Sunday, May 31, 2015

"The only story we should be writing"

This is from Bruce Nolan's overview article written for some sort of Katrina remembrance the Advocate launched this weekend.  The links there work in a strange way. I think this will get you to the article. Anyway, you have to read for quite a while before you get to this. 
But it’s also a renaissance mostly for the haves.

While old neighborhoods like Mid-City, Bywater and Marigny are undergoing a strong dose of gentrification, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority says it still holds in its inventory nearly 2,000 vacant lots scattered across the city. They were once the properties of New Orleanians who sold out to the Road Home program; thousands of other empty and derelict properties remain in private hands.

Driven by post-Katrina losses in housing stock and the high demand for what’s left, rents have skyrocketed, with devastating consequences for the poor, many of whom work in low-wage tourism jobs. Thousands have decamped to the suburbs, with Jefferson, St. Tammany and St. Bernard parishes — once considered white-flight bedroom communities — becoming increasingly diverse.

Renters in New Orleans have always outnumbered homeowners. But since Katrina, census figures show that a third of all renters are having to pay half or more of their income in rent.

Before the storm, it was about a quarter of renters.

“Renters simply can’t find high-quality housing that they can afford,” said Monika Gerhard, of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.

Meanwhile, the Lower 9th Ward, once a place of remarkably high African-American homeownership, is nearly abandoned.

“You can spend all you want downtown, new trolleys, new medical center — but what are they doing to bring back the Lower 9th?” asked Harold Howze, a cab driver who grew up there.

Several times in the past three years, Howze said he has picked up airport fares coming to New Orleans to buy a second home in a newly desirable city, while the neighborhood of his youth remains a weed-choked ruin.

“They’re upscaling the city and downscaling the little guy. That ain’t right,” he said.

That’s the only story we should be writing. Until we talk about that, the rest doesn’t mean anything at all.”
Of course, this is not the only story being written. In fact, it's more of a footnote to the official story. 

Pyonyang on Airline

Welcome to offseason 2015. The new propaganda campaign is rolling out on schedule.

Firstly you should know that Dear Leader is alive, well, and totally mentally competent. All attempts at contrary sedition have been gloriously quashed.
A New Orleans judge on Friday (May 29) refused to open his courtroom to the public for a trial to determine whether Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson is competent to control his own fortune.

Several news organizations challenged Orleans Parish Civil District Judge Kern Reese's decision to close proceedings while the 87-year-old and his jilted heirs struggle for control of the sports franchises and other assets.

A trial in the case, expected to include testimony from doctors who examined Benson, is slated to begin Monday.

During a hearing Friday, Reese said he respects all of the rights laid out in the Constitution, and the freedom of the press is not absolute.
The press is now free, however, to bask in the greatness of Dear Leader's image on display at the Great Palace built by the people in his honor on Airline Highway Drive.
So after pitching the idea of to General Manager Mickey Loomis, Payton had the team make a picture of owner Tom Benson to hang on the walls. The image of Benson holding the Lombardi Trophy after the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV was revealed Saturday overlooking the practice field.

“The guy who has meant the most to our organization and our success is Mr. Benson,” Payton said. “No one deservers that more. It is a simple but important gesture. We could not have had the success that we have enjoyed without Mr. Benson.”
Exactly! Dear Leader Kim Jong Tom has clearly been the centerpiece of our Great Victories. It is only proper that we celebrate his achievements with impressive works of public art.

Bronze Tom 

But there is another lesson here. Dear Leader's legacy is always in peril of falling to enemies of the state.  We must take steps to preserve the revolution.  We must remind our citizens of the values that have made them great. We must constantly search for methods both subtle and overt to remind them to compete.
When players reported back for OTAs this week at the team training facility in Metairie, they were greeted by new street signs decorating their practice field, designating the land as "Compete Street."

"It is a point of emphasis of what you are looking for," head coach Sean Payton said.  "This offseason, we were talking about basketball and there are so many organized basketball leagues now whether it is AAU, your school league. There is that one element that you can all remember or some of you that are older can remember: when you were just playing and it was winner stays.  So think about how you played when it was 10-10 going to 11 and winner stays.  It was going to be your guy that scored because if you knew if you lost you weren't going to play the rest of the day, there were five other teams waiting.  That would be an example of just that level of competition, creating that sense of urgency and that desire not to let your teammates down if you will."
That's right. In order to understand "Compete Street" one must first visualize a basketball game where it's always "10-10 going to 11 and winner stays."  Luckily, we happy citizens are blessed with the presence and guidance of a man who is skilled in the ways of both football and basketball. And his name is Jimmy Graham Dear Leader Kim Jong Tom.

Sad Tom

Lets us, then, "set up in larger numbers monumental structures in which the Juche character, national identity, originality, convenience and formative and artistic beauty form perfect harmony!"

Let us brilliantly inherit and develop the glorious revolutionary traditions of our Party!

Notice whom for wheels are turning


Mayor Landrieu brought an interesting topic with him to this week's State of The City address. The talk didn't have an official title but we could summarize it as, "Katrina is over. Now here are three months of Katrina events for you."
In an address light on policy proposals but brimming with reflections on progress the city has made in the five years since he took office, Mayor Mitch Landrieu used his annual State of the City address Thursday to announce plans for the city’s commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and to declare that — a decade after the devastating storm — New Orleans is “no longer recovering, no longer rebuilding.”

“Now, we are creating,” Landrieu told an audience at the recently refurbished Carver Theater that included members of his senior staff, the City Council and residents.

Landrieu did not outline any major initiatives in the speech, which comes at the end of the first year of his second term in office. But the speech provided the introduction for “Katrina 10 — Resilient New Orleans,” a three-month effort to “commemorate the lives lost, honor those who helped us survive, acknowledge the work that has been done in our unprecedented recovery and ensure that we continue to build on our progress.”
So get ready for that. The "Katrina 10" festivities, much like the mayor's speech, appear calculated to sell us on the idea that it's all worked out spectacularly well.

Has it worked out well? If you're among the thousands of homeowners still caught in the snags of the disastrously administered Road Home program, you might not think so. If you've experienced the stress of living in a city that has gone from one of the most to least affordable renter's markets over the past decade, you might not think so. If you've found yourself unable to crack the frustrating "school choice" puzzle we've been sold as a panacea to our public education woes,  you might not think so.  But, really, Mitch Landrieu and the people celebrating the "unprecedented recovery" don't care about you.  Often, in fact, you may catch them explaining frankly that they see you as a "drag" on the city. The "Katrina 10" message is New Orleans is a success story. If you aren't succeeding, then you are actually the problem.

I don't understand how anyone can see the Katrina story as anything other than an unmitigated and ongoing disaster. It was disaster that killed and damaged and displaced followed by a recovery bent in every purpose toward cementing advantages for the upper classes while further displacing and marginalizing the rest of us.

And now the city is gearing up to spend the next three months celebrating these events with ceremony and self congratulatory bombast certain to drown out all but the happiest panglossian points of view. There was a moment after the flood when people were able to counter the official bullshit to some degree. I think maybe that moment has passed. How could it have been any different, really?

