Thursday, February 26, 2009

F*** Josh Marshall

Still, the Louisiana coast might have survived another 1,000 years or more, Louisiana State University scientists said. But the discovery of oil and gas compressed its destruction into a half-century.

By the 1980s, the petroleum industry and the corps had dredged more than 20,000 miles of canals and new navigation channels from the coast inland across the wetlands. The new web of waterways, like a circulatory system pumping poison, injected saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico into salt-sensitive freshwater wetlands. Fueled by the advance of big business on the coast, the Gulf's slow march northward accelerated into a sprint. Link

While inland states enjoy 50 percent of the tax revenue from drilling on their federal lands, Louisiana gets back a mere $35 million of the $5 billion it contributes to the federal treasury each year from offshore drilling, or less than one percent. link

In other words, Louisiana has received almost nothing from the offshore drilling that has led to the destruction of its coast. Yet, hack journalists and bloggers have the gall to imply that Louisiana is a state full of ungrateful freeloaders. For over three years, we've heard it from the right, but now it seems to be even worse from the left. Lying liberally, Josh Marshall approvingly quotes Gail Collins:
Louisiana has gotten $130 billion in post-Katrina aid. How is it that the stars of the Republican austerity movement come from the states that suck up the most federal money?

Believe it or not, Marhall would inform us that Numbers Matter only a few hours later. When conservatives quoted that wildly distorted $130 billion, they usually said "$130B to Louisiana (or New Orleans) and the Gulf Coast," so that the statement was merely a gross exaggeration expressed in a misleading fashion. Liberals* seem incapable of meeting even that standard of accuracy. Like I said at Jeffrey's, I didn't need "The Daily Howler" to tell me what a hack Collins is, but I didn't realize that Somerby was right about Marshall. BTW, Bob Somerby also quoted Gail Collins' column today. Incomprehensibly, he failed to question to question the assertion that Louisiana had received $130 billion in post-Katrina aid.

When time allows over the weekend, I'll find a few links to demonstrate what a remarkably inaccurate statement that was.

*Referring to Josh Marshall, I certainly wouldn't claim Gail Collins as a liberal.

F*** Chris Matthews

Rush job, articles that I had quoted in the past are no longer available online, so I found myself imitating a conservative Shreveport professor.

I don't often defend Bobby Jindal, but Chris Matthews' comments were way out of line Tuesday night. Others have criticized Chris Matthews far more effectively than I ever could, but I've heard similar comments from other quarters. Couldn't find a transcript, but the offensive comments are very early in the clip:

So, a state that the federal government has been ripping off for years, decades actually, should be grateful for the federal government's generosity?

I'll have to add a few paragraphs after work, but a few more things for Chris Matthews, or anybody else making similar comments, to consider.

About the only similarity that I can see between Katrina aid and the stimulus package is that Republicans, who normally claim that "tax relief" pays for itself, count the cost of tax credits and tax relief when computing the total tab of both.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What was the worst thing about Jindal's presentation tonight?

Was it that he sounded like that museum tour guide who talked your ninth grade class as if he were talking to a third grade class? Was it that he was more interested in talking himself up than in criticizing Obama's speech? I mean, it was the Republican response to the president's speech -- guess there wasn't much to criticize. Or, was it that the criticisms he did make were the already stale lies and misrepresentations that the Republicans have been making since Obama's inauguration? Or, was it something else altogether?

Was Tom Foreman just trying to be cute when he corrected Obama about where the automobile was invented, or was he serious? I didn't notice a trace of irony in his voice, but I do sometimes miss that kind of thing.

Update: Even Fox News was critical.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

At the 8th Annual "Newest New Orleanians" Breafast

What will his smugness say next October? Will he welcome new residents and thank them for helping to shore up our decimated tax base? Or, will he tell them not to bother asking how their tax dollars are spent because they're not from here and wouldn't understand?

Will his hand-picked recovery director be there?
"It should not be a local person," said Blakely, who paid his own way from his home in Australia to address the African-American Leadership Project's summit in Central City. "They (should) have no baggage, but they have to have a real human touch to know where people are coming from."

Blakely said such a leader would be less likely to be influenced by historical, cultural and political factors that can sway the decisions of local residents on issues including which geographic areas, if any, should be off limits to rebuilding.

