7/31/2008

I first noticed the kid when he copped the lead role in an original play at the theatre where I work. He was kind of a doofus, the way a kid is when he’s in his early manhood stage, not sure which side of the fence to lean over, the heel-kicking, butt-stomping side or the composed, responsible, few-worded side. Like any kind of doofus, he would alternate.

Since my participation in this production only involved shooting photographs for publicity, I never spent much time with him; and I never sought him out. He would do that to me when he began to hear that I also directed plays in that venue.

I never got the sense that he was trying to seduce me into casting him. He just liked to talk shop. That’s what we did.

After copping that lead role, he also copped a job as a bartender at the bar next door to the theatre.

That’s where I stumbled on him this past Monday. I was early for a noon meeting around the corner and, rather than hanging out in the heat, I sauntered into the place for a cup of coffee.

New Orleans bars are not just for booze, you see. Down here they are social clubs, even rehab centers.

So there I was as he put on a pot to brew. That’s when his cell phone rang, and after a moment he rushed out of the building.

His boss had happened to have just arrived, bringing the kid a Rally Burger. We waited for him to bound back in. When he hadn’t returned after a few minutes, the boss stepped in to cover his absence and serve me my cup of coffee.

I was deep into an article in a local weekly newspaper when he did return, and when he returned, he did not bound, but stormed. His face was flushed. His eyes were swollen from having had a sudden rush of burning tears. He was loud and intense, rushing from one corner of the bar to another, snatching up a glass to pour himself a shot, thinking it over, reneging and putting down the glass, then repeating the action at a different corner.

His boss, the manager, asked him, “Kid, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” he shouted. “Nothing. Nothing’s ever wrong. Fuck it, you know what’s wrong? What’s fucking wrong is that my fucking mother drove her fucking car off the fucking road last night and crashed into a tree. She fucking killed herself, the bitch. The fucking bitch.”

The few of us there sat still. We’ve learned to allow the pain, the rage, to roll like waters. We know enough now not to try to step in, thinking we can take control of an occurrence that is not to be corralled. We let him roil and dissipate.

Eventually, the bar manager talked him into leaving, into letting a friend take him home. Alone now, the manager and I, we talked.

He told me, “His mother was the only person in his family he still talked to. The kid’s had nothing but bad breaks. Did you know he has PTSD? No? Yeah, he does. Six years in Iraq, a Marine sniper. He’s tried talking to his father, going to the old man and telling him he needs help. His dad just says to him, ‘I told you not to sign up with the Corps. It’s your life, now deal with it.’ He’s gone to the VA. They just want to give him pills and get him out of the building. He can’t find anybody to deal with what it is that’s eating him alive. There are so many like him walking around today. The military, the government, they don’t do anything to transition these kids. These kids have nothing.”

Nothing.

Over the last few years, a lot of us have learned that “nothing” is what we truly possess. Everything we think we have, everything we think defines us, is ephemera. We are, each of us, alone. We know this now.

We know the certainty of our deaths. We live with the knowledge that our legacies, if there are legacies we hope to leave, will wither and rot and be as forgotten as we will be.

If there is anything left in the bottom of this box we’ve opened - against all threats that we should not have done this - it is a small dollop of hope and a vial of care.

We hope to alleviate one another’s despair. We hope to care enough to stand there and take the punches from our wounded brothers and sisters that are not really meant for us but for "them". And, in our loneliness, we pray that we will manage to be there to reach out to one another and help hold each other up.

Until the end.

7/30/2008

I often refer to the movie 'The Wizard Of Oz' when things get weird. It's a learned response, I suppose, from years of living amongst the weirdest. I consider myself, as Dr. Thompson suggested, a pro.

Lately, I've been getting the full on peep show of what passes for 'The Man Behind the Curtain'. At one time, I was proud of my ability to see what what others might miss, my secret ability, if you will, all performed without a cape. Except on Mardi Gras, of course.

The most recent additions to this show have changed me. I find myself more likely to stay in, to stay out, to drink too much, to not drink at all, to laugh hysterically or remain stoic for no reason; I find myself on one edge or another, and not so often at the relaxed place in between. Something is bugging me....

I don't like to be insulted, especially in public, and especially by being treated like I'm stupid. I'll bet most of you agree. It's just not cool.

So I'd like a day when we get a free pass;

A day where our state senator admits he's a diaper wearing whore monger.
A councilman admits he pushed his gal around and went home to get a lap dance from a couple of hookers to maintain his massive ego.
A police chief who admits he punishes renegade cops only when the press catches them doing some really fucked up shit, and the rest of the time he's out running a sting on drunken street bums while we get murdered in our sleep.
A Mayor who simply admits he wasn't paying attention to his own Non-Profit while it fleeced the city and a local blogger (Karen Gadbois) had to catch it for him. Or that he spend thousands of tax dollars going out to dinner at fancy restaurants while families with kids are wondering where they'll go when the trailer gets taken away.

But why stop with the City of New Orleans?

How about a presidential candidate admitting that he's a doddering fool, out of touch with the times, who came home from his POW stint to dump his crippled wife and marry and beer heiress, and has no real clue what he's doing unless he's told?

Maybe some oil companies who admit that they're finally lowering gasoline prices to throw a fix into the elections this fall, to keep those republican bastards' boot on our necks.

I'd be happy if just one of them, or even somebody like them, would tell me straight up, "you don't really matter to us at all, you're just a hand puppet who gets our greedy fingers up the ass every few years, so we can line our pockets and get more control over your life. The news papers print what we tell them, and we ensure many hours of mindless celebrity worship and sexual innuendo on television, because it's more dangerous then the drugs we feed you in the form of alcohol and cigarettes."

Yeah. Something like that. A little bit of truth before we submerge back into being Mind Slaves.

But I'll wait.
I think that there's enough pissed off hand puppets out there to elect a New President...
To turn off Bill O'Reilly, just because he's a dickhead, regardless of his shouting us down...
To start reading alternative news sources instead of watching Sean Hannity twist the truth like fucking Elmer Gantry...
To finally say, "No, I don't believe you, I don't trust you, and I want to see for myself."

Of course, this could be a fool's errand. I might be the only one who feels this way. And tomorrow, I might say to myself, 'Why write? Why read? Those wacky Kardashian Girls are on the TV again. Gas prices have dropped, and Bill Jefferson seems like a nice guy.'

But I don't think so.

I'm just guessing here, but I think that there's about to be a big shake up going around. I think some of these assholes will be lucky to get off without finding out just how crowded our prison system is. I think there are many, many people who are just mad as hell, tired of losing their homes, their futures, their children's educations and in fact, their lives, because some fucking mope in a suit, with a rich daddy and a great press kit, stuffed his dirty little hand up our ass again, to take more and more and more.

I certainly hope so.
But then, I could spend the hours, conversing with the flowers, if I only had a brain....

Lord David
Pirate & Artist
Skull Club & Humidcity.com
New Orleans
Progress or Ssergorp?

You know it's a slow-ass news day when I'm reading the editorials in the Times-Pic, but after yesterday's letter from Robert Watters, I wanted to see what the T-P editorial board had to say on Derrick Shepherd. Yesterday I was confused about Stacy Head's hissy fit and today's confusion is the editorial title "Untangling Shepherd's tale." Tale? Tail? Shepherd's tail? Ashford's tale? Or her tail? Or the tail of the alleged lap dancer Shepherd went to after this now-explained-as-dispute-over-trust with his might-still-be girlfriend? Or her tale about him throwing rocks and acting like a damn fool while under indictment? Or Shepherd's tale? I still haven't worked that one out....

The scary part is this:

Ms. Ashford recanted her story at the federal bond revocation hearing Tuesday. She now says that she and Sen. Shepherd are still in a relationship and that he was in her home at her invitation. Her door was already broken, she said, and she and the accused had traded cell phones so they could check out each others' calls.

She said they were arguing "over trust issues and agreed to exchange cell phones to demonstrate that neither was being unfaithful." So after all that about "trust" and "faithfulness," he went and got, or finished, his lap dance? To prove his faithfulness and how much she can trust him when he has her phone? Where was his phone? What about the $100? I'm totally not getting this.

And Cliff is right on not defending Shepherd just because he's A Black Man With A Job, people:

Brothers and sisters please stop calling the radio defending the brother for getting arrested. The woman didn't go to his house and pitch rocks at his house. He went to her house. All he had to do was get his double lap dance and go to sleep happy and content. I don't want to get myself in any trouble but I never had a lap dance and wanted to fight afterwards. Derrick did this one on his own.

