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Saturday, June 25, 2016

#Regrexit

People freak out too easily.  
LONDON — Britain’s startling decision to pull out of the European Union set off a cascade of aftershocks on Friday, costing Prime Minister David Cameron his job, plunging the financial markets into turmoil and leaving the country’s future in doubt.
As for me, I tend to bet against any looming "catastrophe" conventional wisdom says is coming. The real horrors in this world happen in slow motion.  The grind of poverty and inequality, climate change, coastal erosion, gentrification, mass incarceration, aggressively racist policing,  the day to day political corruption that allows all of the above to function. This is where the real damage is done.

Events like the Brexit referendum are just clumsy reactions; slips in the fault where more insidious fundamental pressures have buckled it. In a way, they're even hopeful in that they make plain the otherwise obscured abuses wrought by the system. They present opportunities to, if not remedy, at least better understand the problem. Hey look, an oil rig exploded. Maybe we should be more serious about safety enforcement.  Of course, more often than not, these tragic events don't actually result in positive reform which makes them all the more tragic. But they do provide little opportunities for hope... if you believe in that sort of thing. 

The Brexit referendum, at the very least, demonstrates that the political system is not entirely nullified by the money power. On a certain level it's gratifying to see democracy still (sort of) exists, even when it does stupid things. I say "sort of" there because, frankly, I'm not convinced democracy really does hold the advantage here. I'm quite willing to take bets at this point that the result is eventually negated one way or another.
London (CNN)From Brexit to #Regrexit -- an online petition demanding a second referendum on Britain's decision to leave the EU is nearing 1.5 million signatures.

By Saturday morning, 1,489,743 people had signed the petition on the official UK Parliament website. That number takes it well over the 100,000-signature threshold needed to force a debate on the issue by members of Parliament.
Which, in itself, would also be a hopeful tragedy insofar as it would demonstrate the blatant hostility toward democracy prevalent among the international capitalist class. 
Citigroup's chief global political analyst, Tina Fordham, and Chief Economist Willem Buiter have offered their outlooks on the global state of affairs at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos. They did not paint a sunny picture.

Fordham portrayed a world that was seeing rising interstate conflict, increased terrorism, political systems under strain from the refugee crisis, and of course the growing appeal of populist politicians (on the right and left) in Europe and the U.S, or what what Fordham dubs Vox Populi risk.
Not that any positive change is likely to come of that either. But it's always useful to see these people just come out and say what they really are.

What isn't useful, though, is the idiot supposition being promoted by sandbox pundits in the US that a win for Leave somehow portends a win for Donald Trump in November. But this is nonsense for several obvious reasons that can best be summed up as Britain and the US are very different countries.  
American presidential elections are largely decided by a diverse and upscale electorate, anchored in America’s cities and suburbs. These communities more closely resemble London than Lincolnshire. Minorities made up more than a quarter of the electorate in the last presidential campaign.

And while Britain decided to leave the European Union through a popular vote, the White House race will be determined by the Electoral College, which is tilted toward the Democrats. Some large states with significant nonwhite populations have been out of reach for Republican candidates for much of the last three decades; California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Pennsylvania have voted for every Democratic nominee since 1992. Mr. Obama also won Florida twice, and Mrs. Clinton has a lead there now in part because Mr. Trump is unpopular with Hispanics.

Together those six states offer 166 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
Mr. Trump is at an even greater disadvantage than other recent Republican presidential nominees because of his dismal standing with nonwhite, college-educated and female voters. Unless he can reverse the deeply negative views such voters have of him, he is unlikely to capture the voter-rich communities around Philadelphia, Denver, Miami and Washington that are crucial to winning the White House.

Joe Trippi, a Democratic political strategist who was a consultant for former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, said he expected the Brexit vote to embolden American conservatives. But their excitement, Mr. Trippi said, would be largely “a false read” of the results.
“There are some very similar things — a polarized electorate, nativism, nationalism were clearly big factors, and Trump exemplifies them here,” Mr. Trippi said.

“But there is a difference in the multiculturalism and diversity of the United States, versus nowhere near the same factors in the U.K.”
To which I might like to add, you know... duh.. as well as, see also this
One major comparative advantage for Brexit is that none of the prominent assholes on its side were actually on the ballot. People who would never dream of voting for Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson in a national election could vote Brexit. Implicitly voting against Cameron didn’t require voting for someone you hate as much or more. If the question on the ballot in November was “do you want Hillary Clinton to be president?” I would be pretty worried. But it’s not. If Trump is going to win, he’s going to need a plurality of voters to affirmatively vote for him, although he’s a very well-known and widely despised figure heading a nationally unpopular party while barely running a presidential campaign at all.
Because everything that happens in the world somehow has to be all about the US, and because everything that happens in US politics has to be all about Trump, then every time anything happens, we are required to say that it must mean something for Trump. 

Also it's important for the Hillary faction of the Democratic Party that we build up Trump into a very scary existential threat. In truth, he is an inept buffoon who is in well over his head and losing the general election badly. But in order to properly manufacture a Legend Of Hillary The Dragonslayer, Democrats have to pretend there's an actual dragon out there. There isn't. There's just that one idiot who can't win. And Brexit, whether it eventually happens or not, doesn't change that in the slightest.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Are we having fun now or what?

Should be an exciting day tomorrow!
LONDON — Britain has voted to leave the European Union, a historic decision sure to reshape the nation’s place in the world, rattle the Continent and rock political establishments throughout the West.

With all but a handful of the country’s cities and towns reporting Friday morning, the Leave campaign held a 52 percent to 48 percent lead. The BBC called the race for the Leave campaign shortly before 4:45 a.m., with 13.1 million votes having been counted in favor of leaving and 12.2 million in favor of remaining.

The value of the British pound plummeted as financial markets absorbed the news.
Hey, if you've been wanting to take a trip to the UK, it might be a good idea to go while it's cheap. 
 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Y'all, #Brexit ain't gonna happen

And, of course, it probably shouldn't.  I say probably only because there are compelling reasons to want ostensible democracies like the UK to defy the international elite cartels who set rules that apply to people who do not elect them. But, more realistically, the immediate result of a Leave vote is likely to be a more strongly far-right government in the UK and the possibility of redirecting that momentum in [???] decades. So, yeah, if I were a Brit I'd probably hold my nose and vote stay. I'd feel really shitty about it, though. (Actual Brit James Gill feels differently, by the way.)

In any case, it's always fun to watch election returns. Brexit results should be coming in any minute now. (Ok not for a few more hours but still)

They don't actually care about funding things

The House anti-tax reactionaries called the Governor's bluff one last time. He's finally giving up.
Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, gave up efforts to try to raise any more revenue for the state budget Thursday morning (June 23), meaning the Legislature will leave this special session raising less than half of the $600 million Edwards initially requested.

Louisiana's budget issues need to be resolved by Thursday at midnight, when the second special session comes to a close.

