Friday, January 31, 2014

Chewbacca defense

Ray Nagin's attorney Robert Jenkins wants you to know that Rodney Williams' testimony does not make sense.
Williams pleaded guilty in 2012 to paying Nagin more than $72,000 in bribes. He faces 37 months in prison, and is awaiting sentencing. Williams' plea deal is predicated on cooperation with prosecutors -- a point Jenkins tried to use to discredit his testimony.

Jumping back and forth in time, and from topic to topic, Jenkins grilled Williams on the details of his plea agreement, his meeting with Nagin's sons to his dealings with federal investigators. At one point, Jenkins' line of questioning was so confusing that Williams had to ask for clarification.

While asking Williams about his meeting with federal investigators, to whom Williams admitted lying on two occasions, Williams stopped the attorney.

"With all due respect sir, it's kind of confusing because you are jumping all around," Williams said.

"You're confused about who you lied to?" Jenkins replied.
 Veteran legal observers will recognize this as the famous "Chewbacca Defense"

Also today in the Nagin trial, Greg Meffert made it clear he had no qualms over selling out his erstwhile "undercover brother."
Meffert also testified that Nagin knew exactly who paid for a family trip to Jamaica shortly after Katrina.  He said Nagin and he used Blackberries to discuss sensitive issues so they wouldn't become public.

However, the government was able to retrieve the actual Blackberries in question and retrieve a few of the messages between Meffert and Nagin. Among the messages was one where Nagin advised Meffert not to deal with businessman Aaron Bennett because he talked too much, including to then-TP investigative reporter Gordon Russell.

There was also a message where Nagin was excited after finding out that Meffert had scored some tickets to the Saints' 2006 NFC Championship game.

"You the man, and has always been my undercover brother."

Meffert further stated that he tried to get a roofer to fix Nagin's roof, but that the contractor was spooked when he found out that St. Pierre's company would pay for it. Another time a $1,080 charge on a St. Pierre credit card went for liquor for Nagin's 50th birthday party.
 I also like the bit about the "spooked" roofer. If true, it means that St. Pierre literally haunted Nagin's house. 

Interesting that Jenkins wasn't very aggressive in his cross-examination of Meffert. It's been kind of a mystery as to why Nagin hadn't taken a plea deal up to this point. But now that we're at trial, it seems like a more vigorous effort at refuting Meffert's testimony would be in order.  Stuff like this, for example.

Of course, if we are gonna go down that road of looking through mayoral aides' text messages, that road goes to interesting places.
As the mayor’s race entered the home stretch, some department heads at City Hall received text messages requesting that they attend a campaign debate and canvas neighborhoods for Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s re-election effort.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Atlas shrugging

If you're over, say, 30 years old, this probably looks really weird to you.
Murray said he wanted to knock down rumors that Atlas’ decision was a ridership issue, saying the organization still has 300 members, but he conceded that number has been as high as 400 since Hurricane Katrina and is a far cry from the 600 members the krewe had 25 years ago.

The parade, he said, would have had 15 floats this year and was scheduled to roll on a Sunday, rather than its traditional Friday slot.

Murray joined the list of Mardi Gras watchers noting that Jefferson’s offerings are suffering in comparison with those of New Orleans.

“I personally think it’s because of New Orleans,” he said. “When you talk Mardi Gras, you talk New Orleans. I’m not saying it’s all the press, but they build up Mardi Gras in New Orleans more than Jefferson Parish.”

Hardy said that while the reasons for the decline in Jefferson parades aren’t entirely clear, “certainly Veterans Boulevard is not as attractive (to riders) as St. Charles Avenue. Everyone wants to parade on St. Charles Avenue.”
When I was growing up, an article like this would read exactly the opposite. Everyone was going to the Metairie parades while the old folks would worry about the future of parades in Orleans Parish.  It wasn't that anyone thought the main event parades were in trouble since there would always be plenty of tourists to play to. But these concerns about ridership and the appeal of Veterans vs. St. Charles Avenue for the membership of smaller krewes were 180 degrees the other way.

I'm, of course, an Orleans partisan, but I don't think it bodes particularly well for Carnival in general that only one parish's (and really, one route in particular) attracts enough interest to sustain parading organizations.  Seeing the main events of a regional celebration confined to such a narrowly defined space is probably not a healthy sign.

It probably also says something about the relative wealth and "vitality" of the city vs its suburbs which, itself, would surprise the hell out of anyone old enough to remember the heyday of Metairie parades as well.

The real victims

Last gasp of Icepocalypse

Sure the ice is melted but the long term ramifications are only beginning to become apparent.
The prolonged cold also means crawfish aren't eating and are likely to be smaller than normal at the peak of crawfish season, said farmer David Savoy of Church Point.

People may have to order ahead even at the peak of the season, said Craig Lutz, an LSU AgCenter professor and aquaculture specialist.

"I think it's fair to say that when we get to Mardi Gras and we get to Easter, we're definitely going to be behind what we would be in a normal season. There'll still be crawfish available. But I think people are going to have to plan a lot better to make sure they have crawfish on those weekends when they want them," he said Wednesday.
Ok but before you freak out, know that we've been down this road before and things have turned out relatively fine.  In fact it seems like there's at least one crawfish pricing scare article published per year at about this time. 

So is this the "list that counts"?

The Advocate looks at the list of witnesses in the (snow day delayed) Nagin trial. This bit is interesting.
The government did not list as witnesses any of the principals in the 12-screen movie theater at the Lake Forest Plaza mall in New Orleans East.

That could suggest that the scheme will receive less attention than the others at the trial. It almost certainly indicates that George Solomon, the partner in the movie theater deal who prosecutors say paid Nagin off, has not conceded that his underwriting of a Nagin family vacation was a bribe.
It was reported also today that Solomon, who with his partners in the theater deal is on the hook for $6.2 million owed to the city still has enough money to throw around in political donations to mayor Landrieu's campaign which, as we all know, are definitely not bribes.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Busy busy busy

Take the day off next time.
It looks like there's lots of anger - justifiable anger - at the failure of the local and state governments to do more to prevent the madness that occurred Tuesday. Atlanta prizes itself on being busy, busy, busy. Too busy to hate is one of its mottos. But sometimes it helps to take an approach that's more natural to the South and slow down.

So send everyone home and hunker down

It's no one's fault, they're not equipped to handle an event like this.
How much money do you set aside for snowstorms when they're as infrequent as they are? Who will run the show—the city, the county, or the state? How will preparedness work? You could train everyone today, and then if the next storm hits in 2020, everyone you've trained might have moved on to different jobs, with Atlanta having a new mayor and Georgia having a new governor.
So the question is, shouldn't the city and state persons (There are a lot of them. Atlanta's regional government is unwieldy to say the least.) known enough about this situation to say, "Hey, everybody maybe let's take a couple days off from work and school"?

That's about the extent of the damage around here

Frost on the sinkhole

Sinkhole got a little frosty. It's a shame we didn't get to go play in the snow and all but a couple days off in the middle of the week is always nice. This whole month has kind of felt like one big extended weekend. Not sure when we get into the actual business of 2014. Maybe after the election. Maybe after Mardi Gras.

