Friday, December 09, 2016

Too late for a do-over

Or maybe it's too early to start the next argument. The fundamental problem for Foster Campbell in this Senate runoff doesn't have anything to do with John Kennedy.  As we can see from his ads and from the rallies last week and this week, Kennedy's closing argument is all about Trump.

Trump won this cycle in Louisiana. Campbell's challenge was, in the space of a few short weeks, to create a whole new cycle either separate from or in reaction to that.  Plan A would have been to run against Senate Candidate John Kennedy. But that isn't so easy when the guy refuses to debate and hides behind Big Daddy Trump. What does John Kennedy actually believe or stand for?  He hopes never to have to actually answer that question.

Plan B for Campbell would have been to run a Trump reaction campaign; try and turn the incredulity and revulsion against Trump into a way to motivate the disaffected voters who didn't participate in the primary. Send a message. Give Trump a problem in Washington.  Something like that. That's hard to do.  Especially so when the party leaves you hanging.
Campbell's effort hasn't attracted national surrogates or money, which is a sure sign that Democratic leaders think Louisiana, which gave 58 percent of its vote to Trump, is a lost cause. But he's managed to tap into an impromptu network of out-of-state disappointed Democrats looking for one last chance to send some sort of message.

But if they see a Campbell victory as a rebuke to Trump, Campbell's definitely not playing it that way. Instead, he's promising to "stand with the new president when he's right for Louisiana," but have the "courage to say no when he's wrong," as Campbell's highest-profile supporter, Gov. John Bel Edwards, put it in a closing ad.
Campbell's lame fallback is to be with Trump and the Republicans except when he's not. Which is sort of the same noncommittal strategy that got Hillary beat last month. Weird that the Democrats aren't supporting this. 

Thursday, December 08, 2016

RIP parade food

The Grocery

There are a lot of to-go options available along the St. Charles Avenue parade route.  This year there will be one fewer.
St. Charles Avenue po-boy and sandwich shop The Grocery (2854 St. Charles Ave., 504-895-952) is closing. The last day of business for the spot is Sunday, Dec. 11, according to a post on the store's Facebook page.

French Truck Coffee proprietor Geoffrey Meeker took over ownership of the business in February and revamped the menu to include new breakfast items while keeping many of the shop’s signature pressed po-boys. The shop was a popular parade day stop during Carnival and had been in operation for 30 years.
I'm sure I have taken more photos of The Grocery over the years than the just ones above and below. If I'd been more meticulous about tagging them I'd be able to find them more easily.

The Grocery

Here is one from this year after its recent paint job and management changeover. They reduced the menu a bit.

The Grocery

 That Cuban sandwich was pretty nice, though. I'm not sure anyone else out there on the route sells those.

Art of the deal

Donald Trump is an excellent negotiator.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, Trump got involved. He sat down with Carrier leaders. Afterward, he announced that 1,100 jobs would be saved. When I first heard the news, I was optimistic. But I began to get nervous when we couldn’t get any details on the deal. I urged caution, but our members got their hopes up. They thought their jobs had been saved.

When I met with Carrier officials last Thursday, I realized that that wouldn’t be the case. Though Trump said he’d saved 1,100 jobs, he hadn’t. Carrier told us that 550 people would get laid off.

Trump didn’t tell people that, though. When he spoke at our plant, he acted like no one was going to lose their job. People went crazy for him. They thought, because of Trump, I’m going to be able to provide for my family. 

All the while, I’m sitting there, thinking that’s not what the damn numbers say. Trump let people believe that they were going to have a livelihood in that facility. He let people breathe easy. When I told our members the next day, they were devastated.

I was angry, too. So I told a Washington Post reporter the truth — that Trump’s 1,100 number was wrong. When Trump read my comments, he got angry.
Trump used these Carrier employees as a campaign stunt. Then he used them as a post-election photo-op.  Then he kicked them in the teeth.

Today he did it again
President-elect Donald J. Trump on Thursday named Andrew F. Puzder, chief executive of the company that operates the fast food outlets Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. and an outspoken critic of the worker protections enacted by the Obama administration, to be secretary of labor.

Mr. Puzder has spent his career in the private sector and has opposed efforts to expand eligibility for overtime pay, while arguing that large minimum wage increases hurt small businesses and lead to job loss among low-skilled workers.
During the campaign, Trump frequently sounded open to raising the minimum wage to $10. This is, of course, unacceptable but it would be more than Puzder would be likely to countenance. In context of the 2016 election, Trump's hollow promise of $10 less than the $15 actual minimum wage workers have been demanding in recent years. It's also less than the shitty $12 (sorta maybe in some states if they really try hard enough) reluctantly endorsed by Hillary Clinton this year.   I wonder who the Hillary people are going to blame for all of this.

On the precipice

Of all the insults inflicted on us by this year in politics, Senator John Neely Kennedy might be the worst.
NEW ORLEANS - Republican John Kennedy is comfortably ahead of Democratic candidate Foster Campbell in the U.S. Senate runoff that will be decided Saturday, according to a poll recently conducted by the University of New Orleans.

The poll, conducted by surveying 776 registered Louisiana voters, showed Kennedy being favored by 62 percent of the respondents, to just 33 percent for Campbell. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.
On the other hand, it's the UNO poll so... 


Steve Scalise seems to think Louisiana might be done asking for flood relief money already
Officials have estimated that the state suffered as much as $8.7 billion in damage from the historic floods that hit south Louisiana in August and north Louisiana in the spring, and FEMA has estimated nearly 188,000 structures, mostly homes, were flooded in August alone.

"If additional needs are identified, then that's something we can have a conversation about in the months ahead," Scalise said about future efforts to secure more money.

The White House had asked Congress to sign off on a $3.15 billion disaster aid package for Louisiana and states affected by Hurricane Matthew by the end of the year.

Edwards, who has made several trips to Washington in recent weeks to lobby for flood aid, requested nearly $4 billion in additional funding for Louisiana alone.
Good looking out, there. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Bobby would have fit right in

Poor Bobby Jindal. He did everything an aspiring GOP big timer has to do to get elected or appointed to national office these days.  He always flanked to the right of the field no matter the issue. He took the Norquist pledge. He refused to see any problem that couldn't be solved by privatizing state assets away to cronies or at least cutting taxes for rich people.  He even got in on the racism, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant fervor that animates so much of the GOP base these days which was a bold move for a non-white son of immigrants to make.

None of this got him elected but, under different circumstances, it could have gotten him a role in the new Trump Administration. He would have fit right in.
In nominating billionaire activist Betsy DeVos for education secretary, Trump has signaled that, like Jindal, abandoning public schools is one promise he hopes to keep. Trump proposes using $20 billion in federal funds as block grants to encourage states to fund private-school vouchers. That would mean diverting another $110 billion in state and local funds to send students to private schools that conservatives like DeVos claim are superior to their so-called "government school" counterparts.

However, Trump and DeVos -- who has spent $1.6 million trying to influence Louisiana elections -- must persuade cash-strapped governors and legislators to spend scarce resources on a scheme that's failed wherever it's been tried.

This is where the disappointment of Jindal's voucher program enters the picture, as policy makers and the media will inevitably examine its dismal performance. At Jindal's urging, in 2008 lawmakers created the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), enabling some disadvantaged students to leave public schools graded a C or lower and enroll in a participating private school. By 2014, more than 6,000 public school students attended one of 126 private schools.
Mann goes on to argue in that column that the negative example of Jindal's "failed" voucher program might prove to be a problem for Trump and DeVos's schemes moving forward.  
In a paper published last year by the National Bureau for Economic Research, three scholars documented "the large negative effects" and the reduced academic achievements of scholarship program students in 2013, the first year after the program's expansion.

