wish it didn't take epic ecological disaster to out us on the educational crash course.

And no, we're not going to stop talking about it. At least not while we can smell it outside.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

When Failsafes Fail

Let this be the lesson: it only takes one thing to go wrong to turn something into a disaster.

The catasrophic oil situation in the Gulf of Mexico is getting worse by the hour. Now we learn that there are 3 leaks, not one, and that the well is putting oil into the water at a rate of 5,000 barrells a day, not the 1,000 previously thought. That's over 200,000 gallons of oil per day

Though the BP executives still claim 5,000 barrells a day is the statistical maximum, that still sounds like hedging from a buisness that badly underestimated the initial damage. At least they are calling in the military at this point. At least.

The cause of the disaster starting to look like a faulty blowout preventer on the ocean floor. If the workers might have tried to shut it off, and met with failure (and then explosion), then the "dead man switch" did not activate when the wellhead lost contact with the platform, and the submersible robots were not able to activate the blowout preventer manually, I'm not sure how much help an acoustic shut off option would have been. Sounds to me like the device they are trying to affect just didn't work. (HT: Jeffrey for the link)

Oyster points out this Hayride postwhere the author seems to minimize the environmental and non-oil-industry impact, while sounding more concerned with what this means for cap-and-trade legislation and oil industry regulation.

I'll focus on the phrases:

It’s a local disaster and a regrettable technological failure which shows how dangerous and difficult the extraction of offshore oil actually is.
...
Drilling offshore, a mile under the ocean, is a technological and scientific triumph which rivals space exploration in its difficulty and complexity. Things will go wrong.


First of all, this is going to be much more than a local disaster. Southeast Louisiana keeps an awful lot of "local disasters" bottled up pretty well, and media elsewhere generally don't investigate too much of what happens down here. If it was just a local disaster (say, only 400,000 gallons of oil), all the NOLA blogs would be saying something about it, maybe Science magazine or a piece in the back of the Economist, but that's not the case here. It is the lead story on most national outlets. For reasons. You're not going to keep this one bottled up.

This is different because it is much bigger (no matter what oil executives try to tell us). Barring some miracle like the blowout preventer magically working again or the wellhead running dry, this slick will get bigger and bigger and bigger. It will already affect Louisiana's shore, but has a chance to hurt Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. God help us if we can't get the thing under control by hurricane season. That's a little more far ranging than the remote Alaskan wilderness spoiled by that last massive spill we've tried so hard to forget.

Second, what is up with the "shit happens" explanation? That's balls from the right-wing folks who have constantly tried to reduce the costs of fossil fuel extraction to cliches like "drill, baby, drill" and "not one drop." There's a reason the slick is being called "Lake Palin."

Because this bigger than "shit happened." One mechanical failure and the entire Gulf Coast is at risk? Is it any wonder people concern themselves with oil exploration on other coasts or in fragile wildernesses? These aren't the granola-crunching, tree-hugging, hippie concerns the right-wing likes to make believe. These are real, WTF happens when your drilling platform explodes and we can't turn off the Fing pipes with existing technology concerns.

The most likely scenario at this point is that some of the spill can be burned off, and the folks down in Port Fourchon get that undersea dome constructed in record time (and you know them cats are working around the clock, designing the thing from scratch) and that band-aid buys enough time to get the relief well dug and into operation.

But even with that happening, we're still cleaning up an enormous mess whose costs won't be understood for years.


Update: Maitri looks at the red tape slowing response.

Note the very troubling confluence of existing conditions, incompetence, bureaucratic bickering and environmental disaster as emphasized by me.

Seriously, people, Grow Up. Where have I heard of a horrible situation made worse when local “authorities,” late-arriving military and other responders fought like a bunch of little lipgloss-smacking schoolgirls over damage assessment and the right way to fix things? Oh yeah, Katrina and The Flood! You guys have obviously learned nothing about incident response logistics. Louisiana, why you, honey? Why is it always you?


Update 9pm: Welcome, Facebook and Twitter users! Wish the post could be about happier things, but since I've been breathing in petrochemicals all day, we're stuck here for a while. Funniest quote so far comes from my friend Brian on my FB status: "Sarah Palin calls the spill "Russia," because it is so big, she can see it from her house."

Update 10am Jeffery has a raft of good posts up, reminding us that politics will always play fiddle and examines the risk/reward matrix between unnecessary oil production shutdowns and destroying a chunk of your nation. (Again, where have we heard that before?)

Money quote:
Deep water rigs like the Horizon appear to have brought oil exploration to a place where the technology necessary to do the drilling has outstripped the technology necessary to maintain the safety of the people who do the work and the people affected by possible mishaps.


"People affected by possible mishaps" being the millions of residents who live and work in states surrounding the Gulf of Mexico.

Meanwhile, the White House has quickly replaced the offshore drilling moratorium in light of safety concerns. I guess this is all part of his "stall, baby, stall" plan.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Higher Tide

I grew up on a beach, and have watched it slowly disappear the whole of my life. I'm glad I'm not the only one who wonders why.

Though it was strange to read about progressive beach conservation policies from...Texas.

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Deficit Myths

I never thought I'd say this about something I saw on Huffington Post, but this is an absolutely brilliant article on the truths behind the deficit. Some consequences are ignored and some are glossed over (like the very real threat of not-hyper-but-increased inflation on our economy), but overall it challenges a lot of "conventional wisdom" spread by politicians on both sides of the isle. I can just picture Lynn Parramore giving Dick Cheney a big who-cares-about-deficits high five...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Tea Party Poster

Its the one with "Bad Mother F____" written on it.

Saw this on Facebook a few days ago, now it is making the email rounds. I'll post it here for those who haven't yet seen it: What if the Tea Party was Black?

And for those of you who think this is just a mental excercise, the answer can be found in American history yet again.

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When Downtown's Policies Went to the Southside (Jacksonville, FL)

This article is absolutely brain-melting with wisdom. There's a decent stadium and a place called the Landing in Jacksonville that are pretty nice. The rest of the town is sort of a cesspool. Metro Jacksonville has taken the ideas that has made downtown so cesspool-friendly and applied them to a high falootin' shopping power center in Jacksonville. Hilarity ensues. The article is Jacksonville-specific, but it's easy to extrapolate how any generic downtown is actively driving away business yet doesn't seem to understand why business has left them. (Atlanta, I'm looking at you.)

Arizona's Black Codes

Yeah, I said it, because that is what it is.

If you don't like that terminology, maybe we could call them "Jan Crow Laws." I'd be willing to sacrifice a little historical accuracy (Jim Crow laws were different from Black Codes) to get the larger historical point across.

Eli has a very nice post about this over at The Lens, but it goes too quickly to Third Reich imagery for my taste. A lot of folks on the left are doing that, making connections to Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or Communist China. I understand why, with all the Tea Party talk of "tyranny" and "fascism," applause for such a transparent erosion of civil liberty appears disingenuous at best.

I'm not even saying those comparisons are inaccurate. Lord knows, asking for someone's papers without probable cause is a hallmark of how those nations kept control of their populations, and part of the reason we consider our nation better than theirs.

How easily we forget.

We don't have to go so far away to find the "papers, please" mentality on our own shores or in our own history. How far back should we go? Shall we start with the Free-Papers required of free people of color during the antebellum period? Remember that happy time for a certain demographic of Americans? Let us not forget that members of that particular demographic not lucky enough to be free had to carry papers too, whenever they left their place of servitude, lest they be beaten with a whip or worse*. During this era, any member of one demographic could demand the papers of the other demographic.

But the Civil War ended all that, didn't it? Nope. I already linked to the online definition of Black Codes, please allow me to parse the money quote:

Whenever it was required of them they must present licenses (in a town from the mayor; elsewhere from a member of the board of police of the beat) citing their places of residence and authorizing them to work.


Oh, the burn. I know it hurts to bring real United States history into a conversation. So uncomfortable for those who disagree.

