Friday, October 30, 2020

No, there is not going to be a "general strike"

I do hope to have some time to elaborate on this over the weekend but my expectations for the coming elections are significantly different from what I read every day in the online chatter.  I mean that with regard to the local elections as well as the Presidential race.  In each case I think we are going to see a very normal sort of event unfold. 

Despite some excitement about insurgent movements like #FlipTheBench and #EraseTheBoard, the judicial and school board elections are still going to be determined by conventional power brokers making their usual endorsements and GOTV efforts. Some candidates associated with those movements will succeed. But only those who have strong support through establishment actors. 

The Presidential election is going to Joe Biden. The polls have said so for months and months and have not fluctuated.  People don't want to believe polls because DON'T YOU REMEMBER 2016?  but that's a classic case of "fighting the last war."  2020 is a different election with different candidates in different roles. And the polls, even if they aren't perfect, tell you different information about different voters now than they did then. Read 2020 as 2020. Biden is doing far better than Hillary was. Voters have different feelings about him than they did about her. 

Also, they have different feelings about Trump now than they did in 2016.  Four years ago the world was on fire and millions of Americans were sinking further and further into precarity. The Democrats were the incumbent party running on a message that basically told people everything was going just great the way it was.  Trump had just demolished one hated institution, the Republican Party, and, whatever else he may have promised, for a lot of disaffected voters he represented a vehicle for smashing things up even more.  And here is the part where it is important to say, DO NOT GET ME WRONG, this is no defense of Donald Trump or even of people who would vote for Donald Trump. It is only to say that in 2016 a significant number of voters were looking at their diminishing prospects and a world on fire and said, "Well let's try something crazy.  It can't get any worse than this." Four years later, it is worse. 

And that is the problem now for Trump. In 2020 the world is on fire and millions of Americans are sinking further and further into precarity. Donald Trump is the incumbent running on a message that basically tells people an unchecked pandemic that has killed a quarter of a million people this year is going great the way it is.  The incumbent President is not polling over 50 percent in any of the key battleground states he will need to win in order to be reelected.  It's not going to happen for him.  

Is there a cogent counter-narrative that tells us Trump could win anyway? Of course there is! But I don't believe it and will, briefly, explain why. 

A Trump reelection story begins by asking not simply are things better than they were four years ago but specifically for whom are they better?  If you are a part of the corporate-ruling class in this country, Trump has been one of the most effective Presidents for your agenda in living memory. Trump passed a gigantic tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. His administration has ruthlessly gutted federal environmental and worker protections. And, of course, there are all these judges.

Barrett, 48, was confirmed with Republican-only votes Monday night, cementing a 6-to-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court. She will be the 220th federal judge confirmed under the Trump presidency and the McConnell-led Senate — a figure that includes not only her and Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, but also 53 circuit court judges, 162 district court judges and two to the U.S. Court of International Trade.

For the first time in more than four decades, there were no vacancies on the circuit court level, where approximately 30 percent of those sitting on the bench have been nominated by Trump. (That changed Monday with the death of Judge Juan R. Torruella of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan.) Only President Jimmy Carter had more circuit court judges, as well as a larger share of the entire federal appellate bench, confirmed in his first term, and that was before the number of seats in the circuit courts was expanded.

Even the pandemic has worked out quite nicely for the upper classes.  

The billionaire class has been an all-too-visible villain during our crisis year, having carted off an additional $434 billion during the pandemic while millions of others have lost everything. It is trivially easy for them to avoid the virus; they can hunker down in one of several mansions or compounds with armies of staff to bring them what they need. Critics on the left have, probably wisely, focused on these oligarchs as the source of our societal woes in recent years. It is easy to illustrate the problem of inequality by noting the incredible difference between a hundred thousand dollars and a hundred billion dollars. No one should have a billion dollars; those who do can use their wealth to disproportionately influence the political system to maintain the status quo.
Whenever I worry that, despite all the polling evidence, Trump might still win this thing. I think that is the reason. Simply put, he's been very good for the oligarchs. Why wouldn't he be rewarded for that?  

The answer comes down to whether you believe democracy is completely dead already or if you think we still need to pretend it sort of exists in order to let off steam. Maybe the former is true but the latter sure does sound easier.  Trump has burned a lot of things down to the great advantage of the country's ruling classes but that could also mean they don't need him anymore.  If Trump has, in fact, expended his usefulness, then the ratchet effect theory suggests now the billionaires would be better served by a calming figurehead who will send the anxious middle class "back to brunch."  (The poor, as we all are well aware, are politically irrelevant.) 

So, narratively, Trump could win because he has done everything possible to please the wealth class which determines who gets to hold power.  But if he's at a point where he is more trouble than he is worth, then it's just as fine to dump him now and count up the winnings.  Objectively the reason Trump won't win is because... well, he is losing.

This is not to say, of course, that it won't be messy.  No one needs me to recite here the election week scenario every news organization and pundit has tried to game out in every publication this month.  It will take a few days to count all the votes. Trump will complain that they should have stopped counting at some arbitrary point in time. Then the courts involved, etc. etc.  And I'm sure Trump will do the complaining part of that. He will probably spend the rest of his life complaining about it, in fact. But it won't make a difference. 

Biden's lead is too real and too large for this election result to validate any of the apocalyptic fantasies of the right... or the left.  And thank goodness for that. Because this is definitely not something anyone should be hoping to try

US unions have begun discussing the idea of a general strike if Donald Trump refuses to accept an election result showing a Joe Biden victory.

Such a move would be unprecedented in the modern era. There has not been a general strike in the United States since 1946 – and that was restricted to Oakland, California.

Just the phrase, "US unions have been discussing..." is doing a lot of work in that lede. The US union movement has never been particularly monolithic and today it has almost no cohesion whatsoever.  There's nobody with the authority to call a "general strike," and certainly there is no organization with the capacity to successfully execute one. Not even, as this quote, however pessimistically, suggests the "established labor movement" which one figures must mean AFL-CIO leadership and infrastructure is in any shape to do that.

Erik Loomis, a labor historian at the University of Rhode Island and author of A History of America in Ten Strikes, said: “So much of the conversation on the left about general strikes in this country is kind of a romanticized, people are going to rise up.” But Loomis added: “If there is ever any general strike in this country, it’s probably going to come out of the established labor movement. The only group capable of running the thing is the established labor movement.” If there is a general strike, union leaders say, they hope college students, Blacks Lives Matter activists, women’s and environmental groups and many others will join in.

Welcome to General Strike 2021. What is it? Who is running it?  We don't know but we hope a bunch of people from a scattered hodge podge of differently interested activist concerns just kind of join in.  Can't wait to see how that goes.  If it performs half as well as #FlipTheBench then maybe we'll get a solid two or three well argued letters to the editor out of it.

The wind wooshed around a lot

Tree got Zeta-ed

Yesterday I got out on the bike for a little while to see how bad it was around us.  It wasn't all that bad, really. A lot of tree debris everywhere. Most not quite as extreme as the photo above but I didn't go very far.  The roads were okay by the time I was out. But the night of the storm, one person was electrocuted by downed power lines which is horrifying.  A lot of people still don't have power.  325,000 Entergy customers are still down as of this morning.  But, generally speaking, for a high category 2 hurricane passing directly over the city, things could have been a lot worse.

