the gumbo pages

looka, <lʊ´-kə> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look"; in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans, it is usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.  

2. --n. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, cocktails as cuisine, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news of the reality-based community ... and occasionally movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, reviews, complaints, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.

Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting.   If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.

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New Orleans music for disaster relief

Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens

"Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans" is a 4-CD box set celebrating the joy and diversity of the New Orleans music scene, from R&B to jazz to funk to Latin to blues to zydeco to klezmer (!) and more, including a full-size, 80-page book.

Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!), liner notes by Mary Herczog (author of Frommer's New Orleans) and myself. Now for sale at your favorite independent record stores, or order directly from Shout! Factory Records, where all profits will be donated to New Orleans disaster relief through the end of March 2006.

The box set was the subject of a 15-minute profile on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition" on Feb. 6, 2005, and a segment on Wisconsin Public Radio's "To The Best of Our Knowledge" on Apr. 3, 2005. Here are some nice blurbs from the reviews (a tad immodest, I know; I'm not generally one to toot my own horn, but let's face it, I wanna sell some records here.)

*      *      *

"More successfully than any previous compilation, Doctors... captures the sprawling eclecticism, freewheeling fun and constant interplay of tradition and innovation that is at the heart of Crescent City music." -- Keith Spera, New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"... if you DO know someone who's unfortunate enough to have never heard these cuts, press this monumentally adventurous box and its attendant booklet upon them. It's never too late to learn" -- Robert Fontenot, OffBeat magazine, New Orleans

"... the best collection yet of Louisiana music." -- Scott Jordan, The Independent, Lafayette, Louisiana.

"[T]he year's single most awesome package" -- Buddy Blue, San Diego Union-Tribune

"This four-CD box set doesn't miss a Crescent City beat ... For anyone who has enjoyed the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, this is Jazz Fest in a box. ***1/2" -- Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun-Times

"... excellently compiled, wonderfully annotated ... New Orleans fans will know much of this by heart, though they may not remember it sounding so good; those who don't know what it's like to miss New Orleans will quickly understand." -- Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press.

"... a perfect storm when it comes to reissues. This box set is musically exciting, a complete representation of its subject matter, and just plain fun to listen." -- Charlie B. Dahan,

"... one of the best impressions of a city's musical blueprint that you're likely to ever find." -- Zeth Lundy,

"... an unacademic, uncategorized album that suits the city's time-warped party spirit." -- Jon Pareles, The New York Times

A new book featuring the best of food weblogs.

Digital Dish is the first ever compilation volume of the best writing and recipes from food weblogs, and includes essays and recipes contributed by me. Find out more and place an order!

U.S. orders:
How to donate to this site:

Your donations help keep this site going. PayPal's the best way -- just click the button below, and thanks!

You can also donate via the Honor System, if you wish (but they deduct a larger fee from your donation and I keep less).

(Also, here's a shameless link to my Amazon Wish List.)

Buy stuff!

You can get Gumbo Pages designs on T-shirts, mugs and mousepads at The Gumbo Pages Swag Shop!

Looka! Archive
(99 and 44/100% link rot)

January 2006

2005:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2004:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2003:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2002:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2001:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2000:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

My Photos on Flickr
My Darlin' New Orleans...

The Flag of The City of New Orleans

Shop New Orleans! Visit the stores linked here to do your virtual online shopping in New Orleans. The city needs your money!

Gambit Weekly & The Times-Picayune
Scat Magazine
WDSU-TV (Channel 6, NBC)
WGNO-TV (Channel 26, ABC)
WNOL-TV (Channel 38, WB)
WVUE-TV (Channel 8, FOX)
WWL-TV (Channel 4, CBS)
WYES-TV (Channel 12, PBS)


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

2 Millionth Weblog
Dispatches from Tanganyika
Home of the Groove
Hurricane Katrina Aftermath
Library Chronicles
Metroblogging N.O.
People Get Ready
Da Po'Blog
World Class New Orleans
The Yat Pundit
Your Right Hand Thief
Cocktail hour.

   The Internet's most comprehensive
   and indispensible database of
   authenticated cocktail recipes,
   ingredients, reseearch and more.
   By Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)

Museum of the American Cocktail
   Founded by Dale DeGroff and many
   other passionate spirits in Jan. 2005.
   Celebrating a true American cultural
   icon: the American Cocktail.

*     *     *

The Sazerac Cocktail
   (The sine qua non of cocktails,
   and the quintessential New Orleans
   cocktail. Learn to make it.)

The Footloose Cocktail
   (An original by Wes;
   "Wonderful!" - Gary Regan.
   "Very elegant, supremely
   sophisticated" - Daniel Reichert.)

The Hoskins Cocktail
   (An original by Chuck;
   "It's nothing short of a
   masterpiece." - Gary Regan)

*     *     *

Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Menu
   (A few things we like to
   drink at home, plus a couple
   we don't, just for fun.)

*     *     *

Peychaud's Bitters
   (Indispensible for Sazeracs
   and many other cocktails.
   Order them here.)

Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6
   (Complex and spicy orange
   bitters for your Martinis,
   Old Fashioneds and many more.
   Order them here.)

Fee Brothers' Bitters
   (Classic orange bitters,
   peach bitters and a cinnamony
   "Old Fashion" aromatic bitters.
   Skip the mint variety, though.)

*     *     *

The Alchemist
   (Paul Harrington)

Alcohol (and how to mix it)
   (David Wondrich)

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

The Art of Drink:
   An exploration of Spirits & Mixology.
   (Darcy O'Neil)

Beachbum Berry:
   (Jeff Berry, world-class expert
   on tropical drinks)

The Cocktail Chronicles
   (Paul Clarke's weblog)

The Cocktailian Gazette
   (The monthly newsletter of
   The Museum of the
   American Cocktail.)

DrinkBoy and the
   Community for the
   Cultured Cocktail
   (Robert Hess, et al.)

DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog

Happy Hours
   (Beverage industry
   news & insider info)

King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

La Fée Verte
   (All about absinthe
   from Kallisti et al.)
   (Ladies United for the
   Preservation of
   Endangered Cocktails)

Fine Spirits & Cocktails
   (eGullet's forum)

Martini Republic: Drinks
   (featuring posts by Dr. Cocktail!)

The Ministry of Rum
   (Everything you always wanted to know)

The Modern Mixologist
   (Tony Abou-Ganim)

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
   (Sando, LaDove,
   Swanky et al.)

Nat Decants
   (Natalie MacLean)

Spirit Journal
   (F. Paul Pacult)

Spirits Review
   (Chris Carlsson)
   (Beverage Tasting
   Institute journal)

Vintage Cocktails
   (Daniel Reichert)

The Wormwood Society
   (Dedicated to promoting accurate,
   current information about absinthe)

Let's eat!

New Orleans:
Culinary Concierge (N.O. food & wine magazine)
Mr. Lake's Non-Pompous New Orleans Food Forum
Notes from a New Orleans Foodie

Food-related weblogs:
Chocolate and Zucchini
Honest Cuisine
Il Forno
KIPlog's FOODblog
Mise en Place
Sauté Wednesday
Simmer Stock
Tasting Menu
Waiter Rant

More food!
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
Chowhound (L.A.)
Food Network
The Global Gourmet
A Muse for Cooks
The Online Chef
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
Southern Food & Beverages Museum
Southern Foodways Alliance
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
Zagat Guide

In vino veritas.

The Oxford Companion to Wine
Wine Enthsiast
The Wine Spectator
Wine Today
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers

Wine/spirits shops in our 'hood:
Colorado Wine Co., Eagle Rock
Mission Liquors, Pasadena
Silverlake Wine, Silverlake
Chronicle Wine Cellar, Pasadena

Other wine/spirits shops we visit:
Beverage Warehouse, Mar Vista
Wally's Wine & Spirits, Westwood
The Wine House, West L.A.

Reading this month:

The Minority Report and Other Classic Stories, by Philip K. Dick.

Microcosmic God: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Vol. 2, by Theodore Sturgeon.

Listen to music!

Chuck's current album recommendations

Luka Bloom
La Bottine Souriante
Billy Bragg
Cordelia's Dad
Jay Farrar
The Frames
Sonny Landreth
Los Lobos
Christy Moore
Nickel Creek
The Old 97s
Anders Osborne
The Proclaimers
Professor Longhair
Red Meat
The Red Stick Ramblers
The Reivers
Zachary Richard
Paul Sanchez
Marc Savoy
Son Volt
Richard Thompson
Toasted Heretic
Uncle Tupelo

Tom Morgan's Jazz Roots

Miles of Music

New Orleans

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

No Depression


Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV

Long Beach Bayou Festival

Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA

Talking furniture:

WWOZ (New Orleans)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream

KCSN (Los Angeles)
   Broadcast schedule
   "Down Home" playlist
   Live MP3 audio stream

Bob Walker's New Orleans Radio Shrine
   (A rich history of N.O. radio)
   (Comprehensive listings)

Air America Radio
   (Talk radio for the
   rest of us)
Joe Frank
Grateful Dead Radio
   (Streaming complete
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
   (Freedom, CA)
KRVS Radio Acadie
   (Lafayette, LA)
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
   (Science fiction radio)
Radio Free New Orleans
Raidió na Gaeltachta
   (Irish language)
RootsWorld's Rootsradio
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
   (Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

In the cinema:
Syriana (****)
Match Point (****)
Underworld Evolution (**)
Munich (****)
Transamerica (****)
The New World (****)
The Frighteners (***1/2)
Eating Out (**)
Dead and Buried (***)
Heavenly Creatures (****)
Minority Report (****)
Tarnation (***)
Crash (**)

Lookin' at da TV:

"The West Wing"
"Battlestar Galactica"
"The Sopranos"
"Six Feet Under"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
"One Tree Hill"
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
"The Simpsons"
"Father Ted"
The Food Network


A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
California Museum of Photography, Riverside
International Center of Photography

Ansel Adams
Jonathan Fish
Noah Grey
Greg Guirard
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
Herman Leonard
Howard Roffman
J. T. Seaton
Jerry Uelsmann
Gareth Watkins
Brett Weston

The Mirror Project
(My pics therein: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.)

My photographs at Flickr


The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy

Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
by Berkeley Breathed

Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

The Boondocks,
by Aaron McGruder

Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson

by Garry B. Trudeau

Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley

Get Your War On
by David Rees

by Jonathan Rosenberg

L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz

by Peter Blegvad

Lil' Abner,
by Al Capp

Lulu Eightball,
by Emily Flake

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner

by Walt Kelly

Suspect Device,
by Greg Peters

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak


Polly Ticks: (Progressive politics & news)
Daily Kos (My favorite political weblog)
Eschaton (The Mighty Atrios)
Hullaballoo (The Mighty Digby)
Media Matters for America (Debunking right-wing media lies)
Orcinus (David Neiwert)
PostSecret (Secrets sent in via postcards; astonishingly beautiful, funny and sad.)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
TAPPED (The American Prospect Online)
Think Progress
TruthOut (William Rivers Pitt & Co.)

Borowitz Report
(Political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Fray (Your stories)
Landover Baptist (Better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (Opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (Scarily funny news/satire)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert. (Read this.) (Not the actual White House, but it should be)

Weblogs I read:

American Leftist
The BradLands
The Carpetbagger Report
Considered Harmful
Creek Running North
Ethel the Blog
Un Fils d'un État Rouge
Follow Me Here
Franklin Avenue
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
Jesus' General
Mark A. R. Kleiman
The Leaky Cauldron
Letting Loose With the Leptard
Little. Yellow. Different.
Making Light
Martini Republic
Mister Pants
More Like This
Mr. Barrett
Neil Gaiman's Journal
News of the Dead
No More Mr. Nice Guy!
Not Right About Anything
August J. Pollak
Q Daily News
Real Live Preacher
Respectful of Otters
Roger "Not That One" Ailes
Ted Rall
Sadly, No!
Suspect Device
This Modern World
Whiskey Bar
What's In Rebecca's Pocket?
Your Right Hand Thief

Matthew's GLB blog portal

L.A. Blogs

Friends with pages:

mary katherine
michael p.
tracy and david

The Final Frontier:

Astronomy Pic of the Day
ISS Alpha News
NASA Human Spaceflight
Spaceflight Now


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site


"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

-- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901-1909), speaking in 1918

"There ought to be limits to freedom."

-- George W. Bush, May 21, 1999

"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier."

-- George W. Bush, describing what it's like to be governor of Texas, Governing Magazine, July 1998

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

-- George W. Bush,, December 18, 2000

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."

-- George W. Bush, Business Week, July 30, 2001

Made with Macintosh

Hosted by pair Networks

Déanta:  This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.3 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work. (I never could get used to all those weblogging tools.)

LOOKA!Bia agus deoch, ceol agus craic.

 "Eating, drinking and carrying on..."  -- Adelaide Brennan

  Friday, February 24, 2006

Get yo' ticket in yo' haaaand ...   I'm gonna see the Zulu queen.

At da airport, online courtesy of Continental's President's Club's open wireless network (thanks, exclusive rich people club!) As I will be engaged in copious amounts of revelry over the next five days (and recovering the sixth, remembering that I art dust and unto dust I shall return), posting will be spotty to nonexistent.

"Oh well it's Carnival ti-iime, everybody's having' fun ..."

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, February 23, 2006

Cocktail of the day.   We continue our mini-recap of great New Orleans cocktails ...

It was Wes' turn to mix last night, and he said, "This is one I've been thinking about all week." It was created by Walter Bergeron, head bartender at New Orleans' Monteleone Hotel in the 1930s and is that hotel's signature cocktail. It's also really, really good ... particularly when you make a top-shelf version like Wes did last night, using Sazerac 18-year-old rye and Carpano Antica vermouth. (It's still really good with Old Overholt and Martini & Rossi.)

The Vieux Carré Cocktail

1 ounce rye whiskey.
1 ounce Cognac.
1 ounce sweet vermouth.
1 teaspoon Bénédictine D.O.M. liqueur
2 dashes Angostura bitters.
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters.

Build over ice in a rocks glass and stir. Optional cherry garnish.

If you like Old Fashioneds, give this one a whirl. You'll love it.

Just a closer walk with Gate.   This just in from the Times-Picayune. I'll most likely be there.

Jazz funeral planned for Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

A jazz funeral for R&B legend Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, who passed away late last year, has been scheduled for this Saturday, February 25. The procession will begin at 1:00 pm at Jackson Square, and parade through the French Quarter, ending at [St. Louis] Cemetery Number One.

See some of y'all there, maybe.

Wake for Barry.   Via OffBeat's weekly email:

Sunday afternoon, the Kerry Irish Pub [in New Orleans' French Quarter] will host a wake for the late Barry Cowsill, who died in the aftermath after Hurricane Katrina. Cowsill was considered missing for months, but on Dec. 28, his body was identified using dental records in the Baton Rouge morgue. His body was found under a wharf Sept. 1 and according to the coroner's report, he died of drowning.

From noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, he'll be celebrated as he requested, at the Kerry. Many of Barry's musical friends will be on hand to perform, including sister Susan Cowsill, former Continental Drifters Peter Holsapple and Vicki Peterson (who married brother John Cowsill) along with other members of the family. Sadly, more bad news for the Cowsill family came last week when brother Billy, 58, died in Calgary, Alberta. The family was at home in Newport, Rhode Island for a memorial service for Barry when the news came about Billy, who had been suffering through a number of health problems including emphysema, Cushing's Syndrome and osteoporosis.

Spin.   Robert Charles Wilson has been one of my very favorite SF writers for about a dozen years now, ever since I read The Harvest, in which one night all of humanity is asked a question: "Do you want to live forever?" It's superb, and I've loved pretty much every Wilson novel since.

His most recent is perhaps his best; I picked it up in hardback as soon as it was out (I'm far too impatient to wait for anything to come out in paperback, and I like my books to be made to last) and devoured it in just a few days. It's called Spin, and Patrick posted an excellent article the other day about Spin, Wilson's work and how it fits into the best of classic SF:

A great deal of science fiction is about what the field's insiders often call "sense of wonder," a quality not entirely unrelated to the good old Romantic Sublime. Many of the genre's classics are in essence carefully-tuned machines designed to attract readers whose primary conscious loyalty is to rationalism, and lead them by a series of plausible contrivances to a sudden crescendo of mystical awe. This is an important part of SF from Olaf Stapledon to William Gibson and beyond. Lifelong readers of the genre are pushovers for this trick, so much so that we routinely forgive a multitude of sins: scientistic handwaving, tenuous logic, and the constant sensation of the author's elbow in our ribs. Pretty cool, huh? Robert Charles Wilson's elbow is never in our ribs. Perhaps better than any of the classic SF masters, Wilson understands the power of the reaction shot, the fact that the Great Strangeness is ever so much more powerful, more transforming if we experience it through the eyes and reactions of characters we've been made to believe in and care about very much indeed. And he does it all in a plain middlebrow manner without flimflam or stylistic show.

Wonderfully put, thank you.

If you read SF, and even if you don't, do yourself a favor and read this outstanding novel (now out in paperback, for the patient and thrifty). Then read just about everything else Wilson has written, especially The Harvest, The Chronoliths and Darwinia.

Quote of the day.   As Wes and I were saying as we were watching Bush, Rumsfeld and McClellan on "The Daily Show" ... "Do these people not hear themselves when they speak?"

"This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America."

-- George W. Bush, commenting on the UAE port deal.

(Faire le *boggle*.)

As Markos put it, "business concerns take precedence above all."

Atrios offers a recap:

This port deal was approved unanimously by a board on which Donald Rumsfeld sits. Rumsfeld claims he was unaware of the deal until after it was approved unanimously.

The administration didn't do the legally mandated 45 day investigation.

Secret terms of the deal include provisions which allow them to escape standard legal scrutiny.

Naw, not shady in the least.

Tom Tomorrow:

The Bush Administration wants to hand over control of vital ports to a state-run company controlled by an oligarchy whose ruling family used to go on hunting trips with their Taliban buddies, apparently including Osama himself.

And if this doesn't seem quite right to you, according to David Brooks you are a racist and a xenophobe.

[...]Chances are -- like a lot of inexplicable Bush administration behavior -- this is all about backroom deals and shady connections and things we can only guess at. And I hope that somebody, someday, writes the secret history of all this crap and tells us what the hell was really going on.

I only hope we can get that history (and see the perpetrators held accountable and punished) during our lifetimes ...

Heckuva job, though.   More Katrina emails have surfaced, showing a White House in chaos.

At 9 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 29, 2005, as Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans, FEMA Director Michael Brown appeared on "Larry King Live" and announced, "This is a catastrophic disaster ... We've got some storm surges that have come across the levees." Less than an hour later, at 9:51, Brown received an e-mail from White House chief of staff Andy Card, who told him he had been kept "well-informed about your reports. Anything you want me to do??" Brown replied, "Thanks for writing, Andy. This is a bad one. Housing, transportation and environment could be long term issues."

Card may have been concerned, but he wasn't in a position to be of much help. Like President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and homeland-security adviser Frances Townsend, Card was on vacation when the hurricane struck. Back at the White House, the job of monitoring the storm was left to Kenneth Rapuano, Townsend's deputy. At 10 p.m., Rapuano left the White House to go home for the night, believing everything was under control.