Shall I go further, into the "War on Drugs" and "War on Terror" erosions of civil liberties in this country? My whole life I've been stopped, questioned, and had my identification examined by authorities for such cause as "walking on a sidewalk," "wearing a red bandana" and "evacuating during a mandatory evacuation." Don't tell me this doesn't happen, just because it doesn't happen to you.

Speaking of that, how about the "emergency situation" requirements for identification? What do you think happens to individuals in disaster areas who are unable to produce ID, even if they are just cleaning up their own homes or trying to use the area's only working phone?

This ain't ancient history, is what I'm sayin'.

Because, while this new law might disproportionately affect only one demographic group right now, don't think it can't be made to affect others. When the last vestiges of probable cause are removed, no one is safe from government intrusion.

And, no, this is not hyperbole; this is what we actually associate with tyranny and totalitarianism. But we shouldn't be surprised, as those associations are rooted deeply in our own uncomfortable history.

Update: Oyster's take on the legislation's authors.

And, at least some conservatives are unhappy with this law. Kyle Wingfield of the AJC says "In short, I don’t think 'Your papers, please' fits in a free society."



* Which was not considered torture by the majority of Americans at that time.

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Blame

Ta-Nehisi Coates talks about blame and reparations. The article has a long (and important) wind-up, but he hits this homerun out of the park:

From my perspective, the most interesting and provocative modern questions around America's racial dilemma, like any societal dilemma, do not necessitate blame. To put it differently, I am not concerned about gender equality because I think I'm to blame thousands of years of sexism, I'm concerned about gender equality because it matches my moral center. Blame is irrelevant. In the context of race, the question isn't "Who is to blame for the Middle Passage, slavery, and Jim Crow?" it's "What, tangibly, can we do to counter its generational effects?"
...
One of the few things I know is this--Blame is useless to me. Blame is for the dead.


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Monday, April 26, 2010

Spill, Baby, Spill!

Y'all remember how, according to the right, our modern technology made it so that "not one drop" of oil was spilled during the Katrina and Rita hurricane season of 2005? That particular narrative takes me back to the days of less dysfunctional right-wing reality denial, right alongside "we will be greeted as liberators" and "Mission Accomplished."

Y'all remember all that? Well, Oyster sure does.

All of this to remind you that oil exploration will come with costs human and environmental. The human cost is real. Real to the tune of 1,443 oil rig accidents between 2001 and 2007 taking 41 lives and causing 302 injuries. And as for the enviornment, we don't have a lot of easy answers when something goes wrong.

You have to be mindful and honest about such things when discussing policy. That's why the "drill, baby, drill" cliche, coupled with the "not one drop" narrative is unnerving, factually incorrect, and dangerous. People may make different decisions if they heard actual facts.

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No Backwoods Southern Lawyer

I'm not opposed to the death penalty. But, the judicial proceedures to charge, convict and execute someone must be more stringent than those the United States Supreme Court is currently willing to accept.

When the prosecutor and the judge are secretly boning each other during a death penalty case, that is NOT OK.

And why am I not surprised to hear this case comes out of Texas?

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Regarding the Misery Tour

There's nothing I can write that will serve as a lead in to this. The final scene of Treme last night recieves this reaction from Cliff.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Speaking of Edits

Ah, the Tea Party. I had such high hopes. They had a chance to restore some semblance of conservatism and fiscal responsibility to the right. They had a chance to highlight civil liberties. They had a chance to really highlight the libertarian aspects of the Founders.

Instead, they keep dancing further off into the land of sinister make believe.

But like Sarah Palin supporters, I'm supposed to be careful not to hurt their feelings by calling them bad names. Even though they associate folks like me with communo-social-fascist anti-Americanism.

One wonders when my edit-minded brother will use his syntax savvy skill set to tell us why the TP's and SP's of the world use incorrect historical definitions.

I'll not hold my breath.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Eminent Domain and You

There's a way to do eminent domain right, and there's a way to do eminent domain wrong. If you have to take somebody's property, you make it right. I don't have a dog in the fight in the rightness or wrongness of building new hospitals in Lower Mid-City, but this process has been wasteful, divisive and feudalistic.

After years of fighting, Lower Mid-City is about to face the bulldozer, and property owners are going to get nickel and dimed for their homes - homes they did not choose to leave. For the hospitals, there was usable land elsewhere, and there were already existing buildings ready for renovation. (And waste and inefficiency involving tax dollars makes me angry, since I drive past acres of land housing the shell of the Lindy Boggs Medical Center every day)

Liprap once posted a map that demonstrated a massive conflict of interest. I can't find the link, but maybe she'll provide it.

A lot of speculators "invested" in property around the boundaries of the new hospitals. They invested, and then they let those properties moulder (stagnating the vitality of the neighborhood) during the recovery. This was due either to them not knowing what was going to happen to the neighborhood (why invest more money just to have the state nickel & dime you then tear your stuff down) or they did know what would happen, and hoped to redevelop the properties or sell them at a higher value once the new hospitals were being built.

I have no problem with people making money, but at the point of investment, the plans were not yet complete, and residents were still trying to recover their property and revitalize their neighborhood. All this during a recovery process so disorganized that some residents old and new sunk rebuilding money into property to be bulldozed less than 5 years later.

I wonder what the coming class action lawsuit will look like?

Sound familiar? It should. This kind of behavior was codified back in June of 2005 with the Kelo case. It was a BFD at the time, if I recall. Especially to conservatives. States like Georgia immediately constructed legislation to limit and define the state's eminent domain process.

I guess that didn't happen in Louisiana, though one would question Bobby Jindal's conservative credentials for allowing a process like this to continue in the ways that it has.

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Friday Must-Read

I've said before that outside of New Orleans and people who know New Orleans, viewers watching the new HBO series Treme will have a hard time believing certain things that happen in the show. They will think certain events or storylines are somehow made-up or exaggerated for dramatic effect. They will think certain things are part of the fiction.

Your Friday must read is not a happy one today.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

To My Old Master

Ta-Nehisi Coates is still doing his best to commemorate Confederate History Month.

This one's a doozy.

I've been thinking about ways to commemorate the 150 year anniversary of this American epic tragedy. A good start would be if someone were to cobble a website together running news stories from 150 years ago with articles from major papers on both sides.

One can barely imagine the educational value of running 150 year old news and opinions today. And with our 24 hour news cycle, we could literally fill the whole 5 years with nothing but wire reports and op-eds of ghosts. We could start now and already be behind.

150 years ago right now, we'd be gearing up for the 1860 election. As a matter of fact, May 18th is the day Lincoln won the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Chicago. By this time 150 years ago, the Democratic National Convention in Charleston had already been disbanded without a nomination at the hands of William Yancey and the rest of the Fire-Eaters.

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Tulane Football Reimagined

I read or heard somewhere (YRHT?) recently that Tulane University (infamous for cutting engineering programs while being the biggest university in a city nearly destroyed by an engineering failure) was going to spend $100 million+ on football expansion for their woeful CUSA team.

There is only one scenario where such a move comes close to making sense. One.

For some reason, they think the SEC is going to expand, and invite them to re-join the conference.

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Ready to Heed the Call

Exiting New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin unveils his final initiative as a local office holder. It speaks volumes to his governing style. He will be rested and ready for 2012.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Elementary School in Fantasyland

It has to be. There are too many good things to say and too many smiles for this story to be about a real elementary school.

And there is no mention of how UGA's budget cuts are going to affect the school...

And the reporter spends too much time in only one classroom...

And there is no estimation of how many hours the teachers work each week...

And there is no mention of the school's charter status or entrance exams...

And there is no mention of how often they do test prep...

But education wonks can dream, can't we?

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Resource Rescue

More Recent: The Deepwater Horizon has reportedly sunk off the coast of Louisiana. In addition to the human cost of the missing workers, the rig is also estimated to be spilling 13,000 gallons of oil an hour.

This is a terrible, terrible tragedy.

