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Sunday, May 01, 2016

Rainy day programming

It ain't Jazzfest but here's this week's fake radio show. It's uh.. well, it ain't Jazzfest.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Stoop sitting

Our place doesn't have a porch or a yard. Our front door opens directly onto the sidewalk outside. But Menckles and I spend a fair amount of time out there just hanging around. Usually in the afternoon or early evening one or both of us will take a festival chair out to the sidewalk just to sit, maybe read, or just people watch.  More often than not we take a few beers or cocktails with us. Nobody seems to have a problem with it. I wonder why that is.
A property manager for Abundance Square apartments, which replaced the Desire public housing projects, tells Citylab that she doesn’t allow more than three people at a time “hanging out” on a front porch. More than that would be considered loitering, said the property manager, who would only identify her name as “Ms. Davis.” She says she has personally broken up groups on front porches, and that violating the policy would lead to the tenant earning an “infraction” on their file. More than two infractions would be cause for eviction, says the property manager.

Bobby Jindal has a plan

Remember way way back when then candidate Bobby Jindal bravely stood up to and defeated Donald Trump by making that one speech that everyone laughed at?  Well he's here now to teach the rest of us how to do that too.

Tl;dr, Jindal says the key is to do conservative stuff.  Also, he says that while the Trumps of the world run campaigns that (for better or for worse) respond to things voters are concerned about, the way to defeat Trump is to condescend to those voters instead.
But Trump realized that many voters, including Republicans, are still wary of foreign entanglements, after years spent in Iraq, and are sympathetic to populist calls for nation-building to begin at home. He realized that many voters are angry about expanding means-tested entitlements, like Obamacare and food stamps, especially for able-bodied adults, but at the same time are fiercely protective of universal programs, like Medicare and Social Security, supported in part by their payroll contributions. 
 
He realized that even if trade agreements generate dispersed benefits, workers hurt by the localized dislocations are much more aware of the pain than consumers are of the benefits. 
 
These may seem like strikingly obvious realizations, but they in part explain why Republican leaders who tout the benefits of cutting government, free trade, and entitlement reform to struggling middle class voters are falling flat. To be clear, I believe in these things, but I do fear that we have failed to sufficiently make our case for these policies.
 
Meanwhile, middle-class voters can be forgiven for thinking that perhaps a government fighting for them, defending their jobs from foreign workers abroad or coming here illegally and defending their lives and values from radical Islamic terrorists, makes more sense than a government taking from them, as offered by Obama -- or a government they see simply defending those who have already succeeded, as offered by Republicans.
Bobby Jindal forgives you, middle-class voters. Please consider him in your future endeavors.  I like this strategy. It's why Jeb Bush is cruising to the nomination right now.  But maybe Bobby is on to something. We all know he's going to keep running for President for either the rest of his natural life or perhaps longer. Bobby may, in fact, already be more political hack algorithm than man at this point. If he successfully uploads into the mainframe he may be producing campaign prop op-eds for online outlets forever.  

He may, in fact, already be running next year's software upgrade. There's reason to believe the ultimate result of this cycle will be a return to elite consensus politics. If this is Jindal's attempt to plant his flag back in that camp then he very well may be doing the prudent thing. 

Must have been one hell of an "L drill"

How important could this possibly have been?
Bell and Payton built a rapport around a simple request. New Orleans coaches had dinner with Bell and some of his OSU’s teammates at pro day and worked him out privately, but Bell’s decision to forego some drills left the Saints with a hole in their evaluation.

Payton called Bell to ask for videos of the drills — the “L” drill, the pro shuttle, the 60-yard shuttle and his vertical leap — and he responded in a matter of days, texting all the videos to the coach.

“It was important to me,” Payton said.

“I said to him, when we drafted him, if you hadn’t gotten me those videos, you’d still be sitting at home eating nachos right now.”
Who knew this was so freakin' important?

It's not everybody's job to be the hypocrite

Last week, the governor announced his plan to attach a mandatory work requirement to SNAP benefits in Louisiana.  Because, apparently, it is 1994 again and we need to prove that "responsible" Democrats can punish poor people too. Louisiana's unemployment rate is higher than the national average. This makes the state eligible to apply for a waiver from the already onerous federal work requirement.  We have the option of not being jerks. John Bel Edwards chose to be a jerk anyway.

Or maybe that's too harsh. Maybe the governor really does need to burnish his "centrism" chops. It would be nice if he could find a way to do that that doesn't involve being a moralizing jerk toward people who need help.  But maybe it's one of those unpleasant things he believes he has to do.  I can't say I agree. But I'm at least familiar with the concept.

But even if we accept that the governor has to do what the governor has to do, what is the deal with these guys?
What’s a bit surprising is that Edwards’ move on food stamps has drawn support from some of the very same advocates who criticized Jindal’s move.


Jan Moller, of the Louisiana Budget Project, which had attacked Jindal’s initial move as heartless, called Edwards’ order a “good plan on paper.” New Orleans-based Stand with Dignity had called Jindal’s maneuver a “starvation plan” and sued to stop it but responded quickly and enthusiastically to Edwards’ announcement.

“Gov. Edwards’ order is a critical step towards addressing barriers to employment and building career ladders for people who have been excluded from work across Louisiana,” said Stand with Dignity organizer Latoya Lewis. “As Gov. Edwards states, this executive order recognizes the daily challenges of individuals surviving on government benefits and seeks to address these issues through programming that leads to meaningful and sustainable employment.”

The support from Jindal’s critics suggests a couple of things. One is that Edwards has a certain level of credibility among those who share his goals of alleviating poverty and that they not only trust his intentions but understand his political constraints.
It shouldn't fall to advocacy groups to rationalize bad behavior on the part of electeds. It's one thing to  understand political constraints. It's another thing, though, to reinforce them. 


Friday, April 29, 2016

Where does the money go now?

They're not paying for NOLA Patrol anymore. So are the hoteliers just paying for details now?
Though launched to high hopes and backed by roughly $800,000 in hotel/motel self-assessment tax revenue, NOLA Patrol seemed to quickly fizzle.

Choosing to free up some cash to help pay for NOPD details with the Sidney-Torres created French Quarter Task Force, the city limited the patrol's total force to 20 people – and froze hiring to replace attrition while in the one-year pilot stage.

Borrring!

Which is, I guess, good.

Which is to say Bradley is entirely correct.
On a night of chaos, though, the Saints, the NFL’s drama queens,2 were quiet and calm. They made one of the only choices that perfectly fit pre-draft conventional wisdom, on display in the fact Sheldon Rankins has been the overwhelming choice of mock drafters for months.

The only better — I italicize to remind you nobody knows a damn thing about what is good or bad, with respect to the NFL Draft, until we have hindsight — thing the Saints might have done is trade down for more picks, to improve their percentages. Otherwise, they matched immediate need with perceived quality in a way they haven’t, in the first round, in what seems like a long time.
Not much else to say about the draft yet. Go read the rest of that. 

Big Fire Marshal

Airbnb hired the former head of the Louisiana Democratic Party to go to Baton Rouge and lobby against a basic fire safety law.
State Rep. Helena Moreno, a New Orleans Democrat who, like many other city officials, is trying to get a handle on the explosive growth of short-term rentals through web sites such as Airbnb, introduced a common-sense measure aimed at keeping all those visitors safe. House Bill 952 would have required that hosts provide fire extinguishers, smoke and carbon monoxide monitors and a map of the exits; ensure that exits are unobstructed; and pay $25 for a five-year certification with the state fire marshal. The bill would have given the office the right to inspect properties to check compliance.

That was all too much for Airbnb. The company’s lobbyist Jim Nickel raised alarms over the “largest expansion of fire marshal’s power in history.” Never mind that Nickel, a former chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party, isn’t your typical small-government true believer.
Can't have that. Can't have the big bad fire marshal coming by to put some smoke detectors up in your short term rentals. That would probably ruin the authenticity of the experience for the guests.

