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Monday, May 29, 2017

Stupid mayor is stupid

In this cautionary tale, Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto slowly realizes he's made a huge mistake by giving Uber everything it wants from in return for nothing besides a momentary claim to being an "Innovation!" guy.  Here's a timeline with emails and stuff, My favorite part is probably where Peduto goes on the radio and lectures his critics as though they are children.
The emails I obtained showed that Peduto was both eager to impress the Silicon Valley hotshot and was happy to carry the company's water in public. In May 2015, Peduto and his staff fought hard both in public and behind the scenes to get the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to reduce a fine levied against the company for operating in the state without permission. After we published our story, Peduto railed against us on local radio.

"I have an opportunity to talk to the CEO of Uber on a semi-regular basis. And they're committed to creating over a thousand jobs in this city that are well-paying jobs," Peduto told Pittsburgh radio station WDVE after our story ran. "To say 'Oh my god, he's trying to help this horrible company, he's defending this horrible company. When we are creating an entire industry that brought the White House here to talk about autonomous vehicles, robotics, and everything else and will bring other companies and spinoffs for decades to come … it's unbelievably ridiculous."
Uber goes on to deliver none of the jobs, data sharing or any of the obligations of the "partnership" Peduto imagined they had agreed to because, of course. He seems frustrated about this now but then maybe next time he'll remember that when you're getting to be text buds with a billionaire venture capital creep, you're probably doing the opposite of serving your constituents well.
The takeaway here for politicians is that Uber—nor any other major corporation—is not your friend. The company has shown time and time again that it will ignore regulations, lobby ferociously, promise the moon and stars, and then act as it always has: in whatever manner is best for Uber. Uber has always done this; it's long past time for local politicians to stop handing the keys to their cities to the company.
Or any company, really.  Will your local politicians to learn this lesson, though. Not unless there's a slideshow about it at the next Entrepreneur Week.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Hey guess who else has guns

These guys. Who knew? Why? Who knows?
A Louisiana Supreme Court officer shot and wounded a man during a fight outside of the French Quarter courthouse Saturday night (May 27), according to authorities.

The State Police is handling the investigation into the shooting, which occurred just before 11 p.m. on St. Louis Street between Chartres and Royal streets, said Trooper Melissa Matey, spokeswoman for the agency.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

"Public access"

News is starting to break this week about the future of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad and the Port of New Orleans.  Apparently the mayor is looking to kill a bunch of lingering birds with a single stone.
New Orleans officials are trying to orchestrate an elaborate swap that would turn over the city-owned Public Belt Railroad to the Port of New Orleans, and in turn would give the city the last two working wharves along the downriver end of the French Quarter, according to sources familiar with the talks.

The deal, if achieved, would accomplish two things: It would ease concerns among port officials about the future of the railroad, which is crucial to their operations, and which Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration has been considering privatizing.

And by giving the city control of the last bit of working riverfront between the Central Business District and Bywater, it could potentially open up uninterrupted access for the public to a two-mile stretch of the riverfront in the city's historic center.
Yeah it could open up access for the public or it could open up access to prime real estate for developers looking to drop in more hotels and/or luxry housing we do seem to enjoy building around here.  We'll see how that discussion develops if this deal goes through.

Another interesting facet of this story has the Port looking to acquire the Avondale Shipyard to make up for the loss of the wharves. There had been a rumor going around about a long term plan to relocate all port facilities away from the Orleans Parish riverfront to sites in St. Bernard Parish and at Avondale.  This development doesn't necessarily confirm that rumor but it does lend it a whiff of credibility.  At a recent Dock Board meeting, the Port's CEO did say there are "multiple scenarios" under discussion.

Anyway, remember this controversial Florida Avenue expansion project?
In addition to the project’s likely property seizures, displacement of residents and construction nuisances, Campbell said that if Florida Avenue is rebuilt, the Ninth Ward will be subject to exhaust, noise and vibrations from trucks. Hazardous cargo will be a threat.

Louisiana’s Department of Transportation and Development has big aims for the project, however, saying it can connect Florida Avenue from Elysian Fields Avenue to Paris Road in a reliable manner. The project can provide an optimal, north-south connection from Florida Avenue to St. Bernard Port. A roadway bridge would be built over the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, adjacent to the existing Florida Avenue Bridge. Area roads would be improved and newly aligned, DOTD has said.
The big picture goal of relocating the Port of New Orleans fits there as well. Just something to keep in mind.

Replace neighborhoods with golf courses

It's remarkable the degree to which things that are evil on their very face get glossed over.  As this article points out, the scheme to knock down the St. Bernard Project and build a "golf community" in its place wasn't the only evil housing policy choice made in post-Katrina New Orleans. But it was among the most cartoonishly evil schemes.
Even before the late 2007 city approval of the demolitions (mistakenly referred to by the Times as happening in 2006), as demonstrators camped out around the St. Bernard, the Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a contract and $120 million in tax breaks to Atlanta-based developer Columbia Residential to tear down the St. Bernard and build a mixed-income complex called Columbia Parc in its place. The new golf course was part of Columbia's pitch, and the package came heavily backed by local developers and the Bush family, among others.

Construction of Columbia Parc ultimately cost $440 million. While it was being built, Alphonso Jackson, the housing secretary under George W. Bush, resigned under federal investigation into that and other contracts. The projects were bulldozed with former residents’ belongings still locked inside.

Columbia Parc opened in 2010, its 685 units home to just 125 of the 920 households who formerly resided in the St. Bernard projects. In all, 493 units at the new complex are now rented at below-market rates, including some to tenants with Section 8 vouchers. However, to qualify for an apartment, prospective tenants must have a job and pass a credit check and a background check. In the incarceration capital of the world, and in a city with a black male unemployment rate of 44 percent, a city where inflation has outpaced income gains since 2000, these requirements keep out all but a tiny sliver of the very poor.

“The amount of people who are back is about one-ninth of what it was before,” said Evan Casper-Futterman, a Ph.D candidate in urban planning and policy at Rutgers University and co-producer of Land of Opportunity, a documentary that focuses in part on New Orleans redevelopment schemes. “Okay, does anybody give two fucks about the other 800 [families]? No, because they're poor and undeserving, and some of them are probably not even in New Orleans.”
It's important to emphasize, this wasn't a failed policy. It succeeded at removing the people it was designed to remove. The plan was to replace poor people with golf.  How much more blatant could that be? Some of us are actually old enough to have said so at the time. Not that anyone listened then or listens ever. And now, as the narrative is being spun in a way that re-casts the intent in a nobler light, no one will listen the next time either.

There's no need to lie

All Mitch has to say is that he appreciates the attention his speech received and that, as mayor, he tries to represent the city well on the national stage... blah blah blah.  That's close enough to the truth.  There's no need to lie about the intended audience, though.
After an impassioned speech over the removal of Confederate monuments, New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu said he was surprised his words went viral in an interview ahead of his Sunday appearance on "Meet The Press."

"I commend it to people, I'm surprised ... that the speech went viral. It was intended for a local audience," he said in a recorded interview with NBC's Chuck Todd, "but evidently it's an issue that people across the country are dealing with and I hope they do it in a forthright, honest manner with each other."
"Evidently, it's an issue people across the country are dealing with..." as if he had no idea.  Does he remember the wave of sentiment that (finally) spurred him to action on this issue began South Carolina?  Of course he does.  He just assumes you don't... or that no one will say anything. 

