Edward Branley's blog

The bad faith of insurance companies post-K (@RMowbrayTP article)

Marc Robert's supermarket on West Esplanade in #themetrys isn't all that far from my house. I'm a loyal Zuppardo's customer, but I make the occasional trip to Robert's to pick up things that Joey and Peter Z don't carry down the street. This Robert's location came back pretty quick after the storm. The supermarket in Lakeview, at Robert E. Lee and West End, also came back quick (well, relative to Lakeview--it was one of the first things re-opened).

When I read this article in Da Paper about the Robert's that was located at the old Schwegmann's store at Elysian Fields and St. Claude Avenues in Faubourg Marigny, I was stunned by the numbers:

Robert has had a tough road since Hurricane Katrina. All five of his grocery stores were destroyed in the storm, and his insurer, United Fire & Casualty Insurance Co., refused to pay. Robert eventually prevailed in court against United Fire, and was awarded $21.6 million, plus interest and $1 million in bad faith penalties in June 2008 in the largest commercial insurance decision after Katrina. The legal proceedings against the Schwegmann family were part of a separate case.

Robert had the legal clout, as well as the financial means to go after this insurance company to get the money he was owed. He can run with this cash now to continue the fight with the Schwegmann family, should they choose to continue to obstruct the repair/reconstruction of the property (they're still the landlords):

The jury found that the landlords had breached their obligations under the lease to repair the property. It determined that the store reasonably could have opened in April 2007 if it weren't for the dispute, and awarded Robert's company, Marketfare St. Claude LLC, $2,293,170 in lost profits.

It also ordered the Schwegmanns to fix the roof and repair the building structure, something that's estimated to cost about $3 million and take about six months. To make sure it gets done, the jury ordered the landlords to pay $38,219.50 in future lost profits each month starting on April 1 until the store opens.

What's disturbing is that this is just one of many cases where insurance companies stall, delay, and stonewall property owners who lost so much in the storm. It's like the old tobacco industry strategy, delay the cases until the plaintiffs die of cancer.

Hopefully others will be able to fight to re-build. Judgements like this one could trigger a lot of capital returning to the Marigny and Ninth Ward.

Happy Anniversary, Obamacare!

I got an email from Senator David Vitter today, trying to tell me that "Obamacare" is still evil and socialist on its second anniversary. Like this horrid logo above, Vitty-cent's getting shriller with every passing day. His total ineffectiveness when it comes to the Affordable Healthcare Act is amping up his case of Obama Derangement Syndrome.

Now that the White House is "taking ownership" of the term "Obamacare," look for this to get worse.

Well, that's not specifically true. It's going to get worse because of the undeniable fact that Obamacare is working and improving American Lives.

There's a woman, some graphic artist who lives down in Belle Chasse. When Obamacare was a bill being debated by Congress in 2010, this person kept tweeting that we were turning into a soviet-style government. I told her she was stupid. Naturally, she didn't appreciate my choice of words, but I didn't back down from them. It's absolutely stupid to say that wanting to provide health insurance for the (at the time) 43+ million Americans who had none was an idea that would tranfrom our country into the USSR.

Just feckin stupid.

And dead wrong.

Another Fried Chicken Cartoon???

So, it's bad enough that a conservative think-tank employee/blogger posts a racially offensive caricature of POTUS, but for THIS to be the rationale:

"At the time, I was searching for a picture of the president in drag to illustrate his Southern political strategy of courting young voters, a majority of whom support gay marriage,"

This is a great example of why conservatism has gone off the rails. She wanted POTUS in drag because of gay marriage? Why? Are gay men who want to live in a committed relationship drag queens?

Republican voters, you own this woman and her ideas. You sit at home, thinking, "Oh, I don't think like that. Oh, I'm not close-minded. Oh, I'm not racist." Problem is, you go to the polls on election day and vote for people who enable a closed-minded and racist and "like-that" agenda.

Who Dat Nation is Outta Luck on Bounty...