Two men trapped by an early morning fire inside a Central City apartment frantically screamed for help as Sarah Thomas tried to hammer through a back window to free them.

Burglar bars blocked her blows, so it fell to firefighters to charge into the building and save the men.

No serious injuries were reported as a result of the blaze, but for the New Orleans Fire Department, it capped off an eventful Thursday morning in which firefighters saved three people from two fires.

Louis Carrier, a Fire Department spokesman, said the Central City fire started shortly before 4:30 a.m. at 1717 Jackson Ave.

Thomas said she was asleep in her back unit of the converted duplex when she heard her neighbor in the front unit screaming, “Help!”

Thomas woke up, realized there was a fire and called 911.

The fire, which started on the building’s porch, was blocking her neighbor’s exit through the front. Thomas said her neighbor and a second man, who was staying in the property as an Airbnb guest, rushed to the back of the house.
Part of the the thrill of "Belonging Anywhere," right?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Makin' football players

I don't have the slightest guess at what they're gonna do. Probably they'll take one of those linebackers with the broken knees.

Ted Cruz took a stab at this earlier. Maybe that will help.

50 state Bernie

This is a great idea
Sanders said the party needs to focus on a 50-state strategy, instead of trying to win on friendly terrain.

"The truth is that the Democratic Party has turned its back on many of those states. We need a 50-state strategy. We need to plant the flag of progressive politics in every state of this country," Sanders said. "It's great that the Democrats do well in the region and the East Coast and West Coast as well as some states in the Midwest. But you can't turn your back on working people and low income people and children and the poor in 25 states in the country. We've got to fight for every one of those states."
Too bad it's the opposite of what the Sanders 2016 campaign tried to do, but okay.

QOTD

Bobby Knight wants a President who is not only unafraid to nuke people, preferably without paying too much attention to when last folks were nuked.
According to Bobby Knight, Harry Truman was one of the three greatest presidents because he had the "guts to drop the bomb in 1944" on Japan.

Donald Trump, he said, could join that list as one of the four greatest presidents because he "would do the same thing."

The only historical problem with Knight's justification: Truman authorized the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. Franklin D. Roosevelt was still president in 1944.

"Please don't ask to see our emails"

I think that's the way to interpret this statement on the Lusher board's declaration of "neutrality" , anyway.
In an interview after the meeting, Wisdom, Armstrong and LeCesne said the board hasn’t met since Saturday. Asked by The Lens how the board arrived at a consensus opinion without meeting, LeCesne said the first version was drafted Monday and it “evolved.”  Wisdom said though that nothing was deliberated “like in an email chain or anything like that.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Most interesting thing on your ballot this fall

It probably won't be the dismal Presidential election.  And it might not even be the currently very sleepy race to pick another Republican Senator. Instead, it might just be the Orleans Parish School Board races.
It’s looking more and more as if the state Recovery School District may soon be getting out of the business of governing all those Orleans Parish charter schools. And that new reality significantly ups the ante on this fall’s election for Orleans Parish School Board.
In addition to the possible turnover from RSD, there is a growing movement to reorganize the busted up teachers union one charter school at a time.  Today  International High became the fourth local charter school whose teachers announced they had decided to form a union.
We're seeing a very real trend here in New Orleans," United Teachers president Larry Carter said. "Charter school educators want a voice in their schools' decisions that affect teaching and learning, and they want fairness in the workplace and job security." He said earlier this month that the union had not been reaching out to New Orleans schools.
Over the weekend, the Lusher Charter governing board... being the Lusher board... became the first charter to push back against the organizing effort and voted against recognizing the union there.

Stephanie Grace, in that first article I linked above, says it still might not be easy to generate much interest in the school board elections. But momentum can gather pretty quickly.  The circumstances are there to create some interesting controversies before the year is done. Stay tuned.

The light at the end of the culvert is actually a lawsuit

SELA berm
Napoleon Avenue Demilitarized Zone April 2016

Snoopy JPEG
WWI Flying Ace somewhere along the Western Front

SELA schecule circa 2012
A SELA timeline published in the Times Picayune January 2012.

It was supposed to have been mostly wrapped up by now. But the still ongoing SELA work has not even yet begun to generate the legal claims.
Even as four of the six big Uptown New Orleans drainage projects are winding down this year, litigation continues over the long-running construction work. More than 221 property owners are suing the Sewerage and Water Board, alleging that roadwork on major thoroughfares cut off customer access to their businesses or caused "earthquake-like vibrations" that damaged their houses.

The S&WB said it already has paid more than $17.2 million to settle claims over these and other projects in the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project. "We are working closely with claimants who have approached us directly through our claims process to resolve their concerns in an efficient and cost effective manner," said Nolan Lambert, an attorney for the agency.
I spend a fair amount of time in the vicinity of Napoleon Avenue. That 2014 completion date is pretty funny. It's now expected to finish this November but, well, we'll see. Anyway, one thing I can verify is the little earthquakes are real.
On Napoleon Avenue, where the first of two big drainage projects totaling almost $100 million began almost five years ago, residents have been vocal about their complaints. Peggy Littlejohn, for example, said the construction caused cracks to appear in her house and ruined her grass as crews dug up the road in front to reach the underground pipes.

Napoleon Avenue resident Angele Dassel's suit, filed by attorney Mike Whitaker, says the work blocked access to properties and decries "earthquake-like vibrations" from construction equipment and trucks. Whitaker said his firm and the Bruno & Bruno firm are representing owners of 200 properties.
Whatever, though, as long as none of the complaints does anything to slow the work up, I'm all for these people getting paid.  It's been fun watching them dig up the road for half a decade. But the sooner they put the trees back, the better.

Napoleon Avenue summertime

Update: Meanwhile, a brief afternoon thunderstorm seems to have flooded a lot of the city and Uptown especially today. So, you know, progress.

Higher echelon

It's ok, y'all.  When they evict you it's only so that they can bring in some "higher echelon" people. We should be grateful, really.
As Jazz Fest does what it does best, the illegal short-term rental market continues to be felt in very different ways.

“In 18 years that I've been in this business, never have we seen properties with holes in their schedule at Jazz Fest time,” said Rabe.

That’s not the case with members of ANP.

“Most of us are booked for Jazz Fest next year, these are not fly by night visitors,” said Bay. “Five out of twenty-eight of these are educated, higher echelon people.”
What does Bay mean by that, exactly. The story doesn't elaborate. But "five out of twenty-eight" implies that there's some sort echelon-determining metric they've put to use. What echelon do you belong to? How would you even know?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What's going on in Jaegerton?

Jaegerton. It's the long, riverfront purple section of our Noligarchs map.




This hasn't been decided yet by the consultants and real estate analysts who manufacture our place names for us now, but it may eventually be known as the "Trade District."
The Central Business District. The Warehouse District. The Lower Garden District.
And now, introducing, the Trade District.

A group of developers have presented an ambitious vision for a shiny new neighborhood on the riverfront with an MGM Grand hotel, more than 1,400 residences, blocks of retail and restaurants, and a towering needle-like sculpture for lofty views of the Mississippi River.

The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which owns the vacant land, is in talks with the Howard Hughes Corp., owner of the Outlet Collection at the Riverwalk, and local real estate moguls Darryl Berger and Joe Jaeger on becoming master developer for the site.

Today these visionary Noligarchs are one step nearer to financing their dream.
The Louisiana House unanimously approved legislation Tuesday (April 26) granting the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center new taxing authority to expand upriver with a 1,200-room hotel and entertainment district.

The bill state Rep. Walt Leger sponsored would open the way for the Convention Center to use tax increment financing, typically with a special sales tax that pays for infrastructure for a new commercial development.

