Thursday, November 29, 2012

Community fat birds Loafing on big words

This outsider's view of Saints-Falcons rivalry gets it mostly right except that there's less novelty about it to those of us who grew up watching these teams.
EggGate is now the latest salvo in what's fast becoming one of the NFL's most compelling rivalries, a battle both on field and off. Appropriately enough for its Southern locale, it's the rivalry that most resembles college football, where attitude and personality play key roles, and where everyone – fan and player alike – is a combatant.
Because both teams are southern and because one of them is in New Orleans, this series has barely mattered to "real America" over the years.  That doesn't mean it hasn't mattered, though.  
"The New Orleans-Atlanta rivalry may not be looked at by the rest of the country as one of the great rivalries in sports, but I don't care," says Rob Brown, a sports talk host on WTKE in Destin, Fla. "As an FSU fan, I don't 'hate' Florida or Miami fans. I don't like them. But I don't hate them. I see the ATL Falcon logo, and it drives me to disgust."

You can't blame the rest of the NFL for not according Atlanta-New Orleans the same respect as, say, Green Bay-Chicago or New England-Indy. There's almost no legacy of winning, little history of success against the rest of the league. New Orleans didn't win a playoff game for its first 34 years of existence. And it took Atlanta 44 freaking years to post back-to-back winning seasons.
All of which is to say that while the Saints and Falcons haven't often been nationally competitive, they've always been pretty evenly matched with one another which makes for an intense rivalry even when "the people who matter" aren't paying attention.  That is, evenly matched except for lately when the Saints have owned everything.

"Come one and all to the execution"

Mitt Landrieu

Mitch is getting ready to go all Bain Capital on city Civil Service. The basic plan is cut benefits, fire as many employees as possible, and then pay all the executives big bonuses.
Asked by (Landrieu's Chief Information Officer Allen) Square to identify a model personnel system in another city government, (Randolph) Scott responded, "We believe this civil service system— We don't live in another city. This system works fairly well except for the fact that it's sabotaged and underfunded."

Other items on Scott's list: Keep current layoff rules, reduce provisional appointments (made at management's discretion outside normal testing and evaluation procedures), create a uniform evaluation system, implement cost of living adjustments tied to the consumer price index, and eliminate overtime pay for executive employees.

(That last one is a response to a recent Fox 8 investigation reporting that members of the mayor's executive staff — who are only eligible for overtime during emergency declarations — received about $230,000 in overtime and disaster pay during the Hurricane Isaac declaration.

Responding to the criticism, Square said, "Some folks were required to come to work. Some folks stayed home, left town, whatever they needed to do. The people who did not come in still got paid. They did not lose vacation time or leave time ... The people who came to work, should they not be given a little extra?"

Deirdre Lewis, a retired New Orleans teacher who attended the meeting, objected to that point. "People who make $30,000 per year getting a few extra dollars is different than people who already make $150,000. You're comparing apples to horses," she said.)
In this analogy, Mitch's executive team are the dressage horses.

Strange bedfellows

About that thing we mentioned yesterday regarding everybody involved in the Heebe-Letten-Vitter-Perricone-Robinnette business being very closely tied together by their professional, political, and personal associations.  Here, via Slabbed, is what we meant by "personal."
We now know Senator David “Diaper Dave” Vitter was ensnared along with Billy Nungesser and that both guys like their sex kinky.  Vitter of course was the guy who got Judge Kurt Engelhardt on the bench. Engelhardt in a prior life was Vitter’s campaign manager and somewhere along the line it came out the Sinator used his campaign money to indulge his sexual proclivities and that it was Engelhardt that likely wrote the checks.
Engelhardt is the judge now trying to use Perricone, et al as an excuse to  have the Danziger verdict tossed out.

Meanwhile, keeping with the title theme, check out all the money people lining up behind Dana Kaplan.
Notable Kaplan contributions in the most recent reports: $4,000 from developer Sean Cummings ($1,500 before the Nov. 6 primary and $2,500 after); $2,500 from Mayor Mitch Landrieu's election campaign; $2,000 from political strategist and commentator James Carville; $1,000 from Louisiana House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger's campaign; and $500 from banker/developer Joseph C. Canizaro.

Update: And now here's more from Moseley on Letten.

Ed Blakely: Buffoon

Dorothy: Oh please, Professor, why can't we go with you and see all the Crowned Heads of Europe?

Professor Marvel: Do you know any? Oh, you mean the... thing. Yes

More than likely the "rumor" that Blakely was going to be on this commission originated with Blakely himself.  He's built a career out of being the traveling carnie who sells snake oils and advice from the beyond to disaster-prone marks.  As always, the way one gets these jobs is by hustling.  Blakely hustled his way into a job in New Orleans.  But New York must not have been Kansas anymore.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Food Fight

Saints players say Atlanta airport workers threw eggs at team bus

These Falcons fans must have gotten a little extra lit after the bonfire tonight or something.  The bar at the downtown Applebees must have made a fortune. Usually the Falcons just lay eggs when the Saints are in town.  In this case they threw them at a bus and actually hit it, apparently.. which rules out Matt Ryan as a suspect. By the same reasoning, since the eggs were not intercepted we're pretty sure Roman Harper was on hand.  In any case, Jeff Duncan has already reported that the bus "has only itself to blame."

As goofy as this is, it does kind of make us regret not getting that Koenen jersey on the Gleason statue  the way we talked about before the last game.  Now there's barely any time left to retaliate. Apart from getting a full bladdered Remi Ayodele to the nearest Falcons logo ASAP, the best thing Saints fans can do at this point is stock up on eggs and keep their eyes open for either this truck.


Or maybe this bus.

 Or we could just wait until tomorrow night when the egg will be on someone else's face. *

*Sorry for that last one. Really, I am.

Busy doing lots of stuff

Just wanted to mention quickly, if you've been reading that Sal Perricone's and Jan Mann's online smack talking in NOLA.com comment forums might now overturn the Danzinger conviction, you may also be interested in the following.

Mark Moseley has written a pair of columns on this subject this month that are well worth your while.

I guess an interest in the overall benefit requires us to take Jim Letten's side in a cage match vs Fred Heebe.  That doesn't mean we have to like cheering for Letten the way... say... Clancy Dubos so often does.

But one thing Mark's first column does illuminate is just how disturbingly interchangeable the two men are. Not to mention how tightly their professional, political, and personal associations are wound together.*
You may recall that Letten made an unusual move in 2007 in support of Vitter at the height (nadir?) of the D.C. Madam scandal. Vitter’s cell number was found on the Madam’s call logs, and there was rampant speculation that Vitter was also involved with local working girls. Letten said that Vitter’s name never came up in the federal investigation of the Canal St. brothel case, which seemed to contradict claims by “Canal St. Madam” Jeanette Maier.

Now, during the prosecutor’s darkest hour in office, Vitter isn’t bending over backwards to support Letten, a fellow De La Salle High alumnus. Where’s the loyalty? Hell, a decade ago Vitter was supporting Heebe over Letten for the open U.S. attorney post! Who knows how differently Vitter’s career—not to mention the River Birch scandal—might have turned out, had Heebe been installed in that ultra-powerful office?
For the record, I'm guessing not that different.

Anyway, Moseley goes on to examine the online comments themselves and adds some speculation about which aliases Perricone was using and how many other insiders at Letten's office he may have been interacting with.

Also see the footnotes to those columns Moseley posted here under his own online alias.

And finally there's this thread where Dambala, Adrastos, Doug and others try and figure out what it all means. 

As I say at the top of this post, I'm too busy to write much about this right now but, very quickly, my comments and questions are:

 1) Is it really that plausible that Letten didn't know anything about any of these activities?  I've read the line about Letten's "lack of online savvy" repeated so many times that I'm beginning to see it as a bullshitting tactic.

