Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Crime Updates - 28 April 2009

Charges reduced against Mardi Gras trio. If these guys get "Eddie Jordan'd," it would be bad news for the city. You can't have people thinking you can get away with shootings along the parade route.

A Romantic Dinner, New Orleans-style. Recounting a home invasion.

Memo to junkies: don't brink the kiddies along when you buy smack.

13 Armed Robberies Reported. Lots are in the area. My favorite part of the article:

The New Orleans Police Department's major offense logs released Monday show armed robberies comprised the bulk of the city's violent crime Friday through Sunday. The weekend spike in armed robberies came just after NOPD officials announced that reported crimes, especially armed robberies, were down in the first three months of the year.

Keeping an ineffective police chief is starting to take an economic toll: Huge convention cancels (because Nagin/Riley can't keep a lid on crime).

Girlfriends Now Become Targets. The unarmed family members/girlfriends don't put up the fight that intended targets do and are easier to find. It reminds me about how in ancient times, they'd hunt down the children so they couldn't take revenge at a later date. Barbaric.

On Eddie Jordan: Defeated. An old post, but essential reading if you want to know how Warren Riley continues to hold a leadership position within NOPD (and not say, cleaning toilets with a toothbrush).

Army soldiers, contractors stole fuel, sold it on Iraqi black market . The fuel may have later been resold to finance the Iraqi Insurgency.

And to close with something entertaining:
Laughing Car Thief Steals Bait Car, Stops Laughing

From the Houston Chronicle. The first douchebag is priceless.

UPDATE - A couple more things to tack on the end:

Goth Kids Terrorizing New Orleans Cemeteries?

Solar Car Tour Hits Bump in French Quarter. THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS!

David Duke Detained on Holocaust Denial. Neo-Nazi that won the majority of the white vote in Louisiana when he ran for governor. Almost made it into the runoff for Vitter's Senate seat.

Woman Burnt to death in road rage incident. When someone tried to get her out of her burning vehicle (from the wreck she caused) here's what happened:

“I opened the driver’s door wide. It opened easily. The person looked at me, it was a big built woman. I said ’You’ve got to get out of the car. It’s going to burst into flames’.

“The person replied ’F*** off, just f*** off’ and she raised her right fist towards me in a threatening manner before slamming the door shut.

Self-immolation. See Republican Party behavior for more information.

Oil drips and discharges - 28 April 2009

Here are two articles from The Oil Drum to peruse: Iraqi Oil: Black Gold or Black Hole? and Iraq's Oil: The Greatest Prize Of All ? These two articles go through the reason we went to war in Iraq: OIL. Specifically, how much is there under the dirt. While there are some good prospects in Kurdistan and the Western Desert, it's highly doubtful oil reserves will go much above about 60 billion barrels (half the stated Iraqi reserves).

The more recent article also touches on the challenges of even maintaining Iraqi production rates. The problems break down into a couple of categories:

• Endemic corruption (many of the technocrats that oversaw production have been killed/replaced with politically connected idiots)
• Political reserves (i.e.- lying to OPEC to up their production quota's)
• Bad management (Under Saddam, some of the northern oil fields were "oil-flooded" because the oil was embargoed, but the natural gas wasn't. That leaves a sticky mess that's extremely hard to recover from)
• Political rivalry and foreign oil company stalemates (Iraqi's have a long held mistrust of international oil companies)
• Political insecurity (including rampant violence that's still way to dangerous for international oil workers)

There's also basic phyisics and geology the Iraqi oil wells are starting to run into: Iraqi oil wells are watering out and production set to plummet. The only PSA currently in operation is a Chinese contract, signed in 1997 under Saddam, but even that one will probably soon be abrogated. Without a massive investment (which flat out ain't happening given the violence level and the always looming threat of nationalization), by 2012, Iraq's production will plummet, possibly below a million barrels a day (currently 2.2 MBD-ish - pre-war was 2.5 MBD).

