Happy Thanksgiving!! Let’s Talk Turkey!!!

stock-graphics-vintage-thanksgiving-postcard-02625

Good Morning and Happy Thanksgiving!

We’ve gotten passed the Turkey Amnesty Day–an executive action–with President Obama.   Mac and Cheese were saved from Thanksgiving Dinner and will live out their lives in the National Zoo.  You can see the President talk turkey on that link. It was a cute speech with Sasha and Malia standing by to clap for the rescue.

President Obama poked fun Wednesday at his conservative critics over his executive actions that give legal status to as many as five million undocumented immigrants, saying his Thanksgiving pardon of a turkey would doubtlessly be criticized as “amnesty.”

Obama joked that the pardon of a turkey named Cheese would be the “most talked about executive action this month” and one that’s “fully within my legal authority, the same kind of action taken by Democrats and Republican presidents before.”

“I know some will call this amnesty, but don’t worry, there is plenty of turkey to go around,” he said.

During a speech at a Polish community center in Chicago on Wednesday, Obama used similar language to his turkey pardoning. He called his actions within his “legal authority,” reminded the audience about former President Ronald Reagan’s immigration executive order, and hit back against those who call the executive order “amnesty.”
The turkey pardon’s White House audience chuckled at Obama’s jokes, but last week’s executive action that gave legal status and work permits to illegal immigrants isn’t a laughing matter for many conservatives. Republicans ripped Obama’s decision, accusing him of acting outside his authority, and threatened that they’ll go after him with legislation that seeks to block Obama’s order.

I know most of us aren’t in the mood today for something long and depressing. I thought I’d take this opportunity to lay down a little dirt on the Cassiday-Landrieu Race and a lot of good research done by two fellow Louisiana Bloggers on Triple imagesDipping “Double Bill”  Cassiday.  Cassiday has been running on an nti-Obama and anti-government health care program campaign and that’s just about it.  Interestingly enough, the millionaire doctor has three sources of income and all are either from State or Federal Government sources.  He also appears to be commiting payroll fraud concurrently.  I’m glad to see that National media and state Newspapers are now picking up on the story.  We vote in a few weeks.  I’m not sure this will make any difference but it really should give some of these voters pause.  Will they vote this turkey into office?

Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge is disputing reports on two political blogs about his part-time work at LSU Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) that suggested he was compensated for hours he didn’t perform, didn’t do the teaching work for which he was given a House ethics waiver to perform, and filed work sheets indicated he did medical work when Congress was conducting votes and holding hearings.

The allegations, based on records obtained by Jason Berry writing on theamericanzombie.com, were posted Tuesday — just 11 days before the Dec. 6 Louisiana Senate runoff between Cassidy and incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. The records also were the subject of a report on the political blog by Lamar White Jr. on CenLamar.com.

The reports outline Cassidy’s continued work for LSUHSC after his election to Congress in November, 2008. The House Ethics Committee approved part-time work for Cassidy as a “teaching physician,” offering a “regular course of instruction.”

In an interview Wednesday, Cassidy said that although LSUHSC records don’t show him doing lectures, he taught students as he and they worked with patients at clinics and other facilities. He also advised students, worked with them on their research and papers, including in Washington when he would meet with students doing residencies and internships in area medical facilities after the day’s congressional work ended.

Memos from LSUHSC said that Cassidy was expected to work, “on average,” 7.5 hours a week, or 30 hours a month, for a stipend of $20,000, reflecting about one-fifth of his hours and pay from before 2009 when he was working full-time.

But 16 time sheets obtained from LSU by American Zombie, and later provided NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, show he reported working a cumulative 219.75 hours, or 13.7 hours per month — well short of the 30 hour per month figure. None of the time sheets showed him working more than 27 hours in a single month.

Cassidy said that he wasn’t being paid “by the hour,” and that he worked longer hours when Congress wasn’t in session. A Cassidy campaign spokesman said he often worked more than the specified hours for LSCHSC.

The blogs questioned whether it was appropriate for Cassidy to retain his tenure at LSUHSC after going part-time, and to be compensated for malpractice insurance. Cassidy said LSU provides malpractice insurance for all is part-time physicians.

As for tenure, Cassidy said he wasn’t even aware he had been kept in a tenured position.

HTPKG200277To quote my friend Nath Pizzolato,  “BILL CASSIDY draws a PAYCHECK from the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND from the STATE GOVERMENT for a job he’s NOT EVEN WORKING? And even though BILL CASSIDY is in the top ONE PERCENT, his wife draws her own GOVERNMENT PAYCHECK for NOT WORKING? THREE GOVERNMENT PAYCHECKS? Sounds like THE CASSIDYS are some WELFARE FREELOADERS GETTING RICH off HARD-WORKING, HONEST TAXPAYERS.”

Not only that, he basically billed the LSU HSC for time spent teaching and working while he was physically present on the floor of Congress.

Late Tuesday, a handful of local Louisiana political blogs released internal emails and school records they say call into question whether Cassidy remained on payroll as a congressman while not contributing at the school, wrongly logged hours at LSU while he was in Washington, and whether he maintained tenure when he didn’t meet the minimum requirements.

“The documents speak for themselves and certainly raise serious questions that Congressman Cassidy will have to answer,” Landrieu spokesman Fabien Levy said in a statement.
“Congressman Cassidy may have taken home over $100,000 in taxpayer funds for work he never did. Most people don’t get paid enough for the work they do, let alone for the work they don’t do. But it seems Congressman Cassidy got a pat on the back and a check in the bank. Louisiana taxpayers deserve answers.”

The Landrieu campaign noted that some people at LSU have been arrested for falsifying time sheets.

Lamar White’s blog piece was picked up by IND Reporter the day he published it.  I love that he’s coined the Congressman “Double Bill” Cassiday given he’s getting paid by Congress and the state simultaneously.

On at least 21 different occasions during the last 2.5 years, Rep. Bill Cassidy billed the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the Affordable Care Act, according to records first posted by Jason Berry ofThe American Zombie. Cassidy, a medical doctor, remained on LSU’s payroll after he was first elected, despite concerns by his associates about the nature of work that Cassidy, as a member of Congress, could legitimately conduct in his capacity as an employee of LSU.

Cassidy faces incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu in the Dec. 6 runoff.

In May of 2010, Cassidy received an extensive opinion from the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, advising, among other things, that he could be compensated as a “teaching physician” who teaches “a regular course of instruction.” The House Committee also advised Cassidy that, although he is prohibited from practicing medicine for compensation, he could still accept “payments for professional medical services in an amount that does not exceed the actual and necessary expenses associated with the medical services provided.” Payments for actual and necessary expenses associated with medical services, it is worth noting, are considered on a case-by-case basis; physician members of Congress are not allowed to earn a salary for the practice of medicine.

Although the records released are incomplete, they raise serious legal and ethical questions about Cassidy’s role at LSU and seem to suggest that Cassidy may have been in open violation of the House Committee’s clear guidelines and may have been grossly overcompensated for his work.

Instead of taking a leave of absence from LSU after he was elected in November 2008, Cassidy agreed to an 80 percent reduction in his salary, or approximately $20,000 a year, slightly less than the $26,550 annual limitation on outside wages earned by members of Congress. There were practical reasons a physician who had been newly and narrowly elected to a Congressional seat that had already changed hands twice in the last two years would want to remain on LSU’s payroll: In addition to his salary, LSU also paid for Cassidy’s medical malpractice insurance, continuing education, and licensing fees, expenses that can easily total in the thousands. In the event that he lost re-election, he would be able to immediately return to his medical practice, without even skipping a beat.

Remember this guy is part of Boehner’s gang that hates the Affordable Health Care Act and votes against poor people getting any kind of government money.  He even voted against his own district getting Hurricane Relief.  He also wants to thanks_1privatize Medicare while his wife uses it as part of her disability benefits.   He said that he didn’t during a recent debate, but here’s the article from two years ago showing the votes.    Again, Newspapers across the state are supporting  Landrieu.  I can’t imagine facing a major hurricane again without her.

Mary Landrieu has stood up for Louisiana time and again during her 18 years in the U.S. Senate. She fought for our fair share of oil and gas lease revenues. She made sure our communities received vital disaster aid after Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches, after Hurricane Rita, after Gustav, after Isaac. She understood the need to keep flood insurance premiums affordable long before others in Congress came to that realization.

