Thursday, July 31, 2014


Your New Orleans Saints practice jerseys this training camp are brought to you by petroleum giant Chevron.


Sure, this suits auto dealer Tom Benson just fine.  And South Louisiana's pro football team endorsing the industry most responsible for consigning South Louisiana to the sea is probably a little bit tacky.

But it's also worth remembering that the team's game jerseys, selected by former owner and oil man John Mecom Jr. are themselves a play on the term "black gold."

In other words, there's nothing left to sell out to, New Orleans. You were bought and paid for a long time ago. Although, Sean Payton did come up with one creative suggestion.

Update: Speaking of selling out, I wish I'd seen this Lens article before I started this post.
In June, Mayor Mitch Landrieu complained that the city netted just $500,000 from hosting the 2013 Super Bowl because the city had to spend so much to ramp up city services compared to what it got in tax dollars.

Nevertheless, documents provided to The Lens show that the city agreed to provide a similar level of service for the 2018 Super Bowl, including police, emergency personnel and enforcement against counterfeit goods, all at no cost to the National Football League.

It’s unclear how much that would have cost the city. The Police Department budgeted $1.7 million “to ensure things go smoothly” for Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, The New Orleans Advocate has reported. In June 2013, police chief Ronal Serpas told the City Council that the department spent $600,000 in overtime alone during Super Bowl week.

In the city’s 2018 bid, the Super Bowl Host Committee promised to cover up to $3.5 million in police and emergency services at the Superdome and official NFL venues. If the city’s bid had been successful — it lost out to Minneapolis — that money may have come from the state, which committed $6 million for the 2013 event.
Darn that NFL!  If only we had some way to stop ourselves from giving them all of our money.


Oyster (no idea what the deal is with that site redesign) was a guest on the "Liberal Dan Radio" podcast last night talking politics and stuff. You can listen here if you're into that sort of thing.

Revisions to the do-over

The revised rosters of competing airport patronage arrangements are available now.
Of the two, the proposal by NOLA Airport Builders has the most changes from the plans put forward in the previous round, including a shake-up in the leadership of the joint venture, which went by the name Parsons-Odebrecht in the first round. Those two companies, one based in California and the other in Brazil, brought in Royal Engineers, one of the state’s largest minority-owned engineering firms, as a full partner after the first round of the process and severed ties with the local company Woodward Design+Build.
The Woodward tie became controversial in the last round when a lawsuit called attention to racially insensitive behavior on the part of some of the company's supervisors.  One interesting way the NOLA Airport Builders group is attempting to compensate for that now is by paying off some influential people hiring a consultant.
In addition to those changes, NOLA Airport Builders announced Wednesday that the Urban League of Greater New Orleans would be working with it to improve outreach to so-called “disadvantaged businesses,” firms that are owned by women or minorities.

Erika McConduit-Diggs, president and CEO of the organization, said this will build on work the Urban League already is doing and on previous successful efforts to improve participation by disadvantaged businesses in other projects.

“We want to be able to commit ourselves to make a difference and help make those opportunities available,” she said.

The Urban League is listed as a contractor on the project and is being paid for its services, but McConduit-Diggs would not say how much the nonprofit will receive.

The Parsons-Odebrect/NOLA Airport Builders group was also criticized for Parsons' ties to former Deputy Mayor and now Sewerage and Water Board President Cedric Grant. They appear to have compensated for that unseemliness by taking the word Parsons out of their group's name.

"Birds and bugs"

This is the second article to appear in our major papers in as many days that trivializes opposition to Hells Oil's proposed northshore fracking operation.  I wonder if Helis got a hold of Fred Heebe's "lobbyist list".

Troopers gonna troop

Not sure how Landrieu and Serpas get to criticize this.  They're the ones who begged for the "help."
State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson told reporters Wednesday (July 30) his troopers were justified in using force to bring a musician to the ground and handcuff him during a 9th Ward traffic stop last week, though he called the roughness "unfortunate."

Shamarr Allen, 33, a trumpeter who leads a well-known band, Shamarr Allen and the Underdawgs, claimed in an interview with WWL-TV that troopers unnecessarily pushed him, kicked him and threatened him with their guns drawn. He said he was trying to comply with troopers' demands.

"You move one time, I'm going to blow your head off," Allen recalled hearing a cop tell him in the WWL interview. "In my head I'm like, 'Maybe this is how it's going to end for me.'"

But Col. Edmonson said at a Wednesday news conference in the French Quarter that after reviewing video of the incident and a police report, he concluded the troopers used reasonable force for the situation at hand.
The "situation at hand" was they were looking for a suspect who had just escaped custody.  So they randomly stopped anyone who happened to be in the area and threatened him with  "I'm going to blow your head off." 

Somewhere Norman Robinson is smiling.

It's also worth remembering that the troopers are pretty much just doing what they were hired to do.  We understood their history when they arrived.
The incident is not the first allegation of racial bias involving State Police troopers in New Orleans. During Mardi Gras 2013, several white plainclothes State Police troopers tackled two young black teens to the ground in the French Quarter, detaining them until one of their mothers, who was an NOPD officer, intervened.
Anyway, if you're driving around out there tonight, it's a good idea to be aware the Serpas Signal is up. Hopefully no one tries to blow your head off.
The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint, in Orleans Parish, on Thursday July 31, 2014, beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M. and will conclude at approximately 5:00 A.M.  Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation available if requested, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What would be "the limit" then?

A judge ordered Bank Of America to pay $1.3 billion in fines today stemming from its Countrywide unit's mass defrauding of Fannie and Freddie over junk mortgages. 
Known for having strong views on financial fraud, Judge Rakoff issued a sharp rebuke of the bank’s misconduct.

“It was from start to finish the vehicle for a brazen fraud by the defendants,” he wrote in a 19-page opinion, “driven by a hunger for profits and oblivious to the harms thereby visited, not just on the immediate victims but also on the financial system as a whole.”
The judge could have gone on to note that "the financial system as a whole" is no less vulnerable to such plotting today than it was during the height of the real estate bubble or that, thanks to large scale federal bailouts, BOA is in position to pursue such schemes in perpetuity. But OK.

Countrywide's manager at the time, Rebecca Mairone, was also fined $ 1 million personally.
Ms. Mairone, the judge ruled, can pay the fine in installments over a period of time. That decision, he explained. reflected a concern that the government’s demand for a lump sum $1.2 million penalty “would strain her resources to the limit.”
She's retained a large enough share of the spoils that her "limit" is somewhere just beyond $1.2 million. But we're letting her manage that so.. good for her.

Nowadays Ms. Mairone is working for JP Morgan Chase.  Her job there is overseeing the government program that compensates victims of the financial crisis. In other words she's kind of the Patrick Juneau of the mortgage hustle.   Get em on the way in and get em again on the way out.  That's the way the grift works.

Apparently this is Make Lenar Whitney Happen Week

Edwards for Congress
Edwin Edwards yard sign spotted in Uptown New Orleans yesterday.  (New Orleans is not part of the Sixth Congressional District where Edwards is a candidate.)

You do seem to attract more flies with crazy. David Wasserman was impressed, anyway.
As a House analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, I’ve personally interviewed over 300 congressional candidates over the course of seven years, both to get to know them and evaluate their chances of winning. I’ve been impressed by just as many Republicans as Democrats, and underwhelmed by equal numbers, too. Most are accustomed to tough questions.

