You stay classy, Packers

With Vogel off on his international accordion busking tour (sponsored by the Schick Quattro Titanium Trimmer), he asked me to step in temporarily as an LIB guest blogger. So for the next week you all are stuck with me. I apologize.

With new headlines coming every day, I have to turn to the Brett Favre saga for my first post. There are two pieces of news today: first, the Packers apparently offered Favre $20 million if he stays retired, and second, the team is considering trading the quarterback to a division rival, namely the Minnesota Vikings.

First, let’s address the money. Ted Thompson is the most frugal general manager in the NFL. Despite more than ample cap space, Thompson’s free agent haul the last two offseasons has consisted of the illustrious Frank Walker and Brandon Chillar. He steadfastly refuses to spend money to bring players to Green Bay.

But offer a huge chunk of change to keep a player away from Green Bay? Thompson apparently doesn’t mind that as much. The sheer fiscal incompetence is mind-boggling (and it's not exactly what a classy sports organization would do). Thompson wasn’t necessarily the one who floated the proposal, but he is primarily responsible for the Packers being in this position. If this offer goes through and Thompson still has a job at the end of the year, I will be extremely disappointed.

Second, the Vikings scenario is scary. Consider Minnesota’s lineup. Adrian Peterson is the most dynamic runningback in the league. The offensive line features multiple pro bowlers. Bernard Berrian improves the wide receiving corps. Jared Allen and the two Williams make for a dominant defensive line. The linebacking corps and secondary are short of spectacular but still probably above average.

Add Favre to the mix and you have a 14-win team, one that along with the Cowboys will dominate the NFC. The Packers will stand no chance.

Sending Favre to Minnesota is simply untenable. As should be the prospect of spending $20 million simply to avoid a media circus. Releasing Favre is still not an option either, since Favre will also land in Minnesota under that scenario.

There’s only one option left. Welcome Favre back to camp. Treat him with the respect that a three-time MVP and face of the franchise deserves. Open up the competition for the starting quarterback spot. Favre will likely win, a blow to Thompson’s ego but a boon for the Packers’ chances to contend in 2008.

The Packers are something of a contradiction: overall, they're one of the NFL's youngest teams, yet most of their better players are in the latter parts of their careers -- Favre, Driver, Tauscher, Clifton, Harris, Woodson. If they want to win with the current core, they need to do so now. Chances are Favre is best-suited to do that.

Red Stick

Failing the Olympics Gender Test

Who knew it was such a problem?


The Keys to South Liberty

Yesterday, I had three keys made.

After almost a year here at South Liberty Street, I realized it was time to take the plunge. It was stunning, really, how we have somehow managed to make it work.

For an entire year, three of us lived in a house with just one key.

And we had no problems. No theft, no lockouts, no major miscommunications. We talked several times about going down to the hardware store on Magazine to do the five dollar task, but somehow it never warranted the time nor energy. Everything just sort of worked out.

My two current roommates are moving on, one to another place here in NOLA since his program only runs for another six months and one north for business in the Windy City.

I'm staying, though, and I'll be joined by two fine law school classmates in a few days. And Mrs. Elsas is staying on downstairs, too, having hit her 93rd birthday a few weeks back - a finer, livelier neighbor one could not find.

So, I'm content tonight after our final meal together at Ignatius. Phil E has killed a final cockroach for good measure, the red beans and rice are settling nicely, and I'm tired from hauling furniture up the back stairs in the jungle heat. I'm excited for the next round.

Law & The Death of Anonymous Commenting

Saddle up, all you trolls.

The marshal just sobered up, and he's sending out a posse.

But is stopping controversial anonymous speech online really within his bailiwick?

The New Electoral Demographics

An analyst looks at the electoral college map and sees a red shift.


Still Life with Extinguishers, Lizard, and Woman on Crutches

Madison's Forward Music Festival Ratcheting Up

Wow. Mason Jennings - the man who keeps it real - is added to the cornucopia. Nice work Jesse and Bessie and Kyle!

It's great to see some grassroots Madisonian music scene fixtures taking matters into their own hands and teasing a new music festival forth from the glacial hills. It has long been talked about...and now it's in the wings.


What a beautiful shot.


Live Report From the L.A. Earthquake

Here's a firsthand guest blog account of the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck California from Jon E, a friend of the blog working as a summer associate in LA:

a few weeks ago my uncle and i were talking about the little quakes they get every few months. he said most of them are not noticeable, it just feels like you are walking a boat for a few seconds. he also reminised about the '94 quake that caused serious damage. the conversation ended with him saying "you'll probably feel one before you leave.

my office is on the 20th floor of a building just north of downtown LA on wilshire blvd. i was at my desk, searching Lexis (a plug if this goes on the blog lol) and i heard the windows crack a little bit. my initial though is that is was just the wind blowing the large pains of glass, about 4 x 7. the noise continued and began to intensify. all of a sudden the entire building began to rock back and forth. the motion was definitely noticeable and continued for a little over a minute. (the building is on earthquake rollers, so once it starts to move it takes a bit before it stops. the quake was much shorter for the people on the lower floors (based on what a guy from the 6th floor said when i was out  to lunch))

so the rocking was pretty consistent, back and forth. the shades on the windows were hitting the window frame, but nothing violent. nothing moved or tipped over on my desk, although the motion had my coffee rockin and rolliin pretty good. and that was about it. i haven't even looked at the news to see if there was any damage, but as far as i can see out my 20 story window it is all clear.

my aunt works at a firm in downtown LA and they closed the building for the day and sent her home, no such luck here.

"Rock the Mullahs"

Oil Spill Question

If the barge at the center of the recent Mississippi oil spill can't be raised until all the remaining oil is pumped out of it, isn't the figure of 419,000 gallons of oil spilled - the total capacity of the barge, from what I recall - inaccurate?  With that in mind, this sentence from today's piece in the Times-Picayune seems a bit illogical:

The crane is meant to steady the barge as workers try to pump the remaining oil out of its hull, an effort that could take days. The barge, which won't be salvaged until it's completely stabilized and pumped, was split in half after a tanker hit it early Wednesday morning, spilling 419,000 gallons of oil into the river.