The New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority Economic Growth and Development District was created by state lawmakers last year but without any taxing authority.
These developers will now have the authority to collect tax revenue they will use to build hotels and condos which they then will collect tax revenue from in order to.. well.. to continue building things they can profit from.  They're creating their own little fiefdom upon what we may as well consider a riverfront "blank slate."  Hell, they even get to rename it.  Maybe they'll hire their own police at some point. The possibilities are limitless.

Somebody colored outside the lines or something

Dunno exactly what the goof is here but RTA has to start all over evaluating planners.
Long-term public transit planning in New Orleans suffered a setback Tuesday (April 26) when the Regional Transit Authority threw out months of work from six consulting groups vying to draft the agency's strategic master plan.

The board voted unanimously to toss the applications, sending each group back to the drawing board after submitting their qualifications for review in December.

Justin Augustine, vice president of the RTA's private management company, Transdev, said a member of the evaluation committee had erred while rating the firms to reach a recommendation for the board.
Something about scoring the applicants more "points" than is mathematically possible.  It's best to throw it out and start again when that happens.  Otherwise, who knows how long you'll be sorting it out in court.  

They can't really be that dumb

I have a hard time believing the Saints were really going to try and jump up to the number one pick. The Saints in recent years have mostly squandered draft picks either by botching them altogether or trading them away.  Many fans and observers point to the team's lack of draft discipline as the first cause of its mediocre performance as of late.  As the "glory years" veterans have retired of moved on in free agency, there hasn't been a steady resupply of young talent to fill the roster. 

Trading up for anyone, even for a shot potential franchise quarterback to replace the 79 year old Drew Brees is not the ideal strategy right now.  Here's Ralph Malbrough.
The 2016 Saints, just like the 1999 Saints, are not one player away from being a contender. Repeat after me, “There is no player in the 2016 NFL Draft the Saints should trade up for.” Not Joey Bosa, not Shaq Lawson, or a clone of 23-year-old Ricky Jackson some scientist may have created in a lab.

Some of you are probably thinking, “But player X is the next JJ Watt and he will transform the Saints.” Here is my question to you, “What if the Saints trade up for a player and he's a flop? What then?” The Saints only have 6 draft choices and if they move up into the top 10, they will have to give up at least one and more likely two draft choices. The Saints need more draft picks in 2016, not less.
The Saints don't need one potential superstar fix things up.  They need fresh blood and lots of it.  Ralph, there, is just pooh poohing the notion of trading up one or two spots. There is no way trading all the way up to the top makes sense. 

What I'd most like to think is this story plus the rumor that they're interested in Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch as well is just the Saints trying to bait some other quarterback team into trading up ahead of them.  If Lynch ends up going before 12 that just pushes someone else down into the Saints' range. I hope that's what they're thinking.  I also kind of hope that means they'll trade out of the 12th pick anyway but we'll see. 

Did the Governor "lie" about school vouchers?

The Advocate reports on a new TV ad.
A pro voucher group is launching statewide television ads that accuse Gov. John Bel Edwards of lying to voters when he promised not to slash state aid for the school assistance.

The ads, which begin Tuesday afternoon in Baton Rouge and elsewhere, feature three unidentified mothers of voucher recipients looking into the camera and saying the governor is breaking his word.
“He lied to me. He lied to my child,” one says on the 30-second spot.

In a prepared statement, the governor’s office denounced the ad.

“This ad is a blatant attempt to leverage Bobby Jindal’s budget crisis for political gain,” Edwards said. “People who purposefully mislead the public about issues as important as our kids’ education have absolutely no place at the table.”

The ads are being financed by the Louisiana Federation for Children, which is a voucher advocacy group.
Last month, the governor announced a proposal to impose modest limitations on the voucher program. Edwards's plan would remove students currently attending "C" rated public schools from eligibility but maintain the program for students enrolled in "D" or "F" rated schools. This plan matches exactly a bill Edwards proposed as a State Rep during last year's legislative session.

Throughout the campaign, Edwards was critical of the voucher program and promised to make changes to it.  Just a few days after the election, Edwards delivered a speech to the Louisiana Federation of Teachers where he confirmed these intentions.
He told the annual convention of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, one of the organized labor groups representing school employees, that he wouldn’t ban vouchers and wouldn’t close charter schools as his election opponents repeatedly claimed during the campaign.

But he would insist on greater accountability of charter schools. He would press for allowing school boards in districts that are not failing to decide for themselves whether to allow charter schools, which are outside the regular administration to allow for greater flexibility in teaching policies. He said he wants the voucher system to be used only by low-income students in failing schools.
So.. pretty consistent the whole way through. I don't really see where the "lie" is. The Advocate ran the accusation in a headline today but the initial version of the story didn't really address the assertion that he had lied. The now-rewritten article comes a bit closer to the matter. 
Edwards, a critic of vouchers, has repeatedly said he would not end the program, and has made no such proposal.

However, the group contends he broke his word because they say his budget proposal would end the voucher program for about 1,000 students.
So, really, the ad is... um.. bending the truth a bit.

Time to restart the Doomsday clock

They're about to let Tulane start operating it's Northshore bio-apocalypse monkey farm again.
Officials with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reinstated Tulane University’s permit to work with dangerous biological agents, more than a year after the permit was suspended when three monkeys at the university’s Covington-area research center were infected with potentially deadly Burkholderia pseudomallei bacteria.

Tulane announced the reinstatement Monday but said that work with “select agents” — those deemed to pose a potentially grave danger to public or plant health or to animal or plant products — will not resume until officials at the Tulane National Primate Research Center put into place additional safety measures that are still being implemented.
In other words the crisis has passed and we can all once again rest secure in the knowledge that there is officially nothing to see here in Covington. You know, until there is again.  We'll let you know. Trust us.

Long time readers of this here yellow blog might already know that the impending monkey virus disaster is one of the longest running stories we've followed over the years. Prior to last February's bacteria scare, we managed to rescue from link rot three previous instances of monkey security breaches going all the way back to 1998.

There are a lot of ways for it to end for us here in South Louisiana. It's hard to say how likely the monkey borne supervirus is on that list. But just know that it's definitely entered into the sweepstakes.  Adjust your wager accordingly.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday afternoon link dump

Randomly assorted items I've bookmarked over the past few weeks.  They have to go somewhere.

Bloomberg: "How to Hack an Election"

This is a profile of Andres Sepulveda, in prison now for various counts of fraud and espionage related to Colombia's 2014 Presidential election.  He is believed to have worked on similar election tampering operations across Latin America for a decade.
SepĂșlveda’s contention that operations like his happen on every continent is plausible, says David Maynor, who runs a security testing company in Atlanta called Errata Security. Maynor says he occasionally gets inquiries for campaign-related jobs. His company has been asked to obtain e-mails and other documents from candidates’ computers and phones, though the ultimate client is never disclosed. “Those activities do happen in the U.S., and they happen all the time,” he says.
International Business Times: "Panama Papers: Corporations Shifted A Half-Trillion Dollars To Offshore Tax Havens In 2012"

And, no, the problem here isn't that the US tax code just isn't "business friendly" enough.
American companies' shift of their profits to their offshore subsidiaries has occurred even though the United States' effective corporate tax rate is among the lowest in the industrialized world. A related report issued last week by CTJ found that the United States is the fourth-least taxed nation in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, at 25.7 percent of its annual GDP.
Atlantic's City Lab: "How 'Maintainers,' Not 'Innovators,' Make the World Turn
Lee Vinsel, an assistant professor of science and technology at the Stevens Institute of Technology, wrote a dissertation on innovation and regulation in the early days of the automobile. But lately, he finds that the word “innovation” is overused to the point of meaninglessness—and worse, that it can obfuscate the bleak realities of the status quo. “In a culture where we forget about things like crumbling infrastructure and wage inequality, those narratives about technological change can be really dangerous,” Vinsel says.
This is an NYT opinion piece by Dan Lyons called "Congratulations! You've been fired"
Treating workers as if they are widgets to be used up and discarded is a central part of the revised relationship between employers and employees that techies proclaim is an innovation as important as chips and software. The model originated in Silicon Valley, but it’s spreading. Old-guard companies are hiring “growth hackers” and building “incubators,” too. They see Silicon Valley as a model of enlightenment and forward thinking, even though this “new” way of working is actually the oldest game in the world: the exploitation of labor by capital.

