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Monday, December 11, 2017

The NFL is a failing empire

I was all set to write a thing about myopic Saints fans whining about #TheRefs after the Falcons game.  The gist would have been this. I don't understand why football fans deliberately pour so much unhealthy resentment into this thing they ostensibly do for fun.   Referees, like the athletes they're charged with regulating, are humans. They do unpredictable things.  Sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they make egregious mistakes. Sometimes they just out and out suck.  It's suboptimal when they do not suck in our team's favor.  But it's no less entertaining. Or, at least, it shouldn't be.

There's a necessary catharsis in the revelation that humans, particularly humans invested with petty authority, have no idea what they're actually doing.  The triumph of absurdity over authority is probably the most compelling theme in sports. That it doesn't always work out in your team's favor doesn't make it any less interesting. Sometimes two teams' week of intense preparation gets thrown out the window because they suddenly have to play in a blizzard. Sometimes there's a butt fumble.  Sometimes a Hall Of Fame Quarterback throws an idiotic interception in the endzone with the game on the line.  Sometimes a dude just throws a flag into the stands and walks out. I would argue that it's these moments and not the rare, fleeting moments of triumph that we actually pay to see. What seem like are little failures are actually reasons for hope.  The world is cruel and unjust.  It's encouraging to remember that even its most crushingly brutal systems can be upended by chance.

Having said all of that, we were reminded this weekend that the world is not only cruel and unjust but also corrupt. It's fitting, then, that the failing empire note we began this football season with should assert itself so brazenly into the narrative.
A pair of stories came to light Sunday that likely will make people in New Orleans look at the NFL sideways.

The league used a former Atlanta Falcons player on the officiating crew for the Saints game Thursday against the Falcons, and it hired a key member of the so-called bounty scandal to work for the league office.
The former Falcon ref isn't the big deal here. But it is funny and adds spice to the larger farce that is the Cerullo hiring.  It's a clear abuse of power by the league office where the personal grudges against Sean Payton obviously continue to fester.
Meanwhile, Fox’s Jay Glazer reported Sunday morning that the NFL has hired former Saints employee Mike Cerullo as a director of football administration.

Cerullo, who was a defensive assistant for the Saints, was the whistleblower who provided the evidence needed for the league to start its bounty investigation against the Saints in 2011. The team said he held a grudge against the organization for being fired.

Cerullo has since worked as Princeton's director of football operations before being hired by the league. The league office said he has no input on disciplinary matters.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton responded to the news on Twitter.

“Troubling report by @JayGlazer regarding league hiring of fired @Saints employee,” Payton wrote. “Unbelievable.”
It's still probably not worth going apoplectic about the quality of the officiating. Sometimes it's bad and failure to be perfect is what this game is all about, really.  But it's now, at least, credible to stipulate that it the officiating is, not only poor, but also... "rigged" isn't the word.. weighted(?) against the Saints a little bit.  Previously I would have thought that was stupid. So, you know, new things are happening. That's fun.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Hotel Edmonson

Trip Advisor: The amenities are pretty ok. But for such an exclusive establishment,  we expected a bit more. The gym and the pool are pretty nice but lack the "wow" factor of something like,  say, the lazy river over on the LSU campus. On the other hand, we were really impressed with the service.
Among the allegations Edmonson faces is that, unlike previous superintendents, he moved his family into the State Police compound and lived there rent-free for nine years — a benefit that the state apparently did not report to the Internal Revenue Service.

State auditors recently found that the Edmonsons lived off inmate labor, making use of trusties who cooked, cleaned and even walked the family dog at the colonel's residence. The questionable use of state resources included the construction of a shoe closet for Edmonson's wife.
All in all we would probably book again. You can't beat the rates anywhere. Next time we'll look into one of these excursion packages.
Other regular guests included Senior Trooper Thurman D. Miller and Lt. Derrell Williams, both of whom were disciplined this year for taking a circuitous "side trip" to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon as they drove across the country to attend a law enforcement conference in California.
While the base rates are gratis, you might still want to bring a credit card along for incidentals.  We can help you find one with a favorable payment schedule.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Time capsule

This was recorded a week ago which seems like a lifetime. I mean, that's two whole Saints games ago now. But there's some good stuff. Trump tax cuts, local election aftermath, a review of the Discovery of Voyager show at the Music Box. Other stuff, of course. Anyway, enjoy. Or don't.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Snowball

Huey Long's Share Our Wealth radio address 1934
But the Scripture says, ladies and gentlemen, that no country can survive, or for a country to survive it is necessary that we keep the wealth scattered among the people, that nothing should keep the wealth scattered among the people, that nothing should be held permanently by any one person, and that 50 years seems to be the year of jubilee in which all property would be scattered about and returned to the sources from which it originally came, and every seventh year debt should be remitted.

Those two things the Almighty said to be necessary—I should say He knew to be necessary, or else He would not have so prescribed that the property would be kept among the general run of the people, and that everyone would continue to share in it; so that no one man would get half of it and hand it down to a son, who takes half of what was left, and that son hand it down to another one, who would take half of what was left, until, like a snowball going downhill, all of the snow was off of the ground except what the snowball had.
The disastrous Republican tax plan being hammered out in Congress now will either repeal or greatly reduce the estate tax.  Here is how that would affect the snowball.
Mother Jones spoke with Americans for Tax Fairness, an advocacy group focused on progressive tax reform, about how these changes to the estate tax will benefit the ultra-wealthy, specifically the top 15 richest Americans, as ranked and reported by Forbes. If the exemptions are doubled, each estate would save $4.4 million for a couple, or $2.2 million for a single person. And if the tax is repealed, that’s where things get interesting: According to numbers crunched by Americans for Tax Fairness, in that scenario, the people who inherit money from this tiny group of people could potentially save more than a whopping $300 billion combined. And the families of GOP-megadonors Charles and David Koch could collectively save nearly $39 billion, while the heirs of Republican kingmaker and moneyman Sheldon Adelson could be looking at $14 billion.
Aaanyway. Here are some photos of a big kitty in the snow today to cheer everyone up. 

Sean Payton and Drew Brees should just retire

One could argue that Sean Payton personally lost the game last night.
ATLANTA -- The New Orleans Saints could have had one last chance to tie or win Thursday's game against the Atlanta Falcons, but a penalty on coach Sean Payton ended any hope the team had.

After the Saints defense stopped the Falcons on second down, with linebacker Michael Mauti forcing a fumble by Devonta Freeman but one Atlanta recovered, Payton tried to call the team's third and final timeout to stop the clock with about 1 minutes, 5 seconds remaining. But, the nearest official apparently didn't give Payton the timeout immediately, which led the coach to run onto the field and yell at the official.

The screaming resulted an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Saints' bench and gave the Falcons a first down that allowed them to run out the rest of the clock and seal a 20-17 victory.

"I called a timeout and then (the official) asked me again and I said, 'I've already called a timeout,'" Payton said after the game. "I probably said it with a little more oomph or vigor than I was supposed to, but I'd had enough. I got to be smarter than that."
Had Payton managed to restrain himself, the Saints could have ended up with the ball and about 20 seconds left to do something desperate. So maybe it's a bit far fetched to say he lost the game there. On the other hand, he did decide to throw the ball on 2nd and 10 down by three and in easy field goal range with timeouts left. It probably wasn't his idea to throw an interception at that point. But if it was, then it was a bad one.