I suppose the important part is the response to avoid further damage, though.

In that vein, if you get out along the river and happen to find any oil-soaked animals, call the hotline setup by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 504-393-0353.

Egrets, herons, fish and pigeons are still romping around in the mudflats here off Gretna (which have increased by about 30 feet in places since last Friday due to a drop in water level).  I've only seen a crab belly up in the muck near the ferry terminal, though.


Review: Schick QuattroTitanium Trimmer

Am I about to become the willing instrument of a buzz marketer? You bet. If Paul Harvey can do it, so can I.

As a Journalism major, I took a number of courses on PR, and it's always intriguing to see some of the concepts in action or be some of the concepts in action. Angelo from Youcast contacted me with a lengthy email about reviewing a free sample of the new razor - and about his interest in one of my blog posts. As I responded:

Creative writing, personalization, and a product that might be genuinely useful.

I'll bite.

And so a free razor arrived in the mail. A pretty sweet razor, I must say. And now you'll hear...the rest of the story...

First off, the razor has some heft to it, since it's both a razor and a trimmer. Because it manages to sneak a small battery into its handle to operate the trimmer, gripping it feels more like the comfortable sensation of holding a mug rather than the sort of anxious, overly-delicate dixie cup feel one gets when handling a disposable razor, as I'm used to otherwise. That's not to say the Titanium is the size of Batman's armored vehicle. It still fit nicely into my travel toiletries bag this past weekend, and it looks classy enough - sort of sleek, really.

Second, the four blades 0f the Quattro do make for a slick shave. After the first few passes, I prepared to clear the razor, only to find that the design was far better than my existing razor at preventing buildup while in progress. That was nice. The pivoting head was also an improvement in covering contours. When it comes down to it, I'm looking for functionability, and I found it.

Third, the trimmer is a nice feature, and, despite my skepticism, it fits into the ensemble pretty well. I was a bit leery about having a battery in something that's constantly near water, but I had no problems. The trimmer blades themselves seem rather deep-set, so it's a bit tough to calibrate how to trim shaggier sideburns with great accuracy. But the handiness of having the occasional trim right in hand - one that simply cleans up a bit when in a hurry - is worth the addition of the feature to the design. Especially when traveling.

I didn't get to try the edger yet, nor have I been able to see how much replacement heads will cost. But, coming from a disposable line of shaving, having to replace only the heads should be a bit more environmentally friendly, and likely more cost-effective.

All in all, I was impressed. The thing is drying on my bathroom countertop. I got a product worth reviewing, one I would actually recommend to a friend if the person asked.

If you want your own free Titanium Trimmer in the mail, head to this site and whip up a little videoclip. Or perhaps you can try this.


Head for the Hills

"Above the Law Idol" is unleashed.

A NOLA call worth amplifying

Beijing Prepares

for what it's long been preparing for...

Check in on the ground in China with Mikey R.
for posts on the lead-up to the Olympics.

Pretty Cuil

The Mississippi River...

The Mississippi River is open for business once again, here in New Orleans. We're out on the ferry making a trip across the river and multiple ocean going vessels have passed us by including the large chemical transport, Liberian Flag, that's headed up river right now. And there are others downstream coming under the Creston(?) City connection bridge. So it's an exciting day to see things out here and it smells a little less like oil. listen

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Beware commuters if...

Beware commuters if you headed to work in Downtown New Orleans today. Street light at the corner of Napoleon(?) and Saint Charles at flashing both red and green at the same time covering for some interesting [broken audio, please listen] switch(?) 3 cars pedestrian and cars, so just watch out if you're had down to Charles. listen

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We're en route to Florida...

We're en route to Florida to visit our friend Ramsey. Also, a reader of the blog. Hope to have a good time on the beaches in Florida. And, we'll get back yo you with more posting, then. listen

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A Telling Take on Don't Ask, Don't Tell

What an astonishing column.

It's a piece from NRO Online advocating an end to Don't Ask, Don't Tell - from a perspective on the right. It's rather pragmatic (although it has a pretty hardcore anti-terrorist subtext). And it's convincing.

After speaking to quite a few friends who are in the various military branches, it seems the reality in the armed forces has rendered the policy somewhat hollow. While I understand the concerns entailed, I think they aren't significant enough to bar service - especially when it would coincidentally result in a lack of crucial experts.

Really, all one has to do to question the wisdom of the policy is recall The Sacred Band of Thebes. Or Alexander the Great.

Here's an article on the Congressional hearings presently underway on the topic.




1.  Absaroka - The 1930s push for a rebel state on the High Plains.

2.  Going for a 'Grander' - The high end sea hunt for 1,000 lb.+ marlins.

3.  Stealth Destroyer Shoaled - Only two of the navy's hugely expensive new destroyers will be produced.

4.  Young America's Thoughts on Secession - 40% of 18-24 year olds polled believe in the right of a state to secede.


A Pox Be Upon You

1. Oyster shooters. You don't have to drive to Mandeville to figure it out. N-A-S-T-Y.

2. Whomever is ultimately responsible under Maritime Law for the Mississippi River Oil Spill. Thank you for stopping the ferries, cruise liners, steamboats, barges, ships, and other port, commercial, and tourist activity, as well as harming wildlife and wildlife habitat.

3. Tujague's. When your doors are open and sober patrons walk in at 9:41 p.m. on a Saturday evening to grab an old school cocktail in an old school environment, don't hiss "We're closed!" at them repeatedly when you're standing behind the bar serving other non-private party patrons. And don't do something similar on multiple occasions.  We simply wanted sazeracs.