Village Voice: "O.G. Rightblogger Andrew Sullivan Returns — to a Changed World"

Sullivan is really one of Earth's Worst Humans and this article does a good job of describing why. I'd like to highlight the concluding three paragraphs,  though. They suggest somehting I've come to suspect is happening in politics and in media this year.
Will Sullivan return to his previous preeminence? Some things have changed since 2001. One thing I doubt he can put over anymore is the dance between left and right that originally distinguished him. The past fifteen years have been such a polarizing experience — as my rightblogger columns show every week — that it is hard to imagine anyone looking to Andrew Sullivan or anyone else for a conservative way to be liberal, or vice versa.

Also, whereas in 2001 Sullivan helped convince Americans that 9-11 meant Democrats were traitors, if there were another big terrorist attack in the United States today, we already know exactly how many Americans would think it meant Democrats are traitors — because it would be the same number of Americans as think Democrats are traitors now; the exhortations of a Sullivan would not change anything.

But who knows? There may be a pivotal role for him yet. Bill Clinton's BLM burst suggests the Hillary Clinton faction is looking for a way to straddle the left and right camps, and they could certainly use some friends in the press. It wouldn’t be a natural fit — Sullivan has had little good to say about either Clinton in the past — but as the old saying goes, it's a living.
As exciting and hilarious as the primary season has been, I'm starting to see the story of the 2016 Presidential Campaign as a story about the return to dominance of elite consensus. The first act of the election may have been about the rise of the angry populists but the later acts are more about the shouting down and, now, inevitable defeat of those populists.

This is accompanied by a similar trend in media toward a "wonkish" centrism cultivated to flatter the dominant economic class in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street. Independent voices in media are being marginalized. For an almost tl/dr examination of this trend at work (at least on the "left" side of the world) I recommend this Vox article by Emmet Rensin on "The smug style in American liberalism." I'd especially recommend tracking the indignant response coming from corners of the professional "liberal" punditry Rensin has called out. It has been illuminating.

Anyway, to make a long story short, independent voices on the internet don't travel as far as they used to. Professional pundits are finding it's better, after all, to write opinions someone will pay them for. "Fringe" ideas are being marginalized and the corporate consensus is reasserting itself. The very different, yet similarly populist, campaigns of Trump and Sanders are being combined in the official narrative and cast as one one "dangerous" symbol by which all non-conforming ideas are discredited.  And so, as the consensus model is electorally reaffirmed through Clinton victory, look for more and more of the professional punditry to fall in line.  All of which is to say this precisely the moment for the triumphant return of a hack like Andrew Sullivan. He's (once again) the most probably poster child for the future of political punditry.

Politico: "How a Clinton insider used his ties to build a consulting giant"

Obviously, a return to politics as usual means... more politics as usual.   
Government employees are typically restricted in their ability to receive outside income. But Hillary Clinton’s State Department expanded the use of “special government employees,” a relatively rare status originally created for scientists and others with unusual technical expertise that cannot be provided in-house. This allowed certain workers chosen by her or her staff, including Kelly, to receive money from private firms, including those who might potentially have business before the federal government.
The New Republic: "Feminism for Sale"

This is actually a review of Andi Zeisler's book, "We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl®, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement
In the world of marketplace feminism, she writes, “the fight for gender equality has transmogrified from a collective goal to a consumer brand.” It is a world where “purchasing itself [is] a feminist act,” where status is confused with liberation, where freedom is measured in what we consume or who we control, where what we wear, watch, and wax is more important than what we organize and fight for. Under marketplace feminism, feminism is a commodity to be purchased, an identity to proclaim and print on a T-shirt, a litmus test to be applied to other commodities, rather than a collective social movement that aims to change the structures of a sexist society. The problem with marketplace feminism is simple: marketplace feminism is good for capitalism, but what is good for capitalism is not necessarily good for women. 
This pairs well with an excerpt from Tom Frank's new book published recently in Harper's
One of the motifs of that Clinton Foundation event I attended in 2015 was the phrase not there, a reference to the women who aren’t present in the councils of state or the senior management of powerful corporations. The foundation raised awareness of this problem by producing visuals in which fashion models disappeared from the covers of popular magazines like Vogue, Glamour, SELF, and Allure. According to a New York Times story on the subject, the Clinton people had gone to a hip advertising agency to develop this concept, so that we would all understand that women were missing from the high-ranking places where they deserved to be.

There was also another act of erasure going on here, but no clever adman will ever be hired to play it up. International Women’s Day, I discovered, began as a socialist holiday, a sort of second Labor Day, on which you were supposed to commemorate the efforts of female workers and the sacrifices of female strikers. It is a vestige of an old form of feminism that didn’t especially focus on the problems experienced by women trying to be corporate officers or the views of some megabillionaire’s wife.
Finally, there's this can't miss article from this weekend's Advocate. One way former Governor John McKeithen sought to ease Louisiana's  often violent path through the Civil Rights era was by paying off the Klan to tone it down a bit.
Whether McKeithen’s anti-violence strategy worked is unclear. U.S. Department of Justice and FBI investigations detail at least a half-dozen Klan-related homicides, scores of beatings and dozens of fire bombings in central Louisiana between 1964 and 1969. Whether it would have been worse without the payments will never be known.

Much clearer is that the KKK soon soured on McKeithen, whose moves toward improved race relations and rights for black people did not sit well in Louisiana Klan circles. By 1967, handbills circulating in Bogalusa accused McKeithen of asking for the Klan vote and then double-crossing them. The Klan called for McKeithen and other Louisiana officeholders to be “tarred and feathered.”

But the declassified FBI documents, obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act, point to McKeithen’s use of the Louisiana State Sovereignty Commission, which was created by the Legislature to keep state control of civil rights issues, to send the privately raised money to Klan leaders.

The goal, according to the FBI, was to “maintain law and order in the State of Louisiana and to contact the Klan on a liaison basis in order to ensure that no violence occurred.”
I think today we might call this approach "incrementalism." 

What do Sheriffs do all day?

Marlin Gusman may need to come up with some hobbies.
Attorneys for the government and the MacArthur Justice Center asked U.S. District Judge Lance Africk to appoint an outside administrator, known as a receiver, to take the reins of the facility, saying Gusman has proven incapable of improving the jail’s “unconstitutional” conditions.

“Urgent and extraordinary action is required of this court to address the immediate risk of harm and death to the men, women and youth in the jail,” the attorneys wrote in a voluminous filing. “Although there is no question that receivership is an extraordinary remedy, so too is the level of harm that continues to plague the jail, with no apparent end in sight.”

If appointed, a receiver would take on Gusman’s core responsibilities as sheriff and be given “full authority to administer operations of the jail, including the ability to discipline, reassign, terminate, and promote jail employees; develop and implement policies and procedures; allocate jail budget funds; and enter into contracts for jail services,” the attorneys wrote.