Alario and Edwards staff said there weren't enough votes in the Louisiana House of Representatives to pass any more tax changes. The Senate leadership and the governor had been pushing to get a reduction in an income tax break through the Legislature over the past week.
Clearly the reactionaries don't care if things get funded. That left it to the Governor to figure out a way to make them care.  His idea was, well if we propose TOPS cuts in the budget, then surely they'll work in good faith with us to come together and find more money.  But this was never going to work because 1) No one here is acting in good faith. 2) The reactionaries pay no political price whatsoever if TOPS isn't funded. Their next move is to go back to voters and complain about how the Governor is trying to take their scholarship money from them.  They will relish the chance to do this, in fact.

It's been clear all year long the reactionaries were going to stay dug in. They dug in over cleaning pennies in the first special session. They dug in over the capital outlay budget during the regular session. They dug in over the income tax measures during this final (?) session. If the Governor, at any time, held a card they actually cared about, things may have gone differently.  The Governor thought TOPS would be that card. It wasn't.

Here's a good example of when not to vote for a lesser evil

All of the finalists in the Zephyrs' ill-advised name change operation are stupid.
They are the New Orleans Baby Cakes, Crawfish, King Cakes, Night Owls, Po’boys, Red Eyes and Tailgators. They were picked from among 2,539 submitted last month on line by the public. A least one is the result of a combination of nicknames by Brandiose, the San Diego-based firm in charge of the rebranding the Zephyrs.
By far the dumbest name in that whole paragraph is "Brandiose" but let's not worry about that right now. First there is the task of sorting through this rubbish and figuring out what to salvage.

Disappointed fans, like general election voters, are likely to pick out the least offensive monstrosity and hold their nose over it. Crawfish, King Cakes, and Po'Boys are the very bad front-runners. If you'd asked a class of fourth graders to come up with some avatars of local culture, this is what you'd get. Technically appropriate but not very imaginative.  But they're stupid in a bland and inoffensive way that a lot of people might be in the mood to settle for at this point.  We should demand better.

Tailgators almost sounds good enough to have been a first ballot reject in a closed brainstorming session somewhere. Night Owls sounds like something someone in the brainstorming session should have been fired for. What even is a "Red Eye," though?  The San Diego based marketing team claims it's a reference to crawfish. In which case, we would very much like to know 1) Who uses this term for them ever? 2) Isn't "Crawfish" already one of the options?

Which leaves us only with "Baby Cakes."  What is that? Clearly Brandiose has no idea.
Brandiose owners Jason Klein and Casey White visited New Orleans on May 10-11. They met with Zephyrs officials and toured the New Orleans area speaking with season ticket-holders, corporate and community leaders, then local historians. Klein and White then came up with the nicknames from those submitted.

Baby Cakes was derived from a combination of king cakes, which as we know contain a plastic baby, and area people referring to each other as “baby,” which Klein and White noted during their tour.
Nobody would derive Baby Cakes from the fact of king cake babies. That's just something they made up. Similarly, their discovering the "baby" vernacular in the course of their two day cultural leanrings for make benefit glorious nation of branding tour is clearly bullshit. They really have no idea what they're doing.

At the same time, though, Baby Cakes is so weird, so out there, so blatantly unconnected to anything, that it's actually the one name this process most deserves. Rather than fumble through the rest of these lame ideas looking for a lesser evil, Zephyrs fans should just go the whole nine yards and vote Baby Cakes in protest.  Short of staging a massive sit-in to save the name Zephyrs, this is probably the best way forward now.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Not just Mayfield

Yes this one in particular is pretty egregious. But whenever a new chapter of this saga comes out it's worth remembering there's a whole culture of ostensibly do-gooder clubby non-profits networked throughout the upper crust of New Orleans. And every one of them exists to serve the social and financial interests of the club members before whatever philanthropic cause it claims to support. 

Every now and then one gets caught gifting in a stupid and therefore easily identifiable way. But, really, they all do it. When they're doing it less stupidly they're invariably celebrated for it.

They don't actually care if things get funded

By accusing them of magical thinking, the TP editorial board is giving House conservatives too much credit.
Instead of approving enough new revenue to fill Louisiana's budget deficit or making difficult spending cuts, the House of Representatives has resorted to wishful thinking. Members approved a budget Monday (June 20) that funds the TOPS scholarship program at 70 percent — but they split it into two pieces: 100 percent for the fall semester and only 40 percent for the spring semester. How are families supposed to plan for that?

House members apparently are hoping that money will rain down from the heavens by January to make up the difference.
Actually they aren't hoping for anything.  As far was they're concerned, failure to find revenue and fund things is a win. They get to back to their constituents and brag about how they prevented all those big bad tax increases on upper income brackets. Whatever pain results from the budget cuts this necessitates ends up being the governor's fault, politically speaking. So, yeah. Good times for them.  

Fauxconuts

The problem with crazy campaign ads like Elbert Guillory's Coconuts thing here is the cynicism has sucked the joy out of them.  Sure, there's always been a degree of calculation in offbeat political advertising. But what we're seeing here is a different level of manufactured intentional post-modern schlock.

Guillory's ad isn't a happy accident of charming "Special Man" type eccentricity. Instead, it is the product of well paid mainstream communications professionals acting well within the scope of their current best practices. Remember earlier in the Presidential primary when Buzzfeed was producing these quirky viral videos of Republican candidates? Pretty likely the purpose of that exercise was getting some creative interns a chance to test the viral political ad as a form while also padding out their own resumes in the field. Being WeirdTM is really just plain old formulaic marketing now.

While colorful characters have long been a part of our politics, the Palin-Trump age has shown us that outrageous behavior for its own sake is actually a potent brand.  Anyone managing Elbert Guillory's campaign will know this. So get ready for more affectedly bizarre ads. The PR puke funnel is bound to have plenty more where that came from.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Standard practice

Debtors' prison is actually more common than you might think.
A new book, “A Pound of Flesh,” by Alexes Harris of the University of Washington, notes that these modern debtors’ prisons now exist across America. Harris writes that in Rhode Island in 2007, 18 people were incarcerated a day, on average, for failure to pay court debt, while in Ferguson, Mo., the average household paid $272 in fines in 2012, and the average adult had 1.6 arrest warrants issued that year.

“Impoverished defendants have nothing to give,” Harris says, and the result is a system that disproportionately punishes the poor and minorities, leaving them with an overhang of debt from which they can never escape.
The unusual thing is when someone puts a stop to one.  Or at least tries to.
When poor defendants guilty of minor crimes enter Bogalusa Judge Robert Black's courtroom, they are often met with no quarter, according to a federal lawsuit that accuses Black of running an illegal "modern-day debtors' prison."

It's pay the fine or immediately begin jail time, with little room to negotiate for those who can't afford to pay.

