Thursday, May 31, 2012

Serpas Signal

Just in:

New Orleans LA,-As required by the Louisiana Supreme Court, the New Orleans Police Department is issuing a public advisory regarding a sobriety checkpoint that will be conducted tomorrow night

The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint, in Treme, beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M. and will conclude at approximately 5:00 A.M.  Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation available if requested, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc. 

Superintendent of Police Ronal Serpas said” I would like to remind all drivers to always drink responsibly and use a designated driver”.
This is the second "Treme" checkpoint announced this month.  They must like it over there wherever they are. Where does Serpas consider Treme's boundaries to be anyway? If he's working from the 73 census-tract defined "official" neighborhoods,  then he's got anywhere within this rectangular space bounded by Broad, Rampart, Esplanade, and St. Louis streets to hide.  But if I had to put money on it I'd say they'll be near the Claiborne overpass somewhere either at Orleans or Esplanade.

Oh and while we're on the topic of that part of town, I was in Congo Square last weekend where I took this photo of the official signage.  I'm probably not the first person to ask but what is purpose of the quotation marks around the word, "vicinity"?

Congo Square

Buddy Roemer to cease tweeting

If you'd like to read that same information expressed in about 500 more words, here's his official statement.

via NOLADef

Tomorrow we celebrate the beginning of Hurricane Season

As many of you are aware, there are four seasons in New Orleans.  They are Carnival, Festival, Hurricane, and Football.  Tomorrow we transition from the second into the third.  Halfway through 2012 already and all we've lost is a head coach, a quarterback, a newspaper, two councilmembers, and the concept of public education.  Oh and, I guess, we're down one Nacho Mama's too.

The point is we're about on par in 2012 as far as horrible thing generation is concerned, so I'm expecting this year's storms to inflict only a normal amount of damage.  Likewise, the official forecasters are expecting a normal-to-"below average" amount of activity this year.  In other words, if you're not sure you remember your strategy for coping with "floating balls of fire ants" now would be a good time to freshen up.

Meanwhile, NOLA.com is celebrating the change in season with a new color scheme. Because, of course, that was the number one thing everyone was so upset with them about.  Still it might be fun if they kept changing colors with the seasons like this.  At that pace, we could expect a new NOLA.com palette for every 6th or 7th Gambit Dining Guide issue published each year. There are worse ways to mark the days, I guess.

Anyway, what was I even talking about here?  Oh yeah, Hurricane Season.  Perhaps it's a sign of our complacency as of late, but it isn't getting much play in the news this week.  Maybe our local editors need to check with BCG before publishing anything that might negatively affect the brand. Oh well, since Fridays are still on the Times-Picayune print calendar, I guess we'll find out tomorrow what they've got planned.

Meanwhile we'll have to make do with some uplifting words of encouragement from Tulane geologist Torbjörn Törnqvist.  

Louisiana is now moving to the point that it recognizes that there is no way we can save the coast, even as it is today. You know, we don't even talk anymore about restoring what we had, say a century ago. But even what we have today is not, it's not going to be possible to keep, keep it the way it is. So we're going to have to make very difficult choices and focus on trying to restore certain portions of the coast, which inevitably will go on the expense of other portions of the coast. And that's, that's a very difficult political problem. But it is one that has to be addressed, and it has to be addressed very soon. Because the longer we wait, the less we will be able to do.

And now, as a bonus, Floating Balls of Fire Ants!

Update: Ah here's today's T-P editorial

Scientists and public officials in Louisiana and other parts of the Gulf Coast have been sounding the alarm about coastal erosion for decades, urging Congress to dedicate the tens of billions of dollars needed to restore and protect Louisiana's wetlands.

But efforts to get more federal aid have been hampered because potential economic losses haven't been clearly quantified, according to King Milling, chairman of America's Wetland Foundation. That's why a new study by Entergy Corp. aiming to provide some answers is an important development -- and policymakers need to heed its dire projections. 

David Hammer wrote about the Entergy report in detail earlier this week

Entergy spent $4.2 million to conduct coastal restoration research for the whole region. The researchers looked at 800 coastal Zip codes across 77 parishes and counties from Texas to Florida.

The study assumes a major storm like Katrina, which used to hit a community once in the average lifetime, will hit twice per lifetime by 2030. Estimating wind damage, storm surge and sea-level rise, Williams estimated that total losses for the whole Gulf Coast region would reach $350 billion by 2030 if nothing is done to make the area more resilient.
The story was given equal emphasis on NOLA.com with the face-eating guy in Florida, various mugshots from Northshore DWI arrests, and, of course, the very active Kitties-in-peril beat.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Brees should sit the year

Every morning when Tom Benson gets up, says his morning rosaries, jogs his stations of the cross, and showers in holy water or whatever... I imagine he takes a few moments to thank the Father, Son, Spirit, Angels, Blessed Mother, and all the Saints for the "Bountygate" scandal. 

After all, without that distraction, Saints fans and media would have spent all these months focusing on the way he's blasphemed against their savior and nobody wants to be the object of that witch hunt.

Dueling consultants

I should point out also that BCG was paid $2 million to advise city leaders to work on spiking crime stories off the front page of the paper.  This strategy would appear to be the polar opposite of former Mayor (and current disaster and "green energy" consultant) Ray Nagin's theory that the murder rate "keeps the New Orleans brand out there"

There's some debate as to just how much Nagin was ultimately compensated for this and other wisdoms he transferred to the city during his tenure as mayor although the process for working that out is underway.

Satire is dead

Last week I suggested that journalists displaced by the collapse of the Times-Picayune might take advantage of the boom in government Public Relations jobs and start looking for work actually writing rather than exploding the lies of our beleaguered ruling classes for a change.  Later that same day, when, the mayor offered this statement
I look forward to talking with new management and others who have a stake in the future of The Times-Picayune to discuss how we can help the newspaper grow and not diminish.
 I figured he must be on the same page I was.  Sorry to quote myself from only a week ago but, here's what I thought the plan would look like.

Say, for example, if maybe we turned Howard Avenue into a special journalism taxing district... or JoZone, if you will. Then we could direct that revenue to a superboard staffed by several mayoral appointees and the Convention and Visitors Bureau who could trickle the money back into quality news stories we all can enjoy.  You know, feel good stuff like, "Unexpected Health Benefits Of Oiled Shellfish" or "Councilmembers Enjoy Well-deserved Time Off" or "Jindal's Nationwide Speaking Tour Appreciated By All" "NOPD Lauded For (Very) Warm Treatment of Henry Glover"
Now that may look like a stupid joke to you and me but, as it turns out, Boston Consulting Group.. the people who brought you the HoZone concept.. were already a step ahead of us.  James Gill explains.

Crime stories must be kept off The Times-Picayune's front page, according to the Boston consultants who produced a tourism "master plan" for New Orleans in 2009.

They won't have to worry about that so much from now on.

The report urges hiring a PR firm to "remove negative crime perception and lower crime news-worthiness." To achieve this it is apparently necessary to "determine type of information to be reported and disbursement (sic)" and to "meet with NOPD to determine feasibility based on developed parameters."

One thing we're learning is you've got to get up pretty early in the morning to out-evil the boys and girls at BCG.  Although it looks as if the "Public-private" business lobbying monster, GNO inc is trying.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Athenae is my most favorite newsy writer person

Unfortunately she uses her powers for the betterment of the evil internet which, as she reminds us often enough, is the very thing that is thought to be killing journalism

Let's be clear about this: When we have fights about amateurs versus professionals, when we have fights about print versus online, about paywalls that make pennies, about subscriptions instead of ads, about form and function instead of mission and management, we are having the fight the people in charge want us to have while they run away with the piggy bank.

