Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Conspiracies 2014

Just to follow up on the final thought in that last post, look how pervasive this has become. Here is a much-talked about Gambit essay from Megan Braden-Perry about The Changing Times In New Orleans or whatever euphemism for gentrification we're onto now.

This topic isn't going away. In November, The Advocate ran a fascinating series on post-Katrina social and demographic changes   Gambit promises to make essays like Megan's and the blurbs from locals that accompany it in this week's paper a regular feature in 2014.  I've got an unpublished thing in the drafts folder that will probably get finished sometime this year. Anyway get ready to hear more about it. 

The problem with the perpetual, "Are You From Here?" debate is that it has become our own little version of the stupid culture wars that distort American politics.  Determining who is or isn't a Real New Orleanian is no less pointless than asking whether or one is from Real America. 

The divisions that matter in politics concern wealth, power, who controls it, and who is left behind. The "recovery" of New Orleans after Katrina is really a story about how the money power that existed here before the flood finally saw all of its wildest dreams realized thanks in large part to the "blank slate" myth.

Deep divisions do exist here now between wealth and... pretty much everybody else. But those aren't the divisions that get talked about.  Instead we're bogged down in a phony "from here" vs "not from here" identity politics which confuses more than it illuminates.

But let's put that aside for now and come back to Megan's article which is, itself, titled "It wasn't a blank slate"
..the New Orleans where I grew up wasn't some hip place you moved when you didn't know what to do with your life. It wasn't a "blank slate." It was a place where you lived because you had ties there, because you were stuck there or because your job was there.

  You didn't just come to New Orleans with a guitar and a dream.

Maybe I'm a conspiracy theorist, but I think many decisions made by politicians are only made to help build a utopian New Orleans for whomever is spending the most money, regardless of the impact on everyday folks.
Again, there's a lot to that piece. I recommend it and would like to comment on it further at a later time. But what I'd like to point out here is that sentence where she feels like she has to say, "Maybe I'm a conspiracy theorist.." before stating an obvious truth about the nature of money and politics. Why is that?

In spite of all the upheaval of recent years, there's something endemic to the New Orleans media environment that reflexively defends or at least excuses money and power and relegates all criticism to the realm of "conspiracy theory."  And it's so bad that it's at a point where writing that politicians respond to, "whomever is spending the most money," is almost out of bounds.  

I'm very interested in seeing how gentrification is discussed in New Orleans in 2014.  I'm happy that Gambit is treating it. But I'm also interested in this phenomenon where any opinion that falls short of out and out boosterism has to apologize for sounding like "conspiracy theory."  There will be more to say on both of these points later.   But that's all stuff to do next year.

"Urban Myth"

New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp president Mark Romig presents an interesting word choice here.
Romig sought to clear up notions that tourism officials are actively trying to bring more college kids, armed with hand-grenades, into the city.

There’s been an urban myth that a large portion of our marketing message is geared towards this girls and boys gone wild type of audience,” Romig said. “Less than 10 percent of our media mix, Buzzfeed, Flavor Pill, hits an age group of 18-24 years,” Romig explained.

In fact, the “sweet spot” for tourism is 35-65, Romig said. Mature visitors generally have more money and more “discretionary time.”  
I'm not sure the age demos you are targeting via your "media mix" necessarily says anything at all as to the content of the message you're sending.  Seems to me the "sweet spot" is grabbing visitors who have the "discretionary time" and money you're looking for but who also respond to the branding you've chosen to emphasize.  For example, it is possible to market a "girls and boys gone wild" atmosphere to dirty old men with money.

More importantly, the notion that our tourism mullahs are pursuing this angle is in no way an "urban myth."  It is the recommendation of a consultant's report the New Orleans Conventions and Visitors Bureau commissioned and then tried to keep out of the public record.  So Romig is not only being disingenuous about the overall marketing strategy, he's also insinuating that its critics are conspiracy nuts of some sort.  

This kind of snide dismissal is becoming more common among the wealth in this city and its defenders in the media, by the way.  Expect more "conspiracy theories" to proliferate in 2014.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Well if it gets the Saints a road playoff win..

We're willing to try anything.
Dozens of tourists in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 gathered around the tomb of Marie Laveau Sunday (Dec. 29) as tour guide Renee Dodge explained the mysterious history of the famed Voodoo queen.
But most of the tourists had one question on their minds: Why was the tomb painted bright pink?

Two weeks ago, in the middle of the night, someone sneaked into the cemetery and painted the tomb, Dodge said, but she didn't think the person had any malicious intent.

"The person really came in to paint over the thousands of thousands of "X"'s all over this tomb," she said. "And that's the real desecration."

Decades ago, someone started a rumor that if people wanted Laveau to grant them a wish, they had to draw an "X" on the tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, yell out their wish, and if it was granted, come back, circle their "X," and leave Laveau an offering, Dodge said.
In lieu of desecrating Laveau's tomb, pilgrims are encouraged to visit grave site of Al Copleand. The ritual works like this.  The petitioner will his request of Al and then string a set of Christmas lights on the tomb. Next, the petitioner will go out for a steak dinner and punch the nearest political operator three times in the head. Return to the tomb one week later. If the wish has been granted, the lights can be plugged in.  If the wish is refused, try coming back in the spring with a helicopter full of rose petals.

As for the Saints, they're pulling out all the stops. This includes making their own appeal to St. Al among other mysteries.
The Saints also know the challenge that lies ahead on the road, where they've struggled to a 3-5 record this season. But they cheerfully suggested solutions to the road problems.

"Popeyes!" yelled wide receiver Robert Meachem.

"New sweatsuits. I think that'll be motivation enough for us to play well on the road," added receiver Lance Moore. "I think the sweatsuits will be the difference."

"We need to change our Gatorade flavor, travel sweats and the beefy mac recipe night before the game," summed up Brees.
That beefy mac recipe is nothing to be trifled with. We tried fiddling with beefy mac back during the 2011 Saints-Rams game. Looked okay at first.

Beefy Mac

But as that game went on, the rich creamy cheesy buttery glop began to unsettle our stomachs, not unlike the Saints' performance that day. By the end, we were resorting to all sorts of crazy remedies.

Beefy Mac with Joe Horn sauce

Yeah that didn't work either.  But maybe the pink paint will. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

It's all about kicking you off the internet

I guess I shouldn't be as surprised as I am when supposedly savvy internet users applaud the inexorable trend toward firmer corporate control over internet content.
Blame anonymity, blame politicians, blame human nature. But a growing number of websites are reining in the Wild West of online commentary. Companies including Google and the Huffington Post are trying everything from deploying moderators to forcing people to use their real names in order to restore civil discourse. Some sites, such as Popular Science, are banning comments altogether.
Oh here we go again with the "civil discourse." You'd think that after all this time we would have graduated from this type of condescension.  But, no, the important people in the legitimate media still despise their readers. If only they understood how unimportant they really are, we wouldn't keep having these misunderstandings.  But we covered this earlier today and it's a bit of a digression anyway.

The inflated egotism of professional media persons (and other pompous laypeople) does at least partially explain why people keep missing the point about the comments controversy. Despite the loud kvetching over civility, this doesn't have anything to do with whether you have to worry your pretty little heads about someone hurting your feelings in a comment thread. Media companies don't care about that. If "civil discourse" was what mattered imagine just how different the great mass of content produced for you by professional media might look.