The Southern Poverty Law Center sued Black Tuesday (June 21) in federal court in New Orleans in an attempt to halt that policy, which its lawyers called unconstitutional. They're representing four impoverished defendants worried they'll run afoul of Black at their upcoming hearings.

"Our clients are terrified that they're going to go to jail," SPLC attorney Micah West said.
No guarantee that they actually will succeed, of course. The TP article goes on to point out this is the hot trend in Louisiana just as it is everywhere. 
The case against Black reflects a disturbing trend across Louisiana where small-town courts finance their operations on fees that inherently hit those who can't pay the hardest. The American Civil Liberties Union studied 12 parishes and two cities for a 45-day period in 2014, finding evidence that many places, including New Orleans, arrested and jailed people for unpaid fines.  

What will Gusman do all day?

He says this means he gets to delegate things now. Seems dubious.
At a news conference Tuesday, Gusman insisted that he would remain at the helm, even as he welcomed the addition of a compliance director who will be tasked with implementing a series of jail reforms known as a federal consent decree.

“This is not unlike delegating authority that I do for a lot of the people I work with,” the sheriff said. He added that the compliance budget “must address” deputy pay raises, a flash point in the long-running dispute between City Hall and the Sheriff’s Office.

“This is about us having a direct pipeline to the court. This gives us an opportunity to cut through the challenges, the obstructions, the gamesmanship that’s been going on.”

The settlement makes clear, however, that the compliance director “will be answerable only to the court.”

“The compliance director shall seek advice and/or approval from the sheriff regarding all decisions that materially impact compliance with the consent (decree) unless doing so would cause unreasonable delay, and otherwise regularly inform the sheriff regarding jail operations,” the document says.
The punchline comes next week sometime when we find out the new Compliance Director is actually Ed Blakely. 

Home stretch

Coming down to the last days of the special session. Suffice to say the legislature has done a poor job of finding the money necessary to make this year's budget not terrible.
With no major tax bills left to consider in the special session, the Louisiana House has  agreed to raise $284 million for the coming budget year, or less than half of what Gov. John Bel Edwards says is needed to address the state's shortfall.

Edwards had wanted to raise an $600 million. The Senate had a more modest goal of $450 million in new revenue. But the House doesn't appear likely to put any more revenue on the table before the session ends Thursday (June 23) at midnight.
It's actually even worse than that as increasingly crappy revenue projections keep moving the goalpost.  There's plenty of blame to go around here but mainly the problem has been in the House where the conservative majority has seen fit to obstruct all but the most ineffectual revenue measures and leave everyone to fight over which "hard choices" to make.  For their part, the House has boldly taken it up on themselves to put those choices off until spring 
The Louisiana House of Representatives voted to fund the TOPS college scholarship program at 70 percent next year in the budget bill it passed Monday (June 20).

But that financial shortfall wouldn't be spread evenly across both semesters. The House budget proposal calls for TOPS to be fully funded in the fall semester and any financial shortfall that occurs to be absorbed in the spring semester.

That means students would receive a scholarship covering full tuition for the fall semester, but TOPS would drop to 40 percent in the spring.
The income tax bills they rejected left an awful lot of money on the table. If they actually cared about funding things, they might not have trashed them.

Monday, June 20, 2016

So when does Special Session 3 begin?

This one has been a near complete dud.
Senate Bill 10 initially would have made large manufacturers and chemical plants choose between two tax breaks. It was changed to keep the tax breaks in place for both companies, though restrict the amount the state would give the company if the inventory tax credit earned exceeded its total tax bill.

The bill was initially supposed to produce $68 million in the budget cycle. Now it is expected to be about $60 million, according to Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, who sponsored the legislation.

Once the bill was changed, several business groups -- including the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce, paper mills, and Dow Chemical -- removed their opposition. After the amendment, the House tax committee also agreed to pass the legislation with no objections on Monday morning.
Oh wait. Check that.




Another downward revision almost every hour.  Right on schedule with every new gimmick lawmakers come up with to protect special privileges for their cronies and wealthy donors.  Combine this foolishness with this week's failure to pass even the most mildly progressive income tax reform and you start to think that maybe the problem is these guys don't actually care if anything gets funded
The drama over House Bill 38, sponsored by state Rep. Malinda White, D-Bogalusa, played out against still more bad news: the discovery of an extra $200 million shortfall, on top of the $600 million hole that Gov. John Bel Edwards has been pleading for lawmakers to close. With just a couple of days left before the session must end, it’s looking like the Legislature won’t even cobble together half that much.

So the next question to ponder is this: Just how much of an appetite do those same legislators have for making further deep cuts to higher education and health care?
The answer to Grace's question is simple. They don't care as long as their friends get their favors. Close all the hospitals if you want. In the long run it's the Governor who pays the political price. After all it's his budget, right?   And then, in a few years, when this "fiscal cliff" we're in the process of creating finally hits we're right back where we started. That will be seen as the Governor's fault too.

So it's probably in John Bel's interest to figure out how to make these legislators behave. Otherwise, he might want to rethink his long term plans.

Still the sheriff

It looks like Marlin Gusman isn't going to have to give up his jail after all.
Sheriff Marlin Gusman has struck a deal that apparently will stave off a federal takeover of the Orleans Justice Center, finding common ground with the U.S. Justice Department and inmates who filed a class-action lawsuit over conditions at the city’s jail.

Terms of the compromise were not immediately made public, but the details are expected to be revealed in federal court Tuesday morning, according to sources familiar with the matter.
We've said it before but Gusman is a savvy and stubborn guy and not an easy politician to tangle with. Not for the mayor, not for his rivals, not for the US Justice Department. In other words he is one seriously resilient dude. Quite Nolier of him. 

Beyond parody

Couldn't make this up if you tried.
NEW ORLEANS – On Tuesday, June 21, 2016, Mayor Mitch Landrieu will deliver the 2016 State of the City Address.

The speech is open to the public. Those who are not able to attend are encouraged to follow @mayorlandrieu on Twitter for live tweeting of the event using the hashtag #NOLASOTC.

WHO:              Mayor Mitch Landrieu

WHEN:            Tuesday, June 21, 2016                        9 a.m.
                        Doors open at 8 a.m.
                        Media will be permitted to set-up at 7:30 a.m.
                        Media RSVP to communications@nola.gov by 4 p.m. Friday, June 17,                                  2016

WHERE:         The Refresh Project Rooftop
                       300 N. Broad. St.
                        New Orleans, LA 70119
Just to translate that, the Refresh Project Rooftop at 300 N. Broad means the mayor will speak to us from atop the roof of a Whole Foods.  Some of you might remember that Whole Foods was built a few years ago when the giant corporation famous for overcharging yuppies for groceries was given "Fresh Food Retailer" funds.

