Monday, February 29, 2016

Nobody actually lives here

We are blessed to be led by such bold visionaries.
According to the recent Planning Commission study, 70 percent of the estimated 2,400-4,000 short-term rentals are now for the whole house. Eliminating short-term, whole-house rentals would go a long way toward cooling off an overheated market by making those properties available again to legitimate, longer-term tenants.

Short-term rentals used to be primarily a French Quarter problem. But just as oversized trucks pass through the Quarter with impunity, even when they take out balconies, property owners then and now rent to whomever and how many they choose. This is the pattern spreading to multiple neighborhoods.

City leadership for some time has been happy to look the other way, based on the badly mistaken notion that attracting more and more tourists is a measure of the Quarter’s good health. In fact it has undermined the Quarter’s once-unique character as a mixed-use district that compatibly accommodated both commercial and residential uses.

What ruined the Quarter as a community now threatens the whole city. Short-term rentals are spreading like kudzu, despite their obviously negative impact on the city’s livability.
They don't care. They just want the money. They want either the tax revenue they think they're going to get (but probably won't) or they want the money they themselves or their friends can make Airbnbing their investment properties. (Several councilmembers own rental property.) One thing they certainly don't care about is whether or not anybody actually lives here anymore.  Too many engaged, full time constituents who aren't super-wealthy makes for too much trouble anyway.

The Fly is Chinatown

Stupor Bowl 3

A few weeks ago we played our annual flag football game out at The Fly. Sadly for fans of the legendary Vibrio Vulnificus Football Club, things did not go especially well for our heroes. The previously undefeated Vibrios were done in by a lack of preparation combined with just plain being a bunch of old dudes.  Given the week of soreness immediately following the game, there isn't a single one of us who would blame the recently cut [CORRECTION soon to be cut] Marques Colston if he just decided to call it a career.

Still it was a nice day for it. Sunday afternoon at The Fly is quite busy with families and neighbors, picnickers and soccer players, or just anyone there to hang out. Ron Forman says he needs to fence a big part of it off, though
Plans for a soccer complex at the The Fly are on hold, as backers hold talks with opponents of the $4 million project.

The Carrollton Boosters, a youth sports nonprofit seeking to build the complex on the Riverview section of Audubon park, already has approval for the project from the Audubon Commission, but the group has agreed not to begin construction until it has heard the public's concerns, said Ron Forman, head of the Audubon Nature Institute.

"It's a short term pause to see input on how we can improve the project," Forman said in a phone interview Tuesday (Feb. 23).

The Audubon Commission is the public body that manages the park for the city of New Orleans and is vested with decision making power over the park. The Audubon Nature Institute, a private nonprofit partner, serves as the commission's staff.
To visitors on any given Sunday, it isn't clear what amenities these "improvements" would provide that don't already exist. There are already soccer fields.  Stupor Bowl 3 made use of one of them with no difficulty. There's already adequate parking. Even though there were lots of people using the fields, we didn't have to pay a rental fee because the space was not made scarce by fencing.  We brought plenty of beer so we didn't have to buy concessions from anyone.  This is different from what Forman and the Boosters are envisioning. 
The commission approved a cooperative endeavor agreement last spring with Carrollton Boosters, granting them the right to develop the soccer complex on Audubon land. Under the agreement, the Carrollton Boosters are vested with managerial authority over the complex and entitled to any revenue it produces from concessions and rentals.
The plans call for a full-sized soccer field, to be in enclosed by a fence, bleachers, a press box, a new concessions building, a playground and two parking lots. The 2.5 acre field would be the only area not open to the public at all times, but the full footprint of the project would occupy more than six acres, a sizable chunk of the 40-acre riverfront park. A large swath of the park is already dedicated to a cluster of baseball diamonds and a trio of soccer fields.
So that seems unnecessary.... for anyone who doesn't stand to make a little money off of the deal, anyway.  Naturally some folks who do not were upset
A group of New Orleans residents are banding together to oppose a plan that would expand sports facilities on The Fly in Audubon Park and put the new facilities under the control of a private booster club.