Yeah. If this weren't south LA, he'd probably be looking at the tail end of his political career.

Oh and don't forget--he's corrupt and in the spotlight not because he's a black man or a black politician but because he is a flawed human being. A really flawed one.

****
Yesterday's T-P gave Paul Vallas an odd set of props for having more teachers than he knows what to do with, many of them bright young and not-so-young things from out of town, like the Minnesota couple and their 2 children, the former law enforcement officer and the Northwestern senior lured by an education listserve in the article lead. Ah, how sweet. Until you need a fucking job. Take the MN couple--he's got a middle school language arts job, she's till looking for an elementary special-ed position and it's the end of July. There's a surplus of special ed teachers?

After years of scrambling to find good teachers, many public schools in New Orleans have more aspiring teachers than they know what to do with as the new school year approaches.
And Vallas "hopes to hire more teachers from Teach For America" when he still "plans to find spots for all of the district's surplus teachers -- those who taught with the district last year and are at least on track toward full certification -- although he came short of guaranteeing every one a position." Why is Teach for America his priority when he has teachers here who've got a year under their belt, have some evaluations that can be used to measure their first year, and may be able to bring some stability to a school or the system?

I know there are lots of very smart, well-educated, devoted, energetic and nowhere-near-burned-out-yet folks in this pool of teachers from out of town, teachNOLA and Teach for America but there's a difference between a "good teacher" and an "aspiring teacher." They aren't the same. I know that these recruits coming in are mentored, given training, and turned on by the challenge and the kids in their charge but the whole idea of staffing with new-to-teaching folks here in the schools, especially the RSD, smacks of the old, dearly-held and strangely powerful myth, yes myth, that "all" the Orleans teachers were "bad" and "needed to go." There were good things happening in the schools, there were appalling things happening in the schools and there still are. Though experience isn't all there is to a teacher, it adds up to a hell of a lot and especially in a challenging environment.

But this fits a trend in urban education--using Teach for America and similar programs to fill teaching positions in deeply challenged schools and districts. Many of these teachers bring with them newer ideas on pedagogy, use of technology, learning differences and child psychology. But they also have less experience with an administration, or multiple layers of administration, and facing challenges, fair and unfair, from parents, limited resources, community members and NCLB.

And then there's Craig Laborde in the T-P article who thought after "a decade of that [law enforcement career] spent as a parole and probation officer for criminals convicted of violent and sex offenses" that most kids were "little thugs," like the middle-schoolers he saw at John Mac before his epiphany:

But when two of their young teachers arrived, the boys, visibly happy, waved at their teachers, walking over to hug them. "That was one of the first times since I put on a badge and a gun that I saw them as kids," Laborde said.

That night, Laborde found information about teachNOLA online and fired off an application. This week, he starts at Miller-McCoy Academy as a business teacher and football coach. ...

After years of "turning off emotions" as a cop, he says he can't wait to turn them back on when school starts next month.


Is it just me or did you also get a deathly chill?

Fucked New Orleans: Yes We Can, We Will Fuck Back

by Eli of WeCouldBeFamous

Watch New Orleans progressives very carefully over the next 24 months. We have a Mayor to elect.

Thanks to the Rude Pundit for the soap box, for coming to the New Orleans panel at Netroots '08, and for providing a great forum to showcase the best of the New Orleans blogosphere.

There are great guests all this week, stay tuned.
Fucked Louisiana, Fucked USA (part 3 of 3)

You should be outraged at Wall Street, Investment Banks and the Federal Reserve. But you're not. You're outraged at high gas prices, and that's pissing me off.

After the Federal Reserve stoked the inflation fires for too long with low rates and easy money (in order to push back a recession), now we're seeing news reports like the following:

The Federal Reserve will not be able to hike short-term interest rates until sometime next year, even if most would prefer to do it sooner, former Fed officials and economists say.

Oh, that's just great. The Fed is feeling "boxed in" just after it finally recognized that inflation might become a problem. Hmm. After Wall St. orgied on boundless easy money, low rates, and a bogus redefinition of mortgage risk during a highly-leveraged housing mania... who'da thunk there would ever be a nasty comeuppance? And who'da thunk that postponing the "comeuppance" would further complicate matters?

We're teetering between recession and prolonged stagflation, and the "powers that be" are feeling increasingly impotent. The current energy "crisis" is really the price run-up over the past year or two. That's what's hurting us, and much of that has to do with the weak dollar. Hard working people in every state are feeling the pinch, but Republicans and Big Oil are trying to channel that outrage towards environmentalists and Democrats who oppose expanded drilling. But more drilling won't alleviate the current suffering. It's not risk-free and it won't bring down prices at the pump for at least a decade. It's a dubious and partial "solution" to a long term problem, but it's being advanced for short-term political gain. Isn't that suspicious?

Ronald Reagan said inflation is the cruelest tax. And inflation is in effect, now, affecting everyone. You see it and feel it every day. But what's really "cruel" is when this inflation genie gets out of control. And guess who will get part of the blame then? Employees will be blamed. The working and middle class will be blamed-- precisely the people who have been squeezed so viciously by the slow economy and the rapid rise in prices! If and when employees start demanding higher wages just to stay afloat... well that's when the shit really hits the fan, in the minds of some.

Consider this "Ahead of the tape" column from the Wall Street Journal article:

Labor is a business's biggest cost. When the cost rises, it gets passed to consumer prices, pressuring workers to demand still more. The result can be what economists call a wage-price spiral. That is what happened in the 1970s, when labor had more bargaining power and job-market slumps were followed by quick, roaring recoveries that made labor costs rise quickly.

In recent decades, labor unions have lost power and companies have sent some jobs overseas and replaced others with machines. No hiring frenzy followed the 2001 recession, and there likely won't be another one after the current downturn.

The downside of all this is that workers get squeezed: While their energy and food costs are rising sharply, their wages aren't moving higher in step.

The benefit is that it is hard to get a wage-price spiral going in such an environment. That is one reason the Federal Reserve is hesitant to raise interest rates anytime soon.


Oh, that's just a bloody glorious catch-22 there, isn't it? Today's workers have less collective power, so they get relentlessly squeezed by the "cruelest tax" policies of a "weak dollar" President and a feckless Fed. However, if employees somehow demand and receive higher wages, they get blamed for the dreaded "wage-price" spiral.

My time is up here at the Rude Pundit, and I've sure enjoyed it, and I appreciate everyone who indulged me by reading these rants. So I'll just conclude by saying: don't be deluded by the shiny small stuff. Accordingly, the American worker doesn't deserve "blame" if this lackluster economy should worsen. They're the victims of it. And if employee demands for higher wages initiate a wage-price spiral, it would merely be the last in a long line of economic dominos, most of which were placed by greedheads at banks and in the government.
Fucked New Orleans: The Better Than Before Addition

by Eli of We Could Be Famous

How does a neighborhood get the resources to rebuild?

It is not based on how badly it was damaged during the storm.

If you want social services, new facilities, or expedited infrastructure repair you've somehow got to prove your neighborhood has already sufficiently recovered to some undefinable technocratic benchmark.

If your neighborhood is in poor condition and think the restoration of basic social services might help people return or encourage entrepreneurial investment, forget it.

That's called "starving the footprint."

Every important master plan or critical rebuilding decision has been made with this basic ideology as a guide. The assumption that viability precedes social services has been glossed over by the local media, never been honestly brought before the public, informs every critical rebuilding decision and serves to enshrine the federal displacement of New Orleanians, the largest migration of Americans since the Dust Bowl, as amongst the most embarrassing humanitarian hypocrisies in this nation's history.

Look at the important master plans soon to be released or already public.

The Recovery School District is embarking on a vast privatization experiment and will unveil a ten year master plan this summer that was developed by a corporation being investigated for defrauding the US government for shoddy work in Iraq. The future capacity of the school district to educate the children of New Orleans is informed by demographic projections that assume that the lack of housing and social services will prevent repopulation.

The city routinely demolishes private homes of solid foundation. The city knocked down public housing projects that were structurally sound, architecturally significant, and did not flood. Rents are too high and wages are too low. The homeless population is double what it was before the storm. Single-occupancy homes are being multiply-occupied. There isn't enough affordable housing available to rescue our neighbors being poisoned by FEMA's formaldehyde-laced trailers. With places to live at such a high premium and without basic acknowledgment of the immediate need to solve the affordable housing crisis, let alone come up with a plan for doing so, the population of New Orleans cannot return and badly damaged neighborhoods cannot repopulate fast enough to get on the list of communities "viable" enough to receive social services and civic attention.

