Thursday, December 31, 2015

A map for your consideration

We're still another week or so away from Carnival season but, since there's already some discussion on Twitter this week, here's a map that demonstrates what's fast becoming the most pressing concern.  It's the variety of parade routes across the metro area circa 1977.

The consolidation of the parade routes was already happening gradually but it really began to accelerate after Katrina when our then two "Uptown" and "Downtown" routes on the East Bank of Orleans Parish shrunk down to the one Uptown route plus Endymion as a one-off for Mid-City.

In recent years, the situation has gotten even worse as more and more suburban parades move on to St. Charles. The result is a situation where what was once a regional celebration experienced in many venues in varies styles at different levels of intensity, is becoming one long monotonous event.

Worse, still, channeling everything onto St. Charles has made the Carnival experience there a more intensely tourist centered event  than it has ever been. Meanwhile the notion that Carnival only happens in one part of the city only serves to further promote the notion that  that part of town is itself a tourist zone. And so the rent goes up there. Airbnbs proliferate there. The whole thing becomes a self reinforcing stereotype.

Eventually we're left with an event staged only for visitors and relegated to a part of town where nobody actually lives. Is that what we want?

And the 2015 award for outstanding achievement in the field of corruption goes to...

Mary Landrieu
Former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s move from elected office to lobbying firm has landed her on the conservative Washington Examiner’s list of top “revolving-door moments” of 2015.

The “revolving door” phenomenon in politics is often scrutinized for shuffling government officials between the public sector and lucrative jobs in the private sector, giving special interests more influence in the process. Washington has made efforts to curb its effect, but it’s still quite common.

Landrieu, a three-term Louisiana Democrat who lost her re-election bid against Republican Bill Cassidy in 2014, can’t officially lobby Congress until 2017, but she can work as a consultant and lobby the administration. In May, she signed on as a consultant with Van Ness Feldman, a firm that represents several clients in the energy industry. She landed the FutureGen Industrial Alliance, a group of coal companies, as her first client in October.

The long pre-season

Sure we're about to get a flurry of rumors about Sean Payton's future in New Orleans. But, as we've said all season long, every indication has been that he and the Saints have spent 2015 preparing to be here next year.

So much has this been the case that, as we've often remarked this year, the Saints appear to have treated the entirety of 2015 as a long offseason/preseason practice project. If you accept this idea, so many other things about this year start to make sense. The relaxed attitude toward actually doing any training during training camp, the fact that they never really settled on a kicker, the constant shuffling and experimenting on the offensive line, the almost too-well timed and coordinated Rob Ryan firing all can be better understood if we see assume their context is an organization in the process of implementing a two year rebuilding plan. 

See also, CJ Spiller.
Payton said Spiller will spend the offseason getting back to 100 percent after a frustrating 2015 season. Spiller signed a four-year, $16 million deal to come to the Saints as a free agent, but was rarely used after injuring his knee in training camp.

Spiller played only sporadically but never expressed his frustration about his involvement in the offseason.

"Not once during the year was he ever complaining about touches," Payton said. "He's been fantastic in his preparation."

Payton said the reason behind Spiller's lack of playing time was his injury, which never fully healed.

"One of the challenges if you're a receiver or running back is not necessarily starting but stopping and being able to put the pressure, make a cut like he does. There's a lot of stress on the leg," Payton said. "But is something that he'll be able to recover from...

"He's someone that I know we as an organization and certainly myself as a head coach working with the offense are excited to see that through. I do feel like he's got some unique skill sets and I was frustrated for him at times because he was 100 percent and wasn't back fully with the strength in his leg to do some of the things you're used to seeing."
Spiller began the year with a knee surgery.  Everything he's done this year is really just a kind of glorified rehab program.  And the Saints were fine with him taking up cap and roster space all year to do it because, again, none of this was about trying to win just yet. 

Our resilient year

2015 was all about manufactured nostalgia. There was politicaly pointed nostalgia marshaled for the purposes of preserving racist monuments or "making America great again." Commercial nostalgia was calculated to sell us that one movie everyone is talking about. There was sports nostalgia for Saints fans wondering if they've been witnesing the end of an era all season. There was even disaster nostalgia as we in New Orleans spent half the year remembering with varying degrees of proprietary the worst thing that ever happened to us. Today is all about nostalgia nostalgia. Let's all feel kind of weird and unsettled about 2015 one last time. Then it's on to making new memories for marketers and political leaders of the future to exploit.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Welcome back to the Roemer years

Since tonight is evidently 80s nostalgia night, this seems like as good a time as any to say that if you're looking for an historical analog for the state political scene under the next administration, the Roemer years are a pretty good period to familiarize yourself with. 
This isn't to say that John Bel Edwards is anything like Buddy Roemer (although incoming Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne is actually a lot like him.) More to the point, though, the circumstances are similar.  Oil prices are depressed.  Unemployment will probably continue to get worse.  The state budget is an unholy wreck and will continue to be so. The coming legislative battles will likely be ugly and dismal.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, in his first news conference as commissioner of administration-designee, acknowledged “we’re going to look” at raising taxes. But he wasn’t specific and underlined that all options are on the table.

Spending cuts are part of the mix, as are rollbacks of some tax breaks, along with a substantial revamp of how the state collects and spends taxpayer dollars, he said. But state government is about $1.9 billion short on revenue, including a gap of up to $750 million that must be bridged by the end of June.

“It’ll be very difficult to do without having some sources of new revenue,” Dardenne said when asked directly how the Edwards administration is going to balance the budget without tax increases.

Dardenne batted back questions about specific taxes that might be in play, repeating that all ideas would be considered.
Shrinking pie. Lots of aggressive stakeholders with plenty to lose.  Doesn't make for the most cordial atmosphere.  Probably not the easiest time to be Governor. By the time the reelection campaign comes around there are bound to be plenty vultures waiting in the wings to take advantage of the situation once so many fresh enemies have been made. Perhaps even the most immediate former Governor.
Our outgoing governor, bless his heart, probably has designs on a return to the mansion. He believes that in the fullness of time Louisiana will come to appreciate his policies and leadership. The draconian cuts, budgetary shell games and hidebound Norquistism will pay off big time. One day. Hence the legacy tour. Hence his statement that he is convinced the state will be better off in 2020 than it is today, even if a Democratic governor succeeds him. Jindal gave up on one set of delusions in Iowa, and returned to nurture his Louisiana delusions, and they are nothing to sneeze at. I think his 'long view' entails even another gubernatorial run. Oh goody.

It always was and always will be "Entrepreneur Week"

Jim Bob Moffett resigned as chairman of Freeport McMoran yesterday. You might remember Jim Bob from his heyday in the 1980s as a "reformer" in Louisiana politics.  Reformer, of course, can mean a lot of things. But conventional wisdom in the press then, very much like now, tends to apply the term to any recent arrival to the upper echelon of the city's business class. 
A native of Louisiana who grew up in Texas, he attended the University of Texas at Austin on a football scholarship and received a master of science degree in geology from Tulane in 1963.

After working as a private independent, he formed McMoRan Oil & Gas Co. with Ken McWilliams and B.M. Rankin, deriving the company name from the beginnings of each one’s last names.

Moffett parlayed the company into one of the most successful exploration operations in the country with a 70 percent success rate in wildcatting for oil and natural gas.

In 1981, he was the chief architect of the company’s merger with Freeport Minerals Co., a name well known in Louisiana, which had its headquarters in New York. Moffett, chairman and chief executive officer of the merged company, engineered a 1985 corporate move to New Orleans.
Successful entrepreneur brings cutting edge business and money to New Orleans and really shakes things up. That sort of thing.  But what really seems to drive the kids crazy is a hot new 'Trep with the "courage" to talk about how backwards we all are. They love that.