"There has been a lot of concern over what is being considered the taking over of the only wide, green space on the river," said Bill Ives, one of the development's opponents. "We think it should be preserved as a unique resource. There are many places in the city where a sports complex can go."

An online petition opposing the development had 3,800 signatures Monday evening (Feb. 15).

The most contentious part of the new development is the conversion of 2.5 acres of open green space into a tournament-grade soccer field and parking lots. The new facility would be placed under the management of Carrollton Boosters, which is footing the project's $4 million price tag.
Okay wait  a minute. That's not exactly correct.  Technically it may be okay to say the Boosters are "footing the $4 million." But, really, most of it is coming from Tom Benson
The $4 million price-tag for the project is being footed by the booster club, which solicited donations from foundations and wealthy individuals, including Saints owner Tom Benson and Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
It should be worth noting that Benson's donation benefits not only his friends in the Boosters but also Ron Forman. In recent years, Forman sat on the board of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District which is the public entity directly responsible for overseeing Benson's extraordinarily favorable lease on the Superdome and adjacent properties.

Who should we turn to in order to report this obviously inappropriate political kickback? What about our friends at the Bureau of Governmental Research?  They're always keen to weigh in on stuff that seems fishy.  Who is over there we could talk to? Let's ask Treasurer J. Storey Charbonnet. He ought to know how to follow the money for us. Certainly shouldn't be any problem for him also sitting on the Carrollton Boosters board of directors the way he does.  Charbonnet happens to be an Audubon Institute commissioner on top of that so, you know,  connections all over the place. When the reporters check back in on the story I really think this is the guy to talk to.

Probably you see where this is going. Probably you're about to say, "But Jeffrey, we can't rely on Charbonnet or his friends at BGR to offer us an unbiased analysis of Forman and Benson's shuffling of money back and forth. These organizations are all just different combinations of the same elites covering for each other."

Well you had better hold your horses there, bub. Stacy Head says that kind of talk is out of line.
Councilman James Gray and Councilwoman Stacy Head, however, argued that more space is needed for organized youth recreation.

Head blasted some speakers for attacks on members of the commission and the booster club, saying that claims of profiteering from the project or elitism in the organization were out of line.

Maybe we should just listen to Stacy. After all, everyone knows the work done by our city's elite organizations and non profits is always strictly "Pro Bono Publico"
“The generosity of those donating to such a worthy cause has been tremendous as the Pro Bono Publico Foundation hits this $1 million milestone,” said Foundation Chairman Storey Charbonnet. “We’ve seen continued annual growth in contributions to help invest in our community’s future by promoting a strong educational environment for children.”

The grants exemplify PBPF’s drive to assure that all of New Orleans’ children have access to excellent schools. Ninety-three percent of New Orleans students now attend public charter schools. These schools, and organizations supporting their important work, have been the focus of PBPF’s investment, as well as the commitment of dozens of Rex members serving on their boards.

The Pro Bono Publico Foundation was formed by members of the Rex Organization as New Orleans recovered from Hurricane Katrina. Foundation giving, in its ninth grant cycle since 2007, now totals $4.4 million in cumulative cash contributions to schools.
Forget about it, yall. The Fly is Chinatown.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Leading by example

John Kennedy keeps telling us there are 400 ways to cut fat out of the budget before we have to raise any revenue.  He should know since he's one of them.
Kennedy’s been on TV, radio and written op-eds about the wasteful contracts that have harmed the state’s budget.

But Kennedy’s office has at least one contract of its own that has been questioned repeatedly.

Since 2011, the Treasurer’s Office has leased office space at One City Plaza on North Boulevard in Baton Rouge. Currently, that site is home to the Treasurer’s Unclaimed Property, Audit and Compliance and Investments sections.

According to information from the Division of Administration, about 22 employees work out of the 11,954-square-foot space. The cost to taxpayers: $369,597 a year.
Hey there's always room in the Benson Tower.
Legislators on the House Appropriations Committee lost some of their spirit for their NFL team this week when they learned the state is paying owner Tom Benson almost $2 million more than the market value of 323,000 square feet of space the state leases in Benson Tower, including an entire floor that's unoccupied.
Shove Kennedy’s people in there and we solve two problems at once, right? Just 398 more to go.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Trump will not be the nominee?