It wasn't. Half an hour later, at 10:30 p.m., the Homeland Security Operations Center sent out a two-page bulletin reporting massive flooding and bodies floating in the water. Rapuano later told Congress that no one at the White House woke him to tell him about the report, and he didn't realize the extent of the damage until 6 the following morning, when another Homeland bulletin warned that "it could take months to dewater" the city. Only then did it begin to dawn on top administration officials, including the president, how grave a human -- and political -- disaster they were facing.

Wish them into the cornfield, Anthony. Please. ALL of them.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Cocktail of the day.   New Orleans cocktails are the order of the day all this week, as we approach Mardi Gras day in six days! I was particularly inspired to demonstrate the proper way to make this drink, after that ridiculous version in that Variety article which used "Meyer lemon-infused gin" and no cream!

Last night we had Ramos Gin Fizzes, one of the quintessential New Orleans cocktails, invented by Henry Ramos in the 1880s in his bar at Meyer's Restaurant (now long-gone). As the story goes, when Huey P. Long was governor of Louisiana he brought with him to New York's Roosevelt Hotel the bartender from the New Orleans Roosevelt just so he could have New Orleans gin fizzes whenever he was in New York. Every man a king ...

The magical secrets of this drink are the egg white (for body, texture and froth), orange flower water for its amazing perfume, and to shake the living crap out of it, with plenty of ice, for no less than thirty seconds and preferably one minute, about six times longer than you'd shake any other drink. You really want to emulsify the egg white and get a good frothy head going. During its heyday it's been said that Mr. Ramos had a dozen young barbacks behind the bar who did nothing but shake gin fizzes all day. (I would have dropped dead after the first dozen; making one batch of two fizzes last night made me want to take a nap, and that was even before a single sip.) Also, make sure you use plain seltzer or carbonated water, not club soda, as the latter contains too much salt.

No photo of this one, sorry. After all that shaking it was all I could do to crawl downstairs carrying the two glasses without spilling them, and it would have been far too much of an expenditure of my little remaining energy to get the camera bag. (Okay, that's a lie, I just wanted to start drinking immediately.) It looks something like this, although I didn't garnish with a flower.

Ramos Gin Fizz

2 ounces gin. (We like Plymouth.)
1 ounce half-and-half or light cream.
1 egg white.
1-3 teaspoons powdered sugar (to taste; I like mine on the tart side, with 1 tsp.)
1 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice.
3 small dashes orange flower water.

Shake for one minute as though your very life depended on it.
Strain into a large wine goblet and top with chilled soda.
If you've got a soda siphon, this is the kind of thing it was made for.

Serve these with a brunch and your guests will fall at your feet and declare their everlasting devotion.

Dive in the gumbo.   The Los Angeles Times' Food Section has an excellent article on gumbo today, and its culinary, cultural and spiritual connection back to Louisiana for the thousands of Louisiana Creoles who've made their lives in Los Angeles since the 1940s. I still miss a few of the great old Creole joints that helped keep me from being too homesick when I first moved here -- the now-gone Edouard's in Inglewood, and the late great Jase's Sid Cafe (a.k.a. "Sid's", and R.I.P. Mr. Jase) which was on Exposition Blvd. near USC. Fortunately places like Harold and Belle's are still around, plus newer places like Uncle Darrow's (close enough to work to drive there for lunch ... thank you, Norwood!), and then there's always my own cooking ...

Those gumbo recipes they provide look pretty good. But they ain't as good as mine. :-)

Listen to "Down Home" tomorrow night.   Just a heads-up ... tomorrow night my radio program will feature all Mardi Gras and Carnival-related music, in addition to a special tribute to Allen Toussaint, who just received a lifetime achievement award from the good folks at OffBeat magazine. 7:00 - 9:00pm Pacific time on 88.5 KCSN in Los Angeles, or streaming in both broadband stereo and dialup mono signals on the web at Mawk ya calendas!

It will not stand.   BushCo is really off its nut this time. Even the rabid, frothing right-wing nutjobs like Hannity and M*ch**l S*v*g* are calling him a traitor, after springing upon the American people a deal to have six of our main ports (including New York, New Jersey and New Orleans) run by a company that is owned by the government of Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates, a conglomeration of mini-nations that have ties to terrorism. It is perhaps the largest WTF moment in an administration that's had a long history of WTF moments. Tim Grieve writes in Salon:

It seems like just yesterday -- and, in fact, it was -- that George W. Bush was insisting that the plan to turn over control of six U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World, a company controlled by the government of Dubai, had been subjected to "careful review" by "people responsible in our government."

But just before Bush spoke yesterday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace said they didn't hear about the plan until this weekend. And now the White House is saying that the president didn't learn about the plan until "the last several days" -- which is another way of saying, after his administration had already approved it.

So here's a question: If the "people responsible in our government" aren't the president, the secretary of defense or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who are they? The answer, it seems, is the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is headed by Treasury Secretary John Snow, who used to be the chairman of CSX Rail, which sold its own port operations to Dubai Ports World in 2004. Snow's committee approved the Dubai Ports World deal earlier this month after a brief review. Federal law requires that the committee engage in a 45-day investigation -- and leave the final decision to the president -- when the plans of a company controlled by a foreign government could affect U.S. national security. Snow's committee didn't engage in such an investigation, and administration officials are apparently at a loss to explain why not.

The president is going to have to explain that one away if he has any hope of quelling a rebellion in his own party and shutting down criticism from Democrats. Bush tried to push back with blunt force yesterday, threatening to veto any legislation aimed at stopping the deal. Opponents, unfazed, are saying that they have the votes in Congress to override any such veto. Now the administration is trying another tack, saying that the president didn't know about the plan and that others in his administration should have done a better job of informing Congress along the way.

It's hard to see how a "they-a culpa" is going to be enough here. Members of both parties are calling on the White House to take a longer look at the deal and the national security concerns that may arise out of turning over the nation's ports to a company controlled by a country with ties to international terrorism. And while the White House usually wins such fights by playing the terrorism trump card -- see, warrantless spying, stymieing of investigation into -- that card is in the other hand this time. With Republicans and Democrats both charging the administration with exposing the country to unnecessary risk, the White House is going to have to say more than it should have handled the matter better. It may even have to answer the kinds of questions it is usually allowed to ignore. Among them: Is it just a coincidence that the president's nominee to run the U.S. Maritime Administration is currently a senior executive for Dubai Ports World?

Of course not.

Quote of the day.   From Steve Gilliard:

Think about this: we are so afraid of terrorists, that we have to kidnap people and jail them in secret prisons, keep innocent people in Gitmo, listen to people's calls without wiretaps, and buy bulletproof vests for dogs.

Yet, when the UAE, a country which defines the word shady, wants to run US ports, we're bigots for opposing this? I have no problem with Arabs. I have a problem with people who enable terrorists. Why doesn't President Bush?

Hell, just because 9/11 was planned in Dubai, they couldn't mean us any harm, right? Maybe the North Koreans could run the West Coast ports.

This is the beginning of the end for Bush. Never before has his stupidity been on such open display. Bush and Cheney are so used to getting their way that they think questions are impertinent.

It's been pointed out that even though the company is owned by the Dubai government, it's primarily run by Brits and Americans, and that it smacks more of cronyism than a national security threat. That's undoubtedly true, but having our ports run by a company owned by a government that seems lackadaisical at best in preventing their country from being a base for terrorists itself seems imprudent ... at best.

It's odd, though, that the Republicans who have such a big problem with Dubai-owned companies running our ports have had very little concern with port security in the past ... port security being a major poing in the Kerry campaign.

Quote of the day, part deux.   Steve Nichols, in a comment in response to the sentence "Bush and Cheney are so used to getting their way that they think questions are impertinent" from the above passage:

I suppose that when you shoot an old guy in the face and get him to apologize for it, the possibilities must seem limitless.

Cha-CHING! The money quote of the day.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Getting it.   Clancy DuBos, writing in this week's Gambit:

We can see the first report coming a mile away:

Start with opening shots of Bourbon Street. Frat boys with monstrous-sized "Cat in the Hat" headdresses, sticking their mugs in the camera and screaming "Woo-HOOOO!" and "YEAH!" at the top of their lungs, young women on balconies being egged on by the masses below to show them something. Blue-blooded krewe members throwing beads to the throngs along Canal Street. Then cut to Lower Ninth Ward residents sifting through what was once their homes, eyes moist, faces drawn.

We get it. The agony and the ecstasy of Mardi Gras, post-Katrina. Thanks for the nuance, guys.

If ever there has been a time that New Orleanians have lived with the notion that the rest of the nation -- the world, even -- doesn't quite "get" our city, it has been the past five months. In the national media, we have alternately been portrayed as noble savages, looters, murderers, rapists, yahoos, racists, mourners, beggars, sinners and saints. We don't have our priorities in order. We demand a government handout. We don't know what we're doing.

We have been down this road before. We have lived with a skewed perception of ourselves thanks to national and international media that, for the most part, don't understand the complexities of such a unique American city. And so we wind up having to defend ourselves to our friends, family members and strangers outside the city -- through letters, emails, phone calls and in chat rooms. Five months after Katrina, a frustrated city wonders if the rest of "them" will ever really get "us."

And now comes Mardi Gras, amidst accusations of favoring a "party mode" over a "recovery mode." Our emergency rooms are in a crisis. Our police force is staring down serious manpower and overtime challenges. Our people are still fighting to come home, and to get their lives back in order. Yet we have decided to hold Mardi Gras anyway, because we know all too well what it can do for us both financially and spiritually. In some ways, it was a very difficult decision. In other ways, it was a no-brainer. Canceling Mardi Gras would be like canceling Christmas. Worse, it would be admitting defeat. And now more than ever, this city needs a win.

Read the rest.. [CORRECTION: It's been brought up that the editorial was not in fact written by Clancy, but was unsigned.]

If you think that Mardi Gras is nothing other than a bunch of drunken out-of-town fratboy idiots going "Woo-HOOOO!" and their girlfriends flashing their tits to get beads, then you know nothing about Mardi Gras. It would be nice if the world media would get their heads out of their asses and make an effort to find out what it's really all about.

Neologism of the day.   Coined yesterday, by Wes.

baconhouse (bā'kən-hous')
n. 1. The state of one's domicile during which it is still permeated with the aroma of previously cooked bacon, esp. a highly aromatic and smoked brand such as Nueske's, lingering for two to three days after cooking.

Usage: "Mmm, we still have baconhouse from yesterday's breakfast."

Now, we need y'all to start using it and spreading it around so that we get it in next year's edition of Webster's.

Feed me, Seymour.   Oh my, more stuff to do in New York. Via Audrey, here's a scrumptious list from New York Magazine:

The best (scientifically unsanctioned) ways to celebrate the recent
findings that a low-fat diet ain't all that.

1. Lardo Pizza at Otto: Melting-thin strips of pure pork fat as the ultimate pizza topping.
[Yippeeee! I can't WAIT to have this!!]

2. Fresh (uncured) bacon at Gramercy Tavern: This braised-and-grilled pork belly is all salty, unctuous goodness.

3. Chopped liver mixed with schmaltz (liquid chicken fat) and gribenes (crispy fried chicken skin) at Sammy's Roumanian: For when plain old chopped liver won't do.

4. Red-cooked pork with chestnuts at Grand Sichuan Int'l: Chunky cubes of meat glazed with a rich, syrupy sauce. Ask for them "extra fatty."

5. Fatty duck at Fatty Crab: It's brined, steamed, and cut into meaty hunks, then deep-fried like a batch of doughnuts.

Oh my god. We're going to be drunk and bloated the entire time we're there.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Sunday, Feburary 19, 2006

Carnival bullshit. (They don't get it.)   I was reading this morning's front-page article in the Los Angeles Times entitled "A Melancholy Mardi Gras", and began working on a post in my head when Mary and Poppy beat me to it in email and journal, respectively.

The gist of the article was that Carnival is "weakened by disasted as the city itself", and while nobody expects Mardi Gras this year to be exactly the same as it is every other year, the Times, being outsiders who don't understand the way things worked in our city then as well as now, cannot assume that low parade attendance on the first night of parade season spells doom for Mardi Gras in general. (To be fair, the article did say that crowds "will surely pick up when Carnival begins its final push next weekend," but I don't like this negative tone right out of the gate.

First thought out of my head was that I rarely went to early parades myself when I still lived at home, and with no insult intended toward those krewes, I've never once been to the Shangri-La, Pygmalion or Sparta parades, and I sure as hell would be likely to skip them if it was raining. The early parades are never as well-attended as the later parades and the "big" krewes like Endymion and Bacchus. (That said, it would most certainly behoove you to check out smaller krewes like Tucks, for instance, who always put on a great parade.) Plus, as it was chilly and rainy Saturday night, that will always reduce attendance at early parades. (People tend to be more die-hard about the weather on Mardi Gras Day.) Mary's neighbor Henry also added, with regards to the line about the unopened boxes of throws still left at the end "First of all, most of those guys belong to other krewes, so they will just throw 'em at those parades. Secondly, anyone who has beads leftover--you know what that is? 'Cause they weren't throwing 'em enough! It's their fault!" Heh.

Besides, Krewe du Vieux was gangbusters crowded and fantastic, so there.

Then Poppy weighed in, firmly and authoritatively, about the national and international media coverage and said it all better than I ever could.

If you care about New Orleans and you click on one weblink today, please let it be this one. It's all about the lies people elsewhere are telling about Mardi Gras in New Orleans, how we're just throwing a big drunken party with orgies in the streets, and how callous we are to do this when OMG PEOPLE HAVE DIED.

Not a single one of them gets that we're doing it because people have died. Not to take anything away from those who actually lost their lives or loved ones, but everyone in south Louisiana has died a little, and this is one of our ways of coming back to life. Any purse-mouthed, dry-assed naysayers who cannot or will not understand this are cordially invited to bite a giant, sequined dick.

The pull-quotes from other papers, which don't seem to have come through in the online article (though some are referenced in the body of the story:

Krewe du Vieux parade participants "were greeted with whoops of delight from a crowd, mostly of New Orleans residents, fueled by Hurricane cocktails and marijuana smoked openly in the presence of tolerant New Orleans policemen. -- The Daily Telegraph, London. 2-13

LIES. New Orleanians don't drink Hurricanes (but you just couldn't resist that cliché, could you, Mr. London Telegraph?), and while I'm sure some pot was smoked at KdV, a New Orleans cop will not look the other way if he actually sees you firing one up.

A deep unease has settled over the Big Easy with the approach of the first Mardi Gras since Hurricane Katrina and the disturbing juxtapositions that are certain to result. Floats soon will move down boulevards that just five months ago were under water. Drunken revelers will careen across the same sidewalks where ailing and elderly storm victims dropped dead in the late-summer heat.

Some African-American leaders, whose communities were among the hardest hit when the hurricane destroyed most of New Orleans' predominantly black neighborhoods, fear that Mardi Gras celebrations led by white elites will only deepen racial tensions in this starkly segregated city.
-- The Chicago Tribune, 2-9

LIES. There is no unease in town over the beginning of Mardi Gras other than the fact that fuckingFEMA (that's an official compound word now) is kicking people out of hotels just in time for the festivities to begin. In general, there is an atmosphere of, "Finally! An excuse to forget all the shit and horror and just be happy for a few days!"

LIES. The parades are not rolling along streets that flooded, nor, as far as I am aware, did any ailing and elderly storm victims drop dead on the Uptown route (the only route being used this year, with the exception of Zulu). Most people died in the Lower Ninth Ward, out East, Lakeview, Mid-City, on the I-10 overpass, and around the Superdome and Convention Center (the latter three locations due to local government's and FEMA's inability to provide food, water, or medical care). No parades will be rolling in these locations.

LIES. Mardi Gras is probably being led by "white elites" this year less than ever. Zulu, the traditional African-American parade, is the only one being allowed to keep part of its traditional route rather than having to use the shortened Uptown route as the other New Orleans parades must.

LIES. Some will disagree, but I have never felt that New Orleans was a "starkly segregated city," and I still don't. People of all races live on the same blocks, attend the same churches, go to the same parades, and, most importantly, talk to each other, something I've never experienced to this degree elsewhere. I know you've heard the chocolate city crap, but don't believe its opposite. New Orleans is not now a vanilla city, and it never will be.

[...] Hello, national media, Washington politicians and pundits, Charles Barkley, etc: If you're going to talk about us, all I ask is that you COME SEE US FIRST. It's not like you imagine it is, it's not like you see on TV, and it's most definitely not like you read in these lying-ass rags. You want to talk aout how we "don't need Carnival"? Well, come over here a minute and let me whisper in your ear: I want to talk about how we don't need you to be LYING SACKS OF SHIT.

There are more examples from the national media in her complete entry. Read it all.

Here's more from the link Poppy references:

Louise Maloney, now eagerly preparing for a ride with the Krewe of Muses and a march with the Society of St. Ann, remembers thinking just as instantly how absurd the question seemed.

Carnival, after all, is no mere "party" that can be switched on and off with the stroke of an official pen. It rises organically from thousands of traditions, held sacred by krewes and families and embedded in the boulevards, balconies and backyards of a metropolitan area that more than a million people still call home.

Maloney turned to her husband and told him, "I'll get a red wagon, fill it with beads and walk down the street. I don't give a shit what anybody else does. I'm having my Mardi Gras."

When the parade season launched last weekend, with the bawdy, biting satire of Krewe du Vieux, Maloney wept as she watched the parade move past throngs of locals.

"This is what we do," she thought to herself. "We take tragedy and make it into beauty and hilarity. And we're also showing pride in being New Orleanians and expressing ourselves like never before."

Yeah you rite.

Oh, speaking of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, I've heard that the krewe, for the first time ever, is bringing in 20 actual Zulu natives from Africa. They've talked about this for years, but are finally doing it!

What the ...?!   I swear to God, if anybody had said to me what these Australopithecines apparently said to New Orleanian Dan Frazier on an airplane, I would have ended up getting arrested on arrival for backhanding these idiotic assholes.

This is what BushCo, their sycophants' and the aforementioned national media's lies about New Orleans hath wrought.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, February 18, 2006

Mary's latest article for Frommer's.   Y'know, like a big ditzbrain, I forgot to link Mary's new article on New Orleans for (and she emailed it to me over a week ago ... it's not easy being both God Emperor of Procrastination and Avatar of Absentmindedness). So here it is, read it all but especially the latter half:

There has been much debate lately about tourism in New Orleans. Some point out that airfares are absurdly cheap, and there should be the same kind of push to bring back tourism as there was with regards to New York City post-9/11.Others claim the city should be written off as a destination until 2007.

Here's what I think; if you are looking for a total, relaxing, getaway trip, that's fine; right now, right this minute, New Orleans isn't that place. That's not saying it won't be again in a few months, but for now, book your spa trip elsewhere. But, if you valued New Orleans for the food, for the music, for the spirit, then it remains as New Orleans as ever, and you should go there, now, during this time like no other. The entire stretch of New Orleans best known to tourists sustained little damage visible to the naked eye. I had dinner in Galatoire's just two weeks ago; same full classic Creole menu, same green wallpaper, same most beloved waiter, John, who has been at his post for 35 years, same Uptown crowd dressed to the nines in suits and fancy dresses. Favorite bands are playing again -- you can find Kermit Ruffins, the Wild Magnolias, the New Orleans Jazz Vipers -- in their usual locales several nights a week. Bars are hopping. Restaurants are doing some of their finest work ever, even those with more limited menus than usual. If you wanted, you could have the same New Orleans time you ever did, albeit with perhaps slightly slower service in your hotel and at those restaurants, thanks to staffing shortages all over the city.