Here's a fantastic snapshot of New Orleans 1987 I found. It's an  Atlantic article by one time Times-Picayune reporter Nicholas Lemann.  I really must insist that you read that article. It's great, not only for the nostalgia, but also for the sense of "le plus ca change" one gets from reading about a New Orleans beset by fears about crime (both real and imagined), racial strife, and the sense that the tourism industry was eating away at the city's soul. 
There are non-aesthetic reasons to worry about New Orleans's increasing dependence on tourism. Tourism can enrich a small group of local entrepreneurs, including real-estate developers and concessionaires; some of these come from groups, like the black middle class, that were previously shut out of the business life of the city. New entry-level jobs in hotels are cold comfort for unemployed longshoremen, but they are a real help to poor blacks working as domestics or not working at all. Still, tourism is cyclical, and it's dominated by national chains whose profits go out town. And if New Orleans is primarily in the business of selling itself rather than its raw materials and its dock facilities, then being a city that satisfies its own requirements but not the outside world's might not work anymore.
 Anyway, it's amid this very familiar setting that Lemann describes Moffett to us.
It's a testament to Moffett's superior drive and to the flagging self-confidence of old-line New Orleans that he has been much more successful than any previous oilman at becoming a civic leader. In 1981 his independent exploration company merged with Freeport Minerals and in1985 moved its headquarters from New York to a new building across the street from the Louisiana Superdome, with its street number emblazoned in Roman numerals on its entablature. Then he, along with a group of other businessmen, founded an organization called the Business Council, modeled on civic oligarchies like the Citizens. Council, in Dallas, and the Vault, in Boston, to whip the city and the state into shape again, and the establishment stepped back to see what he could do. He got a hero's welcome in the press.

Nothing is more impressive to the conventional wisdom than when "civic oligarchies" get together with a mind to "whip" the rest of us into shape. Particularly when they dress their maneuverings in the trappings of "education reform." They get to collect all sorts of awards for that. Mostly this is because of how easy it is to say, "think of the children" in any situation and come off as a serious person to the lazy minded.  It's easy to say, as Moffett says in his interview, "You've got to educate the people. You have to believe in the American way of life, and it all starts with educating the masses." And have everyone praise your amazingly bold and original idea.

As it turned out, though, Moffett's truly bold idea was to see if he could get permission for his company to dump gypsum into the Mississippi River. This started to turn some of his fans against him.. at least among the number he couldn't buy
That he has suddenly become the pariah of the local media didn't come as that great a surprise, for Robinette has displayed a venal streak before. There he was as an anchor on WWL-TV news in the 1980s, railing righteously against Freeport McMoRan for threatening the public health with piles of radioactive gypsum along the Mississippi.

Nothing could stop our great environmental crusader until Freeport boss Jim Bob Moffett up and offered him a job with a fat salary, and he dutifully metamorphosed overnight into an apologist for global pollution.

He was more or less a forgotten sell-out until he turned up as a talk show host on WWL radio just before Katrina, which had apparently changed him back into an environmentalist.
Robinette serves as a pretty good stand in for Moffett's media treatment in general.  The gypsum story knocked him off of his pedestal somewhat but not entirely.  Instead he became a figure of convenience depending on whoever else he might be at odds with at any given time. For the most part he, like Robinette's other good friend Fred Heebe, was able to purchase enough goodwill to stay out of trouble.

This could lead to some interesting fits of cognitive dissonance.  For example, Moffett appears in the Lemman article fresh off a clash with Edwin Edwards administration over his gypsum. 
Earlier this year a courageous state environmental bureaucrat denied Freeport a permit to dump gypsum into the Mississippi River. Moffett, who seemed to think he had a deal with the state (the governor's brother was once on the Freeport payroll as a lobbyist), blew his stack. He held a press conference in February at which he threatened to move his company away from New Orleans and called Louisiana a banana republic.
Just to be clear,  Moffett was unable to successfully bribe a public official and thus concluded he was living in a "banana republic."  Oddly, he ended up being praised as much as he was criticized for making this comment anyway. Because it turns out the press does enjoy a good narrative about how romantically backwards our state is no matter how absurd the circumstances of its assertion.

Which is why, in 1987, many in the media continued to refer to Civic Leader Moffett's falling out with the "corrupt" Edwards while championing reform candidate Buddy Roemer. That Roemer could capitalize on this "banana republic" image of the state while also promising to run a more "business friendly" administration could only be possible in the context of this stupid pretzel narrative presented by our establishment press fully encapsulated within the personal image of Jim Bob Moffett. 

The illogic of the thing became even more obvious later on, when Moffett inevitably clashed with Governor Roemer over the very same gypsum controversy.  Turns out the "business friendly" Roemer was even less friendly to Moffett's pollution business than the unfriendly Edwards had been. And when it came time for Roemer's ill-fated 1991 reelection campaign, Moffett would launch his own series of independently financed attack ads.  Oddly, during the campaign, Edwards and not Moffett bore the brunt of the press criticism over Moffett's own self-serving turncoat. But then that really shouldn't come as a shock.  Like we said, the establishment press loves them some business leaders. In 1991 Moffett was named Gambit's "New Orleanian Of The Year." 

Very much like today's 'treps regularly feted at NOLA.com, Moffett really was the quintessential "volunteer entrepreneur" of his day. Later in 1991, Moffett's oil and mining company partnered with (of course) Ron Forman to create something called, and we shit you not, The Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center and Wilderness Park at English Turn.  Naturally, Moffett decided to take an opportunity at the groundbreaking to complain about... those goddamned environmentalists. 


Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA) - November 23, 1991
Considering that the ceremony was intended to celebrate a multimillion-dollar effort to save some of the world's endangered species, the last thing most of those present expected to hear was an attack on environmentalists.

But that's what they got.

James R. "Jim Bob" Moffett, chairman of Freeport-McMoRan Inc., used the groundbreaking ceremony Friday for the Freeport-McMoRanAudubon Species Survival Center and Wilderness Park to attack environmentalists who, he said, don't appreciate businesses' contributions to environmental protection.

"They need to stop kicking us in the fanny," said Moffett, whose company is often a target of environmentalists' criticism.

"We must have economic development in this world" and it "can and must be done in concert with the environment and survival of the species," he said.

Moffett said Louisiana businesses should "get the facts" on such problems as loss of the state's wetlands and the extinction of species, then "kick their (critics') butts and send them back home."

Moffett's company is donating half the $10 million cost of the 1,200-acre Species Survival Center and Wilderness Park, which the Audubon Institute will operate in the English Turn section of Algiers.

Asked later about Moffett's remarks, L. Ron Forman, president of the Audubon Institute, said he sees "a crying need for business and environmental groups to work together if we are truly going to solve problems. The constant bickering and name-calling should stop."
Sorry about the long pull quote there. But I had to get that bit in where Forman tells us the real problem is all the divisive "bickering name-calling" instead of, say, millionaire polluters and their ability to buy their way into respectability. Nothing ever changes. 

Give them access to parking spaces

The coin meters will be an issue though.
Effective Jan. 11, parking meter rates in tourist-laden areas of the French Quarter, Marigny, Central Business District and Warehouse District will be doubled from $1.50 to $3 an hour, while the rates outside of those area will be hiked from $1.50 to $2 an hour.

As part of that increase, parking meters enforcement will happen Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. -- an additional hour in the evening. The city had wanted to extend the enforcement until 10 p.m., but comprised with 7p.m.
Pretty much no surprise.  Everyone figured the late hours  (10 PM!) would end up being a bargaining chip to secure the rate hike. This way we all get to feel good about it imagining that it could have been worse.

