Friday, September 30, 2016

That's all he actually has

It was never clear just how Tom Benson was going to buy out his heirs if he couldn't offer them something of comparable value. No one is saying the dealerships and other investments are worthless. But the great part of Benson's wealth comes to him via the football team.  So there really  isn't anything he can offer the kids that would be fair.

Which is why the NFL rejected the most recent settlement proposal.  Benson was, essentially, trying to pay for the Saints with the Saints.
Recent court filings show the NFL's finance rules won't allow Benson to use his personal wealth — including the controlling, voting stock in the Saints — to back the proposed promissory notes. Under that kind of a deal, the trusts could move to seize Benson's personal assets, including the controlling stock, if Benson were to default on the notes.
Turns out the NFL frowns on "Loomis math." And who can blame them? Their profits are based on collecting obscene sums in television advertising revenue while bullying state and local governments around the country into subsidizing the bulk of their costs.  There are a few other businesses that compare that. But Tom Benson only owns shares in one.

Cross training

Sometimes, in this state, the Treasurer, or Attorney General, or the chair of some legislative committee will try and play Governor for a stretch. It only seems fair that the Governor should get to play Attorney General a little bit in return.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said he plans to sue Attorney General Jeff Landry for blocking state legal contracts over language meant to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in the workplace.

Edwards announced the legal challenge Friday (Sept. 30), following a meeting with Landry in which the two officials were unable to reach agreement on whether state contracts should include language that protects LGBT workers.

"I believe he is on the wrong side of the law and the wrong side of history," Edwards said in a press conference.

Landry has rejected at least three dozen legal contracts for a variety of state government agencies because they include language preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

It's early but

The weather sort of hinted at maybe wanting to be fall eventually. So we made gumbo just to try and help it along. That's chicken, andouille, and a pint of oysters which goes really well with a smoky sausage.

Gumbo with andouille, chicken, and oysters

Anyway, it will probably be 90 degrees again next week but that can't really hurt us anymore. Not this year.

Looks like Joe Alleva wants to call the plays

Thanks for the advice, buddy.
As for offensive change, Alleva understands that LSU might run similar or the same plays on Saturday against Missouri, but playcalling is what he's watching. University leaders fired Miles, along with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, on Sunday. Steve Ensminger, previously the tight ends coach, is the interim offensive coordinator.

"Steve Ensminger will use a lot of the same plays, but plays are when you call them," Alleva said. "If you call play-action pass on first down, maybe it has a chance to succeed. Third-and-1 and you call play-action pass, it has a chance to succeed."
Football is pretty simple, really. We sure to pay these guys a lot of money to sit around and hit the "Ask Madden" button.

Losing pace

The mayor's office worked hard to put a positive spin on these 2000 affordable housing "opportunities" but that's not really the point of this report.  The point is to remindividual us that it's not enough.
Even as the city works to address the shortage of affordable housing, the percentage of people who spent more than 30 percent of their income on rent ticked up by almost 3 points in 2015. That means housing advocates need to look closely at the net amount of affordable housing that is available, not just the extra units the city helped bring online this year.

Such a large increase in affordable housing comes at a cost. The city allocated about $17.3 million for housing programs in 2016; Morris said she is hoping for more funding next year.

“That’s another reason why the report card is timed the way that it is, so the community can go into budget season understanding what needs to be prioritized,” she said. Landrieu will present his proposed 2017 budget in mid-October.
Housing is becoming less affordable. It's not time to stop and congratulate anybody.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

See that wasn't so hard

Looks like they figured out how to fund relief efforts in Flint and in Louisiana without having to burn the whole country down after all.
Negotiations resulted in the Senate attaching $220 million for Flint on an unrelated water infrastructure bill that it sent to the House last week. The lower chamber, Scalise said, plans to authorize $170 million in aid to Flint with the expectation that details will be hammered out in a congressional conference after the Nov. 8 election.

"I am convinced there is going to be help for Flint in the lame-duck (session). They've been waiting for help, they deserve help and I'm very happy it's going to come," Reid said.

The funding bill also includes emergency funding to fight the Zika virus.

Louisiana officials have described the $500 million as a "down payment" to help the thousands of residents and businesses wiped out by the devastating mid-August floods. Gov. John Bel Edwards has estimated damage to total as much as $8.7 billion. Thirteen people lost their lives and FEMA has received thousands of applications for emergency aid.
The "down payment," it is hoped by the governor, will be a first step toward an eventual $2.6 billion package. I'm still pretty skeptical as whether that will be enough in any case.  But let's keep our fingers crossed, for now, that we even get that much.

Can Governor Landry please leave us alone?

Fake Governor Landry is busy making policy happen.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has blocked at least 37 state government legal contracts because they include language meant to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in the workplace, according to state documents and interviews with state officials.

The contracts affect legal issues surrounding the state's ports, potential medical malpractice awards for patients and oversight of state bonds, among others, according to a review of documents and interviews with the agencies involved.

The Louisiana Division of Administration -- part of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration -- said it has tracked at least 26 contracts with private lawyers for a variety of services that Landry rejected because of the nondiscrimination clause. The Department of Insurance -- which is run by Republican Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon -- submitted 11 legal contracts the attorney general has also blocked because of the nondiscrimination language.
Through the lobbying efforts of Actual Governor Edwards, New Orleans was recently awarded the right to host the 2017 NBA All Star Game originally set to be held in Charlotte.  The game had to be moved in protest of the State of North Carolina's official intolerance toward LGBT persons. Is Governor Landry trying to undo Governor Edwards's work now? Sure looks like it.

Meanwhile, Landry was in Washington D.C. this week. Here's what he's up to there
Attorney General Jeff Landry took his crusade against New Orleans' so-called "sanctuary city" policing policy to Capitol Hill Tuesday (Sept. 27), accusing Mayor Mitch Landrieu of turning the metropolitan area into a "magnet" for undocumented immigrants.

"Sanctuary policies not only jeopardize the ability to protect our citizens, but they also allow illegals to commit crimes then roam free in our communities," Landry, a former Republican congressman, told a GOP-led House committee on border security.

Landrieu, a Democrat, dismissed Landry's reproach as a political stunt.

"This waste of public time and money by Attorney General Landry to put on a political show in Washington, D.C. is shameful," Landrieu communications director Tyronne Walker said in a statement. "While Landry was grandstanding this morning, the NOPD was hard at work keeping our streets safe and ensuring our police department advances non-discriminatory policing."
Why does Governor Landry hate New Orleans so much? And what can we do to make him leave us alone?  Maybe we should build some kind of wall. 

This land is our land

These guys think it's their land but the judges do not sound convinced.
On the question of whether doing maintenance work on the statues gives the monument supporters some kind of legal ownership, Higginson, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, asked repeatedly if there is any precedent for using the legal doctrine underlying that argument in that manner. The judges seemed unconvinced by Jones' replies.

"You talked about exploring legal theories, but it sounds very much like you don't know one, and I don't hear one," said Higginbotham, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan.
It's possible the judges could still leave the injunction in place although it doesn't sound like they are leaning that way.  If they do, it could be another year before the monuments come down. 

Nobody actually lives at Phyllis Landrieu's house

Might be some clue as to why the mayor insisted we reconsider "whole home" rental restrictions.
For just $750 a night, you can stay at Phyllis Landrieu's house on St. Charles Avenue. The 3200-square-foot house sleeps 14 people in four bedrooms, according to a listing on the short-term rental website Airbnb.com.