Of course the speech was staged, produced, and distributed with the intent of getting into the national news. Of course Mitch saw it as an opportunity to build his brand.  In the process, he ignored years of work by local activists and organizers.  Had his speech been truly meant for a "local audience," it might have addressed their continuing concerns. Instead, Mitch's speech addressed locals only by name-dropping some nationally famous New Orleanians, "my dear friend Wynton Marsalis" or by, insufferably, musing on its heavily touristed cultural institutions.
We gave the world this funky thing called jazz, the most uniquely American art form that is developed across the ages from different cultures. Think about second lines, think about Mardi Gras, think about muffaletta, think about the Saints, gumbo, red beans and rice. By God, just think.
By God, shut up, already. No local who argued and marched to take down the monuments could possibly be subjected to that language without groaning. Obviously the speech was crafted for a national audience.  Not that that's entirely a bad thing. Mitch delivered the strongest arguments many of us had been making for years to an audience we weren't able to reach.  Sure, he took all of the credit for himself, but at least he did represent our point of view well.

There's no need for him to lie about that.  The pretense is insulting and and condescending to both the local and national audiences. But, then, this wouldn't be Mitch if it wasn't. The credit for that is all his.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Making his mark already

It's just the first day of OTAs but Adrian Peterson has already committed his first fumble as a Saint.
While players were in shorts and there was no tackling, Peterson appeared to be fit and largely recovered from knee and abductor injuries that sidelined him most of last season. He participated vigorously in the entirety of Thursday’s non-contact practice. Other than a fumbled a handoff exchange with backup quarterback Chase Daniel, he had few missteps and saw perhaps more action that he otherwise might have because incumbent starting running back Mark Ingram was held out for unspecified reasons.
Welcome aboard.

Ok but definitely go the whole nine

If you do this you absolutely have to put her up in the Circle.
Take 'Em Down organizer Malcolm Suber said the administration should hold a series of town halls to decide what will replace the statues. Asked about his personal preference, Suber said the sites should house "symbols of liberation" and suggested a statue of former City Councilwoman Dorothy Mae Taylor, who led the charge in banning parades by segregated Carnival krewes in 1992.
Make the old line krewes have to roll past Dorothy Mae from now on. This would be perfect. 

All the hurricanes are above-normal

Whatever this means.
Forecasters Thursday (May 25) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted an above-normal 2017 Atlantic hurricane season that would include 11 to 17 named storms, including five to nine hurricanes, with two to four of them being a Category 3 or higher.
Same drill as always. The forecast never tells us anything meaningful in comparison to what we actually experience in a given location. All we really know is it will be Hurricane Season soon. A storm might come here. It could be bad. 

Neil doing Neil things

This is a small matter but it should probably be noted. I'll try to quickly explain the very dry nuts and bolts of it so you'll understand just how small a matter it is. Yesterday the Democrats in the state House voted to hold up House Bill 3 which authorizes bond sales to pay for items in House Bill 2 which is the capital projects budget.  The reason they did this, and they freely admit this is the reason, is they needed something they could use as leverage to talk about how bad the Republicans' version of House Bill 1 (the operating budget) actually is.

With two weeks to go in the session, the legislature has done nothing to solve its ongoing fiscal crisis.  They have shelved all of the governor's proposed revenue measures, put forth a draconian Republican budget that futher slashes health and social services in favor of TOPS and a 2.5 percent "cushion" just in case currently insufficient revenues turn out to be even less sufficient, and set themselves firmly on course to come back into special session later in the year probably so they can fail all over again.

There are a few things the Senate can do to help but the source of the trouble is in the House so that's a good place for the Democrats to throw a tantrum.  And that's what the hold up over HB 3 is. It's a tantrum, probably a symbolic one at that.  Everybody knows HB 3 has to pass eventually.  The maneuver here is just meant to get some attention.  And this is why all of the Democrats in the House voted together on this. They needed to send a signal that they mean business and.... wait.. what? Oh... sure.
HB3 needed a super-majority of at least 70 votes in the 105-member House. It received 56 votes, with only one Democrat voting yes.
One guy just couldn't get on board.  I mean, like we said, it's a small thing since there were enough votes to stop the bill and all but isn't it interesting that one Democrat had to sit out the exercise.  Let's go see who that was. I'll bet you can spot it.
Voting for HB3 (56): Speaker Barras, and Reps. Abraham, Abramson, Amedee, Bacala, Bagley, Berthelot, Bishop, Broadwater, S. Carter, Chaney, Coussan, Crews, Cromer, Davis, DeVillier, Dwight, Edmonds, Emerson, Falconer, Guinn, L. Harris, Havard, Hazel, Henry, Hilferty, Hodges, Hoffmann, Hollis, Horton, Howard, Huval, N. Landry, Leopold, Mack, Magee, McFarland, Miguez, G. Miller, Jay Morris, Jim Morris, Pearson, Pope, Pugh, Pylant, Richard, Schexnayder, Seabaugh, Shadoin, Simon, Stagni, Stefanski, Stokes, Talbot, Thomas and Zeringue.
Again, not a huge thing, but it's a very Neil thing.

In any case, the fight over the House budget isn't over. This afternoon the governor stepped in and threatened a veto if the final version looks like what the House has passed. It's good to see somebody is playing hardball. Since we'll all be back here in a few months anyway, there's no reason not to.

As long as no progress is made...

You know things are weird when Republicans agree to raise taxes on wealthy constituents on the condition that nothing good comes out of it.

Stokes’ measures – the first major tax bills to win approval in the House during the regular session – are modeled on one of the recommendations of a task force that spent 2016 studying the tax system.

She noted that Louisiana is only three states that allow the federal tax deduction.

Republicans in the House have been fearful that the Senate might change any House-approved income tax measures to raise more revenue.

State Rep. Jim Morris, R-Oil City, won a pledge from Stokes that she would kill the bills if the Senate did that.
Yeah who even knows. My best guess is it's part of the campaign to keep the governor from claiming any success against the budget gap. Or maybe they're just dumb. I'm beginning to see that as the easy answer to a lot of these questions lately.

The Tricentennial is not just Mitch's party

He is not turning 300. Our city is. We should all get to talk about what to do with our public space.
Take ‘Em Down NOLA opposes Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s “go it alone” attitude about deciding what will happen to the remnants of the former Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis monuments.

These sites belong to the citizens of New Orleans and not to massa Mitch. Citizens must be involved in any decision about their future.
If we're not done talking by the time the party comes along, we're fine with that. Mitch might not be but this isnt his project anyway.  It never really was.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

$8.50 an hour is a poverty wage

As far as the Republicans in the Louisiana House of Representatives are concerned, it's still probably too good for you.
To date, 29 states and Washington D.C. have minimum wages that are higher than the federal minimum wage. In Louisiana, 5.3 percent of workers earn the federal minimum wage or lower. Employees like restaurant waitstaff and agricultural employees are exempt from the wage laws. But Louisiana has a higher percentage of workers who earn minimum wages than any other state in the nation.

Jan Moller, executive director of the Louisiana Budget Project, said the hike would have given effected workers an additional $852 per year. He noted that one in three of those workers are single parents. About 119,000 children live in homes where their parents or guardians earn minimum wages.

But the Republican majority of the committee expressed concerns that business owners dealing with the increased costs would ultimately lay off staff or automate the entry level jobs creating even less opportunity.

Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, said people who feel they're being underpaid have the freedom to seek out another job.
Sure. If you find that you are among the estimated 127,000 Louisianians held in destitution by a degradingly low wage floor, it's probably because you hate freedom or something.  There are worse quotes than Donahue's from today's debate. But the Republicans are either operating on a 5th grade understanding of economic policy or they're being insultingly disingenuous. Let's be nice and assume it's the latter. Either way, nothing they said is worth taking seriously enough to argue with.

In any case, they don't care. What they do care about is beating the Governor. And since raising the minimum wage (even this piddling, insignificant amount) was a key campaign promise of his, they're not going to help him accomplish even that.