Football coaches are pointless

Few things in professional sports are more annoying to me than the conceit that grown men need to be policed and personally disciplined by some meatheaded loudmouth in order to be successful. But for some reason this fascistic management theory continues to enjoy widespread buy-in among fans and commentators which is... well, you know it might help explain Trump, for example.

Anyway the reason I bring this up is I just read that NFL Hall of Famer Doug Atkins passed today.  According to this story, Atkins wasn't exactly what our more milquetoast sportswriters like to celebrate as a "character guy."  He and his team seemed to get by okay, though. 

In his years with the Bears, Atkins did not confine his quarrels with Halas to money issues. He bristled at Halas’s attempts to control him.

“There was a time when there was a question as to who was running the Chicago Bears, Doug Atkins or George Halas," the Hall of Fame lineman Stan Jones told The Chicago Tribune in 1994. “It was a very hot day early in the season. We came into the locker room and one of the customs was that we could have oranges and cold ice packs and things like that. But you couldn’t drink a Coke at halftime.”

When Atkins nonetheless grabbed a Coke, Halas demanded he turn it over. Atkins refused.
“Doug would take a swig of the Coke and the old man would grab the Coke,” Jones recalled. “And here we have a wrestling match going on at halftime.”

“We made the darnedest comeback and won the game,” Jones said. “The next day in The Chicago Tribune, the writer wrote, ‘We don’t know what Coach Halas said to that team at halftime, but it worked!’ ”

Today's Weather

Pretty freaking weird.
On Wednesday, the same storm system that last week spun up deadly tornadoes in the American southeast will burst into the far north, centering over Iceland. It will bring strong winds and pressure as low as is typically seen during hurricanes.

That low pressure will suck air out of the planet’s middle latitudes and send it rushing to the Arctic. And so on Wednesday, the North Pole will likely see temperatures of about 35 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2 degrees Celsius. That’s 50 degrees hotter than average: It’s usually 20 degrees Fahrenheit below zero there at this time of year.
In other words even Santa is pissed about having to run the a/c this Christmas.

Of course at some point in January it will probably snow somewhere.  And when it does Ted Cruz will tell us climate change is bullshit.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Has anyone guessed Ghost of Christmas Past yet?

Because.. obvious.
NEW ORLEANS —If you look up at the shuttered Charity Hospital on Tulane Avenue, you may just see a bright light in the shape of a Christmas tree coming from one of the windows.

Social media lit up this week after photos surfaced of the spooky discovery at the hospital that was left abandoned after Hurricane Katrina.
Should mention also, Big Charity was Breonne Dedecker's number one condo development project in that list we just linked below.  If there is a ghost living there right now, it will eventually be priced out anyway.

Year-end lists

Plenty more of these to come from everyone but the collection of Top 5s of 2015 in the December Antigravity is particularly fun.  I especially enjoyed this "Top 5 Condo Developments" list by Breonne Dedecker.  Probably the most important point worth highlighting is in line with a theme we've harped on repeatedly here.
Cummings, in his letter to neighborhood residents, stated that some of the apartments will be “affordable.” But when the project went before City Planning in October, the truth came out. Nearly all units will be market rent, currently estimated to be around $1,100 per month for a one bedroom and $4,200 for a 3 bedroom. Cummings said that he wanted to make sure that the Bywater remains an “epicenter for creativity” and ease pressure on the downtown housing market. But studies show that increasing the stock of highly priced housing makes gentrification accelerate further, spiking surrounding housing prices and attracting further real estate speculation.
Building nice things for rich people is not going to solve your affordable housing problem.  Not sure why that simple point is not immediately obvious to everyone.

The kiddie table

I'm actually only bringing this up because it appears as a throwaway line in the "look back" portion of Stephanie Grace's  2016 predictions column which I think is worth a read on its own merit.

What a fun year this will be, not only for following Louisiana politics,  but also for keeping up with the actual business of governing Louisiana.

The year ahead will bring many tough fights as always. But this time they will be fought more honestly. .. OK honestly is a bit much... but at least with less ideological grandstanding  in play than we've seen in a while.  It might not be pretty but it will probably be of significant  substance.

Anyway I'll let you read Grace's description. Like I said, it's good enough on its own. Instead I'll comment only on this aside about Bobby Jindal's failed presidential  campaign.
As for the outgoing governor, I never envisioned Bobby Jindal as the GOP presidential nominee, but I did think he’d hang on at least until the voting started. But then, I never would have come up with the idea of the kids’ table debates, which kept him off potential voters’ radar.

I was never comfortable with the kiddie table format. And if I had been running things for a lesser known but sincere candidate like, say, Bobhy Jindal, I'd probably feel short changed by it.

 Sure, the oversized Republican field presented a logistical challenge to the news networks carrying the debates. But the kiddie table innovation was an especially poor and lazy solution.  It's true that not all of the candidates were especially serious about wanting to be President.  A lot of them are there to raise money and/or sell books and/or raise their speaking fee asking price. (Huckabee, Carson, Santorum, Christie probably) Others were vanity candidates in other regards. (Graham, Gillmore, maybe even Kasich) One of them was Donald Trump.

But others were actually sincerely attempting to become President.  It's quite obvious that at least Walker, Rubio, Jeb! Cruz, and, yes, Jindal fit this category.  It's a shame the networks took only preliminary polling data into a account when fixing their "tiers."  That decision probably influenced the fate of some campaigns  (including Jindal's) a good deal more than it should have.

Sounds like they found the right coach

Keeps the star player happy anyway
The Pelicans were coming off of a 110-108 come-from-behind victory over the Houston Rockets at home on Saturday night but couldn't carry that performance over against the Magic.

"We just don't play hard all the time," Pelicans forward Anthony Davis said. "That starts with our first unit coming out and setting the pace and setting the tone for the rest of the game and setting the tone for the guys that sub in especially after halftime. That's kind of been our thing this year. It starts with the first unit and it starts with me."
Would it help if Mickey Loomis were more involved? Because that seems to be the plan.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Hello, central casting

Louisiana Democrats are looking to fill a position in 2016.
Now, Democrats are analyzing what went right for Edwards and whether they can re-create the magic political mix in what could be a heated U.S. Senate race in 2016.

“It was a lot of hard work that’s not very sexy,” said Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Director Stephen Handwerk. “That work and that investment and those relationships that were built paid off.”
Kind of hard to replicate that path to victory exactly. Unless someone at Dem Party HQ  has a copy of the Canal Street brothel's client list laying around somewhere. At the same time, some strategic approaches may carry over.
Handwerk said the party’s current inclination is to attempt to mimic the gubernatorial race — to come up with a strong, possibly lesser-known candidate to rally behind early while Republicans battle each other for a spot in the runoff.

He said party leaders are waiting until after the holidays, though.
State Democrats have been complaining for years now about their short bench. I wonder who they think might fit this bill for them.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Jeff Duncan is here to praise Benson and to bury him

Jeff Duncan six months ago told us we need to stop worrying and celebrate whichever Benson ends up owning the Saints.
The Saints are one of the NFL's great success stories. The city's support of the team post-Katrina has exceeded the wildest expectations. The team is more successful than ever.

Why would any NFL owner rubber-stamp a move out of such a viable market? Moreover, why would the league endorse a move that would further tarnish its already shaky public image? The answer to each is they wouldn't.

So, relax. Forget about relocation. Stop worrying about the Saints' future off the field and concentrate on their potential success on it.