But rather than worry about whether the loss last night was more the coach's or the quarterback's fault, I have a more interesting question.  Why does either of them still do this?  They've each played a long time and made all the money they'll ever need. They won a Superbowl together so there's not a compelling football reason to keep at it. Brees is 76 years old and yet he continues to subject his body to obscene physical punishment in full knowledge of the danger he is in.
Given all the injuries, it wasn't surprising quarterback Drew Brees didn't hold back when asked about playing after a short week of preparation.

"It's 100 percent a product of playing on Thursday night," Brees said. "You understand what guy's bodies go through in a game, and then to turn around four days later and play a game?

"Look at the injury studies. They're off the charts. Is this smart, as it pertains to guys' health and safety? No, absolutely not."
The NFL is a grueling bloodsport. It appropriates vast sums of public money into the hands of billionaires while grinding human bones, joints and brains into powder.  Brees is aware that he and so many others are fodder for this exploitation. He's among the lucky minority to make it through the abattoir with his financial security and (maybe) his health intact.  Why doesn't he just quit while he's ahead?

Payton doesn't face the same physical hazards but he does have a ridiculously stressful and demanding job. Especially so for someone who, again, has made a ton of money and attained the highest achievement possible.  Maybe he just enjoys the aggravation of a boss who persecutes subordinates when they question obvious incompetence.  
The NFL will evaluate New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton's conduct toward the referees in Thursday night's loss to the Atlanta Falcons, according to multiple reports.

It doesn't seem healthy, though.  Why do they keep doing these unhealthy jobs?

Thursday, December 07, 2017

S&WB/Veolia thread

Not everybody uses Twitter. But anyone can look at it when the occasion arises. Here is a thread for you.

Big gun

LaToya hired a lawyer.
An attorney for New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell is fighting a bid by Attorney General Jeff Landry's office to recuse all 12 judges of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court from its investigation into her credit-card activity as a councilwoman.

Cantrell has hired a legal heavy hitter, attorney Billy Gibbens, a former federal prosecutor who has defended several high-profile criminal defendants and government targets.
Which is fine. I mean, the state Attorney General is going after her in what is, for him, an obvious attempt to score political points around Louisiana by harassing the Mayor-Elect of  New Orleans over corruption allegations.  Landry is basically already running for Governor and this stunt certainly doesn't figure to hurt his chances. Grace points out in this column that by jumping the gun on a concurrent legislative auditor's investigation, Landry might actually screw it all up. That would be unfortunate and amusing in equal parts.

At the same time, somebody should probably be looking into the entitled ways in which the city's political leadership throws around public money. Like we said during the campaign, it's unfortunate the way the credit card story was reduced to a cheap political attack. But that doesn't mean it's not worth pursuing. There's a tight circle of developers, non-profit socialites, and financiers who presume to run things in New Orleans. This looks like a story that might tie into that.

Anyway, the money club faction is riding pretty high having just installed Cantrell as the next mayor.  So we're pretty okay with watching them squirm now.  It would be nice if Landry would butt out of the process, but I guess we can't have everything.
 
But here's the thing.  Cantrell hired a big time lawyer.
Cantrell is only the latest big name on Gibbens' client list. That roster also has included Darren Sharper, the former Saints safety and admitted serial rapist; Robert Durst, the New York real estate heir and reality TV celebrity murder suspect; and local trash magnate Fred Heebe.

Led by Gibbens, Heebe's aggressive counter-attack while in the crosshairs of the FBI included exposing the notorious online posting scandal inside former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office.
It could be that's overkill.  Even if she doesn't think there's anything to the investigation, the stakes are pretty high when you are the Mayor-Elect so it's a good idea not to take anything for granted.  On the other hand, that's a big gun hire. Maybe there's something else to it. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Snow

I'll take the under if we're betting on this. But that's not important. In the case of a possible light dusting, there are, as always, two pertinent questions. 1) Can the pumps handle it?  2)  When do we shut down the city and give everyone the day off?

Kicking each other (and you) off the internet

I dunno. Maybe content should be universally accessible across platforms and networks instead of subject to artificial proprietary fragmentation benefiting one or another oligopolic megaliths.
The latest standoff between Google and Amazon was ridiculed by a trade association of high-speed internet providers. The group, USTelecom, has been trying to persuade skeptics that internet providers will preserve equal access to all digital services, even if the Federal Communications Commission adopts a proposal to rescind current "net neutrality" regulations .

Internet providers are committed to "protections like no content blocking or throttling," said USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter. "Seems like some of the biggest internet companies can't say the same. Ironic, isn't it?"


 Or maybe this is the best of all possible worlds. Who is to say?

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Why is the news fake?

Yeah yeah, the President is a totalitarian ogre who thrives on de-legitimatizing the authority of the press and the very possibility of objective facts.  And, yeah yeah, that's not exactly a new part of the right wing playbook with copious examples accumulated over the course of the past century.    Yeah yeah, David Brock created a bunch of Upworthy style propaganda websites that took advantage of Facebook algorithms in order to promote the Clinton campaign. There's a lot of bad political info out there.

But if you really want to know why "fake news" has traction as an epithet, it's because a lot of the news is, in fact, fake.
Interviews with more than two dozen marketers, journalists, and others familiar with similar pay-for-play offers revealed a dubious corner of online publishing in which publicists, ranging from individuals like Satyam to medium-sized “digital marketing firms” that blur traditional lines between advertising and public relations, quietly pay off journalists to promote their clients in articles that make no mention of the financial arrangement.People involved with the payoffs are extremely reluctant to discuss them, but four contributing writers to prominent publications including Mashable, Inc, Business Insider, and Entrepreneur told me they have personally accepted payments in exchange for weaving promotional references to brands into their work on those sites. Two of the writers acknowledged they have taken part in the scheme for years, on behalf of many brands
Maybe the "traditional lines between advertising and PR" would be less blurry if media companies were invested in keeping them un-blurred.  One good way to do that would be to pay writers. Instead, they offer "opportunities" to freelancers looking to build a "personal brand."  
The Fast Company writer also defended the practice by arguing that it’s enabled by editors who are hungry for cheap or unpaid blog content. Many high-volume sites, including the Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and Forbes, maintain networks of unpaid contributors who publish large amounts of material. Forbes, for instance, marks articles by contributors with a small disclaimer, but the Columbia Journalism Review has pointed out that those dubiously sourced articles are often cited as though they were normal stories written by Forbes staff. In reality, the editorial process that leads to those articles being published is opaque — a Forbes spokesperson declined to answer questions about how many contributors the site has, whether they’re ever paid, or whether an editor reviews their work before publication. One former Forbes contributor, Josh Steimle, has even offered a “masterclass” on how to get published on the site, an accomplishment he described as “rewarding for both my personal brand and my digital marketing agency.”

For writers willing to accept payments in exchange for coverage, that’s an opportunity.
So everybody climbs all over each other in a competition for piecework or even unpaid piecework in the hope that can be monetized somehow. And it turns out the way to monetize a "personal brand" is to sell out one's.. person..  to advertisers. It's a practice that debases not only the exploited labor but also the "brands" of the capitalist media companies who enable and profit by it.  Eventually nobody believes the news is real anymore. Why would they?