Unless it's a bed-and-breakfast operation, renting out a home for less than 30 days is illegal across New Orleans. The standard is 60 days in the French Quarter, though the city has seldom enforced the zoning law that bars the practice.

Landrieu, a former Orleans Parish School Board member and Mayor Mitch Landrieu's aunt, doesn't occupy the house. She received approval earlier this year to demolish it and another building next door to make way for a 10-unit condo building. As it operates now, her listing would be illegal under proposed regulations the City Council will consider next week.
Or it might be incidental. But, certainly, ten $750 per night vacation rentals are better than one.  City Council takes up the issue October 6. 

'Treppin' tripe

CNBC asks us to swallow quite a load of pig guts in this story about how hot dogs saved Freret St.
While paying a little extra for a storefront in an established neighborhood can be justified, other times an ambitious business owner might gamble on a neighborhood's potential.

For New Orleans native Constantine Georges, a former federal prosecutor who served for 22 years, the idea to open a hot dog stand was already a gamble, but perhaps even more so considering the location he settled on in 2011: a 475-square-foot shack in a traditionally economically depressed New Orleans neighborhood on Freret Street.
Oookayy.. sure. And it helps also when the city is investing federal community development block grant money in upgrading the streets, sidewalks and landscaping. It also helps when the area is the focus of a Commercial Corridor Revitalization Program designed to combine grant money, tax credits, and special planning consideration in order to help promote new businesses just like your stupid hot dog stand.  And, hey, that's pretty nice.  There's a lot of good stuff on Freret Street now.  But it didn't happen because Constantine Georges took a courageous gamble. He just happened to be in position to reap the benefits of it.

It's just like every election then

Who "won" the first Presidential debate? How does one even judge? Do we just tally up the lies?  Because something tells me that must have been beside the point.  Are we supposed to microanalyze the stagecraft?  What did the swaying mean? How about all that sniffing? What are we supposed to be looking for here?

I've read lots of cheering from Hillary fans ecstatic over their candidate's performance. But they've spent so much time and energy convincing themselves that she is actually in danger of losing the election (she isn't) that they're ready to celebrate any non-horrible news as though they'd just won the SuperBowl.  I've also read where Michael Moore is very angry because he thinks "Trump won" and that is very bad because he has also convinced himself that Hillary is in danger of losing the election. (She isn't.) And of course there's #Trumpwon Twitter which.. well.... whatever with that. Most likely this debate was a push. Both candidates communicated the message they wanted to the audience they had zeroed in on in the particular language each speaks.

Objectively speaking they both were dishonest. This doesn't mean "both sides" lied in the same way, though. Clinton's dishonesty is the boring type fundamental to most candidates. She merely bends her interpretation of a somewhat fact-based slate of statements to suit her purposes. She sounded stern but statesmanlike when she agreed with Trump about using the terror watch list to restrict gun sales. She was telling the truth. But this is actually a horrible policy.  Since Democrats have already demonstrated a blind willingness to get behind it for political stunting purposes this year, though, it's a safe card for her to play.  She also appeared to agree with Trump when she told us "I happen to support" tax repatriation.  Here's what that means for people like, say, Apple's Tim Cook.
Translated into plainer English, this means Cook believes that Corporate America’s longterm plan to hold the U.S. for ransom will in fact come to fruition next year.

U.S. corporations have by now stashed over $2.1 trillion in profits overseas (including Apple’s $181 billion), thereby starving the U.S. of revenue we could use to repair our collapsing infrastructure. What they want is for Americans to get so desperate that Congress is willing to deeply slash the corporate tax rate for “repatriated” money.

This will deliver a one-time jolt of tax revenue, at the cost of sending the message that everyone who possibly can should use tax avoidance schemes like Apple’s in the future.

Cook is right to be optimistic: Hillary Clinton has hinted that she’ll push for exactly this in her first 100 days in office, while Donald Trump has said explicitly that he wants to make it happen.

Moreover, in the interview Cook also notes he’s gotten advice on how to handle this issue from both Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Bill Clinton.
Hillary partisans scoffed at Trump for answering charges that he is a tax cheat with the one-liner, "That makes me smart." But Hillary Clinton's policy will essentially validate his assertion.  Similarly, Trump sounded pretty crass when, criticizing US exit strategy post-Iraq, he said, "We should have taken the oil!" But this was also exactly the policy Hillary's adviser Neera Tanden was pushing when she wrote in an email that Libya should pay us in oil revenue for the privilege of having been bombed by us. In these instances, the two candidates were espousing strikingly similar policies. Only Hillary actually appeared to know what she was talking about. Make what you will of that.

Hillary doesn't lie quite the way Trump does, of course. Trump's rhetoric clearly exists on a different plane of reality.  But just because Trump says facts wrong doesn't mean he does poorly with his audience. Voters aren't attracted to Trump because they want to see someone get all the answers right. Take for example Trump's comments about "the cyber"and "400 pound hackers." This drew derision from people who prefer a more precise, informed language. But it will play fine with the (massive, by the way) NCIS audience who are used to seeing some vaguely defined nerd stuff catch another criminal every week. These people don't want to hear about the details of international espionage. What they want is someone who will sneer on their behalf at what's bothering them regardless of facts they only tangentially care about.  Trump did plenty of this. And it's why he may have held his own.

Trump can say ridiculous things all night and still accomplish his aim if the result is the other side looking exasperated with him. If his bullshit launches another 500 Samantha Bee and John Oliver monologues, he's all the better for it.  Notice also that, according to Trump in this debate, Howard Stern and Sean Hannity are the keepers of our nation's essential facts anyway. He knows his people and the language they speak.

All of which brings us to  this Jay Rosen article about the contrast between the kind of campaign the establishment press is trying to cover and the "asymmetry" of the campaign we're actually seeing. Sorry about the long quote. It's a long article.
I made this argument in the Washington Post in July. Campaign coverage is a contraption that only works if the candidates behave in certain expected ways. Up to now, they always did. But Trump violates many of these expectations. For example:
Imagine a candidate who wants to increase public confusion about where he stands on things so that voters give up on trying to stay informed and instead vote with raw emotion. Under those conditions, does asking “Where do you stand, sir?” serve the goals of journalism, or does it enlist the interviewer in the candidate’s chaotic plan?
Here’s a more granular example. Up to now campaigns for major party nominees tried to make sure that what the campaign was saying (and the campaign manager, the running mate, the chair as titular head…) reflected what the candidate was saying. If the campaign put out a message contradicted by the candidate, that was a problem. Why? Because mixed messaging confuses the voters and makes the campaign look dumb. Therefore an interview with the campaign manager, the running mate, or some other surrogate was a window into the candidate’s thinking. It had journalistic value for that reason.

The Trump campaign breaks this practice. If Donald Trump calls NBC’s Lester Holt a Democrat (in fact he’s a registered Republican) and attacks him as part of an unfair system, Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, is later free to say that Holt is a “respected, brilliant newsman” who will do a great job as moderator of the first debate. An on-the-ball journalist can ask: hey, which is it? But that’s a practice with a premise. The premise is that a presidential campaign wants to put out a consistent message to avoid confusing people, and to deny journalists a “gotcha” moment. What if that premise is false? The rationale for interviewing the campaign manager, the running mate, or some other surrogate collapses. They say one thing, the candidate says something else and the confusion is not considered a problem. It may even be a plus.

