Finally Friday Reads: Things that go Boom!

A leveled building and broken windows and doors for half a mile after an explosion at a business in northwest Houston

A leveled building and broken windows and doors for half a mile after an explosion at a business in northwest Houston  Credit: Michael Stravato for The New York Times

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

These are surely weird times we live in and they can be very frightening. Is it just me or are we getting a big lesson in impermanence?

There was a huge explosion last night in a Houston suburb that has killed two people in the plant experiencing the explosion.  Here’s the latest on that from the NYT.

At least two people were killed in a large explosion at an industrial site in Houston on Friday, and the authorities have started a criminal investigation to try to determine whether the cause of the blast was arson, the police chief said.

The blast jolted residents from their beds in the early hours of the morning, blowing out windows and scattering debris across roughly half a mile.

The Houston police chief, Art Acevedo, said it was part of the department’s protocol to investigate a possible criminal cause but added that “we have no reason to believe, we have no evidence at this point, that terrorism is involved.”

He said it was not clear whether the two people killed were employees at the industrial site.

Worker’s dead body exposed after tarp falls from Hard Rock collapse site The City asked residents not to take photos of the remains, which are clearly visible from the street. from WWLTV

Professor Anita Hill reminds us that she never got an apology from Joe Biden for his heinous treatment of her while she testified of her experience of sexual harassment by Uncle Clarence Thomas.  She told an Iowa crowd this week that the statue of limitations was up on it.  Was that the boom of a mic drop I heard?

Hill, a law professor, accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his 1991 confirmation hearings. Biden, then the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, presided over the hearings and has faced persistent criticism since for how he and the all-white, all-male panel treated Hill during her nationally televised testimony.

Her appearance was part of the school’s MLK Human Rights Week program, but also came 11 days before Iowa holds the nation’s first presidential caucuses. Biden is among the frontrunners.

“I know you all are getting ready to caucus,” Hill said as she opened her remarks.

A question submitted later for the Q&A came from someone who said they were considering caucusing for Biden but could not forget his role in the 1991 confirmation hearings. How hard, the questioner wondered, could it be for Biden to simply say he was wrong?

“The statute of limitations for his apology is up,” Hill said to applause. “Here is what I want now … What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do today? Will you promise as leader of this country … would you promise to use all of your energy to address the problem as it happened and to prevent it from happening to another generation? That’s what I want to hear. And I not only want to hear from him, I want to hear from every one of them who want to be the leader of this country.”

Hill made a similar “statute of limitations” comment in late 2018, but in the months between then and Biden’s launch of his 2020 presidential campaign, the former senator and vice president reached out to her directly to express his regrets. Hill said at the time the call became public that she found his words insufficient.

Later, in an appearance on The View, Biden was grilled for his passive statements — “I’m sorry for the way she got treated” — and the story lingered for days. It had faded in the subsequent months as Biden’s campaign accelerated. Last June, Hill told NBC News she was open to voting for Biden.

“I was criticized because I didn’t immediately open my arms and embrace him [and say], ‘OK, I forgive you,’” Hill told her Iowa audience Thursday night. “One of the reasons I didn’t was because I didn’t think it was enough.” The other, she said, was that she didn’t want “every young woman” to “feel like they had to follow” her lead.

We have a weird, macabre twist to the Hard Rock Hotel Collapse story here in New Orleans.   This is from Jules Bentley writing for Antigravity Magazine: “BUILT TO KILL,The Hard Rock Collapse is Simply Business as Usual for Louisiana”.

Have you ever encountered a really termite-eaten beam? It looks kind of like wood, but when you touch it, your finger sinks into papery crud; it’s comprised entirely of putrescence. That’s the case for all parties involved in the Hard Rock Hotel; anywhere you poke, you find nothing but rot. Because the Kailas family is one of metro New Orleans’ biggest landowners and developers, almost everyone’s in bed with them, including former Governor Jindal, whose various campaigns they provided with tens of thousands of dollars of donations, monetary and in-kind.