__________________________________________________

Update: Jeffery adds his thoughts. He includes a juxtaposition of a well known cliche regarding American energy policy.

____________________________________________________________


I'm sure everyone who watches the news knows about the explosion and fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Burns, critical injuries and missing crew have been reported, and the first thing to say is that I hope all the injured recover and all the missing are found. The United States Coast Guard is again adding to their legendary reputation in Southeast Louisiana.

The Deepwater Horizon is one of mankind's most advanced oil exploration platforms. It is considered state of the art.

This incident, considered alongside the West Virginia mine explosion remind us all that there is a real human cost tied to the extraction of fossil fuels.

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Maybe Sometimes Race Isn't the Reason...

Suppose you're a college RB on a team where nobody else is worth a damn. Also suppose you have the running style of Eddie George (completely upright) mixed with the evasion skills of Emmett Smith (as in "none at all"). Why might NFL teams be leery of drafting you? Oh yeah, because you're white. That must be it. It can't have anything to do with injury and longevity concerns. And it sure can't have anything to do with fears of a RB who hits everything on the field not being able to make that transition from college to the NFL. It must be because you're white. Look, I like Gerhart's style and I think he'll make an amazing NFL fullback if he can catch a short pass. But as a pure RB, the NFL scouts are right. He's a huge injury concern without a huge upside to counteract it. The way light reflects off his skin doesn't change that. Given he likes running into people so much, I don't see why he's not eager to take the FB role. Looks to me like he was born to play that part.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Superpower Suicide

Who do you get when you combine a raft of cliches with an ingorance of political, American, and rhetorical history?*

Sarah Palin. She is now speaking to the Tea Parties about supporting the same policies the original Tea Party and resulting revolution defeated. And she's doing so with the same words the British used back in the day.

And while she gets cheers, Ron Paul gets booed. At least the numbers demonstrate a more even split.

Which is a shame. I've seen Sarah Palin and Ron Paul each at their rhetorical best - the former parroting empty, incomprehensible and hyperbolic cliches in front of television cameras and the latter using complete thoughts to express clear, non-hyperbolic philosophical and policy differences in person to a crowd of hundreds, if not thousands.

Libertarian philosophy and true conservatism are specific political and economic policies rooted in fact and principle. They are worth considering seriously alongside liberal and progressive policies in the marketplace of ideas entertained to find solutions to our nation's problems.

But that is very difficult to do when the main mover of your politics is a made-for-TV character reading from a script demonstrably incompatible with both libertarianism and conservatism.

I can't wait until she takes up the anti-microchip crusade.


* Maybe I should have made that a multiple choice question. Lord knows there are plenty of folks who would fit the bill. Like her 2012 running mate, former New Orleans mayor C. Ray Nagin. CMP,B!

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Peach Flavored Microchips

Of all the legislative bills to come out of committee this year in Georgia, this is da winnah.

Last Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee entertained SB 235, the bill sponsored by Sen. Chip Pearson (R-Dawsonville) to prohibit the involuntary implantation of microchips in human beings.


But wait. It gets better. There are explanations and precedent (three states have already banned the involuntary implantation of microchips into human beings) and even religious justifications.

The duly-elected Georgian legislators responsible for this are careful to note that their bill has nothing to do with religious reasons. It is all an attempt to stop future government intrusion into individual privacy.

They even brought forward a witness/victim, who claims to be one of the Georgians affected by the widespread phenomenon of involuntary microchip implantation. The US Department of Defense is responsible, according to her testimony. No word at this time if actual factual, physical or medical evidence has been presented.

Do you need to guess which political party's membership these legislators are embarassing today? Yup. They are Republicans. Continuting their crusade against percieved and future threats from the Islamic Republic of MakeBelievistan, Hog Fing Warts School of Witchcraft & Academic Totalitarianism and the constitutionally elected United States government.

Georgia's Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner has not wasted time including this in his campaign:

the bill has become a routine example of the Republican tendency to attack problems that don’t exist, and ignore the ones that do. Besides, Barnes argues, if someone holds him down to insert a microchip in his head, “it should be more than a damned misdemeanor.”


While I know the vast majority of conservatives and Repbulcians find this delusional behavior despicable in the face of real problems, I must take this opportunity to parse from talk radio and right wing blogs by asking:

If Repbulicans truly don't support this type of legislation, why aren't their national leaders denouncing it as loudly as possible? Could this relatively obscure issue become a plank on the mainstream Republican platform in just a few years? And why isn't the media covering this story?

And, yeah, I'm going to as much mileage as I can out of this one. Unbelievably, the legislation made it out of committee...there are still several steps before it becomes LAW.

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Goldman Sachs Lawsuit in a Nutshell

I was going to try to summarize a Wall Street Journal article since I detest linking to subscriber-only pages regarding the SEC v. Goldman Sachs lawsuit. It's downright bizarre. But Neal Boortz did a nice job covering the nuts and bolts so I've posted that here. I'm not as quick to cry conspiracy as he is, but the factual bits he presents (most everything up until "So ...what's going on here?...") are spot on. Typically, if you follow business news at all, SEC lawsuits don't come out of the blue. The SEC is terrible at keeping secrets. When I first heard about the Goldman Sachs lawsuit, it was on the AM radio news announcements. So I looked it up, and was further confused on the reasoning for the lawsuit.

I'll let you read Boortz's summary but to give an analogy, Goldman Sachs hired a Paulson to breed them a racehorse. When they got the horse, they bet a lot on it and the Paulson turned around and bet against it. Paulson won big while Goldman Sachs lost big. Now I'm not the sharpest legal mind out there but it seems that if anything Goldman Sachs got just as screwed as anyone on this deal. I can't imagine them making it knowingly. And no, they didn't mention Paulson's involvement but ethereal predictions (which is all he had at the time regarding the real estate market) are no basis of determining disclosure. Is the SEC setting up a Philip-K-Dick-ian pre-crime unit I don't know about? If anything, shouldn't the SEC be going after Paulson and not Goldman Sachs?

It's just strange. I'm not pointing any fingers yet as my own precog abilities aren't up to par, but I do think there's more to this lawsuit than meets the eye.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Suggested Revisions

We are losing the actual factual basis of our common history for many reasons, but a big factor is because people in charge of the educational process don't want to talk about things that bother them, don't want to include things they disagree with and want to include things they do agree with that have marginal if not counterproductive utility.

While I'm not entirely clear on how he uses the term "political correctness," and he dismisses hip-hop as a tremendous cultural force, Bob Barr's examination of the purpose of history text books in public schools is spot on. And yes, he is messin' with Texas.

I'll not dilute his words by quoting. Go read the whole thing.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cooking the Books vs Public Pressure

As the march to privatize public schools with privately run but publicly funded charter schools, the numbers give us a telling reason for the charter advocates' self described "wild successes."

They aren't serving as many special needs students as regular schools.

And from my experience in the RSD schools, the numbers on the top end are grossly underestimated. I guess that's what happens when students can go from school to school and their paperwork gets lost. Look at those numbers and read "paperwork-proven percentages." Our counselors couldn't keep up with the number of diagnoses necessary.

Undiagnosed and underserved special needs students' test results count for NCLB "accountability" ratings. Taking that into account, are charters' mildly more sucessful records really worth the amount of resources put into them? Remember, when it comes to government spending, I want serious return on my investment.

At least the attenion is working to some degree. Under public pressure and increasing scrutiy for the disparity, some charters are starting to address the issue. It is about time.

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Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot: UGA Edition

Foxtrot.

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

Update: Wow. I should link to Hale posts more often. Sorry there's not much here, guys and gals, I'm just as stunned as y'all are.

Though it will be interesting to see if Mettenberger ends up transferring to a FCS school to play right away (like Perriloux) or transfers to another FBS school and waits a year. With that arm and demonstrated potential, I'm sure someone will take a chance on him. One wonders who that will be.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Possible vs. Probable

NOPD releases a much more descriptive report on the French Quarter "Political" Beating of a young GOP staffers on their way out of a Bobby Jindal fundraising dinner.