The squirming is fun to watch.
Despite all the forces arrayed against Mr. Trump, the interviews show, the party has been gripped by a nearly incapacitating leadership vacuum and a paralytic sense of indecision and despair, as he has won smashing victories in South Carolina and Nevada. Donors have dreaded the consequences of clashing with Mr. Trump directly. Elected officials have balked at attacking him out of concern that they might unintentionally fuel his populist revolt. And Republicans have lacked someone from outside the presidential race who could help set the terms of debate from afar.

The endorsement by Mr. Christie, a not unblemished but still highly regarded figure within the party’s elite — he is a former chairman of the Republican Governors Association — landed Friday with crippling force. It was by far the most important defection to Mr. Trump’s insurgency: Mr. Christie may give cover to other Republicans tempted to join Mr. Trump rather than trying to beat him. Not just the Stop Trump forces seemed in peril, but also the traditional party establishment itself.

Should Mr. Trump clinch the presidential nomination, it would represent a rout of historic proportions for the institutional Republican Party, and could set off an internal rift unseen in either party for a half-century, since white Southerners abandoned the Democratic Party en masse during the civil rights movement. 
I have several doubts about that last paragraph.  There's nothing especially dangerous to the party in making Trump the nominee. If anything, it strengthens the GOP by keeping the rabid ID of conservative reaction under the party's umbrella and therefore under the control of the "Republican establishment." 

Trump, himself, is not the sort of transformative figure who could actually threaten the power structure. He's just a con man with no coherent program or ideology. Even if he gets elected, he's going to need some people ("Good People. The Best People. Really Classy People") to do the actual governing. Such people will be the same cast of characters any Republican President (or Hillary Clinton) would turn to.  The sooner the Republican "insiders" come to terms with that the better off they'll be.

But if it turns out they still absolutely can't stand the thought of Trump being the nominee, then they won't nominate him. I'm sure they're fully stupid and/or arrogant enough to nullify the result of the primary process at the convention if need be. It's really as simple at that.

In a way, it would fit them to do so.  There are little revolts going on in both parties right now. The Democrats are putting theirs down by having the "Grown Up" faction drown out the complaints of the poors in an avalanche of smarm. The Republicans will likely do something more obviously authoritarian to dispense with theirs.  Either way, the money power comes out on top no matter what.
Because, as Jeb Bush might say, America.

Oh god no

Well, here's one way to ensure the Saints don't turn things around this year.
Three days at the Scouting Combine resulted in plenty of intriguing information landing in the PFT bucket, and the biggest goal for the next two days will be to share as much of it as possible. To the extent I can remember it.

Here’s one thing I remember. Per a league source, the Saints are bracing for the possibility of the league tapping them on the shoulder and directing them to be the subject of the annual Hard Knocks series.
Seems like the Ryan Brothers Show in Buffalo would make for better TV. But then maybe there's a bigger market for New Orleans themed programming in Brooklyn.

More obvious things that need to be said out loud, apparently

Hillary Clinton is a goddamned horrible monster
With a series of Rust Belt primaries on the horizon, Hillary Clinton’s campaign Thursday planned a conference call with reporters to tout what it calls Clinton’s “lifelong commitment to the manufacturing sector.” That portrayal — launched by the presidential campaign of a former Walmart board member — seems designed to try to pre-emptively outflank Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He has long slammed Walmart’s business practices as well as Clinton-backed free trade policies — both of which economists say contributed to massive manufacturing job losses in the United States.

Clinton’s 2016 campaign has numerous ties to Walmart. Most recently, Walmart heir Alice Walton donated  $353,000 to the “Hillary Victory Fund,” which is  backing her presidential run, a Walmart lobbyist held a Mexico fundraiser for her and the consulting firm of her campaign’s top strategist lists Walmart as a client. Before that, Clinton was a member of Walmart’s board in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As PBS Frontline documented, that was when Walmart began offshoring its supply chain to China. A recent study by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimated that Walmart’s shift to China ended up eliminating more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States.
These are matters of absolutely zero consequence to the comfortable clubby Democrats for whom this is all a parlor game. Elections only mean things to the people who are crushed by them. And it always means they're getting crushed. 