And so you can go, and you should go, because this is the way to help now, by stimulating the economy of a city that relies on tourism for its survival, a city that is not just a national treasure, but a world heritage site, a city that for centuries gave for everyone's pleasure, and now needs something given back to it in order to keep on. Go, because John from Galatoire's lost his Chalmette home, and yet he drives hours every night to stand and serve again at his waiter job, and that deserves to be honored.

But if you do go, consider leaving the bubble, and driving and walking the streets of Lakeview, of East New Orleans, of the Lower 9th Ward. Get the oily mud on your shoes, and look at the rubble of these neighborhoods, those once-homes and that row of orderly, dusty suits. Remember that you are looking at a major American city. I don't really understand what we saw when we did this, and I certainly don't claim to know what to do, but I do know there is a great deal to be done, and we must bear witness.

I'm taking a red-eye home next Friday at 1am, arriving around 8, and after my shower the first place I'm going is the Lower Ninth, and my school. I need to see.

Er, no.   John Dvorak, when I've deigned to read him, has been one of my least favorite columnists for a good while now. His latest magnum opus, that Apple might and indeed should drop OS X and "switch" to Windows because Apple hardware now runs on Intel chips, is perhaps his most absurd yet.

Dave Schroeder on Slashdot cogently explains why Dvorak is full of shit. (He's full of shit so often, in fact, that I wonder why people continue to pay him for this kind of drivel.)

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, February 17, 2006

"A pour man's game."   Ugh. There are some puns at which even the likes of me must groan ... fortunately, I can't claim credit for this one -- it's the title of a nice article in weekly Variety about the resurgence of cocktails. It's been done before, as we know, but I never complain about seeing another one; the resurgence must surge further!

The article mentions some familiar names -- Dr. Cocktail (of course), Tony Abou-Ganim, and has a fair number of quotes from our friend Daniel Reichert, proprietor of Vintage Cocktails, a catering company that provides menus of mostly classic and historic cocktails (along with some new ones) for various events. (Nice gig.)

This article, like so many others I've read these days, tends to falter once it gets to the recipes. Their Sazerac is close, but is very, very wimpy when it comes to the Peychaud's Bitters ... one dash? C'mon folks, it's not expensive stuff, and this drink is a showcase for the flavor of Peychaud's. Use at least three, if not four. That drink they call a "Ramos Gin Fizz" ... um, ain't. It's got several ingredients in common, but Henry Ramos' bartenders weren't infusing their Plymouth gin with Meyer lemon peel in 1888 ... and the drink needs cream and lime juice in it, too. What is this, some kind of California "lite" version? Sheesh. It might be a tasty fizz, but it ain't a Ramos.

Fortunately, there's a tasty-looking new creation by Daniel himself, and being fans of its namesake we love the name:

The Desperate Housewife
Created by Daniel Reichert, Vintage Cocktails

1-1/2 ounces light rum (Daniel uses Bacardi).
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice.
3/4 ounce Cointreau.
1/2 ounce fresh pomegranate juice (Daniel uses POM).
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur.

Shake with plenty of ice, strain into a large cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lime wedge.

Perhaps the most exciting thing in the whole article was one little passing mention, and since it's there I guess I can finally comment on it ...

[The Desperate Housewife Cocktail is a] recent invention of Reichert, who doesn't like to make Cosmopolitans. "I find them dull," he says. "This has a little more spine to it, but it's still easy to drink." Reichert will mix these when he opens his first bar in Studio City this summer.

Oh, frabjous day! Calooh! Callay!

Finally, there'll be a local bar for us. A bar where we never have to make sure the bartender puts bitters in a Manhattan, a bar where we never have to wonder if the $10 cocktail we've ordered is going to be any good, a bar where we'll just know every single drink will be excellent. (Dan, ya gonna have a coupla regula bawflies, bra.) We haven't had a single place where we like to go out for cocktails since Cinnabar closed, and even though we love making drinks at home we love going out, too. Daniel's new place will be at least 14 miles from the house, though, so we'll need to find a restaurant we like within walking distance of the bar. Drinks drinks drinks, then dinner, then drive home. Anybody know a good place to eat in Studio City?

NOLA in the news.   Plenty of national news stories about the city today.

Mardi Gras Set for City Stripped of All but Pride

With a purplish dusk settling over the city, a few workers in a hurricane-damaged warehouse daub the final garish touches on an armada of Mardi Gras floats. Any day now, these grotesqueries on wheels will roll through city streets, reminding all who see them to seize the day, for tomorrow we fast.

Across the rutted street from the warehouse, the workers can gaze at the railroad tracks and see an endless stretch of unspoiled white government trailers, sitting on flatcars like a broken string of oversize, colorless Mardi Gras beads. A different kind of grotesquerie on wheels, these trailers will be homes for the fortunate, reminding all who see them that six months after Hurricane Katrina, hard times, not good times, continue to roll in the great city of New Orleans.

The first Mardi Gras parade of 2006 will strut and shout up Napoleon Avenue and then along St. Charles on Saturday, trumpeting a plaintive, post-traumatic theme: "May God Bless New Orleans." This parade, and the more than two dozen to follow over the next 11 days, through Mardi Gras on Feb. 28, will wend through a city stripped of all but its pride in the wind and floodwaters.

The people on the floats will toss beads and plastic coins onto the New Orleans they love, but not quite the New Orleans they remember -- a city where the famous plea of the Mardi Gras spectator, "Throw me something, mister," takes on a newer, more desperate meaning.

Fewer than half of the city's 465,000 residents have returned from the storm-induced diaspora ? but more are coming home every day, and faster than expected. Still, many black residents are absent, suggesting a demographic and cultural shift in the offing for a city that now has more whites than blacks for the first time in decades.

(Actually, the first Mardi Gras parade of 2006 was Krewe du Vieux, last Saturday.)

New Orleans Will Hold Jazzfest This Spring

After financial hardships, dislocations and storm and flood damage to their site, the producers of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival yesterday announced details of the festival's post-Katrina return over two weekends in late April and early May.

Contrary to organizers' initial fears in the months after Hurricane Katrina, the festival, known as Jazzfest, will be barely diminished, offering both big-name acts and even more local musicians.

[...] Before 2005, the festival used almost no national advertising; word-of-mouth was strong enough. But now, to lure visitors back to the state, the festival will have a sizable advertising campaign, thanks to support from the Louisiana Office of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Mr. Davis said the city would have almost double the usual number of hotel rooms available for this year's festival because of a drop in convention business this spring.

Well, it's not good that convention business is down -- we need to get that back up again -- but all y'all potential Jazzfesters should have plenty of places to stay now!

Guidebook publishers revisit New Orleans -- on the Web

When Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath devastated New Orleans in late August and early September, the disaster came just as several major travel guidebook publishers were going to press with their 2006 editions, rendering much of the content instantly obsolete.

[...'s] 2007 guidebook, scheduled for publication this spring, will be posted online in its entirety by mid-March.

Until then, the site relies on pre-Katrina guidebook excerpts supplemented by occasional staff and author reports.

"Nothing is easy any more in the so-called Big Easy, which never really was all that easy to begin with," notes New Orleans native Mary Herczog in a Feb. 14 dispatch, one of five to focus on the post-Katrina city. "It is the same and utterly changed, in high spirits and deeply depressed, moving forward and stuck in late August."

(Hi, Mary!!) Frommer's New Orleans is the definitive guide to the city, and not only because my friend wrote it and my red beans 'n rice recipe is in there. It's the best one, seriously.

Here's Mary in another USA Today article from a few weeks ago:

The city is not only ready, says Mary Herczog, author of Frommer's New Orleans and a part-time resident, this will be an amazing year to be there.

"This is a city that has gone through cataclysm, and its citizens are desperately ready to let off some steam," says Herczog, who expects a cathartic, once-in-a-lifetime experience for locals and visitors alike on this 150th anniversary of the event. "This is going to be a Mardi Gras for the ages."

Yeah you rite, dawlin'. It's been years since I came home for Mardi Gras, but this year I'm there, Morgus costume and all.

Belgian beer fest begins tomorrow!   A truly amazing annual Belgian beer festival takes place annually at Lucky Baldwin's Pub in Old Town Pasadena, and if you're in the L.A. area and you like beer, you're not going to want to miss this.

The pub's owner has special connections in Belgium and gets brews that would otherwise never be seen on these shores. Our friends Gregg and Mike, who turned us on to this fest, say, "If you haven't been to one of these, it's an amazing sight. This year they have 80 different beers on tap over the course of the two-week festival, with at least 50 being online at once." Those two are hardcore -- they're going to be there for about eight hours this weekend, attempting to try every beer ("Kinda like a pub crawl without going anywhere.")

If you're uninitiated in the world of Belgian beer, there's no better place to start. There are many brands, flavors and textures to enjoy, and they offer small taster glasses for $3 -- you can easily sample 6 - 10 beers between two people in an evening. To help you soak up the alcohol, they'll have a special Belgian bar menu for the duration of the festival featuring recipes from one of the bartenders' Belgian mother. Otherwise, they have pretty good British pub grub.

I don't think we'll get through 50 beers, but we'll get through a decent amount. You've got two weeks, so check it out!

The disgrace of Guantánamo.   Dahlia Lithwick in Slate:

It's an immutable rule of journalism that when you unearth three instances of a phenomenon, you've got a story. So, you might think three major reports on Guantanamo Bay, all released within a span of two weeks, might constitute a big story. But somehow they do not.

Guantanamo Bay currently holds over 400 prisoners. The Bush administration has repeatedly described these men as "the worst of the worst." Ten have been formally charged with crimes and will someday face military tribunals. The rest wait to learn what they have done wrong. Two major studies conclude that most of them have done very little wrong. A third says they are being tortured while they wait.

No one disputes that the real criminals at Guantanamo should be brought to justice. But now we have proof that most of the prisoners are guilty only of bad luck and that we are casually destroying their lives. The first report was written by Corine Hegland and published two weeks ago in the National Journal. Hegland scrutinized the court documents of 132 prisoners -- approximately one-quarter of the detainees -- who have filed habeas corpus petitions, as well as the redacted transcripts of the hearings that 314 prisoners have received in appearing before military Combatant Status Review Tribunals -- the preliminary screening process that is supposed to ascertain whether they are "enemy combatants," as the Bush administration claims. Hegland's exhaustive review concludes that most of the detainees are not Afghans and that most were not picked up on the battlefield in Afghanistan. The vast majority were instead captured in Pakistan. Seventy-five of the 132 men are not accused of taking part in hostilities against the United States. The data suggests that maybe 80 percent of these detainees were never al-Qaida members, and many were never even Taliban foot soldiers.

More, including hearing transcripts, from Eric Umansky.

Our government has been fighting against efforts to get these people legal representation, to have actual arraignments and trials with an opportunity to present exculpatory evidence and testimony. No, this government just wants to throw people in jail and keep them there indefinitely, at their pleasure, without due process. Aren't you proud?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, February 16, 2006

(Slightly belated) quote of the day.   From Poppy's journal, February 2, 2006, 11:36pm.

I'm sitting here looking at a catalog from The Vermont Country Store ... [which] lists such appalling products as "Storm Jackets," "His and Hers 25°F Below Boots," and "Secure Steps -- Tested on the International World Cup Bobsled Circuit."

Honestly, folks, where is the personal responsibility? People live in climates that require accessories like these and then expect the rest of us to feel sorry for them when they get cold. They expect the federal government to keep building highways for them despite the fact that these expensive roads are eventually going to crack and buckle under layers of ice, requiring costly repairs that will be funded by our tax dollars. They take for granted their right to U.S. mail, requiring post office employees to risk their lives in sleet, snow, and freezing rain. They insist on having their roads plowed and their homes heated when it would make a lot more sense to just move them all to a warmer climate. I mean, it's not as if they don't know winter storms are going to hit them every single year. Man, I just can't believe the selfishness of those people ... you know ... those people. Oh, boo-hoo, I've got frostbite ... well, move to Louisiana and quit bitching! I wore shorts and flip-flops today, and I was still hot!

Take that. Heh.

BAR!   DeGroff, Pacult and Wondrich ... the natural and perfect faculty for the first truly cocktailian school, "the world's first academy dedicated to teaching the finer points of distilled spirits and mixology, their origins, cultural contexts and gastronomic possibilities at the highest level," offering a 12-week course of intense study.

This is in stark contrast to most so-called "bartending schools", where they "teach" you using colored water instead of actual wines, spirits, liqueurs, etc. During what is typically a 2-week course you basically learn to freepour, and that's about it. Imagine paying top dollar to dine in a restaurant where the chef learned how to cook using plastic food, without tasting anything or learning anything about the history and context of the culinary arts.

Such an academy is sorely needed now, long overdue and very welcome. Of course, it would have to be in New York! Well, Wes and I and our friends can always continue our independent study at our respective home bars. :-)

The Cocktailian.   In the current edition of Gary Regan's fortnightly column, The Professor, our cocktailian bartender, notes that yuzu juice is the voodoo in Ponzu's new cocktail. (Um, good luck finding that yuzu juice, though. I have a tough time even in a Japanese market.)

I got it! I got da thousan' dollahs!   Alas, if I could buy a car from Da Special Man at Frankie and Johnny's, I would. Unfortunately I had to buy it from a car salesman (*scrub*scrub*scrub*), but all unpleasantness aside ... I am now the deliriously happy owner of a 2006 Toyota Prius, with Option Package #3 HF, in Barcelona Red Metallic.

2006 Toyota Prius

It is sweet.

Oh, and the salesman ... he caved. After my third message about his adding on those three accessories without my having ordered them, he finally called back and was snippy and testy about it, insisting in a rather condescending tone that that's the way they come over on the boat from Japan, and that it's on the sticker, and when I told him I felt as if I was being ripped off he replied that that if I didn't like it he'd refund my $1K deposit and sell the car to someone else. I immediately called the Customer Experience Center at Toyota USA and spoke to a representative there who assured me that those three items did not come standard. Furthermore, when I told him the salesman's bullshit story about terrorist watch lists and oh-obviously-you-haven't-bought-a-car-since-9/11, he was flabbergasted. "I really don't know how to respond to that," he said, "except to assure you that I've never heard of such a thing." A report was generated and transmitted to the dealer's customer service liaison ... and I got a call back within an hour.

"Oh, now ... we don't want there to be any bad feelings or bad blood, and we don't want anyone to feel like they're being ripped off." He then magnanimously reduced the price by $300, the cost of the unordered accessories, and said that I could keep them. I didn't want them, I replied; if I had wanted them I'd have ordered them, but he insisted. Boy. Someone must've gotten to him.

Anyway, I don't care anymore. I've got my car, and I love it. I never need to have anything to do with the dealer again, and I'll get my service done in Glendale or Pasadena, closer to home.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Jazzfest schedule is out!   Only by weekend so far (first weekend, second weekend); I'm hoping that they'll break it down by day soon.

Oh hell, here it is:


The Meters, Dave Matthews Band, Bob Dylan, Yolanda Adams, Allen Toussaint with special guest Elvis Costello, Ani DiFranco, Dr. John, Hugh Masekela, Keb' Mo', Yerba Buena, Rebirth Brass Band, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Galactic, Snooks Eaglin, Cowboy Mouth, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Terence Blanchard, Walter "Wolfman" Washington & the Roadmasters, Sonny Landreth, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers, the subdudes, Ritmo Caribeño, John Mooney & Bluesiana, Terrance Simien, Anders Osborne, BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, Charmaine Neville, Banu Gibson & New Orleans Hot Jazz, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews with special guest Steve Turre, St. Joseph the Worker Choir, Dukes of Dixieland, Eddie Bo, John Lee & the Heralds of Christ, C.J. Chenier, The Iguanas, Luther Kent & Trickbag, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Rosie Ledet, Lil' Rascals Brass Band, Lil' Band O' Gold, Greater Antioch Full Gospel Church Choir, D.L. Menard & the Louisiana Aces, James Rivers Movement, Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes, NewBirth Brass Band, James Andrews, Leigh "Little Queenie" Harris, Sunpie & the Louisiana Sunspots, World Leader Pretend, Gregg Stafford's Jazz Hounds, Shades of Praise Choir, Leah Chase, Jhelisa's Tribute to Nina Simone, Melody Clouds, Christian Scott, Crown Seekers, Popular Ladies, Nine Times Men, Westbank Steppers, and the Young Men's Olympians Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, David Egan, Franklin Avenue BC Choir, T-Sale, J. Monque'D Blues Band, Vivaz, Bryan Lee & the Blues Power Band, Panorama Jazz Band, Los Sagitarios, Cynthia Liggins-Thomas, One A-Chord Gospel Singers, Andrew Hall's Society Brass Band, Louisiana Repertory Jazz Band, Jonathan Batiste, Loyola University Jazz Ensemble, Coolbone Brass Band, Hard Head Hunters Mardi Gras Indians, Mahogany Brass Band, Tim Laughlin, Jo "Cool" Davis, Lighthouse Gospel Singers, Voices of Distinction, Young Tuxedo Brass Band, Kim Prevost, Leroy Jones, San Severino of France, Higher Dimensions of Praise, Joe Krown, Furious Five and Untouchables Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, Willis Prudhomme & Zydeco Express, The Revealers, Poor Clares, The Elements, Los Vecinos, SUBR Jazz Ensemble, Jambalaya Cajun Band, Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers, Paulin Brothers Brass Band, Don Vappie, Connie Jones, The Jackson Travelers, Tony Bazley, Providence BC Mass Choir, Val & Love Alive w/ the Dimensions of Faith, Chops Funky 7 Brass Band, Unstoppable Gospel Singers, Belton Richard, Inspirational Gospel Singers, Pinstripe Brass Band, Local International Allstars, The Bester Singers, Gospel Inspirations of Boutte


Fats Domino, Jimmy Buffett, Lionel Richie, Paul Simon, Keith Urban, The Ohio Players, Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, Special Ed & Big Daddy Kane, India "The Princess of Salsa", Irma Thomas, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Doug Kershaw, Little Feat, Koko Taylor, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr. & the Greater St. Stephen Mass Choir, The Radiators, Angelique Kidjo, Pete Fountain, Donald Harrison with special guests George Coleman & Eddie Palmieri, Le Grand Ballet "Ngalam" du Senegal, Yonder Mountain String Band, Buckwheat Zydeco, Deacon John, Nicholas Payton, Chris Owens, The Ladies of New Orleans R&B featuring The Dixie Cups, Wanda Rouzan & Jean Knight, Roland Guerin with special guest Marcus Roberts, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Rockin' Dopsie, Jr. & the Zydeco Twisters, Big Chief Bo Dollis & the Wild Magnolias, Ellis Marsalis with special guest Lew Tabackin, Ivan Neville & Dumpstaphunk, Tremé Brass Band, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & the Golden Eagles, Marcia Ball, George French, Stephanie Jordan, Hot 8 Brass Band, Sherman Washington & the Zion Harmonizers, Frankie Ford, Tab Benoit, Marva Wright & the BMWs, Lars Edegran & the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra, Astral Project, Michael White & the Original Liberty Jazz Band featuring Thais Clark, Amanda Shaw & the Cute Guys, New Orleans Klezmer Allstars, Theresa Andersson, Bob French & the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, Jeremy Davenport, Papa Grows Funk, Wayne Toups & Zydecajun, Lockport Chapter Choir, Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas, Tony Green & Gypsy Jazz, Bruce Daigrepont, The Johnson Extension, Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie, Soul Rebels Brass Band, John Boutté, Thomas "Big Hat" Fields, Rocks of Harmony, Alvin Batiste & the Jazzstronauts, Germaine Bazzle, Watson Memorial Teaching Ministries, Jeremy Lyons & the Deltabilly Boys, Reggie Hall & the Twilighters, New Orleans Spiritualettes, Storyville Stompers, Tornado and Stooges Brass Bands, Scene Boosters, Lady Rollers, Original Men and Ladies Buckjumpers, and Valley of the Silent Men Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, Lil' Brian & the Zydeco Travelers, Savoy Family Cajun Band, Eric Lindell, McDonogh #35 Gospel Choir, Susan Cowsill, Mem Shannon & the Membership, Kim Carson, Easter Rockers, Tyronne Foster & the Arc Singers, La Bande "Feufollet", Zulu Male Ensemble, Jeff & Vida, Zion Trinity, Fredy Omar con su Banda, Driskill Mountain Boys, Bamboula 2000, Otra, Little Freddie King, New Orleans NightCrawlers Brass Band, Chris Clifton, Amina Figarova Band of The Netherlands, Pine Leaf Boys, Michael Ward, Dynamic Smooth Family, Imagination Movers, Lyle Henderson, Leviticus Gospel Singers, NOCCA Jazz Ensemble, Harvey Spirituals, Real Untouchables and Smitty Dee's Brass Bands, Mandeville High School Jazz Ensemble, Pfister Sisters, Second Nazarine Gospel Choir, June Gardner, Golden Wings, Batiste Brothers, Gospel Stars, Highsteppers Brass Band, and more!

