Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bullseye: Your gas tank

Michael Moore says Hurricane Gustav is "proof there is a God in Heaven."

WELL, IF THAT'S THE CASE, what does it say that this is the bullseye of God's "judgment"? Would that make the target of divine wrath not the Republican National Convention and George W. Bush but, instead, Americans' gas-guzzling, wasteful ways?
Hurricane Gustav has been a Category 3 all day - At 11pm EDT, NHC continues to say that 'some intensification is possible tonight'. 0Z (23:00 EDT) models have increased damage forecasts a bit from six hours ago, but not a lot; however, this can change if it weakens further or re-intensifies or has different landfall track and speed, etc. The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, or LOOP, and Port Fourchon, which has historically been a land base for offshore oil support services in the Gulf, is still directly in the path of Gustav and is expected to take damage. As you will see below, a good bit of oil and natural gas is also expected to be taken offline: some for a few weeks, some for much longer, according to Methaz' models.

Matthew Simmons, of Simmons International says:

LOOP is the only facility in the Gulf to unload VLCC tankers which carry over 2 million barrels of crude. They can in theory be "litered" by unloading onto smaller tankers that can make it into the Gulf Coast ports but this is very lenghty timing and the spare capacity of these smaller tankers is slim. We get about 1.2 million b/d of crude imports through Loop. (+/- 10%)
TO SUMMARIZE the above discussion on The Oil Drum blog . . . Got oil?

Port Fourchon (FOO-shon): Remember that name. And remember places like Port Fourchon and the port of New Orleans are why rebuilding Louisiana's wetlands is important.

Oh, wait . . . we didn't care about Louisiana's wetlands? Oops. Our bad.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Proof there is a devil in hell

If Barack Obama were president, would the Democrats give a tinker's damn about New Orleans?

Even when the suffering, storm-battered people of southeast Louisiana were no longer useful as a battering ram against the Republicans?

I WONDER. See, it's starting to look -- with a Category 4 monster in the Gulf waiting to finish off what Katrina didn't -- that people who stand to lose everything they have are nothing more to their "champions" than expedient pieces of meat.

And Gustav's pending arrival on Monday -- as the Republican National Convention kicks off --"just demonstrates that God is on our side," according to former Democrat party chair Don Fowler.

To filmmaker Michael Moore, speaking Friday on MSNBC, the storm is "proof that there is a God in Heaven."

Meat to the Dems. Meat to the GOP.

A blood sacrifice to the worst demons of our fallen nature.

And in a day and change, possibly well cooked pieces of meat. That, of course, isn't important now. Not when there are political points to be made.

Hangin' on the corner y Nueva Orleans

If you're so paranoid that you think la Migra is going to use a Category 4 hurricane as a "Roach Motel" for illegals, maybe you just ought to have spared yourself an ulcer and stayed the hell home.

The Associated Press explains how there are people in this world
who just might be too stupid to live:

Advocates have criticized the decision not to establish a shelter, warning that day laborers and the poorest residents will still fall through the cracks. As lines at bus stations kept building, about two dozen Hispanic men talked under oak trees near Claiborne Avenue, where on better days they would be waiting to be picked up for day labor.

They'd been listening to Spanish radio and television but none of them knew what to do and were waiting for someone to come by and tell them, said Pictor Soto, 44, of Peru. Told they could take a bus at Union Passenger Terminal, they all shook their heads, fearful that immigration agents would be looking for them. "The problem is, there will be immigration people there and we're all undocumented," Soto said.
REALLY, I THINK los federales have bigger things to worry about right now.

But if these undocumented workers don't get on those buses and do get caught on the streets after the mandatory evacuation -- and the curfew -- go into effect, I'm sure they'll be held somewhere safe until la Migra can get around to them.

Geez Luis.

The hurricane games people play

I hate it when people wish for hurricanes because it would be "fun."

People like that are either stupid or mean. Take your pick.

When I was a student at Louisiana State, you could tell the Yankees from the natives -- apart from their accents -- by their attitudes on hurricanes. The Yankees thought hurricanes were an excuse for a party and wanted the opportunity to see one up close.

At the rest of our expense.

NATIVES LIKE ME, and Desirée from New Orleans, wanted to kill the little bastards. We were the same age, and we each had vivid memories of Hurricane Betsy in 1965, not to mention other various and sundry lesser storms.

And memories of the Category 5 monster that missed to the right -- Camille.

As a then-4-year-old from Baton Rouge, I remembered Betsy as a hellacious windstorm. I remembered the lights going out in the middle of one of my television shows -- "Flipper," maybe? -- and staying off for days.

I remembered the adventure of sleeping on a quilt in the living room, the battery radio tuned to WJBO, flashlights and kerosene "hurricane lamps." A 4-year-old isn't old enough to appreciate that hurricanes can kill you.

What I remember to this day is how the wind screamed like the satanic host somewhere outside our boarded-up windows, unleashed from the netherworld for a long night's rampage. I can still see the aftermath -- leaves plastering everything like verdant wallpaper. Limbs all over the yard. The odd shingle from someone's house.

Before Betsy hit, my old man didn't have time to take down one purple-martin house. It sat sturdily atop a 2-inch galvanized steel pipe about 25 feet high. Solid stuff.

After Betsy's wind got through with it, that mast was bent to the ground, like a miniature Gateway Arch. Over at Aunt Rose's and parrain's, a huge pecan tree had come down, splitting their old house in two.

Parrain -- otherwise known as my Uncle Joe -- had been in the bedroom just a minute or two before the tree turned it into splinters. After the weather cleared up, I remember spending the whole day there as the grown-ups in the family put the house back together again.

They never did rebuild the smashed fireplace, though.

DESIRÉE'S EXPERIENCE of Betsy -- from New Orleans -- was more dramatic than mine. Her "adventure" included having to swim, with the rest of her family, out a second-story window of their house.

I couldn't top that one, having grown up some 50 feet above sea level.