Bradley Warshauer has a post up referencing this New Yorker article by Thomas Beller.  
Katrina provoked an enormous outpouring of support and volunteerism that persists to this day. To take a totally random example, I recall reports of Stephon Marbury, not known as the most warm and fuzzy of professional athletes, breaking down in tears upon seeing the footage of stranded, soaked African-Americans, and writing a check for half a million dollars. But for all the good feelings toward New Orleans, and the concrete gestures of solidarity, I do not think that there was identification; America was not saying, “We are all New Orleanians now.”

And yet that statement is much closer to the truth, for America and for the world, than “We are all New Yorkers now.” What happened to New Orleanians on August 29, 2005, is much more likely to happen to most Americans that what happened to New Yorkers on September 11, 2001.
Beller's comparison of Katrina and 9/11 is hardly novel. It used to come up fairly often and I expect we'll see more of it in the coming months.  Bradley, though, finds in the article a particularly good point about the nature of the Katrina reaction.  
This, for example, from New Orleans public radio affiliate WWNO’s news director, Eve Troeh, is excellent:
“With Katrina, there was a question of responsibility, and blame. New Orleans is associated in the public imagination with the enjoyment of sex, unhealthy food, drinking. It was somehow like the country was saying to the city, ‘Let’s look at your life decisions. What did you expect when you were wearing that sexy dress?’”

That line has stayed with me—New Orleans as victim of a kind of climatological slut-shaming.
Even better, if less vivid, is the simple statement that comes just before: “…there was a lot of sympathy,” Troeh tells Beller, “not a lot of empathy.”

That difference is crucial. Empathy would have made the “Federal Flood” a shared experience, one all Americans could feel and learn from. Sympathy, though, comes with a mess of holy paternalism: If you weren’t like you are, this wouldn’t have happened.
On balance, the reaction to each event was pretty bad.  After 9/11, one might say the country had an opportunity for an introspective argument about whether its imperial foreign policy was really benefiting ordinary Americans. It certainly hadn't kept them safe.  Instead, we decided to burn the whole world down.

After Katrina, we found a moment where we could have reexamined our approach to urban policy and the inequality festering, not only in New Orleans, but in all of our post-industrial cities transitioning to the service based economy of the later 20th Century.  Instead we are cynically building a gleaming tourist boutique atop the grave of a city we've chosen to see as a "blank slate." Nevermind that it's a slate we've actively wiped clean through policy choices. 

One way or another there was going to be a "recovery." The massive federal investment all but guaranteed it. We could have purposed those dollars in a re-committment to fighting poverty and building a city that worked for all of its residents. The people who Ray Nagin would put in charge of directing the recovery chose instead to move the poors out and build nice things for rich people. Here's future Bring New Orleans Back Commission chairman James Reiss speaking to the Wall Street Journal in September 2005. Reiss lays out the policy prescription.
The power elite of New Orleans -- whether they are still in the city or have moved temporarily to enclaves such as Destin, Fla., and Vail, Colo. -- insist the remade city won't simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate. The city has few corporate headquarters.

The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."
And he wasn't just speaking for himself. That very same week in 2005, Queen Mother Barbara Bush surveyed the scene at a Katrina evacuation center in Houston and surmised that the people stranded there were better off now.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 - As President Bush battled criticism over the response to Hurricane Katrina, his mother declared it a success for evacuees who "were underprivileged anyway," saying on Monday that many of the poor people she had seen while touring a Houston relocation site were faring better than before the storm hit.

"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas," Barbara Bush said in an interview on Monday with the radio program "Marketplace." "Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality."

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway," she said, "so this is working very well for them."
Everyone was appalled... well most everyone was.  But already, you could see in people like Reiss that our recovery process.. that thing the mayor is kicking off a three month Mission Accomplished festival to celebrate... would be informed by New Orleanians having thoroughly internalized that perspective.

Much that has happened since the flood can be placed within the context of us (or at least those of us with any power to do anything) having decided (to borrow Troeh's phrase) to "slut-shame" ourselves. The implied motto has been  If we weren't like we are, this wouldn't have happened. And so we're not like we are anymore.  Or at least we're trying like hell not to be.


Thursday, May 28, 2015


Poor Denny Hastert

Nobody actually lives here

I wonder if I can get a display like this one for my own block because, good lord is this ever a thing here too.
Over Memorial Day weekend, a Coney Island-style stand-in popped up on a porch on Royal Street in Bywater. The art piece featured two Bywater caricatures on a satirical billboard: "Welcome to the Bywater, where the vacation never ends!" Artist Caroline Thomas, who paints Mardi Gras floats for Royal Artists, created the piece and posted photos on Facebook. The spread went viral. Meanwhile, dozens of people — including many out-of-town visitors — posed for photos, gawked at and talked about the piece outside her home.

And her neighborhood is full of those visitors. Most of her block offers a room (or entire home) on Airbnb, she says. She counted 140 Airbnbs within her neighborhood, compared to just a handful of apartments for rent listed on sites like Craigslist.

"We noticed over the past six months a definite shift in the neighborhood," she says. "Big packs of tourists where you see 20 people going down the street with rolling suitcases and you’re like, ‘What’s happening?’ … We walk outside and people are taking constant photos of our house. At first it was charming, then you start to feel like an animal in a zoo."
I just plugged my address into Airbnb for this weekend and got 78 results within a 10 block radius. The average rate is $242 per night. You can see where the incentive for landlords to convert from local tenants to short term tourists is pretty strong.

Recently a renters' advocate group in San Francisco reported on the correlation between Airbnb's presence in neighborhoods with an increased rate of evictions. One person in the audience at last night's Tulane Hilel forum on gentrification told the panel that she had recently been evicted from an apartment in New Orleans she later found on Airbnb. (I was at the Hilel forum and I'll have more on it later.) Gambit was also there and noted the question as well.
Airbnb and renters'  rights also were brought up in a discussion about gentrification in the city at The Big Issue forum last night at Tulane University. One person told the panel that she had been evicted to make room for Airbnb. District B City Councilmember LaToya Cantrell said she doesn't doubt that Airbnb is contributing to higher rental rates within the city, and her office is working with at-large councilmember Stacy Head on legislation to address Airbnb — though it's unclear whether that will strengthen enforcement or provide an infrastructure to legalize those rentals. Hotels, bed and breakfasts and neighborhood organizations, meanwhile, still are trying to get the city to enforce short-term rental laws already on the books.
What Cantrell actually said, though, about Airbnb was that she and Head were working on ways to "find balance" and that they were thinking specifically about "tax revenue." She concluded by remarking that whatever solution they come up with will have to take into account the fact that New Orleans is a "destination city."

So that isn't very encouraging.  But it would be in keeping with the Boutique Strategy for recovery we've been keeping tabs on for some time now.

All part of the show

Bernie Sanders is actually more a partner to the Hillary campaign than he is an opponent.
At this point I think it's fair to say that Hillary essentially owns the DNC or that the DNC is so bought into Hillary (as is really the whole informal Democratic party structure) that it amounts to the same thing. I half expect to start getting emails from the Hillary campaign telling me how awesome Bernie Sanders is.

If you want to be arch about it there's a bit of this that reminds me of how things operate in one-party states where there are usually a few official opposition candidates who are harmless and make nominal runs and everyone gets along and goes along. (Wait, don't send your angry emails yet!) I think there's some element of that - Hillary does kind of need and want the Sanders candidacy.