Everything is for sale

Is there anything in this city we aren't trying to "improve" by letting some grifter hack off a little private scratch from it in some way?
Costello and members of the Algiers Point Association both said they would prefer it if the existing terminal remained in place and received minor upgrades, such as a paint job or new art on its walls.

While there is little money available for any sort of improvement, the RTA hopes to attract private dollars under a partnership that would need to be cleared by the state Legislature, Augustine said. The agency would issue a request for proposals, then a private developer could agree to finance improvements or build a new terminal in exchange for receiving ferry fare revenues or some other form of payment from the RTA.

Similar private involvement in public transportation projects has had mixed results elsewhere, ending in failure when costly projects don’t generate enough fare or toll revenue over the long-term.
Sure the privatization model keeps "failing" if you're judging it by quality of service delivered. But that isn't really the point, is it?

It's better to be for things

John Conyers wants Democrats to be for a single payer health care system. He's slowly getting through to some of them.
House Democrats on Wednesday touted unprecedented majority support for a bill that would expand Medicare to the entire U.S. population, reflecting a growing liberal consensus behind single-payer health insurance.
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who has been introducing single-payer legislation since 2003, said at a press conference that Democrats must counter the Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act with support for “Medicare for all.”
“Obviously we’re all united in opposition to Trumpcare. That’s easy,” he said. “People know what we’re against, but we want to promote more what we are for.”
Sounds like somebody has a great idea about how to approach the midterms.  It's far from clear the party's strategy will reflect that. The other side is for throwing 23 million people off of their insurance plans.  If there were a time to run on a hard contrast, now would be that time.

He's just a dumb guy trying to be President

Sometimes that's all there is to it.

President Donald Trump repeatedly addressed the possibility of a U.S. nuclear attack on North Korea in a private call last month with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, according to a transcript of the call obtained by The Intercept.

“We can’t let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has times 20, but we don’t want to use it,” Trump told Duterte. (In fact, the U.S. has 6,800 nuclear warheads and North Korea is thought to have about 10.) “You will be in good shape,” he added.

“We have a lot of firepower over there. We have two submarines — the best in the world — we have two nuclear submarines — not that we want to use them at all,” Trump said. “I’ve never seen anything like they are, but we don’t have to use this, but he could be crazy so we will see what happens.”

Why your stadium sucks

The Fox Sports article cited here is just a clickbait list the object of which was to say the snarkiest thing possible about every NFL stadium. So the Advocate isn't helping to clarify matters by highlighting the snark in the headline they chose to run. Even within the context of the list, there are still 11 "worse" stadiums than the Superdome according to the article. By doing that the Advocate is helping to imply that we're supposed to pony up another billion dollars or so for Tom Benson (or his successor) sometime soon.

Anyway, the whole thing is dumb. The Superdome is a fantastic building and should be revered as such. It's the "last of the true domes" for a reason. It was the one that got done right.

My most regrettable prediction

Immediately after the 2015 statewide elections I went with this.




It seemed reasonable at the time. But how careless do you have to be to overlook the fact that Billy Nungesser is right there. I mean, there's still time but it looks like Billy is the overwhelming favorite now.



The Doomsday Trumpbudget

Of course it's bad. It's a very bad budget proposal.
President Donald Trump's proposed fiscal year 2018 budget "robs Louisiana of financial resources promised to us for coastal restoration" by calling for the repeal of a law that was set to provide the state with as much as $140 million a year in revenue from Gulf offshore oil and gas, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Tuesday (May 23).

Trump's budget also threatens key health care services for Louisiana residents, Edwards said in a news release urging the  state's Congressional delegation to oppose Trump's budget proposal, "including cutting federal funding for Medicaid patients and health care providers by eliminating Medicaid expansion coverage and cutting health care for elderly and disabled residents."

The budget also calls for major cuts in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which offers health care to 122,000 Louisiana children, he said.

"In recent years, Louisiana and waters just off its shore have been the second largest producer of crude oil and natural gas in the nation," Edwards said, referring to his opposition to killing GOMESA. "Republican and Democratic leaders from Louisiana have fought to secure dedicated funding to offset the effects of oil and gas leasing and production along our coast. Permanent sharing of federal revenues is critical to ensure Louisiana's coast remains fully operational, protects vital national infrastructure and provides the necessary barriers to protect our working coast and citizens."

Keep in mind, though, there's a long way to go and this is not, in fact, the actual budget. Trump isn't even the first President to try and deny Louisiana's share of oil revenue. I guess we should argue that even though the President's proposal is a "wish list" it still sets the parameters of the ensuing congressional debates.  But this thing is so absurd and everything is so upside down in Trump world that... well.. how can we take any of this seriously?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What comes first..

The Night Owl or the um..
However, hospitality workers who attended an RTA board meeting on Tuesday (May 23) said the three RTA representatives who participated in the "Night Owl" bus ride did not get the full experience of the late-night trip.

Lita Farquhar, a member of the Hospitality Workers Committee who was on the ride, told RTA commissioners that the group missed the first bus they intended to take. Then, while they had said they would ride the whole route, Farquhar said that when one of the workers decided to get off the bus and walk home, RTA representatives also got off -- about an hour and a half before the bus finished its route.

"They were paid to be there and agreed to experience the incompetence of the Night Owl, but decided to get off before the end of the route," Farquhar said. Aside from critiquing RTA's commitment to the full ride, Farquhar also argued against RTA's finding that ridership is low during the Night Owl. She said ridership is low not because demand is low, but because the Night Owl's service is poor.

She and others are calling on the RTA to increase the number of buses, routes, and stops, and to launch a shuttle in the downtown area to bring workers to stops.
Augustine says a few times in this article that "the demand isn't there" for increased late night service. But the complaints of the ridership and event RTA's own numbers provided in the article seem to suggest otherwise.  Anyway.. 24 hour town with a workforce that can't afford to live near the 24 hour jobs anymore.  Better find a way to get them to work.

But how will they get paid?

So many things Democrats "should" do that they really don't want to do on account of the way their party funds itself. Often, they fundraise themselves.. and all of us.. into a corner on critical matters such as the very existence of public education.
There are plenty of reasons that Democrats should steer clear of the charter industry. Charter corporations have been repeatedly charged with fraud, nepotism, self-dealing, and conflicts of interest. Many charters make money on complex real-estate deals. Worst of all are the “cybercharters”: mega-corporations that offer virtual schools, with high attrition, low test scores, and abysmal graduation rates. The biggest cybercharter chain is K12 Inc., started by former junk-bond king Michael Milken and listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

But it’s more than a matter of sleeping with the enemy. School choice doesn’t work, and “evidence-based” Democrats ought to acknowledge it. Charter schools are a failed experiment. Study after study has shown that they do not get better test scores than public schools unless they screen out English-language learners and students with profound disabilities. It’s well-established that school choice increases segregation, rather than giving low-income students better opportunities. And kids using vouchers actually lose ground in private schools. Support for charters is paving the way for a dual school system—one that is allowed to choose the students it wants, and another that is required to accept all who enroll.

This is what Democrats should be yelling about. And if there’s ever a moment for them to reclaim their mantle as the party of public education, it’s now. The misguided push for “reform” is currently being led not by Obama and Duncan, but by Trump and DeVos, giving Democrats an opening to shift gears on education—though they’ll lose some of that hedge-fund money. But if 2016 taught Democrats anything, it’s how unwise it was to allow the demolition of organized labor—including teachers’ unions, once a great source of money and grassroots energy. The party needs strong teachers’ unions and it needs their enthusiasm.
Right now they're really hoping they can keep after the Russia thing, though. That way they never have to address any of this. 

"Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?"