Obvious things that need to be said out loud, apparenty

The cognitive dissonance on the part of our friends in the Democratic Party elite is staggering.  It's become too exasperating a thing to even address
To the extent that Clinton’s identity serves as a basis for Henwood’s critique, it is not her gender, but her identification with, and championing of the interests of, the powerful and wealthy American elite that makes her an unworthy candidate.

The Clintons are card-carrying members of that elite: Bill Clinton’s wealth has been estimated at is $55 million; Hillary’s at $32 million. They defend the powerful and the structures that maintain that power, they pay lip service to caring for the not-so-fortunate, and under cover of doing so, find ways to increase their wealth and political power (as the close ties between their Clinton Foundation and its corporate allies show).

The best, or worst, example of this latter tendency may be found in Hillary Clinton’s record in Haiti, where as secretary of state she oversaw an election riven by corruption, active suppression of increases in minimum wages, and incompetent reconstruction efforts — which fattened the pockets of private contractors — after the 2010 earthquake. All this while the US embassy constructed luxurious housing for its staff and the Clinton’s friends secured contracts to build luxury hotels.
These are not trivial matters. They touch on the very essence of why politics is important to people's lives. That is for people who don't have the luxury of viewing the whole thing as a diverting social club or soap opera or something. But we know they aren't running the show.

Reliable sources say

Remember back when a bunch of reporters and pundits went out of their way to "debunk" the wild claims of some blogger trying to smear the good name of Steve Scalise?  They based it all on the word of this guy.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has charged Kenny Knight, a longtime associate of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, with running a “pill mill” out of a New Orleans East pain management clinic.

A federal judge Thursday unsealed a 22-page criminal complaint that accuses Knight of conspiring with Dr. Barbara A. Bruce to dole out prescription painkillers to friends and patients without conducting the required medical exams.

Knight’s business, the Axcess Medical Clinic on Lake Forest Boulevard, took only cash and attracted addicts who traveled for hours to get to it, according to the DEA.
So here's Lamar today with a little bit of I-Told-You-SO as well as this extra point. 
One question that continues to remain unanswered is whether Cameron Henry, now a top Republican in the state legislature, had accompanied Steve Scalise to this hate group meeting when he served as an aide to the then-State Rep. Scailse; Henry, thus far, has refused comment.
Don't worry about Henry. He'll be okay just the same way Scalise is.  This is because there's always a critical mass of establishment press willing to give "the benefit of the doubt" to the most obviously horrendous people in the name of 1) sucking up to power and 2) maintaining the "he said/she said" pretense of their lazy, cowardly trade.   It might be burning cross, but "others are calling it a 'T' post" Because "both sides" say a thing, who knows what's true?

Friday, February 26, 2016

The kids may not be alright

If you read one "Do not underestimate Donald Trump's impact" article today, make it this one.
Looking at the electoral map, Oliver concluded that “the counties where Republican margins grew the largest tended to be predominantly white places in otherwise racially mixed states.” These are areas, he observed, where “locally segregated whites have less contact with nearby minorities yet also feel greater competition for public goods.”

You might think that white twentysomethings are more racially enlightened than their parents, and therefore less likely to fall into supremacist mania. You’d be wrong. A recent Washington Post analysis of survey data found that 23% of white millennials would “rate blacks less intelligent than whites,” compared to 24% of boomers and 19% of generation X-ers. Similarly, a 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that 58% of white millennials believe “discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.” On measures of implicit bias, white members of my generation don’t do much better than their elders.
2016 is a backlash election.  That can bode either ill or good depending on the direction in which the backlash goes. Both parties are dealing with insurrectionist candidates who have drawn broad bases of support among the growing number of voters left behind by our increasingly oligarchic political economy. There are a lot of ways to explain the Trump phenomenon. None of them are encouraging to contemplate. But if you are leaning on some version that dismisses large numbers of desperate angry working class people as merely ignorant rubes, you need to work on that.