Anyway, it could have been a lot worse. I noticed a lot of snark of the "Where I'm from, they'd never cancel school just because of a little ice" variety coming over the wires the other day. Here's what happens when you let those people tell you what to do.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Immobilized mobile vendors

The increasingly absurd world of food trucks.
A permanent food truck lot is under development in Central City at 2000 OC Haley Blvd., the site of several recent food truck gatherings.

Construction on the lot, a project of the non-profit organization Good Work Network, should begin in early summer and finish a few months later.

The lot will provide parking spaces for six trucks along with booths made from recycled shipping containers. It will operate Tuesday through Saturday from mid-day until early evening. The goal of the project is to serve both a lunch and an after-work crowd.

A delivery service is under consideration for workers in the CBD.

Death panels

Yes, there are death panels.  They're just not the death panels you've been told about.
In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers said that his company’s new cancer drug, Nexavar, isn’t “for Indians,” but “for western patients who can afford it.”

The drug, which is particularly effective on late-stage kidney and liver cancer, costs approximately $69,000 per year in India, so in March 2012 an Indian court granted a license to an Indian company to produce to the drug at a 97 percent discount.

Bayer sued Natco Pharma Ltd., but in March of last year, the High Court in Mumbai denied its appeal. Bayer CEO called the compulsory license issued by the Indian court “essentially theft,” then said “[w]e did not develop this medicine for Indians…[w]e developed it for western patients who can afford it.”

Winter hunker?

St Charles Streetcar in the snow
Snow on St. Charles Avenue December 2008

One would hope the "New New Orleanians" running stuff around here would understand that it's asking a bit much of people to presume they're prepared to commute in wintry mix condidtions.

Driving in the snow

Those pictures are from 2008 when we received less than one inch of snow and minimal ice on the roads.  I stupidly tried to drive a little bit that day.  I do not recommend asking New Orleanians to do this.

See also this past weekend

If there's gonna be one of those Everybody Hunker Down pressers, today would be the day to round up the usual participants in that.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Richer city

James Reiss 2005:
He says he has been in contact with about 40 other New Orleans business leaders since the storm. Tomorrow, he says, he and some of those leaders plan to be in Dallas, meeting with Mr. Nagin to begin mapping out a future for the city.

The power elite of New Orleans -- whether they are still in the city or have moved temporarily to enclaves such as Destin, Fla., and Vail, Colo. -- insist the remade city won't simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate. The city has few corporate headquarters.

The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."

Mitch Landrieu 2014:
Landrieu argues that if the federal government and the state keep cutting back, New Orleans could be in trouble. Cities that have already modernized and attracted economic development, he argues, will pull away from those that haven’t.

Hence the mayor’s new focus on 2018, when the city will celebrate its tricentennial. Hence the campaign to bring the Super Bowl back that year, another chance to showcase the city. Hence the plans for a bigger airport, one that can operate more cheaply, reduce costs for airlines and — the mayor hopes — attract more flights. Hence the new rules governing the city’s cabs, which now have to have credit card machines and other amenities.

“You can see this as far away as Mars,” Landrieu said. “Poorer cities are going to have less; richer cities are going to have more. You’ve got to find a way to get past that, and I’m not particularly sure of what the answer is, except that you have to get honest, you have to get clean and you have to get smart, and you have to have a place where people want to come.

If you presume to participate in government and politics during the New Gilded Age, you  have two choices. You can either focus your efforts on standing against the crushing wave of injustice visited upon our civic life by the wealthy and powerful or you can focus on a "data-driven, objective" approach to catering to the desires of the wealthy and powerful since the objective data indicates that they're pretty much winning anyway.  

Mitch has chosen the latter path for New Orleans. Maybe he's right. Democracy doesn't work anymore. Better to just hand everything over to the baronage. Sucks for you if you're not among the winners there.  But you'd better not talk back or do any "rabble rousing" otherwise someone will think you are a Nazi or something.

What is the point?

If you're going to allow reporters into the coutroom at all, the implication there is that the proceedings will be, you know, reported on.   Why does it matter how and when the reporting happens?
Berrigan's order prohibits "all electronic devices" -- including smart phones and any recording devices -- from the two courtrooms that will be used for the Nagin trial.

The rules differ significantly from earlier guidelines set forth by Berrigan, who notes that she "will reconsider allowing the privileges afforded in previously-issued orders regarding the use of wifi and electronic devices" after the jury is sworn in.
What is the difference to the judge between a person tweeting some information from the courtroom and that same person typing that same information from a different location a few hours later?


Way to go, guys.
 Couldn't be more proud of the diverse points of view represented in our robust political media.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Can't build on it. Can't grow anything in it.

The Government says it's due to poor farming. But I know what's really going on Stuart....

Actually, no idea what they're doing to the soil here. But I do know they're delaying the Crescent Park.. again.
The long-anticipated opening of Crescent Park, a $30 million, 1.4-mile long recreational area running along the Mississippi River from Elysian Fields Avenue to Mazant Street is once again in limbo.

Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson said she received information from the city's Capital Projects department that the park has soil contamination and remediation issues.

"We need a plan to make sure everything is in order, that it's environmentally safe, and has good maintenance," said Clarkson who didn't know the nature of the contamination. "We've made some of these mistakes before and we don't want to make them again
Have at your soil-based conspiracy theories.

You're out of order!

This is a short vignette from today's City Council meeting via Uptownmessenger's transcription. The council was discussing a resolution recommending the state legislature raise the minimum wage to $10.10.  Public comments got onto the tangential topic of cost of living.
The first speaker is a Chedric Roy Jr., former student body president at Southern University. He urges the city to consider raising the minimum wage "so we stop losing the best and the brightest ... because they can't afford to live in the 'new' New Orleans."

He says he doesn't know how he would be supporting himself if the film industry hadn't come to town.

"Most people don't want to be on government help, but they do want the help of the government," Roy says.

"People are losing their houses in the Uptown area, because insiders can see what's owed on a property," Roy says.

"We need your help," he concludes. "It's serious life and death."

"Your time is up," Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson says.

"Your time may be up," Roy shoots back, walking off.

"You're out of order," Clarkson says.

"You're out of order!" shout several people in the audience.

Clarkson asks Gray to call the deputy if he cannot take control of the proceeding, and Gray responds, "We will."
 I hope she was wearing the red blazer today. Anyway, there's more fun stuff in that post. Go check it out. 

Update: Ha! It gets better

Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson and Landrieu were singled out for special attention. Their names were featured on a cake emblazoned with decorative icing wishing them "Happy Trails," apparently on the assumption that similarly angry voters will toss them out of office in the Feb. 1 elections

Serpas Signal

The experiment: Do traffic checkpoints even work in "wintry mix" conditions?


I'm asking for a friend because it figures to be a busy night out there on the roads.

So if you're attending either of these events (or traveling between them, perhaps) do be advised that safe driving practices are encouraged. 
The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint, in Orleans Parish, on Thursday January 23, 2013, 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. 
I hope the Traffic Division officers don't have to stand out in the wintry mix conditions the entire time, though.  Or, at least, if they do, maybe they'll have a way to cope with the cold. A comforting beverage of some sort would be ideal.  

Council to ban burning down joints, ejecting baby from window

Carnival ordinance comes up today.

Now that the great T-P controversy has been put off for a year, most of these rules are OK. Except the snap-pops thing is stupid. Oh and there's no need to ban parking on St. Charles. It just creates a worse parking in the surrounding neighborhoods.  Oh and also too... most of the rules necessary to make Carnival work are already on the books.