The Saints aren't going anywhere -- regardless of which Benson ultimately owns the team.
Not sure what has changed for Duncan since then but today he really wants the Bensons out of the picture. Duncan writes, in a column addressed to Tom,
Your two organizations have lost momentum. The Saints are headed for a third losing season in four years. And barring a turnaround, the Pelicans are likely to miss the playoffs for the third time in four years since you took ownership. The clubs could use new ideas, a fresh perspective.

Your teams' faithful fans deserve better. And the reality of the situation is this: The best way to ensure the long-term success of the franchises is to sell them.
Notice in both articles, Duncan bases his argument on an assertion that there exists a "booming" New Orleans business environment. First, the healthy scene (Duncan's earlier column actually sort of thanks Katrina for this) is a reason to embrace the Bensons. Later, it's the reason we should dump them.

I don't really want to get down in the weeds of knocking that down right now. Suffice to say there's no one within 500 miles of New Orleans right now with access to the capital necessary to take Benson's multi-billion dollar sports franchises off of his hands.

But even if there were, would that really a satisfactory ending? Even in the best case scenario wherein a new owner doesn't move the team to Los Angeles, we still wind up  forking over millions in taxpayer funded subsidies and facilities to another parasitic oligarch.  As John Oliver explains in the video below, that is the real problem here anyway. 

Bye, Marques

At least we got to see his last game at home last week.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The restaurant bubble

Looks pretty tenuous.
One of the clearest obstacles to hiring a good cook, let alone someone willing to work the kitchen these days, is that living in this country’s biggest cities is increasingly unaffordable. In New York, for instance, where a cook can expect to make between $10 and $12 per hour, and the median rent runs upward of $1,200 a month, living in the city is a near impossibility. As a result, people end up living far from the restaurants where they work. Add to that how late dinner shifts can end, causing people to arrive home well into the night.

Top it all off with the fact that culinary school graduates are often working through significant amounts of debt, and the burden can be insurmountable.

It’s not as if restaurants are cheating workers out of heaping piles of cash, either. There simply isn’t a whole lot of money circulating. The National Restaurant Association estimates that the median profit margin for mid-level establishments (those with average checks of $25 and higher) was 4.5 percent. Celebrity chefs and successful restaurateurs exist, but they are the exception. And a good deal of the money earned by the former comes in the form of television contracts, book deals, guest appearances and other tangential earnings.
Maybe basing a whole industry on labor supplied by a marginalized servant class you expect to keep motivated by the empty promise that they'll all eventually bootstrap themselves up into becoming a million Guy Fieris is not such a great idea. Especially when the rent keeps getting too damn higher. And extra especially when nobody can afford to go out to eat anymore for... some mysterious reason that certainly has nothing to do with the fact that nobody makes enough money to cover things like rent.

I'm sure some Brennan or other will tell you the problem is finding reliable workers.  Or maybe street performers.  

Happy Holidays

Here's this week's fake radio show to help you get through.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bucking the trend

Not sure why I'm so attracted to the ubiquity of this phrase. In post-K New Orleans it was a boosterish slogan often employed by the Times Picayune especially to obscure some of the hard truths about the local economy.  So that was fun.

In other cases it just sounds like potential "famous last words."  I hope that isn't what it means here but let's point it out anyway.
Margo DuBos, who with her husband Clancy DuBos has owned Gambit since 1991, is a graduate of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication and currently serves on the school’s Board of Visitors. She began working at Gambit in the advertising sales department in 1982. She was promoted to advertising director in 1985 and was named publisher in 1987. Under her leadership, Gambit has become one of the most successful alt-weeklies in America.

In recent years, Gambit has bucked all national trends in the newspaper business by constantly adapting to the industry’s changing landscape in order to serve our readers better and help our advertisers reach their customers,” Margo DuBos said. “For more than a decade, Jeanne has been an integral part of our innovations and our success. She also has a keen understanding of what makes Gambit indispensible to our readers, so I’m proud to see her take the reins as only our third publisher in 35 years.”
Basically they just gave their Associate Publisher a new title an ostensible promotion. Although the DuBoses still run the shop, of course. 

Parking meter 11th hour talks

No firm details about what's actually on the table, but they're talking.
The Landrieu administration has proposed doubling rates for parking meters in New Orleans, increasing the cost per hour to $3 in the French Quarter and $2 elsewhere in the city. But after complaints about its impact from the service and cultural industry, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said there is room for compromise.

"We're in discussions now," the mayor said Wednesday (Dec. 23) after providing a recap of city government highlights for 2015.
I'd like to think one bargaining chip would involve not extending the hours as late as they're planning to but that isn't mentioned in the article. 

The Saints are more or less on schedule

This is different from saying that the Saints are doing well. It's even different from saying that the Saints' plan is going to work out for them eventually.  But I do think the idea this year was to play some rookies, experiment a little, and see if they can build a good enough team to compete with in 2016.

Based on that operational theory, the results this season are pretty much in accordance with expectations. It hasn't been perfectly so. There were real setbacks, most notably the failed Brandon Browner experiment as well as CJ Spiller's season on The Island Of Misfit Toys, each of which costs the Saints big cap hits. Still, they're more or less positioned right about where we thought they would be.  Which is why there's no reason to go flipping over the card table this offseason.

So I'm in concurrence with Bradley here but I think for slightly different reasons. For example, I don't interpret the 2014-15 offseason quite the desperate panic that he does, although it's a perfectly valid thought.  I think this was always a two year rebuilding scheme which, by definition almost, qualifies as more measured than "panic."  In any case, I agree with the prescription. 
That's not to say the Saints should sit tight and do nothing this offseason, but their moves should be careful and precise. They should only trade Sean Payton if Payton himself wants out. They should reserve huge changes for their defensive staff, and continue to lean on the draft to restock that side of the ball. They should accept the dead money penalty they'll absorb by cutting failures Browner and Spiller, and chalk up the million or so dollars in net cap space they'll save as a silver lining.

The Saints' panic response to 2014 established a new baseline for the franchise, and it's not good. But the only smart move now is to build from here.
In other words, this is not the time to dump Sean Payton or (worse, even) cut ties with Drew Brees. Quality quarterbacks are such rare commodities, it never makes sense to get rid of your Hall of Fame player as long as he can stand upright. (I realize this is in question at the moment, but let's assume he can.)  The long-term planning should only begin once Brees is gone.  Until then, whatever scheme you can come up with to patch things up, that's what you go with.

This means Brees and Payton should be back in 2016. Meanwhile, let's see if this crappy team can't maybe beat Atlanta one more time just for kicks.

Happy Hostilidays

The arms race in the  War on and for Christmas is escalating.

Still liked it better the first time I saw it

Meanwhile, blessings to you and yours.
A cafeteria worker in an Idaho middle school said she was fired for giving a free meal to a student who told her she was hungry and didn't have money to pay for it, The Idaho Statesman reported Wednesday.

Human resources for Irving Middle School in Pocatello sent Dalene Bowden a termination letter that stated she was fired for stealing school district property and for inaccurate transactions in serving food, according to the report.

Bowden told the newspaper that she offered to pay $1.70 for the 12 year-old student's meal, but her supervisor declined the money.
God bless us every one
Food stamp benefits for childless, able-bodied people under the age of 49 are set to expire Jan. 1, with the first stop of payment to take effect Jan. 6. A spokesman for Gov. Bobby Jindal said the Department of Children and Family Services still plans for that to take place.

Jindal's communication director, Mike Reed, said in a brief interview Monday (Dec. 21) that the only way the Jindal administration would extend the food stamp funding to beneficiaries early next year is if a federal judge orders it. A New Orleans-based advocacy group has filed a motion for a temporary restraining order to do just that, but the case has not yet been heard in U.S. District Court. br/>
"The best way to break the cycle of poverty is for individuals to get a job and get off of government assistance. Having a job is empowering," Reed said in a statement. Edwards' "decision will mean more able-bodied Louisianians will be dependent on the government and discouraged from joining the workforce."