But this sort of embrace of Sanders by the formal party structure as this awesome guy who really fights hard against inequality is also just a loud - perhaps thunderingly loud - tacit recognition that everybody gets where and how this story ends.
Which is what a lot of us picked up on pretty much immediately.  Although, I didn't even think to compare it to a one-party totalitarian regime.  That's dark, Josh Marshall.  But, yeah.

Update: Actually, this.
...it is all fraudulent, all of it, everywhere, up and down, East and West. The movies, radio and state and books and TV — all of them are fraudulent; and the foundations and universities and scholars, they are all fraudulent too; and the executives and the financiers … and the Commissars and the Krushchevs and the Mao Tze-tungs, they are fraudulent equally; it is all a great game; and there are two dangers in this great game: first, the fraudulent people come to believe their own lies, they come to have faith in their fraud; and second, underneath it all, because people are fundamentally good, they come to realize that we live in lies and the people get angrier and angrier and they may explode.

The scenery of politics is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. Yet I must report all this as serious. This is the strain on me. That I must be serious, and I must exhaust myself trying to find out what is true and what is fraud and yet, even after I know, I must take them both seriously and write of them both as if I did not know the true distinctions between them.
That's Theodore White, author of the The Making of the President series

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Collections racket

Meter Maid Mural

Take your lick.
New Orleans Traffic Court has always been a relatively straightforward proposition: A cop writes you up for several violations, you admit to something and pay your fine, and the city likely will agree to drop the other counts.

But that kind of convenient horse trading suddenly disappeared a few weeks ago, when city attorneys who prosecute cases in Traffic Court — from drunken driving to jaywalking — began singing a harsher tune, local defense lawyers say. The new refrain: Take your full lick or go to trial.

A spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office confirmed the policy change, indicating that the days of dealing down traffic violations are a thing of the past, at least for now.

“In an effort to reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses, the city has implemented a new pilot policy that would require the penalties for all offenses in Traffic Court to be fully served,” mayoral spokesman Brad Howard said in an email message.

Howard said the new policy would remain in place for at least 30 days but did not say how much more money the city expects to reap from traffic violators.
This is speculative but it makes sense. They're probably adding muscle in the courthouse because they're a bit light on the streets at the moment. Citations are down and the city is noticing their budget projections are lower than they'd like as a result. 
Noel Cassanova, the longtime clerk of Traffic Court who retired last year after almost a half-century, said the city and the court are wrecking what he described as “a people’s business.”

He suggested that the blame belongs with police officers who inflate citations with excessive violations.

“This almost gets to the point of railroading people now. You just can’t do that to the public,” Cassanova said.

“What do you do with the little old lady that comes down to court with her speeding ticket and she’s charged with no registration, no driver’s license, no insurance, and she in fact has all of that and she had all of that dated at the time she was stopped?” he asked.

“Is that lady going to pay $1,000 or $1,500 worth of traffic tickets, or is she going to pay the speeding ticket? It’s beyond impractical.”
Note some of this falls into the category of citations  the hotel-funded NOLA Patrol quasi police will be issuing as they do their part to make the city collections racket more robust keep the French Quarter safe. So help is on the way there. 

If a candidate falls in the forest..

Bernie Sanders is not going to be President. He's not even going to be the Democratic nominee.  He's not even going to come close. Like, it's ridiculous to even suggest that he might come close to coming close to becoming the nominee.  It's kind of dumb that he's even running. In fact, I and others have argued previously that he's probably doing this more as a favor to Hillary than as a challenge. 

But none of this means that there isn't an upside. Sanders's presence in the race at least means that the primary campaign will feature candidates talking seriously about wealth inequality. (Talking seriously,  meaning with an eye toward actually doing something about it rather than pandering in the way the Republican candidates already are and Hillary is likely to.)

There's also an audience for it. Sure there are a lot of crazy Republicans running but, it's not nothing that Bernie is outperforming several of them in terms of overall support.
Sanders, because he has a higher percentage of support in a slightly bigger pool of people, has more on-the-ground support at this moment than Christie or Ben Carson or Rick Perry. He has more than Fiorina, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham combined.
On the other hand, the agenda for discussion in the campaign is not set by relative support of the candidates as much as it is by the preferences and prejudices of the media gatekeepers.
The Bernie 2016 boomlet is clearly a bit puzzling to reporters, who don’t seem to know what to do with Sanders beyond treating him as a foil to Hillary, and so they default to doing nothing, even as every utterance of GOP candidates who are polling below 2 percent merits its own headline. There are clear double standards at play, and one of them pertains to how reporters cover a candidate who is unreservedly liberal versus how they cover “proudly conservative” Republicans.
So the one good reason to have Bernie in the race at all.. to inject some measure of anti-oligarchic policy into the discourse.. is going to be largely ignored anyway.  But never mind that. I'm sure Rick Santorum will have some entertaining things to say.

It is the official position of the State of Louisiana that Rand Paul is a weenie

Bobby Jindal already has his own "exploratory committee" website as well as a Twitter account and, of course, semi-regular columns at Politico and Time. Not sure why he's gotta run his little attack blurbs on the official page of the Office of the Governor but whatever.

The Qatar Cup was probably a step too far

The whole edifice is just one big international extortion ring. But people kind of knew that for a long time.
"The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States," U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a release ahead of a news conference in New York.

According to court documents, nine of the defendants were FIFA officials, as well as officials of one or more other bodies

"It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks," Lynch said. "And it has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable.''
Here's a John Oliver segment from last year explaining just how ingrained this is.

So, yeah, it's about time somebody did something. Although unless this prosecution sets off an Arab Spring of sports leagues where we throw out all the billionaires and turn over ownership of each team to the taxpayers who support their infrastructure in the first place, then the fundamental business of extortion will continue.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mary is doing OK

Good to see her keeping busy
Former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu has been hired by the lobbying firm Van Ness Feldman (VNF), the company announced today. Landrieu's title will be "senior policy advisor," and a release from VNF said Landrieu would "advise clients on various public policy, strategic, and regulatory issues with an emphasis on energy, natural resources, and infrastructure matters."

According to the website Open Secrets, VNF's client base includes several companies dealing in oil and gas, as well as the energy field in general — a natural fit for Landrieu, who served as chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in 2014. The company has offices in Washington D.C. and Seattle.
That isn't very surprising. We've all figured Mary's Senate career was prelude to a future in oil & gas lobbying since pretty much forever.  She'll be well taken care of.

Actually, she's already doing well.  Last month it was announced that she had agreed to accept money from the Walton Family Foundation in order to advocate for more charter schools.
"I'll be working directly as a strategic adviser for the Walton Education Foundation promoting reforms in public schools, promoting choice and expansion of high quality charter schools," Landrieu said. "Most people are recognizing that New Orleans is one of the most exciting models for variety and choice that are producing new options and opportunities for educational success."
Is she lying or just out of touch? If anything, "people are recognizing" that New Orleans's experiment with charterization is problematic at best.
Charter school supporters and advocates frequently point to the broad choices that families have when seeking a school in New Orleans, where most of the 82 public schools are charters and most accept applications from across the city. But the concept of choice butts against the reality of supply and demand in a city where many schools rate only average or below.

Nearly 12,000 children in New Orleans chose their desired schools through the city’s mostly unified enrollment system this spring — but only half got their No. 1 choice, according to recently released results.