Update: According to the tweets the ordinances passed as written by a 7-0 vote (Jackie just won another Superbowl).  I'm gonna miss those snap-pops. One of my favorite things to beg mom and dad to buy when I was a kid.

Big Money Mitch

Nobody knows anything about about how these guys are doing in the polls but we know who's winning the money game.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu continues to find the deep pockets of campaign donors, raising  $352,839 since Christmas Eve in his bid for a second term as New Orleans' top elected official. It's a sum that could make an already uphill climb even steeper for his chief rival, former state civil Judge Michael Bagneris.

Bagneris collected $126,926 between Dec. 24 and Jan. 12, but that included $50,000 of his own money, the latest campaign finance reports show. Landrieu raised $263,339 during that same time period, and another $89,500 during fundraisers last week.
There hasn't been an independent poll of the mayor's race released this month that I know about. And I'm having a hard time drawing a bead on just how far apart the candidates might be. There are some ways to go about guessing at that but I don't want to go too far into it right now since I've got a separate post about the horse race in draft. But my immediate observations based on the forum I attended tonight say that Bagneris is maybe getting a little desperate.

Trinity Lutheran Church

The forum was at Trinity Lutheran Church on N. Claiborne hosted by a group called Voters East Of The Industrial Canal.  So much of the focus was on the perception that New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward have been neglected or at least more slow to recover in relation to the rest of the city.  One would think that this is where Bagneris would be at his strongest, and he certainly seemed to have much of the room on his side, but he also seemed to land too few of his punches.

Asked about progress in the East and in the Lower Nine, Mitch listed a number of construction projects at or near completion including a police station, a library, Methodist Hospital, and a new Wal-Mart. Bagneris had OK responses to some of that. For example, he complained that there aren't enough actual police working out of the new 7th District station. And went into a bit of histrionics about the Wal-Mart.

"Wal-Mart? All we get is Wal-Mart!" 

And sure, nobody likes Wal-Mart. But it didn't help Bagneris' case in that regard that minutes later he was asking why the east isn't currently filled with sparkling new big box retail as far as the eye can see. In fact, a big part of Bagneris' economic development strategy seems to involve contacting "the CEOs of Target, Best Buy, (other box people)" and telling them that they don't currently operate stores in East New Orleans in case that gives them an idea.

Bagneris' weakest swing came at the Methodist Hospital project. "We still don't have a hospital," Bagneris said, "We have another promise for a hospital."  Except, in fact, the hospital is currently two thirds complete and due to be ready in May. Maybe it has been too long coming, but that is a lot more than just "another promise for a hospital."

And this has been Bagneris' problem. He draws no distinction between himself and Mitch upon which any voter can comfortably rest his of her support.  Bagneris could take a strongly contrasting position to Mitch's on Civil Service reform, or challenge his support of  the public ed reform scheme or question his role in the rising cost of living for poor and working people in New Orleans.  But he does none of this. In fact, it's difficult to determine if there's really any separation between the candidates at all on those issues.

Instead of attacking Landrieu for the things he really hasn't done or done well, Bagneris picks statistical nits at Mitch's presumed successes. Often times, as in the case of  Methodist Hospital, Bagneris makes assertions that surely not even he believes. It's especially puzzling since if Bagneris really wanted to attack Mitch's record on recovery projects all he has to do is point out that the great majority of them are funded and directed by FEMA in the first place. It might be Mitch's job to competently ensure that the federal recovery funds are spent. But it's not actually Mitch out there making the rain.  Katrina did that already.

Anyway, I'll come back to this later.  I realize that turning out an incumbent Mayor of New Orleans isn't a very likely proposition. My sense, though, is that there may have been an unusual opportunity for the right candidate and the right argument.  Michael Bagneris doesn't seem to be that guy right now.

And, like I said, it would have been hard anyway.  That's thanks in no small part to that big truck of money Mitch has.. which was the reason we got into this  tonight in the first place. 
Landrieu's list has its fair share of out-of-town donors, including $29,500 from political action committees, but much of his money came from New Orleans addresses -- a sign he still has a local wealthy donor list that he held in reserve for the campaign's final days, said Ed Chervenak, a political scientist at the University of New Orleans.
That "out-of-town" donors thing is interesting. Last week's New York Times ran a feature on the national parties' capacity to organize and direct massive amounts of money across state lines to specific state and even local elections they might consider strategically important.
Both networks arose to help Democrats and Republicans skirt the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, which sharply cut the flow of money from national parties to the states. But over the last three years they have been turbocharged by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which made it easier in many states for unions, corporations and the wealthy to pool money for large independent expenditures.

Today, state and even local races increasingly are financed by checks written hundreds or thousands of miles away. A five-figure contribution from a Colorado energy executive passes through a bank account registered in Pennsylvania, where it is mixed with money that ends up in the campaign coffers of an attorney general candidate in Iowa. Business money raised in Michigan, where corporate contributions to candidates are banned, fuels campaigns in Florida and Maine, where such contributions are legal.

Much of the money passes through a handful of Washington-based organizations: From 2006 to 2010, the volume of campaign cash flowing from Beltway-based groups to state parties and candidates almost doubled, to $139 million from $79 million, according to an analysis by The New York Times of data collected by the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

That figure is widely expected to grow in this year’s midterm elections: Strategists say donors are persuaded that dollars spent in relatively low-budget state elections can go further in advancing their agenda than money burned in the ceaseless trench warfare of Washington.
Recall that early on in this election, rumors began circulating that state Republicans might be scheming to help Mitch's opponent in some sort of bank shot attempt at "tarnishing the Landrieu brand" ahead of this year's Senate election. Clancy DuBos circulated those rumors thusly. 
My sources tell me Bagneris will benefit from a massive anti-Landrieu fundraising effort directed by Republican mullahs who are hell-bent on tarnishing the Landrieu brand in advance of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's re-election campaign next year. If that means financing a Bagneris campaign for mayor (or mounting a third-party ad campaign to help him), so be it.
Here's what that "massive anti-Landrieu fundraising effort" Bagneris is benefiting from looks like right now.
"For Bagneris, that well may be running dry," (Chervenak) said, referring to the judge's decision to inject his personal money into his campaign.

After spending more than $577,000 since Christmas, including $222,559 on television and radio advertising, Landrieu is left with $883,426 on hand to spend before the Feb. 1 election. Bagneris has $201,718 after spending about $145,000 -- including $83,192 on radio and television.
If the "Republican mullahs" are gonna drop their secret money bomb, now would be a good time. More likely, though, the mullahs are a mirage concocted specifically to help prime the pump of outside Democratic cash for the Landrieu campaign... not to mention garner a high profile endorsement at an opportune moment

But, hey, even when they've got you out money-gunned, that doesn't mean you can't spend strategically well.  Which brings us to the final bit in that campaign finance story I wanted to highlight.  Here's what that money buys you.
Both candidates paid political groups that endorsed them, according to the reports. Landrieu shelled out $4,000 to the Crescent City Democratic Association, $2,500 to the Spanish American Voters Alliance and $15,000 to the Independent Democratic Electors Association. On Jan. 19, Bagneris gave $12,500 to the Black Organization for Leadership Development, or BOLD; $15,000 to the Louisiana Independent Federation of Electors, or LIFE; and $5,000 to the Louisiana Democratic Party, whose Orleans Parish executive committee endorsed him earlier this month.
 Here's how The Advocate reported on some of these endorsements yesterday.
Give Michael Bagneris this: He may not have picked up the endorsement of President Barack Obama in his run for mayor, but he has succeeded in bringing most of the city’s black political organizations to his side.

The groups — once dismissed by former Mayor Ray Nagin as “alphabet soup” organizations because of their acronyms — may not have the clout they once did, but they’ve been remarkably unanimous in endorsing Bagneris, a longtime Civil District Court judge, over Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
 Yeah well maybe not quite so remarkably.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Every university is an oil and gas vo-tech

Jindal slashes hundreds of millions of dollars from Louisiana higher ed over a period of years.  Comes back in his final year in office and offers a portion of those cuts back.. sort of.. but with strings attached. 
After several years of inflicting cuts, Bobby Jindal is set to increase state higher education funding in next year's budget. The gov announced Tuesday that he is set to propose a $141.5 million increase in state-run colleges and universities for next fiscal year, which marks a 6.66 percent increase for 2013-14. More than a quarter of that money will go toward a program that provides money to colleges to partner with private industry, and implement workforce training programs for jobs in Louisiana's biggest economic sectors like oil & gas and manufacturing.
How did they find the money for their private-public vo-tech program?  Simple, they raised the price families pay to send their kids to college. 
While it’s technically true that under Jindal’s plan higher education institutions will have that much more money to work with compared with last year, nearly $88 million of that funding will come from students in the form of tuition increases allowed under the 2010 GRAD Act law.

The law allows schools to raise tuition 10 percent each year provided they meet certain performance benchmarks including improved graduation and retention rates.

But during the lean economic times of the past few years, schools would raise tuition under their GRAD Act authority, only to have lawmakers turn around and strip them of the same amount of state general fund dollars — erasing any gains the schools made by raising tuition.

Jindal’s plan would put an end to that practice.
In other words, the best way to describe this plan is it is a tax increase on college students applied to helping the petrochemical companies operating in Louisiana train their workers.   Here's how the Times-Picayune describes it in their headline.

TP Jindal headline

Technically, kind of true. Except that they're actually in line for about a fifth of what Jindal already cut from them.

Here's The Advocate.

Advocate Jindal headline

Again, just not at all descriptive of what's actually happening.  Although admittedly an improvement over the headline it ran under online yesterday which was, "Jindal plans to pump $140 million into higher ed"  The vestigial URL still exists


Although the text has been changed.  But it does tell you a little about how they think. 

Maybe the magic microbes ate it

BP can't even make good on commitments to their own employees' pensions.
Fritz Guenther, a BP employee and United Steelworkers Union member working in Alaska, who has worked for BP for 35 years, said he and his colleagues are "currently fighting to get back the pension plans that BP promised us in writing in 1989."

"We were openly lied to by BP managers and HR people that when we were converted to the "new" plan that it would be as good or better than the existing and industry competitive plan," Guenther told Truthout. "Now that many of us are reaching retirement age, we are finding out that we have less than 50 percent of what we would have had if BP's promise was true or if we had remained in the old plan."
Probably all Emeril's fault, though. 

Sport report

This is, I guess, an homage to a  parody of a satirist doing a fake commentary about.... Look, it's B&G's Ryan putting in his application to write for Colbert.
Two years ago the New Orleans Saints were accused of an institution-run “bounty” program that allegedly paid big bonuses for injuring opponents. While the Saints were never found guilty on this claim, the initial penalties to Coach Sean Payton and the franchise stood, even though the player penalties were revoked under arbitration.1

You may have gotten bored with these proceedings,2 but I think this should become our new judicial model. It’s like getting charged with first degree murder, only being convicted of third degree manslaughter, but still getting the death penalty.3

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The funny news is David Vitter wants to be your Governor

The less funny news is that he has the money and the support system to win.
Pearson Cross, head of the Department of Politics, Law and International Relations at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette said Vitter "poses a major problem for the other Republican contenders in this race."

"David Vitter has incredible name recognition and just won his last statewide election with nearly 60 percent of the vote," Cross said.

Vitter's approval ratings are high in Louisiana, and his ability to rake in campaign donations is strong. Already, the leader of a pro-Vitter super PAC said the organization has raised $1.5 million to support a gubernatorial run for the senator.

Several polls taken before Vitter's announcement showed the senator as the front-runner in the gubernatorial race if he chose to run.
Louisiana has lots of problems but it's difficult to place any one issue above the collapsing coastline  in  order of urgency.   At present the greatest obstacle to any approach to solving this problem is the far too cozy relationship between the state government and the oil and gas industry.  Handing the Governor's Mansion off from Bobby Jindal to David Vitter is.. not a step in the right direction there, to put it lightly.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

What democracy sounds like

"Nerves is a terrible thing. Poor Miss Annie the next-door lady. She's got nerves. Always screaming about Ignatius making noise."

Friday was the day the city council had planned to take up discussion of its controversial noise ordinance revisions
A growing public rift over proposed changes to New Orleans' noise ordinance, which could affect how loud live music is performed across the city, is set to come to a head Friday (Jan. 17), when the City Council's Housing and Human Needs Committee discusses the issue in a special meeting .

Hundreds of people are expected to turn out for the noon session to debate the issue. Opponents say the proposed revisions would criminalize New Orleans' most important cultural treasure; proponents of the measure say the new rules are aimed primarily at a handful of nightclubs that have made life unbearable in some areas through the blasting of amplified recorded and live music.
Late Thursday evening, though, the ordinance was pulled and the hearing rescheduled due to a large organized opposition.

Once the ordinance was pulled, the "hundreds of people" turned out for the rally anyway.

The protesters then marched behind a band into council chambers and continued to speak there.

I have to wonder, though, if any of this would have made any difference had we not been taking this up in the middle of a citywide election.  In the absence of any immediate political consequence, the ordinance seems like it would have been a done deal. The councilmembers have all made up their minds that they're tired of talking about it.
Councilwoman Stacy Head, who chairs the Housing and Human Needs Committee, said she hopes the committee will vote to move the ordinance for final approval to the council's Jan. 23 meeting.

"We've talked about this for five years and I'm so tired of talking about it," Head said. "I really want to get past this so when the new council steps in we can have the more difficult discussions about quality of life issues not related to music," she said, including motorcycles, outdoor parties or funeral repasts that might be too loud.

During a forum hosted by the Alliance For Good Government,  Jackie Clarkson said the ordinance was "the epitome of consensus" adding that she was proud of the way she and the rest of the council were able to ignore public input and work it out behind closed doors.
Clarkson said neighborhood groups are an asset, citing their involvement on every issue, from the controversial noise ordinance to zoning. And she defended the council's relationship with Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration.

"What is wrong with a council that can go behind closed doors, compromise, represent every district and create a team? And go behind closed doors with an administration and make a bigger team?'' Clarkson asked. "It's called winning the Super Bowl.''
By the way, Thursday morning at the press event announcing plans for the airport expansion, Clarkson called that project, "the Super Bowl of airports"  I think Jackie's metaphor machine might be stuck on Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, at the forums, every time this question has come up, the incumbent councilpersons have voiced support for the ordinance. Other candidates have hedged saying they support "a noise ordinance" though not necessarily the rules under consideration.

At Thursday morning's "Breakfast With The Newsmakers" hosted by The Lens, Kristin Palmer suggested there might be some changes made before the ordinance is passed but did not elaborate. The impression, though, is that she's still very much in support of it.  Here is what she had to say about Jackie's "SuperBowl" strategy.

Maldonado asks if relationship between the council and the mayor should be more adversarial. "You see a lot of 7-0 votes," he said. "What''s the purpose of being adversarial?" she asked. Can't you achieve checks and balances through negotiation? She says that people can beat their chests and appear they're working on behalf of their constituents, but they don't accomplish anything

And that's how this council and Mayor and their #OneTeam approach works. Everything gets hammered out at so far a remove from the public that not even the actual votes reflect the nature of the debate on the matter. By the time we get to the voting it's all pretty much just for show. The 7-0 votes exist as a sort of PR stunt. They write the diversity of opinion and perspective that comes from the democratic process out of the record.

What's particularly insidious about this brand of elitism is the way it describes itself.  According to #OneTeam members, you're not  being governed by an anti-democratic plutocracy so much as you are benefiting from the data-driven expertise of technocratic problem solvers.

"I'd rather face my pushback on data and information and figure out a way to solve the problem," Palmer says.

Please leave your messy musical protestations at home, says Palmer, and let us do our science. You plebes wouldn't understand how it works anyway. 
In a statement, Councilmembers Kristin Gisleson Palmer and Stacy Head, citing "public consternation," said a new ordinance would be presented in draft form at a Jan. 27 committee meeting. That ordinance, it seems, will apply only to the "VCE District," or Vieux Carre Entertainment District.

Nathan Chapman, one of the leaders of the fight for the controversial ordinance, issued a statement that said, in part, "At some point, the general public became greatly confused in a negative campaign of disinformation and personal attacks. If the volume of the rhetoric had been turned down a bit, we could have heard each other more, and made progress for the entire city."

This long disingenuous look down the technocratic nose is animated by another phenomenon which tech-social critic Evgeny Morzov has come to call "solutionism".
Recasting all complex social situations either as neat problems with definite, computable solutions or as transparent and self-evident processes that can be easily optimized--if only the right algorithms are in place!--this quest is likely to have unexpected consequences that could eventually cause more damage than the problems they seek to address. I call the ideology that legitimizes and sanctions such aspirations "solutionism."

I borrow this unabashedly pejorative term from the world of architecture and urban planning, where it has come to refer to an unhealthy preoccupation with sexy, monumental, and narrow-minded solutions--the kind of stuff that wows audiences at TED Conferences--to problems that are extremely complex, fluid, and contentious.

These are the kinds of problems that, on careful examination, do not have to be defined in the singular and all-encompassing ways that "solutionists" have defined them; what's contentious, then, is not their proposed solution but their very definition of the problem itself. Design theorist Michael Dobbins has it right: solutionism presumes rather than investigates the problems that it is trying to solve, reaching "for the answer before the questions have been fully asked." How problems are composed matters every bit as much as how problems are.
The city council's approach to noise is a prime example of technological solutionism at work. The ordinance proposes to use prescribed decibel levels as a means of determining lawfully permissible levels of sound for a neighborhood. It defines "noise."
Noise means any sound which exceeds the maximum permissible sound levels by land use categories.
It comes with a table setting maximum decibel allowances according to land use type. It looks very precise.  But really this is a lazy solution that garners a lot of willing support because, on a superficial level, it seems clean to people.

Reality is messy. There are qualities to sound other than just loudness. And the sounds one might encounter in a particular location vary in quality and magnitude according to factors beyond what a zoning ordinance can or should govern. The city is proposing to just throw up an arbitrary electronic measurement, apply that across the board, and then come back and tell everyone the law is just because it relies on "data" rather than what Palmer derides as adversarial chest-beating. 

It's an unnecessarily restrictive measure masking as a common sense solution. On Thursday, Jarvis DeBerry laid out the implications of this "data-driven" ordinance.
Nathan Chapman, one of the New Orleanians leading the charge for a more restrictive sound ordinance, said in a meeting at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune last week it shouldn't matter if the noise isn't at an obnoxious level to the complainant, and it shouldn't matter if the people closest to the sound are OK with it. All that matters, he said, is the level of the sound escaping the property. If it's too high, it should be a violation.

This would mean, of course, that you couldn't have a temporary understanding with your immediate neighbors - that you couldn't say, "Hey, my baby's graduating next month, and we plan to have a party. Would that be alright?" You could, but a killjoy way down the street could still dime you in - even if the sound's not too loud there. No matter, for that's not where the sound would be measured.

Perhaps most troubling about Chapman's presentation was the insistence that the proposed changes are modest. For example, he distributed a flyer explaining that the maximum amount of daytime noise in residential parts of the French Quarter "would reduce from a very loud 80 (decibels) to a still tolerant 70." Then he held up bar graphs to illustrate how little change that is. And, indeed, it did appear to be a tiny change on his graph.

What Chapman didn't say - and what I doubt he's telling anybody he's trying to persuade - is that 80 decibels is twice as loud as 70 decibels. Therefore, what he's aiming to do is cut in half the daytime noise allowed in that part of the Quarter. That makes the law seem a lot more ambitious, doesn't it? I presume that's why he's showing a graph that suggests that 70 decibels is just a little less than 80. Chapman, whose expertise is in advertising, acknowledged at that meeting that he knows 80 decibels is twice as loud as 70 decibels, but said he didn't know how to show that on a graph. I don't think he had any intentions of accurately illustrating the difference. It wouldn't serve his purpose.
Thanks, in part, to Friday's shenanigans, Chapman's purpose would appear to have been blunted.  This isn't to say, though, that we've reached a happy outcome here.  The musicians, club owners, tourists and self-styled "culture bearers" who participated in Friday's event seem pretty pleased with themselves.
Speakers took turns approaching the mic, addressing what they feel are restrictive laws that not only prevent them from earning a living but contradict the city's advertising of and reliance on music tourism. Chuck Perkins, owner of Cafe Istanbul, said "the city has always benefited from music, but they've never paid attention to it."

"It's time to stop being scared to go to jail for what's right," said Glen David Andrews. "You got to do Mitch Landrieu what Mitch Landrieu doing to you. ... As long as Queen Jackie (Clarkson) is in District C, we're going to have a fight."
 Andrews, by the way, has already mastered the whole going to jail for what's not right thing so it's nice to see him branch out like this.

In any case, it's safe to say the "cultural economy" crowd will have a seat at the table when the revised version of the noise ordinance is produced. The most likely outcome will be some sort of permitting provision that accommodates musicians and club owners operating within the bounds of designated tourism districts.

Meanwhile the solutionist decibel restrictions will still apply in residential neighborhoods where they'll be used primarily to clamp down on the unscheduled joy of regular people like in the scenario DeBerry lays out in his article. I don't want to get too far into the class politics of such confrontations between neighbors but one can see how these rules applied in this way can work as a gentrification accelerant. And that's likely the main point of these proposed ordinances in the first place.

So all that really needs to happen now are a few tweaks and we will have managed to keep our tourism whores happy, our real estate agents in the money, and Mitch Landrieu's #OneTeam safely in office.  And that is the sound of democracy at work in New Orleans. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Not so straight talk

Come on, Stacy, it says "Straight Talk" right there in the flier.

"Best Council Member"

We're pretty sure you know how the Gambit poll works.
A mailer sent out this week by incumbent City Council At-Large candidate Stacy Head claimed Head had been “named by Gambit as ‘Best New Orleans City Councilmember.’”

Head received that designation in last year’s Best of New Orleans readers’ poll, but was not named as such by Gambit, its editorial staff or the paper's owners.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The good news is, there will be plenty of good drugs where he's going

As we learned this morning, Marullo, of all people, should know that.
NEW ORLEANS —Court records show that the spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro was jailed on Thursday on a charge of contempt of court.

Chris Bowman was charged by Criminal Court Judge Frank Marullo and ordered to spend 24 hours in jail.

Records show Bowman was booked at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Bowman has feuded in the past with Marullo about certain cases handled by the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office that appeared before the judge.

All those teachers who were fired for having caused Katrina

Yeah that might not have been the right thing to do.
A state appeals court has affirmed a lower court ruling that thousands of New Orleans teachers fired after Hurricane Katrina were denied the constitutional right of due process.

A panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal also adjusted the lower court's damage award, ordering the New Orleans school board to pay two years of back pay and benefits and requiring the state to pay an additional year of back pay and benefits to teachers who meet certain requirements.

A state judge had awarded more than $1 million to seven lead plaintiffs in the case.

In testimony before the appeal court, a board attorney said upholding the initial ruling would mean as many as 7,500 other teachers and staff would in line to receive nearly $1.5 billion in damage payments.
Of course if the city treats this the way they treat any of the other judgments they've had go against them for being shitty to people you'll see these teachers start to get paid sometime between 20 years from now and never.

Maybe someone should ask the mayoral candidates if they support these teachers tonight.

Update: It occurs to me that I will have to clarify this before someone points out what I already know.  The entities on the hook for this are the Orleans Parish School Board and the State which are funded separately from "the city." This does not mean, however, that it is an inappropriate matter to question the mayoral or city council candidates about. Especially given the amount of time many of them spend cheering the post-Katrina "reforms" of public education set in motion by these illegal firings.

Who are you voting for to be the next "Mayoral"?

If you don't know yet, this might be helpful.

Candidates for Mayoral

Although it probably will be unhelpful.  Might be funny, though.

Here is the opening line of the novel

"Sir, you are full of opiates. You have not been prescribed opiates," the judge said.

 The rest just writes itself.

Or, if you're not interested in a creative writing project, maybe the facts are weird enough.  

An Orleans Parish Prison inmate has shown up for court three times too doped up to stand for his appearances, prompting court-ordered drug testing and an investigation at the jail, records show.

After the inmate had to be held upright by a deputy during a hearing Monday, Criminal District Court Judge Frank Marullo questioned lawyers and medical staff about his impairment, before ordering drug testing.

The inmate, Willis Turner, 30, tested positive for opiates, a class of drugs that includes heroin and prescription pain pills. He was not prescribed any opiate-based medications, jail staff told the judge, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman's office on Wednesday confirmed an investigation into how Turner got ahold of drugs.

At a forum this week, Sheriff Gusman was asked about the contraband problem at OPP. He claimed it had been solved.. perhaps via time travel.

So if inmates are showing up in court now, don't worry.  Someone will be able to have prevented it before it happened again.

Dull election just got duller

Manny Chevrolet Bruno, fresh off a "campaign event" last night at the Circle Bar, has dropped out of the race for Mayor.
In his withdrawal announcement, Bruno made an oblique reference to a challenge to his candidacy "on trivial grounds that have never been brought up in my three previous campaigns for mayor."

"The circumstances of the challenge are surprising and not a little suspicious," he said, but did not elaborate.

Bruno said he would continue to criticize what he saw as wrongs in the way New Orleans is managed, including "a war on music" - ostensibly a reference to the ongoing campaign to clamp down on loud music across the city.
It's hard to tell when Bruno is joking and when he isn't but that part of his announcement seemed serious. Not sure what the "trivial grounds" would be... or what would be the point of issuing a serious challenge to a non-serious campaign.

Someone else

Ned: Since the police can't seem to get off their duff-a-roonies to do something about this burglar-ino, I propose we start out own neighborhood watch (pause) aroony! (everyone cheers) Now, who should lead the group?

Man: You!

Crowd: (cheering again) Flanders! Flanders! Flanders!

Ned: Well, I don't have much experience, but I'd be--

Moe: Someone else!

Crowd: (more cheers) Someone else! Someone else! Someone else!

Homer: I'm someone else!

For a "campaign about nothing" Michael Bagneris' project in hanging around until someone maybe makes him Mayor does not lack for people interested in maybe doing that.
The FOP and the Police Association of New Orleans have spent a lot of the past year criticizing a court deal Landrieu’s administration worked out with the U.S. Justice Department on reforming the Police Department. Both are angry they didn’t have more of a say in the process.

Burkart said the FOP’s bylaws keep the group from endorsing in races with more than two candidates, a rule meant to keep one small faction within the union from swinging the vote. But he said Bagneris seemed more inclined to hear them out than the current mayor.

“He understands the problems, and he’s at least listening and considering them,” Burkart said. “You can tell right there that’s the type of person you want to be your mayor.”

PANO leader Mike Glasser said Bagneris made a similar impression at a meeting his group sponsored. He said PANO hasn’t made a mayoral endorsement in the past eight years, but would meet formally in the next week or so to decide whether to back a candidate this time.
 A couple of days ago I criticized Bagneris for running on a confused message that sounds to voters like, "Crime is really a lot worse right now than it might appear to be if you just look at the numbers which I'm pretty sure are not accurate."

This struck me as timid or at least a little off the point when there's so much hay to be made of sensational police abuse stories like Henry Glover or Danziger and the consent decree reforms incidents like those have necessitated. Wouldn't most average voters care more about those things than they would all the insidery business we've been reading about which club lined up with which team and why?

But I'm sometimes prone to forgetting that candidates do not care a lick about what average voters might be interested in. Instead everything is about pandering to the establishment the way Bagneris is doing with these police organizations.  This can lead to some incoherent moments.

During several forums, for example, candidates have been asked a question like, "Is crime down in New Orleans?" Maybe that seems like a straightforward ready-reference type question. But Bagneris has asserted that "the books have been cooked" to suggest crime is down when it isn't. And there may be something to that. But it's not so easy "cook" away this many murders unless there are a lot more Henry Glovers out there than we're aware of.  One could argue that the shooters just aren't hitting their targets as well lately... and there may very well be something to that too.. but in the strictest terms, the  number of murders is undeniably lower recently.

So when candidates field a question that mashes everything together like this,

That presents a problem.  The candidates may want to answer, Yes, murder is down, or certain types of crime are down or murder is down but overall crime is steady. But the subtext of the question really is more about how crimey it feels out there to you and whether or not someone should do something about it.  If you're trying to impress a police rank-and-file already at odds with the Mayor over their pensions and civil service rules, then you're probably going to shoot for something that sounds like, "crime is terrible and what we need to do is stop lying about it and pay more money to more cops!"

And that's what Michael Bangeris is up to with the police unions as well as with every other group that Mitch has been an "asshole" to while in the process of trying to seem "productive." Whether most voters see a clear distinction between the Mayor and his opponent or not, there are plenty of self styled power brokers out there who Bagneris may have had as soon as he declared, "I'm someone else!"

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Criminilization of poverty

Barbara Ehrenreich:
Most private-sector employers offer no sick days, and many will fire a person who misses a day of work, even to stay home with a sick child. A nonfunctioning car can also mean lost pay and sudden expenses. A broken headlight invites a ticket, plus a fine greater than the cost of a new headlight, and possible court costs. If a creditor decides to get nasty, a court summons may be issued, often leading to an arrest warrant. No amount of training in financial literacy can prepare someone for such exigencies—or make up for an income that is impossibly low to start with. Instead of treating low-wage mothers as the struggling heroines they are, our political culture still tends to view them as miscreants and contributors to the “cycle of poverty.”

If anything, the criminalization of poverty has accelerated since the recession, with growing numbers of states drug testing applicants for temporary assistance, imposing steep fines for school truancy, and imprisoning people for debt. Such measures constitute a cruel inversion of the Johnson-era principle that it is the responsibility of government to extend a helping hand to the poor. Sadly, this has become the means by which the wealthiest country in the world manages to remain complacent in the face of alarmingly high levels of poverty: by continuing to blame poverty not on the economy or inadequate social supports, but on the poor themselves.
This week, Senate Republicans are filibustering a deal on extending unemployment benefits  because that will surely help.

Kicking you off the internet

How it works
But supporters of Net neutrality caution this is a very slippery slope. And they argue that these new business models will likely increase costs for companies operating on the Internet, and that eventually those costs will be passed onto consumers. What's more, erecting priority status for services online will result in bigger players being able to afford to pay the fees, while smaller upstarts will be blocked from competing because they won't be able to afford the fees that a Verizon or Time Warner Cable might impose.

Harvey Anderson, senior vice president of business and legal affairs for Mozilla, said the court's decision is alarming for Internet users because it will also provide broadband operators the legal ability to block any service they choose, which will undermine the once "free and unbiased Internet."
If you're not a "bigger player" who can afford the new pay to play system, you don't get to be involved anymore.

If you like what NOLA.com backed by its parent company Advance Publications presents you with, you should be pretty happy where this is going.  If you also like the diverse opinion and reporting you find from the wide variety of non-profit news organizations or independent bloggers you currently enjoy, you're probably going have to get used to a good deal less of that.

Should be a live one

The State Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority is meeting in Baton Rouge this morning to discuss the SLFPA-E lawsuit against oil and gas.  The Lens is "live-blogging" the event here.
Attorneys for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East say they have accepted an invitation from coastal chief Garret Graves to present their client’s case for its controversial lawsuit against oil and gas companies for coastal land loss – which Graves strongly opposes.

The official agenda for the meeting does not show an appearance by the attorneys, but rather by Flood Protection Authority commissioner Stephen Estopinal. Graves is listed to speak on the same agenda item, as is The Lens’ opinion columnist Mark Moseley, who has written about the issue.
Should be fun. 

Maybe an advanced manufacturing industrial park that makes monorails

But, I guess, in the meantime, using the Six Flags site as an applications fee farm is as lucrative an idea as any.
The RFP suggests a wide range of potential uses for the property, including “an amusement or water park, projects related to the film industry, a family entertainment venue, a shopping center or other commercial or retail facility, a business or technology park, a ‘clean’ manufacturing facility, a warehouse, an office building or buildings, a hotel, resort or conference center, or any other appropriate use.”

Proposals for the site’s redevelopment can include some, all or none of the current infrastructure, which still includes theme-park rides.

IDB Chairman Alan Philipson said he hopes the solicitation yields “strong, viable” proposals. The IDB owns the property.

“We want to make sure that any proposal that is accepted is viable and welcomed by the community,” Philipson said. “It’s an exciting time for the city and certainly an exciting time for eastern New Orleans.”

The proposals must be accompanied by a $5,000 non-refundable deposit, and developers must agree to give disadvantaged business enterprises at least a 35 percent share in their project.
Last week during a City Council candidates' forum at Dillard University, District E candidates were asked about economic development in the East.  Cynthia Willard-Lewis suggested there was a plan to, "Light up Six Flags and make a new Silicon Valley.  But call it 'Silicon Bayou'" 

Who knows what she meant? Maybe it's some kind of log ride. Or maybe it has something to do with Greg Meffert. In any case, I'm pretty sure Cynthia Willard-Lewis owes IDB $5,000 now.

Too slow

I think we're starting to see what this is all about.

Council staff members are also looking for an objective standard by which to judge whether certain throws weigh too much and therefore present a hazard to paradegoers.

“The throwbacks are obviously hurting the krewe members, but the ones being thrown into the crowds are severely hurting some of the spectators,” said council President Jackie Clarkson. “Huge, heavy bags of beads are cutting people’s faces and knocking teeth out.”

Clarkson said she was once injured herself by an errant throw.

“I thought it was just me, and I should learn how to catch better,” she said, but others have complained.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It's been fun, guys

But the telecoms are now free to kick you all off the internet. A federal appeals court says so.

The decision holds tremendous portent for the future of the Internet.

Net neutrality advocates fear that without rules in place, big companies like Netflix, Disney, and ESPN could gain advantage over competitors by paying ISPs to provide preferential treatment to their company's data. For example, YouTube might pay extra so that its videos load faster than Hulu's on the ISP's network.

We've already seen shades of What Could Happen in AT&T's Sponsored Data and Comcast's decision to have the Xfinity TV streaming app for the Xbox 360 not count against Comcast subscribers' data caps.
Instant Update:

Yesterday, I linked you over to this very important Gawker essay about how this is all going to go down.  Here's a critical passage.
The plutocrats are haunted, as all smarmers are haunted, by the lack of respect. Nothing is stopping anyone—any nobody—from going on a blog or on Twitter and expressing their opinion of you, no matter who you think you are. New media and social media have an immense and cruel leveling power, for people accustomed to old systems of status and prestige. On Twitter, the only answer to "Do you know who I am?" is "One more person with 140 characters to use."
Without Net Neutrality, this is no longer the case.  The plutocrats are now back in charge and they are free to shame and shout down the impudent... wherever they find them.  

Another one jumps off the #OneTeam

State Rep. Jeff Arnold endorses Bagneris.
Arnold said his relationship with the mayor started to break down during the 2013 regular session over legislation regarding firefighter pensions and local judgeships.

“You drew a line in the sand, Mitch, not me,” said Arnold. “With Mitch, it’s, ‘If you’re not 100 percent with me, you’re 100 percent against me.’ I don’t see anything he has done for Algiers. I didn’t even see an image of Algiers in his (commercials). Right now Michael Bagneris is sounding a whole lot better to me.”
Arnold is actually the latest in a string of local players who have declared their disenchantment with the Mayor.  Most notably BOLD and OPDEC have endorsed Bagneris while the Independent Women's Organization has split its endorsement.  Stephanie Grace went so far last week as to say the cumulative effect of these endorsements is to make President Obama's endorsement of Mitch "probably a wash." That seems like a stretch to me.  Grace writes,
This, of course, goes to what’s shaping up as a major theme of the election. There’s no question that Landrieu has battled with not only the Obama administration, but with the city’s firefighters over the pension, its judges over the size of the bench and the prospect of a new courthouse, and so on. He’s ticked people off; they’re now going public. The question remains: Do average voters care? And even if they do, which side are they likely to take?
All signs point to, no, they do not care.  They might care if candidate Bagneris was running a campaign about issues that connected with their concerns... a campaign about anything at all would be a good start.  But as long as the only thing he has going for him are political insiders who are pissed off at the so-called "productive asshole" he's not going anywhere.

Mayor Landrieu sublty tips his hand on the Tucks TP controversy

From The Advocate's political roundup:
The tagline on the latest ad is slightly different from the previous one: “Let’s keep it rolling” has given way to “Let’s keep it going.”


Meanwhile, in the most depressing election ever, Mitch's lame opponent offers some terrible ideas.
In his second TV ad of the campaign, Bagneris has a narrator refer to the attrition rate at the New Orleans Police Department as the “blue hemorrhage,” with images of disappearing officers and squad cars.

The ad says Bagneris plans to bring the force up to 1,600 officers — it’s fewer than 1,200 right now — as well as to hire a “more proactive” police chief and institute “community engagement stops,” in which officers “get to know their community.”
Bagneris believes we need a "more proactive" police force practicing... a new euphemism for stop-and-frisk.  Good grief.  This is a losing argument for Bagneris.

First, it takes as its premise that crime is out of control in New Orleans.  This may be true.  Or, at least, it may be fair to say New Orleans has a crime problem.  But the current perception is that Mitch and Serpas (whatever we may think of them) are being "productive assholes" in this area.  According to recent reports, the murder rate is the "lowest in decades." Bagneris can argue that "the books are cooked" (and he has) but already he's been reduced to splitting hairs rather than tapping into a motivating source of voter dissaffection.

The stronger play would be to attack Mitch over police conduct, resistance to consent decree reforms, and the perception that Mitch and Serpas are defending the culture that may allow the Danziger shootings and the Henry Glover murder to go unpunished.  By arguing, instead, that crime is worse than you think it is and the police need more teeth, Bagneris could not possibly be more out of touch. Maybe he really is running a "campaign about nothing."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Where we are in 2014

While following B&G Review's worthwhile pursuit of CBS sports trolls, I was pointed to this essay by Tom Scocca published by Gawker last month. 

It's a long essay and I want you to read it so I'll shut up in a minute.  But Scocca basically presents the grand unified theory of what's wrong with our politics and media right now.

Saints fans at the end of 2013 are wondering about the team's championship "window of opportunity." Similarly, I believe the brief window the internet granted us to counteract the commercial authoritarian haughtiness that pollutes our culture and politics is closing. The reason that's happening is because "the internet" is ceasing to be the domain of alternative media and becoming one with the larger commercial media.   This article goes a long way to explaining the nuts and bolts of how that manifests.
Snark is often conflated with cynicism, which is a troublesome misreading. Snark may speak in cynical terms about a cynical world, but it is not cynicism itself. It is a theory of cynicism.

The practice of cynicism is smarm.

If negativity is understood to be bad (and it must be bad, just look at the name: negativity) then anti-negativity must be good. The most broadly approved-of thing about Barack Obama, in 2008, was his announced desire to "change the tone" of politics. Everyone agreed then that our politics needed a change of tone. The politicians who make speeches, the reporters and commentators who write the articles expressing the current state of political affairs, the pollsters and poll respondents who ask and answer questions about politics—in short, the great mass of people who do anything that could conceivably generate something that could be called a "tone" of politics—all were dissatisfied with the tone.  

One of the silliest or most misguided notions that David Denby frets about, in denouncing snark, is that "the lowest, most insinuating and insulting side threatens to win national political campaigns." This is more or less the opposite of the case. What carries contemporary American political campaigns along is a thick flow of opaque smarm.

The essence of "snark" is the indignant calling out of bullshit.  If you're in the business of selling bullshit to people, you probably don't care much for "snark" or critical thinking at all for that matter. And commercial media is all about selling bullshit.  And commercial media is coming to dominate the internet. Hence the growing ubiquity of "smarm."

Buzzfeed may call it "No haters" but in New Orleans we call it, "One Team One Voice One City" and it's getting more and more insidious by the day.  

Whose productive assholes?

All Cheron Brylski wants is someone to yell at us and make us shut up.  Apparently it doesn't matter to what end. Only important that we know who is in charge or has a "vision" or something.  Because that is how democracy works.

Maritime law

Flags on the Bayou
Bayou St. John during Greek Festival 2008

Apparently there are Uptown LadiesTM in Mid City too.
Most importantly, Lichtfuss says, the city should reduce the number of festivals being held on the bayou, from the summer boat races to Praise Fest NOLA, a three-day gospel festival that attracted as many as 50 gospel artists and up to 5,000 attendees in 2013, its third year. As many as 35,000 people at a time come to other festivals, like the longstanding Bayou Boogaloo.

“When you’re going to make festival grounds on property across from gorgeous historic homes, I do think the neighborhood should have something to say about that,” Lichtfuss says. “These are our homes along the bayou. We’re the ones who are affected by everything going on.”

Lichtfuss wants residents to come up with ideas about how to restrict use of the bayou and present them to the New Orleans City Council, in hopes of getting stricter zoning laws established for the waterway — at least for the parameters from where Carrollton Avenue meets Wisner Boulevard to the end of the bayou at Lafitte Street.

Ultimately, Lichtfuss says, she’d like to see the bayou be more like Lakeview, and have special zoning designation preventing large-scale events and other activities.
As usual, the owners of nearby "gorgeous historic homes" have more important things to say about what happens in the public spaces than the public does. 

Probably this should be made part of the noise ordinance debate. Canoes gently rippling over placid bayou waters are sure to generate some nuisance decibels. We've got to get these monsters off of the bayou so we can go back to quietly dumping stolen cars and dead bodies there.

At least no one is trying to throw biodegradable paper anywhere for fun.  That is apparently still going to be a no-no.
A proposed ban on tossing open rolls of toilet paper during Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans has been dropped for now, but some sort of regulation isn't out of the question for Carnival 2015, according to Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who is sponsoring a new set of rules for parades.

Cantrell said in an email that the toilet-paper ban was initially proposed in response to complaints from the Department of Sanitation and clean-up crews. However, she said, "Toilet paper wasn't a top safety issue, so we took it off the table ... we did not want the Krewe of Tucks to take a financial loss this Carnival season, having purchased their 2014 throws. It has been voiced as a concern in terms of the mess and cleanup, so we will work with the Department of Sanitation and the Krewe of Tucks to hopefully come to a resolution for next year. Representatives from the administration and the Tucks are amenable to future discussions."
When interviewed by WWLTV last week, Cantrell didn't say anything about complaints from Sanitation.  Instead she said the T-P ban was  "something that came up from the community." Not sure which "community"  she listens to. I continue to suspect that there are some Uptowners who don't want the T-P rolls being thrown near their "gorgeous historic homes." In any case they don't make a lot of sense.

It may be time to think about scrapping this Carnival ordinance altogether. Already it's become less about helping people enjoy Carnival and more about telling them what they can't do.