2) How far does Heebe's hand extend into Letten's office in the first place? I'm pretty much convinced that Heebe's defamation lawsuit happened in the first place because he was at least tipped off by someone on the inside.  I can't help but wonder about what role Heebe's relationship with Perricone and Mann plays in all of this as well.

3) Same goes for the Danziger case.  If we're going to speculate that Judge Englehardt is "on the take" we may as well extend that speculation to the US Attorney's office as well, right?

*Note that the Letten-Heebe-Vitter, etc. circle extends also to Clancy Dubos and, of course, Garland Robinette.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I don't think Les Miles is going to Arkansas

For one, I think that if he takes the deal, reported to be worth $27.5 million, to move to an inferior program in a smaller setting with nowhere near the recruiting base, it will mean that he cares more about money than he does football.  And we all know Les Miles is far too stupid to have his priorities in order.

Still, given all of that, Arkansas seems like a weird chip to use merely as a contract renegotiation ploy. Plus there's still the matter of what the hell was going on behind the scenes when Les freaked out after the Ole Miss game. It's possible that something's up.  But I still don't see Miles bolting for Arkansas as very plausible.

Yes, this is a Hitler joke

Roger Goodell named candidate for Time's Person of the Year

Marvin Miller has died

Kind of a big deal, sports fans.  I'm not gonna waste your time here. Go read Pierce. Then go read Olbermann.

Stacy's move

Kind of figured this was coming

LaToya Cantrell was endorsed Tuesday morning in her bid for the District B seat on the City Council by Council President Stacy Head, a popular and influential voice in Uptown politics who twice won the seat in 2006 and 2010.

Head has been a political rival of Mayor Mitch Landrieu on a number of issues lately, and her endorsement of Cantrell stands in contrast with Landrieu’s earlier endorsement of Dana Kaplan, whom Cantrell faces in the Dec. 8 runoff.

This is a natural move. And this was precisely the right time for Head to make it. Beyond the obvious bit about Stacy not wanting to deal with a new person on the council who owes favors to Mitch, she's also trying to preserve the electoral coalition that put her where she is today.

Head's base is Uptown conservative white money combined with Uptown slightly more liberal, perhaps less wealthy, whites who are interested in "reform." Whites as a whole are a minority in New Orleans but this specific coalition of traditional conservatives with young (sort of) progressive professional class whites has been especially assertive in post-Katrina politics. Stacy Head has been the catalyst behind and primary beneficiary of that phenomenon. She's ridden that to a narrow victory in a city-wide At-Large election and may now harbor bigger ambitions.  But in order to realize those ambitions, she'll have to protect the base she's built.

The only way for Head to remain a major player is to keep all those Uptown white people on the same page. This can be tricky because there are natural fissures to exploit.  In their own ways, each of the District B candidates threatens to peel away the less conservative part of Stacy's coalition. But Kaplan is especially problematic for Head, in part, because she's another young white lady, but more importantly because she appears to be aligning with Mitch.

Mitch, obviously, also pulls strongly from among middle class whites. By backing Kaplan, he's laying a claim on a big chunk of Head's base. Head pretty much has to make a counter-claim here. So the stakes here are potentially pretty high. Head is trying to maintain her momentum while Mitch could seize an opportunity to break things up a bit and set the stage for some new realignments in District B... and by extension, citywide.

Monday, November 26, 2012

If you're looking for some good news today

And I know you are.  Check out Bob Marshall's assessment of the recent BP plea agreement with the feds. Marshall is more upbeat about the news than I was when it rolled out a couple of weeks ago. You should probably put more stock in Bob Marshall's opinion than in mine in these matters.

Here's why: Some $1.2 billion is directed to go specifically to Louisiana river diversion projects and/or barrier island creation or restoration. BP will send the money to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which then must work with state and federal agencies. There's no wiggle room here -- that language is in the plea agreement.

You can read the whole thing here: (www.justice.gov/iso/opa/resources/43320121115143613990027.pdf).
And that is good news.  My concern, though, was that the big pay day we've been waiting for via the Clean Water Act hasn't arrived yet. As Marshall points out, the fact that we didn't hear anything about that with regard to this settlement may be a good thing.

Finally, and just as significantly, BP's guilty plea would seem to make it impossible for the company to argue it wasn't criminally negligent in violating the Clean Water Act. And that means it will be liable for the higher fine schedule that could top $20 billion. BP's only escape would be if the criminal plea was part of a larger global settlement for all exposures -- including Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act -- which Holder's office said was not the case.

So our $50 billion Master Plan 2012 could be coming in for more billions.
They'll need more billions, though. Many more.  The sooner, the better, too, of course.  

Craven hypocrites

The craven hypocrites who worked for Mitt Romney's campaign are saying that Bobby Jindal and other Republicans taking shots at them are "craven hypocrites" according to the craven hypocrites at the Daily Mail.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

Oh God help them

New Orleanians have had a lot of advice for victims of Hurricane Sandy as they embark on the long road to recovery. But one commonly expressed sentiment we could not possibly have stressed enough was, whatever you do, do NOT hire Ed Blakely to direct or advise your efforts.

And yet.
The University of Sydney (USyd) has sent Honorary Professor in Urban Policy, Edward Blakely, to New York to help its recovery efforts caused by October’s monster storm Hurricane Sandy.

Professor Blakely, an American academic working at USyd’s United States Studies Centre, is a seasoned veteran in dealing with disaster recovery efforts aftewr he earned the unofficial title of ‘Recovery Czar’ within the New Orleans Office of Recovery and Development Administration for his efforts to ameliorate the destruction inflicted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Oh dear. He must have been attracted by the dangling "cranes on the skyline."

I'm busy watching the LSU game right now.  But this is another good opportunity to review the Ed Blakely Timeline. 

Also, throw Ed Blakely's name out on Twitter and it doesn't take New Orleans very long to start talking about their favorite archetypal con men.

And we think we're kidding for a moment but then we start reading his recent comments just to get an idea what he's thinking.

After Sandy, we need to reposition and not merely rebuild. Sandy presents the ideal opportunity to think about reorganizing Lower Manhattan with stronger, smarter—and higher—transportation modes. Building tidal barriers around the tip of the city is important, as well as creating better links between New York and New Jersey so evacuation and train travel can create more options for human movement in good and bad times.

And then the whole song starts playing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Found money

Quick footnote to last week's Serpas Day at the budget hearings, I didn't get a chance to mention. I was waiting for Tom Gogola's Lens report to see if there was any further information regarding this.

If I manage to fix my laptop over the weekend, maybe I'll get a chance to look at the video just to confirm Gogola's impression.  But he seems to be saying that Stacy Head is thinking of personal home alarm systems that contact the police in the same way she's been thinking about traffic cameras and parking enforcement... as a revenue center.

If this is, in fact, the case, and if, Ms Head's own home is prone to false alarms, I wonder if maybe she's offering to plug the budget hole herself. All she has to do is run outside and trip the motion detector two or three time a week, right?

Remedial "Deliberative Process"

I know that sooner or later the fact that Tyler Bridges is writing for The Lens is going to seriously piss me off.  It hasn't happened yet, though.  I think this is mostly because he's still in the process of catching up.  This article about Jindal's "transparency" hypocrisy is a good example of that. But it's also a good place for readers to catch up along with him.

Daddy Mitch's neo-prohibition krewe

Daiquiris may not be frozen

At it again.

The Daiquiri Place Cafe has long brought too much litter, traffic and noise to St. Charles Avenue with little respect for neighboring businesses, and has made little effort to keep promises made five years ago to clean up its act, officials said Tuesday in a nuisance hearing before the city’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board.

From the looks of things, I'm sure the bar was in violation of the letter of the city regulatory code and certainly of the agreement under which they had remained open after a similar hearing in 2007.  But none of that is of particular importance except only to highlight just how stupidly draconian our modern liquor laws have become. 
Tuesday’s hearing began with a recitation of issues outlined in a 2007 agreement the bar made with the city in order to keep its doors open. The Daiquiri Place was supposed to clean up litter, hire security guards, and stop people from taking their drinks out in go cups, among other conditions.
No one has yet adequately explained to me what is fueling the increasing enthusiasm for preventing adults from standing outside with open containers of perfectly legal beverages. Because this rationale is clearly bullshit.
The hearing comes in the wake of a citywide effort launched in July by Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner to target problem bars and liquor stores.