The sheriff would not be removed from office, even in the presence of a receiver, and likely would continue to oversee the civil operations of the Sheriff’s Office.
It's a good thing we decided to combine the offices of Criminal Sheriff and Civil Sheriff a few years back. The dude needs something to do.  Also stay tuned until next year's city budget starts to become a thing. The mayor had been asking to have the jail put into receivership.  Wonder what happens if he gets his wish and still ends up arguing with the new administrator over money.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The hills are alive with the sound of drainage

Stacy Head and some neighborhood rough riders are charging up the heights of the Napoleon Avenue neutral ground.
The dispute concerns the shape of the median. The corps is fashioning a crown – meaning the center is higher than the two sides. That’s what was there two years ago when the agency tore up the street for the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Opponents want the neutral ground to be flat or even concave. That’s because a crown can rapidly dump water into adjacent streets, adding stress on drainage systems. The other options can slow it down by storing it for a short periods and letting some of it seep into the ground.

The latter design is favored by the Urban Water Plan, part of the green infrastructure initiative the Sewerage & Water Board adopted in 2014.

And for Head, that’s the design she said the corps promised her.

“I’m fit to be tied because for the last seven or eight years I had been promised by the corps the neutral ground would be at most flat, but hopefully more of a swale or a concave to allow retention of some rain,” she said. “Frankly, until yesterday [April 12] when I saw the hills awaiting sod along Napoleon, I believed that the corps was going to do the right thing. “What’s happening now is outrageous.”
Is it all that outrageous, though?  Seems like what they're asking the corps to do is tack a water retention feature on to a water removal system. The corps response actually explains this pretty well. You're already spending the money to build a great big underground box culvert, if you don't direct the water into it, what will have been the point?

-- Quick aside: The article says the culvert is wide enough to fit "three city buses side by side." I'd like to know where this is the case. On lower Napoleon Avenue, it clearly is not.

SELA trench

Anyway, we're already dedicating an entire "Resilience District" in Gentilly to experimentation with Living With Water concepts.  Let's not confuse the systemic approach being implemented there with the piecemeal complaint fodder Stacy Head and her friends are working with uptown.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The fake radio show is back

Well, actually, the abbreviated version of it is. This one was an experiment with recording at a bar. Oddly, there was far less drinking than usual. Not sure if that's good or bad.

What about Boudreaux and the Bali Hais?

Some of you may remember that, back in November, the New Orleans Zephyrs of Kenner minor league baseball team was sold to a new ownership group
The Zephyrs, Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, will be in New Orleans through at least 2020 and will do so with a new ownership group and day-to-day management team, the Zephyrs announced Monday afternoon.

Yes2No, LLC purchased 50 percent of the franchise from long-time sole owner Don Beaver. Lou Schwechheimer manages and controls Yes2No, LLC.

Schwechheimer's team will run the day-to-day management of the Zephyrs.
We flagged the news at the time because 1) The new owner was an out-of-town investor whose prior experience was with running the minor league team in Rhode Island. 2) His first press conference in New Orleans included these comments.
New Orleans will be in the top tier of attendance, because this is a great town. This is a resilient town. This is a magical town..
So Schwechheimer already sounds like an insufferable Jazzfest tourist.  Worse still, he's the kind of wealthy Jazzfest tourist who decides to buy himself a slice of the resilient magic.  At one time, this might have been a mere annoyance. But lately it's become a more existential threat to a lot of us.

No, Schwechheimer can't put Zephyr field up on Airbnb. Not yet, anyway. The neighborhood is still a little too "remote but up and coming" for that.  It's really still in more of that "cabs wouldn't go there" phase. And that calls for a re-branding.
The New Orleans Zephyrs will have a new name next season.

The team announced Friday that it will allow fans to suggest and vote on a new name, which will be the team's moniker beginning with the 2017 season. The franchise has been known as the Zephyrs since it moved from Denver to New Orleans in 1993.

According to a news release, a "Name the Team" campaign will run from April 25 to May 6. Fans are encouraged to visit zephyrsbaseball.com and submit their ideas. The top choices will then go into a voting contest.

A winner will be announced in the fall.

“We are thrilled with the enthusiasm the entire New Orleans community has shown as we strive to bring a new energy and electricity to the ballpark every single day,” team president Lou Schwechheimer said. “By giving our great fans a voice through the name-the-team contest, we expect to create magic for generations to come.”
Of course the fans already had a strong voice in this 20 years ago when the public more or less demanded the team retain the Zephyrs name upon arrival.  The Zephyr was the name of a beloved roller coaster at the old Pontchartrain Beach amusement park and an icon of local nostalgia.  Sure, that was a long time ago. Heck, I'm barely old enough to remember Pontchartrain Beach. The one time we went as a family I wasn't even yet "tall enough to ride" the Zephyr. It scared the shit out of me. Still, the quirky obscurity of the hyper-local history reference only got to be more fun over time. It's exactly the sort of thing people around here revel in explaining at length when given an opportunity.

A wealthy transplant like Schwechheimer isn't going to care about any of that stuff, though. All he sees is a heretofore undiscovered "blank slate" in need of creative development. To that end, he has hired a marketing firm (from out of town, of course) to help guide the renaming process. It may or may not inspire confidence to know what name this company has chosen for itself.
With the help of Brandiose, a San Diego-based sports marketing company which has overseen rebranding efforts for more than 50 minor league teams, the Zephyrs will conduct an online "Name the Team" campaign from April 25 through May 6.
Oookay.. good luck with that.  Anyway, the first thought here would be for fans who like the name as it is to merely stuff the online comment space with votes for "Zephyrs."  But we're pretty sure the team is determined to change the name regardless.  So maybe a slight update is in order. After all, Zephyr is a thing that happened two whole defunct amusement parks ago now. What do y'all think of calling them the New Orleans MegaZephs?

Update: Added a B&G Review link post-publication. Looks like Bradley wrote a better post about the same topic.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Cult of the dead artist

Sure feels like 2016 is a whopper for dying icons. Celebrities die every year, of course. But when giants like Bowie, Merle Haggard, and Prince go in succession like this it feels extra significant. Especially, I suppose, for people of a certain late Boomer through Gen X age.

Anyway, Prince was pretty serious about keeping his stuff off of Youtube. You can find live performances (try this one or this one)  and some of the hits but you're just as likely to find him rambling to Tavis Smiley about chemtrails or something.

Anyway, the growing cult of dead artists this year has a different song on my mind. And it wasn't even recorded by any of those people.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Star power

So what happens when you bust the teachers' union, slash everyone's pension, and slice your school system up into a million semi-autonomous quasi-privatized edu-preneurial laboratories?  The edu-preneurs get to take more of the money home, is what happens.
At least 63 employees of public charter schools in New Orleans made more than $100,000 in 2013-14, according to federal tax forms for the most recent year with comprehensive numbers. Four employees were paid more than $200,000.
The "employees" in question are the executives, of course. Teachers still make on average something like $40,000-50,000 according to this article. Not to mention that's mostly minus the sort of job security and retirement benefits they once enjoyed as part of their compensation.

But that's what happens when everyone is empowered to play the market. A lot of folks may lose but, then, some stars end up winners.
"With charters, it's what the market can bear," said Brian Riedlinger, director of the School Leadership Center (Kathy Riedlinger is his former wife). Experienced, well-liked and successful leaders might be able to ask for a lot, "like NFL free agents."
A few supertars stars get rich  off of taxpayer dollars while using the brains of young people as fodder. So, yeah, it sort of is like the NFL when you put it that way.

Letten's legacy

Heckuva job
Five former New Orleans police officers involved in the Danziger Bridge shootings after Hurricane Katrina, or the coverup that followed, pleaded guilty in federal court in New Orleans on Wednesday, taking reduced sentences and avoiding another trial after their previous convictions were thrown out.

The plea deals brought an end to a case that has stretched on for more than a decade and come to symbolize the chaos and government negligence that followed the storm.

The former officers received dramatically shorter prison terms than they did after a federal jury convicted them on numerous charges in 2011. The original sentences ranged from six years to 65. Those read out in court on Wednesday ranged from 3 years to 12.

