Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Gentrification is a policy choice

Stacy Head says there is a "constant drumbeat" to turn your neighborhood over to tourists. She seems like she means that in a good way.  Mayor Landrieu wants to turn more of the housing stock near you over to short term rentals. (The Planning Commision takes up a related issue this week that may be a barometer as to their willingness to comply with the mayor.)

Meanwhile, nobody who actually lives here can actually afford to live here. This week's Gambit points us to a recent report from the National Low Income Housing Association which says that, in order to afford a "fair market" 2 bedroom rental in Orleans Parish, a renter would need a household income of $38,520.  The same report estimates the median income for renters in New Orleans at $24,773.  So there's not a lot of money flying around the local economy for ordinary middle or working class people. But the rents are still going higher and higher.  That seems weird.

Also, real sstate sales are still hot.

Why is that

Monday, May 30, 2016

What Confederate monuments actually do

Rather than preserving history, most of the Confederate monuments you see in New Orleans and in other cities throughout the south popped up during the Jim Crow era. At that time they were part of a deliberate attempt by white supremacists  to suppress rather than preserve history. We've been having a heated argument about this in New Orleans for a year now.

Anyway, Happy Memorial Day.
During the spring of 1865, African-Americans in Charleston, South Carolina—most of them former slaves—held a series of memorials and rituals to honor unnamed fallen Union soldiers and boldly celebrate the struggle against slavery. One of the largest such events took place on May first of that year but had been largely forgotten until David Blight, a history professor at Yale University, found records at a Harvard archive. In a New York Times article published in 2011, Blight described the scene. While it is difficult to pinpoint the precise birthplace of the holiday, it is fair to say that ceremonies like the following are largely erased from the American narrative of Memorial Day.
During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the city’s Washington Race Course and Jockey Club into an outdoor prison. Union captives were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand.

After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston black workmen went to the site, reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

The symbolic power of this Low Country planter aristocracy’s bastion was not lost on the freedpeople, who then, in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged a parade of 10,000 on the track. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event, describing “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before.”

The procession was led by 3,000 black schoolchildren carrying armloads of roses and singing the Union marching song “John Brown’s Body.” Several hundred black women followed with baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses. Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantrymen. Within the cemetery enclosure a black children’s choir sang “We’ll Rally Around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner” and spirituals before a series of black ministers read from the Bible.

After the dedication the crowd dispersed into the infield and did what many of us do on Memorial Day: enjoyed picnics, listened to speeches and watched soldiers drill. Among the full brigade of Union infantrymen participating were the famous 54th Massachusetts and the 34th and 104th United States Colored Troops, who performed a special double-columned march around the gravesite.
This story of Memorial Day, also reported by Victoria M. Massie of Vox, was not merely excluded from the history books but appears to have been actively suppressed. The park where the race course prison camp once stood was eventually named Hampton Park after the Confederate General Wade Hampton who became South Carolina’s governor following the civil war.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Let's play two

John Bel is going to call the legislature into special session half an hour after the regular session ends on June 6. Maybe this will be when they finally get the heavy lifting done.
Among the largest revenue-generating items Edwards has included in his call are efforts to change the state’s personal and corporate income tax brackets and limit the itemized deductions from state income taxes that people can claim in excess of their federal tax deductions. Limiting those deductions would make middle- and upper-income taxpayers pay more. Shifting tax brackets also would mean that some people would pay more in taxes.
On the other hand, thetc do-nothing spirit is strong with this group and will probably continue. As much as they might like to fund TOPS the Republicans probably have more to gain politically by making Edwards look like a failure. I saw a rumor yesterday   that Jeff Landry is already polling his chances for Governor in 2019. Wouldn't doubt it.

"between 30 and 60 seconds"

Not saying Felton doesn't have a legitimate complaint about deployment and manpower but this seems superhuman.
Within eight minutes of the time the fire was spotted, McConnell said, the Fire Department had 21 personnel on the scene. He said national standards call for having 10 to 15 people on a fire scene within eight minutes.

“Five minutes is not a bad response time — compared to what?” Felton shot back. “We are centrally located around the city to ideally get on the scene somewhere between 30 seconds and 60 seconds, if at all possible. The longer it takes us to get there, the worse things get.”

Gentrification is a deliberate policy choice

And so called inclusionary zoning is a tool of that scam
Gentrification in Harlem might well be likened to the progress of the British Raj, where the most that “civilizing” interlopers could muster was a patronizing interest in token elements of local culture. Thus: Yes to the hip Afro-fusion restaurant, but complaints to 311 over Sundae Sermon dances, barbecues and ball games in parks or church choir rehearsals.

These are people who, in saying “I don’t see color,” treat the neighborhood like a blank slate. They have no idea how insulting they are being, denying us our heritage and our stake in Harlem’s future. And, far from government intervention to keep us in our homes, houses of worship and schools, to protect buildings emblematic of black history, we see policies like destructive zoning, with false “trickle down” affordability, changes that incentivize yet more gentrification, sure to transfigure our Harlem forever.

Friday, May 27, 2016

How will we all die under President Trump?

The choices right now are

1) Superbug
(CNN)Superbugs could kill one person every three seconds by 2050, the equivalent of 10 million people a year, according to the final report last week from the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, established in 2014 to keep the world from being "cast back into the dark ages of medicine." 

The authors highlight the increasing burden of resistance and call for greater awareness of the problem, including the need for public campaigns beginning as soon as this summer.
2) Loose nukes
The term "wake-up call" is a tired cliché, but it is appropriate in the case of Command and Control, the frightening new exposé of America's nuclear weapons mishaps by Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser. (Click here to read an excerpt and my detailed review.) In short, Schlosser delivers a book full of revelations that left me agape. While we still worry in the abstract about Iran and North Korea and Pakistan, it's easy to forget that we still have thousands of our own ungodly devices on hair-trigger alert at this very moment. And even if we never drop or launch another nuke on purpose, these weapons are, in his words, "the most dangerous machines ever invented. And like every machine, sometimes they go wrong."

That's what the book is about. Through hard-fought documents and deep digging and extensive interviews, Schlosser reveals how close we've come, on numerous occasions, to a domestic nuclear detonation or an accidental war in which there are only losers. Command and Control will leave many readers with a deep unease about America's ability to handle our nukes safely. Schlosser's hope is that this unease will beget a long-neglected debate about "why we have them and when we use them and how many we need." But his book is no screed. He delivers an engrossing page-turner. Would that it were fiction.
That interview with Schlosser is from 2013. But since we're talking about Hiroshima today, it's worth a look.

3)  Robot uprising
One factory has "reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots", a government official told the South China Morning Post.

Xu Yulian, head of publicity for the Kunshan region, added: "More companies are likely to follow suit."

China is investing heavily in a robot workforce.

In a statement to the BBC, Foxconn Technology Group confirmed that it was automating "many of the manufacturing tasks associated with our operations" but denied that it meant long-term job losses.
 4) Trump Drunkeness
In his speech at an energy conference, Trump called for cutting regulations and for building the Keystone XL pipeline, which the Obama administration has blocked.

"I'm drunk on Trump," proclaimed John Olson, a North Dakota unbound delegate and attorney representing oil, natural gas and coal companies.
It's probably that one.