4. Whitney Bank at 1320 St. Charles Avenue - Why are you closed at 3 p.m. on a weekday? You're not a beloved local mom-and-pop po-boy shop. And why won't you let a person walk up to the drive-thru to cash a check in a pinch after said ridiculous hours?

5.  The U.S. Postal Service - Thank you for losing my stimulus check.

Photos of the Mississippi River Diesel Spill

I walked across the street to the levee here in Gretna with my compatriots, and I took a few shots of the aftermath of the diesel spill on the Mississippi that occurred upriver last night.

Unfortunately, we saw a noticeable slick washing in to shore - and a large variety of waterfowl and shorebirds. Great blue herons, egrets, ducks, pigeons, and killdeer were all paddling, stalking, and walking in the riparian strip of weeds and mud now tinged with rainbow.

So much for taking the ferry today...


Where is 'Poor Joshua' DeShaney Now?

"Poor Joshua!  Victim of repeated attacks by an irresponsible, bullying, cowardly, and intemperate father, and abandoned by respondents who placed him in a dangerous predicament and who knew or learned what was going on, and yet did essentially nothing except, as the Court revealingly observes, ante, at 1001, "dutifully recorded these incidents in [their] files."  It is a sad commentary upon American life, and constitutional principles - so full of late of patriotic fervor and proud proclamations about "liberty and justice for all" - that this child, Joshua DeShaney, now is assigned to live out the remainder of his life profoundly retarded."

Justice Harry Blackmun's famous emotional dissent in DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Financial Services captured the horror of the treatment of Joshua DeShaney, a boy of four, who was severely beaten by his father in Winnebago County, Wisconsin, just over an hour away from my hometown.

As I read the decision during a writing competition earlier this summer, I was torn as I plowed through Justice Rehnquist's more legal-minded majority, Justice Brennan's dissent, and Blackmun's righteous howl of humanity.  Underlying all three opinions lay the truly sorrowful facts.

Something dawned on me as I read about the final beating Joshua's father administered to the four year-old boy, the one where, after a string of offenses, "petitioner's father finally beat him so severely that he suffered permanent brain damage and was rendered profoundly retarded."

On the exact day Joshua DeShaney suffered that final debilitating beating across Lake Winnebago, March 8, 1984, I was born.  He exited, I entered.

Where is Joshua now?  He was 9 when the opinion in the case was handed down.  He would be about 29 years old.  I would presume he is currently in the custody of a Wisconsin institution somewhere, as Judge Posner noted when the case reached the 7th Circuit:

He is confined to an institution for the profoundly retarded, and will remain institutionalized for the rest of his life.

I would like to find him.

Obama: Behind the Curtain

A stark and revealing look at how Barack Obama the politician formed in Chicago - with some incredible inside sources and anecdotes.  (ht/David H)

This is a must-read piece for this election cycle.  It deflates the hype a bit, looks away from the fire and hologram show to where Toto hints at the truth.

Molly & Lucy

Learning Louisiana Law

Louisiana law is a little different.  It's Civil Law, rooted in Spanish, French, and Roman law, as opposed to English Common Law.  And in that regard, it's alone among the 50 states.

Tulane Law School offers two track options to students - Civil or Common.  A few classes are different, and I decided to pursue the Common Law path.

However, working here in a Louisiana state court for the second half of the summer, I'm getting a rather enlightening crash course in all things "civilian."   Obligations.  Usufructs.  Successions.  Devolutive and suspensive appeals.  Mystic Testaments.  Code.  The role of notaries.

It's a bit tricky to adjust and learn the terminology, but I liken it to learning Spanish.  In the process of discovering more about a different legal language, I'm simultaneously learning more about the Common Law through a rough comparative process. 

It's been fun working across the river in the West Bank, too.  I have some great people to spend my days with, and we've enjoyed a healthy balance between extensive research and writing tasks and experiential forays into the parish jail, family commissioner hearings, drug court, voir dire, a presentation on Batson (given the local connection), appellate oral arguments, and full district court jury trials.  We also presented analyses of U.S. Supreme Court cases to the local Inn of Court, which I found memorable (I presented Medellin v. Texas, a death penalty case entwined with the treaty power, international law, balance of powers, and federalism issues).

The judge has agreed to arrange a visit to Angola Prison in coming weeks, so I'm busy reading up on the storied place in advance.

For a helpful - and fun - primer on the legal jargon and concepts in Louisiana law, check out this "Civil Law to Common Law Dictionary."


Cadaver Cake

Someone's heading to med. school.  Best of luck in Shreveport, Earl.  Red velvet cake never tasted so...interesting.

Novak: McCain VP this Week (& a visit to New Orleans...)

Robert prophesies, noting chatter about Romney has picked up this week.

It would make sense, given the heightened need to appear strong on the economy.

Yet Jindal remains popular, iconic, and a favorite of the netroots.  And as Drudge notes, McCain is now coming here to New Orleans on Wednesday...

I'm putting my chips on Jindal.  As I've said for quite some time now, he's the X factor risk McCain almost needs to take.  As one commentator aptly observed:

Second, and more positively for McCain, naming Jindal would be a major symbolic step in fundamentally re-branding the Republican party. Jindal, an Indian-American, would put a whole new face on a party that is widely seen by voters as controlled by old white men.

A Jindal pick is the definition of unorthodox. But, in an election cycle where the Republican brand is as badly tarnished as at any time in recent memory, a "Hail Mary" (or "Hail Bobby") may be warranted.   

America's Secret Olympics Mask

Made especially for the Beijing Games.

And the masks are sure to rile Chinese officials - since some U.S. athletes intend to wear them.

After visiting Beijing and its foul air in late July last year, I wouldn't blame them.


Busking in the French Quarter

Today, it finally happened.  Despite the intense heat that makes one want to flop down and estivate, I packed up my great grandfather's button accordion and headed to the streetcar stop.