The original convictions were tossed out in 2013 by U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt over the online commenting scandal that by then had engulfed the office of former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.
Between this and Fred Heebe still walking around free, I'd say the US Attorney's office has done a bang up job of protecting the powerful around here.  Ray Nagin went to jail for 10 years, though. So I guess we still get to be smug. 

Iconic sinkhole

Something is not quite right beneath "the most valuable real estate in the city." 
NEW ORLEANS - Closures near the foot of Canal Street are unearthing a problem many residents didn’t even know existed.

It’s a 50-year-old problem in the making.

Underneath the street, a tunnel which stretches from Canal to Poydras Street is starting to buckle and has caused a shut down in the area.

The tunnel was built by the city in 1966 as part of a planned Riverfront Expressway that would have run along the edge of the French Quarter.

“It was probably a temporary design made out of steel and they probably didn't paint it," says Levees.org engineer H.J. Bosworth. "Those unpainted structures under the City of New Orleans don't stand a chance."

Bosworth said the concern now is if the damage underneath will cause the street above ground to collapse. He said there are several layers of concrete that prevent major damage.

"The collapse wouldn't be catastrophic and things dropping like 20 feet or anything like that,” Bosworth explained. “Something like that collapses little by little."
In a sure sign that New Orleans is returning to form a decade on from the catastrophic Katrina event, we're finally back into a mode where things merely collapse little by little.

One such slow motion collapse may involve the deal to finally put another decrepit Canal Street property "back into commerce."
A Florida real estate developer who is challenging the city's lease of the former World Trade Center building for a Four Seasons hotel must appear for a deposition in New Orleans, a judge ruled Tuesday (April 19).

Stuart "Neil" Fisher of Palm Beach, whose previous investments in New Orleans include failed attempts to develop the Market Street power plant and Plaza Tower, was ordered to appear for questioning by lawyers representing developers who hope to convert the World Trade Center into a Four Seasons hotel.

Orleans Civil District Judge Tiffany Chase issued the decision over the objections of lawyers for Two Canal Street Investors, a losing bidder on the World Trade Center, who said even though Fisher is president of the company, he isn't directly involved in the litigation and can't be forced to appear in Louisiana.
Okay so, wait. If Fisher, who we previously understood to be the owner of Two Canal Street Investors, is not the plaintiff in its lawsuit, then who is, exactly? There seems to be some disagreement.
A lawyer for the Four Seasons team attacked the credibility of Two Canal Street Investors during the hearing Tuesday.

"Mr. Fisher has no right of action," said lawyer Russ Herman. "He has no interest in Two Canal Street Investors' presentation to the city of New Orleans...and so here is an individual who purchases for $10 a shell corporation just in order to file a suit, and it has no assets."

Herman said he traveled to Florida twice expecting to depose Fisher, but both times Fisher did not appear.

Charline Gipson, a lawyer for Two Canal Street Investors, said Fisher is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, and Chase's ruling will be appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. Gipson also took issue with Herman's depiction of Two Canal Street Investors.

"Opposing counsel has spun a story of desperation...that is designed to block the truth from coming out in this case," Gipson said.

The lawsuit is scheduled for trial on Oct. 24.

In an interview in March, Fisher said he is no longer an owner of Two Canal Street Investors, but he is the president and "authorized representative of the owners, both foreign and domestic." Fisher said he has a group of new investors including a Wall Street hedge fund, all of whom he declined to name.
First of all, it's strange that Four Seasons is trying to diminish Fisher's role in TCSI's original presentation.  Their own countersuit alleges that Fisher was a "shadowy operator" attached to the team the entire time.
But the court required the records be produced, and Carpenter/Woodward filed some of them this week as exhibits. They include emails sent by Fisher at the end of 2014 and early 2015, detailing his role in putting together TCSI's submissions to the city, describing the time he'd dedicated and the $300,000 he was "personally responsible for" putting into the project and listing himself and his friend, Bill Broadhurst, as members of the "Two Canal Street Investors LLC Team."
But since TCSI's team apparently agrees that Fisher isn't important enough to be deposed now, well, what the heck is even happening?  Are the former owners the plaintiff? According to that David Hammer story, at least one of the original owners is (was?) "back on board" with the litigation.
One of the original owners, local attorney Al Thompson, told WWL-TV he was initially against taking legal action, so he sold his stake to Fisher out of frustration. He says he's back on board with TCSI and now supports the litigation because of the "blatant misrepresentations of Carpenter and Co., et al."
Are the "new investors" the plaintiff?  Who are they?  Who is running this lawsuit?

Just as curious, why is the mayor so intent on shutting it down?
Legislation being pushed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration that attempts to fend off a lawsuit holding up a $360 million renovation of the vacant World Trade Center building was approved by a state Senate committee on Thursday (April 14).
This particular measure doesn't only affect this one lawsuit, of course. It also makes it more difficult for any aggrieved party to sue a so called public benefit corporation like, in this case, the New Orleans Building Corp.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Conrad Appel doesn't mention the World Trade Center specifically but changes what factors public benefit corporations can consider when picking a private company to lease public property. Public benefit corporations can award leases outside the standard public lease law.

The bill also requires anyone challenging a lease to pay cash or other security in order to file a lawsuit, an amount that could reach tens of millions of dollars on big projects. The bill would apply to both future and currently pending lawsuits.
So say, for example, you are a minority owned firm or maybe a neighborhood advocacy group challenging a NOBC decision.  Better have some kind of collateral on hand before you consider impeding the public progress.  That certainly seems like overkill. Especially so in this case where the mayor's allies assure everyone they are facing a "shakedown" artist with no real standing anyway.
"So this guy came and bought it for $10 and opportunistically has filed suit to...frankly, shake down the Four Seasons developers and the city of New Orleans, that's what's going on here," said Scott Whittaker, an attorney representing the New Orleans Building Corp.
If it's so simple, why are we running all the way to Baton Rouge for help?  Why are we taking out full page ads in Gambit this week?

Four Seasons ad

Why are we hiding behind all these illustrious signatories?

Illustrious signatories

Lookie there. I see Ron Forman, King Milling, Jimmy Reiss, Bill Goldring, Scott Cowen. Ordinarily when you see any one of those names attached to something it ought to be a red flag. Something is definitely fishy here.  You've got to think any local news organization worth its salt would be begging to see this thing go to court.  I mean, what reporter wouldn't want to see the depositions where decision-makers were asked how the mayor told them to vote and on whose behalf he might have made such a request?

Nobody at the Advocate, is too interested I guess. They just want us all to "move faster.
It is a misfortune for the city’s workers and the tourism trade that the lowest-ranked contestant for the project, amid numerous high-quality proposals considered, is holding up jobs and progress with a legal challenge.

Had this been a case of a point or two in the ratings, maybe we would be less impatient with the delay. But the winning project to bring the Four Seasons hotel and condominiums to the city won far more points in the ratings closely considered by a panel of city officials and experts.

The Four Seasons proposal won by a mile.
Ha ha, it won by a miles worth of "points" distributed by "experts." Yes, that's one way of putting it. Another way to describe this process might go like this.  After the Mayor's favored Tricentennial Consortium lost the first attempt at bidding this out to Gatehouse capital, the city proceed to obstruct the project by shaking down Gatehouse for legal fees as a pretext to void the bid and re-start the entire process.  That then led to a second assemblage of proposals reviewed by NOBC's panel of the "city officials and experts" who eventually awarded their "mile of points" to Four Seasons.

