Tuesday, January 22, 2019

For a second I thought I was ready to talk about it

But, no, I am not ready yet.

It would be great if someone would tell the grifting lawyers  and cynical brands all trying to capitalize on the moment to shut the fuck up for a minute, though.
Now Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen has joined the chorus of derision over the "No Call" debacle in the NFC Championship game on Sunday.

The day after the game, the fried chicken giant posted to Twitter a blurry photo, perhaps showing a box of chicken, with only a hashtag for explanation: #refereechicken.
Ha ha, very amusing, Popeyes.  But, hey, you were supposed to take care of all this for us, Sunday.  We had the talisman mounted and in place and everything.

Chicken talisman

Chicken in the sun

You had one job, Popeyes. And here you're trying to be all clever on the internet now...

look i'm really not ready to talk about this yet

Do you think this is even true?

Y'all there is so much....

But, look, I wonder, not so much about the veracity of this, but about the NFL's decision to publicize it.  Can't help but think maybe they want to make it about us and not them.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Saturday, January 19, 2019

No time to chicken out now

"Oh my god, antenna, what do you want!" 

This was me shouting like an idiot at some point during that abysmal first quarter last weekend.  The Saints and their fans were experiencing a worst case scenario so extravagant in scope it seemed almost purposeful. They had turned the ball over on their first play. They had quickly fallen behind by two touchdowns as the offense stumbled over itself, defenders seemed to lose the ball in the Superdome lights, and possibly the team's top (or at least its number 1-A) defensive lineman was lost to a torn Achilles tendon. Also the TV kept losing the signal.

Dumaine street tailgate

Admittedly it's hard to know what to expect when you're trying to watch the game from the back of a pickup truck in the middle of Dumaine Street which is exactly what we were doing that afternoon for... some reason. We didn't buy the playoff tickets this year and, well, we had to go somewhere so why not this?  The playoffs are supposed to be a new experience anyway; unfamiliar, more intense. Nobody knows what to expect. Sometimes things happen that you aren't prepared for and adjustments need to be made on the fly.

That is precisely what happened to the Saints as well as to us during that first quarter. The team was grasping for answers and so were we.  Our solution to the antenna problem started to take shape when a ladder was added to the truck bed to try and get it a little more elevated. But it wasn't finalized until it was decided what the antenna actually wanted was a piece of chicken.  After that the picture cleared up just fine.  This was also the point where things started to fall into place for the Saints. This is most likely a coincidence.

Chicken antenna

Happy Birthday Drew Brees

The best quarterback we're ever likely to see in a Saints uniform turned 40 this week. On Sunday, he celebrated by badly underthrowing Ted Ginn on the Saints' first play from scrimmage.  He also celebrated by directing a 92 (112? 117? reports differ) yard drive that essentially won the game.  But even that drive included another cringe inducing underthrow.

Sunday night, he continued celebrating.
The party was attended by many of Brees' Saints teammates, coach Sean Payton and celebrities such as Keegan-Michael Key and New Orleans rapper Choppa, who performed the "Choppa Style" remix he recorded specifically for Brees' birthday — first debuted by The Advocate on Friday. You can see footage of Choppa's performance below, via Saints wide receiver Austin Carr's Instagram Story.
I really think the Advocate missed a trick here by not sending Nell Nolan.

As for Choppa, boy that guy does not miss an opportunity to milk a moment for all it is worth does he?  The T-P sent a reporter to document Choppa's very long Sunday which began with a performance in Champions Square, took him all the way to Baton Rouge for a Cleo Fields fundraiser, and back to New Orleans for the Brees birthday party.  All of this is happening, more or less because of one tossed off sideline moment a few months ago.
“This was done organically,” Smith tells me in the Sprinter van later, recounting how, in a manner of weeks, a video of the Saints players dancing to “Choppa Style” in a post-game victory just popped off. Next thing they knew, the song was playing inside the Superdome as fans caught on and Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas were dancing on the sidelines. There was a spark, and then, the explosion.

“They say lightning never strikes twice,” Choppa said Sunday. “But I’m here to say, stay prepared. Embrace it. Embrace it when it’s your turn.”

And right now, it’s Choppa’s turn.
It's fun to see the way 90s era rap acts have grown into classic New Orleans standards.  Half of the  golden age Cash Money stuff, for example, may as well be Mardi Gras Mambo now. I'm pretty sure you can hire Mannie Fresh to play your kid's birthday party. On Twelfth Night this year, we saw him roll by on the Funky Uptown Krewe's streetcar. (He's in the back. Maybe you can see him here.)

Funky Uptown Krewe

The Saints' gameday staff have certainly embraced this.  Choppa Style is far from the only local favorite to waft in over the PA there. During the Carolina game, I even caught a few seconds of MC Thick's Marrero during a timeout.  Imagine if that had somehow become this year's theme song.  I don't know if it takes the smoke and lasers quite as well.

Dammit Sheldon

This was the low point of the day by a long stretch. 
An MRI Monday morning revealed Sheldon Rankins tore his Achilles against the Eagles Sunday (Jan. 13), and the New Orleans Saints defensive tackle will have surgery this week according to a league source.
Cam Jordan is a great player. Marshon Lattimore has stretches where he performs like a great player. Demario Davis has had a great season.  But it's not a stretch to say that Sheldon has had the best season of all of them.  8 sacks from an interior lineman is superstar level performance and indicative of the quickness and disruption he brings to a defense that finished 2nd in the league against the run as well. This is the best defense in the NFL's final four and Sheldon Rankins is a huge reason for that.  When he went down early in a game the Saints already trailed in, we could not have felt worse.

Except that we can feel worse when we think about how serious an injury like that can be to a player who relies on a quick step and lateral reactive movements.  It's why we were skeptical of the Manti Te'o signing a couple of years back.  Te'o actually panned out credibly well considering.  But he hasn't become a full time starter much less the young star he had been prior to his injury.  Hopefully Sheldon can recover too. But can he ever be as good as the player he had become in 2018?

Dammit Peat

Hey internet users, lay off of Andrus Peat already.  The dude is trying to gut it out with one hand.
In the New Orleans Saints win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round, Peat struggled at times as a hand injury impacted his performance. He had four penalties, two holdings and two false starts, but after the game, his teammates were impressed by his gutty performance.

“He’s a fighter,” left tackle Terron Armstead said of Peat. “A lot of guys on our team, that’s just what we do. That’s how we’re made. He’s not somebody that’s going to speak on it or look for sympathy. Whatever he’s dealing with, he’ll fight.”

Peat broke his right hand in Week 17 against the Carolina Panthers, and during the bye week, he underwent surgery, according to sources. Peat had a cast on his right hand when he walked through the locker room during media availability on Wednesday or Thursday of the bye week, and in Sunday’s game against the Eagles, he had a thick wrap on his hand for the game and a bandage over the incision after the game.
Remember how relieved everybody was that the Saints would have an extra week to rest after clinching home field early?  Yeah that's not working out as fantastic as it could have.  Peat got hurt in a meaningless game many other starters were held out of. That week Sean Payton complained to the press that NFL rosters were too small.  He knew he couldn't protect everybody he would have liked.  Some guys had to play.  Peat was one of them. The Saints have the best offensive line in football when everyone is healthy.  That's hardly been the case at all this year outside of like five or ten minutes. The fact that they've battled through it as well as they have is remarkable.  They've got to do it for two more "fucking games" though.