Trump is a con man. But to dismiss the validity of the desperation that makes his con possible is basically snobbery.
All of this is why Cruz and Rubio will fall flat with their attacks. For the most part, they hit him from the right, as if Trump was just another politician, walking an ideological bridge too far. But that’s wrong. Trump doesn’t win his support from the most conservative Republicans; his base is among moderates and “somewhat” conservative voters. On the same score, it doesn’t make sense to hit Trump for his lack of policy knowledge. He isn’t winning because he’s competent; he’s winning because he connects with millions of Republicans who feel, strongly, that their leaders aren’t interested in them or their lives. Trump, more than anyone else in the GOP field, feels their pain."  
The dismissal of Trump is not the same as the dismissal of Bernie.  Bernie is not a con man and he actually addresses the desperation with substance instead of platitudes and "unintelligible yelling." But it is in the same general category as the dismissal of Bernie in that it originates from an elitist and entitled sense among the ruling classes that they are better than us poor folk being left behind.

But that's exactly the message elites in the Democratic Party are sending us in their aggressive rejection of Bernie's campaign as "pie in the sky" while they promote a banking class backed war criminal as their preferred candidate.  There's revolt in the air. And by choosing to thumb their noses at it rather than seeing it as the cry for help that it is, they're giving Trump exactly what he needs to destroy them.  If you're looking for the real villains in this mess, I'd suggest that's who you focus on.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Portrait of a hissy fit

All the different ways Louisiana House Republicans have stamped their feet and gnashed their teeth trying to come up with an excuse not to vote for one temporary penny sales tax. (Okay so among other revenue measures but that's the big one.)
Representatives have suspended dozens of legislative rules to rush bills to the House floor that look at ways to find money and reduce spending without raising taxes. Some lawmakers have even started to challenge independent financial analyses done by the legislative staff -- which determine how much money each tax bill might generate -- in an effort to find more money.

But so far, the Republican-controlled House has mostly run into roadblocks in their effort to close the budget gap without substantial tax increases. Some other budget-saving measures that have been floated -- such as canceling state contracts -- simply won't save enough money quickly enough to deal with the financial crisis.
A lot of what they're doing is throwing Senate candidate Kennedy's "400 ways" against the wall to see if they stick. Mostly they aren't sticking. And the reason for this is they are mostly very bad ideas. 
A few bills have been filed to remove existing exemptions, including on prescription drugs and food. Legislation (House Bill 104) by state Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, would remove over 90 exemptions to the sales tax. It seems to be the preferred vehicle for doing so among most House members.

But independent financial analysts have said sales tax exemption bills, like Stokes, won't bring in as much money as the penny increase. The sales tax increase bill, House Bill 62, is estimated to produce $222 million this budget year and $916 million for next year, according to a legislative financial analysis. Stokes bill would only bring in $60 million annually, and a fraction of that this fiscal year.
There are so many stupid sales tax exemptions built into the Louisiana code that you'd sometimes think we were living in Ancien Regime France. But, of course, the privileges House Republicans are going after most aggressively are the few that still protect poor people.

Well, okay, it's not only Republicans who are doing this.  
Lawmakers aren't giving up on Stokes' bill and other proposals to remove sales tax exemptions to bring in big revenue -- and help them avoid tax increases. State Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, questioned whether the fiscal analysis of Stokes' legislation and a few other bills was accurate. 
When Neil Abramson helped the Republicans take over the House leadership, he told us it was a good thing since they traded him a powerful committee chairmanship from which he would protect us from their bullcrap.  How's that going?

What's going on in Torreszonia?

Sidney is going to Make It Great Again
New Orleans businessman Sidney Torres IV has purchased the former Carmelite Monastery on the edge of the French Quarter and plans to develop the walled complex into a mix of residential and commercial uses.

The site covers nearly an entire city block bounded by North Rampart, Barracks, Burgundy and Gov. Nicholls streets.

Torres made his successful bid with the Archdiocese of New Orleans for the property late last year. The deal closed Tuesday.