About 30 percent got their second, third or up-to-eighth choice, the most applicants can rank. The remaining 20 percent or so were not matched to any requested school; half of them will stay at their current school and the other half will go through the second round of the enrollment process.
Many others are becoming frustrated with what is looking more and more like a deliberate shell game.  
OneApp, the centralized enrollment system for the New Orleans schools, is supposed to make it easy for parents in the city to have their choice of schools. But parents aren’t going to have real choice just because they filled out the OneApp application. For example, you can’t see a school’s discipline guide before you register your child. And if I want my child to go to a school that has recess, art or educates the whole child, I have very little choice at all. I can try for one of the high-performing charters—the magnet schools that existed before the storm—but which are now even harder to get into than they were before Katrina. Parents of special needs kids, by the way, have even less choice, because so few of the schools will accept their children at all. What OneApp does is ensure that the various charter operators get the enrollment that they were promised. No matter how bad the school is, or how terrible the climate, we’re going to make sure that you get those kids.

And no one disputes that the way for this experiment was cleared by the firing of  7,500 New Orleans teachers in 2005 even before the flood waters had receded from the city.
WASHINGTON (PAI) - The quest of 7,500 fired New Orleans teachers and school staffers for back pay and damages - union members summarily let go through a state takeover after Hurricane Katrina smashed their city and their schools almost a decade ago - ended May 18 in a loss at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Without comment and with votes unreported, the justices turned down the teachers' appeal of a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling denying them class action status to sue for millions of dollars as a result of the firings.

Before the losses at the two Supreme Courts, in D.C. and in Baton Rouge, the teachers and staffers, members of the American Federation of Teachers, had won in lower courts.
The teachers represented a significant slice of pre-Katrina middle class in New Orleans.  But that's "old" New Orleans.  We're replacing that now with.. whoever can afford to buy all these $700,000 houses and not actually live in them. Who needs all those boring old wage earning families anymore. All they do is take up too many choice seats in the One-App lottery anyway.

Indeed, the "school reform" movement nationwide is frequently criticized as a union busting initiative first and an education reform movement... you know.. somewhere down the line, maybe.  Mary Landrieu received fairly solid support from organized labor throughout her career in politics right up to last year's bitter end.  That must not have meant a whole to her.

My favorite aspect of last year's Senate election were the multiple opportunities I got to hear people who had personally met her talk about what a truly great person Mary Landrieu was.  I don't mean to pick on Lamar here. He wasn't the only one talking this game. But here's a sample.
I’ve met Mary Landrieu several times over the course of the last few years, but most of what I knew about her was based on what I’d read in the news. I just wish y’all could have seen and heard the Mary Landrieu I met today at lunch, and I hope you’ll take my word: This woman is fearless and righteous. I may disagree with her on some things, but I will never discount her love and passion for the people of Louisiana. I will never again question her bona fides as a champion of civil rights, because it’s absolutely impossible to fake what she expressed to me today. She spoke from the heart about racism and sexism and the need for all of us to come together. She talked about the toxicity and divisiveness of our political and media culture, how it manufactures outrage and discourages cooperation, compromise, and compassion.
That's actually a sidebar in the post. The point of that article was Lamar was going to vote for Mary even though he doesn't agree with her all the time.  Nothing wrong with that.  If we waited for a candidate we actually agreed with about most things, we wouldn't vote at all.  But, if we go around pretending the candidates we've settled for are likeable humans (or, in the case of 18 year US Senators, humans at all anymore) we're making the same mistake.

Elections aren't about who you like. They're about supporting whichever terrible person will be less likely to completely squash you as soon as they get the chance. Over the course of four senate election cycles that terrible person was Mary Landrieu. When she lost last year, we were made ever so slightly the worse off because of it.  But she's doing fine now. Don't waste any time worrying about her. She obviously could not care less about you.


Joe Horn is pretty great:
Joe Horn feels uncomfortable when he’s watching the draft.

The former New Orleans Saints wide receiver cringes a little bit when he watches new players walk to the stage and hug commissioner Roger Goodell. He doesn’t believe the rookies know who, exactly, they’re embracing.

“I don’t like that on draft day these kids don’t know that they’re hugging the devil,” Horn told TheFootballGirl.com. “I hate to see kids that are lost and then happy but they really don’t know that the man they’re hugging will rip their throat apart.

“If he has an opportunity to take money from them, or there’s a situation where they’re guilty before they go to court, he’ll rip them apart,” Horn said. “And there’s nothing no one can do about it. If the owners are happy with Roger Goodell, the fans, the media, no one can take his job from him. I hate it.”
The guy makes a pretty mean barbecue sauce too.  It goes with almost anything. There was that time we tried to put it on our beefy mac, though. (It was a desperate situation. The Saints were losing to the hapless Rams and we thought maybe... Look, don't try this.)

Beefy Mac with Joe Horn sauce

Meanwhile the Saints are starting OTAs today.  Which player will suffer the obligatory season-ending knee injury while jogging around in shorts this year?  The correct guess wins a hug from Roger Goodell.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Bayou Greco

We spent the afternoon at the Greek Festival today because we noticed we hadn't punched enough holes on our Obligatory New Orleans Festival Card this year and we really want to win that bicycle.

Bayou Greco

Greek Fest Bayou St. John

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Federal Flood

Not entirely certain but I think that term was coined by G Bitch close to 10 years ago. Someone will correct me if I'm wrong about that. Or maybe not.  It took a hell of a long time for anyone to make this correction, after all.
A pending article in the peer-reviewed journal Water Policy, written by experts involved in some of the most significant previous examinations of the catastrophe, sets out to refine some high-profile early versions of the factors that led to the disaster. The article rebuts assessments of the levee system’s design process that had spread responsibility around to include local officials, and it contends that fault should fall even more squarely on the corps.
It only took a decade of arguing with purveyors of  the heavy bullshit theory that poor dumb old hapless New Orleans must have deserved its fate one way or another.  We're still trying to put a lot of that to bed.  
The authors of the study looked through a more extensive record, including hundreds of pages of meeting minutes examined by researchers from Levees.org, a New Orleans activist group. They found nothing to suggest that local officials had “behaved irresponsibly,” or that the corps or levee board had “believed that the risk would be significantly increased” by raising the levees and flood walls instead of building the gates.
But myths persist.. aided in no small part by our own lack of "civic self-esteem" I referred to here last week.  It's also the genesis of the post-Katrina "blank slate" myth still in operation today. It tells that the New Orleans deserved to flood and that the flood was a "blessing in disguise" as it paved the way for "New New Orleanians" who, unlike their supposedly incompetent predecessors, are doing things the right way now.

This one is also bullshit, of course. Maybe in ten years we'll finally get that settled.  But, one thing at a time, you know.

Bad day to be an intern at the City Attorney's Office

Some unfortunate peon has to clean out Mitch Landrieu's Gmail "Promotions" tab now.
The mayor’s use of a private email account for city business was revealed earlier this week by The New Orleans Advocate and other media outlets that verified its existence through public-records requests.

Landrieu’s office nevertheless insists that the mayor has followed the letter of the law.

