Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Advocate "Voice Of God" editorialist defends Scalise

But this paper does not do political endorsements. Because principles or something. 

Anyway, this is as terrible as you might expect.
Scalise’s initial assertion that he didn’t know about EURO’s background when he spoke to the group — reportedly about tax policy — is hard to believe. We’re more encouraged by Scalise’s later, less equivocal statement of regret about accepting a speaking engagement from extremists.

Scalise certainly isn’t the first politician who’s kept company with odious characters. During his first race for governor, Mike Foster’s campaign purchased mailing lists from Duke. Despite that lapse, Foster governed well for two terms.
"Foster governed well."  From what I can tell the Advocate's criteria for good governance pretty much ends at unindicted.... although I suspect there are bonus points for whiteness. Certainly there are big points for being powerful. And Scalise was well on his way up the ladder there.

For kicks, the unsigned Voice Of God editorial offers us Jeremiah Wright as presumably a David Duke equivalent proving, again, that this paper has no moral compass.. or common sense...  whatsoever.
Perhaps the more compelling precedent concerns President Barack Obama, who, before he became president, was a member of a church pastored by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a cleric whose toxic pronouncements included the suggestion that Americans somehow prompted the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks because of aggressive foreign policy.
Ummmm, yes.  9-11 was unquestionably blowback... enacted, of course, by murderous zealots.. but  encouraged by decades of disastrous, imperialistic US foreign policy. This fact does not exonerate terrorists by any means, but it is nonetheless unassailably true. 

But just that someone would think to equate Wright with David Duke is astoundingly ignorant. 

Here is a Bill Moyers interview with Jeremiah Wright from 2008.  I would encourage the invisible person responsible for the Advocate editorial to watch the whole thing. But here is a passage where Moyers asks Wright to talk directly about the problem of a misinformed or half-informed American historical understanding.

BILL MOYERS: What is your notion of why so many Americans seem not to want to hear the full Monty - they don't want to seem to acknowledge that a nation capable of greatness is also capable of cruelty?

REVEREND WRIGHT: I think I come at that as a historian of religion. That we are miseducated as a people. Or because we're miseducated, you end up with the majority of the people not wanting to hear the truth. Because they would rather cling to what they are taught. James Washington, now a deceased church historian, says that after every revolution, the winners of that revolution write down what the revolution was about so that their children can learn it, whether it's true or not. They don't learn anything at all about the Arawak, they don't learn anything at all about the Seminole, the Cheek-Trail of Tears, the Cherokee. They don't learn anything. No, they don't learn that. What they learn is 1776, Crispus Attucks was the one black guy in there. Fight against the British, the- terrible. "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal while we're holding slaves." No, keep that part out. They learn that. And they cling to that. And when you start trying to show them you only got a piece of the story, and lemme show you the rest of the story, you run into vitriolic hatred because you're desecrating our myth. You're desecrating what we hold sacred. And when you're holding sacred is a miseducational system that has not taught you the truth. I also think people don't understand condemn, D-E-M-N, D-A-M-N. They don't understand the root, the etymology of the word in terms of God condemning the practices that are against God's people. But again, what is happening is I talk a truth. Reading the scripture or the hermeneutic of a people who have-

BILL MOYERS: Hermeneutic?

REVEREND WRIGHT: Hermeneutic is an interpretation, it's the window from which you're looking is your hermeneutic. And when you don't realize that I've been framed- this whole thing has been framed through this window, there's another world out here that I'm not looking at or taking into account, it gives you a perspective that-- that is-- that is informed by and limited by your hermeneutic. Dr. James Cone put it this way. The God of the people who riding on the decks of the slave ship is not the God of the people who are riding underneath the decks as slaves in chains. If the God you're praying to, "Bless our slavery" is not the God to whom these people are praying, saying, "God, get us out of slavery." And it's not like Notre Dame playing Michigan. You're saying flip a coin; hope God blesses the winning team, no. That the perception of God who allows slavery, who allows rape, who allows misogyny, who allows sodomy, who allows murder of a people, lynching, that's not the God of the people being lynched and sodomized and raped, and carried away into a foreign country. Same thing you find in Psalm 137. That those people who are carried away into slavery have a very different concept of what it means to be the people of God than the ones who carried them away.

BILL MOYERS: And they say, "How can we sing the song of the Lord of a foreign land?"

From the particular hermeneutic through which the official company editorial page of The Advocate views matters, Rev Wright and David Duke are pretty much the same thing.  

It's nice that they still print 7 days but maybe you really shouldn't read all of that paper. 

The Year Of Enforcement

Empty Jackson Square
Jackson Square in 2008. The dividing "armrests" on the benches are innovations introduced by former Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson. They are intended to prevent homeless people from sleeping there. Somehow they manage anyway.

This quote is from Councilmember Cantrell speaking at Monday's Year End municipal press conference hosted by the Mayor and every other public official who wanted to speechify for no particular reason. 

I used to think Stacy Head was the new Jackie Clarkson but that's probably an out of date assessment considering how far to the right the entirety of city government has moved in recent years.  Stacy is now Peggy Wilson.  Latoya is the new Jackie.

If 2015 is going to be The Year Of Enforcement, Cantrell has already gotten a head start on that in 2014. This year she worked hard at shooing homeless people off of the streets under the Calliope overpass and shooing some of the fun off of the streets during Carnival.

She also, sort of mysteriously, allowed the demolition of one property under strange circumstances having to do with a faulty enforcement mechanism. Not sure whatever came of that. But the message at the time was, if you've got the money, we'll let you do whatever you want.

Anyway, the fact that she mentions "short term rentals" is interesting.  Most likely what she means is that they're going to be made more widely legal, though.

She doesn't mention the noise ordinance.  But I guess, since we're already putting bar employees in jail over it, 2015 can't really get much more enforcey than that.

Note: Yes, everyone involved in that Jax noise enforcement story seems pretty terrible for one reason or another.  But it's the jail for noise violations bit that really stands out.  Especially given the location. Tonight there will be a party there which will probably garner some attention.  I hope it doesn't get too loud..

Pay to play

A big part of the Steve Scalise/David Duke story that isn't being emphasized right now is the "pay-to-play" nature of state politics. In this case, it's specifically about the people you have to pay tribute to in order to play in Jefferson Parish and in the First Congressional District but it happens all over the place.  I've got a ton of fun links from the past few days I hope I have time to put together into something coherent later on.  

But that's not what this post is for.  Instead, it's to point you at Dambala who has been trying to show you how pay-to-play works with regard to the BP claims process for a few years now.  It helps when they just write out what they're up to.

Who's filming whom?

Giving the police license to point cameras at everyone all day is probably not going to make us any safer or more free.  
Despite the push for body cameras by policymakers and politicians, many organizers (both in New York and around the country) are not entirely convinced that body cameras are a meaningful reform—especially after Daniel Pantaleo was not indicted for killing Eric Garner on camera.