The other day, even as we celebrated the final toppling, we took some time to knock the mayor for his grandstanding.  He is cynical and ambitious and takes far too much credit for the decades of work by grass roots activists who actually got us to this point.  Still, independent of those facts, the speech itself was good.  I did say so, even in that post.  It probably could have done without the Sorkinesque "both sidesy" praise of George Bush and the hammy language about jazz and gumbo and the Saints and whatever. But that just comes with the phony Mitch package. Best to look past it. 

Considered in a vacuum, though, the speech is a complete and compelling summary of the arguments we've all been making against the monuments. For that reason, I'm glad people are connecting with it. It's getting passed all over the national media this week. And while it's annoying as all hell that Mitch's personal PR campaign is succeeding, on balance, it's a net plus that these arguments are circulating.  Here's a passage.
Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city.

Can you do it?

Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?

We all know the answer to these very simple questions.

When you look into this child’s eyes is the moment when the searing truth comes into focus for us. This is the moment when we know what is right and what we must do. We can’t walk away from this truth.
Maybe that's a little a little heavy handed. It's not even what I'd consider the strongest part of the speech. But its point is undeniable. Every "historic preservationist" writing letters to the editor this week should have to confront this.

Also I had this photo from this year's Chaos parade and this made me think of it.

Chaos Loves Monuments

Monday, May 22, 2017

Gift baskets of freedom

Life in the bubble:
Ross: I think the other thing that was fascinating to me … there was not a single hint of a protestor anywhere there during the whole time we were there, not one guy with a bad placard, instead …

Host: But Secretary Ross, that may be but not necessarily because they don’t have those feelings there but because they control people and don’t allow them to to come and express their feelings quite the same as we do here.

Ross: In theory that could be true. But boy there was certainly no sign of it, there was not a single effort at any incursion. There wasn’t anything. The mood was a genuinely good mood. And at the end of the trip, as I was getting back on the plane the security guards from the Saudi side who’d been helping us over the weekend all wanted to pose for a big photo-op. And then they gave me two gigantic bushels of dates, as a present, as a thank you for the trip that we had had. That was a pretty from the heart, very genuine gesture. It really touched me.
Stupid or evil? They can't all be as dumb as the boss, right?

It's a major award

Congratulations to Scott Angelle.
This week, the Trump administration appointed him as new director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, part of the Department of the Interior and the office created after the 2010 BP oil spill to oversee offshore drilling safety. The appointment does not require Senate approval.

Angelle is the second electoral also-ran to land a job in the administration; he'll be joining former U.S. Rep. John Fleming of Minden, who lost out in the 2016 Senate race. Fleming works at the Department of Health and Human Services.

In a statement, Angelle made it clear he continues to see the industry as ally, not adversary.

“It is an exciting and challenging time for BSEE; I look forward to leading our efforts to empower the offshore oil and gas industry while ensuring safe and environmentally responsible operations,” Angelle said.
Sounds like he'll fit right in.  Not that there should have been any doubt that Angelle would be qualified to "empower" the oil and gas industry vis-a-vis environmental regulation.  He probably just in his Blue Heron award in lieu of a resume. 

Going out of business

This Pylant guy is even more barbarous than we thought.
But Louisiana's lack of urgency in carrying out death sentences — which distinguishes Louisiana from other law-and-order states like Texas and Oklahoma — has been a frustration to at least one state lawmaker. Rep. Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro, said he's a proponent of the death penalty and believes it's an effective deterrent to crime but not if criminals see the state has cold feet about going through with it.

"We need to start executing folks," he said. "They say they can't get the pharmaceuticals — well, then why can other states get them but we can't? If we don't want to do lethal injections, we got firing squads, we got gas chambers, we got other means."

Saturday, May 20, 2017

End of the beginning

Maybe you will have seen a video like this by now. Mine was one of over a hundred cameras pointed at the general when he popped off the column like champagne cork.



The crowd reacted as though they had just seen Tracy Porter return the monument for a touchdown. Some of the assembled had been agitating against these symbols for decades. Here we were finally able to see the result of that work. It reminded us of the value of persistence. A righteous cause is no less a worthy cause no matter how long it may seem hopeless. Those who continue to make the argument may live to see their moment. This is from an Atlantic article by Kevin Levin on the long arc of post-Confederate historiography that finally got us here.
In recent decades, changes in the racial and ethnic profile of local governments throughout the former Confederate states for the first time has made possible a more inclusive discussion about what existing monuments mean to their communities and which individuals and events deserve to be remembered and commemorated in public spaces. The ongoing debate in cities and towns across the South over Confederate iconography is a testament to this dramatic shift.

Shortly after the dedication of the Lee monument in Richmond in 1890, John Mitchell, the editor of the Richmond Planet, noted that, “He [the African American] put up the Lee monument, and should the time come, will be there to take it down.” Mitchell’s protests and those of others throughout much of the 20th century went largely unheard owing to a Jim Crow system that Confederate monuments themselves helped to cement. Now a major city is taking the general down from atop his pedestal. For Lee it represents another chapter in the slow decline of a once-revered national icon, but for the city of New Orleans it offers an opportunity for the first time to think carefully as a community about how its past can inspire it to move forward.
While we were out at the circle watching the general come down, the mayor was not present. Instead he was broadcasting from in front of a row of flags inside Gallier Hall. His talk, the substance of it, the actual words he spoke, was good. Since the day a horrific mass murder in a church in South Carolina thrust attention onto the question of Confederate symbols in southern cities, Mitch has been on the right side of that question. He and his people wrote a good speech. You can see it here. As an argument for taking down the monuments, it is unimpeachable. But this wasn't the sole purpose of the mayor's appearance.  The self-serving aspect of his speech is evident in its timing, staging, and most importantly in its removal from the toppling it ostensibly commemorated.

While crowds gathered to watch the Lee statue come down, Mitch Landrieu hid in a little room in front of a carefully selected and exclusive audience and took credit for a thing he was tangentially responsible for simply by virtue of having been the mayor who didn't say no to it. His speech, as good as it was, wasn't intended for the the people who actually advanced and organized and marched for the cause. They weren't even invited. In fact they were in the street watching the fruit of their endeavor at that very moment.

Instead his speech was meant for a national TV audience; people who have little relationship to this city and its politics but are free to project whatever they wish to see onto it without context. Therefore they are easy to impress. Someday some of those people may be in position to give Mitch a job somewhere.* And that's pretty much the only reason he cares about any of this. It suits his purpose for him to. The rest, all of his words, are pure cynicism. In a sense, that's OK. Politicians react when political pressure is brought to bear on them. When people work hard to make the right thing also the opportunistic thing, that's grass roots democracy in action. But it's also important to see it for what it is so that we don't heap too much praise and credit on the politicians themselves who are, after all, merely tools. 

There is a tendency in our press to want to rally around him anyway. They are ready for a satisfyingly smarmy conclusion to the local monument story. Some statues came down. Now is the time for "healing." But, by rights, this should be a beginning. No, I don't mean a beginning to more statue toppling. I mean a beginning to a more serious challenge to the existing class and racial power relationships that perpetuate and exacerbate the problems of one of the most unequal, unfair, and fundamentally corrupt cities in America.

 I loved seeing the statues come down. But I especially loved this issue because of the way it clarified and called attention to the arrogance, the prejudice, and the latent white supremacist attitudes still active among our city's power elite. But while the statues were toppled, these elites were not. And now they are calling for "healing." Because that's what they always do when they sense that they could be next.