How the Eagles game was won

A lot of attention has been given to the way it ended.  And a fair amount of attention has been given to the thousand yard drive.  But the moment that really solidified my confidence was another sequence that has gotten some attention.
They committed four penalties on the drive, if you include the holding call on the punt return that made them start at their own 8-yard line. And one of those -- a holding call against left guard Andrus Peat -- nullified a potential 46-yard TD pass from backup QB Taysom Hill to running back Alvin Kamara.

Brees also missed on a potential 46-yard TD pass to Hill one play earlier. And the Saints also got backed up by a phantom holding call against center Max Unger that made the Superdome erupt in anger when they showed the replay on the big screen.
Yeah, people were upset about seeing Taysom barely miss throwing a touchdown one play after barely having missed catching a touchdown.  But this is when it clicked for me.

I was thinking back to the Saints' regular season blowout of the Eagles. That week, Peter King wrote a behind-the-scenes story about the Saints' preparation for that game.  King describes a play the Saints ended up running in the game where they lined up with no quarterback.  Taysom Hill and Drew Brees were split to either side before Taysom eventually motioned to behind center to take the snap.  I don't think the play produced much. But the point was to cause the Eagles a moment of panic. I know it cracked me up when I saw it.   Here is King's description of how that play came to be. 
In the wide hallway outside Salon II, I asked Payton: “How’d you think of the double-bunch play?”

“Thursday night,” Payton said. “Just doodling. Just thinking. I just thought of it, and I said to the coaches, ‘Will this work?’ And [quarterbacks coach] Joe Lombardi said, ‘Why not? We can do anything we want.’ When I told Troy Aikman about it [in the FOX production meeting], he said, ‘Who’s getting the snap?’ I said, ‘No one. Yet.’ “

Payton thought for a minute, giving a John Nash look into the distance. “Part of it, really, is thinking of something that they [the Eagles] haven’t seen. That’s the job of a game-planner. You want eight heads to turn to [smart Eagles veteran safety] Malcolm Jenkins and be like, ‘What do we do?’ “
And that has been the Saints' attitude when it comes to Taysom.  They think they can do anything they want. Or, at least, they want to make sure opponents believe they think they can do anything they want.  That's where the Taysom plays really do their damage. They instill a fear that anything can happen.

Sure it's also good that Hill makes plays through his own athleticism. But mostly he is there so the Saints can fuck with people.  On Sunday, the Saints demonstrated to the Eagles that Hill might get behind their whole defense and score one play before they demonstrated that he might just throw a 46 yard touchdown.  It doesn't matter that the play didn't count. In a way, it was better. It made the methodical slow death the Eagles endured for the rest of the drive even more agonizing.

How else the game was won

None of this is to say that it wasn't also the chicken.  We do know these facts.  Before there was a sacrificial chicken thigh on the antenna ladder, the Eagles went up 14-0 and eliminated the Saints' best defensive player.  After the chicken went up, the score was 20-0 Saints. Also we should point out for Saints fans with longer memories that, if the chicken theory is valid, it is not the first time the Eagles have been defeated in the playoffs by Popeyes.

But, as much as we would love to credit the chicken altar, the fact is the Saints just did again what this Saints team has done all year.  They never panicked and fought through a tough game against a physical opponent.


Which brings us to... who is this week's opponent, again?  Do we have a playoff history with this team?

Holy crap what are we gonna do with ourselves?

The 2018 Saints have been the best team of the Sean Payton era. I will hear no arguments against this. They have been the smartest, toughest, and strongest overall Saints team I've ever watched. There have been some dramatic games, as there always are. And there have been games we knew would be close. But there hasn't been a moment this season when we've felt like they were going into a game overmatched.  It's been a very easy and confident time to be a fan.

Until this week.

Who ⚜️   t

Everybody is excited. But I wondered the other night if the missing D and A here represent Sheldon's Achilles and Peat's hand.  Also, this week, the hits have kept coming.
The Saints will play without wide receiver Keith Kirkwood as he’s been ruled out after missing a third straight day of practice with a calf injury. He had two catches for eight yards and scored the team’s first touchdown against the Eagles last weekend.

Tight end Benjamin Watson is listed as questionable, but is reportedly set to miss the game due to appendicitis. Watson has been in the hospital and PFT learned, via a source, that he does not require surgery at this time
Meanwhile every story about this also notes, as if mocking, "the Rams report no injuries."  So for the first time this entire season, I'm starting to worry.  Maybe that's well founded. Or maybe it's just the moment.

The last time the Saints played in an NFC Championship, it was the most uniquely terrifying football game I've ever experienced. It was like very much wanting to die but getting steadily angrier that we might not be allowed to. I remember a little bit about Garrett Hartley setting up for his kick. And I do remember what was going on a minute or so after. But I swear I must have blacked out while that ball was in the air. I'm not sure I've ever fully processed it.

Anyway, here we are nine years (!) later and somehow still not dead. After 2009, we were certain we'd never have to worry so much about this stuff anymore. The task was done. We had won football.  But this week, we're right back into feeling like things suddenly matter again.  Primarily it matters that we all get to go to Atlanta for two weeks where, ideally, we'd face off with the only other fan base in America who will never shut the hell up about 28-3. That seems important.

It's strange to want things again. But it's also risky. And that, more than the injury situation, is probably what has us the most worried. So what to do in a time of uncertainty but fall back on our superstitions?  I've been given to understand that the chicken has been preserved.. and perhaps epoxied, even, in order that we may bring it back to the street in case that helps.  But I suspect that may only work against the Eagles.  Luckily, I have a few backup notions.

I've mentioned these before but here is the recap. In January we noted the Vatican's Tricentennial gift to the city commemorated Pope John Paul's 1987 visit to New Orleans.  That may not seem like much but some of the old folks still believe the Papal blessing that year finally broke the "curse" of the Girod Street cemetery. The 1987 Saints went on the become the first Saints team in 21 years to post a winning season and playoff appearance.

We have also noted a few times this season that the brake tags for 2018-19 are black and gold.

Brake tag 19

That color tag was last valid as the Saints were preparing to make their 2009 title run.

Black and Gold Brake tag

Finally, and, yes we have mentioned this one before too, there was the return of the serval.  The mysterious African wildcat spotted in Metairie this season, had only previously appeared to us in, yep, 2009.

Hey maybe all this is nonsense. But, really, it's all we have at this point. Besides what else is football for, anyway?  What would it hurt to find the serval and have him lead the team out of the tunnel on Sunday.  His name is Cezar. That sounds appropriate to the arena, doesn't it?  Almost as appropriate as Valerio... hey what would it hurt to find the serval and have him lead the team out of the tunnel riding on the back of a jaguar?  Oh wait.... hey what if the serval came riding on the back of a jaguar riding on the back of Taysom Hill..... Get me Sean Payton on the phone. We can do anything we want, right?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Starting to think none of these Republicans wants to be Governor

I guess the big tell was when Landry and Kennedy declined to run. There's still plenty time for them to change their minds, of course. But the way I read their current stance plus the lack of overall strategy happening here, is they must not actually think they can win.

Hey, Louisiana Republican Party, how’s that uniting-behind-a-single-gubernatorial-candidate thing going?