But never have I met any candidate quite as frightening or fact-averse as Louisiana state Rep. Lenar Whitney, 55, who visited my office last Wednesday. It’s tough to decide which party’s worst nightmare she would be.
Oftentimes the the hyper-crazy niche is more of a fundraising strategy than anything else.  Candidates like Whitney pop up in congressional races across the country and serve as poster children for various right wing PACs to splash all over their websites. Whatever money is raised via this modern form of televangelism then gets piped around to other races all over the country where it might be useful to GOP candidates.
Both sides rely on interlocking networks of political action committees, party organizations and nonprofit groups, often based in states with forgiving campaign finance rules, that work in concert to raise contributions and shuffle money to thousands of local races around the country. In some states, liberal or conservative donors have established political nonprofits that function like shadow parties, often exempt from the contribution limits or disclosure requirements that apply to candidates and traditional parties.

Not unlike a political version of Cayman Islands banks, the networks allow political strategists to sidestep regulations and obscure the source of funds. Campaign contributions that would be banned or restricted in one state can be sent to a state where the rules allow money to flow more freely, often scrubbed of the identity of the original donor. Some groups work behind the scenes to orchestrate “money bombs” of smaller contributions from hundreds of different donors, allowing the groups to provide candidates with large doses of cash — fingerprint-free — even in states with low contribution limits.
Thus Whitney, who calls herself the "Palin of the South," could be part of a con similar the one her idol just launched.  
Given the content available and the affectedly simple presentation, it’s hard not to see the new Sarah Palin Channel as simply a moneymaking enterprise.

Her competitor Glenn Beck’s vertically integrated TV-website-dogwhistle aggregator, the Blaze, takes in $36m per year before ad revenue. And, as both Rick Perlstein and Alex Pareene have noted, one of the animating principles of the conservative movement over the last 40 years has been soaking every last dollar out of people whose intellectual incuriosity has never been an impediment to further rage and paranoia.
It works the same way for Democrats too, of course.  Their fundraising shadow banks are just as happy to frighten their donors with right wing boogeymen as Republicans are to show them off for the Palinistas.

This is why you see Republicans and Democrats arguing with one another about who really wants to see impeachment discussed all over the news this week.  Each side is accusing the other of a cynical but effective ploy to raise money. They're both right, of course.

This isn't to say that the Republicans won't go ahead and impeach the President at some point if they think they can get away with it.  They will definitely cut off all of our noses to satisfy their own spite... and hopefully raise a little more scratch in the process.

Similar can be said for Louisiana Democrats who, as Wasserman suggests with that "which party's nightmare" remark, appear to be cheerleading Whitney a bit from afar. They think she might be the most beatable target for Edwin Edwards who will probably squeeze into a runoff with one of a crowded field of GOP candidates.  I'd caution against such alchemy.  You never know when you're going to create a monster.

Besides, Edwards seems to be handling the regular clowns well enough as it is.

Still in all... it lacks decorum

These Bleeping Blort and Flippy Flap guys seem pretty OK to me.  They did a useful thing and weren't jerks about it.
If it weren't for the efforts of two Twitter users known simply as @blippoblappo and @crushingbort, there's no telling when Johnson's flawed work would have been noticed. And if it weren't for Johnson's criticism of another outlet's plagiarism, the duo probably wouldn't have been compelled to trawl through his BuzzFeed archives.

"It was definitely prompted by Johnson tweeting about the IJReview," @crushingbort told TPM in an email on Monday.

After setting up a blog on Wordpress, @crushingbort and @blippoblappo collaborated in exposing multiple instances of plagiarism in Johnson's work, playing a central role in a story that ushered in new scrutiny toward the editorial standards at BuzzFeed — the wildly popular site that, as Politico's Dylan Byers put it last week, "is constantly walking a fine line between aggregation, or 'curation,' and theft."
But, if we all remember our Official Catechism Of Media Etiquette we'll know that it teaches us all anonymous internet users are inherently evil so guess we'll just have to disregard all of this.

Kicking the dead

Ray Nagin was a clown.  Let us all take a moment to remember Ray Nagin the clown.  Done?  Good. Because now he's a discredited clown who can't do any more damage. Which is why this isn't funny. Worry about the clowns who are in charge now.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Keep on fracking

Meanwhile, in Tangipahoa... 
In stark contrast to St. Tammany Parish -- where opposition to a proposed oil well near Mandeville has sparked staunch opposition, anger and tears from many - Tangipahoa has mostly welcomed the industry with open arms.  Three fracked wells are currently producing, a fourth well has been permitted by the state, and about eight other wells are in the works, according to state and parish officials.

This has all happened without the emotional public meetings, recall petitions and legal action that have punctuated the issue in St. Tammany in recent months in response to Helis Oil & Gas' proposal to drill and frack a well along Interstate 12 northeast of Mandeville.

The uproar in St. Tammany over drilling has been the subject of periodic discussion - and derision - among some of the regulars at The Café in Kentwood, owner William Parson said. He and his diners are aware of the controversy and have seen and read news reports about the opposition to oil exploration.

 "We're dumbfounded about why," Parson said.
 "Emotional" public meetings of people worried about their drinking water.  How silly!

How's my drinking?

Pretty good Gambit article about trying to stay sober and social in New Orleans at the same time. It's written by the imminently quotable Jules Bentley so you get some brilliant passages like this.
I'd always considered people who didn't drink to be psychological cripples, at best uptight or constitutionally weak, at worst deliberately dull: individuals so afraid of themselves they cut themselves off from pleasure, limiting their palette to life's beiges and grays. Five years sober, I find that assessment to have been accurate.
But also there are more earnest perspectives about the challenges of conducting any sort of social or economic commerce where alcohol is an almost omnipresent element.

Still I think it's wrong to suggest that the sober are ostracized in New Orleans. Or at least they aren't shunned with the same harshness that the slightly more than casual drinker might be in some other city.  It's true that  planning any gathering.. be it a festival, political rally, or an academic conference.. involves figuring out where the bar will go.  But if there is a bias in this it is toward unpretentiousness rather than debauchery.

Generally, one can attend most such gatherings without there being much pressure to indulge.  Most often it works they way "Dave" describes here.
My friend Dave, a stalwart of the New Orleans punk scene, is "straight edge" (punkers who abstain from alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs). He not only doesn't drink alcohol, he doesn't do any drugs at all. With DIY and all-ages venues an endangered species, I wondered how it was being straight edge in a city whose punk shows are so often inside bars.

"At first I probably thought that people noticed [me not drinking] more than they did," Dave said, "but it turns out other people really don't care what you do or don't do. As I've gotten older, I make an active effort to contribute to bars I go to, out of respect for the bartenders and service industry folks. I learned which bars have Abita root beer on tap, which have sparkling water. I always make sure to order something, so I can contribute to the venue and tip the bartender."
Most of the time nobody cares what you're drinking. This becomes more true the drunker they themselves are, in fact.

I've never felt much pressure to be drunk or sober.  As I've gotten older, I've tapered off naturally but that only affects occasions when I can't afford to be wiped out the next day by my old man hangovers.   Not everyone's body, anxieties, social circles, etc. work the same way, of course, so your mileage may have varied. 

Generally, I find I'm more grateful for the semi-casual situations where I'm allowed to drink than for the parties where no one notices if I'm sober.  But on balance what we're talking about here is a wide range of malleable circumstances that exist in New Orleans.  And, to me, that feels like we're mostly getting it right.

Vacation is over


What did y'all do to this place while we were gone?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Back in a bit

It's late summer and I'm lucky enough to be skipping town for a few days.  See if you can get them to finish all of the road work while I'm out.