Again and again with Trump, journalists find themselves in this position: persisting with familiar practices that don’t really make sense because the premise behind them has collapsed— collapsed for one candidate, but not the other. And remember: asymmetry fries the circuits of the mainstream press.

I think this is accurate. But, much more importantly, we need to understand that it is nothing new.  In fact this is exactly Karl Rove's "reality based community" dissertation put into practice yet again.  Here's a refresher on that, just for comparison's sake. The "aide" quoted in this 2004 article has since been revealed as Rove.
I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
In other words, for all the novelty of having an actual reality TV star as one of the candidates, the dynamics of this election are actually just like every other election in recent memory.  The Democrat is a corrupt dishonest elitist. The Republican is a contemptuous reactionary thug. And the mainstream press apparatus is ill equipped to keep up with either of them.  At least we still have the internet. It's also useless, of course. But it does have Debbie Harry.

Reminder: The case against removing monuments is stupid

The Fifth Circuit is hearing the appeal today. This is a good time to recall that the "philanthropists" who clean the monuments out of the goodness of their hearts are saying they think this means they own the public property now.
The plaintiffs - four historical organizations - have advanced many arguments; among them, that their constitutional rights had been violated by the process for removal, the monuments were protected by historic preservation laws, by maintaining the monuments over the years they've gained recognizable property interest in them and that removing the monuments could irreparably harm them. They're asking the appeals court to grant them an injunction that would remain in effect throughout the litigation - meaning the city can't remove the monuments for months or years.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Congratulations to the Saints and Falcons for killing Monday Night Football
In fact, if the numbers hold up, the game could be the least-watched in "MNF" history, according to The Washington Post, as well as the least-watched NFL game this season. ESPN said final numbers were expected later Tuesday.
I mean, sure, there was a debate on opposite. But people can watch those on replay. (It's what I did, anyway.)  But this Saints team is all about setting records. Let's hope this one holds up too. 

Judge checks Lusher's privilege

You guys have to play by the same rules everyone else does
Lusher and Lake Forest argued that they were guaranteed a certain amount of money per student, and that School Board had violated their contracts.

Milazzo disagreed. In order to receive a preliminary injunction, the plaintiffs must show they are likely to prevail on the merits of the case. "This court ... finds it unlikely that plaintiffs will succeed in proving that Act 467 substantially impairs the operating agreements," she wrote.

"It is obvious to this Court that there was no mutual intent of the parties to guarantee plaintiffs funding," she said, calling the testimony "unequivocal." In fact, the School Board "refused to agree to the addition of language guaranteeing any level of funding."
As long as we're going let charter operators feed themselves off of public money, they don't get to pretend they exist in a world apart from the public school system. It's really that simple. 

Water water everywhere...

Water everywhere is the problem in Louisiana. Not a drop of it to drink is the problem in Flint, Michigan.  It's all one unbroken sea of trouble in Washington today where the Senate is voting on the continuing resolution that will keep the government operating and, more importantly, could fund efforts to deal with both issues. But.. well...
On Tuesday, both sides still maintained that the other was "playing politics" by holding up a stop-gap funding measure that would prevent a government shutdown on Sept. 30. The bill is scheduled to be taken up for a procedural motion on the Senate Tuesday afternoon, but Democrats and Republicans continued to signal that no consensus had been reached Tuesday morning.
And, just as I'm typing this, it looks like the latest attempt to pass something has failed.

Ideally we would find the money to deal with both of these humanitarian crises. But.. well...

Nobody actually lives here

Weird thing about this story is it doesn't tell us what the "especially disrupting incident in Treme" actually was.
NEW ORLEANS -- Some residents feel short-term rentals are changing their communities and they want it to stop.

After an especially disrupting incident in Treme over the weekend, neighbors say they’ve had enough of AirBnB takeovers.

"I think it's sad,” full-time resident Josh Newton said. “People partying, not respecting the people who live here."

Josh Newton lives and works in Treme. While he acknowledges tourists are bringing money to a historically lower income neighborhood, he wishes visitors would make a bigger effort to respect the neighborhood.

"It's not that people have a problem with tourists coming here, it's people have a problem with tourists just taking what they want and beyond that not even showing basic respect to the people who live here and the people who produce the culture that brought these people here,” Newton said.

Full-time residents worry that thanks to short term rentals, soon there'll be no permanent residents living on the street.
I did read via a friend on the Parallel Internet that some Airbnb folk flashed a passing second line in Treme recently as though it were a Girls Gone Wild shoot or something and received a stern talking to from the neighbors over it. Not sure if that's the incident in question. Maybe I have to watch the video.. in which case... please just write what's in the story, WWL.  (UPDATE: Okay I watched it. Yes, that's the incident they're talking about)

Anyway there was also a protest at City Hall this morning.  I noticed it involved props.

I think some of that artwork might come from one of these recent Krewe D'Etat floats but, again, I'm not positive.

From 2015, a gentrification themed float.

Jack Dempsey's Kale

And from this year, there was a float specifically about Airbnb.

Airbnb Monopoly

I don't see the councilmembers in my photos. But the style is similar. Does anybody know?

City Council is scheduled to take up short term rental regulations at its October 6th meeting.

This is fine

Sure, every summer seems like the hottest, grossest summer ever. But this summer might actually have been that.
During one of the country’s hottest summers, New Orleans quietly set a mind-boggling record. On 43 nights, the temperature did not drop below 80 degrees in New Orleans, according to the Louisiana state climatologist.

It blows the previous record out of the water — 13 nights in 2010. It’s also incredible considering in an average summer, New Orleans has just 2.1 nights at or above 80 degrees.

Yikes! Do they know why?
Why is this happening? In short, man-made climate change.
Don't tell the governor, though. He's still not sure climate change is really man made.

LOL Jim Mora

Never change.

I'm not sure how that rant squares with, "Don't talk about playoffs!" I'm pretty sure it doesn't.  But Mora's M.O. was always domineering rage at whoever was in his face regardless of facts or internal consistency of argument.

He'd make a great Republican Presidential nomineee.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday Night Debate Ball

This is going to be one of those too-many-things-happening days.  Coach O speaks to the press at 12:30.

The Saints can vault into first place with a win against the Falcons tonight on prime time TV.

And then there's this thing where a press and public, who are by this point basically shellshocked into a kind of numb boredom, are expecting the Presidential candidates to somehow prove they can still entertain us.  It won't go well.

Especially considering the "advice" implied by this NYT collection of Bush-Gore memory blurbs.  That advice: OMG, don't be caught sighing on camera.
Shrum I didn’t think Gore’s sighs were a really big deal until I got to the spin room. Reporters kept asking about sighs, reactions, exaggerations.

Eskew I have a feeling that where we lost the debate was afterwards. The Bush people sensed vulnerability and legitimately took advantage of some of Gore’s performance flaws. And why not? You can win on policy, but not win overall if you wound yourself.
Not sure how to take "if you wound yourself" when the bored reporters were clearly wielding the knives. Those of old enough to remember the early Bush era, might know it as a nadir of political journalism leading directly to a series of escalating atrocities from the election of W up through the debacle in Iraq and the aftermath of which we'll continue to reap for a hundred years.