Iraq will start running out of oil about the same time the last of the troops get on a plane to head back home. Nice timing.

How can we drill for oil in the arctic? Well, look at the Sevmorput, a nuclear-powered drillship. Ah, those crazy Ruskies and their Russian reactors.

Did oil prices cause the economic crisis? I've been seeing this theory pop up over and over. While there are structural issues that go beyond the price of oil (like the regulatory environment), as a proximate cause, it deserves some serious consideration. Think of it like the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. War followed, but that was just the spark that lit the fire. The area was packed with kindling before that and was just waiting on a spark, though.

And I'll close with a shiny thing next to some not so shiny things:

Oil Platform over depleted field sprouting a 5 MWe wind turbine off the coast of the Netherlands. We could easily be doing this off the coast of Louisiana.

UPDATE- I wanted to post more this morning, but was trying to get to work on time.

Here's a bit more:

Why Dick Changed His Mind. Cheney used to be fairly well grounded on foreign policy. What changed his mind was his belief that Peak Oil was imminent and the only way for the US to be successful in the 21st century was to control the largest supply of untapped oil (he thought, Iraq).

During the big push for offshore oil drilling over the summer, I heard some absolutely ridiculous claims about possible reserves off the eastern seaboard. I've come across a couple of scientific studies of the VERY limited drilling that occurred off the Jersey coast.

This article talks about uneconomical gas reserves found in the Baltimore Canyon. Also nice to read because of the discussion of Mukluk.

This is a (dated) but detailed study of the geology of the Baltimore Canyon. Baltimore Canyon won't have anywhere near the oil as, say, Mississippi Canyon or Cantarelle or other big GoM formations, but there's some promising territory there. I'd love to see what modern seismic could do. Just the subsea imaging alone has come a long way. That being said, there's no guarantee that oil found will be developed. All support infrastructure (pipelines, compression facilities, supply ports, etc.) would have to be built from scratch.

3 great photos of the drilling rig replacement operation at Shell Mars TLP. The scale on these photos is hard to wrap your head around, even when I've walked around the deck and peered up that the drilling rig. To think it got lifted up like that is amazing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Project Truck Update: Passenger Door Working

Originally uploaded by Noladishu

Well, we've got all the mechanisms on the passenger door working.
The lock mechanism was giving me trouble and I just swapped it out for a spare. Unfortunately, there's the same problem on the driver's side and I don't have a spare over there. Also, the mechanism that raises and lowers the window on the driver's side is warped, so the window is hard to raise.

Candice demonstrates the working Passenger Door

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mystery Bracket

Found in Glove Box
Originally uploaded by Noladishu
I was rooting around in the glove box when I found this bracket. I have no idea what it goes to. Anyone got any ideas? Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Project Truck Update: Primer Pieces

Originally uploaded by Noladishu
Cleaned up some pieces to put on the truck at a later date.

The window channel on the driver's side split in two because of rust. I sanded it down and coated it with primer to protect it. Also fabricated a repair piece to rivet the two chunks back together.

Both of the inner door panels are primered. I'd like to paint an undercoat of white, then red so there's nice white-and-red two-tone thing going on on the inner portion of the door.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Project Truck Update: Gas Gauge and Locks

Did some more stuff on the truck today.
The old gas gauge is busted, so I decided to replace it. I've had the replacement for a while, but I've never gotten replacement screws (because I don't want to leave one out while I go for a replacement - hence leaving an opening in the gas tank).
Lots of mini-projects going on at once in the cab.
Nice & shiny new gas gauge. I'll connect it to the dash when I rewire the truck. The wire in the photo is just the ground wire.

The next task was filing down the replacement locks to match the dimensions on the OEM locks.
Set up shop in my grandfather's old shop.
Half filed
Marked off how much I wanted to cut and then went to work with a file.

