Thursday, April 30, 2015


Sean Payton speaking to the press about his decision to spend the 13th pick in the draft on a tackle who probably won't play this year.
“I have serial episodes of very heavy drinking where I have absolutely no recollection of what I do. That is the case in this case.”

Wait. No. Hold up. That is actually from something else

Phase 3 is profit

Phase 1 is, I'm going to snap my own spine.

Phase 2 is whatever the hell Sean Hannity is on about.. but we'll get there.

No she isn't

They want you to believe that Hillary has differences with Obama over TPP.
Hillary Clinton is opposed to a critical piece of the Obama administration's Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would give corporations the right to sue sovereign nations over laws or regulations that could potentially curb their profits.

The policy position is contained in her book Hard Choices, and was confirmed to HuffPost by a spokesperson for her presidential campaign. Obama and congressional Democrats are locked in a bitter public feud over TPP -- a deal between 12 Pacific nations -- with much of the controversy derived from concerns it will undermine regulatory standards.
Clinton writes in her book:

Currently the United States is negotiating comprehensive agreements with eleven countries in Asia and in North and South America, and with the European Union. We should be focused on ending currency manipulation, environmental destruction, and miserable working conditions in developing countries, as well as harmonizing regulations with the EU. And we should avoid some of the provisions sought by business interests, including our own, like giving them or their investors the power to sue foreign governments to weaken their environmental and public health rules, as Philip Morris is already trying to do in Australia. The United States should be advocating a level and fair playing field, not special favors. (Emphasis added.)
Do you know who also was opposed to "special favors" for bushiness interests  written into trade deals? 

Barack Obama while he was running for President.
BILL MOYERS: During the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama was skeptical about NAFTA. Here's what he said then.

KEITH OLBERMAN: Scrap NAFTA, Senator Obama, or fix it?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I would immediately call the president of Mexico, the president of Canada to try to amend NAFTA, because I think that we can get labor agreements in that agreement right now. And it should reflect the basic principle that our trade agreements should not just be good for Wall Street, it should also be good for Main Street. And the problem that we've had is that we've had corporate lobbyists oftentimes involved in negotiating these trade agreements. But the AFL-CIO hasn't been involved. Ordinary working people have not been involved. And we've got to make sure that our agreements are good for everybody. Because globalization right now is creating winners and losers. But the problem is, it's the same winners and the same losers each and every time.
And now Hillary is running for President.  Hillary's husband sold us NAFTA in the first place.  Why do we pretend she can possibly be the voice of the opposition here. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Have fun storming the castle

I'm glad Bernie Sanders is running. I think it's worth it that the Democratic primary at least appear to be about something. I'm not quite as credulous as Taibbi about the ultimate purpose that might serve, though.
Sanders offers an implicit challenge to the current system of national electoral politics. With rare exceptions, campaign season is a time when the backroom favorites of financial interests are marketed to the population. Weighed down by highly regressive policy intentions, these candidates need huge laboratories of focus groups and image consultants to guide them as they grope around for a few lines they can use to sell themselves to regular working people.

Sanders on the other hand has no constituency among the monied crowd. "Billionaires do not flock to my campaign," he quipped. So what his race is about is the reverse of the usual process: he'll be marketing the interests of regular people to the gatekeeping Washington press, in the hope that they will give his ideas a fair shot.
Nah. Sanders is in specifically because he poses absolutely no challenge, implicit or explicit, to anything.  Instead, he is a marketing gimmick thrown in there just to give dissenting liberals something to talk about for a few months so that they'll leave Hillary alone while she's busy getting ready to run the real campaign.

And yes that is indeed better than nothing. But it's also not a significant something.

“Thank God there are no other cases like this in the country.”

Get ready for a new Danziger trial.
(Judges) Jones and Clement quickly seized on the government’s claim that there was no evidence that the online commentary filtered into the jury room, or that, as the officers’ lawyers claim, it helped prod guilty pleas and suspect testimony from other officers.

While acknowledging the online misconduct, Collery argued that Engelhardt should have stopped short of a new trial for the five officers, instead leveling sanctions or formal complaints against prosecutors.

“Alternative remedies are meaningless in this case,” Clement retorted. “Thank God there are no other cases like this in the country.”

Jones, who herself was the subject of a formal investigation but cleared of misconduct for allegedly racist comments she made during a speech, dismissed the idea that the officers accused in the Danziger case wouldn’t have been influenced by the anonymous online catcalls and crowd-baiting by the feds.

“You don’t think people who knew they were going to be indicted or potential witnesses at trial were following blogs?” the judge chided. “Those of us who have been the target of unfair investigations know one gets a supernatural interest” in the chatter.
Point of clarification (again.) None of the controversial comments that have reopened this can of worms would have involved anyone "following blogs."  Instead they all happened in the comments section of a newspaper's website.  No idea why a federal judge doesn't get this. 

Either way the idea that the commenting has any real bearing on these verdicts remains dubious. This is really more about justice department politics than anything else. What a shame that is.

Anywhoo.. thanks to the chatty prosecutors, I guess we're going through this mess again.  It's a great year to go and re-open a high profile police brutality case, right?

Please do not send us any free money

We're pretty sure we got this. Thanks, though.
Published: 13 minutes ago 


BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - State senators have refused to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program so the working poor could get government-funded health insurance.
The Senate health care committee voted 5-3 Wednesday against coverage expansion legislation proposed by Bogalusa Sen. Ben Nevers, a Democrat.

A House committee was considering a similar proposal, though it faces strong opposition from Gov. Bobby Jindal and other Republican leaders.

Supporters of the expansion hoped the state's dire financial troubles and the offer of billions of federal health care dollars could send more votes their way after failing to gain passage in previous years.

Backers of Medicaid expansion say health coverage would be extended to nearly 300,000 people. Opponents say the increased coverage would be too costly for Louisiana and the federal government and would expand a broken government-run health system.
Meanwhile, hey, does anyone know where all the money went?
Two years after Gov. Bobby Jindal began privatizing the state-run charity hospital system, problems and financial questions continue to appear as lawmakers and communities sift through the spill-out effect.

The private managers that now operate the hospitals say they're $159 million short in Jindal's budget of what they need to provide adequate care for the poor and uninsured in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The LSU medical schools in New Orleans and Shreveport are stuck with millions of dollars in annual costs associated with former and retired hospital workers they say they can't afford. 

Mischief managed

Zatarain's is picking up their litter.
The Zatarain's Crab Boil ads that were affixed to the curb cuts on N. Carrollton Avenue in Mid-City may be gone now, but they left a bad taste in the mouth of some New Orleanians — as well as City Hall, which says they were illegal. Though residents had been removing the stickers themselves, the remainder were taken up last night, according to Michael Morse, general manager of Zatarain's.

Morse said he wasn't aware that sidewalk advertising was illegal in New Orleans, and had not heard of other high-profile cases of companies doing so. Last week, a New Orleans-based software company called Meusu upset French Quarter merchants and residents with a sidewalk stenciling ad campaign, and in 2012, Coca-Cola ended up paying the city $10,000 after stenciling sidewalk ads downtown during the Final Four basketball tournament.
The whole point was to have some ads up during as much of Jazzfest as they could maintain them for. They made it through a full weekend, it looks like. So it served its purpose. Also.. this whole two-day news episode brought to you by Zatarain's.  Zatarain's: There's a boil around every corner.  Available at a grocery near you.