Ostensibly, Fresh Food Retailer Funds are supposed to alleviate so-called "food deserts" by subsidizing more grocery stores in under-served neighborhoods. In other words, it's exactly the sort of trickle-down bank shot corporate welfare scheme neoliberals like Mitch Landrieu absolutely adore.
This supply-side solution of building supermarkets does not fix the underlying social ills that cause food deserts. The HHFI assumes that certain demographics are unhealthy because of the environments they live in — long commutes in rural areas, few parks or recreational outlets in urban ones, and, of course, no supermarkets in either. But does proximity to supermarkets correspond with low BMI because access to its foods diminishes obesity? Or, on the contrary, do people with higher incomes demand supermarkets in their neighborhoods? Food writer Julie Guthman argues that if the latter is the case, then a new grocery store in a low-income neighborhood could actually lead to gentrification, and therefore have adverse effects on the population it was seeking to help.
In fact, Whole Foods is well aware of this. Thus its national strategy of collecting these grants as it targets "up and coming" urban neighborhoods in which to open new stores just before they gentrify.

Anyway, we all look forward to hearing the mayor's speech tomorrow. I wonder what the theme will be.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Managed retreat

Not gonna restore or really even "save" what's left of the coast. We've actually been in retreat mode for quite some time.
The 50-year, $50 billion master plan envisions building back the estuaries and wetlands along Louisiana’s coast through sediment diversions and marsh creation, as well as paying for levees and other projects. That $50 billion price tag also is likely to increase with the new 2017 master plan, Bradberry said, in part reflecting changing conditions along the coast like the more dire forecasts for sea level rise.

“I’m encouraged the state is already, with the 2017 plan, having a realistic discussion of what the possibilities are,” Muth said. “We have to be prepared for some pretty disturbing news about what is possible.”

That’s not to say pursuing coastal restoration and protection work is pointless. Preserving the marshes at the coast is critical, as they provide important defenses when storms come in, absorbing surge and reducing flooding.

“We still can get the system building land while, at the same time, facing the fact that some of what we have now will disappear,” Muth said. “We have to figure out what we can do so we can be here in 50 years.”
So, ok, they're only sort of coming around to admitting how little they can actually do. From a macro perspective,  though,  it helps if you understand that policy has always been guided by the desire to preserve profit rather than habitat. Eventually it's all going underwater.  In the meantime we'll protect assets for as long as there is still money to wring from them. People are pretty much on their own. Just as they always have been.

So much session

We may not be well governed but we certainly are much governed this year. Clancy DuBos suggests there may be even more extra special governance to come.
Louisiana lawmakers have until midnight Thursday, June 23, to conclude the second special session of 2016. They have been meeting more or less continuously since Feb. 14, and by now they’re pretty much tired of looking at each other.

But their work is far from done, according to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who summoned them into both special sessions and is said to be considering yet another — yes, a third — if this one doesn’t meet his expectations.
Probably won't happen that way. But fun to think about!

Anyway I'm not sure about Clancy's casting of JBE as Henry V there. Yeah he's a military guy and all but it's not quite right. 

Of course the temptation is to turn every political drama into Julius Caesar. I don't know if Edwards is enough of a populist or as true to the poor to qualify as Caesar but we could probably stretch it to fit if we try. I guess that would make Jay Dardenne Mark Antony.. or maybe that's JP Morrell.  I don't know. Like I said, it's a flimsy premise. I'm just trying to get us to the party where Neil Abramson and Cameron Henry are Brutus and Cassius because that's what makes this whole thing go.

Keep on frackin'

Don't you just love these heartwarming stories where ordinary citizens come together and organize to protect their community from predatory industry... and lose?
The Louisiana Supreme Court has refused to consider an appeal by St. Tammany Parish and a citizens group challenging a state decision to award a permit to a company that wants to drill near Lakeshore High School, spokesmen said.

By a 4-3 vote, the court refused to hear the appeal, allowing a decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals to stand. Justices Greg Guidry, Jeannette Theriot Knoll and Marcus Clark dissented. The appeals panel ruled earlier this year that the parish’s zoning ordinances had to be considered, but not followed, by the state when considering the permit application.

The decision effectively ends a nearly two year legal challenge against Helis Oil & Gas’ plans to drill an oil well in a wooded tract northeast of Mandeville. The case pitted the parish against the state’s Commissioner of Conservation, who issued a permit to Helis to drill. The group Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, which has opposed the well, joined the suit on the side of the parish. Helis also joined on the side of the Commissioner of Conservation.
Most of the time they lose, actually.  Now Helis can look forward to taking advantage of state tax exemptions for drilling and fracking since we already know the legislature will fail to eliminate those.  

Friday, June 17, 2016

Who did this?

This is really shitty. Don't do this shit
Officials are investigating after over a half a dozen trees were poisoned with herbicide in New Orleans' Central Business District.

The New Orleans Advocate reports someone drilled holes in the trunks of eight pistachio trees and poured in herbicide.

The city confirmed the poisoning Thursday, and although it's unclear when the poisonings occurred, some residents say they noticed the holes last week.
 Guess we'll be monitoring the Finebaum show to see if the culprit turns up.

Busted

It's gonna get worse before it gets better. (If it gets better.)
Louisiana’s nonfarm employment fell by 19,600 jobs for the 12 months ending in May, as the state lost ground in seven of 11 economic sectors, with the biggest hit once again to the oil and gas industry.

The 1 percent decline dropped Louisiana to 1,979,800 jobs in May, according to preliminary numbers released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was the 10th consecutive month the state posted a year-to-year drop in the number of jobs.

Over the same 12-month period, the U.S. added 38,000 jobs.

The state’s mining and logging sector, which includes oil and gas jobs, plunged by 8,600 jobs, or 18 percent. After 17 consecutive months of year-to-year drops, there are now 40,100 people working in the sector statewide.

Oil prices have fallen to less than $50 per barrel level, deterring drilling activity.

Other hard-hit job sectors in the state were manufacturing, which lost 8,100 jobs over the year; business and personal services, 4,200 jobs; and government, 2,900 jobs.
Also see how we're "bucking the trend" which is always nice. Anyway, I hear Shell isn't done cutting jobs yet either.

Furthermore even the jobs we do "create" in our part of the state, don't provide the sort of support most people need. Here's a Brookings/Data Center report on something called "Opportunity Clusters" in the metro New Orleans region. But that's not important. What's important are the jobs data included in the report. This scary chart, for example, shows us that the greatest number of jobs created in metro New Orleans since 2010 are pretty crappy jobs that pay below our (itself low) average annual wage.

Our jobs are crap

And, of course, we already know the cost of living keeps going up and up. The same report shows that 41 percent of New Orleans families are struggling to make ends meet.

During press gaggle this week about health care, the mayor told reporters we are an "ascending city"




Not sure if he means that in terms of living standards or elevation. In either case, it's the opposite of true.