"Our results show that LSP vouchers reduce academic achievement," the researchers concluded, explaining, "attendance at an LSP-eligible private school is estimated to lower math scores" and "reduce reading, science and social studies scores."

Why? "We find evidence," the researchers wrote, "that the negative effects of the LSP may be linked to selection of low-quality private schools into the program."
But, no, none of that matters. The whole point of the exercise is an ideologically driven assault on the very idea of universal public education.  In that respect, Jindal's Louisiana experiment and DeVos's in Michigan have been big successes. And now it's time to push that program at the national level. 

Bobby could have fit right in with Trump.  But he made that one fatal mistake of publicly attacking the boss that one time.  And, well, now he's got to go find something else to do.

Better get it while you can

The lame duck congress is poised to allocate more flood relief funding for Louisiana this week.
Louisiana is in line to get more than $1 billion in additional aid for recovery from historic flooding this year, thanks to a stop-gap spending measure awaiting approval by Congress this week.

The legislation that the flood aid is tucked into, formally known as a continuing resolution, must be approved by Friday to prevent a government shutdown. It would fund the federal government through April 28.

Specific details on the funding plan were expected to be released late Tuesday night, but U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Baton Rouge Republican who has been advocating for flood relief, said it will include some $1.2 billion in semi-flexible grant funds used to aid recovery efforts, with additional funds possible for further infrastructure efforts.

"This is an important next step and the entire delegation will continue to press for more funding to make sure that every Louisianan has what they need to get their lives back on track," Cassidy said Tuesday afternoon. "Louisiana will continue to recover and rebuild.”
A billion dollars sounds like a lot. But it's still significantly less than what is being sought... which is itself less that what is likely to be needed. 
The White House had asked Congress to sign off on a $3.15 billion disaster aid package for Louisiana and states affected by Hurricane Matthew by the end of the year.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has made several trips to Washington in recent weeks to lobby for flood aid, had requested nearly $4 billion in additional funding for Louisiana alone. The governor's office could not comment on the additional aid from Congress on Tuesday because the final text of the legislation had not been released.

Officials have estimated that the state suffered as much as $8.7 billion in damage from floods, and FEMA has estimated nearly 188,000 structures, mostly homes, were flooded in August alone.
Earlier this year we did some back-of-the napkin figuring and guessed that, if we're looking for a recovery package comparable to what was available per affected home after Katrina, we probably should be asking for at least $6 billion. As for the recovery plan itself, well, we had some suggestions about that too.  Let's refer back quickly to Item One on our outline.
One:  Mitch Landrieu told us the key to rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina was that we not just build everything back the way it was, but instead, build "the city we've always wanted to be."   So here is how you do that. First, look around and see if you have any land that might be made for valuable for development if you can move the poor people living there off of it.  Next, move those poor people out of the way.  Like Pres says, they're a "drag on the economy. We've talked many times about how this strategy took off in New Orleans. Make it work for you too.
Because it looks like Garret Graves is already applying this lesson. 
Graves has also questioned the need for HUD requirements that prioritize low- and moderate-income families, as well as other disadvantaged communities.

"It’s important to remember that the flood waters did not impact people along lines of race, ethnicity or socioeconomics – it inundated all its victims," he said. "We have to ensure recovery investments are made objectively, with the full scope of needs in view."
Anyway, whatever they're planning, it's best if they get as much money as they can now.  Next year they're going to dealing with a new President who has seen fit to put Ben Carson in charge of HUD which means the process could get, well, a little weird.  Also we're likely to be represented by Senator Kennedy whose campaign theme this year is a repeating mantra about "spending problems" and "too many people getting handouts."  Donald Trump will be in Baton Rouge this week stumping for Kennedy.  Maybe someone should ask him about this.


Can't have our homeless shelter mucking up the scenery. Gotta protect the precious eyes of Airbnb tourists and real estate investors THE CHILDREN in Central City.  Better to warehouse them out of sight somewhere with all the other undesirables.
Amid protests from a chorus of political leaders and nearby residents, Mayor Mitch Landrieu apparently is reconsidering plans to build a homeless shelter in Central City near two schools, just a week before a city agency was set to approve the deal.

Landrieu has asked the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority to delay by a month a vote to close on the city’s planned $750,500 purchase of 3101 Erato St., a former boxing gym that was to be converted to house the "low-barrier" shelter.

In the interim, officials will consider two potential alternatives, Landrieu spokesman Tyronne Walker said late Tuesday.

“We promised all stakeholders and community members that we would seriously consider all of their feedback and all of their ideas,” Walker said. “And today is an example of us doing that.”

Sites now in contention are the old Veterans Affairs hospital on Perdido Street and the former Israel Augustine Middle School building at Tulane and South Broad avenues, he said. Neither site is near an open public school, unlike the Erato Street site.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Maybe Kennedy is really worried

They're sending Trump in to stump.
WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump plans to head to Louisiana to campaign Friday for Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy, a GOP leader said.

“Donald Trump will be coming to Louisiana the day before the runoff," Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Tuesday. “We’re going to try real hard to win."

Trump’s trip would come on the heels of last Saturday’s visit by Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Wicker. Wicker plans to return again for Saturday's runoff.
That's Pence last week and Trump this week all to win a seat in a state everyone agrees is decidedly red.  What are they so concerned about? You'd think the national Democrats would be trying as hard to salvage this win but we've heard nary a peep.  Must be too busy blaming The Left for 2016. 

Louisiana has a revenue problem AND a spending problem

Remember those two legislative sessions this year when a bunch of whiny babies couldn't raise enough money to fix the state budget?  Yeah, well, they didn't raise enough money
Louisiana will still have to make more than $600 million in midyear budget cuts over the next two months despite raising more than $1.5 billion in taxes last spring and cutting the popular TOPS scholarship program.

The state's budget cycle that ended in June had a $313 million budget deficit that must be made up in the current budget year. Louisiana's state taxes also aren't bringing in nearly as much money in the current year as projected. State budget chief Jay Dardenne said he expects an additional shortfall to be more than $300 million when its announced next month.

"I know many people thought we would have more money than we needed right now," said Ben Nevers, Gov. John Bel Edwards' chief of staff, during a budget meeting Monday (Dec. 6). "That just hasn't happened."

Dardenne said the governor will be proposing cuts to higher education, hospitals for the poor and uninsured as well as services for people with disabilities in the middle of the year because there isn't enough money to prevent those types of reductions.

Those cuts will be proposed despite the fact that legislators spent months in Baton Rouge last year looking for ways to spare higher education, hospitals and people with disabilities from budget cuts. The state's "rainy day" fund -- which is supposed to help cover unexpected financial shortfalls -- will also likely be used.

On the one hand, the Republicans in the state House of Representatives (with moral support from Governor Treasurer Senator Kennedy) refused to do anything to help raise the money necessary to fix the gigantic holes Bobby Jindal had blown in the budget. Louisiana has a "spending problem, not a revenue problem," Kennedy insisted. We just need to stop buying art or something.. oh and paying for poor people to go to the hospital.

On the other hand, Bobby Jindal had already blown the hospital money helping his friends get rich.  Nevertheless we were promised by Jindal and his acolytes that the privatization scheme would save the state money in the long run. (Some of us were skeptical.)  Anyway, it turns out today that a big part of the problem is.... 

So, yeah, we do have a  bit of a spending problem there. 

Monday, December 05, 2016

Senator John Neely Kennedy

Looks like the Campbell campaign could have used a few more purple party buses.
Early voting was sluggish in advance of this weekend's runoff election, with fewer than 6 percent of Louisiana's 3 million registered voters casting ballots.