Her opponent is trying to distract voters from Sen. Landrieu’s accomplishments in the Senate. He shouldn’t be allowed to get away with that.

The most important question in the Dec. 6 runoff election is who would best represent the interests of Louisiana residents in Washington. The answer is clear: Mary Landrieu.

Her Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which passed in 2006, achieved something Louisiana leaders had tried for decades to do: Require the federal government to give our state and other energy-producing states a significant share of revenues from offshore drilling. By 2017, the act will provide an estimated $500 million each year for restoring Louisiana’s coast.

Those revenues will benefit Louisianians for generations to come and help families hold onto the land they love.

Sen. Landrieu also helped ensure that New Orleans and other communities across South Louisiana got the federal resources essential to rebuilding homes, businesses and levees post-Katrina. That wasn’t an easy task, with influential members of Congress questioning whether we deserved help.

She played a key role in writing and passing the Restore Act, which will ensure that the vast majority of BP’s fines for the 2010 oil spill will go to coastal restoration — with Louisiana in line for the largest share. Her leadership and ability to work with Republican colleagues in other Gulf states was essential to the act’s approval.

She also wrote provisions into law allowing FEMA to forgive community disaster loans, which eliminated $391 million in post-Katrina debt for parish governments. In the past year, $54.8 million in loans for Jefferson Parish, $67.8 million for St. Tammany Parish schools and $24.4 million for the St. Tammany sheriff and parish government were wiped off the books thanks to her efforts.

Sen. Landrieu also successfully fought last year to reverse exorbitant flood insurance rates that would have been devastating for homeowners and businesses. Not only did she help get legislation through the Senate, she brought the stories of distressed homeowners to Congress with a collection of anecdotes and photos called MyHomeMyStory.

These are major achievements that speak to her leadership skills, her effectiveness and her commitment to her state.

Anway, I hope you have a good long weekend and that you have plenty of food on your table!  I’m terrifically busy right now but I will be attending a brunch on Sunday with Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  I hope I can report back on that for you.

If you want to read the original great analysis and work done by two Louisiana bloggers, be sure to check out their original analysis on the Double Bill.  Here’s the article from CenLAmar’s site.  Also, here’s the link to American Zombie.  Lamar and Jason did a great job pulling the data together and doing the analysis.  It appears their work has “legs”.  Go give them some traffic love!!!

What’s on your agenda today?  This is an open thread so have at it!!!

Bonus Turkey Material:  TURKEYS AWAY!!!

 

 


Friday Reads

Good Morning!

images (20)I’ve been looking at some of the elections coming up for the midterm season as well as reading the scuttlebutt about the presidential campaigns likely to gear up at the same time.  There’s still some worry that the Republicans may have the momentum going into the midterms and that the Democratic Party may lose its majority in the Senate.  I figured I’d start looking towards fall with my own vulnerable senator and overtly ambitious governor.

The Koch Brothers’ money is hot and heavy in most of the races that are seen as potential switches including my one sane–albeit owned by the oil & gas industry–Senator Mary Landrieu. I’ve been getting really sick of the same stupid Obama-care based attack ad on her that plays endlessly on TV.  The Democratic party is evidently trying some new strategies to run the Koch Brothers express off the tracks. Here’s the new response to that ad that’s been bugging the living daylights out of me for months now.  The analysis comes from Greg Sargent.

A Dem source tells me the spot is backed by a $200,000 buy. Script:

Out of state billionaires spending millions to rig the system and elect Bill Cassidy. Their goal: Another politician bought and paid for. Their agenda: Protect tax cuts for companies that ship our jobs overseas. Cut Social Security and end Medicare as we know it. They even tried to kill relief for hurricane victims. Cassidy’s billion dollar backers: They’ve got a plan for him. It’s not good for Louisiana.

As I noted the other day, this is all about creating a framework within which voters can be made to understand the actual policy agenda Republicans are campaigning on. This is what the Bain attacks on Mitt Romney were all about: Dem focus groups showed voters simply didn’t believe Romney would cut entitlements (per the Paul Ryan plan) whilecutting taxes on the rich. The Bain narrative made Romney’s actual priorities more comprehensible.

The Koch attacks are designed to do something similar. They aren’t really about the Kochs. They are a proxy for the one percent, a means through which to tap into a general sense that the economy remains rigged in favor of the very wealthy. Placed into this frame, GOP policies – opposition to raising the minimum wage; the Paul Ryan fiscal blueprint, which would redistribute wealth upwards; opposition to the Medicaid expansion, which AFP is fighting in multiple states –  become more comprehensible as part of a broader storyline. In that narrative, Republican candidates are trying to maintain or even exacerbate an economic status quo that’s stacked against ordinary Americans, while Dems are offering solutions to boost economic mobility and reduce inequality, which are increasingly pressing public concerns.

In many ways this strategy is born of necessity. The 2014 fundamentals are stacked heavily against Democrats, who are defending seven Senate seats in states carried by Mitt Romney in 2012 that are older, whiter, and redder than the diversifying national electorate. This is made even worse by the midterm electorate, in which core Dem groups are less likely to turn out.

GOP attacks on the health law in red states are not just about Obamacare. They are, more broadly, about casting Senate Dems as willing enablers of the hated president and blaming the sputtering recovery on #Obummer Big Gummint, to channel people’s economic anxieties into a vote to oust Dem incumbents.

Mary Landrieu, meanwhile, is out front and center trying to force through the Keystone Pipeline.  This is likely to bring a few jobs to Louisiana and make her oil company donors quite happy.

Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana intensified the pressure on Secretary of State John Kerry, a former Senate colleague, to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

During a hearing on the State Department’s 2015 budget, Ms. Landrieu, a Democrat who has been a strong pipeline proponent and faces a tough re-election fight this year, pressed Mr. Kerry to approve the project, which would carry crude from Canada’s oil sands and from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale Formation to Gulf Coast refineries.

Ms. Landrieu, the new chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, said, “Canada is our closest, strongest trading partner,” and “a majority of American people” support Keystone. “It is hard for me to understand why there are still questions about whether building this pipeline is in our national interest,” she said.

Actually, it really isn’t in the national interest since most of the Canadian tar sands oil will be sold on the open market and the danger of polluting the major source of fresh water for five states in the center of the country remains.  However, Landrieu always moves to the right during the election cycle. I am certainly not going to vote for Bill Cassidy who could be worse .  He still rings all the usual right wing bells albeit not with much charisma as some of his Texas compadres in congress.

Leading Republicans figured Cassidy to be her perfect foil, as a physician (treating the poor in public hospitals) with only eight years in elected office (experience but not a career in politics). He’s not especially charismatic, but he is intelligent and trustworthy. In the recent government shutdown/debt crisis, he voted along with conservatives but, in his rhetoric, he did not get wild-eyed about it.

And that’s a problem. Though U.S. Sen. David Vitter has run interference, Cassidy has been unable to close the deal on the right. For Republicans running for Congress these days, it is not enough to be conservative. If you are not ultra-conservative, then you’re moderate, which is just a slippery slope away from closet liberal. This nagging distrust about his conservatism has created an opening on the right, into which have stepped two other Republican candidates, Rep. Paul Hollis of Covington and Rob Maness of Madisonville.

Maness, with tea party connections, lumps Cassidy together with Landrieu as compromised establishment politicians. Hollis assured Vitter that he would not criticize Cassidy but keep his aim on Landrieu. Yet in his first TV ads, standing under an oak tree, he distinguishes himself as unspoiled by the partisan politics of Washington. His bid for home boy status — “lifelong Louisiana,” he describes himself — is a sly dig at both Maness, an Air Force brat, and Cassidy, whose family moved here when he was 6 years old. His underlying message is: I’m one of us, and they are not.

A more direct slap at the GOP anointed one comes from Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator, who recently told The Hill newspaper that Cassidy can’t beat the incumbent because he’s not conservative enough.