In just one year under Jindal’s tenure (2011-2012), the Kailas-owned Lago Construction firm got more than $1.5 million of taxpayer money through state contracts—contracts which, thanks to the hard work of WWL’s investigative team and David Hammer, we now know were variously improper and fraudulent. On dates they charged taxpayers for long days of public service work, Lago employees were instead laboring on the Kailas family’s multi-million dollar Bayou St. John mansion. You won’t find them there now, alas. In 2016, they sold that property to Metro Disposal CEO Jimmie Woods for ten dollars.

Lago has a history of being cozy with the state. In much the same way Louisiana politicians slide seamlessly between public office and oil-and-gas industry lobbying gigs, a gentleman named Mark Maier was simultaneously the head of a private consultancy firm that partnered with the Kailas family and the head of a Louisiana state government office, the Small Rental Recovery Program, that the Kailas family was defrauding.

Longtime Louisiana journalist Tom Aswell, writing in his “Louisiana Voice” blog, details the case of Tony Pelicano, a Metairie landlord whose building on North Turnbull Street had been damaged by the 2005 failure of the federal levees. In 2009, Pelicano was personally contacted by Maier and invited to become the first test applicant for a “forgivable loan” program for small rental property owners that would pay a contractor up to $75,000 to bring the building back into livability.

Pelicano was not allowed to choose the contractor who did the work, and when he met with Maier in 2012 to complain about problems with the work—construction change orders made behind his back, including substituting cheaper, non-pressure-treated lumber—he says he was threatened that “his bank note would be accelerated” and he’d be sued. After a third-party firm Pelicano hired verified the disastrous quality of the workmanship, Maier’s office contacted Lago, the Kailas company that Maier’s consultancy partnered with, to do its own inspection. Lago then issued a contradictory report dismissing Pelicano and the third-party firm’s findings.

Maier returned the favor a few years later. When Lago Construction was initially accused of stealing money from the Small Rental Property Program, Maier wrote a note absolving them of any wrongdoing, and the state’s investigation was dropped.

Alas for the forces of progress, the feds weren’t convinced by Maier’s note. HUD continued to investigate, and the U.S. Attorney’s office eventually filed charges. When Praveen Kailas admitted to filing fraudulent invoices worth $236,000, the judge agreed to go below the recommended sentencing range since, in her words, Praveen was taking “the fall for family members involved and not charged.” This slightly delayed development of the Hard Rock Hotel, but only slightly. Praveen just handed it off to his dad.

Image result for New Orleans hard rock hotel collapse who is in charge of the site?

And now for the story connected to picture further up from WWLTV: “Worker’s dead body exposed after tarp falls from Hard Rock collapse site/ The City asked residents not to take photos of the remains, which are clearly visible from the street.”  Yes, Mardi Gras Routes–like that of Zulu–are being changed because a dead man’s leg’s are dangling over Canal Street.

A tarp has fallen from the Hard Rock Hotel collapse site, exposing the remains of one of the workers killed in the collapse.

The City of New Orleans says they may not be able to cover the body again any time soon.

“A tarp put in place to conceal the remains of one of the victims of the Hard Rock collapse has been shifted by the wind,” a statement from City Spokesperson LaTonya Norton said. “The condition of the building and the altitude above street level complicate efforts to replace the tarp, as they have prevented recovery thus far.”

Photos of two legs sticking out from the rubble started to circulate on social media Tuesday afternoon. Below them, the red tarp that has covered the remains for months dangles in the wind.

Photos of two legs sticking out from the rubble started to circulate on social media Tuesday afternoon. Below them, the red tarp that has covered the remains for months dangles in the wind.

The implosion of the site is scheduled for some time in late March but guess who is still in charge of the site?  Go back up to that AG and read about the wonderful developers again. It’s still in their hands to blow the thing up but the City does have some say also.

Well, check this out from Mayor Cantrell: “Cantrell says New Orleans council has ‘no role’ in Hard Rock process amid calls for hearings”  by staff writer Jeff Adelson frin the New Orleans TP/Advocate.