Not so well, apparently.

Party elders are openly pining for a single candidate, the better to avoid a divisive primary fight and unite votes against Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards. But so far two candidates, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone, have launched campaigns.

And now comes word that a third might join them. Former U.S. Rep. John Fleming, who left Congress following a failed bid for U.S. Senate and joined the Trump administration, says he’s considering a run, according to LAPolitics.com. Fleming, of Minden, has been working as a deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services. Last year President Donald Trump nominated him to be the Commerce Department’s assistant secretary for economic development, but he never got a confirmation vote. His name has now been resubmitted.
Here are some additional facts about John Fleming.

Fleming describes himself as a doctor. But most of his $6.3 million income (as of 2011, anyway) comes from the sandwich shop and parcel store franchises he owns.  In Congress, Fleming quickly associated himself with the 'Tea Party" movement and a virulent opponent of the Obamacare law which he described as "the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in Congress.” He was also among the Louisiana Republicans who infamously voted against relief for Hurricane Sandy victims in 2012. While in Washington, Fleming also became momentarily famous for thinking an Onion story was real.

He ran for Senate in 2016 and fared poorly.  At one point in that campaign, Rob Maness accused "the thugs behind the John Fleming campaign" of trying to bribe him to drop out. This was probably true, although with Maness, one never knows.  

So anyway, good luck to John if he want to run.  Meanwhile one of the announced candidates is already dealing with a controversy of his own today.
Running for Congress in 2014 as a political outsider, Dr. Ralph Abraham made a pledge that resonated with voters in his conservative northeast Louisiana district: He would not collect his salary if he went to Washington.

“It Should Be An Honor And A Privilege To Serve Your Country And NOT A Paid Position,” Abraham said on his campaign website. “YOU Should Not Pay A Penny For Representation.” He said he would donate his salary to charity. Abraham won the race, but it turns out that voters in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District are indeed paying for his representation, at a cost of $174,000 per year.
Okay well, Ralph made a stupid campaign promise that turned out to be impractical for a bunch of reasons.  That's embarrassing. But it's not the actual scandal here. This is. 
Roll Call, a Washington newspaper that covers Congress, estimated a year ago that Abraham had a net worth of $4.8 million, making him the 65th wealthiest member of Congress.
The actual number of millionaires who should be in Congress is zero.  Here we have a millionaire Congressman and a millionaire ex-Congressman who want to be Governor. But neither of those should even exist in the first place. What are we even doing here?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Woke Billy's bad ideas

Billy Nungesser spoke to the Baton Rouge press club this week.  Times-Picayune reporter Julia O'Donoghue was there and got a couple of  articles out of it. The first is mildly positive.. if you don't think about it too much.
Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said Louisiana should avoid approving laws that restrict the LGBTQ community because it would damage Louisiana’s ability to host major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl and Sugar Bowl, and deter tourists from coming to the state.

“It’s something we should absolutely steer clear of for the greater good of Louisiana,” said Nungesser in response to a question from a reporter at the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday (Jan. 14). The lieutenant governor, who identifies as a conservative, oversees public tourism and marketing funding for Louisiana.
On the one hand, Billy is right.  Louisiana definitely should not enact laws that antagonize, restrict the rights, or impugn the decency of LGBTQ people. That isn't hard to agree with.  On the other hand, Billy seems to have had at least some difficulty getting there since he needs to predicate his moral judgement upon the imperative to make sure tourism magnates don't lose any money. None of this is a question of fundamental justice for Billy. It's just business. Luckily The Market happens to favor the good in this case.

In other cases, though, it does not.
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser doesn’t think New Orleans hotel tax revenue should be redirected from state marketing, tourism and sports-related organizations to deal with the city’s drainage issues.

His perspective, which he shared with the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday (Jan. 14), puts him at odds with Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who is seeking more revenue to make sure the city doesn’t flood as often, but in line with several state level officials, including Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate President John Alario, the state’s most powerful legislator.

“I don’t think the answer is taking tourism money,” said Nungesser, a Republican whose oversees Louisiana’s public marketing and tourism funding. “I don’t think taking their money solves anything.”
We think "taking their money" to use Billy's less than accurate phrasing, is one way to begin solving the mounting infrastructure crisis that affects all of us. But Billy's big social conscience deflates real fast when it looks like some wealthy hoteliers might not suck up quite as much money quite so quickly.  I mean he's literally worried about not being able to fund a marketing campaign instead of, say, clean water.
Nungesser said other areas have experienced problems after they cut state support for tourism. He specifically mentioned Denver, which he said saw a drop in visitors when it cut down on the money it pumped into advertising and other programs meant to attract tourists.
Pretty sure people will still want to visit New Orleans even after we stop paying the Stephen Perrys of the world half a million dollars to sit around coming up with #FollowYourNOLA hashtags. In Billy's estimation, though, this is a far better use of public funds than... public parks and museums.

At least we're pretty sure that even after we privatize our state parks for development as luxury resorts or whatever, those resort properties will not have discriminatory bathroom policies.... unless that ends up being better for business, of course.

Casting call

Actors needed for new local production...
The New Orleans City Council is convening for a special meeting on Wednesday to consider a resolution “related to” Entergy New Orleans’ proposed $211 million power plant in eastern New Orleans, Councilman Jason Williams told The Lens.

“As Council President, I have conferred with my colleagues and have decided to call a Special Meeting of the full City Council for the purpose of considering a resolution related to the New Orleans Power Station,” a statement from Williams’ office said.

Even the broadest details of the resolution aren’t being revealed yet, but according to attorney Monique Harden, the council could be reconsidering its March 2018 decision to approve the plant. On Wednesday, council members contacted by The Lens declined to comment on whether the resolution will address the fate of the plant.

Harden represents a coalition of environmental and consumer advocacy organizations that filed a lawsuit against the City Council last year, demanding the council vacate its 6-1 vote to approve Entergy’s application.

The suit was put on hold on Monday at the request of the council’s attorneys.
They aren't actually saying whether or not they are going to "re-vote" on the plant but that's what it looks like.  So reserve your seats now. It's not the NFC Championship or anything, but people have been known to pay fairly well for attendance at these things. 
According to Councilwoman Helena Moreno’s chief of staff, Andrew Tuozzolo, the full council will also use the special meeting to vote on a potential $5 million fine on Entergy for its role in a scheme to pay people to support the power plant at city council meetings.
Meanwhile, the whole "paid actors" episode continues to do damage to participatory democracy as councilmembers selectively interpret its implications.

For example, throughout last week's hearing on Kristin Palmer's short term rental motion, individual speakers and housing activists were continually asked to state whether or not they "had been paid to be here" in the room that day. As it turned out several of them had.  The reasons were legitimate, of course, as paid organizers for community groups and non-profits are often among the participants in public debates. But the repeated, "are you paid to be here" question vaguely accuses these individuals of some ill-defined corrupt practice.  The cumulative effect is to de-legitimize their presence altogether. 

That is especially problematic when there is no similar obligation for the landlords and managers of multiple short term rental properties present to state the number of houses they own. We are constantly suspicious of the motives for ordinary citizens who engage in civic action. But we never question the right of wealth to defend its privileges.