Woo-hoo

Always fun when someone finds an excuse to drag this quote up again.
By October 2006, more than a year after the initial announcement, Trump Jr. revealed that a sharp spike in the cost of labor and materials after the storm -- which doubled the estimated cost of the project, to $400 million -- meant the project was to be scaled back a bit. It would still be the tallest building in the city, though. So it had that going for it.

In March 2007, the project cleared its last regulatory hurdle before the City Council. A summer groundbreaking was expected. "This is Trump," Councilwoman Stacy Head told her colleagues in asking for approval. "Woo-hoo."

Hey what's this button do?

Charles Boustany: Louisiana's first Facebook Live candidate.
U.S. Senate candidates who were criticized by the staffers of fellow Republican candidate Charles Boustany in an unintentionally broadcast Facebook Live stream fired back Wednesday with one raising ethical questions.

“It is very disappointing that Congressman Boustany would break congressional ethics rules by mixing his taxpayer-funded office with his political operation. Congressman Boustany has a lot of explaining to do,” said Matt Beynon, spokesman for the Senate campaign of U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden.

It is unclear where the conversation took place and who exactly was involved. The flub has hit the national media.
Unfortunately for us, the bit of gossip the broadcast treats us to isn't especially juicy. Some smack talking about Kennedy and Fleming, mostly. But still it's good to know the congressman has his Geek Appeal team up and running. 

Update: Oh look here's Grace also unimpressed
So call the whole episode an amusing diversion, and a bit of a window into how campaign strategists think. But between the high budget drama in Baton Rouge and the over-the-top presidential contest, it’s going to take something a lot more dramatic to get people to start focusing on this race.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

It's a tech 'trep's world

We're all just living in it. That is, if we can actually afford to live in it. Some of us may have already been priced out by some sort of "sharing" app. If not, don't worry. They'll get to you sooner or later. When they do, though, don't expect much sympathy from the media. Turns out they run that too.
Idea Village founder and CEO Tim Williamson, a nationally respected business leader whose determination to expand economic and leadership opportunities for New Orleanians sparked an entrepreneurial renaissance in his hometown, has been named President of NOLA Media Group.

Williamson replaces Ricky Mathews, who previously announced his intention to transition out of his role as NOLA Media Group president and help lead new initiatives with Advance Local, a group of affiliated websites and newspapers of which NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune are members.
It's a week for old favorites in the world of "volunteer entrepreneurism."  Yesterday it was Irvin Mayfield and Jim Bernazzani. Today it's Williamson. The guys should really get the band back together and play a number.  If only so many of them weren't in jail. Pour some out for Greg Meffert and Ray Nagin. Once upon a time Williamson and Meffert kind of made their careers locally by being in the circle of businessmen that produced Mayor Nagin.
It Helps to Know the Mayor
 
"We started out lucky, says Williamson. "I call it the MN [Mayor Nagin] factor. Ray Nagin, a former vice president and general manager for Cox Communications in Southeast Louisiana, who had never held political office, defeated New Orleans police chief Richard Pennington in the mayor's race in early 2002.


"He's entrepreneurial, says Williamson. "He understood business; he understood what we were talking about. There was finally a sense of possibility that we could actually create a world-class entrepreneurial community.


"What's critical to this is vision, continues Williamson. "The mayor stated that his vision is to make New Orleans the entrepreneurial capital of the world.
 But Williamson's neoliberal capitalist bona fides extend beyond mere cronyism.
Williamson, 51, is an Isidore Newman High School (1983) and Tulane University (1987) alum. He began his career as an investment banker on the East Coast, including a stint as Vice President of Investments at Bear Stearns in Boston. In 1996 he became regional general manager at Cox Interactive Media, responsible for building Internet markets in Austin, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Pittsburgh and his native New Orleans.
Cox cable, Bear Stearns, Tulane, Newman. You could add "Legion of Doom: founding member" to that resume and it wouldn't be the worst thing on there. This is pretty much a made man we're talking about. Which is why one wonders if he's really this dense or more likely just dishonest when he cites historian Lawrence Powell in this video in calling New Orleans  "The place where capitalism was founded. The original silicon valley."  This is true, of course. It conveniently glosses over all the slavery, though.

We've actually mentioned this before in the context of the Confederate monuments controversy. But the book to read is Edward Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. Baptist focuses on banking and credit "innovations" pioneered by the entrepreneurs (like Vincent Nolte in the passage below) trading humans and cotton futures at Maspero's during this founding of capitalism Williamson enthuses about.



Anyway, the inheritors of this proud legacy are pretty much running the town now so there's no point in objecting anymore.  Maybe if they manage to bump us up to three "Entrepreneur Week" features per month, they'll finally find the Golden App that solves everyone's problems. Probably not, though. The track record isn't very good.

Year of the orange man

Exactly one year ago today Donald Trump announced he was running for President.  We thought it was so damn hilarious then.  It's still not unfunny,  exactly.  It's just now kind of an obvious joke that nobody gets.

Trump's early poll numbers in the general election are historically embarrassing. I know it's been a weird year and strange things can happen. I certainly didn't think Trump could be the GOP nominee when I saw him come down that escalator.  But putting that aside, this has all the looks of a severe blowout.

The obvious joke, then, is on the Hillary campaign.  This would be a good time for them to reinforce the sense of inevitability about their candidate.  Make a little bit of fun of Trump, sure. Talk down to him if he comes up as a topic. But mostly talk about the serious good work your serious inevitable candidate can't wait to do.

Instead the Clintons are treating the "threat" of their clearly impotent opponent as some sort of national emergency. It gives him credit for actually mattering more than all polling and logic suggests he does.  Basically the Clinton campaign is doing the opposite of whar they should be doing. They're  pumping up Trump when they should be diminishing him. It probably won't make a difference. But if they do want to let Trump back in the game, they are doing all they can to make that happen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bid one dollar

The city and the Industrial Development Board still can't figure out how to unload their swampland.
The latest effort to redevelop the site of the abandoned Six Flags amusement park inched forward on Tuesday, as the public corporation that manages the site voted to hire an outside firm to appraise its value.

The McEnery Co. will gauge the site’s worth for a fee of $23,500. The firm’s bid was the lowest of four submitted to the 15-member Industrial Development Board.

A fifth appraiser, Thorns Consulting, was asked to vie for the job but decided against it, board members said. Some members in April wondered if that firm had a conflict of interest because its owner, Jimmie Thorns, is a former president of the development board.

The board has been mulling Six Flags’ future for years, but the discussions have intensified in recent months. The site has been the subject of one failed redevelopment deal after another since the park closed up shop after Hurricane Katrina.

Is it possible for the consultant to appraise the land at a value less than their fee?  Seems unlikely.  Meanwhile the cost of doing nothing is $10,000 a month which is what IDB says they're paying for maintenance and security. Still it looks like the city sees this as primarily a marketing problem rather than a just plain old shitty land problem.
Rebecca Conwell, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s senior adviser for economic development, said the city has tried repeatedly to help the development board with the site.