 *Some people think Mitch wants to run for President. While I wouldn't be surprised if at least some of his hangers on buy their own bullshit about his potential, I don't think that's the immediate goal. He's still looking to burnish his national reputation, clearly. Mitch definitely is a big time celebrity in his own mind. Most likely he's still angling for a gig with the Aspen Institute or some similar outfit that will get him on TV a lot. State politics is probably out of the question for a few years anyway. So the national spotlight is a good place to be even if direct involvement in national politics isn't.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Everybody hated Roger

And Roger hated everybody.

 Taibbi:
Ailes has no one but his fast-stiffening self to blame for this treatment. He is on the short list of people most responsible for modern America's vicious and bloodthirsty character.

We are a hate-filled, paranoid, untrusting, book-dumb and bilious people whose chief source of recreation is slinging insults and threats at each other online, and we're that way in large part because of the hyper-divisive media environment he discovered.

Ailes was the Christopher Columbus of hate. When the former daytime TV executive and political strategist looked across the American continent, he saw money laying around in giant piles. He knew all that was needed to pick it up was a) the total abandonment of any sense of decency or civic duty in the news business, and b) the factory-like production of news stories that spoke to Americans' worst fantasies about each other.
More there. Go see

The slow pace of toppling

Toppling Lee

This morning an Uptown Lady in the Uptown coffee shop gave me a long and sad "history" lecture. It's not a good day for her. 

I stopped by the circle for a few minutes this afternoon. There was not a lot happening yet. The crowd seemed like about 75 or so people. There was some music, some people with signage, at least one person selling T-Shirts. From the looks of things, they're gonna be out there a while.  If you're going, maybe bring champagne. Otherwise, follow the action or lack thereof here.

Meanwhile the mayor announced last night that he has some goofy ideas about what to put in place of the statues.  We're gonna have to see about all that. Once the monuments are down, Mitch will have outlived his usefulness in the process somewhat.  He's in a hurry to turn the Tricentennial into his own personal graduation from office celebration.  But he's not turning 300, the whole city is.  And these public spaces belong to all  of us. So maybe we should broaden the discussion about what to do with them. If that takes us longer than the end of Mitch's term to figure out, then so be it.

Turns out you actually can take down statues and focus on crime at the same time

Case in point...
The French Quarter street performer known as Uncle Louie has been arrested in connection with a deadly convenience store robbery that occurred almost exactly 43 years ago in Jacksonville, Florida.

New Orleans police helped Jacksonville investigators book Johnie Lewis Miller, 60, into the city's jail on an out of state murder warrant on Tuesday morning.
It can always be a little bit more bizarre than you think.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The final toppling party

They're taking down Lee tonight. Rest up. Soon it will be time to break out the bubble wrap and the bubbly.

Resurrecting death

It's been an odd little journey for State Rep Steve Pylant this session. After having co-sponsored a bill to abolish Louisiana's death penalty, he managed to talk himself out of it in time to vote it down in committee. So that's weird.  The T-P decided to try and figure out how that it happened.  As you might expect, the answer is he's just kind of dumb.
Pylant said Louisiana could be executing more people if officials prioritized it. He pointed out that Arkansas executed four people in eight days in April. Arkansas' lethal injection drugs were about to expire, and drug companies have been reluctant to sell more to Arkansas, Louisiana and other states for capital punishment.

"We say we can't get the drugs to execute with. Arkansas has executed four or five people in the last month," Pylant said. "So something's not right. The powers that be apparently don't have the will to carry out the executions."
The triumph of the will in Arkansas that seems to have inspired Pylant is actually a macabre clearance sale on executions set in motion by Governor Asa Hutchinson. The state's supply of a sedative used in lethal injections is about to expire. Drug manufacturers who no longer want their products used for this purpose have refused to sell them to the states anymore. Hutchinson's response is to kill off as many convicts as he can in the meantime.  Also, the drug doesn't always work so great as the first of these executions demonstrated once again.
 At 7:20 p.m. local time, 52-year-old Jack Harold Jones was pronounced dead in the death chamber at the Cummings Unit state prison. Infirmary workers had spent more than 45 minutes unsuccessfully trying to put a central line into his neck. According to a court filing, during Jones’s execution, he was, quote, "was moving his lips and gulping for air," unquote, which suggests he continued to be conscious during the lethal injection. The controversial sedative midazolam is administered as part of a cocktail of execution drugs to make prisoners unconscious, but it’s repeatedly failed to do so during other executions, leading to painful deaths.
Pylant's wavering on the death penalty seems to have stemmed from his concern about access to the drugs. Arkansas cruel blundering has reassured him, though. So that's nice.

Anyway, this afternoon, there is a last minute effort to bring the bill back for another vote next week. We'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Everyone's new background pic

Perfect.

No doubt this will launch a hundred thousand angry letters to the editor from the Monumental Taskers. No doubt they will all be published. 

Our Stupid Senator

We've covered this dilemma previously, but it isn't really necessary to ask rather John Neely Kennedy is genuinely stupid or just faking. Either way, it's embarrassing for everyone.
Calling Medicaid a "Sharknado-sized health insurance program for 20 percent of
Americans," Sen. John Neely Kennedy wrote in an opinion column today he would be filing legislation called the “Medicaid Reform and Personal Responsibility Act of 2017," which would require "able-bodied adult enrollees" without dependents to work, go to school or perform community service for 20 hours a week in order to receive Medicaid health benefits
What does "Sharknado-sized" even mean? How big is a Sharknado? Is it bigger than a regular nado? Or is it distinguished more by virtue of there being sharks in it? No matter, you're still not getting any health care if John thinks you're a slacker. 

The Fight For $8.50 (a year from now)

Kind of a joke in that it's not anything close to a living wage. Also it probably won't achieve final passage. But, hey, progress.. sort of.

The Senate Labor Committee voted 4-2 Wednesday to advance the wage hike to the full Senate. The proposal made it that far last year before fizzling when it was diverted to a second Senate committee for review.

It’s unclear whether new support has built for the effort.

If approved, Louisiana’s minimum wage would grow to $8 per hour in 2018 and to $8.50 an hour a year later under the bill by New Orleans Sen. Troy Carter.

Apparently you are with Cannizzaro or you are with the terrorists

Something like 50 to 100 people turned out to protest yesterday on a Tuesday during rush hour. The DA's office is very not mad, though.
The DA is next up for election in 2020. Chris Bowman, a spokesman for his office, responded to the protest by referencing two shootings that happened on Tuesday shortly after 5 p.m.

"It appears as though while that protest was going on, two people were shot in the city, one of whom was killed. The DA is far more concerned about the violent crime that is spiraling out of control than that small protest," Bowman said.
By the way, House Bill 272 passed last week. Should the Senate concur, that would make the recall process slightly easier to accomplish in Louisiana.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I think I figured out what to do with the vacated monument sites

Nobody likes to "erase history," right? So let's come back behind this process and install new monuments to the great and glorious battles to remove the monuments. That should make the history and heritage buffs happy. It will be big for tourism too. Here's a map.

Because fuck you, that's why

What I like about this Bernstein post is that he spends a paragraph first describing how exasperated he is with the unreality of Trump world before he can even get to the part about how Trump is being exasperating. It's like peeling layers off of a rotten onion. Why are we even doing it?

It's 2017 and our official economic and fiscal policy is still, improbably, voodoo.
I don’t take Trump/Mnuchin’s assertions too seriously, but they do suggest they’re uninterested in the parts of their tax plan that were in there to raise revenues, like ending interest deductibility or the border adjustment tax. They also talked about a tax repatriation scheme which, if it’s like past versions, also scores as a money loser.

When asked if he was OK with the deficit increase implied by all that, Trump said, “It is OK, because it won’t increase it for long.” The tax would trigger growth effects that would offset the deficit.