Perkins has his eye on a seat some where right now so he’s hardly an objective  on the candidate.   Of course, the Republican Party and the Koch ads are hammering away at “Obamacare”.  This is an interesting tactic in a state like Louisiana where the needs of so many go unserved and the governor is taking heat for turning down the Medicaid expansion from every paper in the state.  Then, there are these numbers.  Ted Cruz’s fears have come true.  It’s getting popular and most of the recent advertised scare stories used in the political ads are being successfully debunked,

President Barack Obama’s health-care law is becoming more entrenched, with 64 percent of Americans now supporting it outright or backing small changes.

Even so, the fervor of the opposition shows no sign of abating, posing a challenge for Obama’s Democrats during congressional races this year, as a Republican victory in a special Florida election this week showed. In addition, 54 percent of Americans say they’re unhappy with the president’s handling of the issue, according to a Bloomberg National Poll.

That’s an improvement since the last poll, in December, when Obama’s public standing on health care hit a low of 60 percent disapproval after the botched rollout of the insurance exchanges, according to the March 7-10 poll of 1,001 adults.

So, this Louisiana race may be one to watch if you want to see what could happen in the fall.  The other thing is that it’s pretty certain thatimages (19) Governor Bobby Jindal is not giving up his presidential dreams no matter how badly he shows in all the polls.  He’s on the campaign trail and introducing legislation that’s been written by the Koch machine.  Oh, and he’s in New Hampshire.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal launched a new political action committee (PAC) on Thursday (March 13) to assist conservative candidates in the 2014 midterm elections, just before heading off to New Hampshire for a series of events.

Jindal’s PAC, dubbed “Stand Up to Washington,” will feature former Mitt Romney campaign manager Jill Neunaber in its leadership role. Neunaber is getting to be a familiar name around Louisiana, as the head of Jindal’s PAC and also his recently-formed nonprofit “America Next,” which is aimed primarily at national issues and supporting Republican candidates in this year’s gubernatorial races.

“Obviously, my main focus is still going to be continuing to help governors win their races and candidates to win gubernatorial races,” Jindal told POLITICO in a reported 18-minute phone interview about the new PAC.

“But I also get a ton of requests to go and speak and help federal candidates in the Senate and the House. So we just thought this was a logical thing to do.”

Soon after announcing the PAC, Jindal will head off to the battleground state of New Hampshire for a series of events. He will keynote the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference on Friday; The Nashua Telegraph also reports he will appear at the Wild Irish Breakfast that morning.

Nothing says candidate like Pancake breakfasts and parades.  Oh, and appearing on comedy and talk shows.  Did you know that Texas Governor Rick Perry got booed during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel live?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was booed when he took the stage at ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ on Tuesday night at the South by Southwest conference in Austin.

“We do know how to get it stirred up,” the Republican said as he sat down, presumably referring to Texans.

The booing continued throughout the interview, until Perry mentioned decriminalizing marijuana – that prompted the crowd to cheer.

When asked if he’d ever smoked marijuana himself, Perry responded, “No, thank God!”

Kimmel also asked Perry whether he planned to run for president in 2016, after an unsuccessful attempt in 2012.

“This is not the crowd that I want to make this announcement to,” Perry said.

I have to think that most of the folks in Austin will be really glad to get rid of the man, but then you probably should ask Ralph about that since he would know more than me.

images (18)I might as well follow up on my post last Friday since this post seems to have taken on a Louisianan flavor anyway.  There have been a few more folks–recent transplants and visitors–writing articles on the state still.  I’m thinking it must have something to do with True Detective but maybe not.   I don’t feel like I can be the outstanding transmitter of what’s special and frustrating about this state as well as a native because frankly, after 20 years, the place still can make me dizzy in both good and bad ways. So, I’m going to quote Lamar White here.   See, Lamar, I not  only attribute and cite you but I put your name right here.  Too bad I’m not any one that matters, but hey, you’re out there making some waves and that’s good.

On Tuesday, Dave Thier, a freelance writer based in New Orleans, published a piece in Esquire titled “Sorry, Louisiana Is Not Actually Made Of Magic.” I really wanted to like Mr. Thier’s piece, because I thought the headline was provocative. But the article was absurdly patronizing and completely disconnected. Mr. Thier is a Yale graduate who has lived in New Orleans for only three years. While we should all celebrate smart, young, educated professionals who move to Louisiana, it is unwise, arrogant, and misguided for a self-described “transplant” to hold himself out, to a national audience, as a curator of Louisiana culture, particularly when he implies that his understanding of his newly-adopted home has been informed by Hollywood.

Indeed, that seems to be the point of his article: Hollywood has lied about Louisiana being magical, which he can prove by way of juxtaposing the banalities of his own life. He watches Netflix and plays video games and prefers Thai take-out over the native cuisine of his adopted Louisiana. And this, I think, may bolster Mr. Thier’s argument that he’s just an ordinary American in his late twenties. But it completely destroys his credibility when it comes to opining on the culture and, yes, the magic of Louisiana.

The same group of Louisiana Bloggers, Twitterati, and Facebookers had it out re: Thier’s article in Esquire, harkened back to Kalegate and the NYT,  and then hashed over if we should even be paying these folks some never mind anyway.  I personally wonder why these recent transplants get the paid gigs on what is and isn’t New Orleans or Louisiana instead of folks that have either been born here or at least lived here long enough to have decoded some of the unique charms and frustration.  Here’s another take in Salon that’s called True Detective goth Southern porn characterizing Louisiana poverty as stemming from a stereotyped swampbilly culture.

As someone who studies southern Appalachia in popular culture, I have become occasionally numb to the portrayal of other parts of the southern United States, viewing their representation/stereotypes as being less severe. Louisiana in particular.

Louisiana gets heaps of praise. “True Blood” made it sexy and campy. “Treme” showed its heart. The last season of “Top Chef” showcased its deliciousness.

There’s another side, though. A bit darker. “Duck Dynasty,” “Gator Boys,” “Cajun Pawn Stars,” “Swamp People,” etc. All reality television series that showcase people living off the land or trying to get by, often downplaying the intelligence of its stars. It paints the state as a different country, with different rules.

But those rules are not as far-flung as “True Detective” might have you believe. Creator Nic Pizzolatto, who grew up in the Lake Charles, La., depicts his hometown as a post-apocalyptic landscape in which the rapes and murders of women and children are covered up by kin connections. He follows what I have deemed the three rules of a Southern horror story: Close Family Relationships, Weird Sex and Malicious Rednecks.

Important note: The more overlap between the above three elements, the better.

Essentially Lake Charles received its own “Deliverance” through the episodes of “True Detective.” Has ever a show depicted such a large number of beaten and bruised female prostitutes? As far as the series reveals, there’s no reason that Marty’s elementary-school-aged daughter draws graphic pictures of people having sex or sets up her toys to depict a doll getting gang-banged. It’s just one of those things kids in rural Louisiana do.

By the way, Lake Charles was not really the center of the series or the filming location or the plot, but then I quibble. I’m not exactly certain why the writers of establishment media have decided to put every one in Louisiana on the couch, but it appears chickenchasing2there’s some kind’ve creepy fascination that’s playing out in the press right now. Yes, there is unique culture down here. This area has given the world a lot of musical forms, food, and reasons to party. The landscape can be breathtaking in both its lushness and its austerity.  You can see any and all of it play out just by visiting here and taking note.  But, really, does that mean you can decode it for the rest of the world to earn a few bucks?

Here’s the Cajun version of  Mardi Gras that shows you there is plenty of unique culture to celebrate, to learn about, and to appreciate. Thier should take some time away from his video games and Thai take out food to chase some of this down. The last thing I did when I first moved here was to sit at home with all things mundane. I just participated.  This part of the country will amaze and capture your attention.  The problem that I have with these accidental tourists and transplants is they really haven’t taken the time to let their gumbo simmer.  But, when has Hollywood or the New York/Washington DC -centric press ever put any place in any kind of real light?  I frankly remember growing up watching TV where every hayseed that became the butt of a sitcom joke haled from Nebraska. (It’s actually a subtheme of The Big Bang Theory right now.)  It would absolutely make me even more embarrassed of having to grow up in the place knowing that the rest of the country had a worse opinion of the place than me and mine was pretty darn low.