But I could contribute my memories of Hurricane Edith in 1971.

Edith, truth be told, was a pretty piss-poor hurricane. She was no Betsy, and certainly no Camille.

Up in Baton Rouge, Edith wasn't considered enough of a threat to even bother boarding up our windows. School was open, but I stayed home.

If I had gone to school, I would have missed the tornado.

My mother had just gotten off the phone with grandma.

"Mama, look!" I said. "The sky is black."

Right then, everything went white. A swirling, roaring white cloud enveloping our neighborhood and our house. I stood in the living room watching it. More precisely, I stood in the living room, watching debris fly out of the mist and bounce off our front window.

Shingles. Leaves. Fiberglass insulation. Branches.

I don't know how the windows held. Probably, they held because the actual vortex of the twister missed us by a little less than a block.

I was 10, and I'd never seen a tornado before. Didn't have sense enough to run for the hallway and hit the deck.

Then again, neither did my 48-year-old mother. She went into hysterics; I tried to calm her down. I didn't get scared till later. Being the adult in a situation like that screws with your preteen brain,
you know?

BEFORE THE TORNADO, Edith's torrential rain had left the street with a good half a foot of water in it, and the flooding had made it halfway up our driveway. Afterward, the street -- and our driveway -- were dry.

As the weather returned to its normal lame-hurricane programming, the bulletin sounder started blaring over WLCS radio. Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Bulletin! Bulletin! Bulletin! Bulletin! Bulletin! Bulletin! Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!

We were under a "tornado alert." Thanks for the news flash, fellas.
Doppler radar was a couple of decades away still.

By all rights, I probably ought to be dead or something. I guess God really does look out for fools and little children . . . whichever category I fell into at the time.

But I was old enough for Edith, the Hurricane That Got No Respect, to teach me one thing: You don't f*** with hurricanes.
Anything can happen. Thus was born my gut instinct to kill Yankee classmates who thought a hurricane disaster might be good for kicks and giggles.

Or an excuse to down a case of cheap beer or three.

ON THE OTHER HAND, I don't know
what the hell "The Louisiana Conservative's" damn excuse is:
I guess you’d have to be from Louisiana to understand this, but that sadism is brewing again. I don’t want to experience Hurricane Katrina again. Once in a lifetime was enough for me. I hated that a fifteen minute drive suddenly became a two hour experience. I hated sitting inside the house the entire time without electricity as the only sound was the howling wind. I hated coming in from work as the hurricane came as an uninvited guest, drenching us with rain, the road barely visible. I hated to hear about the looting, the flooding, the mayhem that swept through New Orleans…

And though I would still hold my hand out to New Orleans residents who needed aid in that type of emergency, I could careless if the people who destroyed the river center that housed them slept on the streets. I don’t like seeing people sticking greedy hands and taking assistance away from those who genuinely need it. I don’t want to see people getting recovery money and spending it in strip joints, night clubs, and bars. Nor do I want to see them spending money on a designer purse and boom boxes.

Hurricane Katrina gave us the best and the worst of people. I’m grateful for the best of people, I loathe the worst of people, and I hope to see neither again.

But as I said, I am still into a little sadism. Part of me wants Gustav to come right up the Mississippi River and into Baton Rouge. As I said a couple of minutes ago, you have to be from Louisiana to understand this, but I want to know. Can Bobby Jindal handle a hurricane?
I AM FROM LOUISIANA. I understand that "Avman," the "sadistic" author, needs to keep his dark impulses to himself.

To one "Louisiana conservative," Katrina was annoying traffic jams. To more than 1,000 New Orleanians, for whom he has little but contempt, Katrina was the death of them. I wonder whether they hit bad traffic on the way to the afterlife?

Perhaps "Avman" could fight the evacuation traffic and head for Ohio. Then stay there until he forgot what a hurricane was like. Then, at least, he'd have some sort of excuse for his "sadism."

Still, I think I understand what he's trying to say. Maybe.

I'll confess that the run-up to a big storm can be exhilarating, in that you're rising to meet a huge challenge. It's an avenue of escape -- at least momentarily -- from our modern lives of quiet frustration and a nagging sense of futility.

It brings on the rush -- albeit disordered and somewhat deviant -- of being, at long last, part of something bigger than our own boring, solipsistic selves. Our inner 4-year-old finds that somehow exciting.

Especially when we figure it's not us who might lose every damn thing we own . . . or our life, or those of our loved ones.

Then, the non-stop hurricane coverage on TV is the ultimate "reality show." People get to lose their stuff -- die, even! -- so that we can transcend our own sucky selves.

I get that.

When you start feeling that way, it's helpful to realize what's going on. And feel bad about it. And just keep your damn mouth (or laptop) shut. Being a public sadist is unseemly, and not generally recommended.

THE EXHILARATION always crashes, eventually, into the tragedy. Soon enough, we see all too well that our "hurricane entertainment" was no game. That the reality TV show was a meteorological snuff film.

The TV images of "video game" tracking maps and radar displays give way to scenes of death and destruction. Of people who lived . . . and worked . . . and played . . . and loved yesterday but today are just bloated corpses floating in the fetid floodwaters.

Places you knew yesterday suddenly are unrecognizable in today's news footage.

The unactualized life you sought escape from in the excitement of nature's fury just might be forever changed today. And you find that's more than you bargained for in your "sadistic" quest for relevance through Götterdämmerung .

The green, young soldier who thirsts for the glory of battle soon enough is the middle-aged combat vet who wakes up screaming in the night. If he's lucky.

NORMAL PEOPLE know that . . . no matter what crazy-ass things their feelings sometimes tell them.

Almost three decades ago at LSU, I never did get the opportunity to lay down my own storm track on one of our out-of-state hurricane enthusiasts. I don't think Desirée did, either.

It's too bad The Louisiana Conservative's chief sadist wasn't at LSU with us back in the day. I would have paid money to see Desirée kick his ass.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dear Barack: Own this failure

Dear Barack Obama:

I am a pro-life, socially conservative New Deal liberal who tacks well to the left of your risk-avoidance politics on many issues.