But, ok, so the Advocate's "Our Views" correspondent doesn't want to get too far bogged down in all that.  Instead, he/she/it(?) wants us to think about the "property values."
The Four Seasons proposal, according to city consultants’ evaluation, would produce the largest amount of taxes for the city and would have “higher economic multipliers” than the other projects because it would increase property values and bring luxury travelers to New Orleans.
"Higher economic multipliers" because "property values and luxury travelers" is probably the purest distillation you're going to find of the trickle-down development theory deployed to the great injury of our city's poor and working classes since the moment Katrina's floodwaters receded.  You don't have to look far to see it in action. Just take a look around your neighborhood.

None of this is any concern to the Advocate's editorial board. Nor are they interested in a legal action which might bring to light the actions of our city's most powerful people in directing and profiting by such atrocities. But whether or not our media institutions decide this stuff is worth printing on a banner over Poydras street or if they prefer to bury it in a tunnel under Canal, it's still the sort of thing that causes the social and political fabric of your city to buckle and collapse; even if little by little.

Update: TCSI's request for an injunction was denied today.  So it looks like Four Seasons has the go-ahead to begin work. The lawsuit itself is still pending though.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Happy New York Primary Day

(Now that we've had our coffee and know what day it is)

Today New Yorkers have their shot at lending some clarity to the now several decades old 2016 Presidential primaries. That is, unless their polling locations are too "remote" for them to reach. Anyway, they probably won't succeed.  Trump has a big lead in the polls but even a victory for him there won't stifle the "optimism" among Republicans that their convention will turn out to be a free-for-all shitshow. 

Meanwhile, the Democrats are only slightly better off insofar as they already know who their nominee will be. (It will be the staggeringly unpopular candidate.) But even the fairly decisive win for Hillary predicted by the New York polls probably won't put an end to the "Bernie Can Win" truther movement. Even a dyed in the wool Sanders supporter like yours truly here will have grown weary of the mathematically challenged hordes by now. They are losing sight of the very point of their idealistic aspirational campaign.  The whole idea was that Democratic voters should demand a candidate who articulates their actual concerns rather than one who purposefully denigrates them as a matter of strategy.  I thought the Bernie people were tired of candidates whose main selling point was "electability." If that's the case, why are they so preoccupied now with "winning?"

Democratic partisans of both candidates need to play their own roles in the game better.  Along those lines here's a thing I wrote last week about the final New York Clinton/Sanders debate. Substantively speaking, it was probably the best of the campaign to this point. Too bad everyone is too overwhelmed with daily outrages and bogus delegate trutherism to pay attention to that stuff anymore.

Happy Macondo Day

Six years ago today a deepwater oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded killing 11 workers and spilling over 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf over a period of 87 days. A judge would later find well operator BP guilty of "gross negligence" in the matter leading to the largest monetary settlement in US history. Investigators cited BP and Transocean and Halliburton for systemic failures with regard to equipment maintenance,  cementing techniques,  and adherence to safety procedures concluding that,"absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur."

Today, Louisiana US Representative Steve Scalise is leading the charge to prevent such reforms from ever taking hold.
“He’s a rock star on our stuff, there’s no question about it,” said Stephen Brown, vice president of federal government affairs for Tesoro Corp., which refines and markets petroleum products. “He’s probably your go-to person for the oil and gas industry. If he can’t be for it, it’s not going to happen.”

Scalise’s rise was almost derailed two years ago after the disclosure of a 2002 speech to a white supremacist group, an episode that could have sunk any lawmaker’s career. But he said that making the speech had been a mistake and was able to persevere, now serving in a Republican leadership team headed by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

That’s turned out to be good news for the oil industry at a time when it can use some friends in Washington.
It was important that "big oil's rock star" not have his career derailed by some inconvenient matter of associating with white supremacists. So it didn't happen. And aren't we all grateful for that.

UPDATE: Yes I know the Macondo blowout happened on April 20. That isn't the problem.  The problem is I woke up thinking today was April 20. So... good morning everybody

Unique... but not really

We've mentioned this before but every time it comes up, it's worth contemplating how truly stupid this is.
Louisiana funds its public defenders in a way that no other state in the country does. The bulk of the public defenders funding comes from court fees assessed on defendants when they plead guilty or lose a case.

Most of these fees come from people admitting to traffic violations. And far fewer traffic tickets are being written in Louisiana than just a few years ago.

Local law enforcement is also steering more people toward community service and drug rehabilitation programs, instead of going through the court system. Orleans Public Defender Derwyn Bunton said he supports these diversion programs, but it means less money for his office.
Fewer traffic violations. Small time drug offenses being steered away from the punitive criminal track.  These are desirable outcomes. They shouldn't doom the system.

Also, it may be a unique way for a state to fund its public defenders' offices. But similar perverse incentives show up in criminal justice throughout the country.  It was one of the key issues leading to the unrest in Ferguson, MO and, in turn, the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement.
As the report noted, from 2012 to 2014 African Americans accounted for “85 percent of vehicle stops, 90 percent of citations, and 93 percent of arrests made by FPD officers, despite comprising only 67 percent of Ferguson’s population.” Tickets mean money for the city — in 2013, municipal court fines were Ferguson’s second highest source, the bulk of which were leveled against African Americans.

“Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs,” the report stated. “This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson’s police department, contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing, and has also shaped its municipal court, leading to procedures that raise due process concerns and inflict unnecessary harm on members of the Ferguson community.”
So.. not optimal there, or here, or in a lot of places, actually.  So, in a very narrow Louisiana specific sense, some offices have a budget problem. But, in a wider sense, the whole system has a moral corruption problem.

Monday, April 18, 2016

QOTD

The spokesperson for the Monumental Task Committee, a club that raises money to clean and restore monuments, whose organization is currently suing the city in order to halt its attempt to remove some Jim Crow era monuments, tells the Washington Post that nobody cares about monuments.
“Most people drive by these monuments every day, and they’re clueless about them. They don’t care. This was just meant to be political fodder,” said Pierre McGraw, founder and president of Monumental Task Force, a nonprofit group that has maintained the city’s statues for 26 years and has collected more than 30,000 signatures on a petition to keep the monuments. “Maybe a few people had some issues, but during Carnival, I noticed all these people around Lee Circle and they were screaming — but they were screaming for throws from the parade.”
Ok, then, Your whole hobby is bullshit according to you. Thanks. 

Shellmageddon

It's hard to know exactly, but there's reason to believe this could be worse than what they're saying.
Shell will relocate some jobs from New Orleans to Houston as it moves forward with plans to cut its global workforce by 10,000 employees and contractors. The company started cutting jobs last year in response to low oil prices.

Details are sparse on how the global cuts affect the roughly 1,900 workers based in One Shell Square in downtown New Orleans. Shell says it does not provide layoff counts by region. Workers close to the situation have reported that jobs may be moving to Houston in addition to cuts. They asked not to be named to protect their jobs.
Shell's statement plays things down, as you might expect. 
In several statements sent to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune through email, Shell said it is still evaluating changes in New Orleans, but will move "some individuals" to Houston in 2016. The company expects the relocations to affect less than 5 percent of its New Orleans workforce. That translates to fewer than 95 jobs total.

Shell said it intends to maintain a presence in New Orleans over the long term.

"We plan to continue being an integral part of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, which means continuously reviewing our portfolio to remain competitive, including assets and staffing needs," one statement said.
The key to that whole five percent line is, "in 2016." After that, who knows?  But it's likely that Shell will be moving more than just 95 jobs out of the city (out of the country?) Remember this chart? There aren't a lot of big drilling projects breaking even with oil selling at as close to free as it is.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Dreams really do come true

Brandon Browner announced today he is going back to Seattle.
Former New Orleans Saints cornerback Brandon Browner will rejoin the Seattle Seahawks with a one-year deal, ESPN reported Sunday.

Browner confirmed the move later Sunday with a post on Instagram.