Everybody be safe.

Especially if you're out doing some last minute shopping.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Just squeeze everyone in along St. Charles

Carnival used to be a thing that happened in neighborhoods and suburbs almost as much as it did in the center of town.  Because it's an actual holiday and not a sponsored event it's an organic celebration that happens wherever people are observing it. 

In the past decade, that has begun to change.
The Krewe of Grela will not roll next year, leaving only the Krewe of NOMTOC in Algiers and the Mystic Knights of Adonis. Grela, which rolled in Gretna, simply didn't have enough support to justify the effort, captain Russell Lloyd said.

"It wasn't worth the bang for the buck," Lloyd said. "It takes a lot of money, not only by the organization, but a lot of money by the city to put on a parade. We just didn't have the support of the people to watch it."

After suspending its parade in 2012, Grela sought for three years to recruit truck floats, work with local businesses and try other approaches to attract larger crowds. But it couldn't compete with parades in Metairie and New Orleans, Lloyd said.

The krewes of Alla and Choctaw moved in 2013 and 2014 from the West Bank to Uptown, and parade-goers also have adjusted their Carnival customs in recent years. "The west bankers found spots on the east bank to watch the parades, and that's what they do now," Lloyd said.
And, of course, the more people from all over the metro area you try to cram along one standardized route already jammed with tourists, the less any of it feels like an organic neighborhood level experience.  Gets worse every year. 


Happy times is over
A year of tumbling oil prices has caused thousands of job losses throughout Louisiana, slowed energy production, delayed new investment, and sent state and local officials scrambling to plug budget holes created by the industry’s latest boom-or-bust cycle.

As prices sank below $35 per barrel last week to hit six-year lows, the latest federal jobs numbers had a grim look: Louisiana’s sector that includes oil and gas jobs lost more than 10,000 workers — nearly 19 percent — in the 12 months ending in November.

That’s the lowest point since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began using its current tracking system in 1990.

“Every day, I hope we hit bottom, until we get up the next day and realize the bottom is (lower) than we thought,” said Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph, whose sales tax revenue fell nearly 14 percent in the first 10 months of the year.

Talk around holiday dinner tables throughout Louisiana is certain to include questions about whether the state is headed toward another devastating recession along the lines of the 1980s oil bust.
Louisiana could have spent the happy times shoring up public services, building infrastructure, and saving for the future.  Instead Bobby Jindal spent everything on tax breaks for wealthy friends and allies. Not sure what happens next. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Kenny Stills Trade

Last offseason the Saints pulled off a couple of high profile trades that caught many fans by surprise. The Jimmy Graham deal got the most attention but there were others.  Ben Grubbs was dealt to Kansas City for a draft choice which wasn't too much of a shock.  The real head-scratcher of the lot was the deal that sent a young, developing Kenny Stills to Miami. 

We knew the Saints were serious about wanting to rebuild their defense but Stills, at the time, seemed like a lot to give up. In his rookie season, Stills was among the NFL leaders in yards per reception.  In his second year, he took a solid step toward becoming a consistent all-around receiver posting 931 yards on 63 receptions.  So the trade surprised a lot of people including Still himself who had "a bunch of emotions" about it. . The Saints had already unloaded Graham. Without Stills there, who was Drew Brees even supposed to throw to?

Now we may not be completely satisfied with the way the Saints answered that question.  The offense lacks the sense of near invincibility it enjoyed during its peak years.  But it hasn't been all that bad.  Drew Brees is on pace to throw for something like 4700 yards and and 30 touchdowns this year which would be in keeping with his customary production. (Consider also that he missed an entire game.)   Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks each have a chance to gain 1000 yards receiving.  Ben Watson even has an outside shot at getting there.  In other circumstances, if the Saints hadn't been taking this entire season off in order to rebuild the defense, for example, they would have produced enough offensively to be successful.

But the defense has been ridiculously bad, probably by design. The Saints knew they were going to spend the year re-tooling. They intended to play a lot of rookies on defense. (I've argued they probably intended to jettison Rob Ryan at mid-season as well.) The Stills trade figured into that re-tooling.

The Saints picked defensive back PJ Williams with the draft choice they received in the deal.  He's been on IR all year so we don't have a verdict on that yet.  The trade also brought the Saints Dannell Ellerbe. The result there, while incomplete, has been intriguing. Here's Bradley Warshauer's Gambit column.
Did you realize the Saints are 4-1 this year in games Ellerbe has appeared in, and 1-7 in games he hasn't? Ellerbe, it turns out, might be the difference between sucking and not sucking.

The win/loss record alone is a pretty incredible piece of evidence. Let's dive in a bit and see if we can learn anything.

Points Per Game

First, the games in which Ellerbe appeared were:

  • Dallas Cowboy, 26-20 win
  • Philadelphia Eagles, 39-17 loss
  • Atlanta Falcons, 31-21 win
  • Indianapolis Colts, 27-21 win
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 24-17 win 
One important thing right away: Four of the five games are the four in which the Saints' defense allowed the fewest points. In fact, those four games are the only ones in which the Saints have allowed fewer than 24 points.

Overall, in games Ellerbe has appeared in, the Saints are allowing an average of 23.6 points. That's not particularly great by the standards of good NFL defense, but Sean Payton's Saints have never really played by the standards of good NFL defense. 23.6 would be tied with Washington at 17th. Graded on a Payton-era curve, that's practically the 1985 Bears.
What does it mean?  Well, it probably doesn't actually mean anything.  It suggests, though, that the Saints may have gotten some value out of the Still trade with regard to their defensive rebuilding project while not sacrificing a whole lot of offense to do it.  We won't be able to evaluate this definitively until next year.  Of course, nothing matters anymore until then, at this point anyway.

That doesn't mean there's no reason to show up tonight, though. Back when I was a kid, a Saints team with a chance to finish 8-8 was big time news. I'm not sure I'll ever take that for granted no matter how many Superbowls I eventually live to see. Also, it's Morten Andersen Night on Monday Night Football.  Y'all probably will want to see this.

Mitch fatigue

A couple weeks ago, there was a telephone poll asking people if they might support a third term of Mitch at City Hall.  It seemed weird since nobody affiliated with the mayor seems to think he's entertaining the notion.  Anyway, here's why it happened.
Tony Licciardi, a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of New Orleans, conducted the survey of 657 voters by automated calls Dec. 13, four days before the New Orleans City Council voted 6-1 to take down four Confederate monuments.

Licciardi said the poll was aimed at gathering information for his own research, which includes studying the differences between the preferences of those who vote early and those who cast their ballots on election day. He said the questions were drafted based on interesting topics that were under discussion at the time.
Anyway, it turns out nobody wants Mitch to try for a third term.  
Voters appear to be happy with that restriction. Only 32 percent of the people surveyed said they would support a measure allowing for three-term mayors, with 49 percent in opposition.
There was also this bit which I'm sure will probably get attention.
The poll also found that only 34 percent of voters support “removing Civil War memorial statues in New Orleans from their current locations,” with 43 percent opposed.
Recall, however, that during the Civil Rights movement, proponents of continued segregation continually pointed to public opinion polls favoring their point of view and made a favorite talking point out of demanding that the entire question be put to a vote.  This is why at least one speaker during the lengthy public comment period reminded councilmembers of the following quotation.

"Atticus, you must be wrong...."

"How's that?"

"Well, most folks seem to think they're right and you're wrong...."

"They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions," said Atticus, "but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."