Andrew Padilla is disturbed “that all this energy towards accountability…can be flipped into increased surveillance in communities of color and increased budgets to police.” The body cameras point at civilians, giving the police’s perspective of the interaction. In many videos released from officer body cameras, the police officer has their gun drawn but it cannot be seen in the shot. “Body cameras on police [are] fundamentally the opposite of cop watch,” Andrew Padilla argued. “Body cameras on police…record civilians. In cop watch, you record police.”

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The problem with nice things

In this city, we build them for the people who will kick you out of your house.

Always flank to the right

In a little noticed event a few weeks back, the pile of Koch-ish SuperPac money in Rob Maness's possession launched a series of strange radio ads threatening Steve Scalise for not trying harder to use the Cromnibus vote to scuttle Obamacare.
A group calling itself Senate Conservatives Action is sponsoring the ad and similar ones against Boehner and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in their respective districts. The group’s affiliate, the Senate Conservatives Fund, spent nearly a half-million dollars on behalf of Senate candidate Rob Maness, who got 14 percent of the primary vote then quickly endorsed Cassidy against Landrieu in the runoff.

Now it’s suggesting that someone might come after Scalise the next time he runs.

“Tell him to stop cutting deals with President Obama and start fighting for us,” the announcer says, as he helpfully repeats Scalise’s office phone number. “Let him know that if he doesn’t start listening, you will work to bring him home.”

The ad appears to be part of a concerted, if tone-deaf, effort to keep Scalise in line. Also surfacing this week was a story about Maness — who’s trying to stay in the game by founding a new super PAC and who (wink, wink) just happens to reside in Scalise’s district — on a website founded by the late conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart. 
Who knows what Maness is up to. The dude is a nut.  But it's interesting to see that someone thinks the "running room" in the First Louisiana Congressional District is to the right of Steve Scalise.  Today, Maness released a statement about Scalise's little David Duke problem.  Naturally, he blamed Obama.
"As Congressman Scalise has already conceded - attending this event was a mistake. I think we are all currently taking him at his word that this was an isolated incident that happened some 12 years ago," Maness said.

He added that if that's true, "this is clearly an orchestrated attack designed to distract" from the real issues, including "fighting back against President Obama's executive amnesty, correcting a weak and feckless Foreign Policy and stopping the massive expansion of government growth and spending."

Above it all... but not really

The Advocate is so goddamned haughty and phony about certain things. Doesn't do political endorsements. But it has no qualms about throwing out the occasional "Voice Of God" opinion when it suits. (It suits when they are covering for political friends.)

Can't wait to see the hemming and hawing if and when their boss King Georges ever jumps back in the game.

Monday, December 29, 2014

In the club vs Not in the club

Here is a quote that's been going around this afternoon.  It's from a 1999 Roll Call article about the possibility of a David Duke comeback run for the 1st Congressional District seat then being vacated by the disgraced Bob Livingston.

Remember this was at the tail end of the Duke phenomenon; nearly a decade since he'd been elected to anything.  Duke had since receded somewhat into the fringes from which he'd emerged in the early 90s when he was allowed to sublty re-brand himself as a mainstream conservative running on an anti-welfare platform.
(The local media gave him a wide berth in this regard at the time. Basically the whole thing is more or less their fault... but I digress.) 

The reason he was able to do this somewhat successfully is that the Duke message; "dark skinned poors are taking your moneys thanks to that danged gubmint" is really no different from what the GOP is selling anyway. The height of Duke's political career, coinciding as it did with the height of the recession of the early 90s, was the result of perfect timing. Duke was just the right messenger to ride a tide of especially potent white resentment.   By the late 90s, that particular wave had subsided to some degree. Duke had given up trying to hide his Klan ties so much and was fading into relative obscurity. 

But not total irrelevance. Duke's "base" still existed. It's still very much there today.  It just didn't need him so much anymore.  It had more.. polished vectors through which to express itself who didn't carry so much baggage.

And that, is precisely what those vectors were saying in this article.
“I honestly think his 15 minutes of fame have come and gone,” said state Rep. David Vitter (R), a wealthy Metairie attorney who holds Duke’s old seat in the state House and is “seriously considering” a Congressional bid. “When he’s competed in a field with real conservatives, real Republicans, Duke has not done well at all.”

Another potential candidate, state Rep. Steve Scalise (R), said he embraces many of the same “conservative” views as Duke, but is far more viable.

“The novelty of David Duke has worn off,” said Scalise. “The voters in this district are smart enough to realize that they need to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected. Duke has proven that he can’t get elected, and that’s the first and most important thing.”

David Vitter and Steve Scalise were saying to Duke voters, "Hey we get it. We're on your side. We believe in the issues you care about," but they also want people to know they don't need a "novelty" candidate like Duke to deliver on those issues for them.  The upheaval was over. The professionals were back in charge. It was time to put down the pitchforks and let the men who are in The Club attend to matters.

Today, we're starting to worry again about new upheavals from the left and from the right. It's hard to find room for another Duke on the horizon, though. The Republicans seem to have lurched far enough to the right to crowd such insurgencies out.   But, no matter, the men of The Club are going to take up for other Club men whenever someone fires a shot from outside of the walls regardless of what Club team they're playing for.

It's OK. This one has been vouched for.

Bill Cassidy may not have actually worked for his own campaign

Doesn't seem to understand why he won or what the election was even about.
In the interview, Cassidy, who defeated incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin in the Dec. 6 runoff, said he rejects the analysis of most pundits who credited his victory to Republicans who ran a campaign based more on national issues, rather than local ones.

That analysis followed a Cassidy campaign in which he offered few specifics about his own agenda, but ran on what he said was Landrieu's record of supporting President Barack Obama 97 percent of the time and her yes vote that helped pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

According to the analysis, this let him take advantage of the president's unpopularity in Louisiana and minimize the benefits Landrieu hoped to gain by her record of delivering assistance to the state, particularly oil and gas revenue sharing and disaster aid in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

But Cassidy contends that he won because many Louisiana voters had experienced negative impacts from the Affordable Care Act, or knew of others who did, ranging from higher health-care costs to reduced work hours.

"People voted based on their own experiences in Louisiana, not over some national debate," Cassidy said.
OK.  I hope he didn't sign any timesheets billing his campaign for the time he clearly didn't spend working on it..

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Steve Scalise may have addressed a white supremacist conference in 2002

The sourcing on this is an anonymous commenter in a thread on Stormfront. So maybe let's wait and see what else comes out. On the other hand, there is a clear history of guys coming up out of Scalise's part of Jefferson Parish having to sort of kiss David Duke's ring in one subtle way or another at some point. So this is more than just a little bit plausible.

Update: Confirmed!

Umm... nope. Sorry, blaming staff is not gonna fly.  David Duke's legacy has remained a matter of significant import to the Louisiana Republican Party for many years. Especially so in Jefferson Parish, where from Scalise emerged into prominence and in the JP plus Northshore Congressional district he currently represents.

His appearance at this conference may have been a "staff" decision. But it wasn't an accident. And he certainly understood what was happening at the time.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Yeah just let Rob Ryan coach out his contract

The older I get the more convinced I am that pro football is pretty much a crapshoot every season.  Might as well succeed or fail randomly with people who don't seem like they're total jerks on board.
Ryan believes things flew off the rails in the offseason when the defense was being hyped up in the media as one of the better units in the NFL. That would have been fine, but many players began believing the hype.