Great moments in criminal genius

Jimmy Fahrenholtz had this planned out pretty well.

As soon as troopers entered his home, the briefcase — emblazoned with “JWN” initials — was clearly visible, the report says.

After being advised of his rights, Fahrenholtz agreed to speak with troopers. He told them he was working earlier in the day as a lobbyist at the Capitol, where he set up a table with “sandwiches, various documents, pens and soft drinks,” the report says, and it wasn’t until he returned home that he noticed he “accidentally picked up the folder while gathering his things from the table.”

When asked specifically about the iPad, the report says, Fahrenholtz initially denied knowing of its existence. Investigators then secured a search warrant for his home and soon located the iPad underwater in a backyard “concrete pond.” When troopers spoke to him again, Fahrenholtz said “he had inadvertently taken the property from the State Capitol building,” the report says.

“After arriving home, he had learned law enforcement was conducting an investigation into the missing property and were actively looking for it,” the report says. “Knowing the property was not his, he destroyed the iPad by submerging it underwater in his pond and hid it from authorities.”

Fahrenholtz told troopers he destroyed the iPad “because he believed if he was caught with it, no one would believe that he did not steal it,” the report says.

Where did all the money go?

Remember, budget-strapped Louisiana, these past few years have been the "boom times" in our dominant oil and gas exploration industry  Where did the money go?
BATON ROUGE, La. – Higher education, health care and solar and film tax credits are all on the chopping block amid Louisiana's big budget crisis.

Meanwhile, tax exemptions for oil and gas drilling, which have cost state coffers $2.4 billion since 2008, have gone unscathed, and next Monday is Oil and Gas Industry Day at the State Capitol.
That has environmental activist and filmmaker Mike Stagg seething.

"If you're getting $2.4 billion in severance tax exemptions and that's not enough for you in an era when other people are getting cut... that's greed," said Stagg, a former gubernatorial and congressional candidate from Lafayette.

Stagg is preparing to release a documentary that shines new light on a series of legislative audits and revenue reports that sounded an alarm years ago about oil and gas tax collections and royalty payments.
Stagg will hold a press conference at the State Capitol today to talk more about this. 

We always learn what we want to learn

Here's a much discussed post by Baltimore native Ta-Nehisi Coates talking about what's happening in his (and probably also your) city.
When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is "correct" or "wise," any more than a forest fire can be "correct" or "wise." Wisdom isn't the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.
Y'all remember to behave now. While your wages remain stagnant, while your infrastructure decays, while your schools are neglected and/or privatized, while your franchise is denied, while the criminal justice system is used as a cudgel to keep you intimidated and... OH MY GOD WHY ARE YOU HITTING YOURSELF?

As always, we're only allowed to deplore the violence when it happens in one direction.
Today has seen the usual depressing tally of which commentators — Sharpton, Scarborough, the #tcot crowd with their sad little tweets — have deplored the violence in Baltimore. There is of course no excuse for looting — check that box. People should be more like Dr. King — check that one, too. Before we talk about anything, with any force or meaning, let’s make it clear we are talking about nothing at all.
In spite of that, I liked this Charlie Pierce post a little better than some people did.  I get the criticism that he's maybe pulling some punches and setting up equivalences in the interest of affecting.. I don't know ..wisdom or something.  But Pierce isn't the worst offender in that regard by a long shot.  (David Simon, meanwhile, is the worst person on Earth.)

Pierce's worthwhile observation is strictly a political one.  Forget about whether you think he's trying to tell you how you should behave and note that he is probably correct about how others will react.
Why in the hell does this country never learn? Why does it never learn that invasion and occupation and bombing is not the way to spread democracy and virtually always comes to blowback and ruin? Why does it never learn that reactionary, militarized policing will inevitably lead to rioting, which will inevitably lead to repressive techniques that the rest of the country, watching on television, will approve? The whole world is watching? Yes, the whole world is watching and applauding every burst of the water cannon and every swing of the truncheon. The country never learns because, goddammit, Americans never learn. Dr. King was right about an eye for an eye. The country is blind.
We Americans never learn because we are not interested in learning. Instead we are interested in having our biases confirmed and our self-righteousness reassured.  Coates and Pierce can write all they want in whatever measure they like about the violence of the state but Pierce's point that, "the whole world is watching and applauding every burst of the water cannon and every swing of the truncheon," remains the most relevant.

To see this, all you have to do is take a step outside of your own filter bubble and talk to people.  What you'll find, especially if you talk to whites.. and especially if you talk to older whites who vote.. is their perception of events from Ferguson through Baltimore is that the police are the victims here. Yes, they'll tell you there is a crisis. But the crisis is lack of respect for authority.

Really, it's not even fair that we're offered this false choice between social justice and "law and order" but that's what has happened.

So we're dealing with a whole system designed to create police abuses.  But people are less concerned with the leviathan than they are with the little bits of it that touch them.  And mostly that means people want order in their neighborhood.  This is not a difficult thing to predict. We've seen this exact script acted out many times before.

It's likely there will be political fallout from all of this during the 2016 election cycle. Surely, the Freddie Gray incident won't be the last case of police brutality you'll hear about between now and then. And Baltimore won't be the last scene of public demonstrations.  Republican candidates will make hay out of the desire to restore order.  Chris Christie has already done a thing.  Expect Bobby Jindal to write some sort of op-ed for Time or Politico this week or next.

Because we like pleasant endings, eventually what's likely to happen is Mitch Landrieu and Sidney Torres will go on a national tour selling NOLA4Life and some app-driven privatization scheme as the feel good security solution to everyone's problems.  People will largely buy that because they like to be told that every terrible thing always works out for the best

But before we get there, there's kvetching to do. So expect more exasperated CNN reporters wondering why it is that desperate, marginalized people just can't seem to do "civil discourse" more politely. And, with that, expect more demand from primary voters that somebody do something to make them behave.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Brought to you by...

If you're waiting for the streetcar at Bienville Street and N. Carrollton Avenue in Mid-City, you've got some reading material. Advertisements for Zatarain's Crab Boil are painted in the curb cuts in what seems to be semi-permanent paint — right across the street from a City Park streetcar stop that takes people to Jazz Fest.

We've been here before, and recently. Last week, chalk ads for a software company were stenciled on sidewalks in the French Quarter, upsetting residents and merchants. In 2012, Coca-Cola paid local graffiti artists to lay down Coke logos on French Quarter sidewalks during the Final Four tournament.
Really interested in how this one ends.  As the rest of that Gambit post points out, "bandit sign" advertising on the city sidewalks and public right of ways is prohibited. The Coca-Cola guerrilla marketing violation in 2012 bubbled up into a fairly significant controversy causing the city to take action....  even if that action was merely collecting a fee from Coca-Cola after the fact. 