Plenty of gospel, which is a relief; we didn't really think there wouldn't be a Gospel Tent, but all those choirs are local and many of the members lived in heavily affected areas of the city. I note with sadness that there's no listing so far for the Crownseekers, but The Johnson Extension are there! Not too many big name acts, but I'm sure they'll keep adding people until the last possible minute.

Oh, and if you're going, order your Friday tickets by today! For a few more hours, tickets for the Friday of each Jazzfest weekend are only $20, with advance purchase price going up to the Sat-Sun price of $30 and $40 if you buy at the gate.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Miiightyyyyy-coo-tee-fi-yoooooo ...   WWOZ DJ George Ingmire has produced a short audio documentary about the black "Mardi Gras" Indians of New Orleans, featuring Big Chief Monk Boudreaux of the Golden Eagles, Big Chief Victor Harris of the Fi Yi Yi and Big Chief Alfred Doucette. Listen to the documentary here..

Take that job and shove it.   I don't have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, so I can't log in to find the actual article, but Wes read this quote attribution this morning:

The Journal says five candidates have been offered FEMA's directorship with each declining it "amid concerns the agency as currently organized isn't equipped to do its job."

Gee, they just can't give that job away, can they? Maybe I should take it. By their standards I'm eminently qualified -- I've worked as a grocery clerk, a dental assistant, a movie theatre usher and an animation cel painter. Oh no, wait ... I'm not a Republican, a big Republican donor or friend thereof. Damn.

Nothing in Google News as yet. If you come across anything new, please post it in the comments.

Holy crap.   Things get somewhat more serious today, with more and more people wondering if Dick Cheney was drunk when he shot a man in the face with a 28 gauge shotgun. Harry Whittington, the 78-year-old Republican attorney who caught the vice-president's load of birdshot in his face and chest, is now reported to have a heart attack after at least one piece of birdshot has lodged in his heart.

George Gongora, a photographer with the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, is an avid skeet shooter and quail hunter and has been for many years. In this demonstration of the effects of a birdshot round from a 28 gauge shotgun at 90 feet, he shows that Mr. Whittington probably has approximately two hundred birdshot BBs lodged in his face and upper body.

It seems almost an automatic, knee-jerk reaction for the White House and Vice-President's office to lie and cover things up, to decide that the public doesn't need to know things, and to stonewall the release of relevant news. It prompts the question ... why the stonewalling? What don't the want us to know? If they're stonewalling this, what else don't they want us to know?

Oh, and what did Cheney do after he shot a man in the face? The victim was rushed to Christus Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi and admitted to the intensive care unit. Meanwhile, Cheney and the rest of the hunting party went back to the ranch, sat down and had dinner. Do you think that maybe he might have gone to the hospital to be with and check on the man he had just shot in the face with two hundred pieces of birdshot, like you or any other decent human being would have done?

This is your Vice-President.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, February 13, 2006

C'est Levee!   Jonno has posted a great set of photos from the Krewe du Vieux parade on Saturday.

Some good friends of mine are in that Krewe, and I'd have loved to see the parade, but alas, I missed it by a couple of weeks. (I'll be home on the 24th.)

Dead-Eye Dick.   So, do we now need another specialized division of the Secret Service to protect other Americans from the President and Vice-President?

What amuses me no end is that there was at least an 18-hour delay for the news to reach the American people that our Vice-President had shot someone ...

The more than 18-hour delay in news emerging that the Vice President of the United States had shot a man, sending him to an intensive care unit with his wounds, grew even more curious late Sunday. E&P has learned that the official confirmation of the shooting came about only after a local reporter in Corpus Christi, Texas, received a tip from the owner of the property where the shooting occured and called Vice President Cheney's office for confirmation.

The confirmation was made but there was no indication whether the Vice President's office, the White House, or anyone else intended to announce the shooting if the reporter, Jaime Powell of the Corpus Christ Caller-Times, had not received word from the ranch owner.

Scotty McClellan's press conference was pretty priceless too. I'm looking forward to the entire transcript to be released, but here's a tantalizing tidbit:

DAVID GREGORY, NBC: It's not really a hindsight issue here. I mean, the vice president made a decision about how the public should be notified that basically is at odds with standard practice of how the president's own press operation in this White House notifies the public. Isn't that right?

MCCLELLAN: Again, this was handled by the vice president's office. The vice president thought that Mrs. Armstrong should be the first one to give that information out. Since she was an eyewitness--

GREGORY: The vice president of the United States shoots a man, and he feels that it's appropriate for a ranch owner who witnessed this to tell a local Corpus Christi newspaper, not the White House press corps at large or notify the public in a national way.

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think we all know that once it is made public, then it's going to be news, and all of you are going to be seeking that information. The vice president's office was ready to provide additional information to reporters. There was no traveling White House press corps with the vice president, as there is with the president in a situation like this, so there are some different circumstances. And the other circumstance was here that someone was injured and needed medical care. And the vice president's team was making sure he was getting taken care of, and that he got to the hospital and received additional treatment.

Um ... "The vice president thought that Mrs. Armstrong should be the first one to give that information out. Since she was an eyewitness"? Gee ... as Mary said, this recalls an exchange from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

Mr Prosser said: "You were quite entitled to make any suggestions or protests at the appropriate time you know."

"Appropriate time?" hooted Arthur. "Appropriate time? The first I knew about it was when a workman arrived at my home yesterday. I asked him if he'd come to clean the windows and he said no he?d come to demolish the house. He didn't tell me straight away of course. Oh no. First he wiped a couple of windows and charged me a fiver. Then he told me."

"But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months."

"Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anybody or anything."

"But the plans were on display ?"

"On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."

"That's the display department."

"With a torch," Arthur continued.

"Ah. The lights had probably gone."

"So had the stairs."

"Well you found the notice, didn't you?"

"Yes. Yes I did. I found it at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet, in a dis-used lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the leopard.'"

Anyway, I digress ... apparently the press conference got better ...

Why was the White House relying on a Texas rancher to get the word of Cheney's hunting accident out over the weekend, asked Gregory, accusing McClellan of "ducking and weaving."

"David, hold on... the cameras aren't on right now," McClellan replied. "You can do this later."

"Don't accuse me of trying to pose to the cameras," the newsman said, his voice rising somewhat. "Don't be a jerk to me personally when I'm asking you a serious question."

"You don't have to yell," McClellan said.

"I will yell," said Gregory, pointing a finger at McCellan at his dais. "If you want to use that podium to try to take shots at me personally, which I don't appreciate, then I will raise my voice, because that's wrong."

"Calm down, Dave, calm down," said McClellan, remaining calm throughout the exchange.

"I'll calm down when I feel like calming down," Greogry said. "You answer the question."

"I have answered the question," said McClellan, who had maintained that the vice president's office was in charge of getting the information out and worked with the ranch owner to do that. "I'm sorry you're getting all riled up about."

"I am riled up," Gregory said, "because you're not answering the question."

Wow. Here's video via Crooks and Liars.

As soon as we heard the news, some of my friends and I began to wonder and speculate amongst ourselves how long it would take for the White House or the NRA to blame the victim. While we haven't yet heard statements from either of those, we did hear this from the ranch's owner:

"[Property owner] Armstrong said she was watching from a car while Cheney, Whittington [the shooting victim] and another hunter go tout of the vehicle to shoot at a covey of quail.

Whittington shot a bird adn went to look for it in the tall grass, while Cheney and the third hunter walked to another spot and discovered a second covey.

Whittington "came up from behind the vice president and the other hunter and didn't signal them or indicate to them or announce himself," Armstrong said.

"The vice president didn't see him," she continued. "The covey flushed and the vice president picked out a bird and was following it and shot. And by god, Harry was in the line of fire and got peppered pretty good."

Yeah, well. Then there's this, from an experienced hunter (emphasis mine):

One of the first things my dad taught me was how to move around in the woods or in a field to maximize my safety. Aside from the blaze orange requirements today for visual safety, you stay behind the person with the gun, you keep your muzzle pointed away from people and dogs who are your companion animals (and reports are that they were using dogs to flush out the birds, so guns would have been pointed skyward to minimize potential accidents for the dogs), and you never, never, NEVER squeeze off a round without first ascertaining the entire visual in front of where you will be shooting, within the designated path of your particular firearm (different guns have different ranges and shot patterns, depending on caliber and load) -- in other words, look very carefully before you ever pull the trigger.

That Mr. Whittington was in the line of sight for Dick Cheney is regrettable. But no matter whether Whittington walked into the line of sight or whether Cheney turned to shoot at quail and placed Whittington within his line (which is a more likely hunting scenario, given that you generally try to walk up on a hunting party from behind if at all possible if you are at all experienced, to minimize possible accidents), it is the hunter's responsibility at all times to be secure in what he is seeing before he ever pulls the trigger. Period.

And no amount of trying to spin this to a press corps who has never fired a shotgun takes away from the fact that the shooter always has the obligation to ensure safety before pulling the trigger. ALWAYS.

Not doing so as a kid would have gotten me a serious butt whipping and worse. My dad was very, very serious about it, having known idiots who went out in the woods and caused just this sort of accident. You never, ever shoot without looking very carefully first. Cardinal rule of gun safety number one.

So the man who's a heartbeat away from having his fingers on America's nuclear trigger can't even remember the cardinal rule of gun safety while hunting? Gee, I feel safer already.

[...] And call me crazy, but a blast from a 28-gauge shotgun that puts you in the ICU isn't something that's just a surface scrape or anything. It hurts like hell. And no amount of calling it a "spray" or "being peppered" or whatever takes away from the fact that: this man was shot, at close range, by the Vice President of the United States, who then told no one in the American public -- and no one else did either, including the local police -- for 22 hours. [...]

Something is weird about this. I can't put my finger on what it is, and I'm awaiting a read of whatever police report gets released, but the whole narrative is odd. And reeks of covering for something.

And ...

Shotgun injuries are some of the worst cases I have taken care of, due to the spread-shot nature of the wounds. If the victim got "peppered" in the neck, there are waaaayyyy too many important structures in that small space (oh, like maybe one of the internal or external carotid arteries) for this to be a "no big deal" situation. If any of the pellets nicks a blood vessel, it may travel as far as it can go -- I took care of a kid shot in the chest and some pellets eneded up in his ankle, blocking the bloodflow, leading to an amputation. In this situation, add to that the victim's age and potential underlying medical problems -- this is huge.

These days, God Almighty doesn't get to stay in the ICU unless it is absolutely imperative that He do so.

This stinks worse than a gangrenous leg...

I'll bet it's going to smell a lot worse before we hear the end of this ...

The Index.   A small sampling from the January 2006 Harper's Index:

Percentage of Americans who said in November that the Valerie Plame leak scandal was of "great importance": 51

Percentage who said, two months before President Nixon resigned, that Watergate was "very serious": 49

Percentage who said it was "just politics": 42

Years since a White House official as senior as I. Lewis Libby had been indicted while in office: 130

Years after resigning that the official, Orville Babcock, drowned while trying to build a lighthouse: 9

Percentage approval rating of Bill Clinton the day after impeachment and George W. Bush in November, respectively: 73, 37

Percentage of Russians today who approve of the direction their country took under Stalin: 37

Numbers are fascinating.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, February 10, 2006

White House knew of levee failure on the night of the storm.   Let's hear that Chimp quote again.

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

From today's New York Times:

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bush administration officials said they had been caught by surprise when they were told on Tuesday, Aug. 30, that a levee had broken, allowing floodwaters to engulf New Orleans.

But Congressional investigators have now learned that an eyewitness account of the flooding from a federal emergency official reached the Homeland Security Department's headquarters starting at 9:27 p.m. the day before, and the White House itself at midnight.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency official, Marty Bahamonde, first heard of a major levee breach Monday morning. By late Monday afternoon, Mr. Bahamonde had hitched a ride on a Coast Guard helicopter over the breach at the 17th Street Canal to confirm the extensive flooding. He then telephoned his report to FEMA headquarters in Washington, which notified the Homeland Security Department.

"FYI from FEMA," said an e-mail message from the agency's public affairs staff describing the helicopter flight, sent Monday night at 9:27 to the chief of staff of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and recently unearthed by investigators. Conditions, the message said, "are far more serious than media reports are currently reflecting. Finding extensive flooding and more stranded people than they had thought -- also a number of fires."

Michael D. Brown, who was the director of FEMA until he resigned under pressure on Sept. 12, said in a telephone interview Thursday that he personally notified the White House of this news that night, though he declined to identify the official he spoke to.

White House officials have confirmed to Congressional investigators that the report of the levee break arrived there at midnight, and Trent Duffy, the White House spokesman, acknowledged as much in an interview this week, though he said it was surrounded with conflicting reports.

But the alert did not seem to register. Even the next morning, President Bush, on vacation in Texas, was feeling relieved that New Orleans had "dodged the bullet," he later recalled. Mr. Chertoff, similarly confident, flew Tuesday to Atlanta for a briefing on avian flu. With power out from the high winds and movement limited, even news reporters in New Orleans remained unaware of the full extent of the levee breaches until Tuesday.

The federal government let out a sigh of relief when in fact it should have been sounding an "all hands on deck" alarm, the investigators have found.

According to the Times-Picayune, it was in fact a total of "28 federal, state and local agencies -- including the White House -- [who] reported levee failures on Aug. 29, according to a timeline of e-mails, situation updates and weather reports."

Here is an excellent compilation of the key documents, including emails, situation updates and weather reports, collected by Congressional investigators.

(*deep breath*) One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten ... (*walk around block*)

Do not return any of these people or their party to office.

Speaking of "Brownie" ...   Is he gonna sing?

It's not blackmail, exactly, but former FEMA Director Michael Brown sure seems to be putting the screws to the White House that praised him, then dumped him, for his role in the Hurricane Katrina fiasco.

As Congress complains about White House stonewalling on Katrina, Brown's lawyer has written a letter to White House counsel Harriet Miers in which he says this his client is prepared to go public with "all facts" about the federal government's response to the hurricane unless he receives "specific direction otherwise from the president, including an assurance the president will provide a legal defense to Mr. Brown if he refuses to testify as to these matters."

Brown is set to testify before the Senate Friday, and his lawyer tells the Associated Press that he's stuck "between a rock and a hard place" -- the rock being the administration's desire to keep Katrina matters secret, the hard place being Congress' authority to conduct oversight and learn the truth.

"Mr. Brown is going to testify before Congress," says attorney Andrew Lester. "If he receives no guidance to the contrary, we'll do as any citizen should do -- and that is to answer all questions fully, completely and accurately."

Lester's letter asked the White House for a response by Wednesday afternoon. So far, he says, he hasn't gotten one.

The question is, is he blowing the whistle, or just covering his own ass? It's highly likely that it's the latter, as I don't believe this man has any true integrity or propensity to do the right thing.

The phrase that really gets me is, "the rock being the administration's desire to keep Katrina matters secret". There is absolutely no fucking good reason on God's green Earth for the administration to keep anything secret with regards to Katrina, except, of course, to cover up their own indifference, culpability and neglect.

Abramoff says Bush is lying.   Quelle surprise.

Jack Abramoff said in correspondence made public on Thursday that President Bush met him "almost a dozen" times, disputing White House claims Bush did not know the former lobbyist at the center of a corruption scandal.

[...] Bush has said he never had a discussion with Abramoff and does not remember having his picture taken with him.

The White House has said Abramoff attended three Hanukkah receptions at the White House.

Eisler said he had seen five photographs of Abramoff with Bush, none taken at Hanukkah parties.

Quotes of the day:

"Having my picture taken with someone doesn't mean that I'm a friend with them or know them very well."
-- George W. Bush, January 26, 2006.

-- Jack Abramoff, in an email to Kim Eisler, national editor of Washingtonian magazine.

A MeFi poster opined that if unlawful wiretapping, starting a war on several false pretenses, mismanaging the federal budget (and so much more), dismantling FEMA "to the point of utter haplessness", subsequently presiding over the destruction of a major American city and then turning his back on them and their entire region, this "won't make a dent." Another countered that "[d]espite murders, organized crime, kidnapping, and illegal bootlegging, Al Capone was brought down on tax-evasion." Perhaps the cumulative effect of his high crimes and misdemeanors (and a new Congress that isn't his rubber stamp) will finally do what needs to be done.

DblDbl 98 Meat Pty XChz.   What, you ask, is that cryptic headline? It's what your receipt says when you go to In-N-Out Burger (the best hamburger chain in California by far, except for their disappointing fries) and order a 100x100.

See, for y'all unfortunates that don't have In-N-Out where you live, their classic burger is the Double Double -- two beef patties, double cheese, onions, lettuce, tomato and special sauce (it's Thousand Island, and I always get the ketchup-instead option). In-N-Out burgers are infinitely customizeable, however, and those in the know regularly order from the chain's "secret menu" (so secret, in fact, that it's right there on their website. (Here's a slightly more illustrative one.)

You can get a 3x3, three patties and three slices of cheese; a 4x4, four patties and four slices of cheese, etc. A few years back I found a site where one fairly disgusting 18-year-old kid (who was, unsurprisingly, already morbidly obese) bought and consumed a 20x20 -- twenty hamburger patties and twenty oozing slices of melted cheese, with the accoutrements on a hapless bun -- and consumed the entire thing himself, documented by some truly revolting photographs.