Management of public transportation has just been privatized after a contract was signed with a French multinational. Though I am looking forward to some of the common sense changes that need to be made, elsewhere bus lines will be rerouted to better service the population that received the least damage from Katrina. Devastated neighborhoods will lose access to a valuable quality of life incentive.

To get recognition and thus, social services, from the planning firms hired to do master plan after master plan, neighborhoods must position themselves against one another, jostling for their slice of a pie that seems to mostly be reserved for those that are already well-fed.

If the determination is that some small portions of the city should not be rebuilt because it can not be protected properly from floods or is environmentally hazardous for humans, that's fine. It isn't about stubbornly replacing every single wood plant, damn the science. The way to do that is to announce why an area is deemed unsafe and then to provide the social services, buyout packages, and higher-ground housing alternatives necessary to help people move to and repopulate safer areas. Instead, the city's strategy has been to let the "free" market to permit New Orleanians to invest their lives into neighborhoods that all along were not going to receive crucial social services based on a preordained ideology that restoration of basic social services fails to act as a stimulus for revival.
Fucked Louisiana, Fucked USA (part 2 of 3)

So, in part one we talked about how Louisiana is tripping over shiny oil royalty pennies when it faces billion dollar megaproblems. Here's a few ballpark numbers: Coastal Restoration: $35 billion plus. Category Five strength flood protection for S. Louisiana: $25 billion plus. Roads/Bridges infrastructure backlog: $14 billion plus. Better schools $?? Rebuild New Orleans $?? The list goes on and on, but for a poor state with only 4 million people these are titanic problems, and many of them can't be put off any longer. But what kind of leaders does Louisiana select to address these issues? Well, in a twisted bit of absurdism, Louisiana finds very sophisticated ways to choose colorful, entertaining, and corrupt leadership. This parade of characters is only broken up by the occasional boring, spineless "reformer" type, who invariably disappoints the hopeful goo goo voters.

So let's review some of the usual suspects currently in office, and try not to cry.

Bobby Jindal is our new Governor, the one you've been hearing so much about. He's an Ivy League Rhodes Scholar biology major who wants creationism and anti-Darwin sham-science taught in schools. Quite the whiz kid, he. Jindal got elected on reform rhetoric, and proudly touts all these ethics laws he supported that actually weakened the enforcement of ethics standards. Also, his office is less transparent than Dick Cheney's undisclosed location.

During the recent veepstakes, Jindal has served as McCain's catamite, parroting misleading GOP talking points about oil spills after Katrina and Rita. In short: post-storm spills never happened, and more drilling will solve all our energy problems! They're actually running on this shit, and think it's a winning issue. Recently Jindal spewed the McCain line implying that Obama is willing to lose a war to get elected. That's pretty damn funny, since the only combat Jindal ever experienced was "spiritual warfare" between himself and a demon that was attacking his crazy girlfriend. Deep in the spiritual "shit", Jindal distinguished himself on the battlefield by pissing in his pants, and having a panic attack when his crazy girlfriend started acting even crazier. Some braver fundagelical Christians on the scene decided to perform an exorcism. I'm not making this shit up.

The other day Jindal waited for McCain who was coming to LA to do a photo-op on an oil rig, But there was a huge oil spill in the Mississippi that day, and McCain canceled the "pro-drilling" excursion.

After Katrina, Sen. Mary Landrieu said she might have to punch Bush in the nose. Months later, after Bush gave his shitty 2006 SOTU speech, Bush was making his way down the aisle and Landrieu was on the side within striking distance. Bush had just glossed over the Gulf Coast's plight in his speech. I couldn't believe it, but when Landrieu spoke to Bush she congratulated him on his choice of Recovery Czar. I suppose that was politically smart, but I'd been hoping for a throwdown. (Btw, Bush's Recovery Czar was a Texas banker and Bush cronie named Donald Powell who basically spent two and a half years walking back a strong flood protection commitment he made to New Orleans. Countless times Powell would hedge on definitive answers to life and death questions about whether New Orleans should be protected by something better than weak Cat 3 levees and floodwalls. For context, here's how other nations do it.)

I was shocked to learn that some Louisianan cops had tasered Dubya and Colin Powell recently, and called them names, but it turned out they were actors in Oliver Stone's next film.

Mayor Ray Nagin, alas, is a chocolate George Bush-- minus the competence. While this might seem like an incomprehensible notion, I can assure you it's true, and it's probably not as scary as you imagine. Nagin can't competently see anything through, not even a big mistake. Which is nice. Below, E writes about the emerging NOAH scandal in New Orleans. One of the political hooks that will midwife this (blogger-generated) story into the national news stream is the distinct possibility that some construction companies got paid federal dollars for work that was actually performed by volunteer labor. The fresh-faced Christian volunteers who came down to New Orleans to do some good, and who helped gut storm ravaged homes... probably became the means to a paycheck for some connected crony who sat on his ass the whole time. If and when details like that surface, the Teflon Nagin administration will be in some trouble. Because it's Louisiana, though, there's always some bizarre detail beyond the basic alleged improprieties. In this case, such a detail might involve bamboo underwear.

We have a guy named John Kennedy running for Senate. As a Republican. A few years ago, John Kennedy was a Democrat running on a platform of economic justice. After he lost that race, he decided some changes were needed. He crafted a brilliant plan: first he would fellate Karl Rove and become a Republican, then he would disavow his liberal past and embrace George Bush, and try to beat Landrieu by telling Louisianans she's weak on oil shale. Kennedy recently did a statewide tour with a dozen stops, and more people just read this post than attended his events.

Senator David Vitter. Or as I affectionately call him-- Vitty-cent. What can you say about this diaper dandy? I mean, it's been quite a year for him, hasn't it? First he was mentioned as Rudy Guiliani's running mate. Then he got busted for past whoring, and went into hiding for several days. He apologized for a vague "sin" and has never been more specific than that. His Madam recently committed suicide, and he has the gall to try to use supporters' campaign donations to pay for the legal trouble his private whoring caused him. What a fuckmook. Now Vittycent's going to run for re-election while supporting "pro-family" marriage amendments. One fun thing to track is whether a local Republican named Vincent Bruno decides to run against him. Years ago, Bruno was the first to publicly call Vitter out for his hypocritical indiscretions, and he recently said that he might run against Vitter and ask him whether Vitter ever had any previous homosexual encounters. Why would he do this? Does Bruno have proof of some incident? That would be the interesting question. Perhaps Vitter is like Heidi Klum: he has "private junk" under Seal. (Also, recall that long ago, a GOP operative implied that Vitter was soft on homosexual issues, and he became enraged and assaulted her.)

Rep. "Dollar" Bill Jefferson. The Feds famously found $90k of alleged bribe money in Jefferson's freezer. Jefferson's been indicted, and this year he complained about the FBI watching him take a piss the morning of the raid. New Orleans has been watching him and his family's political machine piss on our faces for years, so I'm not sure why he was so embarrassed. Anyway, this is a guy who worked his way up from poverty to Harvard, then entered New Orleans politics so he could, first and foremost, enrich himself and his family. It's sad. Jefferson was re-elected in 2006 because conservatives and others allied with the Jefferson machine in order to strategically send the crook back to D.C. rather than elect a competent liberal alternative. Many were hoping that State Senator Derrick Shepherd would make the runoff that year. Let's see what he's up to:

State Senator Derrick Shepherd, currently under Federal indictment, recently broke into his girlfriend's house, punched her in the stomach then took her cash and phone. Allegedly. Then he retired to his home, which is not in his district, and ordered up some female talent for a private lap dance party. He was arrested during a lap dance and is currently in a halfway house. Shepherd is a Gulf War I veteran who built a rock solid political machine from scratch. I've studied him up close, and he's a perfect scoundrel.

So that's the story on those dildoes.

Yeah, we're fucked here, and we fuck ourselves further with the politicians we elect. And afterwards, all too often, Louisianans retreat into a comforting fatalism, and find pleasurable abandon in our rich cultural delights. I have no problem with the culture part. But the unholy triumvirate of mega problems, stupid leaders, and micro-solutions is catching up with us, and we need to do something about it quick.

Part 3 comes next, and it's not about Louisiana being a canary in the mineshaft. It's about you.

7/29/2008

The More You NOAH

by Eli of WCBF

Y'all ought to read up on the emerging NOAH scandal coming out of the Nagin administration in New Orleans.

