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Saturday, December 20, 2014

The parade ordinances say nothing about sheet pilings

Wasn't so long ago that the most cumbersome obstructions one would find on the Napoleon Avenue neutral ground were tents and ladders like these.

Tents and chairs on Napoleon

Lately, it's a bit different.

Metal sheet pilings

Those are the metal sheet pilings contractors working for the Army Corps of Engineers on the SELA drainage project have been driving into the ground this week.  The pilings are there to support the construction of a new underground drainage canal meant to augment the performance of the one that already exists there.

Napoleon SELA canal



The pilings were the cause of a lawsuit filed during an earlier phase of the project when vibrations caused damage to nearby homes in Broadmoor.  Since then the Corps has switched to an alternate method of pile driving.  This thing is called a "silent piler"

Pile driving

A crane lifts the piling into place, and this machine just shoves it into the ground where it's then welded onto the preceding piling. It's not exactly "silent" but it is cool to watch.  Anyway, here's the outline of where the new canal is going to go.

Napoleon Avenue canal

The word is Carnival parades aren't expecting to have to change their routes this year.  But I don't see a whole lot of room to place ladders in there. All these people have to go somewhere, right?

Napoleon crowd


The Napoleon Avenue portion of  the SELA project is currently estimated to complete in November 2016.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

In other words, they were right to vote the millage down

Turns out the Orleans levee board can share its revenue surplus to shore up the St. Bernard system after all.
The authority on Thursday also passed a motion authorizing the Orleans Levee District to loan the Lake Borgne Basin Levee District up to $4 million to fund the construction of a floodwall in the vicinity of the Violet Canal in order to meet FEMA requirements for certification. If the 7.5-mill tax increase for the Lake Borgne district passes, part of those funds would go to toward the loan's repayment.

Without that FEMA certification, the National Flood Insurance Program could drastically raise insurance for St. Bernard homeowners, and those in the Lower 9th Ward, as FEMA would treat those properties as if there were no back levee at all protecting them, Estopinal explained.

Asked about repayment of that loan, though, authority President Stephen Estopinal made clear "that repayment is not a guarantee at this point in time" because of the millage increase's uncertainty. But the authority will include a promissory note with the loan, specifying that the Orleans district is owned the money and that the authority also would ask the Lake Borgne district annually where it was in terms of its repayment.
This is interesting because after St. Bernard voters turned down a millage proposal that would have mitigated the need for this loan, there was some concern about what to do. The separate political entities are technically forbidden from sharing funds, even though, in reality, they comprise one flood control system. 

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East was established specifically to oversee operations of the three levee districts that maintain this system. But state law prohibits taxes raised in one district from being used in another.
The more populated parishes of Orleans and Jefferson have surpluses. But St. Bernard has struggled to meet the demands of the southern end of the system.

The regional flood protection authority said New Orleans, with a property tax of 6.21 mills, collects about $16.3 million a year. East Jefferson’s 3.91 mills brings in about $8.8 million.
St. Bernard’s higher millage of 11.1 garners just $3.4 million because of its much smaller population and tax base.
Looks like they found a way around that without having to increase the tax burden on the smaller, poorer, St. Bernard Parish.   Naturally, they don't want to keep doing it that way.
Tyrone Ben, who represents St. Bernard on the authority, said he and others did make the rounds to educate voters on the Dec. 6 millage, but he pointed out that all the millages on that ballot failed. He called it "a referendum" against taxes in general, not just the levee tax.

"But I know we are going to do it again in May and I hope that we just sell it better," Ben said.

Turner said he is "committed to doing everything that I can personally do to make people aware of the situation with the Lake Borgne Levee system."

"We will redouble our efforts and try to get out into the community and make sure that people make the right decision," Turner said. "We just have to be out there to let people know what the world will look like from a flood protection perspective if we come up short and have to make significant cuts in the Lake Borgne levee system."

City of landlords

Landlords who rent to tourists
The council received an earful Wednesday from people on both sides of the issue.
Several opponents of the rentals urged members to abandon any attempt at creating new laws in favor of enforcing those already on the books.

“What’s stopping someone from looking at these on a case-by-case basis and cracking down and enforcing the current laws instead of turning a blind eye to what is happening?” asked Carol Gniady, executive director of the group French Quarter Citizens.

Critics of the rentals said they affect the affordability of housing both for rent and for sale. They also objected to the wedging of what they said are commercial businesses into residential neighborhoods.

Nobody actually lives in a city like that.  Which is fine, I guess, if you own a piece of it.


War paint

Is that what you are supposed to wear to a bird funeral?
Following Monday night's win at Chicago, Lewis told reporters

"We're definitely gonna give them their funeral," a predicted Sunday afternoon outcome which would end Atlanta's playoff hopes.

Two days later, Lewis added fuel to the proverbial fire.

"This is definitely a war," Lewis added Wednesday. "What, you think this is a game? I've got my war paint on."

Falcons receiver Roddy White refused to take the word bait.

"Yes, may we'll rest in peace," White joked back from Atlanta.

Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/2014/12/17/5974633_keenan-lewis-stands-by-comments.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Circle of white flight

Restaurant owner Chris Vodanovich died yesterday. Ian McNulty's obituary of him published in the Advocate contains a short snip of the history of Mid City. 
For a time, the St. Ann Street restaurant had a clubhouse atmosphere. The crowd from the Fair Grounds convened there after a day at the track. The restaurant was on the map for visiting celebrities, and business and political deals were often sealed under its roof.

“It was the second City Hall, like Ruth’s Chris (Steak House) down the street — it’s where everyone went,” Cvitanovich said.

But the old neighborhood was deteriorating. In 1970, restaurant critic Richard Collin wrote that Bozo’s was in “a poorer section of the city and looks so seedy outside that one is surprised at the middle-class atmosphere inside.” With the suburbs then beginning to thrive, the Vodanovichs moved their restaurant in 1979 to Metairie, where they developed it anew at 3117 21st St.

They continued to run the business directly, with Chris minding the fryers and Bernadine a constant presence at the cashier’s station, until they retired in 2008.
Last year a Whole Foods opened just a few blocks away on Broad so the neighborhood is changing again.  I wonder where all the "seedy" people will go.  Metairie, probably. 

Update:  NOLA.com's Brett Anderson doesn't gloss over it so much.
For a period before moving Bozo's to Metairie, Mr. Vodanovich changed the business from a restaurant to a private club. As Williams explained it, the move was made on the advice of a lawyer who said it would allow the restaurant to sidestep desegregation laws by only allowing service to select customers who paid a "membership" fee.

"When the Saints team performed, they all wanted to eat there, and he wouldn't serve them" because many of the players were black, Williams said.

"There was a lot of private clubs going on at that time," Gremillion said. "It could dictate who you could serve or not."

The Metairie restaurant was open to the public.
 It was sort of like a charter school restaurant. 

Yes well you could also just ignore it

Bobby Jindal's "prayer rally" is a political stunt designed to make him appear to be the victim of mean librul anti-religious oppression.  Stop giving him the reaction he needs to pull that off.

Isn't most white collar work pretty much just PR bullshit anyway?

Judge Africk claims he can tell the difference
But Africk reserved his harshest criticism in months for a Gusman lawyer who only hours before the 8:30 a.m. hearing filed an unsolicited, 11-page memorandum touting “extraordinary progress” and the “significant effort the (Sheriff’s Office) has expended” toward satisfying its federal consent decree, the agreement between Gusman and the U.S. Justice Department that requires wholesale changes at the prison.