What I’m more worried though about is this kind of thing : U.S. Agrees to Allow BP Back Into Gulf Waters to Seek Oil.  Since corporations are people my friend–at least that’s what Citizen’s United declared–then I say we ought not let a mass murderer out to kill again.  But, that’s not the kind of story that’s likely to create any human interest.  Well, not yet.  So, what should we be more worried about?   It does no one a great service to characterize a culture, but at least that doesn’t have the power to take down the culture itself. What’s gotten me to start writing about my adopted home has been my experiences with Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil spill because having lived here 20 years, I know exactly what’s at stake if the country would lose it.  There are things down here both human and natural that are awesome.  It’s worth appreciating, experiencing and protecting.

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: True Detective and A Bit of Real News

hbo-true-detective-trailer-618x400

Good Morning!!

Since it’s the weekend and most of us can probably use a little escape from reality, I thought I’d begin this post by writing a little about my latest obsession–the HBO show True Detective. Have you been following it? I don’t watch a lot of TV these days, but I had been hearing good things about this show; and a few days ago I decided to take the plunge. I ended up watching the first five episodes in three nights. Episode 6 will debut tomorrow night at 9PM, and HBO will repeat Episode 1 tonight at 10PM. I don’t want to ruin the series for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about it. I’ll post some interesting reading and try not to include too many leave it up to you if you want to read them now or later. I guess I’m hoping some other Sky Dancers will be interesting enough to watch the show too, so we can discuss it here.

True Detective combines two elements that have always fascinated and attracted me–mystery stories and occult horror. The story is set in Cajun country–south-central Louisiana. The two main characters are Rust Cohle and Martin Hart, played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson respectively. Cohle and Hart are homicide detectives who catch the case of a lifetime–a murder that combines sadistic cruelty with bizarre symbolism. Cohle is convinced from the beginning that they are dealing with a serial killer who has likely committed previous murders and who will commit more in the future if he isn’t stopped. They are then drawn into a 17-year investigation that powerfully affects both of their lives.

Nic Pizzolatto

Nic Pizzolatto

The show’s creator, writer, and producer is Nic Pizzolatto, a Louisiana native who, until 2010 was a professor at DePauw University in Indiana.  According to the Indy Star,

In fact, DePauw University in Greencastle served as a launch pad for his Hollywood career….

Before he moved west, Pizzolatto held a tenure-track post as a DePauw English professor. In 2010, his book “Galveston” was published. That summer, he decided he could not return to academia, he has said in interviews.

“I’d want to bring a flamethrower to faculty meetings,” Pizzolatto told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year. “The preciousness of academics and their fragile personalities would not be tolerated in any other business in the known universe.”

The award-winning novelist sold the film rights to “Galveston” [his first novel] and moved his wife and young family to southern California to try to break into another industry, not known for its own lack of preciousness and fragile personalities.

I want to thank Dakinikat for getting me interested in watching True Detective.  Awhile ago, I had sent her a long article about a series of murders in Louisiana: Who Killed the Jeff Davis 8? (I recently posted the link in a morning reads post too, but I don’t know how many people saw it.) Dak said she thought True Detective was based on those cases. Here’s another article about the murders–still pretty long: Jennings 8: Unsolved murders haunt town, police

Pizzolatto kind of confirmed that by tweeting the link to the article on January 28. So you might want to take a look at it. The author, Ethan Brown describes a series of murders of 8 prostitutes, some of whom knew each other. The police have investigated the cases as if they were committed by one serial killer, but Brown argues that there is more than one murderer and what connects the cases may be that members of law enforcement were involves in each of them. Similarly, there are hints in True Detective that powerful people may be involved in the cases Cohle and Hart are investigating.

HBO's "True Detective" Season 1 / Director: Cary Fukunaga

As I mentioned above, the show is in some ways a typical police procedural that explores conflicts between two homicide detective partners with very different personalities. Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) is a seemingly ordinary guy, married with two daughters, who acts self-destructively by getting involved with other women and neglecting his family. Rust Cohle is a strange fellow who hasn’t been with the police department very long. He drives his partner and other detectives nuts with his obsessive approach to the case and his tendency to spout bizarre nihilist philosophies. But with each succeeding episode, the series moves more into the horror genre, as the detectives try to understand the bizarre symbolism that keeps cropping up in their cases–such as repeated hints about a “yellow king” chasing people through the woods and a spiral tattoo that appears on victims’ backs–and as the show reveals more about Cohle’s past history.

Now for a few reads that will give you a sense of why True Detective is so fascinating. You could endlessly chase the literary connections that Pizzolatto has planted in his tale. Start with this interview with author Nic Pizzolatto in the Wall Street Journal: Writer Nic Pizzolatto on Thomas Ligotti and the Weird Secrets of ‘True Detective’. It turns out Pizzolatto is a connoisseur of the weird horror tales of H.P. Lovecraft and his predecessors–as well as modern practitioners of the genre.

Horror and mystery go hand in hand on HBO‘s “True Detective.”  The hit series…is rich in dread similar to the kind inherent in the work of H.P. Lovecraft, and it has featured words and imagery derived from Robert W. Chambers‘ story anthology “The King in Yellow.” As a result, the show has opened up the worlds of weird fiction and cosmic horror to broader audiences.

Executive producer and writer Nic Pizzolatto, responding through email, commented to Speakeasy about some of the more ominous literary and philosophical influences on  ”True Detective,” as well as some of his favorite horror writers.

yellow king

Read Pizzolatto’s recommendations for further reading at the link.

A couple more links on the literary references in the show:

Allyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress: The Crazy Mythology That Explains ‘True Detective’

Lincoln Mitchell at Buzzfeed: A “True Detective” Reading List: dark, weird, and southern gothic books that every fan of HBO’s True Detective should read.

A review of the first episode by Daniel Lefferts at Policymic:

‘True Detective’ Premiere: This is the Next Great American TV Show

More detailed reading about the “yellow king” mythology (some spoilers in these)

Gilbert Cruz at The Vulture: True Detective: Who Is the Yellow King? Here Are Some Theories

An outstanding article by Michael M. Hughes at io9: 

The One Literary Reference You Must Know to Appreciate ​True Detective. An excerpt:

Two episodes into the series, True Detective dropped a reference to one of the strangest, most compelling tales in the canon of weird fiction: Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a collection of short stories published in 1895. Knowing this book is key to understanding the dark mystery at the heart of this series.

This collection of stories has influenced writers from H.P. Lovecraft and Raymond Chandler, to Robert Heinlein, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin. The King in Yellow and his legendary city of Carcosa may be the most famous character and setting you’ve never heard of.

In fact, the more of the show you watch, and the more carefully you pay attention, you’ll find a number of Easter eggs aimed squarely at hardcore fans of the weird fiction genre. I’ll touch on a few of the more prominent ones, but I have a feeling the rest of the series will be a bonanza for true detectives of strange fiction.

Video:

Watch the official trailer here.

The music on True Detective is fantastic!

From Policymic: The Secret Sauce of ‘True Detective’ is its Awesome Soundtrack

There is tons more stuff out there, including great discussions by “experts” as well as amateurs in the comments sections of reviews and other articles. I have a feeling people will be talking about True Detective for a long time. The show will continue into a second season with different actors and a new storyline.

——————————————————————–

Now, before I run out of space, here’s some real news, in link dump fashion.

Washington Post: Obama to award Medal of Honor to two dozen veterans, including 19 discrimination victims

WFTV.com: Florida man shocked to learn of Medal of Honor

USA Today: Team USA vs. Finland: How to watch Olympic bronze medal showdown

NY Daily News Ukraine Live Blog: Kiev, Ukraine: Protesters versus police in civil war revolt

CNN: Is Vladimir Putin really the puppet-master in Ukraine’s crisis?

Newsday: In Ukraine and Syria, Vladimir Putin wants to work with dictators

Radio Free Europe: Yanukovych Denounces ‘Coup,’ Not Resigning

BBC News: Venezuela leader Nicolas Maduro seeks talks with Obama

Christian Science Monitor: California in six easy pieces? A bid to let voters decide. 

Those are my offerings for today. What’s on your mind?


Thursday Reads: Empathic Elephants, Meaningful Lives, Hillary Harassment, and Miranda Decision

baby elephants

Good Morning!!

A fascinating new study found that Asian elephants comfort each other in times of stress by touching each other with their trunks and making consoling vocalizations. From National Geographic:

Asian elephants, like great apes, dogs, certain corvids (the bird group that includes ravens), and us, have now been shown to recognize when a herd mate is upset and to offer gentle caresses and chirps of sympathy, according to a study published February 18 in the online journal PeerJ.