I've got some similar thoughts which I intend to share later in the week but since she wrote hers already you should go read that now.  Also I think David Simon is a douche but you knew that already.

There's still time to make a charitable donation

I should have been alerted to this sooner. I've been lazy, I know.  Also I thought this was Ornstein's department anyway

Our mission is simple.

We want to rent a billboard close to the Georgia Dome. Black background, big gold WHO DAT right in the heart of downtown Atlanta. If we can raise the funds, it’ll stay all season long. We’re working on a tag line, but of course it’ll have to be appropriate for a, ahem, larger audience.

Make no mistake – we want every Falcon fan to feel our presence every single time they approach their ridiculous circus tent of a stadium during the second quarter on Sundays.

How near to the Georgia Dome were the "Our Mayor" billboards?  Maybe we should ask Ben Edwards if he can get us a discount.

Uh oh, time for a new seafood marketing campaign

Does California even have a HoZone fund to help with that?

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Across the vast Pacific, the mighty bluefin tuna carried radioactive contamination that leaked from Japan's crippled nuclear plant to the shores of the United States 6,000 miles away — the first time a huge migrating fish has been shown to carry radioactivity such a distance.

"We were frankly kind of startled," said Nicholas Fisher, one of the researchers reporting the findings online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The levels of radioactive cesium were 10 times higher than the amount measured in tuna off the California coast in previous years. But even so, that's still far below safe-to-eat limits set by the U.S. and Japanese governments.

On the bright side, we can expect our sushi to be bacteria-free for a while now that it comes pre-radiated.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Digitally focused robust news-style awesomeness

Headlining NOLA.com this morning.

Fascinating cats

Here's something else. I use a browser plug-in called Do Not Track Plus in order to keep this sort of thing to a minimum. But I usually have to disable it in order to read NOLA.com... particularly the Saints pages there. One advantage of a print edition is it isn't quite as into reading you back as a website is.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Fun Fact: I somehow never got hold of an "Amen" edition

I do, however, have a box packed away with every Monday sports page from the 1991 season. Anyway, as Allman says, here's yet another way in which Newhouse/Advance is failing or indifferent toward the New Orleans market.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Who will tell my story now?

One thing I appreciated about the T-P was they were always calling attention to various personal exploits of mine.  None of them were factually accurate but that never bothered me.  I was just happy they spelled my name right.

Jeff partly settles landfill lawsuit

Jeff to cap pay raises

Pulling the plug

Jeff may boost fees

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Still number one

I checked. This site is still more yellow than NOLA.com

"The 'so much more' bin"

This is what happens when the company you work for doesn't value or understand the product you create for them.

But, of course, the internet is killing journalism.

It's the staff, stupid

People read the paper for the quality of its reporting not because of the big bright yellow banners and 50 million v-logs from the parking lot on Airline Drive or whatever.  Advance/Newhouse's strategy is based on picking the wrong side of that divide.  Dambala suggests competing with them.

However, I would like to make a suggestion to the talented ones....start your own online media outlet.  The worst thing that ever happened to the TP is NOLA.com.  It didn't have to be that way but perhaps this is an opportunity to do it right.  The ONLY reason people read NOLA is...well besides the Saints....the quality of journalism the TP staff provides.  If that quality disappears, NOLA will be a big pixel puke of advertising with some Saints stuff thrown in.  If Newhouse thinks it's time to cull the TP, I think the culled staff of the TP should start their own online venture and set about the task of culling NOLA. 

And sure for everyone's sake I hope something like that is possible.  But it still doesn't solve the fragmented readership problem that's baked in to online publishing.  I'm sure there are a few folks in New Orleans who read The Lens and Uptown Messenger and NOLA Defender and NOLA.com and Gambit's site and Offbeat's and a handful of decent blogs and niche sites.  Putting all that together you get something that approximates the breadth of coverage you get from one good daily newspaper.  But realistically most of those "and"s are actually "or"s.

All of those online publications are great.  I'll parrot what Athenae said this morning,

I like the Internet. I think the Internet has been awesome for journalism. But that doesn't mean the Internet has to be the only thing we do. If people like a paper and read a paper, buy a paper, and if people advertise in a paper, why not have a fucking paper?

The best way to make sure the most news is reaching the greatest number of readers is still printing up a damn daily newspaper.  And that's the one thing nobody wants to do anymore.

Oh by the way...

Of course, the T-P was turning a profit.
The Times-Picayune remains profitable. As recently as the beginning of this year, the paper was paying bonuses. Staffers got bonuses at the end of 2010 and 2011 as the result of unexpected profitability.
Also given New Orleans' well known intense interest in all things local, plus its relative lack of broadband access, plus the paper's relatively healthy high rate of penetration, one would think that this is a market uniquely suited to "buck the trend" and maintain its print newspaper.  But nevermind all that.  What's really important is the parent company's national strategy.
Like the Ann Arbor News, The Times-Picayune is an arm of Advance Publications, owned by the Newhouse family, which owns a chain of newspapers and magazines across the country. As a private corporation, the Newhouse/Advance financial holdings are a closely guarded secret, but The Times-Picayune has always been considered one of the jewels in the Newhouse chain, both for its profitability and the quality of its journalism, which has won numerous Pulitzer Prizes.
And, of course, the strategy is to somehow increase the appeal of the product by making that product shittier

Look, right now very, very few newspaper "company" executives have any idea what the fuck they're doing, and instead of letting newspapers do what they're good at and break even or make small profits, they're determined to flail around and blither about "new technologies and changing tastes" and make excuses for killing off their product. I do not get it anymore. I used to think this was just about money, and while newspapers make money they don't make ENOUGH money, but what's happening to the Times-Pic is destroying something that made unexpected amounts of money last year, so someone please explain to me why you'd want to mess with that.
The good news for journalists about to be laid off is there's always money to be made in becoming somebody's PR flack. 

And this, in turn, means more good news for our political and business leaders who'll be welcoming these media professionals over to their side.  If they're smart they'll come up with some clever way to keep them there by creating a stream recurring revenue stream. 

Say, for example, if maybe we turned Howard Avenue into a special journalism taxing district... or JoZone, if you will. Then we could direct that revenue to a superboard staffed by several mayoral appointees and the Convention and Visitors Bureau who could trickle the money back into quality news stories we all can enjoy.  You know, feel good stuff like, "Unexpected Health Benefits Of Oiled Shellfish" or "Councilmembers Enjoy Well-deserved Time Off" or "Jindal's Nationwide Speaking Tour Appreciated By All" "NOPD Lauded For (Very) Warm Treatment of Henry Glover"

Just whatever happens, please do not let Newhouse sell the paper off to Tom Benson, as some are already suggesting. He'll just combine it with the Clarion Herald and re-name it like the Daily Angel-Spirit or something as stupid.

Would it help if they added more bright yellow ad bars to the website?

Apparently the New York Times Media Decoder blog had this story before the T-P's own staff did.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which distinguished itself amid great adversity during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, is about to enact large staff cuts and may cut back its print publishing schedule to several days a week, according to two employees with knowledge of the plans.

Newhouse Newspapers, which owns the Times-Picayune, will apparently be working off a blueprint the company used in Ann Arbor, Mich., where it reduced the frequency of the Ann Arbor News, emphasized the Web site as a primary distributor of news and in the process instituted wholesale layoffs to cut costs.