Third Street barricade

When I get back next week it will be football season.  Get ready for that by reading Ralph Malbrough explain that the Saints are going to go undefeated or some such.  Is Ralph ok?  Look into that for me.

Bicycle nationalism

What would Jesus drive?

There are times when an ignored or oppressed faction  has no other option but to get out in the street and demand to be taken seriously by a community.  This is not one of those times.
NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - Angry bicyclists from around the Bywater and Marigny came together and blocked the intersection where a bicyclist was killed the day before.

The New Orleans bicycle nation is banding together, to say ‘enough is enough,‘ and the fatal tragedy on Thursday afternoon could have been prevented.
"New Orleans bicycle nation."  Good grief.

There are a lot of people in New Orleans who use bicycles as one of their transportation options.  Just like there are a lot of people who use hammers to hang some of their pictures or can-openers to get at some of their artichoke hearts. These people do not constitute a "nation."

I know because I am one of them.  I've been riding a bike around New Orleans now for (literally.. I'm an old dude now) decades.  In my experience, bicycling is the most convenient way to get most places in town when:

1) You're planning to travel 2-5 miles each way.

2) You don't have to carry a whole bunch of stuff or passengers.

3) You're fairly certain it's not going to rain like hell that day.

For other occasions I keep my twenty year old Toyota Tercel around as a backup. It works most of the time. But I've never considered either the bike of the car any sort of status indicator.

The deniznes of "bicycle nation" obviously think differently about that. Otherwise they wouldn't have thought it appropriate to wedge their personal identity politics into the scene of a tragic and horrific traffic fatality.
"We're offered these two little white lines down the side of the road, and that's it," said Adam Traugott, 26, a St. Claude resident who organized the ride in response to Philip Geeck's death Thursday afternoon (July 17).

"The culture here treats bicyclists as illegitimate," he continued.
Um... no.  There's nothing wrong with, "the culture."  A lot of people ride bikes in this city.  If anything, "the culture" is very much in favor of it, perhaps even to a fault.

There are bicycle advocacy groups, bicycle social events, bicycle valets. There is a city-sponsored Bike To Work DayLifestyle articles regularly highlight the cycling trend in our local publications. In 2011, the League of American Bicyclists presented New Orleans with its "Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community" award.

Bicyclists are not a persecuted minority in New Orleans. They are not "illegitimate" in the eyes of "the culture." On the contrary, as a widely acknowledged favorite fashion accessory of  the young, hip, creative class "New New Orleanian,"  the bicycle has never enjoyed a more elevated status in the eyes of the establishment.

So well entrenched is bicycle advocacy, in fact, that road resurfacing projects are required to plan for incorporating the needs of cyclists in their design. But it's worth noting that this political pull is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Here is a Lens article from 2011 about the city's effort to respond to the demands of cycling advocates.  A decade ago, our award winning bike friendly community was in much worse shape.  
In 2002, the city’s fatality rate won New Orleans  the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous biking city in the country’s third most lethal state for biking. In fact, Orleans Parish accounted for 49 percent of all bicycle crashes statewide, federal highway data shows.
What has changed since then?  Well for one thing there's a "media focus" on bicycling as fashion among the tastemaking class. 
Despite a media focus on young, white and preternaturally hip pedalers, the data show that the majority of the city’s cyclists are men of color who don’t have cars and rely on bikes to get around. And the injury rate tracks that: Of the injuries reported between 1996 and 2001, 44 were sustained by black males under 18, but only two in the same age group were white males, the Regional Planning Commission states in its New Orleans Metropolitan Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, the most recent study of biking fatalities in the city.

“You can’t attribute the popularity of bikes to the influx of new people and the fact that people are all green,” Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer. “It is the fact that we are a poor city. People cannot afford to have cars and they get around on bikes.”
It's probable that those numbers have shifted  a bit since that plan was published but Kristin Palmer's assertion is still on the mark. Most people who rely on bikes as their primary transportation in New Orleans do so out of necessity.

At the same time, though, the gentrification trend has brought with it a critical mass of "preternaturally hip" yuppies sufficient to generate political responsiveness.  At least enough to get some bike lanes clumsily slapped down around town anyway. And that, in a sense, is the problem currently.

The accident last week didn't result from lack of attention to the demands of bicycling advocates. After all, it happened in a very recently installed bike lane. Contrary to the claims of  the bicycle nationalists, "the culture" is going all out to accommodate them. It's just doing so poorly.

This article explains the stupidity of the Elysian Fields/St. Claude intersection pretty well.
As St. Claude approaches the intersection from the east, the bike lane's solid striping becomes dashed, that's a signal to both cyclists and motorists that they are entering a mixing zone, Bennett said. That's normal. It's the area where cars wishing to turn right merge across the bike lane in preparation to turn right.

It exists so drivers merge across the cycle lane rather than turning abruptly across it, Bennet said.

The St. Claude-Elysian Fields intersection, however, has an odd feature. The right turn is configured as a slip lane -- the little diagonal cut-through found on many busy streets. But the angle there would be too sharp for large vehicles, so truck drivers are allowed to make the right turn from the through lane, cutting across the bike lane.

Block signage on a St. Claude's lane that include the words "Trucks OK" and a right arrow signal to truck drivers that they can make a right turn, despite the lane for bicycles to travel through the intersection.

"That is very dangerous," Bennett said. "I've never seen that design before.

"You never want to have a lane turning across a through lane of traffic," he said.
Click here if you need to see that illustrated.

They've created an intersection of state highways and major trucking routes with two turning lanes that plow straight across a bike lane in a way that makes it very difficult for bikers and drivers to see each other coming at all much less figure out who has the right of way.  It's almost as if planners are trying to hurt people.

They're not, of course.  It's just that this was the path of least resistance for a road design process involving agencies at federal, state, and local levels all trying to meet slightly different standards and satisfy the demands of various parties.. including truckers and bicyclists.

There are actually smarter ways to integrate all of these elements.  We're just not there yet. We can get there but I don't think we're likely to get there by airing grievances that have no basis in reality.  Running out in the street and shouting at police can only spark an unproductive negative reaction. And then "the culture" really will learn to see you as "illegitimate." 

Also, I couldn't quite work these into this post but read them anyway.  Varg was an eyewitness to the scene just after this accident occurred. He wrote this about it.  Also Jules Bentley was among the participants in the protest.  His account of that event is here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Planners gonna plan

It's because, if they say nothing, someone might figure out how unnecessary they often are.
The Deutsches Haus can once again call Mid-City home, the New Orleans City Planning Commission said Tuesday in agreeing to the German cultural organization’s proposal for a new building along Bayou St. John. But before construction can begin, the project’s architects must revise the building’s design to make the structure a little less Germanic-looking, the commission said.
Commissioners also asked about the possibility of renaming the club Gen. Pershing Haus.  

Later they got around to music criticism.

Does anybody even get what the open primary is for?

New York Senator Chuck Schumer writes in a NYT op-ed that an open primary system would serve to reduce "polarization" by making elections less about "ideological purity."
We need a national movement to adopt the “top-two” primary (also known as an open primary), in which all voters, regardless of party registration, can vote and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, then enter a runoff. This would prevent a hard-right or hard-left candidate from gaining office with the support of just a sliver of the voters of the vastly diminished primary electorate; to finish in the top two, candidates from either party would have to reach out to the broad middle.
And yet in Louisiana, which has operated with open primaries (with the exception of an experiment during the 2008 federal election cycle)  since the mid 70s, conventional pundits like Clancy Dubos in this 2004 column frequently argue that the system actually encourages more "extreme" candidates.
In addition to breaking down the significance of political parties, the law tends to reward "extremist" candidates -- from the far right as well as the far left -- at the expense of moderates and mainstreamers in both parties. Examples are easy to find, but none is more glaring than the "runoff from hell" in the governor's race of 1991.