“Although the mayor has fully and consistently complied with all public records laws since taking office, Mayor Landrieu will discontinue using his Gmail for work purposes, and all staff have been instructed to contact him through his .gov email account,” Landrieu spokesman Brad Howard said in an emailed statement. “The City Attorney’s Office will be granted access to his Gmail account and will review and archive all work-related emails.”
Meanwhile, the staff is going back to Snapchat.

Anyway, if you want to send a private message to a public official, it's probably best not to use the internet at all.  One thing you definitely do not want to do is tweet at the President.
After Barack Obama belatedly joined Twitter on Monday — in his official, presidential capacity — dozens of Twitter denizens began tweeting him sex jokes, threats and other unprintable inanities. (We counted nearly 500 tweets dropping f-bombs at POTUS in the past day.)

But the joke’s actually on them: Not only does the Secret Service already monitor Twitter for threats, but the White House is archiving each and every thing @POTUS tweeters say.
Fifty years from now historians will finally have access to the unsealed Secret Service files on people who tweeted to @POTUS during the Obama years.  If you start today, and are diligent about it, maybe one of them will notice your personal journal preserved there for posterity.  Maybe you'll end up as a chapter in the book.  Worth a shot, right? What else do you have to do?

At least nobody has to sift through the mayor's tweets. (Not yet, anyway. Maybe it'll come to that in court.) Probably not much there besides pictures of potholes. 

Features vs Bugs

Are you a Republican? Would you like to be President?  Okay. Step one is burn your own state to the ground.
All four of the GOP governors with 2016 ambitions are facing budget shortfalls back home that their critics would argue are disasters of their own doing. It puts them in a politically difficult position: consider tax increases that put their fiscal conservative credentials on the line, or move forward with ugly cuts that risk high-profile showdowns with their legislative counterparts.

Complicating matters, three of the four -- Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio's John Kasich -- have signed the anti-tax pledge heralded by conservative activist Grover Norquist, while New Jersey’s Chris Christie has verbally promised to not raise taxes. That limits their options to address revenues that have fallen short of expectations.
On the one hand, it sure is fun to gawk at these Republican Governors.  Ha ha look at all these failures who think they can be President!  On the other hand, there sure are a lot of them.  All these guys have done is manage to get elected and re-elected while enacting a draconian and clearly damaging policy agenda.  Maybe there is something to this.

Besides, destroying public services and gutting state budgets while hewing to the Norquist pledge is the least hypocritical thing these guys have done. Jindal likes to say what he's done is "shrink the size of government"and isn't that what his supporters want?
Jindal boasts about his no-tax stance to Republican audiences throughout the country. “I’ve been very honest and clear with voters,” Jindal said in the interview. “I would not raise taxes. We need to shrink the size of government. We’ve done that.” That is true. Louisiana has 33,000 fewer state workers than when he took office, in large part because he got the legislature to privatize the public hospitals.
So it shouldn't be so surprising to see ideologically pure Republicans expect to rise into national politics on the ashes of the state governments they have leveled. Those are just records full of promises kept.

This is not to say there aren't towering hypocrisies built into all of that. There certainly are.  Some are more egregious than others, though. But it's important to recognize them because unlike the broken budgets and shuttered hospitals that are a mere feature of Jindalism, it's in his phoniness where we find the bugs.

There are a lot of fun points of interest to enjoy about the Years of Bobby Jindal in Louisiana. But my favorite will always be the part about how ethicsy he promised us it would all be.
It wasn’t too difficult to work up a crowd by excoriating lawmakers for
spending more time eating fancy steak dinners, usually paid for by
lobbyists, than on working for the people they were elected to
represent. They were all a bunch of fat cats. They became rich off of
the public dime. Or so the story was told. Bobby Jindal published
detailed, multi-pronged reports on how, exactly, he would usher in a
“gold standard” for ethics; it became the centerpiece of his campaign.

"We can't tolerate corruption. We can't tolerate incompetence."

Yada yada yada and the like. A lot of us understood at the time that this was largely nonsense.   Unfortunately the most important tastemakers among us did not. The most T-P editorial cartoon cartoon in the history of T-P editorial cartoons depicted Jindal as a knight come to "slay the dragon" of corruption.  The most Gambit cover story in the history of Gambit cover stories profiled Jindal's "Geek Appeal" and how it made him an "icon among Gen-Xers."

Transparent bullshit, to be sure. Still I don't think many of us can claim to have understood just how comically absurdly nonsensical it would turn out to be. Nobody could have predicted that the supposed "Dragonslayer" would go on to become Mother of so many Dragons.

Unlike a lot of observers, I don't think Jindal's weaknesses as a Presidential candidate have anything to do with the mess he's leaving in Louisiana. Republican caucus goers in Iowa aren't going to care a whole lot about budget cuts at UNO or the closure of hospitals in Baton Rouge. A lot of them will like that he "refused to raise taxes" and made government agencies "live within their means" and such.  The more his detractors complain about those things, the better for him, really.

I also think political handicappers (especially in Louisiana) are off-the-mark in assuming that Jindal's string of media exploits highlighting hardline positions on conservative issues du jour from "No-Go Zones" to "Religious Freedom" are doing him any damage either.  For example, the executive order he signed this week doesn't actually do anything other than look nice on the resume he shows to religious conservatives he's currently courting.

If (and this is a HUGE IF) Jindal finds himself among the contenders at any point in 2016, his opponents won't go after him for wrecking the state budget. And they certainly won't go after him on marriage equality.

They might enjoy pointing out what a smarmy hypocrite he is, though. And since his phoniness extends not only to the religious principles he claims to champion but also as it regards the Shining Ethics Gold Standard On A Hill he never did build, there should be plenty of material for them to work with.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Disney theory

Back in March, some of us were a bit surprised to learn that the selection committee in charge of deciding who would redevelop the World Trade Center site had picked the Carpenter & Woodward Four Seasons team rather than Daryl Berger's Conrad proposal which.. according to my sloppy attempt at handicapping.. looked like the best bet.

A different losing team than the one I would have bet on was upset too. They're suing although it doesn't look like their suit has much of a chance. We'll worry about that later.. or not at all as the case may be.

Anyway, a big part of the reason the "Conrad" team seemed like a shoo-in to me was that it was loaded up with insider big-whigs like Berger and several others.
The proposal also contemplates the larger redevelopment of nearby riverfront property, including connecting both the Morial Convention Center and the former WTC building to the Hilton New Orleans Riverside hotel, connecting the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk to Convention Center Boulevard and making “significant aesthetic and practical enhancement” to Poydras Street.

The development partnership behind the plan is led by local developers Joe Jaeger, Darryl Berger and Roger Ogden plus Xavier University President Norman Francis.

Many of those names also were involved in the earlier "Tricentennial Consortium" bid to redevelop the WTC and erect an "iconic structure" at the site. That bid was unsuccessful. But, because the city decided to re-open the process this year, it seemed reasonable that they were getting a do-over.

As it turns out, they were. Sort of.  They aren't doing the WTC redevelopment.  Instead they get everything else in the area.
The Central Business District. The Warehouse District. The Lower Garden District.

And now, introducing, the Trade District.

A group of developers have presented an ambitious vision for a shiny new neighborhood on the riverfront with an MGM Grand hotel, more than 1,400 residences, blocks of retail and restaurants, and a towering needle-like sculpture for lofty views of the Mississippi River.