"We will continue to investigate nuisance bars that serve as breeding grounds for violence and crime," said Mayor Landrieu. "This is about improving quality of life."
I don't know about Mitch, but I can say without hesitation that increasing limitations on carrying legal beverages around while walking greatly diminishes my "quality of life."

At the hearing, the bar owner said some things are also clearly bullshit but even that is telling as it's probably bullshit he thought might be pleasing to the board such as this.

Further, he said, the problem is the city’s own lax enforcement of people who go to second lines — they are trying to continue their party at his establishment, and the troublemakers are not his usual clientele, he said.

“Your closing me or taking my license away, it’s not going to correct this problem at all,” Papi said.
See, the "troublemakers" are the "people who go to second lines" Papi probably figures the board will have some sympathy for this point of view.  But one problem at a time, I guess. For now the object is to get all these unsightly people off of The Avenue so our hotel guests won't have to worry their pretty little heads about them come Superbowl time.
The hearing lasted nearly four hours, but ultimately the commissioners found little to agree with in Papi’s testimony. Jenkins sympathized with neighboring businesses, particularly a hotel that said it had received complaints of being “unfit for families” because of the crowds, and fighting outside the shop witnessed by the Irish House.
Superbowl is going utterly crush life in this city for all but the pretty tourists. Daddy Mitch is working overtime to see to that.  


That's some high quality weekend warrior dress-up fascism, the Mayor's security team has put together

The exercise organizers also concocted three groups with various levels of dangerousness that would disrupt the Super Bowl activities. Occupy Wall Street was integrated into them, as were a fictitious violent off-shoot group, “Apocalypse Now,” and a militant environmental outfit they called the “Louisiana Monkey Wrench Gang,” which in scenarios would disrupt the Super Bowl to draw national attention to their agenda.
This Superbowl is going to be a major disaster for regular life in this city.  It's Mitch's and the Hospitality cabal's opportunity to utterly crush the rest of us and they know it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lifeblood of the city

Funny thing about the canard that "tourism is the lifeblood of the city." For the most part, circulation is limited to a very small loop.

Take the 13 percent hotel tax, for instance.

Norman Foster, City Hall's chief financial officer, told councilmembers last week that the city expects about $13 million from the hotel tax in 2013, about the same as the most recent estimates for this year.

  Based on that number, total reported hotel sales will approach $870 million, from which the state of Louisiana should expect about $78 million. In a fantasy scenario, in which all hotel taxes went to the general fund, the city's general fund would reap about $113 million next year.

  But that's not the case.

  Three state entities — the Louisiana Superdome Commission, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and the state general fund — get 9 of those 13 cents per hotel dollar. The Superdome Commission — responsible for the Superdome and the New Orleans Arena — gets the biggest cut: 4 cents per dollar, or about $34 million in 2013, based on city revenue estimates. The next largest beneficiary is the New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority — which governs the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center — with 3 cents, or about $26 million in 2013.

  Two cents go directly to the state general fund. Of that, about $7.3 million is allocated this year to the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau and $2 million to the Morial Convention Center for debt services on outstanding construction bonds.

  Of the four cents not going to the state, two-and-a-half cents are divided between the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority and the Orleans Parish School Board.

  The remaining penny-and-a-half goes to City Hall — meaning only 11.5 percent of the city's hotel/motel tax take goes to city government. At the Nov. 9 budget hearings, council vice-president Jackie Clarkson gasped when she misheard RTA president Justin Augustine announce the agency's share of hotel/motel revenues of "one and a half." "We only get one and a half," she said.
 Actually, never mind Jackie. What's important about this is that tourism, which our leaders tell us is the "lifeblood of the city".. the reason nobody can drive downtown right now... the reason the Mayor wants to close a public square to public traffic... the reason he also wants to sweep the city's homeless out of sight.. doesn't actually fund what most of the city's residents would consider its most vital services.  Instead it goes mostly to Tom Benson's independent fiefdom on Poydras Street and then to further subsidize the tourism business itself via, of course, a series of slush funds so the well placed pols all get a taste. Then there's a little left over for the quasi-privatized RTA before City Hall gets its "penny and a half."

Somehow this doesn't seem in keeping with any of those "best practices" the Mayor is so fond of talking about.
The same model does not apply in other tourism-reliant cities.

  San Francisco's 14 percent hotel tax — an entirely local tax — was expected to generate $220 million in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, according to city budget documents. Thirty-six percent, or $80 million, went to specific programs. Last year, well over half of that was allocated to convention center expenses, tourism and marketing. But about $16 million went to city-funded museums. And the 2012-2013 budget earmarks more than $5 million for the city's affordable housing/rental assistance program. The remaining $140 million — or 64 percent — went to general fund discretionary spending.

  If the same formula applied in New Orleans, the tax would generate about $72 million for the 2013 city budget, roughly equal to the combined general fund budgets of the Health Department, the Sanitation Department and the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office.

  Atlanta budgets one-quarter of its 8 percent hotel tax revenue to the general fund. If New Orleans government took in the same portion of the city-state 13 percent hotel tax, it would receive about $28 million, $15 million above current estimates. That increase would more than cover added costs for streetlight repairs, with enough left over to pay for most of next year's consent decree expenses.
I know we're not big fans of San Francisco or Atlanta in these parts but, come on.

What's truly obscene, though, is that just this past year, Mayor Landrieu along with our various other Mayors of Hospitality very nearly converted downtown neighborhoods into an expandable "Hospitality Zone" taxing district which would have only intensified the misappropriation of public resources to service their "lifeblood" racket. 

Of course, next year, they'll undoubtedly try this again. Even if they don't have the "ticking clock" of a Superbowl deadline to play off of, I'm sure they'll come up with something.

The Stupid Party

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday called on Republicans to “stop being the stupid party” and make a concerted effort to reach a broader swath of voters with an inclusive economic message that pre-empts efforts to caricature the GOP as the party of the rich.
Jindal's now famous "Stupid" interview is so full of hypocrisies that we can spend weeks going through them.   One good indication of Jindal's  incoherence is the confused reaction of the national press.

Last week I watched a roundtable of Chris Mathews and Howard Fineman and John Heilman all agree that Jindal was maintaining his social conservative bona fides while "moderating" the GOP's economic policies.  Later that same evening, on that same channel, I watched Ed Schultz tell us Jindal was "moderating" GOP social policies.*

In fact, the Governor was doing nothing other than talking nonsense out of both sides of his mouth (as usual).  Aswell does much of that heavy lifting for us here. As we in Louisiana have come to understand all too well, Bobby Jindal is running the most radically right wing administration of any Governor in these United States. The breadth and depth of his "reforms" to public health and public education (both primary and higher ed) constitute staggering leaps off the furthest edge of the modern social contract. There is nothing in his Politico interview which signify a repudiation of these radical signature policies.

 Yglesias gets it the most correct telling us that Jindal is simply reaffirming the exact same policies while pretending to call for a change in direction.
This is, I think, probably a winning primary platform. Republicans would like to win more elections but don't want to change their policies, so they're eager for a candidate who has "new ideas" but no new ideas.

But, for the most part, the national political press remains oblivious.  Or at least they are lazy enough to allow 45 minutes of bullshit to stand in for substantive policy positioning.  Here, for example,  The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates even while acknowledging "there was a lot of talk about "tone" in Jindal's address, and very little in the way of actual policy" can't help but use Jindal's "Stupid Party" remarks as a contrast to Florida Senator Marco Rubio's recalcitrant  persistence in stupidity. 