Well, risk-avoidance on everything but sticking our nose in Russia's sphere of influence. In that, you're an ideological zealot who's just as willing as neocon toadie John McCain for the United States to cut off its nose to spite its face.

I COULD HAVE held my nose and voted for you if you had demonstrated some degree of judgment, instead of whoring for empire building in the name of "freedom." Avoiding a geopolitical calamity, in my mind, is a "proportionate reason" to vote for someone as pro-abortion as yourself.

You have removed that ethical dilemma for me, however. Thanks . . . I think.

This story on MSNBC cemented my decision. Call it the final straw, proof that your (and your party's) dedication to a "final solution" for "unwanted" children trumps all:
The refrain in many of the Democratic leaders’ responses to Sen. John McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate: Roe v. Wade, Roe v. Wade.

The 1973 Supreme Court decision nationalizing a woman’s right to get an abortion was a top-of-mind issue for top Democrats.

Voters, beware, the Democrats' message seemed to be: Palin is not in favor of abortion rights.

The Democrats seemed to be concerned that some voters might be under the misapprehension that Palin was a pro-choice woman — or that because she is a woman, it might help McCain get the votes of pro-choice women.

The message echoed and re-echoed:

“Gov. Palin shares John McCain's commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade,” said Obama spokesman Bill Burton in a statement issued before McCain had stepped out on the stage in Dayton, Ohio, with Palin.

“She shares John McCain’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade,” agreed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi two hours later.

“Gov. Palin and John McCain are a good match because they both want to overturn Roe v. Wade,” chimed in Ellen Malcolm, a Hillary Clinton adviser and president of the Democratic group Emily’s List, which backs women abortion rights candidates.

“The last thing women need is a president — and vice president — who are prepared to turn back the clock on women's rights and repeal the protections of Roe v. Wade,” said Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which backs mostly Democratic candidates.

If McCain were to win the election but not serve out his term, it would be Palin nominating justices for any Supreme Court vacancies.
YES, AS YOU SAID last night, we don't agree on abortion. Lots of people don't agree on lots of things.

But why is it, when it comes to our "disagreement" on abortion, it's my side that has to do all the "compromising"? And why does that almost always look a lot like unconditional surrender?

Pity, because it is time for the Republicans "to own their failure."

Instead, as far as I'm concerned, it's time for you -- and your party -- to "own" your failure. Your failure to win the vote of a liberal Democrat whose conscience is not for sale.

3 Chords & the Truth: Taking the holiday off

I've made an executive decision: 3 Chords & the Truth is taking the Labor Day holiday off.

I'll still be at the blog, but the Big Show is on the back burner this week.

Because it's a holiday.

Which means you don't work. Not that I consider 3 Chords & the Truth work. Despite the effort going into it.

Anyway, we're out of here to recharge and refresh . . . and to doodle around on the blog.

That . . . is all.

See, it's kind of like Foster Brooks
telling Lindsay Lohan to sober up

It's a bad, bad reflection on the product you're putting on the air when the likes of Connie Chung is telling your anchors to grow up.

TO REMIND YOU of how horrible an indictment that is for MSNBC's political coverage, I reluctantly have posted Mrs. Maury Povich's -- Really, doesn't that say it all right there? -- farewell to her and Maury's three viewers when the cable network canceled their weekend show in 2006.

But, for what it's worth, here's a
Wall Street Journal account of on-air behavior so disturbing that Chung was willing to suffer the inevitable slings and arrows (such as mine) accompanying her, of all people, calling out the malefactors:
The convention was supposed to be the network's coming-out party as a hub for politics. But a year of programming and personnel changes have led to behind-the-scenes strain, which bubbled to the surface repeatedly this week in open arguments between hosts.

In an uncomfortable moment Tuesday night, an exhausted-looking "Hardball" host Chris Matthews shouted at a producer ("I'll wrap in a second!") before a stilted exchange with "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann, in which the two argued about who was talking out of turn. Mr. Olbermann made a flapping-lips hand gesture, and Mr. Matthews took umbrage. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer sat quietly on-screen, waiting to be interviewed.

That incident followed a seven-minute back-and-forth Tuesday afternoon between "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough and network correspondent David Shuster. Mr. Scarborough, a former Republican representative from Florida, accused Mr. Shuster, a registered independent, of taking a "cheap shot" by mentioning his party affiliation. Mr. Scarborough sarcastically added: "I feel so comforted by the fact that you're an independent. I bet everyone at MSNBC has 'independent' on their voting cards."

Since the early days of CNN's "Crossfire," cable news has relied on strong personalities to keep drama high and viewers tuned in throughout the day, when news isn't always exciting enough to keep the audience's attention. Passionate debate can make for great television -- and terrific ratings.

But some found this level of personal bickering hard to watch.

"My reaction to that is: 'Grow up!' They have to just grow up," said Connie Chung, a former MSNBC host and former co-anchor of "CBS Evening News."

I DON'T KNOW about you, but I need a stiff drink.

But until I can go round up a fifth of Early Times for each of us, I thought I'd remind us all of what it was like when the grown-ups still ran TV news:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The life of Ossie

Ossie Brown is dead.

Baton Rouge, you now may resume watching Monty Python's Life of Brian.

Brown -- a legendary defense attorney who launched a second career as East Baton Rouge Parish district attorney and religious police -- wasn't particularly noted for bold and stunning prosecutions of public wrongdoing. Actually, he was pretty good in finding reasons not to prosecute a long line of grafters and influence peddlers in Louisiana's state capital.

NO, WHAT Ossie Brown is remembered for is twofold -- being a fixture on Channel 33 as co-host of the annual Jerry Lewis telethon and for getting Life of Brian banned in Baton Rouge. Not that he legally could ban a movie under our constitutional form of government.

But we are talking about Louisiana. And when a movie theater is strong armed by a district attorney, it has been strong armed well and good.