He's been outdone, but fortunately not by a solo outing. Andy and his friends were drunk in Vegas (no!), and thought it would be a really great idea to go to In-N-Out and order a 100x100. Gut-wrenching, artery-clogging hilarity ensues.

Here are a couple of interesting stats to summarize the experience:

  • Total calories (extrapolating from info provided here): 19490 calories
  • Total eaters: 8 (2 girls and one guy who already ate dinner and only ate 6 patties)
  • Most patties eaten by one person: I think I ate about 20. I think Nalin ate about 20 as well (including the raw ones)
  • Time to finish: less then 2 hours
  • Number of people who barfed: 1 (way to go Elena!)

"Ugh," said Nettie. "Please let me NEVER get behind someone in the drive-thru line who's ordering the 100x100, or for that matter the 20x20." Not to mention the bathroom line.

There are, of course photographs. Dig in.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, February 9, 2006

Warrantless wiretapping saved L.A.? Um, not so fast.   The President today claimed that his administration had thwarted an al Qaeda plot to hijack planes using shoe bombs and fly them into the Library Tower (which he called the "Liberty Tower", sheesh) in downtown Los Angeles, according to a newly and very conveniently declassified report.

Given that his administration is under increasing fire from Republicans (at least the non rubber-stamp ones) and Democrats alike, it isn't coincidental at all that this was announced today. Not at all. In any case, this alleged plot was allegedly foiled in "early 2002", but I seem to recall having to take off my shoes for inspection upon boarding planes ever since the Richard Reid attempted shoebombing incident in December 2001. That wouldn't make it a very smart plot, would it? Furthermore, via Atrios, some members of the White House Press Corps pointed out this morning that while you might be able to blow up a plane with a shoe bomb, it doesn't seem to make a whole hell of a lot of sense to try to hijack a plane with one:

Q: Scott, I wanted to just ask a follow-up about the LA plot. Is there something missing from this story, a practical application, a few facts? Because if you want to commandeer a plane and fly it into a tower, if you used shoe bombs, wouldn't you blow off the cockpit? Or is there something missing from this story?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what you're referring to about missing. I mean, I think we provided you a detailed briefing earlier today about the plot. And Fran Townsend, our Homeland Security Advisor, talked about it. So I'm not sure what you're suggesting it.

Q: Think about it, if you're wearing shoe bombs, you either blow off your feet or you blow off the front of the airplane.

MR. McCLELLAN: There was a briefing for you earlier today. I think that's one way to look at it. There are a lot of ways to look at it, and she explained it earlier today, Alexis, so I would refer you very much back to what she said, what she said earlier today.

Thank you, Scotty, as always, for that ... cogent response.

Furthermore, if a 9/11-style airplane/building bombing had been a serious threat, you'd think they might have told, say, the Mayor of Los Angeles at some point:

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Thursday he was blindsided by President Bush's announcement of new details on a purported 2002 hijacking plot aimed at a downtown skyscraper, and described communication with the White House as "nonexistent."

"I'm amazed that the president would make this (announcement) on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels," the mayor said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I don't expect a call from the president -- but somebody."

Well, Antonio wasn't mayor then, but did anyone tell Jim Hahn?

Also, according to an item in AmericaBlog, there are questions as to whether these plot-foiling claims contradict earlier claims:

TODAY BUSH SAID: Bush Touted Thwarting of Post 9/11 U.S. Terrorism Plot. In a speech today, Bush told members of the National Guard Association of a foiled 2002 Al Qaeda plot to fly a plane into LA's US Bank Tower, the tallest building on the West Coast. Bush said that the terrorist's plan was put into place after 9/11 but "was derailed in early 2002, when a Southeast Asian nation arrested a key al Qaeda operative." Bush added, "Subsequent debriefings and other intelligence operations made clear the intended target and how al Qaeda hoped to execute" the plot, and helped other allies capture the ringleaders."
-- Washington Post, 2/9/06

BUT IN 2004: FBI Counterterrorism Official Said He Knew of No Thwarted Al Qaeda Attacks. After a CIA official claimed last year that the government had "probably prevented a few aviation attacks against both the East and West Coasts" since 9/11, John Pistole, the FBI's counterterrorism director, said he was "not sure what [the CIA] was referring to."
-- 9/11 Commission Testimony, 6/16/2004; New York Daily News, 6/17/04

Alex at Martini Republic: "The timing of this revelation is pretty obvious -- it is somehow intended to ramp up the fear of terrorist attacks (including 4 year old plots which never got off the ground, so to speak) and prop up support for his domestic surveillience program. The Fear Tightrope was a handy tool in 2004, using terrorist warnings and press briefings to repeatedly imply that we'd all die if Bush weren't reelected. [...] Except, as we've noted, this plot had nothing to do with domestic surveillience. Any communications took place overseas, between al Qaeda and an Indonesian terrorist organization, Jemaah Islamiah. And how was the plot uncovered? 'Their plot was derailed in early 2002, when a Southeast Asian nation arrested a key al Qaeda operative,' Bush said. Nothing to do with wiretapping US citizens without warrants. Maybe nothing to do with wiretaps at all, for all we know. All this left [Washington Post columnist Dan] Froomkin shaking his head."

Why is the White House suddenly offering all these details, even though they are unrelated to the central issue preoccupying official Washington, namely whether Bush's secret surveillance plan is illegal?

Could it just be an attempt to change the subject?

"That and make everyone really, really scared, so maybe they wouldn't notice how thick the crap is flowing from the White House." What Alex said.

Yet more from Martini Republic: "Would have been nice for the Administration to brief the locals on terror threats to town past and potentially present, ya think?

"But the way this administration lies and lies and lies, who can tell whether the whole tale was something Rove made up yesterday?"

There just seems to be ... an overwhelming odor of fish around all this today.

UPDATE: (Once more from Martini Republic) "[The] Bush Administration did not speak to City directly, but relied on California Homeland Security Chief Matt Bettenhausen as go-between, who claims to have notified a Deputy Mayor yesterday. Feel safer yet?"

I swear ...   I really wish that one day I could buy a car without having to actually speak to a fucking car salesman. (*scrub*scrub*scrub*)

Right off the bat, the bastard tries to add $300 worth of "accessories" that I didn't order to the final price of my new car, and that's not the half of it. Then, even though I've got my own financing, they're badgering me to fill out a credit/loan application "just so that we can pull your credit report" (which I already gave them permission to do), so that they can check via my credit reports that not only am I creditworthy but also not a terrorist, because they can't sell a car if I'm a terrorist or if I'm on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN list) of he Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), 'cause if they do business with me and I am, they could be fined up to ten million dollars!

"WTF?!" says I. "I just want to buy a car, and come here and give you money for it."

"Obviously," says he, "you haven't tried to buy a car since 9/11."

I ended up having to practically get sworn statements from three people in the dealership that they wouldn't actually submit that as a separate loan application, and had to order them multiple times not to do so. (I'm only buying them because they're the only dealer I could find that would 1) order the car I wanted, and 2) charge only the MSRP and not a hideous $5-6K markup). Are these people as full of shit as I think they are?

After this I hope I don't have to buy another new car for at least 10 years, but by that time I want to be able to buy a car without having to see, speak to or touch a human car salesman. Blleechhhh.

Speaking of crooks ...   Your Republican congressional leadership at work.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert engineered a backroom legislative maneuver to protect pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits, say witnesses to the pre-Christmas power play.

The language was tucked into a Defense Department appropriations bill at the last minute without the approval of members of a House-Senate conference committee, say several witnesses, including a top Republican staff member.

The bill had already been voted on, and no one who voted on the bill saw or voted on this provision. Incidentally, Bill Frist has received over a quarter of a million dollars in campaign contributions from ... wait for it ... the pharmaceutical industry! (What a coinkydink.)

More from AmericaBlog: "One more VERY odd thing, the staff director of the Senate Appropriations Committee is talking on the record about this, which is very strange since he's a Republican, his boss is a Republican, and he's pointing the finger at Republicans. He's naming names, including the names of several Republican Senators. It sounds like GOP Senator Cochran, the actual chairman of the Senate approps committee, was left out of the process, they went around him, so Keith, his chief of staff for the committee, is now speaking publicly. Wow."

Keith Kennedy, who works for Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., as staff director for the Senate Appropriations Committee, said at a seminar for reporters last month that the language was inserted by Frist and Hastert, R-Ill., after the conference committee ended its work.

"There should be no dispute. That was an absolute travesty," Kennedy said at a videotaped Washington, D.C., forum sponsored by the Center on Congress at Indiana University.

"It was added after the conference had concluded. It was added at the specific direction of the speaker of the House and the majority leader of the Senate. The conferees did not vote on it. It's a true travesty of the process."

After the conference committee broke up, a meeting was called in Hastert's office, Kennedy said. Also at the meeting, according to a congressional staffer, were Frist, Stevens and House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

"They (committee staff members) were given the language and then it was put in the document," Kennedy said.

John adds, "The Republicans control the Senate, the House, the White House and the Supreme Court. If you don't like what you're seeing, vote for a change in November."

Music game answers.   Guessing kinda fizzled out a few days ago, so the answers are revealed below. 17 of the 25 lyrics were guessed correctly, which works out to a 68%. Not bad, considering how obscure some of them were. Still, I'm bummed nobody got #8! Are there no other Colorblind James fans out there?!

If interest is waning, I might do one more, or none. We'll see what I feel like in a few weeks. Perhaps it was meant to be yet another blogospheric meme to float away into the wind.

McDonald's fries.   No wonder they taste so good.

McDonald's French fries contain one-third more trans fats than previously thought after the company used a new method to test for the harmful ingredient still widely used in many foods.

The disclosure comes as food companies are implementing new US government rules in force since last month requiring all packaged food labels to specify the level of trans fats in food products.

McDonald's said that after using a new method to test the level of trans fats in its fries in December, the level of trans fats in a portion of large fries was 8 grammes, up from 6 grammes previously displayed on its website and printed on nutritional literature.

US dietary guidelines call for consumers to keep their intake of trans as close to zero as possible. Trans fats have been shown to raise levels of harmful cholesterol, contributing to heart disease.

It's not as if I actually eat their food ... well, except for the fries, which anyone must admit are damned good. They'd better not feck with them, that's all I gotta say. Diana said, "You can take the trans fat out of McDonald's fries when you pry it from my cold, hard arteries." Mary added, "Julia Child herself proclaimed McDonald's fries the ne plus ultra. SO THERE." 'Nuff said.

Mmmmm, 50-year-old chicken!   Boy, y'know, there's nothing that quite says "Yummy!" like a canned chicken that's been in your cupboard since 1956. (Via Dave ... thanks!)

It was part of a food basket given to Mancunian Les Lailey and his wife Beryl as a wedding gift, and he decided to eat it to celebrate their fifty years together. (Beryl, to her credit, wanted nothing to do with it.) Be sure to watch the video link entitled "Meet the man who scoffed a 50-year-old tin of chicken"; Dave noted that it feels very much as if it were scripted by Christopher Guest. Make sure you've got the Doblys turned on.)

Cartoon of the day.   This week's edition of Tom Tomorrow's "This Modern World", in which Sparky and Republican Guy discuss whether the "innocent" have anything to worry about.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, February 8, 2006

The devastation tours.   The Los Angeles Times, always good at keeping New Orleans on the front page frequently, yesterday ran an article about the "Devastation Bus Tours" that were controversial in New Orleans when first proposed. Some didn't want to turn destroyed neighborhoods into mere tourist attractions, but as it turns out, locals ride the bus, "saying it traverses a sadness that must be seen and shared."

Cocktail of the day.   My turn last night, and a long-overdue visit to a true classic.

This cocktail goes as far back as the first-ever bartender's guide/cocktail recipe book, Professor Jerry Thomas' The Bon-Vivant's Companion, or How to Mix Drinks, first published in 1862. It's been called the drink that gave birth to the modern Martini, although it bears little resemblance these days; perhaps an ancestor would be a better description. Thing is, nobody after Thomas seemed to agree on a recipe.

Thomas called for twice the amount of sweet vermouth as gin (which I'll try next), others called for twice the amount of gin. Patrick Gavin Duffy, in his seminal bar guide, called for dry vermouth instead of sweet, and whoever made that initial substitution in a Martinez pushed the drink on its way to being a Martini. I opted for a cross between two versions I found at, balancing the gin and the vermouth, which I wobbled by using a powerful vermouth -- Carpano Antica Formula, my favorite sweet vermouth (full of herbs, spices and bitter notes).

I'll reproduce Professor Thomas' version as well, and we'll do that one tonight.

The Martinez Cocktail

1-1/4 ounces gin.
1-1/4 ounces sweet vermouth.
1 dash Angostura bitters.
2 dashes maraschino liqueur.

Stir with ice for no less than 30 seconds; strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a cherry.

Now, the original version from 1862. A "pony" is one ounce, and we're interpreting the amount "a wineglass" to be two ounces.

The Martinez Cocktail
(Professor Jerry Thomas' version, and the first published one)

(Use small bar-glass.)
Take 1 dash of Boker's bitters.
2 dashes of Maraschino.
1 pony of Old Tom gin.
1 wine-glass of sweet Vermouth.
2 small lumps of ice.

Shake up thoroughly, and strain into a large cocktail glass.
Put a quarter of a slice of lemon in the glass, and serve.
If the guest prefers it very sweet, add two dashes of gum syrup.

We'll probably try this with the good old standby, Martini & Rossi. Boker's Bitters was a stomachic bitters which didn't survive the 19th Century, and seemed to be Professor Thomas' favorite. (Here's a scan of an old advertisement for Boker's Bitters from the New York Weekly Tribune, April 30, 1879.) Obviously you can't get it anymore, but you can make a quite reasonable facsimile with this recipe, a modern interpretation by Dr. Cocktail. Old Tom gin was a sweeter gin, and if you wish to approximate that add a couple dashes of simple syrup ("gum syrup" was simple syrup with gum arabic added).

I like Martinis, but we shouldn't forget the Martinez, a great drink in its own right, and a nearly-forgotten cocktail that deserves recognition.

Fiat lux.   (That's "Let there be light," for all y'all who didn't have Latin in high school, which would include me.) It is astonishing that five months after Katrina, 66% of the structures in New Orleans still have no electricity, here in the Twenty-First Century. (We're living in the future now, kids of the Sixties and Seventies, but not only do we not have our personal jet packs, we also can't even restore electricity to a major American city five months after a natural disaster.) Some New Orleanians have begun to take matters into their own hands.

Tired of waiting in the dark for the lights to come back on, Walter Vine took matters into his own hands: He unscrewed his electrical meter and rigged it to bring power into his flood-damaged home.

Vine, a building contractor, broke the law and risked serious injury or death. But like so many others in this hurricane-ravaged city, he figured it was the only way to avoid the red tape and hair-pulling frustration so many have faced in trying to get their electricity restored.

"People cannot possibly do this by the book and stay in the city," said Vine, who lives a block from one of the city's former mayors in the upper-middle-class Broadmoor neighborhood.

Five months after Katrina plunged New Orleans into darkness, roughly 124,000 homes and businesses - or more than 66 percent of the city's structures - still have no electricity, according to the utility, Entergy New Orleans.

The really frustrating part is that since December, power has been restored to 90 percent of the electrical grid - and the street lights are back on in many neighborhoods - yet only one-third of homeowners can draw juice into their homes.

That is largely because the city requires a permit before the utility can reconnect a meter at any home whose wiring was damaged by flooding. Getting that permit from one of the city's few electrical inspectors has been a bureaucratic nightmare involving phone calls, waiting in line at city offices and waiting some more at home.

[...] The Associated Press interviewed six people who restored power to their homes on their own. Two of them showed the AP how it is done.

"It's better than sitting in the dark," said Jeff Bennett, 40, who broke a small lock on his Entergy electric meter, unscrewed the glass bubble and popped off two pieces of plastic that locked the current out of the house. It was that simple.

Whatever it takes.

Mmmmm, sausages.   GreggO forwarded this piece from Daily Candy L.A.:

Why not just eat something healthy that actually tastes good? Something like, say, blueberry chicken sausage? The newfangled invention is made by Kayem Foods (the Chelsea sausage company started by Polish ?migr? Kazimierz Monkiewicz as a pushcart operation in 1909), and for any breakfast-loving calorie watcher, it?s nothing short of a boon.

The all-natural links ring in at a mere 60 calories each and are full of smoky ground chicken breast, wild blueberries, and a hint of pure Vermont maple syrup. They?re a little sweet, a little salty, quite juicy, and still savory enough to qualify as meaty.

Sure, they sound odd, but they taste delicious.

That sounds really good. And at only 3 WeightWatchers points for 2 sausages, I can eat it without splurging.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Quote of the day.   Via Atrios.

"We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there [standing ovation]... but Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war billions more but no more for the poor."

-- Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery, at the Coretta Scott King funeral, in front of 4 presidents (George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter).


Emeril's Delmonico.   Thanks to Chris Rose's article hack job, there were people in New Orleans immediately calling for boycotts of Emeril's restaurants, even for him to be removed from local guidebooks. (Jesus Christ people, it was the New York Post ... it may as well have been the National Enquirer). To all of them I say that I can't wait to eat at Emeril's or NOLA or Emeril's Delmonico again, particularly the latter. Here's why.

Saturday, August 6, 2005. Life as we knew it in New Orleans was happy, and would continue to be so for another twenty-three days. I went with some good friends to Delmonico, and we had one of the best meals we'd had in ages, during one of the best trips home ever. (Click on the small pics for full-sized images.)

We were greeted by one of the managers who, upon hearing that one of our party was a travel writers, quipped, "Okay, so which one o' y'all 'r we s'posed to suck up to?" Heh. While they did send out a couple of nice desserts without our ordering, I think that at Delmonico they pretty much suck up to everybody. We got that distinct impression upon receiving our amuse bouche, which they called a "Corn Dog" ... spicy veal sausage dipped in cornmeal batter, fried and served with rémoulade sauce. Gone in one bite, and absolutely delicious. We also got amuse-sized portions of one of their regular appetizers, Kataifi-Fried Louisiana Oyster with American Caviar and Leek Pearl Stew. Kataifi is shredded phyllo dough, which made for a perfect, unusual and delightful coating for da ersta; the "pearls" were tapioca, and the creamy leek broth was scented with Herbsaint. Oh my.

Then we saw these go by, on their way to another table ...

We! Must! Have! Those! Buttermilk Onion Rings, one of the side dishes availalbe à la carte. They were without a doubt the best onion rings I'd ever had; to quote my old college friend George Campos (hi, George!), "They were an intensely religious experience." (And George was only talking about the buttermilk onion rings at Popeye's. He would have ascended into Heaven after tasting these.)

Onward ... to our actual appetizers. I didn't get to photograph everyone's; Keith and Andre were way across the table, and Nettie would likely stab me with her fork if I made her wait so I could get a picture (love ya, mean it!), but I did get a couple for posterity:

That was Mary's Tomatoes "Three Ways" -- raw heirloom, with crème fraîche, dried with basil and balsamic syrup, and fried with rémoulade sauce and burrata mozzarella.

I'm struggling to remember the exact menu description, but it was a Country-style Creole Pâté with marinated onions and house-made Creole mustard. This was great, and I'm glad everyone was willing to help me with it (so selfless, they were).