In that year's gubernatorial primary, Edwin Edwards and David Duke edged out incumbent Gov. Buddy Roemer to give voters the unenviable task of choosing between a known crook and a known Nazi (who later turned out to be a crook as well). That race should have given us all the prodding we needed to change the law, except that the folks in a position to make such a change -- Edwards and state lawmakers -- all got their jobs as a result of the law.
Actually, they're both wrong.

I'm not here to tell you that Democrats and Republicans are "exactly the same" party. They're not.  But on the questions that matter most, the consensus that emerges from both parties is clearly more attuned to the whims of industrial and financial elites than to any grass roots driven impetus to "ideological purity." 

Of course the story is the same in Louisiana.  We're gearing up for a Governor's election next year.  Here is a NOLA.com article laying out some fundamental ways in which the top three candidates resemble one another despite personal and superficial differences. Ultimately the candidates will compete for the favor the oil industry and the Louisiana Family Forum in varying proportions.

In either case, you're dealing with more or less the same ruling class represented by the voters' choice among a few different personalities.  Probably a choice between two parties with meaningfully differentiated policy positions would be more useful. But under the circumstances, the open primary has the advantage of being at least slightly more honest.

Amazon always reading over your shoulder

What could go wrong?
Your networked Kindle tells Amazon where you've got to in each book. This is so that if you switch to, say, the Kindle app on your smartphone, you can pick up exactly where you left off. But this also means that Amazon knows not only what you're reading, but even where you've got to. So anonymous reading goes out of the window.


Proclamation found to be in error. Unproclamation issued.
A city proclamation welcoming the anti-abortion group Operation Save America to the city and recognizing its "outstanding service to the City of New Orleans" was issued in error, according to an email this afternoon by a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Gambit goes on to note that the city pretty much just issues these welcome proclamations to any visiting group who fills out the web form and meets certain standards. 
Getting welcomed to town is reserved for groups and conventions, but anyone can apply for a ceremonial proclamation, as long as the reason fits in one of the city’s six categories: organizational honors; church anniversaries and pastoral anniversaries; retirements; heroic deeds; a 100th birthday; or “outstanding community service by an individual, group, or organization.”
They couldn't find out anything about how these applications are reviewed and vetted but it's good to keep in mind that this task probably falls to some peon civil servant barely scraping out a subsistence wage.

The mayor is pushing a civil service reform package in the hope that they can someday easily fire whoever the poor underpaid sap is.  But thankfully that hasn't happened yet or today might have been even worse.

In case you missed it

Ed Blakely solved Gaza last week. Apparently the key is to know who in the audience is in favor of slaughtering civilians and who is not.
"Israel is using a lot of cards, a lot of chips," Blakely says. "If you're in the silk-stocking district in New York, you know you have a lot of Jews in the audience, but in the middle of Iowa, you may not know who's in the audience, and that could trickle back to hurt you. ... Certainly you wouldn't want to be siding with people who are slaughtering civilians."
So there.

The Fuck You Vote

"City of St. George" separatists are still short of the necessary 18,000 signatures they need for their breakaway from Baton Rouge ballot initiative.  What's interesting is the reason they believe they came very close to their goal.
Lionel Rainey, St. George spokesman, said Tuesday morning that the group would not be submitting its petition by Wednesday, which is the deadline to have the November election.

Last week, the group announced they had 17,076 signatures. It was the first time they had disclosed their signature counts since December.

He said he didn’t have an updated signature count but estimated that at least 200 more signatures had been collected in the past week.

“It was a really good week,” he said, attributing some of the past week’s momentum to a PBS “Frontline” documentary that aired last week on the effort that he says unfairly depicted the movement as racially motivated.

“Absolutely it was positive for us, these people are not prejudice,” he said. “There is no racial or class motive around this, they just want better for their children. And rightfully so, that frustrates them.”
This is a phenomenon the late Greg Peters once described as "the Fuck You vote." In essence, signatories are saying, sure, this might be a stupid, revanchist, and racist initiative.  But "Fuck You" for telling us not to sign it.

Corps letter asks Helis to think about fracking just a little to the right

Helis says this is a "routine request" but it looks like the Corps is asking them not to drill in an environmentally sensitive area.

Let it burn

Mitch's official policy regarding the troubled firefighters' pension.
According to the latest independent audit, the fund took a roughly $40.2 million loss on its investments in 2013, in large part because it was forced to acknowledge the deteriorating value of real estate and other investments on its balance sheet.

On top of that, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration has refused to hand over enough money from the city’s general fund during the past few years to entirely make up for declining assets, forcing the fund’s managers to cannibalize investments in order to pay current beneficiaries.

That left the fund with about $84.8 million in net assets available to pay retirement benefits at the end of 2013, a 41 percent decline from a year earlier. In 2011, that figure stood at $158.5 million.

Moreover, a good portion of what remains is in the form of real estate and other investments that could not be sold off quickly, should the extra cash be needed.
We all understand the city's budgetary problems.  They're not unlike what other cities are facing in many respects.  But it's important to point out that a political leadership that actually believes workers shouldn't lose their retirement to the vicissitudes of the financial crisis would try to find ways to help muddle through.

Mitch is asking for a property tax increase this fall in order to fix some of this. But he's only doing that because several court rulings have mandated that he do something.  As a matter of philosophy he seems to favor scrapping the pension altogether.. thus leaving working people to pick up the tab for bankers' crimes. 

Also.... I sure hope the firefighters don't have any money in securitized re-packaged auto loans.
Auto loans to people with tarnished credit have risen more than 130 percent in the five years since the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, with roughly one in four new auto loans last year going to borrowers considered subprime — people with credit scores at or below 640.

The explosive growth is being driven by some of the same dynamics that were at work in subprime mortgages. A wave of money is pouring into subprime autos, as the high rates and steady profits of the loans attract investors. Just as Wall Street stoked the boom in mortgages, some of the nation’s biggest banks and private equity firms are feeding the growth in subprime auto loans by investing in lenders and making money available for loans.

And, like subprime mortgages before the financial crisis, many subprime auto loans are bundled into complex bonds and sold as securities by banks to insurance companies, mutual funds and public pension funds — a process that creates ever-greater demand for loans.

Update: This morning the judge rejected Stacy Head's stab at trying to muddle through.
Head, taking the witness stand in Civil District Court, offered to bring a motion at the council that would take $2 million this year from the New Orleans Police Department budget, plus raise about $1.4 million by furloughing current firefighters one day per month through the end of the year, although there was confusion about exactly how many days would be required.

While that would cover only a fraction of the $17.5 million, Head argued that it would be more than enough to keep the pension fund from continuing to shrink, as it has over the past few years.

Civil District Court Judge Robin Giarrusso rejected the offer from the bench, ordering the city to come up with the full judgement before a Sept. 3 hearing and threatening to hold certain officials -- she did not say which -- in contempt of court. Presumably that could mean fines or even jail for city officials.

Edwin Edwards running circles around Bobby Jindal

At least in the press, he is.
The politician who’s captured the imagination of at least some out-of-state junkies is governor-turned-inmate-turned-congressional candidate Edwin Edwards — who, unlike a certain current occupant of the office, has a knack for attracting attention without having to wave his arms and shout, “Over here!”