It's not over yet, though. Sewerage and Water Board certainly had themselves a night on Wednesday. 

Yet another New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board turbine failed Wednesday during Hurricane Zeta, although a spokesperson for the public utility said loss of that power source did not impair drainage.

Turbine 3 was brought online at the height of the storm but went down after “it reached its capacity,” S&WB spokesperson Courtney Barnes said. The turbine has typically been reserved for emergency use in recent years but was pressed into normal service for Zeta because Turbine 4, the largest of the S&WB’s operational turbines, broke Sunday.

Turbine 3 appears to have been activated as a back up for pumps that would have taken Entergy power under normal circumstances. But they made the switch when either that power or some other equipment failed.  Anyway, it sounds like they were able to juggle and jerry rig their way through it. Happily, the storm moved quickly enough that the rainfall didn't put the pumping capacity to a serious test. 

Yesterday, the city and SWB were asking people to use less water until they could be assured of full sewerage pumping capacity.  But the details of that and several other issues were still incredibly vague as of this morning. McBride enumerates a few in this FB post.  In the meantime, while it is still highly doubtful that there will be any Mardi Gras parades in 2021, I think several krewes have asked Turbine 6 to ride  as a Grand Marshall

This afternoon the Entergy map is still looking pretty Christamassy.  Eyballing it, I think that looks like we might be close to 50% restored in Orleans Parish. 

Friday afternoon after Zeta

The Lens reports that the clerk of court needs 48 hours advance notice if we have to move any polling locations for Tuesday. 54 of them were without power as of today. Also in that article we read that the city is starting to get estimates as to the general cost of repairs. (It also happens to be city budget season and the outlook is not good.)  As is the usual case with a major disaster, we would expect the federal government to reimburse these expenses.  How much they pay out, though, might depend on certain data. 

FEMA hasn’t approved a major disaster declaration for Hurricane Zeta yet, according to The Times Picayune/New Orleans Advocate, and is awaiting more complete damage assessments.

Cantrell said that the National Hurricane Center would also be reviewing data as to whether the storm was indeed at Category 2 or if it had slipped over the Category 3 threshold. That would have reimbursement implications, she said. Green said the city was also looking into federal assistance for individual residents over lost food.

It has been widely reported that Zeta's maximum winds may have been just 1 mph below the threshold for what we would consider a Category 3.  If we had known at the time that this would make a difference, maybe we could have all gone out and waved some fans.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

What did Zion say to Zeta?

Let's dance.

Man, I don't know about y'all but I haven't felt this giddy since February. Finally, something different is happening.  It's happening fast too. This thing is hauling ass across the Gulf.  Yesterday we were told to expect it to come in after 7 PM so people have planned their day according to that. City offices are open until noon. Schools haven't cancelled their virtual classes. This morning while I was out I saw the regular joggers jogging, the commuting, the panhandlers handling pans. People are determined to business up until the last possible businessing minute. 

That's probably not the appropriate way to behave. And the current scenario where we see a hurricane accelerate and strengthen unexpectedly is a perfect example of why.  The recent years of near misses followed by talk radio wise-assses complaining about "lazy" people taking the days off shouldn't have bullied us into this. But that's what happens when leadership is too sensitive to that kind of nonsense. I mean, you want them to be responsive to vox populi, but you also want to err on the side of safety whenever possible. 

Hopefully it all works out. I always end up having to calm down the people around me in situations like this and one thing I try to do is remind them how little agency they have in any of it. Most events in this world transpire in total independence of our individual choices.  The Saints win the game or they don't. The roof blows off of your house or it doesn't.  It's just stuff that happens. Sometimes it affects you and sometimes it doesn't. But none of it is about you at all. Once you get that, you worry less. 

Anyway, I had been planning to hit the grocery store one more time before the power goes out.  I wonder if they are open.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Austerity isn't just an accident of nature

It is city budget season.  Happy Holidays. There will be quite a few of those in the future for these folks.  Unpaid, of course. 

Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño told City Council members in a special meeting Monday that under the budget plan set out by Mayor LaToya Cantrell and her administration, furloughs that took effect this month for employees should continue through next year. 

Employees would be furloughed for one day per pay period, or 26 furlough days over the course of the year, Montaño said. People who earn less than $30,000 a year would be excluded from the pay cut. 

The city's public safety departments, such as police and fire, will also take a 6% and 8% cut to their overall budgets, while other departments could see up to a 40% cut, he said.

Wow. Especially sucks to be the "other departments".  

The hardest hit departments include Public Works, which will see its funding drop more than 40% to $34 million. That decrease includes cutting about 10% of its total positions.

The City Planning Commission, which is responsible for reviewing development proposals, is also slated for a 40% cut, will lose 6 of its 26 positions. The Vieux Carre Commission, the small agency that enforces the historic preservation rules in the French Quarter, is facing the deepest cut in the city at 42%, will lose two of its six spots.

To explain itself, the administration cites the obvious.  A compounding crisis of pandemic-induced depression has caused a sudden drop in expected revenues.  The federal government has failed to respond adequately and what aid it has made available has been watered down and diverted at the state level.  

All of this is, regrettably, true. But it's important to also keep in mind that many of the consequences of that disaster are still left to our local lords to decide. There are individuals in charge right now who impose their values on the question of who suffers the most during the disaster.   The above mentioned cuts in this budget are one example. The pandemic didn't decide the cut Public Works by one amount but NOPD by another.  Similarly, the pandemic didn't decide that businesses shouldn't have to pay the sales taxes they collected during Mardi Gras. Their lobbyists told the mayor that's what they wanted and she agreed to it.   The pandemic didn't decide it was time to give corporate landlords a big tax break paid for by residents and through layoffs. The assessor made that call.  

And, of course, we know the pandemic can't read the city ordinances but we are pretty sure that wasn't who decided to ignore this (admittedly toothless) city council decree that we would no longer stiff the Public Defender's office.  A person did that. On purpose.

Monday, October 26, 2020

We all just laugh

Look, we all knew there would have to be a Hurricane Zeta because there was just no way that the year 2020 A.D. was going out with the second most named storms in history.  Got to tie that record at least.  We also all knew that it had to make at least one serious run at Southeast Louisiana before this was over

But we'll wait and see if it can follow through.  So far, its aim has not been particularly impressive

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Just stripping it for parts now

We're almost past the point of abandoning pretense.  At the same time that New Orleans administrators find themselves begging for help before a hostile audience in Baton Rouge, threatening city workers with furloughs and layoffs, and drastically cutting back on public services, it has been determined that now is also an excellent moment to give away millions of dollars to corporate entities who definitely do not need them.

Some of the biggest cuts will be for the largest downtown hotels, including the Marriott on Canal Street, the Hilton Riverside, and the Sheraton, as well as Harrah's Casino New Orleans and its adjacent properties.