The base of Marco Rubio's party has a problem with evolution, and a conflicted relationship with science. Expecting Rubio to be anything more that he is in that question is to misunderstand the base.

Contra Jindal, in American politics there is a substantial market for "stupid" -- one which the GOP has sought to corner.

And so it happens that  Bobby Jindal who cornered the "market for stupid"  with regard to evolution long ago, suddenly becomes the poster boy for science and reason.. even among our supposedly liberal pundits.

*Incidentally I do not recommend leaving the TV tuned to MSNBC for several hours at a time unless you are prepared to inflict much damage upon your own furniture. With the possible exception of  Maddow (and maybe Sharpton who I think plays clown on purpose) I have no idea why anyone working there remains employed.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Les Miles is losing it

Today Varg recommended that we watch this entertaining video with the sound off. 

And we did. It's just as funny either way.  But it also strikes me as a disproportionately emotional.. or angry.. response to an exciting win over Ole Miss. I'm not sure what it is, but I'm willing to bet something is going on behind the scenes at LSU we don't know about yet.


Here's another article about the Hostess bankruptcy that explains pretty well what's going on.

In 2005 it was another contract year and this time there was no way out of concessions. The Union negotiated a deal that would save the company $150 million a year in labor. It was a tough internal battle to get people to vote for it. We turned it down twice. Finally the Union told us it was in our best interest and something had to give. So many of us, including myself, changed our votes and took the offer. Remember that next time you see CEO Rayburn on tv stating that we haven't sacrificed for this company. The company then emerged from bankruptcy. In 2005 before concessions I made $48,000, last year I made $34,000. My pay changed dramatically but at least I was still contributing to my self-funded pension.

In July of 2011 we received a letter from the company. It said that the $3+ per hour that we as a Union contribute to the pension was going to be 'borrowed' by the company until they could be profitable again. Then they would pay it all back. The Union was notified of this the same time and method as the individual members. No contact from the company to the Union on a national level.

This money will never be paid back. The company filed for bankruptcy and the judge ruled that the $3+ per hour was a debt the company couldn't repay. The Union continued to work despite this theft of our self-funded pension contributions for over a year. I consider this money stolen. No other word in the English language describes what they have done to this money.
Because it involves Twinkies and Wonder Bread, this story gets a lot of attention.  But, in reality, it's been happening just about anywhere you care to look for decades.

Adding: Examples abound:  Ownership invests in executive bonuses instead of product:  OMG newspapers are dying! Fire everybody! Cut benefits! But of course it's the union's fault, or the internet's.

For much the same reasons, your public schools are being turned into profit centers with teachers becoming the scapegoat.

Some version of this is going on literally everywhere you look.

Gonna be a busy few weeks

Holidays plus work projects plus crashing hard drive could lead to lighter posting than usual here over the next few weeks.

I'd like to post something about the council runoffs if I get the chance.  But for now I can't go too far in depth about it other than point you to AZ with only this comment:

Every suspicion Dambala raises of Ms Kaplan could just as easily apply to Ms Cantrell had the powers that be chosen their horses differently. I expect either candidate will be every bit as amenable to going along to get along with Mitch's increasingly dominant agenda of selling us all out to the hospitality industry regardless of the winner.  Yeah, it's a little depressing.

Meanwhile, Eric Strachan, who owes his career to Jackie Clarkson and Stacy Head, and who ran a stupid and desperate last minute attack on Kaplan during the primary, has endorsed Cantrell. If I had to guess at what's going on here, it's this.  Uptown white yuppies who can be split up between old Peggy Wilson type Carnival aristocrats and  younger professional types who skew a bit more liberal in certain superficial ways.   Team Stacy has been successful at keeping all of those people on the same page as far as local politics are concerned. They probably see Kaplan as a threat to split up their base a little should Head run for mayor next time around.  Best for them to nip that in the bud.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

America's junk food goes Galt

Chick-Fil-A does not care for the gaysDenny's, Applebees, and Papa John's, not too surprisingly, aren't fond of health care.  And now Twinkies are bankrupt.  All of our terrible foodstuffs are apparently going Galt. It's a sad time for the doughy Jeff Crouere who, parroting the Wall Street Journal, laments the loss of these good old fashioned American bites of chemically enhanced sugar-fat.

So, this ends a company that has been in business since 1930 providing delicious treats to generations of customers. While it is a sad day for most Americans, one person who will be celebrating is First Lady Michelle Obama, who is the self-appointed healthy eating czar in our country. She famously told her husband that he could not eat a fried Twinkie at the Iowa State Fair. Not long ago, Mrs. Obama bashed Gabby Douglas, Olympic gymnast and Gold Medalist, for craving the taste of an Egg McMuffin after the games.

Will this nonsense end with Americans only being able to eat food approved by Mrs. Obama? In just the past few months, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg killed the Big Gulp and now the labor unions and the Obama economy have killed Twinkie. 

Yeah, it could be Michelle Obama and a bunch of arugula and granola eating "union thugs" got together and formed a Death Panel for America's deadliest delicious food approximations.  Looks like they've got their work cut out for them yet so I wouldn't get too worked up.

Bacon fried hot dogs
Bacon Fried Hot Dogs at Magazine Street Blues Festival November 2012

Still, we know how much even our supposedly mainstream conservative pundits enjoy a good conspiracy. Unfortunately the nation's kooks are mostly preoccupied with philandering generals at the moment so Twinkiegate may pass most of us by.

But becasue Crouere brought it up, it's worth pointing out that Michele Obama did not, in fact, kill the Twinkie. Despite the first lady's best efforts, Americans are more diabetic and obese than they've ever been.

The number of people living with diabetes is soaring in the U.S., as 18 states had at least a doubling in those with the illness since 1995, a government survey found. 

Diabetics made up 6 percent or more of the population in all 50 states in 2010, an increase from just three states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in 1995, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rates are increasing in tandem with obesity, which has reached epidemic proportions as physical activity levels plunge and daily calorie counts soar, according to the CDC.
More to the point, despite the efforts of conservative blabbers like Crouere to convince us otherwise, the unionized Hostess employees are also not the problem.
Hostess is in bankruptcy for the second time in recent years. Workers took concessions just a few years ago and this year the company has stopped making its contractually obligated contributions to their pensions. Meanwhile, according to the union, the company's CEO got a 300 percent raise, from $750,000 to $2,250,000, while other top executives got raises of hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece. Hostess may have problems, but, like the possible plant closings, they don't come from what the rank and file workers have done.
If you're wondering how it is a supposedly failing company can afford to raise its executive compensation by 300 percent you haven't been paying much attention to how vulture capitalism works. 

In 2004, the company entered bankruptcy with approximately $450 million in debt. It emerged after investment from Ripplewood Holdings. Today, it now stands at just shy of $1 billion in debt, despite additional investment by two more firms, Silver Point and Monarch. How did this happen?
These firms borrowed money to invest, which then they transferred that debt to the firm, simple. In effect, there never was any investment, only more debt added.

To emerge from bankruptcy, the companies unions agreed to large concessions which these vulture capitalists demanded, cutting thousands of jobs, transferring benefits or cutting benefits entirely. The companies also agreed to modernize the factories, which were running at a loss due to the age of the equipment, some of which dated to the 1930s. The investments from Silver Point and Monarch were to go towards this modernization. Instead the company found itself saddled with even more debt. To add to the company’s woes, the holding companies stopped supporting the retirement fund, raiding it for easy cash to extract from the firm. The current estimates put the liabilities of this fund at over $2 billion currently.

In order to “save” the firm, the operators of the company turned to the unions, which had already surrendered huge concessions just a few years back to turn the company around, and demanded an across the board slash, an additional 31%, along with eliminating the retirement and benefits entirely. It was a bridge too far. The union went on strike, and now the company has declared it will be liquidated.

In essence, they were bleeding the operation dry the whole time. All the while making obscene amounts of money specifically by putting the livelihoods and retirement benefits of their workers at risk.