Who will be the next Governor of the week?

NOLA.com is all over my case lately. Here they are stealing my lame-ass gag, even.
Attorney General Jeff Landry seems to be confused about which elected official is the top executive for the state of Louisiana. It's not him.

Perhaps he will get that message after Wednesday's (May 25) Senate Finance Committee meeting, where senators rejected his effort to grab budget control from the governor.

 "I just think the AG's budget is too interconnected to the rest of the state budget," said Sen. Jim Fannin, a Republican from Jonesboro, who previously headed the House Appropriations Committee and is an expert on the budget. "You've got to operate with one person at the top handling all the money."
Wake me up when we get to Governor Abramson. 

"I did a damn good job and got fired for it"

We are going to miss having Rob Ryan around. Who even knows if anything he says makes any sense. But boy is it ever wacky and fun.  You're going to see this MMQB article blasted all over your internets today. Expect to hear a lot of people blasting Rob for "making excuses" or whatever. Here's where he does that.
VRENTAS: Were you forced to run a different system?
ROB: No, I’m not going to say I was “forced.” I advanced the plan to the best of my ability. All of a sudden, we let some good players go; we changed the system after we finished fourth in the league in defense. I don’t know, it just seems strange to me. But I have a lot to prove, and I’m going to prove it. And that’s why I came to Buffalo, to be “all in,” right here. People can throw stones, but we will be throwing them back at them. They better be watching out.

VRENTAS: If you weren’t running your defensive system the past two seasons in New Orleans, what were you running?

ROB: Everyone wants to run Seattle’s defense. They should have hired a Seattle coach. I did the best job I could. Under the circumstances, trust me, I did the best job I could. I’ll be better anywhere else. (Pause). I’ll be great anywhere else. But it was unfortunate.
You might remember when Ryan arrived in New Orleans he had a lot to say about how unfair things had been to him in Dallas previously. So he talks like this a lot. At the same time, some of this rings sort of true. 
VRENTAS: After you placed fourth in the NFL in defense in 2013, you are saying there was a decision to change the philosophy. Where did that come from?

ROB: I am not real sure. Maybe a respect for Pete Carroll or something by upper management. And the Seahawks have done a fantastic job in their system. They believe in it. I believe in being a multiple defense, an attacking defense, a physical defense. That’s no slight on Seattle by any stretch. They are a very physical defense; they play a very simple scheme and let their guys play. But I don’t think that’s why you hire a Ryan. I think you hire a Ryan to get the best out of your players and put an enormous amount of pressure on an opposing team. We are going to do that mentally and physically. You lose half the game when you take it off mentally. It is better when you are more multiple. That’s what I believe in. That doesn’t make it right, but that’s what I believe in, and some of the great coaches in this league have done that, too. Seattle has been great, but all the other teams doing [that scheme] are finishing sh--ty like I did. Right there next to New Orleans is Atlanta, Jacksonville. That’s not sour grapes. That’s me getting pissed off. Because I am great.

VRENTAS: Who made the decision to run a version of Seattle’s defense?

ROB: I think everything starts with the head coach and goes higher than that. They signed players; they signed a free-agent free safety [Jairus Byrd in 2014], and said, we are going to keep him in the middle of the field like the goalpost. Well, that’s great. He’s not going to make one play back there, and now we have changed the entire defense for one signing, and it ruined us. He’s a great kid. But the truth of the matter is, you let an All-Pro safety walk, Malcolm Jenkins, and lost your two best leaders on the team, him and Roman Harper. We changed the entire style of play. It was strange. But hey, I did the best job I could. And it wasn’t good enough. They should have fired me. They probably should have fired everybody that made that decision to go in that direction. Now I’m going to move my whole family over here to Buffalo for a reason: to go kick everybody’s ass, including theirs.
Remember when the Saints hired Ryan, Sean Payton had spent a lot of time talking about how he wanted to change to more of a 3-4 type scheme. But by that second year... and after the Byrd signing.. it was pretty clear they had decided to do what Ryan is describing there.  Except for that one year when Ryan was allowed to do what he wanted and the brief, uncomfortable period where Payton stayed out of Gregg Williams' way, the Saints have been atrocious on defense under Sean. Maybe it really is all his fault. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Nobody cares what's in the platform

Of course it's a good idea to do whatever one can to move the party away from blind fealty to hyper-militant Israel. But I hesitate to use even the word, symbolic, here to describe the actual significance of this.
The presence of Dr. Zogby and Dr. West on the 15-member panel, which also has six appointees of Hillary Clinton and four from the party chairwoman, does not guarantee their views will prevail. But it raises the prospect that one of the party’s most sensitive issues will be open to public debate while Mrs. Clinton is in a fight to unify her party and appeal to voters turned off by Donald J. Trump.

It also laid bare a steady shift in the Democratic Party, whose members have been less willing to back Israel’s government than in years past. According to a Pew Research Center survey in April, self-described liberal Democrats were twice as likely to sympathize with Palestinians over Israel than they were only two years ago. Forty percent of liberals sympathized more with Palestinians, the most since 2001, while 33 percent sympathized more with Israel.
At the end of the day, though. Nobody cares what the platform says or who was on the committee. The actual candidate for President is Hillary Clinton. And we know where she stands

Who Trumped?

My guess is whoever smelt it...
While waiting for Trump in the windowless conference room under bleachers in an arena, several delegates jokingly bickered over which one was the 1237th before Trump made his entrance.

Having it both ways

The Lusher Charter School board could have just accepted the results of a petition drive with the support of 60 percent of its teachers and chosen to recognize them a bargaining unit. Instead, they opted to force an NLRB administered election.

Some of you may recall that way back in 2009, some of us were pushing for the Employee Free Choice Act. This legislation would have, among other things, ended the unfair advantage held my management in setting the terms under which a union is formed. You can read more about that here. But President Obama and the Democrats who held large majorities in congress at the time sold out labor yet again and failed to advance EFCA. And so here we are.

Which is why the Lusher board was able to declare itself "neutral" and state that it would not countenance administrative coercion of teachers while simultaneously ensuring that such coercion would inevitably occur. Which it did.
The National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from interfering with their employees' right to unionize. That includes limiting the extent to which employers may coerce workers or poll them on how they plan to vote.

But six members of the United Teachers of Lusher spread fistfuls of anti-union letters and postcards onto a coffee house table Saturday. Some came to their homes; they have received emails and calls at their personal addresses and numbers as well, they said.

One letter was signed by the organization's six top leaders, including Riedlinger and all three principals. Several came from the director of a competing, dues-based teacher support group. Some were anonymous, giving the return address of a mailbox and shipping center on Magazine Street, but spoke of "our" community and school, using Lusher's colors, logo and school principles.

The pressure came in person as well, said high school teachers Terry Marek, Beth Rota, Julie Sanders and Jerome White, and second-grade teachers Gigi Boesch and Bonnie Bowler. They said Riedlinger had pulled teachers into her office and asked them to vote no. Administrators stood up at faculty meetings and said they personally felt a union would be bad for Lusher, they said.