New Orleans Affordable Homeownership, or NOAH, is a city established and city administered non profit empowered with community development block grant development money to provide home remediation services to low income seniors after Hurricane Katrina. This scandal was uncovered by bloggers and was quickly picked up by a local TV affiliate. The story is likely to garner national attention soon.

So if you want to say that you knew about the NOAH scandal BEFORE it was trendy, I suggest you pay attention.

After receiving NOAH's list of homes it claims to have serviced under the Mayor's Home Remediation Program, a quick survey determined that many of the homes had not been gutted or were not owned by low-income seniors. Soon after, it became clear that many of the contractors hired by the agency to do work were in poor standing with the state of Louisiana.

After Lee Zurik's initial TV report went live, Mayor Nagin hastily organized a press conference to desperately denounce the allegations and allege that citizen watchdogs asking obvious questions were hurting New Orleans' recovery efforts. The Mayor claimed that a new list of properties was the only accurate list.

That list, it would appear, raises as many questions as the first. Why would a home owned by the chief of police be gutted with city money? Why would NOAH claim to have paid contractors to gut homes that were actually worked on by the homeowners themselves or by volunteer groups? Why were the homes of slumlords claimed to have been gutted by NOAH? Is it more sinister than incompetence? Was it money laundering?

I won't just bare all right now. I'll leave something to the imagination.

The naked truth lies behind these links:

The initial blogger-generated reports can be found here and here.

The first TV report is here and the follow-up is here.

The Mayor's angry press conference is here.

Keep up on the latest by routinely checking back here and here.


Update: WWL will report tonight that HUD, the FBI, and the New Orleans inspector general's office will open up official investigations into NOAH.
And I'm E of We Could Be Famous. I'm so happy to be blogging alongside the shellfish today. We're going to thieve away all of the Rude Pundit's fame and use it for our own selves!


NOTHING TO SEE HERE

I have a question.

What the hell is 'Katrina fatigue?'

My understanding is that the phrase 'Katrina fatigue' describes the perceived decline in national interest in the recovery efforts of New Orleans and the Gulf South. The term does more than point out the obvious in regards to the ephemeral nature of 21st century media. It implies a saturation, a torrent of Katrina and New Orleans related coverage that ultimately spoiled American attentiveness. Certainly when considering mainstream national discourse or even online progressive discourse, it would appear that 'Katrina fatigue' has indeed relegated recovery news and views to the periphery. If it is not now mostly treated as a regional issue, it is increasingly buried on a dishearteningly long list of Bush administration disgraces.

Now that we are approaching the third anniversary of the levee breaches with the same long list of basic human needs that the government fails to meet, are we even still on the radar? Is the New Orleans recovery an issue in the Presidential campaign? Has the right-wing so effectively faulted the people of New Orleans for the federal government's pathetic disaster response that the issue is too hot of a potato for Barack Obama to touch?

I was lucky enough to attend Netroots Nation '08 in Austin with Mr. Pundit. One of the panels there was a fun sort of pundit practice session in which Matt Yglesias and another guy played faux-conservatives on a hostile cable news show. They critiqued participants on their posture and on the talking points they used to score points in the 'spin zone.' As I waited for my turn in front of the camera, I went over in my head the types of right-wing attacks I expected to be forced to confront. I assumed it would be something along the lines of "Wasn't it mostly Ray Nagin's fault?" or "Why are we even rebuilding that city, shouldn't we just raze the whole thing?"

But when it was my turn the question was "So everything's back to normal, right?"

For whatever reason, THAT never crossed my mind as something anyone would think. Actually living in New Orleans has made that assumption so ridiculous that I guess I totally forgot that Americans who have obtained their sense of the recovery from the opening montage of Fox's BCS championship coverage might internalize this poor representation of reality.

So while I fumbled my way through my pundit audition, I realized how little America knows about the present-day situation in New Orleans and also how difficult it is to tell the truth about what is going on without presenting the task at hand as totally insurmountable.

But if America has "Katrina fatigue," will it make any difference how New Orleans residents shape their message for a national audience?

My heart says something else about the media and America's "Katrina fatigue."

Try experiencing "Katrina fatigue" as a New Orleanian.

We might be tired of fucking hearing about it ourselves. We reached our Katrina saturation point almost three whole years ago.
Hi, I'm oyster from the Your Right Handjob blog. Big thanks to His Rudeness for this opportunity and platform. We're getting off to a late start, so "let's roll".
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Fucked Louisiana, Fucked USA (part 1 of 3)

In the typical ass-to-mouth maneuver that is Louisiana politics, our elected leaders want us to think that it's an improvement when Big Oil takes its filthy cock out of our state's bleeding rectum, and stuffs it down Louisiana's throat. During the split-second before our salivary glands absorb the fecal matter, we have a blissful moment where we think: "Boy, our ass sure feels better now."

That dubious moment of ass relief is now.

Or, to put it another way: while the nation suffers from a quasi-recession, the pols in dirt poor Louisiana are busy fantasizing about the upcoming speedball of oil/gas revenues that will soon be injected into state coffers. Again. Yay! This time, we just know we won't "waste the boom". This time, there will be a Chicken a la Kingfish in every pot-- we promise!

Yeah, right.

Most other states will soon be running budget deficits, but Louisiana will be enjoying phantom "surpluses" because of high gasoline prices nationwide. It will be like the go go seventies all over again! (That decade hella-sucked for most everyone else, but since it sucked slightly less on a relative basis for Louisiana, we felt like lucky ducky pelicans.)

Of course, several things have to be ignored for this "lucky" feeling to properly take hold: for example, you gotta ignore the whole Federal Flood/Hurricanes thing, the whole crumbling schools and infrastructure thing, the whole destruction of our coastal wetlands thing, the whole (unacceptably weak) levee/floodwall repair thing. But if we can ignore all that, and get used and abused by this orchestrated national oil drilling discussion/diversion, then those shiny pennies-on-the-dollar in oil royalties start to look pretty good, and we think maybe those shiny pennies can wash our billion dollar problems out of our hair.

Well, not so much. Despite the recovery help we've received from the rest of the country, incredibly large challenges surround us-- environmental, economic, infrastructural, educational, criminal.

Even after cataclysmic disasters decimated our "Energy Coast", and the fatally flawed federal floodwalls drowned our best city, and after the federal government couped us up in toxic trailers while we waited for belated and piecemeal recovery funds that the Bush administration was happy to overestimate and delay... even after all that bullshit, Louisiana has little collective sense of how thoroughly it has been rooked, rickrolled, bamboozled and bought. It was like a circle jerk of accepted risk, and we were the retarded cousin in the back of the room curiously watching the "cool guys" beat their meat. Then they told us we could join the club if we ate their soggy risk biscuit. We were elated! So we did, gobble gobble, and they laughed and laughed.

They're still laughing.

Consider how preeverted and fucked up things are down here: we're actually giddy to spend these oil royalty dollars on rebuilding our coastal wetlands-- the same coastal wetlands that were sliced and diced and killed (in large part) by the oil infrastructure that supplies the rest of the country with oil and gas! Here's the arrangement, simplified: the nation gets energy supplied through Louisiana, the oil companies make ginormous profits, and Louisiana sacrifices its coastal ecology and natural hurricane buffer so that it can get pennies on the dollar back from Big Oil, to address the billion dollar problems that Big Oil helped exacerbate.

This is what constitutes "boom times" in da gret stet. Maximum risk, minimum recompense. It seems delusional, and it is, but not as much as you might think. (More on that later.)

Don't get me started on the absurd floodwall situation that "protects" the city. Holy Grandpa Shit on the wall! After the Federal Flood-- the worst engineering failure in the nation's history-- the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is going to build us what we were promised in the fucking 1960's, but never fucking received: WEAK CATEGORY 3 flood surge protection. Hopefully, this time the USACE won't screw it up, and everything will hold. But questions still abound. What happens to New Orleans' tourist economy if a hurricane hits us before the flood protection is finished in 2011? Answer: We're fucked. And what happens to this vital port city if a Strong Cat 3 or better hits us after 2011? Answer: We're fucked. And do you think the fact that we're fucked has escaped notice of the Reinsurance industry? Fuck no! They know we're fucked, and they're going to fuck us with outrageous insurance premiums and exclusions, until another disaster comes along and permanently fucks us. And how can our region recover if it's prohibitively expensive to insure? You fucking tell me.

Many of us feel vaguely cheated down here, but instead of getting collectively outraged, informed and mobilized... we decide to indulge in a delusion, and pretend a few fleeting oil pennies will solve things (boy aren't they shiny, though!).