He declined to say how much he bid for the site, citing a non-disclosure agreement. A spokeswoman for the archdiocese confirmed the sale but otherwise declined comment.
Did Sidney have an opinion on the long disputed Habana Outpost just a few blocks away from there? Just curious since he wants to put in a St. Roch Market now. 
He said the former church could be redeveloped as a retail building similar to the St. Roch Market and also could be available for hosting special events or ceremonies.

“We believe the archdiocese selected our bid because we share a desire that this once grand complex should be put back into regular use,” Torres said. “I will do that in a way that complements the neighborhood, is consistent with the history of the buildings and makes the historic structure beautiful and useful again.”
Making it great and beautiful and useful to somebody.  Mostly to Torres and, I guess, his "luxury housing" tenants. When they move in, they should have a nice view of the St. Claude streetcar.  There's still some doubt as to how useful an amenity that might turn out to be. Take this streetcar project in Brooklyn for example.
The $2.5 billion plan has the backing of some public transit advocates and some prominent real estate developers whose property values will rise if the streetcar gets built. But not everyone is on board.

"This isn't really a mobility enhancing technology," says Marc Scribner, a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. "This is a government subsidy to property developers."

He points to other streetcar systems around the nation that never got up to speed — including the D.C. Streetcar, which is set to begin carrying passengers this weekend after years of delays. For months, empty cars have been rolling up and down H Street in an extended safety test. Scribner blames the troubled rollout on poor planning by the city.

"Part of the problem is, you're dealing with bureaucracies that really didn't understand what all went into this. And then part of the problem is it's just inherent with the technology," Scribner says.

He says streetcars are hard to maneuver in traffic. Any streetcar that has to share the road with cars and buses is inevitably going to be slow and unreliable. He points to Atlanta's streetcar as an example.
In other words, it is useful. But not to transit riders. In fact, we've known this in New Orleans for a long time.  The primacy of the St. Claude streetcar's usefulness to real estate developers was actually heralded during the planning process.   
Pres Kabacoff, a real estate developer from the Bywater neighborhood, said he thinks the streetcar will help spur business. Kabacoff even argued that slowing down vehicle traffic might be a good thing, since having cars whip by "is not conducive for good retail development."

He added, "To the extent that people have a difficult time in traffic getting down the street it may cause them to want to live in the area and use an effective streetcar."
The streetcar is "effective" at raising the likelihood of investment in nice things for rich people.  Torres certainly thinks so, anyway.

Update: See also 

According to transit advocacy group RIDE New Orleans bus service in New Orleans is only around 35 percent of what it was pre-Katrina, while streetcar service has more than recovered since Katrina, at 103 percent of pre-storm service. Rachel Heiligman, who served as the executive director of the group until the end of 2015, says this push for more streetcars is not just happening in New Orleans, but across the country.

In the late-2000's, cities across the country received federal grants to improve their transportation network, and many cities invested in streetcars.

“I think there was a period of time, early in the Obama administration, when streetcars were a very sexy thing — they are transit,” Heiligman said. The problem is, according to Heiligman, streetcars seem to be more about revitalizing neighborhoods than actually providing transportation.

“Once the tracks are in or even discussed as coming in, you start to see economic development go rampant, business and real estate development,” Heiligman said. “And so streetcars, in some ways, are more about economic development than transit, in my opinion.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Odd hours today

Sorry I haven't had time to update here today.  There's a lot going on in town, though, so please go ahead and catch up on the evening events calendar.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Newell Normand
"The state budget, what a mess," Normand said. "Bobby Jindal was a better cult leader than Jim Jones. We drank the elixir for eight years. We remained in a conscious state. We walked to the edge of the cliff and we jumped off and he watched us.

"And guess what? Unlike Jim Jones, he did not swallow the poison. What a shame."

How crazy is Tom Benson?

We may get to find out after all.
The estranged relatives of Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson have asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to unseal some of the court records in a mental competency lawsuit they filed against the family patriarch last year.

In a filing made Tuesday, attorneys for Benson’s daughter and grandchildren argue that the “blanket seal of the record” originally ordered by Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese violates the public’s right to access court records and keeps the parties involved from being able to speak freely about the dispute.