My gut feeling here is that, just three years later, the mood is more apathetic toward these matters and that the city is actually in on the deal.  Maybe I'm wrong about that but I expect the Mayor's response will be something about how sidewalk ads are really about "resilience and innovation" or something.

Monday, April 27, 2015

And another one gone

The Hollywood South hayride racks up another conviction.
The verdict marked the latest black eye for a generous subsidy program that’s been repeatedly gamed by filmmakers here, and could fuel calls for legislative reform of the Louisiana Motion Picture Incentive Act.

The high-profile defendants, Hollywood producer Peter Hoffman, his wife, Susan Hoffman, and New Orleans attorney Michael Arata, were all found guilty on charges of conspiracy and mail fraud. Arata, the husband of New Orleans Deputy Mayor Emily Arata, was also convicted of seven counts of wire fraud and four counts of making false statements to the FBI.
But, hey, Green Lantern, right?


Mitch Landrieu, commenting on Bobby Jindal's obvious misplaced labeling:
Following a Monday speech in Baton Rouge, the Democratic mayor said Jindal didn't accurately describe corporations that oppose religious objection laws on grounds they could sanction discrimination against same-sex couples.

Landrieu said: "I would venture to say that neither IBM, Walmart or GE are part of the 'radical left.'"
So, yeah. Burn.

Also, today, Mitch told us a thing we already knew.
After criticizing the Jindal administration’s approach to balancing the budget, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu emphatically said Monday he would not run for governor in 2015.

“We have made tremendous progress that was admirable of the city, but we have a very long way to go and because of that I don’t intend to be a candidate for governor in this fall’s election,” Landrieu told the Baton Rouge Press Club in his most direct statement to date about the race.
Ironically, Mitch would probably do more good for the city as a friendly Governor to a more progressive Mayor than he does currently as the most effective conservative to hold the Mayor's office in my lifetime. But, despite the early polling, he probably could not have won and he knows it.

Anyway, Mitch's next career move is more likely to involve some sort of public-private tourism consultancy or a permanent residence at the Aspen Ideas Festival.  Either of those is probably a better money to headaches ratio than Governor of Louisiana ever would have been.

All the schmooze that's fit to ooze

Another massive street protest against police violence.  Another collective yawn from the cable news networks.  You guys! Ferguson was last summer. Don't bug us unless you have something fresh. Like a van pulling into Chipotle. Or a missing plane, those are always in style.  Missing planes are the LBDs of breaking news.  But if all you've got is more civil unrest over law enforcement tactics, don't bug us. We're at prom.
The annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner is always an obnoxious event that provides further visual evidence of an out of touch and aloof mainstream media compromising its integrity for access to power, but this year was particularly gross. While so-called journalists were toasting champagne and laughing at inside Beltway jokes a unrest raged in Baltimore over the killing of 25 year-old Freddie Gray who died in police custody. The police responded to the unrest, in part, by locking in 40,000 people watching a baseball game at Camden Yards.

The news networks decided to stay on the dinner and left it to social media to report on the news. One of CNN’s talking heads apparently even suggested it was acceptable to not cover the Freddie Gray protests as the public could learn about the event on Twitter.

The worst aspect of this, really, isn't that it happens. It's that it's exactly what everyone expects to happen. 

If you did take CNN's advice and chose to learn about the event on Twitter, you might have noticed this remarkable statement from Orioles COO John Angelos.
My greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
There's more so go read the rest. But note that Angelos is responding via Twitter to a local Baltimore media professional's complaint about "inconvenienced" baseball fans. In other words, not only did we learn more about the event by looking at Twitter than we did from the commercial news media, we got a better examination of the context as well.  

I'm not interested in getting into a future of the media discussion over this right now. I think this incident says more about the failure of the professional news media more than it tells us anything worthwhile about the value of social media. Even though it's true that there are all sorts of internets you can look at, we've still got a ton of  money and audience share invested in 24 hour cable news networks. So it still matters what happens on those channels. If they aren't using that platform to show us the news, then what are they even doing?

How's Bobby doing?

Not as badly as you may think.  Here are a couple of posts by Oyster from over the weekend, I'd like to point you to. I won't add much in the way of comment, for now, except to say I largely agree with his analysis.

This post warns us not to dismiss Jindal's seemingly anachronistic stance on marriage equality. Remember that if you are personally turned off by Jindal's message it's because the message isn't for you.
Jindal could give a fig about diminishing the LGBT voting bloc. That's an essential and unalterable element of his program. He really believes that stuff, and his views won't evolve, no matter how far national attitudes liberalize. (That's one of the reasons I've opined on this issue for over a decade. It's a huge thorn in the GOP's side.)
It could be a "thorn in the GOP's side" in the coming years. Or something much more complicated and unexpected could happen as both national parties adjust to changing attitudes... but I just said I wasn't going to comment too much. Anyway, Oyster's point is that this year, during this stage of the primary, Jindal doesn't care about any of that.

And, as it turns out, neither do other GOP candidates.

In a second post, Oyster elaborates on his don't-count-Bobby-out reasoning.  As a fellow traveler in this regard, I appreciate that he emphasizes the point that sound political analysis is not always validated by its success at predicting electoral results.
Put another way, I'm saying Jindal has about a 10% chance to win the nod and that Jeb(!) has under a 20% chance. Just about everyone else would say, or has indicated, that Jindal's odds are under 1%. Way under. "No chance."

This still means I think it's VERY likely Jindal will not win the GOP nomination. If and when he loses, perhaps badly, it will only embolden those who hold assumptions 1-3. They'll think they were proved right, and that one outcome is representative of all other possible outcomes. (Wrong again, in my opinion— but it is difficult to argue counterfactuals, especially in politics. So if Jindal loses badly I'll just have to eat it and smile, which is fine.)

In poker, sometimes it's correct to play a long shot hand based on pot odds and implied odds. Often, the cards on the board don't fall as hoped, and you fold the low % hand and look weak. The "winner" scoops up the chips and attributes his or her win to skill, rather than having luckily escaped a well-conceived trap. If enough hands are played, this situation repeats enough so that the long shot play comes out ahead. In quadrennial presidential politics, there aren't enough "hands" to necessarily show who had the better analysis. (So, basically, correct long shot analyses only get credit if the campaign cards fall right. And even then, these analyses are often dismissed as being merely "lucky.")
Jindal might have a 10 percent chance or less of winning the 2016 Republican nomination. But that doesn't mean the he isn't doing exactly the things he needs to do in order to maximize his chances either this year or in the future.  Remember, also, Bobby is young and perfectly content to sit around writing for Politico or serving as Secretary of Volcano Monitoring depending on who the next President is until it's time to try this again.  His moment may still come sooner or later.

Just a regular old morning

Bit of a shower just blew in. Nothing too serious.

Here's Napoleon Avenue at about 10:30 this morning looking like midnight.  Phone camera corrected for the light quite a bit. It was actually much darker than this.

Dark at 10:30

Anyway, Hurricane Seasons doesn't even come along for another month.

Hang in there.  As the saying goes,  April showers bring stop signs. 