About 171,000 voters cast ballots early for the Saturday election that will decide an open U.S. Senate seat and two open U.S. House seats, along with dozens of local elections.

That's only a third of the people who early voted ahead of last month's primary election, which had the attention-grabbing presidential race on the ballot.

December elections historically have had low turnouts, and the Secretary of State's office expects about 35 percent of voters statewide to show up for the election, compared to 68 percent for the presidential election.

Early voting data showed white voters cast early ballots in greater proportions than black voters.
Not a great sign. 

What's at the other end of DAPL?

Perhaps not so surprisingly, we are.
Dakota Access LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, is building the 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter Dakota Access Pipeline from the Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas of North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa, to an oil tank farm in Illinois. From Illinois, the oil would travel to Nederland, Texas, then would be transported via a just-completed pipeline to Lake Charles.

Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the DAPL, owns Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC, the company whose name appears on the Louisiana pipeline permit applications. Energy Transfer and Sunoco already built a pipeline from Nederland to Lake Charles. Now they want to extend it from Calcasieu Parish through Jefferson Davis, Acadia, Vermilion, Lafayette, Iberia, St. Martin, Iberville, Ascension and Assumption parishes, ending on the west bank of New Orleans near St. James.

The Bayou Bridge Pipeline would provide a connection between the North Dakota oilfields and Louisiana's refineries and ports.

The 24-inch diameter Bayou Bridge Pipeline would be 162 miles long and cross eight Louisiana watersheds including the Mermentau, Vermilion, Bayou Teche and Atchafalaya watersheds. In the Atchafalaya Basin, 77 acres of wetlands will be permanently affected and 171 acres of wetlands will be temporarily impacted.
Now, as we all know, there is already a shitload of oil and gas infrastructure snaked through the Louisiana wetlands. But what we also know is, that's sort of.. you know.. the reason we're losing the Louisiana wetlands.  It would be asking an awful lot of Louisianians to organize against a project like this given that we just voted overwhelmingly for Trump on the idea that he would bring back their drilling jobs. But, then, there's never a bad time to start. 

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Today is the last day to vote early

The Louisiana Senate race between Foster Campbell and John Kennedy is the last seat to be decided in the next Congress. It's getting a lot of attention nationwide as frustrated left leaning people all over the country throw money at their angst
After making appearances on network news programs and receiving supportive messages from a long roster of celebrities, Louisiana Democrat Foster Campbell has reported collecting $2.5 million in campaign donations between Oct. 20 and Nov. 20 -- more than twice the amount he raised in the entire run-up to the Nov. 8 primary.

A campaign finance report due this week and provided to media by his campaign shows Campbell, who faces Republican John Kennedy in the Dec. 10 runoff for U.S. Senate, still had about $1.4 million in his campaign coffer as of Nov. 20.
Meanwhile Kennedy, still the odds on favorite to win this thing in a walk, has been in Washington where his friend David Vitter has set him up with all the important lobbyists to know
Kennedy held two fundraising events in Washington last week. A Nov. 15 luncheon was hosted by the Cornerstone Affairs Group lobbying firm. Three of Cornerstone’s lobbyists were listed as hosts of the event, along with Kirby Political Action Committee – Houston-based Kirby Corp. bills itself as the nation’s premier tank barge operator – and United Egg Producers, an Atlanta-based lobbying firm that represents chicken farmers.

The suggested contribution was $2,500 per political action committee and $1,000 per individual.

Cornerstone, like other lobbying firms, is known for hosting events that can give lobbyists and business interests an entrée if a future issue arises.

“That’s how Washington works,” said Michael Henderson, an LSU professor of communication. “People who want to see certain policies enacted will want access and be connected to people in power. Candidates need resources, and folks are willing to provide those resources. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have John Kennedy in their pocket.”
No, it doesn't necessarily mean they have Kennedy in their pocket, I guess. The Kennedy In Your Pocket novelty key ring is still in production. You know, press a button and Kennedy says something smarm-folksy about guns or weed killer or whatever. Hopefully out by Christmas but they're still figuring out how to fit one button for each of the "400 ways" to cut the state budget.

Meanwhile Vice President Elect Mike Pence is flying in to New Orleans today to raise..um... enthusiasm (?) for Kennedy.   For whatever reason, the Trump-Pence people like to hold rallies at Lakefront Airport.  Trump's campaign event there earlier this year was rather exciting.

Anyway, it sure would have been fun to have a Senate debate or two this week. But, you can see the candidates (particularly Kennedy) have had other stuff to do, apparently. Stephanie Grace thinks we should be insulted.
The final weeks of the Senate race could have featured four separate showdowns between the Republican state treasurer and his runoff opponent, Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, but none came to be. Kennedy declined an invitation to appear jointly before the Press Club of Baton Rouge, and three planned television debates were canceled when Kennedy agreed to attend one, Campbell another and negotiations over the third broke down when Kennedy refused to allow a live audience and Campbell refused to proceed without one.

The losers are those voters who still want to get a better sense of the man they'll soon send to Washington. Granted, that's not all of them, or most, or perhaps even more than a small subsample. Those who want to be more engaged, though, deserve more respect and consideration from the candidates than this sad state of affairs suggests.
We agree!  For what it's worth, we did make an effort to rectify this sad state of events by asking both candidates to appear on the fake radio show with us.  Only one response so far, though.

Kennedy still ducking. I wonder if we should call Cornerstone to see if they can help.

Jeff Landry is only freaked out about this one thing

Weird, huh.
It is also not clear how broad Landry's complaint about the LGBT protections might be. In court Tuesday, his legal team said he only has concerns about the provisions that apply to transgender people, not the protections for gay people and same-sex couples.

At one point, they implied that if the governor's protections had been limited to gay, lesbian and bisexual people, the two might not have landed in court. "This whole case is about gender identity, not sexual orientation," said Chester Cedars, a lawyer for the Department of Justice who spoke for Landry Tuesday.

The governor's team was skeptical of that claim however. They said Landry filed the lawsuit against the governor to get the entire LGBT executive order thrown out, not just the part that applied to transgender people. Landry has also resisted including protections for the gay community in his own agency and state contracts, signaling he isn't interested in a more restricted policy.

"If you read over their pleadings, they want the whole thing dismissed," said Matthew Block, general counsel for the governor's office.

Everything's coming up Vitty

Even if Wendy doesn't end up with this job, David Vitter really like had the last laugh this year 
Though her husband will no longer be in the Senate next year, Vitter could still be in a strong position politically.

Both U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy and Republican senatorial candidate John Kennedy, who is in the Dec. 10 runoff to replace David Vitter, are allies of the outgoing senator. Both received significant organizational and political support from Vitter in the past two years in their Senate bids.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Taibbi has finished reviewing Tom Friedman's new book

Always good for a laugh.

To me, Friedman has always been Exhibit A in a version of the "Banality of evil" argument. Yes, he is trite and stupid. But the trite, stupid things he writes have defended and justified horrors the world over.  He's a monster.

More importantly he's not alone.  He's emblematic of thousands of similar monsters who proliferate in media throughout the country. There's always good money to be made rationalizing the atrocities of the powerful with dimestore aphoristic nonsense if you can fake it well enough. Look around.  There's at least one Friedman opining from a high platform in your town right now.


Stuart "Neil" Fisher is a goddamned hero.
A developer whose company failed in a bid to convert the former World Trade Center building in New Orleans into a hotel and condominiums is challenging the latest dismissal of a lawsuit to stop the job from going to another team. He's also secured a new legal team to handle the lawsuit after the first walked away.