The police are still investigating, and the possibility that the attack was politically motivated still exists. The possibility that the assailants were somehow associated with the SRLC protesters still exists, even though all the video and photographic evidence from the protest shows no illegal activity and close attention from the NOPD. The possibility still exists that the assailants were associated with the Iron Rail Book Collective, which the Hayride has focused upon.

But possibility does not equal probability.

What we do know is that a young couple was brutally assaulted in the French Quarter, and such assaults are never acceptable. Especially in this city, as we bear a very difficult burden with crime here. We know that the investigation was slowed with both the authorities and the media by assumption and dismissal of the incident as simply a French Quarter fight, which truly demonstrates a tragic state of affairs that can and should be the larger focus and context of this incident. This has added emphasis when considering how unusually violent last weekend was around this town.

The positive element is that news flashed around the new media with incredible speed; the new media is also bringing tremendous pressure for this crime's continued investigation. The impact of such attention cannot be ignored.

However, the message that "we are all at risk from crime" has been lost. Overpowering it is the higher popularity and more incindiary narrative of framing crime within the scope of political violence in this country. My strongest concern with Hayride's coverage is the absolute marginalization of real issues in New Orleans as the concerns of a small cadre of self-proclaimed anarchists. I have additonal concerns that advocates of these real issues are being linked to political violence without strong or demonstrable evidence.

The restoration of Charity Hospital, political opposition to budget cuts at UNO, and support for health care reform are deeply debated issues by the body poltic in New Orleans. These are issues that have put a variety of people into the streets to oppose actions of the government, and will continue to do so. You would think groups affiliated with the Tea Party would be more sympathetic to such protests, placard waving, and public assembly even if they are not sympathetic to the politics.

Viewing the coverage of this event on the right-wing blogs has also demonstrated a more jarring disconnect involving what some right-wingers believe is physically threatening talk from the left. "Katrina was a hurricane, capitalism is the disaster" is not a physical threat against anyone; it is a pithy ultra-left wing cliche that makes very little sense to the reality-based community. Involvement with a George Soros based foundation does not equate to second-degree assault. The videos of the actual SRLC protest showed a peaceful, informed if opinionated, police monitored street demonstration (thankfully Hayride does make this point again and again).

But there's tremendous ado about the "You say cut back, we say fight back" chant. I find this disingenous at best from folks who affiliate themselves with a former VP candidate who denotes political opponents on the internet with graphic sniper target sights, exhorts her followers to "reload" and makes fun of people who have a problem with those obvious gun metaphors by making jokes out of the word "shoot" to uproarious laughter.

It unnerves me that "Save Charity Hospital" is viewed by some on the right as more physically threatening than "reload." That so many of my conservative friends and family utterly fail to conceptualize my concern over such views only exacerbates the problem.

Words matter. The coverage of this French Quarter assault proves why.

But that is a secondary concern, let us not miss the point here: two young people were assaulted on the streets of a great city, on a weekend bathed in violence around said city and around the country. Such assaults are never justified. They are not OK.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Gary's Hometown in the News

I know Gary doesn't post here but I know he still lurks the site. I just thought I'd give a nod to his hometown, which made the news on Drudge.

Civil Warriors

Ta-Nehisi Coates does Confederate History Month. With a New Orleans twist.

Powerful stuff. I said it before - if you're going to tell a story, make sure you tell the whole story. We can't get to the complicated parts without accepting the simple parts first. Race, religion and slavery were all tied up in it.

One thing marginalized in the whole conversation is this: Confederate History Month is really American History month. It is just part of that history we don't like to talk about because it wrecks the "we're always the good guys" mythology we feed ourselves.

Good thing, too. We don't like to remember that, at one point, slavery was legal in the United States of America and that most Northerners and Southerners and Westerners were quite content to let their contrymen own and trade other humans. We don't like to recall that Lincoln wouldn't have freed one slave if it would have kept the Union together. We don't like to know that the Union viewed the Emancipation Proclamation as a means to an end rather than a statement of principle. We don't like to recognize that true legal emancipation would take more than 100 years, that our history would continue to be bathed in the blood of atrocity, that racial factors and animosity would still ensnare so many aspects of our currently "enlightened" society even 150 years later.

We need the CSA to be the boogeyman as badly as modern day Confederates need the history of the war not to include slavery.

Because we don't want to talk to one another earnestly about serious subjects, we want to converse with people who already agree with us and see history the way we see it. Because we want things to be easy.

Whoever tells you history is easy is lying to you.

I can see it in the lamentations of the commentors on TNC's post. So many of them are content to hide behind today's "enlightenment" without paying tribute to the blood cost that got us here, or recognizing there is still an outstanding balance to be paid.

That is why I find the history tragic, heroic and beautiful despite her scars. This is the story of how we got to this place and time, where we are and what work we have left to do. In spite of overwhelming odds, in spite of the weight of all human history that came before, and in spite of our own baser natures we have overcome so much as a people. The same document that codified slavery into law at the founding of the Republic, survived the fire of war against itself, and was eventually modified to reflect and enforce more human liberty than any government in history is the same document that forms the basis of our government today.

I don't want this story to be easy. I don't want this story to be simple. If it were, we may forget all the lessons that were so learned so expensively. And God help us to not repeat any of them.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

I Don't Remember Signing This

I offer a motion to strike the current text: "The American People;" and replace it with either "Some of the American People," or "Certain American People," or "These American People" and include an actual list of signatories.

I'm getting really sick of this cliche, so I'm going to break my reasons down real simple.

I'm damn sure I fit the definition of "An American Person." I'm certain I fall into this demographic category by meeting and exceeding the requirements defined by the United States Constitution. I was born here, raised here, live here, pay taxes here and believe that this is the greatest country on Earth. When I die, I have faith that my spirit goes somewhere else, but my body will be laid to rest in the red clay hills of Athens, Georgia within the boundaries of the United States of America.

But here I see that the Tea Partiers, some of them at least, have released a statement of principles, and signed the document - The American People.

Even though I'm in agreement with a few things found in the Contract From America document, I would not have signed such a document as currently under consideration.

I also move the record reflect my official call into question the validity of that signature.

I distinctly remember that, in November of 2008, some 66,862,039 American voters agreed on who would currently hold the office of President. From understanding the concept of "mathematics," I recognize that the number 66,862,039 is "more" than the number 58,319,442.

I'm damn sure the former is higher than the number 450,000 - which is the cited number of people who participated in drafting the Contract From America.

I find it disconcerting that 450,000 individuals would claim representation of an entire demographic group when it is a demonstrably provable fact that 66,862,039 individuals are on record as disagreeing with their position in whole or in part.

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I yeild the remainer of my time.

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Chicken Littles

Really? An Islamic conspiracy? More fuel for the credibility gap. Remember, folks, lefties get made fun of for acting like this. I wonder why the right wing thinks they should apply that discredited model to their political narratives.

One wonders what these kookoo birds have to say about the symbolism of the Islamic Republic of Carolina or New Orleanistan.

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More Union Thuggery

And Some Thoughts On Tax Day

Jeffery points us to Times-Picayune coverage of some local folks trying to start a union. How dare they try to get paid better for the work that they do! How dare they try to get off food stamps and housing vouchers!

Take, for example, these incidents of obvious union intimidation.

/ sarcasm

On a related note, and just in time for tax day, there was much ado about the rather misleading news that 47% of Americans pay no taxes. My parents called me up and acted shocked to hear this. Some folks on the radio and blogs seem to think this 47% of the population is getting some sort of "free ride" and have voted themselves out of responsibility.

On the other hand, I find it appalling that so many of us don't make enough money to qualify for tax liability. I've worked plenty of places, most notably in the RSD, side by side with employees of the businesses who got the food and custodial contracts. Sure didn't look like many of them were getting a free ride.