Maybe we should threaten to shut off their water

S&WB is having trouble paying its own bills now.
The S&WB owes contractors almost $33 million in unpaid invoices. Officials didn’t say whether they would be able to make those payments anytime soon. Tens of millions of dollars of the agency’s reserves were poured into a spree of emergency spending after much of the city was flooded in August 2017.

As of November, the S&WB had only about 67 days of cash available, down from 227 days of cash a year earlier.

Korban said the issue of missed payments has become so bad recently that officials are now trying to persuade contractors to keep working, in some cases making partial payments here and there. “Some of our vendors are facing difficulties of their own by not getting paid,” Korban said. That could slow down progress on some projects or create the possibility of contractors “walking off the job,” he said.
It's been a while since we've heard anything about privatization but remember all of the dynamics that could lead us there are still in play.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

It is still not time to talk about the 2020 primaries

For some reason there are approximately 300 million declared candidates here in January of 2019.  Nobody knows who they are or why they are doing this. (Okay well we know some things.)  Odds are you may even be one. Please have yourself checked.

But it's not time to talk about any of this yet.  At least until the Superbowl is over.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

"The war to keep education public"

30,000 teachers in Los Angeles are trying to draw a line.
But here in the nation’s second-largest school district, where an incredible 98 percent of UTLA voting members voted to authorize a strike last August, the issues are not limited to wages and benefits, as they were in West Virginia, Arizona and Oklahoma. “I feel like this is part of the war to keep public education public,” said Mize, a UTLA chapter chair at the NOW Academy, which is built on the former site of the Ambassador Hotel, where Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.

Many of the striking teachers see the battle in Los Angeles as a front-line action to put an end to starvation of public school funding on one end, and corporate-fueled privatization on the other. And while that debate has been playing out in Los Angeles and across the country for years, union leaders and teachers believe this could be a last stand. “If this doesn’t work there may not be a union left,” said Mize.
In New Orleans, we've already lost this war. But Mitch Landrieu and Walter Isaacson can take all the victory laps around the country they want to. It's not going to slow the resistance steadily building among teachers, parents and community activists as the devastating effects of the mass privatization become more and more apparent.
Karen Marshall, the Executive Director with Rethink New Orleans, a group that organizes black youth, says, “I think there is an entire system of privatization to undercut specifically poor black youth in our communities. It’s the practice of giving public spaces to private organizations…it’s how you undercut the power in the community. It’s specific and it’s targeted.”

Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste, who recently ran for Congress under the banner of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Poor People’s” campaign was blunter. “There’s a money thing, and I want to say the prisoner pipeline because if they don’t educate our children, our children can go into the world, and nine out of ten go to prison.” Adding that by sending them to prison, it’s, “…inexpensive labor, and they’re sending them to jail. To me, the charter system and the jail work together…” He added, “If you listen, the children are crying out, the community’s crying out, telling these school board members what they want. The school board is elected by them…they’re not concerned with what the kids want. They’re concerned with the contracts.”

A representative of the local branch of the New Orleans Chapter of the NAACP stated, “We’re asking the present school board to feel the pulse of the people. Just feel the pulse to understand, we’re just not happy with them at all in terms of the charter schools…first we allowed you guys to take our schools during Katrina to help out for a minute and then afterward, this was a failed education system, so now…it’s just a money grab…this money grab has got to stop.” Later adding, “We’re asking that the state put a moratorium on charter schools.”
This week the League of Women Voters added their voice to these criticisms saying they will call on the State Legislature to reevaluate the proliferation of charters this year.  There is also talk about the best way to bring about change at the Orleans Parish School Board. The old "Erase the Board" refrain has been making the rounds more frequently. But I don't think there's a formal effort to recall members afoot at the moment. 

Meanwhile the board is set to name a new President... that is if they can ever stop trying to decide if some of them are more homophobic than others are racist. So stay tuned for that.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Cogratulations to the new NOPD chief

The Mayor picked an extremely crowded news day to introduce her selection to head the city's police department. You may have missed it.

Wait. Sorry, no, that is not him. Instead it is this guy.
(Shaun) Ferguson, 46, who had been seen as a rising star in NOPD by some observers, has served as a district commander at NOPD since 2014. Commanders, 16 of which are appointed “at will” by the NOPD superintendent, fall administratively just behind the three assistant superintendents and the superintendent. Ferguson currently serves as commander of the Education and Training Division, which oversees the academy. He has held the position for the last six months.
Recall that these "at will" commander positions came about as part of a Landrieu administration end run around Civil Service rules giving police supervisors (and potentially the mayor's office itself) more lattitude to make politcally-driven personnel decisons.  Just something to keep in mind.  The Chief of Police is a political appointment, anyway, so LaToya can do whatever she wants.  The only reason I wanted to bring it up here is it's probably a good bet that a new chief will be selected from the ranks of these commanders since the criteria by which they are chosen are similar.

The other significant fact about Ferguson is his most current role in Education and Training suggests he will have some experience dealing with the department's continuing struggles with constitutional compliance.  NOPD and the mayor are eager to be released from a federal consent decree imposed monitoring regime. and there is a steady drumbeat of reporting that the time for that is coming soon. Whether or not that means we can breathe easier that the police are less likely to harass, brutalize, or outright murder people is another question entirely.  For now let's just say this quote from PANO head Eric Hessler doesn't instill much confidence.
Hessler, whose organization has been critical of the consent decree’s sweeping mandates, said he thinks Ferguson shares some of his concerns, based on their interactions around officers facing discipline.

“I think he understands the problems that are facing the Police Department – and the problems that have been created by the consent decree,” he said. “I think he’s of the mindset that the department needs a little more autonomy to deal with very, very minor violations that simply clog the system up.”
Would love to see someone follow up with Ferguson about that. What is an example of something he might consider a "very, very minor violation"? 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Just let us take the moneys

This morning the Advocate has a break down of what happens to all that tourism revenue the mayor is arguing with Stephen Perry about.  Just let us have it. Especially let us have the Convention Center money.  If not it will just get passed around indefinitely from Brennan to Brennan or whatever.
Holding onto so much money, however, has turned the Convention Center into something of a piggy bank for local projects that are deemed worthy but lack funding.

That has led the center to agree to provide about $75 million for projects that directly or indirectly relate to promoting tourism:
  • $1 million per year to help finance the state troopers in the French Quarter, or a total of $5 million over five years.
  • $12 million to purchase the buildings that house the new New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute near Lee Circle.
  • $23 million to help finance the narrowing of Convention Center Boulevard to make it more pedestrian-friendly. That sum includes $7.5 million to renovate Spanish Plaza at the foot of Poydras and Canal streets.
  • $1.25 million over five years for the "low-barrier" homeless shelter that the city has opened on Gravier Street.
  • $295,000 to cover half the cost of a program called “We’re Jazzed to Have You” that paid for an airport billboard and baggage claim signs and for bands, police details and beads for visitors.
  • $2.25 million as part of an agreement by state and local governments to pay British Airways $9 million over four years for establishing its New Orleans-London flights.
  • $9 million to help the Audubon Nature Commission buy the Gov. Nicholls and Esplanade Avenue wharves for planned conversion to a public park.
  • $23 million to install video cameras in and near the French Quarter and to create a central command center where staffers monitor the anti-crime cameras around the clock.