What have they learned from all that? Nothing, apparently.  I wonder if the Democratic candidate has learned anything, though.  Here's where her predecessor in this case study really blew it.
Shrum The second debate was a tremendous overcorrection by Gore. He kept agreeing with Bush, and Bush just clearly won.
This year's candidate sure has spent a lot of time on the campaign trail agreeing with and being endorsed by George Bush types.

Anyway don't expect anything to go too far off-script in the debate tonight. If you think this election can't get any more frustratingly dismal than it's already been, you haven't been paying attention. Even if something interesting happens, I'm sure the reporters will snap into high campaign mode and fixate on some superficiality for us.  On the other hand, maybe Trump will moon the camera or something. But it's hard to imagine how that would be much different from what he's given us all year.

As for me, I'm going to the Saints game. But don't be tweeting debate spoilers at me. I'll want to watch later. You know, just in case.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Do we understand this?

Leonard Fournette on the Les Miles firing:
"At the end of the day, we understand that it's a business," Fournette said. "The relationship we build with him over our three years is amazing. I hate for everything to have to go down the way it went down on this day.
I dunno, Leonard, a lot of people like to fog up that understanding with the assertion that you guys are "amateur athletes."  If you know it's a business, you might ask to be paid better than (ostensibly) zero dollars. 

Your funeral, guys

If you want to scare away all of your recruits and set the program back a decade or maybe more, by all means, go right ahead and overreact to four football games.  Hope that makes you feel better.

Mission accomplished

The Jackson statue toppling party turned out to be more of a party than a toppling.
In one of the largest protests the city has seen in years, several hundred people poured into Jackson Square on Saturday afternoon to protest the city’s failure to remove four Confederate monuments.

The protesters were met by dozens of cops behind barricades and on horseback. The area around the square’s central equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson was barricaded because protesters had announced plans to toss ropes over it and try to pull it down.

The New Orleans Police Department reported that a total of seven people were arrested, including WBOK Radio personality Chuck Perkins, who some observers said pushed back at a counter-protester who lunged at him.

On Friday, the potential of conflict at the protest was heightened when former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, a candidate in this fall's U.S. Senate race, asked his radio listeners to organize a counter demonstration to block the Take 'Em Down NOLA march.

Duke did show up at Jackson Square and tried briefly to speak to the crowd Saturday. After some protesters grabbed his microphone and others chanted over his remarks, Duke left, well before the arrival of the main group of protesters, who had marched from Congo Square a few blocks away.

But after about an hour, everyone left peacefully.
Despite the public posturing, the objective here was never actually to topple the Jackson statue.  The important thing was to show solidarity with the City Council's long overdue order to remove the Jim Crow era Confederate monuments.  Those topplings have been delayed for nearly a year now thanks to the intransigence and legal resources available to the stubborn defenders of outdated white supremacist propaganda.  They think they're going to be able to stall until popular momentum fades.  The numbers turned out for yesterday's protest prove that isn't about to happen.

WTC lawsuit is back on for now

So that new state law the mayor had passed specifically to shut down the WTC lawsuit, isn't going to shut it down so easily.
At issue in the case before the 4th Circuit was whether Chase mistakenly ordered Two Canal to put up $750,000 in security — an amount representing court costs for Carpenter and Woodward, the city and the NOBC. When Two Canal didn’t do so within 10 days, Chase threw out the case.

That was incorrect, the appellate judges said, but for only some of the reasons Two Canal argued in a Sept. 15 hearing on the matter.

Although Two Canal attorney Daniel Davillier argued that Carpenter and Woodward jumped into the case voluntarily and thus by law couldn’t have their costs included in the security amount, the appeals court said the team’s costs could be included because they are an “indispensable party” to a case that seeks to void their city lease.

The problem is that Carpenter and Woodward want to include too much, too soon, the judges said. The two firms asked Two Canal to cover their deposition and expert witness fees, but such costs usually are considered only after cases go to trial, the court said. Certain costs the NOBC and the city aren’t paying now but will pay later can’t be included, either, it said.

If such fees were routinely allowed to be included in security payments, plaintiffs could be priced out of court, the judges said. “This would deprive a plaintiff of the opportunity to seek justice in a court of law,” they said.
The judges here appear to be directly rejecting the intent of a law passed this year at the mayor's urging that would make it more difficult to sue so called public benefit corporations.  It's not necessary to have a particular dog in the WTC fight to understand that limiting legal recourse against potentially corrupt big money real estate deals might be a bit shortsighted. 

Les really doesn't have to go

It's remarkable how certain some people are that this definitely has to be the end for Les Miles. There is not decent reason to think so. Or, at least, the situation is no different this year than it was last year. People were looking at this LSU-Auburn game as a win-or-be-fired situation for both coaches. But, given the way it ended, you may as well just flip a coin. Firing someone on the basis of that outcome seems absurd.

Anyway, we talked about the possible ramifications of this game and several others when we recorded the fake radio show on Thursday. Here is that. The Governor is also on the agenda. Among other persons and things.

Friday, September 23, 2016


Superdome and Arena

Last night a friend admitted to me they weren't really following the Saints anymore because the team hasn't been winning. I have no idea how to relate to that sort of lifestyle choice. I could understand it, I guess, if a person is not into the sporpsballs generally. But if you are a New Orleanian and you are a football fan, then giving up on the Saints just because the team isn't very good in a given season is a deliberate act of denial.

For one thing, if you're only watching the games because you expect your side to win them, you're setting yourself up for an awful lot of disappointment.  Football is an entertainment. There are many different types of outcomes and narratives to follow in any one game or season. The wins and losses certainly matter to the players and the coaches but that's because their jobs are on the line.  But we're in this for a longer haul and for different reasons.

Being a Saints fan isn't about demanding wins. It's nice when the team wins, of course. But really we are at these games for social reasons.  We are there to experience joy or cathartic frustration as a collective action. Football season is second only to Carnival in the opportunity it affords us to do this.  These are the exercises through which we establish solidarity with our community. They are how we give meaning to the notion that a place is home. Sometimes the team is bad. But that's never really the point.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


Tyler Bridges wrote up Charles Boustany's connection to Ethan Brown's book for the Washington Post. In the part where Bridges interviews the DA, they hit upon what ought to be the new town motto for Jennings.
If you don’t get involved in illegal narcotics, Jennings is a wonderful place to raise a family,” said District Attorney Michael Cassidy, as he dug into a lunch of fried catfish and boudin, a local sausage served in a natural ­casing. “The ones living that ­high-risk lifestyle, their friends and family did not realize they were in danger.”
Also, in an earlier version of the story, boudin was described as being served in a "plastic" rather than "natural" casing. Wa-Po doesn't note the correction for some reason.  Nor do they address the question of whether you can put quinoa in it. 

"Third Fortune 500 Company"

Here's a report from NOLA.com on the salaries of New Orleans's leading non-profit CEOs.
A look at tax records for more than 230 nonprofits in New Orleans shows compensation for CEOs and other top-paid employees varies widely depending on the sector and size of the organization. In general, the larger the organization is and the more national in scope its peer group, the bigger its paychecks are.

At least 17 nonprofit executives in New Orleans make more than $300,000 a year, including three who were paid more than $500,000 for the year, according to a NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune analysis of the latest IRS filings available and Guidestar.org reports.
The report comes with a handy search tool in case you're looking for something that isn't in the slideshow.  Here are the top "earners."