It would be wrong to say anyone is shocked given the industry trends. Nonetheless it is difficult to overstate the scale of a disaster the subtraction of a major daily from New Orleans would be. Certainly no one can say this is a town that lacks for news. 

And for all the (deserved, mind you) criticism leveled at the paper for its consensus elite to conservative editorial bent, no one can deny that.. even during the recent years of gradual reduction..  it is (was?) among the very best American daily newspapers.  Just this past Friday, in fact, I kept myself distracted from a dismal all-staff meeting at work by reading through that day's installment of the T-P's extraordinary series on Louisiana prisons. And while I was doing that I actually thought about how lucky we are to live in a city where the paper at least still fucking tries despite everything.  And then just a few days later, here we are.

Maybe if they tweaked the strategy a bit and published only on days when the city council had a quorum they could keep it together.  Maybe if they brought on a couple of these robot sports writers... or maybe if they outsourced a bureau or two to Sal Perricone's various NOLA.com personas...or sold the naming rights to Mercedes-Benz.. or.. oh nevermind. 

Any way you look at this, it's horrible news for the city.  Hopefully it isn't as bad as what the NYT is reporting but it's likely going to be awful regardless.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Zombie Zone

The French Quarter is a Neighborhood

This should be interesting.  Word comes in at this late hour that the legislature might try to sneak in the original version of the HoZone bill minus Senator Peterson's amendments this afternoon.

Update: The bill did not come up today after all.

In today's papers, the mayor made some extraordinary comments that should be noted.  For instance, here he tells City Business that the amendments, which take into account the democratically expressed concerns of actual downtown residents, “don’t make any sense from a governing perspective.”  According to the mayor. "governing perspective" comes not from listening to the concerns of the constituency so much as being in the right meetings with the relevant lords.

But Landrieu insisted he was “counting votes” in the legislature and said that Peterson refused to accept a proposal that was workable.

“Had she been in all the meetings I had been in, or if she would have taken responsibility for creating this out of nothing, instead of coming in during the middle, she may have been more attuned to the political possibilities,” Landrieu said.

Near the end of this story in this morning's Times-Picayune Landrieu explains the bank shot trickle-down economics behind his rejection of Peterson's amendments.
Landrieu said the argument that more of the new tax revenue should go to infrastructure improvements than marketing is "penny-wise and pound-foolish ... because marketing is actually the thing that actually produces more tax revenue for infrastructure."

Rrriiight. Mitch is literally proposing that we market our way to better infrastructure. 

Let's back up a few steps here just to show how absurd all this is.  The original reason Mitch and friends told us we needed a HoZone tax was because the Convention Center had offered to spend its $30 million surplus on downtown street improvements but insisted that a continuing revenue source be created in order to maintain those improvements.  Of course there's no real need to tie this money which already exists to a new HoZone tax but Mitch and friends needed a bargaining chip and figured these infrastructure improvements would do. They even used the "ticking clock" of the countdown to next year's Superbowl as a kind of false crisis in order to force the issue.

So in order to resolve this crisis that Mitch and friends had intentionally invented, they demanded that the legislature create a special district governed by an unelected superboard of hospitality magnates.  The superboard would determine how revenues generated by taxes on things like hotel rooms and restaurant bills could be dispersed.

According to their plan some of that money would  indeed go toward maintaining the promised street improvements, but most of it would go to the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp and the Convention and Vistitors Bureau where it would be used primarily to fund advertising campaigns.  Or at least that's what we were told. Since the CVB likes to consider itself a private club its leadership insists that it need not disclose exactly what it does with the public funds it receives.

Senator Peterson's amendments reversed all of this.  The amended bill struck the superboard entirely and re-directed the larger share of the revenue away from the hoteliers' clubs and back toward the street maintenance Mitch and friends began this process by telling us were the essential issue in the first place.  But because Peterson had not "been in all the meetings" Mitch immediately declared her revisions a "nonstarter."

And now he's telling us that the real way to spend money on infrastructure... you know... the way that makes sense from a "governing perspective" works like this.  First, give all the money to the private hoteliers' clubs.  Next, the clubs use that money to make commercials for their hotels (probably... but who can know?)  Then later, through some "pound-wise" process this all trickles back into money for street maintenance.  How exactly isn't important.  Nor is it clear how long this trickle-down effect takes which is weird given that the "clock is ticking" and all.

Anyway Mitch's vote counting must have gone well for him because apparently this evening Senator Murray has brought up the bill minus the amendments for a full vote of the state senate (Update: No this is not correct as it turns out) so stay tuned.  As we noted in an earlier post, arrogance is quite the thing these days.


It's quite zietgeisty.
Because football sells itself as America's sport and the people running football -- as they make up new rules to exploit their leverage over everyone and everything -- embody exactly the sort of greed and arrogance that's slowly chipping away at America, in general. And just like in America, they're pretty much getting away with it because we're all too busy or confused to care. Plus, at this point, greed and arrogance seems synonymous with any major success in American business, so really why should we waste our energy getting upset about it here? This cloud of confusion and cynicism follows pretty much every controversy involving Roger Goodell these days.

Goodell and his cronies are now being sued by the NFLPA for collusion during the supposedly uncapped 2010 season.   Yesterday I suggested that it's precisely this sort of arrogance that is keeping Tom Benson from just paying Drew Brees what he's worth on the NFL market.  This just reinforces such suspicion.

"What degenerate produced this abortion?"

Ignatius Reilly

Believe it or not I can actually see Zach Galifianikas as Ignatius Reilly not so much because of the obvious typecasting but because of what NOLADef's Shay Sokol hints at in this paragraph.

Ignatius J. Reilly once mused, “Apparently I lack some particular perversion which today’s employer is seeking.” Zach Galifianakis – the comedian who smoked a joint on television – might be uttering those lines to himself this week
Sokol is actually trying to make a slightly different point with that quote but it hits very near to the heart of Confederacy which I've always thought of as a subversive book.  Or at least, I think it succeeds because it captures that essentially subversive something about New Orleanians that makes so many of us incompatible with "the particular perversions" of  regimented employment in Ignatius' or any other day.  If you've seen Galifianakis' standup act, you get the impression that he's just smart enough to strike the right tone.

On the whole, though, I still don't expect Hollywood to get this right no matter who they put in the cast. It will be too tempting and too easy to turn Confederacy into a gross-out slapstick like the American Pie franchise rather than stay true to the Simpsonsesque satire it really is. Anyway, as we all know by now, the odds are against the movie ever getting made which is just fine with me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

If they can make a taco walk...

Surely they can give you wi-fi access in the stadium.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he wants every fan in every stadium to be able to access the Internet using whatever device they carry into the stands with them, as the NFL continues to grapple with the fact that for many fans, watching games on TV at home — for free — is a better experience than spending a small fortune to go to the game.
What he's not saying, of course, is that it will probably cost $20 (or 2 beers)  per quarter to access or some such thing.

Oh also, shut up, Cowherd. Nobody wants you here anyway.

The State of Our City is a Donut Hole

I caught the beginning of the Mayor's speech, then I had to go do something, then I got to hear the end.  Reading through the tweets and early reports and stuff to glean the middle part.  Looks like a whole lot of nothing so far.

That is until we get the details of these anti-crime initiatives sorted out. From here I'd say some of it looks benign  but worth doing. Mitch is asking for mentoring, counseling, and mental health services... you know.. all the stuff the Governor has spent the last year and a half slicing out of the budget.