Each could see their tax bills drop by between $1.5 and $2.5 million, based on current millage rates and estimates from data provided by the assessor.

The assessor says this is about helping "small businesses" and the local hospitality industry. But look at where the bulk of this goes. 

According to data compiled by the Downtown Development District, almost a third of the total cut in commercial sector valuations — or about $90 million — is accounted for by 10 downtown properties, including the cluster of properties at the river end of Canal Street owned by Harrah's New Orleans Casino, a division of Caesars Entertainment of Las Vegas. Harrah's valuations were more than halved to about $15.3 million, which will reduce its property tax bill by an estimated $2.4 million, according to the assessor's office.

Similarly, the Marriott Hotel on Canal, the Sheraton, the Intercontinental, the Crowne Plaza, the Roosevelt and the Ritz-Carlton will see their property taxes halved.

All are owned by national hotel management groups, suggesting that any tax savings will head to corporate coffers outside of the city.

In order to pay for this roughly $42 million tax cut gift to mega-landlords and out of town corporate interests, we will ask  residents - that is homeowners and renters combined since residential tax increases are always passed on to renters - to  pay about $30 million a year more, collectively.

Overall it means at least a $12 million drop in annual revenue to the city and public services that depend on property taxes.  And, of course, the poorer you are, the more likely it is you rely on such services or cannot easily pay to make up the difference if they are diminished.  

How does this happen? Who would push a disaster capitalism scheme like this on an already hard-hit city?  The same people who have been robbing that city blind since Katrina, of course. They are the pros at this, after all. 

Michael Sherman, a lawyer who was land-use adviser to Mayor Mitch Landrieu and whose current clients include 30 hotel owners, was among the industry representatives who consulted with Williams on the tax changes. Sherman pointed out that Williams had the authority to make the big cuts for commercial property owners because of a revision to a flood-damage law that came into effect after Hurricane Katrina. It required assessors to consider tax cuts after various types of disasters.

Who won the pandemic? The bosses won the pandemic. The landlords won the pandemic.  The same grifters who step in after every disaster to strip the broken pieces of the social contract for parts won the pandemic. But you can't say we didn't know it would be like this.  We've gotten pretty well used to it by now.

Friday, October 23, 2020

What indeed

Everyone's pretty much had all the fun to be had with this today.  But we do like to note predictions about the future whenever we find them just so that we can check later to see who told who so.  Anyway, better make sure all your foods are authorized, just in case.  

Then, U.S. Congressman Clay Higgins took a brief moment out of his schedule — jam-packed with opposing the peaceful transfer of power and trying to make amends after threatening to shoot a Black militia leader — to share a dramatization of his wife’s chilling psychic vision with the masses.

“My wife has the gift of premonition,” Higgins wrote. “Last night she dreamed that Federal squads were in our home seizing guns, knives, ‘unauthorized foods’ and stored water. They said we had been ‘reported.’ Becca awoke crying. What happened to our freedom? She asked. What indeed.”

Death Cult Coup 2020

Hey look at that. They did the thing.

House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and the House Republican delegation have thrown their support behind a controversial petition to lift all of Louisiana’s coronavirus restrictions, an effort aimed at kneecapping Gov. John Bel Edwards’ rules that is expected to be decided in court.

The petition, which previously had only circulated among the most conservative House members, only requires the majority of the House to go into effect. It was expected to win the support of a majority of the House Friday after Schexnayder’s support. The Legislature was also supposed to end the special session Friday.

House GOP Delegation Chair Blake Miguez, R-Erath, said the petition, supported by Schexnayder, has the support of a majority of the House Republicans, who comprise 68 of 105 seats.

We did not think they would do this thing.  All signs pointed toward them not doing the thing, in fact.  They spent most of the session working on a whole bill instead of this petition. That bill only gives them the opportunity to complain about the emergency declaration. It doesn't actually rescind it. Also it will certainly be vetoed. We figured that must be what they wanted. They wanted to write a strongly worded letter of disapproval .  That way they can go on complaining in public, making dumb videos, riling up the folks without having to deal with the consequences of undermining the governor's public health policy.  I mean, does Blake Miguez really want to be Governor right now? The "third wave" is already starting.

But now they've gone ahead and signed their petition anyway.  Why would they do that?  Maybe it is because they finally figured out that the petition does not really do anything after all. 

If successful, it would only suspend Edwards’ ability to issue emergency rules for a week. However, it is likely to be challenged in court, and even Republican leadership has conceded it may be unconstitutional. That means it might not have an immediate effect unless a judge allows the petition to go into effect as the court case plays out, assuming it goes to court.

Perfect.  In the meantime, everybody can go on with their performative histrionics.  Which, really was the point of this entire special session to begin with.  Well, that and stealing whatever money they could find in the couch cushions, which of course they managed to do as well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

They sent him something he can veto

The legislature already has the power to rescind the governor's emergency declaration.  This was the case at the beginning of the special session and it is the case now. The question we asked then, and must continue to ask now is, do they really want to do that? Or do they just want a pretext for continuing to play victim while the Governor keeps doing the actual work of managing the public health crisis?  

Because they still can't get enough signatures together to override the emergency, BUT can pass a bill like this that Governor can easily veto, we are inclined to believe the answer is, they just want to complain. Heck, this even says they can't do anything about an emergency declaration until 30 days have passed.

Wright’s bill would come into play if a governor renews a state of disaster or emergency declaration beyond the first 30 days of the proclamation. Edwards has repeatedly renewed his public health emergency declaration and coronavirus restrictions for months, since first issuing them in March.

Under the measure, if one of the top two elected leaders of both the House and Senate agree that provisions of a governor’s renewed order exceed his authority or “are not narrowly tailored to address the disaster,” they could ask lawmakers to vote by mailed ballot on whether to revoke individual sections of that order. That means a majority of the House and Senate could pick and choose which of Edwards’ coronavirus restrictions they want to end.

In this case the 30 day waiting period is up. But even so, it sets off a process of picking one issue at a time, having a public argument about it, then beginning another drawn out process of voting on it, hilariously, by mail. Remember this is the same bunch who made Kyle Ardoin cry in public because they hated his vote-by-mail plan for this year's elections.  They can't be choosing that option for themselves now because they believe it will work in a timely and efficient manner now.  Can they? 

Much more likely they are deliberately sending Edwards a bill he can veto specifically so that he will veto it.  And then they can do all the public whining they want, themselves.

The "end of history" never ended

You may not think you want to read a medium-length essay about the 1998 Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan vehicle "You've Got Mail" but you really ought to. The cultural zeitgeist of the 90s was all about sublimating anxiety about the total victory of capitalism over everything.

For a comparatively complacent political period in the United States, the ’90s boast a surprisingly large number of mainstream romantic comedies about fighting the Man or resisting the pressure to sell out. There’s no coincidence here. It was as if the culture was grappling with the implications of having abandoned even the pretense of crusading reformism, to say nothing of socialism, in favor of an unapologetic celebration of corporate values and business culture.

