Monday, January 12, 2015


  • John Barry takes on a favorite rhetorical ploy set out by the oil and gas industry in its argument against the SLFPA-E's lawsuit.
    It's not the levees.

    For years the state has been told that the levees have caused the tremendous land loss across coastal Louisiana, even where land loss was greatest — Terrebone, Lafourche, and western Jefferson Parish. But it ain't so. 

    Don't take my word for it. Ask the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, the trade association for Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, and other major oil companies. True, a U.S. Geological Survey study including industry scientists concluded that across most of the coast oil and gas operations caused "only" 36 percent of the land loss. But the percentage varies from place to place. Mid-Continent studied the area of greatest land-loss — Terrebone and Lafourche — and concluded that there "canal development tended to be the overwhelming cause of wetland losses." 

    Mid-Continent did not say what percentage was due to this "overwhelming cause," but in 2006 the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources did. DNR attributed a whopping 76 percent of land loss in the Barataria and Terrebone basins to industry canals and the "altered hydrology associated with oil and gas exploration and drilling." In that part of the state, it's not the levees.
    Last year, the legislature passed a law designed to squash the lawsuit.  Bobby Jindal is defending that law in court. 
  • Uber but for news.  Disruption has come to journalism in a big way
    The writing software, called Quill, was developed by Narrative Science, a Chicago company set up in 2010 to commercialize technology developed at Northwestern University that turns numerical data into a written story. It wasn’t long before Quill was being used to report on baseball games for TV and online sports outlets, and company earnings statements for clients such as Forbes.

    Quill’s early career success generated headlines of its own, and the software was seen by some as evidence that intelligent software might displace human workers. Narrative Science CEO Stuart Frankel says that the publicity, even if some of it was negative, was a blessing. “A lot of people felt threatened by what we were doing, and we got a lot of coverage,” he says. “It led to a lot of inquiries from all different industries and to the evolution to a different business.”

    Narrative Science is now renting out Quill’s writing skills to financial customers such as T. Rowe Price, Credit Suisse, and USAA to write up more in-depth, lengthy reports on the performance of mutual funds that are then distributed to investors or regulators.

    “It goes from the job of a small army of people over weeks to just a few seconds,” says Frankel. “We do 10- to 15-page documents for some financial clients.”

    Now that it's putting them out of work too, I wonder if maybe the mainstream of our press corps will finally pick up on how this is not such a terrific trend for people in various other industries also.... before they're all replaced by robots that is.

  • Get ready for months and months of Obama legacy talk.  You might think that this NY Mag article has blurbed it to death already, though.  Some of those are ok.  Andrew Bacevich and Mike Davis get in a few pretty good shots.  But a lot of it is pretty dumb too.

    Here's a better look at Obama's legacy  (and the useless punditocracy that enabled it) from Tom Frank.
    But let this pass. When historians seek to explain the failures of the Obama years, they will likely focus on a glaringly obvious, and indeed still more hard-headed explanation that the apologists for Obama’s enfeeblement now overlook: that perhaps Obama didn’t act forcefully to press a populist economic agenda because he didn’t want to. That maybe he didn’t do certain of the things his liberal supporters wanted him to do because he didn’t believe in them.

    Think about Obama’s legacy in this context: The most consequential issue facing Americans these days is the gradual reversion of their economy to a 19th-century pattern. In a matter of 30 years, talking about this transformation has gone from being the kind of thing you hear at union strike meetings to something that wins the National Book Award and that almost everyone recognizes to be true—I mean, even George W. Bush acknowledged the problem of growing inequality back in 2007.

    Yet the current leadership of the Democratic Party has been unable either to reverse the trend or to make political capital out of it.
  • Survival condos! Perfect marriage of the the victory of the one percent over everything with the  fetish for apocalypse survivalism so pervasive in pop culture.  At first glance, you'd think that there'd be a market for this in New Orleans.  "How much did you pay for your evacuation condo?" But I think the wealthy people buying up all of our housing are already using it as second homes anyway.

  • Speaking of people being priced out of cities in favor of nice stuff for rich people, here's Detroit.
    — A group of shopkeepers who survived 30 years of retail decline on downtown's Woodward Avenue have been given court-ordered eviction notices just as the area booms with new upscale life.

    The small retailers were based on the ground floor of the Himelhoch building, which is surrounded by hundreds of millions of dollars in investment that has meant the rebirth of historic buildings such as the Broderick Tower and the adjacent David Whitney Building. The M-1 Rail streetcar, slated to open next year, will have its Grand Circus Park stop in front of the Himelhoch's Woodward Avenue entrance.

    The seven-story Himelhoch is home to 72 rental apartments available to low-income residents, and for 31 years, most of the ground floor was leased by Larry and Dianne Mongo. The husband and wife ran everything from beauty shops to restaurants in the Himelhoch. With partner John Enot, they were spending thousands of dollars to open two small restaurants in the coming weeks.
    Thanks for staying interested in this neighborhood all the people who matter allowed to crumble for 30 years. They want it back now, though. Bye.  Coming soon to Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, btw.

  • Here's a look at the city council's proposed smoking ban.  A key issue to watch is how the new rules will work in... um... concert with the noise ordinance.
    But the prospect of having people loitering outside late at night to smoke and perhaps drink worries owners of some bars tucked away in residential neighborhoods.

    “It’s the city that’s putting this rule in place, and they’re putting more of these quality-of-life issues on the table without a real good solution to the problems that are going to arise out of them,” said Bill Walker, who has co-owned the Lost Love Lounge in the Marigny since 2010.

    Walker is in the awkward position of also serving as the head of One Marigny, a neighborhood association.

    Cantrell told The New Orleans Advocate last week that she has a solution for that, too: She plans to revive discussion on New Orleans’ seemingly dormant noise ordinance once work on the smoking ban is finished.

    “It’s kind of like having to vet it again with the new members of the council,” she said about the proposed noise ordinance, which drew widespread criticism and prompted a parade of musicians to storm the council chamber a year ago to voice their disapproval. “But I think a lot of work went into that, and that’s why I feel like we’ve got to pick it back up, because of the work, and we’ve got to finish the job on that.”
    All of a sudden you're pushing more quiet neighborhood bars into the dreaded "nuisance bar" category simply as a result of their complying with the law.  A suspicious person would suggest that the neighborhood associations who back the Latoya Cantrells of the world are just interested in shutting down bars by any means necessary anyway.  But since we're all "One City One Voice" nowadays there's really no room for suspicious people anymore.

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