New Orleans Non-Profiteers

What really jumps out at you here is the money thrown around by organizations in direct receipt of public money like Audubon or the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Also the Sugar Bowl seems to do pretty well thanks to its partnership with NOCVB and the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District where we find the great bulk of our hotel/motel tax revenue directed. Add to that the fact that the Sugar Bowl exists at all thanks to the unpaid labor of college athletes risking their health for these ghouls and you start to wonder how some people sleep at night. (On stacks of cash, yes, I know.)

And then there is the NOCVB itself. Look how modest they are. 
In emailed statements, board members for the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said CEO Stephen Perry and his team manage a giant economic engine that markets the city through three domestic travel offices and five overseas, amounting to, as businessman and board member Greg Rusovich put it, "what is virtually Louisiana's third Fortune 500 company."

The board reached Perry's $439,840 compensation in 2014 by looking at what his peers were paid in 10 competing U.S. cities. The board then took the average of the five lowest paid executives.
See? Perry's half a million dollars a year is actually "low" by their definition. And for all that great work he does non-profiting off of our low wage economy (Minus 2,400 hospitality jobs over the past twelve months!)  you have to admit we're getting a real bargain there.

The hilarious thing is NOLA.com spends hardly any space in this report talking about the public investment in building these individual fortunes. All we get, really, is this one paragraph about Perry's compensation.
Where the money comes from is also a concern. New Orleans' hotel tax is a key source of funding for the board. Steve Pettus, board treasurer and managing partner at Dickie Brennan & Co., said board rules specifically stipulate CEO pay must be funded by private sector dollars.
Money being fungible and all, though, this is pretty meaningless.What it means, in practice, is that once NOCVB has finished leveraging public money away from public service and into the pockets of hoteliers, marketers, developers, etc., they can pay the CEO out of the kickbacks they receive in donations.

Down payment

Looks like we're only going to be able to squeeze $500 million out of congress for flood relief before they rush off to recess again.

The short-term funding bill, formally known as a continuing resolution, has been identified as the fastest way to get flood money for the state before Congress recesses this month. Lawmakers won't return to D.C. until December, after this fall's elections. Gov. John Bel Edwards had requested a $2.8 billion package.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, said that the $500 million in the proposal is seen as a "down payment" on future flood relief that can be awarded in the December "lame duck" session.

"It's a great start," he said Thursday. "This obviously gets things going."

The flood relief package, which Senators will have for four days before votes are cast and then it heads to the House, would largely go toward meeting housing needs in the flood-ravaged areas. As it's currently written, the money would also go toward recovery for North Louisiana, which experienced mass floods in the spring.
They sound pretty proud of themselves as well as optimistic about getting the rest of the money after the fall break. Could they have done now, though? Probably
The Senate may break two weeks ahead of schedule, with lawmakers on Monday suggesting that an early recess is underway.

Friday could be the last day the Senate is in session until after the election, meaning senators have just one week to make progress on Zika, an environmental bill, and relief for Flint, Michigan, and flood-damaged Louisiana – not to mention pass a continuing resolution, known as the CR, that would keep the government funded before the fiscal year ends on September 30.

“Republicans took the longest summer recess in 60 years and are rushing for the exits again after three short weeks back at work,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid in a statement. “This Republican Senate has worked fewer days than any Senate in modern history.”
Oh well. Have a nice vacation, guys. See you after the re-greatening of America. 

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/congress/article102774302.html#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

John Bel explains things

So as we're sitting here watching what has become a regular occurrence of civic unrest  after yet another regular occurrence of police somewhere killing yet another unarmed or non-threatening person, let's check in with our Governor to see what he thinks.  It sure was interesting earlier today when we saw that he had said he doesn't think humans cause global warming. What other neat stuff came out of that radio interview?  
A caller identified as Anna from the governor's hometown of Amite, asked for his thoughts on the use of deadly force in law enforcement following high-profile cases across the country, including the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge.

Edwards said "there's no doubt" that there is a problem.

"Everybody can do better," he said, adding that he supports better law enforcement training as well as efforts to train people with how to deal with police officers – possibly as teens or children.
See? #AllTrainingMatters, I guess. Should we be training police not to wantonly murder people? Yeah, probably. But hey don't think for a second that the victims can't "do better" themselves! Basically John Bel is telling us we need to institutionalize "The Talk." The article doesn't say this but the governor actually suggested adding this kind of "training" to the driver's license test somehow. Random deadly force from police is just one of the hazards of the road. Drive defensively. 

Oh also, would it comfort you to believe that lethal force by police is not at an all time high? John Bel says you have "many reasons" to believe that if you want. 
"The shame of it is there are many reasons to believe the application of lethal force by police officers not at an all-time high," he said. "The difference is that today many of these things are caught on camera ... Because all of this is being captured on camera, the issue is at the front of everybody's – it's on TV, it's on the internet – you see it."
Again, the problem isn't so much that police can and frequently do murder people and get away with it.  The problem is actually that so many dang people know about it now.  If only someone could train them to handle this knowledge with a little more grace, we might finally learn to "do better."

Governor Landry not actually Governor yet

John Bel Edwards said today that he would like to see all coastal parishes join a lawsuit against oil and gas companies but, even if they don't, the state plans to go ahead either way.  That doesn't sit well with Fake Governor Landry.
The governor said he thinks the oil and gas industry should pay for a portion of that master plan bill, given their role in coastal erosion. It is part of the motivation for having the state intervene in the existing parish lawsuits. If the state is not party to the legal action, then none of the damages that might be recovered could fund its restoration efforts.

Edwards has been promising to intervene in the coastal lawsuits since he launched his campaign to become governor in 2014. But he's hit a significant roadblock in opposition from the attorney general.

Landry -- who has strong ties to the oil and gas companies and has taken significant donations from that industry for political campaigns -- has blocked Edwards' choice of lawyers for the coastal lawsuits for now.

In a letter last week, Landry said the compensation that the private lawyers may get if the lawsuits are won -- millions of dollars -- could be illegal. He also said some of the attorneys Edwards wants to hire have a conflict of interest, because they are also involved in the parishes' litigation.

In his interview with the media, Edwards said the contract his team had extended was legal and not exorbitant. Though the attorneys stand to make millions of dollars if the lawsuit is won, the hourly rate -- $225 per hour -- is below the maximum allowed of $500 per hour, the governor said.

"He doesn't understand the contract or he is purposefully misrepresenting it," Edwards said.
The Governor's people and the Fake Governor's people are supposed to meet and talk about this later this month. But the way that story is written, it looks like John Bel is going ahead with his plans and his lawyers. Good for him.

Meanwhile, though, it's hard to praise the Governor for more than five minutes these days before he goes and does something annoying
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, isn't convinced human activity is contributing to global warming, a stance that puts him at odds with President Barack Obama, most other national figures in his own political party and the mainstream science community.

Edwards said twice on Wednesday (Sept. 21) that he agreed the globe was getting warmer, but he isn't convinced the phenomenon is "man-made". The governor's comments where made during his monthly call-in radio show broadcast across Louisiana.

Overwhelmingly, climate researchers and weather experts believe humans are contributing to global warming. Some studies show climate change has made extreme weather events, such as massive floods and hurricanes, more likely.
This is a pretty strikingly craven position to take. But it's exactly the kind of incoherence you might expect to encounter from a governor who knows his lawsuit is going to piss off the oil companies and is trying to compensate somehow.

