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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Vote early signs appear often

Vote early hanger

If you're in Orleans Parish, chances are you've pulled one of these hangers off of your front door this week. You're also likely to have noticed similarly designed signs on the neutral grounds.

Vote Early purple

They also come in red.

Vote Early red

The signs and the hangers merely inform of the dates available for early voting in the 2014 election. (October 21-28, except Sunday. See here for early voting locations.)  Reading the Times-Picayune's account of things, though, one almost gets the impression this public information campaign amounts to some sort of nefarious conspiracy.
The purple and gold signs popped up, seemingly overnight, along New Orleans boulevards and neutral grounds last weekend to cajole residents to "Vote Early."

There are reports of them in Baton Rouge as well.

Who planted them so far is a bit of a mystery. Where they came from is, too, although a little footnote on each says they were printed in a union-labor shop.

What is clear is that should they succeed in their mission to remind voters to exercise their right during the early voting period, which begins Tuesday (Oct. 21) and lasts a week, the results almost certainly help U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in her pitched battle to hold on to her seat.
All the signs do is encourage people to take advantage of the early voting period. They endorse no candidate or issue. And yet, the T-P story suggests to us a "mysterious" dirty trick is at work.  The conservative blog, The Hayride, posted a photo of one of the door hangers today and expressed a similar suspicion.
This week, a mail-out was sent out on behalf of Democrats by a group called “Stand Up and Vote Louisiana.” However, the group is not a registered entity with the Louisiana Secretary of State, the Louisiana Board of Ethics or the Federal Election Commission.
What could be wrong with that?  Well... something.. probably.. right?  That seems to be the implication.

But what is wrong with encouraging people to vote? According to the T-P, doing so would "almost certainly help Mary Landrieu," which is apparently unfair for some reason.
Landrieu needs to boost turnout in her hometown, a Democratic stronghold, and other urban areas across Louisiana to fend off U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge. The majority of the New Orleans electorate is African-American and Democratic, and blacks disproportionately tend to vote early rather than on Election Day, said UNO political scientist Ed Chervenak.

So by way of a little transitive reasoning, those signs stand to benefit Landrieu.
So encouraging black people to turn out and vote benefits Mary.  And this effort to encourage black people to turn out and vote early is "mysterious."  Therefore.. by way of a little transitive reasoning.. The Hayride and the Times-Picayune are suspicious of black people voting. 

They're not alone, of course. Voter suppression has long been a favorite tactic of conservatives and one that has come more and more into fashion as of late. Texas, for example, recently passed a voter ID law which the US Supreme Court, shockingly, allowed to be implemented last week.  Justice Ginsburg's dissent complained that the law is clearly designed to prevent minorities and poor people from voting.
Importantly, Ginsburg concluded that the effect of the law in its entirety would be to diminish voter confidence in the system. “The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” she wrote.
This is the kind of thing they might applaud openly in Hong Kong. We're not quite there yet. But we're getting close.   In the meantime we continue to develop subtle ways of implying that poor people and minorities have no business participating in civic life.

Lafayette Parish School Superintendent Pat Cooper recently told an audience that a school board election there was under the undue influence of a "black mafia" of unscrupulous machine politicos. Until very recently, it would not have been unusual to hear a white New Orleanian describe the city's political structure in similar terms. A petition to create the City Of St. George springs from similar white resentment of the East Baton Rouge Parish school district.  In one way or another each of these are manifestations of the pattern of white resentment still prevalent in American politics.  It's strange that the T-P would write about the Vote Early campaign in a way that echoes the air of conspiracy so frequently deployed in its expression.

This week John Lewis participated in an early vote rally in Baton Rouge. 
Lewis, the last living member of the civil rights era’s big six, described for about 250 Southern students such events as the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery to campaign for voting rights. Lewis and others were injured when attacked by police on what came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”

He ended the speech asking the students to vote for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who is running for re-election in a tight race against Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, of Baton Rouge. Lewis is the Democratic congressman representing Atlanta.

“Some segments of society are counting you out already,” Lewis told the students. “Vote like you’ve never voted before.”
"Vote like you've never voted" is battle cry right now.  Why? Because, big surprise, who turns out has a real influence on what governments end up doing.
All of this suggests that more turnout, particularly among low-income voters, would shift our political system to the left. The Median Voter Theorem postulates that democratic systems will produce policy outcomes that align with the preferences of the median voter suggests that turnout gaps as a source of policy bias toward more affluent households. Because non-voters are more economically liberal than voters, the median voter is more conservative than the electorate at large. If more low-income people voted, politicians would become more economically liberal to court the new voters. In one interesting study David Broockman and Christopher Skovron finds that politicians believe that their constituencies are significantly more conservative than they are:

conservative politicians systematically believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are by more than 20 percentage points on average, and liberal politicians also typically overestimate their constituents’ conservatism by several percentage points
Such a bias should be impossible to sustain - a Republican could easily win by moving slightly to the left of his opponent. However, given that the population that votes is significantly more conservative than those who do no, it’s unsurprising. Politicians respond to voters, not non-voters. In a recent study examining party platforms, Gerald Wright and Elizabeth Wright find, “a portion of the differential responsiveness we identified stems from parties overlooking low-income constituents who are unlikely to vote.”
I suppose you could say, as the T-P did last week, that an expanded electorate brings with it a built-in advantage for Democrats.  But, unless you mean to argue against a democracy that fully reflects the will of the population it represents, then it's hard to see such an advantage as anything other than fair and proper.

So this year, in battleground states like Louisiana, turnout is key.  So how is that going so far?  Well that depends on what you think the target should be.  Here, via the Louisiana Secretary of State's office, is where you'll find the early voting tallies so far in this election as well as those numbers from previous years.  As of this writing, the tally is updated through close of voting on Thursday.  Currently this is where it stands.

Statewide there have been 96126 votes cast. That breaks down racially into 64393 white and 29629 black. 2104 list race as "other."  By party there are 50685 Democrats in the early votes and 32862 Republicans.  Also 12579 early voters are listed as "other" party which reflects the increasing number of voters who do not affiliate with the major parties.

Here are those tallies from Orleans Parish: 8303 votes. 1872 white 6137 black 294 other. 6792 Democrat 674 Republican.  Interestingly the 837 "other" party votes exceed the number of Republican votes in Orleans Parish.

What we're interested in knowing, though is how these numbers compare with previous elections. It seems logical to look first at the 2010 midterm. But it's probably not fair to compare the relative snoozer 2010 race with this year's major Senate battleground scenario.  By turn, it's also not exactly fair to compare this year with the 2012 Presidential year race. But 2012 is helpful as an aspirational benchmark for Democrats.  In order to consider the turnout push a success, Democrats should expect to blow the 2010 number out of the water and at least pull a respectable percentage of the 2012 turnout.

If we compare this year's numbers so far with the early vote totals from 2010, they look pretty good. Early voting is still happening so I have to project a little based on number of votes cast per day in order to compare 2014 with previous years. So take this for what it's worth.. which may be nothing.

First let's compare 2014's trend with 2010's totals. If the early voting continues at its current pace, the statewide total looks like it could exceed 2010 by more than 87,000 votes. In heavily targeted Orleans Parish, this year's early vote looks like it can be expected to double its 2010 total.  That sounds pretty good although it may also be what one would expect given the heightened interest in this race vs 2010 when David Vitter's reelection was a foregone conclusion.

So let's do the same comparison with 2012.  At present it looks like this year's early vote is on pace to turn out at about 62% of the 2012 tally statewide and 64 percent of the Orleans Parish vote. That sounds respectable. But is it enough to save Mary Landrieu's seat?  I'm don't think she should be optimistic.

Anyway, we'll look at these totals again next week after the early vote period ends. If you'd like to vote early, you still can until Tuesday. It's OK. Nobody will accuse you of trying to cheat or anything.  Well, probably they won't anyway.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Saints' last and best hope

Mark Ingram
Mark Ingram's teammates carried the load for him while he missed three games with a fractured bone in his hand.