That’s not gonna happen. Yes, they’ll assume phony growth numbers and magic-asterisk-spending cuts to make the pools of red ink appear to be less deep. Congressional Republicans may impose smaller tax cuts than what I suspect the administration has in mind, though I don’t think they care much about deficits either. So we’re looking at larger budget deficits—I’d guess much larger—than are currently forecasted.

By the way, at this point in the interview, the President got into all that “priming the pump” stuff, but that’s not really their play here. Keynesian pump-priming is a temporary fiscal boost to offset a temporary demand contraction. It is designed to boost growth and jobs during the downturn, but we don’t assume that it will boost the economy’s underlying growth rate. Trump and Mnuchin, however, are claiming “supply-side” effects: tax cuts will boost investment, productivity growth, and labor supply, and thus raise the long-term, potential growth rate.

In this regard, they’re conflating Keynes, who’s been proven right, and Laffer, who hasn’t.
The exasperating thing here isn't just that Laffer has not been proven correct. It's that he has actually been tested and disproven repeatedly using the entire US economy as a laboratory.  Economic theory is loaded with hypothetical, imperfect models. Some are useful. Some are not. But for some reason the most ridiculous of these is the one we keep testing. If there were one macroeconomic theory we could most confidently dismiss as quackery, it would be this one.  What reason could policymakers have to try and sell Laffer to you at this point? Fuck you. That's the reason.

If there is one guiding principle of the Trump government, in fact, that would be it. "Fuck you. Why am I even talking to you?" Nothing needs even the appearance of a rationalization anymore.  The essence of Trumpist rhetoric is making an argument against having to make an argument. Why reverse the hard fought emerging global consensus on the need for climate action? Fuck you. That's why. Why reboot the widely discredited Drug War and its commensurate policy of brutal mass incarceration? Because fuck you, shut up.  Why pretend that "voter fraud" is even a thing? Because... well because we are obscenely racist and we want to suppress the vote... but also because fuck you we don't have to explain anything to you.

Even this week, as cable news makes the Comey affair look all the world like something that could spiral out of control on the, yes, quite dangerously stupid, Trump, it still serves to step back and ask what's actually different. Why are we expecting an explanation now? Does the President have the power and prerogative to unilaterally squash any investigation that might embarrass him? Wasn't Nixon proven wrong about that?  Just like Art Laffer, right?

John Bel isn't going to sign your stupid monument bill

He made his first substantive comments on the matter after the House voted yesterday.  And while he wasn't as clear as members of the Legislative Black Caucus were, or as activists in New Orleans and, yes, even Mitch Landrieu have been that the  monument preservation movement is really a white supremacist movement, he definitely showed enough skepticism to clue us in about his intent.  So can we move on now? Maybe not yet.

The monuments issue has been refreshingly clarifying in local politics. It's shown us just how ingrained old racial attitudes are among some of our city's more powerful figures. It's been especially satisfying to watch erstwhile friends and allies of the mayor grumble under their breath (and sometimes just whine loudly and publicly) at him.  I'd like to also be able to congratulate Mitch on having the "courage" to stick to his guns throughout. But that would give him too much credit for exhibiting moral principle where we know it's probably just astute political calculation.  However he got there, though,  he has been on the right side of a major controversy so there's that.  Dole out whatever credit you may think is due.

The bigger story, though, is that we've reached a place where even when the mayor makes a cynical political calculation, the result is positive. It suggests that the next mayor won't have to have old money whites in his or her corner in order to build a successful campaign.  That hasn't been true since pre-Nagin days.

Republicans in the Legislature are hoping the monuments issue works differently statewide than it does in Orleans Parish. Everything they've done this session has been about setting up the next campaign against the Governor and this is no different. The idea here is to score a cheap wedge by forcing the Governor to veto a monuments bill. They might be making a mistake, though. There are times when a principled stand on a symbolic issue like this can turn the political calculus in your favor regardless of what the polling and conventional wisdom says at the time. This might turn out to be one of those moments for John Bel.

Chances are the thing won't get to his desk. But political strategists on both sides have a lot to consider before they decide whether or not they actually want it to get there.

ConstitutionCon

If a complicated multi-step process makes its way through several meanderings, we might have a constitutional convention two years from now.
Under HB 456, the Legislature would create a 27-member committee of affiliates from different state associations to meet in September and determine whether a constitutional convention is even needed. If so, the committee would provide a written plan. The proposed convention would then need two-thirds approval of the 2018 Legislature.

If those thresholds are met, the convention would meet in January 2019. It would comprise the committee members and a delegate from each of the 105 House districts. Anyone could run to be one of the delegates as long as they represent their House district. 
In the meantime there's a fair to middling chance the initial bill at least passes the House. At the very least it gives everybody a ready made excuse for not solving the budget problem this year or next. 

Update: Quickly just to add.. this session began with such high hopes. And now look.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — After months of study by a blue-ribbon panel commissioned to recommend tax overhaul ideas, Louisiana’s lawmakers are on track to reject most of the big-ticket concepts, sending the suggestions to the same dustbin as past studies.

Few task force tax suggestions have advanced beyond their first hearings. Several of the main proposals have been killed outright, while others haven’t even gotten a hearing as bill sponsors realized they’re unlikely to gain traction.

The stopping point for many proposals has been the conservative, majority-Republican House Ways and Means Committee, where most tax bills must start.
That's Neil Abramson's Committee. Neil said at the outset he'd prefer just to do the constitutional convention. So here we are. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

QOTD

State Rep Sam Jones during today's legislative debate on Confederate monuments:
“I don’t know why in a session where we can’t balance a budget,” said Democratic Rep. Sam Jones, a former Franklin mayor, “we are here today to refight the Civil War."
Because two lost causes are better than one, obviously. 

Also... Where was Neil? 
Not Voting (9): Reps Abramson, Broadwater, R. Carter, Connick, Johnson, LeBas, Norton, Reynolds and Stokes.

The Ricky Williams Special

Okay well not exactly but AP's contract is loaded with IFs.
The deal comes with a $2.5 million signing bonus and base salaries of $1 million in 2017, which is guaranteed, and $1.05 million in 2018.

The key for him will be his performance. He can earn earn additional money by rushing for 750 ($150,000), 1,000 ($250,000), 1,250 ($750,000) or 1,500 ($1 million) yards each of the next two seasons.

Another bonus will come if he hits six ($250,000), eight ($500,000) or 10 touchdowns ($750,000). The 10 touchdown bonus will only be paid if he also leads the league in rushing yards.
The Saints were already loading up the roster with Old Broken Guys before they went out and added a bad hamstring and a bad hip in the first round of the draft.  Get ready to read a lot of "IF everybody stays healthy..." when training camp comes around. 

Nobody knows what they're doing

You know, outside of the horrifying context in which we find ourselves ruled by bullies who are actually proud to brand themselves on belligerent ignorance,  this is actually a liberating lesson for us to learn. If we ever learn it.
In the aftermath of Trump’s election, many sought solace in the thought that our reality-star-in-chief would delegate such weighty decisions to the “adults” in his administration. After all, the president is famously impressionable, forever echoing the sentiments of the last adviser who filled his ear. And White House “moderates” did capitalize on that suggestibility last month, when they averted an economic shock by deploying a series of visual aids to convince the president that abruptly exiting NAFTA (in celebration of his 100th day in office) would be unwise.

But the president’s malleability is just as useful to Roger Stone as it is to Gary Cohn. And “adults” in the West Wing can be just as immature and incompetent as they are everywhere else — points amply illustrated by last week’s events.
The lesson should be, let's never assume the people in charge have any idea what they're doing. That way it follows they should be subject to the will and scrutiny of public... you know.. democracy. Unfortunately the #Resistance right now seems focused on identifying the Good Authoritarian to replace the bad one we have right now. But the Good Authoritarians are just as out of touch and clueless as the bad ones. They all have to be watched and actually resisted (sans hashtag) all of the time. 