She said officials are in talks with at least three developers about the site. One, a Las Vegas developer whom she did not name, has urged the board to think about multiple uses for the sizable site, rather than just one attraction, she said. The city also has suggested the board engage real estate firms to help it market the site.
They'll come up with something nice, I'm sure.  Anything in the "marsh fire" category seems fitting.  

The dominant industries

The saga continues.
NEW ORLEANS -- A few weeks ago, when Irvin Mayfield’s New Orleans Jazz Orchestra formally agreed to pay back $1.1 million in public library donations, the Jazz Orchestra considered the matter “closed.”

But WWL-TV has learned the Public Library Foundation is now demanding payback of an additional $150,000 that Mayfield directed from the library charity to his Jazz Orchestra, this time routed through a third nonprofit where Mayfield also sat on the board.

The third nonprofit, the Youth Rescue Initiative, is run by Jim Bernazzani, the former head of the FBI field office in New Orleans. The centerpieces of the Youth Rescue Initiative are called Illumination Centers, described by the nonprofit’s website as “safe havens for at-risk youth to learn and develop computer skills.”
Ha ha. Y'all remember Jim Bernazzani,  right? He sort of peaked about eight years ago when he tried to use his position as the head of the local FBI office as a springboard to a political career. That didn't work out so well for Jim. Instead he retired from law enforcement and skipped politics altogether once he figured out you can grift just as easily in the non-profit sector. Especially in this city where Mayfield and friends are really just the tip of the iceberg.

Former mayor, and Mayfield patron,  Ray Nagin once gave an inspiring interview about his motivation for getting into public service politics.  "It seemed to be the dominant industry," he said.  But if you can't do that,  con-profiting also works.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

When is the second line?

I mean, it says "Rejoice!" right there in the headline.
A gaping, 20-foot sinkhole on Canal Street, which cost the city millions of dollars, provided instant fodder for amateur comedians and which was honored at an impromptu May 5 celebration, has been repaired at least two months ahead of schedule, city officials said Tuesday.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu will reopen the section of Canal Street near Harrah’s Casino on Tuesday. The street has been blocked off since the ground opened in late April.
It's good to see the mayor is going to make it out for the, um, ribbon cutting or whatever they have planned. But you'd think Canal Street could at least get a welcome on par with what they gave Costco or CVS.   You can find those in any city.  Our world famous sinkhole deserves better.

Fracked

Helis oil is about to begin its controversial drilling project in St. Tammany Parish.


This first phase of the project will involve drilling a 13,000-foot-deep vertical well and will not include any hydraulic fracturing, Barham said.

The company plans to collect samples and also conduct tests on a 270-foot-thick layer of rock more than 12,000 feet deep to see if the formation, part of the Tusacaloosa Marine Shale, could be an economically viable source of oil, Barham said.

Analysis of the samples and test results is expected to take several months. If the results are positive — a 50-50 proposition, Barham said — Helis would move to Phase 2 of the project, which would involve hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Let's try this again

Looks like Neil Abramson's House Ways and Means committee will get a second crack at that income tax exemption bill they rejected last week.
A key piece of Gov. John Bel Edwards' tax package will get a second look Wednesday (June 15) after the governor and House leadership talked through a possible compromise.

The House Ways and Means Committee will consider a bill to reduce a state income tax break based on excess itemized deductions used for federal income taxes. The committee killed a similar piece of legislation last week, but amendments are expected to make this proposal more palatable to tax-averse lawmakers.

House Bill 38 would affect about a quarter of Louisiana taxpayers. The governor's staff said most of the people who would see their taxes go up make more than $100,000 per year.
According to a press release put out by Abramson, the bill failed last time because it had been "tied" to the passage of some flat tax legislation proposed by Rep. Julie Stokes which Neil (quite rightly) said he did not care for.  But Stokes's bills passed anyway so that's kind of moot point now.  Anyway something tells me they'll get it passed this time. Why else would they bring it back up if they didn't have a good read on it, right?

Speaking of Abramson, Lamar has really laid into him today in a post questioning Neil's relationships with insurers, oil and gas, chemical companies and other corporate backers. Lamar also hits Neil for his strategic absences including one just yesterday during testimony from parents of children with special needs.  To be fair, though, Neil's committee wasn't taking up any actual business yesterday so he didn't technically have to be there. In today's legislature, you can pretty much follow along from home via the tweets and videos anyway.

Cruelty is expensive

You'd think these conservatives would be sensitive to Louisiana's budget problem.
The state of Louisiana’s refusal to install air conditioning on death row has already cost taxpayers more than $1 million in legal bills, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

The state could spend roughly the same money — and possibly much less — on an air conditioning system that would satisfy a federal judge’s order to protect death-row inmates from dangerous heat and humidity inside Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
Then again, if the legislature has taught us anything this year, it's that conservatives don't actually care about fixing the budget. They do care about making people suffer, for some reason. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Air tax

It's fun when we get to agree with Owen Courreges about something. It doesn't happen all that often. In turn, Owen rarely agrees with VCPORA. And yet here we all are in agreement. Well, except for the mayor, I guess.
In an utterly unprecedented move, Mayor Landrieu recently began to require property owners to sign lease agreements for the “air rights” to balcony features that encroach on city property, leases that can cost upwards of $4,000 per year. The agreements are normally required before a property owner can obtain necessary inspections or building permits.

What this means is that property owners are confronted with two equally-perverse incentives: 1) to not build or retain their galleries; and, 2) to refuse to cooperate with the city in securing building permits for any work performed.

Predictably, advocacy groups and sundry neighborhood organizations are up in arms. “It’s part of the fabric of the city. It doesn’t make sense to penalize people for that,” said Meg Lousteau, head of the Vieux Carre Property Owners and Residents Association (VCPORA).

Although we’re rarely on the same side of any issue, VCPORA has a point here. Landrieu’s policy makes absolutely no sense, except in a single regard – it generates revenue. One of the first tricks Landrieu learned was to task his departments to increase revenues from fines and fees through creative means. Agencies have become less reasonable and more greedy under his direction.
In a way this is similar to the extortionate criminal justice system of fines and fees we just referenced in a previous post. It's less egregious in that it's aimed at property owners in historic neighborhoods but the principle is the same. The city is on the lookout for ways to squeeze money out of, literally, thin air. And why not? I mean isn't this more or less what the whole 21st Century economy is based on?

Nowadays, imaginary value conjured out of nothing via regulatory arbitrage is the just a fancy way of saying "entrepreneurship."  Besides tourism, the amazing resilience of the city's 'Treppin elite is the mayor's favorite subject.   It's hardly surprising that any of this would be right up his alley. Doubly so when someone finds a way to combine those two areas
A formalized proposal to legalize Airbnb-style rentals in New Orleans could face it first vote Tuesday (June 14).

NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune will be in the City Council auditorium to cover the City Planning Commission's meeting live when it begins at 1:30 p.m.
That's tomorrow. The rest of that T-P article is styled as a "primer" for those who may have come late to this. But here is the key bit about what tomorrow's meeting means.
In recommending the regulatory framework majority of the commissioners voted against legalizing principal-residential rentals. However, the City Council, at the request of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, then asked the commission draft a set of amendments codifying the planning staff's initial recommendation, which included them. 
CPC, following the concerns of many residents and wary of the negative experience of "destination" cities around the world, wanted to limit the practice of turning whole homes and apartments over exclusively to Airbnb. The mayor rejected their modest recommendation and is making them do it over.

The public meeting is sure to draw a lot of attention.  The pro-STR lobbying group with the Orwellian name "Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity" is pretty good at turning out their membership to events like these when it counts. It helps that a lot of them are professional lawyers and lobbyists who can bill the time unlike the wage earning renters who have more trouble showing up in the middle of the day. So expect a lot of hot air in the room.  If only there were a way to tax it.

Update: Ah and CPC has postponed the vote. It looks like the topic is still on the agenda? Maybe? If so the meting might still be entertai9.

Normalized extortion

Probably not the best basis on which to operate a criminal justice system.
The reliance in some cities on the cycle of arrest, jail, bail, plea, fine and possibly jail again if you don’t pay up has caught the unflattering attention of the U.S. Justice Department.

Just how all that money is divvied up in New Orleans, and to what extent unfortunate arrestees get caught up in government agencies’ demand for it, is the subject of a study now underway by the Vera Institute of Justice.

The aim, Vera says, is to show which agencies take a cut of the money, see how much lands where and “tally the fistally the fiscal impact of these practices, including from increased jail time, on the city’s budget.”

In New Orleans, different types of fees are split differently among various agencies, and issues over collections from Traffic Court and Municipal Court once prompted a lawsuit by Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton’s office.
Ferguson is a few years in the past now. But it's worth remembering the whole context there was a municipal government funded through systemic victimization of the poor by law enforcement.  
A scathing report from the U.S. Justice Department last year concluded that the municipal court system in Ferguson, Missouri, “primarily uses its judicial authority as the means to compel the payment of fines and fees that advance the city’s financial interests.”
And this sort of thing is common all over the place.  It was the subject of one of John Oliver's more popular segments last year.


Has anything changed?  Well, not really. But, hey, we're gonna do some more studies now. So that's something.

Antics


Governor Abramson issued another veto last week.
The Democratic chairman of the House tax committee sided with his Republican colleagues to kill one of the main money-raising tax bills sought by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Ways and Means Chairman Neil Abramson cast the tie-breaking vote Wednesday to stall the Democratic governor's proposal to lessen an income tax break given to upper-income earners. The committee voted 10-9 against the bill.

The proposal by Republican Rep. Rob Shadoin would have raised $117 million to fill gaps in next year's budget by cutting tax breaks allowed for taxpayers who itemize on their individual income tax returns.
This was supposed to be the special session where we actually got down to doing some real work. During Special Session Part 1, the previous year's emergency budget shortfall forced lawmakers to resort to unpleasant regressive sales tax hikes (remember the whole "clean pennies" business) in order to catch up. The situation going in to Special Session Part Deux was still dire, but at least this time there was an opportunity to apply fairer remedies. 

Or so we thought there would be. But so far nearly all of the Governor's proposals to raise revenue through progressive tax reforms such as eliminating a capital gains deduction have been rejected by Abramson's committee. Meanwhile the House managed to slip in yet another corporate tax break aimed at benefiting oil and gas companies. So, really, we're going in the wrong direction altogether.

With last week's failure of HB11 following so closely on the even stranger failure of the construction budget at the close of the regular session, Abramson has been the center of attention lately. If you've picked up your Gambit on the way to work this morning, you will have already found this commentary. It goes after Neil pretty hard.
Further evidence of their irresponsibility came last week. House Speaker Taylor Barras, a Republican from New Iberia, and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Neil Abramson, a Democrat from New Orleans who is in league with the GOP’s “Gang of No,” strained credulity in preventing a vote on the so-called Capital Outlay budget before the annual session adjourned. Both said the measure as approved by the Senate had unspecified “technical” defects, yet they did nothing with the bill for the final five days of the session. Abramson literally hid from his colleagues to avoid bringing up the bill for a vote. Then, one day after the regular session ended (on the first morning of the special session), Abramson’s committee approved the measure in an hour — with millions more for projects in Abramson’s district. He blamed committee staffers for that “technical” error.
Those "projects in Abramson's district" by the way, are special favors for Audubon and other usual suspects from the NOLA non-profit cartel.
The largest of the two New Orleans projects -- financing for exhibit upgrades at the Audubon Zoo -- is in Abramson's district. That project got a $23.2 million boost, nearly double the original cost of the project. The Louisiana Children's Museum got a 10 percent increase for the planning, design and construction of an early learning village.

Also in the bill was an increase to a Junior League of New Orleans project. That project got an 83 percent funding increase for renovations to its headquarters, annex and thrift store.

Anyway, if you read that Gambit commentary online you'll see that Neil has already responded by pasting a press release of his into the comments section. Therein, Abramson claims he voted against HB11 because amendments had "tied" it to other problematic tax increases. 
An amendment tied the passage of HB 11 to a set of other tax reform measures that were not part of the Governor's tax reform package and were not adequately discussed or analyzed. The fiscal note on the tax measure that HB 11 would have been tied to would have led to a tax increase of more than $100 million. That burden could have fallen on lower-middle and middle income families. There simply was not enough information today to allow this bill to move forward." 
We think he's talking about Julie Stokes's "flat tax" bills. If so, he's at least correct in nominally opposing them.  But the Governor had already ceded the point.
To revive the bill on Wednesday, Edwards agreed with Stokes’ plan to amend HB11 by tying its fate to three measures sponsored by her that would give voters the chance to eliminate a popular tax break in exchange for a single flat rate. (This was the version Abramson referred to afterward. The committee separately approved all three measures; they do not raise more money.)
Plus, as it says, Stokes's bills passed anyway so.. again.. what was the point?  Abramson's colleagues, particularly those in the Senate, are getting more and more frustrated with what JP Morrell called "antics."
"We will try to work with him because he's the chairman of the committee," Morrell said. "But my committee right now is really struggling because we are really frustrated with these antics. There's more games being played."
And then there was this Advocate profile published over the weekend where we learn Abramson's "antics," at least as far as strategic absences are concerned, are actually a standard move of his. 
Abramson has a history of being absent but especially on controversial matters where, had he voted in line with his Uptown New Orleans district, which strongly backed President Barack Obama in 2012 and Edwards in 2015, he risked damaging his standing with Republicans. (Obama won 62 percent of his district in 2012, and Edwards carried it with 74 percent in 2015).