I realized when doing my taxes that the only reason I paid any taxes at all is because I'm single. If I were married and my household lived off my salary, or if I had a kid to be supported on this salary, I'd be close to qualifying for food stamps and Section 8. If I made slightly less under such conditions, I'd definitely qualify.

Having worked in the RSD, I can tell you that my current job requires far less effort than working in school food-service or custodial fields. But they get paid much, much less. But that's the nature of "small government" philosophy: our government is still paying outrageously for services, they're just using the lowest bidding contractor to do it instead of hiring in-house. The low bids come in not because the business moves more efficiently, puts a better focus on service, or pays their executives any less exhorbitantly than other monopolies: they get it by sacrificing product quality and paying their workers less. Hell, I'm told that some contractors wouldn't even put toilet paper in the bathrooms of the public schools before the federal flood and state takeover.

If you don't believe me, visit your local at-risk school and pay the $3 for lunch.

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Metroplex Football Post

So someone at the Washington Examiner is shocked that a school system is spending somewhere between $60M and $120M on a new football stadium... in Dallas. Then he has the nerve to say, "I like football as much as the next guy and I know the sport has darn near religious devotion in Texas..." No, apparently you don't like football as much as the next guy, and you also grossly underestimate "religious" devotion in Texas. Take a look at the churches around there. This new football stadium will fit right in.

It's hard to explain high school football in Dallas kind of like it's hard to explain SEC football to northerners. I had a friend who was quite involved in his local football program ask if high school football was really bigger in Texas than it is in Georgia. Without flinching, I answered yes and I think I hurt his feelings a little. But it's true.

And while $60M is a lot, the city of Allen is loaded right now. In the 70's and 80's suburban sprawl pushed outward from Dallas and the populations in places like Plano, Arlington, Duncanville, etc. exploded. Well, now those areas are more urban than suburban* and the towns just outside of them are experiencing that same growth. Allen is basically the next town out from Plano. The norm now for even smaller football programs like Midlothian and Lancaster is a completely glassed-in press booth than would make press working at Sanford Stadium jealous. I think it's overkill but nobody around there is complaining.

* I'm using real definitions here. "Urban" isn't a code word for "African American." I'm strictly talking population density, traffic, public transportation, etc. I just thought a disclaimer would be nice after my ambiguous use of "integrated" in another post.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Start Another War

The last Republican administration already proved that it did not have the strategic vision to finish one war with a 5th rate nation. Knowing that, they kicked off another war with a 4th rate power. Again due to badly planned strategy from Washington, the United States has failed to strategically close that conflict in our favor.

We've been at war with Afganistan since 2001. We've been at war with Iraq since 2003.

In almost any other time, the individuals who started those wars and failed to bring them to a favorable conclusion for our nation - within that amount of time for that amount of blood and sacrifice and that amount of treasure - would be roundly disgraced and discredited.

While our military on the ground has held things together despite all obstacles from a determined enemy and a Washington that didn't know what it was doing, the folks in charge just kept going about business as usual. Let's invade, but not plan for what happens after that. Don't worry, we'll be welcomed as liberators. Shock & Awe. Mission Accomplished.

It is as if these people are too busy planning the next war to finish the current wars.

Anyone who misses George W. Bush as President should remember how loudly the whole nation had to howl for him to finally dismiss Rumsfeld and get a Secretary of Defense with a brain instead of a raft of cliches and a testy attitude towards the media.

Now that we're trying to extricate ourselves from this mess without sacrificing any progress made and essentially handing Iraq and Afganistan to Iran on a silver platter, what is the Republican suggestion for our next move?

Pull the trigger on Iran. What is that, tripling down? After hearing from McCain, and listening to Sarah Palin, I'm really glad I voted for the other guy HCR be damned.

Start. Another. War?

With what? The very reason we can't put tremendous pressure on Iran, and the very reason other great powers are happy to watch us twist on this is primarily because we're already entangled in committments. Our society is war weary, our society is not prepared for more war and our leaders are unprepared to demand the deep sacrifices a third war in the Middle East would call for.

Especially the Republicans who got us into this mess in the first place.

But I guess it plays well on Fox News, radio and excites the base. So, further away from reality we go!

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The Income Tax Man Cometh

Tax day is here tomorrow. Get your forms ready if you haven't already. If you gave the government a short term loan and are expecting the balance of that loan, you probably already filed. If you owe money, you're probably getting ready to send your form in. If you're looking to dodge an audit, you should probably go ahead and file an extension. The IRS-agent-to-filer ratio is much lower on extension day than it is now since they hire temp workers to handle the additional load in April.

But that's not really the point of this post. Gallup recently did a survey asking if your personal income tax was too high, too low, or about right. About half of Americans are happy with what they paid on income tax. Personally, I'm happy with what I paid in federal income tax. It was about $4,000. For what I get, that seems like a fair deal to me. State income tax bothers me though. What did I owe the state this year? About $4,000. Excuse me? I pay sales tax, property tax, and all other manner of state taxes and they still hit me up with a bill as large as what I owe the federal government?

Back to subject, I wonder how many people polled actually know what they paid in income taxes? I know several people who think they don't pay income taxes because they get a refund every year even though they clearly make enough to have to pay something. I also know at least one person who gets "refunded" more than she pays in thanks to tax credits.

There are a lot of arguments about our current income tax code. It's too complicated. The IRS is too powerful. We shouldn't be reporting on each other. The top tax bracket is too high. The top tax bracket is too low. Too many people don't pay. A tax credit is just a thinly veiled wealth redistribution (but any progressive income tax is wealth redistribution).

I understand those arguments. But you know what I really want out of our tax system? Transparency. The best example of transparency in taxes I can think of is property taxes. When I pay my property taxes, there's a breakdown right on the bill of every penny I owe and where that money is going. And nobody thinks they get a property tax refund even if they have escrow and escrow collected too much the first year (which is fairly common for the first year living in a newly built home). Why can't we get that from income tax? I think it would open a lot of eyes. Maybe that's the issue.

If we actually got an itemized receipt (even if it were grouped into broad categories), I think both sides would be worried. There are a lot of pet projects on both sides of the fence that our federal government blows money on. And sometimes it's a little surprising to see how big a chunk of your bill goes where (defense for example). $4,000 sounds fair, but where exactly is that $4,000 going? I think if they're going to take our money, the least they can do is let us each know.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

French Quarter Political Beating

Saturday 2pm: A discussion on today's more robust NOPD report is posted here. All future updates on this story will be in the form of new posts.

Even Mo' 2:40pm Thursday

Well, NOLA.com ran a report on the incident on the front page, with pic. That was sometime around 2:30pm today. When I went back to get the link at 2:40pm, the article had dropped off the front page. I checked the "Crime" section, and it wasn't there, either. I found it on the "LA Politics" front page.

That's not exactly top billing.

The date and timestamp of this article is April 15, 11:21am. The NOLA.com front page has several articles published later, but I don't understand how the lead will just vanish in 10 minutes time. This is not the first time I've seen this happen on NOLA.com.

Again, I do not want to sensationalize the one attack more than any of the other brutal attacks that took place elsewhere around the city this weekend. I'm ready to take to the streets against crime in another march whenever y'all are ready. This is ridiculous.

Hayride continues to focus on the Iron Rail Book Collective, driving so much scrutiny that Iron Railers' Facebook pages have been moved to private and YouTube videos of the protest have been taken down.

Which is silly, because the videos were the very opposite of incriminating.

They also link to Pat Dollard's interviews with the NOPD. First of all, right wing bloggers combing through town may have some interesting ramifications on the local blogging community (the same way calling "commentors" at NOLA.com "bloggers" has changed local perception). If any of them are around, I'd love to have a beer with them and explain some background regarding many New Orleans' issues, including the politics involved in Friday's protest and why faith in the local media and police is at a low ebb right now. They keep making it look like the only people who have liberal opinions around here are the gutter punks.