On Sunday, he'll have the opportunity to return the favor.

Ingram is back at the forefront of the New Orleans Saints' running game after injuries sidelined Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson.

"A couple guys are down, so I've got to step up and pull my weight and do my job," Ingram said Friday.
One weird-ass football season.  I'm still stupidly optimistic about things.  The whole NFC South is a mess.  The Saints, despite some glaring weaknesses and a disturbing pattern of crucial mistakes by the quarterback, still do several things well enough that we can reasonably argue they are the best team in their crappy division.

Still... they might want to start fast this weekend. Otherwise that Superdome crowd could get a little spooky.

Who can boo?

Everybody hates Bobby

Toxic
"I think locally, if you're looking at it, the best thing Bobby Jindal can do for Bill Cassidy is stay away. And that's just because his approval ratings are so low. I mean, he's really kind of become—I don't know if toxic is the right word, but I mean, he's not popular and his support I don't think helps Cassidy," an aide to a member of the Louisiana delegation said.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Math

I've got a longer post on this in the works but the short version tracks very close to this.
But the real problem Landrieu has is that her 2002 and 2008 coalitions seem nearly impossible to reassemble.  The 2002 runoff coalition suffers from the fact that the “normal” Democratic coalition is still down from 2002.  Consider: In 2000, the population of Orleans Parish was 484,674. In 2010 it was 343,829. So, there has been a huge drop-off of adults. If we assume that 40 percent of these adults would vote, this translates to 57,000 fewer voters.

Assume further that Democrats had a 60-point edge in this group (Obama received 80 percent in Orleans Parish in 2012). That's about 34,000 net Democratic voters lost from 2002. Landrieu won her 2002 runoff by 42,000 votes, so she would have no room for erosion in the rural areas of the state.  Of course, there are also other parishes outside of Orleans that lost population, but they tend to be from the more Democratic portions of the state.

Landrieu could also try for the 2008 coalition, but the problem there is generating sufficient turnout.  Consider: If we take Landrieu’s vote shares from 2008 (losing whites 29-65; winning blacks 96-2) and apply these numbers to the 2010 electorate (71 percent white, 24 percent black), Landrieu would still lose, albeit narrowly.
In the back of my mind this season has been the 2003 gubernatorial election.  There was a moment on election night that year just after the polls had closed where Oliver Thomas, speaking to a TV reporter, made a point of referring repeatedly to "Governor Blanco."  Some of that was bravado, of course. But also one had the sense that OT knew the turnout numbers from Orleans Parish and that those numbers would be enough to elect his candidate.

Last weekend when I was writing this post about New Orleans demographic changes post-Katrina, I mentioned in passing that it meant bad things for Mary Landrieu.  Right now there is a strong effort to encourage early voters.  The Landrieu camp rightfully assumes that the more early votes turn out, the better off her chances are.  That effort seems to be going well. Even so, I don't think the votes she needs in New Orleans to put her over the top exist anymore regardless of  how strong the GOTV effort is.

Anyway, I'll try to finish the post later.  There's also a lot of football I'd like to get to as well.  I've just been busy lately.  Good thing nobody pays me to keep this blog up to date.

Blowed up real good

WWL has video of that building collapsing in the Quarter for those of you who enjoy seeing such things.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tom Benson's gigantic house on Audubon Place

Your tax dollars at work.
For the renovation, the first priorities were to add an elevator and remodel a bathroom to switch out a tub for a shower. A wine cellar, disguised behind an antique stained-glass window, would be another project, and eventually the third floor would be turned into a large closet, bathroom and a gift-wrapping area.

In the backyard, shaded by the leafy, 160-foot spread of a more-than-300-year-old oak tree, the couple added a swimming pool, a cabana, a slate patio and landscaping.

The outdoor area and the first-floor formal rooms provide plenty of space for the couple's parties, which often revolve around Gayle Benson's philanthropic activities, among them an effort to raise money to renovate the Notre Dame Seminary. (She's also co-chairwoman of the New Orleans Museum of Art Odyssey Ball, scheduled for Nov. 7 at the museum, and chairwoman of the Ochsner Cancer Institute's Moonlight & Miracles Gala Nov. 17 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.)
Are they sure they are finished renovating? Because they can have this back if they can make room for it back by the pool maybe.

Bronze Tom

When is a transit strategy not a transit strategy?

When it's actually a development strategy.
This doesn’t look good.  It would certainly appear that the city decided to add the Baronne bike lane and then marshaled the data to support a plan that they had already decided to move forward with.  The question then becomes exactly why the Landrieu Administration is so adamant that Baronne receive a bike lane.

The answer is redevelopment.  There are a number of new residential projects in the CBD.  Chief among them is the $200 million South Market District project, squeezed between Loyola Avenue and Baronne, which is presently nearing completion.  The city already built the farcically ineffectual Loyola Streetcar line on one side of the project, and now they seek to top it off with a dubious bike lane one block over on the other side.

The proximity to the South Market District and similar redevelopment is not coincidental.  Indeed, Public Works and the GCR specifically highlighted them as justifications for the Baronne bike lane.   It wasn’t sufficient that developers have received local tax breaks and massive federal loans.  No, that’s just not enough – the city also has to invest in useless infrastructure and give through traffic the short shrift with an ill-conceived bike lane.  The powers-that-be are so obsessed with bolstering downtown redevelopment schemes that all other considerations have become secondary.
I get weary of going through this with people.  A certain segment seems stuck on the idea that anyone who criticizes the city's luxury development at all costs approach is somehow against bicycling. But I bike to work whenever I can (meaning when it isn't raining or I'm not carrying something heavy.)   So most days I'm on the bike. I'd dare say it's been my preferred way of getting around New Orleans since long before most of our present day bike lane advocates even dreamed they'd ever move here. Just last weekend I had a tire stolen because I was too stupid and lazy to lock it up properly.

Sad bike

But this doesn't have anything to do with the merits of bicycling.  Instead it has to do with the city treating its infrastructure planning as a means, not to serve its residents so much as to create accessories for developers investing in adjacent real estate.   Sometimes they even admit this is what they're doing
Pres Kabacoff, a real estate developer from the Bywater neighborhood, said he thinks the streetcar will help spur business. Kabacoff even argued that slowing down vehicle traffic might be a good thing, since having cars whip by "is not conducive for good retail development."

He added, "To the extent that people have a difficult time in traffic getting down the street it may cause them to want to live in the area and use an effective streetcar." 
If we admit that we're putting in streetcars primarily because they help us sell expensive downtown apartments to rich people, it's certainly no stretch to say we're putting in a bike lane for precisely this same purpose.

But, no, of course the only reason anyone would point this out is because they must hate bicycles. 

Secession

Florida is the latest in a recent string of states to consider not being those states anymore.
Secession talk had notably bubbled up in far northern California and in northeast Colorado last year, with the latter state actually holding a vote on a 51st state initiative in 11 counties. Five of those 11 Colorado counties voted in favor of seceding from the state by strong margins.

In both those states, secession advocates cited a lack of representation in a state government controlled by Democrats as motivation for breaking away. But Harris suggested a major motivating factor behind his proposal was the Republican-controlled state government's failure to address the effects of climate change on south Florida, where sea levels are rising at a rate that may put Miami underwater by the end of the century.
If only it were that easy in Louisiana.  The part of our state most vulnerable to the effects of climate change is also the part most militant about not doing anything about it.

Besides, in this state we only petition to secede about important local issues.  Such as not wanting to share a school district with the black parts of town. 

Thursday is date night

If your date is with a New Orleans Police Department Checkpoint it is, anyway.
NEW ORLEANS, LA,- The NOPD Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint beginning at  9:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 23, 2014, to 5:00 a.m. on Friday, October 24, 2014.  Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation available if requested, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc. 
Drive carefully.  And watch out for falling buildings. 


Blight

In the Quarter
NEW ORLEANS - A building in the French Quarter that suffered a partial collapse on Tuesday, entirely gave way Wednesday shortly before 1 p.m., according to reporter Meg Farris.