Consider this extraordinary fact: Abramson has voted on two of the 23 abortion bills tracked by the state’s dominant anti-abortion group, the Louisiana Right to Life Federation, over the past five years.
The profile also tells us about Abramson's football career. Neil was the quarterback of his high school team and even went on to play free safety in college. Nowadays, it seems, he just punts. Which is exactly what he does again here when asked about his future plans.
The latest developments in Baton Rouge have reignited a buzz among insiders that Abramson is positioning himself to switch parties and run for a conservative-leaning state Senate seat in 2019 as a Republican.

If so, he won’t admit to it, though he also passed up an opportunity to deny it.

One quick note about that. Neil doesn't actually have to switch parties to run for Senate. Sure, it makes more sense for most candidates to run in that district as a Republican. But suddenly switching parties just in order to do so might seem a little too transparent.  It's probably enough for Abramson just to keep positioning himself as an anti-tax, ambivalent on abortion thorn in the side of the Governor. In other words, it's probably best for Neil to just keep up the same antics that got him where he is.

Which brings us to this afternoon.


Friday, June 10, 2016

A little late this week

The fake radio show was recorede on Monday night but took a while to get it uploaded. The legislature stuff isn't funny ha ha, exactly, but the rest of it isn't bad. Hurricane Season, parking in the quarter, various happenings and cetera.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

All is probably not lost

For some reason Saints fans are despairing today because the team has to replace 4 sacks it got from a a guy who proved he couldn't play linebacker last year.  I think they'll be able to handle that.
The New Orleans Saints effort to revamp their defense took a hit after defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha suffered a torn ACL during practice earlier this week, according to a source.

Kikaha figured to be a major piece of the defense, and the team was planning to move him down to defensive end to help aid with the pass rush this season. The former second-round pick served as a strongside linebacker last season and finished the year with four sacks and four forced fumbles.
Really, it will be fine. That same story goes on to talk about how Kikaha was looking real good at "coming out of his hips and attacking square" or whatever while the team was running around in shorts this week.  There are several other guys already on the roster capable of being described in nonsensical coachspeak. You'll see. It will happen all summer.

Besides that the Saints already brought back the team sacks leader from 2011.  It'll be fine.

Nobody actually lives here

Latest "data scrape" from InsideAirnb. There are 4316 listings in New Orleans. 72% of those are whole home rentals. Mitch Landrieu wants to encourage more of that.

Update: Meanwhile... 
Tourists planning to pop over to Berlin for a weekend break may have to give up on the hipster dream of living like a local in a spacious loft apartment, and get back into the habit of staying in an old-fashioned hotel room instead.

Airbnb and other short-term letting agencies face a bleak future in the German capital after the city’s administrative court on Wednesday upheld a de facto ban on short-term rentals, in a landmark ruling that could inspire similar restrictions in cities around Europe.

Under the ban, in effect since 1 May, people who let more than 50% of their apartment on a short-term basis without a permit from the city risk a fine of €100,000 (£78,000).
But Mitch doesn't care about global trends and "best practices" anymore. 

I strongly disagree with Kalen

She concludes a post about the Airbnb travesty this way.
It’s a simple truth: Any housing unit being used exclusively as a short-term rental is no longer available as a home for an actual New Orleanian.

The post-Katrina era is over; now it’s simply the time when greed wins… and we used to be better than that.
Sorry, no. We were never better than that. Greed and exploitation has been the key theme to understanding the whole of New Orleans's post-Katrina "recovery" experience. There's no America to be Made Great Again here. We were in a poor and sinking city before the disaster and afterward what was left of that poor and sinking city was fed bit by bit to a neoliberal profit-taking machine. We failed to stop that from happening. We were always going to fail. 

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Why does Mitch Landrieu hate renters?

Getting closer to crunch time on this Airbnb issue.
Airbnb-style rentals on a commercial scale would be legal in residential neighborhoods under a set of rules the City Planning Commission will consider.

The commission, considering a regulatory framework in January, shot down so-called "principal residential" rentals, which are homes in residential neighborhoods that are rented out in their entirety by off-site owners or managers. Commissioners said at the time that opening the door to whole-home rentals in residential areas had too much potential to disrupt neighborhood cohesion and character.

Despite that rebuff, Mayor Mitch Landrieu asked that principal-residential rentals be included in legislation as the issue moves through the planning process. At his request, the City Council in May instructed the commission's staff to include principal-residential rentals as it translated the regulatory framework into a set of formal zoning amendments. The commission is set to consider whether to endorse the amendments at its meeting Tuesday (June 14).
Just the other day we noted (for the millionth time.. we've been on this for years now) that this policy decision would run exactly counter to the collected wisdom from the experience of cities around the world.  I thought Mitch was all about adopting "best practices." What happened?

Failure to root




Between the rebels in the House and the various rogue Governors running around, John Bel Edwards has pretty much gotten his butt kicked all over the place his first six months in office. So far we've seen one special session fail to fix a budget shortfall, a regular session that failed to deliver a capital outlay budget at all, and special session part two looks like it's unraveling right out of the gate.
The governor wants to approve $600 million in taxes to prevent cuts to the TOPS scholarship program, K-12 schools, public colleges and universities, safety net hospitals and the state prison system. Edwards has made this pitch in private meetings with lawmakers in recent days and again in a joint address to the House and Senate on Tuesday morning.

But the governor ran into a wall of opposition among Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee to his proposals that would raise individual income taxes by taking away tax deductions or by changing tax brackets.

Republicans used their 12-7 majority on the committee to keep those tax measures from advancing.

All three of them would have hit upper- and middle-income taxpayers in the pocketbook, in a state where the poor pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes.

Not advancing was House Bill 11. It would limit the deduction on state income taxes that individuals can claim from the itemized deductions they take on their federal tax returns that are in excess of the federal standard deduction. Under the proposal by state Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston, taxpayers would be allowed to take 57.5 percent of the deduction, instead of 100 percent today. The change would raise $116 million.

A study by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based group, shows that taxpayers who earn more than $103,000 would shoulder 76 percent of the tax increase.
It's not easy when you're negotiating with people who don't actually care whether anything gets funded so long as their wealthy friends and backers are protected. But the game here is to beat those people. And so far Governor Edwards hasn't figured out how to do it.

Thus we witness his failure to rein in the school voucher program or pass a minimum wage increase or equal pay law. On top of that, consider Edwards's decision to sign the absurd "Blue Lives Matter" bill as well as the most heinous abortion restriction passed by any state this year and, well, the bloom really does fall off the magnolia tree pretty quickly.

Were it not for the Medicaid expansion, one wonders if things would be any different at all now if we had just elected David Vitter.

Update: The good news is they seem to have rescued the trees.  So score one for Governor Edwards today.  He needed that.