Attorneys for Two Canal Street Investors Inc. (TCSI) filed their notice to appeal Judge Tiffany Chase's dismissal late Tuesday afternoon, just ahead of a Wednesday (Dec. 1) deadline. TCSI's principal, Florida investor Stuart "Neil" Fisher, said in a phone interview the appeal will reveal the "conspiracy, fraud and bid-rigging" that resulted in the Carpenter-Woodward team winning rights in May 2015 to redevelop the city-owned 33-story tower.

"We are far from being over," Fisher said.
Hollleeee crap you cannot kill this dude off. He has not yet begun to fight.  A few weeks ago I suggested we campaign to have Fisher named Gambit's "New Orleanian Of The Year." This was before I knew he had the sta-mi-nah to keep this thing going. We're gonna need a bigger trophy now.

2016 is the Year of the Con Man and Fisher certainly fits the bill there.  It is also the year of the con man frustrating the ambitions of neoliberal corporatist politics (to a small and unproductive degree, of course, but still) and Fisher's lawsuit has done exactly that to Mitch Landrieu's attempts to put the WTC building "back into commerce" as a hotel. The value of this is complicated. Of course we'd all like to see the building put to good use.  We're not thrilled about yet another hotel there, of course. But that's the way things go lately. It's something we can live with under the right circumstances.  We're not convinced these are the right circumstances, though.

Now Fisher is a crackpot and his suit is not likely based on the most... well.. accurate of suppositions. But his statements are worth noting because the instincts behind them are interesting.
Fisher contends the Carpenter-Woodward proposal was the worst for taxpayers based on its upfront payment to the city -- lower than the other proposals. Jones Lang LaSalle, the commercial real estate advisory the city hired to handle the proposal process, determined the Carpenter-Woodward proposal had the biggest upside when including the property taxes generated over the 99-year lease with the city.

Fisher, who is also suing Jones Lang LaSalle, contends the WTC property is tax-exempt, rendering any projections of property tax revenue moot. The Orleans Parish Assessor's website confirms the property is tax-exempt, although the Carpenter-Woodward proposal includes a payment schedule for property taxes.
The agreement is they're paying property taxes from which they are exempt?  Maybe Fisher is misunderstanding something. Although, if he is, this article doesn't tell us what that could be.  But that does seem kind of odd, at least to us laypeople. There is also this.
Fisher's Facebook page includes several posts with emails between city officials and representatives of Jones Lang LaSalle and Carpenter-Woodward, all dated before the winning proposal was selected. Fisher maintains the public records are evidence of collusion among the parties to ensure the bid went to the firm with the lowest upfront payment, which he said the mayor's office sought to keep any cash windfall out of the reach of firefighters with whom the city was negotiating a settlement in a lawsuit over decades of owed back pay.
Again, to be clear, I think Fisher is probably pulling most of this out of his butt. (I base that on nothing, of course. All I know is what I read in the paper.) But this allegation may be worth pursuing a bit. It does sound slightly out of character for the mayor who has been all too happy to pursue big up front sums of money in other legal disputes. The Wisner Trust and NO Public Belt situations come to mind as examples. Why would he opt in this case for the long term payment plan via these taxes that aren't really taxes?  Curious.

In any case, I've suspected for a very long time that there is more going on with regard to this deal than has been shared publicly. And I think it's worth examining further even if it takes humoring this con man's lawsuit for a while longer.

Movie time

Via the Wa-Po, we present, Git Yer Gubmint Hands Off Mah Medicare starring Donald Trump.

And yet, here they come for your Medicare.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Find something new or keep falling for this con

Joke's on us, America.  Because, surely, none among us could have predicted.....
WASHINGTON — Steven Terner Mnuchin, a financier with deep roots on Wall Street and in Hollywood but no government experience, is expected to be named Donald J. Trump’s Treasury secretary as soon as Wednesday, people close to the transition say.

Mr. Mnuchin, 53, was the national finance chairman for Mr. Trump’s campaign. He began his career at Goldman Sachs, where he became a partner, before creating his own hedge fund, moving to the West Coast and entering the first rank of movie financiers by bankrolling hits like the “X-Men” franchise and “Avatar.”

As Treasury secretary, Mr. Mnuchin would play an important role in shaping the administration’s economic policies, including a package of promised tax cuts, increased spending on infrastructure and changes in the terms of foreign trade. He could also help lead any effort to roll back President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and opening to Cuba by reimposing sanctions on Tehran and Havana.

His selection fits uneasily with much of Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric attacking the financial industry. Mr. Trump, in a campaign ad intended as a closing argument, portrayed the chief executive of Goldman Sachs as the personification of a global elite that the ad said had “robbed our working class.”
"Fits uneasily" with the rhetoric, but not so much with the parade of billionaires and oligarchs Trump has named to cabinet positions in recent days. But Donald Trump is a con man whose entire campaign was one long... and pretty transparent con.

Nevertheless, it is a con that worked.  Did it work, because Trump was able to stir up a tornado of resentment through a stream of racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric?  Absolutely.  Would any of that have been effective, though, if his opponent had not also been certain to install a government of (slightly woke) oligarchs and billionaires?  We never got to find out.  And, unfortunately, the Democratic Party is not going to learn a damn thing from the experience. Here's Tom Frank on that.
And here we are again. Today Democrats are wondering what went wrong, but before too many fundraising dinners have been digested they will have concluded they don’t need to worry, that demographics will bail them out sooner or later, and that the right and noble course of action is to proceed as before.

This will happen because what leading liberals cannot understand – what they are psychologically blocked from understanding – is that the problem isn’t really the white working class. The problem is them.

Let me explain what I mean by reminding you what this form of liberalism looks like. Somewhere in a sunny corner of the country, either right now or very shortly, a group of tech tycoons or well-meaning private equity investors will meet to discuss what went wrong in this election cycle.

They will consider many things: the sexism and racism of Trump voters, the fundamental foreignness of the flyover, the problems one encounters when dealing with evangelicals. They will celebrate some activist they learned about from NPR, they will enjoy some certified artisanal cuisine, they will hand out prizes to the same people that got prizes at the last event they attended, and they will go back to their comfortable rooms at the resort and sleep ever so soundly.

These people think they know what liberalism includes and what it doesn’t include. And in the latter category fall the concerns that made up the heart and soul of liberal politics a few decades ago: labor and work and exploitation and economic equality.
What portion of Hillary Clinton's campaign message addressed economic equality was largely cribbed in watered down fashion from issues that made up the core of Bernie Sanders's message. Instead of free college tuition, she offered loan forgiveness for "entrepreneurs" Instead of a $15 minimum wage, she offered $12... maybe... depending on whether or not individual state governments (largely Republican controlled, btw) got on board. Instead of holding corporate tax evaders accountable she offered them a "repatriation" plan that rewarded bad behavior with huge tax breaks. (More on that in a minute.)

But mostly she kept these issues in the background. Instead, her campaign emphasized Trump's many personal failings in the hope of perhaps shaming enough suburban well-to-do Republicans away from him. Here's Matt Karp on that.
Faced with a Republican opponent who openly touted his affinity for “the poorly educated,” Team Clinton focused on courting white voters at the opposite end of the class pyramid. Trump’s vulgarity and chauvinism, they hoped, would drive wealthy Republican moderates toward Clinton. Rather than aggressively contest Trump’s bogus populism, Democratic strategists concentrated on “moderate” suburban Republicans — the ideological cousins, and often the literal neighbors, of professional-class Democrats.

“For every one of those blue-collar Democrats [Trump] picks up,” former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell predicted in February, “he will lose to Hillary two socially moderate Republicans and independents in suburban Cleveland, suburban Columbus, suburban Cincinnati, suburban Philadelphia, suburban Pittsburgh, places like that.”