The lesson: It sucks. But what can you do? Maybe there are little opportunities to make a kind of personal peace with your conscience.  But nothing that rises above the petty or symbolic. In any case, it's best just to look inward, give up, hide if you can. 

Still, defiance of one kind or another was the norm in this genre until, as far as I can tell, You’ve Got Mail hit theaters. That was the genius of the film’s appeal: it was not only a clever and captivating love story, but also a fantasy that spoke to the neoliberal subject’s thorough exhaustion with politics and yearning for acquiescence without punishment. To the extent that it was even happening, resistance didn’t seem to be working. What if you didn’t have to resist anymore, and nothing was lost? What if “the Man” turned out to be Mr Right?

Meagan Day wrote this article after watching "You've Got Mail" and talking about it on the Michael and Us podcast which has been one of my favs for a while. One unstated thesis in the show is that all this late 90s "End of History" stuff is embedded in popular culture. I think a lot about what that's going to mean during the Biden years. How are we going to dissociate and pretend all is well even as the world is visibly burning? Don't be surprised if we find it easier than you may think.

Buying The Deed

I know we've talked previously about how the Bruno vs. Medley race is really all about Sidney Torres's "bloody" feud with the Motwanis.  At the time we wrote that, however, we could only find some $36,000 in campaign contributions to Medley through Torres's various business partners, family members and LLCs, like so..

This was a real thing. We know because the Times-Picayune reported on it here.  Also whoever is responsible for putting out these DSA voter guides noticed as well. 

But, since that time, The Lens has found there is still more to it

The allegation involves a $100,000 loan that Medley received in September from IV Capital, a company owned by Sidney Torres — a local entrepreneur, outspoken opponent of Bruno and the primary benefactor of Medley’s campaign. The same day she took the loan, Medley issued a $85,000 loan to her own campaign. A week later, she donated another $15,000 to her campaign. The campaign report says the loans were from Medley herself, and do not mention Torres’ company.

That certainly escalates Torres's investment.  What, technically, is he supposed to be buying into there? Real estate, of course. 

The collateral Medley used for the loan is an investment property she owns on 4725 Baudin Street. The house is assessed at $204,000. And records from the city’s notarial archives show that Medley has taken out loans on it totalling $269,000. As a result, the Bruno campaign characterized IV Capital’s $100,000 as essentially an unsecured loan to Medley. It’s unclear how much she still owes on the property. One of the mortgages — for $119,000 _ dates to 2013. The other one, however — for $150,000 — was finalized just this year. 

Torres told The Lens that a private assessment valued the property at nearly $300,000, and that he personally thought the Mid-City double was worth even more. He also said that there was only $155,000 in debt attached to the house.

“I promise if she does not pay him back he will foreclose,” Litchfield said. “That’s what he does.”

Boss move for Sidney.  No matter what happens in this election now he comes out of this owning something.  That could be yet another house he can flip.  Or it could be a judge.


See also:  The Antigravity voter guide is out this week. Their write up also notes all of the above with regard to this race including the latest bit about the loan on the house.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Stimulus for some

Now seems like a terrific time to place more capital into the no-doubt soon to be booming indoor golf arcade business. 

After construction delays caused by money trouble at its corporate parent, work on the Drive Shack driving-range complex at the site of the former Times-Picayune building on Howard Avenue appears to be back on track.

The "golf-entertainment" venue, which is being built on a site owned by developer Joe Jaeger and partners, has been beset by difficulties since it was announced two-and-a-half years ago, the latest being a series of lawsuits by contractors demanding payment on overdue bills that had stacked up during the coronavirus pandemic.

But on Monday, Drive Shack's New York-based owner said it had sold its Rancho San Joaquin golf course, located in Irvine, California, for $34.5 million, giving it funds to continue work on the stalled $29 million New Orleans project as well as a mini-golf venture in Dallas known as The Puttery.

Seems a bizarre decision but, then, it is their money...

Wait, what's that?  Oh sorry, no, turns out that it's also public money.   (from 2018)

The developers who want to turn the former Times-Picayune building on Howard Avenue in New Orleans into a three-story indoor golf attraction received final approval Tuesday (Aug. 14) on a plan that basically freezes their property taxes for a dozen years.

The Industrial Development Board, which must sign off on such tax incentives, agreed to lock in land and building values for Drive Shack. The 62,000-square-foot, $29 million facility will include 90 golf ball hitting bays, a restaurant, bar, arcade and conference rooms. To the rear of the building, 183,000 square feet of artificial turf will cover the driving range. Plans call for 265 parking spaces on the property and additional off-site parking under the Broad Street overpass.

Still, who are we expecting will want to spend money on this amusement?  Even after (if!) we arrive at a moment when people generally feel safe going to crowded indoor venues again, will anyone even be able to afford it?  Maybe Drew Brees?  But we read here that he is already building his own private Drive Shack so I guess he is out. 

According to the breathless TMZ report, “Drew's new pad is coming with ALL the bells and whistles … from private access to a bar/lounge to a golf simulator room."

The likely answer is, a lot fewer people will be able to afford to pay for anything. And that in turn leads to a lot more fewer people able to pay for things.  And that can get... very bad. 

One very simple solution to this would be to just give people money so they can buy things.  It's what you do when you want to.. stimulate.. the economy.  Is that what we want to do? Besides, given that we've already decided to give a great big tax subsidy to Drive Shack and its developers, there should be no problem loading up their potential customers as well.  You would think it is but, the evidence of that sure is scarce.  Or at least it changes day-to-day

Friday, October 16, 2020

Are we used to it yet?

Here comes that third wave.  

The rise since mid-September has been especially profound in the Midwest and Mountain West, where hospitals are filling up and rural areas are seeing staggering outbreaks. The regions are home to almost all of the metro areas with the country’s worst outbreaks right now.

“We are starting from a much higher plateau than we were before the summer wave,” Dr. Rivers said. “It concerns me that we might see even more cases during the next peak than we did during the summer.” 

The average number of new coronavirus cases per day first peaked in mid-April, when New York City and its surrounding areas were hit hard. New Orleans, southwest Georgia and some resort towns in the West also saw some of the spring’s worst outbreaks.

Over the summer, the number of new cases per day soared past the April peak. The South and West were particularly affected. 

The current spike appears to be happening in the Midwest.  But one wonders if this one, in particular, has potential to spread quickly to other parts of the country. 

Despite the fact that the virus has not gone away or become any less contagious or deadly than it was in March, more city and state governments are relenting to pressure from ruling class interests to relax emergency health restrictions and "open up the economy," meaning send more vulnerable people back to work under dangerous conditions. This has been the main purpose of the ongoing legislative special session in Baton Rouge, for example, where lawmakers are voting to end the Governor's emergency declaration. (Although they are also there to steal money while they're at it.)  It's also the reason the City of New Orleans is moving now to Phase Version 3.2.and-three-quarters or whatever in which you are allowed to host a live music performance so long as nobody plays sings or plays any horns.  