“We’re dealing with human beings,” Ryan said. “Obviously we drank the Kool-Aid too much, I think. If they don’t think so, well, then I think that’s wrong. I think that’s an honest opinion.”
Besides, as Larry Holder points out,  there are all sorts of downsides to Payton firing yet another defensive coordinator.
For starters, unloading Ryan would mean Payton would be hiring his fifth defensive coordinator while entering his 10th season in New Orleans. It would be Payton's fourth defensive coordinator in five seasons.

It would look like Payton, one of the brightest offensive minds in the game, has no idea how to manage the other side of the football or find the right man to do so.

If the Saints have an exit strategy for Ryan in place, they probably already have his replacement in the bag (former Saints secondary coach and fired Raiders head coach Dennis Allen). If not, what defensive coordinator worth his salt would want the job if he knew he'd better find a place with a month-to-month lease.

Being the Saints' defensive coordinator isn't exactly the most stable gig in professional sports.
Anyway, the defense was shitty this year. In 2012 it was shitty and the coach was a jerk.  In 2009-2011 the coach was also a jerk and the defense was shitty and it didn't really matter that much.  Rob Ryan isn't quite as much of a jerk. He has one shitty season and one pretty good one.  Might as well let him hang around for a third.


Next year at the Legislature is going to be tremendous fun.
But Louisiana, which has a smaller and less diversified economy than Texas, is already feeling the sting of the price downturn because it relies on more oil and gas money for its operating budget. Louisiana loses $12 million for every $1 in decline in the annual average price of oil, according to Greg Albrecht, the state’s chief economist.

“From a strictly budgetary perspective, Louisiana is more sensitive to all of this,” said James A. Richardson, a Louisiana State University economist who serves on the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference, which determines how much money can be plugged into the budget. “It shows up in our house much sooner.”

Gifford Briggs, vice president of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, said some sections of the industry were beginning to scale back as reality set in and prices dropped. Though production in existing wells is expected to continue apace in the coming months, companies are already shrinking their drilling and exploration activity, he said.

“Landmen say they’re laying off everyone they have right now until things pick up,” he added, referring to the independent firms that provide services to exploration and drilling companies.
Whaddo they mean with all that business about Louisiana's economy not being all diversified and stuff?  Don't they know we are the Film Production Capital Of The World now? 

Except that's actually a bigger problem.
"It's very difficult to justify shooting in California when you have these types of incentives," Berger said.

Those incentives were detailed in one part of The Advocate's eight-part "Giving Away Louisiana" series on existing tax breaks and how they're affecting the state's budget.

Last year, 107 film and TV projects qualified for help from Louisiana taxpayers, at an upfront cost to the state budget of about $250 million. Stephen Moret, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s secretary of Economic Development, says he thinks that figure could double within a few years. 
So our consolation from the new oil bust is that this time we've "diversified" into a an industry that is a drag rather than a boon to the state budget, employs a mere fraction of the people, and.. oh yeah... could all pick up and move as soon as someone offers a better deal
And other states are taking notice. Some 39 now offer film-related tax incentives, and it seems Hollywood is feeling the pressure. Next year, California hopes to bring back the lost business with newly expanded tax credits of up to 25 percent.  
One imagines, state lawmakers will be asked to match that.  Do we even have any schools and hospitals left we can close? 2015 is going to be fun.  

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Beauty queens and dream machines are never wrong

Here's a pretty good "retrospective" on the now likely finished for good GBV. In 2014, the last records (presumably) to be released under that name came out.  

It's difficult to explain this to people who can't remember a time before the internet became a ubiquitous pipeline through which anyone could connect to anything instantly.  But there was a significant portion of my adult life when I was the only fan of this band I was personally aware of. Now such people are everywhere. Well.. most everywhere.
And yet when I ask most of my friends and colleagues (admittedly, the normal ones who don’t obsess about music like some of us) if they’ve ever heard of them, they invariably ask if they’re some kind of Christian rock band.

Which, when you think about it, is pretty much the most legitimately indie rock thing a band can do. A bunch of regular dudes from Nowheresville, Middle America produce a copious quantity of stellar music, garner tremendous reviews, approach the edge of rockstardom, and, due to their unrelenting dedication to that idiosyncratic “immanent process” of artistic production, walk the fuck away from it all. Better still, they aren’t even discouraged by their failure, and continue to churn out more songs before breakfast than you have in your entire life.
Anyway, not a year goes by when Pollard doesn't write the most perfect song for it.  I can't imagine that will change. Here's the song for 2014.

The rent is too damn high

Getting higher too.

Orleans Parish ranks 13th among 500 counties for the chunk of income that renters will pay in 2015, according to a report by real estate data service RealtyTrac. The national average is 27 percent of a renter's income.

RealtyTrac analyzed fair market rent data for 2015 issued by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development. Read RealtyTrac's report here.

Meanwhile, Orleans is among the top 25 counties nationwide where the millenial population is growing. The share of millenials (defined as being born between 1977 and 1992) grew by 20 percent in New Orleans from 2007 to 2013. Other cities where younger people are flocking include Austin, Texas, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Va. See that list here.

"These millenials will be driving strong demand for rents in the next few years," said RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist in a video explaining the report.
Jesus, please stop blaming "the kids today."  The problem is not "millenials."  The problem is a series of deliberate urban policies meant to encourage luxury development and to push poor people out of the way. In New Orleans, in particular, there's the added scheme to allow the available housing in residential neighborhoods to be given over to the tourism industry.  This is starting to make life, not only more expensive, but also uncomfortable in more subtle ways. It injects a new kind of tension into the most mundane things. Consider this, for instance.

My car is in an.. interesting state these days.  It turned twenty years old this year and, while it runs great, it's coming apart in ways that are difficult to do anything about.  Most critical is a left rear "quarter glass" window that was shattered in what I think was probably a weed whacking accident about a year ago.  Every few weeks I make calls around to auto-glass guys and junkyards but no one can find the appropriate piece of glass to replace it. So, for now, the left side of the car is covered in a big patch woven out of duct tape.

It doesn't really bother me in the meantime.  In fact, I often take a silly kind of pride in its distinctiveness. I am either the living proof that the "broken windows" theory of crime and blight is bullshit ... or... it's 100 percent true and I am single-handedly holding back the total gentrification of my block.  Either way, it's pretty terrific. I have a standard to uphold.

I've been thinking, also, recently about the "Fix My Streets" movement created this year by some entitled Lakeview residents and how their "Pimp-My-Pothole" series of ironic protests differs from the fun we've had with our sinkhole over the past few years.  "Enraged and engaged" says Clancy DuBos's column about these brats. Can someone really be "enraged" about a hole in the ground?  Apparently, yes.

But when our sinkhole appeared, we weren't enraged at all.  We were amused. Here is something interesting that seems fairly harmless for now, we thought.  Of course, I hoped that it would be fixed eventually. At the same time, I knew that finding out just how long "eventually" ended up being would be interesting (four years, it turned out.) And as long as it wasn't an actual nuisance, it might also be kind of fun.