But that's the gig economy.  Our hyper-individualized society forces us to "brand" our private selves, our hobbies, our free time, and, yes, homes, into saleable (the euphemism is shareable) products. Sometimes these opportunities converge. Such as when an STR marketer sends an automated pitch to your blog based on keywords.
Hi Jeffrey,

I hope this message finds you well.

While researching about travel, my team noticed the Airbnb mention you have on Library Chronicles. My name is Andrea and I’m part of the Creative Team at AllTheRooms, a vacation rental search engine. Our aim is to make travelers’ lives easier.

You are welcome to link www.alltherooms.com to your page as well. AllTheRooms shows results from every major booking site on the Internet, including Airbnb, Couchsurfing, Hostelworld, Expedia, Booking.com, and any other major booking site on the Internet. We believe it would be a great addition to your article.

If you have any questions about AllTheRooms, we would be happy to answer them.

Thank you,

Andrea & the Creative Team
They didn't offer one million dollars so I never got back to them.

I am available to be the next Resilience Officer

It's a perfect situation because you get to keep your day job(s).
Landrieu first hired Hebert to oversee blight reduction in 2010. The mayor then used never-before-seen influence to cause the independent New Orleans Redevelopment Authority to hire Hebert as its executive director. Landrieu then appointed Hebert the city’s first chief resilience officer, an umbrella title that allowed Hebert to keep overseeing NORA while working directly for the Landrieu administration.
And from there you get to go and invent whatever consulting/contracting gig ends up replacing whatever governmental function is most in need of privatization a resilience overhaul.  In Hebert's case, it was water management. 
The Water Institute, where Hebert will soon work, is no stranger to New Orleans. It was part of the interim management team that, until last week, was leading the S&WB in the aftermath of two devastating floods last summer in which the city's drainage system failed.

In a press release announcing that the team would include Ehab Meselhe the Water Institute's vice president for science and engineering, the group's president and CEO was quoted as saying, “We look forward to delivering actionable recommendations for immediate, near-term, and long-term steps that not only address emergency flood issues, but also inform future planning for long-term resilience that incorporate the most innovative practices of living with water."
So, yeah, I get that it's a fantastic networking opportunity. But my asking salary is still one million dollars.

Monday, December 04, 2017

"Wheel estate"

This is all very healthy and good. Things are going great.
My first encounter with one group of the new nomads came in 2013, at the Desert Rose RV park in Fernley, Nevada. It was populated by members of the “precariat”: temporary laborers doing short-term jobs in exchange for low wages. Its citizens were full-time wanderers who dwelled in RVs and other vehicles, though at least one guy had only a tent to live in. Many were in their 60s and 70s, approaching or well into traditional retirement age. Most could not afford to stop working – or pay the rent.

Since 2009, the year after the housing crash, groups of such workers had migrated each fall to the mobile home parks surrounding Fernley. Most had traveled hundreds of miles – and undergone the routine indignities of criminal background checks and pee-in-a-cup drug tests – for the chance to earn $11.50 an hour plus overtime at temporary warehouse jobs. They planned to stay through early winter, despite the fact that most of their homes on wheels weren’t designed to support life in subzero temperatures.

Their employer was Amazon.
It's interesting to watch the continuing discussion in town as New Orleans pretends to compete in the national sweepstakes for Amazon's new headquarters. We're all falling over each other to "incentivize" them to bring the good jobs to town.  Your excitement over this prospect is directly related to whether you imagine yourself among the employees of HQ2 or whether you're more likely to be booted out of the way so those employees can pay the rents you can't.

But, hey, life on the road sounds exciting.

Forget about it, it's Trash Town

Very good to see the trash men who rule us are finally able to put aside their differences and allow their system of rote bribery to continue apace.
Nearly five years after federal authorities abruptly abandoned a massive corruption investigation targeting local landfill owner Fred Heebe, a civil case with similar contours — this one brought by a competitor in the sometimes bare-knuckles trash-disposal business — was settled on the eve of what was expected to be a two-week trial starting Monday in federal court.

Given that the feds never brought charges, the trial over Waste Management’s civil racketeering claim against Heebe and his stepfather, Jim Ward, looked likely to be the closest thing to a public airing of the allegations that investigators were exploring before they gave up the chase.

Now those issues may never be aired. The terms of the 11th-hour settlement, reached Thursday, are confidential, according to court records.
I don't keep up with such things the way some people do but I do still wonder if Heebe and Ward have ever thanked Sal Perricone for his service. These days we're never quite sure whether or not the President is going to start a war by posting a fart noise on Twitter. But if one guy saying racist things in NOLA.com comments could derail a whole federal racketeering investigation, then we may only be beginning to scratch the surface of what is possible.

This article laments the things we may now never learn about River Birch. But another benefit of living in the Age of Trump is that it probably doesn't matter what comes to light or doesn't now. Nobody is ever going to be held accountable.  Besides, what more brazen admission than this are we hoping for?
The now-aborted trial appeared likely to provide a window into the broader allegation that River Birch built a web of influence by illegally subverting Louisiana campaign laws.

A summary of the two sides’ cases drawn up by Engelhardt noted that Ward, in his deposition, “incredibly admitted that River Birch made campaign contributions to Broussard through various shell companies in order to give more than the legal maximum of $5,000 to Broussard and ‘to make it not as obvious to anybody that’s looking into the records as to what is going on.’ ”

Most of the shell companies were in the name of Dominick Fazzio, River Birch’s chief financial officer, who had a low public profile until he was indicted amid the federal probe. The feds later dropped their case against Fazzio, who had been expected to testify at the trial.
And remember this is what Engelhardt will write even as he's the person responsible for keeping most of this bottled up through his rulings in this civil case and through his role in reacting to Perricone's impact on the Danziger trial. As we sink further and further in to the kleptocratic hellworld, Engelhardt is nothing if not an appropriate judge for such times. Looks like he's also being recognized for his service.
Engelhardt, who was nominated to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, may be in his final weeks in his current post. President Donald Trump has nominated him for a spot on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, located next door to the federal district courthouse.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Another one

That FNBC collapse sure did touch on a lot of the "cultural economy" ventures around town.
Ticket holders for a concert scheduled this month at the Carver Theater received an email that the venue — built in 1950 and recently renovated with the aid of a slate of tax credits — “is permanently closed” as of Nov. 14.

Eugene Oppman, who has owned the building since 1987, says the collapse of First NBC Bank Holding Company spelled doom for the theater, which worked with the state and tax credits to secure loans to fund renovations before its grand reopening in 2014.

It's almost as if we have a little circle of non-profit, fundraisers, socialites, and bankers who constantly make mutually beneficial decisions about what should be done with public money or something. Imagine that.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Don't ever fight City Hall

Hey guess what. Amidst all the other crazy crap going on, the 2018 city budget was passed today.  We can barely remember the hearings. The public meetings were all cancelled what with the elections and all.  Wonder if those will ever come back.

Anyway among the interesting items in here are some cryptic comments for LaToya about the $16 million worth of traffic camera revenue that maybe they'll look at replacing, you know, next year or something.

Also there's this regarding the mountain of money the city owed to various people due to court judgements over the years.
Among the other budget highlights is a $2 million allocation for the city's judgments fund, which can be used to pay the city's huge backlog of unpaid judgments. The city owes a total of $41 million to people who have obtained court judgments against the city, some of which have gone unpaid since the 1990s. The $2 million allocation adds to $4 million already being set aside for the judgments.

Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni said that the city attorney's office is preparing to make offers to people with judgments on the list to settle the debt at 50 cents on the dollar, or to receive a 10 percent payment up front and remain on the list.
Yeah well good luck to the "winners" in those cases. Don't ever fight City Hall. Especially if you plan on winning.

Confederacy of Dunces: Landrieu edition

Staring Cousin Ken and Phyllis as Ignatius and Irene.
A state judge sentenced the cousin of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and son of former Orleans Parish School Board member Phyllis Landrieu to one year of home arrest and two years of probation on Friday for pulling a gun on another driver in the Lower Garden District in 2015.

The beefy businessman will be allowed to leave the home he shares with his mother to run her errands and take her to doctor's appointments between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., but he will be forced to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet when he does it.
Also congratulations to Cousin Ken on actually achieving house arrest status. It's something Mitch only came close to getting.

QOTD

Alvin Kamara:
"I felt like he wanted to get jumped over, so I just jumped over him," Kamara said of the Rams' Webster. "I've had two in the NFL now, and two in college against Vanderbilt in 2015. It was the same thing. 'All right, I'm just going to jump over the dude.' A lot of it is instinctual."
No big deal. Just flying over dudes whenever.

Also Bradley leads off with Kamara this week at B&G before getting into some stage-setting stuff about the rest of the season.  In short, here's what we know about this year's Saints.
So far, they’re a team with a sterling record against the 2017 NFL’s big middle class, but a 1-3 record against its top tier. These Saints have a lot of pretty okay wins over teams hovering around .500, but only one (their first win, over Carolina) against a fellow current member of its ruling elite.
I'm not sure either the Saints or the Panthers belong among the league's "elite," frankly. But they are playing for first place Sunday so that's nice. 

On the other hand, just don't get too disappointed if things start to go sideways for the Saints from here on out. They're less healthy now than they've been. The defense clearly has suffered from that.  They're not going to replace the production they were getting from Alex Okafor. It looks like they're without Marshon Lattimore for another week. And it's not clear that even Ken Crawley is going to be able to give them very much. There are problems on offense too. But I'm not really here trying to write a whole thing about that today.

Instead, I'm just ducking in to say they're about to play a tough stretch against division rivals on a short week and they could easily lose those and that could easily be where the season falls apart.  So, you know, manage those expectations. It's time.

They're going to pass it

The Republicans appear to have finally figured out that they actually do control all of the government and can therefore do whatever they want. It only took them all year.

This is the most radical piece of legislation to go through congress in decades. It will fundamentally shift the balance of power, opportunity, and wealth into the hands of an already dangerously entrenched elite caste of oligarchs. It is pretty much a death knell to what is left of Medicaid and Social Security and a host of other vital federal government functions we've come to take for granted.  Besides blowing things up, of course. There will still be money for that. It's impossible to overstate the catastrophic damage this tax bill will cause.

Meanwhile, in another dimension, #Resistance people are celebrating the Michael Flynn plea. But the whole Trump Administration could be in jail by January and none of it matters once this bill passes. It's all a big Mission Accomplished.

What are they doing in France?

I mean, besides running up the ol' city credit card again har har har... But what is that specific roster of folks doing in France? Here is a thread.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

What if your best practices are actually the worst?

Leaving aside the general corruption, arrogance and preference for predatory capitalism that characterizes all of American politics at all levels, is there anything more annoying than the common reliance on groupthink driven circular rhetoric?  Few have mastered this idiom more thoroughly than Waning Mayor Mitch Landrieu.  Nobody condescends more confidently and less substantively than he does.
Landrieu first described his public safety initiative after a shooting on Bourbon Street in November 2016 left one dead and nine injured. Paid for with money from the city and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the plan focuses heavily on increasing surveillance, both by adding city-owned cameras and by accessing feeds from cameras owned by private individuals and businesses, though the latter policy still needs City Council approval.

Officials cut the ribbon on the central hub for monitoring all those feeds last week, and Landrieu responded to questions about the potential privacy implications.

"If you’re out in public, it is highly likely in this day and age you’re going to be filmed by some camera or somebody holding a phone," he said. "I just think that’s the new day and age that we’re in, and people should conduct themselves accordingly.
You may have concerns about abuse of state power, threats to privacy, civil liberties, etc. Maybe some of those concerns are legitimate. Maybe some aren't as bad as you might think at first. There's a lot to discuss. Maybe you thought politics was the process by which you raised this discussion.  But that's not how it works.

Politics is, in fact, the process by which elite class individuals like Mitch Landrieu instruct you on the things you have to get used to now. We call these, "best practices."  A best practice, loosely defined, is the lowest common denominator derived from the set of things everybody is already doing.  A best practice is self-legitimizing. If it happens to be a horror, it is your responsibility to adjust. We call that resilience.

Maybe the Independent Police Monitor disagrees but it hardly matters. At least they tried.
In a public letter issued Wednesday, the Office of Independent Police Monitor also questioned whether the $40 million plan, which the mayor first unveiled almost a year ago, will have a substantial impact on crime.

“As with any law enforcement data system housing private information about citizens, there is a potential for mismanagement, poor information security, public record law compliance challenges and user abuse,” the letter warned.

It added that while surveillance capabilities are being beefed up, the plan does not "earmark resources or personnel to monitor the implementation of the plan.”
The IPM's letter didn't just raise these questions, it also examined some of these "best practices" in other cites where similar surveillance systems are installed.  It cites evidence of abuse in Great Britain where, unfortunately, only Benny Hill was available to operate the cameras.
A review of 592 hours of government-run CCTV monitoring system footage in London found that 10% of surveillance of women lasted more than one minute, and 15% of surveillance of women for shorter periods was voyeuristic. In 2007, a police supervisor in Worcester, England was suspended after improperly manipulating surveillance cameras to focus in on women’s breasts and buttocks.
It also lists instances of stalking, assault, and evidence tampering by police using surveillance systems in New York, California, and Ohio.  It points out the racism inherent in the way the systems are deployed. Here is a congressional study referenced in the letter which found that even the cameras themselves are racist.
According to a 2017 study from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, other technologies implied by the plan but not explicitly mentioned, such as facial recognition cameras, have been shown to disproportionately misidentify black people as suspects.
There are other issues raised. How long will data be retained? Is it available to third parties? Does it make sense to spend public money on this stuff when there are other budgetary priorities? Most importantly, there's no clear evidence the cameras reduce crime. The letter also cites multiple studies to make this point.
A 2008 study by the University of Southern California (“USC”) found that Los Angeles’ camera network made no statistically-significant impact on reducing violent crime, property crime, or quality of life crime, such as prostitution or public drunkenness. Similarly, a 2009 study by the University of California at Berkeley found that San Francisco’s cameras made no statistically significant impact on reducing violent crime, drug crime, or quality of life crime, while only making some impact on reducing property crime. A 2005 review of 13 studies in England found no statistically-significant impact on reducing violent crime, and a statistically-significant reduction in property crime in only two of the thirteen locations studied, one of which was a parking lot. A 2008 review by USC of 44 studies in the United States and abroad concluded that none of the domestic studies found a statistically-significant impact on reducing crime, and that any impact found in foreign studies was limited to property crime.
So the "best practices" are actually quite problematic and behaviors aren't changing despite the fact that everybody is on camera now.  "People should conduct themselves accordingly," says Mitch to all that. But, even if we accept this as a desirable outcome, it still isn't happening no matter how many times he asserts that it should.