2019 is an election year in Louisiana.  There are a lot of places in this state that are struggling.
But Purpera’s auditors are seeing a steep uptick of smaller communities finding themselves simply unable to raise enough money to pay the bills. The only way to balance budgets are to raise revenues or cut services — options local officials are loathe to do especially in small, low-income communities where everybody knows your name. “We’re in for some hard times,” Purpera said.

Jeanerette and St. Joseph already have fiscal administrators. Before last week’s meeting was through the committee voted to ask courts to appoint administrators for Clarence and Clayton. Bogalusa and Sterlington are on the agenda for February. Clinton and Melville could soon be put on the list.
The larger context in state politics, though, is a debate between conservative legislators who continually complain that the state has a "spending problem" and a governor who will be running on the premise that he has restored "fiscal responsibility."  Will anyone directly address the thousand little crises happening in our towns and cities?  Or will that not fit conveniently enough into anybody's campaign narrative?

NO & Co. vs #CityOfYes and other potential 2019 political schisms

2019 is a statewide election year in Louisiana and candidates are starting to slot in to some of the legislative races. There's going to be a fair amount of shuffling about this year as the next wave of term limits claims its victims. In Orleans Parish both Walt Leger (House District 91) and Neil Abramson (House District 98)  are graduating and will have to replaced. Also the legislature we elect this year will be responsible for redrawing districts after the 2020 census so this is going to be particularly important. Let's try and not muck this up too badly. Not that there's a lot we can do with the choices allotted to us. Danae Columbus's latest gossip column about potential candidates does not offer much comfort, anyway.

In Leger's district, there is a guy whose actual name is Carling Dinkler IV. Dinkler is the scion of an old New Orleans family of hoteliers renowned for observing "accepted business practices" right up until the US Attorney General pressured them to stop that.
During a tumultuous era, in which racial segregation was the norm and the fight for civil rights would turn ugly, Dinkler Hotels became one of the first hospitality companies to integrate, but change came neither quickly nor easily. Referring to the unwavering attitudes of the day, Inman Allen, son of the late Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen Jr., acknowledges, "We were a segregated society in the 50s and up into the 60s." And, though the widespread violence observed in cities like Selma and Montgomery was kept at a minimum in Atlanta, many white business owners were very reluctant to accept and implement progressive reforms.

Despite a change in ownership, the Dinklers, under the auspices of a management contract, remained the primary policy makers for the hotels. While the Dinkler family was by no means a clan of bigots, their perspective on segregation was more reflective of the times and accepted business practices than personal convictions. The Dinklers ultimately yielded to the call for integration, but some prominent Atlantans like eventual Georgia governor Lester Maddox (who opted to close his Pickrick Cafeteria, an Atlanta institution, rather than serve black customers) stubbornly refused to relinquish their Jim Crow persuasions.

That said, between 1961 and 1964, the Dinkler Plaza Hotel was the focus of several protests and racial controversies, some of which made national headlines.
Here is a podcast I found wherein Carling Dinkler III tells us about the great favor done for New Orleans back when Moon Landrieu and Lester Kabacoff got together and invented tourism. Dinkler III was a founder of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors' Bureau, recently re-branded "New Orleans and Company."

New Orleans and Co. was in the news this week when it turned out its current director, Stephen Perry has some opinions on municipal budget priorities.  Specifically he believes funding the critical infrastructure that keeps amoebas out of the water you drink and, well, your city out of the water in the first place, is a "waste" compared to funding the tourism patronage machine from which he derives a half-million dollar salary.
Cantrell says the city needs the money to pay for what her administration estimates are tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure repairs. But Perry told The Lens that such a move would undercut the city’s economy, saying that new revenue would be wasted on what he characterized as an underperforming city government.

“In an unhinged interview with the Lens, J. Stephen Perry, who takes home over $430K per year to promote the City, spent most of his time tearing it down,” Action New Orleans wrote in a Tuesday morning press release. (A 2016 CVB tax filing — the most recent one available — shows that Perry’s compensation from the tourism group was closer to $460,000.)
Of course it isn't that much of a stretch for Perry, or anyone in his position to just assume that he's running the whole city anyway. Perry and the hoteliers have already hired their own police force (sort of) and contributed to the expanding French Quarter surveillance network.  In the opening gambit of its negotiations with Cantrell this year, NO and Co. proposed a hotel-specific sales tax scheme that would finance a one-time payment to the city dedicated to infrastructure. The mayor, quite rightly, rejected the offer as inadequate. But Perryet al were so impressed with themselves that they went ahead and drew up a spending plan for the money anyway as if they were purchasing actual governing authority.

When you allow the tourism cabal to hoard as much public money for doling out to cronies and developers as it does, then you can expect they're going to assume more power than they are entitled to. But just to make sure nobody gets any ideas about reining them in, they also do a fair amount of propaganda. Here's what happens when somebody checks their work.
Amid new pressure from unions and an ongoing debate over whether the city’s hospitality and tourism industry is doing enough to support its mostly low-wage workers, a local nonprofit research group has released a report estimating that the industry’s economic footprint is significantly smaller than previous industry-led estimates.

While hospitality leaders have long touted the industry’s ranks as amounting to more than 80,000 jobs, the Data Center’s report Tuesday pegs the number of New Orleans residents who make their living from tourism at closer to 30,000.

Part of the issue with such projections, the Data Center notes, is that defining what qualifies within a set industry cluster is “a rather subjective activity, leaving definitions vulnerable to pressures to make industry clusters look as large and inclusive as possible.”
On the Lens podcast episode that features Perry's "unhinged" interview, Lens editor Charles Maldonado talks about the difficulty in trying to verify the tourism industry's assertions. Perry sources a dubious claim about what percentage of city revenue derives from tourism to an offhand comment in a phone conversation he once had with Andy Kopplin.  At one point it even sounds like NO & Co. has credited 100 percent of Orleans Parish sales tax revenue to the tourism industry.

There is additional comedy in the interview so, please, give it a listen.  Perry describes himself at the beginning as a "leftist" and then promptly launches into a rote recitation of every right wing economic talking point in the book. He complains that the city actually has "a spending problem, not a revenue problem" echoing a common Republican refrain from the past several legislative sessions.  He also bristles at the notion that we should want to fund city services by taxing a "high performing organically created private sector enterprise" which suggests he should probably go back and listen to Dinkler III's fond ruminations on our carefully planned and heavily subsidized tourism economy.

Eventually this dispute between Perry's NO & Co. and LaToya's #CityOfYes is going to have to be mediated in Baton Rouge. Which is where Dinkler IV is aiming to position himself.  According to his website Dinkler The Youngerest is "inspired by President Bill Clinton’s words, 'Opportunity for All."  Good luck figuring out what that is supposed to mean.  In any case it's hard to imagine he's likely to side against the family business in any meaningful way.

Also in Columbus's column we read the names Aylin Maklansky and Aimee Adotto Freeman as potential legislative candidates.  I'm assuming she means they're both going for Abramson's seat.  Freeman is a business consultant and, I guess, a dog person, who is associated with the usual circle of upper crust New Orleans charitable non-profits including the Arts Council and this police booster organization. She also has an association with the Tulane business school which happens to be named for an A.B. Freeman. At the moment I don't know if there is any relation there. Maklansky was a candidate for City Council in District A last year. Her father owns some sort of clinic that he also wanted to be an Airbnb or something like that.