The city will be soon be changing the Make New Orleans Home website. Expect it to read, "Just because you'll be paying taxes, don't think you can bamboozle us mother fuckers."

Last minute advice for Val Kilmer

When Nagin urges the King of Bacchus to shake his booty, Val Kilmer should respond that he's not from here. So, he wouldn't know the history of shake the booty dance and what's going on. And Ray Nagin should show him how to do it, or he'd be wasting our time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Did I hear the smug prick say, "name one"?

I can't find either a transcript or a recording, but I thought I heard the smug prick challenge his critics to name one questionable professional service contract. When he defended his executive order suspending professional service contract review panels, Nagin that that the 311 and crime camera contracts were bid contracts, not professional service contracts. I'm not familiar with the details of those particular contracts, but I'd be willing to bet that's a technically true, but misleading, statement.

Real cute for the mayor to challenge ordinary residents to any questionable professional service contracts. Real:
The city's Law Department explained that before it can make a contract available, it has to know who the contract is with. So until a reporter or member of the public knows who has a contract, he can't find out who has the contract.

First, a request was made through the Law Department for a complete list of the city’s active professional service contracts. The city responded with a list of 118 contracts totaling $42.9 million, but the list was incomplete. The city’s contract with Dallas-based ACS State and Local Solutions for the 311 non-emergency information service was at least one contract not on the list.

When asked how the city compiled the list of contracts for the request, City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields said her office must wait for other departments to file any contract amendments or extensions and then manually update the department’s contract database. Until then, those contracts would be rendered inactive in the city attorney’s database.

For the second public records request, a list of all current contracts either through public bid or professional services procurement was requested through Moses-Fields’ office, as well as through the purchasing department at Moses-Fields’ direction. The Law Department’s response to the request stated, “The city does not maintain or possess such a list and is unable to comply with your records request.”

Still, I can think of a few.

Before Katrina*, there was a contract for Jimmie Woods' brand new Community Based Corrections, a questionable parking meter contract and a no-bid contract for bombproof garbage cans.

Since Katrina, the mayor's awarded a no-bid contract to replace the bombproof garbage cans and a major embarrassment involving flooded and abandoned cars. A questionable contract for storm debris removal was signed the day before Katrina made landfall. I'm sure that I could easily find more.

Also, in an interview with Liz Reyes, Nagin said that there never has been a problem with RFP's for city contracts. That, of course, is bullshit.

Finally, I had to laugh when the smug prick called himself a "good steward" of public dollars. I'll return to this in a future post, but the man's spending priorities are so bizarre that even Dr. John and Dr. Jeremiah Wright said WTF?

*You know, back when Nagin was such a great reforming mayor.

It worked for Bush, didn't it?

Bush in 2007. Nagin in 2009 -- not so much a similarity as a lesson learned.

I saw part of this interview several days ago and was immediately flooded with memories of the exact moment that I came to hate the smug prick. I tried to blog about it, but when I deleted every use of the phrase "smug prick", there was very little text left in the post.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Almost forgot Valentine's Day

The most romantic clip I could find on short notice

Also, a heartrending ballad of unrequited love:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I couldn't resist

John Pilger in The New Statesman:
The politics of bollocks

Supporters of the new US president refuse to admit that the "man of change" is, in fact, changing very little. It's time the Obama lovers grew up

Probably a little premature, but somebody other than Anderson Cooper has to keep them honest.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Today's first easy "Gotcha"

Can't guarantee a second will follow

SDT's new commercial, prominently featured on the company website*, promises private garbage collection for "the same or less than what the Sewerage & Water Board puts on your bill." All three sanitation companies charge the City of New Orleans more than what the Sewerage & Water Board puts on your bill. I'm not sure how much SDT charges the city on a per unit basis, but Metro and Richards each charge the city significantly more than the $12 sanitation fee that appears on your monthly water bill.

How can SDT provide private collection so much more cheaply than any of the firms provide public collection? The private collection would be for buildings with five or more units, so there might be some economies of scale, but $10 per unit (per month) less than Richards charges the city? The private collection wouldn't necessarily be semiautomated, so there might be some savings from using manual collection, but yesterday's Picayune featured a relevant article about the cost of semiautomated garbage collection in Kenner.