Some of it looks like it could be bad. For example, "creating a team of federal law enforcement specialists to prosecute drug kingpins" sounds ominous. Brendan McCarthy tweeted that this mysterious program might be what's referred to here.

The initiative comes from the highest reaches of federal law enforcement; it is the fruit of conversations between Mayor Mitch Landrieu and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

The effort appears to be spearheaded by the local office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, better known as ATF, which has for years worked with the New Orleans Police Department on larger-scale gun and gang crimes.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, in a conference call with Phillip Durham, head of the local ATF branch, acknowledged Monday that "additional resources" from the federal government are forthcoming.
"At this time, we cannot provide further details on this," Letten said.
Maybe they're bringing in a few drones, which I'm told are all about good and friendly things now that they're being launched domestically. 

After issuing a statement denouncing Krauthammer’s remarks as “irresponsible” and “dangerous,” Toscano said the AUVSI would go on the offensive against critics. While the strategy is still being shaped, Toscano made it sound like something straight out of a crisis-management textbook — or Orwell. The AUVSI wants to bombard the American public with positive images and messages about drones in an effort to reverse the growing perception of the aircraft as a threat to privacy and safety.

“You have to keep repeating the good words,” Toscano explained. “People who don’t know what they’re talking about say these are spy planes or killer drones. They’re not.” He criticized Salon and other news organizations for using the term “drones,” saying “remotely piloted vehicles” is more accurate.
Anyway, if you want to read the Mayor's remarks they're posted here.  I haven't figured out how to filter out all the stuff about "speaking with one voice" yet, so, sorry about that.

Taking their zone and going home

Tourism magnates show their true colors.

Sources say the proposed "Hospitality Zone" bill appears dead for this year’s legislative session. That news comes after a Senate committee amended the proposed measure at the request of state Sen. Karen Carter-Peterson, D-New Orleans. Hospitality industry leaders reportedly cannot accept Peterson’s amendments, and they are said to be ready to pull the plug on the bill.
Peterson's amendments struck the unnecessary  super board of business owners and dedicated more money to infrastructure maintenance (the bill's big selling point) than to the Convention and Visitors Bureau's slush fund (the real reason CVB wanted this in the first place). 

By pulling the bill, Mayor Landrieu and his hotelier allies are telling us that if they can't get what they want, downtown doesn't get any of these street repairs they keep telling us we need before the Superbowl.  What happened? Mitch kept telling us the "clock is ticking." Did they call a timeout?

Creeping medievalism

Hunting witches

North Carolina Pastor Charles Worley shared with his congregation this weekend how he thinks the country should deal with the scourge of gay men and lesbians: Lock them into a pen with an electrified fence, drop food down to them, and because they can’t reproduce, they will die out.

Worshiping relics

LONDON — A Channel Islands online auction house has angered Ronald Reagan's foundation by claiming to offer a vial that once contained his blood.

The PFCAuctions house says the vial contains some of Reagan's dried blood residue. The auctioneers say it was used by the laboratory that tested Reagan's blood when he was hospitalized after a 1981 assassination attempt in Washington.

Buying indulgences

Further, (Tom) Benson has undergone an almost St. Paul-like conversion in his personal life, thanks in part, friends and associates say, to the faithful work of his wife.

In recent years, he has made millions of dollars in contributions to Catholic Charities, Ochsner Medical Center, Loyola and Tulane universities. And for every lucrative donation, there've been countless more behind-the-scenes gestures.

Roger Goodell is wondering what ESPN is even for, then

Apparently domestic propaganda has been illegal in this country for some time now. Although that might be about to change.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to mark up the defense authorization bill tomorrow morning, making crucial decisions on an amendment that seeks to “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda.

The amendment received bi-partisan support in the House of Representatives last wek and was voted on en bloc along with 15 other amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), whose other controversial, Republican-backed provisions include indefinite detention and banning same sex marriage on military facilities.


Congress Speaks At 10th Grade Level, Study Says

Members of Congress aren’t sounding any smarter. In fact, the 112th Congress speaks collectively at a 10th grade level, down from that of a high school junior in 2005, according to a Sunlight Foundation study released this week. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Banana Republic Bobby

Whatever place could Lombardi be describing here?

In its current incarnation, this small republic operates with a populist authoritarian government led by individuals in search of advancement to more prosperous and internationally significant posts. Their skillful combination of populist rhetoric, economic manipulation of a state dominated economy, and first-world media management has maintained them in power. The regime has taken every opportunity to create illusions of progress by continuously bleeding the nation's treasury to buy the participation of foreign companies that receive tax-supported subsidies. Their arsenal of management also includes the use of state resources to conclude beneficial contracts with favored national business interests.

When confronted with opposition, the regime mobilizes its sycophantic adherents and paid partisans to discredit, isolate, and eventually drive out any people with an ability or opportunity to address the real issues and consequences of the regime's behavior.

Shifting State of the City

Just noticed on a parallel internet that the mayor's big "State of the City" address has been moved from the NOCCA campus over to the Mahalia Jackson Theater. The details copied and pasted from what I assume was a press release.

LAST-MINUTE LOCATION CHANGE FOR Mayor Landrieu's "2012 State of the City Address tomorrow at 2:00 PM

Due to an overwhelming response to attend, we are relocating the State of the City speech to the Mahalia Jackson Theatre. Thank you for your interest and we will see you there.

Mayor Landrieu’s State of the City speech

Mahalia Jackson Theatre

May 22, 2012 at 2:00 p.m.
Update: Found the actual press release here.

Meanwhile, here's the latest on the amended  HoZone bill, which Mitch is likely to bring up in tomorrow's speech.

Also, speaking of the Mahalia Jackson Theater, just this past Friday I had my first chance to visit Armstrong Park since it reopened to the public.  I happened on a small wedding ceremony in Congo Square of all places just as it was concluding. None of this has anything to do with anything other than to say that aside from the controversial statuary, it looks pretty nice in there.  Here, I took a quick photo of the lagoon.

Armstrong Park

Net Neutrality obsoleted

Remember a few years ago when we reached that "compromise" over net neutrality rules which kept the principle in place for the "wired" internet only?

"Nobody could have predicted" that would be the part of the internet that's going away.

I think fragmenting content delivery according to device is probably a mistake.  When you lose the internet as a universal platform you lose the characteristic that made it a revolutionary medium in the first place.

Councilmembers still at large

It's still looking like this is mostly about denying Stacy Head her "two votes" on the Council throughout the interim term of Erroll George.

Hedge-Morrell and Johnson offered no explanation of why they both skipped the council's next regular meeting this past Thursday, though Hedge- Wednesday, when they also missed a special meeting Clarkson called to try to take care of the numerous agenda items left unfinished when the two walked out May 3. As for George, both suggested, though again without really saying so, that they don't consider him qualified to serve on the council but that their biggest objection is the fact he was nominated by Head -- who, as Johnson pointed out, will continue to sit on the council, meaning that George's selection could be seen as giving her two votes on every issue.
It isn't clear that this is strictly true, although it probably is mostly so.  Technically speaking, though, since the District B chair was won by Ms Head for this term in the most recent election it's hard to argue that there's really anything wrong with the councilmember occupying it to reflect the results of that election.  But if Errol George really wanted to be on the council, he probably wouldn't keep showing up at so many meetings.

Anyway, it won't matter now since it's looking more and more like the Mayor will make the appointment and that he will appoint someone other than George.