Incidentally this is precisely the sort of thing that made Mitt Romney as spectacularly wealthy as he is today.  No wonder he was so fond of Zingers. 


Thursday, November 15, 2012

BP settlement rolling out

NYT doesn't tell us much yet. Except this.

In particular, this settlement does not include what is potentially the largest penalty: fines under the Clean Water Act. The potential fine for the spill under the Clean Water Act is $1,100 to $4,300 per barrel spilled. That means the fine could be as much as $21 billion, according to Peter Hutton of RBC Capital Markets in London. 

The key will be figuring out how much of BP's overall penalty accrues through the Oil Pollution Act vs the Clean Water Act.  This could have big ramifications for coastal restoration funding under the RESTORE Act provision of the transportation bill passed last year.  Please see this long post for details. 

Update: The more details emerge, the clearer it becomes that this still isn't the settlement we're waiting for.

Upperdate:  Turns out, there are a number of things happening today.  One is BP's guilty plea. But also there are indictments against specific individuals.

Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine were the two BP "company men" stationed on the rig. The indictment alleges that they were "grossly negligent" in misinterpreting the results of a key test shortly before the well blew out. Kaluza's attorney declined comment until after the Justice Department announces the charges and Vidrine's lawyer has not returned our call.(See indictment)

Kaluza and Vidrine were also charged with a violation of the Clean Water Act.

Separately, a former BP vice president, David Rainey, has been charged with obstruction of Congress and false statements for manipulating estimates of the amount of oil spilled, withholding the company’s truly scientific estimates and causing BP to stand by an estimate that was 12 times smaller than the real amount of oil coming out of BP’s well. (See indictment)
Back during the Summer of Spill, we watched the flow-rate manipulation pretty closely understanding that it would ultimately have a bearing on the legal haggling.  We all pretty well understood BP was lying.  What never became clear was just how closely the feds were working with them to help with that.

Uppestdate: This is what happens when news about a complicated federal prosecution breaks during the day while you're doing other things.  You spend a lot of time figuring things out.

Here is NOLADef with the first report I've seen that addresses how today's fines will be applied.

More than half of the fine money will be redirected to Gulf Coast states for enviornmental restoration. This includes rehabbing and restoring coastal ecosystems, barrier island restoration and river diversion projects off the coast of Louisiana that are part of the coastal master plan. Another $350 million will be used to fund improved oil spill prevention and response efforts in the Gulf.

The Restore Act, which mandates that 80 percent of civil penalties paid to the government for the disaster must be return to Gulf Coast states, does not apply in this case. However, Holder said the Justice Department structured the criminal penalties in a way that was in keeping with Congress' desires for the fines.

"We looked to the restore act as a rough guide to apportion what each state would receive under this criminal investigation," Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West said.

My understanding of the Restore Act is that it applies the 80% rule to fines collected specifically as violations of the Clean Water Act.  Since not all of this money falls under that category, Holder obviously had some discretion to apply the rule as a "rough guide."

Uppesterdate: Sorry this is so sloppy. I'm literally just sharing news here as I read it. This is from Mark Schleifstein's NOLA.com report. 

The agreement calls for $2.394 billion of the settlement money to be paid to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and $350 million to be paid to the National Academy of Sciences, both over five years.

The National Fish & Wildlife Foundation often works closely with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on environmental restoration issues involving national parks and refuges, and it is likely that some of that money will be used for restoration projects in Louisiana.

David Uhlmann, the former head of the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section and a law professor at the University of Michigan, said BP is likely to pay even more in natural resource damage claims as well as civil penalties under the Clean Water Act.

"The criminal fine is a record amount, but it pales in comparison to the $30-to-$40 billion that BP faced under the Clean Water Act," Uhlmann said in an e-mail Thursday.

Again the upshot of all this is that the majority of the funding Louisiana was hoping would accrue to its coastal restoration efforts from BP is as yet untapped. 

Just following up on a minor point

Last week, Gambit's Charles Maldonado remarked that City Councilmembers wasted a good deal of time and breath asking for something they should have known would not be possible had they read and understood the terms of the NOPD federal consent decree they were discussing.
Discussion moved to the New Orleans Police Department's consent decree, specifically the process for identifying a federal monitor. The point here: Council members wanted (Independent Police Monitor Susan) Hutson to have a greater part in that process, rather than virtually none, which has been the case. Some even wondered if she might put in a bid on the RFP. 

(Note: There's various reasons that would be unlikely. 1. Perhaps the most important is the consent decree itself identifies the monitor and the IPM as two distinct entities. 2. Hutson also referenced some "legal issues" that she believes would bar IPM from contracting with the city. 3. The consent decree says the monitor is to be identified through the city's purchasing process. 4. The document says the monitor is not a public agency or an agent of one.)
Anyone who watches the budget hearings will tell you that Councilmemebers do this sort of thing all the time. The lack of preparation can be discouraging to those of us concerned that the Council function as a more effective check on the Mayor's power to set priorities through the budgeting process.  On the other hand, it does occasionally make good TV.

Anyway, after reading this last week, I suspected that the next time this subject came up, Councilmemebers still would not have figured this out.  And here we are.

During NOPD budget talks today, council members grilled City Attorney Richard Cortizas about this, practically demanding that IPM Susan Hutson be included in the running for the job. Cortizas told them that the U.S. Department of Justice — which, he said considered the office a part of city government rather than a neutral third-party, was not interested in the idea. If the city were to take her on as monitor, the feds would ask for a second monitor to monitor the IPM, Cortizas said.

Which is perhaps why the language of the consent decree would seem to prevent that from happening. And not only the language of the decree, but also the duties of the Independent Police Monitor — detailed in the city code of ordinances and Hutson's memorandum of understanding with the city — which, for example, include citizen complaint intake and mediation. Those are not duties of the federal monitor. And look here, from page 109 of the consent decree: "The monitor shall only have the duties, responsibilities and authority conferred by this agreement."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Maybe if we doubled the tolls

Turns out finding a private operator for a system that operates at a loss is pretty difficult.

NEW ORLEANS -- Right now, tolls on the Crescent City Connection bridge subsidize the ferry operation in the New Orleans area.

By law, even though voters extended the tolls for another 20 years, beginning Jan. 1, none of the money can go to the ferries. The state's solution is to privatize the service.

But, the deadline to answer the state's request for proposal expired yesterday with no takers.

"We put out an RFP, there were no takers," said state Sen. David Heitmeier, D-Algiers. "So, we need to do something different. Just like the Saints on their first four games. They had to do something different. We were pretty happy with the results this weekend."
Right. It certainly could be like the Saints starting 0-4.  Anything to keep us from concluding that perhaps some public services, while necessary and good things, don't have to function as profit-taking endeavors for private contractors.  I'm sure it'll get better once Joe Vitt comes back to drive the boat.

GOP 2012 closing musical number

Romney Blames Loss On Obama’s ‘Big Gifts’ To Minorities, Women

According to reports in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, the former Republican nominee said during a call with donors on Wednesday that Obama had been “very generous” in doling out “big gifts” to “the African American community, the Hispanic community and young people” as well as to women throughout his first term. Benefits such as access to “free health care,” guaranteed contraceptive coverage, more affordable student loans, and “amnesty for children of illegals,” all combined to give the president a decisive edge in popularity.

“The President’s campaign focused on giving targeted groups a big gift — so he made a big effort on small things,” Romney said. “Those small things, by the way, add up to trillions of dollars.”

Paul Ryan: I Didn’t Lose Because Of The Issues, I Lost Because Of The ‘Urban’ Vote 

In his first interview since losing the election, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) wouldn’t admit that voters rejected his economic vision and instead chalked up President Obama’s victory to a large turnout of the “urban vote.” “I don’t think we lost it on those budget issues, especially on Medicare, we clearly didn’t lose it on those issues,” Ryan to local station WISC-TV. “I think the surprise was some of the turnout, some of the turnout especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race.”