Am I alone in thinking that, if Frank Donze must engage in snark, he should direct it at Mayor Frugal's Henny Youngman act rather than Stacy Head's Norma Rae act?

*While you're at the website, be sure to shop SDT. Actually, I can't get any of the merchandise to display, but I'm sure that the drink huggies, T-shirts and hoodies are delightful.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Thought I blogged about that

Last November, I heard it from a very reliable source that O.C. Coleman was planning to run, as a Republican, for J.P. Morrell's House seat when Morrell moved up to the State Senate. Sure enough, in today's paper, I read that he's declared his candidacy. Since he's officially a candidate, let it be duly noted that Coleman is an dedicated member of the dragon slaying party. Of course, he has already been the instigator of one famous dragon hunt; maybe he'll be able to run as Jindal's veep in four years.

But, damn, I was sure I had already written about this, either in a blog post here or in a comment on another blog. Since I can't find the link to prove it, I'll just have to forgo the incomparable of pleasure of saying that I scooped the media. Guess I'll just have to go out and get laid or something.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Does James read Stephanie's column?

Stephanie Grace made a good point last March:
Every time Nagin touts his own transparency and accountability, he all but begs for scrutiny.

And whether or not he's done anything wrong, every time he refuses to tell the public what he's up to, that shtick becomes a little less convincing.

I understand that it's vitally important for James Gill to keep his readers up to speed on every detail of the ongoing saga of Vince Marinello and his hairpiece,* but he should consider Grace's implicit advice and comment on some of the statements that Nagin and his staff have made this week:
The New Orleans City Council will vote Thursday on whether the decision making process concerning certain city contracts, worth millions of dollars, should be open to the public.
The mayor told Eyewitness News that he feels the process is already transparent, and he says if the council passes the ordinance his administration may end up fighting the decision in court.

The mayor's director of communications, Ceeon Quiett, released a statement a few hours after the vote, saying, "Under Mayor Nagin's leadership, city government is and will continue to be transparent.”

As of this writing, it's a dead link, but the mayor told WVUE that his administration was the most transparent in the city's history. Of course, he also brought along a former Morial City Attorney to vouch for his way of doing business...while he claimed to be such an improvement over his predecessors.

A brief history of Nagin Administration transparency as it relates to the santation contracts:

Times Picayune, Oct. 5, 2006:
City to award trash contracts
But bid details kept out of public eye

But with Nagin poised to hand out the mammoth deals, city officials have failed to produce any contract bids or their rankings by a technical committee that reviewed them, despite repeated phone, e-mail and in-person requests for the public records during the past two weeks.

Oct. 28, 2006:
Sanitation Director Veronica White said bid documents are never available for public review within minutes of being opened. Andrée Cohen, a city purchasing administrator, said the bid proposals would not be available until after the contract is awarded.

Fred Wilde, a lawyer with the city attorney's office, said the documents are public but that anyone wanting to view or photocopy them would have to make a request in writing.

That request comes on the heels of a similar exchange regarding the other two garbage-hauling contracts, which Nagin awarded Oct. 5.

Though mayoral spokeswoman Ceeon Quiett acknowledged that bid documents received for those deals were public, the city held them back for more than a month after they were submitted. They were provided four days after Nagin announced the winners -- Metro Disposal and Richard's Disposal -- during a City Hall news conference. Those were the only companies to bid on the deals, which each cover about half the city.

Nov. 18, 2006:
City officials refused to provide bid documents following the 10-minute conference, despite requirements of the state's public records law that in general oblige public entities to grant immediate access to available public documents. Assistant City Attorney Shawn Lindsay first demanded a written public records request, and after one was provided, said that only one lawyer in the city attorney's office handles requests for public records, and she was out of the office Friday.

Nov. 30, 2006:
Council seeking details of garbage contracts
Administration hasn't disclosed fine print

With a slew of questions still swirling around three proposed trash-collection contracts, New Orleans City Council members will meet in emergency session today to press for answers before they vote on the deals Friday as part of the Mayor Ray Nagin's proposed 2007 budget.