On an unfortunately more sinister note, the SLRC attack is already being used to justify reprisal violence against political adversaries. From the comments section of this post we read.

And they [punks from the left] need to be prepared for a lot of those [ass-kickings] in the very near future. They are beginning to cross a line that [they] don’t have enough ‘troops’ to support.
Context added.

As someone who's already been berated for having an Obama sticker on my truck, I absolutely fear that violence will only beget more violence. I know it requires an awful lot of faith right now, but let the police do their jobs.


Upperdate 12:45pm

Hayride continues their focus on the Iron Rail book collective as the instigators for the assault. While I have no problem with them urging the police to investigate this group as an interested party, I fail to see much illegal behavior in those videos. Heckling and booing political opponents on the public streets is not a crime - from the Tea Party to the Iron Rail.

Assault, however, is a crime. I don't feel like this coverage has gotten us any closer to the actual participants in the attack than it has attempted to assign overimportance to a small group of Faubourg Marigny residents, marginalized real political differences under debate and dispute in New Orleans, and served as a vehicle to demonize people of different poltical stripes and New Orleanians.

Even through the terrible camera work, you can see dozens of people just walking up and down the street unfazed. New Orleans is a city of vibrant street theatre and spectacle, after all. I also saw a significant police presence indicated in front of Brennan's from the early videos through the late videos.

As far as Iron Rail being behind the whole Second Line, I don't think it is a difficult thing to turn New Orleanians into the streets in support of Charity Hospital and UNO.

Finally, why is no one looking at other possible reasons for this attack? New Orleans is under consideration to host the National Republican Convention in a few years. I'd think Bobby Jindal is a huge supporter of that idea. Wouldn't making the city look like a breeding ground for anarchists undercut both New Orleans' chances to host that event (sending millions to some other city) and Bobby Jindal's prestige? I mean, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but as long as we're talking unprovable theories, let's get that one out there as well.

Update 9:15pm

Hayride just keeps updating, with more mixed results.

NOPD release a report. Names of the victims are withheld, but we know what is going on. Assault occured in the 600 Block of St. Louis at 10:45pm. Looks like the couple had left Brennan's and were heading for Decatur Street.

Location and time are important. First of all the protest started at 5:30 in Lafayette Park, about a half mile away. This incident took place more than 5 hours later. Even if the photographer quoted was watching the crowd around 8pm, that still means nearly 3 hours elapsed between an alleged scuffle outside Brennans and this attack.

As far as location, that intersection is usually a quiet block, which isn't necessarily a good thing as more people = more witnesses & chances to intervene.

I was in the French Quarter on Friday night, along with thousands of other folks as French Quarter Fest was wrapping up around 9-9:15pm. Decatur was packed, Bourbon was packed, but Chartres and Royal had much lower traffic. Moving from one side of the Quarter to the other at 11:30pm, there were far fewer people on Royal. But not so many one would think an attack could take place without any bystanders seeing something happen. We'll get more of this story, it is only a matter of time.

Though I wish Hayride would note the information in the NOPD release about the functioning crime cameras. But that is something the "lefties" in town have been complaining about, so it may not fit with other parts of that post.

Case and point: as for all their information about the Iron Rail book shop, and all the anarchist individuals who look important because they have Facebook pages, seldom updated weblogs or other such internet presence, I don't know what to tell you besides 'we have internet cafes with free wi-fi.' If there is some sort of serious insurrectionist movement taking place mere blocks from where my friends and I dine and drink, I haven't heard a thing about it.

What sends me into a blind rage is Hayride's dismissal of the

standard left-wing boilerplate; it howls about the replacement of the Orleans Parish public school system with a large-scale charter school experiment (which incidentally has been a wild success) and it demands that the Charity Hospital system, Louisiana’s antiquated system of state-run hospitals which are in the process of being dismantled, be reconstituted with special emphasis on rebuilding the “Big Charity” hospital in New Orleans.

In other words, health and education – the two main gripes leading to Friday’s protest. Morrison apparently has been organizing to save Big Charity for some time.


Wait. I can think of a better link for the "Save Charity Hospital" crowd. And I know more than a few individuals going beyond the "left-wing boilerplate" to examine the wild successes of New Orleans' charter schools. (Please see also Liprap and The Lens or any of my blogroll to the right labeled "Crescent City." Just because you disagree with us doesn't mean we don't exist.)


----------Original Post Below---------

And Right-Wing Blog Coverage

In a town as interconnected as this one, I'm surprised it took until Tuesday for me to hear about this. And it took someone from Ohio to clue me in.

GOP fundraiser and her boyfriend savagely beaten on Friday night at the SLRC. Happened in or near the French Quarter, apparently. Somewhere around Brennan's. Presumably because of their politics.

I'm going to say this: if there was an attack, I don't care if it is politically motivated or not. The perpetrators need to get caught and brought to justice. Period.

The culture that makes physical violence an acceptable means of expression is worthless and needs to end. I don't care if that culture comes from gangsta rap or politicians and their supporters talking about "reloading," it needs to stop. End of story.

On to the next one.

...

The next story involves the Hayride's comprehensive online coverage of the incident at this time. Thank goodness they are continually updating, but just looking at the progression suggests there is a huge disconnect from coverage of the attack (which is outrageous) and the surrounding situation (which is being made out to appear outrageous to the untrained eye). And, of course, not every post that links to the Hayride will update their own posts appropriately.

If there are attacks, one being too many - and this weekend there were far too many - I want to hear about it from my local news sources. I want to hear about it from my local police. On this, the author of the Hayride and I completely agree.

And if the Hayride stuff had stopped there and only posted pertinent documentation (police report, hospital records, etc), I'd remain in complete agreement. But they took it further, and made it a hit piece on New Orleans, the people of New Orleans, the positive culture of New Orleans, and people who disagree with them politically.

One meme is that there was no informative local coverage, even though they keep linking to local coverage. No, that coverage is not as informative as we would want it to be. But you can say that about any subject involving Southeast Louisiana. We're a city under sea level, remember? A lot of folks nationwide are fighting the battle for more informative coverage of the news, we are glad you are onboard, and we thank you for not thinking this is specifically limited to a certain location.

I mean, I know a lot of folks think news of a bunch of Tea Party protesters beating up an African-American couple would make national news immediately, we have reason to believe that would not be the case.

First of all, examine the linkage to New Orleans' "lefty blogosphere" and a post on Gentilly Girl's experience in the French Quarter. If the quote counts as liberal "hate speech," we've got some significant failures in communication. I mean, if someone's fat ass shoves me off a sidewalk, they're getting called an fmook without regard to political affiliation.

And if that political affiliation made money and ran campaigns denigrating my status as both an American and a human being, I'd likely be more vociferous in my denunciation.

Also, there is the video to "give you a taste" of what the protest looked like "early on."

...ummm.... What? Maybe I missed something. Go watch it. I'll wait. Really.

Was there some bad behavior or raging anarchists or troublemakers I was supposed to see in there? That looks more well behaved than most Tea Party videos I've seen, and more New Orleanian - brass bands, people dancing, signs. The folks who are interviewed account for themselves very well. You might not agree with their opinions, but they are more informed than the cameraman, who doesn't appear to understand why people want Charity Hospital reopened, even now that HCR has passed. (Hayride at least makes some mention of the peacable nature in a later update.)

In addition, there was a link to an anarchist webpage I've never seen before, by an organization I've never heard of, claiming to be involved somehow in the Second Line. Ummm. Anarchists don't care about health care, Charity Hospital and UNO. WTF?

Did the SRLC really expect to have a convention in New Orleans and not hear about the 2005 flood, the disasterous response, the shuttering of Charity Hospital, the massive cuts to mental and adolescent health care in New Orleans, and the slashing of funding for UNO, all taking place in a city in the midst of a police civil rights scandal? They're lucky the convention was on French Quarter Fest, because protesters really would have outnumbered conventioneers had it been the weekend before last.