Waxing Mayor Cantrell just finished up a campaign where she hammered hard on the theme of "listening" to people.  Will she be more likely to take legitimate complaints about surveillance seriously? She isn't starting from a very encouraging position. 
Landrieu said his administration is working with the City Council to write legislation that would require bars to install surveillance cameras that will feed into the center.

Landrieu mentioned the possibility of consequences if businesses don't allow the city security cameras to be placed outside on public streets. He said the cameras are in businesses best interests.

"This is public safety and it really matters both inside and outside. Of course as soon as something happens outside an establishment they call the police, they want them there," Landrieu said. "I can't imagine them not cooperating. It would just make a lot of sense for them to do that and we'll work on what the consequences … in unison with the City Council."

“It’s better and better than I ever imagined,” Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell said of the center and its capabilities. “This is the right step in the right direction at the right time.
Oh dear.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Second time this month

It's getting to where a person is less inclined to trust the local oysters. Even if one was already pretty wary.
State wildlife agents cited 16 men for allegedly harvesting oysters in a polluted area in Terrebonne Parish.

According to the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, agents spotted six boats dredging oysters from a polluted area in the Sister Lake area, about 10 miles west of Cocodrie, on Nov. 24.

Nine of the suspects were residents of Houma, two were from Montegut, two were from Gray, and one each was from Bourg, Theroit and San Leon, Texas. The suspects' ages ranged from 22 to 61. It didn't appear that all the boats were working together, 
Of course one can be wary and yet this all went into last week's dressing.



The tax bill is soo bad

It's comically bad. There's no way to overstate how bad it is. I know there's a lot going on just now but take a minute and read through it again. It's a freaking disaster. And it's picking up momentum.

Why is it a "dress code"?

Cam Newton refers to his personal style sense... meaning just the clothes that he owns... as a "dress code." 
When the New Orleans Saints defeated the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte in Week 3, Cam Jordan had a little fun in the post-game locker room, poking fun at some of Cam Newton's interesting clothing choices.

"Anytime he tried to scoot out, we showed up on his high heels. Not that he wears high heels -- I don’t think so yet, right?" Jordan asked reporters after the game. "I mean, he’s gone with the grandma hat and the onesie. The Coachella onesie?"

Now that the Saints and Panthers are on track for a mammoth matchup Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Newton was reminded of Jordan's comments Wednesday and shot back.

"I didn’t know he was a fan of my dress code," Newton said, according to the Charlotte Observer. "Obviously he’s been paying attention. Nevertheless, that’s flattering to me. If he sends me his address, I can send him some sauce.

"I've seen the way (Jordan) dresses too, so – not that this is a fashion show or anything."
The Cam and Cam Catwalk show, maybe. Anyway, Katzenstein followed up by getting one more quote from Jordan here.

We're all a little worried, frankly. Despite their 8-3 record, the closest thing the Saints have to what you might call a "quality win" this year is that Week 3 game at Carolina. Now that's coming back around. And the Panthers are healthier now than they were then while the Saints are less so.   It's been fun watching the Saints get hot during their recent stretch. But I'm not convinced this goes much further from here on out.

Kicking you off the internet

It's actually been less of a swift kick and more of a gradual lowering of everybody down off the internet. Kind of like coastal erosion, maybe. Anyway, like I've been saying for years, this was always going to happen. Because it's always been happening.
The internet’s singular power, in its early gold-rush days, was its flexibility. People could imagine a dazzling array of new uses for the network, and as quick as that, they could build and deploy them — a site that sold you books, a site that cataloged the world’s information, an application that let you “borrow” other people’s music, a social network that could connect you to anyone.

You didn’t need permission for any of this stuff; some of these innovations ruined traditional industries, some fundamentally altered society, and many were legally dubious. But the internet meant you could just put it up, and if it worked, the rest of the world would quickly adopt it.

But if flexibility was the early internet’s promise, it was soon imperiled. In 2003, Tim Wu, a law professor now at Columbia Law School (he’s also a contributor to The New York Times), saw signs of impending corporate control over the growing internet. Broadband companies that were investing great sums to roll out faster and faster internet service to Americans were becoming wary of running an anything-goes network.

Some of the new uses of the internet threatened their bottom line. People were using online services as an alternative to paying for cable TV or long-distance phone service. They were connecting devices like Wi-Fi routers, which allowed them to share their connections with multiple devices. At the time, there were persistent reports of broadband companies seeking to block or otherwise frustrate these new services; in a few years, some broadband providers would begin blocking new services outright.
It's been fun. 

Magic downturn

If we don't need a "trigger" because the magic tax cuts will bring us super awesome growth, then why are they so worried about it?
It’s not clear what exactly GOP leaders promised Corker, who declined to share specifics with reporters. He said the amendment will be included in an updated version of the bill that is likely to be released publicly on Thursday.

But the constellation of groups funded by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers – including Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners – came out strongly against any trigger last night. They were joined by Grover Norquist from Americans for Tax Reform, the Wall Street Journal editorial board and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

They argue that a trigger, if it occurred, would likely increase taxes during an economic downturn, which they fear would cause stagnation. They also complain that it would inject even more uncertainty into the tax system, which would make it harder for businesses to plan their long-term investments.
But these are the people who keep telling us a "downturn" is impossible once the tax cuts are passed. Here's John Kennedy being all adamant about that while making a big goofy John Kennedy face.




If they're so confident, why are they also so worried?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Maybe John will be stupid enough to save the day

So what's going on here is Bob Corker wants to write in some emergency backstop "triggers" to the Senate version of the tax bill. You know, just in case the tax cuts for billionaires don't magically pay for themselves for the first time in the history of this long running scam idea.
Corker, an outspoken critic of the administration who recently announced he is not running for re-election, is not the only Republican pushing for this “backstop.”

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) also called for the measure in a press conference Monday.
“What if we don’t get 0.4 percent growth?” he asked, citing the number touted by GOP leadership as resulting directly from tax cuts. “Do we have realistic numbers and is there a backstop in the process just in case we don’t? We should build in the ‘What if?’ What if this doesn’t work? What changes might be needed in the tax code in the days ahead to be able to adjust in what scenario?”

Both Lankford and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) have pointed to the fiscal disaster in Kansas that resulted from a slew of massive tax cuts as a cautionary tale that should not be repeated on the federal level.
If we take Corker (and maybe one or two of these other guys) at his word, then that might mean failure to include at least some of these "triggers" could end up sinking the bill entirely.  And yet looking around the Finance Committee we find plenty of Senators stupid enough to blow it off. Like this guy here. 
Still, most GOP lawmakers insist, without citing their sources, that the tax bill won’t increase the deficit at all, let alone by more than $1 trillion.

“It will pay for itself,” declared Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA). “I would not vote for this bill if I thought it was going to increase the deficit.”

“Now, it might in the short term,” Kennedy allowed. “But in the medium term and the long term, I think it will pay for itself.”
In the "medium term" John might be out and running for Governor anyway so what does he care. But in the short term, if he's dumb enough to make Corker mad, maybe he's making this thing that much more difficult to pass.