The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which owns the vacant land, is in talks with the Howard Hughes Corp., owner of the Outlet Collection at the Riverwalk, and local real estate moguls Darryl Berger and Joe Jaeger on becoming master developer for the site.
If everything goes according to plan, the "moguls" will begin the massive nice-things-for-rich-people project with $175 million in public money, at least. 

For some reason, there's just not as much momentum in the  building things for not-so-rich people department.
NEW ORLEANS —A high-profile $30 million project to redevelop one of the city's major housing developments has stalled, frustrating people who live there and prompting one member of the New Orleans City Council to demand action.

It can be seen from the Pontchartrain Expressway, driving into downtown New Orleans. Construction at the Guste Homes site in Central City has stopped.
But, hey, priorities, right? As Bob Johnson explained a few years ago, there's a tight investment schedule to stick to if you want to keep up with the Disneys.
“What we want to do with this is make it a new experience in New Orleans,” said convention center general manager Bob Johnson. “It’s the old Disney theory: Every two or three years, Disney opens a new attraction and people that are familiar with Disney will go back.

The Self-Help Society

The essence of modern oppression right here.
Given that capitalism cannot be transformed to meet human needs, humans will have to transform themselves to meet capitalist needs. Gurus such as Achor or Zak provide this philosophy with its optimistic, smiling face: I changed myself, and so can you!
But in the murky world of workfare 'behavioral activation' programmes, it takes on a more punitive dimension. The idea of 'entrepreneurship' may summon up heroic visions of Steve Jobs, but for many more people it means having to be entirely amenable to the fluctuating demands of capital, on a quite fundamental and personal level. When professions such as journalism become prefixed with the word 'entrepreneurial', this means one thing only: augment yourself or die.

Somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed

Drew Brees maybe isn't feeling quite as spry as he used to.
Whether or not he makes it to 45, the goal he set for himself at the beginning of training camp last season, is hard for anybody, including Brees, to say.

Brees admitted he might have been jumping the gun just a little when he set such a lofty goal for himself.

“45 is a long way away,” Brees said on ESPN’s SVP and Russillo Wednesday. “I’m 36 right now, and I know I got maybe a little overzealous last year when I threw out the number 45.”

Few NFL quarterbacks make it long past their 40th birthday. Warren Moon played until he was 44. So did Vinny Testaverde and Steve Deberg. For the most part, those final years were in backup roles, but the precedent is still there.

Brees simply felt so good before the beginning of last season that it was hard to see a finish line anywhere in sight.
Does he feel less good now?   Don't know if this helps but I have found that aspirin has become a better and better friend over the years. Might want to try a little.


I don't mean to bore everyone by re-hashing what's been written all over the internet this week. I know it's just a network talk show designed to sell and celebrate pop culture. But because it was what was on at night when I was first old enough to stay up that late, I watched a lot of it. 

Of the various Letterman retrospectives this one struck the truest chord with me
Later in the hour, Bill Murray came out as the first guest and, after a long and characteristically weird interview, performed a sloppy rendition of Olivia Newton-John’s inescapable hit song of the moment, “Physical.” It was a much needed exorcism ritual. I know sorority girls of the 21st century like to dress up in Day-Glo leg warmers and declare it “’80s Day” (so fun!), but if you remember anything about the actual 1980s, then surely you remember how oppressively vacuous most of the mainstream culture was, especially on television.

Here at last, brought to us in the form of David Letterman, was a show that knew that there was a glory to be found in acknowledging the awfulness around us. “Late Night” was counterinstinctive art disguised as harmless filler.
I'm not sure you can appreciate, if you weren't there at the time, how valuable a little oasis of snark was.  It's easy to find and connect with subversive or "alternative" media and comedy now.  In the 1980s, for a kid in his early teens, this was about as edgy as it got. And it was useful. Probably Letterman, more than any other performer, informed my ideas about what is funny. I'm certain I'm not alone in this.

One example of "glory to be found in acknowledging the awfulness around us" was Letterman's (particularly during the NBC years) use of the grime and corruption and... well.. glorious awfulness of New York as a foil. Jokes like these would stoke my imagination about what it must be like to live there.  And I don't doubt it fostered my continuing appreciation for the glorious awfulness of New Orleans as I got older.

Anyway, that's it. You can go back to reading the ten thousand similar posts about this now. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Gentrification is a policy choice

Sorry to keep pointing this out but it's important. The rent is not too damn high because of "millenials" or because of invading hipsters opening juice bars
Much of the public narrative about gentrification is misfocused on hipsters and their plaid shirt wearing, bicycle-riding brethren.  There's some truth that hipsters are a sign of gentrification when they arrive in droves, but I think they are more likely to be an effect of gentrification, not a cause.  The hipsters get labeled as gentrifiers, but they are not OGs.  Gentrification starts when the neighborhood redevelopment plan is laid out, and properties are bought and sold.  Gentrification starts to happen when certain people already in the neighborhood start re-naming areas that already had names. Gentrification begins way before the hipsters and higher-income people start moving in.

Sure hipsters might be annoying but they are symptoms.  The problem is the political leadership and the urban design consultants they hire are only interested in building nice things for rich people.  Because this is how they all get paid.

New Orleans is once again behind the curve

A lot of cities are starting to realize they've been grifted by urban development companies who take taxpayer dollars in order to build nice things for tourists and rich people.
But at what point should cities make this decision to stop subsidizing for-profit development? And how do they know when enough is enough? That’s the question being asked in Kansas City and in cities around the nation as downtowns bounce back from years of abandonment only to find that developers still expect the aid they were receiving when downtowns were far less profitable places to be.

“Urban leaders still tend to overpay for development because they internalized low civic self-esteem bred by decades of being told they were too polluted, too dangerous, or too school-deficient to attract investment,” says Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, an organization that advocates for economic development policies that lead to better job opportunities for working families. “When the back-to-the-cities trend started taking root, albeit very unevenly, cities were so glad to finally land deals that they routinely overpaid, not having a solid grasp of the demographic and market forces they should have been channeling instead of subsidizing. It’s especially true for retail and entertainment projects, which generate very poor-quality jobs. I have yet to find a city that has figured out how to ‘take the foot off the pedal’ and stop over-subsidizing, even when gentrification becomes a problem.”
That is pretty spot-on. If I were asked to sum up the root of all of our city's political evils in one phrase, "low civic self-esteem" would probably be a winner. New Orleanians imagine their city to be the most corrupt or the most dangerous or what have you when the conditions they describe are really quite common. This, in turn, leads to all sort of bad decisions impelled by a desperation that isn't really all that necessary.

One thing we really are bad at, though, is learning from others' mistakes before it is too late.
The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center may have found private developers to help carry out its ambitious plan of developing 47 acres of vacant land at the upriver end of the giant meeting hall into a hotel, residences and restaurants.

The facility’s governing board has given the staff permission to begin vetting a proposal from a joint team of the Howard Hughes Corp. and local developers Joe Jaeger and Darryl Berger that includes, among other things, a plan for 250,000 square feet of retail, food and beverage space along the river from Henderson Street to Market Street.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Fun facts

There is a Democrat running for Governor.

Only one. 