Arriving on Canal Street, I lugged everything, sweating, through the French Quarter to a shady spot in Pirate's Alley, just off Jackson Square.  I sat in unassuming garb on my old, orange Kiel Bottling Works wooden crate with my back to the Cabildo and my face to the buttresses of St. Louis Cathedral.  I put my shoebox out.  And I played.

I wasn't sure how busking in the French Quarter would turn out.  Having only played before in Madison, Wisconsin on State Street and at the Farmer's Market, I was a bit leery at first.  What are the norms in the Quarter?  Do other buskers have spaces staked out?  Is busking legal Would many people be out in the afternoon on such a sweltering day?  Would I interrupt a late mass next door?  And would I come away with any cash?  Would I get mugged if I did?

Blisters aside, it turned out well.  I pulled in over $25 bucks in about two and a half hours.  And, importantly, I saw quite a few smiles and heard a few kind words.

I had to compete on occasion with a brass trio in the Square, but strollers seemed intrigued by a lone musician in the picturesque alley where Faulkner once lived, pigeons wandering here and there.  Among others, I saw a rather surprised law school classmate, vacationing couples of all kinds, a bunch of staring kids, and a number of photographers.  

Some cameras clicked without an accompanying drop in the shoebox, but two photographers with serious equipment paid before doing a series of shots of me playing in the alley.  I'll have to check Flickr, I suppose.  Several other raggedy characters even asked if I could spare a buck.  I found that a rather absurd question given the situation, and I made it abundantly clear without words.

Two police officers strolled by, too.  And neither said a word.

By the time I concluded, the backs of my light wool pants had sweated through and my limbs were sore from contorting myself on the crate for so long.  But it was good.  It felt right.  I had enough for the return fare to get back Uptown.  And that was plenty.

A Revealing Slice of Life

"Just to be clear, this is an old house. This isn't an airtight condominium. There is a certain amount of decay that will be apart of your life. So no fussy uptown types- you know who you are(?)...
Also, we currently do not have a fridge. I would like one but it has't manifested itself to me. We use the one next door, in the other half, and their door is always open, and it's no big deal." 

In the Treme, courtesy of craigslist.  For $250, you may partake.


We are out here on the...

We are out here on the Bogue Chitta ("Boga-chitta"), in north shore Louisiana, getting ready to go tubing, everybody is putting on the sun tan lotion in right about now, and it's a beautiful, sizzling hot day out here as well, so we are looking forward to it and hope to have a few photos on the return. listen

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St. Louis Cemetery #2


Nitrogen is the new carbon dioxide?

Ensared in the "Nitronet." (ht/BS)

Now, to be fair with respect to the post title, I think people have considered nitrogen overuse problematic on a short-term, seasonal, regional scale, but not on a macro level. 

Shell Tower from Lafitte Bayou

Look carefully - it was a bright day.

New (Old) Drink I tried last night...

The infamous Ramos Gin Fizz.
Complete with egg whites.
It was Huey Long's favorite, and the ingredients and preparation made for a weird but pleasant flavor.  And texture.  Still, when it comes to classic New Orleans cocktails, I'll stick with my sazerac.

A big hat tip to Jacob D on arranging the visit to the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone to get in on some of the Tales of the Cocktail action.  


We're here at the Cricket...

We're here at the Cricket Club on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, waiting for politics with the punch to start. Some of the panelist tonight were pretty interesting including the voice of Mr. Barnes. There are number of political candidates in the house as well including Kayne Smith, a number of judicial candidates, and it looks as if, even though we're a bit late. We're just about to start here... listen

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A Delightful West Bank Hole in the Wall: Paris Deli

Like many Gretna establishments, it was unassuming on the outside.

But the sign was new - we had walked that way several times before over the lunch hour, but we had never seen the sign trimmed in red, white, and blue or the lone table crammed against the front of the place.  We literally stumbled upon it.  Naturally, we had to try it.

It turned out to be one of those classic mom-and-pop New Orleans area hole in the wall restaurants.  The menu was limited in the cramped front ordering area with specials listed overhead, but the lone employee proved quite a treasure.

After ordering, we moved into the back dining area - which was replete with nets full of marine creatures.  Giant pufferfish, sand sharks, sizable shells, and even a seaturtle hung dry and browning in nets.  A pulldown backdrop of Polynesian isle palms filled the back wall between two wicker peacock chairs.

Then we heard the older lady up front speaking French.  When she came back to drop off the salads, we learned she was from Tahiti (makes sense, French Polynesia).  We started talking about breadfruit, and she was mystified as to how I knew about breadfruit and Tahiti.  I said Mutiny on the Bounty.  Then we learned that Marlon Brando's wife (I think) was from Tahiti, too.

The place was small and a bit dingy, but very intriguing.  The tableware was low-end, but sufficient.

Then my porkchop arrived in a pile of vegetables.  I was a bit trepidatious about the whole thing, but when I bit into the glazed, spiced piece of meat, I had the same amazed face as one of my companions across the table who had just ventured into the chicken.  It was uncommonly tasty!

Admittedly, another gent at the table found his "tripledecker sandwich" - a substitute for the item he ordered, which was found to be out of stock - less than satisfactory.  And the place seemed to close up as we left.  Or before we did.

But we had a fun time in the strange little nautical nook on Second Street in old Gretna with our charming, laughing host.  And we might have to go back.

Hull & Dome

New Orleans I-10 Overpass Homeless Colony Dispersed

Last week, I noticed the settlement of homeless people in tents and on mattresses underneath the I-10 overpass at Canal Street and Claiborne had shrunk considerably from its earlier size, and especially from its height in December and January when people and belongings spilled out on both sides of Canal, flooding over onto sides of streets under on ramps for several months.  

The greatest extent of the impromptu community came after the closing of Tent City in Duncan Plaza before New Orleans City Hall - about 250 individuals according to the Times-Picayune.

Today, the final remnants of the group under the bridge were dispersed from the site.