Stop flower

Stop saying we're not a basketball town

If your fans are booing the coach so much that he sends his family away, that sounds to me like they care about basketball.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Same as the old boss

While we were waiting for The Who to begin their set at Jazzfest yesterday, we couldn't help but take notice of this unfortunate flagpole.

Mardi Gras stars and bars

The wind didn't catch the flags exactly right when I took this snapshot. But, yes, the second flag is a Confederate "Stars and Bars" battle flag rendered in Mardi Gras colors. Here's a photo of one I found on ebay.

I'm pretty sure the only reason anyone would show up at Jazzfest with something like that is just to be a troll. On the other hand, if you know anything about the Confederate history of the "Old Line" Carnival Krewes who still figure prominently in the city's social and political life (including the Rex organization who is credited with choosing those colors) you might see how the flag is kind of fitting. 

When can we talk about TPP?

Does anyone remember the admittedly weak and stupid but still very public national debate we had over the North American Free Trade Agreement?  At least that was enough to get us a primetime match-up between Al Gore and Ross Perot on the Larry King show. Thanks to Perot's... um... eccentricities, this wasn't the debate we needed at the time but at least it was a debate.

Also, too, Perot was right.

Two decades later, we're on the verge of finalizing a new, even more egregious, major trade agreement designed to suppress labor, consumer, and environmental protections across international borders under the false banner of "free trade."
The basic story here is a very simple one. There are merits to reducing trade barriers, but traditional trade deals will have winners and losers. If this is hard to understand, imagine that we had a free trade deal in physicians' services so that a flood of foreign doctors cut the pay of doctors by 50 percent (@$125,000 a year on average). This would make most of us winners, since we will pay less for health care, but doctors would be big losers. Most traditional trade deals have this character. So people, including economist people, may reasonably oppose them if they think the losers will be hurt so much that it offsets the gains from the deal. (Yes, we can do redistribution, but that is a children's story. We don't.)

But the key point here is that neither the TPP or TTIP is a traditional trade deal. The formal trade barriers between the parties to these deals are already low, which means there is not much room to lower them further. These deals are mostly about putting in place a business friendly structure of regulation. Some of this business friendly regulation involves increasing barriers in the form of stronger and longer patent and copyright protection. (Yes, that is "protection," as in protectionism.)
And yet, outside of the thoroughly marginalized echo chamber of the progressive media and blogosphere, the TPP barely gets any notice. Why? Because, everyone who matters agrees, it's a perfectly bi-partisan and sensible inevitability. 
This is a bipartisan effort if ever there was one; George Will has called the TPP “Obama’s best idea.” Thus we see the administration, along with pro-business Democrats and Republicans, trying to bulletproof the deal. Last week, a bill was introduced that would give the president “fast-track authority” on the TPP. If that passes, Congress could vote only up or down on the deal, not amend it. That’s quite a bit of presidential power for a scheme that would have a striking impact on the global economy — and the food on our table. 
So, because the pro-corporate President and the pro-corporate Republicans in Congress are not at each other's throats about some absurd political side-issue, the MSM threshold for "controversy" has not been met. That's part of the problem right there.  When the contours of a debate range outside of the standard framing, the lazy press quickly loses interest.

But, likely, the chief reason we're not having a public debate about TPP is because the public has been deliberately excluded from the process altogether.
On Saturday, Warren and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) responded with a letter essentially telling Obama to put up or shut up. If the deal is so great, Warren and Brown wrote, the administration should make the full negotiation texts public before Congress votes on a "fast track" bill that would strip the legislative branch of its authority to amend it.

"Members of Congress should be able to discuss the agreement with our constituents and to participate in a robust public debate, instead of being muzzled by classification rules," Warren and Brown wrote in the letter obtained by The Huffington Post.

Democrats and some Republican critics have been particularly frustrated by Obama's decision to treat the TPP documents as classified information, which prevents them from responding to Obama's claims about the pact in detail.

"Your Administration has deemed the draft text of the agreement classified and kept it hidden from public view, thereby making it a secret deal," the letter reads. "It is currently illegal for the press, experts, advocates, or the general public to review the text of this agreement. And while you noted that Members of Congress may 'walk over ... and read the text of the agreement' -- as we have done -- you neglected to mention that we are prohibited by law from discussing the specifics of that text in public."
Maybe we'll talk about it during the 2016 election.  But by then it will be a done deal and, in all likelihood, yet another Obama policy for "populist" Republicans to rail against.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Election links

Outdoor signage

Here are some links for you.

Gambit: Keep New Orleans Public Libraries open by voting yes to a modest millage increase on May 2 
NOPL Director Charles Brown says the small investment will allow all libraries to begin providing six- or seven-day-a-week access. It also will fund the reopening of the 7th Ward's Nora Navra Library. Without the added millage, library hours (which have never gotten back to where they were before the storm) will be cut by more than one-third — and seven library branches will be forced to close.

This isn't Chicken Little stuff. In early March, state budget cuts left the State Library of Louisiana open only 16 hours a week. Without the new millage, the cuts here could be equally disastrous. New Orleans already pays less per capita for library support than any of its neighboring parishes. In fact, New Orleans spends about half of what Detroit and Gary, Indiana spend on their libraries per capita. The city's redevelopment won't mean much if New Orleans must close nearly half its libraries.

A public library pays dividends far beyond access to books. Most job searches and applications now happen online, and libraries offer public Internet terminals. According to NOPL, more than 373,000 people used its computers last year. Libraries also are the vanguards of literacy education in a city where 70 percent of residents read below the eighth-grade level, according to the Lindy Boggs National Center for Community Literacy. Moreover, libraries give kids safe places to study, read, listen to music and expand their minds. Last year, 7,000 kids participated in summer reading programs.
Stephanie Grace: Voters hold direction of libraries in hands 
If residents vote the millage down, library officials predict a 35 percent decrease in hours and the closure of as many of the half the system’s 14 branches.

Is that really the image a rebounding New Orleans wants to present to the world? Is that who we want to be?

Make no mistake, choosing to invest in libraries would represent a real culture shift.

New Orleans currently spends less than a third of what East Baton Rouge Parish invests in its libraries per capita, and about half of what Jefferson Parish spends. Support badly trails other large Southern cities and even cities across the country with higher poverty rates. Detroit; Newark, New Jersey; and Gary, Indiana, each spend more per person on libraries than New Orleans does.

Jarvis DeBerry: New Orleans Public Library needs more money, more improvements 
There may be educated people out there for whom libraries held little influence, but I doubt there are many. Libraries are the pillars upon which an educated society is built. And I don't think it takes much exertion to connect the struggling library system in New Orleans with our disproportionately large uneducated population. We have, for the most part, treated our libraries as if they don't matter.

Do they matter? Enough, say, for us to pay more for them? That's the question New Orleans voters have to decide in a May 2 election.
Bradley Warshauer: Save New Orleans’ Public Library
Look, New Orleans, if we want nice things–if we want to keep the nice things we already have, and to make them better–we have to do it ourselves. We’re sure as hell not getting the help from Jindaltopia (currently headquartered in Iowa, last I heard).