Or maybe this is all wishful thinking.  In the long term, all any of these guys care about is giving big tax cuts to rich people. What are the chances that they fail at that again?
 

Fiscal cliffs

Lemmings

Anybody who has been watching the Louisiana budget process these past couple of years kind of knows this drill by now.
Due to the upper chamber’s arcane rules, Republicans can’t get their tax cuts out of the Senate — without Democratic help — unless their bill adds $0 to the deficit in the second decade after it’s passed. As of yesterday afternoon, Mitch McConnell’s tax plan appeared to put roughly $2 trillion on the national credit card between 2028 and 2038. And still, several members of his caucus were complaining that the bill did not cut taxes nearly enough.

So, it was difficult to see how Republicans could possibly solve their math problem without creating a fatal, political one. But last night, Orrin Hatch took a hatchet to his party’s tax legislation, and ended up achieving the seemingly impossible: The Utah senator found a way to keep the plan’s giant corporate tax cuts permanent, make its middle-class tax cuts more generous (in the near term), and cut the overall cost of tax package to $0 in 2028.

Hatch’s trick: Phase out (virtually) every tax cut that doesn’t benefit corporations in 2026, while also throwing 13 million people off of health insurance. The upshot of this is that, next year, almost no middle-income families lose out from the bill, and most upper-middle-class households come out ahead.

But, when the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2026, the middle-class tax cuts turn into a pumpkin — and President Trump’s tax plan becomes a giveaway to corporations funded by raising taxes on virtually everyone in the United States.
And that's so long from now there will be plenty of time for somebody (not this particular Congress, though) to "fix" it.  And when the time comes, the argument will be all about how we have a "spending problem, not a revenue problem."  Therefore some pragmatic Democrats will have no choice but to scrap Social Security.  If the lemmings read the book, they would know that lemmings don't actually jump off cliffs.  Neither do Republicans.  Instead, like the infamous Disney filmmakers here, they just run everyone else over the side and profit from the result. 

Maybe they proved "Too Big To Fail" isn't real

FNBC failed. From the looks of things the people most hurt by this are grifters and real estate vampires.
First NBC's absence from the market has already created ripple effects.

"I know people that were either right at the beginning of projects, or just about to break ground on projects, that got really stalled and really stuck by this," said Will Bradshaw, co-founder of a New Orleans-based real estate firm, Green Coast Enterprises.

Among other projects, Bradshaw is involved in turning the old Tulane Industrial Laundry building in Mid-City into a mixed-use development with commercial space and a dozen apartments, an effort that faced delays after its tax credit financing through First NBC fell apart with the bank's collapse.

Likewise, New Orleans actor Wendell Pierce voiced frustration that his effort to build affordable homes in Pontchartrain Park languished because his financing fizzled.

"You look at any development or any business that was with First NBC — it's a transition period of what Whitney wants to do or doesn't want to do, or other private investors," Pierce said in a recent interview. "It's still sorting itself out in so many businesses around the city and the region."

Other projects also faced setbacks, including a $15 million effort to redevelop the former Holy Cross School building in the Lower 9th Ward and plans to transform the former St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church and School in Marigny into a 71-room hotel and event space.
Not sure what the downside is here. 

They might actually pass it

What a damn disaster.
A House Republican lawmaker acknowledged on Tuesday that he’s facing pressure from donors to ensure the GOP tax-reform proposal gets done.

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) had been describing the flurry of lobbying from special interests seeking to protect favored tax provisions when a reporter asked if donors are happy with the tax-reform proposal.

“My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’ ” Collins replied.

Monday, November 27, 2017

So much winning

Today Jay Banks won a recount of the District B council votes requested by Seth Bloom. This comes a week after Banks won the recount of early and absentee votes performed last Tuesday. And, of course, all of it comes after Banks won the election on November 18.  Will Bloom make him have to win a fourth time in court?  Maybe.

Update: Or maybe not. This says Bloom conceded finally. Let's assume that's gonna stick.

The company store

The Amazon Sweepstakes was always going to get out of control. And yet, we regret we must still inform you that the Amazon Sweepstakes is out of control.
The e-commerce giant said last month that it had attracted 238 offers from cities that want to be the location for Amazon’s second headquarters. The company says it will spend $5bn (£3.8bn) on the new base, known as “HQ2”, which will employ 50,000 people.

Several of the cities’ bids have been published, revealing the lengths that authorities are willing to go to lay out the red carpet for big businesses.

Chicago and the state authorities of Illinois have jointly offered to hand Amazon more than $2bn in tax breaks, including $1.32bn of its workers’ income taxes. The scheme, known as a personal income tax diversion, would mean Amazon workers pay full income taxes, but instead of the state getting the money to use for schools, roads and other public services, Amazon would keep it.

A 2012 report by the Good Jobs First non-profit organisation said such practices mean that “workers are, in effect, paying taxes to their boss”.
Has New Orleans's proposal to Amazon been published? All I can find is Mitch's cover letter where he talks up our nearly all-charter school system.  Odd that the "data-driven" mayor would leave out the latest performance ratings for some reason.  Maybe it's because he's coming around to the absurdity of the grading system. Probably it's something else, though. We'd love to see what the city has actually offered.  No doubt it's well in line with the proto-fascist "best practices" Chicago and others have put in play where everyone who works for the state sponsored billion dollar company also pays directly for that privilege.

You can find similar characteristics in the much ballyhooed deal with DXC where the state and city guarantee a package of tax incentives (including a "payroll rebate") to a company bringing (possibly) 300 jobs to town next year as part of what looks more or less like a stock-fluffing stunt/downsizing strategy.  Everyone was very proud of that.

This includes Mayor-elect Cantrell, naturally.  During the final televised debate, she made certain to claim that she, "definitely had a hand in making (the DXC deal) happen." She didn't offer any specifics about her role, though.  She did spend a lot of time on the campaign trail talking about how she wanted to "depoliticize" the process by which these "incentives" are doled out. This means she prefers to remove even the possibility of public oversight from the disbursement of public money to private interests. On December 13, LaToya will address the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting at the Hyatt.  No doubt she'll have some fascinating insights to offer on all of this.

Happy Cyber Monday!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

"This city doesn't want you"

NOLA.com debriefs with Bunny Charbonnet on his sister's ill fated campaign for mayor.  There's a lot of interesting stuff in there. For instance, he talks about trying to talk her out of running at the beginning. The way he describes that is he says he told her, "This city doesn't want you."  It's not exactly clear what he means there but I think maybe this part later on serves as a pretty good elaboration.

What did this election teach you about how the fabric of the city has changed?

I think there's a confluence of people who have moved here from elsewhere, who believe they understand this city because they've gone to six restaurants and 12 festivals. But they don't understand the genesis of those festivals. New Orleanians understand the very core. They understand why Louis Armstrong sang Mack The Knife when no one would pick up the song. He understood the violence. He understood we are a packing town.

And that's OK. Because we need these new people here. But we need them to get to know us better. And I find that I learned -- I was indifferent to Uptown New Orleans, to the whole Mardi Gras culture and the business community. Not that I disliked them, I just had an indifference. I never understood them because I never tried. But I learned more about them than I cared to know (in this election). There is an interest in winning unlike no other area of town. They just play by a different set of rules and more resources.
Yes, I've got a lot more to say about this. It's been a busy holiday week. But think about this for now. Which city didn't want Desi?