Electorally, of course, this strategy proved catastrophic. In the Midwestern swing states, Clinton hemorrhaged white “blue-collar Democrats” without winning nearly enough “moderate Republicans” to compensate.
The most embarrassing fact of this election will forever be Hillary Clinton's failure to defeat a candidate as personally repulsive and as obviously full of shit as Donald Trump. If the Democrats had run a candidate capable of attacking the hypocrisy of the billionaire Trump's flimsy claim to status as a working class hero they should have walked all over him.  Instead they ran Hillary Clinton and the con man Trump is selling candlelight dinners to million dollar donors who fund his inaugural.

But before he does that, Trump has a campaign promise to keep to the people Hillary's neglect turned off whether they held their noses and voted for her or not. 
Mr. Presley, the 59-year-old white Crawfordsville steelworker who voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 and Mr. Trump in 2016, was even more emphatic that racial resentment or ethnic bigotry was not behind his support for Mr. Trump. “I grew up on the West Side of Indianapolis in a racist environment,” he said. “But I went to a high school that was 57 percent black, and I played football with a lot of black guys and we became close friends. I learned not to be racist.”

Instead of bias, what animates these voters, whatever their race or political orientation, is a profound distrust and resentment of wealthier, educated Americans, a group they say lacks a connection to them and does not care about their economic situation. And to them, Mrs. Clinton seemed at least as elite as Mr. Trump, if not more so.

“I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for him, but both candidates are evil,” said Ms. Shanklin-Hawkins, who reluctantly voted for Mrs. Clinton, but has never forgiven her for her remarks about “superpredators” in the 1990s, or the mandatory prison sentencing guidelines Mr. Clinton signed into law as president

“Hillary hasn’t sweated a day in her life, unless it was losing a tough case as a lawyer,” Mr. Maynard said. “We wanted to take America in a different direction. I’m just hoping Trump will do what he says.”
In this case, he said he would stop Carrier from shutting down a manufacturing plant in Indiana and moving its operation to Mexico.  In his campaign speeches he also implied that he would prevent any company from following suit by threatening them with severe (though never elaborately specified) penalties. In the Carrier case, though, Trump promised to get personally involved. And so he has.
INDIANAPOLIS — The long-promised call from Donald J. Trump to the heating and cooling giant Carrier came early one morning about a week after the election, when he unexpectedly won the industrial heartland.

The president-elect warned Gregory Hayes, the chief executive of Carrier’s parent, United Technologies, that he had to find a way to save a substantial share of the jobs it had vowed to move to Mexico, or he would face the wrath of the incoming administration.

On Thursday, as he toured the factory floor here to take credit for saving roughly half of the 2,000 jobs Indiana stood to lose, Mr. Trump sent a message to other businesses as well that he intended to follow through on his pledges to impose stiff tariffs on imports from companies that move production overseas and ship their products back to the United States.

“This is the way it’s going to be,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with The New York Times. “Corporate America is going to have to understand that we have to take care of our workers also.”
Wow that is some might tough talk.   But, remember, this is the same guy who just appointed Steven Mnuchin to head the Treasury Department. What, exactly, did Trump and Hayes come to an understanding over? It can't really be "that we have to take care of our workers."  A thousand of them are about to be laid off.
Despite the cheers Mr. Trump received as he walked around the factory floor, where the lines continued to run and he had to shout at times to be heard, another 1,000 workers for the company in Indiana will be losing their jobs.

This includes 700 at a United Technologies factory in nearby Huntington, as well as several hundred here. The 800 or so jobs that are being preserved are mostly on the lines that build medium- and high-efficiency gas furnaces.

Not long after Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence departed for the airport and to another rally in Ohio to celebrate his victory, workers coming in for the night shift received a letter titled “Company Update on Indianapolis Operations.”

“While this announcement is good news for many, we recognize it is not good news for everyone,” the letter stated. “We are moving forward with previously announced plans to relocate the fan coil manufacturing lines, with the expected completion by the end of 2017.”
Probably the $7 million in Indiana "incentives" in the form of tax breaks had something to do with it. This plus the promise of future giveaways and lax regulatory oversight from a corporate-friendly Trump Administration... and, of course, the opportunity to be a part of this PR stunt has Carrier and United Technologies feeling pretty good about their decision to threaten to move.  This isn't unlike what NFL franchises do to cities from time to time. Trump should have built Carrier a stadium.

Here's Bernie Sanders on that.
In exchange for allowing United Technologies to continue to offshore more than 1,000 jobs, Trump will reportedly give the company tax and regulatory favors that the corporation has sought. Just a short few months ago, Trump was pledging to force United Technologies to “pay a damn tax.” He was insisting on very steep tariffs for companies like Carrier that left the United States and wanted to sell their foreign-made products back in the United States. Instead of a damn tax, the company will be rewarded with a damn tax cut. Wow! How’s that for standing up to corporate greed? How’s that for punishing corporations that shut down in the United States and move abroad?

In essence, United Technologies took Trump hostage and won. And that should send a shock wave of fear through all workers across the country.
It should. If only they had been offered a better option during the election they might have taken it. But if Hillary Clinton represented something even slightly better than the con being run on them now, she certainly wasn't trying to convince them of it.  In fact, she was selling her own program of corporate giveaways. Remember that tax repatriation plan we mentioned?  Here's what that does.
American multinational corporations are currently stashing a staggering $2.4 trillion in profits — about 14 percent of the size of the entire U.S. economy — overseas. Multinationals are required by U.S. law to pay the statutory 35 percent tax on profits they earn anywhere on earth, but the tax is not assessed until the profits are brought back to the U.S.

This has allowed Corporate America to essentially hold U.S. tax revenue hostage, refusing to pay its taxes until Americans become so desperate that they will cut a deal giving multinationals a special new tax rate.

This strategy has already paid off once, in 2004, when multinationals got Congress to let them bring back $312 billion in profits at a one-time rate of about 5 percent. The legislation required that the cash be used to hire Americans or conduct research and development. Corporations ignored these provisions and instead used the money to enrich their executives and stockholders, while cutting U.S. jobs.

Both Hillary and Bill Clinton clearly envision cutting a similar deal during a Hillary Clinton presidency, although presumably they intend for the corporations to keep their part of the bargain this time.
"Their end of the bargain this time," was supposed to have been investment in an infrastructure bank which... assuming the money was ever collected... could eventually... depending on the form such a bank would take.. possibly lead to better roads, bridges, sewers, etc... and very likely some connected finance types getting rich in the process but that's Clintonism for you.

Anyway, if you are running the Hillary Clinton campaign, it is your job to draw the very easy (although maybe not exactly honest) line from this idea to "Jobs for working class people!" But the Clinton people never managed to sell their corporate tax  giveaway the way the Trump people sold and continue to sell theirs. And this is why they lost the rust belt. That and too many voters were turned off completely by the fact that they are ruled by billionaires and oligarchs either way. 

And while it's fine to point out that we're worse off under the gang of billionaires and oligarchs who are about to let Paul Ryan replace Medicare with gym membership coupons, looking down the road, it's important to understand that both are unacceptable and we need to find something new in our politics. Otherwise we're going to see new versions of this same con over and over.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What do we do now?

Matt Taibbi interviews Bernie Sanders in the new Rolling Stone. They talk about a lot of stuff but Bernie's most crucial message here is about doing politics in a way that connects with rather than manipulates people. What that means first and foremost is talking to voters instead of to donors.
President Obama talked after the election about winning Iowa by going into counties even if the demographics didn't "dictate" success there. This seemed to be a criticism that the party had decided to ignore big parts of the country.