It's hard to go against what your boss says, Rota said: "It's intimidating, it's not comfortable and it's not fair."
The Lusher board and administration took full advantage of an NLRB process they knew would be weighted in their favor.  And then today they're turning around and saying the whole thing is illegitimate anyway. Just in case anybody gets any ideas about complaining.

In an effort to stave off any future attempts by teachers to unionize, Lusher Charter School administrators on Tuesday fired off an appeal of a recent ruling that the National Labor Relations Board has the right to oversee union elections at the Uptown school.
Meanwhile, an effort by International High School of New Orleans teachers to unionize has been decried by leaders at that school, who also have questioned the federal agency’s jurisdiction and have criticized the union in emails to teachers.

Lusher attorneys on Tuesday filed a request for review with the national office of the National Labor Relations Board, challenging a regional director’s decision that the agency has the right to oversee union elections at the school.

International High, which also was found to be under the agency’s jurisdiction, has not yet decided whether to file its own appeal.

The dogged resistance to union organizing showcases the divide between unions and charter schools in New Orleans. Only two charters in the city — Benjamin Franklin High School and Morris Jeff Community School — have approved teachers unions thus far.
This issue isn't going away. It's only going to become more important as the state run Recovery School District turns oversight of local charters back over to the Orleans Parish School Board.  By the way, do we know who is running for OSPB seats this year, yet?

Hard to pick out the best quote

The Gusman hearing is full of fun testimony. "They just have no clue" what they're doing. Mental health support is "abysmal."  A lot of people are refusing to pull a lot of punches. But, probably the most telling comment comes from the judge.  
Africk, who has presided over the jail litigation for four years, has been reluctant to micromanage Gusman or intervene in the sheriff’s funding battle with Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration. But he made clear Wednesday that he is entertaining the government’s request that he sideline Gusman.

I’m not waiting around another five years” for change, the judge told one of the sheriff’s attorneys during one spirited exchange.
Something has to happen.  The conditions at the jail are deplorable and everyone knows it. This doesn't mean there aren't reasons to be skeptical of a motion to remove a citywide elected official my judicial fiat. Gusman has a legitimate point there. His jail sucks but he does have a point about that.
It's also worth noting that the mayor has more to gain in purely cynical political terms from this action and that his comments aren't necessarily motivated by concern for the inmates either. 

Everybody is a hack

Look, if you've intentionally created a "personal brand" and specifically sought to monetize your public self in order that a media company can continue to sell ads, you have ceded moral authority when it comes to criticism of that company's product. In other words, if you're getting a check for it, it's probably not a holy vocation of any sort.

I mean, I know the pay is shitty, but accepting it is tacitly a statement of personal compromise. It also means your product - and under the "personal branding" paradigm that means your actual person is the product - is sold off to the company and marketed for public consumption.  And the public reads and reacts to that. That's the whole point.  You don't get to shout back down and shame the public for reacting. You're the ones who sold out in the first place.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Congratulations, Governor Landry

A few weeks back the Louisiana House attempted a minor coup. (They seem to do this a lot.) I'm not sure they've picked the ideal figurehead, though.
The Louisiana House Appropriations Committee voted 17-6 Monday (May 9) for a proposal that would give Attorney General Jeff Landry power over his own budget -- taking that oversight away from Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The measure passed on a mostly partisan vote. It still has to go to the House floor -- and then the state Senate -- for approval.

"We don't support the bill," Edwards said at a press appearance in Baton Rouge Monday. "I don't think it will become law."
Landry also would have been granted extraordinary powers to enforce the absurd "sanctuary cities" bill that just went down in flames this week.

Nonetheless,  Governor Landry is proceding just as though the coup had gone according to plan.
Attorney General Jeff Landry believes that Gov. John Bel Edwards' executive order protecting LGBT state workers and government contractors from discrimination cannot be legally enforced.

"The order has no binding legal effect," reads the eight-page opinion issued Wednesday (May 25) by Landry's office. "The Governor's constitutionally valid function is to see that the laws are faithfully executed and enforced, not to make any of the laws." 

The opinion doesn't do much on its own. Landry can't declare Edwards' executive order null and void simply by releasing his opinion. But it could be used as the basis for a lawsuit to challenge the legality of the protections Edwards extended to the LGBT community.
I already miss Governor Kennedy.

Nobody actually lives there

Airbnbed in Reykjavik
When Nicholas Herring’s landlord informed him that he was being evicted so that his apartment could be converted into a full-time Airbnb rental, he was distressed but unsurprised. This is the way of things in Reykjavik now. Herring’s story is not uncommon.

If you want an apartment for the weekend in Iceland’s capital, a small city of 122,460 people, Airbnb offers thousands of options. If you want an apartment to live in year-round, though, those options evaporate. In a recent search, the city’s only apartment rental website, leigulistinn.is, listed just nine apartments for rent in downtown Reykjavik. There were 22 in the entire city.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Congratulations! We didn't do it!

Not that there was ever really any shot but a lot of us are nonetheless relieved this afternoon
Charlotte, N.C. -- The NFL regular season doesn't start for another four months but Atlanta already has won a big contest against league rival New Orleans.

The NFL awarded the 2019 Super Bowl to Atlanta on Tuesday in a hotly contested bid competition with New Orleans at the NFL owners' spring meeting at The Ballantyne Hotel.
Okay well Jeff Duncan seems to think this constitutes some sort of win for Atlanta. We, on the other hand, do not. For one thing, we're well aware of the NFL's policy of using the game as yet another tool to extort city and state governments to grant billionaire team owners new privileges and build them new stadiums. For another, we're also familiar enough with the massive burden hosting these events imposes on residents to.. well.. wish it on our worst enemy.

So, good luck, Atlanta. I think Drew Brees will be 40 years old by the time this game happens. If he's really gonna play until he's 45 (as he once suggested he might) maybe we'll win one of these games in your backyard.

Fixing that public benefit corporation shield law

The mayor's displeasure with one project almost led to a really short sighted law.  At least for now it looks like that law won't be quite as bad as it could have been.
The legislation, with a key amendment, is headed to the House floor for a final vote after being approved by the Committee on Civil Law and Procedure.

The original bill attempted to make it more difficult for a losing bidder by requiring the developer to post cash or security to file a lawsuit. The amount would have reached into the tens of millions of dollars for projects like the World Trade Center, which is owned by the New Orleans Building Corp. The requirement -- which would have applied to current and pending lawsuits -- was scratched under an amendment by Committee Chairman Raymond Garofalo.
Anyway, they're still going to court in October. There's a remote possibility that the judge will make them restart the bidding process. But then there's also a remote possibility a sinkhole could just swallow the whole building by then.

Still waiting on that toppling party

Remember way back in December when we were wondering if the monuments would come down before the New Year?  Yeah, well.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration has scrapped its request for bids on a contract to remove Confederate monuments from the city, citing a court order.

The bids were due to be opened Monday (May 23), but the city canceled the solicitation.