You know at one point, I was near certain that renowned affordable housing activist Stacy Head would be interested in one of these seats.  I wonder why we haven't heard anything out of her yet.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Yes but that is a conservative bias

It's a throwaway paragraph at the bottom of this article about AOC vs Anderson Cooper but it's a thing that I often think needs clarifying.
Conservatives say the media has a liberal bias, and liberals and leftists say it has a conservative bias. What the media primarily has is not a bias towards one ideology but an ideology of its own: A status quo centrism that treats policies that actually address the scale of the problems we’re facing as radical and therefore scary; a fiscal conservatism that treats spending on healthcare as wasteful but spending on the military as necessary; a Both Sides fixation that treats Republicans and moderate-to-conservative Democrats as the only two sides worth quoting, and that refuses to see centrism as an ideology instead of the only way to do politics.
"Centrism" as defined by the commercial mainstream media is a conservative ideology.  That's where their bias lies.  This is pretty obvious but, for whatever reason, we never seem to treat it like it is.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Be a coffee achiever

It's always a good idea to have a fresh pot on.
Two Sewerage & Water Board supervisors fell asleep on the job amid a drop in water pressure that led to a precautionary boil advisory on the east bank of New Orleans in mid-November, the utility’s executive director, Ghassan Korban, disclosed Thursday (Jan. 10). The two employees, who had overnight shifts, no longer work for the utility, he said.

The two supervisors were tasked with the same function at the utility’s Carrollton water-pumping plant on the morning of Nov. 17, 2018, when they fell asleep, Korban said. The Sewerage & Water Board’s power and water-pumping equipment was already in a fragile state at the time, made vulnerable by an Entergy line being knocked down by a vehicle and water pumps tripping out during power transfers to overcome the loss of the downed line.
Of course now I have to find out if brewing coffee is actually hot enough to kill amoebas.  Probably not, right?  Better just keep some Cool Brew around. 

No time to wall off Orleans Parish before Monday

Yeah, well...
President Donald Trump will be in New Orleans on Monday (Jan. 14) for an appearance at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 100th annual convention. The organization confirmed the president’s visit Wednesday.
Oh good lord why does he need to come here and do those things he does? I have no idea why but I did tune in to watch his TV show the other night.  The back and forth between Trump and the steely gaze of Chuck/Nancy was like sitting through a neighborhood associating meeting where one crank was going on about some cockamamie plan to buy a street from the city and turn into a gated community while the "reasonable" alternative from the rest of the groups was to hire rent-a-cops to run all the kids off.   And people take this insane shit seriously as though it merits actual discussion. Afterward some highly paid talking heads implored the two sides to find a "compromise" between their two very right wing positions. This is the reason I can't watch cable news anymore.

Meanwhile Senators John and Bill have weighed in. Just in case anyone was wondering if they were still bad. They are.
After President Donald Trump's televised Oval Office address last night in which he repeated his call for a physical border wall separating the United States from Mexico, U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Neely Kennedy reintroduced legislation that would have Americans, not Mexico, paying for its construction.
Also Governor John Bel said yesterday that, while he definitely thinks the shutdown is bad, maybe they could give Trump... like... part of a wall or a wall-like thing or whatever.  Because, at heart, really, "both sides" just want to be cruel to migrants and isn't that what's really important?
Edwards said he personally believes that a combination technique could be used to strengthen border security.

“I support border security and I think a combination of barriers, technology and people ought to be able to get it done," he said. “It just seems to me like there’s enough common interest on both sides, if they would just sit down and discuss it, they’d work their way through it.”

Anyway, now we're gonna have to deal with Trump traffic if we plan on being downtown on Monday. It's already bad enough down there as it is

Being poor is very expensive

During his time overseeing the annual city budget process, Mitch Landrieu used to talk about the drying up of state and federal aid to cities by telling us "the cavalry was no longer coming" from Baton Rouge and Washington. Because we've spent several decades now dismantling federal policies intended to help cities house, feed, and educate and care for their populations, our cities have undergone a bloody cycle of deterioration, privatization, and, finally, reclamation as places that only the wealthy can afford to live comfortably.  Of course, Mitch's policy response was mainly focused on conforming to rather than resisting these circumstances but at least he understood the problem.

Not that that was ever much help to the non-wealthy people of New Orleans who, over the course of what we euphemistically refer to as this city's "recovery" from the Katrina disaster, faced the hardships of diminished services, increased cost of living, the privatization of their schools, and the selling off of their neighborhoods to predatory investors.  All the while this was going on, Mitch continually warned of a time when even the federal disaster aid would run out and the city would be on the hook to cover the costs of repairing and maintaining its vital infrastructure.

The main part of Mitch's strategy for dealing with this was to do everything he could to encourage the rapid gentrification of New Orleans. Never mind that this necessarily meant the city would have to become a glorified resort where nobody actually lives. Anything to keep inflating those property values, and hopefully, the potential tax revenue along with them. Outside of this, the strategy in New Orleans has been little different from what cities all over the country have done to fill their growing budget gaps.  Namely, they've gotten more and more aggressive about shaking down the poor
In areas hit by recession or falling tax revenue, fines and fees help pay the bills. (The costs of housing and feeding inmates can be subsidized by the state.) As the Fines and Fees Justice Center, an advocacy organization based in New York, has documented, financial penalties on the poor are now a leading source of revenue for municipalities around the country. In Alabama, for example, the Southern Poverty Law Center took up the case of a woman who was jailed for missing a court date related to an unpaid utility bill. In Oregon, courts have issued hefty fines to the parents of truant schoolchildren. Many counties around the country engage in civil forfeiture, the seizure of vehicles and cash from people suspected (but not necessarily proven in court) of having broken the law. In Louisiana, pretrial diversion laws empower the police to offer traffic offenders a choice: Pay up quickly, and the ticket won’t go on your record; fight the ticket in court, and you’ll face additional fees.
As that Times article shows us, poor people in cities all over the country can be sucked into a suffocating spiral of imprisonment and legal fees by something as simple as an expired brake tag. But perhaps the tide is turning. 

Late last year, a federal judge ruled that Orleans Criminal Court's fee structure was tantamount to the operation of an unconstitutional "debtor's prison." Presumably steps are being taken to rectify this. But a lasting solution has not yet become evident. Mayor Cantrell ran on a promise to take down the city's hated traffic cameras which she herself criticized for "nickel and diming" the citizenry. But, as we've seen, she's really only partially lived up to that promise. Basically the money still has to come from somewhere. And while we appear to be getting better at recognizing it shouldn't come from those least able to pay, we've only just begun to where it probably ought to come from instead. And that is still going to be a fight.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

I like that one of these is called Atlantis

When you are expanding production of the fossil fuel industry most responsible for putting South Louisiana under the ocean, that is an appropriate name.
The $1.3 billion Atlantis Phase 3 development is the latest example of the British oil company’s strategy of growing oil production through its existing facilities in the Gulf, he said.

BP is the operator of Atlantis and holds a 56 percent working interest, with BHP holding the remaining 44 percent. BHP is expected to make a final decision early this year on whether to proceed with the expansion.

The announcement comes amid a four-and-a-half-year offshore oil bust that has cost the Houma-Thibodaux area about 16,000 jobs. Over the past few months, several reports from economists and consultants have predicted an uptick in the Gulf this year, forecasts that hinge on how high oil prices rise above current levels of about $50 a barrel.