Consider retiring

The bad news is the Saints are down yet one more cornerback for the remainder of the season. The good news is, it could have been a lot worse for him.
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said Monday that all news related to injured cornerback P.J. Williams's brain injury was "positive," but it turns out the team is taking a cautious approach with him.

Williams went on injured reserve Wednesday, according to a report from Sporting News. A source told NOLA.com Monday that Williams had a concussion and "will be fine," but it's now highly unlikely he plays again in 2016.

The second-year cornerback was unconscious on the field at MetLife Stadium in the first quarter of the Saints' loss to the New York Giants. Trainers tended to him for about 5 minutes before placing him on a backboard, driving him off in a cart and rushing him to a local hospital.
The less important bad news for the Saints is they are completely out of corners already.  Just a month or so ago, this looked like it might be the strongest position on the team. Delvin Breaux, Keenan Lewis, Damian Swann, and now PJ are gone. (They had already lost Kyle Wilson over the summer.) It should be fun watching Sterling Moore and a couple of rookies chase people around haphazardly for the next several weeks until Breaux is able to walk.

Meanwhile, PJ might consider retirement after a scare like that.  Last year, Swann suffered three of these and I'm still amazed that he came back. 

The old Murder in the Bayou bump

Boustany is making a move all of a sudden.
U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany has closed the gap on state Treasurer John Kennedy in Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, according to a telephone survey released Wednesday (Sept. 21) by longtime pollster Bernie Pinsonat.

The results show the Republican congressman from Lafayette riding popularity in his home district to a statistical tie with Kennedy, a fellow Republican who had maintained a double-digit lead in early polls conducted by candidates and some partisan groups.

Kennedy still leads the pack at 17 percent, followed by Boustany at 15 percent, within the poll's 4.4 percent margin of error.
The polls were always going to tighten, probably in this precise way.  Still, it's interesting that this comes right on the heels of Boustany making what most would consider some decidedly negative headlines
When you’re still trying to make a first impression on voters outside your congressional district, let’s just say that it’s not good thing when your name comes up in a new book about the suspicious deaths of eight prostitutes, released by a major publisher less than two months before Election Day.

It’s particularly not a good thing when that book is sensationally titled “Murder in the Bayou,” and it contains a chapter describing how a now-former aide ran the quaintly named hotel, the Boudreaux Inn in Jefferson Davis Parish, where the prostitution ring was centered. And when, by the way, author Ethan Brown quotes unnamed sources alleging that you were a “well-regarded client” of several prostitutes who were later killed, even as he acknowledges that there’s no reason to connect you to any of their deaths.
On the other hand, maybe just being in the news is good enough for Boustany.  Especially if it puts him in direct contrast with Kennedy who.. to put it mildly.. comes off a bit smarmy.  For example, here is Grace's accounting of the way Kennedy handled the news about Brown's book. 
Indeed, Kennedy’s campaign manager admitted to sending around a news report about the book’s contents, and Kennedy himself issued an artfully — and widely quoted — statement that denied spreading details even as it managed to do just that.

“I want to be very clear that my campaign played absolutely no role in creating this story alleging Congressman Boustany’s sexual relationships with prostitutes that were later murdered, his staff’s alleged involvement in running the bar and hotel where this illicit behavior took place, or publishing the book 'Murder in the Bayou' written by Ethan Brown and published by Simon and Schuster,” the statement said.
I guess that's good for a snicker. But it's probably not going to endear anyone to Kennedy. Which is a problem since he's not especially well liked as it is.  In fact, if I had to guess at what's happening with this race right now, it's that people are looking for reasons to vote against Kennedy if they can.* They certainly have no shortage of alternative candidates in that case.  Anyway, it would explain why a scandalous accusation against Boustany might actually damage Kennedy instead.

By the way, Ethan Brown will be at Octavia Books tonight talking about Murder In The Bayou if anyone wants to check that out.  The event starts around 6. 

*Note: According to the poll, Kennedy actually has a 62 percent approval rating. Which is pretty darn high. But how solid is it, really?  In recent years he's set himself up as The One Guy Who Hates Whoever Is Governor Right Now.  That works well at times but I think.. and this is just a gut feeling.. that people find him hard to like. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Stupid or lying or... ?

One important way in which I tend to read news and politics differently from a lot of my liberal fellow travelers is I almost never assume that the "other side" is over there on the other side because of simple stupidity or ignorance.  Like the great majority of Americans, I'm kind of stupid and not especially expert in any one thing. I figure most people are pretty much just like me. It follows, then, that if I have read about or have a basic understanding something, then whoever I'm talking to probably knows it as well or better than I do. So it's not incumbent on me to educate anyone.

In public affairs, there usually isn't one "right" answer that can satisfy everyone if only the "stupid other side" would be less stupid.  Political questions are not about finding the most inherently good policy but are instead about what policy choice will benefit whom. So those people on the other side, they're not stupid. They're just full of shit.

Take this peculiar City Council vote yesterday over bail reform, for instance.  
A meeting that started with skepticism about a measure to essentially eliminate bail for nonviolent crimes at New Orleans' Municipal Court boiled over Monday into ill-tempered spats among City Council members and recriminations between advocates seeking to end the practice and judges and bail bondsmen fighting to keep the status quo.

After a Criminal Justice Committee meeting that lasted more than three hours, the measure failed to garner enough support from council members to be formally sent on to the full City Council. However, Councilwoman Susan Guidry, the sponsor of the proposed ordinance, said she planned to bring a revised version back in the future.
Here is the problem Guidry's ordinance is attempting to address.  The jail is a profit center for people whose business depends on collecting ransom for minor offenses. Inevitably this penalizes those who can't afford to pay the ransom.  A recent Vera Institute study showed fourteen percent of the jail population at the time of the survey were there simply because they couldn't afford to be out.
Out of the 451 people in jail who were assessed for risk and given a risk score, 216—or 48 percent—were found to present a low or low-moderate risk. Those 216 people represented 14 percent of the entire jail population.

These low and low-moderate risk arrestees were held in jail because a judge decided they had to pay a financial bond to get out. One-hundred and eighteen of them were held on a $25,000 bail or less, an unaffordable sum to many: New Orleans’s poverty rate is almost twice the national average. Eighty-five percent of people who go through the criminal justice system are too poor to hire a lawyer.

That isn't hard to understand. Guidry made the point again, though, just to be certain everyone heard it.
"We're talking about misdemeanor charges that are nonviolent, and the only people who get stuck in jail before their first appearance are the ones who can't come up with those few hundred dollars," Guidry said. "Are we saying poor people are by their nature more dangerous?"
Which is why, if you take the actions and statements of the councilpersons at face value, you have to conclude that all of them except for CM Guidry, are unbelievably stupid. You might think Jason Williams was so stupid he didn't know what the ordinance said.
Williams said he had concerns the plan would not provide enough scrutiny for those accused of domestic violence, although the ordinance requires they be held until a judge has time to evaluate them, and it could still allow for some kind of bond.

More broadly, he argued that if the city wants to reduce the number of people languishing in jail, it should stop arresting people, rather than changing how bail is treated.

"The real issue here is arresting people who we as a community don't believe should be arrested or detained at all," Williams said, specifically questioning whether the Police Department is abiding by council policies aimed at making sure they are not targeting black residents for arrest.
He certainly has a point about the police department although the two problems are hardly mutually exclusive. He knows this, though. He's just full of shit.