And it was.  It started out humbly enough.

Hole in the road

Then it grew a bit.

Hole in the road take 3

Then people started throwing things into it.

Sinkhole May 16

Those things became more interesting.

Sinkhole avec cart

Pothole cover

Soon a mighty tree (well, a big bush) emerged.


Which was great because it meant that, during Halloween, we could do this.

And, of course, during Christmastime, we could do this.

Celebration In The Sinkhole 2013

What a great time all of that was!  No one was hurt, the city was not embarrassed.  Unlike our friends in Lakeview, we did not consider this experience any sort of drag on the city's recovery. It was a harmless and interesting thing that happened. And it was something that was resolved on a timeline fitting to its low position on the city's long list of priorities.

This year, the city finally fixed the sinkhole on our corner and, in doing so, ripped up the bush that was growing out of it. But, like I said, there are standards to uphold now. So we simply moved the holiday decorations down to the weeds growing out from under the side of the building.

Holiday vines

Last week, I was walking to my car when  a pair of ladies came out of the illegal (for now) short term rental across the street it was parked in front of.  They didn't see me there as they stopped and examined the car for a moment before one of them kind of smirked and said to the other, "Poverty." Then they walked off to catch a streetcar. 

At this point, I am pretty much the source of all the "cultural authenticity" these people airbnb their way into New Orleans to gawk at. At least in this neighborhood, I am.  So I guess my question is, now that I'm a significant "culture bearer" is there some sort of grant I can apply for?  Because the rent is pretty damn high right now.

Monday, December 22, 2014

How do you coach turnovers?

Coaches talk about this all the time.  But I never quite understand the point.
The Saints defense showed signs of improvement beginning last Monday night at Chicago. The defense had two critical stops in the fourth quarter on Sunday against Atlanta and coach Sean Payton praised the unit's play.

But he also pointed to the Saints' turnover margin against the Falcons. The Saints turned the ball over four times, but created none on defense or special teams.

"That's something that I obviously have to look closely at. In our games where we've won this year, it's been a positive. But it's been something that's really hurt us," Payton said. "And (turnover margin) is still the No. 1 statistic with regards to winning and losing. If you take a look at the top eight or ten teams in that category, most or all will be in the playoffs. And I think we're second-to-last in that area."
I'm pretty sure the players already understand that the ball is an important part of the game and that they want to go and get it.  But apart from just not dropping interceptions, it seems that taking the ball away from offenses is mostly just about luck. 

But, OK, Sean Payton is going "to look closely" at it.  Can't see how that makes a difference.

Let's keep our fingers crossed for that

As the price of oil continues to fall, unemployment in Louisiana has crept all the way up to 6.5% What these oil field services companies need now is stimulus plan. Here's what they imagine that might look like.
Cloutier also said the price of oil is based on market pressures that react to real-world events, which can change things quickly.

“We’re one Scud missile from it being $120 a barrel again,” he said, describing violent possibilities in the Middle East.

“If somebody over there — ISIS, Iran — puts a Scud missile in a tanker, or if they put a Scud missile in a well in Saudi Arabia, watch the price take off,” Cloutier said.
It's a pleasant business these guys are in. 

Getting into a real weird area here

We're already half way into a full fledged "cop coup" right now thanks to the work of some of our more accomplished fascist provocateurs. But up until now I figured the worst the TV networks were up to was providing the fascist provocateurs with a platform

I didn't realize they were also producing the propaganda themselves.
"At this rally in Washington, D.C. protestors chanted, 'we won't stop, we can't stop, so kill a cop,'" the WBFF broadcast said.

But the full footage, flagged by Gawker on Monday via C-SPAN, revealed that the chant was "we won't stop, we can't stop, 'til killer cops are in cell blocks."

New Orleans still hasn't figured out Uber, which is why we're still pushing to expand it

Just as the rest of the country is finally getting wise to a particular kind of grift, New Orleans is plunging head first into an effort to adopt it. It's a longstanding pattern of ours.
In effect, the measure also will be another step easing the way in New Orleans for Uber, a company that has stirred controversy nationally by challenging the established taxi and limousine industries with a service that connects drivers and passengers via smartphone.

Council President Stacy Head called the two-limousine requirement an “artificial and unreasonable barrier” that does not accommodate the level of demand from the city’s residents and visitors for for-hire limousine service.

“We still cannot in certain parts of the city command taxis at certain times and in certain neighborhoods, particularly if you are not in the downtown area,” Head said.

In case you are like Stacy Head and haven't been keeping up with Uber.. or don't quite understand what this company actually does, here are some links.

Uber is the poster company for what is known popularly as the "sharing economy." This is the phenomenon by which numerous service industries that once provided stable full time employment for thousands of people are "disrupted" by a new model based on on-demand freelance piecemeal labor.

For a while, this made them very popular with the mainstream press because 1) the mainstream press reflexively loves tech magic and 2) the mainstream press reflexively loves things that punish poor people for being losers. But after a few years of scrutiny, people started catching onto a few things.

Uber collects a lot of data.  A taxi company usually just needs to know where you are and where you want to go.  Uber wants to know everywhere you've ever been and to maintain possession of that information indefinitely. Because your data is a commodity, this helps explain why Uber is such a highly capitalized start-up.  "Ride sharing" is only half of their business. The other half is selling what you might have expected was private information.
A person who had a job interview in Uber’s Washington office in 2013 said he got the kind of access enjoyed by actual employees for an entire day, even for several hours after the job interview ended. He happily crawled through the database looking up the records of people he knew – including a family member of a prominent politician – before the seemingly magical power disappeared.

“What an Uber employee would have is everything, complete,” said this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the company.

A more sophisticated – and malicious – person with that access could have scraped data on a massive scale, then used powerful analytical software to learn things that Uber users might want to keep private, for professional or personal reasons.
Okay, but surely this is just paranoia.  Another round of privacy concern trolling from the luddites, right?  Well, no, actually it turns out the "sophisticated and malicious" people referred to here do indeed exist.  You don't have to look hard to find them.  They are Uber executives.

And, I think this is where they've started to dig a hole for themselves.  See, if you're a tech bro superstar, you can be as dickish and exploitative as you want to most people. Remember, the press loves tech stuff and doesn't give a shit about poor people for the most part.  But when you start bullying journalists themselves, that's when they turn on you.
A senior executive at Uber suggested that the company should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media — and specifically to spread details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company.

So Uber is an asshole's business run by assholes in an openly assholish fashion.  The assholes who own the company are celeb-billionaires while their typical driver pulls down about $34,000 per year.

Uber, and companies like it, exist because they exploit a particularly cruel paradox from the point of view of most people who work. The more productive we become, the less valuable we become.. in strict monetary terms.  We're reaching a point, in fact, where most of us, despite whatever reasonable education or skills we might posses, are essentially useless. And it's going to get worse.
Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years — allowing machines to mimic the human mind — are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.