Joshua Plotnik, a behavioral ecologist at Mahidol University in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, and primatologist Frans de Waal, director ofEmory University’s Living Links Center, have shown through a controlled study what those who work with elephants have always believed: The animals, in this case captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), offer something akin to humans’ sympathetic concern when observing distress in another, including their relatives and friends.

The scientists observed a group of 26 elephants in Thailand for a year. It was a naturalistic study–researchers waited until a stressful situation occurred and then noted the animals’ behavior toward each other. From The Christian Science Monitor:

A stress-inducing situation might be a dog walking by or a snake rustling the grass, or the roar or just the presence of a bull elephant. Sometimes the stressor was unknown. Regardless, scientists know elephant distress when they see it: erect tails and flared ears; vocalizations such as trumpeting, rumbling, or roaring; and sudden defecation and urination tell the story….the scientists witnessed bystander elephants—those not directly affected by a stressor—moving to and giving upset elephants physical caresses, mostly inside the mouth (which is kind of like a hug to elephants) and on the genitals. 

Bystanders also rumbled and chirped with vocal offerings that suggested reassurance. Sometimes the empathetic animals formed a protective circle around the distressed one.

There was also evidence of “emotional contagion,” when herd mates matched the behavior and emotional state of the upset individual. In other words, seeing a “friend” in distress was distressing to the observers. Those animals also consoled one another.

It makes you wonder if the elephant is really the appropriate symbol for the Republican Party. Read more about elephant empathy at The Christian Science Monitor and Wired.

what-can-money-buy

Here’s another interesting study at Scientific American–this time about humans: A Happy Life May not be a Meaningful Life. The results reminded me of all the super rich guys who are constantly complaining about how victimized they are by the rest of us peons.

Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl once wrote, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” For most people, feeling happy and finding life meaningful are both important and related goals. But do happiness and meaning always go together? It seems unlikely, given that many of the things that we regularly choose to do – from running marathons to raising children – are unlikely to increase our day-to-day happiness. Recent research suggests that while happiness and a sense of meaning often overlap, they also diverge in important and surprising ways.

Roy Baumeister and his colleagues recently published a study in the Journal of Positive Psychology that helps explain some of the key differences between a happy life and a meaningful one. They asked almost 400 American adults to fill out three surveys over a period of weeks. The surveys asked people to answer a series of questions their happiness levels, the degree to which they saw their lives as meaningful, and their general lifestyle and circumstances.

As one might expect, people’s happiness levels were positively correlated with whether they saw their lives as meaningful. However, the two measures were not identical – suggesting that what makes us happy may not always bring more meaning, and vice versa. To probe for differences between the two, the researchers examined the survey items that asked detailed questions about people’s feelings and moods, their relationships with others, and their day-to-day activities. Feeling happy was strongly correlated with seeing life as easy, pleasant, and free from difficult or troubling events. Happiness was also correlated with being in good health and generally feeling well most of the time. However, none of these things were correlated with a greater sense of meaning. Feeling good most of the time might help us feel happier, but it doesn’t necessarily bring a sense of purpose to our lives.

Interestingly, the researchers found that money can buy happiness, but it can’t guarantee a meaningful life. This is something I’ve come to believe through long and painful experience. I think a sense of meaning comes from working your way through problems and difficult times and coming out the other side stronger and wiser. Rich people are often able to shield themselves from life problems, but at the same time they miss out on opportunities for emotional growth.

Of course relationships are also important for both happiness and a sense of meaning.

In Baumeister’s study, feeling more connected to others improved both happiness and meaning. However, the role we adopt in our relationships makes an important difference. Participants in the study who were more likely to agree with the statement, “I am a giver,” reported less happiness than people who were more likely to agree with, “I am a taker.” However, the “givers” reported higher levels of meaning in their lives compared to the “takers.” In addition, spending more time with friends was related to greater happiness but not more meaning. In contrast, spending more time with people one loves was correlated with greater meaning but not with more happiness. The researchers suspect that spending time with loved ones is often more difficult, but ultimately more satisfying, than spending time with friends.

This is something else I can testify to. I spent about 18 years being a primary caregiver for my ex-mother-in-law. At times this was a thankless, frustrating task that certainly didn’t make me happy all the time–but in the end, I realized that the experience had been meaningful and I had grown a great deal from it.

Bill De Blasio Sworn In As New York City Mayor

It looks like Hillary is going to be in the news a great deal between now and the 2016 presidential primaries. We’ve seen the Republicans ramping up their campaign against her–so far by focusing on old gossip from the 1990s. Even the Vince Foster conspiracy theories are coming back to haunt us. Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter reported yesterday that Fox News was set to resurface not only Vince Foster myths, but also Kathleen Willey’s claims that Bill Clinton sexually harassed her.

One of the top shelf conspiracy theories about the Clintons had to do with the suicide of White House advisor Vince Foster, which topped a list of other suspected deaths at the hands of Bill and Hillary. Now, 13 years after the end of that administration and at the outset of the would-be presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton, everything from the ’90s appears to be back on the table.

We’ve already heard from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) who was the first to invoke Monica Lewinsky. And now here comes Fox News Channel resurrecting the Vince Foster conspiracy theory.

On tonight’s The Kelly File, Megyn Kelly welcomes Kathleen Willey who famously accused President Clinton of sexual harassment. An independent counsel discredited the groping allegations. Nevertheless, Willey has gone on to accuse the Clintons of not only assassinating Vince Foster, but also of murdering her husband.

Sigh . . . I don’t know if anyone here watched that travesty–I wonder if Megyn explained why Hillary should be held responsible for things her husband did (or was accused of doing) decades ago.

As an antidote to that nonsense, here are a couple of very interesting polls:

Politico: Hillary Clinton sweeps GOP in Ohio

Hillary Clinton buries Gov. Chris Christie and other potential Republican presidential candidates in the crucial swing state of Ohio, according to a new poll on Thursday.

The former secretary of state, who led Christie 42 percent to 41 percent in November, now tops the New Jersey governor 49 percent to 36 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

Read the rest of the numbers at the link.

Now here’s a poll that will make Dakinikat smile: In a Stunning Turn Poll Shows Hillary Clinton Could Make Louisiana Blue in 2016 (Politicus USA)

A new Public Policy Polling survey of Louisana found that Hillary Clinton would be the strongest Democratic presidential candidate in the state since her husband Bill was on the ballot in the 1990s.

According to PPP, “All the Republican contenders for President lead Hillary Clinton in hypothetical contests, but the margins are closer than they’ve been in the state since her husband was on the ticket. Christie leads her by just a point at 44/43, Jindal’s up 2 at 47/45, Paul leads by 4 points at 47/43, Huckabee has a 5 point advantage at 49/44, and the strongest Republican with a 7 point edge at 50/43 is Jeb Bush.”

Hillary Clinton’s numbers represent the best showing for a Democratic presidential candidate in the state since her husband Bill Clinton won Louisiana by 5 points in 1992 and 12 points in 1996. George W. Bush won the state by 8 points in 2000, and 15 points in 2004. McCain beat Obama by 19 in 2008, and Mitt Romney defeated the president by a margin of 18 points in 2012.

Wow! It’s still very early, but that is exciting news.

article-2399932-1B660F11000005DC-957_634x366

You may recall that last August, Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was detained at Heathrow Airport in London and questioned about documents he was carrying–top secret documents that had been stolen by Edward Snowden from the U.S. and Great Britain. Miranda’s computers, flash drives and other electronic devices were also confiscated. Greenwald and Miranda sued, claiming that Great Britain charging him under their “anti-terrorism laws was unlawful and breached human rights.” Yesterday the court released its decision, saying that judges said it was a “proportionate measure in the circumstances” and in the interests of national security. From BBC News:

Steven Kovats QC, representing the UK home secretary, previously told the High Court that the secret material seized from Mr Miranda could have ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda.

But Mr Miranda’s lawyers argued the detention at Heathrow was illegal because it was carried out under the wrong law: Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

They said that in reality he was detained on the say-so of the security services so they could seize journalistic material.

Mr Miranda was carrying 58,000 highly classified Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) files, the judge said.