You might also think Stacy Head is so stupid she doesn't understand what a nonviolent crime like those addressed by the ordinance actually is.
Head, who usually is an ally of Guidry, seemed skeptical of the proposal, repeatedly suggesting that something is needed to keep people who are "raping and pillaging" the community in jail. But she later said Guidry's plan could work with some changes to narrow its scope.
She just wanted to say "raping and pillaging" a lot, probably.  Notice, though, that Head ended up supporting the ordinance anyway.  Why? Well we're getting to that. First, take a look at Sheriff Gusman and his pastor friends.  
The financial issue is also a key part of the thrust behind the ordinance, as Guidry and others on the council have sought for years to whittle down the jail population. Sheriff Marlin Gusman has fought against those plans, and a group of pastors who have previously backed him were among those opposing the ordinance Monday.

You might think a lot of these pastors would be sympathetic to the bail reform. It's likely the problem Guidry describes is affecting members of their own flocks in disproportionate numbers. Are they just stupid? Nah.. more likely they're more sensitive to parishioners with money to donate. 

This is from another argument between the Vera Institute and some of these pastors over a pre-trial services program with a similar aim as Guidry's bail reform. 
Stuart was followed at the microphone by the Rev. Tom Watson, the senior pastor at Watson Memorial Teaching Ministries, who complained that Vera got its role screening accused criminals for pre-trial release without competitive bidding.

“That’s unfair and unjust,” Watson said. “I call them carpetbaggers. We have a lot of people who could go to the jails (and screen the defendants) for a lot less.”

A second pastor, the Rev. Joseph Merrill, of New Kingdom Missionary Baptist Church, said it was “nonsense” to have “folks from New York come to try to solve our problem.”

Merrill was followed by bail bondsman Matt Dennis, owner of dennisbonding.com, who said the Vera program “is turning the offender into a victim.” He added, “They’re trying to drive us out of business.”

The pre-trial program represents a financial threat to the bondsmen because the defendants get released without having to post bond.

The back-and-forth comments prompted a response from only one City Council member, Susan Guidry.

Guidry, who chairs the council’s criminal justice committee, said Vera had come to New Orleans in 2007 at the council’s request and was involved in discussions for two years before this year’s program began. She said the Justice Department chose Vera, which is why the program had not been put to through competitive bidding process. “It would be a very big mistake for us to pull the people who have been with the program for two years,” Guidry said. “It’s been a success.”

The Rev. Antoine Barriere, senior pastor at Household of Faith Family Worship Church International, had earlier endorsed Vera’s work before the council, saying the project “was going in the right direction.”

Afterward, in an interview, Barriere said the opposition to Vera surprised him since the critics had just surfaced.

“Now they come in and divide everyone,” Barriere said. “Somebody is connected to somebody who is getting bail bond money.”
Simply put, there's a lot of money in the sleazy business of leveraging the criminal justice system to extract profits from the vulnerable.  Those councilmembers who voted to maintain that system aren't stupid. They're benefiting from it.  Similarly, those who voted to shut it down.. including the reluctant Head despite her "rape and pillage" crowing... aren't benefiting and are jealous of those who are.

None of these actors is stupid. They're all acting rationally.  But none of them is doing anything simply because it's the objectively moral policy choice.

They get it from their racist parents

Atrios on "The Kids Today" who are still racist
We like to think our society is in general getting a bit less racist. I think that's probably true, and that it's probably true that The Kids Today are a bit less racist than my generation was (when I was a kid explicitly racist jokes were really not taboo, though by the time I hit college they probably were). Still there's plenty of racism, and The Kids Today have plenty of racists, too. I'm not talking about the kids being idiots stuff, like halloween blackface*, I'm talking about real solid racism. I know where all the racism came from when I was a kid. It was, you know, normal. I'm not quite sure where they get it from today.
That's easy, though.  They get it from the racist parents who raised them to also be racists in a still very racist environment. I think cosmetically, we present as slightly less racist today than say 30 years ago. But that's only the result of a lot of hard work and political pressure brought to bear on institutions. (And it's real progress. Don't get me wrong. I'm just saying it shouldn't be taken as evidence that we've defeated racism by any stretch.)

Anyway, the kids are still quite racist.  And it's because, contrary to popular belief, millennials didn't suddenly arrive from Mars one day.  They were raised here. By people like us.

Congratulations, St. Tammany Parish residents

You aren't going to be fracked by Helis Oil.  That's great. But let's take a look at what it was that saved you, exactly. 

Was it the vehement organized citizen opposition?  No, that didn't work.

Was it Bobby Jindal's state Department of Natural Resources? Don't make me laugh.

Was it the lawsuit brought to stop DNR issuing a permit? Nope.

Was it a federal environmental impact review by the Corps of Engineers? No, they let it slide too.

So what was it?  At the end of the day, the only thing that Northshore residents have to thank for saving their aquifer from possible contamination is the unprofitable barrenness of their own land.
ST. TAMMANY PARISH -- Helis Oil and Gas sent out a news release Tuesday saying that "following a lengthy review of the geologic, engineering and other data from its exploratory well in rural St. Tammany Parish, Helis Oil & Gas has concluded that it will not proceed with further operations."

The move would bring to an end the controversial project on the Northshore that met with a lot of citizen opposition.

Helis overcame that opposition to get the approval to move forward on the project, however, a few months in, the results were not what the company was hoping to achieve.

"Helis has determined that the prospect lacks appropriate commercial viability so the company will not pursue the project any further. Helis intends to permanently abandon the well and secure the site in accordance with regulatory requirements and its leases," said Greg Beuerman, spokesperson for Helis Oil & Gas.
The lesson is, whatever you do, first make sure you are not commercially viable.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

The co-opting of media criticism

Some of what Taibbi writes here can come off as sounding like a cranky old media guy blaming the readership. Which is funny given that he's accusing his targets in this article of "snobbery." Here, for example, he accuses critics of assuming other readers have "weaker minds than theirs."
The people complaining about "false balance" usually seem confident in having discovered the truth of things for themselves, despite the media's supposed incompetence. They're quite sure of whom to vote for and why. Their complaints are really about the impact that "false balance" coverage might have on other, lesser humans, with weaker minds than theirs. Which is not just snobbish, but laughably snobbish. So, shut up.
But then in the very next paragraph, he turns around and blames stupid readers for low quality coverage. 
One of the main reasons the news media has been dumbed down over the years is because audiences have consistently rejected smart, responsible journalism in favor of clickbait stupidities like "Five Things You Didn't Know About John McCain's Penis" and "Woman Strips Naked in Front of Police Officers. You Won't Believe What Happened Next." The Bachelor and Toddlers and Tiaras crush Frontline. And people wonder why Donald Trump gets a lot of coverage? 

On the other hand, when he isn't trying to have that question both ways, he has a point. After about a decade and a half of critics hammering away at the cautious "he said, she said" style in mainstream political coverage, the notion has become weaponized by political operators.

I would say "false equivalence" is still a real problem in political coverage. But what we're seeing this year is that long valid complaint co-opted by partisan Democrats in a disingenuous effort to "work the refs" on important stories. They sound a lot like Republicans used to sound back when they created the myth of the "liberal media" to use as a cudgel against any and all coverage they didn't approve of.