And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise. Even with the economy’s recent improvement, the share of working-age adults who are working is substantially lower than a decade ago — and lower than any point in the 1990s.

Economists long argued that, just as buggy-makers gave way to car factories, technology would create as many jobs as it destroyed. Now many are not so sure.
This could be a terrible disaster for many many people. Already it goes a long way to explaining the onset of the so-called "sharing economy."  People still need money. And now large pools of them are underemployed and willing to work piecemeal.
There are only two requirements for an on-demand service economy to work, and neither is an iPhone. First, the market being addressed needs to be big enough to scale—food, laundry, taxi rides. Without that, it’s just a concierge service for the rich rather than a disruptive paradigm shift, as a venture capitalist might say. Second, and perhaps more importantly, there needs to be a large enough labor class willing to work at wages that customers consider affordable and that the middlemen consider worthwhile for their profit margins.

Uber was founded in 2009, in the immediate aftermath of the worst financial crisis in a generation. As the ride-sharing app has risen, so too have income disparity and wealth inequality in the United States as a whole and in San Francisco in particular. Recent research by the Brookings Institution found that of any US city, San Francisco had the largest increase in inequality between 2007 and 2012. The disparity in San Francisco as of 2012, as measured (pdf) by a city agency, was in fact more pronounced than inequality in Mumbai (pdf).
It doesn't have to be this way, of course.  The Luddites were wrong.  Technology is not what creates inequality.  Technology helps us create wealth in unprecedented abundance.  But as greater numbers of people become unnecessary to the process of wealth creation, we need to arrive at a more humane means of distributing it than labor.  The solution could be as simple as just giving people free money.
But there may be a solution. Some might see it as radical, but advocates, both libertarian and liberal, are suggesting straight up cash: a guaranteed subsidy to everyone. "We've got to a technological level now where no one needs to work the traditional 40-hour week," says Barbara Jacobson, chair of Unconditional Basic Income–Europe, an alliance of European citizens and organizations that advocate for such subsidies. But while productivity per hour across developing nations has increased dramatically since the 1970s, “this has not meant a rise in wages, or a fall in hours without a pay cut,” says Jacobson. And on top of that, she adds, there is a significant amount of “crucial work, generally caring work, which isn't paid for, but without which society would collapse.” The people doing this type of work—parenting and elder care, for example—often end up broke; if you are a single parent, it’s often not feasible to hold a traditional, wage-paying job while also taking care of three kids and your mother who has Alzheimer’s.

A simple cash subsidy—$15,000 per year (which is about what the average retiree gets annually from Social Security) for every household, say—would give the poor and middle class a financial floor on which they could live, take care of their loved ones and maybe, says Jacobson, "think about what really needs doing, what they would like to do, what they have trained to do, as opposed to simply what someone might hire them to do."

On the other hand if policymakers choose to keep things as they are, then the only "billion dollar ideas" churned out at your local Entrepreneur Week hackathon  will be the ones which most cleverly exploit a market of virtually free labor provided by increasingly desperate poor people.  Which is one reason Uber retains all these lobbyists. They want to keep the regulatory environment friendly to their business model.  They probably don't have to spend too much effort convincing Stacy Head, though.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The parade ordinances say nothing about sheet pilings

Wasn't so long ago that the most cumbersome obstructions one would find on the Napoleon Avenue neutral ground were tents and ladders like these.

Tents and chairs on Napoleon

Lately, it's a bit different.

Metal sheet pilings

Those are the metal sheet pilings contractors working for the Army Corps of Engineers on the SELA drainage project have been driving into the ground this week.  The pilings are there to support the construction of a new underground drainage canal meant to augment the performance of the one that already exists there.

Napoleon SELA canal

The pilings were the cause of a lawsuit filed during an earlier phase of the project when vibrations caused damage to nearby homes in Broadmoor.  Since then the Corps has switched to an alternate method of pile driving.  This thing is called a "silent piler"

Pile driving

A crane lifts the piling into place, and this machine just shoves it into the ground where it's then welded onto the preceding piling. It's not exactly "silent" but it is cool to watch.  Anyway, here's the outline of where the new canal is going to go.

Napoleon Avenue canal

The word is Carnival parades aren't expecting to have to change their routes this year.  But I don't see a whole lot of room to place ladders in there. All these people have to go somewhere, right?

Napoleon crowd

The Napoleon Avenue portion of  the SELA project is currently estimated to complete in November 2016.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

In other words, they were right to vote the millage down

Turns out the Orleans levee board can share its revenue surplus to shore up the St. Bernard system after all.
The authority on Thursday also passed a motion authorizing the Orleans Levee District to loan the Lake Borgne Basin Levee District up to $4 million to fund the construction of a floodwall in the vicinity of the Violet Canal in order to meet FEMA requirements for certification. If the 7.5-mill tax increase for the Lake Borgne district passes, part of those funds would go to toward the loan's repayment.

Without that FEMA certification, the National Flood Insurance Program could drastically raise insurance for St. Bernard homeowners, and those in the Lower 9th Ward, as FEMA would treat those properties as if there were no back levee at all protecting them, Estopinal explained.

Asked about repayment of that loan, though, authority President Stephen Estopinal made clear "that repayment is not a guarantee at this point in time" because of the millage increase's uncertainty. But the authority will include a promissory note with the loan, specifying that the Orleans district is owned the money and that the authority also would ask the Lake Borgne district annually where it was in terms of its repayment.
This is interesting because after St. Bernard voters turned down a millage proposal that would have mitigated the need for this loan, there was some concern about what to do. The separate political entities are technically forbidden from sharing funds, even though, in reality, they comprise one flood control system. 

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East was established specifically to oversee operations of the three levee districts that maintain this system. But state law prohibits taxes raised in one district from being used in another.
The more populated parishes of Orleans and Jefferson have surpluses. But St. Bernard has struggled to meet the demands of the southern end of the system.

The regional flood protection authority said New Orleans, with a property tax of 6.21 mills, collects about $16.3 million a year. East Jefferson’s 3.91 mills brings in about $8.8 million.
St. Bernard’s higher millage of 11.1 garners just $3.4 million because of its much smaller population and tax base.
Looks like they found a way around that without having to increase the tax burden on the smaller, poorer, St. Bernard Parish.   Naturally, they don't want to keep doing it that way.
Tyrone Ben, who represents St. Bernard on the authority, said he and others did make the rounds to educate voters on the Dec. 6 millage, but he pointed out that all the millages on that ballot failed. He called it "a referendum" against taxes in general, not just the levee tax.

"But I know we are going to do it again in May and I hope that we just sell it better," Ben said.

Turner said he is "committed to doing everything that I can personally do to make people aware of the situation with the Lake Borgne Levee system."

"We will redouble our efforts and try to get out into the community and make sure that people make the right decision," Turner said. "We just have to be out there to let people know what the world will look like from a flood protection perspective if we come up short and have to make significant cuts in the Lake Borgne levee system."

City of landlords

Landlords who rent to tourists
The council received an earful Wednesday from people on both sides of the issue.
Several opponents of the rentals urged members to abandon any attempt at creating new laws in favor of enforcing those already on the books.