I visited individuals in the two distinct communities back in December before they effectively merged on the concrete expanse under the overpass after the clearing and fencing of Tent City in Duncan Plaza.

But as I said, the size and population of the I-10 colony of homeless individuals last week was down to about 1/3 or 1/4 of the settlement at its height, so it was not a complete surprise to hear of the end as the metal police guardrails crept farther and farther into the area under the bridge.

Kudos to the UNITY caseworkers involved in the effort to bring the homeless involved to the Salvation Army shelter - and to the many private individuals and non-profit organizations who sought to comfort, feed, and clothe them over the past nine months.

Congressional Debate Slated for Tulane

Tulane's Freeman School of Business hosts a debate on energy issues on July 28:

Sponsored by the Democratic Leadership Council and the Congressional Institute (Republican), "Congress Debates" is a series of bipartisan national policy discussions. Launched by U.S. House Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel and Republican Conference Chair Adam Putnam, the discussions are designed to foster bipartisan debate on the most important issues facing Americans. Previous debates, earlier this year, were held in Washington, D.C, and in Cincinnati, Ohio, on the economy and health care, respectively.

In each debate, eight members of Congress, four Democrats and four Republicans, formally debate the issue of the day. A moderator maintains order. The time is limited to 90 minutes.

RSVP through the link above.

Obama Doesn't Sweat?

Going to Jail Today

We're heading across Derbigny Street, wading through the heat, to that razor wire-wreathed home on the levee, the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center.


I am driving near Apple...

I am driving near Apple in Dante Street and I saw a street performer in all silver like you would see down at Jackson Square, he was sitting on this Porsche in front of the Green House but my camera didn't worked.

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Haunted by the Grey Ghost

Obama, Boss Tweed, and "them damned pictures"

Someone at the NYT thinks the cover of TNY is proof of Obama's inherent unmockability. (ht/OOTM)

Hah!  While he is less mockable than most politicians, I beg to differ.  In fact, I think it's quite dangerous to raise a public figure up on such a high pillar.

Here's a far better take on the cover brouhaha from Slate, including this gem of an historical allusion:

The source of all of this injury is not daring exposé or cutting criticism by a New Yorker writer but one of "them damned pictures"—to quote Boss Tweed of Tammany Hall, who bled pints every time he was poked by Thomas Nast's pen. "I don't care so much what the papers say about me," Tweed said of Nast's work. "My constituents can't read. But, damn it, they can see pictures!"

Mr. Shafer truly gets on a roll while skewering cover detractors:

Calling on the press to protect the common man from the potential corruptions of satire is a strange, paternalistic assignment for any journalist to give his peers, but that appears to be what The New Yorker's detractors desire. I don't know whether to be crushed by that realization or elated by the notion that one of the most elite journals in the land has faith that Joe Sixpack can figure out a damned picture for himself.


Sudan Rages Against the Machine

Khartoum "declares war" and vows the Hague will be "taught a lesson."

With this type of response for a direct war crimes charge in the Darfur genocide, how will the U.N. react, proceed?  

Daily Bread

Law & Blogging

Unease at the intersection.


I think this guy's onto something.

In the Favre saga, it really boils down to Favre himself.

If he felt he was being pushed out by management, then he needed to go to the fans - like a governor going straight to the electorate in tv ads ripping the legislature, if you will.  And he very easily could have.  I don't think he had worn out his welcome with the Cheesehead base.

I continue to feel a bit betrayed.  At the very least, Favre should never have allowed things to get so far into limbo that the franchise arranged the retirement ceremony for his number.  Which has been cancelled.


Dog Days

Oh, he was sleeping alright.  Like a lush in the late morning sun.

"Do you think The New Yorker cover was smart or a horrible mistake?"

So asks a friend in St. Louis.

I've been following the flap primarily through the swirling lens of Althouse.

As she notes, it might have been smart for Obama to simply laugh it off.  Chuckle a bit at the absurdity of it all.  Guffaw.  Shake head, perplexed.  

But Obama's stoic, not comical about his image.  His bearing says, almost invariably, martyr rather than mirth.  He's serious.

That said, I think it was smart for The New Yorker in that:

1.  The cover plays to it's haughty intelligentsia base, who will know they are truly privy to some gnostic insights because they "get" the cover.

2.  It generates publicity for the publication and heightens its relevance.  And it has an escape hatch: it's all in fun.

3.  It's doubly funny to some who find a little black humor (no pun intended) in the fact that the spoof is somehow still not a spoof in the minds of people in some corners of America.

4.  The image breaks ground.  It touches a number of taboo Obama topics and pierces the aura of invincibility and hushed image command that has continued to surround him like an extended honeymoon.  It piles up a number of uncomfortable topics and, in the ensuing overblown absurdity, makes them all less serious, more openly debatable, actually less in need of debate.
5.  Some of the elements in the image are so absurd that it's not worth considering them in a serious fashion, and I would suspect one who does of fearing some kernels of truth at the bottom.
So, in the end, I don't think it's a mistake.  And I don't have much of a problem with it.


Pretty sure that's pomegranate.

Some is the Loneliest Number

Political Tidbits

1.  TIME Magazine on Bob Barr and libertarians.  

The article's author paints libertarians as crazy and eccentric with a few choice examples, but then says they're going mainstream.  I don't know that libertarianism is going mainstream as much as it's simply found a way to make its voice heard more clearly by joining once disparate, isolated voices thanks to technology.

I love TR.  He's one of my favorite presidents, if not my favorite.  However, I wonder mostly whether McCain wants to be first-term Teddy Roosevelt or Bull Moose Teddy Roosevelt.  It seems lately he's trying to be both.  The latter model, with its Progressive-minded Square Deal social programs is little less than appetizing.  Plus, I don't know if TR's adventuring, intervening style is helpful in the wake of the misadventures of George W. Bush.