Eventually got one filed down enough and installed.
Got it on the truck, but for some reason it doesn't completely work. It hits the paddle of the lock, but it doesn't disengage the lock. Need to figure out what's up. I still have a spare lock mechanism (the door part, not the key/tumbler part) if I need to replace it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Links of the day - 16 April 2009

Google's Immigration Fixer. Google has a full-time employee just to handle visa snafus for their (large) H1B, etc. workforce.

The Case for Nuclear Winter. Not even Mr. Gloomy Pants can top this one.

Francois Genoud: Nazi Terrorist Banker. Links to the Nazi's (including Goebbels, Eichmann, Barbie), Ayatollah Khomeini, Carlos the Jackal, and, just for good measure, Bin Laden. My first thought: could this guy be the inspiration for S.P.E.C.T.R.E.? It's funny all those ex-Nazis that stuck around in Europe and had major influence in post-war Europe. Happy ending, though: he died in excruciating pain.

Governing by Chaos: A City In Shambles. Takedown of the Nagin regime.

2009 Budget in a picture. Wall chart of where your tax dollars go.

Saudi's to "regulate" child brides. 8 year olds, dude. 8 year olds.

Crucified nun dies in 'exorcism'. Should have called in Jindal...

Interactive map shows job losses.

Cao seeks heaping helping of pork. Guess he didn't get the memo at the tea parties.

Times-Pic editorial asking Mary Landrieu to push for Letten's reappointment. I like Letten, but there are still some concerns about him. The Canal Street Brothel case was shut down early because of pressure he got after rounding up too many Republican (and Democratic) donors... He's definitely not above politics.

Jeffery brings up a good point about the LSU/Charity mess. If Tulane did this, would they get 10% the flack that LSU is getting? Probably not. Here's proof:

Try not to punch your computer screen when Cowen's ugly head pops up to piss on Tulane Engineering's reputation. It still burns me up. Calvin Mackie was a native New Orleanian who was one of the first black PhD graduates from Georgia Tech, Tulane's first tenured black professor in the engineering school, featured on "When the Levees Broke," and a really great professor.

Cowen has injected himself into the LSU mess. Here's an email he recently sent out:

Dear Tulane Alumni,

I am writing today with a call to action as the Louisiana Legislature prepares to decide the fate of the new proposed public hospital for New Orleans, known as the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans, or MCLNO.

This new academic medical center, which will be built and operated with public funds, serves the needs of multiple community constituencies:

1. patients, especially the under or uninsured;
2. the academic institutions which rely on the new hospital to meet their clinical care, research and education missions, including Xavier, Dillard, LSU and Tulane;
3. the greater community of New Orleans.

The new public hospital must be governed by a Board of Trustees comprised of independent trustees who represent the various constituencies. No one group or constituency should, directly or indirectly, control the board seats.
[Emphasis in original]

The city’s academic institutions that are critical to the staffing of the new hospital -- Tulane, LSU, Xavier and Dillard -- have been successful partners in providing healthcare to under-- or uninsured patients for centuries. It is a partnership that is equitable, effective and historic. It should not be changed.

Let your voice be heard, and help to preserve the legacy and ensure fair governance of the public hospital in New Orleans.


Scott S. Cowen

He doesn't care what happens, so long as he's at least in partial control of what's built. It would be very interesting to see a battle-royale between Jindal and Cowen/Tulane. Two very powerful groups with tentacles all over the state going at it. Also, don't forget to check out the photos of Charity right after Katrina. LSU intentionally neglected Charity to get a new hospital.

And now to close on a high note- Steam powered iPod charger:

... so that you can still listen to your tunes after the Zombie Apocalypse hits. My grandfather actually gave me that exact same toy steam engine. It's one of the most dangerous toys imaginable. I loved it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Greg Meffert's Complete Deposition

Here's the link for the total (~1000 page) deposition. Here's the great thing about it: it's searchable text!!! Hit Control-F and search for all the references to 4000 Downman Road.

Most of the last 300 or so pages, up until now unpublished, concern various trips paid for by Mark St. Pierre.

Page 921:

For example, the Chicago NFC trip. Here's Dambala's post about it from over a year ago.