He added that Oliver Robbins, the UK’s deputy national security adviser at the Cabinet Office, had stated that “release or compromise of such data would be likely to cause very great damage to security interests and possible loss of life”.

But could Miranda be called a “journalist” just because he was carrying material that his partner had written about in a newspaper, The Guardian?

In his ruling, Lord Justice Laws said: “The claimant was not a journalist; the stolen GCHQ intelligence material he was carrying was not ‘journalistic material’, or if it was, only in the weakest sense.

“But he was acting in support of Mr Greenwald’s activities as a journalist. I accept that the Schedule 7 stop constituted an indirect interference with press freedom, though no such interference was asserted by the claimant at the time.

“In my judgement, however, it is shown by compelling evidence to have been justified.”

Here’s the full decision of the court. There is a subtle but emphatic slap-down of Glenn Greenwald’s arguments in points 54-56. The judged noted that Greenwald appeared to be lecturing the court when he discussed “responsible journalism,” and responded that the “evidence” Greenwald offered was “unhelpful,” because he took the position that British law enforcement officers deliberately acted in a way that they (officers) knew to be wrong; he ignored the fact that the material Miranda was carrying was stolen and could end up in the wrong hands; and that

Mr Greenwald’s account (paragraph 33) of the “many ingredients to the sensible reporting of very sensitive information” is insubstantial; or rather, mysterious – the reader is left in the dark as to how it is that “highly experienced journalists and
legal experts” (paragraph 33(1)) or “[e]xperienced editors and reporters” (33(2)) are able to know what may and what may not be published without endangering life or security.

Miranda and Greenwald hope to be granted the right to appeal the decision.

I’m just about out of space, so I’ll conclude with a quickie from Sochi: Olympian Films Wolf Stalking Her Hotel Hallway.

Olympian Kate Hansen tweeted out a video of what appears to be a wolf trotting down her hotel hallway with the message, “I’m pretty sure this is a wolf wandering my hall in Sochi.” via

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comment thread, and have a great day!


Monday Reads: Lousyana Extra

DSCN0462Good Morning!

I got a lot of things that I didn’t bargain for when I moved South.  I’ve been here long enough that you must know that I am a New Orleanian.  I usually have dreams about not being able to get back to New Orleans when I am anywhere else; and they are usually high anxiety dreams.  It’s like I am Dorothy just trying to find her way home.

I want to share some state news with you because the Jindal administration makes every thing about my state seem so damned backward these days.  I know many of you think that these kinds of things can’t come to a state near you because the south is–well–so damned backwards. I am not so sure that a lot of this kind of nonsense isn’t going to sneak into places that might surprise you, so I am going to give you a little feel of the news down here that should make you very afraid of how parts of this country can completely toss modernity and the constitution aside to creep back in time.   Take North Carolina or Florida or Ohio or a number of states.  We’re living in a time where powers that be want to reassert their right to throw away any one that doesn’t fit their agenda. 

This story is from right up the street from me.  It is about the urban neighborhood between my Bywater and the French Quarter. We are in the process of gentrification. There are a lot of tensions that go with that.  Now, it seems we have our own version of the Zimmerman case and a test of “Stand your Ground” laws.  Are you in imminent danger when you’re like 30 feet away from an unarmed teenager? Is a minor break in really worth taking a life for?

Louisiana has its own version of the “stand your ground” law that got so much attention last year after neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a Florida town.

The state’s law also embraces the “castle doctrine,” a centuries-old legal principle that grants people the right to legally protect their property — homes, cars, businesses — from intruders.

But some lawyers and legal experts said neither of those provisions seem to fit in the case of 33-year-old Merritt Landry, who was booked last week on an attempted murder count in the shooting of 14-year-old Marshall Coulter in his front yard.

If Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office decides to charge Landry, the case boils down to a simple argument over self-defense: Whether Landry could reasonably have felt himself in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm when he fired at Coulter, lawyers said.

Coulter reportedly jumped a gate into Landry’s Faubourg Marigny yard in the early morning hours of July 26. Landry, an inspector with the Historic District Landmarks Commission, told police he approached the boy “from his front yard, near his vehicle. As he grew closer, the victim made a thwarted move, as if to reach for something. At that time, Landry fired one shot, striking the victim.”

A witness, unnamed in the brief police account, gave a conflicting account, though the report doesn’t describe the difference.

Just what “thwarted move” means, or what Coulter did, is unclear. But the report says police found a single, spent shell casing some 30 feet from the boy’s blood — about the span from Landry’s back door to the gate.

That distance suggests Landry wasn’t in a “stand your ground” situation, and it may complicate his case for self-defense, local defense attorney Craig Mordock said.

“This is far worse than Zimmerman for the defendant. If Zimmerman had these facts, I think he would have been convicted,” Mordock said. “If you’re 30 feet away, are you under a threat of imminent harm? Remember, Trayvon Martin is on top of Zimmerman.”

According to police, Coulter was not armed.

DSCN0471 We’ve also made news at Politico and I’m not really proud of how we are “reinventing high school with private sector help.”  Here is yet one more way to filter funds to republican donors at the expense of public schools and of children.  Also, notice that we’re not the only state trying to do this.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s latest plans to reinvent public education with the aid of the business community will accelerate this fall with the launch of a novel program that lets high school students take classes from the private sector on the public dime.

State Superintendent John White said Monday that nearly 3,000 students have enrolled in an array of private-sector classes that the state has agreed to pay for, from math and literature to Japanese and German to hair styling, welding and nail manicuring. The classes, which carry regular high school credits, are taught by an eclectic mix of nonprofits, unions, trade associations and for-profit companies, as well as local colleges.

White said he had only budgeted $2 million for the program but would find another $1 million to cover demand, perhaps by leaving some open jobs in the state education department unfilled. And he plans to expand the program substantially next year. White said he is particularly interested in adding more vocational classes, though an analysis of enrollments that the state provided to POLITICO shows one of the most popular offerings is ACT Prep.

Louisiana’s Course Choice program represents a first foray into a new approach to public education as an “a la carte” offering. States including Utah, Idaho and Florida let public-school students take some classes online from approved providers.

But Louisiana aims to go further still, allowing students of all income levels to customize their course lists using taxpayer dollars to pay a broad range of public and private providers for classes they can’t get — or don’t believe are well taught — in their neighborhood schools.

It’s hard for me to watch our state move backwards to a plantation system of economy while having these steps touted as progress by the media and right wing politicians.  Jindal continues to be our absentee governor as he moves around the country stumping with his unusual gift for bad speeches and confused rhetoric.  He was in Iowa recently and now he’s gone to Virginia to dis Terry McAuliffe.

Republican Governors Association Chairman Bobby Jindal called on Democrats on Sunday to drop Terry McAuliffe as their nominee for governor of Virginia.

The governor of Louisiana seized on a report that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating GreenTech Automotive, the electric car company McAuliffe co-founded, over its conduct in soliciting foreign investors.

This is laughable given the hot water Jindal is in here at home.   Jindal’s in trouble on many fronts.  First there is the number and types of donors to his wife’s ‘charity’.

  • After Jindal’s administration signed off on Marathon Oil’s request to increase its oil refinery’s output, the oil giant committed $250,000 to the foundation.
  • AT&T needed Jindal’s signature on a bill giving the company more freedom to sell cable TV services. It committed $250,000 to his wife’s foundation.
  • Northrop Grumman, a military contractor,  forged a deal with the government to build a maintenance facility at a former Air Force base. It has pledged $10,000.
  • Dow Chemical, a petrochemical company, was under investigation for a spill at one of its plants and, in 2009, the state proposed fining the company. Dow has pledged $100,000 to the charity and thus far hasn’t been fined.
  • Alon USA, an Israeli oil company, wanted approval to release more pollutants at one of its refineries. It has pledged $250,000.
  • D&J Construction has won $67.6 million in state contracts since 2009. It has pledged $10,000.
  • Governor Jindal hasn’t “entirely distanced himself” from the charty, notes the Times. He’s pictured with his wife on the charity’s corporate solicitation web page and his chief fund-raiser is the charity’s treasurer, according to its tax returns.

 Then, there is “vouchergate”.