Africk described the documents as inappropriate and ordered them removed from the court record. The filings, which had appeared about 1 a.m., sought to highlight the strides Gusman’s office has made in improving conditions at the troubled jail. But Africk said they represented an incomplete account that “doesn’t tell the story of the tardiness we’ve encountered” from the Sheriff’s Office in fulfilling a long list of mandated jail reforms.

“I look at it as a (public relations) document,” Africk said, “and I’m not going to allow the court to be used as a PR agent.”
 God bless him. I gave up trying.

Why would we need net neutrality?

Surely we can let all these big telecoms and entertainment companies run the internet for us.  They always make sound decisions about which content should or should not be transmitted.

Truthiness to power

We're losing "Stephen Colbert" this week.  There have been some fine moments but the ones that stand out are the times when he took the character outside of the show and said things that made people uncomfortable right in front of them. 

Presidents



Media blowhards



Congresspersons 


 


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Meanwhile, it is Falcons Hate Week

Shame on me for not really mentioning it yet.  This has been a great season. The Saints have a chance to do something truly unique and the path to that goes right through the Atlanta Falcons.  I don't get why anybody would complain about this.

Anyway, go to B&G Review and look at all the pretty moving pictures

Kevin Wildes is the shadow government

The Lens has more (a lot more) this afternoon on what emails reveal about the relationship between Loyola University President Kevin Wildes and Mayor Landrieu's administration while Wildes served on the city Civil Service Commission.

It's clear from these emails that Wildes joined the commission specifically in order to help Mitch dismantle the Civil Service system which exists to protect city employees from politically motivated interference.
As head of the independent, apolitical Civil Service Commission, Wilde’s primary responsibility was to protect about 3,700 rank-and-file city workers from political meddling. At the least, it should have an arm’s-length relationship with the administration. At its most extreme, some believe the commission should have an adversarial stance toward the city’s political leadership, serving as a shield against favoritism and political shenanigans affecting the workforce.

But the emails from Wildes’ tenure show his relationship with the Landrieu administration to be cozy, deferential and even reliant. This relationship perverted the intent of the commission in some cases, turning it into a panel that at times did the mayor’s bidding.
A few weeks ago, a judge threw out legal challenges to the mayor's "reform" on the maddening grounds that no one had been hurt by it... yet.
Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Ethel Julien on Wednesday stymied an effort by three of the city’s largest employee associations seeking to block key provisions of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Great Place to Work Initiative from taking effect. Julien, who denied a temporary injunction against the city, said that the lawsuit was premature because no city employees had yet been harmed by Landrieu’s overhaul to city personnel rules.
But what these communications demonstrate is that the mayor's office is already interfering with the process by which  personnel management policy is developed by the commission.  This, in itself, seems to fly in the face of constitutional intent. 
The commission, which was created by the state constitution, is meant to ensure that city employees are treated fairly and hired and promoted based on achievement. A 1983 state Supreme Court opinion was clear on the intent of the commission, saying those rewriting the new 1974 state constitution clearly believed it should be “safeguarded and removed as far as humanly possible from any form of political influence or any suspicion of political influence or control.”   
According to these emails, however, the mayor's staff intended to reduce the commission's role as a firewall against political mischief to that of an ineffectual "consultant." 
Late in 2011, Kopplin suggested Wildes meet Norton, the administration’s point person on Civil Service changes, and the two began corresponding regularly. Over the next year and right up until the passage of the Great Place to Work Initiative, they worked closely together. The emails suggest they repeatedly violated state sunshine laws.

Norton jumped right in to suggest the administration’s plan, showing Wildes exactly what policy changes the administration had in mind, including giving hiring, promotion and salary-setting authority to department directors — which would essentially “turn civil service into a consultancy.”
It is perverse for the court to demand the disruption or ruination of some hapless employee's life before action can be taken to uphold their constitutional protections. Especially when the intent of the "reform" so blatantly spelled out like this.

Meanwhile entirely by coincidence Loyola University (Wildes' day job, remember) has declined to renew the lease on the space The Lens has been occupying on its campus for the past two years.  So now we know Wildes understands how an administrator utilizes the tool of politically motivated interference.  Maybe he's just demonstrating the value of his gift to the city.

Robust

July 2, 1832:
In conformity with an established custom, we respectfully announce to our patrons that The Bee will be published only three times a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays commencing tomorrow until the first of November next. During the general suspension of commercial operations, our subscribers will scarcely regret this arrangement since it affords us the opportunity of preparing our sheet with more care than can be devoted to a daily journal and since, should important news arrive on vacant days, it will be immediately issued an extra.
I think they called the extra, L'Abeille Street.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Legalizing Dizneylandrieu

Nobody actually lives here anymore.  The rent is too damn high because renters have to compete with luxury travelers and support staff for movie production.
Then there are all the other people touched by film in uncounted ways — for instance, people who rent their homes out as film sets or lodging. A website called Key to NOLA caters to the industry with short-term, high-end rentals, some going for as much as $5,000 a month.
We could try to remedy this situation via our political process but it turns out that the political process isn't interested in our problems.  Because gentrification is the policy choice our city has made.
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -Among the crowds of tourists who flock to New Orleans each year, many seek short-term rental properties for lodging.

While the growing underground industry is illegal in the city, some hope that will soon change.
"There are definitely people who want to stay in homes. They like the idea of having a living room and kitchen," said one rental property owner, who asked to remain anonymous. “We would like to see the business regulated and taxed."

The property owner is part of a group that calls itself, the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity.

During a city council committee hearing Wednesday, Alliance members are expected to continue their push to legalize vacation rentals, but they face opposition from several groups.
The "Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity" you may recall is a group of landlords headed by former city attorney Bob Ellis.   Their plan to turn more of the city's rental housing stock over to the short-term luxury market is pretty much in line with Mayor Landrieu's "boutique city" strategy for growing the tax base by removing the poor we've discussed over and over to little avail here.

Anyway they've accomplished their first goal which is turn this into a "both sides" kind of issue that makes it easy for the press to frame in amoral he said/she said terms.
For now, the fierce debate continues.

"I think (a law change) definitely will get passed. I think the people on city council realize it will produce revenue for the city, which we need," said the rental owner.

“What this really comes down to is, who do you think New Orleans is for? We think New Orleans is for New Orleanians -- the people who live here, work here, go to school and go to church here, vote here. This other group seems to think New Orleans should be turned over to tourists," Lousteau said.
Should the city serve its citizens or its landlords?  "The fierce debate continues."  Well, until the landlords inevitably win, anyway.  

Shadow government

For whatever reason, this city allows the local university presidents to sit on unelected boards and make all sorts of far ranging policy decisions largely outside of the public eye.  Under the current administration, Loyola President Kevin Wildes has been an especially enthusiastic Shadow Governor.

Today he resigned from the Civil Service commission. It's entirely clear why. Although, in light of the fact that all legal objection to the mayor's obliteration of the Civil Service system as we once knew it has ended, Wildes might feel like he's accomplished his mission.
As chairman of the Civil Service Commission, email messages show, Wildes discussed Landrieu's overhaul proposal at length with various city officials, including Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin and Alexandra Norton, the architect of Landrieu's Civil Service agenda.

When asked about the messages, Wildes was not shy about his support for overhauling the city's employment system. He said he saw himself as a reformer from the beginning.

The emails between him and and Landrieu's deputies suggest the administration did too.

In a 2013 exchange with Kopplin, Wildes forwarded an article lauding the election of Pope Francis, who, like Wildes, is a Jesuit priest.