No one was injured, but she said the collapse and dust sent people scurrying for cover.

Royal Street from St. Ann to Dumaine was still closed off Tuesday after the initial collapse of part of a historic French Quarter home.

Crumbled bricks filled the 800 block of Royal Street on Tuesday afternoon. So did, New Orleans firefighters, emergency responders and Entergy workers keeping a watchful eye on the historic building.
Nobody was hurt.
No one was inside 808 Royal St. when the building collapsed, and no injuries were reported, said New Orleans Fire Department spokesman Capt. Edwin Holmes.

"Considering the time of day ... and on Royal Street, it's very fortunate that no one was hurt," Holmes said. The building's tenants were not home at the time of the collapse, and there was no construction taking place, he said.
Last sold in 1990 for $40,000.  I wonder what the rent was.

Update: Building has actually been in the same family since 1917

Whose clout?

Their clout.
As much as the industry wants to see Republicans wrest control of the Senate, it has a bigger fish to fry in the Louisiana race. Oil and gas interests want Landrieu to retain leadership of the energy panel and prevent another Democrat, Maria Cantwell, who backs an environmentalist agenda, from taking over the committee.

Landrieu is a key ally the industry will support even if it costs Republicans the Senate, industry leaders said.

"I'm a strong Republican and there is no one I would rather have in that Senate seat than Senator Landrieu, regardless of party affiliation," said James Noe, an executive at Hercules Offshore, a provider of contract drilling and liftboat services.

"You won't see a Republican that is as energetic and forceful and persuasive defending our industry," he added.
They'll either get the Republican they would like, or they'll get to keep they're even-better-than-a-Republican Energy Chairperson.  They win pretty big either way. But if Mary wins they also get to keep their "clout" that comes with having an oil person holding all that seniority.

If she loses and the Democrats somehow hang onto their majority, then that could signal a policy shift that benefits the people of Louisiana rather than just the industry that owns them. But the papers all tell us that would bad. So nevermind.

Geoff Morrell is senior vice president of U.S. communications and external affairs for BP

The above is the appropriate title for this BP native ad Politico published which is written by Geoff Morrell.  It's titled something different, though. I guess it's technically an op-ed but I still wonder how much Politico charged to run it.

Update Hey, and look, here is the answer to that.
It could have to do with the fact that BP, as other journalists have pointed out, is one of the most frequent advertisers on Politico’s daily email newsletter “Playbook.” A week-long ad in Playbook goes for about $35,000, and BP seems to buy those ads a lot.

Here is the best thing we're going to see today

CBS Detroit: Atlanta Falcons Apparently Don’t Know Where London Is 


That's not fast enough

The Lens is having a PARTY on election night next Tuesday. The main attraction is apparently their election results map put together by something called a "news technology team" which I'm sure will be very pretty.  (You don't have to be at the PARTY in order to see the pretty map.  That would be silly.)

I do have one question, though, about the way the map is updated. It doesn't look like they're getting their numbers from the most authoritative source.
Our city map is tied to the Secretary of State’s database, so as soon as information from a batch of precincts are entered in Baton Rouge, they’ll show up on our map.
As we've already seen, the Secretary of State's office is often not the first entity to release election results.  Instead, the private contractor who manages the state election data system did... in his capacity as a media analyst. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A thing to mark down on your calendar

Bobby Jindal is going to make a decision.
Gov. Bobby Jindal would not respond Tuesday to the flurry of GOP congressional candidates grading his governorship, often with below average marks, repeating what he called his accomplishments and saying the only accurate grade was “incomplete.”

Jindal also told a news conference that he was not interested in any other future office but president of the United States. He specifically ruled out running for the U.S. Senate or U.S. House.

“If I were to stay in politics it would involve the 2016 running for president. There’s no other elective office I would seek,” Jindal said, adding that a decision a presidential run would be made, probably, after the holidays.
As to that business about being "graded" by fellow Republicans, it's a thing that's been coming up in candidate forums.  Jindal is currently very unpopular (on account of his having been an exceptionally crappy Governor). President Obama is also unpopular in Louisiana (on account of... other reasons.) So it's become fashionable.. although pointless.. during the debate season to ask candidates to rate both of these lightning rod figures on "a scale of 1 to 10." This has caused Republicans standing for office to squirm a little.

Senate candidates Bill Cassidy and Rob Maness gave Jindal a "7" and a "5" respectively after each hemmed and hawed a bit about how Jindal has "taken some licks." 

Yesterday, Garrett Graves awarded Jindal a perfect 10 "on coastal restoration."  Graves and Jindal spent much of the past year working to shut down the SLFPA-E lawsuit against oil and gas companies responsible for ripping apart the Louisiana coast. So the "10" there is as much an act of self-congratulation.. if you can call it that.

The only Republican not too worried about Bobby Jindal is Congressman Vance McAllister. Although, the Jindal people are pretty peeved at him.
Delivering stump speeches that roast Republican party officials may have finally caught up with Congressman Vance McAllister, R-Swartz.

The bad blood, however, dates back much further than the ongoing contest in the 5th Congressional District. GOP leaders backed McAllister’s opponent in last year’s special election, after the incumbent bucked Gov. Bobby Jindal’s stance on Medicaid expansion. And they implored McAllister to resign earlier this year after a video was released of him kissing a married aide.

Asked if the party would wholeheartedly support McAllister if he makes the runoff against Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, a Democrat, Louisiana Republican Party Executive Director Jason DorĂ© said it would be a “tough decision.”
So, in addition to Jindal's announcement that he's running for President, let's all keep an eye out for that state Republican Party endorsement of a Democrat too, right?

What is Bill Cassidy even for?

Here is a good Stephanie Grace column from today's Advocate explaining why Obamacare is the law of the land and is going to remain that way.
Even if Republicans take the Senate this fall and join the House in voting for repeal, President Barack Obama still has veto power, and he’d clearly nix any bill that would undo his signature legislation. And if opponents are waiting on whoever’s elected in 2016, well, a more diverse presidential electorate and a crop of Senate elections that favors Democrats at least as strongly as this year’s favors Republicans makes an anti-ACA wave unlikely.

It’s also not going away for practical reasons. Because it’s helping people, right now.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who’s caught hell for backing the ACA, is right that it’s far from perfect. But she’s also correct that the law has provided genuine, real-life benefits that recipients would be loathe to lose.
At the same time that people are recognizing the "far from perfect" ACA is here to stay as policy, Republicans are having a difficult time giving up on it as a useful political issue.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich doesn't think the Affordable Care Act will be repealed, even if Republicans win a Senate majority and consolidate their hold on the House in next month's election. "That's not gonna happen," Kasich told The Associated Press during a recent re-election campaign swing.

"The opposition to it was really either political or ideological," the Republican governor added. "I don't think that holds water against real flesh and blood, and real improvements in people's lives." In a state that's pivotal for national politics, Kasich casts Medicaid expansion as a moral choice to help the poor.

While "repeal" remains the mantra for many Republicans in Washington, it's up against some hard facts.
So Republican candidates who are running on this issue right now are the very picture of backward looking impotent rage.

Take Bill Cassidy, for example.  The very core of the Senatorial hopeful's campaign message to this point has been, "Obamacare Bad!" Just take a look at his ads (you find those by starting any random Youtube video) or watch this recent debate (also I took some notes here if you're interested) and you'll notice that Cassidy can't go more than a few lines into any argument without linking it back to Obamacare in some way.

And maybe this is a winning strategy for Republicans like Cassidy. Former President Bill Clinton, who spoke at a Baton Rouge rally for Mary Landrieu yesterday would probably dispute that notion.  Clinton, who speaks so frequently on the importance of presenting voters with a set of ideas to vote for rather than grievances to be against,  that one would almost believe he'd trademarked the line, emphasized it again yesterday.
Clinton said Republicans are running against Obama’s administration in this election cycle.