Anyway, the article provides some great insights by recounting an interview with McCain.  We learn that A) He considers himself Christian, not an evangelical Christian, B) he has only recently picked up on e-mail(?!), and C) “Government should take care of those in America who can not take care of themselves.”

Finally, what joke was McCain going to make here?

When asked if he felt that it was more difficult to run against Mr. Obama because of the sensitivities of race, Mr. McCain responded wryly: “I’d like to make a joke, but I can’t.”

Did he actually have a joke or was he just saying it to be wry?

The Bottom Line with Freddie & Fannie

In my mind:

While senior Democratic and Republican officials in successive administrations have for many years repeatedly denied that the trillions of dollars of debt Fannie and Freddie issued is guaranteed, the package, if adopted, would bring the Treasury closer than ever to exposing taxpayers to potentially huge new liabilities. The two companies could face significant new losses this year as the wave of housing foreclosures continues.

Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know

About Nutrias.

Including bounty information.  And even recipes.

The Clydesdales Head to Stable

Anheuser-Busch agrees to sell after InBev commenced hostilities.


Rush Hour Traffic

Have you heard of Jott?

It looks like it might be incredibly useful and fun.

One of my roommates, Phil E, says it has been helpful for him in personal and business matters.  I see some solid blogging potential as well.


K-Doe's Wife

The epicenter of New Orleans "grassroots surrealism," the Mother-in-Law Lounge jolts back into relevance with the success of the funky and addictive song "Here Come the Girls."

And here's why proprietor - and K-Doe's widow - Antoinette rocks.

Determined to protect the K-Doe cache, she lasted seven days before she was airlifted out.

"I heard guys in the water talking about breaking into the lounge for the whiskey. I fired my shotgun right over their heads, close enough to scare them away. And I yelled, 'I have more bullets!' Nobody was getting in."

When Antoinette returned to town, driving her 1991 Cadillac hearse toward the lounge, the National Guard turned her away. "I told them I'd been called for a pickup, and they let me in," she says with a sly smile.


An Early Post-Heller Case - Right Here in Gretna, Louisiana

Walking around charming downtown Gretna over the lunch hour, we passed the Gretna Post Office.  It's a pleasant-looking, but otherwise unassuming building between the German Cultural Center and the tiny little visitor depot.

It appears the building lies not only at the heart of this little town in Louisiana on the Mississippi, but also at the core of one of the first post-Heller Second Amendment cases.

"It's U.S. v. Dorosan(E.D. La.), in which defendant -- a postal worker -- was found guilty last week of possessing firearm on postal property. The postal worker had a gun in the glove compartment of his car, which was parked in the Post Office lot; but this was found because a postal inspector, Norbert Lewis, "discovered a black canvas bag on the workroom floor next to a letter case for Route 5301. Said route was worked by the defendant ... on the previous day. Lewis did not know to whom the bag belonged so he opened the bag and found a magazine with twelve (12) rounds or .40 caliber hand gun ammunition and three (3) empty shell casings in the bag."

Here's an order by Magistrate Knowles across the river at the Eastern District in the case, U.S. v. Dorosan.  (ht/VC)

Here's an update from the Volokh Conspiracy on the progress of the case as of today - including a subsequent opinion issued by the Magistrate.

This will be an interesting one to watch in the wake of the recent SCOTUS ruling.

The Wire + Treme = One Hot Prospect

David Simon, creator of The Wire, is bringing his talents to a new HBO series set in the old Treme neighborhood of New Orleans, located just northwest of the Quarter.  

What's the lowdown on the show's namesake, the Treme?  Here's a primer.

I'm far more excited for this project than for K-Ville.  In fact, I'm not really excited, but rather deeply eager to see a more nuanced, intricate and intimate look at life in a place I've come to know ever so slightly.  "Don't go north of the Quarter" the tourists will say, "don't cross Rampart or park over there at night."  Well, of course I've crossed over.  And it's a fascinating part of the city.

One of my favorite spots in the neighborhood is Willie Mae's Scotch House, which has some of the best fried chicken known to man.


Art Show Opening this Weekend

Stop by the Contemporary Arts Center here in New Orleans for an opening this Saturday, 6-8 p.m.

I know one of the artists involved, Colin B. Miller, quite well - and he has a number of rather provocative pieces in the show, part of a series entitled "Talking Heads," centering on technically proficient works commenting on the newsmedia.

Here's an example:


A Milwaukee Blog

My friend Tyler O muses on sports, Summerfest, and other facets of life along the Lake.

1) We went through the funereal rites of the end of an era and got our grieving done, 2) if he comes back, he'll likely find a way to tarnish his golden legacy, and 3) it's time for the organization to start building around a different core so it can move into the future effectively.

I'm beginning to see parallels to the saga of Tommy Thompson; Favre's image diminishes with every passing day of a rumored return spurred largely by his own ambiguous actions and words.  It's the frustration with uncertainty and second-guessing that bleeds the faithful.

What are you up to?

Me?  Just sitting here exercising my 9th Amendment rights.

The Daily Commute

A Skeleton & Gigantic Flies

Clearly, someone never read Faulkner's short story 'A Rose for Emily.'

For months after Lon Adams' 81-year-old father died, the decomposing body lay in an upstairs bedroom of the Metairie home they shared, raising questions that not even Adams can answer.

"He died. I couldn't deal with it so I just left him there," Adams said Monday while fighting back tears. "I blocked it out of my mind. I was stressed out after Katrina. I just, just don't know."

While forensic pathologists await the results of DNA testing that might help positively identify skeletal remains found in the Metairie house six weeks ago, Adams, the home's owner, confirmed Monday that the body was that of his father, Leroy Adams.

This particular gruesome story goes beyond Faulkner, though, spiraling into the dark Flannery O'Connerish depths of Southern Gothic:

Adams said he isn't sure when his father died. An unnamed neighbor has said she complained to the parish more than a year ago about "gigantic flies" swarming in the windows of the upstairs bedroom where Leroy Adams was found. A decaying body gives off a distinct, pervasive odor. Adams said he blocked it all out.