"Perfect. Still got the wrong guy," Kopplin joked, implying Wildes would have been a better choice.
"But then who would take care of Civil Service for you," Wildes replied.

"Good point," Kopplin said. "That may be tougher than reforming the Vatican."

Just ignore him

When Bobby Jindal agreed to (probably) launch his Presidential campaign with a "prayer rally" on the LSU campus next month sponsored by an organization of violently anti-gay conspiracy-theorist theocrats he obviously did this in order to provoke a reaction.

Well now he will get one
A backlash is brewing over a prayer rally scheduled for LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center next month featuring Gov. Bobby Jindal.

A Change.org petition created by an LSU alumnus urging LSU to not allow the event on campus has gotten nearly 1,000 signatures since Friday, and students are organizing a protest of the prayer rally, dubbed “The Response” because of its anti-gay ties.
It's probably a smarter course of action to just ignore Jindal's "rally."  That seems to be what Republican primary voters are doing  and it's working out just fine that way.  Everybody hates Bobby already. Why waste time and energy yelling at him for this desperate, phony and unoriginal stunt.
The event’s timing plays into Jindal’s possible political aspirations and appears to be ripped from the playbook of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Jindal is expected to announce whether he will run for governor in the coming months. In recent weeks, he’s made multiple appearances on Fox News, traveled to Washington, D.C., for GOP events and policy speeches (including a trip that had him out of state on Election Day) and continued to ramp up interest in a possible presidential campaign. This week, he traveled to Iowa to speak to the Polk County GOP holiday party.

Perry faced a similar backlash over his association with the event and AFA’s involvement, though it doesn’t appear to have stuck. Perry, who leaves office next month, remains popular in his home state, though he didn’t win the GOP nomination for president.
Perry and Jindal are very close and tend to share advisers and staff and ghostwriters and such. So it's not surprising to see that the Jindal for Prez campaign is going to look an awful lot like Perry's did in 2012. 

Oh and, for the record, the "similar backlash" Perry's prayer meeting engendered didn't make a dent in his campaign. The mainstream press hailed it as "bold" and "positive." The difference, though, is the national press at the time more or less assumed the Governor of Texas would be a default front-runner and rushed in to give him all the attention he could want.  The Governor of Louisiana, on the other hand, is desperate to get noticed.  A protest is only going to help him do that.


Happy Holidays to you and yours

Jay

Oh and happy Falcons Hate Week too. But, for now, this is nice.

Pettiness

Pretty sure that this
A decision late last week to remove three New Orleans police officers from their posts providing security at the Municipal Court building forced the closure of three of the four courtrooms and seemed to set up what could be a protracted battle between the city’s executive and judicial branches.

Chief Administrative Judge Desiree Charbonnet said the decision provided her and the other judges no time to develop a contingency plan for a court that often is a “boiling pot” because of the nature of the cases that are heard and the often close relationships between plaintiffs and defendants.

Was just part of the bargaining over this.
The City Council has rejected Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s attempt to take money being collected for building maintenance at Municipal Court and use it to pay for salaries at the court.

In a rare defeat for the mayor, the council voted 4-3 on Thursday against an ordinance that would have moved about $600,000 from the court’s building maintenance fund into its Judicial Expense Fund.

The money comes from a $5 court cost assessed to people convicted of violating municipal laws. Court costs are fees assessed on top of any fines violators must pay; the resulting revenue is split among a number of agencies for various purposes.
Ha ha we showed you. You didn't want to pay your salary out of petty fees paid by defendants well now you have to shut your court down.  Isn't that hilarious. I'm sure all the folks who had to move their schedules around to fit in a court date most of them already can't afford to go sit in the "boiling pot" all day in answer to their summons think it's funny. The petty people having this fight don't care about them though.

Auto-pilot

Louisiana is run by people who call themselves "fiscal conservatives."  You might think that means they favor responsible budgeting policy but what it really means is being super shitty to poor people who need things like food stamps and unemployment benefits while, literally, giving away free money to rich people without a care in the world as to what happens to it.
State officials need to consider Louisiana’s long list of tax breaks as spending programs that siphon dollars away from the budget, just like road projects and health care services, the Legislature’s chief economist said Monday.

But Greg Albrecht said the difference with Louisiana’s $7 billion in various tax credits, rebates and exemptions is that the spending comes off the top, with no annual oversight from state lawmakers before the money goes out the door.

“It’s open-ended and unappropriated. It’s on auto-pilot. The programs, the parameters, the statutes that set them up, participation, payout. It’s got no controls, no review, nothing,” Albrecht told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Monday, December 15, 2014

March 23 is Darryl Berger Day

No, it's not his birthday. (Maybe it is, actually. I don't know.)  But it is the day that this committee is going to award his company the right to redevelop the WTC.
A five-member selection committee of city officials has been formed to review 10 proposals for the redevelopment of the former World Trade Center building at the foot of Canal Street. The panel is expected to select one of the projects by late March.

The committee consists of Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin; Cindy Connick, executive director of the Canal Street Development Corp.; Bill Gilchrist, the city’s director of place-based planning; City Planning Commission Executive Director Bob Rivers; and Ashleigh Gardere, executive director of the city’s Network for Economic Opportunity. 
What the heck is the "Network for Economic Opportunity"? Yeah, I wondered that too.  Turns out it's a thing they appear to have made a couple of months ago with an "innovation" grant thingie from Living Cities which is a pipeline through which wealthy people who run banks and stuff can shape public policy by pretending to have benevolent motives.  But mostly what they do is pass money around to consultants.  And, in March, they'll help decide to give a plum property over to a well connected developer too. So that's nice.

So are we just movign on now, or what?

In the week before the election this Bill Cassidy timesheet fraud story was really really important to a lot of people.  These people assured us the story was about a serious ethical breach that endangered not only Cassidy's career but the good standing of his employers at LSU-HSC and the.. um.. good(?) name of the State Of Louisiana.

Well here we are a week after the election and the guy won. What are the consequences of that?  Does anybody even care anymore?  Because it seems like the only person even talking about it is Republican operative, Quin Hillyer. That's kind of weird, right?

Real life is not like the movies

In the movies, Jack Nicholson's character covered up a brutal murder by beating and was held accountable for that by the justice system.   In real life, he's a hero to unaccountable brutes who beat people to death.


We only employ journalists who don't actually care about things

NPR to staff: Don’t participate in civil rights march

It's a "free press," though. 

It was probably bad for tourism, you know

Rudy Lombard, civil rights activist and former mayoral candidate, dies at 75

He was arrested his senior year during a sit-in at the McCrory’s dime store on Canal Street on Sept. 17, 1960, which was organized by the local chapter of CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality.

Lombard, who was the senior class president at Xavier and a national vice president of CORE, was joined at the whites-only lunch counter by Lanny Goldfinch, a white Tulane University student, plus Cecil Carter Jr. and the late Oretha Castle Haley, both of whom were black.

The group, known as the “CORE Four,” refused orders to leave and were arrested.

The Supreme Court, which reviewed the case even though New Orleans had no official segregation ordinances for stores, tossed out their criminal mischief arrests in 1963 in the case of Lombard v. Louisiana.

Days before the arrests, Mayor Chep Morrison had made a pro-segregation statement that banned such protests.

“I have today directed the superintendent of police that no additional sit-in demonstrations ... will be permitted ... regardless of the avowed purpose or intent of the participants,” Morrison said in a statement released Sept. 13, 1960, following a similar sit-in at a nearby Woolworth store. “It is my determination that the community interest, the public safety and the economic welfare of this city require that such demonstrations cease and that henceforth they be prohibited by the police department.”