I don't know if there'll be snow..

But we're going underwater here.  Everywhere, really.
Schlotzhauer said that the chance of a “maximum of maximum” storm occurring is rare, but the web page has value in alerting residents and emergency managers to their area’s vulnerability to storm surge, regardless of category.

“A storm means different things to different sections of our coasts regardless of its rating, and people need to understand that,” he said. “For example, during a Category 3, people in Florida people may only have to drives tens of miles to get out of harm’s way.

“But in Louisiana where we have almost no elevation, getting to safety might mean driving hundreds of miles. And different areas even inside a state have different vulnerabilities. That message is clear when you use these maps.”
And the land is sinking all across South Louisiana. And the sea level is rising.

Merry Christmas, everybody. 


Stephanie Grace distilled the monument controversy well in one paragraph yesterday.
The statues served less as testaments to the men they depicted than to the cause they represented, as propaganda to a particular point of view that dominated a particular time. Looking at them that way, as a number of council members took great care to do, frees the city of the obligation to determine the subjects’ particular merits or judge them by the standards of our time, not theirs.
Actually that's not exactly right.  By acknowledging the monuments are, in fact, Jim Crow propaganda documents and were initially intended as such we are judging them by the standards of their time and ours.  In fact, the notion that we live now in different "times" is false anyway.  This stuff just isn't that long ago. Most of us have grandparents and parents who remember when it happened. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015


Tree under the bridge

Nice try getting all in the holiday spirit and everything, y'all.  But we don't tolerate that stuff around here
The couple complied and watched their tree be thrown out, along with more than two dozen other Christmas trees owned by the homeless. The tree was a gift from a homeless man named John, who WDSU has followed since his tree was thrown out during last Friday’s city sweep.

After that story aired, more than 200 people came to see John under the Pontchartrain Expressway, giving him new trees, ornaments, clothing and food.

Atkins said the city threw out their mattress last week and isn’t surprised her tree was trashed today.

“We’re not allowed to have things like that out here,” she said.
Of course they could have just waited one more week to come clear it out.  But.. nope. Not allowed. 

And then what happens?

SELA December 2015
Napoleon Avenue neutral ground December 1, 2015

This class action lawsuit against SELA reported on last night by WWLTV has actually been in the works for a while now.
NEW ORLEANS – A group of Uptown property owners has filed a class action lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers over the massive Uptown drainage project that has been underway for a couple of years.

The group says that while they understand the need for flood protection, they are upset at damage to their homes and quality of life.

They say they're so frustrated they decided to file a class action lawsuit in an attempt to bring the Army Corps of Engineers work to a halt. The suit argues, among other things, that "foundations are broken, floors are sinking, roofs are collapsing and leaking, sewer mains are broken and doors and windows no longer operate."
I have questions, though. So say you manage to "bring the work to a halt."  What happens next? Do they just have to fill in the holes they've dug and go home?  Probably not, right?  We're 20 years into this project. Might as well let them finish and be done with it. You do want flood protection, right?
Bill Capo of Eyewitness News has been reporting on the residents' complaints for months, documenting damages back in June. Plaintiffs say it's only gotten worse, comparing the ordeal to the mother of all catastrophes.

"I think this has been worse than Katrina, when we had six feet of flood, because this just keeps going on and on and on," said Sewell.
Oookayy.. are you sure that's what you want the lawsuit to say?  Because Katrina was kinda bad.  What, for example, is the death toll from SELA thus far?  But, OK. What else you got?
The suit alleges this is a historic district that by law must be protected. 
Yeah... kind of like the Confederate monuments, I guess. Maybe the pile driving isn't hitting hard enough.  

Bobby Bye Byes

Mackel edition
WDSU reporter Travers Mackel sat down with the governor Friday morning. He said Jindal realizes his approval ratings are low, but doesn't seem to be fazed by it. The governor said he's made good decisions despite what critics, political pundits and voters have said about his term in office.

When Jindal took office in January 2008, he was the nation's first Indian-American governor and the youngest governor in the country. He also inherited an almost billion dollar budget surplus that has now evaporated.

The state's budget is balanced, but the deficit is running well into the hundreds of millions and some believe Jindal is to blame.
Go read the rest if you want.  I stopped at "some believe" because.. wank. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bobby Bye Byes

There's a bunch of them. I'll try and collect as many as I see.

This one is from former Governor Meemaw.
“I gave him one bit of free advice, which he ignored. And that’s why we have such a financial disaster,” Blanco recalled with a laugh, saying she told the incoming governor, “‘In the Louisiana Legislature there’s not a tax break that every single member, whether they’re Democrat or Republican or independent, doesn’t absolutely love. So here in the state of Louisiana you have to stay close during the session and watch what’s going on and stop the erosion of the tax base.’

“And I told him that I had just vetoed six tax breaks in my last session. I could have signed off on them and left him a disastrous financial picture. Our budget was balanced. We had a lot of money. But I vetoed those tax breaks because they affected the ongoing operations of government.”
Bobby didn't care about any of that, though. Bobby cared about shoving all the state tax revenue out to cronies. Thus.. problems.
"He didn’t guard the public trust. He didn’t have enough courage to veto — and some of those people, both Democrats and Republicans, were testing him,” Blanco said. “They were playing with him when they went after the Stelly tax cut to take the whole thing down. They thought he would veto it, and I told them, ‘You are wrong.’ I said, ‘This governor will never veto a tax cut; he’s going to sign every one, and you’re digging yourselves into a hole that you’re not going to be able to get out of.’ And that’s exactly what they did.”


Let the record show that Mitch Landrieu did a really good job today.  (The record does not often show this.)  This back and forth between Mitch and Stacy was the day's dramatic highlight.*
In her remarks before the vote, Head asked Landrieu to explain his plans for other monuments, including Gen. Andrew Jackson in the French Quarter, should these four come down.

"Every time there is direct non-violent action, the first accusation is why are you being divisive," Landrieu said, somewhat testily, to Head.

"I didn't create this division nor did i create this tension," he said. "You may be knowledgeable of the fact that slavery did and the Civil War created the tension ..."
Article doesn't mention it but Mitch's comments on "being divisive" is a paraphrasing of Martin Luther King. (Mitch cited MLK during his remarks.)  Anyway, it's good that Mitch understands this. Because he sure does complain a lot that the criticism he receives from people is "divisive."  In fact, his campaign slogan, "One Voice One City" roughly translates into "Why are you being so divisive?"

Anyway, so, good job today, Mitch.  Maybe work on that self-awareness, though.

*Well, okay, maybe it was the second most dramatic moment because this also happened.

So when is the toppling party?

Also will there be four separate topplings? Or will they get three on one day and come back for the last one when the judge says they can?
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has signed the ordinance calling for the monuments’ removal, clearing the way for at least three of the statues to be removed within days.

In a press release, the Landrieu administration said the total cost to remove the monuments is now estimated at $170,000, which will be paid by an anonymous donor. Once a contractor is selected from a list of companies that can be used by the city for small jobs, the statues of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard will be scheduled for removal.
That process could be complete within days.

It will take longer to remove the monument to the Battle of Liberty of Place - ironically, the monument considered to be the most offensive. A court order dating back to previous attempts to remove the monument requires it be left in place.
"Within days."  Can we maybe wait and do it on New Year's Eve?  Kind of a ceremonial dropping of of the General Lee.. how fun would that be?

"Councilwoman Stacy Head cast the dissenting vote"

One thing that I enjoy about these so-called divisive "distraction" issues is they force everyone to make clear declarations of just who they are and what they stand for. And so today I cannot emphasize enough the breadth and depth of support Stacy Head has always enjoyed among the white, professional, entrepreneurial class of "New New Orleanians."  From the moment she arrived on the scene, they gravitated toward her as the symbol of the new politics they were building on the "blank slate" of post-Katrina New Orleans.