Scuttlebutt in the chambers is that Landrieu is looking to install former state Rep. Diana Bajoie in Head’s former seat.

Bajoie also was a favorite of the mayor to fill the seat that Arnie Fielkow vacated, a position that went to longtime City Council staffer Eric Granderson. Head replaced Granderson May 2.
Interesting bit of trivia here, as well.  According to Frank Donze, the last mayor to make an interim council appointment  was Victor Schiro in 1961.  Yesterday I noticed a reference to a similar situation in 1974 where Frank Friedler was appointed to replace Peter Beer.  It was suggested to me that this was a similar situation but, according to Friedler's obituary, his was a council appointment.

It remains to be seen whether or not any of this actually matters going down the road. It's fairly obvious that the mayor and the absent councilmembers are colluding on this appointment.  That doesn't necessarily mean the mayor is getting any big prize in the deal, as some have suggested, though.

The pie explodes

Dambala suspects the estimated revenue from the HoZone tax has been lowballed in the paper.

That's 19 million and it doesn't even take into account the restaurant and parking taxes proposed for the zone.  I am guessing this thing is going to generate between 25 and 30 million...possibly double what they are projecting.  However the RevPar number is a cumulative average of all hotel rooms rented in the city, while the bulk of hotels lie in the proposed Hospitality Zone, many do not.  I do not believe the tax will apply to hotel/motel rooms outside of the Zone so this number may be high...still it will most likely be higher than the base 16 million they are projecting for all the extra taxes imposed. 

Also, they are not factoring in the annual increase in room rentals we've seen almost every year for the past few years. The 2012 numbers are already up 20.4% (per Smith Travel Research) from last year. That puts this year's total revenues at $1,310,834,532. That would put the 2012 tax generated from only the hotel/motel tax @ $22,939,604 (Please check my math).
Since we don't have exact numbers for rooms and revenue specific to the zone, this isn't the most precise guess but you can see what he's getting at. Also if you add the fact that tourism officials are expecting to increase the annual volume of visitors to downtown amusements, there's another reason to expect that the pie is going to be plenty exploded enough for Convention and Visitors' Bureau to be more than pleased even with their reduced slice.

Bonus Tom Benson factiod

Benson's right hand man Dennis Lauscha (profiled in yesterday's T-P) was plucked away from disgraced accounting firm Arthur Andersen during the height of its relationship with Enron.

It's May 21 Is Drew Brees signed yet?

Hell no. Cue Tom Benson saying something technically true but not very reassuring.

On Friday, Saints owner Tom Benson tried to assuage the fears of his team's loyal fan base by guaranteeing Brees "will be playing here this season."

No one doubts Brees will, at some point, be in a Saints uniform. The exclusive rights free agent tag pretty much guarantees it.

But it's one thing to be playing here and quite another to be playing here happily -- and Brees clearly will not be happy playing under the franchise tag.

"It's been extremely frustrating for me," Brees said last week. "I didn't think the negotiation really should have been this difficult. But here we are."

This is the sort of thing that can only happen in a Tom Benson run organization.  If the rules say Benson can force a star player to work under unfavorable circumstances, he's perfectly fine with doing that.

Given how well the market has defined the parameters of this negotiation, one would expect the two sides could work something out.  Everyone knows Brees' resume.  Having been the first quarterback to lead the Saints to a Superbowl championship would be impressive enough.  Putting together the best statistical season for any quarterback in NFL history is pretty strong argument in his favor as well.  Having done all of this within an environment where these achievements are defined in the public imagination as a crucial element in the re-birth of an entire city in the wake of disaster, he's attained a rare status normally reserved for conquering generals or mythological figures.

But in Benson-land, everything is really about Tom Benson. Which is what I think is probably causing this to drag on the way it has.

Just this weekend Tom Benson, who tried very hard to rip the Saints out of New Orleans both before and during the flood crisis, was the beneficiary of yet another image-polishing apology on his behalf from Jeff Duncan who writes,

His reorganization of the front office -- featuring the appointment of three New Orleans natives to key posts: Chief Financial Officer Dennis Lauscha, Vice President of Marketing Ben Hales, and Vice President of Communications Greg Bensel -- has stabilized the club and transformed it from what some saw as a standoffish, insular institution to a beloved community-minded civic leader.

I think the Brees negotiations give the lie to any suggestion that Benson's organization has "transformed." Tom Benson wants everyone to know Tom Benson is in charge.  Peter King's column today features an interview with former NFL (and Saints) executive Jim Miller who offers this insight.

The only positive news about the Brees negotiation is that money appears to be the major issue. Jack Donlan, the NFL's lead labor negotiator in the 1980s, believed any negotiation where money is the issue should never result in a prolonged stalemate. One side starts high, the other starts lower and the two sides eventually settle in the middle.
 If  that's where this thing has been hung up (for 2 years running, now) then we have to conclude that it's actually about something more than money. It's about Tom Benson wanting to make the point that he's the boss of everyone including his folk-hero superstar quarterback.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Today Tom Benson inducted himself into his own team's Hall of Fame

Meanwhile Drew Brees is unsigned and clearly unhappy.

I'm beginning to wonder if Benson isn't punishing Brees for having been among the leaders who sued the NFL during the lockout.  With so many of his players suing the league, Benson must be catching grief from his peers these days.

Anyway it's been a busy Friday for me so I'll keep the bitching on the internet to a minimum. Go read NOLA Femmes for Lunanola's account of yesterday's hot HoZone action. 

Update: Dambala also has notes and commentary from the hearing.

I'm opposed to the very concept of declaring any part of the city a "Zone" that belongs more to tourists than to residents. But  I think Sen. Peterson's amendments have made the bill at least palatable despite it all.  It will be interesting to see if the Mayor rejects the plan now that it actually dedicates more money to infrastructure maintenance since that was his major talking point in pushing it. If he pulls the bill now then he has to admit it was all just a ruse to put his board of hoteliers in place.

More later but right now I'm going to see about getting tickets to this GBV (fuck yeah!) show.

Oh also the Sepras Signal is up.

The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint, in Treme, beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M. and will conclude at approximately 5:00 A.M.  Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation available if requested, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc. 

Do not fret, drunk drivers.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Picked the wrong week to stage this nonsense

Barely noticed amidst all the City Council drama, Brees contract talks, and HoZone nonsense, the Orleans Parish School Board met to decide whether or not to raise their millage this week.  The millage passed but not before board members and those in attendance had various crazy shouting arguments about everything they could think to bring up.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bored with this now

Okay so it's obvious that they're just waiting long enough to allow the Mayor to make the District B appointment.

City Council members Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and Jon Johnson were both no-shows today at a City Council meeting today, once again leaving the city's legislative branch with only four present members, one short of quorum, and unable to vote on any legislation. The four present members — at-large Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson, at-large Councilwoman Stacy Head, District C Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer and District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry — were, however, able to make the most of what quickly turned into, basically, a press event, shaming the two absent members for bringing city government to a standstill. 

Can we just skip this part and start guessing which hotel, restaurant, or bar owner the Mayor is going to appoint?

Our national liberal commentators can be so indescribably stupid

If you fail to see through someone as transparently phony as Buddy Roemer, you really have no business even trying.

Pierce is, of course, correct about Americans Elect.  But if you even come close to exonerating Buddy Roemer, you lose all credit.

Must be losing my ability to laugh

Surely this should have done it, right?

Other dates of interest

Public forums for possible Tulane stadium construction.