“What’s stopping someone from looking at these on a case-by-case basis and cracking down and enforcing the current laws instead of turning a blind eye to what is happening?” asked Carol Gniady, executive director of the group French Quarter Citizens.

Critics of the rentals said they affect the affordability of housing both for rent and for sale. They also objected to the wedging of what they said are commercial businesses into residential neighborhoods.

Nobody actually lives in a city like that.  Which is fine, I guess, if you own a piece of it.

War paint

Is that what you are supposed to wear to a bird funeral?
Following Monday night's win at Chicago, Lewis told reporters

"We're definitely gonna give them their funeral," a predicted Sunday afternoon outcome which would end Atlanta's playoff hopes.

Two days later, Lewis added fuel to the proverbial fire.

"This is definitely a war," Lewis added Wednesday. "What, you think this is a game? I've got my war paint on."

Falcons receiver Roddy White refused to take the word bait.

"Yes, may we'll rest in peace," White joked back from Atlanta.

Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/2014/12/17/5974633_keenan-lewis-stands-by-comments.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Circle of white flight

Restaurant owner Chris Vodanovich died yesterday. Ian McNulty's obituary of him published in the Advocate contains a short snip of the history of Mid City. 
For a time, the St. Ann Street restaurant had a clubhouse atmosphere. The crowd from the Fair Grounds convened there after a day at the track. The restaurant was on the map for visiting celebrities, and business and political deals were often sealed under its roof.

“It was the second City Hall, like Ruth’s Chris (Steak House) down the street — it’s where everyone went,” Cvitanovich said.

But the old neighborhood was deteriorating. In 1970, restaurant critic Richard Collin wrote that Bozo’s was in “a poorer section of the city and looks so seedy outside that one is surprised at the middle-class atmosphere inside.” With the suburbs then beginning to thrive, the Vodanovichs moved their restaurant in 1979 to Metairie, where they developed it anew at 3117 21st St.

They continued to run the business directly, with Chris minding the fryers and Bernadine a constant presence at the cashier’s station, until they retired in 2008.
Last year a Whole Foods opened just a few blocks away on Broad so the neighborhood is changing again.  I wonder where all the "seedy" people will go.  Metairie, probably. 

Update:  NOLA.com's Brett Anderson doesn't gloss over it so much.
For a period before moving Bozo's to Metairie, Mr. Vodanovich changed the business from a restaurant to a private club. As Williams explained it, the move was made on the advice of a lawyer who said it would allow the restaurant to sidestep desegregation laws by only allowing service to select customers who paid a "membership" fee.

"When the Saints team performed, they all wanted to eat there, and he wouldn't serve them" because many of the players were black, Williams said.

"There was a lot of private clubs going on at that time," Gremillion said. "It could dictate who you could serve or not."

The Metairie restaurant was open to the public.
 It was sort of like a charter school restaurant. 

Yes well you could also just ignore it

Bobby Jindal's "prayer rally" is a political stunt designed to make him appear to be the victim of mean librul anti-religious oppression.  Stop giving him the reaction he needs to pull that off.

Isn't most white collar work pretty much just PR bullshit anyway?

Judge Africk claims he can tell the difference
But Africk reserved his harshest criticism in months for a Gusman lawyer who only hours before the 8:30 a.m. hearing filed an unsolicited, 11-page memorandum touting “extraordinary progress” and the “significant effort the (Sheriff’s Office) has expended” toward satisfying its federal consent decree, the agreement between Gusman and the U.S. Justice Department that requires wholesale changes at the prison.

Africk described the documents as inappropriate and ordered them removed from the court record. The filings, which had appeared about 1 a.m., sought to highlight the strides Gusman’s office has made in improving conditions at the troubled jail. But Africk said they represented an incomplete account that “doesn’t tell the story of the tardiness we’ve encountered” from the Sheriff’s Office in fulfilling a long list of mandated jail reforms.

“I look at it as a (public relations) document,” Africk said, “and I’m not going to allow the court to be used as a PR agent.”
 God bless him. I gave up trying.

Why would we need net neutrality?

Surely we can let all these big telecoms and entertainment companies run the internet for us.  They always make sound decisions about which content should or should not be transmitted.

Truthiness to power

We're losing "Stephen Colbert" this week.  There have been some fine moments but the ones that stand out are the times when he took the character outside of the show and said things that made people uncomfortable right in front of them. 


Media blowhards



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Meanwhile, it is Falcons Hate Week

Shame on me for not really mentioning it yet.  This has been a great season. The Saints have a chance to do something truly unique and the path to that goes right through the Atlanta Falcons.  I don't get why anybody would complain about this.

Anyway, go to B&G Review and look at all the pretty moving pictures

Kevin Wildes is the shadow government

The Lens has more (a lot more) this afternoon on what emails reveal about the relationship between Loyola University President Kevin Wildes and Mayor Landrieu's administration while Wildes served on the city Civil Service Commission.

It's clear from these emails that Wildes joined the commission specifically in order to help Mitch dismantle the Civil Service system which exists to protect city employees from politically motivated interference.
As head of the independent, apolitical Civil Service Commission, Wilde’s primary responsibility was to protect about 3,700 rank-and-file city workers from political meddling. At the least, it should have an arm’s-length relationship with the administration. At its most extreme, some believe the commission should have an adversarial stance toward the city’s political leadership, serving as a shield against favoritism and political shenanigans affecting the workforce.

But the emails from Wildes’ tenure show his relationship with the Landrieu administration to be cozy, deferential and even reliant. This relationship perverted the intent of the commission in some cases, turning it into a panel that at times did the mayor’s bidding.
A few weeks ago, a judge threw out legal challenges to the mayor's "reform" on the maddening grounds that no one had been hurt by it... yet.
Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Ethel Julien on Wednesday stymied an effort by three of the city’s largest employee associations seeking to block key provisions of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Great Place to Work Initiative from taking effect. Julien, who denied a temporary injunction against the city, said that the lawsuit was premature because no city employees had yet been harmed by Landrieu’s overhaul to city personnel rules.
But what these communications demonstrate is that the mayor's office is already interfering with the process by which  personnel management policy is developed by the commission.  This, in itself, seems to fly in the face of constitutional intent. 
The commission, which was created by the state constitution, is meant to ensure that city employees are treated fairly and hired and promoted based on achievement. A 1983 state Supreme Court opinion was clear on the intent of the commission, saying those rewriting the new 1974 state constitution clearly believed it should be “safeguarded and removed as far as humanly possible from any form of political influence or any suspicion of political influence or control.”   
According to these emails, however, the mayor's staff intended to reduce the commission's role as a firewall against political mischief to that of an ineffectual "consultant." 
Late in 2011, Kopplin suggested Wildes meet Norton, the administration’s point person on Civil Service changes, and the two began corresponding regularly. Over the next year and right up until the passage of the Great Place to Work Initiative, they worked closely together. The emails suggest they repeatedly violated state sunshine laws.