“We all know what’s going on, us Southerners, in this election,” Clinton said. “You cannot afford to vote for what you’re against. You have to vote for what you’re for.”

He ran through a laundry list of Landrieu’s campaign talking points: college loan refinancing and increasing the Pell Grant, her support for raising the minimum wage and energy policies — stances he said would help strengthen the economy.

“We’ve got to build a future we can all share — a future of shared prosperity, shared opportunity and shared responsibility,” he said.
Now one could argue that this works differently for Republicans than it does for Democrats, or even for an opposition party in any President's second mid-term election. But Bill Cassidy wants to be a US Senator for the next six years many of which will happen after Obama is out of office.

We know Cassidy doesn't like Obama and we know he doesn't like Obamacare. But since Obama is leaving, and the ACA is here to stay voters might still want to know, what is Bill Cassidy actually for?

T-P to New Orleans employees: Drop Dead

Put away your never-ending arguments about print vs digital.  This is strictly about the T-P killing jobs in New Orleans.
NEW ORLEANS – The Times-Picayune will move its printing and packaging operations to Mobile in the next 12 to 15 months, resulting in the loss of about 100 jobs, according to a story on the paper's web site, NOLA.com.
100 new "entrepreneurs" that we can celebrate on NOLA.com.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Heckuva job

Today at a 6th Congressional District candidates' forum:
During the forum, the moderator asked each candidate to rate both President Barack Obama and Louisiana's governor, on a scale of one to 10.

The 5.6 rating is generous, too, since Jindal's highest rating of 10 was delivered in a somewhat joking tone from Garrett Graves, Jindal's former coastal restoration director. "I give (Jindal) a 10 on coastal restoration."

Not even an invitation

Bill Clinton is in Baton Rouge today as the featured speaker at a rally for Mary Landrieu's Seanate campaign primarily, but also for the other Democrats on the statewide ticket.

Except one.




Not surprising seeing as how Mary and EWE have never really gotten along all that well. But still, something of a snub.

Get ready to hear some theories

When your team is picked by millions of pundits to go to the SuperBowl and then starts 2-4, people are going to theorize. 

I tend toward the notion that, at the highest level of football,  the competition is so tight and the talent so evenly distributed that week-to-week results are more or less just random.  Sometimes a ball doinks off of the goalpost and still counts for three points, sometimes not.  Sometimes, a little striped leprechaun with the power to stop and reverse time can arbitrarily bend reality with the toss of a yellow handkerchief.

There's not much you can do to anticipate or alter the course of these events.  You're really better off just spending the whole summer in West Virginia playing golf and stuff.  Then once the games start.. que sera, man.  Who knows what could happen!  This is why Las Vegas exists and is filled with money.

But more linear thinkers are going to demand an explanation that adheres more closely to the conventional wisdom of the game. Expect to see many of these trotted out over the coming week.  Here's the "team needs leaders" version.

Maybe they'll notice how dead our canary is

Probably not, though.
The “100 percent charter schools” education system in New Orleans that Clinton praised was never presented to the citizens of New Orleans in a negotiation. It was surreptitiously engineered.

After Katrina, as NPR recently reported, “an ad hoc coalition of elected leaders and nationally known charter advocates formed,” and in “a series of quick decisions,” all school employees were fired and the vast majority of the city’s schools were handed over to a state entity called the “Recovery School District” which is governed by unelected officials. Only a “few elite schools were … allowed to maintain their selective admissions.”

In other words, any bargaining that was done was behind closed doors and at tables where most of the people who were being affected had no seat.

Further, any evidence of the improvement of the educational attainment of students in the New Orleans all-charter system is obtainable only by “jukin the stats” or, as the NPR reporter put it, through “a distortion of the curriculum and teaching practice.” As Andrea Gabor wrote for Newsweek a year ago, “the current reality of the city’s schools should be enough to give pause to even the most passionate charter supporters.”

Yet now political leaders tout this model for the rest of the country. So school districts that have not had the “benefit,” according to Arne Duncan, of a natural disaster like Katrina, are having charter schools imposed on them in blatant power plays. An obvious example is what’s currently happening in the York, Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, The Lens has been publishing a series of op-eds from education experts on the subject of  the vacant Orleans Parish School Superintendent's office. The latest is from Karran Harper Royal here and links back to previous articles in the series.

So that happened

At something close to the four minute mark of yesterday's Saints-Lions game, I made a point of taking a walk around the room at Harry's Corner Bar and doing a little premature backslapping.  "This game is over," I said repeatedly to several people, "We got this thing.  Next week is gonna be fun!"

In the back of my mind I knew that something stupid could happen which would make these statements appear foolish in retrospect.  I decided to go ahead and tempt fate anyway because, hey, it'll at least make an amusing story, right?

So ha ha, I guess.

In a somewhat related matter, the Saints open up this week a 1.5 point favorite at home against the Packers.  Adjust your expectations according to whatever you think will be the most amusing outcome.

Maybe just stop allowing big trucks in the Quarter

Large trucks like these tend to come screaming around the corner at our place and that seems bad enough as it is. I pick on the cat for getting freaked out by it but maybe he's right.

NEW ORLEANS -- An 18-wheeler hit a French Quarter home as it tried to make a narrow turn Sunday morning.

The accident happened in the 1300 block of Chartres Street at about 6 a.m.

According to the resident at the home, it's not the first time he's had issues with large vehicles negotiating the turn. He said there's no signs in the area indicating a maximum length of vehicles looking to make a turn.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Nobody who lives here can afford to live here

Here's a new report from The Data Center (formerly the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center) on area demographic trends based on recent Census Bureau numbers.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 1,240,977 residents were living in the New Orleans metro as of July 2013, a 4 percent increase from April 2010.[1] However, the metro area now has 93 percent of its 2000 population of 1,337,726. In this brief, we examine 2013 demographic data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau and identify important changes in metro area parishes since 2000 (or the best benchmark available).
Some of this stuff, you probably already know about.  The racial breakdown of Orleans Parish has been closely reported ever since Katrina. The city has gone from being 66.7% black in 2000 to 59.1% in 2013.  What gets less attention, though, is that as the city has become more white, the surrounding parishes have become less so.   Jefferson is down from 65.4% to 54.7%. St. Bernard.. which used to be 84.4% (!) white is now down to 64.7%.

All of this, by the way, is a major reason Mary Landrieu is in so much trouble. This is the first time she's faced an off-year election without being able to count on overwhelmingly strong numbers out of New Orleans. Yes, she will win Orleans Parish in overwhelming fashion. But there aren't the total votes available there that she needs anymore.

What is Orleans Parish

Also of note in this report are the cost of living numbers.  You may be surprised to learn that, since 1999, there is no significant difference in the median income in Orleans Parish.

Income

Everything is relative, though. So taking into account that the surrounding parishes and *gasp* the entire US are showing declining incomes, New Orleans can still claim to be "bucking the trend" at least a little bit.

And yet in real numbers, median income is slightly down.  Meanwhile the poverty rate in New Orleans is practically the same as it was in 1999 (27% as compared with 28%).

All of which means... the rent is too damn high.

The rent is too damn high

Obviously, this leads to certain stresses.
High housing costs can limit a region’s ability to attract and retain the workforce essential for a healthy economy.[11] Severe housing cost burdens of more than 50 percent of household income indicate a serious problem in housing affordability. In 2004, the share of severely cost-burdened renters in New Orleans and the U.S. was 24 percent. In the nine years since, that share has spiked to 37 percent in Orleans while rising to only 26 percent nationally.
So we've got a problem and it's a problem that is unique to our area.  What are we doing about that?  Well.. we are subsidizing the construction of more nice things for rich people

Because gentrification is our official housing policy.

Hot and cold running llama faucet ahead

Llama faucet ahead

Hope you guys got plenty llamas on tap

Friday, October 17, 2014

We should name it Thomas Friedman Lane

"The next six months will be crucial"  for this bike lane.
Baronne Street in the Central Business District will have a bike lane starting Dec. 1. The lane will remain for at least six months as officials study its impact along the corridor.
Because after we re-stripe the road and leave it like that for half a year... I'm sure going back and undoing all that will be no big deal.. you know, if we want. 