Are you kidding me? What does any of that have to do with the attack? None of those concerns are discredited because troublemakers got out of control and attacked somebody. Find the perpetrators (maybe GOP types will finally understand why you should fix crime cameras), throw the book at them, and send them to Angola for assault.

I wonder what information others in the NOLA blogosphere have to add.

Again, thanks DADVocate for kicking this off.

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The Conservative Manifesto

Showing up on the heels of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, I was surprised to see just how much work they did on their platform for the coming 2010 elections. One was led to believe from the media coverage that this thing was all about Sarah Palin's cliche generator, Herman Cain's cancer treatment, and booing Ron Paul.

Also, it was in New Orleans during the French Quarter Festival. We all know why stuffy types from the hinterlands visit New Orleans, especially stuffy types with a penchant for voyeurism in the local specialty clubs.

Consider me shocked that any work got done.

Even more surprising, I read the report and found myself in agreement with Conservatives on more than a few issues. Not only that, but I was stunned to see them take positions to my left. WTF?

I was especially happy to see them reverse their position on high-speed rail, at least.

This is incredibly different from the Fire-Eating, highly polarizing and divisive politics they seem to portray on television. If they would only reign in their mouthpieces and really sell the policy issues of their "manifesto," they may even start to pick off Southern liberals like me. Why is there such a big difference from what they say and what they do?

Sometimes I just think all the real conservatives are living in a different world, somewhere nearby but far, far away at the same time.

Weird.



Heh, heh, heh.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Midnight in the Garden of Pop and Culture

Last night, I went over the Kim's house and watched the first episode of Treme on HBO.

The series inspired a brigade of reviews, from news sources across the country. It also generated a great deal of internet presence, including a facebook following, "Tremeter" at Humid Beings, and my favorite - the NOLAblogga all star lineup of commentary at Back of Town.

So there's not a lot I could write that hasn't already been written. I'll not pick nits (anyone else notice the clean Superdome roof in the pan-out shot?) because this thing is fiction. It is telling a story within a wider historical construct, and that is a story that needs to be told.

What I will say is this: I think Treme will teach people more about America than it will teach people about New Orleans. We will know sometime in the next 10 weeks if Americans can handle having their pre-concieved notions dressed up and fed back to them as crow gumbo. We will see if realistic fiction based off true events wins out in the battle against pure make-believe narrative. We will see if selling a drama can change a set of beliefs. And the experimental group includes 30 million plugged in American households with HBO.

But I've already read some discouraging words written by people who should know better. From one advanced review, we hear that the Treme characters are straight out of central casting. From another, I read that the professor character speaking truth-to-power labeled as a "conspiracy theorist" for blaming the flooding on man-made, explosive-free levee collapse. From a third, we hear that the idea of prisoners vanishing for three months is the stuff of police dramas and detracts from the believability of the series.

Really? Is it easier to believe that New Orleans is a girls-gone-wild video surrounded by looting? Is that narrative too entrenched for even an HBO series to dig out?

As I watched the show last night, I found myself terribly distracted. Not by any particular thing the show got "wrong," and not because I wondered if the show made sense to folks who just don't know New Orleans.

I found myself worrying that people simply may not believe things like this can exist.

Will the idea that people dance in the streets, even surrounded by debris, be rejected as too fantastic? Will the traditions of the Mardi Gra Indians not be exploited, but dismissed as part of the "fiction" element of the series? Does Kermit Ruffins appear to those people as a character out of "central casting?" Maybe the music is too brash and too ballsy to cut through the pop culture static infecting too many ears. Nobody really plays music like that, do they? I'm not worried about people being nitpicky about a pie that should not have existed at a certain time, I'm worried about people not believing that pie existed at all.

Because I've already seen plenty of smart people reject a historical fiction's truths in favor of pure make-believe.

I'll keep hoping these fears are unfounded.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

The Friday Must-Read

Despite Gods and Demons by Ray at Back of Town.

I'll not shortchange the post by quoting from it here. Go and read the whole thing.

Tip of the Hat to Oyster.

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Are We Done Yet?

Hardly anyone ever "wins" an argument. It rarely matters which participant is right or wrong, or even if there is an actual right or wrong position to take. Things usually end without minds being changed, some hard feelings, and just some unspoken agreement that we're tired of talking about this particular argument and are going to go argue about some other things for a while.

So, even though Health Care Reform was our Big Argument for the past year, it ain't over. We had a bill passed by the Congress and signed into law by the President. There was a lot of rage on the "losing" side of the argument for a few days, even though the sky has yet to fall as they predicted it would. But predictably, the argument subsided to different areas of the house, and for a little while other arguments are going to show up to replace it. That doesn't stop the mumbling and grumbling about it, though.

We're currently in the period of arguing about other things until the next time someone forgets a birthday or spends too much on a trinket, and then the big row will come back in force. Unfortunately, the argument will sound exactly like the one we had for the last year, because no one really learned anything the first go-round.

And that's why so many people are unhappy about health care/reform in this country. A lot of folks don't comprehend that we have a problem, and the ones who do can't come together on a really good way to fix it.

So, until we hash that out, we will continue to argue about how to install a broken system we can't afford in place of a ... broken system we can't afford.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

CMR

That's right. Coach Mark Richt is the class of the SEC. I've always thought so, and it would take an awful lot for me to think otherwise.

Yeah, I know he hasn't won a National Championship yet. But the average is 10 wins a season, and he gets those wins the right way.

When Georgia does win the National Championship, I will celebrate no matter who is coach. But it will be all the sweeter if it is Mark Richt raising that trophy.


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Slick Oil

Remember, folks. Oil production in America's coastal waters is incredibly safe for the environment. Think about that when you think additional exploration is the answer to all of America's energy woes.

Since I moved to New Orleans in 2006, there has been one major spill and two moderate ones - that I've heard about and seen covered in the news. Bet you haven't heard much about 'em if you aren't living around these parts (hell, even if you are).

Thing is, accidents happen. Stuff breaks. While we may have to drill, baby, drill, keep in mind there will be a price.

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The Union Forever

Hurrah, boys, Hurrah!

One crying shame about the way we Americans do history is that we always seem so scared of our own. Just like the immaturity to which we tend to approach the subject of modern war, we bend over backwards to justify oversimplification and ignorance about past wars.

Confederate History Month is not some new thing, even if most Confederates in the Attic celebrate it for the wrong reasons.

We should not shy away from our past, we should not gloss it over. When political hacks issue proclamations of Confederacy memorials, don't oppose them, encourage them to include the whole history. Tell the whole story. Own American and Confederate and Civil War history and we will be better for it. The story is more complex and heroic and tragic and redemptive than almost any other episode in our history.

And yes, that story includes the story of slavery. Bookman is absolutely right. If you're going to tell one story, you got to tell the whole story. But the story doesn't stop at slavery, either.

This story is the American Epic and we spend most of our time debating whether to tell it wrong or ignore it completely. The past is never dead, it ain't even past. But you wouldn't be able to tell by the way we treat it in the mainstream.

Every day I drive by reminders of the Confederacy. A statue of General Robert E. Lee is exhaulted over Lee Circle in a premier roundabout. A statue of General P. G. T. Beauregard on horseback guards a roundabout two blocks from my house. I pass a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis on my way to and back from work - it is located on Jefferson Davis Parkway which makes up most of my route. This is shortly before or after I turn onto Calhoun Street. If I travel east to Georgia, I pass through a city named Slidell. When I pick up friends from the airport, I travel to a city named Kenner.

I live in one of the most diverse, culturally African and Carribean cities in America, and every day is Confederate Memorial Day.

Every. Single. Day.

And no one seems to know why. Why would we still be ashamed to talk about slavery and its pivotal role in both American history and the war, while at the same time we declare we've moved on from its legacy? If you never owned slaves, why in the hell are you afraid to talk about slavery in academic ways? And if you think the war was just about ending slavery, why did Lincoln specifically include exceptions in the Emancipation Proclamation for slaves held in Orleans Parish, coastal counties of South Carolina and Georgia, and the border states?