I talked about that in the book. That's exactly what we did. We had 101 rallies in that small state. That's grassroots democracy. You speak to three-quarters of the people who end up voting for you. In New Hampshire, we had just a zillion meetings – far more people came out to our meetings. If you had the time to do that around the country, the world becomes different. The assessment has got to be that not only did we lose the White House to the least-popular candidate in perhaps the history of America, certainly in modern history, but we've lost the Senate, we've lost the House, we've lost two-thirds of the governors' chairs in this country. We've lost 900 seats in state legislatures throughout the country in the last eight years. Maybe it might be time to reassess?

Is there any way to read that except as a massive repudiation of Democrats?

No. I can't see how any objective person can. It speaks to what I just mentioned; we cannot spend our entire life – I didn't, but others do – raising money from wealthy people, listening to their needs. We've got to be out in union halls, we've got to be out in veterans' halls, and we've got to be talking to working people, and we've got to stand up and fight for them.
Go outside. Talk to people. Stop relying on corporate media infrastructure and Big Data to deliver a finely tailored message to a neatly carved out set of demographic cohorts. Do something real. Or, if you are Donald Trump, at least appear to do that which is the next best thing.
With Trump, was there a moment during the past year when you went from thinking "This is a joke" to "This is real!" Or did you realize right away that it was serious?

I didn't realize right away. I didn't know much about him. What I believed and he believed is that the central part of your campaign should be rallies. Why is that? Because it's not only the ability to communicate with large numbers of people and get media attention as a result of that, but when 20,000 people sit in an arena or stadium and they look around and they say, "We're all on the same team together," that creates a kind of energy.

He understood that. When I started seeing him bring these large turnouts of working-class people, I knew that that was real, you know? What politics passes for now is somebody goes on Meet the Press and they do well: "Oh, this guy is brilliant, wonderful." No one cares about Meet the Press. But that you can go out and bring out many, many thousands of people who are supporting your campaign – that is real stuff. When I began to see that, I said, "This guy is a real candidate." Who could do it? Jeb Bush couldn't do that. Marco Rubio couldn't do it. [Trump] was clearly striking a nerve and a chord that other candidates weren't.

So did you, though.

That is absolutely right. Surely did.
What is going on in your neighborhood?  What is going on in your city?  Are your concerns being met?  Are your problems being addressed?  If the answer is no, then what can you do about it?
Sharika Evans grew up working in fast food. But, she said, the minimum wages she's received — at $7.25 an hour — are not enough to support a family, her health care, utilities and her bills, Evans said she was fired from the McDonald's on Canal Street following a Fight For $15 protest at the restaurant earlier this year. She held the doors open to protesters.

Around 5 p.m. Nov. 29, more than 100 service workers and supporters marched, with a brass band, from Armstrong Park on Rampart Street to Canal Street near the McDonald's between Royal and Bourbon streets. Protesters blocked car and streetcar traffic in all directions for nearly an hour and linked arms, demanding $15 an hour and the ability to unionize. Six people sitting at the intersection were arrested but released with citations for obstructing street traffic.

"The pay we get doesn't reflect the work we put into it," Evans told Gambit.

Wanda, a Walmart employee, told a growing crowd at Armstrong Park that "people shouldn't have to be poor so other people can be rich."

Co-organized by Service Employees International Union, a national Fight For $15 movement launched in 2012 as dozens of fast food workers staged walk outs across New York City, and actions have spread throughout the U.S., with large protests and rallies (and arrests) on Nov. 29. The movement made significant strides helping service workers in hospitals and schools earn higher wages through collective bargaining. But in 2016, following the election of president-elect Donald Trump, the Fight For $15 prepares for the undoing of labor agreements that would likely prevent fast food workers from organizing.
Maybe that's an uphill battle. But it always is. And maybe the eventual result is ultimately as uninspiring as Atrios describes here.  I think it probably is.  But what else is there to do?  

One more shot to get STRs under control

Council is voting on this tomorrow.
The ordinance still has to come up for another key vote of approval on Dec. 1. The current recommendations are frightening — deeming that every house, apartment, condo and commercial building in the city, except the French Quarter, can become a STR — with no limits on density.

The council disregarded the public outcry over the proliferation of STRs. Citizens from neighborhoods throughout the city felt betrayed. There were cries of dismay when Councilwoman Susan Guidry’s amendment requiring a homestead exemption to operate an STR was narrowly voted down. We are puzzled by the council’s decision to press forward, tipping the scales in favor of the billion-dollar platforms that enable STRs.
There's still a chance to (sort of) tip the scales back (somewhat) toward residents tomorrow. Will councilmembers have the courage to even try?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

It's a marvel we haven't accidentally nuked ourselves or others yet

Just reading the description of this system and the confidence its keepers appear to have in it makes me nervous.
Those familiar with the nuclear briefings say they demand a sharp focus.

“It’s not something that someone even with vast experience can easily digest,” said Leon Panetta, a former secretary of defense intimately familiar with the briefings.

“He’s got to be ready from the get-go to respond if necessary,” Panetta said. “There really is a long process, a classified process, that involves a lot of checks in the system to make sure no mistakes are made. It involves a number of key people.”
Clearly this is the set up to an awful and inevitable punchline. And that's even before we add Trump to the equation. Now that he's there, though.  Well.. 
From the day Trump takes the oath of office, a military aide will shadow him everywhere, carrying a black satchel containing the system to convey a nuclear launch order. The satchel is popularly known as “the football.”

“His first briefing will be just about how the process works: ‘There will be a military aide with you at all times and he has the football,’ ” said P.J. Crowley, a retired Air Force officer and special assistant on national security affairs to former President Bill Clinton.

Trump will learn how a launch order would “send key people to underground bunkers,” Crowley said. “That’s a critical dimension of this. Even for the Strategic Command out in Nebraska, this would send an airborne command up in the air.”

The black satchel operates with a dual key system, and part of the system is for the president to take a card from his pocket to input the correct codes.

“The card itself is critical to begin the process that activates the system,” Panetta said.
Everyone in grown-up media world is lecturing everyone else about paying too much attention to random shit Trump tweets out. But I kind of think this is a perfect week to be watching. You never know what he might post.  

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article117054908.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article117054908.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article117054908.html#storylink=cpy

It only matters when the tourism money is perceived to be at risk

Billy Nungesser may not be very bright but he sure knows who his friends are
Lt. Billy Nungesser told the Monroe News Star that the mass shooting represented the type of violence that could "destroy" the state's tourism industry. "Something has to change," he said. "We have to do something now before we let thugs kill tourism."
As for me, I'm not so sure the real "thugs" aren't actually running our tourism industry in the first place. But that's a different topic.  In this article, we have  all the elements of our "leaders'" accustomed selfish, panicked overreaction to tragedy that can only lead to more pain and tragedy as it progresses. 

But such is the politics of all against all capitalism. No one here addresses the question of societal violence. Hell, no one in this article is even really concerned about gun violence in the city. They're just mad that it sometimes (although infrequently relative to the rest of town) happens in front of their amusement factory.

A crisis type news event has the potential to motivate political change. But none of these bar owners has the courage or empathy to apply that energy toward the fundamental problem.  Instead they focus only on the simplest and most brutal (not to mention profit generating for the right contractor) means of protecting their immediate interests.

Whether the problem is crime, housing, or  climate change and coastal erosion our corrupt political response is not equipped to address any of it so long as it retains a myopic focus on the interests of the individually wealthy at the expense of the collective.  In other words, get ready to pay more so they can stay rich.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Bobby Jindal will be ok

Bobby had practically everything Donald Trump could have asked for in a Secretary of Health and Human Services. He knew how to privatize public benefits and position cronies such that they can profit from the sell off. He knew how to pander to Islamophobes. But it turns out he didn't quite make the cut.