Also, not sure why McClendon gets away with putting an outright lie into his story.
City traffic engineers have said that the impact on vehicle traffic should be minimal, though that is hotly disputed by some businesses who say it will be a disaster.
Nope! Utter bullshit.
One day before Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration presented a plan to reduce vehicular traffic along Baronne Street to one lane and to add a dedicated bike lane, the city’s chief traffic engineer said he didn’t think it was a good idea.

Allen Yrle, in at least two emails to his boss, Public Works Department Director Mark Jernigan, said he disagreed with a city-commissioned study that concluded the loss of a lane wouldn’t have a significant negative impact on traffic. Yrle recommended that the city keep two lanes of vehicular traffic on Baronne, a one-way street, and install a shared bike lane instead.

“The analyses done show unacceptable levels of service at the Poydras/Baronne and Howard/Baronne intersections with the proposed lane reduction,” Yrle wrote in an email dated Sept. 16.

Friday afternoon news dump

Stacey Jackson was sentenced to 5 years in prison today.
Jackson's sentence is the longest of any of the a half-dozen people charged in connection with extensive fraud at NOAH that began shortly after Katrina.

The small anti-blight group become a quasi-city department when former Mayor Ray Nagin made it the main conduit for federal grant dollars that were to be used to board up or gut out Katrina-damaged houses owned by poor and elderly New Orleanians. All six pleaded guilty to charges, including Jackson's cousin and a former business partner.

In a series of payouts that began just months after the storm, prosecutors said Jackson steered hundreds of thousands of dollars to contractors who overbilled for rehab work -- or did no work at all -- in exchange for a share of the ill-gotten money.

Jackson's last kickback came in 2008, as reporting by blogger Karen Gadbois and TV reporter Lee Zurick, now with WVUE Fox 8, revealed NOAH contractors were being paid for work that had not been done, as well as for work at properties Jackson owned.
People don't talk so much about this scandal now. But it was a turning point for the Nagin administration.  It was the first time the local media started to take allegations of corruption against him seriously.  Also Karen Gadbois went on from there to do some things.

There is a third phase to the "South Market District" development and it is getting a handsome tax break.
The Beacon building is the planned $39.6 million third phase of the development, set to be at the corner of Girod Street and O'Keefe Avenue with 20,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and 126 apartments.

The Domain Companies' plans for the whole $250 million project call for shops, restaurants, a hotel, 700 apartments and parking. 

The Industrial Development Board voted Tuesday (Oct. 14) to give Domain a break on property taxes over the next decade for The Beacon. The board already approved reduced taxes for the first two phases under construction, known as The Paramount and The Park

The "payment in lieu of taxes" agreement for The Beacon sets a base tax price at $22,239 for 2015 and 2016 during construction.

From 2017 through 2026, the property taxes will incrementally increase from $119,641 to $358,922. The payments begin at 25 percent of the full tax bill and increases every year. By 2027, the owners would owe full full amount, estimated at more than $478,500.
In other words, at a time when rents and real estate prices are out of control, and an insane 37% percent of New Orleans renters considered by the Census Bureau to have "severe housing cost burdens" the city is granting huge, decade long subsidies to encourage more luxury housing development. One of the many ways that gentrification is a conscious policy choice, y'all.

Patrick Juneau appears to have put a great deal of effort into investigating and intimidating poor lil' ol' Dambala here.
NEW ORLEANS – A New Orleans-based blogger who published a chain of leaked emails related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement was subjected to an intense investigation to determine how he might have received the documents, according to a report authored by IBM.

The personal background and work of investigative journalist Jason Brad Berry, who operates the website American Zombie, was the subject of a March 26 report compiled by IBM’s CyberSecurity and Privacy Division at the behest of Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau, a Lafayette lawyer who oversees the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement. Berry drew Juneau’s attention when he published a series of emails indicating that powerful lawyers associated with the case had selected more than 400 of their largest claims to be paid ahead of other claimants.
Do they do this to all the reporters? Or do they only go after the little guys with no legal departments?

Not that it matters.  Jason has been generally ahead of most media on this story. Not that it hasn't been covered. Only that it has been covered infrequently and, according to Jason, inadequately.
In the course of writing about the issues at the DHECC, I've come to the conclusion that mainstream media resources in this City and even national ones simply don't want to address the totality of this story.  Instead, they are satisfied with simply making a cursory glance and only choosing one side, BP, or the other, Pat Juneau, the PSC and the claimant attorneys.

The problem is, this story isn't a dichotomy.  There is a third party, the most important party, the people of the Gulf Coast who have been devastated by the BP oil spill and will continue to suffer for decades.  The reality is both BP and the "good ol' boys" running the show aren't nearly as divided with each other as the two entities are against the people to whom they are supposed be providing relief.  That complexity seems to be too difficult for MSM outlets like 60 Minutes, The New York Times, The LA Times, WWL-TV and a host of others to wrap their heads around.
This doesn't actually count as a "news dump" item since it's meant for next week's paper but here are Gambit's election endorsements anyway. 

Some of it is incredibly stupid. They endorse Steve Scalise because he knows how to do "bipartisanship" or something.  Scalise also knows how to raise as shit-ton of campaign money, btw.

They also endorse Mary Landrieu for mostly the same apolitical patrician reasons the T-P cited today. But they also throw in a little pepper here.
Landrieu’s Republican opposition has mounted a campaign based on fear, exaggeration (if not outright falsehoods) and anger — most of it funded by out-of-state special interests that do not have Louisiana’s interests at heart.
Finally, Ok Awesome points out that, despite having the luxury of the bye week to work with, several Saints bloggers have failed to turn in their papers on time.  That includes me, I guess.  I do have something I'll try to finish up tonight or tomorrow.

In the meantime, the closest thing to a "news dump" here is the Saints injury report.  There we find Jimmy Graham... surprisingly.. perhaps not credibly.. listed as "questionable" instead of "out." Also Keenan Lewis has some kind of toe problem but is "probable." Mark Ingram is gonna play which should strengthen the one phase of the game the Saints don't need much help with right now. Erik Lorig appears set to emerge from the fog of myth that has enshrouded him since training camp.  And then, there is this bit about Pierre Thomas.
Thomas said Friday that he was "sick as a dog" but would definitely play.
What is the NFL's ebola protocol?

Times-Picayune enthusiastically endorses Mary Landrieu

The reasons are what you might expect. She's a centrist pragmatist.  She likes the military. She likes "free trade."  She has clout and seniority. She does whatever the oil industry tells her to do but also says nice things about the environment.  All the stuff that establishment media tends to like, Mary is definitely those things.

The funny thing about looking at elections this way is if Bill Cassidy were the 20 year incumbent and Mary the challenger, the T-P would be writing this exact same article about him. Notice the T-P says nothing about the issues that differentiate these candidates and would affect most voters.  Mary favors an increase in the minimum wage. Cassidy does not.  Mary supports the ACA. Cassidy does not. During a debate this week, Bill Cassidy said raising the retirement age to 70 "won't hurt anybody." (I.. sort of... transcribed.. or translated.. that debate in its entirety here.)  Mary does not want to raise the retirement age.

The Times-Picayune doesn't mention these things because their approach to politics ignores the possibility that politics is really about anyone outside of the money club. They've chanced upon an endorsement of the slightly less awful candidate in this case.  But the only reason they have is because it's all about maintaining the establishment.  To institutions like the T-P, politics really doesn't have any other purpose.

The city should keep more of it

One major economic dysfunction of the City of New Orleans has to do with how little the perpetually booming tourism industry actually contributes to the city budget. A small portion of the hotel/motel tax revenue (about 11 percent of the total take) gets split among RTA, the Orleans Parish School Board, and the city's general fund. The rest of it goes either to the state or right back into the quasi-public tourism promotion boards.