Page 909:

Ah, the infamous Hawaii trip. There's an interesting claim that Meffert claimed all these trips on his income taxes. Feds, you interested in some income tax evasion? Maybe get some restitution to shore up the deficit? I'm sure you could not only squeeze a few G's out of Meffert, but you could also squeeze some out of much bigger fish.

Page 963:

The company suing Greg Meffert, et. al. never paid for anyone to go on any trips. Gee, I guess they just didn't know how the Nagin administration likes to run their business.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Project Truck Update: Passenger Door Internals

When I last left off on the truck, I was about to put on the passenger door after painting it that nice red and white.

Well, now the door is on:

I've gotten almost all the internals on the door:
Door with internals
The window goes up and down with ease! Still having some issues with the locks and the exterior door handles. I'll try to resolve those soon.

I'd like to get the truck running well enough that I could leave it on the street where I live, instead of going all the way back to my mom's house when I want to work on it. Maybe even, heaven forbid, USE the truck to haul things again.

Before I do that, I'd still like to (at the very least) put a coat of topcoat on the roof, replace the wiring, and get the locks in.

Keeping watch on the Corps - UPDATED

As hurricane season begins to emerge on the horizon, here are a few articles for you to ponder about the Corps and the levees.

Temporary pumps at Orleans, London and 17th Street canals safe, investigation shows. Parsons, one of the largest engineering firms in the world, was tasked with evaluating, for the n-teenth time, the MWI pumps that have been the source of much controversy. Parsons declared the pumps, within very limited parameters, the most important of which is the speedy replacement of the temporary pumping stations. The Corps originally planned on 2012, but now is planning on 2013. Any delay past that could have serious consequences. Two final notes: first, the link to the full Parsons report (here [PDF]) is now broken, last time I checked and second, I may post more on the Parsons report. If anyone would like a copy of the report, I still have a copy of it in PDF format. I'll just say for now I have some issues with Parsons' report.

Obama appoints new overseer for Corps. We'll see how this plays out. She seems to be more of an environmentalist than some of her predecessors, which might play well for Louisiana's coastal restoration needs. We'll just have to wait and see.

Jury deliberating on Corps bribery scheme. Two contractors for the Corps tried to bribe several Corps employees for confidential bid information to allow them to get a leg up on the competition.

Corps hurricane chief leaving New Orleans. Heading to Afghanistan after a short rotation in New Orleans.

ASCE internal investigation finds to ethical misconduct. Please note Tom Jackson's comments at the end. He's an extremely well respected engineer and New Orleans is lucky to have him as the head of the Easter Levee District. Levees.org responds: Levees.org calls probe a "whitewash." I hear the news reports of the conference and they claim that ASCE only investigated one specific complaint out of a 40+ page long letter. I haven't seen the letter posted any where yet, so I'll reserve judgment until I see it. UPDATE- Here's the letter [PDF]. Hosted on the Louisiana chapter of ASCE's website. It also looks like two sets of complaints are being conflated. One complaint is by Dr. Seed (link above). The second complaint is by the founder of a well respected local geotech firm, Dr. Boutwell, that recently passed away. Those complaints seem to be well known and well understood. His report centers on the precise mode of soil failure.

Ivor Van Heerden fired by LSU. This report is really a mixed bag. Tim and Greg have a long history of extremely justified criticisms of Van Heerden. I tend to like his overview of the geology angle and how he breaks complicated engineering matters down for a lay audience. That's one of the reasons the press has latched on to him. His book, The Storm, still has one of the best described, most detailed reports on what needs to be done to fix South Louisiana before it falls into the sea. When Van Heerden stuck with what he knew (primarily geology), he was excellent. His problem is he made himself too much the story (probably with certain members of the media egging him on) and when he did that, he overshadowed some very good work being done by the Hurricane Center, specifically the storm surge modeling. If he lets himself be part of the story more than the science, he probably needed to go. LSU constantly tried balancing academic freedom with pulling Van Heerden back to his core area of expertise and eventually decided it was easier to just fire him. Still, this firing will probably be a black mark on LSU's academic reputation.