Norton jumped right in to suggest the administration’s plan, showing Wildes exactly what policy changes the administration had in mind, including giving hiring, promotion and salary-setting authority to department directors — which would essentially “turn civil service into a consultancy.”
It is perverse for the court to demand the disruption or ruination of some hapless employee's life before action can be taken to uphold their constitutional protections. Especially when the intent of the "reform" so blatantly spelled out like this.

Meanwhile entirely by coincidence Loyola University (Wildes' day job, remember) has declined to renew the lease on the space The Lens has been occupying on its campus for the past two years.  So now we know Wildes understands how an administrator utilizes the tool of politically motivated interference.  Maybe he's just demonstrating the value of his gift to the city.


July 2, 1832:
In conformity with an established custom, we respectfully announce to our patrons that The Bee will be published only three times a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays commencing tomorrow until the first of November next. During the general suspension of commercial operations, our subscribers will scarcely regret this arrangement since it affords us the opportunity of preparing our sheet with more care than can be devoted to a daily journal and since, should important news arrive on vacant days, it will be immediately issued an extra.
I think they called the extra, L'Abeille Street.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Legalizing Dizneylandrieu

Nobody actually lives here anymore.  The rent is too damn high because renters have to compete with luxury travelers and support staff for movie production.
Then there are all the other people touched by film in uncounted ways — for instance, people who rent their homes out as film sets or lodging. A website called Key to NOLA caters to the industry with short-term, high-end rentals, some going for as much as $5,000 a month.
We could try to remedy this situation via our political process but it turns out that the political process isn't interested in our problems.  Because gentrification is the policy choice our city has made.
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -Among the crowds of tourists who flock to New Orleans each year, many seek short-term rental properties for lodging.

While the growing underground industry is illegal in the city, some hope that will soon change.
"There are definitely people who want to stay in homes. They like the idea of having a living room and kitchen," said one rental property owner, who asked to remain anonymous. “We would like to see the business regulated and taxed."

The property owner is part of a group that calls itself, the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity.

During a city council committee hearing Wednesday, Alliance members are expected to continue their push to legalize vacation rentals, but they face opposition from several groups.
The "Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity" you may recall is a group of landlords headed by former city attorney Bob Ellis.   Their plan to turn more of the city's rental housing stock over to the short-term luxury market is pretty much in line with Mayor Landrieu's "boutique city" strategy for growing the tax base by removing the poor we've discussed over and over to little avail here.

Anyway they've accomplished their first goal which is turn this into a "both sides" kind of issue that makes it easy for the press to frame in amoral he said/she said terms.
For now, the fierce debate continues.

"I think (a law change) definitely will get passed. I think the people on city council realize it will produce revenue for the city, which we need," said the rental owner.

“What this really comes down to is, who do you think New Orleans is for? We think New Orleans is for New Orleanians -- the people who live here, work here, go to school and go to church here, vote here. This other group seems to think New Orleans should be turned over to tourists," Lousteau said.
Should the city serve its citizens or its landlords?  "The fierce debate continues."  Well, until the landlords inevitably win, anyway.  

Shadow government

For whatever reason, this city allows the local university presidents to sit on unelected boards and make all sorts of far ranging policy decisions largely outside of the public eye.  Under the current administration, Loyola President Kevin Wildes has been an especially enthusiastic Shadow Governor.

Today he resigned from the Civil Service commission. It's entirely clear why. Although, in light of the fact that all legal objection to the mayor's obliteration of the Civil Service system as we once knew it has ended, Wildes might feel like he's accomplished his mission.
As chairman of the Civil Service Commission, email messages show, Wildes discussed Landrieu's overhaul proposal at length with various city officials, including Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin and Alexandra Norton, the architect of Landrieu's Civil Service agenda.

When asked about the messages, Wildes was not shy about his support for overhauling the city's employment system. He said he saw himself as a reformer from the beginning.

The emails between him and and Landrieu's deputies suggest the administration did too.

In a 2013 exchange with Kopplin, Wildes forwarded an article lauding the election of Pope Francis, who, like Wildes, is a Jesuit priest.

"Perfect. Still got the wrong guy," Kopplin joked, implying Wildes would have been a better choice.
"But then who would take care of Civil Service for you," Wildes replied.

"Good point," Kopplin said. "That may be tougher than reforming the Vatican."

Just ignore him

When Bobby Jindal agreed to (probably) launch his Presidential campaign with a "prayer rally" on the LSU campus next month sponsored by an organization of violently anti-gay conspiracy-theorist theocrats he obviously did this in order to provoke a reaction.

Well now he will get one
A backlash is brewing over a prayer rally scheduled for LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center next month featuring Gov. Bobby Jindal.

A Change.org petition created by an LSU alumnus urging LSU to not allow the event on campus has gotten nearly 1,000 signatures since Friday, and students are organizing a protest of the prayer rally, dubbed “The Response” because of its anti-gay ties.
It's probably a smarter course of action to just ignore Jindal's "rally."  That seems to be what Republican primary voters are doing  and it's working out just fine that way.  Everybody hates Bobby already. Why waste time and energy yelling at him for this desperate, phony and unoriginal stunt.
The event’s timing plays into Jindal’s possible political aspirations and appears to be ripped from the playbook of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Jindal is expected to announce whether he will run for governor in the coming months. In recent weeks, he’s made multiple appearances on Fox News, traveled to Washington, D.C., for GOP events and policy speeches (including a trip that had him out of state on Election Day) and continued to ramp up interest in a possible presidential campaign. This week, he traveled to Iowa to speak to the Polk County GOP holiday party.

Perry faced a similar backlash over his association with the event and AFA’s involvement, though it doesn’t appear to have stuck. Perry, who leaves office next month, remains popular in his home state, though he didn’t win the GOP nomination for president.
Perry and Jindal are very close and tend to share advisers and staff and ghostwriters and such. So it's not surprising to see that the Jindal for Prez campaign is going to look an awful lot like Perry's did in 2012. 

Oh and, for the record, the "similar backlash" Perry's prayer meeting engendered didn't make a dent in his campaign. The mainstream press hailed it as "bold" and "positive." The difference, though, is the national press at the time more or less assumed the Governor of Texas would be a default front-runner and rushed in to give him all the attention he could want.  The Governor of Louisiana, on the other hand, is desperate to get noticed.  A protest is only going to help him do that.

Happy Holidays to you and yours


Oh and happy Falcons Hate Week too. But, for now, this is nice.


Pretty sure that this
A decision late last week to remove three New Orleans police officers from their posts providing security at the Municipal Court building forced the closure of three of the four courtrooms and seemed to set up what could be a protracted battle between the city’s executive and judicial branches.

Chief Administrative Judge Desiree Charbonnet said the decision provided her and the other judges no time to develop a contingency plan for a court that often is a “boiling pot” because of the nature of the cases that are heard and the often close relationships between plaintiffs and defendants.

Was just part of the bargaining over this.
The City Council has rejected Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s attempt to take money being collected for building maintenance at Municipal Court and use it to pay for salaries at the court.

In a rare defeat for the mayor, the council voted 4-3 on Thursday against an ordinance that would have moved about $600,000 from the court’s building maintenance fund into its Judicial Expense Fund.