What this is about is moving independent voices off of the big internet media platforms. The big dogs are here now.  They're glad you're watching. They would still like to sell you to their advertisers. In fact, they'd like to sell more of you than they've ever had access to before.
Online privacy will be a thing of the past. (If you thought it already was, believe me, things could get worse.) The ISPs will try to read all of your content so they can sell you to advertisers. New “troll tolls” will force content creators and others to pay discriminatory fees just to reach people online — and will require the rest of us to pony up for “premium” content.
"Your content" in the emerging environment is mostly about the things you "like" on Facebook, the products you purchase on Amazon, the movies you watch on Netflix, the websites you visit, even the content of your private email correspondence.  What it doesn't mean anymore is your participation in the larger public dialogue.  What was once considered a leveling public square is fast becoming a pay-for-play model where your "reach" is directly related to the depth of your purse.

And this is why we're moving away from online comment forums on major media platforms. After a decade of relative democratization, the "new media" is finally taking on the familiar top-down model of old media institutions who are figuring out how to get things arranged to their liking. I don't doubt that the new discourse will be celebrated for being more "civil." But I can guarantee that it will be far less public.

Well that's all over with, then

Most of the remaining Katrina flood litigation has been dismissed.
The clean-up ruling by U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr., filed Dec. 20,
marks the end of an unprecedented series of class-action lawsuits aimed at collecting damages from insurance companies or the federal government that could have totaled billions of dollars.

The final ruling was not unexpected. In earlier decisions Duval found the Army Corps of Engineers was immune from damages caused by failures of levees and floodwalls they designed and built, or from failure to maintain the rapidly eroding Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, a now-closed shipping channel that helped decimate wetlands east of St. Bernard Parish.

In a ruling in April involving one of those cases, Duval pointed out that he had presided "over this hydra-like 'Katrina Umbrella' litigation for almost eight years. One central theme has been painfully obvious throughout this entire process," he wrote. "Many of the levees protecting New Orleans and the surrounding area were tragically flawed. ...

"However, lamentably, there has been no judicial relief for the hundreds of thousands of people and tens of thousands of businesses impacted," he said. "The Flood Control Act of 1928 as interpreted over the years gives the United States Army Corps of Engineers virtually absolute immunity, no matter how negligent it might have been in designing and overseeing the construction of the levees."
Can we copy Garret Graves and Bobby Jindal on this so we don't have go through it all again? 

"It pushes the same buttons as their gold fetish"

Not sure why none of the Bitcoin stories I've been collecting on various parallel internets has made it up here yet.  Today Krugman higlights a pretty good one by Charlie Stross so this is a good excuse to put that here.
Bitcoin is designed to be verifiable (forgery-resistant) but pretty much untraceable, and very easy to hide. Easier than a bunch of gold coins, anyway. And easier to ship to the opposite side of the planet at the push of a button.

Libertarians love it because it pushes the same buttons as their gold fetish and it doesn't look like a "Fiat currency". You can visualize it as some kind of scarce precious data resource, sort of a digital equivalent of gold. Nation-states don't control the supply of it, so it promises to bypass central banks.

But there are a number of huge down-sides.

Krampus comes a little late this year

1.3 million unemployed need punishing.
Economists expect that the end of the emergency jobless benefits will, surprisingly, lead to a sharp drop in the unemployment rate, by as much as 0.5 percentage points.
That is in part because the loss of benefits might spur some workers to intensify their job search, or accept an offer they might have turned down. 

Since her federal benefits expired, Jamie Young, a library scientist living in Portland, Ore., has accepted a part-time job, taking a large reduction in her income. “It’s embarrassing for me,” she said. “I dread going to parties or social functions and having people ask me what I do.” Her unemployment has also spurred her to donate her eggs for $6,000 in compensation

But the unemployment rate will primarily drop as workers, especially older workers, drop out of the labor force. Those receiving unemployment benefits are required to demonstrate that they are actively looking and applying for jobs. Without those benefits, and requirements, economists said, many might give up.
It's not a great idea to get too wrapped up in the anecdotal nuggets stories like this tend to lean on. And I get that the point here is to make the story relatable for the Times' upper middle class readership. But kudos to them anyway for showing us a web designer, a medical lab manager, and a librarian here among the long-term unemployed.   These are precisely the "knowledge-based industry" type workers who tend to think such things really aren't their problem.

This, of course, doesn't stop such persons from whining when the wake-up call comes.
NEW ORLEANS —Eight former employees of The Times-Picayune have sued the newspaper and parent Advance Publications Inc., alleging their layoffs violated a longstanding "job security pledge" and age discrimination laws.

The plaintiffs were 46 to 59 years old when they lost jobs ranging from warehouse worker to reporter. Suits filed last week in Orleans Parish Civil District Court claim they either were not allowed to apply or applied unsuccessfully for lower-paid replacement jobs.

Times-Picayune publisher Ricky Mathews did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

All eight plaintiffs said they relied on a longstanding company pledge not to fire non-union workers because of economic or technological changes.
It's amazing how credulous  professional journalists become when their employer promises them they don't need a union or any other protections beyond a "company pledge."  After all, they're special. They have talent. They jumped through all the right hoops. Aren't they in The Club, now? 

It sucks to wake up and suddenly find out that, despite all the accolades and attaboys, you're only worth as much on the open market as your ovaries are. You'd think eventually, these kids, with all those brains diplomas they're carrying around, would get wise.  But that's not likely as long they're able to flatter themselves into believing they're on the side of St. Rand charged with whipping all the "moochers" into shape.

Saint Ayn Rand visits the day after Christmas! from MarkFiore on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The War Party

Mary Landrieu apparently wants to bomb Iran.
WASHINGTON -- As the United States finally puts a decade of war behind it, a group of senators, including 15 Democrats, is defying the White House and threatening to push the country into a fresh war with Iran.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is leading the charge to pass legislation in January that would impose tougher sanctions on Iran, despite dire warnings from the White House, Iranian leaders, 10 Democratic committee chairs and a host of liberal groups that such an effort could sink a delicate nuclear agreement already in place. Under that Nov. 24 deal, Tehran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for some relief from economic sanctions for a period of six months.
Next year we can look forward to yet another election in which she runs as the good one. Fun times. 

There are things we could do about the affordable housing supply problem

Converting what's left of that supply over to "market rate" housing doesn't seem like the way to go.
The housing agency doesn't have the financial resources to rebuild these properties and effectively manage them so it's better to put them up for sale in hopes people in the private sector or nonprofits can put them back to use, said Administrative Receiver David Gilmore at a September meeting.

In its first sale, HANO put up 107 properties and received bids on 86, 38 of which will be redeveloped into affordable housing and 48 into market rate developments.

Affordable housing is defined as housing that is affordable to households making 80 percent or less than the area median income or $44,000 in New Orleans.
The city will count this as a great victory in the "War On Blight" Sometimes it's easy to confuse whether they mean blighted buildings or just people they don't like. 