We've been fucked for so long I'm concerned that we won't know when we're seriously fucked. And we're looking seriously fucked this time. And that has direct implications for the rest of the country. But, like George Bush and the neocon hardcunts, when Louisianans are in a pinch they sometimes like to "double down" on their fuckedness, and elect politicians based on either 1) their entertainment value, or 2) faux-reformist happy talk. More on that dynamic in part 2.

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Update: Slight edits made and links have been added for clarity.

7/28/2008

Some things about people from New Orleans:

We don't care what you think. We've been doing our own thing for 300 years.

We don't want to go to your parades, ya'll don't throw anything.

100% humidity is the best moisturizer they ever came up with.

It's "New A'wlins," not "N'awlins."

We would have been fine if the federal levees hadn't broke.

We don't give a damn if you're gay.

We never had that many Starbucks coffee shops to begin with, we think yankee coffee tastes like instant.

None of those people who are stumbling around drunk in the French Quarter actually live here.
Neither do all those college girls who show their tits at Mardi Gras.

We aren't any more ashamed of our politicians than we are of yours.

At this time of the year, we all have one eye on the weather channel and one eye on Saints training camp.

We don't have southern accents, I don't care how they talk in the movies. And nobody in New Orleans calls people "cher."

We know about the danger of flooding. We're working on it.

We are not governed under the Napoleonic Code.

We are well aware of the dangers of hurricanes. Over 400,000 of us evacuated safely in advance of Hurricane Katrina. We hope you never have to try it.

We are among the most flood-insured populations in the country.

We didn't vote for George W. Bush in the first place.

We all know several people who moved to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and some who moved here because of it.

Only tourists wear Mardi Gras beads when it's not Mardi Gras.

New Orleans has over 300 bloggers, some of whom will be posting here in the coming week.

7/27/2008

Brief Comment on the Shooting in Knoxville, Tennessee(Updated for Liberal Hating) :
When the bastards finally invade the spaces you know, the places you've been, then you feel it deep, man. The Rude Pundit's been to the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Church on many occasions, for a wedding or two, for rummage sales, and for political meetings, and, hell, he even gave a reading there of non-rude material. It's a good place, a welcoming place, a sane place, a non-denominational place, where social activism is alive and well, where non-violence is preached and practiced. If you're gonna open fire on a church to attack Christianity, it's truly a piss-poor choice of locations. And during a children's production of Annie? Whatever voices in Jim Adkisson's head were telling him to twelve-gauge up the joint really forced him to do it on the worst possible day.

Surely, some opportunistic assholes will use this to make a case for more concealed weapons, but the Rude Pundit won't deign to argue with such ghouls right now. Nothing more is needed than a wish for wellness, a hope for healing, and a sigh, once again, for how very, very far and fast we continue to fall.

Update: Oh, wait. Nope, Adkisson didn't hate Christians. He hated gays and liberals. Hence his choice of churches. So well-played, cocksucker.

7/25/2008

Citizens of the World Unite:
The absolute shit fit that conservatives are having over Barack Obama calling himself a "citizen of the world" in his speech/big ass photo-op before 200,000 people in Berlin yesterday is one of those depressing displays that just demonstrates how pools of stomach acid are eating out the guts of the right wing in America as they wait for their November doom. It's so idiotic, the kind of thing you think up when you're taking a dump and wonder how you're gonna criticize something and, really, you've got nothing else to fucking say. For this entire thing is just a cover for despising the very sight of the Democratic candidate for president being treated like the President.

Here's Rush Limbaugh, a man who, while not a citizen of the world, gets a discount on Viagra and rum-colored boys in the Dominican Republic: "This 'citizen of the world stuff,' I know what he means by it, but why isn't it good enough to say, 'I'm a proud United States citizen coming to speak to you today,' about whatever you want to say our challenges are? Why do you have to deemphasize that you are an American? This whole concept of American exceptionalism. We rebuilt that place. I'm not saying you have to go over there and brag, but we're being told that the Europeans hate us; our stock in their eyes has plummeted. When it's not true."

Here's the John McCain campaign, whose candidate was busy yesterday eating sausage next to a place where they pack fudge (no, really): "While Barack Obama took a premature victory lap today in the heart of Berlin, proclaiming himself a 'citizen of the world,' John McCain continued to make his case to the American citizens who will decide this election."

Here's the New York Sun: "So Barack Obama, whose father is from Kenya and who attended school in Indonesia, now appears before a crowd of 200,000 cheering Germans in Berlin to proclaim himself a 'citizen of the world.' It makes you wonder whether he's running for president of America or secretary general of the United Nations, and it is reminiscent of Senator Kerry's ill-fated 2004 debate pledge to subject American policies to a 'global test.'"

You get the idea. While Andrew Sullivan has teed up a few examples of just how goddamned stupid this whole meme is, quoting Thomas Paine calling himself a "citizen of the world," and Olbermann last night quoted Reagan calling himself one, let's turn to William Safire, one of those beloved godfathers of late 20th century conservatism, and what he says in Safire's Political Dictionary on page 125:

"[C]itizen of the world: an internationalist as opposed to an isolationist; more loosely, one concerned with universal issues, whether they apply at home or abroad." Safire goes on to quote Woodrow Wilson, who said in his Second Inaugural: "The tragic events of the thirty months of vital turmoil through which we have just passed have made us citizens of the world. There can be no turning back." He quotes Franklin Roosevelt's final Inaugural, saying "We have learned to be citizens of the world." And JFK, who addressed at his Inauguration, "My fellow citizens of the world."

Yeah, founders, Republicans, and whole buncha Democrats actually thought it was a good idea to think of Americans as members of an entire world. It's a hopeful phrase, not a sinister one. Of course, when you're desperately flailing about like a three-legged cat in a barrel of oil, it's hard to think of anything but what it takes to survive.

Next week: The Rude Pundit's on vacation, and the New Orleans bloggers take over. He might pop in to show off his tan line, but enjoy the Louisiana hospitality while he's gone.

7/24/2008

Beginning Monday: A Week of Guest Bloggers from New Orleans (Updated):
In what's become a tradition around here, one week a year the Rude Pundit heads away from Left Blogsylvania in order to understand that there's a world possible without Cheneys or Hannitys, where the mad voices of the TV and the radio are meaningless against the rush of ocean wave and the sip of Corazon Anejo, a tequila that, after three or four slowly swallowed shots, will make you believe that furtive sand dune sex is not a horribly uncomfortable experience.

This time, the Rude Pundit sent out the call to New Orleans bloggers, and he's put together a kick-ass line-up of Crescent City survivors:

Monday, July 28: Dangerblond of Dangerblond
Tuesday, July 29: Oyster of Your Right Hand Thief and Eli Ackerman of We Could Be Famous
Wednesday, July 30: G-Bitch of The G-Bitch Spot
Thursday, July 31: Bigezbear of Bigezbear and Humid City and Lord David of Humid City
Friday, August 1: Karen Gadbois of Squandered Heritage

Karen was also just part of the Netroots Nation panel on New Orleans (with a brief appearance from Eli). Ill-attended, yes, but informative and enraging.

Gee, you think they might have something to write about? Since Hurricane Katrina, these bloggers have been chronicling the ugliest sides of the corruption, ineptness, cruelty, and general fucktardery of the city, state, and federal response to the waterboarding of New Orleans. And they also haven't given up on their city.

So while the Rude Pundit contemplates jellyfish and waves and UV rays and MILFs and fiction books that don't involve magical sign language comprehending dogs, the door's open. Come on in and have a good time. The vodka's in the freezer, the take-out menus are in the tackle box, and the acid is hidden at page 108 of Scott McClellan's book. The party starts Monday.
Why Bill O'Reilly Ought to Be Sodomized with a Burning Cross:
Because the Fox "news" commentator and a man who masturbates on all things chick pea-based, in his latest "Talking Points" segment, actually says about a certain left-wing organization, "It is not a stretch to say MoveOn is the new Klan."

Now the Rude Pundit's had his problems with some of the actions and even the concept of MoveOn.org (a joke he was once fond of telling: "MoveOn.org - the least you can do for democracy," but that's sooo 2004), but he's been to a fundraiser or two and a meeting or so, and he can pretty much state, without fear of contradiction, that not only was nobody wearing robes, not even presumptive Grand Wizard Eli Pariser, but he didn't hear a thing about racial purity or any purity of any sort. There were a lot of white people there, but most of them were pretending to be less white than they actually were.