Late Spring

Crawfish Season

Crawfish season is just about to pass peak. Consider this a friendly reminder if you haven't done your boil yet. We got ours in yesterday just before the weather turned hot again. Just another week at best before the real crap part of the year sets in. Use it wisely.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sometimes he really is "John Bel Obama"

Isn't there some rule in politics about how you're not supposed to reward your enemies? Modern Democrats seem not to understand.

Edwards also has prompted complaints from Democratic legislators for keeping the dollars flowing for projects in Republican districts that former Gov. Bobby Jindal was funding, rather than killing them in favor of new projects sought by Democrats. The Democrats are especially peeved because many Republicans have refused to support any new revenue measures.
Dont help them until they agree to help you. Republicans haven't been very helpful.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Actually, I always liked the berms

There are a couple of interesting quotes from Kurt Weigle in this story about the re-make of Duncan Plaza. City Council recently agreed to a lease with the Downtown Development District whose plans for managing the park include a redesign. It appears this is being done so that the park can be a better venue than Lafayette Square for hosting whatever Fried Chicken Festivals of the Future may come along.
“Lafayette Square has really taken a beating in the last 10 years or so because it’s such a wonderful space and a lot of people want to use it for events. But it was never designed to be that type of a park,” Weigle said.
Fine, I guess. But just say that. The sidebar rationalization about perceived safety issues is embarassing.
“A definite problem right now is the berms in the middle that obstruct the views into and out of the park,” Weigle said. “It contributes to a sense that the park is not safe, despite the fact that I can’t remember any incident (of crime) in the park.”
Do the berms make the park unsafe? Well, no, but just say that it feels crimey or whatver. That should get us more space to put the vendors' booths. Anyway, it's fine. They're probably correct. Duncan Plaza does seem like a more suitable and open space to fit the crowds drawn by the 8-10 new random food item festivals we're manufacturing every year now.

As long as they're planning to keep the public space there open to the public, there's no reason to complain. Recall that only a few years ago, the city cleared out a homeless encampment from the park just ahead of preparations to host Super Bowl XLVII. Since then, it's become a prominent gathering space for the increasing number of public protests one sees here in the Time Of Trump.

Big crowd
Inauguration Day "J20" Protest

Weigle says the plan is to maintain the status quo there.  But let's make sure we keep this quote handy as this process moves along just in case.
“It’s fair to say that this agreement would not be in place if we had not made a commitment to continue to support that kind of activity in the park,” Weigle said.

“Being someone who loves that part of what it means to be an American, I’d never look to curtail that in any way,” he added. “It’s something we’re looking to celebrate along with all the other uses in the park.”

Friday, May 12, 2017

Nuts and bolts

Enter: Mr. Excitement.
Former Judge Michael Bagneris announced his second run for New Orleans mayor on Thursday (May 11), becoming the first mayoral candidate to announce his candidacy in a major event before supporters. His announcement was held at Dooky Chase's Restaurant in Treme.
This event was more of a formality than anything. Bagneris indicated he was running a long time ago and has remained open about his intentions. In this case, a kick off party is more useful in telling us what the campaign expects it will be about.

That's important because some may recall that this was a problem for Bagneris the last time around. Stephanie Grace called his 2014 run a "campaign about nothing."  (The Advocate's site is riddled with link rot so I can't find that column right now.)   I later wrote that it had been a campaign by listicle meaning that Bagneris appeared to have just pulled the top two or three issues named in voter surveys, and then mentioned them a lot without forming an overarching narrative.  So far he seems to be leaning toward a repeat of that. 
The quiet field in the two months before official qualifying in July gave Bagneris a jump on some early politicking, and he said on Thursday that he plans to begin rolling out new proposals to flesh out his campaign message. The early indications were that Bagneris would wage a heavily crime-focused candidacy, and he spent much of his announcement talking about either public safety or programs that would help address the issue.
Inevitably, the survey results say voters are worried about crime. Crime is an easy thing for candidates to talk about without really saying anything besides "Crime is bad." So they say that. They also say, "We need more police," in order to stop the crime although that is not necessarily true. But it's easy to say. In 2014, Bagneris' closing ads promised to somehow put 1600 more cops on the street in his first year.  This time he's saying he wants to bring back an unspecified number of retirees.
His first action to build the ranks of the police department, Bagneris said, would begin an outreach effort to retired New Orleans police officers.

"The pool of retirees is a fertile ground for recruiting officers," Bagneris said. "Many left when they could retire because of their differences with the administration. With a mayor that they don't have those differences with, many will be willing to come back, so we are going to recruit from those retirees first."
So far we're still very much in nothingville. The economic development portion of this talk is equally uninspiring. Here we see Bagneris touching on another issue that must be polling strongly this year and addressing it with basically nonsense. 
Bagneris rolled out several economic development ideas, first criticizing the primary industry in New Orleans, tourism, as a low-wage industry. He says New Orleans can't be a "one-trick pony," and questioned why the city hasn't capitalized on more activity from the Port of New Orleans.

"We import large qualities of steel," Bagneris said. "Why can't we manufacture nuts and bolts?"

It's encouraging to see a mayoral candidate willing to publicly criticize tourism this way. The poverty wages of our service economy combined with our ever-worsening housing crisis should be the central issue this year.  But Bagneris's solutions, (The Port! Manufacturing!) such as they are, indicate he probably isn't taking the problem seriously.  I mean, I'd be the first to agree that de-industrialization has been a major factor in spurring economic inequality in the U.S. over the past half century. But something tells me the Mayor Of New Orleans isn't going to have a lot of power to reverse those global trends. Maybe I'm being cynical. Maybe we're only a few years away from our dream jobs in Mayor Bagneris's Glorious Nuts And Bolts Factory. Probably not, though.  Besides, we produce enough nuts around here as it is.

Meanwhile, The Advocate's account of the announcement suggests the Bagneris campaign is at least trying to build a rhetorical theme this time out.
“Ours is a very noble cause. We are fighting for the very soul of New Orleans,” he said. “The soul of New Orleans is its people, and we the people are in peril.”
Holy crap, our souls are in peril! That is some heavy stuff. Although it isn't what one expects from the generally mild Bagneris. I wonder what it sounded like. It's also an odd thing to say if you propose to recover your "soul" through improved relations with Leon Cannizzaro. 
He also said he would improve community policing and suggested that beefing up staffing, rather than the crime cameras that form the basis of Landrieu’s recently announced security plan, is the way to reduce crime.

Bagneris also pledged to improve relations between the mayor’s office and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, both of whom have clashed with Landrieu.
Still, there is that little bit of criticism thrown in about Landrieu's surveillance plan.  That and the knock against the tourism industry suggest this is a candidate who is listening for issues that might distinguish him from the field. Even if he gives no sign of knowing or caring how to actually address any of them.

Take my swamp, please

Danae Columbus gets a little salty with the mayor here.
Armed with the proper resources and consultants, (IDB Chair Alan) Philipson is quite capable of directing a fair and impartial selection process to identify a well-qualified developer for the former Six Flags site. Instead of providing Philipson with the tools he needed, Landrieu has decided to run the process himself – a la the World Trade Center – and will get one last shot to give a major piece of New Orleans real estate to his hand-selected cronies.
Is it a "major piece" of real estate, though?  It looks more like a rusting junkyard sinking into swamp. We've had three rounds of questionably financed hucksters trying to make far-fetched plays for it all of which were rejected.  Maybe Columbus is right to be suspicious of the mayor's move to expedite matters. But it's just as likely he's motivated by a desire to have this done with as it is nefarious "cronyism."