Bleg - New Laptop Needed

Any recommendations?

I'm trying to keep things under 1k, but I want it to last a solid 2 - 2.5 years.


Then I Came to the End

of Then We Came to the End.

Enjoyable.  Deeply sad.  Hilarious.

After a recommendation from my roommate and a random literary authority on the streetcar, I picked up Joshua Ferris' first novel.  And I didn't put it down all that often while reading it in Wisconsin, finishing it in a few days.

Set in a Chicago ad agency office in the recent past, the book avoids the cubicle pitfall.  It's not just another replay of The Office or Office Space.  Instead, the work takes the common setting and makes it interesting, narrating from a rare "collective we" perspective.  You'd think it would get old.  But it doesn't, really.

There's a boatload of quirky, engaging characters, lots of work-avoidance, some personal tragedies, and a good deal of laughing out loud.  People store inherited totem poles, face lay-offs and breast cancer, keep coming back to work after being fired, and overdose with strange consequences.  The absurdity of gossip-ridden office life comes jumping into existence with fresh abundance.

It's a rather swift, clear read, and it was surprisingly endearing.  It got better as I read, better than I had anticipated.

Cold Blood in Hot Shade

At Long Last, a Solution to the Iraq War

Yes, please do.

State Suicide

Have you heard about the plan?  Ralph Nader mentioned the creeping scheme by states to kill the electoral college last night.  Admittedly, it's pretty creative
I'd heard about it earlier, but I hadn't mulled it until last night.  It's highly ironic first and foremost - states independently working in concert to render their own vestiges of sovereignty irrelevant without a Constitutional Amendment.  But perhaps that's also a facet of the strange beauty of the American system of government.  


From the Olympics we boycotted.



C-SPAN has been on in the background for a bit.

Governor Tim Pawlenty spoke to Connecticut Republicans.  Governor Kathleen Sebelius spoke to Democrats in Ohio.


+ Pawlenty should cease using the term "Sam's Club Republicans" - it doesn't connote hard-working small business families at first impression, but big Arkansas corporate donors.  Not exactly advancing Pawlenty's call to open the doors of the party.

+ Sebelius performed much more adeptly than she did in her state of the Union address response earlier this year.  And she seemed alive.  And not the Ice Queen. 

+ Both Pawlenty and Sebelius had some strange rambling or hesitant stretches in their remarks before the party faithful.  Pawlenty was excessively next-door midwestern in his approach, peppered his otherwise optimistic comments with unnecessarily detailed sidenotes on tangents.  His Kansan counterpart simply couldn't find un-awkward words and phrases at critical moments.

+ I also caught a bit of Ralph Nader's appearance.  His criticisms of Obama were the most insightful and on point.  He's shooting for 10% in the polls to gain admission to Google's debate slated for here in New Orleans in the fall.

Back on the Bayou

Sighting the gray-blue expanse of Lake Pontchartrain through scattered clouds, I stowed my book and gazed out the window.

I-10 appeared, a tiny causeway lifeline connecting New Orleans with the mainland.  It lay like a double thread across great expanses of green punctuated by darker green cypresses, crisscrossed with canals.

But then the green stopped.  The water ceased at a solid line on the rapidly approaching horizon.  And the city, the outermost extent of the New Orleans metro area, confronted the swamp in a clear and defiant front.

It was strange how familiar, how cozy it felt to return.  And not at all strange how sticky the air felt as I left the terminal, squished into the back of a classmate's car between a dog kennel and the door, my legs up on a stack of stuff.  The city's heart appeared gradually on the horizon, the Superdome loomed at last.

St. Charles was quite as I ran uptown.  The egrets in their Audubon island rookery seemed like a cloud had alighted in the oaks for the evening, their brethren still high above, like a Bierstadt panorama in rash of pale orange and purples amidst the scattering slate gray.  The sluggish waters of the park are now fully sealed in green.  The darkness under the live oaks slipped out and overcame the park.

The vines have grown higher on the house since I departed two weeks ago, the insect choir outside in the gathering dark has hit a higher pitch.

My car, too, groans a little louder than usual, its power steering out of whack.  I only hope I can make it across the ferry tomorrow as I begin my work with the judge across the river.


Where's the fire?

In Kurdemir.

State Street and A Summer Dream

Somebody get me an accordion.

The Farmer's Market is in full swing here in downtown Madison, and I had a sudden urge to get out an instrument and do some busking once again.  Cheese and zucchini bread made a nice breakfast in the perfect weather as the crowds circled the Square to sounds of fiddlers, washboard, drums, and bluegrass.

It's been one languorous summer dream here in Madison for the past two days.  Gentle breezes, warmth without humidity, and a parade of wonderful surprise encounters with old friends, neighbors, classmates, and relatives amidst backyard barbecues, pitchers on the Terrace, and fireworks.  A classic chance meetup at the Plaza made for quite the Kodak moment in the back pool room - bloggers, politicos, old classmates, and veteran newspapermen, a surprise barback, and some strangers who, to my bewilderment, recognized me as "Ryan Servais' cousin."  There were former co-workers and dorm floormates from Memorial Union to the Comeback Inn, from under the old diamond pattern ceiling at Mickie's Dairy Bar to here at the computer station at Michaelangelo's Coffeeshop atop State Street.

The places and patterns of life in Madison remain largely familiar and the same.  Although a few things have changed - the venerable Mellow Yellow house in the Greenbush has been razed.  The high water has Brittingham Bay looking completely weed/algae free for the first time ever since I've known of it.  And new shops are trickling onto the State Street corner of the Capitol Square.

What a relaxing, rejuvenating weekend in a beautiful summery town.