At least four council members are now backing council hearings into the collapse.

“I believe it is the role of this legislative body to ensure and demand a proper investigation and seek the truth behind this tragedy,” Councilwoman Helena Moreno said in a press release Thursday afternoon. “While we have been patient as the official investigation is still ongoing, ultimately, those responsible must be held to account — both for the victims and for the city as well so that we see to it that this never happens again.”

Those calls, however, ran into quick opposition from Cantrell and her administration.

“Investigation into this incident will be handled by the appropriate law enforcement authorities within the judicial system,” Cantrell spokesman Beau Tidwell said in a statement. “City legislators have no role in that process.”

That is unlikely to deter the council members, however.

“This is a public safety hazard, this is a matter of commerce, and this is also a matter of closure for the families that still have their loved ones inside that building. And this needs to come to a resolution and this building needs to come down like yesterday,” Councilman Jared Brossett said.

Image result for images hard rock hotel new orleans

I would also like to remind you that a whistle blowing construction worker was scooped up by ICE and sent out of the country quite quickly.

Delmer Ramirez Palma, a Honduran national, was one of more than a dozen workers who were injured at the construction site on October 12. At least two people were killed.

Two separate letters from a state agency investigating the collapse and Ramirez Palma’s attorney say he was very vocal about alleged faulty work conditions on the Hard Rock site, which they believe are connected to Ramirez Palma’s deportation back to Honduras.

So, speaking of Crooked Real Estate Developers building things that collapse and kill people, the Poseurdent is being put on trial to do for the Obstruction part of the Impeachment articles.  If you watch one thing today, make it this from last night:

Or you can listen to this: “‘Take her out’: Recording appears to capture Trump at private dinner saying he wants Ukraine ambassador fired. Trump apparently heard discussing firing Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.”via ABC News 

A recording reviewed by ABC News appears to capture President Donald Trump telling associates he wanted the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired while speaking at a small gathering that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — two former business associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani who have since been indicted in New York.

The recording appears to contradict statements by President Trump and support the narrative that has been offered by Parnas during broadcast interviews in recent days. Sources familiar with the recording said the recording was made during an intimate April 30, 2018, dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Trump has said repeatedly he does not know Parnas, a Soviet-born American who has emerged as a wild card in Trump’s impeachment trial, especially in the days since Trump was impeached.

“Get rid of her!” is what the voice that appears to be President Trump’s is heard saying. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.”

So, let’s see what blows up today on us.


What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


34 Comments on “Finally Friday Reads: Things that go Boom!”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Seems like Malcom Nance and I are simpatico today.

    What an absolutely appalling way to fire some one. Tell your insane lawyer to have his two goons to do it? Shouldn’t you just ask your secretary of state to do it? You say “Take her out” to two freaking goons?

  2. dakinikat says:

    Have a good day! And if you don’t get to punch a Nazi, a Maga Rat or some other Trumpist today, punch out a BernieBro … they’re all alike.

    • Enheduanna says:

      And they are why Dump is POTUS.

      The comments there are interesting. They see nothing wrong with voting “their conscience”. I guess “their conscience” is fine with the current POTUS.

  3. dakinikat says:

  4. bostonboomer says:

    I cannot for the life of me understand how they could leave two dead bodies in that Hard Rock mess. What must the families of the victims be thinking and feeling? Surely there is some way to airlift the bodies.

  5. bostonboomer says:

  6. NW Luna says:

  7. bostonboomer says:

  8. dakinikat says:

    • NW Luna says:

      Fck, not again! Though apparently the previous downtown shooting was due to several men pulling out handguns rather than an automatic weapon.

      • NW Luna says:

        Wrote that before reading the link (always a bad move). It’s the Weds night shooting, not a new one. So far.

  9. dakinikat says:

    Good night sweet friends!

    here’s what I think via Leonard

  10. NW Luna says: