Monday, June 28, 2010

Today in BP Oil Disaster: Day 70

Posted By on Mon, Jun 28, 2010 at 11:20 PM

... Seventy?

  • Well, at least someone out there is synergyzing and conversation-starting and buzz-wording to get some help down here. The TEDxOilSpill conference is this week — the result of writing "inspiring" messages on your hands and photographing them and taking a week-long "expedition" to survey the Otherworld terrain that is the Gulf Coast.

    TEDxOilSpill will tackle the tough questions raised by the recent and ongoing environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Topics will include mitigation of the spill and the impending cleanup efforts; energy alternatives; policy and economics; as well as new technology that can help us build a self-reliant culture.

    What can you expect to see? Speakers at TED events — some of the world’s most fascinating, innovative and influential individuals – are challenged to give “the talk of their life” in 18 minutes or less. Sharing and connection happens from the stage or in the lounge. It’s the conversation that will change your life.

    See, the TED crew visited, took photos, then took back its findings. The conference is webcast, and guest speakers include scholars, a musician and reps from environmental organizations — but no Gulf fishermen or business owners, no politicians, no Coast Guard responders or cleanup organizers, no BP officials, nobody that has any final say in whatever end results or solutions the conference attendees are looking for. I'm not knocking any of these speakers, but there is no local voice.

    We're being studied. By this guy.

  • Tomorrow, Peter Fonda and Jason Mraz lead a march for clean energy. Mraz also will perform. Meet on the steps of the amphitheater across from Jackson Square at 3 p.m., and bring a black trash bag. (There'll be free food, too.)

  • Susan Spicer is pissed off.

  • Photos: In case you didn't see it, the Boston Globe is back with its Big Picture series — this time, it's a look at the Gulf, two months into the disaster.
    More photos: Then there's the St. Petersburg Times All Eyes photo blog, looking at Pensacola Beach.

  • Here's a massive Australian 60 Minutes piece on the disaster, reportedly removed by request of BP.
  • Mother Jones reporter Mac McClelland is on Salon radio. Here's a transcript. She discusses media criticism, the BP-meets-birder disaster and the restrictions she's faced in a supposedly now-media-friendly locale.

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    Louisiana asks BP for $10m for mental health immediately

    Posted By on Mon, Jun 28, 2010 at 9:54 PM

    Alan Levine, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, has sent a letter to BP CEO Doug Suttles asking for an immediate $10 million to combat depression from the Gulf oil spill:

    Our Louisiana Spirit crisis counseling teams have already engaged and counseled almost 2,000 individuals in the affected areas, and are reporting palpable increases in anxiety, depression, stress, grief, excessive drinking, earlier drinking and suicide ideation.

    Levine concludes: "Due to the urgency of this request, we ask for a response no later than one week from your receipt of this letter." No word back yet from BP.

    You can get your own copy of the letter here.

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    Sunday, June 27, 2010

    Big Red's Summer Picks - Nitetime Is The Right Time

    Posted By on Sun, Jun 27, 2010 at 5:27 PM

    I can’t say I’m sad second line season is over. I’m down for the cause to a point but I’m not for looking like a drowned cat wearing a sweaty Rick James wig. Summer in New Orleans doesn’t mean you can’t get your roll on though - you just gotta do that ish at night when the sun goes down. You’ll still sweat but you won’t stroke out.

    Below is your brass band weeknight Summer hit list. You can thank me with a gin and Red Bull - I’ll be standing over by the fan.


    Hot 8 Brass Band at the Wolf Den 907 S. Peters in the Warehouse District (9pm)

    Free Agents Brass Band at The Green Room c/o Galvez at Conti (11pm)


    Glen David at d.b.a. 618 Frenchman Street (9pm)


    Kermit Ruffins at Bullet’s 2441 A.P. Tureaud St. (7pm)

    REBIRTH! at Maple Leaf 8316 Oak Street (11pm)


    Treme Brass Band at The Candlelight 925 N. Robertson at Dumaine (9:30pm)

    Hot 8 Brass Band at Club Good Times #2 2901 Conti & Dupre (9:00pm)


    Stooges Brass Band at the Hi Ho 2239 St. Claude (9:30pm)


    We Are One Brass Band at Balcony Bar 1331 Decatur Street at Esplanade (1am)


    Brass Band Jam at Irvin Mayfield’s Playhouse in the Royal Sonesta Hotel 300 Bourbon Street (12 Midnite)

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    Saturday, June 26, 2010

    Today in BP Oil Disaster: Day 68

    Posted By on Sat, Jun 26, 2010 at 5:50 PM

    Stepped onto my balcony this morning with a mug of French roast and got socked in the house with oilstench. It's particularly bad out there today. It smells like a tire fire with some chemicals mixed in -- or, as someone put it recently, "burning GI Joes."


    • Is it just me, or are some national media salivating at the thought of Tropical Storm Alex going over the spill site? It doesn't look likely this time, guys, so calm down. Here's a prediction of the track of the storm that shares its name with Gambit's green reporter, Mr. Alex Woodward:

    • If a storm does come near the wellhead, says Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, it could disrupt oil capture for two weeks. Also:

    Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who's heading the federal cleanup operation, says he'll have to redeploy people and equipment to safer areas 120 hours (five days) in advance of gale-force winds.

    What? We've all seen the five-day "cone of error." It takes up 2/3 of the Gulf sometimes. Are they really saying that they're going to stand down every time the wellhead falls within the five-day cone of error? Doesn't seem likely. Can somebody embedded with Adm. Allen ask him about that?

    The Christian Science Monitor asks "Could 'toxic storm' make beach towns uninhabitable?" It's a remarkably unsensational article, realistic and sobering. And sad, sad, sad.

    The New York Times calls shenanigans on one of BP's particularly bogus blog entries, in which a "BP reporter" takes a flight over the Gulf of Mexico without even mentioning that, you know, THERE'S OIL DOWN THERE.

    • Vice President Joe Biden is coming to town on Tuesday to tour the National Incident Command Center in New Orleans. Then he's off to the Florida Panhandle.

    • Today is Hands Across the Sand, where well-meaning people will gather on beaches and hold hands. Okay. It's your thing. Do whatcha wanna do. Seems like they'd do more good if they put shovels in those hands, though.

    • Chet Flippo of CMT writes a beautiful essay about the disaster, urging the country-music community to do all they can do to help the Gulf Coast.

    BILOXI: "Large patches of oil, square miles in size, were only three miles south of the barrier islands Friday and moving in." On May 14, Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour was saying that it was "possible that what happens here will be manageable and of moderate and even minimal impact." Barbour today? “There are 20 skimmers for the whole Gulf, and Mississippi needs that many alone. It became obvious in Alabama and Florida. And by the time they were aware of it, they were deluged.”

    • What could go wrong with Jimmy Buffett doing a free concert to benefit the Alabama tourism industry? This. And Ala. Gov. Bob Riley says he's investigating.

    The story of Allen Kruse, the Alabama boat captain who committed suicide this week. Unbelievably tragic.

    "Nothing was easy working with BP. Everything was hard, and it consumed him. He wasn't crazy," said his wife, Tracy, 41, sitting outside the couple's home in Foley on Thursday.

    "He'd been a charter boat captain for 25 years, and all of the sudden he had people barking orders at him who didn't know how to tie up a boat to a pier. I think he thought, 'I've got to get out of this. I can't take it.' "

    The spill also left Kruse emotionally devastated. It robbed him of his passion for taking customers out to the Gulf to fish for red snapper and grouper, his wife said.

    "Our whole lives surround this, this oil, everything is oil," he told her a few days ago.

    Are you thoroughly depressed yet? (In fact, that's the question in this week's Gambit online poll: "Have you experienced significant depression from hearing about the Gulf oil disaster?" Current results: Yes, 73%; No, 18%; It's coming, 9%.) One person who's not depressed about the situation is James Carville -- instead, he's pissed, and that's our cover story for tomorrow's paper. Pick up Gambit to see what Carville has to say about Gov. Bobby Jindal, the Obama administration, and, of course, BP.

    Pensacola, Orange Beach, Destin, and all the communities where New Orleanians love to come and play in the summer: we're thinking of you. Hang tough.

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    Da Winnas & Da Loozas

    Posted By on Sat, Jun 26, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    (This is a preview (with a few updates) of my column that will appear in this week's Gambit.)

    They say money can’t buy love or happiness, but in politics this much is clear: Lack of money will buy you a whole lotta heartache and misery. Add to that the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history and you’ve got some real ugliness.

    That pretty much sums up the 2010 Louisiana legislative session.

    Gov. Bobby Jindal, who typically stays above the legislative fray, was even more detached than usual because of his daily trips to the oil-threatened coast. In his absence, House and Senate leaders, building on past tensions, nearly came to blows in the final hours. And with so little money to spread around, the inevitable cuts to education, health care and the arts/culture portend even more agony next year, when state revenues are expected to take an even more precipitous nosedive — just in time for redistricting and the next round of statewide elections. Beatings will continue until morale improves.

    Continue reading »

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    Friday, June 25, 2010

    Mayor, Police Chief Reorganize NOPD Structure, Aim To Save $15 Million

    Posted By on Fri, Jun 25, 2010 at 10:19 PM

    Mayor Mitch Landrieu was joined by Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas at city hall this afternoon to announce a major restructuring of the city's police department aimed at saving $15 million.

    Police Reshuffle

    Mayor Landrieu (center) with Police Superintendent Serpas (left) and new Deputy Superintendent Arlinda Pierce Westbrook of the Public Integrity Bureau (right).

    "We're going to take the fight to the streets where it belongs," said Mayor Landrieu. "And not in police headquarters where it seems to be at this moment."

    Chief Serpas said the plan is designed to cut down on "bloated senior executive leadership" in the department. He said the reshuffle would create "clear lines of accountability, clear lines of responsibility, clear lines of authority," and that "we're going to be giving people jobs they deserve."

    "When I got here I was surprised to find out that deputy chiefs were only supervising in some cases four or five people," he said. "For example we're not going to have one captain in charge of one person in the radio shop any more. I mean, that's gonna end on Sunday."

    Serpas will cut the number of deputy superintendents fom six to four, and Marlon Defillo and Kurt Boyelas will maintain their ranks in charge of the department's Field Operations Bureau and Investigations and Support Bureau respectively. Two civilian deputy superintendents will also be brought on board: Arlinda Pierce Westbrook will move from the city attorney's office to oversee the Public Integrity Bureau, and Stephanie Landry will run the department's Management Services Bureau.

    The cuts will eliminate the positions of 11 majors — seven will become police commanders in their respective districts, and four will revert to police captain. 67 percent of captains in the department will be given new assignments this afternoon.

    Serpas said each of the four deputy chiefs have promised not to moonlight in any other roles in exchange for their jobs, and said he is working hard to institute an honesty policy in the bureau, mentioned in this week's Gambit cover interview — whereby dishonest officers can be fired.

    "We're going to fight crime to make New Orleans safe, and we're going to be responsible budget managers," said Serpas. "The two things go hand in hand."

    City council members praised the move, and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said he appreciated Serpas' focus on reducing violent crime. The two have been spending so much time together collaborating, he added, "that our wives are going to start getting suspicious."

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    Today in BP Oil Disaster: Day 67

    Posted By on Fri, Jun 25, 2010 at 9:50 PM

  • There's a pretty disorganized storm a-brewin', BP doesn't have its hurricane response plan togetherthe City is trying to figure out how to amend its own — and none of that bodes well for operations to cap the gusher, let alone clean up after it:

    If winds reach gale force near the well, which is about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, it could drive wave swells to 8 feet in height, which would force the suspension of surface skimming operations as well as efforts to recapture leaking oil near the seabed, (U.S. Coast Guard) Admiral (Thad) Allen said. All told, disconnecting the containment cap and pipes from the well before the storm and then reconnecting them afterward could leave the well unchecked for as long as 14 days, he said.

    Five days is generally too far in the future for scientists to forecast with any precision where a weather system that has yet to fully form will go, said Brian LaMarre, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service on special assignment in the New Orleans/Baton Rouge office.

    “It’s almost like a doctor trying to diagnose you with a cold and you don’t have it yet,” Mr. LaMarre said.

    An area of “disturbed weather is approaching near Jamaica, Cuba and the Dominican Republic,” Mr. LaMarre said on Friday afternoon, adding that a reconnaissance plane was on its way to the area to see whether the system had formed a low-pressure center, an indication that it could gain strength.

    Vice President Joe Biden is due in New Orleans this Tuesday-ish during his Gulf Coast visit.

    Rep. Charlie Melancon is pleading to BP for mental health services to the coast, where Captain William "Rookie" Kruse took his life Wednesday. Mother Jones reporter Mac McClelland has a must-read report on the oil disaster's toll on the home front.

  • Here's how day-to-day response efforts work: Things kick of with a 20-minute conference at 8 a.m., where all operations and information is laid on the table for all players to see. But nobody has any idea who's in charge once they leave the room.

  • How's about a free "Prosecute BP" sticker? The website Sticker Robot has 'em:
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    And then there are people who feel the need to defend BP. Like Michael H. Towle for the Daily Breeze, who writes "Another view from the Gulf of Mexico", saying "The truth is that BP is doing an incredible job in responding to the spill," among other mind-blowing knee-jerk defenses.

    Then of course there's BP itself, with its cache of "reporters" who "blog" from the coast — weirdly whimsical pieces about flying in helicopters ("Out here, flying at a height of up to 1,400 feet, the clouds are puffy white and brilliantly lighted but cast dark shadows on the wave-capped water below") and booming ("Watching the captains weave the long black boom as seamlessly as a professional ballet troupe performs an intricate dance..."). ... What?

    David Letterman's got a New Orleans fetish right now. His Late Show has had John Goodman, promoting Treme, and John Besh, and earlier this week, Regis Philbin, who wagered a $10,000 bet against Letterman, who said you could see the Statue of Liberty from the Brookyln Bridge. Not sure if that 10 large was for real, but Letterman said it would go to Gulf oil disaster relief — that's a big chunk of change to joke about. (And, bonus, here's Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews with Orleans Avenue, performing "One Night Only," from the same broadcast.)

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    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    K-Ville: Big in the UK

    Posted By on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 9:26 PM


    We all have our own memories of K-ville, the locally shot drama that kept New Orleanians alternately amused and befuddled in the fall of 2007. I know most people were tickled at the thought of "gumbo parties" and the cop who put Tabasco in his oatmeal, but my heart always belonged to the airport shootout action sequence that seemed to have been filmed on the roof of the Riverwalk.

    K-ville may have disappeared stateside, but it's just making it across the pond to the UK, and -- what do you know? The critics like it!

    Metro U.K. praises the show's "brilliant action sequences and intelligent storylines to boot":

    It only lasts 11 episodes, which is a real shame because it offers a sharp insight into a city struggling hard to keep from going under.

    K-Ville’s combo of social conscience and kick-ass action is top notch.

    But its cold, hard look at how America failed one of its own, proved too tough for US audiences to take.

    The Glasgow Daily Record gave it a thumbs-up:

    It's a great start to the series, and should leave you begging for more. In fact, the only drawback to the whole project is that, for some bizarre reason, American audiences didn't take to it.

    The Mirror mostly liked it too, so the only naysayer in the bunch was the stuffy old Guardian:

    Wobbly cameras, shots through high fences, a slight tendency to overacting … irrespective of subject, there's a very early 1990s feel to this.

    1990s??? These guys?

    k-ville guys

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    "Ninth Ward," the New Orleans-style bar in New York City

    Posted By on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 8:06 PM

    New Orleanians and New Yorkers seem to have an affinity for each other — at least that's been my experience. And I've never had anything less than a great time in New York. That said, I'm not sure what to think of this: a New Orleans-themed bar called "Ninth Ward" is opening in the East Village this weekend:

    Ninth Ward is a New Orleans themed bar that will serve Abita beer, Sazeracs, absinthe, and other cocktails ... As for the design, it's meant to evoke 1890's New Orleans, and the owners sourced much of the decor during a road trip down south.

    You'll have to click through this link to look at the pictures. It's not bad, it's just sort of ... an Epcot version of Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, I guess. Which, from this other writeup, seems to be the idea:

    Ninth Ward is dark as night: the only light leaks in from flickering candles and dim bulbs housed behind old hurricane shutters. Which means it's the perfect place to come in out of the blazing summer sun, order up a cold one and seclude yourself in one of the curtained banquettes to consult your favorite witch doctress in private.

    ("Witch doctress" ... I'm going into a K-ville K-hole here ... )

    As you might imagine, naming a NYC bar "Ninth Ward" is fraught with complications, starting with the fact the Ninth Ward has never exactly been known as a hotspot for creative cocktails or "Cajun standards." Then there's the name, which is being vigorously denounced and defended over on Grub Street and Time Out New York. (The one thing I think both sides could agree on is that a bar that looks like this could be found in almost any neighborhood in New Orleans except the Ninth Ward.)

    What say you, Gambiteers? Is naming a New York bar "Ninth Ward" a well-meant salute to the city, or does it just make you cringe?

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    Men in Uniform

    Posted By on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 3:03 PM



    Antonio Garza is no stranger to adaptation. In his one-man show, Men in Uniform, he tells about his experiences as a young Mexican-American moving between the two countries, which became more difficult with the onset of post-9/11 border anxiety. He has performed the show across the country and in Europe, modifying it for audiences ranging from other border natives to Parisians.

    His newest project, taking Men in Uniform on tour across Arizona by bicycle, is currently undergoing its own set of changes. Garza was injured in a car accident earlier this month, but with the support of New Orleans Fringe, his show will go on. Before he sets off, Garza will perform Men in Uniform in the Shadowbox Theatre (2400 St. Claude Ave., 523-7469; at 8 p.m. Friday, June 25.

    “The show looks at how the second arrest affected certain aspects of my life, especially my relationship with my mother and friends,” says Garza, who has been wrongfully detained twice by officers who suspected him of being in the United States illegally. Alternately funny and moving, the play explores what shifting political climates mean for immigration regulation, and who gets to decide which people belong where.

    The tour originally was set to be finished by August, when Arizona Senate bill 1070 — which orders law enforcement officers to detain anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant — goes into effect in that state. Because of the accident (Garza now wears a neck brace, limps slightly and suffers back pain), he will still be pedaling when it does. Critics have decried the law as racial profiling, but Garza is optimistic he won't have any more run-ins with police.

    “After 9/11, I think there’s a way racial profiling became kind of normative and OK. Half the country tends to think it’s disgusting," he says. "I also want to perform for people who think the law’s OK. At the same time, I want to quietly observe.”

    With average temperatures in July ranging from 81 degrees to 106 degrees in Arizona and a packed schedule of performances and cycling stints, Garza now needs to rest, recover and train. While he waits for doctors’ permission to begin training again, he’s working with a New Orleans shop to build a bike that will accommodate his physical limitations. His injuries are likely to force him to stop more frequently than he originally planned, but Garza says that will give him more opportunities to interact with Arizonans.

    “When you come into town with just a bicycle, it kind of sparks conversation, and I expect to have intimate conversations with people,” he says. Garza will document his travel experiences on his blog,

    “That’s so Fringe-y, to take the show out to where it really gets you in the gut,” says Kristen Evans, co-founder of New Orleans Fringe. The Fringe’s relationship with Garza dates back to 2008, when he performed Men in Uniform at the first Fringe Festival, now a yearly celebration of avant-garde art.

    As the festival grew in 2009, the founders decided to expand their operation. “We sat down and asked ourselves, ‘How can we nurture the arts in a more powerful way?’” Evans says. Two key projects came out of that brainstorm: a year-round program of performances and workshops called the Fringe Alternative Theater Incubator (FATI), and a commitment to diversifying the face of theater in New Orleans. FATI now offers tickets at reduced prices to underserved communities and holds events all over the city. The Fringe also is taking steps to diversify its lineup by having a panel of 12 artists review each submission to the Fringe Festival with the goal of creating a line up of high-quality pieces and performers who reflect New Orleans’ population. So when Evans found out about Garza’s plan to take his play about discrimination on a road trip to Arizona just as the new law was going into effect, she knew it was something the Fringe could get behind.

    FATI is sponsoring Friday’s performance of Men in Uniform, which also will feature jambalaya tacos and Cuba libres. Proceeds from the event will pay for tires and Powerbars during Garza’s trip. He plans to donate any extra money he raises to a charity along his route.

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