NOTE- Updated. See above. Will probably post more later.

UPDATE 2- I realized I've read through Dr. Boutwell's presentation before (part of which is available on this website). His stuff is very straightforward and well supported. As a result, his report was well received and respected.

Dr. Seed's letter is a different animal. My first reaction to the letter was unprofessional. I don't know what audience the letter was intended for, but he was overly dramatic with his presentation of various facts and down right conspiratorial at several junctures. He brings out the Twin Towers investigations, which could be aimed at a very specific, legitimate failure modes that weren't detected on the initial investigations, but could also be conspiracy-theory crap. Injecting irrelevant information like that jeopardizes the credibility of the entire letter.

All that being said, he made some very legitimate observations about Corps behavior that warrants attention. It looks like several specific employees (not named, but described) didn't discharge their responsibilities in an honorable manner. It honestly reminds me of the Corps employees caught leaving threats on the Levees.org website. The Corps is a large organization, so some bad apples are probably inevitable. The Corps should move quickly to discipline/fire the offenders. I'd be very curious if any of the employees mentioned in Dr. Seed's email are the same ones leaving the Levees.org comments.

It's a shame that the press is conflating legitimate, scientific inquiry with disreputable comments. It casts a shadow over all those investigating the Corps and lessens the impact of legitimate, scientifically verifiable complaints.


Working link for the Parsons report.

Leaking Metairie Levee. Several investigations into underground canal in Metry. Corps says the problem isn't serious. The engineer with the Levee Board-East says there's not enough data to make a definitive conclusion one way or the other.

2 convicted of bribery in Katrina levee case | National | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle One of the guilty had to be taken out on a stretcher after he had a heart attack at the ruling.

I've done a little digging and I have one more point: that's the second Corps commander we've lost in a very short time. Usually, they have a 3 year rotation. This is the second one we've lost after only about 6 months on the job. Frequent leadership changes can be a sign of an organization in chaos.

White Collar Crime

I can't post the clip (thank you, Viacom), but there was a great episode of the Chappelle Show where they contrasted the treatment of blue collar criminals with white collar criminals, except in the sketch, they were flipped. The ponzi-scheme mastermind had his home invaded by machine gun toting police, his dog was shot, his wife and kid dragged out of bed, and he was badly beaten before being thrown in central lockup in his underwear. The drug runner (played by Chappelle) was hauled before a Senate subcommittee, asked questions (very courteously) by the senators, and he took the fifth, or in Chappelled case, "I take the fif."

Well, white collar crime does a hell of a lot of damage to this country. Look at the huge mess in the financial world, much of which was caused by blatantly illegal acts. Here are a few episodes of white collar crime that stick out.

Lawyers are "Life Support" for organized crime. Related:
Defense Lawyer Charged With Witness Tampering
. More lawyers should see the inside of prison, and I don't mean visiting clients...

Joe Cassano peers out his spider-hole. Looks like the Feds are homing in on the dude that was chronicled in Matt Taibbi's piece. Exiled suggests he have his teeth removed, so they're not punched out for him in prison (I'll leave it to your imagination to figure out why).

Papers Show Wachovia Knew of Thefts - New York Times. Wachovia aids telemarketing fraudsters because of lucrative fees... Related (?): 24 indicted for mortgage fraud ring. Wouldn't be surprised if it turns out the banks didn't check these mortgage applications as closely as they were required to, because they the bank got to bundle up the fraudulent mortgages into a mortgage-backed security and make a boatload of money selling it to pension funds, Chinese investors, etc. Suckers! More related: "Very clever."

Morgan Stanley's 13% Payout Offer To Short Ford Stock. MS using taxpayer funds to short Ford, the only domestic automaker still hanging on strong (at least for now).