(Shultzilla won many Internets yesterday for this awesome graphic)

I'm sorry, Who Dat Nation, but we're just fecked on the whole bounty scandal. Let me count the ways:

  1. Goodell has no sympathy for us. The commish has had the whole issue of concussions and other injuries that can do long-term physical damage to players for a few years now. The bounty system encourages such injuries.
  2. The owners will back the Commissioner. The Saints were out to damage their property. They're not going to be inclined to help out the guys trying to bust their guys up.
  3. The NFL front office and the other owners can't stand Benson. Think back to 2005, when Benson was looking for technical legal excuses to permanently move the Saints to San Antonio. The water hadn't drained out of the city yet and this fecker had released his flying-monkey lawyers. The subsequent PR shitstorm had then-commish Tagliabue coming down to New Orleans and slapping this man upside the head. A committee of other owners had to sit on Benson to keep him from pulling any other stunts to this city he hates so much. Now you've got another scandal from "Benson's team." They're just going to see this as one of many screw-ups from Benson's organization.
  4. The other teams hope they won't get caught. If the Saints get this horrific punishment, they can let the entire concept of pay-to-maim die. I have absolutely no doubt this practice was going on at other teams (and not just teams where Gregg Williams coached). There are other organizations holding their breath, hoping they don't get sucked into this vortex. If the owners lessen the penalties against the Saints, that makes it easier to punish other offenders. They want one harsh punishment and then let's forget the past.

Bottom line. We're just outta luck for the 2012-13 season.

SpaceX sends Dragon to the Space Station

I very much want to see this mission be a total success:

The upcoming flight is a maneuvering and docking test, but some time this year (probably after the November elections) Congress will vote on the 2013 NASA budget. This will include funding for CCiCap (the successor acronym to CCDev), NASA's commercial partnership for manned low Earth orbit flights. When that time comes, one or two successful private cargo flights would strengthen the case for human crews flying on domestic commercial rockets. It would also make a better case for justifying the full $850M NASA budget request for Commercial Crew.

This is more than a bit exciting for me. By my calculations, we're now eleven years behind the movie "2001," where PanAm operated commercial shuttles to an orbiting space station.

Of course, proof of concept is required, and that's what this flight will be. Go SpaceX!

Anonymity on the Internet

UPDATE: Da Paper reports that 'Mencken1951' is indeed a federal prosecutor: AUSA Sal Perricone.

Interesting article from Fox8 New Orleans about a regular in the nola.com comment sewer:

New Orleans - River Birch landfill owner Fred Heebe wants to know if an anonymous online commenter posting defamatory remarks is actually a government attorney investigating him. The poster uses the name "Henry L. Mencken1951."

"I'm here. Just watching our rights erode," was posted at 6:15 Wednesday morning on NOLA.COM. The opinionated anonymous poster is now the subject of a court filing by Fred Heebe. Mencken1951 has tackled a variety of issues onQline, from the Saints bounty program to the BP oil spill. His comments about Heebe, however, have stirred up a legal fight.

September 4th of last year he posted, "Heebe's goose is cooked." Heebe alleges the man behind Mencken is actually an assistant United States attorney. It's possible a judge could order NOLA.COM to reveal the identity of the poster.

My first thought on this is, why does Heebe think the poster is an AUSA? If "Mencken1951" dropped something in the comment sewer that was privileged, that could be problematic. Still, you'd have to prove that said AUSA was indeed the commenter. As the article points out, Heebe would start with nola.com by having the court order them to give up what they know about this user.

What does nola.com know? Users in the comment sewer are required to register. You can give a fake name, but you have to give a valid/verifiable email address. That's usually where someone trying to fly under the radar is revealed. People desiring to use a pseudonym on the web will make a new email address with a service such as Gmail or Yahoo. To get a Gmail account, one must already have a verifiable account. For most Internet users, the ultimate verifiable account is from their phone or cable company, their base internet provider. So, if you can get Google, for example, to give up the source email of a Gmail account, usually it's endgame right there.

It's possible still to get an email account without having one already. There are services that allow you to establish a series of "challenge questions" to recover a lost password, as opposed to requiring a backup email account. In these cases, all the email provider knows about you is the IP address of where you were when you created the account.