Did Governor Bobby Jindal’s staff and Louisiana’s state education superintendent conspire to suppress a news story that the state had ”not DSCN0463performed site visits or extensive review of voucher applications?” It looks like it. From reporter Barbara Leader in the Monroe News-Star:

Emails between Louisiana Education Superintendent John White, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s spokesman Kyle Plotkin and Jindal’s policy adviser Stafford Palmieri show White devising a scheme to “muddy up a narrative” and to “take some air out of the room” after a news report about the new voucher program that was published before his Senate confirmation hearing in May.

In the email exchange, White proposes creating a news story about the “due diligence” process for school voucher approvals to counter the impact of a News-Star article that revealed the sate Department of Education had not performed site visits or extensive review of voucher applications.

Read All of   Louisiana’s ( School) Vouchergate Scandal Erupts

Then there is the resignation of the Secretary of Health and Human Services over bid rigging.

Louisiana’s health secretary, Bruce Greenstein, is resigning amid state and federal inquiries into the awarding of a Medicaid contract to a company where Mr. Greenstein once worked. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration last week canceled the nearly $200 million state contract with CNSI, which is based in Maryland, after details leaked about a federal grand jury subpoena involving the contract award. The governor’s office announced the resignation on Friday but said Mr. Jindal, a Republican, did not seek it. When the Medicaid contract was awarded two years ago, Mr. Greenstein denied any involvement in the selection of the company, but he acknowledged that a change he promoted in the bid solicitation made CNSI eligible for the contract. Mr. Greenstein gave no explanation for quitting in his resignation letter to the governor.

Then, there is this one.

Immediately after the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority filed an historic lawsuit against over 100 oil and gas companies, Governor Bobby Jindal “demanded” the authority drop the suit. Curiously, though, neither he nor any member of his administration have ever criticized the actual merits of the litigation; instead, Jindal and company seem to be infuriated with the idea that lawyers may make money off of this. “This is nothing but a windfall for a handful of trial lawyers,” Jindal said. “It boils down to trial lawyers who see dollar signs in their future and who are taking advantage of people who want to restore Louisiana’s coast. These trial lawyers are taking this action at the expense of our coast and thousands of hardworking Louisianians who help fuel America by working in the energy industry.”

Governor Jindal, in doing the bidding of the oil and gas industry, failed to mention that the only way these “trial lawyers” could make a significant amount of money from this litigation is if they win. And if they win, Louisiana stands to gain billions that would be used for coastal restoration. If they lose the case, they make nothing. And if, for some political reason, the lawyers, whose contract was unanimously approved by the authority, are forced to abandon the lawsuit, they can only be compensated for the work they’ve already done. It’s a standard contingency fee agreement. Governor Jindal’s contemptuous comments about “trial lawyers” not only reflect a cynical politicization of the most critical issue in Louisiana, they also promote an insidious and ignorant disdain for the rule of law, the legal profession, and the judicial process.

It is easy to try to write this off as just another Louisiana example of corrupt politics or just another example of a backward Southern state. But, remember, this man is running for president as a main stream republican candidate and on the grounds that he is modernizing and bringing a new environment of openness in government.  This is hardly the case.  All of these Republican governors need to be watched very carefully.  I feel like our state is just one big Tea Pot Dome Scandal eruption every few months.

Here are some other headlines you may want to watch:

The State Department has extended its reaction to Terror threats in key MENA regions.

The State Department announced late Sunday it would extend the closures of 19 foreign embassies across the Middle East and Northern Africa through next Saturday, as the terror threat across the region remained high through the final days of Ramadan.

 Rick Santorum is likely running for president again so get prepared for a barrage of religious hatred towards every one.

Santorum is heading to Iowa for three days next week, where he’ll attend a GOP fundraiser, a state fair and a leadership summit — a schedule that’s prompted speculation that he’s laying the groundwork for another presidential campaign. In 2012, he made stops in each of Iowa’s counties, ultimately winning the state by a slim margin.

Obama and the Republicans are likely to come to blows even as the deficit closes.   Raise the deficit ceiling?  Fiscal Cliff?  Shut down the Government?  Here we go again!

Obama is insisting Congress raise the debt ceiling with no strings attached, while a group of Republicans say they are willing to stop paying the government’s bills unless the president’s signature health care law is defunded.

“Both sides are more dug in than in the past,” said Jared Bernstein, a former chief economist for Vice President Joe Biden who is senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a fiscal research group.

Lawmakers return from a five-week break on Sept. 9, just three weeks before government funding runs out. For the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky favors a one- or two-month extension of current yearly spending levels, which are $988 billion, said Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman.

If Congress concurs, that would push the broader fiscal fight into November, when the U.S. is expected to reach its $16.7 trillion debt limit.

smaller government

So, thanks for letting me let off steam over my freaking incompetent and corrupt governor. Pictures of the Bywater Riviera–that is the  west bank of the Industrial canal two blocks behind my house most famously known for overtaking the Lower 9 after Katrina–are courtesy of Youngest Daughter. Those of you that have ever talked to me on the phone know the sound of the New Orleans Beltway Rail Road really well too. You gotta cross it to get to the Bywater Beach.

So, what is on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: A line around the number…

6629Good Morning

This will be a quick post, I will try and post a longer one later on this afternoon. My sleep patterns are way off and I am just too tired.

Check this out, a real literacy test that was used to get the okay to vote in the state of Louisiana: Voting rights and the Supreme Court: The impossible “literacy” test Louisiana used to give black voters.

This week’s Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder overturned Section 4(b) of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which mandated federal oversight of changes in voting procedure in jurisdictions that have a history of using a “test or device” to impede enfranchisement. Here is one example of such a test, used in Louisiana in 1964.

After the end of the Civil War, would-be black voters in the South faced an array of disproportionate barriers to enfranchisement. The literacy test—supposedly applicable to both white and black prospective voters who couldn’t prove a certain level of education but in actuality disproportionately administered to black voters—was a classic example of one of these barriers.

The website of the Civil Rights Movement Veterans, which collects materials related to civil rights, hosts a few samples of actual literacy tests used in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi during the 1950s and 1960s.

The test is unbelievable…

This test—a word-processed transcript of an original—was linked to by Jeff Schwartz, who worked with the Congress of Racial Equality in Iberville and Tangipahoa Parishes in the summer of 1964. Schwartz wrote about his encounters with the test in this blog post.

Most of the tests collected here are a battery of trivia questions related to civic procedure and citizenship. (Two from the Alabama test: “Name the attorney general of the United States” and “Can you be imprisoned, under Alabama law, for a debt?”)

But this Louisiana “literacy” test, singular among its fellows, has nothing to do with citizenship. Designed to put the applicant through mental contortions, the test’s questions are often confusingly worded. If some of them seem unanswerable, that effect was intentional. The (white) registrar would be the ultimate judge of whether an answer was correct.

Go to the link to try your hand at that test…it is a hell of a thing. When you want to see some of the answers, here is an answer key: Key for literacy test.pub – Key for literacy test.pdf

This next article is a good example of how expensive it is to…Just Have the Baby? A New Mom Reveals Why There Is No ‘Just,’ and Not Necessarily Any Justice Either

To say “Just have the baby” is to say “Just risk a prolonged illness, surgery, and the loss of your income when you have a lot of new expenses.” It’s to tell someone casually that they should sign up for the possibility of experiencing more physical pain and agony than they thought a person could live through, and maybe having a great deal of it continue for days, weeks, months, possibly even years.

Go read the whole piece, it is good.

This was something cool: Russian meteor shockwave circled globe twice

The shock wave from an asteroid that burned up over Russia in February was so powerful that it travelled twice around the globe, scientists say.

They used a system of sensors set up to detect evidence of nuclear tests and said it was the most powerful event ever recorded by the network.

More than 1,000 people were injured when a 17m, 10,000-tonne space rock burned up above Chelyabinsk.

The study appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The researchers studied data from the International Monitoring System (IMS) network operated by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO).

The detection stations look out for ultra-low frequency acoustic waves, known as infrasound, that could come from nuclear test explosions. But the system can also detect large blasts from other sources, such as the Chelyabinsk fireball.

Alexis Le Pichon, from the Atomic Energy Commission in France and colleagues report that the explosive energy of the impact was equivalent to 460 kilotonnes of TNT. This makes it the most energetic event reported since the 1908 Tunguska meteor in Siberia.