“These convictions, commanded as they were by the voice of the state directing segregated service at the restaurant, cannot stand,” Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the court’s decision.
You can just hear the important people talking about how bad such disruptions might be for the city's image and brand or whatever.  It doesn't really take much imagination.  A few weeks ago a protest against police brutality somewhat distracted the presentation of a corporate-sponsored light show at Gallier Hall.  You don't have to go too far into the comments to that story before you find,
This is an embarrassment for our city as many tourists had to leave their cabs to walk to their locations.  Then to view cops with he hands in their pockets doing nothing for over an hour as well. I would like to know why the cops did nothing as they blocked traffic by laying in the street last night.  Is this how they will react going forward?
According to the story, one onlooker suggested that the police shoot the protesters.   Presumably this would have been helpful to the tourists as well.  
 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Busted

Bobby Jindal is already leaving us with a $1 billion hole in next year's state budget.  Expect that will only get worse.
Of more immediate concern is the impact of the price of oil on the remaining months of this year’s budget.

“Oil prices have hit a five-year low over the last week, and they’re trending downward,” Nichols said. “We’re anticipating that the oil prices likely will get dropped again, likely in January.”
They're expecting it to stay low for a while.
Surging U.S. light tight oil supply will push total non-OPEC production to record growth of 1.9 million bpd this year although the pace of growth is expected to slow to 1.3 million in 2015, the IEA said.

Given lower estimates of global demand growth, the IEA said it had revised its predictions for demand for oil from OPEC for 2015 down by 300,000 bpd to 28.9 million bpd. That is more than 1 million bpd below the cartel's current production.

Demand for OPEC oil will bottom out seasonally in the first quarter of 2015, leading to a large build-up in stocks.

The IEA said based on current projections of still relatively weak demand growth and robust supply, global oil inventories would build by close to 300 million barrels in the first half of 2015 in the absence of disruption, shut-ins or a cut in OPEC production.

And here, to finish out that Advocate article, is why it matters to us. 
The price originally used to calculate the revenues for this fiscal year was $95.80 per barrel. (In July, when this year’s budget went into effect, the price was about $105.)

In mid-November, legislators reduced the estimate to an annual average of $81.33. The price of crude has continued to fall and has been hovering around $60 per barrel for the past week.

The price of oil is used to calculate severance and other taxes as well as royalties that state government collects. The general rule of thumb is about $12 million less available to state government for every $1 drop in the average annual price of oil.

In November, the Revenue Estimating Conference determined that the state would collect $171 million less than the originally anticipated $10.6 billion in collections from taxes, fees, royalties and other revenue sources. That’s a drop of about 1.9 percent for the remaining months of fiscal year 2015, which ends on June 30.

Branding vs party building

Louisiana Democrats don't have a lot to look forward to as far as next year's gubernatorial election is concerned. Maybe that's not an entirely unhealthy situation for them.  It could be an opportunity to start over, rebuild a party from the proverbial grass roots, focus on the things that matter to the poor and working class Louisianans they claim as their traditional constituency.

This would mean finding candidates who agitate for living wages, for eliminating corporate welfare from the state budget, for restoring a healthy Gulf Coast, for affordable health care for everyone, for reliable flood protection and affordable flood insurance.   This is an opportunity to find people who are actually doing this work and put them on the ballot.  Maybe you won't elect a Govenrnor this time around, but you might build something more like a party that can deliver real results in the future. The Louisiana Democratic Party as currently composed is moribund; corrupted by money and oil; useless to anyone outside of a shrinking circle of elites.  Burn it down and start over.

Of course, the "party insiders" are hoping to do exactly the opposite of this.
If Mary Landrieu were to enter the race for Louisiana Governor, she would join an already crowded field of established political heavyweights, including Senator David Vitter, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, former Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, and State Representative John Bel Edwards. Currently, Vitter is the presumptive frontrunner, and Edwards, who announced his candidacy in February of 2013, is the only Democrat in the race.

“There is only one way next year’s elections become competitive for down-ticket Democratic candidates,” a prominent Democratic official told me, also on the condition of anonymity. “We need a Landrieu at the top of the ticket, preferably Mary.
 Sure, good luck with that. 

Which departure should we be watching for?

You know I think SI's Peter King is as annoying as the next guy does. But, despite Sean Payton's protestations I don't know that this speculation is really all that "silly."
Sports Illustrated's Peter King ignited the blogosphere earlier this week, when he offered a video on his The Monday Morning Quarterback website, saying he could envision Payton making an early exit from New Orleans after this, his ninth season.

King's reasoning centered on Payton's mentor Bill Parcells' preference for leaving teams early before overstaying his welcome. King said coaches often develop a "wanderlust" after significant time with one organization, and Payton might be reinvigorated by going elsewhere.

"Absolutely no way," Payton shot back, unequivocally dismissing King's theory.

He wasn't quiet done expressing his distaste for the notion that he'd leave before his contract is up in three years.

"So it wasn't a report? Peter King offered his 10 things he thinks. It's silly. Won't happen," Payton said.
The basis for King's speculation is wrong.  We joke about "Grandpa Sean" a lot but he's not going to leave just for a change of scenery or for the sake of being "reinvigorated."  That really is a silly line of thinking.  Of course, coaches (typically) don't stay in one place forever but, when they leave, there's usually a reason beyond just "Welp, it's time to be gettin' on"

The conventional wisdom among Saints fans has long held that Payton will stick around in New Orleans at least as long as Drew Brees does.  According to Brees, that could be another ten years but he is clearly a crazy person.  A reasonable but generous assessment would give him another 4 or 5 years at most.  On the other hand, it may not be Brees's longevity the fans should be worried about.  

Tom Benson is 87 years old.  Recently, he's been actively spending more of his time and money building monuments to himself.   In the past few years, he has created the following.

The Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center at the Ochsner Cancer Institute
New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson today will announce a $5 million gift to expand cancer care in south Louisiana.  The donation will be used for the expansion of the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center at the Ochsner Cancer Institute and kicks off a fundraising effort to provide more patients with cutting-edge cancer care and research options.

The Tom and Gayle Benson student mall at Brother Martin High School.
New Orleans, La. - Tom and Gayle Benson have donated $10 million to Brother Martin High School, the largest donation in the school's history. In honor of his gift,  Brother Martin will name the student Mall, the center of student activity on campus, in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Benson. Tom Benson is a 1944 graduate of St. Aloysius and says he remembers well the generosity of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. 

Below is a photo of "Benson Field at Yulman Stadium"

Tulane sideline

But it's not the only football field that will bear Benson's name. There's also one in Ohio.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Pro Football Hall of Fame received a record $11 million donation from Saints owner Tom Benson to renovate its football stadium and build a residence that includes room for retired players.

The Hall of Fame made the announcement Monday. The pledge is the largest by an individual in the 51-year history of the Canton football shrine. Fawcett Stadium will be renamed Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium after the 87-year-old owner.
And, of course, there's this.

Bronze Tom

I know it was back in September and Saints fans were all too busy buying Superbowl tickets at the time to notice. But there were a couple of things about that statue unveiling that are worth another look.  
After seeing the statue for the first time, Benson was choked up and emotional as he was given the microphone.

"Oh, that's real nice," Benson said. "I never did think this would happen. So please, thank y'all very much."

It was a side of Benson that Loomis hadn't seen before.