I remember only one Baton Rouge showing of the film in the late summer and fall of 1979 . . . in the Cotillion Ballroom of the LSU Union. It was sold out, and I didn't get to the box office soon enough.

Ah, to be young and rebellious once again. . . .

SO, ALL THESE years later, I hope God rests Ossie's Southern Baptist soul. But I also hope, when he reaches the Pearly Gates, Ossie finds St. Peter -- who I'm sure he'll be chagrined to learn was the first pope -- whistling "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

We are all New Orleanians now

A hurricane is going to be in the Gulf by the weekend. So far, dead center of the "forecast cone" of where Gustav will make landfall is . . . guess where?

Yeah, there.

BY THAT TIME, forecasters say, Gustav might be -- probably will be -- a Category 3 storm. Unfortunately, a team of independent civil engineers have said that New Orleans levees may not be up to the task.

If Gustav is a strong as forecasters think it will be, and if it hits where early projections indicate it could hit, we well could end up with a replay of the horrors of 2005. Rod Dreher wrote a post Wednesday saying as much -- actually, a couple of posts saying as much -- on his Crunchy Con blog . . . and look what the hell happened:
* Perhaps God is reminding America of one reason we need to remove Republicans from office this fall.

* It was foolish to spend billions of tax dollars on repairing N.O. in the first place.

* Your friend's leaving? Bush must have had a really good policy to get him to evacuate this time. Good thing George Bush learned his lesson.

* Up here the joke was that Katrina was "just God's way of taking out the trash." So while the media will make a big deal out of it, no one else really gives a damn about a storm that happened three years ago.

* George Bush must be stopped! First, he made Katrina happen, then Fay, and now Gustav! Someone stop George Bush! When Obama is elected, he will put an end to natural disasters once and for all. Just like if Kerry had been elected, all disease would have disappeared, like John Edwards said.

* Instead of directing your anger to white people over the internet that you have never met, how about saving some for the black mayor who did nothing? You are not a smart man. Emotional, yes. Angry, yes. Scary, yes. But smart? No.
THIS IS AMERICA. With the specter of another catastrophe -- and the possible loss of a coastal city for good this time -- over the horizon and somewhere in the Caribbean, combox warriors do what Americans do these days.

They ramp up the partisan bickering, start playing "gotcha" and the blame game, with the inevitable joker cracking wise about "God's way of taking out the trash." There is no situation so dire, no prospect so tragic -- and so far, Gustav whacking New Orleans is just a days-away prospect -- that we can't use it as an excuse to continue our modern-day Civil War by Other Means.

To hell with human decency. New Orleanians (and other endangered coastal residents) be damned. What's their lives and property to us when there are "Heck of a job, Brownie" points to be racked up?

In the new millennium, it is the Chinese who make things and create wealth. That's what America used to be good at. Today, we're all about culture wars, political bloodbaths and all the other pissing matches of Dysfunctional Nation.

The blacks hate the whites, the whites say "Katrina was God's way of taking the trash out," and the Republicans and Democrats, the conservatives and liberals use the looming specter of yet more death and destruction from the sea as an excuse to ratchet up the rhetoric and spite

Yes, New Orleans was a damn mess before Katrina. It's a bigger one now.

No, the Louisiana state government isn't worth powder to blow to hell, either. But people think the feds have any damn room to talk?

If a Category 3 or 4 storm hits close enough to New Orleans next week, there's a real possibility we will witness an American city's final destruction. And this is people's response.

The problem with America, which Americans are too stupid to apprehend, is that New Orleans -- the "trash" that God had to take out, according to some -- is just a distilled and concentrated version of what the United States has come to as a whole.

Recently, Republican presidential candidate John McCain stupidly said that "We're all Georgians now," inexplicably wanting a militarily and financially overextended nation to stick its nose into a neighborhood fight. One far from its neighborhood.

No, we're not "all Georgians now." We're all New Orleanians now. Every awful thing we accuse them of being is the same awful thing we will be soon enough.

And as some of us bewail New Orleans having been built on low ground . . . on the Gulf coast . . . at risk of serial ruin from the stormy summertime sea, we issue our denunciations from atop the San Andreas fault, or from Tornado Alley, or maybe from Al Qaida's Favorite Target.

If this be divine judgment on New Orleans, can the Almighty's judgment on the rest of us be far behind, then?

Maybe that would be a profitable thing to consider . . . once people get off their g**damned high horses.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Boffo 'Net biz for vira-Lego vid

OK, this video needs to go soooooo totally viral. As in, RIGHT NOW.

Besides, I always wanted to write headlines for Variety. The goal: top "STICKS NIX HICK PIX" or "WALL STREET LAYS AN EGG."

Freak-out time in the Big Uneasy

When I wrote last night's post, little did I know that the next Big One might be sooner rather than later. For all the reasons I've been ranting about for the last two years (and more), this is not good.

And then you have the meteorological considerations, as covered in this Times-Picayune dispatch:
Gustav is forecast to be a major Category 3 hurricane with top winds of 120 mph about 300 miles south of New Orleans on Sunday afternoon, according to the 4 p.m. forecast of the National Hurricane Center.

That places much of southeast Louisiana within the center's 5-day cone of forecast error.

Gustav was raking Haiti with 75 mph winds this afternoon as it moves northwest at 10 mph. At 4 p.m. Central time, the center of Gustav was about 180 miles southeast of Guantanamo, Cuba, and 60 miles west southwest of Port au Prince, Haiti.

"Now that the center is moving over the mountainous terrain of the southwest peninsula of Haiti, Gustav is likely losing strength," said Hurricane Center senior hurricane specialist James Franklin in a discussion message about the storm. "The eye is no longer evident on satellite images and the system could weaken below hurricane intensity tonight."

But Franklin warned that the mix of upper level winds in which the storm is moving is still favorable for intensification, which means Gustav is will quickly regain strength as it moves toward Cuba on Wednesday.