My salad was Spinach and Arugula with Grilled Peach, Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and a Huckleberry Vinaigrette. And, of course, the Caesar Salad, with plenty of anchovy in the dressing, was prepared and served tableside.

Then came entrée time. I was trying to behave myself, and by choosing what looked like the healthiest dish on the menu, I also ended up with one of the best, and one more typical of a fine ristorante in Italy than a classic Creole:

This was a Whole Roasted Bronzino, a mild and delicately-flavored Mediterranean fish that's begun to pop up all over now and takes on other flavors very well, served with Fennel, Olives, Warm Pea Shoots, Green Tomato Chutney and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Amazingly, wonderfully good, no sauce necessary, bursting with flavors. It was a pleasure to be served something this flavorful without having to worry about cream and butter and Hollandaise squeezing me out of my trousers this trip.

Management relieved us of our agonizing decision over what dessert to order by having our waiters show up with this:

Fresh out of the oven, still warm and gooey, these were ... well, the best chocolate chip cookies I'd ever had. They came accompanied with pint-sized old-fashioned glass milk bottles from a local dairy (Mauthe's, I think, but I may be wrong) filled with, of course, ice-cold milk. "Milk and Cookies", we were informed, was the dessert of the evening. But wait, there's more!

Classic Crêpes Suzette, prepared tableside and flambée, served atop Pecan Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream. A perfect way to end a perfect meal, with spectacular service, and then we were carted off by the wait staff in Emerilware-branded wheelbarrows. (Okay, I made that last part up.)

We chatted for a while with Shane Prichett, the chef de cuisine, immediately shifting into foodiespeak, and found out that he was One Of Us ... i.e., a pork fanatic. We began putting our heads together, and concocted a plan to reconvene at Delmonico in a few months' time for a special meal that Chef Shane would prepare for our table all-pork extravaganza in several courses. It was tremendously exciting, and we were already so looking forward to it already by the time we got to our cars. Then on August 29, there was a massive change of plans ... for the entire city.

We'll all be back during Jazzfest, and well in advance of those dates we'll call Chef Shane and see if he's still up for it. Until then ... if you have a chance to patronize any of Emeril's restaurants, do so. He deserves your support. I feel sullied for even having posted a link to that Chris Rose article yesterday, despite my skepticism. (I still think Chef oughta retire from TV and stay at the restaurants, though, where we need him.)

Aide pour la Nouvelle-Orléans.   If BushCo won't come through with the federal aid necessary to help rebuild the city, then perhaps the city should look elsewhere.

Shortcomings in aid from the U.S. government are making New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin look to other nations for help in rebuilding his hurricane-damaged city.

Nagin, who has hosted a steady stream of foreign dignitaries since Hurricane Katrina hit in late August, says he may seek international assistance because U.S. aid has not been sufficient to get the city back on its feet.

[...] Jordan's King Abdullah also visited New Orleans on Friday and Nagin said he would encourage foreign interests to help redevelop some of the areas hardest hit by the storm.

"France can take Tremé. The king of Jordan can take the Lower Ninth Ward," he said, referring to two of the city's neighborhoods.

The Bush administration has pledged billions of dollars to Katrina victims but five months after the storm, New Orleans remains largely in ruins.

Nagin said his message to President George W. Bush would be that the federal government needs to refocus on the devastated area.

"We need your undivided attention over the next six months," he said. "We need backup. We need for you to make the words that you spoke in Jackson Square a reality."

Nagin was referring to the president's September 15 address to the nation from New Orleans, in which he pledged "we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes" to rebuild.

French Transport Minister Dominique Perben, leading the French delegation to a city that was founded by France in 1718, said, "This catastrophe has deeply upset the French people and the French government."

France, Perben said through a translator, "wants to be a long-term partner for Louisiana and New Orleans."

Sounds good to me. Whatever it takes.

Vive la France! Vive la vie! VIVE L'AMOUR!! (*kissleftcheek*kissrightcheek*)

Letters, they get letters, they get stacks and stacks of letters ...   They, in this case, being New Orleans alternative paper Gambit Weekly (or, as it's referred to locally, "da Gambit"). The author, in this case, being Poppy Z. Brite, New Orleanian writer of mighty fine novels, short stories, essays and whatnot. Here's the letter (scroll down), with Poppy's own introduction from her journal, which sums up how a lot of my New Orleans friends and I feel about the subject:

Here is the letter to the editor I had published in this week's Gambit. I wrote it in response to an insufferable letter in last week's issue (scroll down to "Farewell, New Orleans" by David L. Bowser):

In Internet jargon, there is a phenomenon known as "flouncing." The flouncer is never content to simply leave a message board or discussion forum he finds disagreeable; he must conspicuously announce that he is leaving, detail the inadequacies of the other posters, bemoan the cruel treatment he has received, and, likely as not, sneak back to check the reactions to his flounce. Usually these reactions boil down to "Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out."

The people who find it necessary to write the local papers announcing their departure from New Orleans because it has become an inconvenient place to live or is otherwise unable to meet their needs, as far as I'm concerned, are flouncers. I understand that the post-K city is a difficult place to be in many ways, and I don't begrudge your leaving if you feel you must, but please, spare us the smarmy platitudes about how you hope to return someday, presumably after the rest of us have cleaned it up and made it "fun" again. If you leave now, I don't think most people committed to New Orleans' renewal care whether you return or not. We'll get along fine without you, just as we've survived for hundreds of years without the "help" of pinheads who wanted to tell us what was wrong with our city without ever looking at what was right.

Flouncers: don't let the door hit your ass on the way out. And that goes double if you quote Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Poppy Z. Brite

I was kind of pleased that they used "If you leave now, I don't think most people committed to New Orleans' renewal care whether you return or not" as a pull quote at the top of the letters column. There's another letter in this week's column that makes even worse fun of the Jonathan Livingston Seagull crap ("Bad Metaphor" by Adam Farrington). People are piling on this poor hippie schmuck, but come on; if you want to leave, just leave. If you absolutely must whine to the world about how you're leaving, don't expect to garner sympathy by quoting the tritest phrase from one of the tritest bestsellers of the '70s. [Edit: I'm informed that David L. Bowser is not a hippie, but a former bicycle cop. My apologies to hippies. I guess I just assumed that anyone moved to quote Richard Bach in 2006 would surely reek of patchouli.]

Diana took the words right out of my mouth (or off the tips of my fingers, as it were) in email this morning: "Poppy rocks."

Ain't dere no more: L.A. edition.   I stumbled across a fun little page called Great Los Angeles Restaurants That Ain't There No More, although I think it's sometimes a stretch of the word "great". Perhaps the nostalgia elevates them in one's mind, but I'm sure they're sorely missed.

I've been living in Los Angeles sine 1982, but I seem to have only made it to a few of these over the years ... Ship's, of course (love makin' my own toast at the table), Kelbo's (my friend Lou used to have a cat named Kelbo) and good ol' Woody's Smorgasburger. I also remember a place called New York George that we used to go to all the time, plus the legendary 24-hour coffeeshop/restaurant Nancy's in Westchester, just inside the border with Inglewood (I used to live right across the street when I first moved here). I'm sure I could think of more ... chime in, L.A. denizens.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, February 6, 2006

The grapefruit bitters experiment begins.   I'd been keen on the idea of trying to make grapefruit bitters for a while, but seeing a recipe in the Times' article on bitters a couple of weeks ago inspired me to give it a whirl.

The recipe was based on grapefruit peel and the bitter white pith, with only coriander as a background flavor, steeped in Everclear. I tried to think of some other complementary flavors as I prepared the ingredients, and consulted the handy-dandy flavor compatibility chart in Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page's excellent book Culinary Artistry. That chart, dozens of pages long, is absolutely indispensible in my kitchen (and apparently in the kitchens of many professional chefs as well), listing compatible flavor match combinations between myriad ingredients.

On my lunch hour last Friday I headed out to The Wine House, my favorite spirits-purchasing stop within a decently short drive from work. In the spirits section I ran into one of the staffers, who's seen me buying liquor there all the time, and he asked me if he could help me find something. "I'm looking for the dreaded Everclear," I said. He almost-successfully held back his expression of distaste (yeah bra, the guy you've seen in here buying 15-year-old George T. Stagg Bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Marolo Chamomile Grappa and both varieties of Chartreuse is going to go back to his dorm room and make Purple Jesuses, right). "We don't carry it," he replied, politely but curtly. A moment later I noticed a bottle of Wray and Nephew White Overproof Rum.

Hmm. Almost the same proof as Everclear (151, in California, as apparently 190 proof Everclear isn't legal here; according to this label scan W&NOP used to be a 151), yet with something that Everclear lacks ... flavor. In fact, my recollection of the grapefruit entry in the flavor compatibility chart listed rum as one of the flavors with which it's particularly compatible. Might be more of an interesting flavor base, mightn't it? Let's give it a whirl, I thought, and at $17 not too expensive of an experiment.

I wanted at least one more background flavor element, so in went about an inch of fresh ginger, peeled and julienned. My grapefruilts were large, and the amount of spirit called for in the original recipe didn't even cover all the ingredients, so I just added all the rest of the rum. Hell, if it turns out to be good I'll give some away.

Grapefruit bitters experiment

Studying the flavor charts a bit more ... I'm tempted to throw in a couple tablespoons of cashews too, maybe mid-week. Once the caramelized sugar goes in and I give it a semi-final taste, I might bring the proof down a little ... we'll see. In any case, I'll probably post my final/current version recipe early next week.

Oh, and if any of you are trying the Times' grapefruit bitters experiment, either following their recipe or futzing around with it like I am, please post a comment and let me know!

Stay in the kitchen.   Oh dear. (I hadn't heard about this until the weekend.) Chris Rose in the Times-Picayune finds himself outraged at something Chef Emeril was allegedly quoted as having said to a gossip columnist in the New York Post:

Joining the fray of the Crescent City's latest parlor game, "WHAT WERE THEY THINKING WHEN THEY SAID THAT?," Emeril Lagasse tossed his two cents into the pot yesterday in The New York Post.

Gossip columnist Cindy Adams quotes Emeril as saying, in regards to what's happening in New Orleans:

"Nothing. The mayor's a clunk. The governor is also a clunk. They don't know their (nether sections) from a hole in the ground. All my three restaurants got hit. I've reopened Emeril's, but only a few locals come. There's no tourists. No visitors. No spenders. No money. No future. No people. It's lost. It'll never come back."


[Emeril's official statement:] "The [New York Post] article is not an accurate representation of the way I feel about New Orleans. I completely support the city, which is the reason I have based both my family and my business operations here for over 20 years. I did, however, express my concerns about the leadership in our city and the state. I have absolutely not lost hope in our city, I just sometimes lose patience, as I feel that things should be moving forward much faster than they are at this time. I did not say that the city or the people will never come back. I am committed to this city, and I have no doubt that New Orleans will be back, and that it will be better than ever. I am also extremely grateful to all of our local customers -- it is because of them that we are able to operate in this unbelievably difficult time. I believe that we are all in this together, and we need to work together to encourage each other, not discourage the positive growth in our city. I will continue to support this great city in the rebuilding effort in any way I can."

First off ... this is the New York Post, people. It doesn't have to be true for them to print it. Then again, they do claim it's a quote, and I don't think Chef is denying he said it, but that it's not what he meant. Sigh.

I've heard many different things about Emeril since the flood, and I've done my best to give him the benefit of the doubt. Some good friends of mine have good friends who work for Emeril, and their initial reports (when Brett Anderson in the T-P was still crowing "Where is Emeril?") were that he had been really good to his employees, writing them each a personal check for $1500 to help them get by while the restaurants were closed. Then I read somewhere else that everyone in his New Orleans restaurnats had been laid off (something which the Brennans very pointedly did not do). Then I heard that only some were laid off and others moved around to his other restaurants around the country. Nobody in the local media can seem to get their stories straight, and that the only thing they demonstrate is their desire to cut him down.

Whatever the case is, if Emeril really said that, then he needs to apologize to locals for saying our city is dead, and everyone needs to move on. He needs to get Delmonico open soon ('cause it's a great restaurant), help the locals realize that he still has something to offer the city, has been doing so for 20 years and still will in the future. (Locals who feel insulted need to remember that everyone's stressed, that they liked his places before, and they just get over it and start eating at his restaurants again and, as Dave pointed out, turn the other cheek when slapped, no matter how inadvertently they were slapped.) Rose does make a good point -- if Emeril is complaining that he doesn't have many customers, then why is every other restaurant in town packed, with 90-minute waits for a table not uncommon?

He also needs to stop talking to gossip columnists, stay off of TV and start cooking again. I've had some of the best meals of my life in his restaurants and hope to have more, but I swear ... I don't ever need to see another goddamn episode of "Emeril Live" again. I'd love nothing more than to see him in his restaurants every night, giving his personal care and supervision to the food and to his New Orleans customers, who should be coming first right now. Besides, they probably have more than enough episodes of "Emeril Live" to rerun every day for the rest of our lives.

Do what you do best, Chef. Cook. They'll come back, and the city will too.

UPDATE: Michael rips Rose's column to shreds in the comments, reposted herewith:

Chris Rose's article is a hack job. A few corrections:

1. According to Emeril on local radio, this "quote" was actually the gossip columnist of the tabloid paraphrasing something she overheard him telling to others. He admits he said some bad things about the government and was frustrated about the slow pace of recovery, but denies he every said that the city had no future. He denied this in his written letter to T-P as well. Also note that this "quote" came at a Katrina benefit in Miami, one of dozens that he's attended.

2. He absolutely positively did not lay off all of his employees. They (meaning his company) made an effort to find everybody, they gave everybody (busboys and dishwashers along with waiters and management) very generous financial aid, offered everyone jobs at his restaurants in other towns, and told everyone they have a job when the restaurants come back. Many of the people at NOLA and Emeril's now were there before the storm, and if anyone wants to know what they think about Emeril, they should go in and talk to his staff. The people I know would jump in front of a truck for him.

3. Regarding why his restaurants are empty while everything else is packed...that's bullshit. I have many friends at NOLA, and though they haven't been nearly at pre-K levels they've been steady since they opened. They did lose some reservations last Friday night after this story broke, but Saturday was their busiest night yet, partly because a lot of locals who knew the story was shit came in to support him. That same night, we walked in at Cafe Adelaide at 7:30 PM and were one of four tables in the whole place.

4. Delmonico is still closed for major repairs / renovation. The big problem was that they dry-age their own beef in a room upstairs. This all putrified, and the liquid leaked all through the floors, ceiling, walls, etc. It basically is being rebuilt, and that takes awhile.

5. Regarding Emeril being in the kitchen, that's exactly where he's been almost every night since Emeril's re-opened on Dec. 8.

I don't know why he and his organization haven't been more upfront about this. On the radio he basically said that people are going to talk and there's nothing you can do about it, so he's trying to stay above it. His main complaint was that he considered Chris Rose a friend, and he was pissed that Chris didn't pick up the phone and ask him about all this before writing the article. Sounds like he could have a pretty good libel case if he pursued it.

If you want to read more, check out the long thread on Tom Fitzmorris' bulletin board. You can basically start on page 3, which is where his employees started writing in.

Thanks for posting that. I'm really glad to hear all this, and glad that it's about as much bullshit as everything else that comes out of the Post. I was loath to quote more of the Rose article, as it seemed so over the top. (Man, if Rose is running all this based on something a gossip columnist only thought she overheard, then building a smear campaign on it, he's screwed.) What you've described having heard from locals who actually work for him bears little to no resemblance to what keeps cropping up in local media, which makes me wonder what they've got against him.

I'm also glad to hear he's back in the kitchen full time, and I hope this means that the Food Network stuff is over for the foreseeable future.

Last time I dined at Delmonico was on August 6, 2005 -- about three weeks before Katrina. It was fabulous. (I'll post pictures soon.) We'd also struck a deal with Chef Shane for him to cook us a special all-pork menu next time we were all in town together, and I really hope we can still pull it off.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, February 3, 2006

Life in New Orleans.   This email was forwarded to me from Mary, and before that from her sister Deb; I don't know how many forwards came before that. I don't know the author, Karin Giger, and I hope she doesn't mind my posting this. I think it deserves to be read by as wide an audience as possible. Someone should forward it to every politician they know, and to the White House.

A fair bit of this I already knew from family and friends in the city, but you may not be aware of some things, like nearly nonexistend 911 service, slow police response, and a shocking dearth of hospital beds. Katrina hit over five months ago, and this is the State of the City. As Mary put it, "This is the sort of thing that people should be marching on D.C. about, POUNDING on doors, demanding aid. This is a major American city? Do the Libertarians really think life is better if we just have private fire and police departments? Are they willing to go and live in New Orleans this way? We need to talk levee repair, yes, but this sort of thing SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED."

January 30, 2006

Dear friends,

Many of you email or call, wanting to know what it's like living in New Orleans these days. Sometimes I muster a few paragraphs and comments, but the situation here is so overwhelming, that I usually just shy away from responding with any depth. Today, five months after the hurricane hit and the levees broke, I'll try to update you.

Big picture in New Orleans: 3 out of 4 people lost everything ... house, contents, probably a car, possibly a job. Imagine what that is like. If you were a family of four, and three of you lost your homes and all your worldly possessions, it would be a mammoth blow. It also puts a great strain on the one person left standing. That is our city now. Three fourths of the residents have been displaced. We had 470,000 people on August 29, and five months later, we have around 110,000. About three fourths of the city is uninhabitable. There are miles and miles and miles of houses, shops, fire stations, schools, hospitals, playgrounds ... gray, smelly, moldy, destroyed. There are mounds of debris -- soggy couches, sheet rock, bicycles, clothes, appliances, mattresses -- piled up and strewn about in all of those desolate neighborhoods. Some of those areas are in poor parts of town, some are in elegant Lakefront areas. The bulk are in working class and middle class neighborhoods -- the places where people paid taxes and had lived for several generations.

Loss is the overarching fact of life here. Katrina was a huge storm, and vast parts of the region suffered terrible wind and rain damage. But the breaches in the Army Corps of Engineers-built levees are what did the real damage to 75% of the city. The critical distinction in how individuals fared in the storm is whether they had flood, or just wind, damage. Those of us who live on high ground -- along the naturally high ridges of land where the city was originally developed in the 1700's and 1800's -- only had wind damage from the hurricane. We live in what's called "the sliver by the river", and we are the lucky. For us personally, we have about $55,000 worth of wind damage, and are making some headway in getting the broken windows and missing roof tiles and caved in ceilings fixed. In fact, we should be almost back to where we were pre-K by Mardi Gras, February 28.

Daily life in our little bubble of normalcy is not too bad much of the time. Many grocery stores are now open, though lines are long and supplies are somewhat scarce. Traffic is astoundingly clogged. The city is crawling with thousands of pickup trucks filled with Mexican workers and ladders. Fewer than half of the stop lights are working, so there are stop signs resting on street corners everywhere. Traffic accidents are common, but you better hope you don't get hurt. There are just 120 hospital beds in the entire city! Only one full service hospital, one children's hospital, and a makeshift emergency room in a tent downtown. The hospital where Larry and our children were born, and where all our doctors were, flooded 14 feet and cannot be salvaged. It will be imploded this spring, and hopefully a new hospital will be built in its stead someday.