A lot of people whine that New Orleans is like a third world country. It’s not. But seems to me often a Venn diagram would have a circle of people who say that overlapping with a circle of people working to make it true.

The New Orleans Public Library is freakin’ awesome and can get even better. On May 2, I’m going to walk up the street to my polling place, and vote for the library millage. If you can vote in Orleans Parish, you should do the same.
The Advocate:  Our Views: Vote yes on Orleans Parish library tax
With libraries as with anything else, users tend to get what they pay for. And in New Orleans, where per capita spending on libraries is a meager $24.54, the paucity shows. Hours of operation lag behind those of many comparable cities, as do the facilities.

As New Orleans struggles with high rates of illiteracy — a great hindrance to economic development and a big factor in civic disengagement and crime — it must do everything it can to widen its circle of readers. The New Orleans Public Library is a critical part of that mission, but it cannot thrive or even survive as a meaningful institution without new funding.

Not everyone supports the library’s proposed 25-year property tax. The nonpartisan Bureau of Governmental Research is opposing the proposal — arguing, among other concerns, that the library needs a strategic plan for its operations. A strategic plan for the library is surely a worthy goal. But an extensive study isn’t necessary to see that without more money, the library can’t effectively do the basics, keeping its branches open when people need them, and giving patrons access to quality reference materials and technology.

We urge a yes vote for the library tax.
The Advocate editors answer BGR's strange objection well enough but I will add this point.  While they are worried about "strategic plans" at the library BGR is supporting the other measure on the May 2 ballot which will allow Sheriff Gusman, who we all know and trust so well, additional flexibility with regard to how he spends his capital millage.  In essence they are saying, we don't know enough about how the library is going to spend its millage (although every link above makes the situation rather plain) but we think we need to be less picky about how Gusman spends his. 

You might remember a few years back, Lafourche Parish voters were asked to take money out of their library system to pay for a jail. They chose not to do that. BGR seems to be exhibiting different priorities.  And anyway, whatever happens with regard to Gusman's millage, rest assured the parish prison and the problems of funding its federal consent decree will not go to the back burner.  An opportunity to shore up public library funding is less likely to come around so often. Better to take advantage of those when you can.

Saturday (today) is the final day of early voting. You might stop by if you're not doing Jazzfest this weekend.  If you are, though, Election Day is next Saturday (May 2.)  Nobody goes to both Saturdays of Jazzfest, right?

Friday, April 24, 2015

There's more than one way to populism

Here we sit near the end of April 2015. That is (counts months on fingers) a long time (recites "30 days have September.." under breath) like, you know, a lot of months and days before anybody does any voting or caucusing in the 2016 Presidential primaries.

But already there have been (counts every webpage on the internet) eleventy million thousand campaign thinkpieces written about the significance of Hillary Clinton's flirtation with "populist" politics. Is she? Isn't she? Does it even matter?

The answer is she's not and, no, it doesn't matter, but that's not important right now.  What is interesting, though, is that Greg Sargent introduces his obligatory Hillary Populism piece noting a position she has taken on a social wedge issue.
Is Hillary Clinton’s embrace of populist and/or progressive rhetoric and policy positions consistent with her long-held convictions? Or is she only doing it belatedly, to shore up her support on the left, and to keep pace with the passions unleashed among Democrats by the rise of Elizabeth Warren and other factors?

The question gained some steam last week when Clinton shifted her stances on two key issues. She came out for a Constitutional right to gay marriage, when previously she’d said it should be left to the states, and embraced drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants, a position she’d previously opposed.
Hillary is being credited with (some say accused of) taking a "populist" tack by strongly supporting (well, flip-flopping towards, anyway) a Constitutional right to gay marriage as well as some of the "Warren wing" anti-Wall Street economic rhetoric. 
What’s more, the rise of Elizabeth Warren — who has spent decades on these issues — is a real phenomenon. It has shifted the debate among many liberals towards the desire for a fully fleshed out economic worldview and agenda similar to hers, one premised on the idea that the rules are rigged in favor of the wealthy and major corporations; that the rules need to be changed; and that they need to be enforced. We don’t know where Clinton is yet on many of the details and don’t have that firm a grasp of her broader ideological instincts.
Bullshit. We are quite familiar with Hillary's "broader ideological instincts." The name Clinton is the preferred brand label of the right leaning pro-corporate wing of the Democratic Party and has been for over 20 years now. The notion that anyone needs to wait-and-see where a long time dominant national figure like Hillary might stand ideologically is absurd.  But know-nothingism is the name of the game in the political press so that's what we'll have to play.

Leaving aside Clinton's obvious insincerity for now, let's take her sudden sympathy for marriage equality and faux-Warrenism at face value. Does this combination of positions comprise the formula for populism in 2016?

Compare this platform with the bizarre musings of Governor Bobby Jindal published this week in the New York Times. According to the headline, Bobby is "holding firm" against gays.... getting married in his state. That would seem to be the exact opposite of Hillary's supposedly populist stance. But then we come upon this unexpected framing.
Our country was founded on the principle of religious liberty, enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Why shouldn’t an individual or business have the right to cite, in a court proceeding, religious liberty as a reason for not participating in a same-sex marriage ceremony that violates a sincerely held religious belief?

That is what Indiana and Arkansas sought to do. That political leaders in both states quickly cowered amid the shrieks of big business and the radical left should alarm us all.

As the fight for religious liberty moves to Louisiana, I have a clear message for any corporation that contemplates bullying our state: Save your breath.
Bobby's argument goes beyond the tired conservative defense of traditional family values against elite liberal intellectuals to throw in a swipe at corporations in defense of individuals and small businesses.  He continues.
Some corporations have already contacted me and asked me to oppose this law. I am certain that other companies, under pressure from radical liberals, will do the same. They are free to voice their opinions, but they will not deter me. As a nation we would not compel a priest, minister or rabbi to violate his conscience and perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. But a great many Americans who are not members of the clergy feel just as called to live their faith through their businesses. That’s why we should ensure that musicians, caterers, photographers and others should be immune from government coercion on deeply held religious convictions.

"Some corporations" and some "radical liberals" are trying to bully Bobby Jindal but he will not back down. In Bobby's confusing version of things, this isn't really even about "gay marriage" per se.  Here's a Matt Taibbi reaction to Jindal which notes,
As has become the fashion (and this is almost certainly a strategy cooked up by some high-priced, focus-group-humping consultancy inside the Beltway), Jindal carefully avoided the word "gay" when explaining his opposition to gay marriage.
Why Jindal's consultants would want him to do this is an interesting topic unto itself. Taibbi describes it as a weakness in the confused GOP electoral strategy.  I don't think that's entirely accurate. While it's true that polling suggests to us that, as Taibbi puts it, "the children of older Republicans no longer agree with their nutbar parents on these key social issues," there are subtleties that govern the way these changing attitudes translate to electoral politics.  And these subtleties are not entirely rational.