Just this month, Edwards has snagged three full-length profiles in major publications: New York Magazine (which doesn’t normally cover congressional campaigns half a country away), plus the insiderish National Journal and the conservative Weekly Standard. All entertainingly, and even wistfully, recount Edwards’ greatest hits, from the naughty one-liners to the corruption trials to the post-prison marriage to a woman 50 years his junior, not to mention new fatherhood at age 86. Never mind that his odds of returning to Congress are miniscule.

But despite a relentless campaign to get his name out, Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose aspirations are somewhat less fanciful than Edwards’, is still struggling to break through. A new Gallup poll of Republicans and those who lean Republican found that just 45 percent know enough about him to have an opinion. That puts him well behind nine other potential presidential contestants and slightly ahead of just one, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Note that, in Grace's estimation, Jindal's chances of being elected President are "somewhat less fanciful" than "miniscule."

Thanks, Pro-Life thugs!

Love, Mitch Landrieu
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued an official welcome this week to Operation Save America, an anti-abortion organization that interrupted an Uptown church’s prayer service with its protests on Sunday and had plans to parade the alleged remains of a fetus around Jackson Square in the French Quarter.

The certificate, which is dated July 20, extends Mayor Landrieu’s official recognition to Flip Benham of Operation Save America for “outstanding service to the city of New Orleans,” according to an image of the certificate being shared by the group on members’ Facebook pages. Supporters of the group were enthusiastic about Landrieu’s welcome, with one noting that “This is a first!”

Benham, director of Operation Save America, was found guilty of stalking in North Carolina in 2011 for distributing “Wanted” posters featuring the name and photo of a Charlotte abortion doctor, and sentenced to 18 months probation. A local organizer for the group, Pastor Dale Sochia of King Jesus Ministries in Boutte, told the New Orleans Advocate that they would be holding a funeral procession in Jackson Square on Tuesday featuring an open casket containing a “a real aborted baby.”
 Meanwhile, the mysterious "Tips For Jesus" is in town.  Reports about the tipper (or more likely group of tippers) for Jesus vary but it is speculated that there is probably a genuine religious bent to their guerrilla publicity campaign.   Maybe they're here with Operation Save America.  In which case, they would be demonstrably more thankful for the service than the Mayor.

Poor door

They should migrate this concept to New Orleans so that Jackie Clarkson has a place to retire to.

While they still exist anyway

If you look around you'll notice that the notion of affordable public higher education is almost at thing of the past. Which leaves us with the feudal system described in this article.  But if you happen to be an elite brat afflicted with a conscience, the author offers advice.
Is there anything that I can do, a lot of young people have written to ask me, to avoid becoming an out-of-touch, entitled little shit? I don’t have a satisfying answer, short of telling them to transfer to a public university.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Lionel Ferbos: noted metalworker

While active as a musician, Ferbos for many years also kept his day job as a tinsmith in his family’s sheet-metal business.  He went to work with his father in the family business in the 1940s, and became a master metal worker.  He also worked at Haspel’s Clothing Factory in the early 30s, where he met his future wife.  Ferbos and his wife, Marguerite Gilyot, were married for 75 years, until her death in 2009.  The couple had a daughter, Sylvia, and son, Lionel Jr., who died in 2006. 

In addition to his daughter, Ferbos is survived by three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren as well as a host of nieces and nephews. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Thursday, July 17, 2014



That's the scene on Jefferson Avenue about a week ago just near the JCC where the SELA project is applying very frightening heavy duty pieces of equipment to the construction of an underground drainage canal. They're about to make an even bigger mess as they reach the part where they have to cross St. Charles Avenue
"On Jefferson Avenue, what the contractor is getting ready to do is begin their canal construction in the St. Charles Avenue travel lanes, south of the neutral ground," said Wingate. "In order to do that, we need to get the traffic off. You'll have two lane traffic north of the neutral ground for about two to three blocks."

The nearby Jefferson Community Center sent out an email blast letting members know about the construction.

"Members, especially elderly members who need to come to the front entrance of the JCC, where our handicapped entrance is, can enter the JCC by coming Jefferson Avenue and taking a right on St. Charles," said JCC Executive Director Leslie Fischman. "There will be an opening for JCC members to drop off in the front circle. We'll probably use this for rainy day car pools as well for our nursery school."

According to the Army Corps of Engineers, when you're sitting in you vehicle, steamed because you hit one of these traffic nightmares, keep in mind when it's all over with you're going to have better drainage, brand new sewer and water line and a freshly paved roadway.

"Hopefully, this short-term inconvenience will produce long-term benefits," said Wingate.
In the meantime, get used to it.  We've got at least another three years before the last leg of this project is scheduled to wrap up.

"Community RFP"

The Airport bidding process just keeps getting more and more complicated.
Stand with Dignity, a local labor group, announced on Thursday that it is launching a "community request for proposals," which will, among other things, ask the joint ventures to demonstrate their commitment to hiring locals, paying them a living wage and offering them opportunities to improve their careers.

The city's selection process for the contract includes requirements for the participation of disadvantaged business enterprises -- companies usually owned by minorities, women or veterans -- but it doesn't have much in the way of guarantees for workers, particularly those from poor communities, said Collette Tippy, lead organizer for Stand.

Stand's request for proposals mirrors that of the city. However, rather than asking them to demonstrate their experience and expertise, the labor group's request asks the joint ventures to detail how they will achieve Stand's employment and wage goals.

Stand has no official authority or legal standing to select a contractor for the airport project. Participation in the group's request for proposals is completely voluntary.
Just to clarify one point.  This "local labor group" doesn't appear to be affiliated with any of the building trades unions whose members would actually do the bulk of the work associated with these construction contracts.  Instead, they're kind of a weird mix of neighborhood groups, faith-based orgs, and.. the Cowan Institute.. for whatever reason. Oh and SEIU who only get things right about a third of the time.

Doesn't mean they're wrong to insert themselves or that their concerns won't be valid.  But they're different from simply "a labor group" and they certainly aren't the only "labor group" with a stake here. 

Where did all the money go?

The State of Louisiana is now and will continue to be faced with serious budget problems for the foreseeable future.  Which is weird because we keep heating about how these are the boom times in our state. 

Last month the Wall Street Journal article enthused, "We are building a Qatar on the Bayou," in an article about the heavily taxpayer subsidized petrochemical bonanza in Louisiana. 

So get ready to read many more like this. 
A subsidiary of Chinese chemical manufacturer Shandong Yuhuang Chemical Co. will build a $1.85 billion methanol manufacturing complex on the Mississippi River in St. James Parish, the company said Thursday.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's office called it the first major foreign direct investment by a Chinese company in Louisiana.
Well.. it's also a major direct investment by Louisiana in the company.
Louisiana Economic Development started discussions with the company five months ago and offered incentives to lure the company to the state:
  • a $9.5 million grant to be paid over five years starting in 2017 for infrastructure costs.
  • a $1.75 million grant over 10 years to cover some of the costs of developing and creating access to the riverfront.
The company is also expected to pursue breaks through Louisiana's industrial tax exemption and the Quality Jobs program, which provides a 5-or-6-percent cash rebate of annual gross payroll for new direct jobs for up to 10 years.
In another 10 years or so, we'll start to theoretically recoup some of the money we're paying out now.  That is unless we're paying it out to whoever is next in line by then.

Good news, bad news

The good news is CNN has already had a 24 hour Malaysia Airlines bureau up and running for months now.
CNN) -- A Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, has crashed in eastern Ukraine, Russian news agency Interfax reported Thursday.