So the city's top industry contributes almost nothing directly into the city's coffers where it might pay for police and fire protections and streets and clean water and schools and parks and libraries and all those other nice things the city (in theory) provides its residents.  And so any time city officials see an opportunity to grab a little bit bigger share of that, they should jump at it.
City Hall has decided to get more aggressive about collecting property taxes from some of the city’s hotels and properties that benefit from certain tax credits — a decision that could mean several million more dollars to spend on city services next year and into the future.

New Orleans City Council President Stacy Head, who has been trying for years to broaden the city’s tax base, released a statement Thursday saying the extra money might even “blunt” the need for future tax hikes.
They want hotels that have recently been sold to be assessed at something closer to the actual sale value instead of at the much lower valuations, most of them ask for. 
The Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street, for instance, sold last year for more than $120 million, although the hotel’s owners argued its value is only $45 million. Williams subtracted only $5 million for the value of movable property in the building and set the value at $115 million.

In all, the assessor valued 10 hotels based on recent sales prices.

Every $1 million of extra value equals about $20,000 a year in taxes, which would be split among the city, the Orleans Parish School Board and various other entities that levy a property tax.
Read the rest of the article, and you see there's a long and contentious appeal process but, potentially, there's a lot of money at stake.  

In a way, this is the New Orleans specific version of the state's ongoing battle to make the oil companies pay their fair share of the cost of caring for the Louisiana coastline.  If you're going to make your fortune exploiting the unique assets of this region, then the people and the land of the region should benefit from your good fortune as well.

Let's (not) be cops (yet)

City Council, yesterday, deferred a vote on whether to approve the proposed "NOLA Patrol" not-cop initiative.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s plan to bolster law enforcement in the French Quarter with a new corps of uniformed civilians has divided the neighborhood into familiar factions, with resident groups largely in favor of the idea and Bourbon Street business owners pushing back.

The New Orleans City Council decided Thursday to defer voting on the plan until its next meeting but not before major French Quarter groups got a chance to weigh in on the proposal, dubbed “Nola Patrol.”

The idea is to put 50 unarmed recruits on the streets to enforce traffic, zoning and other rules, freeing up police officers to handle more serious violations and to respond to emergencies like the Bourbon Street shooting that rattled the neighborhood this summer.
Remember this was the plan by which the city wants to allow "neighborhood businesses" (read: downtown hotels) to privately fund their own quasi-police force. Because what could possibly go wrong with that? 

Ok calm down. They're unarmed which makes them slightly better than that "French Quarter Minutemen" idea  that one crazy person had. On the other hand, they're supposed to focus on "traffic, zoning and other rules," which makes them ten times more annoying.

Anyway, it's probably a good idea to defer this dress-up like cops idea until after Halloween is over. It also does this.
Andy Kopplin, the city’s chief administrative officer, said the council’s decision to push back a vote on the plan means the patrols may not be in place by Mardi Gras, as originally planned.
But, for the same reasons, that makes perfect sense too. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mr. One Percent

Bobby Jindal would like for that to mean he's got a shitload of Koch money behind his campaign.  Sadly, no.
Gov. Bobby Jindal earned support from just 1 percent of likely 2016 Iowa caucus goers in a recent Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll.

Twelve potential Republican presidential candidates polled higher than Jindal in the survey. Romney had the most support, with 17 percent of participants saying he would be their first choice for president.
Broke a whole US state just for this.  Way to go. 

Ghost cops

You've probably seen this anti-drunk driving PSA where the phantom cops appear out of the shadows the moment you might stumble past them after a few too many.



Pretty creepy, right?

Well Halloween is coming and.. I'm not saying I believe in ghosts, exactly. But imagine that these entities are not just traffic patrol officers on the lookout for drunk drivers and instead they are THE GHOST OF RONAL SERPAS setting up those arbitrary checkpoints the old chief was famous for.
NEW ORLEANS, LA,- The NOPD Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint beginning at  9:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 16,2014 to 5:00 a.m. on Friday October 17,2014.  Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation available if requested, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc. 
Drive carefully. 

The Depression must have been just lovely

Look how well everybody ate.
October 17, 6:30-9PM at Southern Food and Beverage Museum– “Days of Dust” kick-off party will feature an Americana string trio band, Todd Day Waits’ Pigpen, playing Depression-era music, as well as a talk by Southern Food and Beverage Museum’s Director Liz Williams about the Depression, food concerns and “The Grapes of Wrath” as experienced in New Orleans.  We’ll eat like folks did here in New Orleans during the Depression that night-white beans and shrimp, cornbread, and bread pudding!
During the Depression, times were actually a lot harder than this.  I've even read that some of the big museum catered parties back then had to serve the white beans with ham hocks instead of shrimp. One wonders how we even survived.

This is part of a wider NEA event called The Big Read where a community is encouraged to hold a series of events themed around a specific book.  This year they're doing Grapes of Wrath, obviously.  That Uptown Messenger article linked above will tell you about some of the other events. 

Nice pitch

Here is Mary Landrieu trying to convince liberals to vote against her
“The Energy Committee, you could argue, is the most important position, and as I’ve said around the state, it’s not my clout; the clout belongs to the people of Louisiana,” Sen. Landrieu tells me, while she is driving across the Morganza Spillway, en route to an event in Baton Rouge. “This chairmanship is theirs, not mine. And why would we want to give it up, particularly to someone or some other Democrat to either be chair or ranking member that doesn’t support the oil and gas industry? That is a likely scenario if I don’t win.”

Refugees

This is what the folks driving up rents in Bywater these days are running from.
Recently I asked several old friends — all, like me, born-and-raised middle-class New Yorkers — if they still liked living here.

I was curious because, a year ago, as a freelance magazine writer unconstrained by workplace, I headed west to a small town in Colorado, where rents are low, life is relaxed and the landscapes are wild and beautiful. A beer at a bar runs a buck-fifty, a big meal for two at a decent restaurant $15.

My poll produced some very angry commentary about the outrageous cost of living in a city Mayor Bloomberg once described as “a luxury product” and about the takeover of neighborhoods, especially in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, by the super-rich, who drive rents up and character out.

“The city is almost entirely about money now,” said Dave, 39, a Manhattan contractor. “A dead place full of people so tired and overworked they don’t remember what it feels like to feel good.”
The problem is that this is how the infection spreads.  Shouldn't we have some sort of ebola protocol in place? 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rick Scott is in the building

I've never seen a political candidate lose a debate to a small electric fan before. But here you go.



Yes, he did eventually come out and play, in case you are wondering.

A little light reading

Here is the mayor's budget proposal.

Feel free to leaf through at your leisure.  Some of these reporters may have a head start on you, though.
Nearly every city department budget will either be increased or remain the same under the 2015 proposal. Total departmental budgets will increase $31 million above 2014, according to the budget document, with money for 150 police recruits and 5 percent across-the-board raises for the New Orleans Police Department, as well as a minimum wage increase and paid maternity leave for city workers. And unlike Landrieu’s 2014 budget, which counted on 170 full-time positions lost to attrition, the 2015 proposal adds about 127 full-time positions.

“Revenue is up and so we can invest more in what the people of New Orleans say they want,” Landrieu said, adding, “Make no mistake there is a long way to go, and there are looming liabilities on the horizon.”
Also horizon-related, some LSU economists have a new report out projecting job growth in the metro are and the state over the next two years.  I'm looking forward to reading this too because, despite the rosy picture Loren Scott typically paints for us in blurbs like these...
“Louisiana is in the midst of an industrial boom unlike any other in our history, with over $100 billion in industrial projects either under construction or at the front-end engineering and design phase,” LSU economists Loren C. Scott and James A. Richardson said in their annual two-year forecast.
The full story isn't always quite so great
After Katrina, the New Orleans metro area lost 133,700 jobs, more than one-fifth of total employment. The sudden drop wiped out three decades of employment growth, the report says.
The city saw a pre-storm peak of nearly 620,000 jobs. After the blow from the storm, the metro area lost 6,700 jobs in the national recession, a 1.3 percent drop.