Landrieu's attempt to remove monuments to Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard has been put on hold since March 25 when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order saying the statues had to be kept in place while it considered a request by preservationists to block removal altogether.
So, you know, yay. We'll still have monuments to kick around for another summer. Which is fine by me (as long as we eventually get to take them down.) In the meantime, it's one of my favorite issues to watch people argue about.  Which is what they were doing last week when Tulane Hillel hosted a monuments edition of its public debate series. I'll let you go read Alex Woodward's account of the meeting but allow me to quote his concluding paragraph.
As futile as these meetings seem, and as intense as they get, misinformation aside, they're worth having. All the public meetings on the monuments — from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities to Tulane to the City Council Chambers — have attempted to find that common ground. Instead, at nearly every debate or hearing, someone mentions how "divided" the city has become under Landrieu's watch, specifically, that black New Orleanians are speaking against the monuments, in public. If this is the first time monument supporters are hearing the aftershocks of slavery and Jim Crow, they haven't been listening at all.
I agree that these meetings are worthwhile.  I'm less interested, though, in finding  "common ground" with racists so much as I am interested in seeing them display the full ugliness of their ignorance. It is an abundantly instructive exercise and this monuments issue has been excellent for it.

Alex also points out at the opening of this article that as the same day this meeting was convened, the Louisiana Legislature was passing an obnoxious law that says persons unfortunate enough to find themselves in conflict with police could be prosecuted for "hate crime." I wish someone at the Hillel event could have asked one of the monument defenders if this means the White League rioters the Liberty Monument celebrates committed a "hate crime" against the police they murdered that day. But oh well.

Today our ineffectual Governor confirmed that he plans to sign the monstrous Blue Lives Matter bill.  No doubt John Bel thinks this is the best way to find "common ground."  But that's the trap such rhetoric sets for us.  The only way to defeat racism and abuse is to overthrow it.  And as long as our political leaders are content to reward police for their violent licentious racism, there's no reason to seek "common ground" with them.

Why the Democratic Party won't change

This is a worthwhile op-ed by Louisiana AFL-CIO President Louis Reine railing against the soon to be ratified Trans Pacific Partnership.
Labeling the TPP a "trade deal" narrows the debate to a false "pro" versus "anti" trade frame. It allows supporters of corporate giveaways that masquerade as trade policies to declare inaccurately that unions on principle, regardless of what the provisions are, are opposed to trade. And it ignores the reality that corporate-driven trade has been used to try to permanently enshrine a whole host of harmful economic policies, virtually all of them "trickle down" — not just in the United States, but around the world.

But we have learned from decades of stalled wages that make it hard to do simple things like send kids to college or enjoy a family vacation: trickle down trade doesn't work any better than any other trickle down policy. The game is rigged. It enriches corporate CEOs and leaves hard-working families with crumbs, often struggling to pay for basic necessities.

That's why millions of Americans from all sides of the political spectrum oppose the TPP and are working hard to stop it in its tracks. Our focus this election year is rewriting the rules of our economy so that working families can live a decent life. Our economy can create broadly shared prosperity and rising wages, or it can continue to create spectacular wealth for the few at the top who write the rules to benefit themselves. The TPP is one more set of rules that the CEOs and Wall Street wrote to benefit themselves. If it becomes law, it will be an obstacle to a better, fairer economy for America and for the world.
Unfortunately, TPP is a fait-accompli.  The President is enthusiastic about it. Despite her equivocations during the heat of a campaign, the next President is also clearly supportive. It's easy to say the Democratic Party needs to change its neoliberal "free trade" outlook if it wants to continue to rely on the support of the people they habitually betray through trade policy.  But that's not true.  Not as long as AFL-CIO continues to "fall in line" behind Democratic candidates no matter what they do. Politics is mostly inertia. And we really can just go on like this forever as long as the important people continue making each other feel important.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Gotta make them come to you

I know we said this last week but here is Tyler Bridges in today's Advocate to drive the point home.
Edwards appears to have two cards to play to entice enough Republicans to support higher taxes.

One is that the budget approved by the House shorted the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students by $72 million — and fully funding TOPS appears to be an absolute must for House Republicans because the program mainly benefits middle- and upper-income taxpayers who want to keep the program.

The other card is one all governors play: agreeing to provide money for a road, a sewer system, a ballfield and the like to a legislator in exchange for a vote to raise taxes.
Maybe some day in the future we can have a discussion about how TOPS is not the ideal way to make college affordable and accessible to people. But, for now, it (sort of) does that and we would like to be able to fund it. And now we're more likely to get some help from House Republicans who also want it funded.

At least they say that's what they want anyway.  Earlier they were willing to close hospitals in order to do it. Now they don't have that option anymore. So, good job.

You can't solve the housing problem by just building more nice things for rich people

In addition to offering a supply side canard to developers and politicians who want to avoid the gentrification issue, it often also turns out to be part of a larger scam for parking money.
Half of every completed complex marking Miami’s skyline appears half-empty. At night you can count the dark vacancies, void of any patio furniture, electricity or life.
These units aren’t owned by snow-birds; they are owned but unoccupied.
Foreign investors, we were told, from Brazil and elsewhere. They viewed Miami as a legitimate and safe place to invest. While this might be true to an extent, the recent release of the Panama Papers confirms some things haven’t changed: Miami’s booming high-end real estate market is at least partially used to launder money and a majority of units purchased are through offshore shell companies that hide true ownership and serve as a legal way to evade taxes.
Yet developers keep building at a fast pace, rents continue to increase beyond any local’s affordability, all while small businesses close one after another.
We've talked about this before.  In fact the Treasury Department has already begun monitoring the real estate market in selected cities for just this sort of activity. 
Concerned about illicit money flowing into luxury real estate, the Treasury Department said Wednesday that it would begin identifying and tracking secret buyers of high-end properties.

The initiative will start in two of the nation’s major destinations for global wealth: Manhattan and Miami-Dade County. It will shine a light on the darkest corner of the real estate market: all-cash purchases made by shell companies that often shield purchasers’ identities.
New Orleans-if the press is to be believed- continues to take on more and more of the "luxury travel" character that made Miami a center of parked money condo development. Are we doing anything to keep from being exploited? Or are we actively seeking ways to encourage it?

A Trump in every town

Every city is getting its own now.

New Orleans businessman Sidney Torres told FOX 8 on Wednesday that a mayoral run may be in his future.

"I'm not ruling it out. I'm seriously considering it," Torres said during an interview about an upcoming show on the network.

Torres said several polls put him as one of the frontrunners for New Orleans mayor in 2018.

Torres started in real estate, then made millions with a trash business in the French Quarter. He has most recently gained national attention with his French Quarter Task Force crime app.
Real estate mogul with garish tastes and inherited wealth famous lately for capitalizing on people's paranoia about a supposed criminal element.  Sounds pretty familiar now. 
"I'd seriously consider it depending on who steps up to the plate," he said. "I think this city needs someone that's going to understand how to operate a business, how to deal with different departments, that doesn't have a lot of debt, that's well off, that cannot have to worry about money as their main goals, and trying to figure out how they structure deals, and how do they do deals with lobbyists and how they do certain things in the community and focus on helping the community and other people," Torres said. 
You know what we need is an independently wealthy guy who doesn't "have to worry about money" and will run the city like a business. Those always seem to be in season, don't they. 

The discourse

The easiest way to shut down dissent is to fixate on the "the discourse" as the real victim. Historically speaking, though, "the discourse" is almost always a stand-in for an oppressive establishment.
To maintain its potency, vulgarity should certainly be the exception rather than the rule. And there will always be Jacobin and its kin for the more genteel set. But there are certain people to whom one must be mean, certain circumstances in which one must be crude. A politically effective propriety means knowing when to use one’s manners, and when to tell an ostrich-themed dick joke.