"It did make me emotional to hear him get emotional," Loomis said. "I was saying this to some of the executives that I've been with for a long time, I've never seen him do that before. I've seen him get emotionally angry, but never emotional like this about any kind of issue. I know this meant a lot to him, so that's gratifying for all of us."
The way that's worded might lead the reader to believe the statue was a surprise to Benson.   It wasn't.  Benson was (maybe) "seeing the statue for the first time" at the unveiling. But it was obviously something he had long been involved in planning; the same way he'd been involved in planning everything else on this list.  Interesting, though, that this one, the statue of himself, is the one at which he tears up.

Anyway, the ceremony proceeded with Bobby Jindal lying about "Benson and his wife Gayle's commitment to the state after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," (Benson actually tried to rip the Saints out of New Orleans after Katrina. The NFL forced him to come back.) Mitch Landrieu said something about "vitality."  And then Sean Patyon spoke. 
"As a head coach, I couldn't have had the opportunity to work for a better owner in our league."
Yeah, well, slim pickings with that lot, we know.  But, whatever we might think of Benson, it's true that he and Payton get along well.  We can't say the same, though, for Benson's probable successor.
Lost in the fact that the contract extension signed by Saints coach Sean Payton was rejected by the league office due to a term that would have invalidated the deal upon the departure of G.M. Mickey Loomis is the question of why that language was in the contract in the first place.

A league source tells PFT that Payton wanted to be sure that Loomis would be present to serve as a buffer between the coach and Rita Benson LeBlanc.
Here's one more recent Benson donation we left out because it doesn't appear to involve plastering his name or image on something. 
New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and his wife, Gayle Benson, have committed a $5 million gift to the Team Gleason House for Innovative Living at St. Margaret's in New Orleans, Team Gleason Foundation officials announced Monday.

The funds will support the ongoing efforts of Team Gleason to provide people with ALS and other debilitating conditions an environment where they can live vital and productive lives with meaningful freedom and independence.

"Gayle and I couldn't be more proud of the work that Steve and Team Gleason are doing for people living with ALS. Steve inspires us all with his message of facing and overcoming adversity, Tom Benson, said in a release. "And, we wanted to be part of growing this community of productive individuals committed to living as independently as possible."
For the most part this end-of-life giving spree is Tom Benson's desperate attempt to immortalize himself in this world. But, devout Catholic that he is, we also have to suspect he's trying to pass his proverbial camel through the old needle's eye.   If Benson happens to set off on that journey before Drew Brees decides to retire, Sean Payton may be headed out of New Orleans before then too.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

At least it's not a "coldcock"

The city is trying to screw a lot of people out their pensions right now.  The firefighters are a special case in that they've been going rounds over this for decades now.  Anyway... here's where things are this afternoon.





"Oh my lord no" means yes

Or at least maybe
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., says she probably won't run for office again.

"Oh Lord, no," Landrieu, 59, told reporters when asked if another campaign, perhaps for governor in 2015 or the Senate in 2016, was in her future.

 "Well, let me say, I'm not going to say a definite 'no' about any of those two," Landrieu said. "I've been trained to never say no. But it is highly, highly unlikely."
She can probably have her pick of whatever job she wants on K Street. That seems to fit but would also be incredibly boring.

People want her to run for Governor. I don't think she will.  Other people want her to wait and run for Vitter's Senate seat after he inevitably becomes Governor.  That's possible.  But if she's going to succeed at that she'll have to apply some lessons learned from the last go 'round.  She seems pretty confident that she's learned a few of those, otherwise this wouldn't be a possibility.
There's also a chance, she said, she'll join her father, Moon, the former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu, in writing a book about the transition of Louisiana  from a Democratic state to one dominated by Republicans with perhaps some insights on how her party can reverse those trends.

Stacy Head thinks "I got mine" is a perfectly cogent argument

I guess that's leadership, or something.
At the meeting, Head made her case for a change to the system. She noted that most of the employees in attendance were either retirees or nearing retirement age and likely would be unaffected by any proposal on the table.

“You’re going to get yours, no matter what happens,” Head said. “It’s the people coming behind you who are truly in jeopardy.”

Earlier this year, Head asked the system’s actuary to calculate the effects of five overhaul proposals, including changes to employee retirement eligibility age and benefit calculations as well as the elimination of cost of living adjustments through so-called “13th check” bonuses during years in which the system’s investments perform at a certain level.

In an email to The Lens, Head said that all options are on the table. But what appears for now to be the leading proposal is called Social Security integration. Unlike other systems, including the city’s firefighters’ pension system, city pension members members pay into Social Security and are eligible to receive Social Security benefits. The proposal would reduce the pension system’s payment by 50 percent of Social Security payments once a retiree becomes eligible.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

There's money in it

Sometimes consultants make their money just selling some line of bullshit about how to water down your asphalt or whatever.  Other times they get paid to direct your deliberate human misery program.
The CIA contractors who helped develop and operate the "enhanced interrogation techniques" that the agency used on terror suspects, including waterboarding, were paid more than $80 million, according to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA's interrogation program released Tuesday.

The contract was for more than $180 million, but the contractors had only received $81 million when their contract was terminated in 2009.
In other words, Obama cost these guys $100 million with his godforsaken job killing torture moratorium. 

Oh well, easy come, easy go, right?  Okay, admittedly, it didn't go so easy for everyone. Certainly not for the detainees, anyway.

Coercive interrogation methods included waterboarding, sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, nudity, slaps, slamming detainees against a wall. At least three detainees were threatened with harm to their families, including the threat of raping a detainee's mother. And it gets worse.

"At least five CIA detainees were subjected to 'rectal rehydration' or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity," the report reads, documenting in gruesome detail one such example involving detainee Majid Khan.




It's still going pretty easy for the people who implemented these inspired recommendations. They're all happily yaking away on TV right now, probably.  That's pretty bad; sociopathic, whatever.  But what really worries me are the guys who were paid slightly less than half of the $180 million they expected for, "Hey let's shove some hummus up their butts!"  Because odds are they're actually still seething about not getting it all.

Thinner asphalt

Yesterday we received some cost-saving recommendations from consulting firm Alvarez and Marsal
On Monday (Dec. 8), Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration detailed how the state government -- with help from a private consultant -- is saving Louisiana $81 million during this fiscal year.

The Jindal administration paid Alvarez & Marsal $7 million to come up with recommendations for how Louisiana could cut costs and generate new revenue. The New York-based private firm released a list of suggestions in June that could supposedly save the state government $2.7 billion over several years if adopted.
The recommendations are underwhelming. We're told we should sell off some stuff, replace some lawyer with robots, charge media for traffic data, oh and this.
The Department of Transportation and Development is moving forward with plans to use thinner asphalt in road paving projects in order to save the state government money. 

Transportation Secretary Sherri LeBas said a fraction of Louisiana roads require more significant paving at this point. It makes sense to use the thinner pavement.

"I think we need to be efficient and really look at the amount of asphalt we are putting down," said LaBas.

When state Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, asked LeBas directly whether the thinner asphalt would require the state to have to repave the road again sooner than it would have otherwise, the secretary deflected the question.
Seems like something is being laid on pretty thick here even if it ain't asphalt.

Post-mortem but not post-racial

Richard Campanella has a feature column today about the legend of the Girod Street Cemetery.  When I was a kid, people used to joke that because the Superdome was built on top of this abandoned graveyard the football team who played there was cursed to forever play football poorly because the spirit world cares greatly about such things.*

Later I learned that the field didn't actually lie on top of the old graveyard but it wasn't until seeing this article that I realized neither did any part of the building, actually.  According to Campanella's graphic, the nearest the cemetery's boundary comes to the Dome is a portion of present day Champions Square and the Dome parking garage.