NOPD is at the city budget hearing this morning.  What I can glean from the tweets is nobody is happy with the current police staffing but Serpas is trying to keep everyone happy by telling them he's doing "more with less."

He's re-drawn his districts and bought some new software that apparently helps him make things look statistically prettier... and he's proud of this.

He's taken the time to personally ask some young people to please not murder anybody.

He's collecting everybody's blood for a DNA database.

And finally there's this initiative which I can't wait to read more about

Actually there's more but we'll wait for the reports.  The point is, I was reminded of a story that ran on WWL a  few weeks ago about how more and more neighborhoods are plugging this budget hole by electing to double tax themselves for private security patrols.
These self-taxing districts charge residents an annual fee for each parcel they own. It's usually hundreds of dollars. Some districts collect a millage, or a percentage of your assessed property.

These district are created when residents get state legislation passed, allowing for a neighborhood vote on the issue. They are almost always approved by voters.

A close review of Security District financial audits and filings reveals the groups wield a significant amount of power and money.

Some have million dollar budgets and have security staffs that rival the size of whole police districts. A majority of the neighborhood must vote to approve a district, but typically a handful of commissioners make the decisions. And there is little to no oversight.
In other words, unlike Serpas, the private patrols never have to go in front of City Council and brag about how their magic mapping apps produced  a 7% reduction in the incidence of non-violent personal odors within  a specific 2 block area or whatever. They do get to keep the money, though.
Critics say the security district system promotes inequitable policing and is rife with issues. They say these districts only serve to prop up a police department that is undersized.

“There is the issue of double taxation…Why am I buying stuff that I thought I paid for in taxes,” said Peter Scharf, a criminologist and professor at Tulane University. “People are building their own fortresses, their own private security. It raises a lot of issues.”

The private patrols cost the average homeowner hundreds of dollars a year. And according to city records, through September of this year, citizens in select neighborhoods have paid roughly $6 million for security in these districts .

For that money, the whole City of New Orleans could pay for roughly 85 additional NOPD officers, the equivalent of an entire police district. Or they could pay the annual budget of the Covington Police Department, twice.
 But instead of just putting that money into NOPD, what are the double-taxes paying for? 
Eyewitness Investigates found no common standards among the security districts. Some pay off-duty NOPD cops to act as NOPD cops. Others pay private patrol officers. They don’t have the arrest or investigative powers that the NOPD does;  they are largely a visual deterrent.
So nobody knows, exactly. Although in a lot of cases it sounds like they're getting a "Bear Patrol" 

Homer: Well, there's not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol is sure doing its job.
Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, sweetie.
Lisa: Dad, what if I were to tell you that this rock keeps away tigers.
Homer: Uh-huh, and how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work. It's just a stupid rock.
Homer: I see.
Lisa: But you don't see any tigers around, do you?
Homer: Lisa, I'd like to buy your rock.

Selling  bear or tiger talismans to scared taxpayers must be pretty good work if you can get it.  I wonder who can get that sort of work.

The decision-makers on these boards are mostly volunteer neighborhood leaders, including political appointees. The exception is Shelley Landrieu, the mayor’s sister. She has been a paid administrator for the Garden District Group, one of the oldest districts, since about 1998. She now runs four security districts, and reports directly to those respective boards.

“I think because the city is under financial restraints as we know,” Landrieu said, “ I think people are just taking things into their own hands like they have done in lots of areas, especially after Katrina.”

The WWL story includes a  handy Google map of  all current Orleans Parish security districts so we can see which neighborhoods "are taking things into their own hands" as Landrieu puts it. It also gives you an idea of where the boundaries are between jurisdictions in your increasingly balkanized city which, under the right circumstances could become a powder keg.  We've read previously about certain flashpoints between Mid-City and Lakeview, for example.

Plans for a transfer station to accommodate streetcars and buses near the intersection of Canal Boulevard and City Park Avenue in Lakeview have run into a brick wall of neighborhood opposition twice before. Hoping the third time will be the charm, Regional Transit Authority officials are ready to float the idea once again.

"When the community says they don't want something, I want to hear them out," said Barbara Major, chairwoman of the RTA board. "But I also have a responsibility to protect riders.
WWL's story makes these two out to be the most aggressive of the security districts profiled. And look at where the border is.

View Security/Improvement Districts of New Orleans in a larger map

So when the inevitable Private Security Patrol Battle of City Park Avenue happens, just remember who tried to warn you.

The Atlanta Albert Connells

Here's something else Wang said this morning.

At eight and fucking one.

Why? Because they're weak. Because they're all caught up in their own nonsense. Because they're too busy acting a fool beforehand and crying afterwards. Way too much false bravado, not nearly enough testicular fortitude.

I'd say they're like Jim Haslett's Saints, but at least Jim Haslett's Saints won a playoff game.

Which pairs well with this.

Vilma said Falcons players were trash talking the linebackers, in particular, Curtis Lofton, who played for the Falcons from 2008-11.

"That's our teammate. We don't care where he's from, he's with us now," Vilma said. "We're just not going to have guys just chirping the whole time."

When Vilma spoke to a Falcons assistant coach about it, he didn't have much to say.

"He said 'Well I don't have any control,'" Vilma said. "And I just thought 'Well that says something about you and your program.'"

Jim Haslett's Saints were kind of like this.  But then.. so were Sean Payton's

Morning digital edition

Before you do anything else this morning, please read:

Courreges: “Cleaning up” your Constitutional rights in Jackson Square
 I recently said that Mayor Landrieu had declared war on live music, but that was a pitiful understatement.  It’s far worse than I thought.  Mayor Landrieu has declared war on New Orleans itself, and if doesn’t stop it soon, we’ll all be collateral damage.

Wang:  Dead Fly The Birds

(The Falcons are) the kind of dudes who eat the cheese and start talking 16-0 halfway through. The kind who talk a bunch of shit on Twitter leading up to the games. The kind who fuck around in their locker room the day before a game taping ridiculous freestyle raps to post on their team web site. (At least they weren't rappin kids though, am I right #Rodney?) The kind who run around yapping and disturbing their opponents' pregame warmups in a pathetically lame attempt to play mindgames, or whatever it is they think they're doing.
Then they get punched in the mouth, shit their pants, come up small in a big moment (as usual) and before they even hit the showers, it all starts crumbling. They get all butt hurt and start pointing fingers. They start whining about how their fans are gonna be jumping off the bandwagon any minute now. (In his defense, DeCoud is probably right.)
Taibbi: Rewrite Thomas Friedman's Syria Column, Win a Free Hand Grenade 

Read Taibbi's set up. It's great.  But it ends with this contest announcement.

I'll be donating a replica hand grenade paperweight for the person who, in the comments section below, does the best one-paragraph summary of the metaphor-fest in today's Friedman piece. And please, if you do a submission, don't forget to check back to see if you won, so you can send me contact information.

And then the fun starts in the comments.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

200 years is a nice round number anyway

NOLA.com November 10: Military parade marking Louisiana's bicentennial inspires patriotism in many
It would have been easy to mistake the American flag draped around the shoulders of veteran John Fleming on Saturday as just another symbol of pride in a parade full of such symbols. Fleming, in uniform, rode near the front of the Louisiana Bicentennial Military Parade in a military Jeep driven by friend and fellow veteran Frank Rotermann of New Orleans.

But the flag he wore carried special meaning for both men, and for an entire nation.

“This flag belonged to his father,” Fleming said of Rotermann. “It flew at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked. It's a prized relic, and he brings it anytime he comes out. I was honored he let me carry it today.”

Fleming held up a corner of the 48-star flag. “Touch it,” he said. “Can't you just feel the history?”