Technocratic Capitalism

The technological threat to privacy, and therefore freedom of thought itself, is bigger than just the question of whether or not the NSA is spying on you. Of course it's disturbing that the police are able to watch you as closely and perpetually as they are. But this is actually bigger than just that.
But what good are these steps to counter the much more disturbing trend whereby our personal information – rather than money – becomes the chief way in which we pay for services – and soon, perhaps, everyday objects – that we use?

No laws and tools will protect citizens who, inspired by the empowerment fairy tales of Silicon Valley, are rushing to become data entrepreneurs, always on the lookout for new, quicker, more profitable ways to monetise their own data – be it information about their shopping or copies of their genome. These citizens want tools for disclosing their data, not guarding it. Now that every piece of data, no matter how trivial, is also an asset in disguise, they just need to find the right buyer. Or the buyer might find them, offering to create a convenient service paid for by their data – which seems to be Google’s model with Gmail, its email service.

What eludes Mr Snowden – along with most of his detractors and supporters – is that we might be living through a transformation in how capitalism works, with personal data emerging as an alternative payment regime. The benefits to consumers are already obvious; the potential costs to citizens are not. As markets in personal information proliferate, so do the externalities – with democracy the main victim.

Serpas Signal

They'll be making lists and checking them.

The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint on Friday, December 27, 2013 , in Orleans Parish. The check point will begin at approximately 9:00 P.M. and will conclude at about 5:00 A.M. Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc., available if requested.
Happy Holidays

I agree the Chief and the DA did go in an unusual direction here.  Somebody must have been using the big red suit this week, though.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Have yourself a congnitively dissonant Christmas

BP, Chevron Accused Of Illegally Dumping Toxic Radioactive Drilling Waste Into Louisiana Water
The Louisiana parish of Plaquemines is taking on a group of oil and gas giants including BP and Chevron for allegedly dumping toxic waste — some of it radioactive — from their drilling operations into its coastal waters, according to a lawsuit removed to federal court on Thursday.

Plaquemines Parish is claiming the companies violated the Louisiana State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act of 1978 by discharging oil field waste directly into the water “without limitation.” Worse, the companies allegedly failed to clear, revegetate, detoxify or restore any of the areas they polluted, as required by state law. The oil and gas companies’ pollution, along with their alleged failure to adequately maintain their oilfields, has caused significant coastal erosion and contaminated groundwater, the lawsuit said.

More massive tar mats from BP oil spill discovered on Louisiana beaches

The heavy ongoing cleanup is emblematic of the problems spill experts say Louisiana can expect due to the rapid erosion of its coastline, especially along the beaches between Grand Isle and Port Fourchon. The rapid shoreline retreat in this area has resulted in a silt-filled backwash in the nearshore shallows. Patches of Deepwater Horizon oil that reached this zone became embedded with sand, shells and mud particles in the water column, creating malleable tar balls, patties and mats, depending on their size.

These are more than mere eyesores. The weathered oil contains toxic hydrocarbon components than can remain a threat to fish, wildlife and human health for 50 years. So even small tar balls must be cleaned up.

Meanwhile, on Saturday we shucked this whole sack of oysters.

Sack uv ersters

I'm about to turn that product into dressing for tomorrow.  Is it a good idea? Who knows? But hey at least we threw millions of dollars at convincing people that it might be

A Legislative Auditor’s report released Monday found a series of questionable financial practices in the operations of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

The audit review covered spending related to $30 million BP agreed to provide for a seafood marketing program as part of Gulf recovery efforts after the 2010 oil disaster.

The report covered activity through June 30. As of then, $16.8 million of the BP money had been spent, the auditor said.

The auditor stated bills for media efforts and events promoting Louisiana seafood were paid without proper receipts, and contracts did not get the required approval by the state Office of Contractual Review. Additionally, board members and others received free New Orleans Saints tickets and other promotional items such as autographed Drew Brees T-shirts as part of a $650,000 sponsorship agreement. Adequate records were not kept on who got all the items, auditors said.
In other words, when you dedicate relief funds toward producing bullshit, that money ends up going toward... a bunch of bullshit.  Who could have known?

Anyway, Merry Christmas. Hope Santa doesn't leave any tarballs in your stocking.

Monday, December 23, 2013

There are actually things we could do

Despite the fact that it's currently fashionable to pretend we still live in the 19th Century, modern democratic governments do, in fact, operate with the expectation that they can and should do things to protect the most vulnerable among their constituents from the often uncaring, inequitable ravages of Market Forces. 

The recovery of New Orleans  after the levee failures has been an uneven one. Real estate values and rents have skyrocketed in the "historic" (and better elevated) neighborhoods while the most heavily flooded areas continue to struggle.  The economy has enjoyed a relatively prosperous period thanks to heavy federal investment in rebuilding and in the new medical complex. Yet overall wages remain stagnant and have actually lost ground relative to housing costs.

Much has been made of the "brain gain" influx of young, well-educated entrepreneurs to the area but this is, at best, overstated in importance. At worst, it's.. well, this.
Hype is a key component for any entrepreneurial venture, and it’s been supplied in droves for New Orleans. (It’s telling to note that, at the time she wrote the article, Lopez also ran a public relations firm, Gen Nola, whose clients included a number of hip new startups.) The notion of a formerly insular city rising from the ashes to be reborn as the country’s next great Creative Class success story is too appealing for the media to resist. A running theme in these articles is that that Katrina’s devastation had the welcome side effect of opening up space for new developments. And the city responded in kind — in 2011, the New Orleans Downtown Development District unveiled a promotional campaign that included light-pole banners emblazoned with the slogan: “Welcome to your blank canvas.” Echoing this sentiment, NPR filed a report in 2012 that began, “New Orleans became a blank slate after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. And ever since, entrepreneurs have rushed in to experiment with new ideas for building and running a city.”

The NPR piece outraged a number of New Orleans residents for its perceived boosterism of transplants essentially building a profitable playground atop the pain, death, and devastation of tens of thousands of indigenous residents. The concept of a “blank slate,” in fact, is a key component in what Naomi Klein calls “disaster capitalism,” a process repeated throughout the 20th and 21st centuries in which business interests — in collusion with government — exploit crises for their own financial gain and to the detriment of those still reeling from trauma and shock. She targeted the privatization of New Orleans’ school system and other elements of the post-Katrina recovery in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

The good news is there actually are policy tools available to us which might help mitigate some of this.  Imperfect tools, of course, but still there are options.
The preservation and expansion of affordable housing is central to equitable development.  Recognizing the link between appreciating real estate prices and affordable housing needs, cities throughout the country have created housing trust funds to combat gentrification. Housing trust funds support the creation or of affordable housing through fees from commercial development or real estate transfer taxes and can help low- and moderate-income families remain in revitalizing and gentrifying neighborhoods.

Another strategy is to create permanently affordable housing through community land trusts. Community land trusts take real estate off the speculative market and ensure long-term affordability for renters and low-income homeowners.  In New Orleans, the Crescent City Community Land Trust, a two-year old non-profit, is working to create permanently affordable housing by forming land trusts in neighborhoods experiencing escalating property values and a shortage of affordable housing options.

It is not enough to attract new, well-educated residents to the city. We need to increase the low incomes of our current residents.  This entails concerted efforts to attract and grow businesses that pay wages sufficient to support households in the higher cost, post-Katrina environment and workforce development initiatives that connect low-income workers to economic opportunity. Through interventions such as these we can help build strong, economically diverse neighborhoods and help ensure that a broader base of residents benefit from revitalization.