The incoherence is intentional. The longer we go with no federal relief to individuals and businesses, the less likely anyone is to believe that universal and equitable solutions are possible, and the easier it becomes to just throw us all out before the mercy of "the market."  That's what COVID fatigue really means. It's surrender to the nihilistic belief that better things aren't possible.  And so even though there are signs the virus is spiking elsewhere in the country, and even though cases are appearing in the city's schools, officials have little choice but to just give the bosses what they want. 

Each wave of cases and deaths with no resulting political will to change conditions simply reinforces the sense of inevitability. eventually we'll all just have to "get used to it." 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Shark alert

It's been a busy couple of days with little time to do much yellow blogging but we would be seriously derelict in our responsibilities if we did not note the Metal Shark ferries (well, one of them anyway) are finally going into service. The early reviews are positive.

After two years of delays, a sleek new passenger ferry began plying the Mississippi River between Algiers Point and Canal Street on Saturday, in journeys that are faster, calmer and better for the environment.

“It was real smooth, very relaxing. It doesn’t rock up and down,” Christina Burrle, 24, said as she exited the ferry near the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.

Real smooth and relaxing sounds pretty good. I kind of remember one of the problems with getting these boats certified had to do with the safety equipment. So we don't want things getting too rough out there.  On the other hand, since the boats are no longer free to pedestrians, some of us might want our $2 each way to buy us a thrill or two. Maybe that's possible. The deckhands seem to think so, anyway. 

Guiding the ferry straight across the river might seem like a simple task, Burris said. “But it takes a lot of technique, practice and great ship-handling capabilities when you get high river stages and the currents starts moving at five, six, seven, eight knots. You can catch yourself in an eddy, kind of like a blender, and you can flip yourself all the way around.”

Can't wait to try it out.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

When in doubt.... tax breaks for oil companies

The emergency special session the legislature called supposedly to deal with governing and budgetary issues emanating from  the COVID pandemic has taken a not-very-surprising turn

House Bill 29, filed by Rep. Phillip DeVillier, R-Eunice, which would suspend a 12.5% severance tax that oil and gas companies pay on crude fossil fuels extracted from newly-drilled wells or enhanced wells, passed after a floor debate with a 68-22 vote.

The bill, requested by the Louisiana Mid-Continent’s Oil and Gas Association, is estimated to cost taxpayers $157 million over the next five years, according to the legislature’s fiscal office. It allows companies to claim credits on each well for up to 24 months or until the company recovers the amount it spent to drill or enhance the well, whichever comes first.

Unlike other tax breaks such as those under the Industrial Tax Exemption Program, DeVillier’s proposed tax suspension carries no job-creation or residency requirements or investment thresholds in order for a company to qualify. Companies can also claim it in addition to other breaks such as those under ITEP as well as a separate tax credit being proposed in House Bill 78, which would allow local governing bodies such as school boards and sheriffs to accept a lump sum of no more than two years of property taxes from a company and exempt them from taxes for the next nine years. That bill is slated to be considered before the full House on Oct. 12.

Sure. That ought to fix it. I remember way back when they would at least go through the motions of caring about keeping the budget afloat by kicking the can ahead to a series of "fiscal cliffs" that would have to be narrowly averted.  Now that we're living in the end times, everyone is content to just leap right off the ledge straight away. 

Also in this package, a "sales tax holiday" because why not. But since we are already busted, why stop there?  Probably there is public money to throw at some private schools in a way we haven't thought of yet. 

The final tax bill considered Tuesday was House Bill 20, authored by Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge. It offers a state income tax credit to residents with certain narrowly-defined education expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I know we’ve done a lot to help businesses, so I just wanted to give something to the people,” Edmonds said.

The bill offers a credit on “educational coaching services for an in-person facilitator of virtual education delivered by a public or approved nonpublic elementary or secondary school.” The bill would help parents defray the costs of an in-person tutor who assisted with virtual courses for college students. It would only apply if the student being tutored is a qualified dependent and is at least 18 or a high school graduate.

Not sure what they'll do next year when they have to fix this mess.  But I'm willing to bet it will involve still more tax cuts for oil companies.

Colossus crawls west

Today's look has Delta coming in much stronger than we thought. And it's headed right for SW Louisiana where they're still literally picking up debris from Laura.

So that's not great.  Can still change and probably will, though.  But a shift back east is also not a great outcome.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

The Friday Fizzle

It would be pretty typical for an October storm to lose strength as it crosses the northern Gulf. It's not guaranteed but it's something we've seen quite a few times. Anyway that's what this graphic seems to indicate even though the current status of the storm is freaking people out.  

The problem is, if it happens, it's all going to happen on Friday.  But if you have to decide what you are going to do before then, well, it might require a small leap of faith.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Best healthcare system in the world

It's possible that over the weekend, some people may have noticed a news item or two indicating that President Trump had checked into Walter Reed hospital where he was treated for COVID-19.  It's okay if you missed it. But it's something that people were talking about. 

Anyway one of the things that got some attention was the President's treatment regime.  He tweeted this afternoon that it involved some "really great drugs and knowledge."  Unfortunately the information coming from his doctors is not exactly clear. But, as far as we know, here is some of what that might have entailed

Trump got one dose of Regeneron's monoclonal antibody cocktail -- a combination of two lab-engineered proteins designed to home in on the coronavirus. He also had received the first infusion of a five-day course of remdesivir, Gilead Science's experimental antiviral drug.

Conley indicated the Walter Reed team was giving Trump a variety of therapies -- an approach many doctors are taking in treating coronavirus patients, who suffer a wide range of symptoms.

"Remdesivir works a little bit differently than the antibodies. We are maximizing all aspects of his care. Attacking this virus in a multipronged approach," Conley said.

"If there was any possibility that it would add value to his care and expedite his care, I wanted to take it."

It's not surprising, said Dr. Seema Yasmin, director of research and education at Stanford University's Health Communication Initiative. 

"This is the President of the United States -- he is going to have the kitchen sink thrown at him," Yasmin told CNN.

Multipronged, kitchen sink approach involving all these cutting edge treatments.  We really can do remarkable things in health care here in the good ol US of A. It's sure great to the be the President of this country. 

It's less great to be in jail in Orleans Parish, though.  They treat the COVID differently there, apparently

And Dixon wasn’t the only one who felt the effects of the pepper spray. It dispersed throughout the rest of the tier, which at the time was housing around a dozen other detainees who had tested positive for coronavirus. 

“Yeah it got into our cells,” said the detainee. “All of us were all beating on the doors telling the people we can’t breathe, to open the outside door where they have a rec yard so it can air out.  We were telling them we can’t breathe, they were telling us we can’t go outside and air out.”

“By inhaling that stuff, it’s so strong,” he said. “We tested positive for the corona, and it was getting in our system. We were coughing and gagging in our cells.”

Following the incident, according to Dixon and the other inmate, Dixon was returned to his cell on the COVID tier and kept there for several days without being given the opportunity to shower or make any phone calls. 

They put me in the cell with no shower, nothing to clean it off me,” Dixon said. 

The only medical attention he received, Dixon said, was being given Tylenol to help with his wrist and ankles, which had become swollen from the cuffs and shackles.