How helpful are your bankers? Well, try banking with UBS. Their so helpful, they'll even smuggle diamonds in toothpaste past the TSA for you. Now, many UBS clients are facing huge IRS fines and possibly even jail time for willful acts of tax evasion on a massive scale. Some of the tax evaders are crying their eyes out to their lawyers. Bo-hoo. Fuck 'em.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Science Links and an Experiment

Why do ants never get in traffic jams? No overtaking, lots of tailgating, and everyone moving in unison.

Creationism's huge win in Texas. Creationists on state school board order watering down of Texas school books. Since Texas is one of the largest markets for textbooks, it's likely that every new science textbook in the country will have to be watered down to please creationists.

Where oil comes from. Instant refutation of creationism.

Cold fusion breakthrough? We'll see if it's science or pseudo-science. It's a Navy lab, so you can't just discount it immediately.

Nuclear power comes to Antarctica. Tired of lugging around lots of diesel, 1960's scientists turn to nuclear power for their scientific needs.

Photos from a guided tour of Chernobyl. Extremely cool. I'd love to tour Chernobyl one day. I like the part where he describes how the guide threw a shit-fit when someone put their cap on the ground (and hence picked up radioactive dust).

$200 garage-made space probe. Very cool project by a bunch of high school kids.

The internet. Represented as a subway map.

And now for the experiment of the day:
Cannonball thrown into a vat of Mercury

Will it sink or will it float? Here's your hint.

Oil drips and discharges - 5 April 2008

Oil industry narrows focus on deep water. This is bad news for Louisiana. Deepwater Exploration and Production was THE hottest area in the oil biz for the past decade and Louisiana was a big beneficiary of that. Little coastal cities like Morgan City had a sustained boom coming from well-paid oil service workers. Now, it's dropping off a cliff. The oil companies are cutting way back and the service companies are taking the brunt of it. I've heard that the oil service companies have taken a lot of their workers, who had been working 80-hour weeks [paying them handsomely in the process] and cutting their hours down to 32 hours a week. I've heard some service companies complaining it's just the majors trying to squeeze lower rates out of the service companies. Others claim it's fear of what sort of taxes Obama might place on the oil industry. Dunno, just know it looks bad. Morgan City used to have the lowest unemployment rate of any city in the country. Give it a year and I guarantee that won't be true.

Not only will Louisiana start getting hit with lower employment, but lease sales are getting colder and colder. These lease sales are critical to plugging the budget gap and financing coastal restoration. Keep in mind a lot of companies have been sitting on unused leases, so there's little incentive to splurge on new lease sales.

A lot of people are pinning their hopes for "energy independence" on the Canadian Tar Sands. Couple of interesting pieces: Two Canadian Giants merge in an effort to cut costs. National Geographic just ran a huge expose on the tar sands operation. Here's a good roundup of the reactions and articles. Worth clicking through to read a few. Lots of jobs, but at a staggering environmental impact. Don't forget that any increase in oil production will depend on 2 things: cheap heating of steam (through natural gas) and large volumes of water, way beyond what they have access to right now.

Other quick hits:
Why oil prices will rise again. Underinvestment will lead to an energy crunch when the economy gets back on track.

Latest fashion craze in Iraq: buying civilian Hummers. H2's and H3's in bright colors are all the rage. Oh, the irony. On a serious note, rising internal consumption cuts off future oil exports. Keep that in the back of your head...

Volcanos and Oil: a bad combination. Somebody send a memo to Chevron. CC Bobby Jindal.

Why did oil hit $147 a barrel then crash? It might be because of a Goldman Sachs short squeeze. Note to those that want to "blame the speculators" on the entire run up on prices: the short squeeze didn't start until oil was more than $100/barrel.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Project Truck Update: Passenger Door Update

Originally uploaded by Noladishu
Got the new passenger door painted and ready to install.

Tomorrow, I'm going to put the shell on and then start loading the internals in.
Passenger door gone

Baseball Season is almost here...

Oh yeah, and Tulane beat LSU 8-7 this week.