Our current policy is to do practically none of that and instead cheer on the so called entrepreneurial renaissance.  At least we've got some pretty slickly produced methods of cheerleading.

Probably undetermined

Orleans Parish Coroner Frank Minyard has decided to retire after 40 years.
Minyard's departure leaves three people vying for his seat: Dr. Dwight McKenna, a surgeon and former school board member; Vincent Culotta Jr., an obstetrician and gynecologist; and Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, who already works in the coroner's office as Minyard's second in command.

McKenna, who has twice before sought to unseat Minyard, welcomed the news of his rival's departure. He criticized Minyard for not determining a cause of death in many high-profile cases.

"I think he's abused the office," McKenna said. "His diagnoses have been, to say the least, suspect. He's actually protected the guilty and disadvantaged the poor."

In a previous election, McKenna also famously criticized Minyard for... selling organs to mad scientists.. or something.

The fact that Rouse (Igor in the above video) got into the race should have tipped us off that something like this might be in the works.  Minyard likely qualified in order to keep the field relatively clear for Rouse who Minyard has now endorsed.
Minyard said he plans to endorse Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, one of the three candidates who qualified to run against him. Rouse, a forensic psychiatrist, is Minyard’s deputy coroner and had been touted by Minyard in the past as a solid choice to succeed him.

“He’s a good man with a good moral fiber,” Minyard said. “I think he’d be perfect for the position.”

The other two candidates in the race are Dr. Dwight McKenna, who has run against Minyard unsuccessfully in several previous elections, and political newcomer Dr. Vincent Culotta.

"I still love the job, but the position needs young blood, somebody who's computer literate," Minyard told Eyewitness Investigator Mike Perlstein. "I feel like it would be selfish for me to continue."
Having a "computer literate" coroner does sound pretty important. It equips the city to investigate the future crime of roboticide once the revolution inevitably comes.  In the meantime, though, it might suffice just to have someone who can at least determine the difference between a homicide and a whoopsie boo boo.

Here's one of the episodes (there have been more than one) of PBS' Frontline featuring Minyard and his history of downgrading murders to "accidental" or "undetermined" deaths in high profile cases.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Here's a transcript of the interview.  In this passage Minyard is asked about the case of Adolph Archie.

You know there's been a long history where you've been accused of being biased on the side of the law enforcement --

Correct. Yes.

-- to the point that you had a friend who was an officer who ... was involved in one of the more famous incidents, ... Adolph Archie [who died in police custody after killing an officer].

Adolph Archie. ... In that case, my position was that Adolph Archie died from an allergic reaction to iodine that he was given on the X-ray table right before they were going to do a procedure. And written all over his medical chart from Angola [Louisiana State Penitentiary] and from Charity Hospital has "allergic to iodine." He got the iodine IV; he sat up, went back and hit the back of his head, and he died.

That created quite a furor. It brought [journalists] Hugh Downs and Mike Wallace. We brought in three world-renowned forensic pathologists to testify to our grand jury. We had a grand jury hearing. And the three of them all came up with different answers. One of them backed me -- allergic reaction.
... And of course the grand jury came back no true bill, [a grand jury's finding that there is no probable cause for determining that a crime was committed]. And to this day, there is no cause of death. ...

[What was the classification on the death certificate?]

Yeah. On the death certificate, I'm not sure. I haven't thought about that in a long time. But I know there is no cause of death. See, a death certificate you have one, two, three causes. And as far as a classification, I don't know what we classified it as. We probably --


Probably undetermined.

Minyard's most recently famous euphemism is his classification of the death of Henry Glover, shot and then burned in a car by police after Katrina.
Riled up protesters struggled with the coroner's staff Monday as they overflowed into the lobby of the office.

They continued chanting in the lobby as Glover's family and the NAACP met with Minyard about the case.

“I did not see the remains of Henry Glover. But I have been told it was nothing but burned-out bones,” Minyard said.

Glover's death was originally ruled "accidental” because his body had been burned in a fire.

In 2009, Minyard reclassified it as "undetermined." Glover's family wants it classified as a homicide.
The  ongoing rancor over the Glover case (occasioning multiple demonstrations at the coroner's office in the past week) may be what has actually driven Minyard from office.  Even so, he's classifying the move as a simple retirement.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Maybe I should just keep my big mouth shut

Fenced-in ladders

Longtime readers (god bless you... what is wrong with you?) will no doubt be aware that space hogging and improper ladder placement along Carnival parade routes is a major hobby horse on this blog.  But I've long argued that the solution to this problem lies in more vigorous (though not necessarily tough) enforcement of the ordinances already on the books.

More draconian rules might be a bit of an overkill.
“We’ll be looking at and introducing a standard set-back for ladder placement, tents and grills, eliminating roping off of sections along the median, eliminating parking on St. Charles Avenue during parades, and Napoleon Avenue two hours before and after a parade,” said Councilmember Cantrell.

Cantrell also says that owners of port-o-lets who place them on public property will be fined $250.

In addition, parade-goers that throw beads or throws back at floats will be penalized, out of caution for Krewe members.

“We are moving forward with our ordinance and it will be effective in Mardi Gras 2014, and we will have an addition coming to it in January of 2014 that will go into effect Mardi Gras of 2015,” said Cantrell.
I haven't seen the details of the ordinance yet.  But I'm expecting one or two devils to show up in there.  

And they're off

Qualifying ended just this past Friday. Candidates in municipal elections sure haven't wasted any time getting their signs up in time for your morning commute. These were all up along Broad St and St. Bernard Avenue Monday morning.

D & M Discount Supermarket

Wall of signs

Nadine Ramsey sign

Not to be outdone by any of these people, Mitch Landrieu launched his first TV ad Sunday afternoon at the end of the first quarter of Saints-Rams game. The Saints at that point were trailing 0-14 thanks to two Drew Brees interceptions and some exceptionally poor tackling on defense.  Things would only go downhill from there. Not exactly the opportune moment to pop in with a, "This Quarter Of Saints Football Sponsored By Mitch Landrieu For Mayor" but it's a risk you run when you buy that slot. Well, that and the risk that voters will think you are running against Ronnie Lamarque.

It didn't help matters that Mitch's ad did something Saints fans have been screaming for the networks who carry Saints games to stop doing since before Landrieu even took office. It leaned heavily on imagery from the post-Katrina flooding of New Orleans.
Set to a gospel version of the last stanza of Bob Dylan's "Pressing On," the one-minute ad juxtaposes photos of inundated landmarks and neighborhoods, shortly after Hurricane Katrina, with their stages of recovery today. There are no spoken words, but it ends with the words "Let's Keep It Going" and Landrieu's mantra of "One Team" flashing on the screen.

The good news about this spot is that it is ripe for parody. 

One can imagine an ad set to "Ain't Dere No More" where people hold up photos of what used to be wherever all the new Walgreens and Dollar Stores are. 

Or we could hold up a photo of some musicians on a corner in front of that same corner where a code enforcement officer waives a decibel meter at us.