Fleming, a Metairie resident who served in the Vietnam War, was one of hundreds of veterans, current military personnel and youth involved in military organizations who marched through the streets of New Orleans to celebrate not only the 200th anniversary of Louisiana's statehood but the special bond among members of the military.
That sounds like a nice inspiring event. The military parade is one of several donor-financed events commemorating the 200th anniversary of Louisiana's having been admitted as a state in 1812. At the end of this year, the Louisiana Bicentennial Commission turns its remaining funds over to a similar effort to mark the Bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans which is remembered not only for cementing the new state's place in the Union but also for contributing the moment which made the reputation of one of its most noted Presidents.  

So Louisianans can expect more patriotic celebrations like this one in the near future.  You know... if they decide to stick around for them, that is. 

(FOX) -- Louisiana has become the first of 20 states to petition for secession from the U.S. in the wake of President Barack Obama's re-election.

A Slidell woman created the petition which asks the Obama administration to "peacefully grant the state to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own new government."

More than 13,000 people have signed the petition.  25,000 signatures are needed before December 7 to get an "official" response from the White House.


How likely is it that Mitch Landrieu actually does not know who Rodney Williams is?

As for Three Fold, in May 2010, a legislative audit questioned how Nagin could have given Three Fold a contract for lighting work at four city playgrounds and then pay them for work on 23 projects without changing the contract.

So far, though, neither Rodney Williams nor Three Fold Consultants have been disqualified from getting city work.

"In the event that this individual -- and I don't know who it is -- is determined to have engaged in illegal behavior, they'll be disqualified from bidding on public contracts," Landrieu said. "They won't make it through our process."

I'm not implying that it would mean anything improper has happened between Mitch and Three Fold.  Only saying it's highly unlikely he has no idea who Williams is.  

Residents shouldn't live here

The public services aren't designed with locals in mind anymore.

There’s also the fear this project — designed to appeal to downtown tourists — is using money that might have been spent on streetcar projects with greater benefits for struggling neighborhoods. For years, plans for a streetcar to run down St. Claude Avenue into the city’s older immigrant neighborhoods have been foiled.

“If the priorities are directed to the local resident and the local economy and not the tourist economy, then you strengthen your real city, and you keep it strong for tourism, versus creating a downtown that is increasingly like Disneyland,” said Roberta Brandes Gratz, a New York writer and urban critic who recently bought a house in New Orleans. “If tourism is your most important economic driver, you have a bankruptcy of ideas.”

Sanctity of marriage

Don't know why we've been messing around with all these "Defense of Marriage" laws and constitutional amendments and so forth over the years. Apparently the FBI is already on that beat.

Let the trolls eat

Tolls will remain on the CCC

I have no idea why voters would choose to impose a regressive usage tax on themselves in order to fund the politicos'  unnecessary slush fund but... hey, congratulations.

Etch-a-Sketch redux

Meet the newly reinvented Bobby Jindal because running against one's entire public record worked so well for Mitt.

Still stinging

Just an epic of hurt feelings in Atlanta.

Treme's audience is the 1%

This isn't a mistake. It's a deliberate pander to the target audience.

After losing her restaurant, Desautel then exiles herself to New York. She throws a drink at Alan Richman, works for David Chang, and eventually feels the tug back to New Orleans. Make no mistake what the implication is here. It is not that she wanted to leave New Orleans; or start over. That happened and still happens with chefs, lawyers, plumbers, teachers, you name it. What Treme implies, with a heavy hand, is that Janette had to go to New York to be a better chef and businesswomen. That a chef in New Orleans just isn't skilled enough to be successful at running a "real" restaurant.

You see, she was just a hayseed. Just a Cajun-Creole girl who gosh darn it could cook well enough for New Orleans before Katrina, but not after. The Richman drink throwing scene was completely undone, by proving his point throughout the rest of Treme: that New Orleans isn't a good town for chefs or food. According to Treme, in order to be legitimized, Desautel needed the blessing of the New York Chef Mafia. She needed to learn about hydrocolloids or cooking with pork fat under the tutelage of the chefs Treme's writers think are important. This is such utter horseshit.

Of course it's horseshit but it's horseshit designed specifically to be pleasing horseshit for its target audience.   Treme was never a show for New Orleanians. It was for the wealthy self-styled intellectuals who like to visit New Orleans for their fix of charming dysfunction stories to tell their friends and to purchase a little "cultural authenticity" along the way.

When I was ensnared within the deepening curse of our omnipotent hospitality industry I encountered these people often. I may have even thrown a drink or two at them. The memories are fuzzy now.  It has been my observation that they don't care about us or our problems as they actually are.  Rather they find it pleasing to believe that, in their self-indulgnet travels, they help to bring enlightenment and civilization to the natives whose rituals they co-opt.

60 bucks at NOLA Disney
Because if it doesn't cost at least $50, it ain't worth doing

In a recent interview with Bill Moyers, Matt Taibbi and Chrystia Freeland described (with a little sympathy, even) how the deluded American Plutocracy convinces itself that it keeps society afloat.

BILL MOYERS: Do you think they think they're really defending honest capitalism?

MATT TAIBBI: Oh, absolutely. I, you know, the one thing that's consistent in my exposure to the financial services industry is that the people who work within it, and particularly the people you know, at the very, very top, sincerely believe that they have not done anything wrong. And, you know, when you bring up things like the mass sale of fraudulent mortgage backed securities, it's just like you say.
It's always somebody else who made that mistake. You know, "We didn't know at the time that we were selling billions and billions of dollars of junk and we were dumping this on pension funds and foreign trade unions." It was always somebody else who was doing that. And they also have built up this very, very powerful insulating psychological justification for their lifestyles. They've adopted this sort of Randian point of view, where--


MATT TAIBBI: Yeah exactly, you know, they genuinely believe that they are the wealth creators and that they should get every advantage and break whereas everybody else is a parasite and they're living off of them. So when you bring up to them, for instance, how is it that nobody, despite this mass epidemic of fraud that appears to have happened before the 2008 crash, how come nobody of consequence has gone to jail after that?

They always, you know, they always argue against more regulation and more enforcement because they say, "We need room to, we need air to breathe, we need room to create jobs. And this is just counterproductive to put people in jail. It'll cast a pall over society.

CHRYSTIA FREELAND: If I may say so Bill, this very sincere, absolutely, absolutely sincere self-justification, I think, is one of the most dangerous things that's happening because in our society, and I would say this is particularly powerful in America. Really since the Reagan era, there has been this vision of the successful businessperson as really a leader for the whole society. And there has been a view that the businessperson, what he thinks, and, by the way, all of my plutocrats are men.

But, you know, what he thinks about how society should be ordered, we should all listen to because he, after all, is the hero of our time, is the hero of capitalist narrative. And I think it's so important for us to really understand that what is good for an individual business, particularly in this age of very high income inequality and the ways of thinking, the ideas that are no doubt absolutely the right ones for this particular business, may very well not be good for society as a whole.

I have no doubt the Treme audience believes it's doing something truly noble by consuming and internalizing the message of this premium cable TV product.  It's a vicious circle of self-justifying wealth that will continue as long as there's still enough hip cache associated with New Orleans among the people who count... and, of course, as long as there are local writers, musicians, politicians, and consultants of various stripes willing to continue supplicating themselves and by extension the rest of us to the false narrative that pleases this audience.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sean Payton's contract

I have no idea whether or not Sean Payton is really going to back out of New Orleans after having his contract voided by Goodell last week. The reports that he is wary of a Rita Benson headed environment are interesting, though.

But it's at least a plausible eventuality to consider. One year is a long time in professional sports and contractual obligations have ways of being weaseled out of if it's what at least one of the parties involved really wants.