And so here's Stacy today.  The lone vote on the council defending these Jim Crow symbols.  That's your champion, "New New Orleans."  Hope you're proud of yourselves.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

How now, Joe Cao

I noticed former Accidental Congressman Cao on TV slinking around David Vitter's after party on Primary Night this year.  Figured he was angling for some kind of job or favor.  Didn't think he wanted to be a Senator, though.
In his email, Cao said a growing GOP field would work to his advantage, although he doesn't explain why. Reps. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and John Fleming, R-Minden, have announced bids for Vitter's seat, as has retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness. Treasurer John Kennedy and public service commissioner Scott Angelle are also considering runs.

But it is New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, a Democrat, whose decision not to run appeared to most invigorate Cao.

"This will work to my advantage as the votes in New Orleans, the district that I represented, will gravitate towards me, as well as the votes of independents, center-right Republicans and center-left Democrats," Cao wrote. "In a race this big and this important, it will boil down to money, and I ask that you all help me raise the money that I need to win this race."
He's dreaming.  Those of you who remember Cao's congressional career might not be surprised. He's a bit of a flake. 
Cao estimated he needs $2 million to make it to the primary.
Ha ha.. Okay he's crazy.

Anyway since Cao mentions Mitch Landrieu's decision to sit out the Senate race, I thought I'd mention a strange bit of news I heard today.  Seems there's a telephone poll going around gauging how people might feel about a charter change allowing Mitch to run for a third term.  I realize it's almost a tradition now for successful two term mayors to test the waters here. Both Morials tried it and failed. But it surprises me to hear Mitch might be thinking about it.  Does anyone know anything more about this?

Making history

USA vs China at the Superdome

32,950 announced attendance tonight at the Superdome to see the World Cup Champion US Women's National Soccer Team play an exhibition game vs. China. That's a Louisiana record for a women's soccer game.  Heck, that's like a whole season's worth of attendance for Tulane football if they're lucky. 

The draw for fans was not only a chance to get in on the World Cup "Victory Tour" but also to see all time career goals leader Abby Wambach play in her final international game.
It was her 255th appearance for the national team. Her most promising chance to score — a quick toe-poke from about 12 yards out in the first half — dribbled weakly to the goalkeeper, and she finished her national team career with 184 goals, the record in international play for both women and men.

All night the stands gushed with cheers and affection for Wambach, who played in four World Cups (winning one) and captured two Olympic gold medals. In 2012, she was named the FIFA World Player of the Year.

“She will be irreplaceable,” Coach Jill Ellis said.
Unfortunately for the record crowd, the US team lost 1-0.  A late apparent goal would have equalized the score but was negated by an offsides call that we sure didn't see from where we were sitting.  And yet, even this outcome was an historic occasion in and of itself
Before losing to China on Wednesday, the U.S. — who won the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada this summer — had not lost in 104 matches on home soil, winning 91 and drawing the rest.
And it happened in our stadium.  I blame Bronze Tom.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why Trump

Since it's Tuesday Night Debateball tonight, I thought I'd share a few items that may help answer the question, "Why Trump?" while that question is still our national obsession. Trump won't be the Republican nominee. But that doesn't his campaign has been irrelevant.  Far from it, in fact. In Trumpmania 2015, we can already see the contours of the 2016 election taking shape. It isn't going to be a pretty picture.  Anyway, here are some links and things.

First, is this NJ article from back in October by John Judis. Judis refers us to Donald Warren's The Rad­ic­al Cen­ter: Middle Amer­ic­ans and the Polit­ics of Ali­en­a­tion to explain what we might today describe as the angst of white middle class victimhood.
While con­duct­ing ex­tens­ive sur­veys of white voters in 1971 and again in 1975, War­ren iden­ti­fied a group who de­fied the usu­al par­tis­an and ideo­lo­gic­al di­vi­sions. These voters were not col­lege edu­cated; their in­come fell some­where in the middle or lower-middle range; and they primar­ily held skilled and semi-skilled blue-col­lar jobs or sales and cler­ic­al white-col­lar jobs. At the time, they made up about a quarter of the elect­or­ate. What dis­tin­guished them was their ideo­logy: It was neither con­ven­tion­ally lib­er­al nor con­ven­tion­ally con­ser­vat­ive, but in­stead re­volved around an in­tense con­vic­tion that the middle class was un­der siege from above and be­low.

War­ren called these voters Middle Amer­ic­an Rad­ic­als, or MARS. “MARS are dis­tinct in the depth of their feel­ing that the middle class has been ser­i­ously neg­lected,” War­ren wrote. They saw “gov­ern­ment as fa­vor­ing both the rich and the poor sim­ul­tan­eously.” Like many on the left, MARS were deeply sus­pi­cious of big busi­ness: Com­pared with the oth­er groups he sur­veyed—lower-in­come whites, middle-in­come whites who went to col­lege, and what War­ren called “af­flu­ents”—MARS were the most likely to be­lieve that cor­por­a­tions had “too much power,” “don’t pay at­ten­tion,” and were “too big.” MARS also backed many lib­er­al pro­grams: By a large per­cent­age, they favored gov­ern­ment guar­an­tee­ing jobs to every­one; and they sup­por­ted price con­trols, Medi­care, some kind of na­tion­al health in­sur­ance, fed­er­al aid to edu­ca­tion, and So­cial Se­cur­ity.

On the oth­er hand, they held very con­ser­vat­ive po­s­i­tions on poverty and race. They were the least likely to agree that whites had any re­spons­ib­il­ity “to make up for wrongs done to blacks in the past,” they were the most crit­ic­al of wel­fare agen­cies, they re­jec­ted ra­cial bus­ing, and they wanted to grant po­lice a “heav­ier hand” to “con­trol crime.” They were also the group most dis­trust­ful of the na­tion­al gov­ern­ment. And in a stand that wasn’t really lib­er­al or con­ser­vat­ive (and that ap­peared, at least on the sur­face, to be in ten­sion with their dis­like of the na­tion­al gov­ern­ment), MARS were more likely than any oth­er group to fa­vor strong lead­er­ship in Wash­ing­ton—to ad­voc­ate for a situ­ation “when one per­son is in charge.”

And so Judis goes on to explain that this year's Trumpmania fits well within the context of an established American political tradition.
AMER­IC­AN POP­U­LISTS have long con­foun­ded the di­vi­sion between left and right. Left pop­u­lists like Wil­li­am Jen­nings Bry­an and Huey Long sought to cham­pi­on “the people” against Wall Street or big busi­ness; right pop­u­lists like Pitch­fork Ben Till­man and Ger­ald L. K. Smith at­tacked wealthy elites but fo­cused their ire equally—or more so—on minor­it­ies and im­mig­rants. Yet all these pop­u­lists had something in com­mon: They saw them­selves as de­fend­ing the middle class against its en­emies.
And the American middle class is now more threatened than it has been in a very long time.  You may have seen this reported last week.
The nation's middle class, long a pillar of the U.S. economy and foundation of the American dream, has shrunk to the point where it no longer constitutes the majority of the adult population, according to a new major study.

The Pew Research Center report released Wednesday put in sharp relief the nation's increasing income divide, which is certain to be a central issue in the 2016 presidential race. It also highlights how various economic and demographic forces have eroded long-held ideals about maintaining a strong, majority middle class.

Many analysts and policymakers regard the shift as worrisome for economic and social stability. Middle-income households have been the bedrock of consumer spending, and many liberals in particular view the declining middle as part of a troubling trend of skewed income gains among the nation's richest families.