Mitch Landrieu has not endorsed him, though.
Edwards has endorsements from traditional Democratic groups such as the AFL-CIO and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, but some major players — including New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who would arguably be running himself if he thought a Democrat could win — are holding back. And in a column last week on nola.com, Bob Mann, an LSU journalism professor who spent years on staff for an earlier generation of Louisiana Democrats, argued that a primary vote for Edwards amounted to a vote for an Edwards-Vitter runoff, which Vitter most certainly would win. Better for Democrats to choose a more moderate Republican who can beat Vitter in a runoff, Mann argued.
Maybe Mitch is waiting to see if some wild card Democrat (who isn't himself) jumps in. Or maybe he's trying to decide which Republican to endorse.  Probably the same one Bob Mann is voting for.

Heart attacks waiting to happen

I'm not sure we understand just how much people are going to end up hating this.
The NFL has approved several rule changes regarding extra points, according to Dean Blandino, NFL's vice president of officiating.

Extra point attempts will be moved back from the 2-yard line to the 15-yard line, making it a 33-yard try.

The NFL experimented with longer PATS in the preseason, resulting in a miss for former New Orleans Saints kicker Shayne Graham at the longer distance.
In other news:
The New Orleans Saints released veteran kicker Shayne Graham on Tuesday, one day after signing free agent Zach Hocker.

Graham, 37, connected on 19 of 22 field goals for the Saints in 2014.

He joined the team late in 2013 after kicker Garrett Hartley was released.

Graham has been on an 14 NFL rosters and played for nine different teams since he entered the league in 2000 when he was signed by the Saints as an undrafted free agent. He's connected on 266 of 311 field goals (85.5 percent) in his career.
Perhaps those two items are related in some way.

In any case, what the NFL has done in its quest to "add some excitement" is they've taken a quirky but boring part of the game and made it quirky but frustrating.  There is no added joy or glory in the experience of watching a successful 33 yard point. There will be a fair amount of annoyance at watching a lot of 33 yard misses.

But, hey, by all means let's try this if that's what you really want.  People are going to hate it, though. And when it turns out that they do, the next step will probably be to eliminate the extra point altogether. Maybe that's the idea here.

Creationism for thee but not for..

This just in. Bobby Jindal is something of a phony.
Jindal has embraced this academic freedom motif when discussing creationism and the Louisiana Science Education Act. I asked Jindal spokeswoman Shannon Bates about why the governor believed it was appropriate to teach creationism in public schools, and she told me, “We think children should learn every notion with regard to the origin of the universe and mankind—evolution, creationism, Big Bang theory, you name it.” In a discussion with NBC’s Education Nation about the Louisiana Science Education Act, Jindal said, “Let’s teach [our kids] about intelligent design … what are we scared of?”

But what are Jindal’s own children actually learning? Bates told me that “the governor hopes his children are exposed to all kinds of different science and theories.” Whatever the governor may hope, his kids are attending one of the best schools in Louisiana, and they are only being taught evolution. I know, because I had their seventh-grade biology teacher, Catherine Cummins, myself, and she makes a point to emphasize real science.
My working theory is that Bobby Jindal is doing everything he should do in order to perform well in the GOP primaries. (Especially among religious conservatives in Iowa where they are starting to warm up to him.) But this doesn't mean that he's actually going to be successful.  He might be. But he also might not be on account of certain weaknesses. 

The most glaring of those is the fact that.. even though he's getting better at hiding it.. he really can't help oozing the kind of fake smarm that is easy to detect.  If he starts to become a legitimate threat, the thing that is most likely to bring him down will be an opponent who knows how to exploit his obvious little hypocrisies like the one described above.

Wanklandia Lives

Huh. Jeff Arnold's goofball Algiers secession bill made it out of committee.

Still has to pass in the legislature, which probably won't happen. (But then those people are pretty crazy.)  Then it has to pass a statewide ballot.  Then they have to get some signatures on a petition.  And then they have to have a local election.  So that's a lot of stuff that needs to happen but just passing it out of committee seems pretty wacky.
Arnold said Algiers would not be withdrawing but reincorporating. Algiers, Carrollton and Jefferson were separate cities until the 1870s, when the Legislature dissolved them without a vote of the people and made them part of New Orleans, he said.

Arnold said some residents are still angry about that.
Huge if true. That's some pretty intensely maintained institutional resentment they've got going over there. Who in Algiers even remembers that far back?  Maybe Jackie Clarkson. 

We may never learn exactly how crazy Tom Benson is

It's going to be a state secret, or something.
The courtroom will be closed to the public when lawyers for Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson and his daughter and grandchildren vie for control of Louisiana's largest personal fortune.

At a hearing Tuesday (May 19) in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, Judge Kern Reese ruled in favor of a motion from Benson's legal team to seal all hearings in the case -- including a trial slated for next month that will determine whether the 87-year-old billionaire or his estranged daughter and grandchildren get control of the two sports franchises.
Strange, though, that despite the fact that she's (currently) next in line as owner of the Saints and Pelicans, everyone is fine with letting Gayle walk around publicly demonstrating exactly how nuts she is

Bobby Jindal gets to keep playing victim

Recall Jindal's NYT article where he was "holding firm" against the gays. He also told us he was battling "large corporations" who were trying to "bully" him.
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.
 Today the "large corporations" and their "radical liberal" friends appear to have won.
A Louisiana House panel has effectively defeated religious freedom legislation that drew staunch opponents to it based on criticism – either real or perceived – that it authorizes discrimination against LGBT people.

The bill (HB 707) is designed to block the government from pulling licenses, tax benefits, and the like from a company because of the owner's view of same-sex marriage. But LGBT advocates and a few legal experts have said it would also allow businesses of any size to refuse to recognize and sanction discrimination against married same-sex couples, should same-sex marriage become legal in Louisiana.
So, hey, thanks for that, corporate bullies.

On the other hand, Jindal's projected image as a righteous martyr for the people remains intact. It's almost like he planned it that way.

Update: He's already figured out how to keep the theater open
Gov. Bobby Jindal issued a statement Tuesday (May 19) saying he plans to issue an executive order to enact the intent of a religious freedom bill that effectively died about two hours earlier, in the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee. 
The important thing to remember here is none of this actually matters to Jindal one way or the other as long as he gets to keep "standing up to the bullies" or whatever. 

Everybody got jokes

Funny headlines this week.   Everyone is just a little too clever.

Here's an Advocate profile of still new-ish coroner Jeffrey Rouse. The agency he's taking over is "decomposing."


This is from The Lens on Monday.  It's about a Civil Service Commission meeting that involved the firefighters. Here's what they're doing.

slow burn

And then there's this headline that appeared only in the print edition of the Sunday Times-Picayune. It concerns David Vitter. And... well..

Vitter rubs some

Monday, May 18, 2015

Give us more bribe money

The racket has gotten too big.  We need more taxpayer support to keep up.
“The governing bodies that award these games are pushing the envelope on the cash bids they are expecting from cities,” said Steve Perry, president of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This is not unlike a similar trend we’re seeing in conventions and meetings. More incentives are needed in virtually every sector we work in now, and it’s really gotten to the point where you start sorting out the men from the boys.”
The obvious and only response that occurs to them is to just keep ponying up. Is it that they can't possibly imagine any other course of action?  Or is it that these kickbacks are their livelihood as well?


Steve Scalise endorsed David Vitter today:
“David’s proven a lot of people wrong over the years,” Scalise said when asked about the history between the two on Monday.