Hell, the guy who helped design the Rebel Flag was from St. Bernard Parish and owned a home in the French Quarter. In a city that liberally celebrates its overwhelming cultural contributions to America, why can't I find three people who even know that?

No, no. I know the answer to all these questions and more: because it is complicated, that's why. And we don't like complications. It may mean we have to take off the team colors for a minute and think.

Which is a shame, really. Especially when talking about the Civil War.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Fighting Like Cats & Dawgs

I guess we can put this on my Christmas list. T. Kyle King, one of the most prolific writers and epic Georgia Bulldawg fans is planning to write a book about the UGA - Clemson rivalry.

Based on the fanaticism of college football fans in general, the literary tradition of Georgia fans in particular, and the large glossy photos that are sure to be included as visual aids to any Country Gentlemen who read the book, I don't think he'll have much of a problem finding a publisher.

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A Streetcar Named Prince


(Link is the PDF version of Flagpole Magazine. You can zoom in to the cover for detail.)

It is nothing short of abuse to meld iconic images of two of my beloved cities in this way. My allergy impaired brain is addled enough, I don't need to add the fever-dream possibility that my RTA token can somehow be used to board the St. Charles Streetcar line Uptown and disembark on the west end of Downtown Athens.

To avoid any future confusion, I demand that any future Athens streetcars must be painted in red and black color schemes.

In all seriousness, I have long opined that if certain New Orleanians wanted to look to other cities for ideas on redevelopment and urban renewal, they would do well to turn away from Houston and Atlanta and look instead at cities like Athens and Savannah.

Glad to know someone is looking right back.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Freak Prom

Or, Reason # 249,673 New Orleans matters: Some other places, there are a lot of insufferable, self-righteous jerks. But in New Orleans, a "freak" prom is nothing to be ashamed of.

The only controversey NOLA would have over that event would be arguing over who got to host it. That's just the difference between "culture" and "agriculture," I reckon. :)

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War Is Hell

The video is in black and white, and records a helicopter circling a group of individuals gathered on an Iraqi street that the pilot thinks are hostile. Permission is recieved to engage, and the shooting starts. The bodies fall in a hail of bullets and a cloud of dust. A lone survivor tries to crawl away. Audio records the pilots talking to one another and themselves. Just pick up a weapon, they urge, so the shooting can begin again.

A van pulls up, and some other folks try to carry the wounded individual into the van. Again permission is recieved to engage, again the shooting, the hail of bullets, the cloud of dust. The van slams into the building. The pilots congratulate themselves on a good shoot. Later, American ground forces pull two children from the van, try to rush them to an American hospital, and are ordered to take them to a local medical facility instead.

A pilot opines that they shouldn't have brought their kids to the battle.

Outraged yet? Plenty of people are. And another host of folks are outraged at these folks for being outraged. Because that's how we roll in America, it is all about our thin-skin feelings being hurt by other Americans' words.

Here we have a video of stuff that really went on, and all we do is log on to some website and register our outrage. We want to blame somebody for something.

One thing Greenwald gets right: folks in charge didn't want you to see this video. Our society depends on our body politic being divided and our perceptions being removed from what really goes on. We don't want to see this. We don't want to see photos from Abu Grahib or Guantanamo. We don't want to see pictures of flag draped coffins landing in Maryland.

Because that might change some people's opinions. Reality might hit home for more than just the troops, their families and friends and the folks who live and work in the war zones "over there."

All we have to do to "support the troops" is buy this American flag sticker for our car and call folks who don't agree with the war "anti-American." That way, we know who "stands" with the troops. On the other hand, all we have to do to express our displeasure with the war is point to countless "outrages" that are being done "in our name." That way, we can attempt to shame those individuals with the flag stickers into agreeing with us, or at least wash our hands of being thought complicit.

One wonders how any such behaviors would have led to a different outcome in this video.

Drink in these images. Drink them deep. This is war, and war is hell. It has been going on a long time, it will go on for even longer. This is what happens when the safeties get flicked off, and nations determine the time for talk is over. This is what it looks like when fire and blade win out over pen and plow. The result is rarely glory. The most often returns are tears and sorrow.

If your society is not prepared to deal with things like this maturely, and deal with them en masse, your society is not prepared for war. That is why we keep going over this again and again. We are not a society that handles real war very well. We don't like to know the actual cost.

We'd rather imagine some "good war" from the past, some oversimplified version of cavalry charges where the enemy is always clearly defined and fighting against the side of all that is good and Godly in the world.

Or we'd rather imagine some utopia where people never have to fight one another, where no one ever gets hurt, and bad things don't have to be done in our names. Where war is an abberation and not a constant human condition.

None of that is reality. So now that we have to face that reality, if only temporarily, we will see who can shout the loudest before we can go back to ignoring it again.

Update: The Daily Dish posts a reader's commentary of the video.


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Monday, April 05, 2010

Probably Bad News

Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened over the weekend to quit the political process and join the Taliban if he continued to come under outside pressure to reform, several members of parliament said Monday.

I guess that means hyperbolic rhetoric is a universal human trait. Karzai sounds like another one of these leaders who has to deal with a shadow government in his day to day business. It won't be long before we hear about how "history" will vindicate him, I'm sure.


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Human Resources

For all my Dawg fans out there, once President Michael Adams appoints himself President of the NCAA, under no circumstances are we to replace him with Tulane President Scott Cowen.

Ever.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Get On Your Job

Sometimes, very quiet news needs to stir up a hornets' nest. This is one of those times. Transparency and effectiveness aren't just talking points, they are why the last guy to have the office is leaving in disgrace. If the new guy gets a sniff that someone's going to give an inch, this ain't gonna be a pretty "next four years." Here's the first test.

The local hope and change express is headed for epic fail. NOLA's search for a new police chief, most specifically.

You know how coverups magnify the affect of mistakes? Yes. Process matters, and there are reasons process matters.

Mad props to Editor B for republishing this news.

Look, I can understand that a task force has to work within institutional limits and on deadlines. But some of the described breakdowns are easy to avoid in the first place and fix in the second. This is not rocket surgery. Even if you don't want to broadcast what goes on in meetings, you still take minutes to keep from going over the same old ground again and again.

As far as communications are concerned, it is a shame no one (left) on the task force appears to have heard of email or phones or calendars. Or, hell, copy machines and couriers. This is a cryin' shame.

And then to remove someone for pointing these things out? Sorry, folks-in-charge. That does not lay a foundation for badly needed public confidence in this process. You do not fix problems by eliminating the messenger. You will be found out. You will pay a price.

If you are in charge of something and you are reading this, yes I mean you. Do not get mad at people for pointing out the obvious. As one of the speakers told Mayor Nagin in January of 2007 at the Enough march against crime, "GET ON YOUR JOB."

Update: The story does have legs. I heard about it on the radio in the drive in to work, and the the paper is covering it as well.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Communique

Departmentwide Memorandum

TO: Super Secret Liberal Takeover Headquarters, All Staff
Source: Oystermanov
RE: Bureau of Proletariat Quarterly Labor Situazion Papers
THIS MESSAGE WAS SENT WITH HIGH IMPORTANCE

Text: Obamanomics Job Destruction Report

Please circulate.

End.

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Truer Words

Cliff wonders about crazy anti-government activists sending letters to various governors around the US. He rightly points out that if Jindal isn't "conservative" enough for you, then you may need to reexamine your definition of "conservative."

you won’t have to worry about all those social programs that “real Americans” have such a problem with. They won’t break the budget under President Jindal because he will cut anything. Hospitals, higher education, non profits, and anything else you want to have a tea party for is on the chopping block.


Of course, the money quote:

Governor Jindal actually does all the things Sarah Palin makes speeches about.


To which I can only respond: True, true.

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