The money comes from a $5 court cost assessed to people convicted of violating municipal laws. Court costs are fees assessed on top of any fines violators must pay; the resulting revenue is split among a number of agencies for various purposes.
Ha ha we showed you. You didn't want to pay your salary out of petty fees paid by defendants well now you have to shut your court down.  Isn't that hilarious. I'm sure all the folks who had to move their schedules around to fit in a court date most of them already can't afford to go sit in the "boiling pot" all day in answer to their summons think it's funny. The petty people having this fight don't care about them though.


Louisiana is run by people who call themselves "fiscal conservatives."  You might think that means they favor responsible budgeting policy but what it really means is being super shitty to poor people who need things like food stamps and unemployment benefits while, literally, giving away free money to rich people without a care in the world as to what happens to it.
State officials need to consider Louisiana’s long list of tax breaks as spending programs that siphon dollars away from the budget, just like road projects and health care services, the Legislature’s chief economist said Monday.

But Greg Albrecht said the difference with Louisiana’s $7 billion in various tax credits, rebates and exemptions is that the spending comes off the top, with no annual oversight from state lawmakers before the money goes out the door.

“It’s open-ended and unappropriated. It’s on auto-pilot. The programs, the parameters, the statutes that set them up, participation, payout. It’s got no controls, no review, nothing,” Albrecht told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Monday, December 15, 2014

March 23 is Darryl Berger Day

No, it's not his birthday. (Maybe it is, actually. I don't know.)  But it is the day that this committee is going to award his company the right to redevelop the WTC.
A five-member selection committee of city officials has been formed to review 10 proposals for the redevelopment of the former World Trade Center building at the foot of Canal Street. The panel is expected to select one of the projects by late March.

The committee consists of Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin; Cindy Connick, executive director of the Canal Street Development Corp.; Bill Gilchrist, the city’s director of place-based planning; City Planning Commission Executive Director Bob Rivers; and Ashleigh Gardere, executive director of the city’s Network for Economic Opportunity. 
What the heck is the "Network for Economic Opportunity"? Yeah, I wondered that too.  Turns out it's a thing they appear to have made a couple of months ago with an "innovation" grant thingie from Living Cities which is a pipeline through which wealthy people who run banks and stuff can shape public policy by pretending to have benevolent motives.  But mostly what they do is pass money around to consultants.  And, in March, they'll help decide to give a plum property over to a well connected developer too. So that's nice.

So are we just movign on now, or what?

In the week before the election this Bill Cassidy timesheet fraud story was really really important to a lot of people.  These people assured us the story was about a serious ethical breach that endangered not only Cassidy's career but the good standing of his employers at LSU-HSC and the.. um.. good(?) name of the State Of Louisiana.

Well here we are a week after the election and the guy won. What are the consequences of that?  Does anybody even care anymore?  Because it seems like the only person even talking about it is Republican operative, Quin Hillyer. That's kind of weird, right?

Real life is not like the movies

In the movies, Jack Nicholson's character covered up a brutal murder by beating and was held accountable for that by the justice system.   In real life, he's a hero to unaccountable brutes who beat people to death.

We only employ journalists who don't actually care about things

NPR to staff: Don’t participate in civil rights march

It's a "free press," though. 

It was probably bad for tourism, you know

Rudy Lombard, civil rights activist and former mayoral candidate, dies at 75

He was arrested his senior year during a sit-in at the McCrory’s dime store on Canal Street on Sept. 17, 1960, which was organized by the local chapter of CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality.

Lombard, who was the senior class president at Xavier and a national vice president of CORE, was joined at the whites-only lunch counter by Lanny Goldfinch, a white Tulane University student, plus Cecil Carter Jr. and the late Oretha Castle Haley, both of whom were black.

The group, known as the “CORE Four,” refused orders to leave and were arrested.

The Supreme Court, which reviewed the case even though New Orleans had no official segregation ordinances for stores, tossed out their criminal mischief arrests in 1963 in the case of Lombard v. Louisiana.

Days before the arrests, Mayor Chep Morrison had made a pro-segregation statement that banned such protests.

“I have today directed the superintendent of police that no additional sit-in demonstrations ... will be permitted ... regardless of the avowed purpose or intent of the participants,” Morrison said in a statement released Sept. 13, 1960, following a similar sit-in at a nearby Woolworth store. “It is my determination that the community interest, the public safety and the economic welfare of this city require that such demonstrations cease and that henceforth they be prohibited by the police department.”

“These convictions, commanded as they were by the voice of the state directing segregated service at the restaurant, cannot stand,” Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the court’s decision.
You can just hear the important people talking about how bad such disruptions might be for the city's image and brand or whatever.  It doesn't really take much imagination.  A few weeks ago a protest against police brutality somewhat distracted the presentation of a corporate-sponsored light show at Gallier Hall.  You don't have to go too far into the comments to that story before you find,
This is an embarrassment for our city as many tourists had to leave their cabs to walk to their locations.  Then to view cops with he hands in their pockets doing nothing for over an hour as well. I would like to know why the cops did nothing as they blocked traffic by laying in the street last night.  Is this how they will react going forward?
According to the story, one onlooker suggested that the police shoot the protesters.   Presumably this would have been helpful to the tourists as well.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Bobby Jindal is already leaving us with a $1 billion hole in next year's state budget.  Expect that will only get worse.
Of more immediate concern is the impact of the price of oil on the remaining months of this year’s budget.

“Oil prices have hit a five-year low over the last week, and they’re trending downward,” Nichols said. “We’re anticipating that the oil prices likely will get dropped again, likely in January.”
They're expecting it to stay low for a while.
Surging U.S. light tight oil supply will push total non-OPEC production to record growth of 1.9 million bpd this year although the pace of growth is expected to slow to 1.3 million in 2015, the IEA said.

Given lower estimates of global demand growth, the IEA said it had revised its predictions for demand for oil from OPEC for 2015 down by 300,000 bpd to 28.9 million bpd. That is more than 1 million bpd below the cartel's current production.

Demand for OPEC oil will bottom out seasonally in the first quarter of 2015, leading to a large build-up in stocks.

The IEA said based on current projections of still relatively weak demand growth and robust supply, global oil inventories would build by close to 300 million barrels in the first half of 2015 in the absence of disruption, shut-ins or a cut in OPEC production.

And here, to finish out that Advocate article, is why it matters to us. 
The price originally used to calculate the revenues for this fiscal year was $95.80 per barrel. (In July, when this year’s budget went into effect, the price was about $105.)

In mid-November, legislators reduced the estimate to an annual average of $81.33. The price of crude has continued to fall and has been hovering around $60 per barrel for the past week.

The price of oil is used to calculate severance and other taxes as well as royalties that state government collects. The general rule of thumb is about $12 million less available to state government for every $1 drop in the average annual price of oil.

In November, the Revenue Estimating Conference determined that the state would collect $171 million less than the originally anticipated $10.6 billion in collections from taxes, fees, royalties and other revenue sources. That’s a drop of about 1.9 percent for the remaining months of fiscal year 2015, which ends on June 30.