Monday, August 25, 2008

You broke my heart! You broke my heart!

A member of the stopped clock that is the Bush Administration comes up with the correct time regarding the ongoing disaster that is New Orleans.

YOU'LL NOTE I didn't say the ongoing disaster that is post-Katrina New Orleans. At any rate, The Times-Picayune asked federal recovery czar Douglas O'Dell what time it was, and he said it's late.

Late, indeed:
On one of his frequent visits to New Orleans, federal recovery coordinator Douglas O'Dell delivered a bruising critique of the Nagin administration on Thursday, saying "there is growing frustration" in Washington with the speed, efficiency and competence of City Hall's efforts to manage the local recovery after Hurricane Katrina.

O'Dell, who consults with dozens of federal, state and local agencies and troubleshoots regulatory logjams, said Mayor Ray Nagin's recovery director, Ed Blakely, often does not return his calls and seems to be operating under the premise -- erroneous, O'Dell thinks -- that a new presidential administration next year "will reload the cannon and start shooting money down here."

O'Dell's critique, developed over several interviews, came as The Times-Picayune accompanied him on an all-day New Orleans visit Thursday. The coordinator visits the area at least every other week to discuss a wide range of recovery issues with regional officials, his aides said.

O'Dell's most recent visit included a problem-solving technical session with local, state and federal housing officials; a discussion of education issues with state Education Superintendent Paul Pastorek; meetings with local business leaders and law enforcement officials; and consultations with Paul Rainwater, his state counterpart as director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

O'Dell praised the work of some local and state leaders, such as Pastorek, who recently unveiled a massive school reconstruction plan involving 28 new or rehabilitated schools and $685 million in hand for construction.

And he singled out for more praise Bill Chrisman, the city's new capital projects director, and Cynthia Sylvain-Lear, who oversees capital projects as the city's deputy chief administrative officer. "She has her finger on the pulse," he said.

But in several interviews, O'Dell expressed continuing frustration with Blakely, an urban planning professor from Australia who once served as deputy mayor of Oakland, Calif.

He said Blakely is often absent and unavailable and leads an office that produces "ethereal visions" of recovery that cannot be financed with federal recovery dollars.

"I'm basically asking Blakely, who's probably getting paid a whole hell of a lot more money than I am, to do his damn job," O'Dell said.

"He's there not only to plan, but to execute. Not only to manage, but lead. He's not an elected official, but as a nonelected official he wields enormous influence over the future of this city and the speed of its recovery," he continued.

"And he's failing, in my view."


Asked why he chose to be so blunt about the work of Blakely's office, O'Dell said: "What I'm trying to do is plainly tell the federal view, the universal federal view . . . that the federal government has created $126 billion worth of response to this tragedy. And there are a lot of people in the federal government who are not happy with the way it's being applied -- with the speed it's being applied, the efficiency with which it's being applied. And there's great concern as to the transparency with which its being applied."

O'Dell said Thursday that Blakely's office sometimes seeks recovery money for projects "based on rough sketches, arm waving, 'imagineering,' whatever."

THERE'S ONE THING, however, that I couldn't tell you whether O'Dell grasps or not. It's the sad fact that this is as good as it gets in the Big Uneasy.

I don't know that the former Marine general apprehends that New Orleans is the slow-witted goombah in the godfather's coterie -- the one who's just as eager to skim a few Benjamins off the top of the weekly protection-money haul as he is clueless that the capo (that would be the Louisiana statehouse) knows the score and would have had him whacked years ago, except that N'Awly is mama's sister's baby boy, and even Michael Corleone doesn't need that kind of heat.

And even Michael Corleone doesn't need that kind of heat. . . .

And even Michael Corleone doesn't need that kind of heat. . . .

AS THE CIVIC-MINDED IDIOT with an admitted soft spot for N'Awly, I've been saying and saying, "N'Awly, cut that s*** out . . . the Big Boss is wise to you, and if he don't whack you, the G-Man will!"

And N'Awly, he say, "Aw, Favog! You worry too much. Ain't nobody gonna mess wit N'Awly. If Cuz get too mad at me, I'll shake Unk Sam down for a few thou more, and we be square. Chill, Cap!"

And den I say, "Cher, you don' unnerstand. It different this time. Unk Sam sick of coughin' up more protection money than what he owe da Capo. I hear he been talkin' to da feds, an' if push come to shove, da Big Boss gonna hang you out to dry wid da G-Man.

"Dat way, you outta his hair, and he don' have to tell his Mama he had her sister's baby boy whacked."

And then N'Awly say . . . well, N'Awly was gonna say sumptin', but right then the floodwall started leakin' through the newspaper expansion joint . . . and this wall a water started headin' our way . . . and I ain't ashamed to say I got the hell outta there.

Last I saw N'Awly, he was kickin in the door of da liquor store, tryin' to grab him a case of Early Times before the water got too high and rurnt it.

I GUESS UNK SAM -- not to mention Gen. O'Dell -- knew how to get N'Awly out of everybody's hair after all. Something tells me N'Awly's (and the Capo's, too) days in the "protection" bidness are numbered.

Behold . . . a communiss plot

Every now and again, I am reminded that my Omaha-bred wife and I hail from the same country but different worlds.

THE ABOVE PHOTO and story is from Page 17 of the Evening World-Herald on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 1963. There was nothing remarkable at all that day in Omaha, Neb., about this bit of newspaper boilerplate.

Typical Omaha elementary school. Staged picture accompanying routine, feel-good story about a natural-gas company providing ice cream and cookies for the kids next door. Cute . . . but ho-hum.

If this story and picture -- reflecting an equivalent reality in my hometown, Baton Rouge, La. -- had run that same evening in the State-Times. . . .

Forget it.

There is no way in hell that story and picture ever would have run in the State-Times. The circumstances behind it would not -- could not -- have happened. Not without military occupation . . . and, come to think of it, not even then.