Anyway back in late July, as the season was just getting started, it seemed like a worthwhile question to ask. Although not very many people thought so.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Spitting gas into the fire

So check this out. Back in 1950s, when cigarettes were still good for you and lead paint was still delicious,  the U.S. military conducted a test which involved setting off atomic bombs near packages of canned and bottled beverages just to see what that might taste like.
Written by three executives from Can Manufacturers Institute and the Glass Container Manufacturers Institute for the Federal Civil Defense Administration, the study says that after placing cans and bottles of soda and beer next to an actual atomic explosion, after measuring subsequent radioactivity and after actual taste tests, go ahead: Grab that can, pop it open and drink away.
"These beverages could be used as potable water sources for immediate emergency purposes as soon as the storage area is safe to enter after a nuclear explosion."
If you can make it to the store, you can drink.
It's good to know that irradiated beer might be potable for "immediate emergency purposes" like say when Jamaal Charles or Doug Martin is gliding through your secondary but what about flavor?

But there were, of course, still pressing questions to be resolved… how did it taste?
Examination made immediately upon recovery showed no observable gross changes in the appearance of the beverages. Immediate taste tests indicated that the beverages, both beer and soft drinks, were still of commercial quality, although there was evidence of a slight flavor change in some of the products exposed at 1270 ft from GZ [Ground Zero]. Those farther away showed no change.
Immediate taste tests… So immediately after they nuked some beer and soda, someone — it doesn’t say who — took a swig of them. In the name of Science. But of course, they didn’t stop just there:
Representative samples of the various exposed packaged beers, as well as un-exposed control samples in both cans and bottles, were submitted to five qualified laboratories for carefully controlled taste-testing. The cumulative opinions on the various beers indicated a range from “commercial quality” on through “aged” and “definitely off.” All agreed, however, that the beer could unquestionably be used as an emergency source of potable beverages. Obviously, if a large storage of such packaged beers was to be trapped in a zone of such intense radiation following a nuclear explosion, ultimate usage of the beverages beyond the emergency utility would likely be subject to review of the taste before return to commercial distribution.
Not satisfied with their spot taste testing, they sent the radioactive beer on to careful laboratory study. And lo, it tasted acceptable, but not very good! Your tax dollars at work.
But check out that last line again: radioactive beer might not be good to “return to commercial distribution” after the nukes had fallen, because of the taste. 
About that last "acceptable for commercial distribution" bit, the good people at Miller Brewing may beg to differ. As regular consumers of their "Lite" beer, we're here to assure you that taste isn't at the top of their priorities list with regard to their product or their advertising.*  Take, for example, this series of commercials from a few years back featuring John C. McGinley as  "The Commissioner" a character loosely based on Roger Goodell's authoritarian jackassery who sternly enforced the rules of.. drinking crap beer.

These commercials represent the apex of Goodell's reign of terror. Since that time, things have taken a pronounced turn for the worse for Roger.  Call it a full-on meltdown, call it a nuclear winter, if you like, but Roger Goodell's image is clearly radioactive in the eyes of a growing number of sports fans and journalists.  For now, anyway.  A few months from now, we're sure we'll be at least three "character studies"  into ESPN's Goodell rehabilitation project. But, for the moment, he's pretty well roundly hated.

But never mind all that. He's still doing exactly what he was hired to do. Here's Deadspin's Tommy Craggs on the number Goodell (and his bosses the NFL owners)  pulled on their referees this year. 

The NFL locked out its referees in the name of taking away their pensions. It was not that the pensions were a threat to the longterm fiscal survival of the league—again and again, we were reminded that the sums involved were pocket change in a growing, multibillion-dollar enterprise. It was that the pensions existed at all. The mere existence of a defined-benefit retirement plan offended an ownership class that had looked around and seen that every other business owner in America had already broken that particular contract. The referees' old deal was deemed insufficiently hard-edged or market-driven. That was the most vulgar thing about the lockout. It was a matter of ideological purity. It was … aesthetic.
If it's bad enough for the rest of us, in other words, it should be bad enough for them, too. And on that count, the only one that really mattered to the league, the NFL won. The refs will keep their pensions, but beginning in 2017, the defined-benefit plan will be frozen, and new hires will get thrown into 401(k)s.
Imagine one of those Miller Lite commercials where two guys are sitting in a bar somewhere discussing their retirement plans. Suddenly WHOOSH!  "The Commish" materializes to rip their benefits documentation from their hands and replace it with a roll of lottery tickets. Everyone yells, "Thanks, Commish!"  Thumbs-ups are exchanged. Some mostly naked women walk by.  There's probably a dog in it somehow.

This is pretty much what just happened with regard to the referees lockout. Sure there's a lot of commotion but sooner or later everyone ends up being made to drink the irradiated beer and pretend everything is just fine.

Meanwhile the Saints are conducting a post-apocalyptic experiment of their own. If a pro football team has its entire brain trust (plus Joe Vitt) nuked from orbit by The Commish, will the product left on the field still be of suitable taste for a "return to commercial distribution"?  In a year filled with frustration and repeated incidents of catharsis denied, the Saints are looking at one last opportunity to give their fans a bona-fide reward for their emotional investment in this meltdown of a season.  The Atlanta Falcons are in town.  They are 8-0.

The local folks understand this but Saints-Falcons has long been one of the NFL's most underrated rivalries, at least in the national press.  The Angry Who Dat has a post up at CSC where he summarizes his experience of the series during his lifetime.  You should read the whole thing, but here are some facts I found particularly enlightening.
The Falcon, contrary to popular fan opinion, is not a majestic animal. It eats small birds, rodents and insects. It is host to a plethora of parasites including tapeworms, nematodes, and something called "chewing lice." It hosts bacteria and can carry malaria. There is such a thing, believe it or not, as Falconid Herpesvirus. 70% of them don't survive past the first year in some areas, and they have been endangered locally at times. They hunt by swooping down on their prey at speeds up to 240 miles per hour, the fastest speed at which any person has ever clocked an animal.

That is the modus operandi of the Falcon: they fly high, above it all, and when they're most hungry, they return to Earth faster than any living thing on the planet.

An apt metaphor, I'd say.
I'm a few years older than AWD and I think that might explain why my memories of the rivalry aren't quite as... well.. angry as his are. Tragi-comic, sure but, until recent years when the stakes have been a bit higher, the series hasn't been exactly bitter.  I've described it, in fact, as more of a "sibling rivalry" 

The Saints and the Falcons arrived in the NFL at roughly the same time int the mid-sixties and the teams, like the Southern cities they represent, became fast rivals. Like a lot of sports rivalries, the Saints and Falcons always play each other close, tend to be in each others' way at exactly the right times, and unusual things happen when they play each other. But unlike a lot of typical rivalries, it would be inaccurate to say that the teams and their fan bases hate each other. In fact, Saints-Falcons is best described as sibling rivalry.

Historically, the South's two best known cities have often compared themselves with one another each proud of the ways in which it isn't like the other. Atlanta is more prosperous. New Orleans is more fun. But also each is a little jealous of the things its rival has that it doesn't. But where there is jealousy there isn't much hostility. Saints fans don't really hate the Falcons, they just really really want to beat them.

Furthermore, a lot of New Orleanians have family who live in Atlanta. That was true before the Federal Flood, but after that event lot of New Orleanians ended up in Atlanta. Many are still there now. This commerce between the two cities only strengthens the familial relationship. For a time during the early 2000s, the teams' respective starting quarterbacks were cousins. Most fans thought this only natural.

The two annual games between these teams typically carry the strongest numbers of fans traveling with the team to each of the cities. Saints fans and Falcons fans know each other. Visiting Falcons fans hanging out in and around the Superdome are typically good humored, and fun to tease and tailgate with. Saints fans visiting the Georgia Dome, well, they know how to put on a show too.
Because we're in a rare period where both teams have been competitive at the same time, things have been a bit more intense, but I think the above is probably still essentially true.  We don't exactly hate those people... they just are incredibly stupid and annoy the hell out of us.


The thing is, though, they're catching us here at a really really really bad time.  We've just had our shit messed up real bad by some people who we're sure will get theirs when the time comes. It just so happens that these jackasses are pre-maturely celebrating their undefeated season directly in our way.  And while we're still alive and in this mood and happen to knock at their door... well...

*Nevertheless the watery American lager remains distinctly potable in our regard, especially in emergency situations.