Median-income voters, particularly non-college-educated men, are also at the core of billionaire Donald Trump's surprising surge in the Republican presidential campaign. His supporters' sense that their once-secure middle-class standing is in danger of slipping appears to be fueling much of the anger against the government and immigrant groups.

Here's a TPM feature article published this week by economist Jared Bernstein looking at the decades-long trend toward greater economic inequality. 
Political scientists have unearthed a toxic interaction between concentrated wealth and the unique extent to which money influences American politics. Comparisons of Americans’ expressed policy preferences with politicians’ voting records and eventual policy outcomes find that government is largely unresponsive to the opinions of low-income citizens yet highly responsive to those of wealthy constituents. While this dynamic has surely long been operative in American politics, increasing wealth concentration appears to be making this divide even more pronounced.

Interestingly, in the current election cycle, establishment Republican candidates have themselves arguably been hurt by these dynamics. To their credit, these candidates acknowledge the inequality trends documented above—it would, at this point, be hard not to—but so far, their prescriptions, as predicted by the political science findings just noted, have been those desired by the wealthy: tax cuts that lavish billions on the wealthiest households, deregulation of industry, and attacks on social insurance programs that serve as somewhat of a bulwark for the poor and middle class against the impact of market-driven inequalities. Beset by the negative impacts of inequality, many Republican constituents are rejecting these establishment candidates in favor of outsiders with more populist messages.

Now would be a good time to remind everyone of the Trump campaign's theme song.

So, why Trump? Or, more specifically, why is all the attention and energy of the 2016 Presidential campaign focused on the right wing populist rather than the left wing populist? (Yes, there is one. Did you forget?)  To answer that question we have to first understand that the emerging political crisis is as much a failure of the Democratic Party establishment as it is of the Republican establishment.

While the Republicans are having trouble keeping their own pitchfork carriers at bay, the Democrats have once again seem certain to successfully marginalize theirs. And the reason for this is American politics just doesn't do left wing populism very well anymore.  Here is a bit from the introduction to David Graeber's recently published The Utopia Of Rules.  Graeber argues that what passes for a left of center argument in our vernacular is necessarily a self-defeating absurdity.

Political catastrophe

Fewer Democrats are more steeped in this brand of  "least appealing possible" politics than Mayor Mitch Landrieu.  Last week, Mitch made certain to include himself among the many national and international tools of the political establishment issuing a coordinated condemnation of Trump. Ostensibly this came about in response to Trump's indefensible proposal (pretty much all Trump proposals are indefensible) to ban all Muslims from entering the country. But really this should be viewed as a convulsion of a political establishment still searching for a way to respond to the Trump phenomenon.   Obviously this online petition of theirs didn't work.  Trump continues to draw support, not so much because of the things he says, but because of how many respectable insiders he pisses off in the process.

There is one thing Mitch and Trump do have in common, though. They both understand that it doesn't even matter if you believe any of the crap that comes out of your mouth. It only matters that you connect with an audience and sell them what they like.

Josh Marshall has a pretty good handle on Trump in that regard.
Trump's genius — and I don't use that word loosely — is that he is an intuitive. He can feel the public mood in ways that none of these others can. I don't think Trump began his campaign with really any of this. "Mexicans" were his thing. But even that was I think largely shtick. Terrorism and Muslim-hating wasn't his thing. But like a gifted jazz musician, he can pick up the rhythms of whatever group he's sitting in with, adapt, improvise and take them further. Yes, he's almost a Coltrane of hate and incitement. But it's not about Trump. It's about his supporters. A big chunk of the Republican base is awash in racism and xenophobic hysteria. And this is the food that they feed on every day. It's a societal sickness and we can't ignore it.

Donald Trump will not be the Republican nominee.  But after he's gone his supporters, this "Radical Middle" will remain energized. Their anger will continue to be the dominant factor in the election.  And, since the Democrats are certain to nominate Hillary, we can all rest assured that the Trumpist anger will invigorate whichever less flamboyant but equally hard line Republican ends up winning the nomination.

Meanwhile, the establishment is already gravitating toward  its preferred candidate.

Given their astonishing success at containing the Trumpist revolution thus far, we can't wait to see how that works out for them.

Charles Boustany's moral compass

On Monday, Rep. Charles Boustany made his long expected official announcement that he is running for David Vitter's soon-to-be vacant Senate seat in 2016.
At Monday’s announcement, Boustany touted his efforts to fight “Obamacare,” protect the domestic seafood industry from cheap foreign imports, secure local clinics for veterans and protect the oil and gas industry from new taxes.

He spoke of the need to fix the nation’s health care system, reform welfare and rewrite the tax code, describing himself as “a conservative problem solver” who can help restore the nation’s “moral compass.”
Regarding that "protect the seafood industry" thing, you may have noticed today reports like this one about what's keeping those foreign imports so cheap. 
SAMUT SAKHON, Thailand (AP) — An Associated Press investigation found enslaved migrant workers and children ripping the heads, tails, shells and guts off shrimp at processing factories in Thailand.

AP journalists followed and filmed trucks loaded with freshly peeled shrimp going from one peeling shed to major Thai exporting companies. Then, using U.S. customs records and Thai industry reports, they tracked it globally. They also traced similar connections from another factory raided six months earlier, and interviewed more than two dozen workers from both sites.

U.S. customs records show the farmed shrimp made its way into the supply chains of major U.S. food stores and retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Target, Dollar General and Petco, along with restaurants such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden. AP reporters in all 50 states went shopping and found related brands in more than 150 stores across America.
So you can see why a Senator out to "restore the nation's moral compass" might be keen to, at the very least, protect domestic seafood production from slave-based competition.  Boustany has some funny ideas about how he might go about doing that, though.  He elaborated on them a bit earlier this year in a T-P op ed.
Today, there is a statutory cap on the number of visas issued per fiscal year – 33,000 from October to March, and 33,000 from April to September. As the economy slowly improves, the need for these visas is increasing and surpassing the number available. Unfortunately, between onerous new rules promulgated jointly by Homeland Security and the Department of Labor and what appears to be manipulation of the process employers must complete to attract these workers, the program is in chaos. This year, the cap was opened for applications on April 1, and all 33,000 visas were spoken for within a few days.  Amazingly, my friend Frank told me that he's resorted to bailing prisoners out of jail to do the backbreaking work of processing Louisiana seafood.
Boustany is pleading on behalf of "my friend Frank" whose seafood plant needs access to more guestworkers like these.   
Each year, more than 100,000 people from countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines, and South Africa come to America on what is known as an H-2 visa to perform all kinds of menial labor across a wide spectrum of industries: cleaning rooms at luxury resorts and national parks, picking fruit, cutting lawns and manicuring golf courses, setting up carnival rides, trimming and planting trees, herding sheep, or, in the case of Valdez, Gonzalez, and about 20 other Mexican women in 2011, peeling crawfish at L.T. West Inc.

A BuzzFeed News investigation — based on government databases and investigative files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, thousands of court documents, as well as more than 80 interviews with workers and employers — shows that the program condemns thousands of employees each year to exploitation and mistreatment, often in plain view of government officials charged with protecting them. All across America, H-2 guest workers complain that they have been cheated out of their wages, threatened with guns, beaten, raped, starved, and imprisoned. Some have even died on the job. Yet employers rarely face any significant consequences.

Many of those employers have since been approved to bring in more guest workers. Some have even been rewarded with lucrative government contracts. Almost none have ever been charged with a crime.
So Boustany's "moral compass" directs him to help his friends compete with overseas slavers by helping them to hire slaves of their own.  Curious.