And of course, vulgarity isn’t inherently subversive. Even when politicized its effects are often mild and mostly cathartic. When anonymous Twitter trolls deluge establishment journalists with bon mots like “I will eat your ass like McRib,” it may not be particularly revolutionary. But it is not at all unprecedented; it’s not even particularly shocking if you know a little history.

The left will always need its journals and polemic and academic writing, but there are times when it is both right and proper to terrify the bourgeoisie with your own feralness. Reclaiming vulgarity from the Trumps of the world is imperative because if we do not embrace the profane now and again, we will find ourselves handicapped by our own civility. Vulgarity is the language of the people, and so it should be among the grammars of the left, just as it has been historically, to wield righteously against the corrupt and the powerful. We cannot cede vulgarity to the vulgarians; collegial intellectuals will always be niche, but class war need not be.
 Furthermore, the hacks who fetishize "discourse" are well aware of what they are up to. Fuck them.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The time Monica Lewinsky saved America

NYT Magazine interview with Thomas Frank.
You mention in the book that the Clinton administration was discussing plans to partly privatize Social Security when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, which was news to me. Imagine putting a big piece of Social Security in the stock market in the late ’90s. You’d have millions of retirees who would have gotten hammered, because the Nasdaq collapsed. And then a couple of years later, there’s the collapse of the housing bubble, and then the financial crisis. I mean, I thank God every day for Social Security. And Franklin D. Roosevelt.
We're in for a mighty depressing future once the Clintons get a second crack at running thjngs. And that's the best case scenario now.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Beach town of the future

I'm as puzzled by this WWL-TV report as anyone.
Now, one developer has plans that could change that serene feeling. On YouTube you can find an animation of a project that a company called Gulfwater Properties presented to the city and Algiers residents back in February. Shortly after Eyewitness News inquired with the company about the project, the video was taken down.

Instead of quiet views of the city skyline, the project would offer a restaurant, seminar room, snack bar, raised deck, swimming pool and even a beach.
Yeah, a beach on the river makes zero sense now. But remember this is about the future, or something.
Others, like Wayne Munster said change is inevitable. "I think it's the future. Future’s so big that you're not going to be able to stop it."
Maybe they mean the future when the actual Gulf Of Mexico is located in Algiers because that is coming. But who knows? Again, we really have no idea what this is about since we're reading a report about a deleted YouTube video and some man-on-the-street reactions to it and no other context.

We do know that around this time last year, there were plans in the works for that strip of Algiers riverfront.  Here's how that discussion was going.

Landrieu informed the Algiers residents that New Orleans is the hottest real estate market in the country and that waterfront property in every city is considered prime real estate. As for height restrictions he says you can either have long, skinny buildings along the river where "no one can see anything" or you can have tall buildings (I suppose suggesting that these tall, skinny buildings are somehow less of a hindrance to viewing the river).

He then went on to break the bad news to the Pointers (Algiers) about "what's not going to happen". The residents of the Point were not going to be able to say "I gots mine and nobody else can have theirs"...essentially confirming their worst fears about what probably "is going to happen" regarding development plans for the batture.

Interesting he would frame it that way. Right now the batture is green space that everyone can share. The Mayor's logic seems to be that the residents of Algiers Point are selfish for wanting to keep sharing it that way.
Beach or no beach, it sure sounds like some publicly shared space is fixing to go "back into commerce" one way or another.

Good incrementalism and bad incrementalism

The Hillary wing of the Democratic Party is so far off the rails now, it's hard to even understand them anymore.  We hear a lot from them about how important it is to "work across the aisle" and get things done incrementally.  Obamacare is supposedly a good example of incremental change.  Sure, it's fundamentally bad policy. It's an insurance reform that technically extends (poor) coverage to more people but mostly it favors insurers and Big Pharma.  It's not single-payer, say the Hillary wingers. But it's the best we could have gotten until.. someday*

The New Deal, on the other hand, is apparently bad incrementalism now
Covert’s beef is that to get the votes of racist Southern congressmen, FDR had to craft his programs to exclude black workers. This is both true and awful, though it’s not clear how they would have gotten through Congress otherwise.

But instead of saying that the New Deal was a good partial model, something that should be built upon — probably the only period in American history when a sense of the collective, and not competitive individualism, dominated our political thought — she emphasizes only the exclusions, and identifies them as the source of the nostalgias that Donald Trump, not previously known as a friend of social programs, has been basing his campaign on.

Neither Bouie’s tweet nor Covert’s op-ed makes any sense unless they’re trying to discredit an ambitious social agenda. That is precisely what the Hillary Democrats are doing to fight off the persistent Sanders threat that just won’t go away. (That despite the fact that, as Gallup recently reported, a majority of Americans support a single-payer system. The least popular option is Hillary’s position, keeping Obamacare largely as is.)
I have no idea what these people actually believe in besides keeping their own donors happy.

*Spoiler: Someday is actually "never ever"

Friday, May 20, 2016

We were washed clean

Yeah I know it's not worth reacting to every stupid NOLA travel piece that comes around anymore. There are so many now it's hardly worth bothering to keep up. An especially vapid one from Vogue got passed around this week. Go find it if you're really desperate. 

This isn't to say they don't do harm. They do. They promote New Orleans as a luxury for and by moneyed assholes. And the frequency at which these advertisements are produced only reinforces that notion. That has real life consequences for us poors living here now in terms of things like the cost of food and housing, and public services. It also affects our general relevance in local politics as our civic leaders tend to prize the needs and opinions of visitors over our own.  

And, of course, they like to be flattered by the narrative many of these pieces are still propagating about how Katrina saved us from "corruption."
Given the new demographics—and the fact that Katrina managed to blow apart such entrenched institutions as a corrupt city hall and an outdated levee board—the pre-Katrina culinary scene now seems insular and narrow. 
Aren't we all grateful for that.

Ken Havard is somewhat portly

No fatties, though. Amirite, Ken?
State Rep. Kenny Havard said Thursday he won’t apologize over his “joke” legislation that sought to ban exotic dancers from being overweight or older than 28 years.

He took a firm stand on Thursday, despite numerous demands he apologize, blaming the firestorm his comments created on the delicate sensibilities of a nation that he said is overly concerned with being politically correct.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever apologize for being politically incorrect. It’s just not in my nature,” Havard said in an afternoon press conference. “Political correctness, in my opinion has ruined the country, and it looks like it’s ruining the state now.”
Okay but the "politically correct" bill he was taking a stand against was meant as a response to growing concerns about a human trafficking problem.  Some have argued that this age restriction isn't the most effective remedy for that, but Havard voted for the bill anyway.

So what was his point? Trolling, basically. There's a sub-genre of right wing humor predicated on the notion that freedom is advanced by saying things that might offend the delicate sensibilities of a conservative's mental caricature of a liberal.  A lot of Donald Trump's schtick is rooted in this.

Which is why the absolute worst way to react to it is by, well, actually getting offended the way Grace does here.  There's no use in that. It's what Trumpites want in the first place. By stopping to 'splain how rude their shock jock behavior is, you're just confirming its premise.