He's pretty sure that all he's ever heard from MoveOn is that people should be allowed to vote and everyone should be treated equally. That's pretty much the opposite of the Klan, unless some fantasy new Klan is all about the civil rights. Oh, yeah, and MoveOn wants the motherfucking war to end, a position that enjoys national support of around two-thirds of the population, an approval rating the Klan never had even in its heyday.

So, yeah, all that and, well, shit, lynching.

O'Reilly's whipped hisself into a mad dog froth this time because MoveOn dared to protest outside Fox "news" studios about its racism towards the Obamas. Said O'Reilly, "The latest smear from MoveOn is telling their Kool-Aid drinking, zombie followers that FOX News is smearing Barack Obama and is a racist concern." Zombie followers? Irony and self-awareness are to Bill O'Reilly what antibiotics are to super-streptococcus.

Ever making himself the story, O'Reilly prattled on, "Obama must condemn organizations like MoveOn and Daily Kos if he truly wants to run without a race component. These are the people that are dividing Americans along racial lines." You got that? O'Reilly has said here's the standard, Barack Obama, and you must meet it or Bill O'Reilly will fuck your shit up. Good thing O'Reilly doesn't have anyone who he thinks will do whatever he says, like, you know, zombie-ish beings.

And the idea that if you call someone "racist" is to demonstrate that you yourself are sowing racial division is the kind of logic that'd make Aristotle say, "Oh, fuck this" and burn his books himself. You see how that works? See, when blacks in the South in the 1950s were saying that laws telling them where they could live and work and go to school were racist, they were actually fucking up because...oh, fuck, the Rude Pundit can't even get his head around this...because they made white people feel bad?

After his trollish battle screech was done, O'Reilly had on race traitor Juan Williams, one of the go-to guys whenever white people wanna prove that there's a black dude who's cool with their racism. Williams assured Whitey O'Reilly that he was a good white man and all those who say he ain't best step back.

Later: The Rude Pundit's taking a vacation next week, and he's got another awesome line-up of guest bloggers.

7/23/2008

P.S. Just Sayin':
When you're writing a positive column about a candidate and his wife and that candidate is older than most of your readers and is behind in the polls, you perhaps don't want to have that column titled, "Cindy McCain and the Smell of Death."
Isn't This Just Getting Embarrassing?:


You know, if John McCain was Al Gore at this point, the mainstream media would have crucified him, sent razor-taloned birds to pluck out his eyes, and pointed and laughed as he screamed and bled and pissed himself.

In a cheesy fake Irish pub in the panhandle of Florida, the Rude Pundit was drinking some goddamned unholy concoction with friends when, out of nowhere, a very, very little old man in a leprechaun outfit came out. The bartender rang a bell and all the fat families engorging themselves on gigantic burgers put down their sloppy meals to watch as this withered man danced a gay jig around, tipping his little hat, gladly picking up dollars when someone dropped them for him. He scared the children. He delighted the frat guys.

And then, his dance over, he toddled over to the Rude Pundit and whispered, "Fer ta love o' God, boyo, put a bullet in me. Look at me. I'm an old man and they have me prancin' fer change. Have pity and take me out back and put a bullet in me." The Rude Pundit felt sad for the man, but he shrugged, having no gun and no inclination for letting people out of the lot they accepted. Besides, his dancing was so fuckin' cute.

7/22/2008

How Many Motherfuckers Does It Take to Screw a Light Bulb Into a Detainee's Rectum? (Part 1: Michael Mukasey):
Our bespectacled dwarf of justice, Michael Mukasey, was lubriciously tongue-bathed during his time at the American Enterprise Institute even as he was saying, in essence,"You know that Constitution you think's so cool, America? Yeah, I want Congress to help me roll it up and shove it into your dry koochie." The Attorney General spent his speech yesterday reacting to the Supreme Court's Boumediene decision saying that Gitmo detainees had the right to challenge their detention.

In describing the post-9/11 world, Mukasey may as well have had Dick Cheney's hand up his ass, with Cheney in his role as Smirko, the Amazing Puppetmaster, as the AG said, "We are confronted not with a hostile foreign state whose fighters wear uniforms and abide by the laws of war themselves, but rather with a dispersed group of non-state terrorists who wear no uniforms and abide by neither laws nor the norms of civilization. And although wars traditionally have come to an end that is easy to identify, no one can predict when this one will end or even how we’ll know it’s over."

Now, one's first reaction to the description of what has been hyped to us as the "most dangerousest enemy America has every faced in the history of forever - no, seriously, they'll fuck your cat and behead your sister while forcing you to convert, really" as, in essence, a bunch of fuckwads wandering around aimlessly hoping to blow shit up, ought to be, "You gotta be fuckin' kidding." Not the Bush administration and the right of this nation. They keep spare underwear in their pockets for how often they shit themselves in blind fear every day.

The list of shit Mukasey wants Congress to pass to overcome Boumediene is simple and hilarious, much of it based on the same old fearmongering that has turned this into a nation that actually discusses whether or not drowning someone without killing them is torture, with the added bonus fright that, booga-booga-booga, former detainees might be released into the United States. One of Mukasey's items is this charmer: "Any legislation should acknowledge again and explicitly that this Nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us and who are dedicated to the slaughter of Americans—soldiers and civilians alike. In order for us to prevail in that conflict, Congress should reaffirm that for the duration of the conflict the United States may detain as enemy combatants those who have engaged in hostilities or purposefully supported al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations."

And this is why this goddamn administration is not just incompetent, but actively, awfully, evil: in one speech, the Attorney General of the United States said that there's no way to tell when or how a "war" will be over (which means there's no goals), but that the Congress and courts should allow "enemy combatants" to be detained "for the duration of the conflict." Which, as just mentioned, has no definable end. In other words, seven years for some so far, motherfuckers. Howzabout a couple decades more?

No wonder they're so scared of any Gitmo detainees being released into the United States. If you had been a goat herder who pissed off the local warlord who got paid to turn you over to the Marines and spent years having your nuts stomped while listening to the Barney theme song over and over and then got set free without so much as a "Sorry, our bad," you might think that Allah's sending you a mighty strong message about how to treat infidels.

Mukasey doesn't see it that way. In one of the most trite and existence-justifying bullshit things this froggy-looking cocksucker has uttered, Mukasey said, "[O]f the 775 people who have been detained at Guantanamo, only about one-third remain. The fact that we have not charged all of those remaining at Guantanamo with crimes should not be regarded as a fair criticism of our detention policies; rather, it reflects the fundamental reality that these individuals were captured in an armed conflict, not in a police raid." One might think that the fact that our government can't figure out within a few years if 225 people committed crimes is actually explicit proof of the failure of the detention policy. But there are asses to be covered and a public to keep frightened.

Hopefully, Congress will just tell Mukasey to go fuck himself with his own legislation. Just like the judge in the Hamdan case told the prosecution, there ought to be at least one or two lines that can't be crossed.

7/21/2008

On Getting Tossed From the "Defending the American Dream" Conference:
So when the Rude Pundit read that not only was there a right wing blogger conference going on in Austin as a kind of sad counterprogramming to the massive Netroots Nation convention, but that the demiCoulter herself, Michelle Malkin, would be speaking, he decided he needed to bail for a little while the netrootsers, especially after Malkin called out the Rude Pundit's panel on her blog (which, admittedly, had called her out). Together with David Neiwert and Mike Stark, the Rude Pundit headed over to the Austin Renaissance Hotel, on the outskirts of the city. Stark had procured a video camera; Neiwert had a voice recorder.

The Rude Pundit prefers to traffic in subversion, getting inside gatherings and groups, and learning about what people say in private. He would totally go on a Hannidate. He wanted to try to get into the Malkin speech, talk to some of the gathered conservatives, play, have fun, and, if given a chance to get up to the microphone, ask Malkin if she would share a terrorist-approved Dunkin' Donut. Alas, this was not to be.

For Stark's approach is a bit more forthright. In serial killer terms, the Rude Pundit prefers slow poisoning or a quick switchblade; Stark is more of your chainsaw-and-sledgehammer type. He saw Wall Street Journal editorialist and occasional TV gabfest guest John Fund, asked the Rude Pundit to start filming, and stopped Fund in the lobby. After handing Fund a deck of cards with gay Republicans on them, Stark asked the befuddled but vaguely charmed Fund if he had had sex with Grover Norquist. Now, a wise man would have walked away. Fund was not a wise man. Demanding to know Stark's sources, Fund was confrontational, angry, bullying, and threatening with accompanying gesticulation. Stark was relatively calm as he accused Fund of hypocrisy and giving aid to the enemy. Indeed, if an objective observer were to ask who was making a scene, the obvious choice would be Fund.