What was unremarkable in Omaha in 1963 didn't even start to happen in Baton Rouge until 1970. Technically.

It never did work out, actually.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Speaking of 'blowed up good' . . .

What we've come to

If you click on this Drudge Report ad, it takes you here, to an "urgent" survey by the NewsMax magazine and website.

OF COURSE, NewsMax doesn't really give a damn what you think about blowing a country to Kingdom Come just because we can. No, NewsMax is all about the marketing, baby:
I understand that as a voter in this poll I will be signed up for FREE breaking news alerts. I can unsubscribe at any time. Votes with invalid emails will not be counted. Poll results will be provided in a future email to you.
I THINK I PREFER the Sun's cheap ploy for attention among Great Britain's knuckle-draggers . . . large, uncovered female breasts on Page 3. Yes, bodacious tatas in your morning newspaper might well be a near occasion of sin, but at least they're not playing on nationalistic tendencies to bloodlust.

But hooters aren't something the conservative chattering classes would see as fit viewing for Bubba in Bentonville. No, no . . . let's stick to figuring out the next Middle Eastern nation to blow up good.

It's kind of like what Americans do nowadays instead of cockfighting. Or pit-bull fights . . . especially since Michael Vick's in the federal pen.

That's us Americans. Staying classy all the way to Armageddon.

The perfect pop song

It would be a better world, I think, if we still had Shindig! and Hullabaloo on television.

I know it would be a better world if the great Jackie DeShannon (née Sharon Lee Myers) still were crankin' out the big radio hits like she was, say, in 1965 -- the year she made this appearance on NBC's Hullabaloo.

"When You Walk in the Room," if you ask me, belongs in the rarified ranks of songs that merit consideration as The Perfect Pop Song. Listen for yourself.

The Broom Man goes home

There's a party in Heaven today. It has nothing to do with the Olympics.

Nor does it have a thing to do with Warren Buffett's making another billion or three. And today's big headline, Barack Obama picking Joe Biden as his running mate, was sooooo yesterday's news before it even happened.

NO, IT'S PARTY TIME for the Heavenly Host because the Broom Man has, at long last, come home. The Omaha World-Herald has the big news:
The blind broom peddler who whistled as he walked Omaha streets for more than 55 years has died.

The Rev. Livingston Wills, who often said "God is good," died Friday at St. Joseph Villa Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. He was 91 and had been living there since May.

"Rev," as he was affectionately called, sold brooms as a way to help support himself and his family.

When Wills began going door to door in the 1950s, Omaha was a much smaller city. Six days a week, he would put on a suit and tie, sling brooms over his shoulder and head out the door.

Often he would catch a bus near his north Omaha home and then walk through Florence, Benson, Dundee or some other neighborhood, never seeming to get lost.

"God will take care of me," he would say. "Do you need a good broom?"

He couldn't tell a $10 bill from a coupon, so he simply trusted people, said his friend Sandy Nogg of Omaha. Cars bumped him several times, and sometimes people slammed the door in his face, but he never became discouraged.

"The hearts of the people of Omaha were for him," said Bernadine Jefferson, a friend of about 50 years. "I think a lot of people felt like he was part of their family. He was joyful and he had a good memory. He really enjoyed being around people."


Wills didn't make brooms, though. He attended Union College in Lincoln, where he studied English and history. After graduating, he moved to Omaha in the late 1940s, intending to teach, but instead he felt a call to ministry.

He was ordained and served for many years as pastor at the Tabernacle Church of Christ Holiness at 25th and Seward Streets. Wills was elevated to bishop in the church in 1975.

Last year, The World-Herald's Goodfellows campaign drew attention to Wills' failing health and financial needs. He had fallen behind on his utility bills, and readers sprang into action.

Within a week, more than $2,000 in donations arrived, in checks big and small. They all came with a message: Please give this to the Broom Man.
THE TRAGIC FLAW at the heart of the human condition is that, when we saw the Broom Man walking down the street peddling his wares, we saw the Broom Man walking down the street peddling his wares.

By virtue of our human fallenness and our cultural conditioning, we're quite incapable of seeing anything below surface trappings. We actually think, probably, that it's better to be like Bill Gates than to be like the Broom Man.

God forbid, most of us probably think it would be better to be President Bush than to walk a dark mile in the Broom Man's shoes.

We value, I think, the wrong kind of success. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say we put inordinate value on the wrong kind of success.

Bill Gates' fundamental contribution to the world has been -- pretty much -- the "blue screen of death." (Can you tell I'm a Windows user?) George W. Bush's big contribution has been to drag a nation further into the mud, injecting what might turn out to be a fatal dose of "preventive war" and a torture-state ethos into our body politic.

REV. LIVINGSTON WILLS, on the other hand, gave a Midwestern city a living example of what it means to trust God and love one's fellow man.

And Omaha's Broom Man sold a damn good broom at a reasonable price. You can't beat that.

God will take care of us. Though we could use a good broom.

3 Chords & the Truth: It's about the journey

I usually like to surprise people with what I play on 3 Chords & the Truth.

SOMETIMES, THOUGH, I just like to throw up the week's playlist to demonstrate that the Big Show ain't exactly what folks are used to nowadays -- at least not when it comes to radio . . . or even to most webcasts or podcasts.

3 Chords & the Truth is not about a format, and it's not about a subculture or a niche. What it's about is the music. Good music. And good music can come from a lot of places, just as righteous mixes can cover a hell of a lot of musical ground in one set.

When it comes to this show -- like they say, whomever "they" might be -- we're all about the wonder of the journey. The actual destination is lagniappe.