Today, after four years of job growth, the metro area has about 553,100 workers after recovering 72,500 jobs lost after the storm.

Economists predict the metro area will add 8,300 jobs, a 1.5 percent increase, in 2015, and 9,000 jobs in 2016, a 1.6 percent increase.

"A disheartening factor has been the slow recovery since the storms," the report says.

Broken ceiling theory of crime fighting

Current and future Police Chief Michael Harrison has some sort of point here, I think... possibly.
Harrison, who has been making the rounds of churches and community groups with the mayor, said he’ll focus on relationships within and outside law enforcement, “building the ones that were never built and repairing the ones that were broken.”

Flanked by his wife, Harrison said, “I think I’m the poster child that there’s no more glass ceiling.”
So congratulations to Mr. Harrison on becoming the first female Chief of Police. His wife must be very proud to flank him.  

Anyway, if you're worried about damage to the ceiling you should know that he is also working on getting that fixed first.
He said he aims to build manpower in the department, reduce crime and murders, revive a community policing initiative that has waned with the manpower shortage, comply with the demands of the consent decree and build more career development avenues within the force.

We are rebuilding the NOPD from the top down,” he said.
Gotta love a guy (gal, perhaps, though. don't be so closed-minded) who knows how to build down.  

QOTD

Cedric Richmond on Bill Cassidy:
Democrats contend that Cassidy — who rarely raises his voice or changes his tone, even when confronted with criticism — is such a snoozer that his party affiliation alone won’t be enough to carry him in this hotbed of discontent for the president and his party. As former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) put it in an interview: “Louisiana, let’s face it, has always liked personalities.”

Rep. Cedric Richmond, a dapper politician from New Orleans and key Landrieu supporter, was more blunt. “He’s weird. Dude is weird,” Richmond said. “He’s not what Louisiana is. He’s not personable, he’s not charismatic.”
Don't worry about the rest of that article.  "Is this candidate cool enough?" is probably the most Politico type of thing Politico can write.  It's also got Bob Mann comparing Edwin Edwards to gumbo.  Anyway, I'm just telling you you don't have to read all that and probably shouldn't.

Meanwhile, this Rasmussen poll was done before last night's debate where we learned that Cassidy thinks raising the retirement age to 70 "won't hurt anybody."   But it does show the weird dude over 50% (in a head-to-head with Mary who still is leading the primary.)

Budget day

They have to present something today but they clearly aren't prepared.
The 2015 operating budget that Mayor Mitch Landrieu presents to the City Council on Wednesday will in some ways be no more than a first draft.

That’s because the mayor won’t know until early next year whether voters will approve a property tax hike for additional police and fire coverage. Also, Landrieu’s administration is still in the middle of courtroom negotiations over how much he will have to pay the city’s firefighters for their pension fund, the clerk of Criminal District Court for his staff and Sheriff Marlin Gusman for reforms at Orleans Parish Prison.

So while there is always an element of guesswork in a budget proposal, this year’s spending plan will come with an unusually large grain of salt.
So one imagines there will be a sales pitch to voters about the millage proposal embedded in this.  Anyway they kick off at 11.

Senate debate not quite live blogged

I had to work a bit late tonight so rather than rush home to flip on the Senate debate, I took it easy. I picked up some take out from Juan's, watched a movie with Menckles, stared at the walls a bit.  I think Biscuit is getting a little fat.  It's not like he's overfed or anything. But he is an inside cat and maybe I should throw his toys around more often so he can get some semblance of exercise...

Oh what the hell let's watch this stupid thing and get it overwith.  Here is the video.  Not a damn thing on Netflix but you can get all the Barry Erwin you want on demand.  And that is how net neutrality works. So thanks, Obama!

Ok here we go.

It's an LPB production but we're watching on C-SPAN which I'm not sure exists or is caused by humans according to Rob Maness's scientific worldview but whatever.

Your inquisitors this evening: Shauna, Alan, Stephanie, and Jeremy

Hi!

Your candidates (left to right): Frankenberry, Hank Hill, Senator Landrieu of the Gret Stet Of The Flag Of Texaco

Senate debate

Format:  There will be a format

"Lightning Round": In accordance with the most sacred and ancient traditions of public speech and debate stretching all the way back to those venerated Greeks, there will be something called a "lightning round." (You remember that one time Socrates had his butt lightning rounded to him by Zeus in that Polis council runoff debate, right?  This was back when Plato was still hosting Meet The Press.  John McCain was the guest that week.)

Icebreaker question:  Who are you why are you here?

Cassidy:  Because Katrina.  The levees needed leadership.  I was a doctor and stuff but that was getting a little old so I'm doing this now. (Cassidy sounds nervous. You can hear him breathing.)

Maness: In 2012 I was sitting on the porch looking out across the lawn you know just sucking up the good life.  Anyway after a few pops or a few dozen... who really counts anymore when you get to where I am in life... there was this beautiful moment where the clouds parted, and the sun shone down on my face and a voice rang down from the heavens, "THE PARSIDENT IS A GODDANG MUSLIM TERROR LOVING SOMETHING OR OTHER"  And that's why I'm here. Hello.

Mary: I finished college one day and thought to myself, "Holy shit, self, you're a Landrieu!" And so I resolved to go ahead and make that work for me.  Also Bill Cassidy said before that he was anti-Katrina but in fact he is actually pro-Katrina, so there.


Question 1 is from Shauna to Maness: Medicare, what is it good for?

Maness: Obama and Mary stole all the money first. And then Cassidy helped Paul Ryan also steal all the money. Also, Mary lives in Washington D.C. Anyway, even though everybody stole all the money, Medicare is solvent for a long time and we can save it by making solutions.

Follow-up from Shauna: What solutions?

Maness: We will find them on the table we come together at.

Mary: Medicare is important.  Cassidy voted to end Medicare as we know it. (This is true in that Cassidy voted for the Ryan budget plan which everyone knew would never actually become law.) John McCain and I voted to strengthen it. (This is debatable)

Cassidy: I'm a doctor. I have lain my healing hands upon the Medicare-afflicted. I did not catch ebola from any of them.  Anyway, Mary and Obama stole all the money. You can look this up on my website.  I didn't vote to end Medicare. I voted for a plan that will allow us to choose to kill Medicare. That will save lots of money.

Question 2 is from Alan but really it's from a viewer:  Question is three parts. 1) Is Obama doing enough to blow up ISIS? 2) Has Obama done too much blowing up of ISIS? 3) Would you like to send some troops in to blow up ISIS?

Mary: ISIS is really really gross.  I think the President is constitutionally empowered to kill anything he wants to. But maybe let's not send in any troops .. at least let's not be very obvious about it when we do.

Cassidy: The President is so bad at killing people. And now because he is so terrible at it I support him doing it some more but I don't like him.  I like killing. Don't like him.  Got it?

Maness: I flew in an air campaign. We should have an air campaign like the one I flew in.  The President should have authority to do these things but he has overstepped that authority so boo to that.  Would I authorize ground troops?  Well if the President came in and said he was sorry I might think about it. But yes. Ground forces will be needed. Can a different President ask me for them, though? Because I do not like this one.

Actual quote of the night so far: "Maybe the Free Syrian Army whoever they are might step up"

Question 3 is from Stephanie... oh wait. It's from a viewer again.  Why do we need four reporters on a panel to deliver questions if none of the questions are actually from these reporters? Anyway.. the question is... Obamacare, I guess:

Cassidy: Bureaucrats have too much power and that makes things more expensive. So my idea is let's give all the power to health insurance companies because there are no bureaucrats there. Also Mary made Obamacare.

Maness: Obamacare is an abomination. (Has anyone coined the term Obamination yet? Maness should try that.) I'm gonna get some solutions from the free market. Men should not be forced to have babies. States should be responsible for health insurance... but the kind that crosses state lines.