(Before you feel any pity for Fund, read a few of his articles. Check him out praising Jesse Helms [Helms wasn't a bigot - he was just misunderstood], his Obama/Rezkio conspiracy fluffing, and his appearance on Bill Maher's show, just being a dick. No, he's not the most evil guy, but you can still kick a henchman in the balls before you get to Ming the Merciless.)

Finally, when Stark refused to give up any sources, Fund walked away. By the way, the Rude Pundit was not the only person filming or taking photos of the confrontation. Then we headed over to the ballroom where the actual conference was occurring. Stark struck again. He saw a lonely Grover Norquist signing books (although everyone was already at lunch, listening to Michael Steele, getting lubed up for Malkin), and Fund had walked over to Norquist, as if to make sure any rumors were proven true. Norquist, though, was having none of it. He more or less told Stark to go fuck himself and offered to sign a book. Hateful as he is, that is a wise man.

The two middle-aged Hispanic security guys, in very nice suits, walked over to us at this point and told us that unless we were registered for the conference, we had to leave. So, in a seemingly logical gesture, we headed over to the registration table. The Rude Pundit was aching to get in to see Malkin. We were ready to pay, half-registered, when organizers asked the kid helping us to come over to a conversation with the security guys. We knew they didn't want our money and that we were done.

Stark and the Rude Pundit walked over to the magic circle and offered to be nice at the Malkin show. One of the organizers said there were 400 people there. Sure, whatever. There were an awful lot of unclaimed badges sitting at the registration table and it was the last six hours of their conference, this being Saturday.

Finally, after asking the Rude Pundit to shut off the camera (he didn't - just putting it down and filming his crotch and shoes for a while), the very nicely dressed Hispanic security guys told us we had to leave the entire premises of the hotel, including the grounds and parking lot, or the police would be called. There would be no negotiation.

Out we headed, just in time to watch Fund and Norquist leave the hotel together and walk over to - not shitting you, dear readers - TGI Friday's for lunch. Perhaps the hard bones of the baby back ribs were calling them. One cannot be sure. There were better restaurants around, even though we were in mega-corporate chain central. The security guards at that point had stepped outside the lobby and were watching to make sure we left completely.

A couple of notes:
1. Yes, the Rude Pundit was pissed at Stark for coming on so strong right out of the gate. Run the marathon, motherfucker. And, yes, he let Stark know it (although the footage we got was golden and, truly, Stark's a good guy). Stark apologized profusely.

2. Poor Dave Neiwert was shut down almost as soon as he got there. Although he got to sit in the lobby.

3. All of this is on video. And the Rude Pundit promises you and John Fund, who was insistent about it, that as soon as he has it (right now, Stark is working with the tape), he will post the complete, unedited footage so you can judge for yourself.

Later today: Final observations on Netroots Nation

7/19/2008

The Rude Pundit Ejected from Right Wing Bloggers' Conference Hotel:
Other than being threatened with arrest and ordered to leave the grounds of the Austin Renaissance Hotel during the "Defending the American Dream" conference before the Rude Pundit even got to see Michelle Malkin, thanks to the righteous agitation of Mike Stark, a splendid time was had by all. Full story Monday.

Oh, and then there's the New York Times blog account of yesterday's profanity panel here at Netroots Nation.

7/18/2008

Sweet Jesus, Malkin's In Town:
Absolute proof of a god? Right across town in Austin, right wing bloggers are hosting their on little confab with, literally, hundreds of people, including Bob Novak and Grover Norquist. Tomorrow's lunch speaker: Michelle Malkin.

It costs 60 bucks to attend. Worth it? Your thoughts?

(The Rude Pundit's in Austin for the lefty blogger fest, Netroots Nation.)
A Few Observations from Netroots Nation:
The Rude Pundit's gonna pretend he's one of those bloggers whose lives are oh-so-fuckin' interesting and report from Netroots Nation (or LeftyCon 08):

1. We were sharing a table awaiting Wesley Clark and Howard Dean's speeches. The young female lobbyist from DC was not amused. And the female green activist from San Francisco looked on dismayed. The YFL hadn't heard of this blog, and so the Rude Pundit attempted to describe it, using examples, including images of raping various conservatives. The idea of using rape for the purposes of humor offended the YFL, even if the recipient of the rape was, say, David Brooks. The FGA looked as if the Rude Pundit had slit a whale's throat. He realized that while we were sitting at the same table, we were, in fact, living on different planets, neither necessarily superior to the other, and the Rude Pundit was glad to cut his losses when the speakers began.

2. Wesley Clark was boring. He came out speaking what were obviously a series of applause lines crammed into a frame for the convention. The clapping was there, but there was no life to it.

3. The Rude Pundit's said it before and he'll say it again. Howard Dean will fuck your shit up. Dean owned the joint. Hyping Obama and all the DNC's candidates and elections, he was exciting and interesting and insightful. It's the first time the Rude Pundit's seen him live, and the man knows how to make a crown rowdy.

4. Oh, and the Rude Pundit was just a little drunk when he met John Aravosis of Americablog in the hotel lobby last night. Tonight, he will be very drunk when he meets others.

More later. There's a link to live streaming of the various panels and speakers, and soon there will be video of this morning's panel on profanity and rude discourse, where you can see Kevin Drum of Washington Monthly seemingly offer a blow job to the Rude Pundit.

7/17/2008

Photos That Make the Rude Pundit Want to Down Antipsychotics While Googling "Dementia":


John McCain is fucking old. There's no joke there. It's just a simple truth: he's fucking old. Even by basic statistics: the life expectancy of a male in the United States is 75.29 years. That doesn't necessarily mean McCain would keel over midway through the first term of his presidency, but it does mean that every year past 75 would be beating the spread. The Rude Pundit doesn't want a goddamn president who, every time he sees him, he thinks, "Damn, ain't it great that medical science has advanced to the point where he can still be alive and healthy."

And he sure as shit doesn't want a president who is learning how to use the internet while campaigning for the job. You wanna talk about flip-flops and positions taken for political expediency? In response to McCain's admission that he knows about as much about "a Google" as he does about Jay-Z's oeuvre, the Republican candidate pretty much said that, for the sake of people concerned about it, he'll learn how to surf the web. In other words, he was against computers before he was for them.

The Rude Pundit wants a president who not only knows what it means to google, but can find twenty different kinds of Asian tentacle porn inside two minutes. He wants a president who doesn't think that Facebook is a particularly painful move Moe did to Curly while they were in a library. He wants a president who doesn't think that Twitter is only what his/her heart does when he/she is feeling agitated at things like people being upset at his/her lack of knowledge of contemporary life.

By the way, McCain there is visiting a trucking company in Omaha, Nebraska yesterday. It's where he went after he gave a speech to the NAACP. One can assume he needed a racial palate cleanser after all that pandering.

(Note: Hittin' the road. Tomorrow - blogging from Austin, the bluest little town in the red sea of Texas.)

7/16/2008

The President's News Conference Falls in a Forest of Reporters...:
President Bush's press conferences are now infused with the flop-sweat stench of the bedroom of a couple of old gay men, whose fucking never real tore up the sheets and now their desiccated prostates have long put their cocks out of commission, attempting a futile kind of flaccid dick-slapping sex that takes all the fun out of erectile dysfunction. Really, they may as well just cuddle.

Yesterday, the gathered reporters treated George W. Bush less like an elected leader whose unchecked and unquestioned decisions could still result in each and every one of their deaths and more like a beloved three-legged cocker spaniel that's blind and pissing itself but is still eager to arthritically beg for treats. Beyond a few questions about the teetering-on-the-brink Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which the President answered by assuring them that it's all cool, the reporters tossed balls as soft as testicles made of Nerf.

Do you think the banking system is in trouble? asked one intrepid news-persona. Which led to the remarkable answer from Bush of "I think the system basically is sound, I truly do." And an assurance: "That's one thing about this administration, we're not afraid of making tough decisions." No one tried to pin Bush down, no one tried to press him on his allegation that all current crises are the fault of the Democrats in Congress, who have had tenuous power for a year and a half, and not the nearly six years of barely checked and, starting in 2003, unchecked Republican power on all things financial.