The forums, which will cover separate topics, will be held June 6, June 18 and July 11 on the Tulane campus. Schematic designs and plans for traffic and parking management, stadium usage and game-day operations will be presented at the forums, Tulane said.

A university statement said a planning consultant “chosen with input from the mayor’s office and neighborhood representatives” will moderate the sessions.
Should be fun. Bring popcorn.

Drew Brees is still unsigned

Today is May 16.  Just to keep you up on all the relevant dates, here they are once more.

May 22: Offseason Training Activities (which are sort of like minicamp but they don't call it minicamp. It's an un-camp or something like that.) begin.

June 5: Minicamp (actual minicamp) begins.

July 15: The date we were initially told was the deadline for the Saints and Brees to come to agreement before the terms of the franchise tag apply to this season.

July 16: The date you sometimes see mentioned as the actual deadline. Perhaps this is because the clock stops ticking at midnight between these two dates.

July 17: The date some people on talk radio mentioned last night at the aforementioned deadline.  I have no explanation for this one.

Anyway, we hope they get something done sooner than later.  Otherwise who will leave the Beefy Mac out on the mantle for Sean Payton on Christmas Eve?

Under the terms of his suspension, Payton is expected to avoid football or operational communication throughout the suspension. He can only have contact with Benson. Contact on football-related matters is strictly forbidden.

If he wants to contact a team official about a non-football matter, he must do so by speaker-phone in the presence of Saints legal counsel Vicky Neumeyer.

He had to get the NFL to approve his new downtown office in Benson Tower.

Nevertheless, while Payton will be physically absent from the Saints' day-to-day operations, team officials have ensured he'll be with them in spirit. To honor their absent leader, team officials have purposefully left vacant the chairs in the draft room and team meeting rooms. They'll do the same with his seats on the team bus and plane during the season.

The Saints had time to plan for Payton's departure. As they did last season after his leg injury, they've divvied up his duties among Vitt, Carmichael and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. It was notable and symbolic that Vitt, Carmichael, Spagnuolo and special teams coordinator Grege McMahon shared the dais at Monday's post-minicamp press conference.
Here is a photo from yesterday's T-P of the Triumvirs.  That's Vitt on the left as Antony, Spags as  Octavian, and Carmichael as the irrelevant one.


We'd have more faith in this business, if they'd at least stuck to the plan long enough to set a place for Elijah Payton at the first damn presser.  Oh well, maybe Chris Ivory will remember to pour some out of his bottle the next time he smashes someone on the head with it to make up.

Also what, exactly, does Payton need an office in Benson Tower for anyway?  Is that where he plans to keep his magic Xbox?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dambala found the "proprietary" Ho-Zone report

Fittingly enough, it turns out the strategy it outlines involves emphasizing the "Ho".

It basically states that the city's efforts to market to an older, more mature tourist have failed over the past decade.  The goal now is to market towards a younger, drunker crowd. 
There's more there so go read it.  But the key point is that the purpose of the Ho-Zone was always about turning neighborhoods into Adult Disneylands operated by "stakeholder" hoteliers and such.

Update It's important not to report Mitch's phony justifications in this form.

Landrieu, who as Louisiana's lieutenant governor served as the state's top tourism official, has led the charge to create a hospitality zone in part to create a funding stream to maintain $30 million in infrastructure improvements that the convention center's board has promised to make in and around the Quarter in preparation for next year's Super Bowl. Another $10 million in FEMA money is slated to be spent on the neighborhood's crumbling streets and sidewalks.

But wait. According to this same article, two thirds of the estimated $16 million in revenue generated from the HoZone taxes will go directly to NOTMC and NOCVB for marketing purposes.  Furthermore, HoZone proponents have already claimed that the entire HoZone scheme is based on the recommendations of a consultant's report which we've now seen is basically a strategy for selling the Quarter as a puke pad for frat boys. 

This isn't about "maintaining infrastructure improvements" that are already scheduled and funded regardless of whether the HoZone happens.  It's about funding the hoteliers' marketing campaign and also granting them an inappropriate quasi-governmental role over the New Orleans neighborhoods their businesses already exploit.

Now we'll have to raise the retirement age

Scientists use modified virus to make mice live longer

Monday, May 14, 2012

Obviously it's a metaphor

A grown man handed me this secret message today.  It must be some sort of code.  I think it has something to do with Drew Brees' contract negotiations.

Turd note

Let me take a wild guess

The "market-rate fare" will be more expensive.

BATON ROUGE -- Ferry service in the New Orleans area would be turned over to a private contractor who could charge "market-rate fares" under a bill that sailed out of a House committee Monday, one step short of final legislative passage. Senate Bill 599 by Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, now heads to the House floor for a final vote.
Currently the ferry costs one dollar for cars or zero dollars for pedestrians.  Can't imagine the magic of "the market" will improve that pricing for patrons. 

Also Algiers Point residents have been requesting late night hours for the ferry going back as long as anyone can remember.  Extending the hours would make sense for the many residents of the Point who work late hours in the French Quarter.  And, of course, it would give that many more people an alternative to driving drunk across the bridge. 

Who do I call in the "market" to have these concerns addressed?

This week's Gambit endorses the HoZone

No link yet but the gist is they think the bill has been "fixed" because the board will now (at least nominally) function in an "advisory" role and because they think the distribution of funds between the city and the tourism associations has been improved somehow.

But the problem was always that the hoteliers shouldn't be given any sort of quasi-private official capacity for deciding how the city allocates resources. If they want to fund their own marketing campaign through their professional associations they're welcome to go right ahead and do that on their own. 

Gambit also cites the promise of $40 million in "improvements" made available from the Convention Center and from CDBG funds as compelling reason for approving the HoZone.  But it's never been clear why one necessitates the other. To a lot of people, it looks like the Convention Center is holding a pile of surplus money hostage.

Just because the Convention Center board voted during March 2012 to contribute up to $30 million for refurbishing the Vieux Carré and a larger hospitality zone in advance of next year’s Super Bowl event on February 3, 2013 does not mean that vague and over-reaching legislation should be rushed through as an on-demand commodity in response to a proffered enticement. Where is the integrity in this process?
Anyway, my guess is the HoZone is going to pass with a little cosmetic tweaking to give the appearance of a vector for "community input". Maybe some of the Very Important Persons in the neighborhood associations will get seats on the board or something.

Drew Brees is still unsigned

May 14

Nobody expects Brees to be under contract by the time OTAs begin on May 22

Probably the June 5 opening of minicamp isn't a great bet either.

But nevermind that. Look, these pants could be yours if you act now!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

How about, "The New Orleans Antecendent Cadasters"?

Richard Campanella analyzes the various suggestions for replacing the name Hornets.

What struck me was how, as a whole, the suggestions form a microcosm of local society. Three main local personality types are discernible: there are the preservationists, the cynics and the idealists. And most of the conversation we've been having about the character of this place, particularly since Katrina, falls into these same three groups: appreciating our historical, cultural and ecological heritage; grappling bluntly with our socio-economic, governmental and geo-physical problems, and contemplating the willpower that lifted this city out of its darkest moments and shined light on its future.

Euphony and marketability will weigh as heavily as content and meaning in the eventual decision. For now, I offer that the public discussion over renaming the Hornets has revealed something about New Orleanians and how they perceive New Orleans, and that, once selected, the final name will help influence how the rest of the world perceives New Orleans to be.

Maybe. But I can't help but notice that the one common thread running through all of the suggested names, whatever else they may say about us, is that they are all terrible. Perhaps this reveals something about us as well.