Anyway, the important thing for any of the still superstitious among us to note is that the process of decommissioning the graveyard did involve moving the bodies as well as the headstones which is, you know, probably good.**



But Campanella also points out that the removal process conformed to certain mores of the day.
On a dreary morning in early January 1957, a small group of religious leaders gathered inside the Girod Street Cemetery to witness the Right Rev. Girault M. Jones, bishop of the Archdiocese of Louisiana, revoke and annul the Sentence of Consecration that, according to Episcopalian canon, had made this ground sacred.

Workers then began extracting thousands of cast-iron and cypress caskets and readied them for their final journey. Racial segregation persisted even in death: black corpses went to Providence Memorial Park on Airline Drive, and the white dead, including the skeletons unearthed in the so-called yellow fever mound, went to Hope Mausoleum on Canal Street.

For some of the bodies, this was their second cross-town move, the first having occurred between St. Louis No. 1 and Girod 135 years earlier.
So, not only does gentrification hound us even beyond death so too does redlining. Or at least, in 1957 it did.


* Many of the superstitious among us could not help but notice also that the Saints, who moved into the Superdome in 1975, did not achieve their first winning season until 1987, only a few months after Pope John Paul II visited New Orleans and celebrated a Mass in the Dome.  Undoubtedly this must have exorcised whatever restless malevolent spirits still lingered.

** They missed some. Read the article. 

The Stupid Election

We just elected a Senator from Louisiana via a campaign that had nothing whatsoever to do with Louisiana.  I've never seen anything like it.
A few months ago, at an event in New Orleans, I had the opportunity to bend the ear of Senator Landrieu’s former campaign manager and a few of her staffers. “Cassidy is going to make this about Obama,” I said. “You need to make this about Bobby Jindal and Louisiana.” Jindal, depending on the poll, is either slightly less or slightly more popular than Barack Obama. Cassidy, already, had telegraphed his intention to run against Obama; why shouldn’t Senator Landrieu frame her election as a check against Jindal and an opportunity to distinguish her Louisiana record against his. That never happened.

But it’s not stupid Louisiana; to paraphrase Carville, it’s Louisiana, stupid. And that needs to be the battlecry.
Cassidy (well not Cassidy so much as the third party national organizations who bought TV time on his behalf) said nothing about what his ideas for representing Louisiana beyond disliking a President who will be gone in 2 years.  It's basically political malpractice on the Doctor's part.

Meanwhile.. somebody just got voted Most Likely To Succeed.
As she spoke to supporters after her loss over the weekend, Landrieu said cryptically that she will “continue” to serve Louisiana, without offering any details. Since her defeat, she’s been absent from the Senate, missing several votes this week.

In particular, Landrieu’s strong defense of the oil and gas sector — an industry that spends tens of millions of dollars every year on influence-peddling — could provide the Democrat with entree not only to a law firm or consulting shop, but in-house at a company or trade association.

The most likely person to be successful is Mary,” one head of a law firm’s lobbying practice said of this year’s crop of nearly 50 House members and dozen exiting senators.

Green Lantern, though

The death of UNO is the most under-reported post-Katrina story in New Orleans
We are losing the University of New Orleans. The official word may be that the university is undergoing a restructuring, that it is being trimmed a little bit here and there. But don't be fooled. We are losing the University of New Orleans, and when and if that loss becomes complete, New Orleans will be the poorer for it.
Everything you want to know about the city's hollowed out middle class is right there.  If you grew up in New Orleans and, like so many of our celebrated "lifers" did not go away to college, you went to UNO.  (Yes, LSU students from New Orleans consider that "going away to college."  So long as they can withstand the Ignatius Reilly plunge into the Heart of Darkness and all.) 

If you didn't go to school there, you might have worked there. In high school you were probably taught by several UNO grads.  Certainly someone in your family or immediate circle had some connection with the school. 

But then Bobby Jindal took all the money out of it and put it into Green Lantern

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

This is who they are

Mentioned this last week but let me pull this Jarvis DeBerry quote again. It captures perfectly what conservatives (I include President Obama among them, btw) are all about.
Leading America requires declaring its goodness. And not just that. Leading America requires declaring that America always has been good, that it always has treasured the law. Never mind that the law failed to prohibit the destruction of one people or the enslavement of another.
Any serious examination of our problems constitutes a failure. No one is accountable. Nothing ever gets resolved and there is never any actual justice because, "The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome," and that's all anyone ever need know.

Keep gilding that lilly

Karen Carter-Peterson has a blog now, apparently. She begins,
"The state of the Louisiana Democratic Party is unquestionably stronger than where we were just four years ago."
And we all get up and walk outside to scream/laugh for twenty minutes before continuing.

In the meantime, take a look at the back and forth between Mike Tomasky and some other people and Charles Pierce.

If the question we're really asking is as stupid as, "Should the Democrats abandon the South?" then, obviously, Pierce is on the correct side of that. On the other hand, we might be asking the wrong question.  Anyway, here's Pierce.
I sympathize with Mike. I truly do. But I still will stand with Governor Dean and the 50-state strategy, at least applied judiciously. To me, the key to the problem is to break the stranglehold of the Washington-based consultant class over what candidates will be run in what places. It wasn't the Beltway crowd who found Jon Tester in Montana, or Jim Webb in Virginia. The national party should be involved in these races only as a means by which money can be shrewdly spread around, and as a means of employing some sense of party discipline. No, Mr. Breaux, we won't be following your easily rented ass any more. We will find progressive populists, white or black, and we will run them and support them, and maybe the first five tries won't work but, sooner or later, there will be a breakthrough, and it will not be led by the next Bill Clinton and the next DLC.

For example, Bernie Sanders is drawing big crowds in South Carolina and in Mississippi. He wouldn't come close to winning anything in either of those states, but there is a working-class audience there that is interested in listening to him, and that is worth respecting in our politics.
Wait, stop. Notice something?  Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat.  Also, Howard Dean was fired by the Democrats as soon as Barack Obama became President.  Pierce goes on to talk about the populist tradition in the South and the importance of what, quite frankly, should be the central focus of any American political movement worth its salt. 
But it's 2014, and forging an actual alliance of working people, black and white, in the places that need it the most, is a worthwhile effort whether it fails initially or not.
But if the Democratic Party has taught us anything over the past 30 years it is that it is either unwilling to or incapable of taking that mission seriously.  But it is the most important mission in American politics and the South is its front line.  The people who are working hardest at it are either not Democrats or are working on the fringes of the party. 

Maybe the question we should be asking is whether or not it's time for the South to abandon the Democrats.