Nowhere to wash off the pepper spray... not even a kitchen sink.

Breaking records

They're going for it. All the mud. 

The state is undertaking two “record-breaking” restoration projects aimed at reviving 7 square miles of coastal habitat and bolstering natural storm defenses east of New Orleans and near Venice in lower Plaquemines Parish.

Long planned but now funded with $215 million from money BP set aside after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, the projects amount to the largest marsh restoration and the largest coastal ridge-building effort the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority has ever attempted.

“The only way to describe them is 'massive,'” CPRA Executive Director Bren Haase said. “They’re both record-breaking projects."

The Deepwater Horizon disaster happened 10 years ago.  These aren't the first projects that settlement has funded but they do give some idea of how long it takes to put that money to use. Which is a maddening thing to think about when we consider just how late in the game all of this is. This, for example, is from May of this year.

 A new study says Louisiana’s coast cannot be saved.

Researchers looked at how the marshes have survived over thousands of years and concluded that they are past a major tipping point and sea level rise will eventually wash the entire coast away.

The study, published today in Science Advances, found that marshes can survive a certain amount of relative sea level rise — about a tenth of an inch per year. Sea levels are currently rising 1 to 2 inches a year in Louisiana due to climate change and subsidence.

“Previous investigations have suggested that marshes can keep up with rates of sea-level rise as high as half an inch per year, but those studies were based on observations over very short time windows, typically a few decades or less,” said Torbjörn Törnqvist, Lead researcher and Tulane University earth and environmental science professor.

He said officials have perhaps been too optimistic: “Unfortunately we have already reached the tipping point for marsh drowning in Louisiana. There is no way back anymore.”

Yeah... but you gotta do something.  And since we do have some money to throw around right now, we might as well throw at something at least a little bit useful.  And these "record breaking" projects do sound a little bit useful. One project aims to save and reinvigorate 3,000 acres of marsh around Lake Borgne. 

Restoring marshlands in Lake Borgne, actually a large saltwater bay, is part of a wider effort to rebuild wetlands in the Pontchartrain Basin for both ecological and storm protection functions. Like much of the coast, the basin has been rapidly losing land from erosion, storm surges, rising seas and subsidence, the natural compacting and sinking of the soil.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assessment found that boosting the marshlands in Lake Borgne could provide significant storm surge protection for New Orleans.

See, that helps. Now, if they could get all of this done by, say, Thursday evening that would be great. 

Tropical Storm Delta was strengthening in the Caribbean Monday morning and is expected to become a hurricane Tuesday on its path toward Louisiana, forecasters said.

The current track from the National Hurricane Center has Delta making landfall Friday as a Category 2 hurricane in southeast Louisiana, but the track has an average error of 160 to 200 miles this far out.

Here is Delta's track which, appropriately for something called that, is still subject to change.. but.. yikes!

We're in the Greek alphabet for only the second time in history.  That other time was, of course, the infamous 2005 season when we got all the way up to Zeta. Just a couple more to go now and maybe we can break that record too.

Friday, October 02, 2020

The worst elected person in Louisiana not named Clay Higgins

 It is Josh Guillory

While the New Orleans Saints wait for approval to have fans in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory on Friday suggested Lafayette would be happy to host the next game — with fans — at the Cajundome.

"If @mayorcantrell will not allow fans in the stands of the Superdome, you are more than welcome to play your home games here in Lafayette. We can have fans safely attend the game. Cajun Field would be a great venue!" Guillory wrote Friday morning on Twitter.

We touched on this in the last post but the primary consideration here is obviously not safety.  It isn't even trolling, really.  Instead it is a deliberate effort to force people to accept the shitty conditions of a post-COVID  existence.  The virus hasn't been stopped or vaccinated and it may never be.  We could think about ways to prevent 200,000 people from dying over the course of six months, or we could just tell everyone to get used to it. The bosses have determined you are to get used to it. And that means, among other things, pretending it is safe to do all the things we normally do.

Dr. Alex Billoux is stepping down as the state Office of Public Health's point person on coronavirus response. Yesterday, he had some parting thoughts on the wisdom of gathering large crowds together to watch football under the current circumstances.  

“In the grand scheme of things, it’s kind of ridiculous,” Billioux said. “If this were a story 100 years from now and I said, 'Listen, you know, people were willing to have three to five people die for a football game every week, because it was that important to them … people were willing to sit next to people with a tremendously infectious disease that kills people because they weren’t willing to go a single season without going to a football game.'”

What kind of an idiot needs to be at a football game right now?  I can say this speaking specifically as the kind of idiot who loves watching football very much. I love going to the Superdome and watching football.  I love going to Tiger Stadium to watch football. I love going to a crowded barroom, or, on occasion, a crowded art gallery or street party to watch football. I am a complete idiot and yet even I do not think any of those things is worth endangering my or anyone else's life right now.

Guillory's "offer" (I don't know if we can consider it an actual good faith offer) to host a Saints game flies directly in the face of Billoux's comments. It doesn't help that the Saints are also applying pressure themselves to bring more fans into the dome.  It would be putting it charitably to say they are being selfish.  More accurately, they and Guillory are engaging in a deliberate ideologically driven campaign to get the Governor and Mayor to end their emergency precautions.  

In a letter to the mayor they publicized today, the Saints claim their health and safety plan "was touted as one of the best and most comprehensive with the ability to safely adapt to numerous seating capacities based on local and state governmental guidance."  They don't say by whom the plan was touted.  Nor do they specifically say what the expectation should be that it would actually mitigate transmission of the virus. But it's a mystery why anyone should think they've got any credibility in that regard

We're never coming back from this

Not sure if it's really sinking in for people yet, but "the economy" on the other side of COVID just isn't going to have as many full time jobs as it did before

There are still 10.7 million fewer people with jobs than there were in February before the pandemic, although just over half of the jobs lost in March and April have now been recovered. At this rate, it would take the economy another 16 months to gain back those jobs, although economists say that job gains get more difficult for every month that the recession lasts.

All 10.7 million of those jobs are not coming back.  That isn't part of the plan. The bosses have already won the pandemic and are going to be fine without most of us.

What's left to do now is for the rest of us to "just get used to" the new slightly shittier normal. Which is why, even today, as the nation woke up the news that the President himself has tested positive for the virus, the push is on to end the emergency and impose a sense that the current state of affairs is just the way we live now and that it's time to get on with that.  

Which is why, despite Nancy Pelosi's performative "optimism" that the Trump diagnosis changes the political dynamic, the thing to understand is that help is not on the way.  The US economy... insofar as what it can produce for the benefit of poor and working class people... slid completely off the edge of help in 2008 and has not been brought back from that.  The pandemic is just another step in normalizing the status to which most of us have been relegated.  We're never coming back from this.  We aren't really even expected to.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

You won't believe who is trying to defund the police now

Amazingly, it is New Orleans and Co. 

Facing a collapsed tourism industry due to the coronavirus pandemic, two publicly-funded tourism agencies in New Orleans have cut funding for supplemental security and infrastructure improvements in the French Quarter. And one of them is trying to take back millions of unspent funds it’s contributed in years past.