If we had to guess at what Bobby's mistake was, we'd probably say it had something to do with having exhibited insufficient deference to Trump that one time way back when.  Then again, nobody paid much attention to Jindal during the campaign, even while he was calling Trump a "madman."  The rumor was Mitt Romney, whose criticism of Trump came with a higher profile and at a more important point in the calendar, could still have been Secretary of State if only he had apologized.  Jindal's truly unforgivable sin in Trump's eyes probably was publishing his remarks on CNN's website.

Anyway, Bobby will be fine.  He can go right back to accepting money from various think tanks and lobbying groups to produce.. well.. more CNN.com op-eds and such for the next few years until it's time to maybe run for some other office if he wants. So don't feel too bad for him.  Even if the Trump Administration does end up collapsing in a series of scandals, impeachments, and resignations, I don't think HHS is technically in line for the Presidential succession anyway. Although, if we were ever going to find out, this would be the time.

More route diversity

Twelfth Night is getting kind of crowded. We usually walk out and wave at the Phunny Phorty Phellows blow by on their streetcar.  We do that because we live uptown and it's convenient.  Otherwise I wouldn't mind seeing the Joan of Arc parade one of these years.  Now there's a third option in the somewhat pretentiously named Societe du Champs Elysees.
The krewe was inspired by the completion of the new streetcar line and the investment it has brought to nearby neighborhoods below Canal Street, said David Roe, the founder and captain of the krewe.

“Already the attitude in the neighborhood has changed,” said Roe, who said he can see the streetcar’s last stop from his porch on Elysian Fields.

Roe was inspired to form the krewe on the first day of the new line, when the streetcar he was riding in was joined by a flash mob of accordionists.
Tourist attraction masquerading as a transit line inspires a hipster happening which in turn inspires... well, this. 
The musicians were told they had to stop playing partway through the ride, but Roe said the experience made him think of the Phunny Phorty Phellows, the small but well-established krewe that has marked the beginning of Carnival with its yearly streetcar rides along St. Charles Avenue each Jan. 6 since the early 1980s.

That’s when, he said, he “had an epiphany about Epiphany” and decided to form a small group to bring the experience to the downriver neighborhoods.
Sounds good to me. The more stuff we can get happening at once in different places during Carnival the better, as far as I'm concerned. On the other hand, NOPD is always talking about how impossible it is for them to handle security for more than one thing at a time in this city.  Are they sure, they're ready? Or does Sidney Torres need to put some metal detectors on that streetcar?

Anyway, it's 38 more days til Carnival season. 

Hamburger in every pot

I don't have a real joke here. It's just that Foster Campbell is kind of a goofball.
“I’m Foster Campbell, and I live on a farm in north Louisiana,” the candidate said to the crowd in an accent that was gravy-thick, drawing unexpectedly raucous cheers as he championed Democratic presidents for pushing Medicare, Social Security and the G.I. Bill of Rights. He ended by telling the crowd to come visit him in Washington: “I’ll buy you a hamburger.
I should be upset that that NYT profile treats the Louisiana Senate race as an inconsequential curiosity. Unfortunately, that's pretty accurate. It's an opportunity for demoralized Democrats in state as well as activists and donors from out of state to channel a little impotent rage at the Trump result.  But it's not likely to come to much of anything.  Campbell isn't a strong enough candidate to overcome a statewide Republican base strong enough to sweep even a toad like John Kennedy in.

Also, the story does contain a pretty good dig at Elliot Stonecipher so it's not all for naught. 
“Look, I know them both,” said Elliott Stonecipher, a political consultant from Shreveport, La., who first met Mr. Campbell when they were both public schoolteachers in the 1970s. “The three of us could sit around in a living room and talk politics and as long as Foster Campbell doesn’t have a chance to attack oil and gas, there’s not going to be a smidgen of difference.”

That is a bit of an overstatement: Mr. Campbell was alone among the major Senate candidates here talking openly about human-caused climate change; he also supports an increase in the minimum wage and promises to vote against any repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

But Mr. Campbell’s fondness for bashing the oil and gas companies, along with the railroads, the tobacco companies, the payday loan companies and a long list of other corporate targets, makes him an interesting figure in a party suddenly trying to figure out how to regain support among the rural working class.
Also it's kind of weird for Stonecipher or anyone to minimize the significance of a fundamental difference between candidates in how they relate to oil and gas. In this state, that's pretty much everything. 

The end of the democratic social contract

The Trump years are gonna be fun. Which of these are we going to decide we're no longer going to even go through the motions of attempting to provide for people?

Health care?
If House Speaker Paul Ryan has his way, the 115th Congress won’t just repeal Obamacare, it will dramatically reform Medicare, turning the program into a form of private insurance.

Ryan has long supported the controversial idea and, immediately after the election, he suggested that any Obamacare reform should include Medicare reform. Another key player, House Budget Chairman Tom Price, said Medicare reform was a top priority for the unified Republican government.

President-elect Donald Trump has yet to commit to further privatization of Medicare—which could cause a tidal wave of unease among senior citizens—and a Trump spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment. At a minimum, though, Ryan’s Medicare plans are a topic of negotiation between the speaker and the president-elect.
It's hard to know if we should even count health care given the sorry state of what even our puny somewhat public programs actually provide. But it's clear we're not moving that ball in the right direction.

How about public education
Donald Trump’s choice to be secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, is a woman who never went to public school, nor sent her children to public school, nor worked for public schools. She does, however, come from a wealthy family that has donated millions to the Republican Party. And she would be terrible for public education in this country.
As AlterNet explained in a 2011 profile on the DeVos family, the DeVos family is a prominent right-wing donor. Betsy Prince DeVos’ father-in-law co-founded Amway, while her brother, Erik Prince, founded the notorious private military contractor Xe (formerly Blackwater USA).

While many wealthy campaign donors have pet causes, the DeVoses have been particularly driven to promote school vouchers.

In 2000, the DeVoses launched one of their most ambitious campaigns, spending millions of dollars on an unsuccessful effort to convince Michigan voters to support a voucher initiative, which would have let parents steer tax dollars to private schools instead of public ones.

The 2000 ballot initiative was voted down by 68 percent of Michiganders.

After the loss, the DeVoses shifted gears, focusing instead on pushing voucher bills through state legislatures, which they have been doing ever since. They founded a group, All Children Matter, devoted to pushing vouchers. In 2013, the group, now known as the American Federation of Children, was fined $5.2 million in Ohio for breaking campaign finance laws, which it has not yet paid. The PAC was never registered in Wisconsin, where it was hammered by the press.

American Federation for Children has worked closely with Religious Right groups that can motivate voters from their homes and churches. It also coordinates its planning through the Council for National Policy, a secretive right-wing group that meets several times a year and gives members of the Christian right access to sympathetic donors.

Betsy also serves on the board of the Acton Institute, which merges corporate interests with dominion theology, or the belief that Christians should take control of political and social institutions. Earlier this month, the Acton Institute published a blog post titled, “Bring back child labor: Work is a gift our kids can handle.”
Not gonna spend our education dollar on your poor kids anymore unless they pray real good the way we tell them.  Failing that, it's send them down into the mines or whatever.  Doesn't matter anyway since we aren't expecting to develop an informed and educated citizenry anymore. Who needs that when we're not going to let anybody vote anyway? Which brings us to...

The basic right to vote
Bruce Ackerman, a constitutional law scholar at Yale University, tells me he worries it could all amount to the “beginning of the end of the Second Reconstruction.” This is the name some historians use to describe the sustained 20th Century effort to codify civil rights and full equality for African Americans after decades of voting and institutionalized discrimination, just as the original Reconstruction period tried to expand democracy after the end of slavery — an effort that was followed by the sort of retreat that could conceivably happen again.