So, that being said, here's this week's playlist:

Must Get Out
Maroon 5 (Songs About Jane)

Your Heart Is Breaking Down
Choo Choo (Choo Choo)

Should I Cry (alternate take)
Jackie De Shannon (The Definitive Collection)

Six Days on The Road
Dave Dudley (Country USA - 1963)

Straight Eight
Spencer Bohren (Born in a Biscayne)

Boris the Spider
The Who (My Generation -- The Very Best of the Who)

Real Love
Cretones (Thin Red Line)

Lost in the Supermarket

The Clash (London Calling)

You're Lost Little Girl

The Doors (Strange Days)

Innocence Lost
Steve Taylor (I Predict 1990)

Lost My Mind
Matthew Sweet (100% Fun)

Departure / Ride My See-Saw
The Moody Blues (In Search of the Lost Chord)

Handshake Drugs
Wilco (A Ghost Is Born)

Brightly Wound
Eisley (Room Noises)

Sole Salvation
English Beat (Special Beat Service)

I Do
J. Geils Band (Monkey Island)

Easy Does It
Count Basie & His Orchestra (The Essential Count Basie, Vol. 2)

Do You Love Me
The Contours (The Classic Rhythm & Blues Collection: 1958-1963)

Baby Workout

Jackie Wilson (The Classic Rhythm & Blues Collection: 1958-1963)

I Saw Her Standing There
Beatles (Meet The Beatles!)

You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
The Silkie (British Invasion Gold)

Everything Gonna Be Everything
Don Covay (See-Saw)

She May Call You Up Tonight
The Left Banke (There's Gonna Be A Storm - The Complete Recordings 1966-1969)

New York Dolls (New York Dolls)

IT'S 3 Chords & the Truth. Be there. Aloha.

Friday, August 22, 2008

This ought to hold you till the Big Show

It's 1966, and The Left Banke manages to sound just like it does in the studio . . . while in the middle of a golf course.

And look! It's Renée! SHE'S WALKING AWAY!

OK, so the staging is just a tad cheesy. And The Left Banke is lip synching to its hit record. But you've got to admit "Walk Away Renée" is one great song.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dear Diary: The Lord is my . . . WHAT?!?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Revolution 21's Blog for the People continues an occasional series of dispatches recorded some years ago in the trenches of Catholic radio . . . Pope FM, if you will. The names aren't real, nor are the places, but the stories are -- and it's a snapshot picture of what happens when "Their zeal consumes them" meets "Sinners sacrifice for the institution, not vice versa."

In other words, there has to be a better way.


Dear Diary,

I think, someday, this diary may turn into a book. The only roadblock to my turning the continuing saga of Pope FM into the next great American comedic novel is that A Confederacy of Dunces already has been written.

And, either fortuitously or tragically, I seem to have wandered into the real-life sequel, which is centered upon an exceedingly bizarre little Catholic radio station. Picture Pope FM this way: Hunter S. Thompson finds Jesus, joins the Catholic Church, buys WKRP and turns it into a religious station.

But he never kicks the pills and the booze.

This is the kind of surreal, whacked-out chaos that swirls about me, here in the great Midwest, as I huddle in my broken-down production room in a ramshackle little radio station. Apart from Jesus Christ, my salvation is the limoncello our secretary keeps in the break-room freezer.

If we were a Baptist radio station, I'd be sooooo screwed right now. . . .

WELL, IT'S BEEN an eventful couple of weeks since my last entry. Work has gotten so bizarre as to defy description.

"The Triumvirate" has entered into an unbreakable feedback loop, and Manic Don -- the program director, as well as the catalyst for the troika -- has just released an organizational plan in which all roads lead to himself. In the staff meeting where all this was unveiled, I found that, as production director, I don't even have the power to decide what I'm working on during any given day.

I told them not to insult me by letting me keep a meaningless title if I have that little control over what I do. The past two weeks, I have surprised even myself with the level of bluntness I've developed.

Don and the development guy kept saying that "station business" (i.e. underwriting and promos) had to take precedence over creating programming during business hours. I told them that evangelization was the station's business, and that Pope FM was not a commercial enterprise.

As was the case with Jimmy Swaggart, I am becoming increasingly and utterly convinced it's all about money, and it's all about us . . . not suffering souls in need of Jesus.

I swear to you, Catholics are the craziest bastards this side of the West Bank (of the Jordan, not the Mississippi).

THERE'S GOING TO BE a spectacular meltdown and/or explosion. I just can't decide whether I'm being called to view it from close up -- and perhaps be around to help pick up the pieces if I don't go up in the mushroom cloud -- or to view it from a safe distance.

Meanwhile, I had a voice mail the other day from a Baptist guy wanting to talk to a priest about possibly converting -- even though his wife is violently opposed to the Catholic Church. I forwarded his info to our secretary, asked about procedures for referrals and made a couple of suggestions about priests to put him in touch with.

Well, tonight after hours, I pick up the phone . . . and it's the same guy, asking about good reference books.

"You're the guy who left the voice mail, right?" I asked. He said that he was.

Had anyone from the station put him in contact with a priest or someone else?


So I suggested Father Hardon's Pocket Catechism as beginning reading, and I gave him the name and phone number of the priest who confirmed my wife and me. I also suggested that he just patiently answer his wife's questions or objections, but not to argue with her about it.

I figure God really wants this guy to be Catholic. Sometimes I wonder why, but that's not my call. Fortunately.

On another front, Manic Don of the Holy Humvee tried to dump building playback logs for the automation program on my already overloaded plate. Trouble is, that's not my yob, man. Not in my job description.

I told him my plate already was full and that automation programming wasn't in my job description but was in his. By the end of the day, I was handed a new job description.

Guess what it included?

It also included reclassifying me as "occupational/non-exempt" from "professional/ exempt." When I pointed that out to Don and Ken, the general manager, (in writing, for documentation purposes) and mentioned "overtime" (which would substantially increase my salary), let's just say an abrupt correction was made.

THE IMPROBABLE, unbelievable saga of My Life at Pope FM just keeps getting better and better. This translates to more and more incredible . . . in the sense of "You won't believe this s***!"

Once again, I remind myself -- and the world -- that, yes, it really happened. Likewise, I note that I'm about to be guilty of "burying the lede," but what am I gonna do? It's a diary, Diary.