“If you look at David’s work ethic, no one outworks David Vitter,” he continued, adding that Vitter’s ability to “focus in and get the job done” has been a key element of his success.
This is a euphemism. It means, "David Vitter is the kind of sonofabitch you learn not to mess with."

But Katrina is over

Any lingering injuries and injustices are pretty much the new normal, suckers.
It's the end of the road for the thousands of New Orleans public school employees who said they were wronged when they lost their jobs after Hurricane Katrina. They lost in Louisiana in October, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied their appeal Monday (May 18), according to court documents.

The Louisiana Supreme Court's decision against the plaintiffs was doubly negative -- most of the court's justices threw the case out, and said they would have ruled against the plaintiffs anyway -- and doubly surprising, because the teachers had won at trial in the appeals court. The trial judge awarded damages that could have totaled $1.5 billion.

About 7,500 teachers and staff were part of the suit. It charged that the Orleans Parish School Board did not follow proper procedures when it laid off almost its entire workforce after the 2005 storm. Moreover, plaintiffs said, the state Recovery School District, which took over most of the schools, should have given them priority in hiring.
Thousands of people totally screwed over. School system still more or less in chaos. Although it's a  shiny new chaos still confusing enough  that we get to pretend it is some kind of progress. 

Not sure what happens now.  Check back in another ten years or after the next disaster, I guess. Whatever comes first.

Here is a good place to put some rides

It's not a museum or anything, but it is a beach.
Largely dormant for more than 30 years, Pontchartrain Beach could be in line for a rebirth next year as a natural recreation area under a proposal by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.

The plan, which was first proposed before Hurricane Katrina, essentially marks the culmination of the foundation’s efforts to clean up and improve the water quality in the basin, a pivot from the “Save Our Lake” campaign long synonymous with the organization to an outreach and educational effort aimed at reconnecting New Orleanians with the lake.
They want to open the area to public access, which is fine because it ought to be public space anyway.  But then they want people to go there and get in the water. Which is gross. 
Employing lifeguards would make the foundation legally responsible should something happen, and given the murkiness of the water along the lakefront, it could be difficult for one of them to see if a swimmer was in trouble, Williams said.

To protect swimmers, the foundation does plan to erect signs in the water to alert people to dangerous spots, areas where the beach drops off and other dangers, said John Lopez, who works for the foundation.

“It’s basically a safe beach, but it has hazards like any water body,” he said.
"Basically a safe beach." Okay well that's not the most reassuring thing to say. On the other hand, it's as fine a compliment as one can give any beach, I guess.  Natural bodies of water are nasty in general. Plus there are animals and such living in them. I never understand why people swim in them on purpose.

But this is especially the case with Lake Pontchartrain which is so full of trash and urban runoff that it's only marginally safe for swimming on certain days. In fact, according to Save Our Lake's own website, if the beach were open today, the fecal coliform levels in the water would be unsuitable.

Maybe just put the rides back in so people will have something to do. 

Museum experience

A slavery museum located here in the former nexus of the American slave trade is an idea whose time is long overdue.  But, in NOLA Disney, we don't really build museums.  Instead we build visitor experiences.
My concern is that this project sounds like something that could easily devolve into a garish, Disneyesque-knock-off theme park (Epcot not Magic Kingdom). If not so grand as Disney, then maybe it will be the colorful Yeehaw! of Opryland in Nashville. So, one minute a slave ship, the next a party on deck with a brass band. I mean, this is New Orleans.

On the Council's approval of the plan, WVUE reports:

The proposed $170 million museum will include a life-size interactive slave ship built inside a new five-story building and a riverfront park with an amphitheater and two replica African villages.
The museum complex will also include a Creole Caribbean African restaurant, an herb and vegetable garden, a DNA lab, an exhibit and meeting space.
As a part of the museum experience, visitors will have the opportunity to travel aboard a fully functioning replica slave ship that will sail to Natchez, Miss., and Scott's Bluff in Baton Rouge, located near Southern University.” (emphasis added by me)
Does this sound like a museum that will educate the nation about the loss of thousands of lives during the Middle Passage and the enslavement of millions of Africans around the world through the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade? Or does it sound more like a Fantasy Land complete with riverboat rides?

Yesterday when we were talking about this someone suggested the similarly Disney-esque  World War II Museum as a comparison. That's fair in my mind though not in a good way.  It also features several discomforting "attractions" including  a celeb-chef branded restaurant, a musical revue, and an "immersive 4D" theater showing a movie narrated by Tom Hanks. All of which has always struck me as a rather crass way to celebrate commemorate a traumatic period of global bloodshed.  But, then again, this was the birth of the American empire and we're conditioned to believe American history always moves us to the best possible outcome.
Louisiana has a problem reconciling with its slavery history. The tourism industry here repeatedly prefers to sugar coat or blatantly lie about slavery's atrocities, and it sounds like this proposed venture will be no different. For instance, one article at the Uptown Messenger, after mentioning that Lazard sees a vision similar to the World War II Museum and the Holocaust museum (or the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center), continues with this quote from someone else who may be involved:

“One component of it is incredible horror and destruction, but they’re mostly places of hope and victory and heroes,” said Michael Mayer, a West End boat builder.
Well, that's just what America needs given its current dysfunction on race and the Black experience, a slave ship museum that lets visitors leave feeling they've been in a place of hope surrounded by victory and heroes. Instead of grasping the depravity and horror of it all, folks can stroll along with their children saying, "See that! Everybody's overcome. Slavery all worked out for the mutual good."

America is the greatest bestest country in the world, its people are all essentially good, and everything always works out for the best.  This is not only the unfortunate way we teach history, it's also the paralyzingly destructive myth at the heart of our politics and the cause of our continuing inability to cope with social dysfunction. 

If everything is always for the best and everyone is perfectly well meaning, then there never is any legitimate cause for dissent. It's a recipe for oppression. Which, in turn, is one reason why why we have and tolerate so much of that.
More than 1.57 million inmates sat behind bars in federal, state, and county prisons and jails around the country as of December 31, 2013. In the federal prisons, more than half of those sentenced to a stints of a year or longer are still there for drug crimes. In states including Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, and Georgia, at least 1 percent of male residents were in prison on December 31. And across the country, racial disparities persist. Black men are six times more likely than white men to be in prison. Hispanic men are 2.4 times more likely, according to a Sentencing Project analysis of the data.

Besides, thinking critically about the events and systems that shape society is bad for business. Even if your business is technically a "non-profit" organization, chances are you and your donor base are trying to tap into the "cultural economy."  Which is a benign way of saying you are in the business of building the sort of amusements that catalyze tourism and real estate development. 

The new civics has, in effect, been disrupted by entrepreneurs. If a thing cannot be branded and marketed, it has no relevance. The new thinking requires us to replace our monuments with "iconic structures"our libraries with jazz-themed cocktail lounges, and our museums with boat rides. 

Or maybe we're replacing the whole city with a museum-like attraction. This grand possibility came up on a previous episode of Shit My Jackie Says.
City Council President Jackie Clarkson said she had been supporting Lazard’s efforts for years.

“We almost needed the city to catch up with that dream,” Clarkson said. “We’ve become a museum city, and that has helped immensely. You had to wait for the rest of the city to catch up with you.”