Friday, November 24, 2017

"Pushed or poked"

Basically what this story says is lawyers don't handle low level confrontation the way most humans do. Also they take themselves extremely seriously.
Accounts vary as to the intensity of the confrontation between Strasser and Assistant U.S. Attorney Myles Ranier. But Strasser, a former federal prosecutor who was representing accused 39'ers gang member Damian Barnes, either pushed or poked Ranier in the chest.

Few people actually witnessed the incident because it occurred during a break in the trial, when the judge and most of the lawyers involved were out of the courtroom. Deputy U.S. marshals quickly came over to settle things down.

This much is clear: No one was hurt. But the dust-up was significant enough that it got the attention of then-U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite Jr. and was mentioned in a written document.

“Given that this is a personnel matter, I will decline to comment specifically as to these troubling allegations,” Polite said Tuesday. “With that said, the top priority of any good leader should be to protect, not harm, those under his supervision.”
Oh no! Somebody was "pushed or poked." This was a serious murder and racketeering case.  There were very long prison sentences on the line for the defendants.  God forbid anybody get heated enough to "poke" someone over it.   

So many judges

I'll say this for Republicans.  They tend not to waste power when they have it.
In a paper that deserves credit for its transparency (it features a section titled “Undoing President Barack Obama’s Judicial Legacy”), Calabresi proposes to pack the federal courts with a “minimum” of 260 — and possibly as many as 447 — newly created judicial positions. Under this plan, the 228-year-old federal judiciary would increase — in a single year — by 30 to 50 percent.

Never mind that Republicans saw no urgency in filling judicial vacancies while Obama was president. Never mind that they ignored pleas from conservative Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to fill positions in courts facing “judicial emergencies.” Now, conservatives want a 30 to 50 percent increase in the number of federal judgeships. And they have a clear idea of who should fill this massive number of new posts: “President Trump and the Republican Senate will need to fill all of these new judgeships in 2018, before the next session of Congress.”
People like to point out that Trump has "no major legislative achievement" to show for his first year in office.  That's fine. But there are more ways that one to do a lot of damage when you have what is still technically a unified government. You don't necessarily have to pass a law in order to kill Obamacare, for example.  The worst damage is probably being done at the E.P.A. The next worst will be whatever the sum of these financial deregualtions eventually looks like. There are others.  Net Neutrality is another major disaster.  Close to home, we're going to suffer if they kill NFIP. And if they succeed in completely transforming the judiciary, they will ensure that the damage will last.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"Better than I ever imagined"

Remember back in January when Mitch got the convention center to pay for a bunch of "anti-crime" stuff in the Quarter?  There were a number of controversial points to that plan. Among these were restricted access to Bourbon Street, a 3 AM closing time for bars, and a requirement that all bars equip themselves with cameras feeding into NOPD's panopticon.

After some public outcry, the mayor's people walked back the 3AM thing. And they said they weren't interested in doing the interior cameras. But it turns out, today, they're still working on getting that to happen.
Landrieu said his administration is working with the City Council to write legislation that would require bars to install surveillance cameras that will feed into the center.

It’s better and better than I ever imagined,” said Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell. “This is the right step in the right direction at the right time.”
Nice of LaToya to throw in her two cents there. Just so we know what side she's on.  Not that we had much doubt from the beginning.
The department won’t specify where the cameras will be located, but said they would be stationed first in high-traffic areas and crime hot spots.

“Crime is out of control, shootings are up,” said Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. “We need to be proactive in terms of catching criminals and deterring crime.”

Cantrell stresses that the readers are not for profiling or harassing people on the street, but for tracking vehicles used in crimes.

“It has nothing to do with profiling at all,” she said. “It doesn’t show you who’s in the vehicle, what they’re wearing, their skin color. It’s totally focused on that license plate as well as the make and model of the car.”

Cantrell said it will be a tool in the crime-fighting arsenal that the city so badly needs.

“My constituents are saying that crime is their number one issue. They not only want to feel safe, they want to be safe.”
LaToya is exactly the sort of bullying simple thinker who shouldn't be anywhere near police powers. But even our supposed liberals are pretty fascist these days so it's no surprise we elected her mayor. Anyway the surveillance state is "better than she could have imagined."

Meanwhile, speaking of keeping the public under constant uncomfortable surveillance, this came out during today's press conference.




Well that's different.  Just a few days ago, she was a definite "Y" on dumping the cameras altogether. Wonder what happened.

LaToya and traffic cameras has been a long and interesting saga.  It's pretty funny that she spent so much time talking about her vast "experience" in city government when it turns out her experience as a camera opponent only began when the campaign kicked off. Also, even at that point, nobody on the campaign, including the candidate seemed to know what their actual position was. 
On Tuesday evening (July 18), Cantrell delivered a wide-ranging speech on her platform as one of 18 mayoral candidates. Here's what the City Councilwoman said in that speech.
"We don't know if traffic cameras are making our streets safer," Cantrell said. "As your mayor, I will suspend the use of the cameras until it can be proven that they actually work as intended."

But then, The Advocate reported that Cantrell said after the speech she only wanted to suspend part of the traffic camera program. Mayor Mitch Landrieu expanded enforcement by 50 cameras earlier this year.

The significance of that statement apparently hadn't become apparent to her campaign, however, because spokesman David Winkler-Schmit on Wednesday morning spoke to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune about how the program's suspension could affect the budget. Tickets issued through traffic cameras are projected to generate about $24 million for the city this year.

During the debates she was adamant in saying the city's estimate of $24 million in traffic camera revenue is wrong.  Is she going to "evaluate" that again now too?  When she does that, will she take into account the contributions of camera contractor American Traffic Solutions to her campaign?  If she does that would be incredibly disappointing.  I mean, Boysie Bollinger and Leslie Jacobs put together a whole PAC to warn us that the other candidate was the corrupt one.  You don't think they were being less than up front with us about that, do you?  Why would they do that?

Kicking you off the internet

When we look back at where the most lasting damage was done by the Trump Presidency it's going to be everything going on at the EPA and this.

Federal regulators unveiled a plan Tuesday that would give Internet providers broad powers to determine what websites and online services their customers can see and use, and at what cost.

The move sets the stage for a crucial vote next month at the Federal Communications Commission that could reshape the entire digital ecosystem. The FCC’s Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, has made undoing the government's net neutrality rules one of his top priorities, and Tuesday's move hands a win to broadband companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.

Pai is taking aim at regulations that were approved two years ago under a Democratic presidency and that sought to make sure all Internet content, whether from big or small companies, would be treated equally by Internet providers.

It was always going to happen sooner or later.   The internet is simply following the same pattern of previous mass media toward more centralized and less democratic control. It's what capitalism does.  You'll see some false moralizing from #Resistance types for a while but they'll never overturn this. Eventually we all belong to Verizon.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Election Day

Election Day

Get on out there and capture the magic. Here are some tips for those placing wagers on things.

Cantrell 62% Charbonnet 38%  Spread could actually go higher so watch for that

Banks 50% plus just a little itty bit over Bloom The Cantrell wave in the turnout would ordinarily favor Bloom but a lot of people also seem to hate him so.. it will be close

Gray 54% Nguyen 46% Tthis is just based on the primary numbers plus some educated guesses but if it goes differently don't come yell at me

Schroder 60% Edwards 40% The Democrats could have gotten their shit together and actually try to elect a Treasurer. They didn't.