It is possible, for instance, to harbor a more tolerant attitude than your "nutbar" parents and at the same time resent the unseen external forces at work in promoting the new norms. Maybe your crazy racist uncle is a pain in your ass at Thanksgiving, but he's still your crazy racist uncle, right? If you have even the slightest bit of familial sympathy for that guy, you might buy Jindal's pitch that he's got a "religious liberty" to persist in his beliefs whether you actually share those beliefs or not.  So the old Republican trick of describing bigots as the real victims of "reverse racism" or "political correctness" is still a playable card.  It just requires a slightly different approach.

Meanwhile crazy uncles everywhere are in real trouble from unseen external forces which is why aspiring 2016 candidates are taking steps to strengthen their populist bona fides now. I've noted previously that Republicans have been working this angle since the midterm elections. And, at that time, at least, it was working quite well for them.  Here's a poll taken last fall which showed:

1) Voters believe the rules unfairly favor the very wealthy.

2) Voters believe Republicans are most likely to fix this.

Even Bill Cassidy employed faux-populist rhetoric during the Louisiana Senate campaign.   Cassidy addressed a question about income inequality, not with some tired trickle-down rherotic as you might expect, but instead by going after Barack Obama and, implicitly, his ties to Wall Street. Cassidy tells us,  "Under this President income inequality has increased. If you own stock under this President you have made a lot of money."  And this is true. (At least in the way Cassidy wants you to understand such a statement it is true.)  And the President is doing nothing to improve his record or his image in this regard. In fact, this week, he is aggressively making matters worse.

So it comes as little surprise that Bobby and Hillary are both talkin' some folksy populism right now.  You can decide for yourself which candidate's "anti-corporate" tough talk is the more disingenuous but that's really just splitting hairs. Certainly Hillary doesn't buy a word of her own bullshit neither does Jindal. What matters is that each candidate perceives and is trying to play to the angry vote.

They just happen to play the the marriage equality game differently.  Hillary believes the "populist" move is to hop onto the bandwagon of an increasingly accepted civil rights cause.  Jindal is making a more complicated appeal to the idea of a beleaguered class of marginalized victims of that cause. His hope is this will resonate with voters concerned about the disappearing American middle class itself.

Which is the correct strategy?  Probably both of them. At least in their respective primaries, they are. Once the general election comes around, this isn't likely to be a dominant issue. Which is just as well since it doesn't look like Jindal will be involved in the general election.  At least, right now it doesn't look that way... but that's a different post.

Loopholes and workarounds

Bobby Jindal threatens to veto a budget that messes with inventory tax credits.
BATON ROUGE -- Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday he won't support a legislative effort to temporarily suspend tax breaks to drum up quick cash to patch together next year's budget.

The Republican governor, in a sit-down with reporters to recap the second week of the legislative session, said he's told legislative leaders that he would consider the move a tax increase and he would veto a budget dependent on it.

"I made it very clear to them that we're not encouraging any kind of games or workarounds or loopholes," he said.
Seems a bit late for that kind of talk.  This is from last year.
Why didn't revenues eventually rebound after the economy began improving? Well, because of tax cuts alone, we're collecting $850 million less each year. And Louisiana's budget is heavily dependent on regressive sales taxes, which economic studies indicate don't respond quickly to economic growth.

Whatever the reasons, when revenues failed to rebound, Jindal and lawmakers continued to tap one-time money, to the point they'll now consider no solution beyond spending temporary revenue and imposing deep budget cuts.

That non-recurring revenue, by the way, has been mostly acquired by selling state assets, misappropriating federal hurricane relief funds, staging an irresponsible tax amnesty program and draining every trust fund in sight.

What was temporary is now permanent. Jindal and legislators are addicted to non-recurring revenue.
Jindal's whole term as Governor has been about loopholes and workarounds meant to cover up the severe structural damage his package of asset dumps and tax favors was doing to the state budget.  He's on the way out now so it doesn't really matter what happens next. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Just grifting

Quick follow-up on this from yesterday. In light of the fact that Bobby Jindal has intentionally wrecked several arms of the state government specifically in order to sell the scraps to well-placed friends, it's really no surprise that this would be what's happening to the university system now.

Consider this bit that got little notice last year about this time.
WASHINGTON -- Gov. Bobby Jindal didn't disclose in his newspaper column this week supporting for-profit colleges in their fight with the Obama administration that his brother, attorney Nikesh Jindal, represented the schools' association in an earlier legal fight with the administration.

The governor's spokesman said Nikesh Jindal's connection to the for-profit colleges isn't significant given that the Republican governor has for a very long time advocated for more choice and competition in education, both in primary and higher education.

But critics of the for-profit schools who contend they garner a disproportionate amount of federal education aid without providing quality education, said the governor should have been up front about his family connections.
Side note of little importance: I found that digging through my own Jindal-tagged archives. People ask me why I still bother to type on this blog even though we have the Tweeter tubes and the Parallel Facenet for kvetching.  The answer is because this is still the best way to bookmark and annotate for future reference. And you never know what you might want to remember having noticed.  If I didn't post things here, I might never remember anything that happens.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Just selling it all off. It's what he does.
While neither Jindal nor any legislator has dared breathe the word privatization as it regards the state’s colleges and universities, at least one Jindal appointee, Board of Regents Chairman Roy Martin of Alexandria, has broached the subject, speaking he said, strictly as an individual. http://theadvocate.com/news/11716059-123/regents-look-at-privatizing-public

The slashing of higher education budgets appears to be a pattern as governors attempt to wean colleges and universities from dependence on state funding, transitioning their status from state-supported to state-assisted to state-located. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/02/27/scott-walker-bobby-jindal-aim-to-slash-higher-ed-funding

Privatization of state colleges and universities would, of course, push tuition rates even higher, making a college education cost prohibitive for many. But that dovetails nicely with the ALEC agenda as income disparity continues to widen with ever more generous tax laws that benefit the super-rich while placing growing burdens on lower-income taxpayers. By winnowing out those who can least afford college, privatization necessarily enhances the selection process to serve the elite and at the same time, opens up additional revenue opportunities for those in position to take advantage of privatized services such as book stores, printing, food services, and general maintenance. http://gse.buffalo.edu/FAS/Johnston/privatization.html

There is already a backlog of nearly $2 billion in maintenance projects on state college and university campuses just waiting for some lucky entrepreneur with the right connections.
And if you've been paying even the slightest attention to Jindal's privatization of Medicaid, or his handling of the state Office of Group Benefits, or several other items he's placed out on the lawn for sale, you'd probably recognize this pattern by now. 

To say the least, it's been fun.  But before you get too mad, remember he's only done exactly what he said he would do.
When I campaigned for governor seven years ago, I promised to make the government smaller and the economy larger. That’s exactly what I have done. We cut taxes and reduced the size of government. In fact, the government is smaller by more than $9 billion and 30,000 workers.
People fired. Government "smaller" as in, government sold off to cronies and/or left to rust away in limbo.  Sucks to be us, I guess.  But as the GOP primary heats up, don't be too shocked when Jindal starts to get credit for his strong conservative "policy ideas." 
Jindal, an Ivy League-educated conservative known for his policy ideas, has already been in Iowa twice this month and returns Saturday for the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition spring dinner. He has been working hard to court Christian conservatives here, saying at a Des Moines event in January that it's time for the country to "turn back to God."
He's got that God cred too, by the way.  The legislature had his back on that this afternoon.