Accountability

These guys did some very very bad things.
The interrogation methods, meanwhile, were brutal — the report includes graphic details of "near drownings," beatings, and week-long sleep deprivation sessions that sometimes continued after prisoners had begun to hallucinate. Confusion and poor record-keeping kept CIA oversight and leadership in the dark about the program's operations, and staff with "no relevant experience" were put in charge of sites. In 2002, a detainee died of suspected hypothermia while "partially nude and chained to a concrete floor;" later, CIA leaders admitted they had "little or no awareness of operations" at the site in question. The CIA downplayed the harshness of "enhanced interrogations" and dodged investigations by the White House and Congress, withholding information from top officials. According to one email, it did not initially brief then-Secretary of State Colin Powell on the program details, because the White House was concerned he would "blow his stack," and it refused to say where its detention facilities were located or where it was negotiating to build new ones, in two cases telling local officials not to talk to US ambassadors about the negotiations.
But, you know, it's never a good time to "look backward." 
President Obama banned enhanced interrogation after taking office in 2009, but he was leery of prosecuting anyone involved in it during the Bush administration, saying that "we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards." Years earlier, a CIA officer had also decided to destroy interrogation tapes that allegedly showed waterboarding; in 2010, the Justice Department completed an investigation of that incident and decided not to file charges. The Senate's reporting, however, grew out of a 2007 probe on the tapes' destruction. 
It's so bad, in fact, that the ACLU is recommending that the closest thing we can expect to accountability in this case would be if President Obama were to issue pardons. 
Today the Senate Intelligence Committee will release its report on torture during the Bush years, and we will all be reminded of what we allowed to be done in our name. With that event as a backdrop, Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, has written to President Obama, asking him to grant pardons to the torturers as a means of telling the world, and enshrining in history, the American ideal that torture is something we do not do.
I don't know about that but it does sound like President Obama would have fit in pretty well on that Eric Garner grand jury
According to a recent interview with the NY Daily News, at least two key eyewitnesses in the July 17 choking death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner at the hands of police described a very troubling environment when they were each interviewed by the grand jury for NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo.

While it's generally assumed that the grand jury in such a case would have taken its job with the the utmost seriousness, Ramsey Orta, 22, who filmed the tragic homicide, and Rodney Lee, 37, who manages the beauty store Eric Garner was killed in front of, painted a picture of an often condescending and generally uninterested collection of people who seemed to have little interest in indicting Officer Daniel Pantaleo.
Meanwhile, Saints receiver Joe Morgan did some very very bad things. He was held accountable.
Though the specific reason for Morgan's release is unclear, the fourth-year backup has clearly been in the doghouse this season. He was suspended by the team for two games earlier this year for an undisclosed reason. And even when on the active roster, he has been used sparingly.

Then this past Sunday, it appeared that both Payton and quarterback Drew Brees corrected Morgan for assignment errors. At one point, Payton chased down Morgan on the sideline to yell something to him. At another point, cameras caught Brees appearing to suggest that Morgan should have come back to the ball on a deep route.
So, there you go.  Justice. 

Kingpin

Here are some sunny quotations from this morning's Advocate.
While Vitter didn’t directly note his own role in ousting longtime adversary Landrieu, others have clearly noticed.

“He’s become the kingpin in Louisiana politics,” (Charlie) Cook said. “I think that he will dominate state politics for a good while.”
Ooof.  Well, maybe. We were just throwing this around on Twitter and noticed that this bit..
Word among most political observers is that Vitter was key to clearing the Republican field for the state’s 6th District congressman and in orchestrating Cassidy’s campaign. One of Vitter’s top aides, Joel DiGrado, served as Cassidy’s campaign manager after Cassidy parted ways with a consultant to Gov. Bobby Jindal. 
Isn't all that impressive given this.




Rob Maness existed.  We're pretty sure that happened.  Also, Vitter didn't do anything to get Garret Graves elected so he doesn't control everything, apparently.

On the other hand, neither do any Democrats.
Samuels, the political science professor, said the gubernatorial run won’t be a slam dunk for Vitter, though he is currently seen as the front-runner in the race.

“Republicans will have a fight among themselves,” he said. “I don’t think the Republicans are going to concede the Governor’s Mansion to David Vitter.”

He said under Louisiana’s unusual “jungle primary” setup that pits all candidates, regardless of party, against each other from the start, it’s possible that two Republicans could face each other in a runoff — splitting the state’s GOP base in an unpredictable scenario.

“The Democrats may not have a candidate to make the runoff,” Samuels said. “The real question is what do the Democrats do.”
Also, if the answer to "what do you do?" is we sit around and wait for the indictments, then that's how you know you've already lost.
 

Not so fuzzy math

Often I think focusing on the jobs scoreboard obscures the more important story of the overall 40 year trend of stagnating wages and erosion of benefits and general concentration of wealth among the very narrow top echelons of society.

But it is a fun way of quickly exploding political hypocrisies as Oyster demonstrates here
During the most recent Bush era, which spanned eight years and included large tax cuts, the country LOST 462,000 net jobs in the private sector and gained 1.7 million government jobs. This record was praised, after the fact, by Jindal, Sen. Vitter, and Rep. Steve Scalise among many others. Why?

Because they are sworn to uphold supply-side voodoo economics, no matter the facts.

Well that bought some time

On to the next maneuver.
BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said Monday that the company will “continue to advocate for the investigation of suspicious or implausible claims and to fight fraud where it is uncovered.”

He said BP “remains concerned that the program has made awards to claimants that suffered no injury from the spill — and that the lawyers for these claimants have unjustly profited as a result.”

The 5th Circuit ruling consolidated two issues: the validity of the entire settlement and whether businesses must show the spill caused their losses. BP had asked the Supreme Court to review both decisions.

Stephen Herman and James Roy, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said the high court’s action marked “a huge victory for the Gulf and should finally put to rest BP’s two-year attack on its own settlement process.”

“With its order, the Supreme Court held — as had the lower courts — that BP must stand by its word and honor its contract,” they said in a statement.
It's fine, though.  BP can keep playing this game for decades if they want to. They don't have to win every fight. Just have to keep dragging along until it all passes into history. 

The Torture Report is (partially) public today

Here you go
It's the Dome Siren, a piped-in air raid alarm-style noise played at ear-splitting intensity each time an opposing team gets ready to play a third down.

It's a new game "innovation" this year, and is nearly universally reviled. Apparently designed to rally the "12th man" to create "fan impact plays," fans and the media are instead in an uproar over it. Many are saying the siren is so counterproductive, so disruptive and annoying, that it's actually helping opposing teams.

"It's created a Pavlov-like feeling of dread in me when I hear it," says Karl Schott, of Lafayette. "It's a signal announcing the other team is about to achieve a first down. Should be called the 1st down siren."
Wait.  Sorry. Wrong torture report.  Here's the one I'm talking about.
The torture methods were far more brutal than originally reported. The “CIA applied its so-called enhanced interrogation techniques in near non-stop fashion for days or weeks at a time.” Detainees were forced to stay awake for up to 180 hours while “standing or in painful stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads.” Some were kept in a “dungeon” that was completely dark and were “constantly shackled in isolated cells with loud noise or music and only a bucket to use for human waste. ” At least one detainee was told he could only leave CIA custody “in a coffin-shaped box.” The government also rectally force-fed detainees.
The part about detainees being made to walk past a statue of Tom Benson after their torture has been redacted.  

Moon Shot

Doomed
As Brig. Gen Duke DeLuca wrapped up his 32-year career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in August, he contemplated the key to Louisiana’s massive, 50-year, $50 billion effort to prevent the southeastern portion of the state from being swallowed by the Gulf of Mexico.

DeLuca, an expert on the many threats facing the coast, said: “It will take a moon-shot type of investment in the science.”

Many in Louisiana’s coastal scientific community believe DeLuca’s description is right on the mark, capturing the undertaking’s daunting uncertainties.

The mission could not have been set on a more challenging landscape, at a more inopportune time.
I'm sure Senator Cassidy will take the massive government project seriously. 

What's the matter with Lakeview?

Here's The Lens's precinct by precinct map of Orleans Parish election results in the Senate race.  Here is a quick and dirty guide to the next election. Take this with you and drive around the little red area at top left. Write down the names on all the yard signs you see. Don't vote for those people.