The 911 emergency service is severely compromised; the police and fire departments are understaffed. Our neighbor had a kitchen fire and 911 never answered. We now have a cell phone number posted in the kitchen for the nearest temporary fire station should we ever need it. In addition to inadequate essential services like police, fire, medical care, garbage pickup, telephone service, street lights in inhabited neighborhoods, even mail service (we now get mail delivered five days a week, but no magazines or newspapers. There are still not enough mail carriers to support the few neighborhoods that are getting home delivery -- in other parts of town, people have to go to a regional post office station to pick up their mail), the most critical problem is the lack of housing.

Very few of the flooded houses have been repaired enough to live in yet. Some folks are able to live on the second floors of their homes, above the gutted-to-the-studs first floors. So thousands of people are still living out of town, or bunking with relatives or friends ... five months later. (My friend Hortencia has been living with her husband and 16-year-old daughter in a married daughter's small house, staying in one bedroom that the rest of the family has to walk through to use the bathroom, since October, with no hope of moving in the foreseeable future. Like thousands of others, she is awaiting a FEMA trailer.) Apartments are scarce, with long waiting lists. Since only 25% of the city stayed dry, and much of that still has wind damage, the housing shortage is extreme.

FEMA trailers are beyond scarce. It is disgraceful. Fewer than 10% of the needed FEMA trailers are operational. Some people have room in their driveways or yards to park the trailers and want to live in them while they rebuild their decimated homes. Others are looking to live in FEMA trailer clusters of several hundred so they can return to the city. One reason the city cannot get functioning is that there are no places for people to live. There are not enough workers to staff gas stations or grocery stores, restaurants or dry cleaners, doctors' offices, and on and on and on.

So. Daily life for those 25% of New Orleanians blessed enough not to have flooded, is far from normal. We do not put on blinders and hide in our bubble. There is too much pain all around. The sadness is palpable. Much like during the Depression, the movie theaters are jammed (despite long lines with the shortage of ticket takers or popcorn sellers) and lots of people have taken up jogging and yoga and any other physical diversion they can manage.

And for the 75% still displaced, still homeless, still wondering when and how they can ever return home ... I cannot even imagine. When they visit their old neighborhoods and see the ruins, it must seem a hopeless future indeed. For all New Orleanians, spells of weepiness at unexpected times are common; the slightest remark or sight or smell can trigger a wave of despondency. And no one will wonder why you are crying; we all have our moments.

Enough of the gloomy. What of the future? Why do we live amidst this despair and desolation? For us there was no question of moving. Larry has a business here with 42 employees, so he can provide jobs, and health insurance and stability for a group. His business is solid, and he is a lifelong local who has always been an advocate for the city. And me, I'm alongside Larry. I cook comforting foods and there are friends around the kitchen table several nights a week. We have folks staying with us often, and I am repairing our house. I thought I was easing on into a lazy life in Pass Christian, but Katrina changed that. So, I am a civic activist again. Some days I weed and plant in the botanical gardens of our suffering City Park. Lately, I've been training as a volunteer lobbyist and will spend much of Feb 6-18 in Baton Rouge, lobbying our state legislature to pass levee board and levee district consolidation.

This has been a fascinating side effect of the storm -- citizen involvement in government reform. Our grassroots levee reform group got 54,000 signatures on petitions statewide and the issue is agenda item #1 in this special session of the legislature. "United we stand, divided we flood." There is another group of young women I play tennis with who have started the Katrina Krewe. Every Wednesday and Saturday mornings, they gather volunteers (240 of them last Saturday) on a different street and collect and bag debris. This is not candy wrapper and beer can litter, this is heavy duty storm debris -- roof shingles, hubcaps, tarps, boots, paint cans, sheet metal, whatever. The city sends a garbage truck and street cleaning machine out behind them and it's astounding what a sensational job these folks are doing cleaning up the city. Concerned citizens are engaged across the city. Those of us who are here are the hard core committed.

There are so many opportunities in this crisis to change our community for the better. For us to build decent low income housing, to overhaul our miserable public education system, to consolidate our assessors and dock boards, our criminal and civil courts, to reform our notoriously corrupt government. And the great thing is that people truly are involved. We have a mayoral and city council election April 22nd, and issues of reform, race, and rebuilding are the hot topics.

Our son James is in southern California, where he will get his master's in sports management next month and then look for work out there. Our younger boy Brittin jumped into storm recovery work just weeks after Katrina. He spent six weeks doing debris removal on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and for the past few months has been supervising a crew of 30 men rebuilding the largest employer in Plaquemines Parish, the Daybreak fish processing plant. His clothes smell remarkably bad, but he's out the door at 6 every morning, making money and accomplishing work that needs to be done.

I hope this hasn't seemed too discouraging or too down. We are truly among the blessed and know it. But it's somehow important to let you know that life is not normal, even for those of us who whose homes were relatively unscathed. Our community is torn apart and our neighbors are in pain. We probably all wish we could wake up to discover this was all an incredibly bad dream, and that we can have our pre-Katrina lives back. Despite all the anguish, though, we do have remarkable opportunities to remake our city, especially its school system and governance.

I'll write again in a few weeks to try to justify why we are having Mardi Gras. It was a tough sell to me, but I'm now agreeing that we need to celebrate our uniqueness, and since it's going to happen anyway, we may as well be on board. But I also hope I'll be able to report on a wonderful project some friends and I are working on in a new charter school -- horticulture, nutrition, science.

Again, this is clearly not a situation anyone would have wished for, but it is what it is. So we put one foot in front of the other. As Winston Churchill said, "When you're going through hell, keep going."

Love to you all .. and keep New Orleans in your thoughts, and in front of your congressmen's thoughts too.

Karin Giger

Thank you, Karin. Now ... copy, paste and start forwarding.

The new House majority leader.   Via Steve M, this was posted at the weblog of the National Jewish Democratic Council, entitled "Ten Things Every American Jew Should Know About John Boehner". I'd scratch out the word "Jew" from that title (and yes NJDC, I know you're speaking to your specific demographic) because every American should know this, period.

1. For School Prayer and Amending the Constitution: Rep. Boehner supported a school prayer amendment to the United States Constitution in 1997 (H.J.Res. 78), 1999 (H.J.Res 66), and 2001 (H.J.Res. 52); voted to permit school prayer "during this time of struggle against the forces of international terrorism" (House Roll Call Vote 445, Nov. 15, 2001); and voted to only allow federal aid to schools that allow prayer (House Roll Call Vote 85, March 23, 1994).

2. For Forced Religion in Anti-Poverty Programs: Rep. Boehner voted to permit taxpayer-funded anti-poverty programs to require aid recipients to join in religious activities. (House Roll Call Votes 16 and 17, Feb. 4, 2004)

3. 100% Against a Woman's Right to Choose: Rep. Boehner received a "0%" pro-choice score from NARAL Pro-Choice America in 2005.

4. For Religious Employment Discrimination: Rep. Boehner voted to permit taxpayer-funded anti-poverty programs to engage in federally-funded employment discrimination. (House Roll Call Votes 15 and 17, Feb. 4, 2004)

5. Against the Rule of Law in Ten Commandments Case: Rep. Boehner voted to prevent the Justice Department from enforcing a court order to remove a 5,000 pound Ten Commandments monument from Alabama's state supreme court. (House Roll Call Vote 419, July 23, 2003)

6. Against Common-Sense Environmental Safeguards: Rep. Boehner voted for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (House Roll Call Vote 122, April 20, 2005); voted to gut the Endangered Species Act (House Roll Call Vote 506, September 29, 2005); and voted to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act (House Roll Call Vote 242, June 15, 2004).

7. For More Religious Employment Discrimination: Rep. Boehner voted to permit taxpayer-funded job training programs to engage in religious discrimination when hiring and firing employees with federal funds. (House Roll Call Vote 46, March 2, 2005)

8. Against Confronting Proselytizing at the Air Force Academy: Rep. Boehner voted against an amendment to squarely address religious coercion and proselytizing at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. The amendment criticized "coercive and abusive religious proselytizing" of cadets at the Academy while observing that "expression of personal religious faith is welcome" throughout the military. (House Roll Call Vote 283, June 20, 2005)

9. Led the Effort to Inject Religious Employment Discrimination into Head Start: Rep. Boehner added a controversial amendment in September to a previously bipartisan School Readiness Act which would "allow federally funded early-child-care providers to discriminate on religious grounds," according to The Forward. The Forward notes, "The federal government transfers about $6.7 billion annually to 19,000 Head Start providers in 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia." Jewish groups opposed to the measure, according to The Forward, include the "Anti-Defamation League, the Union for Reform Judaism, the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee and the National Council of Jewish Women."

10. Pushed Ohio Schools to Embrace "Intelligent Design:" People For the American Way reports that Rep. Boehner and fellow Ohio Republican Rep. Steve Chabot wrote to the Ohio school board claiming that legislative language required that references to "Intelligent Design" be included in Ohio's science standards. In fact, such language was removed from the relevant education bill before it became final.

Lest we forget, this is the guy who once passed out checks from big tobacco on the floor of the House. When he walks into the House gym, everybody swivels their heads and says, "Good lord, would you look at the size of that guy's taint!

As one of NJDC's later entries said, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

The Cindy Sheehan arrest.   Undoubtedly you've read about it ... anti-war activist Sheehan was invited to the SOTU by a member of the House and was removed, arrested and held for over four hours simply for wearing a t-shirt that said, "2,244 Dead. How Many More?". Around the same time, the wife of a Republican congressman was removed (but not arrested or held) for wearing a t-shirt saying "Support Our Troops". There are, of course, major First Amendment issues at play here.

Several excellent points were made by Glenn Greenwald, beginning with why the arrest was disgraceful:

I disagree with lots of things which Cindy Sheehan says but if the circumstances of her arrest last night at the State of the Union speech are anything like what she describes them as being (h/t Lis Riba), then her arrest is completely disgraceful.

I tend to believe her account because most of the facts she recites don't seem to be in dispute, and the accounts in the major news organizations, which apparently interviewed the law enforcement agencies involved in the arrest, are reporting much the same thing. In essence, Sheehan sat in her seat, took her jacket off, and was wearing a t-shirt which read: "2245 Dead. How many more?" As soon as she took her jacket off, she was pulled out of her seat, arrested, and taken out of the hall.

This is nothing more than a naked attempt to stifle dissent and to create a criticism-free bubble around George Bush. Presidents routinely use all sorts of propagandistic imagery at the State of the Union to decorate their speeches with an aura of regal patriotism. We always see weeping widows and military heroes and symbolic guests of all sorts who are used as props and visuals to bolster the President's message both emotionally and psychologically. The State of the Union speech is hardly free of visual messages and propaganda of that sort; quite the contrary.

But we apparently now have a country where the only ideas allowed to be expressed in our Nation's Capitol while the President is speaking are ones which glorify the Government and its Leader and where dissenting views are prohibited and will subject someone to arrest. Message cleansing of that sort belongs at a political rally in North Korea, not in Washington, DC.

This, sadly, terrifyingly, is nothing new, from a president who made people sign loyalty oaths to attend his campaign rallies, and whose stooges refused entry to said rallies to Americans who happened to have a peace symbol bumpersticker on their cars.

He goes on to point out that "self-correcting blogosphere" doesn't seem to be able to self-correct terribly well over on the right:

Before the Capitol Police acknowledged yesterday that there was no legal basis for removing, let alone arresting, Cindy Sheehan -- to the contrary, they admitted that they "screwed up" because "Sheehan didn't violate any rules or laws" -- numerous Bush followers in the blogosphere were celebrating Sheehan's detention on the ground that she broke the law. Many of them were calling for all sorts of punishments to be imposed on Rep. Lynn Woolsey, who invited Sheehan to the speech and therefore aided and abetted her "illegal" behavior.

As we now know (and as should have been at least instinctively apparent to anyone with an understanding of America's most basic political values), Sheehan broke no laws or rules of any kind. Thus, all of those bloggers who were so frantically running around accusing her of law-breaking and violating the rules, and therefore defending her removal and arrest, were simply wrong.

The examples he cited were, sadly, typical.

Finally, at the same link he reminds us that if we needed any further proof that the odious Michelle Malkin is "one of the most un-American, liberty-hating, disturbing creatures around," he cites what he describes as a "rancid" post of hers in which "she calls for Rep. Lynn Woolsey to be barred from inviting anyone to such speeches in the future because someone she invited wore a t-shirt which was critical of The Leader." This is, sadly, typical of her gorge-rising extremism. (I've omitted his link, because I will never send traffic from here to her site, just as I would never invite you to wade in a latrine pit.)

Bush creates cabinet position to coordinate scandals.   From The Onion, via Kos. Heeeee.

In his State of the Union address to the nation last night, President Bush announced a new cabinet-level position to coordinate all current and future scandals facing his party.

"Tonight, by executive order, I am creating a permanent department with a vital mission: to ensure that the political scandals, underhanded dealings, and outright criminal activities of this administration are handled in a professional and orderly fashion," Bush said.

The centerpiece of Bush's plan is the Department Of Corruption, Bribery, And Incompetence, which will centralize duties now dispersed throughout the entire D.C.-area political establishment.

The Scandal Secretary will log all wiretaps and complaints of prisoner abuse, coordinate paid-propaganda efforts, eliminate redundant payoffs and bribes, oversee the appointment of unqualified political donors to head watchdog agencies, control all leaks and other high-level security breaches, and oversee the disappearance of Iraq reconstruction funds. He will also be responsible for issuing all official denials that laws have been broken.

Finally, we've found something good in the SOTU. It's what they've really needed all along.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, February 2, 2006

Photo of the day.   Johnathan Rice, at Club Spaceland, Silverlake, last Tuesday, January 31.

Johnathan Rice

He was superb.

Jazzfest is on!   Like we didn't think it would be. I had faith all along. However, it was just a couple of days ago that it was offically announced that the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is taking place on its usual dates, April 28 - May 5, 2006.

So far, the only artist announced on the roster is our beloved Fats Domino, who is also the subject of this year's Jazzfest poster, painted by local artist James Michalopoulos. (The poster's great, too, but ... well, I know Michalopoulos love to paint the Quarter, and I do love his paintings, but I kinda wish the painting had featured Fats in front of his well-known home in the Lower Ninth Ward. I guess maybe 'cause his home ain't dere no more -- it's standing, but ruined -- and the Quarter's going strong, it makes sense. Still ... well, I'm gettin' one anyway.)

I've also heard some inside information that the Dave Matthews Band and Jimmy Buffett will be there (ho-hum, but whatever gets people in the door and spesnding money). Also, for the first time, there's a presenting sponsor: Shell Oil. I suppose this means that we'll keep hearing it announced as "The 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, presented by Shell." As much as I viscerally react to such a thing, the truth is that this is the only thing that's making it happen this year. "In light of the great financial challenges of presenting the 2006 Festival on the grand scale everyone is accustomed to, we simply could not have produced Jazz Fest without unprecedented corporate support from Shell, who becomes the Festival's first-ever Presenting Sponsor," said Quint Davis, the fest's longitme producer/director.

It's at the Fair Grounds as usual, but there will be some changes this year -- only 10 stages instead of 12 (okay, that's cool) and they're eliminating the Thursday from the second weekend (um, not as cool, as I always loved that Thursday, which was more geared toward locals, but okay).

Quint has reportedly been talking to huge mainstream rock acts to act as draws for crowds, which has always to me seemed antithetical to the spirit and roots of Jazzfest, but again, this year, whatever we can do to get live bodies to the Fair Grounds, fair play to ya. Rumored names have included The Rolling Stones, U2 and Bruce Springsteen ... man, I have to say, I'd love to see The Boss there. Or Bono doing a duet with Aaron in the Gospel Tent. (Quint, of course, says don't believe any false rumors unless you hear them from him.)

That's all well and good, but my main concern is to get as many New Orleans musicians back and on the schedule as possible. What about all the gig-to-gig jazz players? What about all the gospel choirs, many of whom undoubtedly lived in neighborhoods that were devastated? (I remember the Crownseekers being from the Westbank, so we can hope they're all okay.) I don't really care who else is there, as long as we get as many local musicians back as possible.

And I don't care how many people are in front of that stage or how long I have to camp out in front of it, I wanna see Fats Domino.

Get your ticket in your haaaaand ... you gonna go to New Orleans ...

RIP, Bucktown.   Now for the depressing news of the day ...

The remnants of Bucktown's venerable fishing fleet and the site of Sid-Mar's historic waterfront restaurant, as well as the popular Coconut Beach volleyball complex at West End, are among the local landmarks that will be sacrificed for construction of a temporary floodgate in the 17th Street Canal, according to the plan federal engineers were finalizing this week.

"Sid-Mar's will have to relocate, and the fishing boats won't ever be able to come back," said Janet Cruppi, a real estate division supervisor at the Army Corps of Engineers, which will build and operate the new floodgate and some additional levees on both sides of the big outfall canal. "It's such a shame that landowners are finding out before we can even get in touch with them, but that's the nature of the emergency." [...]

It appears likely that 40 feet of land will be needed adjacent to the breach at the 17th Street Canal, and 30 feet of land is needed at the London Avenue Canal near Robert E. Lee Boulevard. But Cruppi said the total amount of private property needed would not be known until repair designs are finalized.

What is clear is that the construction of gates, high-rise pump platforms, intake valves and some unusual new levee structures in and around the 17th Street Canal will alter living, playing and working on both sides of the canal for at least three to five years -- which is how long the gates are intended to provide interim surge protection.

But for Sid-Mar's, a rustic Bucktown landmark for more than three decades that disappeared into Lake Pontchartrain during Hurricane Katrina, and for the colorful fishing fleet that had previously managed to survive decades of "progress" all around it, the floodgate project apparently spells extinction.

"Nobody's told us nothing, but we hear through the grapevine that we've got to go," said Bucktown fisherman James Kenimure, who said he has lived on his boat in the 17th Street Canal since rescuing it from atop a debris pile after Katrina.

"I was born out here in 1948, and I've been here all my life," he said. "I'm a commercial fisherman, but we don't have nowhere to go."

It's so goddamn sad ...

The Cocktailian, and more.   In today's edition of Gary Regan's fortnightly column, the Professor, our cocktailian bartender, whips up a prizewinning drink where sherry turns pears into pearls ... sherry, tequila and pear liqueur, that is. (Mmmm. That sounds good.)

Gary's also got a new article in the current issue of Wine Enthusiaist about updated classic cocktails, in which some bartenders are "breathing new life" into old chestnuts. While I don't think that longtime and wonderful classics like the Sidecar are in need of mouth-to-mouth, some of these look pretty interesting. Sona Restaurant in West Hollywood adds a bit of maraschino and a dash of Angostura Bitters to their Sidecars, Prime Grill in Manhattan adds a pony of pomegranate juice (the trendy new cocktail ingredient) to their juleps, Zengo Restaurant in D.C. muddles a cucumber with their Mojito, and Dylan Prime in New York boosts their Collins with a little Limoncello.

The wackiest (and perhaps most fascinating) is described at the end of the article, and I'll let you find that yourself. Hey, it's no wackier than my friend Michael's bacon-garnished Martini, which he says is actually pretty darn good.

The Music Game for February (Pt. 1)   I guess we'll keep it up until we I get sick of it or until it stops being fun. Let's give it another go.