There is more at the link about some new discoveries over at the Tunguska site, you can give the link a click to read the rest.

Think of this as an open thread. Hopefully I will see you a bit later on, otherwise…please share what you are reading about this morning.


Sunday Reads: Long Weekend Links

a3a3e6f30133aeca10870f6e8c25cad0Good Morning

Plenty of links for you this morning, so let us just get down to it…

In the New York Times this weekend, more information was reported about the DOJ investigation into Fox News reporter James Rosen, as well as other DOJ press investigations during the Obama administration: Leaks Inquiries Show How Wide a Net Is Cast

Even before the F.B.I. conducted 550 interviews of officials and seized the phone records of Associated Press reporters in a leak investigation connected to a 2012 article about a Yemen bomb plot, agents had sought the same reporters’ sources for two other articles about terrorism.

[…]

The emerging details of these and other cases show just how wide a net the Obama administration has cast in its investigations into disclosures of government secrets, querying hundreds of officials across the federal government and even some of their foreign counterparts.

The result has been an unprecedented six prosecutions and many more inquiries using aggressive legal and technical tactics. A vast majority of those questioned were cleared of any leaking.

You can read the rest of the article at that link, it is rather a long read.

There is one thing about all this Rosen stuff I do find interesting, this little tidbit reported by Tommy Christopher at Mediaite: DOJ Document Reveals Fox News Reporter James Rosen Wanted To Impact U.S. Foreign Policy

The emails revealed in the government’s affidavit appear to show, however, that James Rosen’s solicitation of government secrets wasn’t nearly so narrow. The affadavit describes how Rosen assigned himself the codename “Alex,” and Mr. Kim the moniker “Leo,” and in their early contacts, explained the noble aims of their prospective relationship:

Thanks Leo. What I am interested in, as you might expect, is breaking new ahead of my competitors.

Sure, that sounds bad, as if James Rosen would jeopardize America’s contacts in a hostile foreign government just to get some eyeballs away from his competition, but surely, every reporter has this competitive urge. Although it was the first thing Rosen mentioned, there was another consideration. After outlining the kinds of secret information he hoped to get from “Leo,” Rosen summed up his intention to… report the news objectively? To serve the public?

Let’s break some new, and expose muddle-headed policy when we see it – or force the administration’s hand to go in the right direction, if possible.

Wait, what? Is that what a News reporter is supposed to do, force the administration’s hand to guide American foreign policy to the reporter’s whim? Separate and apart from the DOJ investigation, this email seems to indicate that James Rosen is not just a News reporter, but an activist intent on pushing his own agenda, with the stated goal of manipulating U.S. foreign policy.

Enough on that, check out the latest legislation getting passed in Dakinikat’s state: The Volokh Conspiracy » Louisiana Set to Criminalize Publishing That Someone Has a Concealed Carry Permit

The bill is HB8, though there’s a Senate amendment; apparently, the Legislature plans to enact the bill as amended. The bill bars the government from releasing information about who has applied for or gotten a concealed carry permit, and the Legislature certainly can impose such restrictions on the government itself. But then it also criminalizes speech by everyone else (I merge the House Bill and the adopted Senate amendment):

Absent a valid court order requiring the release of information or unless a recipient of a concealed handgun permit is charged with a felony offense involving the use of a handgun, it shall be [a misdemeanor] … to release, disseminate, or make public in any manner any information contained in an application for a concealed handgun permit or any information regarding the identity of any person who applied for or received a concealed handgun permit issued pursuant to this Section.

So blogging that you happen to know that a gun control advocate actually has a concealed carry permit himself would be a crime. Or say that you know someone has a concealed carry permit, and that person is sued for supposedly making death threats, or is criminally prosecuted for a felony offense involving a shotgun, or otherwise seems dangerous and unstable — mentioning the permit in publicly discussing the situation would be a crime. Mentioning applicants’ names in giving examples of cases where you think a concealed handgun permit was wrongly issued, or wrongly denied, would be a crime, too. So would talking about a person’s concealed carry permit in a biography of the person, or in a newspaper or magazine story that is trying to give a sense of the kind of person he is.

There is more analysis at the link.

That bridge collapse in Washington could have been a lot worse, at least there were no fatalities. Click here on this link for a infographic on bridges in the US: Bridge Collapses And Structurally Deficient Bridges Across The Country (INFOGRAPHIC)

In his State of the Union address this year, President Obama urged repairs of “the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.” He proposed a plan called “Fix it First,” which would have invested $50 billion in repairing transportation infrastructure, starting with the most urgent repairs.

Instead, Congress failed to avoid the sequester and transportation repair spending faces a $1.9 billion cut.

The collapse of the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Skagit River in Washington State on Thursday once again sounded alarms over our nation’s aging infrastructure. While this incident had no fatalities, there are hundreds of other bridges in Washington with worse sufficiency scores and more than 150,000 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges across the nation.

And when this bridge collapsed, there was another article that caught my attention as reported by a local Seattle news station: 911 Dispatcher Tells Woman About To Be Sexually Assaulted There Are No Cops To Help Her Due To Budget Cuts « CBS Seattle

An Oregon woman was told by a 911 dispatcher that authorities wouldn’t be able be able to help her as her ex-boyfriend broke into her place because of budget cuts.

Oregon Public Radio reports that an unidentified woman called 911 during a weekend in August 2012 while Michael Bellah was breaking into her place. Her call was forwarded to Oregon State Police because of lay-offs at the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office only allows the department to be open Monday through Friday.

“Uh, I don’t have anybody to send out there,” the 911 dispatcher told the woman. “You know, obviously, if he comes inside the residence and assaults you, can you ask him to go away? Do you know if he’s intoxicated or anything?”

The woman told the dispatcher that Bellah previously attacked her and left her hospitalized a few weeks prior to the latest incident. The dispatcher stayed on the phone with the woman for more than 10 minutes before the sexual assault took place.

“Once again it’s unfortunate you guys don’t have any law enforcement out there,” the dispatcher said, according to Oregon Public Radio.

The woman responded: “Yeah, it doesn’t matter, if he gets in the house I’m done.”

Police say Bellah choked the woman and sexually assaulted her. He was arrested by Oregon State Police following the incident.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t have another victim,” Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilberson told Oregon Public Radio. “If you don’t pay the bill, you don’t get the service.”

The sheriff’s department had to cut 23 deputies and the entire major crimes unit after it lost a multi-million dollar federal subsidy, according to Oregon Public Radio. There are now only six deputies left.

The sheriff’s department even put out a press release warning domestic violence victims to “consider relocating to an area with adequate law enforcement services.”

Sickening. Disgusting.

You can read more about this and hear the 911 calls at the OPB report quoted by the CBS article:  Josephine County Tax Levy Would Add Deputies, Fund The Jail » News » OPB

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma…look what got defunded on the quiet:  Oklahoma Senate Votes To Defund Planned Parenthood Two Days After Tornado

In the wake of one of the most destructive tornadoes in history, Oklahoma state senators passed a bill on Wednesday that would effectively defund Planned Parenthood.

Senate Bill 900, which re-allocates family planning funds to public providers and hospitals instead of private providers like Planned Parenthood, passed by a vote of 33 to 8. The state Senate was able to pass the bill somewhat under the radar because it was not posted on Wednesday’s legislative agenda.

Planned Parenthood operates five clinics in Oklahoma and serves about 8,400 men and women there a year. The family planning provider has faced scrutiny from Republicans in recent years because it provides abortions, even though it cannot use public family planning funding to pay for abortion services.

State Rep. Doug Cox (R), a family physician, said he will vote against the legislation when the House takes it up on Thursday. “To defund a program like Planned Parenthood would be a mistake,” he told The Huffington Post in a phone interview. “They perform a valuable service as far as breast cancer screenings, cervical cancer screenings, parenting classes, many things that benefit our state that we’re sorely in need of.”

Cox said he believes that some of his Republican colleagues in the House also support Planned Parenthood, but they still feel pressured to vote for bills that would defund it. “I have people who tell me they feel the way I do, but are afraid to vote the way I do,” he said.

That is a real shame, too bad those GOP Reps don’t have the cahones to stand up to the PLUBs who got them into office.

On with the rest of the morning’s post after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »