Monday, June 30, 2014

Come back, Vance

Running away and hiding just because a girl kissed you seems sort of juvenile anyway.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister, Louisiana’s infamous kissing congressman, scheduled a press conference for Monday morning during which many expect he’ll recant his declaration from April and announce he will seek re-election this fall.

Frontier justice

Watch your step, narc.
According to documents reviewed by The New York Times, State Department investigator had already begun probing Blackwater a short time before the infamous Nisour Square shooting in 2007. But the probe broke down when Blackwater's top guy in Iraq threatened to kill the lead investigator, suggesting, not improbably, that amid the anarchy of Iraq it could be easily covered up as just another moment of sectarian violence or a terrorist attack.
In practical terms, police more often than not make the law. And this is not only the case in "fog of war" situations like Iraq 2007.  In New Orleans we call murder and body disposal a Number 2.  (In case you're wondering the Number 1 is a Ham Sandwich.)  

The scary thing in the Blackwater case is we're talking about a private police force with no straightforward accountability to any state.  Thank god we don't have that sort of thing here.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Someone should be keeping score

How many Bobby Jindal Politico op-eds have been published  so far vs how many Clancy DuBos "Bobby Jindal is terrible" Gambit columns?

Given that Clancy's paper endorsed Jindal for Governor two times and published arguably the worst Jindal profile ever I'd say the overall match is a tie at this point.  It's like they're down to penalty kicks now.


BP is done paying anything to anyone.
Attorneys for BP asked a federal judge Friday to allow the British oil giant to demand repayment of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars already paid or committed to businesses from its multibillion-dollar oil spill settlement fund.

The company contends that a newly enacted policy, approved by the court in May, that uses a formula to match a business’ revenue with expenses in showing post-spill losses should be used to recalculate earlier claims.

The 2012 settlement was intended to avoid piecemeal litigation by resolving hundreds of thousands of claims for economic damages when millions of barrels of oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico, into wetlands and onto the beaches of the Gulf Coast. Eleven men died when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig caught fire and exploded April 20, 2010, about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, creating what is generally considered the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
That's what you call a settlement in name only.   Now that the PR disaster is over, it's time to go pick all the money back up. 

A century of total war

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated 100 years ago today.  It's the event that the popular imagination holds sparked an unavoidable series of events leading to the First World War and the succeeding century of bloodshed.

We're still letting blood today as a consequence.
At war’s end, (T.E.) Lawrence’s vision of Arab independence was shattered when the Versailles peace conference confirmed the carving of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine into British and French spheres of influence; arbitrary boundaries drawn in the sand to satisfy the appetites of empire – Britain’s Foreign Office even called the former Ottoman lands “The Great Loot.”

The hopeful Lawrence drew his own “peace map” of the region, one that paid closer heed to tribal allegiances and rivalries. The map could have saved the world a lot of time, trouble and treasure, one historian said, providing the region “with a far better starting point than the crude imperial carve up.” Lawrence wrote to a British major in Cairo: “I’m afraid you will be delayed a long time, cleaning up all the messes and oddments we have left behind us.”
100 years later we're still trying to maintain the arbitrary boundaries of the "Great Loot." We've gotten really good at lying about it, though.
But this week, Meet the Press is evidently doing something different. They're putting the Iraq question to former President Bill Clinton. There's an excerpt up at the Meet the Press website, which they're headlining this way:

Clinton on Cheney: 'If They Hadn't Gone to War in Iraq None of This Would Be Happening'

It's a good line. But history will recall Bill Clinton as someone who supported the Bush administration's drive to war in 2003–even though Clinton has at times tried to claim otherwise. As FAIR noted in 2007 (Action Alert, 11/29/07), Clinton said he'd been against the war "from the beginning." But he had a funny way of showing it–writing a column for the Guardian (3/18/03) the day before the invasion headlined "Trust Tony's Judgment" (as in former British Prime Minister Tony Blair), explaining on 60 Minutes (3/30/03) that "I support our troops in Iraq and the president," and telling Time magazine (6/28/04) that he had "repeatedly defended President Bush against the left on Iraq."
Publishers, anticipating the Great War centennial have put out a raft of new books over past few years.  Here are two recommendations.

Cataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy by David Stevenson -- Lot of stuff about the stupidity of generals slow to realize that charging men and horses toward machine guns is kind of a bad idea. But really this is a book about the stupid political leaders and the fact that this was very much a war of choice.

To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild -- Tells the stories of anti-war resisters in Great Britain.

Dude, have you seen the prisons in North Carolina?

Dambala is linking to a list of the chemicals used in the hydrofracking process.

Could mean trouble.

Meanwhile... congratulations to WWLTV on finding a "pro-fracking" spokesperson in St. Tammany so we can turn this into another "he said/she said" story.  Nice going. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Here's to getting nothing done for the forseeable future

SCOTUS ruling today on recess appointments.

The short of  it is the Senate can stifle as many as it once by holding pro-forma (fake) sessions every 3 days during a recess. Also Obama's NLRB appointments are invalidated.
But what about other recess appointments in the future?  The short answer is that it really will depend on which parties are in power.  Right now Democrats control both the White House and the Senate.  With the decision by Senate Democrats back in November to invoke the “nuclear option” – which allows them to confirm the president’s nominees with a simple majority – right now the president doesn’t need to use recess appointments to fill judgeships or senior positions in the executive branch.  But that could change if the Republicans gain control of the Senate this November (a prospect that many believe is increasingly likely):  a Republican Senate could not only block the president’s nominees, but prevent the president from making recess appointments by ensuring that it never recesses for more than a few days.  And, of course, the shoe could be on the other foot if – after the 2016 elections — the Democrats were to control the Senate but lose the White House.  So even if the president’s recess appointments power may not factor into many voters’ decision-making process, it certainly could hang in the balance in the next two elections.

Why do they hate America?

I guess conservative commentators trolling soccer is going to keep being a thing.  If that's not a reason to pull for more US wins in the second stage, I don't know what is.

The iDrop

 The most powerful nine people in the United States:
But during April's oral arguments on the cases, the justices broadcast their own lack of technological expertise. Antonin Scalia didn't realize HBO was cable. During a line of questioning involving Dropbox and iCloud, Sonia Sotomayor referred to "the iDrop." And Stephen Breyer said that he wasn't sure if he owned an iPhone, "because I can never get into it because of the password."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Not only is that a great name for this event, it's also a pretty good word for what happens to service industry employees who are left suddenly jobless in these situations.
As Todd Price noted today on NOLA.com, the former employees of now-closed Stella! are organizing a pop-up benefit dinner on Tuesday, July 1st at Three Muses starting at 6 p.m. The abrupt closing of Chef Scott Boswell's high-end French Quarter restaurant caught many employees by surprise, not the least of which was the kitchen staff. While a bankruptcy filing will keep Stella! employees from receiving their last paycheck for months, Blanche'd! aims help employees as they transition to find new jobs.

As Price mentions, most of the food and alcohol have been donated and Three Muses generously provided the space for free (they're normally closed on Tuesdays). Not mentioned in Price's article, however, is just how remarkable it is that the benefit is happening in the first place and how it stands in stark contrast to Boswell's abandoned efforts for a $200-per-plate fundraiser.

Former Stella! waiter Jonathan Sanders said that if it wasn't for the the fact that the kitchen and front-of-house crew were together for so long, it may have been much harder to get things organized. As it stands, things have come together well enough that there are whispers of possibly making Blanche'd! a recurring pop-up restaurant depending on the success of the first event.
On second thought, if the pop-up operation does catch on, maybe the staff won't want too much of a negative connotation attached to the name. That's okay. The Brennan's family can't seem to sort out who owns their name anymore. Maybe we can use that the next time an entire restaurant staff is suddenly Brennansed. (By the way, this benefit is happening almost one year to the day after the Brennansing of the Brennan's staff last year.)

We talk a lot about how important the tourism-related service industry is to New Orleans.  It's time we figured out how to treat our service workers better.

Meanwhile, it's hurricane season

Corps watchdog Matt McBride has a new post up concerning some little-publicized work the Corps has been doing on the outfall canals.  McBride's observations of the dug out soil from the levees under maintenance lead him to believe that it may contain unsafe quantities of debris.
By any standard, including the Corps', the dirt coming out of the levees at both these sites would be unsuitable for use in any levee. How do we know that? The Corps themselves said so just four years ago, during a different debris mess that made the news.

In late 2009 and early 2010, reports emerged about large amounts of concrete and other debris being found in the top layers of lakefront levee in Kenner during an enlargement project. That soil had been trucked there in the early 2000's and had not been systematically checked for debris. After a couple of Times-Picayune articles, the Corps held a public meeting on January 28, 2010.

You seek answers

All will certainly be revealed in the morning. At the Bureau of Governmental Research Breakfast Thingy. Where the Mayor of New Orleans will tell us about the finances and the taxes and budgets and things.

It will be live-blogged by The Lens at 8 AM.

Only in America!

Luke Russert is pretty smart.
As “establishment” incumbent Republican Thad Cochran is poised to defeat tea party challenger Chris McDaniel, purportedly with help from Democratic and African-American voters (Mississippi is an open primary), Russert had this hot take to share with America:
So… only in America could something that could literally only happen in America happen. Unless some other country has a Republican Party, a state called Mississippi and — somehow — a significant population of African-Americans, Russert’s analysis makes zero percent sense. Or maybe it was a bizarre attempt at humor.
Maybe it was. Russert later explained he was making a "Don King reference." And I suppose if we remember Don King's famous catch phrase, "I meant to do that,"  then, yeah, OK.

But Russert, being the scion of one of our nation's most prestigious Punditry Earldoms, does know his manners.  He keeps his observations as light and accessible as possible so as not to confuse people. That only in the #USA could a thing happen in Mississippi is an inescapable fact.

Well, now it is anyway.  There was a time once when this might have been in doubt. In fact Mississippi Republican primary voters are sometimes known for their quirky loose grasp on whether or not that was actually settled all the way which can lead to some interesting situations
The victory for Cochran marks the end of a long, bloody, and often bizarre primary election that took center stage in the GOP Civil War and included two separate episodes, one, in which a McDaniel supporter and political blogger was arrested for photographing Cochran's wife to use in an anti-Cochran video and another where McDaniel supporters found themselves locked in the Hinds County, Mississippi courthouse (where election ballots are kept) after the building had been locked. McDaniel was also dogged in the race for appearing at at least one neo-Confederate event and having been slated to attend another tea party event that featured a vendor of Confederate merchandise.
So in order to ward off his Tea Party affiliated (possibly neo-Confederate) fire-breathing challenger, the patrician Senator reached out to Democratic crossover voters some of which, it turns out, are not white.
Cochran's pouring lots of money into GOTV efforts and he's made little secret post-primary that he's seeking Democratic and African-American votes. And there seems little question that he's got the McDaniel camp worried. It even gets a little more concrete. A pro-Cochran super PAC has hired a Democratic operative named James "Scooby Doo" Warren (yeah, who knows) to do GOTV work in the state's African-American community. The PAC is tied to a prominent African-American pastor named Ronnie Crudup Sr. And if that's not enough, Warren has made clear that he's going to be working to elect Democratic nominee Travis Childers.
Nevermind that last line about this Warren guy "working to elect" the Democrat.  I'm sure he'll take that money too, of course.  But the reason he went to work for Cochran was because this primary is the only race that matters.

Following a longstanding southern trend, Mississippi has arrived at something like the "one-party rule" scenario that once allowed Democrats to hold sway only a few generations ago. Only now the GOP is where all the meaningful action takes place. When we're back to a situation where the "second primary" is the de facto general election, you should expect to see candidates appeal to a broader constituency there.

McDaniel is suspicious, though 
Instead, McDaniel, in his election night speech to supporters on Tuesday, suggested that he would fight the election results. McDaniel said "there is something a bit strange, there is something a bit unusual about a Republican primary that's decided by liberal Democrats."

McDaniel's comments are a clear reference to the Cochran campaign seeking out the support of African-Americans and Democratic voters in the state to bringing him over the finish line in the runoff. Even though McDaniel won in the runoff it was by a slim margin. When the race was called late on Tuesday with 98 percent reporting Cochran led McDaniel 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent. 

"As you know there were literally dozens of irregularities reported across this state. And you know why. You read the stories. You're familiar, you're familiar with the problems that we had," McDaniel said.
Of Cochran's voters, McDaniel added, "Hell they ain't even old timey!" 

If he persists in challenging, I wouldn't expect McDaniel to overturn the result.  At the same time, though, I'd caution against putting much stock in the next round of "Now the Tea Party is surely dead" observations we're sure to see. (Perhaps Luke Russert will tweet one for us.)   On the contrary, nothing fires up the right wing base like a good long racially charged exercise in false victimhood. This one is bound to have legs enough to get us through the heart of the summer.

And suddenly it's time for midterms where whatever happens will be difficult to spin as anything other than a net Republican gain. And then we're on to a year and a half of Benghazi hearings before it's time for Stupid Season Staring Hillary Clinton to begin.  Can't imagine we'll be living in a world of only "sensible Republicans" by then.  But we will still be living in the #USA and only in the #USA. Or at least one hopes we will. Otherwise, Russert might be out of a job. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lucy pulls the tarball football

HARVEY, La. -- In a shocking move, BP has decided to shut down its internal oil spill claims program, taking away an avenue for more than 10,000 claimants who have opted out of the oil giant’s controversial settlement agreement or others who are not covered by it.

BP won’t say how many claimants it served with the BP Claims Program over the last two years, but the amount paid through the end of April was a paltry $12 million. By contrast, over the exact same time frame, the court-supervised settlement program paid $3.8 billion.

With all the fighting over that settlement program and BP’s high-profile effort to undo the way it pays business claims, it's been easy to forget about the other claimants -- those relegated to BP’s internal program as the only alternative to an interminable wait for a court date.
Probably not many people realize there are.. or were two claims processes, the internal one that's being shut down now and the court-ordered one that is... well... its own sort of mess

But what's important to know is that BP is pretty much done paying for anything.
Morrell said none of the claimants’ rights will be limited by the closure of the program and they can continue to pursue a settlement with BP on a one-on-one basis. But Arnsby doesn't believe that for a second.

“We're on a stay, we can't move, we're log-jammed, and the more time that goes by, they're just attempting to weaken the claimant,” he said. “Because this is not about making it right for the businesses of the Gulf Coast. This is a strategy.”

Indeed, critics see this as just the latest way BP has tried to slow or stop claims payments. After paying $3.8 billion between June 2012 and October 2013, the settlement program was virtually shut down for the last eight months by BP’s court appeals.
Meanwhile....  Un-vanished
A tar mat discovered on a beach in the National Seashore's Fort Pickens (FL) area Friday is larger than first thought.

A Coast Guard-led cleanup crew thought the mat was getting lighter as they dug it out of the sand in the surf zone on Saturday, but they found another large area Sunday.

So far more than 1,250 pounds of material has been collected, said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Murphy, who is in charge of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bobby Jindal is Catching Fire

Or maybe he's PB "Mocking" J.  Whatever.  Point is Jindal's long running series of kooky letters to the editor and associated tour of dramatic monologuing across America has taken a dark turn.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Saturday night accused President Barack Obama and other Democrats of waging wars against religious liberty and education and said that a rebellion is brewing in the U.S. with people ready for "a hostile takeover" of the nation's capital.

Jindal spoke at the annual conference hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a group led by longtime Christian activist Ralph Reed. Organizers said more than 1,000 evangelical leaders attended the three-day gathering. Republican officials across the political spectrum concede that evangelical voters continue to play a critical role in GOP politics.

"I can sense right now a rebellion brewing amongst these United States," Jindal said, "where people are ready for a hostile takeover of Washington, D.C., to preserve the American Dream for our children and grandchildren."
In case you are wondering also if this image exists, it does.

I had to find it here, btw, although its original context seems lost to the memory hole. Louisiana politics watchers with long memories might recall that it first appeared as an actual non-ironic promotion from a pro-Jindal website back in times of yore.

Anyway, Bobby is mad as hell and not gonna take... something or other. 
"I am tired of the left. They say they're for tolerance, they say they respect diversity. The reality is this: They respect everybody unless you happen to disagree with them," he said. "The left is trying to silence us and I'm tired of it, I won't take it anymore."

Maybe it's time to start cranking out those T-Shirts again.

Qatar on the Bayou

Fascinating choice of metaphor.
So let's put it this way: We are building a Qatar on the Bayou. From whole cloth, companies are laying new cities of fertilizer plants, boron manufacturers, methanol terminals, polymer plants, ammonia factories and paper-finishing facilities. In computer renderings, the Sasol site looks like a fearsome, steel-fitted Angkor Wat.

In all, some 66 industrial projects—worth some $90 billion—will be breaking ground over the next five years in Louisiana, according to the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance. Tens of billions of other new investments could be coming, says Louisiana's economic development secretary, Stephen Moret. How many projects will actually get built remains to be seen.

Assuming that most will, you realize we are still probably underestimating the positive impact of the gas boom on both local and national economies. The entire GDP of the state of Louisiana is about $250 billion annually.

"As an economist, I can only say,‘'Wow. Holy Cow,'" said Loren Scott, a Louisiana economist who has studied the state for 40 years. "We typically measured expansion in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars. Something like that makes your eyes bug out." He expects, for instance, that once 10-year tax-abatement deals expire, schools boards will "find themselves with a bonanza."
A report in Britain's Guardian newspaper says thousands of Nepalese workers are toiling away in conditions that amount to modern-day slavery.

It says some have not been paid for months, while others have been denied access to drinking water on construction sites.

Journalist Pete Pattison says many of the young men are dying from heart failure.

"We can say with confidence at least 44 Nepalese migrant workers - not migrant workers from other countries, just Nepalese workers - have died between early June and early August," he said.

"Many of these men are dying from some form of heart failure. Many people think it's because of the extreme conditions they work under.
The Angkor Wat  is in Cambodia, by the way.  So it may seem like sloppy imagery to place Sasol's metaphorical "steel-fitted" Angkor Wat into "Qatar on the Bayou"  there's still an underlying consistency.
— Cambodia remains on a US watch list of countries that need to do more to combat human trafficking.

The US issued its annual “Trafficking in Persons” report Friday, rating countries around the world on their attempts to fight the crime. Cambodia was rated a Tier 2 watch list country.

“Cambodia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking,” the report says. “The government of Cambodia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. However, it is making significant efforts to do so.

“Although numerous forms of human trafficking continued to occur in Cambodia, the government prosecuted and convicted fewer trafficking offenders and identified fewer victims than it did in the previous year,” the report says.

“Endemic corruption at all levels of the Cambodian government continues to severely limit the ability of individual officials to make progress in holding traffickers accountable,” the report says.
So let's hope they aren't taking the aspiration to build these things "on the bayou" too literally.  We want to make sure we're not living in a human rights cesspool of a slave state by the time we finally get to come back and ask Loren Scott where the "bonanza" is.. you know.. in another 10 years or so. 

Update:  While we're waiting on that 10 year thing.. please feel free to enjoy the ride.
Louisiana's waterways are among the most polluted in the nation, with industrial facilities releasing more than 12.6 million pounds of toxic chemicals into rivers, bayous and other waters in 2012, according to a report released Thursday (June 19) by the Environment America Research and Policy Center.

The Washington D.C.-based group is calling on Congress to reinforce protections for waterways under the Clean Water Act. The industry says it's already working to cut down on pollution.

According to the report, industrial facilities put more than 206 million pounds of chemicals into waterways nationwide in 2012.

Real life

Here's a colorful description of the once again "swelling" (according to the headline) homeless encampment under the highway on Calliope Street. We're pretty well used to this phenomenon and have come to expect it the way we expect the river to rise during the spring.  (So the headline makes sense.)

The article tells the whole farce well.  There are the obligatory quotes from nearby residents about how unsafe they feel. There's a line from a realtor about how it's bad for tourism.  There's a mention of the "sweeps" the city does to hide the problem when a particularly big tourist event is in town.   And there are the various other unconstitutional ideas proposed by city government to sweep it away more permanently.
Tyler Gamble, the mayor’s current spokesman, said in a statement Thursday that the city is “preparing bids to repurpose and manage the area, including potentially fencing the area.”

He said the city sends a mechanical flusher to clean the camp every week.
I'm not sure what a "mechanical flusher" is.  Best guess is it's one of these street sweeping machines that follows Carnival parades in the Krewe of Municipal Vehicles.

Street Sweeper

Multiple other horrors occur. Latoya Cantrell wants to make it illegal to give people food, for example. The only thing missing from this story is a comment from the now sadly retired Jackie Clarkson.  I would have laid money on her being the person most likely to mention homeless spikes as a solution.

Meanwhile, there are actual real difficulties there that no one seems to know how to deal with. 

However, neighbors and homeless advocacy groups say the area has become a plague and an eyesore, a rodent-infested and lawless sector in the middle of the city’s downtown where police presence is rare and drug use and violence are rampant.

“The tents attract drug dealers, who move in under cover of the tents, preying on the vulnerable homeless population, many of whom have co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders,” (UNITY Executive Director Martha) Kegel said. “Women get raped in the tents, vulnerable people have their disability checks stolen, and violence has become common.”

City officials acknowledge the area presents a significant threat to health and safety but say they are hamstrung by budget constraints, constitutional protections and the complexities of dealing with a diverse population with a host of substance abuse and mental health issues.
Oh well. One supposes that had NOLA.com run this story there'd be some mention of a young "entrepreneur" with an idea of what to do here.  But failing that, we'll have to settle for the "faith-based" approach. It's very life-affirming. 
On Thursday, a church group from Jacksonville, Florida, pulled up with 30 to 40 teenagers in tow and handed out food and water.

Corey Markles, a 25-year-old youth pastor from Crossroads Church, said the group was trying to provide not only food but also entertainment.

They staged a talent show, where members sang karaoke.

One girl serenaded the encampment with the lyrics, “You’re amazing, just the way you are,” from a song by Bruno Mars. Others did back handsprings and cartwheels next to a pile of empty plastic flasks and a man lying on the ground in his underwear.
Update: Oh wait, Latoya Cantrell has another clever idea.

Give a man a skateboard, he'll sleep under the overpass. But teach a man to skate and..  oh who knows?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

What did we learn?

After a decade in Iraq, it seems the thing we've learned is that the real victims of the war are its neocon promoters and their water carriers in the media.
Fox News contributor Judith Miller, whose reporting on Iraq's weapons of mass turned out to be stunningly wrong, said Friday that the media has been too hard on other individuals whose pre-war pronouncements also turned out to be stunningly wrong.

During an appearance on Fox, Miller complained that the media "loves to beat up on who was responsible for the Iraq War and who is to blame for the current controversy, the current crisis."
Oh and we've also learned, through science, that maybe Judith Miller and Dick Cheney are worse people than rats are.

Hair club for men

Were they separated at birth?

LA first district Congressman (and newly elected House Majority Whip) Steve Scalise.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (at least when he still had his hairplugs)

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Gutted, burned, former "tenement" on Esplanade Avenue on sale for $1.3 million.
An 1800s Tremé mansion that made headlines when it went up in flames in a four-alarm fire last year is now for sale, and this baby isn't cheap. A tipster passed along the listing (a for sale by owner Craigslist ad, by the way) and wrote "Notorious slumlord Joan Brooks, owner of the Empress Hotel and Queen of New Orleans Blight has listed one of her tenements for sale at an ASTRONOMICAL price!" The ask? $1.3-freaking-million.
I'm sure it will go to a local buyer interested in offering affordable rentals..... 

Oh well

Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps speaking at a conference this week

He called back to an earlier speaker, who had pointed out that the internet, to most users, had become about the very core of freedom of expression: the freedom to say, read, and watch what we want. And with “the likelihood of gatekeeper control” impending, in the form of the FCC’s new proposed net neutrality rule, those freedoms are in danger.

In the end, Copps directly challenged both the FCC and current members of Congress to do more, and do better. “Our democracy depends on what happens between now and the end of this year,” he said. “Are we going to have regulators and legislators with enough gumption to make this happen?”

“I know it can,” he added, calling on the audience in the room to speak up and make their voices heard with lawmakers. But ultimately, he concluded, it all boils down to two questions:

“Whose internet is it anyway? And whose democracy is it anyway?”
We could have had a really nice internet once.  But we would have first needed to have a democracy that would have made it sustainable.

Can't even get the pandering right

Steve Scalise wants to be the GOP whip in the House now that Eric Cantor's fall has reshuffled the leadership there.  He's very superstitious about the vote.
According to Politico, Scalise gave his whip campaign team bats on Wednesday that said "Bring the Wood" as motivation to push for the win.

Though the Beltway hot sheet didn't reference it, Scalise was clearly channeling Coach Sean Payton, who handed out similar bats to the Saints in 2010 before a playoff showdown with the Arizona Cardinals.
On the other hand, Saints fans will also remember the 2013 season where the team was powered to a road playoff win in Philadelphia by Popeyes Chicken.  Scalise has a different kind of chicken for lunch.

Perricone Nation

Undoubtedly this will spark a new round of "Don't read the comments!" or whatever.

But the great benefit of comments sections... much like the entirety of the free and open internet... is that they allow us to dispense with the pretentious facades the people in charge of things put on and catch a glimpse of what they actually think.
Under various pseudonyms, including Falcon9, Thucky and Thucydides, Huppenthal has authored hundreds of comments at the progressive Blog for Arizona since at least 2011.

He engaged in self-promotion, writing in February that he's "sure" Huppenthal, who's up for re-election this year, "will be our next superintendent."

He once decried Barack Obama for "rewarding the lazy pigs with food stamps (44 million people), air-conditioning, free health care, flat-screen TV's (typical of 'poor' families)." and even went birther, claiming that the president wrote in his memoir that "he was born in Kenya!!!"

In one comment, he compared Margaret Sanger to Adolf Hitler, writing that the Planned Parenthood founder "fed 16 million African-Americans into the abortion mills. He also argued that Franklin D. Roosevelt's "disastrous economic policies drug down the whole world and directly led to the rise of a no-name hack named Adolph Hitler who was going nowhere until Germany's economy went into the tank."

So you have to feel for the people of Arizona.  The man running their school system is a crazy birther who likens poor people to "lazy pigs."  This is reprehensible but it's also valuable information for people to know about this person.  

Similarly, the Perricone affair has been valuable to us in New Orleans.  It's important that we understand the US Attorney's office is not staffed by crime fighting White Knights.  It is a powerful political office that runs on bullying and hubris.

Most importantly, these episodes are not outliers.  This is really what people out there are like.  If you have any doubt, just read the damn comments. 
And yet, had it not been for the comments section, no one would have told us this about them. Our intermediaries in the press would have gone on celebrating the supposed dignity of the office while ignoring the terrible people that actually worked there.  Thank goodness the terrible people were allowed to tell us directly how terrible they were. 

That might not happen as readily  in the future.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

History's gray and taupe areas

I realize it's very hard for people to remember things that happened fifteen years ago but the New Orleans Arena (name now whored out to a corporate sponsor) was shower green from the start... which was long before anyone thought the Charlotte Hornets would ever play there.
Thornton wouldn’t say which specific colors are being considered by the selection team, which includes architects, designers, lighting experts and representatives from SMG, the Superdome Commission and the New Orleans Pelicans. But he said the group’s decision is being guided by two principles. The first is to select a color that will not compete with the Superdome. The second is to find a color, likely a neutral tone, that is light enough to reflect the LED lighting also being installed on the building.

Even with those requirements, there are a lot of colors to choose from.

“There’s the grays, the taupes, the browns, the tans,” Thornton said. “In looking at the various color options, the architects and the lighting experts are giving us some guidance on what they think will be the best color option.”

Changing the color of the building from the green associated with the New Orleans Hornets will also help to solidify the team’s new name and the building’s new sponsorship, Thornton said. The Hornets became the Pelicans in April 2013. Smoothie King purchased naming rights to the arena in February.
The building was not green due to green being "associated with the Hornets." It's a coincidence.  You are free to make whatever associations you wish but let's not imply causality just because it seems fun to us.  The Advocate has a problem with this gimmick, by the way.

Anyway the green shower tile look is pretty weird, I'll grant them that.  This also makes it kind of unique and memorable. So, obviously, we can't have any of that going on.   Thus here come the "grays, the taupes, the browns, and the tans." All nice and grown-up and boringlike.

Kicking you off the internet

It's all theirs now.  Most of you losers do not count.  Unless you can afford to pay enough to count.
YouTube is preparing to radically change their site, adding a subscription service that is intended to help them compete in the streaming music industry. The Google GOOGL +0.45%-owned video site has already signed new licensing deals with all of the major labels, but many independents are refusing to take part. Apparently, not only are smaller, indie labels not being offered the same deals as the majors, but the contracts that Google is putting in front of them are less than fair.
Net neutrality is just a part of this but it's all of one piece.  The internet is not for regular people anymore. It belongs to big media and they are going to monetize it. There are efforts to beat some of this back but... really, come on.

I thought they wanted more regulation

James Gill:
Oil and gas weighed in after the state legislative auditor released a report concluding that, since Jindal became governor in 2008, the Department of Natural Resources has left close to 3,000 abandoned wells unplugged, spreading pollution and hazard across the state. If DNR’s Office of Conservation doesn’t pull its socks up, the number of so-called “orphans” will continue to rise. A solution will require an increase in the fees oil and gas pays the state, the report concluded.

Bring it on, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Don Briggs said in a speech in Lafayette. “Our industry knows orphan wells are a problem. We’re not the ones saying no, we won’t pay more.”

Neither is the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association. Its environmental affairs director, Richard Metcalf, said, “We would be willing to sit down and talk” about higher fees.

They should be doubled, according to Briggs, but “we have a state political administration that opposes raising fees or taxes.”
According to leading oil and gas industry lobbyists, Bobby Jindal's Department of Natural Resources is not tough enough on them.  That's a sobering enough thought. 

But, hey, if industry leaders feel that strongly about it, they had an opportunity to make their voices heard yesterday in St. Tammany Parish where DNR was hearing public comment  on Helis Oil's proposed frack well.
While opponents of a proposed oil well in St. Tammany Parish made their arguments Tuesday before an official of the state’s Department of Natural Resources, several blocks away, a lawsuit seeking to halt the plan, filed Monday by the St. Tammany Parish Council, was winding its way through the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court’s Office.

The suit names James Welsh, the state’s commissioner of conservation, as a defendant and asks a state judge to issue an injunction preventing the DNR from issuing a permit that would allow the operator to dig a well and extract oil by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The suit argues that the parish’s zoning laws prohibit drilling a well at the proposed site, and it points to a recent legislative auditor’s report that said the DNR was negligent in overseeing many of Louisiana’s abandoned and inoperative wells.
So they'll beg the state to fine them but they do tend to fall back in line whenever someone is suing to halt their operations.  Because the last thing anyone wants is to adhere to local zoning guidelines.
The proposed well location — in the southeast part of a 960-acre tract north of Interstate 12 and bisected by La. 1088 — is zoned A-3, a designation that requires a “single-family residential environment on moderate-sized lots,” according to the council’s suit. Activities on the land are limited to dwellings and certain “cultural, education, religion and public uses,” the suit says.

Anyway, clearly the well is allowable under these rules. Consider it another shrine to the church of Petrochemical Production.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


I hope this answer helps.


Dozens of St. Tammany Parish residents showed up at the La. Department of Natural Resources Tuesday to speak out against a proposed oil fracking rig north of Mandeville.

It may have been their only chance before an agency that may ultimately approve the drilling permit.

Some came with children, others carried signs.

"My question is will it be safe?" said opponent John Herasymiuk.

What did I miss?

Been reading about soccer stuff all afternoon.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The long slow implosion of UNO

This may be the least talked about post-Katrina New Orleans story. At least it isn't talked about enough in relation to how terrible it is.
Over the past five years, UNO’s state funding has dropped by almost half, from $56 million in 2008 to $32 million for the current fiscal year. Over the past decade, enrollment also has fallen by almost half, from 17,360 students registered in 2003 to just 9,323 last year.

Fos resisted setting a “dollar target” on how much he hopes can be saved by the review, saying the group’s job is to make recommendations based on the merits of the various programs.

“I don’t want money to drive the discussion,” he said.

In an email to faculty and staff Friday, Hansen and Jenkins described the plan as one they hope will make UNO “broadly recognized as one of the pre-eminent urban research institutions in the nation.”
"Pre-eminent urban research institution" is  kind of vague. But not too many years ago this was a well respected and affordable state university serving New Orleans's middle class commuter students.  It matters that this institution is collapsing.

Back to Univision

I tried watching the ESPN World Cup commentary over the weekend in the hope that I might actually learn the game a little bit.  Most Americans being occasional casual soccer fans like myself could really benefit from some basic analysis that familiarizes us with the rules and strategy in the context of each match.

ESPN can't provide this, though, because they're too busy trying to be ESPN.
But still: watching every World Cup game and halftime show produced for an American audience this weekend, it was hard not to realize just how wedded ESPN remains to everything else about The Brand™ that so dumbs down its coverage of every other sport to which it owns the broadcast rights. Anchors holding a tenuous familiarity. Soft-focus features high on emotion and low on data. An aversion to analytics and a commitment to game breakdowns based on intangibles, delivered by the "authority" of ex-jocks. A pathological fear of politics or social context whatsoever.

Mama Ducks eat their young

So it turns out neither Bobby Jindal's pandering nor Vance McAllister's flirtation was enough to keep the Duck Party placated. They've gone and entered their own candidate in the 5th District.
Businessman Zach Dasher, the cousin of Duck Commander chief executive Willie Robertson, will announce Monday morning that he will be a candidate in the 5th Congressional District.

The news follows Congressman Vance McAllister’s recent indecision on whether he will run this fall. McAllister, R-Swartz, had initially said he would not seek re-election after a video surfaced in April of him kissing a married aide.

“I will make my decision when qualifying opens,” said McAllister during a Wednesday interview with LaPolitics.

Also on the fence is state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, who lost to McAllister in the special election runoff last year. “I’ll probably be making a decision within the next week or so,” Riser said last week.
Also.. "Zach Dasher" is clearly a made up name, right?

Update:   Here is Thomas Frank's latest Salon column which might add some context to this no-conservative-is-ever-nutty-enough phenomenon.

Why is it that Republicans are uniquely prone to this cycle of idealism and betrayal? I think the answer is simple: Because free-market idealism is a philosophy that automatically leads to betrayal—and also to misgovernment, and cronyism, and even corruption, as we saw in the DeLay era. The movement’s greatest idealists often turn out to be its greatest scoundrels—think of Jack Abramoff, or of Oliver North, or (as Rick Perlstein has pointed out) the gang of hard-right purists who signed up to do dirty tricks for Richard Nixon. In truth, there seems to be no real contradiction between conservative morality and following the money; to be a capitalist true-believer is to sell yourself.

Free-market idealism, after all, is about applying market forces to the state. This is what everything from Citizens United to toll-road privatization is all about. To be true to such a principle means respecting incentives, answering the call of money. And it ain’t small business who has the money in Washington these days.

A number of years ago I wrote about the market-minded men of the Bush era who did the bidding of lobbyists and who filled the federal agencies with hacks and fools, and I think my verdict on them still applies: “They did not do these awful things because they were bad conservatives; they did them because they were good conservatives, because these unsavory deeds followed naturally from the core doctrines of the conservative tradition.”

So the cycle goes on, uprising after uprising, an eternal populist revolt against leaders who never produce and problems that never get solved. Somehow, the free-market utopia that all the primary voters believe in never arrives, no matter how many privatizations and tax cuts the Republicans try. And so they seek out someone even purer, someone even more fanatical. They drag the country into another debt-ceiling fight, and this time, they say, they really mean it! But what never occurs to them is that maybe it’s their ideals themselves that are the problem.
No matter how much pandering Bobby Jindal does, someone can always label him a sellout... especially now that he's a national candidate.   McAllister was the Duck darling just a few short months ago until he was embarrassed by a dumb scandal.  Suddenly he's a sellout too.  There's always an ostensibly purer guy waiting in the wings to take advantage.. and inevitably become the next "sellout" someday.

Journalism is a dumb idea

Why would anyone even bother?
After today, we won’t produce our daily What We’re Reading newsletter of top stories from various news sources. And with the end of the school year, we’re putting our Charter School Reporting Corps on hiatus. We’re also sharply reducing our state political coverage.

We hope these popular features can return to The Lens, and we’ve instituted an aggressive fundraising effort to make that happen.

Many people, including those in the charter school movement, have told us how valuable our charter-schools coverage has been over the past few years. In many cases, a Lens reporter has been the only member of the public at these meetings. That oversight has shaped how these boards operate and spend public dollars, and we’re proud we could make that happen.

But it costs a lot — in time and money — to do this work. In addition to paying the freelancers to cover these meetings, we must coordinate coverage for more than 40 boards and edit the stories.

This is from a letter to The Advocate by Tulane political science professor J. Celeste Lay.
This idea of school choice is more legend than fact. Parents must apply to the RSD schools via OneApp, a system that fails to guarantee a spot in any of one’s top choices. Given the scores within RSD, parents have a Hobson’s choice. They can apply to OPSB schools but because these schools control their own enrollment, there are lotteries. Unlike the Power Ball, all tickets do not have an equal chance of winning. You can only get into the lottery if you meet a school’s criteria. At one school, prospective kindergartners are given a reading and math test (never mind that most can’t read and are unfamiliar with the term “math”) in a room, alone with a test administrator he or she does not know on a date assigned by the school. Students who do not score above a certain level cannot get into the lottery, and those who score the highest have better odds of selection. When it can essentially draft its students, is it a wonder this is one of the city’s highest performing schools?

How much longer will our elected officials allow this experiment to continue? Unfortunately, theories on power suggest cause for more despair than hope. In 1962, political scientists Peter Bachrach and Morton Baratz argued that mass groups had authority in local debates about public education because the elites had effectively narrowed the public’s choices so that any electoral outcome was acceptable. Indeed, in the last election, there were no candidates in opposition to the privatization agenda.

The Lens was often the only reporter in the room with the directors of our sprawling, failing, experiment in school privatization.  That they're giving up their most uniquely impactful beat can only mean their situation is dire. I guess that Director of PARTYING position might not be available anymore.

And, given the lack of scrutiny devoted to charters from the rest of the local media, it means our situation is dire as well. 

At least someone will still tell us who the debs are.  I suppose that's all the education coverage this market needs.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The do-overs are starting to pile up

Let's see, that's now the WTC site, Six Flags, the St. Roch Market, and, the airport are all back out for bid.
The New Orleans Aviation Board Monday voted to cancel the request for proposals related to the construction of a new terminal at Louis Armstrong International Airport.

That means that the entire selection process will have to start again from the beginning, including an advertising period to solicit new proposals.

The board encouraged joint ventures Parsons-Odebrecht and Hunt-Gibbs-Boh-Metro to submit new proposals. 
That's a lot of blockage. Maybe the city's unsuccessful bid for the 2018 Super Bowl has them convinced that "no" is the only respectable answer.  Or maybe they're wondering why nobody is sending them superfluous iPads

Or maybe they're just worried about being sued.
By starting from scratch, the board may have avoided a potentially lengthy court battle over the contract, because either joint venture would have been able to sue if the board had picked the other bidder.

Airport officials anticipate the request for proposals will be released again in the next few weeks, with the deadline for responses several weeks after that.

That would set back the project, which initially was expected to be completed by the end of April 2018, but could still leave enough time for the new terminal to be opened during the city’s tricentennial year.
It's not clear whether they're more worried about litigation arising from allegations of racial insensitivity on the part of one contractor or from former Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant's possible ethical conflict. Anyway they're starting over.

The good news there is, since there's no Super Bowl, nobody has to worry about flying too many people in during Tricentennial January.  Maybe it will be ready in time to receive bidders in town to present the next round of proposals for doing whatever is supposed to happen to Charity Hospital now.

Maybe just let's skip ahead to the part where someone is indicted for fraud

If you are wondering why the Advocate sees fit to take a moment during this story to make the argument in favor of these film tax incentives it's probably because they tend to end badly for a lot of people.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Congratulations, Mayor Bagneris

Guess that whole stupid campaign was not in vain after all.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu has dropped an ambitious $300 million plan to convert the old Charity Hospital building into a civic center housing City Hall and the Orleans Parish Civil District Court. Landrieu said Wednesday that  a lack of state funding and a skyrocketing construction budget led him to cancel the plan.

“The plans do not pencil out to build a new Civic Complex or to relocate to a new building.  My plan is to invest FEMA and capital funding into reasonable repairs of the buildings that will make them more efficient and safe,” Landrieu said in a statement. “Simply put, we cannot afford the project at this time, given our other critical needs.”
Legislature wouldn't kick in the money. Now Mitch has to drop another one of his favorite big ideas.  I notice Landrieu doesn't appear as either a "winna" or a "looza" at the end of the session. Since Michael Bagneris basically gets the only thing he wanted, I wonder if Mitch even won the election outright.

Duck and cover

Down goes Cantor

That's a link to a "quick take" listicle at TPM.  Most of which is fine.  Except when it comes to this part.
The resurgence of the GOP establishment just took a devastating blow. So far 2014 has been marked by entrenched Republicans wresting back control of GOP from the rambunctious tea party. Cantor's stunning loss disrupts that narrative and puts every incumbent Republican on notice that they may be next. Any comfort from the string of victories for establishment-favored candidates so far in the primaries will evaporate on Tuesday night. RedState.com blogger Erick Erickson wrote, "[Cantor] kept his attention off his district, constituents, and conservatives while he and his staff plotted to get the Speaker’s chair."

That line about "entrenched Republicans wresting back control" was mostly bullshit to begin with; the product of wishful thinking on the part of an establishment press who love "entrenched Republicans" like they do their own mothers.  We just watched 3,000 term Mississippi Patrician Senator Thad Cochran dragged into a primary runoff  last week.  There's no way anyone should assume this is a good year for "entrenched Republicans."

The bright side, if there is one, is that these results are an indication that democracy still actually kinda works... at least within the framework we've allowed it to work.  The House is badly gerrymandered in order to maintain a Republican majority. The same gerrymander also guarantees that the Republican party will always have to answer to its most radical elements.

All of that is by design. But it is a design predicated on the idea that the voters in the gerrymandered districts get to decide what matters.  Some of the things they think matter are pretty interesting.  These would include shooting down drones with rifles, hog castration, and... yeah..  reality TV.
Now, Jindal is embracing the reality TV craze and boosting his profile.

“Duck Dynasty” is back at 9 p.m. Wednesday for its sixth season. Jindal — who was born Piyush but started calling himself Bobby, after TV’s Bobby Brady, as a preschooler — joins the West Monroe clan in front of the cameras.
It should be noted that Jindal became a Duck Dynasty fan only after his hand-picked candidate for Louisiana's Fifth Congressional District was defeated by insurgent Vance McAllister. McAllister's campaign was boosted by an endorsement from Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson.

In subsequent months, Jindal has taken pains to associate himself with Duck Dynasty also. Jindal stepped in to defend duckperson Phil Robertson when he was under fire for homophobic remarks. On tonight's episode Jindal will present the duckpeople with something called the "Governor's Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence."  This is the first time anyone has received this honor.
Jindal's office has not provided details about the specific criteria for the award or what other businesses have been considered for the honor. The governor said the award would be given out periodically to "homegrown Louisiana businesses" that are expanding.
Here is a preview of the award ceremony.

The point is the people like that Duck thing.  The Duck thing liked wildcard conservative Vance McAllister. Therefore, the people spoke and McAllister knocked off Jindal's guy. And so now Jindal has moved toward the Duck... um... wing of the party.

This is textbook political responsiveness. But it's still pretty calculated.  Jindal would prefer to give out a bullshit award to a TV show rather than cave to any of McAllister's other demands like accepting Louisiana's share of the Medicaid expansion that was supposed to come with the Affordable Care Act.

Will that satisfy the super-empowered GOP fringe base?  Eric Cantor (even Eric Cantor!) couldn't supply them with enough blood.  And so they ate him.  That's the deal the Republicans have made in order to keep governing even though they are a national minority party according to popular vote. Every now and then someone gets thrown to the beast they've created.

Policywise, it works out great for them.  Party discipline is maintained because everyone is afraid of the fringe. The party's rigid intransigence guarantees it wins practically every meaningful showdown with the hapless Democrats.  The whole national program lurches ever rightward

Theoretically it should always work like this.
And usually it does. Keep the malcontents just riled up enough they'll support you even as you continue to screw them.  That's pretty much been the Republican formula for most of our lifetimes already. 

But still, there's an element of chaos involved that could always make for interesting mischief when a jerk like Eric Cantor has to crash and burn for the cause or when their wildcard candidates get a bit off-script.  Like, for example, McAllister on Medicaid. Or even this David Brat character here.
In his campaign against Cantor, Brat turned every issue into a morality tale about big business cheating ordinary Americans. He attacked Cantor for supporting the farm bill (“Do those billions of dollars go to the small American farmer? No, they go to huge agribusiness, right? Big business again.”), the flood-insurance bill (“Who does that go to? A lot of the money goes to gazillionaires on both coasts who have homes in nice real-estate locations.”), and the STOCK Act, an effort to stop insider trading by congressmen, which Cantor gutted by including an exception for spouses. In his Randall-inspired stump speech, Brat was more worked up about the STOCK Act than anything else. He promised, “If you tell your friends or neighbors about this issue, I will be your next congressman!”

Granted, at the core of Brat’s ideology is an unvarnished belief, one that does not maintain majority support in any recent national poll that I have encountered, that the government should return to its pre-New Deal roots. This is not surprising. He’s a libertarian. But his message, which today is being embraced by Tea Party candidates around the country, is also sharply different from the Romney-Ryan view of limited government celebrated by Republicans in 2012.
For the time being, though, Tea Party populism is boxed in in such a way that it only further serves the establishment cause. But, unlike the perpetually moribund and bought off left, the populists on the right are the only players with even  a slight chance of shaking things up. In many ways that's a frightening prospect but it might also be the closest thing to a hopeful prospect one can imagine right now. 

McAllister really should consider running for re-election.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cost/benefit analysis

Vance McAllister just wants to know where his check is.

Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) said last week he thought he would receive a campaign donation after voting against a bill, according to The Ouachita Citizen.

At a meeting of the Northeast Chapter of Louisiana CPAs, McAllister recounted a conversation he had with an unnamed colleague, who told McAllister the Heritage Foundation would give him a $1,200 campaign check if he voted "no" on a bill involving the Bureau of Land Management.

"I played dumb and asked him, 'How would you vote?'" said McAllister, according to the paper. "He told me, 'Vote no and you will get a $1,200 check from the Heritage Foundation. If you vote yes, you will get a $1,000 check from some environmental impact group.'"

McAllister said that, unlike his colleague, he did not receive a donation after his "no" vote. He backtracked the next day, telling The Monroe News-Star that his comments were "taken completely out of context."

"I did not receive my paycheck" so now he's pretty much setting the building on fire. 
"They are always trying to throw bullets at me," said McAllister. "Once I told my friend about Gov. Jindal being mad at me, he said, 'Well, that’s why you didn’t get a check.'"
Forget the "kissing" incident.  We need a loose cannon like McAllister hanging around Congress saying stuff like this.  Please come back, Vince.

More of a Shelbyville kind of idea

The golden rule of modern grifter detection: First ask, "Is there a monorail involved?" If yes, then be very worried.
With just two days to go until the 2014 World Cup opener in Sao Paulo, an accident at a construction project to build a monorail in Brazil’s largest city has killed a worker.

The incident occurred near Brazil’s busiest domestic airport, and comes as public sector strikes, mass unrest and crippling delays threatened to overshadow the start of the biggest event in world football this Thursday.

The monorail project is itself an example of a massive infrastructure which the Brazilian government said would be a positive legacy from hosting the World Cup.

But in 2011, just a year after construction began, officials had already declared that it would not be ready in time.
 By now, most people have seen John Oliver's FIFA segment this week.  Here it is anyway. 

Remember, also, just because we're not soccer crazy in this country, doesn't mean we don't deal with our own version of this on a regular basis.

Monday, June 09, 2014


Vance McAllister has some things to say about his rights as an American or something.
While a slew of candidates meditate on entering the presumably open race in the 5th Congressional District, the man who holds the seat now, Congressman Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, is slightly amending his previous statements that made it sound as if he’d definitely be taking an early retirement.

“Right now I’m not a candidate,” he told LaPolitics. “Do I have the right to change my mind? All of us as Americans have the right to change our minds. So it’ll be out there to speculate about until qualifying in August. A lot of things can happen between now and then.”

McAllister also confirmed a rumor that had been circulating in north Louisiana for weeks. “I have been approached about swapping to independent and Democrat,” he said, adding, “But swapping parties doesn’t make any sense to me.”
That last bit is a shame.  A lot of us would get a kick out of a Duck Dynasty endorsed pro-Medicaid expansion Democrat running in a congressional race in Louisiana.

BP shield law

The important thing to keep in mind about the "Kill-The-Lawsuit-Bill" Bobby Jindal signed last week is that it may not even actually kill the lawsuit.

Here's what we know for sure it does.
SB 469 appears to have been written and deliberately designed by lawyers who represent the oil and gas industry in order to shield, reduce, or eliminate their clients’ exposure to civil damages on a wide range of pending and future claims, including, most notably, BP’s liability for billions of dollars in outstanding claims related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. Indeed, according to people intimately involved in the legislative process, no one lobbied harder for the passage of SB 469 than those associated with BP.

It might also kill the SLFPAE lawsuit but that hasn't been determined just yet.  Which is why Jindal is still punishing board members who supported the suit in the first place.

Anyway, renowned idiot Don Briggs is happy.
Oil and gas industry lobbyists had pushed hard for the bill during the 2014 legislative session, which passed both the state House and Senate by relatively healthy margins. They lauded the governor's decision Friday.

"The signing of SB 469 is a huge victory for the oil and gas industry as well as the economy for the state of Louisiana," said Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. "While there is still much work to be done, this piece of legislation is a big step in the right direction."
Recall that Briggs' deposition was taken in advance of a frivolous LOGA suit brought in hopes of slowing down the SLFPAE suit.  You can think of SB 469 as a similar obstruction with regard to the SLFPAE suit. It means we have to make time for one more round in the courts.
Backers of the lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East are expected to challenge in court the new law Jindal signed. The authority's lawsuit that generated so much attention is already in federal court.
Which means at least one more round of legal wrangling stands between now and the time we take any meaningful steps toward saving the Louisiana coastline. But hey, take your time there, right?

But as far as the oil industry is concerned, that lawsuit is really just one claim.  If it stands up in court, SB 469 shields them from many many more claims.  It looks like they're aware of this.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Louisiana Hayride: The Movie

Eventually the con game we call "Hollywood South" is going to ensnare everyone

A man has been convicted on charges involving movie tax schemes in Louisiana. Last year, the US Attorney charged him with wire fraud, and he was sentenced on Thursday.

Gregory Martin Walker, 47, was living in Baton Rouge at the time. Investigators say Walker swindled nearly $4 million dollars by buying and selling Louisiana motion picture investor tax credits, which he did not own.
How many is that now? I may have lost count.

Via Dambala, btw, who is connecting more dots.  Sometimes I think all the power attorneys in this state just spend all of their time passing money to one another.  Maybe they should make a movie together. 

Also here's the occasional reminder:
(LA Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret) did acknowledge that Louisiana's film tax credit program costs state government money. "From a fiscal perspective, it is by far the most expensive program that we have," said Moret of the state's financial incentive for the film industry, which has brought several movie productions to Louisiana.

Good luck with all that

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune got a copy of the NFL's rider it sends to the Super Bowl host city. It's about what you'd expect.
The National Football League had a long and expensive list of confidential requests before it awarded the 2018 Super Bowl to Minneapolis.

Free police escorts for team owners, and 35,000 free parking spaces. Presidential suites at no cost in high-end hotels. Free billboards across the Twin Cities. Guarantees to receive all revenue from the game’s ticket sales — even a requirement for NFL-preferred ATMs at the stadium.

Those requirements and many others are detailed in 153 pages of NFL specifications for the game. An official on the host committee that successfully sought the game — Minneapolis beat out Indianapolis and New Orleans — said the panel had agreed to a majority of the conditions but would not elaborate.

The document, which the Star Tribune obtained through sources, has not been released publicly but shows how the NFL will control the event and many of its public aspects. The NFL declined to comment on the document and host committee officials are declining to make it public, citing state data privacy laws.
"Data privacy laws" mean that the NFL doesn't have to disclose how it plans to dispose of the public resources including police protection, usage of parks and streets, "clean zone" infringements on free speech, etc. granted to it by elected officials.

The elected officials, technically, do get to see the plan although, it turns out, many of them choose not to. 
Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson said “incentives” were necessary to host the Super Bowl, but Mayor Betsy Hodges’ office said it did not know what the city’s host committee ultimately agreed to. “We haven’t seen the bid, so we don’t know what was agreed to,” said Kate Brickman, Hodges’ spokeswoman.
Anyway, not our problem... at least not for a few more years.  

Friday, June 06, 2014

Iconic Structure

The Six Flags site has become our own version of the Brooklyn Bridge.. in the sense that con artists might attempt to sell it to you.

A judge in California sentenced Ngoc “Danny” Duong and Hong Lee “William” Wong last week to more than two years each in federal prison for defrauding investors by claiming they had won the right to demolish the theme park and sell the scrap metal.

After a trial that lasted 11 days, a jury in February convicted Duong, 61, and Wong, 46, of fabricating emails, a city services agreement and other written assurances purportedly penned by Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant, Property Management Director George Patterson and Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s economic development adviser, Aimee Quirk , among others.

Even New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux’s name appeared in three emails to explain delays in the project as Duong and Wong wrangled six figures from a California company, Cheery Way Inc., and two Chinese firms, according to prosecutors.
It works the other way too, of course.  The city's Industrial Development Board can keep pretending to offer it up for redevelopment too.  The bid applications are $5000 a pop. 

Movie time

Yesterday the Chemical Safety Board released its long-awaited report on the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon and subsequent oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico.  It comes with a helpful animation.

The cartoon focuses on the failure of Horizon's blowout preventer.   Specifically, it points to a miswired battery which caused some of the BOP's systems to fail at a critical moment.  The video doesn't dig very far into the reason for this. But the report does.
A miswiring disabled the blowout preventer’s control system, which was designed to activate the shear ram in an emergency. A separate miswiring caused another battery failure on an identical, redundant control system, but the two battery failures “canceled each other out.” That second battery failure triggered a shearing blade inside the blowout preventer, which attempted to cut the pipe. But it was unsuccessful because the drill pipe had been bent.

In the report, the CSB said  the blowout preventer had been miswired before it was ever set on the sea floor, paralyzing certain key functions. Houston-based Cameron International manufactured the device and Swiss rig contractor Transocean owned it.

Neither Transocean nor BP treated the Deepwater Horizon blowout preventer as a safety critical element,” the agency said in a written statement accompanying the report. “The component of the DWH blowout preventer meant to shear and seal the well was not suitable for the Macondo drilling operation, as it could not reliably shear the drill pipe.”

Transocean is the world's largest offshore drilling contractor. According to this report, they either don't know or don't care about how to properly maintain a crucial safety mechanism.

Oh well.  Meanwhile, we'll be on the lookout for other places to get oysters. 

At the oyster task force meeting Tuesday, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries biologist report that there is not a lot of spat. That's the larval or infancy stage that settles to the bottom and begins to develop a shell. And they won't know until July if there's a numbers problem. But one 35-year-oyster producer doesn't like what he sees.

"I'll tell 'ya, things aren't normal," said Al Sunseri.

Sunseri is the co-owner and president of P & J Oyster Company. It's been in business for 138 years.

"I've been doing this for 35 years and I've just seen a continual reduction in the amount of oysters available over the last four and a half years. Ever since the oil disaster, there's been a continued decline, and the public oyster grounds have been basically nonproductive."

Sunseri said he had to lay off workers after the BP oil spill in 2010.