Drew Brees is still unsigned

Today is May 12

OTAs begin May 22

Minicamp begins June 5

The franchise tag terms apply to this season if the Saints and Brees cannot agree to a contract by July 15

Meanwhile, Saints rookies are practicing this weekend giving occasion for the still unsigned Brees to taunt them from home.

Prison bill looks dead

According to this blurb highlighted by Gambit, it looks like Governor Jindal has failed to push a prison privatization initiative through the legislature for the second year in a row.  Last week's Gambit cover story on this is well worth your time. It notes, among other problems, the perverse incentives inherent in the private prison business model. 

Louisiana already has the highest rate of incarceration in the country, one that state officials claim they are trying to reduce. Current state contracts with GEO and CCA, however, guarantee minimum occupancy rates of 95 percent. During the last push for privatization in 2011, the state released a request for information — seeking statements of qualifications from prospective operators — based on a guaranteed 96 percent occupancy rate.

Also this video previews tomorrow's Times-Picayune special report on Louisiana's incarceration rate. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hedgehog-Morrell Day

So next Wednesday, if Cynthia comes out of her hiding place and sees her shadow, we're in for another six weeks of council without a quorum.

In an effort to get the warring members of the city's legislative branch back to work, New Orleans City Council President Jackie Clarkson has called a special meeting for Wednesday morning, though it remains unclear whether at least five members will attend.
There's some concern that, if our local government shutdown lasts too long, then the council cedes to its prerogative to confirm the interim District B representative to the mayor.  But I'm guessing if it comes to that he'll either pass or just affirm Stacy Head's nomination of Erroll George anyway.

Bucking the trend

Did the Rodney King riots make L.A. restaurants better?
Gold went on to argue how the trauma ultimately led to a Los Angeles dining scene that is stronger than it was before the riots: “After the riots, L.A.'s insularity somehow fostered restaurants with a strength of purpose, even stronger and more specific than they had previously been. Mainstream restaurants began to find their inspiration within L.A.'s communities rather than outside them. You began to see chefs congregating at places like Guelaguetza and Sapp on their days off, and the standard Los Angeles style of service grew to become more like the shared-plates meals at local Japanese izakaya, or Thai coffee shops, or Korean pubs, or Mexican botana bars — almost as a sign of L.A. cultural literacy, but perhaps something more. “The difference between high cuisine and street cuisine, between ‘ethnic’ cooking and American food, began to fade. Some of the best new "mainstream" restaurants of the last couple of years — Lukshon, Spice Table, LaOn, Post & Beam — were opened by classically trained chefs looking outward from their traditions rather than inward.”
Can't make a botana bar without breaking a few heads, I guess. Anyway it's all fun and games until Mitch Landrieu asks to have South Central annexed to the Hospitality Zone.

Drew Brees is still unsigned

 On the bright side, Jordan Jefferson is available.

Today is May 11

OTAs begin May 22

Minicamp begins June 5

The Saints and Brees have until July 15 to reach an agreement before the franchise tag terms kick in.

Meanwhile, SaintsWin has compiled this summation of the NFL's unraveling case against the Saints players implicated in the so-called "bountygate" affair.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Well, then...

Mitch calls on the Hospitality Lords to "storm the castle" and fight for their Ho-Zone fiefdom... or something.

In a brief but fiery speech, Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged hundreds of hospitality industry executives and workers to storm the state capitol next week to show support for a controversial proposal to create a new hospitality district in downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter, even as one of the bill's original backers in the legislature withdrew his support Thursday. Landrieu criticized opponents of the proposal for being focused on "small details" while ignoring the "big picture" that New Orleans is trying to position itself to more than double its visitation numbers and tourism revenue by 2018.

"All we want to do is get to work," Landrieu said. "If you show up and let your voice be heard, (legislators) will follow you."

Clear enough?  It's their city.  The Mayor is telling them to take it. 

So.. how is Mitch's evoloution coming along?

Gambit reminds us that the Mayor's position on marriage freedom is not as "evolved" as the President's

Earlier this year, at the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, more than 80 mayors of U.S. cities signed the Freedom to Marry pledge in support of same-sex marriage rights. Democratic Mayor Mitch Landrieu was not among them. Asked by Gambit's Alex Woodward whether Landrieu supported same-sex marriage, administration spokesman Ryan Berni said Landrieu supported civil unions, but would not elaborate on Freedom to Marry.

UpdateMark Moseley's latest column on this matter explains with greater detail and precision the political trend I alluded to last night

While I’m not claiming that gay marriage has been the driving force in American politics for the past decade, it’s very interesting to graph the change in national attitude alongside the electoral results over that same span. The issue has unseen importance, because it relates to the key tensions in the Republican Party. The GOP has a real problem on their hands with this one. Their libertarian and pragmatic moderate factions are increasingly pro-gay marriage. But Republican pols, who painted themselves into an ideological corner trying to appeal to the fundagelicals, will have to continue opposing gay marriage, as the rest of the country continues to “evolve” around them.

Chewing on the corpse

Bobby Jindal and John White have thrown public education to the hyenas.

But Diane Ravitch is not pleased. Writing on her blog at Education Week, Ravitch explained that, in her view, what Jindal has wrought is not a good thing. "Unfortunately,' she writes, 'reform' today has become a synonym for dismantling public education and demoralizing teachers. In that sense, Bobby Jindal and his Teach For America/Broad-trained state Commissioner of Education John White are now the leaders of the reform movement." Broad refers to Eli Broad, a major benefactor of Teach for America and the founder of an academy for superintendents of which White was part of the class of 2010.

"All in all, the Jindal legislation is the most far-reaching attempt in the nation to de-fund, dismantle, and obliterate public education," writes Ravitch. "Paul Pastorek, the former Louisiana state superintendent, calls this a 'marketplace' approach, which is right. With no new funding, everyone gets to dip into the funds allocated for public schools and carve out a piece for themselves, for vouchers, charters, home-schoolers, and for-profit online providers. Is there any evidence that any of these changes will improve education? No, none whatsoever. Does the Jindal law follow the lead of any of the high-performing nations? No. But that's what 'reform' means today."

Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University, is the author of ten books on education -- the most recent is "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education" -- and the editor of 14 others.

White's appointment was made possible as a result of a slate of BESE elections last year some of urged voters to pay closer attention to to no avail.  In the New Orleans district, the pro-Jindal candidate was Kira Orange-Jones who received the endorsement of several local power brokers including Mitch Landrieu,  Jackie Clarkson, and, of course, the Times-Picayune.

Interestingly enough, this is the second article by Tilove this week to feature serious criticisms of Jindal's school reform. Both have appeared on NOLA.com. Neither has shown up in the print edition.

Drew Brees is still unsigned

Still no developments in New Orleans Saints contract talks with Drew Brees

Today is May 10

OTAs begin May 22

Minicamp begins June 5

The Saints and Brees have until July 15 to reach an agreement before the terms of the franchise tag are applied to this season. 

Also the new NOLA.com looks terrible. 

Obama likes teh gay Mitt wants to change the subject

A couple of quick points about Obama's somewhat tepid and many years late acknowledgement of basic human dignity his campaign people staged for him this afternoon.

First, insofar as Obama's announcement... which changes nothing and basically reiterates Dick Cheney's position that the legality of gay marriage should be left to the states to decide... insofar as that is an advance of any value, the credit for it goes not to Obama who has spent most of his time with this issue basically twisting in the wind. Instead it goes to the critics who have continued to drag him along on this "evolutionary" path. Glenn Greenwald and David Sirota both said this quite well today. Here's Greenwald's bit.