Or we could stand on Jackson Avenue and hold up the asking price of the Da Fresh Seafood Market.
But late last week, The Lens found the store shuttered and posted with “for sale” signs. The 1,000 square-foot building is on the market for $339,000.

In August 2012, the Fresh Food Retail Initiative loaned Kariker $117,000 — $17,550 of which was forgivable, according to the mortgage — to open DaFresh Seafood.

The store was the first beneficiary of the program, which has since loaned more than $2 million for projects including a Whole Foods in Mid-City and the reopening of the Circle Food Store in the Seventh Ward.

FFRI is a grant program designed to bring grocers into so-called "food deserts"; poorer neighborhoods without ready access to fresh healthy groceries. In practice, it's turning out to be just seed money for real estate flipping.

Or maybe we could shoot one in the Quarter where we hold a photo of Brennan's in front of a photo of a shuttered Brennan's in front of another photo of Brennan's while unpaid Brennan's employees wait patiently in the background.

That one is my favorite. More than any of these other images, in illustrates the static economic, social and political hierarchy of the city despite its many celebrated but superficial "signs of progress."

The "show about New Orleans for New Orleanians" that isn't actually for New Orleanians

Some of you, for whatever reason, may still actually think about the show Treme from time to time.  It's almost over now.  This means people will be slightly more likely to talk about it for a while.

Here's a short post by Brian Moore which touches on the, by now, familiar criticisms of the show; its slow pacing, its lack of a compelling narrative arc, its overwrought NOLAier-than-thou scenesterism. But this passage, I think, contains the most important point.

The final line of defense is it’s a show about New Orleans, for New Orleanians. There are all sorts of problems with that – since when is parochialism a virtue? – but based on the anecdotal evidence I see on New Orleans social media, it’s my guess Treme‘s not as popular in The Big Easy as some assume it to be. Stack it up against a Saints game and its local ratings would plummet to zero. Around 29 million households in the United States pay for HBO; with disposable income being limited in New Orleans and with all the complaints about a local “digital divide,” here’s doubting many of them are clustered in Orleans Parish. If the show is Simon’s gift to the city, then there’s a certain lack of gratitude.
Treme is not a show "for New Orleanians." It is a show for a very specific upper middle class slice of premium cable subscribers who harbor a romanticized fetish for non-threateningly exotic American vacation spots. 

Anyway Moore's post sparked a long-ish Twitter discussion the other day which caused me to go back and dig up my review of the pilot.  When I posted that a bunch of pissed off people told me to "trust the storyteller" and give the genius time to unravel his narrative or whatever.  But looking back, there's nothing in that post that isn't still true today. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


This is also probably Emeril's fault.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in the past few weeks this one spot has yielded 1.5 million pounds of “oily material” – a designation that includes oil products as well as associated shell, sand and water.

And that’s in addition to 1.79 million pounds already collected from Fourchon, by far the largest share of the 8.9 million pounds recovered from all Louisiana beaches in the past two years.
This is turning out to be kind of a big news day for BP.  They've also racked up their first Macondo-related conviction.
Shortly after beginning its third day of deliberations, a federal jury Wednesday morning convicted BP engineer Kurt Mix of one count of obstructing justice.

Mix was the target of the government’s first criminal prosecution resulting from the 2010 BP oil spill for allegedly obstructing justice by deleting a string of text messages and voice mails. On Tuesday, jurors told U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. they could not agree unanimously on the two obstruction counts, each of which carries a maximum prison term of 20 years. Duval sent the jury back into deliberations after reading the “Allen charge,” a last-resort measure meant to push a jury to reach a verdict.

Plenty of other places to get Dolphins

Nothing to worry about here.
Nearly half the bottlenose dolphins in Barataria Bay tested in mid-2011 to assess natural resources' damage in the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill were in “guarded or worse” condition, including 17 percent that were not expected to survive, according to a peer-reviewed study released Wednesday morning.
Probably all Emeril's fault, anyway

"A way of life"

Guess those borderline racist commercials with the black lady actor telling you about her secret recipe really paid off.
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Many Western New Yorkers waited hours for their dinner Wednesday night.
"Just didn't expect it to be three hours and there was a point where I couldn't turn around," Buffalo resident Joe Guido said.

"We actually just decided just to swing by, see how it was and how fast it would go and we just ended up being stuck on line so we were like, 'let's see how far we can go,'" Amherst resident Candy Rodriguez said.

Buffalo, meet Popeye's Chicken. Some transplants already familiar with the national chain swear it was worth the wait.

"Wouldn't classify Popeye's as fast food. It's something else. It's like a culture, a way of life, a cuisine I guess," Buffalo resident Rob Fussell said.
Um... no. It's fast food. But enjoy waiting in line all day. It's not the most encouraging thing to see we're so trained that we conflate corporate branding with, "a culture, a way of life." I'm pretty sure this means the terrorists have won big time. 

And I'm not picking on Buffalo here.  It's all over New Orleans too.

Just a few steps behind Velez, a weary group of Xavier University students sat gathered on the red carpet rolled out onto the sidewalk; they too had stayed up all night in anticipation of being among the first visitors to the new store.

"I love H&M so much I slept on the street," said Shelby Barb, 21. "I'm wearing my only sweater, I need winter clothes! And I thought, why wait? New Orleans made a really great decision."
In the middle of the line, 25-year-old Algiers resident LaToya Comeaux waited patiently for the store to open.

"The first time I saw H&M was in New York, in 2006," Comeaux said. "I've been waiting for this since then. This is going to make the French Quarter easier for families to shop in a more affordable way. This is definitely good for New Orleans."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The beatings will continue

It's all fun and games until the day the adderall runs out.
New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley was waived on Tuesday after missing two crucial field goals against the St. Louis Rams.
Hartley has been something of a lightning rod for fans during his tenure.   His body of work reveals him to be a more or less average kicker.  He has talent. No one has doubted his range. But he's also been maddeningly inconsistent and that inconsistency has cost the Saints more than a few close games.

Here are some statistics, compiled by other people on Twitter.

The Graham there refers to Shayne Graham. The Saints signed him this evening to replace Hartley on the roster. For a minute, we were worried that the placekicking duties might fall to recently benched left tackle Charles Brown. That may have gone badly.

Anyway, here's more. 

No one should be surprised to see him go. And yet there will most certainly be some strenuous objections.  The guy has had some passionate defenders over the years.  I'm at a bit of a loss as to why that is. It's easy to suggest, as some have, that "he's the guy who got us into the Superbowl."  And maybe that's true in a way.  Although it's more correct to say that Brett Favre did that.

Still he did hit that one kick. Maybe that meant he did "deserve to be here."  For a little while, anyway.

On notice

You guys better shape up around here because it's a long season and we're not gonna commit to playing all two of the rest of these games with guys who aren't cutting it... or something.

Misery index

Big lottery jackpots are a good measure of how many people are miserable enough to spend a buck or two on the infinitesimal chance of being able to change everything around them. Folks must be getting pretty desperate.