Malaysia Airlines confirmed that it lost contact with Flight 17 and that the plane's last known position was over Ukrainian airspace, the airline said on Twitter.

The aircraft was "shot down" over Ukraine by "terrorists" operating a Buk surface-to-air missile system, according to the Facebook page of Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry. There were 280 passengers killed as well as 15 crew members, Gerashchenko's post reads.
The bad news is we never got around to electing Sarah Palin's Russia view house President which, clearly, is why this was allowed to happen.  

"Turnaround specialist"

Looks like David Gilmore really gave HANO a serious turnaround.
"I think people have been troubled by HANO in the past. We put every effort in to fix HANO especially the finance department," said Ronald McIntyre, former finance director for the Housing Authority of New Orleans.

He was brought in from Washington, D.C. to oversee the finances of the housing authority. McIntyre was hired by then-administrative receiver David Gilmore.

 He says their relationship soured when he started to question how the housing authority handed out contracts.

"David Gilmore and HANO steered contracts to his friends.  He steered contracts and used federal funds to cover those contracts," McIntyre said.

He says says his questions lead to an increasingly hostile work environment and harassment by superiors. McIntyre was ousted from the agency early this year.

"The day after I informed him (Gilmore) in writing that I was going to the EEOC and the inspector general I was terminated," McIntyre.

Will attempt to show

Advocate: Coastal Louisiana land loss worth price to fix, study will attempt to show

Let's hope the attempt goes well. It seems very involved.
BURAS — With a 50-year, $50 billion coastal restoration and protection plan to pay for, the state is gearing up with evidence to convince the rest of the country that the price tag is worth it.

The state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority started a new study in May that will quantify the worth of south Louisiana and just how much the rest of the country has to lose if nothing is done to stem coastal land loss or make coastal communities more secure.

“Try to understand the financial implications of future land loss and flood impacts,” Charles Sutcliffe, policy adviser with the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities, told Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority members at their Wednesday meeting.

This Coast-wide Economic Impact Evaluation will be done in cooperation with LSU and the RAND Corporation and will include a steering committee made up of representatives from government agencies, businesses and coastal researchers.
For future reference, when your state is faced with an environmental catastrophe on an order of magnitude such that roughly a third of of its total land area (including its most heavily populated communities) is sinking into the ocean, here is what you do.

First you will need to put together a "Master Plan" for coastal restoration.  This will be a long, politically controversial and expensive process.

Next you'll need to do the cost/benefit analysis of implementing the master plan.  This will also involve a lot of people and take several months or years to complete. This is what the phase they're on right now.  Finally, comes the marketing campaign to develop a "brand" that makes the cost/benefit analysis of the Master Plan accessible to people.

Once that's underway you're well on to drowning.

But the important thing is lots and lots of consultants and lobbyists and lawyers get paid in the meantime. Because that's what emergency response is really all about.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Magic Microbes

Seems like not so long ago they were telling us bacteria on the spilled oil was a good thing
A fortuitous combination of ravenous bacteria, ocean currents and local topography helped to rapidly purge the Gulf of Mexico of much of the oil and gas released in the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010, researchers reported on Monday.

But apparently, in the ocean, there's always a bigger fish... or microbe.
A couple hundred miles away at Auburn University, Dr. Cova Arias, a professor of aquatic microbiology, conducts research on the often-deadly and sometimes flesh-eating bacteria Vibrio Vulnificus. Arias’ research at Auburn, and through the school’s lab at Dauphin Island, has focused on Vibrio’s impact on the oyster industry which was brought to a standstill three years ago by the BP Oil Spill. In 2010, out of curiosity, Arias set out to discover if Vibrio were present in the post-spill tar balls washing up on the Alabama and Mississippi coasts. She was highly surprised by what she found.

“What was clear to us was that the tar balls contain a lot of Vibrio Vulnificus,” said Arias.

Arias can show an observer Vibrio in the lab as it appears as a ring on the top of the solution in a test tube. Vibrio is not something, though, that a person can see in the water, sand, or tar balls.

But, Arias’ research shows it there, especially in the tar balls, in big numbers.

According to Dr. Arias’ studies, there were ten times more vibrio vulnificus bacteria in tar balls than in the surrounding sand, and 100 times more than in the surrounding water.

“In general, (the tar balls) are like a magnet for bacteria,” said Arias.

Arias’ theory is that Vibrio feeds on the microbes that are breaking down the tar.

Choice ridership

Rail tie work
Rail tie work is still ongoing on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. The work was briefly suspended and streetcar service temporarily reinstated for the benefit of visitors over the Fourth of July/Essence Fest weekend. 

Major T-P feature this morning based on the release of a report by the advocacy group Ride New Orleans on the state of our public transit.

The news is bad.
The report argues that the RTA has not kept pace with the city's repopulation after Katrina: The agency restored only 36 percent of its bus and street car services while more than 86 percent of the city's population has returned, the report said. And ridership for public transit has increased every year by roughly 20 percent, although it remains a mere fraction of the service's pre-Katrina numbers.

"We did find that the current transit system is inequitable. We found that a lot of the service decreases have been in low-income communities and in communities of color," said Ride New Orleans president Trevor Theunissen.
For all the talk you see bandied about hyping the busy, growing, fantabulous "New New Orleans," these numbers show the old New Orleans sure did move a lot more people around. 
But in 2012, Veolia only operated 79 of the RTA's 86 buses during peak times, a much smaller fleet than the 301 buses that cruised city streets at rush hour in 2004, Ride New Orleans found. Augustine said the fleet is now closer to 136 buses, but remains a far cry from its pre-Katrina ranks.

The RTA also eliminated at least 33 routes after the storm, including 10 express bus lines that shot riders across town with few stops in between, Ride found. The agency also did away with all "school trippers," public buses that augmented school bus service. Several major routes were stretched to cover extra miles where others never returned, such as those on Carrollton and Mirabeau avenues, Almonaster Boulevard and Desire Street.
But these concepts, "booming New New Orleans" and fewer public transit riders aren't as contradictory as they sound.  Remember, the city we've rebuilt is no longer interested in serving poor people. We just watched a movie this week where Pres Kabacoff told us the poors were "a drag."

Instead, the future of public transit will be in attracting "choice riders."  
Even as ridership increases, the system needs to attract car owners -- riders who choose to use public transit -- rather than relying on passengers without other options, said Renne, the UNO transportation expert. In most cities, he said, the number of people who have no vehicles and must use public transit is too small to build a viable system.

"You've got to attract choice riders. This is not rocket science. These are simple things," Renne said.
That way you can run fewer buses for fewer riders who don't mind paying a higher fare.  Revenue per rider goes up, costs go down. Oh, and yes, of course fares are going up.   
The Ride New Orleans report comes as Veolia has signaled it may pursue a rate increase as a partial fix to a potential $10 million shortfall in 2015. At the same time, Veolia has proposed a $5 million-a-year expansion of its routes and bus services.
RTA also recently took over operation of the Mississippi River ferries. Pedestrians who once crossed the river for free now pay two dollars each direction. But probably they are "choice riders" so it's ok. 

Blame the victim

This is actually pretty refreshing.  Nine times out of ten these situations only lead to a customer service rep losing his job simply for having been put in an impossible position.  Well, actually, that's probably what will happen here anyway but at least the news coverage and the complaining customer get the story right.


They're having a "Suspicious Package" break in classes at the UL-Lafayette campus this afternoon

Looks like two "packages" which, if the pattern on these sorts of things hold, are most likely a discarded wig and an old metal lunchbox. But the police explode them anyway just to be safe.  Sadly the Lafayette cops don't seem have a specialized bomb robot like the one NOPD occasionally get to play with.