BP’s announcement comes a day after Danos, an oilfield service company based in Gray, said two new contracts in the Gulf prompted it to hire 150 workers.

BP’s actions come after recent the company’s recent breakthroughs in advanced seismic imaging and related technology that revealed an additional 400 million barrels of oil in place at the Atlantis field, officials said.

The same innovation helped the company find an additional 1 billion barrels oil at its nearby Thunder Horse field, officials said.
Long story short, BP has found 1.4 billion more barrels of oil in the Gulf and is moving it into production.  It's nice to know things are working out for them after everything that's happened. It's a good thing we didn't overly burden that company with the task of rebuilding the coast they have played such a prominent role in despoiling.  Otherwise they might not be around to profit from these discoveries today.

And then what would we do?  After all, as bad as this activity has been for the global environment generally and Louisiana in particular, the "job creation" more than makes up for any of those unhappy side effects. And now BP is bringing the good times back. Right?
The new projects are the latest examples of a trend in which offshore oil companies drill several deep-sea wells then transfer the oil to existing platforms then later onshore by pipeline. The so-called “tiebacks” have helped drive down the break-even cost of producing oil so companies can profit at lower oil prices but have stripped business from major employers in the Houma-Thibodaux area that build and service the platforms.

Atlantis Phase 3, which operates in 7,000 feet of water, will include the construction of a new subsea production system from eight new wells that will be tied into the current platform, the company said. Scheduled to begin producing oil next year, the project is expected to boost output by about 38,000 barrels a day at its peak. It will also access the field’s eastern reaches, where advanced imaging identified additional reserves.
Oh well, that's just capitalism, though.  Gotta get more and more efficient.  Ideally, BP would be able to churn through the wetlands and suck out as much oil as the atmosphere can choke on without employing anybody except maybe a few guys to polish the robots.  They're not there yet but they're trying.  And we're grateful to have them here doing it. 

Pension hopping

The only reasons someone in Harrison's position and at his age would leave his hometown and multi-decade career behind in order to start fresh in a new city 1100 miles away would be 1) He's been forced out in some sort of scandal or disgrace or 2) He wants to use the 3 to 5 years before retirement as an opportunity to pick up another pension. Well he's not being forces out so it's probably number 2, right?

Don't bother asking him, either way. We already know he can't be taken at his word.
WBAL-TV in Baltimore says Mayor Catherine Pugh announced her selection for police commissioner Tuesday (Jan. 8) based on recommendations from a search panel. Harrison has said he didn’t apply for the job and initially turned it down.

Harrison in December acknowledged he spoke with the Baltimore search panel in October during a police chiefs' conference in Orlando. He arose as the panel’s top pick, according to the Baltimore Sun. However, he told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune last month that he was staying in New Orleans.
Anyway so, this will be fun. LaToya gets to pick a new Police Chief now.  I wonder what Warren Riley is up to....

"Playing selfishly for themselves"

Is there any other way to do that, Drew
"Keep in mind, '14, '15 was really tough," Brees said. "The locker room changed significantly, when we lost a lot of really strong leaders. All of a sudden, there was a bunch of young guys that I don't feel like truly understood what it was to be a leader, understand the way that we had built this program and the foundation that had been laid and what the expectation level was.

"So all of a sudden, it was a little bit out of control. I felt like a lot of guys were playing selfishly for themselves, they weren't playing for the team. So we just got a little off track. And we had to get back steered in the right direction.

Anyway do you think he's talking specifically about Jimmy Graham? Also imagine having a mid-level manager at your workplace walking around sniping at you and the rest of the staff that you don't "understand what it is to be a leader" or some such crap.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Gordon Ramsay is a pay day lender

This is an interesting Gambit article about the effect celebrity TV chefs can have on the restaurants they feature. It made me wonder if so-called neighborhood restaurants like Katie's make it on their own anymore without the boost that comes with becoming a Neighborhood RestaurantTM where the real money comes from serving up "local authenticity" to tourists. Of course it also evokes the ongoing question of whether or not anybody besides tourists actually lives in New Orleans' neighborhoods anymore but that's something for later in the week.

The other thing that really jumps out about the Gambit article is going on Gordon Ramsay's reality show (the latest version of which recently featured the Trolley Stop) is basically like taking out a pay day loan. It exploits vulnerable businesses and seldom offers much benefit in return.
In 2014, "New York Magazine" food blog Grub Street released a report that claimed 60 percent of the restaurants Ramsay featured on his show “Kitchen Nightmares” had closed. Metairie restaurant Zeke’s, also featured on Ramsay’s show in 2011, closed shortly after the renovation.
Last week Jarvis DeBerry wrote that he was unimpressed with the results of Ramsay's work with the Trolley Stop. The primary issue in that column looks like it stems from a misunderstanding over whether it's a terrific idea to call a catfish platter a catfish po-boy.  I think, also, the restaurant's owners responded badly to the column and matters just got worse from there. 

But the most important thing I learned from all that was that Ramsay had the Trolley Stop drastically pare down its menu.  Like, it went from 6 pages of every sort of appetizer, salad, po-boy, burger, breakfast, nacho... and so forth to just one sheet of basics.  This might sound like good common sense advice in a vacuum.  It's what you might tell someone just opening a new mid-range brunch spot. Do a few things and do them well.

But that's not really what the Trolley Stop is supposed to be about. At least not to its long time clientele, anyway.  In fact the specific claim to fame there has long been that it is a place to get a wide variety of crap at all hours.  That's certainly what I appreciated about it way back in a bygone decade when it was a frequent stop on late night walks back from working my hotel shift in the Quarter.  Sometimes the fact of a greasy spoon with a sprawling menu is its own reward regardless of the quality. A place like that really just has to be good enough. By the time Jarvis got there, the regulars were already in revolt.

Maybe they'll talk some sense into the ownership.  Given Ramsay's track record, I hope they listen. 

Saturday, January 05, 2019

In-app purchases

Gusman thought he had himself a nice deal on some software. But, see, that's how they get you sometimes.
The new software and database package from Texas-based Tyler Technologies was supposed to revolutionize the jail’s aging tech infrastructure. But officials say that after Gusman signed the contract in March 2017, they realized it would never live up to their expectations without further, costly modifications.

Criminal District Court judges and clerks also worried that the new tech package would cripple their access to information without more pricey plug-ins.

With the cancellation of the contract on Nov. 26, it could take years and at least $3 million more before the jail receives a new system.

Ha ha suckers

I guess there is an extent to which holding Brad Pitt personally responsible for all of this is somewhat akin to getting a bad hamburger and demanding to speak with Ronald McDonald about it.  At the same time, though, this is just flat out evil lawyer shit.
Pitt’s lawyers have filed a motion to be removed from the class action suit, arguing that the plaintiffs have not cited a “single factual allegation that Mr. Pitt made any promise” to the residents about their homes
Oh is your house about to explode in a gas fire? Well, so sad for you but you never should have believed that actor we hired, stupid. It's funny the degree to which a "personal brand" matters so much right up to the point where consequences come into play. 