Far better to just give it right back to them.  Donald Trump has tiny hands.  Ken Havard is maybe not one to talk about people's proscribed weight. I mean I looked at his House bio page and didn't see text listing his weight and age. Maybe we should pass an amendment.  But I did see this.

I didn't know what this guy looked like before this happened but somehow this isn't a shock. Anyway, get with the time, Ken. The Golden Age of the Doughy Guy is long passed now.


The problem: Short term rentals are eating up the affordable housing stock and are eating into legitimate B&B operators' business.

The solution: Build more affordable housing, right?  Nah. You'd think that, sure. But apparently the answer is build a "poshtel."
The New Orleans City Council on Thursday approved a scaled-back version of an upscale 185-bed hostel and boutique hotel proposed for a stretch of vacant land along the Mississippi River in Bywater.

Plans for the $16 million project — bordered by Royal, Mazant, Chartres and Bartholomew streets — call for a mix of shared hostel-style rooms and private rooms, as well as a restaurant, coffee shop, laundromat, bar, pool and parking lot.

The project — dubbed “Stateside” — has drawn the ire of many neighbors since it was proposed late last year.

The so-called “poshtel” concept — which has sprung up in major cities like Chicago and Miami — merges the potential thriftiness and social aspects of a hostel with the modern amenities of a boutique hotel.
To most of us, that seems a little counter-intuitive. But Stacy Head is listening to a different "drumbeat" than we are.
Following the Planning Commission’s unanimous rejection, Kelso scaled back the project from 48,000 to 32,000 square feet and switched New Orleans-based architectural firms, from Eskew+Dumez+Ripple to studioWTA.

He said the revamped plans were “brought into scale with the neighborhood” and the project “has been redesigned to have a negligible auditory impact on neighbors.”

Council members who supported the project Thursday called it a tough decision to balance some neighbors’ opposition with the prospect of padding the city’s tax revenues, creating new jobs and redeveloping a vacant lot.

There’s been a consistent drumbeat of requests to move tourists into other neighborhoods than the French Quarter and the CBD,” Council President Stacy Head said. “That is what this does.”
In Stacy Head's world, the people are clamoring to be booted from their homes in favor of tourists.  Weird, I know. but at least she admits that is her specific policy goal.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

So are we gonna give this one a name?

Pretty nice circulation this little spring thunderstorm had going here.

May storm

Fence goes up, fence comes down, fence goes up

Look, first of all, there are perfectly good reasons to put a fence up along Bayou St. John during this festival. Every year people jump in the damn bayou and swim around as if everything is perfectly okay with that.  As if there aren't 50 million forms of flesh eating bacteria and brain eating amoebas in there. As if there aren't aggressive alligators. As if there aren't abandoned vehicles and sometimes also corpses littering the bottom.

But, apparently, that wasn't what the fence was actually for
The temporary fencing, which blocked off the Moss Street side of Bayou St. John was erected "to encourage more people to participate" in the free festival, according to a Facebook post signed by the MotherShip Foundation, which organizes the annual event. The idea, it seems, was that by blocking off one section, it would push more festival-goers into the official grounds, where they can buy the drinks and merchandise that fund the event.
Also it has been theorized that they're experimenting with ways to cordon off and charge admission to their event. Also it was to keep the unsavory folks out. Sort of like this
NEW ORLEANS —New fencing going up along Calliope Street underneath the Pontchartrain Expressway is forcing homeless to go elsewhere.

“I'm out here just trying to get a job, get my SSI before my arms and legs give out,” said Kunta Smith.

He has several health problems and lives under the Pontchartrain Expressway in downtown New Orleans. Smith said the new fencing going up is forcing the homeless out and elsewhere.

“Once they put the gates up we have no place to go. The next thing to do is go to parks, someplace to sleep,” said Smith.

As the homeless are being forced out, new paid parking lots will go in. In a statement issued by the city of New Orleans:

“Four parking lots under the Expressway along Calliope Street from St. Charles Avenue to S. Rampart Street/Loyola Avenue will be fenced so that they may be returned to commerce as managed parking.”
I know our eyes glaze over at the sight of things being "returned to commerce" now. But wasn't this public space?  Isn't it more accurate to say it's being turned to commerce?  Either way, the goal is to limit access to the unclean. And it's nothing new. This article is about New York, mostly, but it could describe many urban places. 
Today it is common for public spaces to be designed to discourage the homeless — think of how nearly all city benches have partitions to prevent sleeping — but this did not begin in earnest until the mid-eighties.

In Grand Central, for example, Metro-North removed all but one set of benches to prevent congregating and sleeping. In Port Authority, officials replaced wooden seats with flip seats that “require so much concentration to balance that sleeping or even sitting for long is impossible.”

But these initiatives failed for the same reason homeless people still congregate in public spaces today: they have nowhere else to go.
Jackie Clarkson once famously led a similar effort in Jackson Square.  This is from 2002.
Benches in Jackson Square, often used as daybeds by the homeless, have been removed and will be re-installed with built-in dividers to prevent people from lying down. In a city known for its tolerance for public drunkenness, the police have been quicker to arrest the obviously inebriated. 

The cleanup has been compared to the transformation of Times Square under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. 

''I took my cue from Giuliani,'' said Jacquelyn Clarkson, the City Council member who has led the cleanup.
Sadly, Jackie has retired from public life and is back at her first love, enjoying the ungodly fortune she made in real estate. But her successors are carrying on her work today. The sooner you can fence the undesirables out of a space, the sooner you can turn a profit from it. Looks like Bayou Boogaloo had a similar thought. Unfortunately for them, it wasn't just some homeless people's space they wanted to put "into commerce." 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bombs and Roses

Cameron "Frogman" Henry, Bryan Adams karaoke, Chris Rose, Ruby Rose, Wendell Pierce, an on-site report from a Cure concert. Plus lots more. This is one of the better fake radio shows we've done, I don't mind saying.

"Equivalent value"

What could Benson possibly offer that is worth that?
U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo ruled that the fact that the values have yet to be determined does not change Benson’s power to make substitutions.

Milazzo rejected the arguments of trustees Mary Rowe and Robert Rosenthal, appointed to guard the interests of Benson’s daughter Renee Benson and her children, Rita and Ryan LeBlanc.

“Clearly, the grantor (Benson) has the unilateral power to effect the substitution, provided that he certify that it is of equivalent value,” Milazzo wrote. “The trustee must then verify that the substituted assets are indeed of equivalent value. The trusts do not say, however, that he may delay the substitution while such a verification is made.”
Probably they won't accept one of the horses. 

GOP will be fine

Whatever danger their Presidential nominee is supposed to put their down ballot candidates in is sure to be mitigated by the utter cowardice/incompetence/indifference of their opponents.

Bomb in the beehive

Monday evening, the Louisiana State Capitol building had to be evacuated after what police termed a "credible" bomb threat was called in to them.  "Credible" is a funny word to use to describe someone's "visions from God" but OK. 
A male caller told the Baton Rouge Police Department that “he’s having visions from God that bombs are being placed in the State Capitol,” said Baton Rouge Police Cpl. L’Jean McKneely Jr.