The most heated issues are the contracts' cost -- more than triple the current price of garbage collection citywide -- and the fine print of the pending deals with Metro Disposal and Richard's Disposal, which the Nagin administration has refused to disclose, saying the deals have not yet been signed. The contracts would call for twice-weekly pickup in most of the city.

That's all that I have time for this morning. As the Oct. 28 makes clear, some of the bid documents were finally made available, but by the time the council and public were informed of all the details, it was too late to rebid the contracts. Also, I'll repeat that to accurately judge the sanitation contracts that were signed, they need to be compared to the RFP's that allegedly frightened other potential bidders. If the council really wants to foster transparency, it should enact an ordinance requiring that all RFP's should be available for viewing by all citizens.

*Three columns about one wig in one month, you think maybe the T/P reassigned the wrong columnist? There may have been two wigs involved; I rarely pay much attention to crimes, even murders, in which the victim knew the assailant.

Monday, February 02, 2009

It almost happened the way I almost predicted it.

I started to make the joke prediction that Arizona would win a poorly officiated Super Bowl that left Pittsburgh fans screaming bloody murder. Of course, I can't imagine any Super Bowl being as poorly officiated as the one Pittsburgh was given three years ago*, but I'm sure that Pittsburgh fans would have forgotten all about that. I don't know that the officiating favored on team over the other last night. If anything, I'd say that it favored Pittsburgh, but when the officiating is that obtrusive, the losing team and its fans have the right to complain.

Honestly, I did think that it would be fitting for Pittsburgh to lose a game that left its fans complaining about the officiating. Seattle fans might have even found something resembling cosmic justice in such an outcome, but, to believe in a God whose cosmic justice extends to something as trivial as professional football, one would to a strange conception of God, indeed. It would be almost as strange as believing in a god who ensouls embryos at the moment of a conception, when they have up to an 80% chance of failing to implant in the uterus. It wouldn't as strange as believing in a god who would kill innocent residents because that city contained gay bars and abortion clinics, and it couldn't begin to approach the sheer insanity of believing in a god who wipe out St. Bernard and eastern St. Tammany Parishes, and Hancock and Harrison Counties when he sent a hurricane to punish New Orleans for its sins. Didn't we stop believing in that kind of god when the one god of Christianity supplanted belief in the multiple gods of pagan mythologies?

*In fairness, I should point out that Greg Easterbook, the universally admired expert about everything, thought that Super Bowl XL was fairly officiated.

A long-standing law

If a law that's been on the books for two years can be considered long-standing, there's nothing questionable about this statement:
Instead, the sudden accumulation of garbage along sidewalks in the Vieux Carre and CBD was the product of a surprise decision by the city's Sanitation Department to start enforcing a long-standing law that says owners of large businesses and residential properties with more than four units must hire private contractors to collect their trash.

As far as I can tell, that wasn't spelled out until the sanitation code was revised in 2007. One could argue that the revised sanitation code merely clarified the old code, which limited collection to four bags or four permanent containers, but that would be debatable. At any rate, there's still the (entirely predictable) problem of larger buildings that are paying the fee:
The water bill for a Quarter condo association with 10-units for example showed it was already paying $12 a month for each unit, but the association received a letter from the city dated January 28, 2009 that under a city ordinance they are prohibited from placing solid waste curbside for collection by the city contractor. The letter goes on to say because it's a residential complex with five or more units, it's responsible for contracting with private solid waste haulers.

Complaints from small businesses that pay the $24 monthly fee but find their garbage collection has been cut off are almost certain to follow.

However, it's late. Even though the reporting on this issue leaves a lot to be desired, I'll have to follow up on this tomorrow or Wednesday. FWIW, the relevant part of the city ordinance that I copied in 2007:
Sec. 138-46. Maximum collections for one establishment.
Not more than 128 gallons of garbage or trash and four standard bundles of tree branches and shrubbery securely tied, with each bundle weighing not more than 25 pounds and measuring not more than four feet in length shall be removed from any one household or small business place, at any one collection. Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, garbage and trash shall be placed in not more than four permanent containers, each weighing no more than 75 pounds. Amounts in excess of these quantities shall be removed by the producers thereof.
(Code 1956, § 28-11; M.C.S., Ord. No. 21497, § 1, 5-6-04)

The link that I saved takes you to new code.

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