As David Sirota explained today, this demonstrates why it is so vital to always apply critical pressure even to politicians one likes and supports, and conversely, it demonstrates why it is so foolish and irresponsible to devote oneself with uncritical, blind adoration to a politician, whether in an election year or any other time (unconditional allegiance is the surest way to render one’s beliefs and agenda irrelevant). When someone who wields political power does something you dislike or disagree with, it’s incumbent upon you to object, criticize, and demand a different course. Those who refuse to do so are abdicating the most basic duty of citizenship and rendering themselves impotent.

The only problem I have with that paragraph is the part that implies there are supposed to be politicians we "like and support." When you get down to it, they're all just hollow vessels of ambition and suckassery.  None of them deserve your support and certainly not your affection.  But, depending on circumstances, some of them may be more susceptible to pressures that work in your favor and that's how you decide which way to vote.

The point is politics isn't really about the politicians.  They're just the tools (in multiple senses of that word).  Policy change is brought about by the forces acting upon those tools be they money, personal influence, or... in very very rare cases... genuine organized active demand of the voters. But the minute that demand relents is the minute the power to create further change is ceded.  So, for the most part, I agree with Greenwald. I only disagree with the implication that we should ever stop and credit any politician for work they do not actually perform... such as leadership.

As to the politics of this thing, the stunt is a clever way to turn a poor election result in North Carolina into a "win the week" moment for Obama by momentarily firing up part of the much neglected Democratic base. Sure, the Fox and Freaks crowd responded predictably today but their pushback was so lame that it felt like going through the motions. I think they knew they'd been outmaneuvered... almost like a bluff had been called. 

And that brings us to a final  observation.  Liberals like me have long said that the best way to counter the old Republican phony "values" playbook is to just show a little backbone on issues like gay rights.  "Our" side has always enjoyed the true "moral" high ground in such matters. We've only suffered from a lack of candidates willing to articulate that clearly.

I actually don't think Obama has done that clearly enough yet but this was a strong enough move to cause an interesting reaction from the Romney camp and one that shows just how much the game has changed with regard to social wedge issues in national politics. It wasn't too too long ago that Republicans took it as a given that Democratic candidates could be separated from their "economic" base by a campaign strategy that highlighted issues like race, gay rights, abortion, recreational drug use, and the like.

I'm not about to say that this is no longer the case at all but I think those dynamics may be changing in a way that makes them less of a rout on the Republican side. For example, Mitt today, clearly knocked back on his heels, offered this reaction.

Mitt Romney would like to talk about the economy. He would apparently prefer not to talk about marriage equality, education for the children of illegal immigrants or medical marijuana. In an interivew with a CBS affiliate in Colorado, Romney was visibly annoyed after a string of questions that included his stance on gay marriage and civil unions (he’s against them), in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants (he’s against that) and medical marijuana (he thinks pot is a “gateway drug”).

“Aren’t there issues of significance you’d like to talk about?” he said, after the string of social issue questions, one of which came from a viewer. “The economy, the growth of jobs, the need to put people back to work, the challenges of Iran? We’ve got enormous issues that we face but you want to talk about medical marijuan–go ahead, you want to talk about Medical–”

“Marijuana should not be legal in this country,” Romney said finally, before calling pot a “gateway drug.”
Have we really come so far now that it's the Republican candidate, whose party even more than ever now is firmly ensconced as the party of the privileged "1%", who is so thrown for a loop by a Democrat who just (sort of) endorsed gay marriage that the best response he can muster is, "It's the economy, stupid"?  These are indeed the strangest of times.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Big Apple intentions

Some of our local sports reporters are finally beginning to understand that the NFL are hypocrites maybe just a little bit.
The semantic hinge on which the case against the Saints swings - between "pay for performance" and "bounty" - has taken on a geographic dimension, too, as the pushback against player discipline mounts. Both New York professional football franchises, including the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, have flirted with behavior that appears to veer dangerously close to imperiling player safety.

When questions were raised about the Giants' apparent strategy, Big Blue backpedaled a bit, insisting no one targeted an opponent or deliberately sought to injure anyone. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello e-mailed The New York Times that distinction was sufficient. "Players are held accountable for their actions on the field," Aiello wrote. "There were no illegal hits to the head or neck area against Kyle Williams on Sunday. There was no conduct by the Giants of any kind that would suggest an effort to injury Kyle Williams in any way."

To be sure, the intent of the defenders is a critical component in the scandal. Despite full throated cries from the Who Dat faithful that the game film does not support the Saints image as malicious head-hunters, the NFL's report claims the Saints were trying to achieve "knock-out" or "cart-off" hits that would sideline an opponent for all or part of a game, whether they succeeded in doing so or not.

"What the heck is a Jazz?"

Pete Finney reads old newspapers in an effort to mine ideas for renaming the Hornets.  All of the ideas he finds are horrible. The NOLA.com commenters then rush to his aid with more horrible ideas.   Really, the more people talk about this renaming business the more I'm starting to think it's maybe not such a great idea altogether.

More interesting is this quote Finney pulls up from a 1974 article (Finney doesn't say which paper) announcing the selection of the name Jazz.
Within days there was another story that began with: “Tune your trumpet, Al Hirt. Polish your clarinet keys, Pete Fountain. Oil the pedals on your baby grand, Ronnie Kole. It was looked upon here as the dawn of the jazz age in the NBA.”

No offense to any of those three legendary New Orleans musicians but... way to go figuring out a way to evoke the essence of Jazz music by naming three white guys.

Drew Brees is still unsigned

Today is May 9

OTAs begin May 22

Minicamp begins June 5

The Times-Picayune's memory hole?

In a phenomenon that might be described as the reverse of our premature complaint Sunday about T-P articles failing to make it up onto NOLA.com, today we have the strange case of this unusually well-balanced article by Jonathan Tilove.

The article begins with Mary Landrieu shamefully touting the "success" of New Orleans' quasi-private charter school movement on a cable news show but then moves on to counter Landrieu's enthusiasm by referencing this article recently published in the New York Review of Books by NYU professor Diane Ravitch as well as this report released in March by former OPSB consultant Charles Hatfield.

The story appeared yesterday afternoon on NOLA.com but, for whatever reason, hasn't yet made it into the print edition of the paper. Given the paper's editorial bent toward favoring the charter and privatization movement, some readers are already a little suspicious.

Maybe.  But being familiar now with the sloppy synch between the print and online versions of the paper, I'm going to wait a few days before drawing that conclusion.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

It's their city

Want to take a look at the documents that form the basis of their public policy proposals?  Yeah that's really none of your business.

Unfortunately my request for access to the full version of the report was denied by New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau staff due to its “proprietary” nature. Instead, I was offered a link to the press release issued by this agency in January 2010: New Orleans Launches Strategic Unified Master Plan for the Tourism Industry.

But consider this: If this report is serving as the rationale for major policy decisions, taxing authority considerations, and unprecedented acts of legislation in our city, then shouldn’t it be available for review in the public realm for proper review and consideration?

If a private business association wants to deny public records requests on the grounds that such records are "proprietary" information, isn't that precisely the problem with the whole concept of turning government authority over to these business associations in the first place? 

This is similar to the charter school boards who don't think open meetings law applies to them.  This is what the mayor means when he talks about "public-private partnerships."  For the most part, the public is expected to be the silent partner.