The caller has also repeatedly placed calls to the Police Department since the first call was made and hangs up, McKneely said.
We might forgive our prophet if the "bomb" in his visions actually had turned out to be Cameron Henry's budget. The Lord's revelations are always tricky to interpret after all. And a budget proposal that forced the House to choose between horrific unacceptable cuts to state hospital services for the poor or fully funding the TOPS program is a pretty suspicious package.  Fortunately the lawmakers on hand had already managed to defuse that device.
But in a Thursday night vote, House members narrowly voted in favor of cutting $72 million from TOPS to shore up funding for the public-private hospital contracts to run the safety net health care services, including those that host medical training programs. An effort to partially reverse that move, giving half of the money back to TOPS, was defeated Friday afternoon.

“For this session, the priority of health care and our hospitals takes precedence over TOPS,” said Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston. “We’re going to fund TOPS — maybe not at the level that some people want, but it’s not going away. The hospitals, on the other hand, might.”
Legislators have had to make a ton of tough choices this year. But this one didn't have to be as dramatic as the House Republicans made it appear. The budget proposal they submitted deliberately forced this argument by fully funding TOPS at the expense of the hospitals and the Inspector General's office.  It was never a serious proposal and everyone seemed to know it.
That plan finally was unveiled Monday by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry. Swiftly approved by committee members, many of whom had not read the amendments, it has been criticized ever since.

Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, referred to Plan Henry as “a scheme.” Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards called it a “political stunt.” And Dr. Rebekah Gee, whose mammoth Department of Health and Hospitals bore the brunt of the proposed spending cuts, called it “leprechaun financing.”

The independent, nonpartisan Council for a Better Louisiana called the plan a “faux budget that appears to score some political points in one corner, while exacerbating serious problems in another.”
Henry's "political stunt" was meant to set the debate parameters in two important ways. First, it was an assertion that Republicans want to fund their priorities through cuts only rather than through new revenue measures in a possible special session later this year. More on that in a minute. Secondly, it was an attempt to bait liberals into an ill advised argument over whose "entitlement" is more important.  As it turned out several did, in fact, take this bait. Most notably, our friend Lamar here.
State Rep. Henry and many of his colleagues appear to still be suffering from denial. Make no mistake: Fully funding TOPS isn’t their number one priority because it’s the most critically endangered program in Louisiana. Right now, due to a lack of funding, foster children sleep on the floors of local offices of the Department of Children and Family Services. It’s their number one priority because the vast majority of those affected by cuts to the program are white kids from middle-class and upper-class families, families that are more likely to vote Republican, more likely to donate to Republican campaigns, and more capable of influencing public opinion.

Instead of even entertaining the prospect of targeted and responsible tax increases in order to solve a problem they created, Rep. Henry and his colleagues would rather defund health care for poor people. Because, to them, that is nothing more than an entitlement program. The $300 million a year that we spend to subsidize college tuition for predominately white kids (75%) from predominately affluent families (58%), well, that’s a scholarship!
There's additional context here having to do with a decade of cuts to higher ed funding courtesy of Bobby Jindal, Cameron Henry and friends. Those cuts are what have caused the price of tuition - and therefore the TOPS program- to grow out of control. So it's really Republican fiscal irresponsibility that has us in this situation. Lamar explains all of this in his article so he clearly understands it.  But Republican "starve the beast" scheming is always meant to set up otherwise avoidable choices between perceived white or minority benefits. Why even engage them in such a toxic dialogue? It's obviously what they want.

Besides, now that they've been made to take the money back out of TOPS in order to save the hospitals, Henry's faction has lost bargaining leverage over the coming special session. Once there, the governor will want to focus on finding revenue by eliminating special privileges and inequities in the tax code.  Republicans are far more likely to help him do that if there are items in the budget they still want to fund.
The special session would be the second time this year that lawmakers have been asked to consider raising revenue to fund state services. Earlier this year, lawmakers agreed to raise the sales tax and increase the cigarette tax, as well as remove some sales tax exemptions, to try to infuse more money into the state’s coffers.

Edwards has charged a tax and budget task force with coming up with recommendations for how the state can come up with more money to fund the coming year. A second special session likely would focus on some exclusions in the tax code.

By law, the budget that lawmakers pass this session must be balanced, so they can’t account for money expected in the special session. That means the budget approved will likely contain deep cuts to some programs that lawmakers can try to back-fill if they raise revenue.
In other words, it matters that the hospitals are fully funded now and TOPS is not yet because TOPS is the program Republicans are more likely to help "back-fill" later on. So every Democrat in the House should have jumped all over this strategy, right?  Well, as it turns out, #NotAllDemocrats.
Fourteen House Republicans broke with their political party and voted for the hospitals to receive the $72 million intended for TOPS. The measure passed 49-43 on Thursday night. Two Democrats, New Orleans Rep. Neil Abramson and New Roads Rep. Major Thibaut, voted against it. 
Oh dear, there's our friend Neil again.  For the umpteenth time this year we find Abramson pointedly aligning his position with the Barras-Henry wing on a high profile issue. Neil's support for Taylor Barras over Walt Leger as Speaker helped secure his own chairmanship of Ways and Means.  From that post, Neil supported Republican efforts to scale back the "penny scrubbing" sales tax measures during the first special session. And now he's voting in support of Cameron Henry's attempt to save TOPS by bombing hospitals. What gives?

When we asked what gives, Team Neil responded.

But, as we've just taken pains to explain above, that's exactly backwards.  What we're trying to do here is fund the hospitals now so we have a better chance at forcing Republicans to help "back fund" TOPS later.

I'm sorry if it looks like we're trying to "vilify" the guy. But the current operating theory supposes that Neil is setting up for a break with the party in case he wants to run for Senate as a Republican next time around. And after a while these little incidents add up to what we might consider a "credible" threat.  Or maybe we're just having visions.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Hand yoga

Saints rookie receiver Michael Thomas has discovered the Fre Flo Do for a new generation.
The secret? Hand yoga.

This might sound odd. No, it does sound odd. It also seems there might be something to this.

Thomas said he has seen measurable growth in his hands since he began doing the exercises as part of his routine. His mitts registered at 10.5 inches at the scouting combine, which is bigger than all but three players over the past three years.

If nothing else, he has the goods to back up his claims.

“It stretches them and stuff,” Thomas said. “It’s a little secret I do. I know the exercises and then, when I get massages, I get the knuckles massaged out.”

The scary part is that Thomas doesn’t think there is a limit to how much he can stretch his hands. He was measured again by ESPN after the combine, and his hands had grown a quarter-inch.

Thomas was asked in jest whether he thought there was a limit to how far his hands could stretch. Some number beyond a foot was thrown out.
Does Donald Trump know about this? Or is "hand yoga" too frou frou a term for his idiom?

"Death of the GOP"

Supposedly Donald Trump winning the nomination has DESTROYED/EVISCERATED/MELTDOWNED the Republican Party forever and ever.  Except that no, it totally hasn't. Trump losing to Hillary Clinton should work out fine for them. The party will certainly still control the US House of Representatives. They might even hang on to the Senate.