They do have dogs, though.  According to the Advertiser report picked up by WWL, the university also has a dog.
The university's dog, Pepper, and those from other local law enforcement are being used to sweep all buildings on campus including the Cajundome and the University Research Park.
Does the University of Louisiana have a dog? Yes. How many dogs does it own? One. What is the dog's name? Pepper.  What does the dog do?  Hangs around mostly... deterring crime.
So what made University Police decide to add K-9 help?

"As an emergency response agency we try to use her as a deterant to crime, so we got her knowing that that's something we needed to do," Sgt. Lasalle says.

And they use her frequently, making random sweeps along the campus and bringing her to big events.  University Police also lend Pepper out to other agencies in the case of bomb threats or bomb scares around the area.
 Yeah sometimes the cops need her to help them do stuff. 

The UL cops are happy anyway.  They're even looking to expand the program and assemble a team of super-dogs to watch over the campus.
Pepper is only two and a half years old, and soon she might have other K-9's by her side.  University Police are looking for other dogs with other specialties to make this campus the safest that it can be.

Can't wait til the movie comes out. 

Happy Birthday!

Nukes. They are 69 years old today.  Still haven't quite blown up the whole world. But then again, Tom Benson is 18 years older than you are so there's still time.

Last minute appeals

Monday evening the internets were buzzing with news that Saints TE(?) Jimmy Graham had filed an eleventh hour appeal of an arbitrator's ruling that he was in fact a TE(!) With less than 24 hours remaining before the franchise tag deadline. Was this cause for panic? 

Of course not.  As it turned out the last minute appeal was only a prelude to the Saints working out a deal with their TE(¯\_(ツ)_/¯)  He will continue to play for them and make lots of money.
Graham, 27, agreed to a record four-year contract Tuesday morning, the team announced. The four-year deal is worth up to $40 million with $21 million guaranteed, according to ESPN. Not only does that make him the highest paid tight end in the league, but it is also the biggest contract ever given to the position.
On Tuesday, former Mayor Ray Nagin created a similar but smaller buzzing when he let it be known that he will appeal his conviction on public corruption charges.
The one-paragraph notice of appeal does not reveal Nagin's appeal strategy. It says only he could challenge the jury's verdict, his prison sentence, the $500,000 judgment he was ordered to pay based on the value of the cash and gifts prosecutors say Nagin took while in office.
Probably not going to be as happy a result though. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Swollen and infected but so what

"It's impossible for you to have been more wrong"

Sometimes smiles come from the little things.

Honest graft

As you read this article about how the outgoing HANO director used a non-profit to circumvent public bid laws and direct contracts to consulting firms of his choosing there are two things to keep in mind.

First, this person was in charge because he is a "turnaround specialist" charged with managing a federally mandated receivership of the notoriously corrupt housing authority and, you know, showing us local buffoons how grown-ups are supposed to behave.
Gilmore was the latest in a series of receivers since HANO was taken over by the federal government in 2002 after years of poor management. He oversaw the agency’s day-to-day operation and was its lone board member.

The federal government had been scheduled to relinquish control of HANO in mid-2013, but the city had not yet selected an executive director or appointed a board for the agency at that time, so HUD renewed its contract with Gilmore’s company, Gilmore Kean LLC, for six months, through Jan. 8. An option in the contract allowed for a three-month extension, putting Gilmore’s end date at April 8.

Public housing residents and landlords portrayed Gilmore and his team from Gilmore Kean LLC as attentive leaders who cared about improving the lives of those living in government-subsidized developments in New Orleans. Many said they considered the redevelopment of various housing complexes, including the multimillion-dollar Iberville redevelopment, as Gilmore’s greatest accomplishments during his tenure.
Ok well. Good job, then. 

The other thing to note is that this profiteering took place over the course of a long and much delayed process of demolishing New Orleans's public housing and replacing it with.... less public housing.  Because this is what "moves the city forward" or something. So it's honest graft, really.

Last night PBS aired Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker's documentary about the 2010 District B Council election "Getting Back To Abnormal."  The fate of public housing in New Orleans is a major theme of the film.  You can watch it here on the POV website until August 12.  There a number of memorable quotes to play with there but my favorite is the part where Pres Kabacoff tells us that after Katrina, "We don't have quite the drag we had here with so many poor people living here"

Again, what was the point, exactly?

Law passed ostensibly to kill the SLFPA-E lawsuit probably doesn't actually kill the lawsuit.
John Barry, whom the governor removed from the levee authority board for leading the lawsuit effort, now heads the nonprofit Restore Louisiana Now. In a letter to his organization, he recently outlined some of the tactics that lawyers for the Flood Protection Authority may use to keep the suit alive.

Barry described two points of contention: that legislators broke their rules on public notice while moving the bill between committees, and that the language of the law actually exempts the levee authority from the intended oversight.

During the session, lawmakers supporting one bill to stop the suit failed to gain approval in one committee. But they were able to have it amended into another bill that was before a more receptive committee, where it eventually passed.

“So not only was proper notice not given, but [the new bill] as it was heard was entirely different from how it was filed,” Barry wrote. “And it gets even more egregious: forget the lack of notice — even if you were physically in the room when the committee heard [the bill] you could not get a copy of the bill. This violates all sorts of notice and open meetings standards.”
  So what was the point of that law?
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.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Prolific texter

Documents released by the Governor's office confirm a bunch of stuff we all pretty much suspected from the beginning.  Bobby Jindal's hand-picked Sec. of Health and Hospitals steered the state's Medicaid privatization scheme to his former employer.
An anonymous whistleblower warned federal officials about problems “dangerously close” to fraud in connection with the state award of a lucrative, now-scrapped state Medicaid claims processing contract, according to recently released documents that the Jindal administration used in making its decision to cancel the largest contract the state lets.

The email shows that federal regulators had alerted state officials of the potential issues with the nearly $200 million contract prior to its award to a company that formerly employed the state’s health agency chief. As secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, Bruce Greenstein was in charge of the agency that oversaw the contract.

Greenstein repeatedly has said he was not involved in the decision to award the contract to his former employer, Client Network Services Inc., the Maryland-based technology firm known as CNSI. But phone records and other data included in the released documents show at least 2,882 contacts between Greenstein and CNSI executives and the company’s lobbyist.
Everyone who cared enough to even read a little bit said this was happening the entire time.  Legislators opposed Greenstein's appointment.  PAR raised objections to the privatization plan.

But all of this went right on through anyway. Even now Greenstein says there's nothing inappropriate about his relationship with the firm receiving this huge contract from the office he oversaw.  
The emails by CMS and the whistleblower were among those recently released by the Jindal administration in response to a public-records request. The administration provided thousands of pages of mainly text-message logs revealing frequent communication between Greenstein and CNSI executive Carroll Creighton before, during and after the selection process and subsequent bid award. Creighton is CNSI’s vice president of government affairs and business development. The records cover a June 2010 to June 2012 time frame and indicate a higher volume of activity around key events in the selection process.

Neither Greenstein, who returned to Seattle, nor Creighton agreed to interviews. Attorneys for Greenstein and CNSI said the men are longtime friends who stay in close contact.

“The vast majority of the text messages and phone calls are of a personal nature and have nothing to do with the contract,” said John McLindon, Greenstein’s Baton Rouge attorney. “Bruce is a prolific texter, and I’m told that Carroll Creighton texts a lot, too.”