2016 is the first election cycle that truly sophisticated use of social media has come into play.  We've moved from a time when candidates merely had websites or were on Twitter/Facebook to where their consultants and staffers actually know how to speak the language and manipulate the message in those realms. The fake complaints against "false equivalence" are one way that's been manifest.  There are others, but this is a big one.

Two interesting facts about the New Orleans Saints' season thus far

This is the part where I promise myself to write more about the games when I have some time. 

Anyway, in the meantime, behold your record setting, boundary-breaking, reality defying 2016 New Orleans Saints.

Week One:

Week Two:

Not even three games into the season and already you are seeing things you have not seen before.  Wonders abound.

Two interesting facts about the NYC bombing case over the weekend

One: The act of "domestic terrorism" seems to have been inspired by a small business owning family becoming frustrated by the meddling power of the neighborhood association brought down up on them through City Hall.
Mr. Bollwage, speaking at a news conference on Monday morning, described how the Rahami family had issues with the city in the past, mainly surrounding the operation of their family restaurant, First American Fried Chicken.

Mr. Rahami’s father, Muhammad, opened the restaurant about a decade ago and employed his sons, the mayor said.

It was open 24 hours a day, but neighbors complained about rowdy crowds that would gather at the place, often after midnight.

Dean McDermott, who lives near the restaurant in Elizabeth, said he found patrons loitering in his yard and urinating in his driveway.

Responding to the complaints, the City Council passed an ordinance that would force the restaurant to close late at night, the mayor said.
Two: The case seems to have been cracked (and further violence prevented) thanks to the intercession of some local street criminals
The day Ahmad Khan Rahami allegedly planted two bombs in Chelsea  — one of which detonated on West 23rd Street — two thieves accidentally helped to disable his second pressure cooker bomb left inside a rolling suitcase on West 27th Street, sources said.

The young men, who sources described as being well-dressed, opened the bag and took the bomb out, sources said, before placing the explosive into a garbage bag and walking away with the rolling suitcase.

In doing so, investigators believe they inadvertently disabled the explosive, sources said. That allowed investigators to examine the cellphone attached to the bomb intact and discover that it was connected to the family of Rahami.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

America has always been surreal

This is an important article by Rick Perlstein. It's a response to readers of his work who may be missing the point.  
It’s unquestionably true that what is happening now in our politics is surreal, dangerous, violent, disorienting, and terrifyingly conflictual. The feeling that 2016 has been a break from politics past cannot be denied. I certainly don’t deny it—in fact, when I began embarking on my own writing about the Trump phenomenon, I felt like I had to reconsider everything I thought I knew about conservatism and the Republican Party in order to responsibly handle the job. Please note that well, all of you writing me all those just like, just like, just like messages.

But what I want my readers to grasp most deeply is that all of American history is more surreal, more dangerous, more disorienting, and more terrifyingly conflictual than we typically want to believe. Focus on all the parts in my books where I dwell on the pundits, political leaders, and other gatekeepers of polite opinion and their willful insistence that America is fundamentally a society of consensus. Recall that they’re never more insistent on the point than when signs of chaos are all around them: Walter Lippmann was pronouncing his “united and at peace with itself” celebration not long after Bull Connor’s fire hoses and police dogs ushered in the most violent phase yet of the civil rights revolution.
One of the stranger elements of Election 2016 has to do with the collective historical amnesia of even the self-professed political history buffs.  They seem to want to argue that the thoroughly unprecedented Trump has us on the edge of an "apocalypse" deliberately failing to acknowledge the latent threads and forces in American society that allow a Trump to happen.  At the same time, they're just as quick to read Perlstein.. or at least tune in to a CNN nostalgia documentary... and proclaim, "Whoah this is just like 1968!" or whatever.

But where have these people been in the meantime? What cognitive dissonance allows comfortable liberals to have some basic knowledge of their turbulent history but also behave as though that history somehow stopped happening at some point? (Probably around the time they closed on their houses.. but that's another talk.) 

Of course Donald Trump is his own unique iteration of the surreal and the dangerous in American politics. But American politics has always been surreal and dangerous, pretty fucked up, generally. A central theme of Perlstein's most recent book about the rise of Ronald Reagan is the veer away from an opportunity to honestly examine the fucked-uppedness and into an active denialism of it. Today we call this "American Exceptionalism" and it's extremely popular with Democrats now.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Why we're going to lose on short term rentals

Neighbors in neighborhoods

After months.. no.. actually.. years and years of watching this play out on a national and worldwide scale, I can tell you right now that we're inevitably going to lose the fight over short term rentals and affordable housing in New Orleans.

Why? Because, first and foremost, although much has been written, only a very small segment of the population has done much reading on the subject.  This means that every single time the issue comes up, we begin again as though there is zero context available.  This is how I can wake up on a morning like today and see professional reporters tweeting plumb-ignorant bullshit like this.

"Fighting the future" Goddammit, we've been through this so many times, I'm exhausted.  I'm not even going to link the many many articles written about how "the future" in other world tourist destinations is now about reclaiming the city from the plague.  Just fucking google it. You can even scroll back through my stupid blog if you want.  I'm just an idiot who reads the news. If I know this stuff by now, y'all should fucking know it by now. But every day it seems we start from scratch.  I'm tired of it.

But that's politics. Ninety percent of the time it's about elites profiting from our ignorance and/or failure to organize.  In New Orleans, especially, the default conventional wisdom is that poor people kind of deserve to be evicted anyway.  It's only in recent years, though, that this notion been able to ride the national wave of a gentrification-friendly zeitgeist. Poverty, "blight," crime, the typical social and economic ills of the city no longer need to be addressed directly by our civic leaders. It's much easier, instead, to just move them out of the way where hopefully the tourists won't see. And now that we can turn every neighborhood worth visiting into a tourist-only zone, the chances are all they'll ever see is each other.

And so for the final phase, here comes a heaping pile of corporate ad money
Airbnb is trying to burnish its image in the run-up to an expected October vote by the New Orleans City Council on short-term rentals with a series of ads featuring homeowners who take advantage of the service.

In the ads, residents who list their properties with the service talk about how the extra money brought in by renting out rooms in their homes has helped them make ends meet.
I know this isn't the primary concern in the local debate. But at some point we are going to have to talk about how damaging it is to celebrate the fact that people have to rent out rooms in their homes "to make ends meet." The fundamental problem is still that housing is not affordable.  Incomes aren't covering the costs of basic needs. And so people (some people.. those who have the capacity and flexibility of lifestyle to allow it) are forced to "side-hustle" up the difference. This isn't a triumph of entrepreneurship and "personal responsibility." It is a market failure and one that companies like Airbnb exacerbate rather than solve.

Anyway, like I said, that's not even the center of the public controversy right now.  The fate of so-called "whole home rentals" is.  And guess what about that.
(The ads) do not touch on the most controversial aspect of the debate over short-term rentals in the city: renting of entire homes in residential neighborhoods throughout most or all of the year, not just for a few weeks a year or else renting of a few rooms in otherwise occupied homes. 
Not that it matters. All that matters is that Airbnb has dropped a truckload of money onto the perpetual blank slate of context-free "debate." They have gone and bought themselves a valid position in the political arena. And so all that's left now is for our everyone to agree that "there has to be compromise."  Our wise councilpersons will figure that out for us, I'm sure.