LIB Live in Madison

Howdy! It's two thirds of Letters in Bottles here in Madison, Mike
and Brad checking in from Indie Coffeeshop on Regent Street down in
the Greenbush. Out on the back patio, one can see the old Slanty
Shanty itself immediately across the alley, looking ramshackle as ever
(seems someone's been using the garage roof as a drinking pad complete
with furniture).

B: Mike, any thoughts? How's the weather?

M: A rather pleasant sunny Thursday. We're on the verge of another
July 4th and I missed the fireworks last week.

B: Well, you can stop up on the Capitol Square tonight. I saw the
setup there earlier for the Concerts on the Square rain date while
visiting a few people and grabbing some Ian's Pizza. Watch out for
the mosquitoes though. According to Isthmus, there's zillions of them
out there.

M: I think I saw them playing Rhapsody in Blue on tv the other day.

B: Nice. Heard any good music lately or read any good books? I just
picked up the latest Wolf Parade cd at B-Sides on State (some guy was
busking outside, and I really wanted to grab an accordion suddenly!).

M: I'm in the middle of some non-fiction books. On the music front,
I haven't really heard anything new lately, mainly just filling in the
gaps with some of my roommate's Smashing Pumpkins and U2 cd's.

B: Cool. Yeah, I'm hoping to head down to the Terrace this evening
for pitcher or two of Spotted Cow. Any big plans for the Fourth

M: Nothing special; just keeping cool.

B: I'm hoping to keep it pretty low-key, too. It's pretty cool that
even though we can't access blogger for some reason, we can just post
directly via e-mail like this. Oh yeah - also, have to make a big red
white and blue shoutout to the Man in the Hat across the seas! Keep
on rockin' in the quasi-freeish world.

M: Stay tuned out there...

B: Let's hope this thing works.


1, 2, 3...

Madison or Bust

I'm headed isthmusward today.


Ok, I'll Bite

Ol' Christopher Hitchens done went an' got hisself waterboarded, god bless 'is soul.

Ice House

Obama's Support for Faith Based Initiatives


It's difficult for me to see it as much more than pandering in Appalachian Ohio. And generally unwise.

As I've noted here before, I tend to oppose faith-based initiatives along the lines of those put forward by Bush because a) they are still spending federal dollars on social programs, and b) they undermine the altruism that should guide and distinguish charitable causes from government action.

Obama's embrace disguised as critique of - and apparent desire to expand - Bush's faith-based initiatives is disconcerting. It simultaneously demonstrates to me that Bush was no fiscal conservative (which needed no confirmation at this late date) and that Obama is a fiscal liberal pushing for some twist on a Nixonian grand coalition at any cost on the campaign trail.

It brings to mind a friend's appropriately religous-themed facebook quote:

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul, can always count on the support of Paul.
– George Bernard Shaw

The GMAT Kerfuffle

Cheating - or possible cheating - and the consequences.


Rush Limbaugh Unplugged

It's good. I just read the whole thing in one sitting.

Louisiana's New Levee Conundrum

'Over a hundred resign from boards, commissions'

What a great headline to see one month into hurricane season.

It seems levee board members are resigning en masse to protest enaction of Louisiana's new financial disclosure ethics law.

My initial reaction? This must be evidence of widespread low-level corruption. Admittedly, I am not intimately familiar with the exact scope and nature of the required disclosures, so it may in fact be overly onerous to low level officials. Here's a pretty innocuous summary of the requirements:

The legislation outlines seven areas of disclosure for the commissioner and his or her spouse, including name and brief description of businesses in which the person holds an office or at least 10 percent stake; gaming interests; certification of federal and state income tax returns and a promise that neither has personal or financial interest in entities that would pose a conflict of interest that could sway performance on the public board.

But to leave levees and their attendant systems suddenly vulnerable in any way post-Katrina during hurricane season seems selfish and juvenile. The levee boards are local governmental boards to the best of my knowledge, but it seems leaving crucial safety systems to the elements at this time of year, though less dramatic, might be considered... loosely analogous to the Massachusetts police strike put down by Governor Calvin Coolidge back in 1919. With vice presidential consequences...

I wonder if Governor Jindal will have anything to say.

Swords into plowshares

Because sometimes a bomb serves better as a water tank.


Happy 150,

Theory of Evolution!

Here's a very good 50 minute show (in five clips, link to #1) that concisely explains the scientific developments in biology and geology Darwin built upon and some of the dark things the theory has been used to justify.

The book is a year younger and it's still going strong.

"So now prosperity begins to mellow..."

And drop into the rotten mouth of death."

The hegemon reels:

Starbucks Corp. has announced it's closing 600 underperforming stores in the United States.

The Seattle-based premium coffee company also announced Tuesday it expects to open fewer than 200 new company-operated stores in the United States in fiscal 2009.

I hope the company stanches the bleeding, cuts out the deadwood, and - above all else - keeps pumping out bottled mocha frappuccino.

If nothing else, though, it may be a positive sign for local coffee shops. Or perhaps it's simply a transfer of loyalties to less costly - and still solidly corporate - options like McDonalds in the face of economic uncertainty and rising commodity prices.

The State Bird of Wisconsin

The mosquito infestation here in Wisconsin this summer is the worst I've ever experienced.

And there's even cold hard data to buttress my gripe:

Monitoring efforts by Public Health Madison and Dane County and the University of Wisconsin Medical Entomology Department show a dramatic increase in mosquito populations.

Mosquito monitoring traps were catching less than 50 mosquitoes per trap per night before this spike. The monitoring done this past Monday and Tuesday(June 24th- 25th) yielded 3,750 mosquitoes per trap. After last fall's flooding, the traps were averaging about 200 mosquitoes per trap per night.

That's ridiculous.


These monitoring efforts also revealed that most of these mosquitoes are classified as floodwater mosquitoes (Aedes vexans). While this type of mosquito does bite humans, the good news is that it is not generally considered a carrier of West Nile Virus (WNV).