Mary: Check this! Cassidy tried to make Obamacare happen in Louisiana before there was even Obamacare in Obamaland. Did I blow your mind? I just blew your mind.  Y'all, people should have health insurance.  I can make Obamacare better with copper plans and raising subsidies.

Question 4 is from Jeremy.. and HOLY SHIT it might actually be from Jeremy: Superpacs. Hot or Not? Also what campaign finance law would you change if you could?

Maness: Politics is racket! There is too much money in it.  BUT I agree with Citizens United. (Actually sounded like he said "Cynicisms United" which is kind of great) So everything is fine and I would leave it like this which, remember, is a racket with too much money in it.

Mary: Kochs! Koch Brothers are in your closet and under your bed and they're ON YOUR TV running ads for Cassidy and that's just crazy! (Sure the Kochs are pretty terrible. And they're backing Cassidy. But, you know they've also spent $31,000 on Mary since 2007 so... )

Cassidy: Harry Reid is the real Koch Brother. Also Mary wants to give your guns to Mike Bloomberg.

Question 5 is from Shauna .. from viewers:  Shauna says this is a two part question but then asks it in three parts. Income inequality. 1) Do you care? 2) Should we raise the minimum wage? 3) If not then what do we do?

Mary: I like the middle class and I like to say middle class a lot. It is criminal that my opponents will not raise the minimum wage. I support pay equity for women.

Cassidy: Income inequality happened because Obama stole all of your money and gave it to "people who bought stock with him."  Also Obamacare causes inequality. Also we should pay people in oil.

Maness: I have donors.  I was in the airforce with women so I am for pay equity for women.  The states should "experiment" with the minimum wage.

Follow up from Shauna to Cassidy: Why did you vote against Lilly Ledbetter?

Cassidy: Because trial attorneys.

Question 6 is from the viewers Alan is herding: Student debt?

Cassidy: Student debt happens because tuition is high and deadbeat students are stealing Pell Grants.  Also I would like to say Obamacare and Mary caused your student debt.

Maness: (Maness begins most of his answers with a sigh. It's like he's already exhausted with this politics thing he says he is just now learning.  Probably because it's a racket with too much money in it or something.) Obamacare ate all the small businesses. Also our energy sector needs to be "unleashed."

Mary: Education is a public good. Bobby Jindal cut $700 million out of education and Maness and Cassidy let him do it.  Here is a plan with points: 1) Lower student loans 2) Double Pell Grants.

Follow up from Alan to Cassidy: Look an imaginary student in the face and say what you can do tomorrow to help:

Cassidy: Young people want freedom. They are motivated by freedom.  But won't someone think of the taxpayers!

Question 7 is from Stephanie: Federal Gov't in K-12 education?

Maness: Dismantle the Department of Education.  Kill Common Core. Do block grants. (Wow! A coherent answer from Maness.  A terrible one but coherent.)

Mary: Your zip code shouldn't determine your future. Me and George Bush, we did some stuff to make accountabilites happen. Also Bobby Jindal was for Common Core before he was against it.

Cassidy: My daughter is dyslexic. States can have Common Core if they want it but Obama is a dictator and all so boo to that.

Follow up is same question restated Cassidy just kind of talks some more

Question 8 is from Jeremy: Federal budget priorities? For or against debt ceiling?

Mary: Disaster funding.  Cassidy voted against Isaac relief. Oil revenue sharing.  (Which is how Mary thinks we're going to save the coast without pissing off her backers in Oil and Gas too much)  I voted to raise the debt ceiling and will do it again. (Because that is the only sane response)

Cassidy: I voted for Sandy relief before I voted against it. I am for oil revenue sharing but I'm better at being for it than Mary is.  I am in favor of using the debt ceiling to hold Social Security and Medicare hostage again just like we did last time.

Maness: (Sighs again) I will not vote for the debt ceiling.  There should be a standing automatic disaster relief fund. The coast is very important. Obama and Mary are killing your energy jobs.

Question 9 (Interruption from Maness: "How am I doing so far?" Everyone agrees he is doing ok) Question is from Shauna:  Social Security?

Cassidy: My mother is really old.  Tip and Ronnie saved Social Security once.  I want to.. something something something.. Mary voted to raise the retirement age and you can look it up on my website.

Maness: Cassidy wants to raise the retirement age to 70. I disagree with that. We give too much Social Security to the disabled. I think they're fakin'.

Mary: No to raising the retirement age. (Cassidy interrupts. Mary hits him with a classic "Let me finish")  People in Louisiana are not "living longer"

Follow up to Cassidy about raising the retirement age.

Cassidy: Tip and Ronnie did it and "it didn't hurt anybody!"  (This reminds me of the old joke.  Patient goes in to see the doctor and says, "It hurts when I work until I'm 70."  The doctor is Bill Cassidy and says, "No it doesn't.)

Question 10 from Alan: Are y'all gonna close our military bases?

Maness: No.

Mary: No.

Cassidy: No.

Question 11 from Stephanie: Is climate change real?

Mary: Yes it's real and yes humans cause it. BUT I am a big supporter of fossil fuels and believe that we should have more American fossil fuel exploration because American oil is probably not so bad for the climate. I have done all sorts of stuff to make more oil happen all over the Gulf.  Also Obama is stupid and yum yum oil is very delicious. Would you like some oil? I brought some with me here in this can.

Cassidy: There might be some climate change somewhere but the weather is pretty nice outside today. The coast is sinking but the ocean is not rising so that's probably a glass half full thing right there. Meanwhile Mary loves Harry Reid more than she loves oil.

Maness: Global warming probably stopped sixteen years ago. Or maybe 19 years ago. Or possibly 26 years ago! So WTF do we know, really? 

Lighting Round!  It's a yes/no thing. God this is stupid. Ok go!

Medical Marijuana?

Cassidy: Yes

Maness: No

Mary: No (even though her name is one half of Mary Jane which is a funny thing I just thought)

Is Health Care a "fundamental right"?

Cassidy: Yes

Maness: No

Mary: Yes

Do you favor a balanced budget amendment?

Cassidy: "Absolutely"

Maness: "Of course"

Mary: "Not an amendment but a budget balanced"

Because none of the candidates answered this question with a simple "Yes" or "No" they are all three disqualified and Louisiana will have to play the next six years down a Senator.  Election over. The remaining questions are for fun.

Okay now it's just utter chaos because Beth Courtney just said this exact thing:

"This is the final question. Yes or No. I want you to rate, on a scale of 1 to 10,  two people."

Everyone's head has exploded and university staff are cleaning brains (or whatever was in Rob Maness's head) off of the floor.  

Anyway the people to rate were Obama and Jindal so let's do that.

Cassidy: No (This is the correct answer, actually) But seriously, folks. Obama is a 0 and Jindal is a 7

Maness: Obama is a 0 Jindal is a 5

Mary: Jindal is "barely a 3" while Obama is "a 6 to a 7"

Mary loses this very important round since she appears to have actually thought seriously about her meaningless numerical ratings.

Closing Statements:

Mary: I'd like to thank the academy, my family, my agent, my producer... soo many people to thank.   OK look. Forget about Obama. I like to do many oil things. I have clout.  I think disasters are bad.  Medicare good. Retiring at 70 bad. Coastal restoration good. And that is all the time I have.


Cassidy: Somewhere a woman is very worried and can't sleep. It's Obama's fault. Mary made Obama happen. I'm a doctor. I've been a doctor for a long time.  I like families.  Obama. Mary likes Obama. Obmacare. I don't like Washington D.C. Please send me there.

Maness: Thanks for putting me on TV! I'm just a guy who went to the airforce while he was in night school.  I went to some countries I cannot name and got a Bronze Star for that.  Our country is in trouble because it's off track. I don't like decline.  Best days ahead. Rise up, people. I love you. God bless.


And with those statements, we can consider this exercise closed.  I hope this debate was helpful to you. They're probably going to do another one so be warned. The good news is if you sit and watch the second debate Bill Cassidy won't make you work until you're 70 because by then you'll already feel like you did anyway.