Once upon a time there was a (mostly) tongue-in-cheek effort to draft the spokesmodel into running for mayor.  It seems like a dumb stunt and all but I wonder if what the fine print is going to tell us about the President eventually.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Who watches who and why

Here is a map to all of the traffic cameras in New Orleans that are no longer active as of the new year. It's the mayor's way of.. almost.. keeping a campaign promise.
As of Jan. 1, 20 of 31 cameras outside of school zones, including the one southbound one in front of Scoggin’s home, were shut off, in a boon for motorists who have long complained about being ticketed on their way to work or school.

Left up are the city's most lucrative non-school-zone cameras. Also still rolling are dozens of cameras in about 50 school zones, though the devices have been adjusted to only issue tickets during school zone hours.

The changes balance the need for motorists' safety with the mayor’s desire to remove a financial burden on the city’s residents, said Cantrell’s Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño.

“We took the cameras that were providing the least amount of tickets and turned those off,” he said in a Friday interview. “The 11 that remain on were ones where we still need a little bit of help from the public.”
Montano's phrasing is rich.  A different way of putting it would be they deactivated the cameras that were providing the least about of revenue and kept the 11 that enable the public to "help" keep the city budget in balance by graciously continuing to be "nickel-and-dimed" as the mayor once put it.

Oh also, this doesn't mean they're actually getting rid of all 31 deactivated cameras.  Some of them are just getting moved. 
Meanwhile, non-school zone cameras deactivated under the rules will likely be relocated to school zones, Montaño said. Although those locations haven’t been determined, he said the city is considering placing more cameras near high schools since most cameras now are located near schools with younger children.
Whatever part of this qualifies as LaToya keeping her campaign's founding promise is getting more and more difficult to see. But there probably isn't going to a be a political price to pay. The traffic cameras are unpopular, generally. But the public seems to be grudgingly ok with the ones in the school zones.

What is the public's feeling on mass police surveillance, though?  I'm sure there's some depressing poll out there that says everybody is for it. I just haven't seen it yet. No doubt our councilmembers have, though, since they're all gung-ho about reviving Mitch Landrieu's failed camera-in-every-corner-bar ordinance this month. It doesn't have to be a poll, actually. It's really just a matter of the right feedback from the right money to get them to move even on something as morally objectionable as this.

It's an interesting contrast, though. Generally speaking we hate the cameras pointed at our cars in case we run a few miles over the speed limit. But we love the cameras pointed at other people in case they... happen to be hanging out on the corner in a way that makes us uncomfortable. What do you think the major distinction is?

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Disney's reign of terror

It's over. For now, anyway.
2019 is only a few days old, but the new year is already a happy one for appreciators of early jazz. And classic film. And 20th century literature.

That's because with the arrival of the new year came the sunset of a 1998 congressional act that for 20 years delayed the expiration of the copyrights of works that were otherwise scheduled to enter the public domain. What that means to you and me: An expansive treasure trove of music, film, literature and other works of art produced in 1923 now, finally, belongs to all of us.

That includes early recordings from such New Orleans jazz legends as Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, King Oliver and Sidney Bechet -- and that's just the start.
Now that the clock is ticking on Mickey again, we can all rest assured that Disney will figure a way to put another stopper on public domain within the next few years. But for now, this is nice.

Once upon a time, US copyright only lasted for 28 years with one eligibility for renewal.  In a saner world this would mean we'd be getting free access to 1963 and probably a little bit of 1991 this year. Theoretically this would mean "Blame it On the Bossanova" by Eydie Gorme and "Blame it On the Rain" by Milli Vanilli could be ours today.  

Don't do it

If you start getting into the fevered online conversation about the 2020 Democratic primary now it is going to rot your brain.  My New Year's resolution is to stay away from it at least until after the Superbowl. And that's just because my blood is already poisoned.  In reality, nobody should be on it until much much later.  Stay away. There's plenty of other stuff to worry about this year.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Bad and worse

Just before the holiday, we here in New Orleans were congratulating our councilpersons (perhaps a little too much) for signing off on a new set of criteria for local taxing authorities to consider when asked to grant Industrial Tax Exemption requests to businesses. The new rules, though, really aren't as restrictive as they ought to be. Some of the requirements, such as the dictate that companies receiving the exemption set up shop in a "distressed" area, sound well-meaning but, in practice, probably don't benefit most residents of the said areas.  Other stipulations, such as the requirement that companies "demonstrate good-faith efforts to funnel at least 45 percent of their work hours to New Orleans workers" are practically meaningless.

Worst of all, the whole exercise is still a capitulation to the false notion that large industrial concerns such as Bollinger must be subsidized at all by taxpayers. In passing these rules, Council has tacitly agreed that there is a public benefit received in exchange for the neglect of public schools and services that funds such subsidies.  We cannot be certain at all that these rules will result in fewer exemptions being granted. But we can be certain from looking at them that our councilmembers' governing philosophy is still steeped in neoliberal bullshit.

Of course it could be worse.  We could live in Calcasieu Parish where they've decided to just outsource the whole question of tax subsidies for oligarchs straight to a panel full of the oligarchs themselves.
The group is named the Calcasieu Parish Taxing Authority, and its rules state they “meet to objectively review and make a unified recommendation to the taxing authorities for the Industrial Tax Exemption Program.”

However, the objectivity of this setup may be fairly questioned because these meetings are private and strictly confidential, and the facilitator of the group is the head of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. They have not established – publicly – any formal guidelines for the evaluations.

The legality of this scheme is being questioned, with concerns about it violating Louisiana’s open meetings and public records laws, because the appointees to the Calcasieu Parish Taxing Authority for ITEP are carrying out public functions in a venue closed to the general public.

Indeed, according to the Taxing Authority’s most recently (October 2018) revised rules, even local elected officials are prohibited from attending the meetings, “due to concerns about confidentiality and the competitive nature of industrial projects.” Whatever critical analysis is taking place occurs within the private halls of pro-business Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance—hardly an open or neutral forum. Calcasieu has essentially created a proxy committee that is able to “evaluate” exemption proposals away from the eyes and the scrutiny of concerned citizens in the headquarters of an organization privately-funded by the very companies applying for tax exemptions.
What could go wrong?

To a whole new year of disasters

NOLA Ready 2019

Well here we go again. 2019 feels like it should be a skip year. We're so close to having decades with easily agreed upon names again.  Let's just get this over with and start the 20s already.

But sadly, no matter how post-modern, post-truth, and... well.. still.. just barely pre-apocalyptic the world we live in becomes, we still have to do the years in order for whatever reason and so here we are.  It turns out there's plenty to do this year. There are elections for major statewide offices, including Governor. There are major municipal showdowns brewing over surveillance, housing, and public schools. Also there's a Superbowl to be won.

Last week, I put a blurb in this post about how great the Saints' season has been but I didn't include the two most important data points which could indicate that something special is coming.  The first is the Return of the Mysterious Serval.  (Actually I did mention this in November.)  The fact that a rare African wild cat was spotted on the streets of a Metairie neighborhood this year may seem like a quirky little news item. But it's happened before in Uptown. To be precise, it happened once before. In 2009.  Could it be that the Serval only appears to us when the Saints are on their way to a championship?

Similarly, and I know I have mentioned this previously, the brake tags are black and gold this year.

Brake tag 19

The last time that happened (albeit in a slightly different hue) was, yep, 2009.

Black and Gold Brake tag

So here is 2019. Yeah there's a lot to worry about, but also the signs are looking rather positive.