The agencies in question are the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Convention Center — a public body — and New Orleans and Company, a private nonprofit group that serves as the marketing agency for the city’s tourism industry. Both organizations had signed agreements with the city that will expire in a few months.

New Orleans and Company, however, has already cancelled one of its contracts with the city. 

With the end of the agreements, the city stands to lose roughly $5.7 million that it had in 2019 for French Quarter security and improvements. The biggest chunk of that money, $2.5 million per year, has gone to pay for Louisiana State Police patrols in the French Quarter. Another $1.2 million per year went to the French Quarter Task Force — an initiative originally created by entrepreneur Sidney Torres that pays off-duty NOPD officers to patrol the quarter in blue-light Smart Cars.

Okay so it is the Convention Center and NO & Co. For its part, the Convention Center says they are all paid up and the deal that created this fund is expiring, all of which seems to be true. But also they have to decide how much money they want to give away to Ron Forman so you can see why that might be a priority. 

But NO & Co. is the agency that is actually trying to take some of the money back... although it will surprise no one to know that the city disputes the amount they've actually paid and says also that they may in fact be behind on these obligations.

While New Orleans and Company believes that the money should be returned, the city has recently argued that New Orleans and Company actually owes additional money to the improvement fund. At a June FQMD board meeting, Smith stated that “the City is still missing the New Orleans & Co. 2019 remittances that came to about $2,000,000.00 and they have been attempting to collect these since February,” according to meeting notes.

Disputed U-O-MEs notwithstanding, why not just let the thing drop?   It's time to start de-funding the police/surveillance state and the French Quarter is the most overly-policed and heavily surveiled neighborhood in our city.  Sounds like a great place to start. 

Not sure that's the city's plan, though. A .25 cent sales tax renewal on the ballot in December would continue supplemental patrols there. The only question, it seems, is who will be doing the patrolling. 

One of the two plans comes from Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who wants to use the money to fund a new security team made up of a mix of police officers and civilians. The other is being championed by the French Quarter Management District — a state created body whose board is largely made up of appointees from tourism industry groups and French Quarter business and neighborhood groups. It hopes to use the money to expand an existing security detail made up of off-duty New Orleans Police Department officers.

It seems like the dispute here is really about control over turf.  While FQMD's plan is to keep paying the task force (famously founded by Sidney Torres) the mayor wants to give it to something called a "Grounds Patrol" operated by the city's Homeland Security department.  The key difference is that the Grounds Patrol would deputize civilian "quality of life" officers relegated to code enforcement which, the claim is, would free up NOPD to focus on real police work.  This sounds dubious.  In fact, The Lens points out in that article that model is very much along the lines of a failed Landrieu Administration experiment known as NOLA Patrol which had to be discontinued after the citizen deputies were found out to have been issuing traffic tickets.  

Again, it would appear that this dispute isn't so much about how best to spend a shrinking pot of policing money.  It's about who controls the pot and how much extra patronage they can wring from it. 

But even if the tax is renewed, the city is projecting that collections will be significantly lower than in years past due to a shrinking tourism industry brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Current projections for 2021 are $1.8 million, compared to $3 million last year. 

But that level of funding would expand the current size of the French Quarter Task force if all the revenue is dedicated to FQMD, even if New Orleans and Company ceased their $1.2 million contribution to the French Quarter Task Force.

Under Cantrell’s plan, the first $1.3 million raised by the sales tax would go to the Unified French Quarter Patrol along with an additional $1.5 million in funding from the French Market Corporation. 

The remainder of the sales tax, estimated to be $500,000 in 2021, would be administered by a newly created French Quarter Economic Development Oversight Committee. That extra money would be used for other public safety and quality of life initiatives within the French Quarter.

"Other public safety and quality of life initiatives" = what, exactly?  Well, that's for you to find out.  Suffice to say anytime you see something disbursed in the name of "economic development" in this city, you can begin looking for the crony capitalists right then and there.

More to the point, though, all of this petty squabbling and attendant corruption could be avoided (and patrons of French Quarter businesses could get a sales tax break) if we would just agree to de-fund the wholly unnecessary police-surveillance apparatus altogether.   But for some reason nobody is talking about doing that except the tourism agencies.  Never thought we'd see the day.

If you elect us, we will give you..... ?

Seems like the stimulus deadlock should be a perfect opportunity for Democrats to speak clearly to voters about the stakes of the election.  We want to give you a stimulus check. We want you to have full unemployment benefits. We want to rescue your states and cities.  Elect us so we can tell Mitch McConnell to fuck off and do these things for you. 

Is that their message, though? It doesn't seem that way

Speaker Nancy Pelosi was highly pessimistic Thursday about the chances of clinching a coronavirus relief deal with the White House, leaving House Democrats on a path to approve their own stimulus package and head home to run for reelection.

Pelosi cast serious doubt on the likelihood of an agreement during a private call with House Democrats Thursday, stressing multiple times that Republicans don’t “share our values” on the need to provide trillions of dollars in health and economic relief to Americans impacted by the pandemic.

"Republicans don't share our values" sounds like a good start to what they could be saying.  But, next, comes the pitch. Tell voters to get them out of the way so we can help you. But that's not the pitch at all.  Instead, it is this.

Moderate Democrats had been pushing Pelosi for months to put another bill on the floor — one that could be used to further pressure the GOP into negotiations, while also demonstrating to voters back home that they were still seeking compromise with Republicans.

Some members of the caucus grumbled about the end result, arguing that Democrats were simply negotiating against themselves, and that there was no point in approving a bill that included even less funds than the May version. But centrist Democrats argued that it was crucial to demonstrate that their party was still negotiating, while the White House and Senate Republicans were in no rush for a deal.

Voters! We are trying very hard to work with Republicans so we can give you less help! Not sure what that asks voters to do, exactly.  I guess... be less mad about the impotence?

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

S&WB math

Here is a word problem for you to work out.  According to the plan discussed at this week's meeting, how many turbines does the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board plan to have online after all of the projects are implemented?  

Be careful. This is tricky, but we can think it through.  First we have to know how may turbines are operating now.  The most recently installed piece of equipment is called Turbine 6. So you might be tempted to just say six immediately and put your pencils down. But wait... 

The S&WB has five turbines, though their designations confusingly run up to six because Turbine 2 was decommissioned years ago. Each has faced significant limitations in the past and caused problems for the agency.

That's quirky.  But, in a way, it's very New Orleans. It's kind of like trying to explain to a visitor why a bunch of streets that cross Canal are called "North" or "South" but nobody ever says they are actually traveling in those directions. You just have to know the lingo.  Anyway, so it's five, right?  

Well, not exactly.  To solve for the number of available turbines, we still have additional values we need to factor in.  For example, the temperature outside on any given day is one. 

Under the timeline discussed Tuesday, the first project to be completed would also be the cheapest: a $700,000 fix to Turbine 6, its newest piece of power generating equipment, to allow it to operate in cold weather. The turbine, originally provided to the S&WB by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2013, was not designed to run when air temperatures are below 45 degrees, a limitation that prompted a boil water advisory in 2018 when temperatures dropped while it was powering the S&WB’s water system.