“The rest of the Voting Rights Act will become a dead letter,” Ackerman suggested, adding that he expects nothing less than a wholesale rollback of “the fundamental achievements of the Second Reconstruction."
One memory I have from the (later) heyday of the Rush Limbaugh radio program comes from  Election Day 2004.  Those of you who were alive back then might remember some mid-day exit poll reports being circulated which seemed to suggest that John Kerry could maybe possibly have been in the process of ousting George W. Bush.  Turns out these must have been "fake news" or something.  It's a good thing everyone avoids these errors today by just using Facebook.

Anyway, Rush, under the impression that Kerry might win, was in full panic mode and launched into a long loud diatribe about the need to seriously consider bringing back the property requirement for voters.  It was funny at the time because 1) that's crazy and 2) I was as hopeful at that point in the day as Rush was despondent and was getting a kick out of listening to him whine.   But it's also an indicator of where the right wing mind goes when it decides the democratic process needs "fixing."

And when a radical right wing party controls the Presidency, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, and very nearly enough state houses to amend the Constitution, this stuff gets less funny and more scary.

Letting the terrorists win

Federal City

Every tragic event must be met with an equally appalling assault on the civil liberties and basic values of our open society.  It's such a matter of course now that it's almost become boring.  But since Sidney kinda sorta thinks he might want to be the next mayor, we might as well make note of where his inclinations lie.
Torres, a vocal critic of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's approach to public safety in the city's prime tourism district, said he has sketched out a plan to set up nearly two dozen security checkpoints on streets leading into the Quarter for special events.

There, he said, private security would wave metal-detecting wands across incoming revelers, checking for guns and running the information on those who carry them through a database of licensed guns and permitted gun owners.

"This is an idea that I came up with within an hour," Torres said. "When you have national news out there that's showing one dead, somebody blazing guns in the middle of a crowded promenade, I think it's important for someone to call for action."
It only took him an hour to come up with that.  Except, not really.  He's actually been thinking about this for a while. He's even got a specific model in mind
Torres, creator of the French Quarter Task Force patrol and crime-reporting application for mobile devices, called for restricted access to Bourbon Street between Canal and St. Ann streets between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. during special events or special times of the year. Staffed security checkpoints with metal detectors and cameras would be erected at every entrance point along that eight-block stretch, Torres said.

Security personnel would check every visitor for guns. Verification would be needed before those licensed to carry firearms would be allowed to bring their weapons onto the street, Torres said.

Torres said a similar program is instituted in Memphis' famed Beale Street, one where visitors are charged a fee during some special events.
The "entrepreneur" (Sidney inherited his money and has spent his life leveraging that status into more and more money and political/social influence but ok) who weaseled his way into the semi-privatized police business now wants to be allowed to charge you a fee to walk down a street.  All it will take is an initial equipment investment and someone is bound to help him public-private partner his way into a nice cut of whatever that generates.

Or maybe he can just run for mayor and grant himself the contract.  It's Trump's America now. Nobody takes the rules about these things seriously anymore.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Not quite where we want to go with this yet

They've tweaked the STR rules a bit just a few days ahead of Thursday's vote. 
Copies of the latest amendments to the plans were not available this week, but Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni — who has been Landrieu’s point man on the issue — said the changes are aimed at ensuring the city can keep tabs on short-term rentals.

Under the proposed rules, short-term rental companies would have to provide the city with monthly reports on how often users are renting their New Orleans properties.

That’s three times as frequently as the quarterly reports the companies had been expected to provide under agreements that previously had been under discussion. Critics of short-term rentals warned that requiring reports only every three months could allow scofflaws to operate for months without being detected.

The new rules also would let the city subpoena information on those believed to be in violation of the rules.

This is not necessarily bad. People have been asking for stricter data sharing requirements.  But it's still not quite what we need the rules to do. The best change that could still be written into the ordinance would be a restriction of one STR per homestead exemption along the lines of the amendment Susan Guidry offered previously. If you're going to City Council next week, or if you're speaking with your council person, this is what you really want to ask for.

Nobody actually lives there

What can you do, though? It's a "destination city," right?
Venice is on many bucket lists. But that's a problem. Up to 90,000 tourists crowd its streets and canals every day — far outnumbering the 55,000 permanent residents.

The tourist influx is one key reason the city's population is down from 175,000 in the 1950s. The outnumbered Venetians have been steadily fleeing. And those who stick around are tired of living in a place where they can't even get to the market without wading through a sea of picture-snapping tourists.

Laura Chigi, a grandmother at the march, says the local and national governments have failed to do anything about the crowds for decades, because they're only interested in tourism — the primary industry in Venice, worth more than $3 billion in 2015.

It's the end of the century

Fidel might not have been the last true link back to the 20th C. But there aren't many left.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

How to win friends and influence people

Mitch Landrieu has a reputation for working well with others.
For all his accomplishments, though, Landrieu is wearing thin on political insiders. Since winning a resounding re-election in 2014, he has furthered his reputation for brooking little dissent or pushback, even from longtime friends and political allies, who privately say he will launch into tirades over the phone without even saying hello.

“If you’re not 100 percent with him on his agenda, then he’s 100 percent against you,” said Jeff Arnold, who represented Algiers in the state House for 14 years until 2015. “I call him a 100 percenter. I was probably with him on 95 percent of city matters. But I wasn’t with him on Algiers and on the firefighters, so I became his sworn enemy. My philosophy is that I didn’t burn bridges. Mitch is a burn-the-bridges guy.”

A range of black political leaders interviewed for this article said the mayor has lost their support because of his high-handed ways, but none would say this on the record.

In an interview two years ago, Landrieu invoked the cliché that you have to break eggs if you want to make an omelet. “There are entrenched political interests in this state that have strangled the progress of the state and city for a long time that I have now tangled with,” he said.

Landrieu acknowledged having sharp words with some of those who have disagreed with him. He blamed it on his “impatience” and “passion.”
The scenario where even the ostensible allies who exist within Mitch's tent call him an asshole ("productive" or othewise) is familiar by now.  I do hope that at some time in the future we turn our attentions to the question of for whom he has been productive.  Because the most prominent characteristic of his time as mayor has been the spike in inequality.  Circumstances for the most desperate have worsened even as great fortunes have been made among the few to truly benefit from the city’s "recovery."

Mitch's friends in the political/professional class (in New Orleans they are one and the same)  can only grumble under their breath,  though, because they are among the beneficiaries. If you produce for the folks who matter, you can be whatever kind of asshole you want. It's the sort of thing that has worked for Mitch's elitist mentors which is why they are the most proud of him.
Isaacson also said the mayor could have a place at the Aspen Institute — which brings experts together to try to solve complex policy questions — or with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative announced two weeks ago, funded through a foundation created by Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor.

The $32 million effort “equips mayors and their senior leaders with cutting-edge tools and techniques to more effectively tackle pressing management challenges faced in their cities,” according to its website.

“Michael Bloomberg is one of Mayor Landrieu’s biggest fans, and so is everybody at that foundation,” Isaacson said. “Mitch Landrieu is the only mayor that Michael Bloomberg speaks about with awe and excitement.”
The good news is, we may be at a point here in the wake of the rise of Trump style corruption where we're starting to realize that we will need a better kind of politics than mere Clinton-Landrieu style corruption in order to fight it. We're not quite there yet, but maybe we'll get there.

In the meantime this story about Mitch's diminished options may illustrate the end of an era. But only in a small way. Certainly there's plenty of money waiting for him on the cot at Aspen or whatever new think tank the donor class slaps together to churn out neoliberal bullshit for the next four of eight years. (The Calvin Fayard Center For Urban Resilience?)  Then again maybe we're missing a trick. Where else might Mitch go next?