Unless Scurlock ends up with the property. In that case, yes, something fishy will have happened. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Two down

They went and got old JD last night. Covered him in bubble wrap and plucked him right off his pedestal. And a fine time was had by all. 
A crowd of a few hundred on-lookers, both pro- and anti-monuments, watched as workers used a crane to remove the monument from its pedestal. Those crowds included monument supporters who have kept watch at the statue since April 24 and those affiliated with Take 'Em Down NOLA, an activist group that has called for the removal of a wide variety of monuments and other symbols in the city they say show reverence for white supremacy.
This comes on the heels of Sunday's Take 'em Down march from Congo Square to Lee Circle where an even better time was had since we personally got to go there and drink beer.

Take em Down rally at the Lee Monument

The Monday prior we also had a few watching the Neo-Confederates and Antifa kids shout at one another in front of Jefferson Davis.  Here's our report from there.  We also talked about that episode on the latest fake radio show which we recorded last week but is only just now available.



Anyway so if you're keeping score, that's three toppling parties so far but only two actual topplings. Plus only last night did a party and toppling occur at the same time and place.  Two more to go. Maybe just once they'll announce it with enough lead time to give people an opportunity to plan.

Still, it's hard to complain. It's kind of nice that this is happening now. It gives people something to do now that festival season is starting to wane and the boring part of the year is looming. Anything that keeps us busy until the election starts to heat up is welcome.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Undefeated

Seems the more times we go to court over the monuments, the flimsier any of the (already very flimsy) arguments against the legitimacy of the decision to do this become.
A judge has blocked a last-ditch attempt to stop the removal of the P.G.T. Beauregard monument. A member of the Monumental Task Committee submitted what he called new evidence showing the city of New Orleans doesn't own the statue at the entrance of City Park, but Orleans Civil Court Judge Kern Reese said Wednesday (May 10) he could find no basis for granting a preliminary injunction to block Mayor Mitch Landrieu's plans.

It was the latest round of legal wrangling between the city and the Monumental Task Committee in from of state and federal judges. With Wednesday's decision confirming the city owns the Beauregard monument, the Landrieu administration remains undefeated in court against challenges to keep it from removing four Confederate monuments.
Undefeated, unlike certain Confederate military figures we could mention...

And yet, the Lost Cause continues. 
Marksbury, who sought the injunction, said he would review with Jones whether the group should take his case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. But Marksbury acknowledged that the committee is running out of time because a arguments at the appellate level would take time, and Landrieu's efforts to remove the monuments could occur before then.
These "philanthropists" sure do have a lot of money to piss away on lawyers. There must not be much need in New Orleans for good charity work or anything lately. 

Update: Meanwhile...
The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) has erected new barricades — reminiscent of the ones put up on Lee Circle this weekend — on the neutral ground across Canal Street from the Jefferson Davis statue. Temporary "No Parking" signs also have gone up on Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway near the statue, in effect through May 12.

Upperdate: Yep. Definitely coming down tonight. Bye, JD.

Preferred Comey Take Of The Day

If you must have one Comey take today, make it this one.
The FBI is fucking evil. To the extent that its investigation into ties between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government actually existed and may eventually have uncovered something that could be pinned to the president himself, yes, sure, okay, that probably is the reason Comey got shitcanned last night. It would also be a complete anomaly in the history of an organization that only ever has taken a break from bootlicking and propping up entrenched power in the moments when J. Edgar Hoover felt obliged to blackmail somebody. If Trump decommissioned the entire bureau tomorrow it would be the first good thing he ever did in his entire goddamn life. He probably won’t. It’s too useful to him. Being useful to the powerful is what it’s for.
Anyway, we're all looking forward to hearing what John Kennedy has to say at the confirmation hearings for whoever Trump nominates for the job next.  Ideally, Clay Higgins. Or maybe one of those Duck Dynasty guys. 

Maybe just say that he is a notorious phony

No need to beat around the bush.
Some observers who were seeing Kennedy in action for the first time even questioned whether the senator is very bright. He is, of course, as those who've watched him for a long time know. They also know that he has a history of cranking up the outrage and incredulity for maximum effect, a habit that served him just fine in Louisiana.

Clearly the effect was lost on much of his new, broader audience.
Look, we get it.  John Kennedy's act is all smarm. We know it's fake. We know it's condescending. We know he's basically Ted Cruz with a banjo slung around his neck. We also know the reason the "broader audience" reads it as stupid is because he is actually very bad at this. "Weed killer,"  "To a bear we all taste like chicken," That whole "Love is the answer"/"Handgun" thing. These aren't wise country colloquialisms. They are bizarre head-scratchers.  Kennedy's faux-folksy manner is so tone deaf, so inauthentic, that Occam's razor leads those getting their first glance to conclude that nobody would be doing this on purpose.  Well, he is. And we know. Sooner or later the press in Washington will figure it out too. That is, if Kennedy ever becomes a consequential enough figure for them to even pay much attention to.

In the meantime, maybe the Louisiana press shouldn't validate his behavior as "a habit that served him just fine" here. Kennedy served as Treasurer for a decade but rarely faced much opposition. He got himself elected Senator with a lot of help from David Vitter's money, stump speeches by a newly elected President and Vice President, and a near complete lack of interest from the DNC and State Democratic Party in supporting his opponent.  Those circumstances served him well. Let's not do ourselves, or the voters of the state the insult of asserting that Kennedy's stupid clown act has as much to do with his rise as all that.

Tricentennial Land

This clears up a question we had about the Six Flags deal yesterday.
The deal also gives the IDB final say over any plan Landrieu’s office draws up, pursuant to state law, but Landrieu is seeking to change that law in the coming months.

A bill that cleared a House committee last week would give the City Council final say-so over contracts the IDB approves, which could include leases, sales or other deals. If that bill becomes law before the city is able to find a developer for the site, it could apply to a Six Flags deal.
The goal is to transfer the final decision making responsibility over to the city. This agreement is just a midway point toward that.

Regardless of who is making the choice, the prospects for the property are still grim. The same pool of questionably qualified bidders has been rejected three times by DIN. It's hard to imagine what the mayor's office can bring to the process that would be any different besides maybe lowered standards. Also there's the incentive of a deadline that comes with the end of Landrieu's term and his desire to turn the city's 300th birthday into his own showcase of personal achievements.  Seems like sober conditions under which to reach a wise decision.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Normalizing the expectations

One thing we can say for Trump is that he's doing a fantastic job of pulling the band aid off of Idiot America's understanding of the way its ruling institutions actually work.
Senior White House and Justice Department officials had been working on building a case against Mr. Comey since at least last week, according to administration officials. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had been charged with coming up with reasons to fire him, the officials said.
All the decent folk are shocked shocked. But this is how things always work.  For whatever reason, most people are a-ok with day to day corruption and abuse of power so long as the practitioners are subtle in their manners. 

Ten years ago, New Orleans' first Inspector General introduced himself with the curious remark that the corruption here just wasn't "sophisticated" enough.
“Corruption in other cities is so sophisticated (because of their rules) you wouldn’t find briberies. It’s very unusual you’d find someone passing money in an office somewhere.”
The New New Orleans does much better corruption now. But don't think for a minute that that means less corruption. It's just that as long the graft isn't so stupidly blatant that it embarrasses the comfortable classes, then nobody has to worry their pretty little head about it.

Well the country went and elected Ray Nagin President last year. And now we're having a daily panic over the very basic fact that America has not actually, "Always Been Great."  The danger here isn't so much that we "normalize" the uncouth behavior of the Ogre President. It's more that our capacity for collective self-delusion once again outstrips the opportunity he presents for honest discussion of how fucked up things really are and have been.