They're only going to do him more favors as the session goes on.


They're doing great things in Baton Rouge, theses days.
Being in a state of financial exigency means a university's funding situation is so difficult that the viability of the entire institution is threatened. The status makes it easier for public colleges to shut down programs and lay off tenured faculty, but it also tarnishes the school's reputation, making it harder to recruit faculty and students.

"You'll never get any more faculty," said Alexander, if LSU pursues financial exigency.
Alexander's comments came on the same day that Moody's announced it was downgrading LSU's credit outlook from positive to stable, based on concerns about the the university's ability to borrow money. A downgrade is LSU's credit rating will make it more expensive to borrow money for campus building projects.
Can they do anything about it? Well, they're trying to see if they can raise fees and tuition again. So at least the disintegrating university will also be unaffordable.  Nice going. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Newman reaches peak Newman

Here's what they're presenting at New Orleans's most prestigious institution of private education.
Income inequality -- and how to solve it -- is shaping up to be a rallying topic as candidates rev up bids for the 2016 presidential race. But is income inequality truly a problem?

John Tamny, a political economy editor at Forbes and author, doesn't think so.

Tamny argues the disparity between the wealthy and the poor has been a driving force in American innovation in his latest book "Popular Economics: What the Rolling Stones, Downton Abbey, and LeBron James Can Teach You About Economics."

Without income inequality, Tamny says, we would all be worse off.

Tamny is in New Orleans Tuesday evening (April 21) to talk about income inequality and the economic role it plays at a talk sponsored by Metairie Park Country Day School and Isidore Newman School.

The event starts at 6 p.m. in the Henson Auditorium on Newman's Uptown campus. It is free and open to the public
Hey, it's "free and open to the public" presumably so the poors can go get some wisdom about why being poor is good for them. 

Extreme budgeting

Things in Baton Rouge are either getting very serious or very very unserious depending on how you choose to interpret this.
State Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, says he is suspending his push for legislation to remove budget protections for certain state services, following what he claims was an emailed threat from a law enforcement officer.

“This individual told me to put a gun in my mouth and blow my brains out. What kind of bill would cause someone to say that? I know I have a tendency to rock the boat from time to time, but blow my brains out?” Schroder said during a speech on the House floor Tuesday.
That sounds bad. On the other hand, legislators probably receive all sorts of crazy correspondence from law enforcement and/or mentally unstable people (and really, who can even know the difference?) all the time.


This is an article about how Bobby Jindal isn't getting any "traction" in his campaign for President which he hasn't even announced yet. Notice, though, the obligatory "man on the street" and "professional strategist" quotes in here aren't all that bad.

The guy in Iowa says there's good news and bad news.
“The good news for Governor Jindal is he’s making a good impression with Iowa’s evangelical leaders,” said former Iowa Republican Party chairman Matt Strawn. “The bad news for Governor Jindal is that there’s about a half dozen candidates that are also trying to fish in that pond.”

Similar from these guys in South Carolina.
Cary Powell, who works in financial services in Myrtle Beach, likes what Jindal has done in Louisiana and says, “I don’t know why he’s not taking off.”

Jindal, said Norm Fay, a Massachusetts native who retired to South Carolina, is a “smart, good conservative.” But, “He can’t win.”

Fay explained that he was referring to Jindal’s slight build, his mannerisms and his speaking delivery — all mocked in 2009 when Jindal delivered the GOP response to Obama’s first address to Congress.

Sure, Bobby looked goofy on TV that one time.  But, really, the only knock these Republicans have against him is that he's just not very well known... yet.
Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based Republican strategist, said the Louisiana governor has time to gain traction.

“I wouldn’t call it hopeless. The race is still wide open,” he said. But: “Almost everyone in the field is more well-known than he is. Is it an uphill battle? Yes.”
There's a lot of time between now and the time when Republicans start to actually caucus and vote and whatnot. Pretty much everybody in Louisiana hates Bobby but nobody out there seems to. The dude is doing okay.

On the other hand, he seems to have lost the Koch Primary. So that's gotta be troubling. Unless that thing is also still open. They aren't particularly clear about it.

Put your cigarettes out

Smoke em if you got em

Leave your opinions at home 
After months of sometimes (OK, usually) heated discussion about the new ordinance banning smoking (and vaping) in nearly every bar in New Orleans, the law is set to take effect at midnight tonight, and the city has launched a web page to explain it all.

The group Smoke Free NOLA will celebrate and take a victory lap with a free "Smokefree Kickoff" free music show tomorrow night (April 23) at Le Bon Temps Roule with Paul Sanchez, Deacon John and other musicians.

Here's what you need to know before tomorrow
Read the rest of that Gambit post for those things you need to know.  I will mention a few of the items listed though.  First, although the ban goes into effect tonight, there is still a slim chance that it will be undone by a last minute lawsuit filed by Harrah's last week.  We'll know more about that after a month but don't expect much to happen.  The smoking ban is here and it's here to stay.

And, as we've said previously, that is a good thing. The core issue at hand here is basic workplace safety.  Employers should not be allowed to require their (already poorly compensated) workers to expose themselves to hazardous conditions.  Maybe the ban seems weird to you because it runs counter to the city's "notoriously freewheeling and fun-loving" reputation but you will just have to get over that.

On the other hand, the law does come with some potential negative externalities that bear attention in the future. The most serious is the way it might combine with the sound ordinance to create "nuissance bars" where previously there were none... and then shut those bars down.  The Snake and Jakes owners express such concerns here.
Snake and Jake's, however, is a different story.

"I have nowhere to tell people to go outside to smoke," Clements said. "People tell me, 'It's no big deal. They can just go outside.' My bar gets busy from 2 in the morning until 7 or 8 in the morning, and I'm in a residential neighborhood. Even in the backyard, there are houses that butt right up there. It might be fine for Carrollton Station, which has a back patio. For me, it's going to be a real  problem."

"The locals, they're going to respect our neighbors," Rogers said. "When we have tourists in town ... those locals are going to remind people, if they get a little bit loud, to keep it down. They'll police themselves quite a bit. If that doesn't happen, we'll take steps to make sure people are aware."

Bars labeled a "nuisance" are subject to heavy fines and penalties from the city's Alcohol Beverage Control Board, and the Landrieu administration has cracked down on them several times during the mayor's two terms in office. A 2012 press release from the city boasted that while only 32 violations had been prosecuted in 2009, "due to a successful commitment to better enforce nuisance establishments, 287 prosecutions have occurred since the beginning of 2011."
Will we trust the city enforcement agencies to be understanding of the difficult position they're putting neighborhood bars in? Not. One. Bit. But this is really a separate issue from whether or not the smoking ban is a good idea. It's just something we'll have to watch now.

Speaking of watching. There is also this.

No Smoking Or Vaping

Check the fine print on these signs.  They enlist you, citizen, in the state's network of informants.  It will be incumbent upon you, in your vigilance, to notify the authorities about the naughty behavior of your neighbors.  You are even encouraged to take pictures (!) and send them in to a city department via the 311 system.  