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem"

I'm not actually trying to pile on poor Charles Brown here. He was responsible for the moment in Sunday's game where even the more level headed Saints fans began to lose hope.
Brown in the second quarter negated an 8-yard TD catch by Lance Moore with an illegal-use-of-hands penalty. Kicker Garrett Hartley subsequently tried a 36-yard field goal, but it was blocked by defensive tackle Michael Brockers with 2 seconds left in the half, giving St. Louis a 24-3 halftime lead.
But it's silly to pin that stinker performance on Brown alone.  Besides, Sean Payton has done enough picking on him already.
"I saw enough, period," Payton said. "It was enough penalties, pressures, sacks. It was enough. At some point you can’t just keep watching it."
Good grief.

Saints fans should have seen this coming when they opened up their morning internet devices and pointed them at Jeff Duncan's column.  Duncan was arguing (some say backhandedly)  in favor of Coach Of The Year consideration for Payton partially because of his work with telling Charles Brown not to hold people.
This attention to detail manifests itself in an accountability that was noticeably missing a year ago. Remember that 12 men on the field infraction Patrick Robinson drew last season when he failed to hustle to the sideline? There's no mental slippage this season with the hyper-intense Payton stalking the sidelines at practice and games.

When Charles Brown was called for six holding penalties in the Saints' first eight games Payton addressed it. Brown hasn't had a holding call since.
Guess that whole losing Patrick Robinson for the year to injury is a bonus stroke of coaching genius, right?  But, as long as Brown is suiting up each week, these little issues can still pop up. 

Anyway, it took a while for the press to catch up with Brown. He wasn't in the mood to talk in the locker room, but he did have this to say later while in the course of holiday preparations.


The good news is there will still be more football.  It would be ungrateful for Saints fans to fail to recognize 10 wins with a chance for much better as anything other than a blessing... not exactly a Christmas miracle or anything, but it's important not to take these seasons for granted. These are still the good times.  

The Saints have one more opportunity to lay this increasingly vexing "can't win on the road" trope to rest and claim the division in the process.  And even if they don't there will be plenty to talk about with a difficult trip to the playoffs ahead of them.

Meanwhile, there's the matter of improving on Charles Brown's Christmas display.

In that spirit, we present Celebration In The Sinkhole 2013. This year's theme: "Dreaming Of A Safety Orange Christmas"

Celebration In The Sinkhole 2013

Like the Saints, in 2013, this sinkhole isn't always pretty. But it's still a pretty neat thing to look at.
Linus Van Pelt: I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It's not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The impossible dream

Seems like we've hit one of those notable death clusters over the past week or so. Nelson Mandela, Frank Davis, Geroge Rodrigue, and now Peter O'Toole all gone now.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

So this happened

Don't know why we get an upside-down perspective here but ok. #RumorHasIt.. or at least... anecdotal evidence in the form of people I know telling me their plans has it, that a very large number of Saints fans have made this trip. Already making their mark.

Return to "troubled times"

On the last day of qualifying, Manny Bruno jumped into the mayor's race after all.

It wouldn't be a mayor's race in New Orleans without Manny Chevrolet.
The entertainer and perennial candidate jumped in at the last minute Friday, qualifying to run against incumbent Mayor Mitch Landrieu, former Civil District Judge Michael Bagneris and NAACP local chapter Predisdent Danatus King.
Now that the horses are lined up, I'm looking forward to seeing how people handicap this race.  Once the fanfare over Bagneris's entry settles, his path to victory is still difficult to see from here. Mitch will have conservative whites sewn up entirely. He's likely to get 80-90 percent of less conservative whites as well. It's especially difficult for me to imagine any of the recent white transplants who get so much media attention being anything other than Landrieu voters... although I'm also wondering how likely they are to vote.

Mitch won't have the same big chunk of the black vote he enjoyed in 2010, but it's hard to imagine him not getting at least enough to put him over the top.  Jesus, that's just five minutes of thinking out loud here and I'm already wondering if this even gets to a runoff.

Avondale still barely breathing

Remains open in 2014 but only slightly.
Since inheriting Avondale, Huntington Ingalls has struggled to reinvent it as a manufacturer catering to the booming oil and gas industry. In February, Huntington Ingalls announced that it was opening a new office in Houston as it worked to find a partner to capitalize on exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
That oil and gas Industrial Rebirth  is still happening, right?   Is it?

Friday, December 13, 2013

City Upon A Hill

The City of St. George separatist movement takes on a religious dimension.
Proponents of incorporating a new city of St. George provided a church, a pulpit and a traveling minister to make their pitch to area residents Thursday night. From the pulpit at Woodlawn Baptist Church, Rev. C.L. Bryant—a conservative backer of the tea party movement from Shreveport—delivered a passionate message about how the people of southeast East Baton Rouge Parish had to form a city to protect themselves from "the titans—the people who run the show" in Baton Rouge and to thwart the "totalitarian tyrannical hand coming down on this country."

Signing the incorporation petition and then voting in favor of a new city will "send a message" to "the titans," he said. Amid outcries from the audience of, "That's right!" and "Yes!" and outbursts of applause, Bryant said the choice of how one is governed is "the essence of American liberty," adding, "This is a uniquely American thing you are doing." In one of several references to the founding of the republic, Bryant noted that "it is they who are using your tax dollars while you are being under-served by them." He urged residents to "stand up for God and country" by signing the petition.
So the obvious temptation is to draw comparison with Jonathan Winthrop's famous "Model of Christian Charity" sermon.  As every fourth grader should know, the sermon  from which we get the following,
For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.
has, in later centuries, become a touchstone of the rhetoric of American Exceptionalism.  It's also sometimes used as a shorthand dogwhistle code for fundamentalists concerned with putting God back in the Gubmint.

But there are problems with this sort of appropriation. 

The residents of the Breakaway Republic Of St. George are rushing  to secede from Baton Rouge not so much out of a desire to demonstrate their Christian Charity but instead to ensure that they don't have to pay for other people's children to go to school anymore. 

If the St. Georgians had hired (curious about Bryant's speaker's fee, btw) Winthrop to speak to their meeting, one wonders what they would have made of this.
Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck, and to provide for our posterity, is to follow the counsel of Micah, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God. For this end, we must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Serpas Signal

If you're hitting the company Holiday party Friday evening, try not to get too jolly for the sleigh ride home.
The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint on Friday, December 13, 2013, in Orleans Parish. The check point will begin at approximately 9:00 P.M. and will conclude at about 5:00 A.M. Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc., available if requested.
On the other hand, it's definitely a good idea to dress as Santa, since we all know the police will never profile him

Brennan v Brennan ad infinitum

Good grief
A federal appeals court Thursday (Dec. 12) put Theodore "Ted" Brennan back in charge of Brennan's Incorporated. Until recently, the corporation owned the landmark Brennan's restaurant at 417-425 Royal St. Ted's brother Owen "Pip" Brennan had been the president of Brennan's Inc. since June, when he wrestled control away from Ted in a contentious stockholder vote.
Speaking of not buying that "spend more time with the family" line. 

Suddenly the other teams all showed up

I mentioned yesterday that I've been a crappy blogger lately.  Sometimes that actually works in one's favor.  Late last week when I started to write about the qualifying for the 2014 municipal elections, the whole thing was about how positively boring this race was shaping up to be.

The Mayor was (and, of course, still is) steamrolling everyone in the so called money primary. More importantly, he was running virutually unopposed. His only announced challenger at the time was the underfunded and relatively weak local NAACP chapter president Danatus King.