The forum where the anonymous user posts also usually logs the IP addresses of incoming comments, and that's what Heebe's after here. If you're posting from your house or from your mobile phone, the trail leads right back to you. Can this be beaten? Sure, post from a publicly-accessible wi-fi hotspot, such as a coffee shop. Now, the trail goes cold, unless you want to commit more resources to the search. If the coffee shop has security cameras, and you sit in the focal range of one of those cameras, you could be identified at the place/time of the post. Does every Starbucks or CCs in the New Orleans area monitor their patrons so tightly? Probably not. Additionally, a coffee shop wifi signal usually extends into the parking lot. Write your post up someplace else, pull into the parking lot, access the 'net, post your comment, get offline. If the poster is involved in a criminal investigation, the FBI, NOPD, or JPSO will have the technical resources to get this data, but for a civil defamation case? IANAL, but that sounds like a probable-cause problem to me.

There is one other piece of data that you give up when you access the Internet via public wifi: the MAC address of your computer's ethernet adapter. This is a hardware code that could be traced back to you. Think of this as similar to a Vehicle Identification Number on a car. To narrow this down, however, an investigator would have to get the address, which means dumping the coffee shop's router log. Then they'd compare that to a database of addresses to see which manufacturers use the hardware in your computer. Then the search could possibly be narrowed to the store where the computer was purchased. If you bought a computer from that batch at that store, that might be probable cause to get a search warrant. If you paid cash for it, you could give a fake name for the warranty registration. Maybe you'd get picked up by security cams at the Best Buy, maybe not. Again, is this something that would be done for a civil defamation case? Doesn't seem likely.

My point here is that it's possible to stymie the likes of Fred Heebe.

  1. Set up a truly anonymous email
  2. Don't use your personal mobile phone or your home Internet connection to create the email or post comments.
  3. Use a computer that is not easily traced back to you.
  4. Post from publicly accessible hotspots where you can't be identified via security cameras.

If you are involved in something criminal, the government may commit the resources to finding you, so this isn't foolproof. If you're a whistleblower blogger or forum poster/commenter, however, your chances of staying anonymous are solid.

meta...

I haven't posted much on this blog for a while, mainly because I've been issuing political rants on Facebook. Ever since the changes in YatMedia, I've been a lot more untethered when it comes to expressing my thoughts on FB. I'll get back to more Deep Thoughts here soon.

A Open Letter to the Police Association of New Orleans (PANO):

Dear Police Association of New Orleans:

You recently published an Open Letter to the City of New Orleans, discussing "Discontent within the NOPD." This letter requires a bit more detailed response than simply ignoring your opinion.

Before you fire another broadside, blaming city government for the city's crime problems, some things for you to consider:

Two former NOPD officers are on death row (one each federal and state)

Five former NOPD officers were convicted in the Danziger Bridge Incident post-Katrina

One former NOPD officer is serving a 25-year federal prison sentence for killing Henry Glover post-Katrina, and another is doing 17 years for setting his body on fire post-mortem.

"Paid Detail" scandals have plagued NOPD for decades and have totally eroded any professional credibility your members think they have.

As I sit in a local coffee shop writing this, there are four NOPD officers sitting three tables away. I'm not sure which of the four are:

  • The officer capable of shooting me, later claiming it was a mistake
  • The officer who will take my body up to the levee and burn it to cover the tracks of the shooter
  • The officer who will doctor the reports to cover up the actions of the first two
  • The officer who is lying to the city and the department about his "paid detail" income

See to your own house first, PANO. Develop some standards of professional integrity and work to restore your membership's credibility in the city before you attack others.

 

Catholic corrallary to Godwin's Law.

I propose a new corrallary to Godwin's Law, which states:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.

The new version would relate to the Catholic Church:

As an online discussion about the Catholic Church grows longer, the probability of a reference to clergy sex abuse approaches 1.

It's not fair, but the extent to which the NCCB have lost the moral high ground in the US is so huge, it's almost expected there will be a #buggery reference.

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