You might imagine this could lead to some bad things.

Anyway, enjoy your smoke-free future, New Orleans.  On balance, it's a good thing. Still, we might have difficulty.

Bad #lalege math

This is an Advocate op-ed by UNO English professor Peter Schock on the absurd slogan applied by administrators and state legislators to the unconscionable gutting of that university:
The fallout from the directive to do more with less, as I have just described it, is destructive enough, but there’s more, and it’s worse. For our students, doing more with less also means paying a tuition increase that has generated funds used only to backfill the hole in state funding created by the ongoing reductions in state appropriations. State legislation (the “GRAD Act”) permits institutions meeting performance benchmarks to increase tuition annually by 10 percent, but the potential benefits of the GRAD Act have been negated through what is euphemistically called a “tuition swap.” In this procedure, the state reduces the funds appropriated to each institution by an amount equal to the total new revenue the tuition increase is projected to generate in the coming year. Thus, additional money that could have been used to benefit students in various ways — by hiring additional faculty to bring down class size or upgrading our facilities — never materializes.
"More with less" is a favorite political aphorism. It's the preferred way to sell austerity policies with a comforting lie that something helpful is being offered. It disguises rot in a superficial veneer of virtue.

So it's no wonder that such a directive would emanate from the Louisiana Legislature, although it might also be the case that they are just bad at basic mathematical concepts.  By the same physics that disallow an alchemy where "less" can produce "more," we also know that we cannot simultaneously raise revenue and remain "revenue neutral."
Legislative leaders have focused their attention on Adley’s measure for two reasons. One is that they expected it would raise about $500 million per year, or fill about one-third of the projected budget deficit.

Another reason is that, under complicated rules set down by Gov. Bobby Jindal from the Washington, D.C., anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform, the Legislature could offset that $500 million with up to $500 million of tax increases.

That is because the tax group has decreed that eliminating the inventory tax actually counts as a tax decrease because it repeals taxes that businesses pay. Under Jindal’s rules, any tax increases must be offset with tax or spending reductions.

We’re not going to hear bills to raise revenue unless we have a repeal of other taxes to keep the revenue neutrality in place,” Robideaux said when asked why he changed his plans on Monday.

Robideaux’s committee was prepared to consider raising revenue by trimming an array of tax breaks for the film industry, the solar industry, businesses that invest in supposedly blighted areas and others. In all, his committee was scheduled to hear 23 tax-raising measures.
But let's not let that spoil anyone's fun.  No doubt if we let them keep digging they'll figure a way to reach the top.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

How many more?

Nobody knows how many more.
Almost 5 years after the BP spill riveted everyone's attention on the risks of offshore oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond, we're still relying almost entirely on pollution reports submitted to the government by the polluters themselves who are, of course, subject to fines and other sanctions for those spills. Evidence of non-reporting and chronic under-reporting of oil spills was uncovered by our 2012 analysis of NRC reports and comparison with satellite imagery, an analysis recently validated in a peer-reviewed study published by scientists at Florida State University.
SkyTruth has also mapped every spill since 2010 that they know of. It's a lot.

Most of the time, very large spills can go on for years and years with little or no attention paid.  Every now and then something truly spectacular like the Macondo event will happen. The horrific deaths of 11 people in an explosion followed by months of uncontrolled release of petrochemicals is harder to ignore.

At least, while it's happening it is, anyway.  Afterward, we go right back to business as usual.  
But critics say energy companies haven’t developed the corresponding safety measures to prevent another disaster or contain one if it happens — a sign, environmentalists say, that the lessons of BP’s spill were short-lived.

These new depths and larger reservoirs could exacerbate a blowout like what happened at the Macondo well. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil could spill each day, and the response would be slowed as the equipment to deal with it — skimmers, boom, submarines, containment stacks — is shipped 100 miles or more from shore.

Since the Macondo disaster, which sent at least 134 million gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf five years ago Monday, federal agencies have approved about two dozen next-generation, ultra-deep wells.

The number of deepwater drilling rigs has increased, too, from 35 at the time of the Macondo blowout to 48 last month, according to data from IHS Energy, a Houston company that collects industry statistics.
Despite all the caterwauling about "economic survival" in the face of a "job killing" moratorium, we're now drilling deeper, riskier, and more wells than we were in 2010.  

Meanwhile, Louisiana's fragile coastal marshes and barrier islands are devastated, our fisheries are in a state of ruin, researchers are finding the damage to undersea ecosystems is even greater than previously understood. And, of course, another Macondo could happen any day. But that's supposedly a good thing because the real story we're supposed to be telling here is about "resilience."  Or, at least, that's what Norman Francis would say.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Why burnout happens

Here's a Guardian interview with Jon Stewart published this weekend. Why is he leaving the Daily Show just before the start of a new Presidential election cycle?
“Honestly, it was a combination of the limitations of my brain and a format that is geared towards following an increasingly redundant process, which is our political process. I was just thinking, ‘Are there other ways to skin this cat?’ And, beyond that, it would be nice to be home when my little elves get home from school, occasionally.”
"Increasingly redundant."  Remember, the dominant fact of life for Americans in their 40s or younger (Stewart's audience in large part) is that wages have been declining for as long or longer than they have been alive.  It doesn't really matter which faction of elites is running the government. Most of us are steadily becoming worse off regardless.

In light of this, it's really no wonder that politics has,  for most people, become a futile circus played for no tangible benefit.  Every election season brings with it another incoherent belching of grievances.  Nothing ever changes as a result.  And the cycle repeats. Even Stewart is burned out. And he's been getting rich off of the farce.

Anyway, here's Matt Taibbi explaining exactly what Stewart means by redundant.

Having watched this campaign-reporting process from both the inside and the outside for a long time now, I knew what was coming after the initial wave of "Hillary the Populist!" stories.

In presidential politics, every time a candidate on either the left or the right veers in a populist direction – usually with immediate success, since the American populace is ready to run through a wall for anyone who makes the obvious observation that they're being screwed by someone up above – it takes about two or three days before the "Let's let cooler heads prevail!" editorials start trickling in.

These chin-scratching op-eds arrive on time every time, like clockwork. They declare that populism is all well and good, and of course a necessary strategy for getting elected, but the "reality" is that once in office, one has to govern.

And since the people are a stupid, angry mob, these op-eds say, and don't know how to govern themselves, the politician will have to abandon the populism sooner or later.

Then there's another kind of "cooler heads" editorial. This one makes note of the candidate's populist rhetoric, and maybe even applauds it as good solid political strategy.

But then the editorialist quietly reassures us that these speeches are all a pose, and that once in office, the candidate will revert back to being the shamelessly bought-off creature of billionaire interests he or she always has been.
Maybe what you have now is bad and getting worse but the people producing and writing about these events are doing okay.  Change is scary, they tell us. Change is inadvisable too. And anyway change is not really possible so don't you worry your pretty little heads about it.  Here, watch us chase a van through the parking lot at Chipotle.  

It's the same script executed over and over. It is redundant. It is depressing.  It takes a great deal of stamina not to just let it burn you out.