Monday, December 08, 2014

System in name only

One of the more memorable events to follow upon the Federal Flood was the candid admission by the Corps of Engineers that the flood control defenses it had constructed around New Orleans comprised a "system in name only."
In a sweeping new study of the causes of the disaster in New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged today that the levees it built in the city were an incomplete and inconsistent patchwork of protection, containing flaws in design and construction, and not built to handle a hurricane anywhere near the size of Katrina.

"The hurricane protection system in New Orleans and southeast Louisiana was a system in name only," said the draft of the nine-volume report.

The region's network of levees, floodwalls, pumps and gates lacked any built-in resilience that would have allowed the system to remain standing and provide protection even if water flowed over the tops of levees and floodwalls, the report's investigators found. Flaws in the levee design that allowed breaches in the city's drainage canals were not foreseen, and those floodwalls failed even though the storm waters did not rise above the level that the walls were designed to hold.
Following upon this post-mortem, the Corps redesigned and reconstructed the "system."  Most of that rebuild is now complete. (It is still insufficient to truly meet the area's needs now and in the ever-worsening future but that is another story.)  Meanwhile, the local levee boards were restructured and reformed in the expectation that they would be responsible for maintaining and operating the new system upon its completion.

What happens when one end of that system fails in its capacity to maintain the standard of the whole? 

On Saturday, voters in St. Bernard Parish raised this question above the level of mere hypothesis. When the Corps hands over responsibility of the system to the local authorities, the Lake Borgne district will see its costs nearly double with no clear method of raising additional revenues.  One would think the necessary funds could flow in from another part of the flood protection system. But, politically, this is still a system in name only.
Because New Orleans, St. Bernard and East Jefferson sit on the same sinking delta, storm surge invading one parish can flow into the others.  That’s why the corps designed the new system as a perimeter defense — a chain of interlocking levees and floodwalls stretching from Kenner to Caernarvon.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East was established specifically to oversee operations of the three levee districts that maintain this system. But state law prohibits taxes raised in one district from being used in another.

The more populated parishes of Orleans and Jefferson have surpluses. But St. Bernard has struggled to meet the demands of the southern end of the system.

Mitch's free press

This is interesting but not in the way you might think.
The City of New Orleans is asking a judge to bar NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune from "disclosing any information" or "contacting any individuals identified" in a police report about a Texas woman's allegations that she was raped by a security guard in a French Quarter hotel after Mardi Gras this year. The woman has also joined the city's request.

The city cites concerns about privacy and an ongoing investigation and claims the news organization should not have been permitted to view the report.

NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune is opposing the city's request, noting the public's legitimate interest in the workings of the New Orleans Police Department, which is operating under a federal consent decree and recently was harshly criticized by an Inspector General's report on investigations into sexual assault and child abuse. NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune does not usually name victims of sex crimes and has not named the woman in this case.
What's interesting is that Mitch actually went to a judge to get them not to publish something.  Usually he just asks them nicely over lunch and that works out fine. 

Leaving so soon?

Echo Dome

That's the Superdome sometime in the fourth quarter yesterday. It's only slightly more empty than was the Superdome just after halftime.  Where did everybody go?  One assumes the majority of them had arrived on Sunday afternoon having blocked out enough of their schedule to account for the game's duration.  Did something come up?   The Mr. Bingle parade was on Saturday.

Mr. Bingle

I really don't know what everyone suddenly thought they were missing.

Maybe the problem is too many Saints fans don't understand football.  Maybe they've gotten so used to the past eight years of (mostly) yelling and being obnoxious and.. exhibiting "swagger" over the exploits of a (mostly) competitive team that they've forgotten there's more to football than that.  A lot more, actually.

Personally, I've had a lot of fun watching this year's team play. They're hilariously unpredictable. Their record is terrible but they're still in contention. They've lost four consecutive home games (historically significant in its own right) but the Superdome fan experience has rarely been as entertaining for... a number of amusing reasons. I'm going to expound on those later on in a separate post.

But, speaking specifically about yesterday, people need to better understand the value of hanging around to watch the wheels come off.  Sure, losing feels different than winning but it is no less interesting. And, if you're in the stadium, there is still plenty to see and do.

To begin with, these player's aren't going to boo themselves.  Well, OK, some of them are, actually.
In Strief’s eyes, he and his fellow Saints (5-8) deserved nothing less as they took a 41-10 pounding from the Panthers (4-8-1), who hadn’t won since Oct. 5.

“I don’t blame any fan for being disappointed not only (for) this game, but (for) this season,” Strief said. “I do not blame them for that whatsoever. We have to come and play; we have to come and give them a reason to cheer; we have to give them a reason not to boo. End of story.”

Referring to the home season-ticket sellouts the Saints have enjoyed in each of his nine seasons with them, Strief added, “We get unending support in this city — unending. So people who pay good money to come to a game and watch us and are disappointed, (go ahead and) boo. Absolutely we deserve it. That’s on us to keep that from happening.”
Guys, Zach Strief says the team needs you there to boo and jeer at them! Why would you let them down?   They also need you there to throw things.



This toss, combined with the children participating in the halftime punt, pass, and kick exhibition.. oh.. and the lady who made the "cash catch".. constituted the highlights of the day for the home team's passing game.

I also noticed the first paper airplanes I'd seen launched from the terrace in a while.  (Unless we count this glut of gliders brought on by a stupid "card stunt" before the Dallas game last season which we won't because they were just asking for that one.)  Saints fans aren't as good at those as I remember.  We're out of practice. You guys should have stayed to work on that.

Hell even Ralph Malbrough took off early citing some sort of old man wisdom he claims to have picked up somewhere.
NEW ORLEANS - My mom and I have had Saints season tickets for 25 years and for the first time ever we left a New Orleans Saints game in the third quarter. When the Carolina Panthers scored to make it 31-3 I turned to her and said, "I've seen enough to know I've seen too much." And to the exits we went.
I stayed though.  I'd seen enough to know that I was seeing something I had not seen in a long time and I wanted to stick around so I could remember what that was like.

It was interesting!  Menckles kept banging on the wall long after we were the only two fans remaining in our section.  I had a headache but I didn't tell her to stop.  It seemed appropriate.

Sometime midway through the fourth quarter they finally stopped cranking that terrible third down siren effect every Saints fan hates.  But there was a stretch of the third quarter where they were playing it at full volume to a mostly empty and dead silent Dome that was the height of sublime humor.  Dome teams are often accused of using the PA system to pipe in artificial crowd noise in order to disrupt opposing offenses.   Yesterday the Superdome figured out a way to pump in additional irony.  It enhanced the experience.

Judging from that empty Superdome, Saints fans could use all the good humor injections they can get right now.  There's something sort of snotty or entitled about leaving a game early.  At the very least it belies a limited understanding of the entertainment you have paid to observe.

It's a strange thing to just expect that your team should win all or even most of the time.  At the pro level, there is so little difference in talent between the "good" and "bad" teams that what separates the wins from the losses is often just a string of coincidences. That's not exactly true, of course. There are marginal differences in talent among pro players and teams which we can talk about.  But it's more true than people often admit. A lot of this stuff is just random.

But that, in itself, is what makes it so much fun. Being a fan is about rooting for your team to win, yes, but it's as much about appreciating the absurdities that determine whether or not they can.  Drama can be comedy or tragedy. But the genre shouldn't inform us directly about the quality.   And with three games left to play, the 2014 Saints could still qualify as either!   This is one of the most bizarre programs I've ever had the pleasure of sitting (all the way) through.  And, especially if the Falcons lose tonight, I see no reason why that should change.

Update:  Besides, the sooner the football season ends, the sooner the math season begins.  And nobody wants that.