"I've been excited about this one, been trying to keep it to myself," he wrote, adding that he is "grateful and can't wait to get back to work."
How long has he been excited about this one?  At least since the moment he joined the Saints last summer

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The next fight

"Comprehensive tax reform" can mean many different things. Lots of unknown devils to come in theses details.
“I have asked (LSU economist Jim Richardson) and his task force to give us some ideas we can pursue in June so that we don’t just raise the revenue we need to raise but we do it in a manner that is consistent with long-term comprehensive tax reform,” Edwards said during his eight-minute speech.

“We need more stability in Louisiana. We need predictability, and that’s how I intend to proceed.”
Suffice to say a lot of people will be watching this task force closely and preparing to fight over its recommendations whatever they end up being.  But it does look like the political will exists to do something.  That can be a great somehting or an awful something.  This particular legislature doesn't inspire a heck of a lot of hope for the former.

Billy Nungesser makes people uncomfortable

Remember last week when we highlighted this little bit from the Billy Nungesser-Iraq-Avondale-Lake Charles-Contra Affair or whatever?
Nungesser also blamed his staff, whom he relies upon to vet his documents. In this case, the letters never should have reached his desk, he said.
The staff are de-camping already
About three months after taking office, Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser lost his top communications aide.

Kriss Fairbairn Fortunato said she resigned from her post as Nungesser’s communications director, effective immediately, last Monday.

It was not a comfortable environment and not a good fit,” Fortunato said, calling it a personal decision.
The Iraq-Contra thing, by the way was actually the second public embarrassment of this young Lieutenant Governorship.  The first was a week before when we learned about Nungesser's cunning plan to tax individual movie productions a share of their box office receipts.. or something.. Billy doesn't actually know how movies are financed, was the point. 

Even more to the point, neither scheme is really within the scope of the Lieutenant Governor's purview in the first place. Which should explain why his media person is already set to jump ship. No one wants to spend the next four years sending out "Whoops!" press releases if they can help it.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Do your job, voters

If you're like a lot of people right now and suffering from a severe case of primary fatigue you may have tuned out last night's Democratic debate.  That's totally understandable, believe me. But if you did, you missed a good one. Once the soccer hooligans in the audience settled down enough that the candidates could scream at a more reasonable volume, this turned out to be the most substantive debate the Democrats have had in a while. And, on balance, it was probably Bernie Sanders' best.

He did "lose" on some points. He wasn't prepared to respond to Clinton on the gun question. I find it amazing that a former US Secretary of State who is almost by definition a blood-soaked international arms dealer somehow gets awarded  the moral high ground on guns in our stupid system but so be it. Also, Sanders, most embarrassingly, wasn't' ready with an "example" of a time Hillary was corrupted by fossil fuel donors. Such examples abound, by the way. It's inexcusable that Bernie isn't ready to talk about them.

His strongest moments came when he managed to call out Hillary's equivocations on the minimum wage and again on Social Security.  Clinton tried to claim she "has always supported" the Fight for 15 action. In fact, she has taken a number of positions on the minimum wage since the beginning of the campaign. Her most solid, though, has been that she wants a $12 federal minimum wage. Beyond that, she says, it's up to states and localities
“I support the local efforts that are going on that are making it possible for people working in certain localities to actually earn 15,” Clinton said in a response to a question from BuzzFeed News during a press availability in New Hampshire on Thursday.

“I think part of the reason that the Congress and very strong Democratic supporters of increasing the minimum wage are trying to debate and determine what’s the national floor is because there are different economic environments. And what you can do in L.A. or in New York may not work in other places.”
In other words, sorry, protesters in New Orleans. Hillary says you're on your own. Aren't we glad our state voted so decisively for her.

Anyway, in Clinton-speak "support" has more to do with congratulating and co-opting a cause after the fact than it does actual advocacy. That's usually good enough to score you a "Partially True" with the MSM fact checkers. That is, unless, someone really pins you down on the question. Which is what Bernie did last night. Yes, the "tone" police are furious but nevermind that. Bernie insisted that she say what she means when she talks about "support" for the Fight for 15 campaign and he did not let up until her explanation made it clear that she actually backs a $12 minimum wage.

This is how you debate Clinton or a Clinton type phony. You make them talk until they tell you what they really stand for.. if anything. Usually it's not anything. The Social Security question was another prime example of this. Wealthy pundits and Republicans are fond of telling us Social Security is doomed. Most of the time their solution to what they insist is a real and looming crisis is to accelerate the destruction by either slashing benefits, raising the retirement age, or privatizing the whole system.

More reasonable people, like (former Clinton Labor Secretary) Robert Reich here, say that's nonsense. The easiest way to "save" Social Security, in fact, is to fund it. This means, most obviously raising the income cap on payroll taxes.



The Sanders campaign is committed to doing just that. Clinton, not so much. Hillary almost got away with dodging the question last night until Bernie pressed her. (Sorry if you don't like all the crowd noise in the Wa-Po transcript. I think it's fun.)
SANDERS: -- maybe I'm a little bit confused. Are you or are you not supporting legislation to lift the cap on taxable income and expand Social Security for 58 years and increase benefits...

CLINTON: I am...

SANDERS: -- yes or no?

CLINTON: I have said yes, we are going to pick the best way or combination...

SANDERS: Oh, you -- ah.

(APPLAUSE)

(BOOS)

SANDERS: OK.

CLINTON: -- or combination of ways...

(BOOS)

CLINTON: -- you know...

(BOOS)

CLINTON: -- it -- it's all -- it's always a little bit, uh, challenging because, you know, if Senator Sanders doesn't agree with how you are approaching something, then you are a member of the establishment. Well, let me say then...

SANDERS: Well, look...

(APPLAUSE) CLINTON: -- let me say this...

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: -- we are going to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. We've got some good ideas to do it.
And that's where she landed.  Q: Do you favor raising the cap in order to expand Social Security? A: Well we've got some good ideas...

And that's just not good enough.  Let me clarify that. There comes a time when maybe that kind of talk is good enough.  Maybe that's eventually good enough if you're a Clinton Administration wonk negotiating with Republican congressional staffers.  But if you are a Democratic primary voter, it's unacceptable.

This is a post by TPM's John Judis which I think helps make my point.  I don't agree with the entire post but there is this bit that I like very much.
What Sanders is proposing are political guideposts – ideals, if you like – according to which we can judge whether incremental reforms make sense. He is describing, whether you like them or not, objectives toward which we Americans should be aspiring. That’s a central activity in politics. Should it be confined to issues of Democracy or National Affairs? Or is it the kind of activity that is entirely appropriate for a nominating contest? Ronald Reagan and the conservatives thought so during the 1970s. And I think Democrats should be thinking this way now. So I applaud Bernie Sanders for not limiting his proposals to what might appear on a President’s often-ignored budget requests.
Not only is this a "central activity in politics." Not only is it how "Democrats should be thinking right now." This is the ONLY way the voters should approach any election. We live in an age of amateur punditry. I happen to think this is a pretty neat thing overall (I mean, hello, said the blogger.) But I often think that many of our amateur pundits tend to forget that they're only working for themselves in this game. We are not the pros here. We are the constituents. It's important that we remember that distinction because we have a very specific role to play in that regard.

We are not the candidates. We are not the strategists. It is not up to you or I to talk the "electable" talking points or make the uncomfortable compromises that "get things done." Sure, we can second guess candidates and electeds as they succeed or fail at that stuff. That's always fun to do. But it's important to understand the purpose of those activities.

Those little games are merely the tools the bozos we're trying to elect have to use in order to get us as much of what we want as they can. At election time, though, it is our job to tell them what we actually want and how badly we want it. This is how you set the boundaries of the bargain when the bozo goes in to make it for you.

That’s what your vote is for. Stop pretending you're the bozo. You are the voter. There's a difference. Use your vote correctly.