All right Lance, you know how our game is played! I turn on my iPod and set it to random shuffle. I then write down the first line of lyrics from each of the first 25 songs that come up. (Instrumental pieces, and most songs that give away the title in the first line are skipped.) Y'all then guess the title and artist, and I then strike out songs as they are correctly identified. As usual, don't worry too much about the artist if it's something that's covered by multiple artists.

Another pretty good batch ... a couple of them might be pretty difficult, except perhaps for at least one semi-regular reader who lives in Galway. (Hiya Brendan!) Hey, maybe I'll even have something for whoever guesses the most songs.

And awaaaaaay we go ...

1. "I never cared much for moonlit skies"
Ella Fitzgerald, "I'm Beginning to See the Light", from Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook

2. "Madmen, drummers, bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat"
Bruce Springsteen, "Blinded By the Light", from Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

3. "In a dream I saw you walking, like a kid alive and talking, that was you."
My Morning Jacket, "Dondante", from Z

4. "Some of them were dreamers, and some of them were fools"
Moving Hearts, "Before the Deluge" (Jackson Browne), from Moving Hearts

5. "Your mind is still hazy, bad shadows seem to lurk"
Galactic, "All Behind You Now", from Ruckus

6. "On Saturday night, when I was born, down on the farm"
Fats Domino, "Bo Weevil"

7. "There was a time I was yours, you were mine / we shone in the light of the day"
The Stunning, "Everything That Rises", from Once Around the World

8. "My baby was talking in her sleep. She said, 'Bob.' I said, 'What?'"
The Colorblind James Experience, "A Different Bob", from The Colorblind James Experience

9. "There's a secret stigma, reaping wheel"
R.E.M., "Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)", from Chronic Town

10. "Don't the lights look empty, and the streets are bare"
Uncle Tupelo, "Fatal Wound", from March 16-20, 1992

11. "My baby killed a turkey, she thought it was a duck"
Little Temple & his 88, "I Ate the Wrong Part", from The Specialty Story

12. "Hear the call of the wind, feel the dying answer"
Runrig, "Lifeline", from Heartland

13. "Where can a sick man go when he can't choke down the medicine the old doc knows"
Nickel Creek, "When In Rome", from Why Should the Fire Die?"

14. "Oh layers of time have buried the ways that the others have grown"
Dougie Maclean, "Rescue Me", from Live from the End of the Earth

15. "When the moon-a hits your eye like a big-a pizza pie ..."
Dean Martin, "That's Amore"

16. "Well I didn't see much future when I left the Christian Brothers school"
The Saw Doctors, "N17", from If This Is Rock 'n Roll, I Want My Old Job Back

17. "I'm never going back, never going back to you / I'm never going to see you again"
Morphine, "Gone For Good", from Yes

18. Spoken: "Whiskey whiskey on the shelf / you were so quiet there by yourself / things were fine 'til they took you down / and opened you up and passed you around."
Wynonie Harris, "Quiet Whiskey", from Bloodshot Eyes: The Best of Wynonie Harris

19. "The moment has come to face the truth, I'm wide awake and so are you."
Sondre Lerche, "Modern Nature", from Faces Down

20. "You left the motor running / but I know you're so attractive"
Elvis Costello, "Lip Service", from This Years Model

21. "Darling I found out a long time ago 'bout someone else; you don't need me anymore"
Johnny Adams, "I Won't Cry", from Carnival Time: The Best of Ric Records, Vol. 1

22. "This time you had me, you really did it this time, you did"
Richard Thompson, "Crawl Back Under My Stone", from Mock Tudor

23. "I'm dancing the seven veils / want you to pick up my scarf"
Sinéad O'Connor, "Mandinka", from The Lion and the Cobra

24. "I can turn a gray sky blue."
The Temptations, "I Can't Get Next To You"

25. "Peeked inside an open door / looked around, don't know what for / way too bright, could hardly see, oh no"
Los Lobos, "Dream in Blue", from Kiko

Now, where did I leave that year's supply of Lee Press-on Nails?

Cartoon of the day.   In this morning's email, from Audrey. Sad but true.

Grow. A. Goddamn. Spine.

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  Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Forty-three minutes.   What is the state of our union? Well, among other things, a major American city lies in ruins after the worst natural disaster in American history, 80% of its homes having been rendered all or mostly uninhabitable. 70% of its population is still displaced. Homes, lives, businesses have been uprooted. Its importance to the culture and economy is without doubt; its future is uncertain. How long was it before the president of the United States made even an oblique reference to this situation in the State of the Union address?

Forty-three minutes.

Before he got to New Orleans, he spent about the first 1/3 of the speech on the war, launching right into 9/11, terr'r, terr'r, terr'r.

He brazenly defended his illegal warrantless wiretapping program, too.

It is said that prior to the attacks of September the 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to Al Qaida operatives overseas. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late.

Illegal warrantless wiretaps could have prevented 9/11? Um, not quite.

So to prevent another attack -- based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute -- I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected Al Qaida operatives and affiliates to and from America.

Conveniently leaving out the fact that he authorized this action to specifically bypass the secret court that had been specifically establishesd as a check on presidential surveillance power, in which a judge must be convinced that there's reasonable cause to surveil someone, that the president is not just surveilling anyone he wants, and these judges almost always say yes.

Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have and federal courts have approved the use of that authority.


Appropriate members of Congress have been kept informed.


The terrorist surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talking with Al Qaida, we want to know about it, because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again.

What about the surveillance data the FBI has gathered on tens of thousands of innocent Americans who have nothing to do with Al Quida?

While he might be not be terribly concerned with domestic freedom, he's keen on freedom abroad:

At the start of 2006, more than half the people of our world live in democratic nations. And we do not forget the other half ? in places like Syria, Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Iran ? because the demands of justice, and the peace of this world, require their freedom as well.

"What about China?!" I demanded of the radio. Ah, we can't mention China -- America's banker! -- in that context these days.

I'm glad he got to all the really important things first, too:

Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms; creating or implanting embryos for experiments; creating human-animal hybrids; and buying, selling or patenting human embryos.

"Human-animal hybrids"? Human-animal hybrids?! You've got to be fucking kidding me. I wasn't aware that one of the most grievous and imminent threats to America was that we're in danger of turning into a big Island of Dr. Moreau. Forget Osama, we're apparently about to be besieged by Hyena-Swine and the Pig Lady. "To go on two legs is very hard. Perhaps four is better, anyway." Watch out, or the 44th president will call himself Sayer of the Law.

Forty-three minutes. After all that. After human-animal hybrids. Heaping insult upon injury. And it was done in this context:

In recent years, America has become a more hopeful Nation. Violent crime rates have fallen to their lowest levels since the 1970s. Welfare cases have dropped by more than half over the past decade. Drug use among youth is down 19 percent since 2001. There are fewer abortions in America than at any point in the last three decades, and the number of children born to teenage mothers has been falling for a dozen years in a row.

These gains are evidence of a quiet transformation - a revolution of conscience, in which a rising generation is finding that a life of personal responsibility is a life of fulfillment. Government has played a role. Wise policies such as welfare reform, drug education, and support for abstinence and adoption have made a difference in the character of our country. And everyone here tonight, Democrat and Republican, has a right to be proud of this record.

Actually, abortion rates were at a 24-year low under President Clinton, and have risen steadily under Bush. But then he goes on ...

Yet many Americans, especially parents, still have deep concerns about the direction of our culture, and the health of our most basic institutions. They are concerned about unethical conduct by public officials, and discouraged by activist courts that try to redefine marriage. And they worry about children in our society who need direction and love, and about fellow citizens still displaced by natural disaster, and about suffering caused by treatable disease.

Let's see ... crooked politicians, eww-icky-queers getting married, wayward children, hundreds of thousands of American refugees from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and sick people.

As the NPR anchor pointed out last night, one of these things is not like the others. I don't suppose Mr. Bush has watched "Sesame Street".

Several minutes later, he finally mentioned New Orleans by name:

A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency and stays at it until they're back on their feet.

So far, the federal government has committed $85 billion to the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We are removing debris and repairing highways and rebuilding stronger levees. We're providing business loans and housing assistance.

Yet, as we meet these immediate needs, we must also address deeper challenges that existed before the storm arrived.

In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country.

The answer is not only temporary relief, but schools that teach every child, and job skills that bring upward mobility, and more opportunities to own a home and start a business.

Well, two actual mentions. A little less oblique than before, but still passing mentions. And then there's that $85 billion again, the money he talked about in the press conference, something that "those people down in that part of the world" had better realize is "a lot." Anybody seen any of that, by the way? Stronger levees, too, already? As Da Po' Blog mentions, that amount seems to include $18 billion in "flood insurance and other assistance". Um. "I didn't know that paying out flood insurance claims was optional. I just assumed this money was coming anyway, being that people with flood insurance pay every month to have it. Even though Congress had to vote to allow FEMA to borrow the money, I don't count this as money appropriated by Congress. So, if that is where Bush gets his extra $18 billion dollars from, I don't buy it."

The initial reaction in New Orleans? Not so good.

Arms out, palms up and eyebrows raised, Korean War veteran Tom Short watched President Bush step down from the podium following the State of the Union address, then asked with a raised voice, "Did I miss something?"

Short, a Republican who generally supports the president, had expected Bush to highlight the need to help rebuild New Orleans' flood defenses and economy.

Instead, Bush made only a passing reference near the end of his hour-long speech to the money that had been appropriated for the Gulf Coast's recovery and the teams of contractors cleaning up debris.

"I think that's a crying shame," said Short, 75, one of a couple dozen people who watched the address at Bruno's, an old neighborhood bar in uptown New Orleans, decorated with memorabilia from nearby Tulane and Loyola universities.

He wasn't the only one who felt that way.

Paige Clare, 26, and her sister, Tieal, 22, sat together at a table, heads tilted upward toward the television, waiting eagerly for Bush to lay out his plans for the New Orleans area.

"He mentions $85 billion or whatever, but no plan or what we're going to do. Nothing," said Paige Clare, who is engaged to a Tulane Medical School student and said she is a registered independent. "I know none of us has seen any of that money."

Clare fled New Orleans while Katrina damaged her home and kept her away from her job as a physical trainer for more than a month.

"I wonder how he'd feel if he had lost his home or his job," she said of the president.

She was perturbed that Bush spent a good third of his speech discussing the war in Iraq, which she opposes.

"Maybe some of the money that we're spending over there could be spent here rebuilding New Orleans," she said.

Attorney Todd Hebert, 38, hollered sarcastically as Bush opened with Iraq and stayed on the subject for about 20 minutes.

"Of course we're opening with Iraq because it's so much more important than New Orleans, or our own country," Hebert said. "Why are we still talking about this and not talking about the Gulf Coast?"

As Bush finished, he was fuming.

"So all we got was two sentences ... and there was nothing about giving Louisiana more of its oil and gas revenue, nothing about help to rebuild the coastline," Hebert said. "We are some of the most devastated people in a country right now and we're really feeling left behind. And that speech did nothing to make us not feel left behind."

Nothing about coastal wetlands and barrier islands either.

George Bush doesn't care about New Orleans, Louisiana or the Gulf Coast, and his mere passion mention of the destruction of a major American city, displacement of hundreds of thousands of Americans and the disgraceful lack of effective federal response to the disaster verges on criminal.

Oh, and the Democratic response? Not one word about New Orleans, only this: "Our federal government should serve the American people. But that mission is frustrated by this Administration?s poor choices and bad management. Families in the Gulf Coast see that, as they wait to rebuild their lives. Americans who lose their jobs see that, as they look to rebuild their careers. And our soldiers in Iraq see that, as they try to rebuild a nation." (Oh, and that was only one of two passing mentions of Iraq.) Well, screw y'all, too.

Steve M. summarized the address in email last night:

Elections good -- except if they result in electing a government we don't agree with, in which case they better start rethinking their policies, or else.

One, two or even three elections aren't enough -- except in Iraq, where Freedom has taken hold.

We'll do whatever we can to halt AIDS... except fund the programs that look to have the best chance of success, because they use stem cells, embryos that will be flushed down the toilet or made from cloned cells.

Why change our policy in Iraq when things are going so well? And contrary to our every previous move, our military strategy will not be influenced by politics (but, wink, wink, I'm feeling a troop reduction in October, just in time for mid-term elections).

Iran? Refer back to Iraq.

Energy? You're addicted, but it's not the pusher's fault. Hydrogen cars? We'll be driving those on Mars. I promised we'd go there a few years ago, remember? And as my good friend Monty Burns says, nuclear power is the safest power known to man.

Katrina? Still doing a heck of a job.

Health care? Sure, every result I envision -- low costs, portability, availability, taking the cost off the backs of business -- can be solved by single-payer government funded insurance. But that ain't gonna happen on my watch. Instead, I'm going tell you that the problem is that you're over-insured. Yeah, you heard right! Health savings accounts are the way to go, then go and buy "catastrophic" insurance, with high, high deductibles.

The economy? My friends are doing OK. Let's keep it that way.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America. (If I had played any of those SOTU dirnking games, I'd have been shitfaced in the first five minutes.)

More from Da Po' Blog here, here and here; from Oyster (do NOT miss his post ... here's an excerpt:)

Would it be politically possible to say anything less (or less substantial) than Bush did last night?

Five months ago, over 1100 Americans died in the New Orleans metro area alone. Three more bodies were recovered yesterday and perhaps as many as 400 more have been washed out into the Gulf of Mexico or buried under debris. And now, after one of the biggest catastrophes in the history of our country, Bush uses the words "Gulf Coast" once and "New Orleans" twice in his State of the Union. (For comparison purposes let's note that he mentioned HIV or AIDS seven times in his speech.)

No pledges, concrete proposals, solutions... nothing but empty rhetoric about "hope".

Well, we hoped for a rapid federal response to the disaster.

We hoped Bush would keep his promises made in Jackson Square.

We hoped for a pledge to build Category 5 strength levees.

We hoped for money for Coastal Restoration.

We hoped for an innovative home buyout bill.

We hoped for support for a royalty-sharing deal.

We hoped for a non-Bush crony to be the Recovery Czar.

We hoped for something substantial in the State of the Union speech.

More from Schroeder, Ian, Michael at 2 Millionth, The Rude Pundit and the Washington Post, which lists the inaccuracies in the speech.

More reactions from NOLA.   Superb political writer John Maginnis:

It's a fair bet that President Bush's recent ninth trip to Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina will be his last for some time, perhaps this term, given his newly revealed attitude toward aiding the state's recovery.

The worst that can be said of his opposition to the buyout bill of Congressman Richard Baker -- besides that it's unjust -- is that it took him so long to conclude that the plan violates his core values by adding "unnecessary layers of bureaucracy" to his administration's inadequate response.

One can understand his aversion to added layers of federal bureaucracy, considering how the bureaucracy he leads has so royally botched the rollout of the enormously expensive Medicare drug prescription plan. Then there is nation building in Iraq, with its recently documented unnecessary layers of corruption, waste and incompetence.

If the plight of ordinary Americans didn't move him, you might think he would have a soft spot for mortgage bankers, who look to the Baker bill to mitigate disastrous losses. Then again, Bush may not have forgiven the finance industry for the savings and loan bailout debacle of the late '80s that helped to deny Poppy Bush a second term.

Given his fear of a new federal bureaucracy, the president should have given Louisiana the bad news sooner. Like when Congressman Baker personally briefed him on the plan and received presidential encouragement, or so Baker thought. Or when, on several occasions since, Bush greeted Baker by saying, "How's the grand plan going?" The answer, of course, known only to the president's economic handlers, er, advisors, was: nowhere.

James Gill, in a Times-Picayune editorial:

Bush dispatched [former provisional authoriday head L. Paul] Bremer to Iraq in 2003, when looters roamed the ruins, the economy barely functioned and the wetlands were fast disappearing, so he certainly has relevant experience for the job down here.

What emerged from the havoc was a politician's dream, as the United States liberated $37 billion in Iraqi oil revenues that had been seized by the United Nations. C-17 cargo planes stuffed with $100 bills streamed into Baghdad airport, and you can get a lot of C-notes in a C-17. One flight carried $1.5 billion, the largest cash disbursement in the history of the Federal Reserve Bank. [...]

Coalition authority officials were knee-deep in "bricks" -- shrink-wrapped bundles of $100 bills -- which they dispensed with gay abandon. All transactions were strictly cash.

Contractors got wads for work they hadn't done, Iraqi officials were reimbursed for expenses they hadn't incurred and vast amounts simply disappeared.

Auditors discovered that one coalition authority official kept $2 million in a bathroom safe, and another had $500,000 in an unlocked footlocker.

Our recovery program included assistance to the Iraqi Olympic boxing team, which was no doubt vital to the task of bringing peace and democracy to the region. But an American soldier who accompanied the pugilists on a trip to the Philippines managed to lose a bunch of reconstruction dollars in the casinos there.

How much is unknown, since no records were kept of withdrawals from the vault, but auditors figure it was somewhere between $20,000 and $60,000.

Counting money kicked in by American taxpayers, about $60 billion has so far been allocated to reconstruction in Iraq. How much has been stolen or wasted will never be known, although a few of the more blatant thieves will likely wind up behind bars.

Less than half the promised reconstruction projects are now expected to be completed, in large part because the coalition authority had to divert money to battle an insurgency of unexpected vigor. [...]

Iraq under Bremer set a standard of fraud and incompetence that entitles Louisiana to question how our detractors in Washington dare demur at helping us out on grounds that we can't be trusted with government largess.

Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, in the Times-Picayune:

"We were expecting more than a short paragraph for the Gulf Coast region," [Landrieu said.] ... "I just don't think he grasps the magnitude of the problem."

Bush has become the target of pointed criticism about the pace of the recovery from some of his most loyal political backers in Louisiana, a state that twice voted for him for president. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, who last year voted 91 percent of the time with Bush's plans in Congress, said the scant mention in the speech means that hurricane recovery "doesn't rank as a major issue."

Bush never mentioned the word "Katrina," the Aug. 29 hurricane that is destined to become a benchmark in the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents along the Gulf Coast in the same way that Hurricane Betsy did in 1965. Bush's first reference to the disaster came deep into his 52-minute speech, in seven sentences that quickly recounted the administration's record.

One has to wonder if David Vitter and Bobby Jindal actually listened to the same speech, or perhaps they don't exactly have both feet in the reality-based community.

The 18-and-1/2-minute gap, redux.   The ghost of Rose Mary Woods is still with us. Via Josh, we learn that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has learned "that many e-mails from Cheney?s office at the time of the Plame leak in 2003 have been deleted contrary to White House policy."

I'm sure it was accidental. (Psst. Make it look like an accident.)

Arnie's broke!   From today's Los Angeles Times:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is entering his reelection campaign $410,000 in debt, while his Democratic rivals and union foes are armed with more than $50 million.

He also continued supplementing his aides' government salaries by paying them additional sums in campaign money, according to campaign reports filed with the state Tuesday.

Schwarzenegger spent $8.2 million of his own money, and tens of millions more of his contributors' money, on his ill-fated special election effort to change state government. Altogether, his campaign cost more than $45 million, depleting his accounts.

Aw. Poor thing. Bless his heart. (Time to make Terminator 4 or Maria's going to have to go back to work.)

January Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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