Creighton, who lives in Seattle, started work at CNSI a few months after Greenstein in 2005.
Yeah ok fine.  By this point in the Jindal administration we're all pretty much used to the cynical cronyism and political calculation that guides policy on every issue from education to flood control to health care.   So, weary as well all are, maybe "prolific texting" is as good a reason as any to just shrug it off.

But remember Bobby Jindal ran for Governor pledging to wage a "War On Corruption" and his campaign was greatly aided by the propagandists who provide us with our professional news services.  Maybe they'll be less credulous when the next LABI, Louisiana Family Forum,  and oil industry backed "reformer" comes along. But probably not. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Ancien Regime

Tom Benson turns 87 years old today. Believe it or not this only makes him the third oldest current NFL franchise owner. And that's not the only way in which the league resembles a medieval society of competing but also interlocking and cooperating branches of  hereditary nobility.

This is from an article published a few months ago about the succession plan for Benson's empire of publicly subsidized sports franchises who play in state-owned facilities.  The plan is said to be a closely guarded secret but it is assumed that Benson's daughter and grandchildren would  receive his ownership stake. The NFL prefers this as a matter of policy.
The NFL prefers to keep teams within their controlling families after a majority owner has died.

That's not always the case. In Buffalo, the Bills will be owned by Wilson's estate because his wife, Mary, and two surviving daughters, Christy and Edith, have no interest in running the team.

But in most cases, teams are transferred within family ranks whenever possible.

For instance, McCaskey and her family have controlled 80 percent of the Bears since her father, George Halas, died in 1983.

In Tennessee, Adams' daughters Susie Smith and Amy Hunt, and the family of his deceased son, Kenneth Adams, each received a third of the Titans.

And in Pittsburgh, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell arranged for Dan Rooney to maintain controlling interest of the Steelers, which has been in the Rooney family since Art Rooney founded it in 1933. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

In which Ray Nagin tells you about a thing being "surreal"

He's kind of an expert in that.
Nagin spoke to the WDSU I-Team exclusively, maintaining his innocence and suggesting that he had been “targeted” by the government.

When asked what went through his mind as the sentence was handed down, Nagin sounded a defiant note.

“Well, you know, all of this is pretty surreal to me,” he said. “I still maintain my innocence. We're going to appeal this thing and, you know, it's just something that's very difficult.”
I haven't watched the interview yet but according to the report, Nagin's appeal will lean on the US Attorney commenting scandal a bit as well as on prosecutorial "magic.
“The prosecutors were fairly magical in their ability to take something that supposedly happened and paint it as reality when it didn't really happen,” he said.
I know we're still waiting on Katrina's Secrets Volume II but if Nagin wants to write a YA novel of two while he's got all this time on his hands "Fairly Magical" might make a pretty good series title.


This AZ post is not about the Ray Nagin sentencing. It's about coverage of the BP claims process.  Still this is a good line to have in mind on the day this creature the NOLA press created and sold to voters as an anti-corruption Dragonslayer is sentenced to ten years in prison for being one of the dumber and sloppier criminals to hold public office in recent times.

Anyway, here you go.
Folks, I want you to understand something if you don't already realize it....most mainstream media resources, on the whole, are bullshit PR printing presses....or rather pixel presses.  That holds true in our little swampy corner of the world in spades.
Nagin ended up getting 10 years which is probably the best he could have hoped for given the sentencing guidelines.  It's still an awful long time to be in prison. Remember how long Nagin's term in office seemed to all of us? This is actually longer than that.   There's a chance he'll only serve about 8 of those years but that would depend on Nagin exhibiting "good behavior" and when has that ever happened?

Anyway he's going to jail while others in similar circumstances (Fred Heebe, Gary Solomon, others) are apparently immune to prosecution and the people who decided Ray Nagin should be mayor in the first place are still picking our candidates for us today.

Also, for some reason, Mitch Landrieu was asked to say something.  He said, we're "moving forward."
Said Mayor Mitch Landrieu,“Today marks the end of a sad chapter for our city.  The people of New Orleans are turning the page and moving forward."
But if there's any actual progress, or even justice, in any of this, it isn't easy to pick out.

Nagin derrangement syndrome

It's Ray Nagin's big day. I guess they'll finally show that guy what's what. Surely there will be dancing and cheering in the streets when Ray Nagin gets taken down a peg.  Can't wait to see what that might be like.
Since his conviction, the lender on his family's townhouse in Frisco, Texas, which testimony showed Nagin's family living in rent-free after Hurricane Katrina compliments of the developer before they eventually bought it, has sought to foreclose on the property.

And after trial, Nagin's wife Seletha filed for bankruptcy, in the process presenting a grim picture of the family's finances.

Then another financial blow came when U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan in May ordered Nagin to forfeit $501,200 that prosecutors totaled as the gains he received in the bribery schemes for which he was convicted. That figure reflects travel paid by city vendors, cell phone service, money meant to appear as investments in Stone Age, ill-gotten business for Stone Age and free granite provided to the company.

And Nagin could face yet undetermined amounts of fines, in addition to a lengthy prison term, at sentencing.

Files in the Seletha Nagin bankruptcy case in Texas show the Nagin family went from "a seven figure net worth" to $204,810 in assets, surpassed by liabilities of about $223,256.

The bankruptcy files list the Nagins owing $42,839 to the Internal Revenue Service for 2011 and 2012 taxes. They list about $6,059 in debts for bills at retail stores Kohl's and Macy's and for medical services from a handful of providers, including a pathology lab, an orthopedic clinic and a radiology practice.

The court documents list Ray Nagin as unemployed. They indicate Seletha Nagin works as a sales clerk at a Bath and Body Works store in Texas, making about $490 a month.

They also reflect her collecting $312 monthly in food stamps and receiving $400 from one of their two sons, with the name not specified, bringing their average monthly income to about $1,202.
Well ok but that's just the total financial ruin of the man and his family. That might be a big deal if we were talking about someone who is also pretty near unemployable at this point and... well, ok so he's also unemployable.

That might be a big deal if we were talking about a person who hadn't lived through Hurricane Katrina as the Mayor of New Orleans. There's probably some money in that story.. you know.. in the right hands, it would make a compelling book and.. oh.. yeah.

Ok well, so Ray Nagin is pretty well screwed as things stand right now.  This morning Judge Berrigan can only make matters worse when she sentences the 58 year old Nagin to what will probably be something between 10 and 20 years in prison. Apparently this is supposed to serve some sort of purpose.

At least according to what the many folks on the parallel internets demanding an "apology" from the gelded stooge seem to think this week.  Who knows why so many people have decided to make this petty thief's conviction about their honor. It's especially puzzling given the fact that the major criminals who created the petty thief in the first place are still pretty much running the city anyway.  But there's no accounting for hurt feelings.

One friend in the parallel internet did a pretty good job yesterday of explaining why Nagin personally irks people. Why, for example, did Nagin think taking his case to trial was a good idea?
The moron is too narcissistic to realize his fluffers have long ago abandoned him and plead out. No, he wanted to be tossed out the front door, he wanted his show trial with all the cameras focused on the perfect shine on his head. He doesn't give a crap about his finances or his family or his "legacy". The whole prosecution has been about HIM and one more chance to bask in the glow. He will go down hard simply because he chose that path.
It's true Nagin was always just a little too stupid and/or full of himself to understand that everything wasn't always about him. But surely the current mania for revenge can be described as a direct reflection of this overinflated sense of importance.

Maybe there's some symmetry in that but it still doesn't look to me like a long prison sentence is necessary to balance out Nagin's stupid and crude but only moderately significant crimes.