Now, some would say designing equipment that can only function above 45 degrees is actually very forward-looking policy in the context of climate change.  Maybe this is an example of that "resiliency" everyone is always talking about.  Also it may be a little confusing to some that a drop in temperature is what causes water to boil. But, again, that's just another one of those quirks. In any case we are currently living in a world where sometimes Turbine 6 exists and sometimes it does not. To solve this part of the equation, add $700,000*

*This value will undoubtedly increase over time. To determine the appropriate function to input here, please see Appendix B

Thankfully, the status of Turbine 5 is more of a fixed variable. It is blowed up.  Although, we have now learned, it is not quite as blowed up as originally thought. 

Next would be repairs to Turbine 5. That generator exploded in December, causing enough damage that officials initially said it would likely never be worthwhile to repair it. But an inspection showed damage was not as severe as feared and that insurance on the equipment would largely cover the $5 million to $6 million to bring back online, minus a $1 million deductible.

We can rebuild it. And we will. So, let's see where we are now. That's 6 turbines minus one for nomenclature, minus one for explosions, minus one IF < 45 degrees F so, for now we're at three or maybe three and a half operational turbines.  Got it? Okay now add one.

Then there’s the plan to buy a new turbine, which would be designated Turbine 7, for $18 million to $20 million. About $13 million of that would come from the federal government, the rest from the infrastructure deal.

The proposal calls for Turbine 7 to be operational in 12 to 14 months.

At which point there should be (assuming the business with the weather is sorted out) six turbines in operation including the one called number 7.  Got it?  Good, now subtract two. 

With all those pieces in place, the S&WB would be able to take Turbines 1 and 3 offline completely, Korban said. Those turbines, powered by steam, are considered to be particularly problematic.

The thinking there being that, there should be sufficient steam just coming out of everyone's ears by this point in the problem that these machines will have become redundant.  And we didn't even get into the conversion of 25 cycle to 60 cycle electric power which, yes, is also a factor in this. 

It's no wonder, then, that with all this high level math going on, that the billing system is every bit as mysterious.

The S&WB currently estimates about 45% of customer bills, instead of billing for actual use, and Korban said efforts to improve that figure are underway. Those include staffing up internally and bringing in outside contractors, efforts he said have already improved the situation from a low point when only about 30% of customers’ bills were being read each month.

Sometimes you have to pay or what you use. Other times they just make something up.  This situation fluctuates over time according to several variables as well which causes many people to wonder if their water bill is determined by a random number generator.  They say that's happening 15 percent less of the time now than it was before, though. So make sure your instruments are calibrated before you begin your next calculation. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Just let them make a YouTube channel

You really have to hand it to the legislature for bringing the grifter energy to this emergency special session it has called.  Ostensibly, they are there to deal with the COVID emergency and the consequences of expiring benefits and a dwindling unemployment insurance trust fund.  But they're taking the opportunity to also run through a stack of tax breaks for businesses, including and especially oil and gas, to further de-fund public education and various other schemes. Always good to get em in there when nobody is paying attention. 

Even the marquee item on the agenda isn't quite what it seems.  They sound like they are saying they are there to shut down the Governor's emergency order because freedom and democracy or something

The push to give lawmakers a say in coronavirus rules started taking shape. Republican lawmakers are circulating petitions to end the emergency health declaration that underlies a sheaf of directives to lessen the spread of the deadly COVID-19, but also have led to widespread shutdowns of business activities and unprecedented unemployment. GOP legislators – including Senate President Page Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder – want to give the Legislature a seat at the table in emergency powers. 

"The Legislature is a co-equal branch of government ... and we should have a seat at the table," Cortez said.

But, as we've already found out, those petitions are difficult to complete. In part, this is because potential signatories have trouble coming up with specific aspects of the response they would want to do differently. 

Asked what specific components of Edwards' coronavirus restrictions he objects to, Cortez said merely that lawmakers want a "seat at the table." Republicans have railed against a host of the rules, including restrictions on bars and restaurants and visits to nursing homes.

They just want a seat at the table.  They don't actually want to do anything from that seat, though. As Karlin points out in this article (and then highlights again in a tweet thread) this bill would actually make cancelling the emergency order more difficult by adding the requirement of a second petition.  

So it turns out these Republicans, despite holding super-majority status in the state legislature, really just wanted a platform from which they can be seen complaining.  It's nice to be heard, I guess.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Time for healing

I am going to have to go watch this forum now for clarity but it does sound a lot like what Keva is saying here is that the "relationship between the DA's office and the community" needs to be "healed" specifically because Jason has criticized Cannizzaro so much. 

But Landrum said she was the only candidate with experience running an office like the DA’s. She also said that as a judge she was prevented in many cases from speaking her mind, but nonetheless pushed changes like bail reform from the bench.

Without mentioning Cannizzaro by name, she said she would heal the relationship between the DA’s office and the community. She called Williams a grandstander whose “divisive” tactics reminded her of President Donald Trump and took a swipe at him over his St. Charles Avenue house.

“Mr. Williams wants you to believe that he is going to stand for the poor people of our city, when in fact he has made himself a millionaire off the backs of the people of New Orleans,” she said. “I don’t live in a mansion on a hill. He does.”

Which would imply that Leon's contributions to this "relationship," his use of the habitual offender laws to win absurdly harsh sentences, his use of "fake subpoenas" to intimidate witnesses, and his general "tough-on-crime" verbosity which only got worse as his tenure in office progressed... none of that is as detrimental as Jason Williams's public criticism of these practices.  Worse, she seems to say that hearing him make these criticisms reminded her of Trump?  

That can't be right.  I mean, for one thing, Keva has been openly critical of Cannizzaro herself. At least she was when she thought she would be running against him

While Landrum and Cannizzaro both worked under longtime DA Harry Connick Sr. at different times, she ventured into public criticism of Cannizzaro’s policies at a forum last year.

Landrum accused Cannizzaro of resisting her court’s efforts to offer pretrial services to defendants and reduce the jail population. She also said Louisiana’s habitual offender law — which Cannizzaro once made more use of than any DA in the state to ratchet up sentences for defendants with prior convictions — does little to reduce crime rates.

Maybe it has something to do with what house you live in when you make these comments?  In any event, the time for all of that is over now.  Have to move on so the healing can begin.

Having a normal one

Everything that is happening is exactly what was supposed to happen.  Don't worry about it.  

NEW ORLEANS — A large chunk of the partially collapsed Hard Rock Hotel came down Thursday morning exactly as planned, according to the lead local engineer on the demolition project.

“They were demo’ing the Burgundy Wing and hit it just right and the whole thing came straight down,” said Walter Zehner, who is the local engineer hired by the demolition company out of St. Louis, Kolb Grading. “Which is exactly what we hoped it would do. Things are fine we are all happy with the way it worked out.”

Everything around you is collapsing into rubble. This is normal.  It's what we hoped it would do. 

That about sums it up.