More to say later in the day.  Have fun. 



Friday, November 17, 2017

Preview of the 2019 Governor's race

Jeff Landry or John Kennedy (probably both will be running):  "New Orleans is a Sanctuary City! It is coddling teh illegals!"

John Bel: "No, it isn't!  Jeff Sessions gave them a certificate. See? We all hate the illegals the same amount."

Jeff and John:  "Jeff Sessions is clearly in jail by now, though"

They lie

This is a lie. Paul Rainwater is lying.
While the meeting covered a range of problems that continue to plague the agency, workers who filled the council chamber were particularly incensed by a plan to hire a company to bring in workers for some engineering and other technical positions that have remained unfilled.

Rainwater said the company chosen would bring in about 14 workers for up to a year, though the terms of the bid would allow for nearly 40 people to be brought on for up to three years.

That, many workers and residents argued, was an attempt to sneak in a private company to run the public utility.

“It sounds like privatization,” Angelina Elder said.

Rainwater said explicitly the workers to be hired are not an attempt at privatization but rather are needed to fill highly technical positions.

“This (bid) is not for privatization of the system, I want to say that loud and clear,” Rainwater said.

But council members said they were not convinced those positions cannot be filled with local, permanent workers.

“My question is, are we absolutely sure there’s no one here that can fill those 14 jobs?” Councilman James Gray said. “I have trouble believing there’s no one here that can fill those 14 jobs.” 
Actually there are something like 300 vacancies which they have made no honest effort to fill. There are various reasons for this. Some of them have to do with gatekeeping and patronage. Some of them have to do with plans to eventually privatize the system or at least move it out of Civil Service as this bill by J.P. Morrell would have done
Senate Bill 247 has languished in the Local and Municipal Affairs Committee since Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, proposed it in April. The lack of action signaled the bill was effectively dead on arrival.

The proposal would have ended civil service participation for employees hired after Dec. 31, 2017. It was a first step in a grander strategy to rewrite the public utility's employment benefits and protections. Grant had also indicated he wanted to phase out the board's pension program in favor of a portable 401(k) retirement benefit that he said would appeal to the next generation of workers.

Grant and Morrell had argued that removing the bureaucratic hurdles of the civil service system and giving employees more flexibility in their retirement benefits would help the S&WB attract younger, specialized talent.
J.P. changed his mind and killed it after Cedric and Mitch decided they were losing the argument for the time being. Instead they moved to contract out the management function. But that is an end-run toward the same purpose. That and cutting in the various consulting firms who are already profiting from the general process of demolition by neglect.
On Aug. 14, nine days after the flooding, Donald Case from the S&WB’s machine shop texted then-General Superintendent Joe Becker on the progress in fixing broken turbines.

“CH has pulled in a lot of staff to make sure the contractors don't put the screws to us... how do we know that CH isn't putting the screws to us?” he asked, apparently never getting a response.

Four days later, Bruce Adams, now the highest ranking official left at the S&WB, sent another text to Becker, pressing the issue further.

“Has it occurred to you that CH2 might be so anxious to junk these turbines to protect their liability?” Adams texted on Aug. 18, implying that the agency’s four old turbines were suffering repeated failures by design, to force the S&WB to scrap the refurbishment effort altogether.

“Absolutely,” responded Becker, who was later forced to resign over the S&WB’s response to the flooding. “I‘m not sure they have thought that far through. I am sure they see a t4 (Turbine No. 4) disaster turning into our t4 savior. I don‘t see much that we can do about it. Do you want to be the one that slows down this train?”

If you watched last night's final mayoral debate, you didn't see either candidate directly address this issue.  They each answered "no" to a yes or no question about privatization. But that's easy for anyone to do. Charbonnet talked about the need to fill the vacancies. LaToya said the employees need a "raise."  Neither gave a clear indication as to how they would achieve that. Each has received donations from CH2M just like the current mayor has.  A former CH2M engineer is serving as the interim director of operations.

Do we expect anything to change when the next administration takes over?  Jacques Morial has suggested folding S&WB into a city department. LaToya Cantrell, who is going to win tomorrow based partially on her penchant for seeming to take two or three different positions on any issue in the space of one breath, said last night that she would maybe think about this later. But now there is no time. There's plenty time to contract everything out, though. Wonder what's going to happen.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

What did they agree to?

Mitch Landrieu and Chief Michael Harrison had a meeting with Attorney General (for now) Jeff Sessions today about New Orleans's status as a so-called "Sanctuary City." Cedric Richmond was supposed to be there. But something happened that we aren't clear about.
The stage was set Wednesday for continued discord when the mayor's office issued a statement saying there was a dispute over who Sessions and Kennedy would allow to take part in the next morning's meeting. The mayor wanted Congressman Cedric Richmond, NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison and City Attorney Rebecca Dietz to join him in the discussion. Sessions' office had said Richmond could not attend, and either Harrison or Dietz -- not both -- could join.

According to the mayor's communications, Richmond could not reschedule a conflicting event and did not take part, but Harrison and Dietz joined the mayor.
Both versions of why Cedric wasn't there come from the mayor's office. I guess they can both be true. But it's unclear what happened.  Also unclear, what exactly was agreed to at this meeting. 
"We are pleased that the attorney general and Senator Kennedy have come around to agreeing with the point we have made all along -- New Orleans is not a 'sanctuary city' and the NOPD's policies have maintained consistent compliance ..." Landrieu said in a statement.

Asked for comment after the meeting, Sessions' office issued a statement saying New Orleans "has committed to sharing information with federal law enforcement authorities ..."
One way to interpret this is Mitch and Harrison agreed to rat out to ICE any undocumented immigrants they detain. Another way to see it is Sessions agreed that the terms of the NOPD consent decree dictated their current policy anyway so there is really no way to say they aren't in compliance with the law.
Landrieu and NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison have repeatedly contended the department's policies adhere to the letter of the law. Harrison has also argued that going any further would risk alienating immigrants in the city, discouraging victims from reporting crimes and making witnesses more reluctant to come forward.

The policy is required by a sweeping federal court consent decree that oversees the police department. The consent decree was negotiated with the Justice Department, but during President Barack Obama's administration.

A federal Justice Department spokesman, Devin O'Malley, indicated that as of Thursday, the agency no longer considers NOPD's policies at odds with federal law.
But it could also be both. They city could be perfectly willing to inform on immigrants to the feds without actually holding them.  That, both sides agreed, is Marlin Gusman's job. Which is a convenient thing for all of them to say because Gusman wasn't there.
Sessions, according to Kennedy, requested the city notify federal immigration agents at least 48 hours before releasing any arrested undocumented immigrants from jail, and also asked that agents be allowed to interview inmates while in custody.

Both those requests appeared to apply to the Orleans Parish jail, a facility run by the independent Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, which is covered by a separate federal consent decree. Sheriff Marlin Gusman was not included in Thursday's meeting.
And, as the story here strongly implies, Gusman's policy may also be in compliance with the dictates of a consent decree. But that isn't explicitly clear.  Anyway this may or may not get Sessions off the city's back. It probably won't satisfy John Kennedy and Jeff Landry, though.  Not with a Governor's election looming in 2019. Which is a lot closer than you might think.