This was a concerning circumstance. What the hell had happened to our city?  Eight years ago we managed to field 20 mayoral candidates.  I still get around this town well enough to know we aren't running low on crazy people and suspicious characters.  If Mitch's money machine is going to scare away all the credible candidates, that doesn't mean we can't throw in a few wild cards.  Where is Kimberly Buter nowadays? (Not Disneyland, apparently.)  Where is Manny "Chevrolet" Bruno? The times, they are still quite troubled.   We've spent the better part of 2013 fretting about the changing nature of "what it means to be a New Orleanian" If we don't even know how to get a laugh out of an election anymore, then maybe the times are more troubled than we thought.

Mayor Landrieu, long an enthusiast of Orwellian political slogans, ("One City One Voice") stayed true to form tagging his official qualifying TwitPic Wednesday morning with "#OneTeam"

I can't say enough how disturbing this is to me. If there's only one team, is there any point to even watching the game?  If there's only one voice in government, are we really still participating in a democracy? If there's only one shade of red, how will Jackie Clarkson know which blazer to wear each day of the week?

Luckily that feeling began to change a bit this week as the rest of the program began to fill out. The biggest news was the announcement Wednesday that Judge Michael Bagneris was resigning his seat on the bench presumably to run for Mayor. As of the end of the day Thursday, Bagneris still hadn't qualified but he probably needed some time to get his #OneOtherTeam together.

But before the Bagneris announcement, things were already starting to liven up.  First, we learned that District C Councilwoman Kristin Palmer was taking her decibel meter and going home.  Because Palmer's decision came so close to qualifying time, many observers wondered if perhaps something was up.  "What is up?" they asked.  Palmer responded in the universal language of, I am telling you some meaningless bullshit right now.
Gisleson Palmer acknowledged eyebrows arch any time an elected official uses "family reasons" as explanation for dropping out of public office. But she offered compelling evidence: Two of her three daughters could start college in the next few years and they have suggested that she can jump back into campaigning once they are out of the house.
Yes I'm sure that right smack in the middle of the Holiday angst and stress is exactly the time of year when we all wish we could spend even more time with our families.  Or maybe something else happened. Palmer had already drawn a fairly strong opponent in Nadine Ramsey. According to Christopher Tidmore, though it was thought Palmer still held the general advantage, the campaign would have been a trial.

Palmer still enjoyed significant support in the Vieux Carre, Marigny, and gentrifying portions of Tremé, Bywater, and Algiers Point, so still would have proven a strong re-election contender. Just not one without peril. Palmer would have had to convince suburban Algiers voters who cast a ballot for Jeff Arnold’s father Tom four years ago to back her, while still maintaining at least a portion of the African-American vote that carried her to victory against another white candidate. (She’s a Democrat. Tom Arnold’s a Republican, unlike his State Rep. son.)

Palmer could win, but in a bitter, expensive battle that would leave her campaign indebted for years. Meanwhile, her daughters are finishing high school in the next two years and will be starting college. Palmer has said openly that she might return to politics at that point, lending credence to her claim that she wanted to spend more time with her kids.

And time is on her side. Right now, the seat if 58 percent African-American. At current rates of gentrification and in-migration, though, the historic parts of District “C” are transforming. Gentrification is bringing in wealthier and more Caucasian voters, exactly Palmer’s base. Treme, the first Faubourg for “free men of color”, may become a white majority neighborhood in five years if current trends continue, according to some observers.

Moreover, Algiers as a whole is growing less Black, if more multiracial, more Vietnamese and more Hispanic. That benefits a moderate white Democrat like Palmer. After all, there is a history of popular politicians returning to the Council from the West Bank after years away. Jackie Clarkson stands as living proof.
So maybe we'll look for a Kristin Palmer comeback in a few years when she's a bit more rested and her district is maybe a little less... tan.

It's interesting to note here that Tidmore's read on demographic trends in Algiers seems different from Allan Katz's and Danae Colombus's interpretation.
Even after State Rep. Jeff Arnold decided not to make the race (he accepted a senior position with FNBC Bank), by all accounts Kristin would have had a tough challenger in Nadine Ramsey, who is very popular with female African-American voters. The demographics in Algiers had changed since Katrina. Algiers’ African-American voters and consultants are flexing their muscles. The recent victory by newly elected Traffic Court Judge Steven Jupiter is a prime example.
I wonder what explains this variance.  My best guess is that where Tidmore sees Algiers becoming, "more multiracial"  Katz and Columbus see that as a point of strength for African American candidates more than anything else.  Or maybe that's not  the explanation at all.

In any event, Katz and Columbus point to something else no one else mentions.
But that might not have been the only reason Kristin got out. Another factor that might have impacted Kristin’s decision was the fact that the AFL-CIO was planning to spend a lot of money to defeat Kristin Palmer. AFL-CIO President Tiger Hammond said that the AFL-CIO leadership agreed to target Palmer because she was in their words “anti-union.” “We were going to target her just like we targeted Austin Badon in his race against James Gray,” said Hammond. “We had planned phone banks, signs, and outreach to union members. We ran an effective campaign against Badon and knew we could be effective against Palmer,” Hammond explained. “It’s not cheap, but it works.”
Kind of irksome that Katz and Columbus don't ask Hammond to elaborate on the specific policy beef with Palmer.  Or maybe they did but decided it wasn't relevant. That might have been interesting to know more about. Oh well. I'm pretty sure it didn't have anything to do with her not spending enough time with her family.

As for Jackie Clarkson, her family is grown enough to take care of itself now. So why not just keep on keeping on? Seems like they don't really want to deal with her anyway.
Saying she'd been "drafted back into service," New Orleans City Council President Jackie Clarkson announced this afternoon she would be running for the District C seat, which she's held twice before. She is currently an at-large member of the council and term limited, and had announced earlier this year that she planned to retire when her term was up in 2014.

Clarkson had planned to stay home and care for her husband Buzz, but got back in the race at the urging of Mayor Mitch Landrieu when the current District C representative, Kristin Gisleson Palmer, announced last week she would not run for a second term. After Landrieu's urging, Clarkson said, she spent the weekend talking to her family — and that Buzz and her five children all urged her to run for office again.
Looks like Mitch needed someone to on his #OneTeam in this seat and decided to trot out the old war horse one more time. Or maybe Jackie just decided to come back in order to show that elevator who is boss. (This could literally be true since the future of the entire City Hall building including its elevators may be at stake in this election.)  Whatever her reasons, lovers of good political pageantry welcome Jackie back to the stage this one last time.

We're also welcoming back Cynthia Willard-Lewis.  She's running again for her old District E council seat against an incumbent she endorsed in the last election. But despite being a sometime ally of the Mayor's and an acknowledged Friend Of Jackie, it doesn't appear as though she's on the #OneTeam this time out
The event also dashed a bit of cold water on the nascent campaign of Cynthia Willard-Lewis, the former councilwoman from District E, who will announce on Thursday she is challenging the freshman incumbent in District E, James Gray. Willard-Lewis is a longtime ally of Landrieu's, but in a conversation after Clarkson made her announcement, Landrieu said he would be endorsing Gray rather than Willard-Lewis. "Cynthia and I are friends," he said, "but this is about results rather than friendship."

Clarkson intends to remain neutral in the District E race. She said she was supporting, if not endorsing, all the incumbents in the council race, but when asked specifically about Gray, she hesitated. "I mean, I'm supporting the incumbents whom I've worked with for a long time," she said.
Perhaps feeling a little bit spurned by all this, Cynthia was taking shots at Gray on the very first day of campaigning.
She opened her campaign earlier this week by explaining sharply why she is trying to oust a councilman she endorsed for the seat only last year, pointing to the slow pace of development in New Orleans East and the 9th Ward and saying, “I had high hopes for our councilman, but I know we must make a change and we can do better.”

Gray defended his relatively brief tenure in an interview on Wednesday, mentioning the new Wal-mart coming to New Orleans East, as well as a planned Office of Motor Vehicles location and improvements to Joe Brown Park. “She needs to look around,” Gray said.
And we thought this going to be boring.  There are already plenty of twisty plots for us to follow, not only in the council races but also in the coroner's race where Frank Minyard's assistant is running against him for some reason.
In the coroner’s race, the 84-year-old incumbent drew an unexpected challenge from his second-in-command. Rouse said he had not cleared his candidacy with Minyard before tossing his hat in the ring, though he said he had talked to the coroner months earlier about running. He said he hadn’t returned a call from Minyard as of Wednesday evening.

“How it will shake out with my current employment and boss I don’t know,” Rouse said. “It will be an interesting conversation.”
Minyard also faces a likely challenge from Dwight McKenna who, in a previous attempt at this office, put out one of the wackiest campaign ads in recent memory.

And of course there's the Sheriff's election where everyone expected trouble anyway. Marlin Gusman has been the Mayor's highest profile nemesis during his first term as the two have fought publicly over the cost of federal consent decree reforms at Orleans Parish Prison.  Although things have cooled down recently, it's not surprising to see the #OneTeam enter a challenger here.

While Landrieu hasn't made an official endorsement, he has close ties to Charles Foti, who is attempting to do one of those once and future king things.
Foti is a cousin of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who has feuded with Gusman in recent months over the cost of the jail's federal consent decree. So far, Landrieu remains neutral in the race, and he and Gusman reached a temporary (and tenuous) budget accord in October.
Another notable entry here is Quentin Brown.  Brown made a name for himself when he ran for City Council in 2006 as a frustrated Post-Katrina Everyman Comic Relief type of candidate.  Brown's campaign signs that year were homemade posters scrawled in permanent marker with slogans like, "No More Bullshit" and "I Care About U"

Quentin Brown

I only took the time to get one photo of those.  Maybe he'll bring them back. Or maybe they were just of a moment in time we need not re-visit.

Speaking of which, I had read earlier that 2010 Mayoral candidate Comedian/activist Jonah Bascle was considering a challenge to District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry although "as far as he knows, Guidry has done a decent job representing her district."

Other than that, the final day of qualifying tomorrow will pretty much just be about waiting for Bagneris.  Well.. that and waiting to see what Nick Saban does but that was pretty much a given before the week began.

Update: Bagneris made time to talk to the media today at his home... or maybe he just listened.
In what seemed like a clear preview of campaign themes Bagneris will be employing in the next few weeks, his campaign manager pointed out, “Judge Bagneris has spent the past 20 years perfecting the art of listening.”

“That’s going to be a tremendous quality for someone who is the mayor of this city,” Buisson continued. “To be able to listen to people from all walks of life and what their concerns are.”
Oh dear I hope he's got something better than that up his sleeve. On the other hand, it sort of recalls Sidney Barthelemy's 1986 reelection campaign slogan, "Quietly Getting the Job Done"  Obviously some local consultant believes voters don't want to put up with too much noise coming out of their candidates. 

In that case, now would be a good time to be in the designer ear plug business.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

We may be deciding to have an election after all

Last week I answered a telephone poll about the upcoming municipal elections.  Candidates are in the process of qualifying this week.

The poll started off pretty blandly. They wanted to know how likely I was to vote and then ran through a list of political names asking for favorability ratings.  I'm always very likely to vote and I think everybody is terrible. There's probably a high correlation between those responses but I've never bothered to look that up.

Anyway, the interesting part of the poll came toward the end where there were a series of questions that came in the typical "push-poll" format.  "If you learned (UNFLATTERING INFORMATION) about (CANDIDATE) would you be more or less likely to support him/her?"  There were, I think, four of these about Mayor Landrieu.

I can't for the life of me remember specifically what issues they touched on. If I had written about it last week it would still be fresh in my mind. Sorry. I'm kind of a crappy blogger lately.  I can say they were all factual.. meaning the poll wasn't lying about the Mayor.  But they were definitely phrased in a negative way.

The final question was about Judge Michael Bagneris.  It asked, "If you learned that Judge Bagneris..." and here the questioner just read off Bagneris's bio, educational background, and supposedly glowing qualifications... "would you be more or less likely to support him as a candidate for Mayor?"

And that's why I always answer these surveys.  You pick up on the most interesting things that way.

Even though it was clear Bagneris was considering a run, I thought it unlikely he'd actually get in.  He's definitely a first-tier type of candidate if maybe not a citywide household name.  Plus Mitch looks pretty near unbeatable right now... at least if you're counting money.  
If finances alone were to determine the outcome of this race, Landrieu is ahead by a landslide. His campaign has raised over $2 million. His closest challenger has raised just a little over $1,000.

So far, the only opposition Landrieu is facing is lawyer and local NAACP president, Danatus King.
 Except now Bagneris is apparently in.
And he's facing a steep uphill run.  He must have some strong reasons for jumping in anyway. Or maybe he's just deluded about something. I'll be curious to know what he has to say about it.

Keep on frackin'

Nothing to see here.
Last week, Baton Rouge-based minerals consultant Dan Collins said truck traffic on rural roads is the top environmental concern at the moment. “The Florida Parishes have little industry and aren’t suitable for crops or grazing livestock,” he said. “It’s mostly pine trees and roads without traffic lights.” Groundwater isn’t a major concern for now, Collins said. “Oil deposits in the TMS are deep and well below the water table, making groundwater less susceptible to contamination than in shallower plays,” he said.

But retired Lt. General Russel Honore in Baton Rouge said waste water from fracking is often injected underground in nearby wells and can contaminate drinking water and the food chain. “It might seem safely stored away but could affect water supplies of future generations,” he warned. Leaching and seismic activity are among the potential threats to stored waste water. Honore is the leader of the Green Army, formed in Louisiana in September to raise environmental awareness.

But it will all be oh so "civil"

When the telecoms finally do kick you off the internet, keep an eye out for establishment media persons celebrating the return of  "civil discourse."  You might be surprised how robustly this will be cheered.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Also, it keeps the brand out there

Chinese state media come up with a whole list of the various benefits of smog.
On Monday the website of China's state broadcaster CCTV published a list of five "unexpected benefits" brought by the crippling smog.

It said the haze had unified Chinese people, as they find solidarity in their complaints; equalised them, as both rich and poor people are vulnerable to its effects; enlightened them, as they realise the cost of rapid growth; and "made Chinese people more humorous", as smog-related jokes proliferate on the internet.