Indeed, even when Bush outright lied, no reporter gave the barest shit. Asked about the status of Gitmo in wake of the Supreme Court's decision on allowing the detainees to challenge their detention, Bush said, "My view all along has been either send them back home, or give them a chance to have a day in court." The obvious question would have been, "Oh, c'mon, dude, seriously?" Or, more properly, "Then why did it take nearly three years before something that even looked like a mockery of justice took place for the prisoners there? And what do you consider a 'trial'?"

But not a single reporter could be bothered. Fuckin' christ, they couldn't even be bothered to try when Bush offered on Iraq and Afghanistan, "[I]t is a two-front war. And I say there's other fronts, but there's other fronts where we're taking covert actions, for example." The President of the United States just confirmed there's covert ops going on somewhere, and this was of no interest to reporters? (And, yes, of course everyone realizes that covert shit goes on all the time - but how often does the President confirm they're occurring?)

And don't even get them started on Pakistan. No. Really. Don't. 'Cause they won't.

Instead, we get this exchange:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Good morning.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. It is a good morning.

Q It is.

THE PRESIDENT: Every day is a good morning when you get to serve the country.

Q Absolutely.

Helen Thomas must have wished she was dead so she could roll in her grave.

By this point, the Washington press corps knows the steps to the dance the White House wants them to do, prancing into a topic like Scott McClellan's book, knowing that it's going to be swatted back, and not pressing for fear of pissing Bush off. The reporters have finally just given up on this administration, which, if you think about it, was Bush's goal all along. That way, when Congress tries to investigate something, when some huge story about past and current crimes breaks, the weariness with which the media approaches the White House permeates any reporting.

And Bush and Cheney, et al, can finish the job under the cover of sweet, placid ignorance and complacency.

Note: The Rude Pundit is now in Red State America. He'll be driving to Austin tomorrow for the Netroots Nation conference, where he'll be a-paneling with Digby, Atrios, Amanda Marcotte, Jesse Taylor, and Kevin Drum. No, he's not going to be performing (but thanks for all the suggested places) because he didn't wanna put together some half-assed show. But he will be available for mucho beer.

7/14/2008

The New Yorker Cover: Really?:
Well, at least The New Yorker didn't have a cover with Barack Obama fist-bumping the prophet Muhammad. Then we'd've been talking trouble.

From so many of the hysterical reactions, you'd think the venerated weekly, which has been around since, oh, fuck, let's say 300 AD, sure, had published a cover picture of the Democratic presidential candidate in the Oval Office on his knees sucking off a Confederate general garb-wearing Bill Clinton while he shoved a cigar into a moaning Michelle Obama's snatch as a stiletto-heeled, leather bustier-wearing Hillary Clinton whipped Barack's bare back into shreds with an American flag as a portrait of Thomas Jefferson leered at the scene. Frankly, that would have been funnier than the actual cover.

See, the Rude Pundit's problem with the whole Barack-as-Muslim and Michelle-as-Black-Panther plus burning flag and bin Laden's picture in the Oval Office isn't that it's particularly offensive. It's that it's just not very funny. It's not even enough to make you go, "Hmmm." You glance at it once and think, "Yeah, some people think that, don't they? That's a shame." And there the whole joke ends. There's no more levels to it. It's like an Upper East Side version of South Park, an elitist attempt at crude humor, like an ironic fart at a wine tasting.

However, like those shitty Danish cartoons of Muhammad that caused a rage-a-palooza among tight-assed Muslims with nothing better to do with their time and like Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh or Jonah Goldberg making stupid ass Hillary Clinton or Ted Kennedy jokes, to fly into a tizzy every time someone does something that mocks or satirizes beliefs is to give the images or words far more power than they deserve. Hell, this is even worse. Because The New Yorker intended the cover as an attack on conservative beliefs through satirizing them. But the magazine is being condemned for, well, satirizing conservative beliefs.

Here's the thing: anyone who doesn't see the cover art as satire already believed that Obama was a terr'ist out to secretly destroy American and get rid of apple pie and porn. No one's gonna look at the cover and say, "Well, right there, it proves Obama hates this country." Conversely (and this is the reason the cover fails as satire), there's not a one of those Obama-hating conspiracy nuts who's going to look at a magazine called The New Yorker, fer fuck's sake, and think, "Well, shee-it, haven't they made us look quite the fools with their hyperbolic representation of a possible Obama presidency. I'd better call Merle and Jesse and tell 'em the cross-burnin' is off." Oh, yeah. That right there wasn't satire. It was sarcasm. The fuckers are actually too dumb to breathe without thinking about how.

And the other sad aspect is that it's such a fuckin' distraction. Listening to Chris Matthews on My Balls Are Hard yesterday, as well as just about everyone dragged out to comment on the cover, made one pine for Britney Spears to flash her vagina again. Because, really, it's the political equivalent.

Rude Fun with New Yorker Cartoons
: Every week, the magazine runs a caption contest for one of its cartoons. Nearly every week, you can put these words to the panel: "You think that's bad? I just blew my dog." Try it. It works about 90% of the time.
War Crimes and the Need to Wreck Before We Can Build:
So few of us have the courage to face the upheaval our lives sometimes need. You can convince yourself you're happy, you're content, and the future looks bright, but then you get that job offer that says you need to sell your house and take the kids out of school and head to the new city. But you like your job, your house, and the kids' school, and the city you're in is kinda nice. Still, there's something in that new job that's tantalizing you, some challenge, something that says your life would be extraordinary instead of just good. Are you willing to leap? God, how hard it'll be for a while as you all adjust, all the regret and how much you'll miss what was so stable. That's a terror that so few are willing to face no matter how great the potential pay-off might be.

Sometimes the courage is needed when the situation is not so potentially optimistic. If, for instance, you discovered your cancer-ridden grandfather was a guard at Dachau. In the abstract, it seems like the decision is an easy moral equation: You report evil. You let the wheels of justice grind. You do right by history and by your grandfather's victims - how awful it is to say that, eh? The reality, of course, is far more difficult to face. The potential destruction of your family over your decision, the fact that you'll have to tell your mother that her dying father is a monster, the thought of your beloved grandpa in shackles. Yes, you could go on with your life, happy, successful, weeping at Gramps's funeral. But now you know, oh, god, you know. And every time you think about him, every day of your life, that thought will be there. Who are you responsible to? You know what's right. You know what to do. The question is only: do you have the guts to do it?

Since it's the movie du jour for all editorial comment, let the Rude Pundit add something about Wall-E, that goddamn beautiful cartoon that's made pundits everywhere have an analogy-gasm. One of the plots of the film involves whether or not the spaceshipload of doughy humans will ever be able to return to the trash-poisoned Earth. When a robot probe signals that it has brought back a plant from Earth, the ship's captain, who spends his days in a contented daze of cup-based foods and few duties beyond making announcements, has to initiate a protocol that might let the humans go home after 700 years away. The baffled captain seems distressed by the idea that he might have to complete the mission of the ship, but when no plant is found and the protocol is halted, he, a bit disappointedly, but a bit relievedly, returns to his daze. When the plant reappears later, the captain has to decide: go back to Earth to rebuild the destroyed place or stay in space, fat and content.

With the release of information in the book The Dark Side by Jane Mayer, that the Red Cross considered America's torture of detainees "war crimes;" with the words of Antonio Taguba, who stated flatly that the Bush administration had committed "war crimes;" with Scott McClellan, in his ongoing quixotic quest to show he's no tool, saying he couldn't say that the administration doesn't believe in torture (good to know Scotty's lost none of his ability to obfuscate through double negatives with a twist), we are left with that very real thing dangling there, filled with hope and despair: do we as a country have the courage to face what's happened to America during the 21st century? Are we willing to have war crimes trials, not just a truth commission or Congressional hearings, and admit, as a whole, that unless we do, we are abetting the crimes? Are we willing to fight all the battles with ourselves that we'll need to fight?

Because at some point, what's suppressed surfaces and it becomes active denial. An encouraging sign is the success of Vincent Bugliosi's book laying out how to prosecute George W. Bush for murder. That means the notion is in the everyday discourse of people.

Sweet jesus, it's so easy to just blithely go on with our lives, pushing the knowledge of what's right aside and telling ourselves, until we maybe even believe it, "I'm happy, I'm content, and nothing's to be gained by tearing shit apart." Except we know that the only way to go forward is to tear it apart and see what's left to build.

7/12/2008

God's Clearing the Deck:
Man, God must finally be pissed. Jesse Helms and Tony Snow in just over a week? With William F. Buckley bringing up the rear? It's as if God's saying, "You know what? You fuckin' Democrats will never do it, so I'll just take care of it myself. Fuck elections. It's smiting time. Let's get warmed up with the easy ones."