Today at Levy Pants -- if I inhabit the sequel to A Confederacy of Dunces, this must be the Levy Pants factory -- I was tasked to clean up a Pope FM Update done by Don and Ken. The copy, written by . . . oh, you know who the hell wrote it, had the general manager introducing the Messiah -- um, Don -- as "part mad scientist, part creative genius and just plain sinner like the rest of us."

It's all very frat boy, you know. Well, that is if frat boys went around spouting phrases like "just plain sinner like the rest of us."

I could have tried -- futilely -- to naysay against such juvenile things going over the air. But what's the fun in that? I prefer to imagine certain board members hearing that through the static on their FM radios.

And in a Pledge-a-Thon promo I just finished tonight for the Lord of the Hummer, he took a "Star Wars" tack on fund raising. I looked and looked and looked for the voiceover for one part of the spot, but it wasn't there, so I just voiced the part myself.

I did, however, do some editing. Can you imagine how it might sound, through the static of our weak signal, if I had read the line as written, which began
"The Lord is our Master Vader . . . ."

Listen to that in your mind's ear. Imagine someone paying scant attention to our staticky broadcast.

"The Lord is our Master Vader . . . ."

I CAN SEE IT NOW. I drop dead, and somehow -- probably through a clerical error -- I end up in Heaven Itself, right in the middle of the Beatific Vision, and there He is.

Jesus Christ.

Right there in front of me.

Coming out of an adult bookstore.

I . . . don't . . . think . . . so.

But that's the less-than-beatific vision our listeners came thiiiiiis close to having as they listened to Pope FM over their morning bowl of Froot Loops.

Something tells me that the Froot Loops aren't just in our listeners' cereal bowls.

Satan is a Brillo pad

Jesus has gone into the bathroom-fixtures bidness in Livingston Parish, La.

And Satan looks like a Brillo pad and some WD-40.

BATON ROUGE'S CBS affiliate, WAFB, explains . . . I guess:
Robb Keppler says he asked for a sign and he got it, in the form of Jesus in his bathroom sink.

Keppler lives in the Livingston Parish town of Albany with his daughter-in-law and her child. She also has another one on the way. His 21-year-old son, Private E2 Brandon Keppler, is serving overseas. Before Brandon joined the Army, his father says the soldier had some hard times with a relationship that went bad and he subsequently suffered with depression. The soldier went into a hospital and his family says he talked of taking his own life.

His father struggled hard to keep the family intact. A praying man, he asked for a sign. "Let me know something," Rob Keppler recalls saying. "I was having a hard time dealing with it myself and stepped out the shower one night and saw it plain as day right there," he said as he pointed to a rusty spot in his sink. Was this simply a rust spot caused by the slow drip of water, or was this a sign, an image of Jesus? Robb Keppler has no doubt. "It is an image of Jesus, a clear sign," he says.

"After we saw the image, everything just started coming together," Keppler said. He says his son is now doing fine, serving in Afghanistan, and his life has straightened out.
WELL, BLESS THEIR HEARTS, I guess that if a rust spot in the bathroom sink helps bring these folks closer to the Lord, I reckon He'll go with the flow. You know?

But if you ask me, if that rust spot in the lavatory is an image of Our Lord and Savior, the Man Upstairs has done gone and contracted out miraculous apparitions to Pablo Picasso.

He could do worse, I guess.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mr. Bush, tear down this wall (of stupidity)!

Can we swap our current American president -- and the two aspirants to the star-spangled throne -- for a former Soviet leader?

WE'RE IN NEED of someone with a little common sense around here.

In an op-ed piece for The New York Times, Mikhail Gorbachev tries to explain to Americans the cold, hard facts of life about realpolitik . . . and about basic human nature as it collectively applies to great nations:

The problems of the Caucasus region cannot be solved by force. That has been tried more than once in the past two decades, and it has always boomeranged.

What is needed is a legally binding agreement not to use force. Mr. Saakashvili has repeatedly refused to sign such an agreement, for reasons that have now become abundantly clear.

The West would be wise to help achieve such an agreement now. If, instead, it chooses to blame Russia and re-arm Georgia, as American officials are suggesting, a new crisis will be inevitable. In that case, expect the worst.

In recent days, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush have been promising to isolate Russia. Some American politicians have threatened to expel it from the Group of 8 industrialized nations, to abolish the NATO-Russia Council and to keep Russia out of the World Trade Organization.

These are empty threats. For some time now, Russians have been wondering: If our opinion counts for nothing in those institutions, do we really need them? Just to sit at the nicely set dinner table and listen to lectures?

Indeed, Russia has long been told to simply accept the facts. Here’s the independence of Kosovo for you. Here’s the abrogation of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, and the American decision to place missile defenses in neighboring countries. Here’s the unending expansion of NATO. All of these moves have been set against the backdrop of sweet talk about partnership. Why would anyone put up with such a charade?

There is much talk now in the United States about rethinking relations with Russia. One thing that should definitely be rethought: the habit of talking to Russia in a condescending way, without regard for its positions and interests.

Our two countries could develop a serious agenda for genuine, rather than token, cooperation. Many Americans, as well as Russians, understand the need for this. But is the same true of the political leaders?
THE PROBLEM FACING the Soviet Union's final leader in his effort to persuade Americans is as simple as it is tragic . . . as in America's tragic flaw.

See, the problem here -- and the thing that threatens to lead us to an unwanted superpower conflict -- is that the United States is an empire led by revolutionary narcissists and populated by a navel-gazing people uninterested in foreign affairs. This ignorance isn't just embarrassing, it's dangerous.

Basically, Americans are too ignorant to know when their leaders are acting like bulls amok in the gift shop of the Thermonuclear Hotel. And the Polish Missile Crisis -- or the Ukraine Crisis . . . or the Georgian Crisis -- will catch them completely by surprise.

Only this time, we'll be Khrushchev.

Sadly, I'll bet a lot of folks will have to click on the link to figure out what I'm talking about.