More importantly, they will definitely continue to dominate most states.
How big is the GOP advantage in state legislatures? Well, they control about 7 out of every 10 chambers, and when you combine that dominance with their 31 governors, they have full control of 21 out of 50 state governments — compared with just seven for Democrats.
They will be fine. They will go right back to winning local elections by pretending they are the righteous victims of an unpopular President. It's what's worked for them this entire decade. 

What are they even about?

This isn't hard to figure out. Atrios gets mostly there in three paragraphs. But I would like to stress one thing that he doesn't really get all the way to saying. The missing but inevitable conclusion is "incrementalist" Democrats actually believe the status quo is the best of all possible worlds.

They really do believe in an insurance-driven health care system. They really do believe in austerity fiscal policies that punish the needy by shrinking the social safety net. They really do believe in privatized education. They really do believe in the union busting, benefits slashing, freelance based sharing-tech economy. They really do believe "broken windows" policing and gentrification is good for cities. They really do believe in massive state surveillance and bombing foreign peoples into Freedom.

If they had the slightest bit concern about any of this stuff, they wouldn't have spent the past 10 months shouting down and vilifying the dirty hippies mobilizing against it. That's what the entire primary has been about. What do Democrats believe in most? They believe that, if you aren't doing well in this best of all possible worlds, it's because you are a loser and really just need to STFU so they don't have to feel so bad.

The people in the mainstream money wing of the Democratic party are not stupid or ignorant. They are just on the wrong side. And they are on the wrong side on purpose because that's where their core values are.

"Politically toxic"

How so, exactly?
“I don’t think we can make a good decision about any of this until we address the elephant in the room,” Stokes said, referring to “Stelly” — a politically toxic moniker among many voters.

The tax design was devised by then-Lake Charles Rep. Vic Stelly and was approved in a statewide 2002 vote. Generally, it lowered sales taxes and paid for it by charging more on personal income taxes.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco rolled Stelly back a little. Gov. Bobby Jindal rolled it back a lot. Both decreased personal income tax collections.

While income tax collections went down, sales taxes stayed low, leaving state government with $800 million to $1 billion less, depending on who is doing the counting, to pay obligations, which also didn’t decline significantly.

As a state senator, Noble Ellington voted for a Stelly rollback. It was politically popular at the time and seemed the right thing to do. Now the administration’s legislative liaison, Ellington says that vote was a mistake.
Just to be clear here, when Ellington and Stokes say a thing is "politically toxic," what they mean is their backers and the powerful lobby groups who spend all day schmoozing with them are unhappy with it.  But when Stelly went before the actual voters in 2002, it passed by almost 30,000 votes. 

Stelly plan 2002

The Legislature is probably going into special session next month. There, they will have to find the revenue necessary to clean up the mess left in part by the mistake of rolling back Stelly. Let's hope they take up the task with a clearer idea of what is and is not "politically toxic" this time.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

At least she wasn't doing any math

What the hell is even going on anymore?
Near the end of his Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Albuquerque in December, Gill Parker Payne decided he had to take action.

Seated a few rows in front of him was a woman he had never met before. She was wearing a religious headscarf, known as a hijab, which Payne recognized as a Muslim practice. He stood up, walked down the aisle and stopped next to her seat. Looking down at the woman, Payne instructed her to remove the covering.

“Take it off! This is America!” Payne, 37, later recalled saying. When she didn’t do it herself, Payne did: He grabbed the hijab from the back and pulled it all off. Violated, the woman, identified by the Justice Department only as K.A., quickly pulled the hijab back over her head.

Friday, May 13, 2016

They lied about the lying

Last month, a lobbying group made headlines with an aggressively dishonest as asserting that Governor Edwards had "lied" about his position on the school voucher program. The pro-voucher group calls itself the "Louisiana Federation For Children" which, as James Gill pointed out the other day, is maybe a little bit pompous.
In the middle of a budget crisis — the state is short $600 million short for the upcoming fiscal year — there is no more obvious place to start cutting than the voucher program, which cost $42 million last year. Edwards wants to reduce that to $36 million.

His proposal has produced loud squawks from an outfit with the sole purpose of promoting vouchers, which calls itself the Louisiana Federation for Children. Voucher doubters do not regard themselves as a federation against children, however.
The Federation For Children is headed up by former State Senator and Mitch Landrieu aide Ann Duplessis. Probably most people remember Duplessis for her legislative pay raise bill back in 2008 which, whatever your feelings about the pay raise itself, you might have still have thought her victory dance over its passage in the legislature was... maybe a little bit pompous.

Anyway today, we have this.
An official with ties to a Baton Rouge school that had a role in a pro-voucher ad that called Gov. John Bel Edwards a liar are disavowing the ad and said it made questionable claims.

The comments were included in a letter from Walter K. Williams, chairman of the Parish Council for St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, to Ann Duplessis, president of the Louisiana Federation for Children, which launched the TV campaign.

Duplessis’ group accused Edwards of lying to voters when he said state aid for vouchers would not be slashed.

Edwards denied the charge and said voucher dollars may drop from $42 million to $36 million because the state faces a $600 million shortfall.

Two students wearing St. Francis Xavier Catholic School shirts were in the initial, 30-second spot.
Williams said in his letter that the producers of the ad “were not forthcoming about the objectives and goals of the ad.

“Plainly, they did not realize they were participating in a political ad and feel that information was withheld from them purposefully,” according to the letter.

“We believe you have endangered the fate of the scholarship program by portraying its supporters as being more concerned with the political nature of the program than in ensuring its continuance,” the letter says.
Sounds like Williams thought the ad was maybe a little bit pompous. Duplessis, more or less stands by it anyway.
“We recognize our commercial ruffled feathers,” Duplessis said. “We must point out the letter was not signed by any of the parents.”
Well see the commercial "ruffled some feathers." Very James O'Keefian.

Rotten banana scam is rotten

Everybody is dismayed
Two years after a celebrated homecoming, the Chiquita company is considering moving its cargo business elsewhere, and New Orleans port officials were scrambling Thursday to try to keep the company from again leaving the city that was once the country’s top banana importer.

The departure of Chiquita Brands International, one of the world’s largest banana and fruit shippers, could cost upward of 350 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of projected economic activity that were expected to flow through the local port over the next decade.

Port leaders and state officials were working to get a better handle on whether Chiquita is indeed planning to leave and, if so, whether it could be talked into changing its mind.

Still, the rumor had circulated “around the docks” that the North Carolina-based company is on its way out, port President and CEO Gary LaGrange said. When he first heard the news, he said, he felt “dismayed.”
But, if we think back, we might remember the deal, like every other deal ever done by Bobby Jindal's Economic Development office, was  based on tax subsidies and direct payoffs. So it's hardly any wonder this result would be tentative.

On the cusp of bug seasons

Mid May Caterpillar

This guy was out on the sidewalk Thursday. Kinda thought we'd be done by these by the time the termites started swarming. But, no, we're treated to both at once. At least for this week.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

So that happened

These actually happen more frequently than many realize.  This one is just big enough to get a little news blurb.

NEW ORLEANS -- The Coast Guard is responding to a crude oil spill from an underwater Shell pipeline Thursday.

Shell officials said they believe about 2,100 barrels of oil were released in the spill. Authorities said Shell has isolated the leak and shut production of both fields about 90 miles south of Timbalier Island, La.