They also said that certain parts of the record may be relevant to other litigation involving Benson.
Sadly, whoever is making the personnel decisions over at Saints camp right now probably would pass a mental competency exam as this is, again... sadly, probably the right thing to do.
The New Orleans Saints are likely to release receiver Marques Colston in the coming days, ESPN reported Tuesday.

Colston has played 10 seasons with the Saints since the team selected him in the seventh round of the 2006 NFL Draft.

The release of Colston would give the Saints $3.2 million in cap savings, according to salary data at spotrac.com.

Colston, who missed three games to injury in 2015, posted career low numbers in catches (45), yards (520) and touchdowns (four) last season.

Colston holds Saints career records for receiving yards (9,759) and touchdowns (72).
It would have been super neat to watch him get to 10,000 yards in one last season. But everyone can see Colston didn't have a whole lot left. Besides, we're well past the point where the Saints began to part with the heart of their glory years. Colston was one of only two or three guys left from the SuperBowl team.  We'll look forward to seeing him wave at us in future halftime ceremonies.  

Everywhere else it's just Tuesday

It had been a while since we had some sort of hunker down order around here so this is kind of nice.
Government buildings, schools and universities in New Orleans are shutting down this afternoon in the face of severe weather threats.

New Orleans City Hall will be closing at 1 p.m. and all public meetings scheduled for the afternoon are cancelled. New Orleans Recreation Development Commission facilities will close at the same time. Louisiana Workforce Commission offices in New Orleans will close at 1 p.m.

City officials are urging residents to stay inside during heavy thunderstorms, which are expected to hit the area about 2 p.m.
Hopefully it ends up being just another thunderstorm. It's only fun to sit around and snark about a free day off as long as nobody gets hurt.

Penny ante

It's go time in the House. Some key revenue generating measures are expected to come up for vote today
State lawmakers’ willingness to raise taxes that Gov. John Bel Edwards says are needed to prevent devastating cuts to vital government services will get its first test Tuesday in the special legislative session.

The test will take place in a State Capitol basement room where the 19 members of the House Ways and Means Committee are scheduled to vote on nearly 40 different tax measures beginning Tuesday morning.

“Members are processing whether they can vote for new revenue measures and which ones,” state Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, said in an interview, summing up the view of others.

Edwards is proposing to raise about $350 million by raising taxes on sales, tobacco, alcohol and telephones and by trimming tax breaks for corporations and individuals. He is also seeking to cut at least $160 million in government spending and use $328 million in one-time money — all to close a $900 million shortfall by June 30.
Whether or not they can vote for the taxes depends on what sort of ransom they can demand. The Republicans haven't finished their spreadsheet or manifesto or whatever it was they were working on yet but they have dropped some hints.
House Republicans, under the direction of their caucus leader, state Rep. Lance Harris, were finishing up their list of ideas but did not provide them to Edwards Monday as planned.

Harris declined to provide specifics in advance of a meeting, saying only they would be presenting “things our members want.”

The items are believed to involve pensions for state employees, the tax system, sentencing laws, transparency in government and how the state spends money on roads and bridges. Edwards told The Advocate Friday night that he was open to hearing their ideas.
They want to take people's pensions away.  Because you can't get anything done around here without making some sop to ideologically driven cruelty, I guess. 

Meanwhile, I'm a little upset that this is all happening after Carnival.  "Clean pennies and Dirty pennies" might have made for some fun costume ideas.
The governor’s most controversial tax measure, House Bill 62, by state Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, would raise the state sales tax by a penny to five cents. (Consumers pay more because of sales taxes added by local governments.)

Nearly 200 types of transactions are exempt from sales tax. Jackson’s bill would not allow those exemptions on the additional one-cent, in what tax insiders call “a clean penny.” Her measure would raise an estimated $220 million before June 30 — meaning it would raise more than half of the $350 million that Edwards wants — and $910 million the following year.

House Republicans are insisting that Edwards agree to limit the one-cent sales tax increase to three or five years, which he could accept if the Legislature would raise other taxes to offset the disappearance of the additional penny.

At the same time, Jackson and state Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, have separate bills that would eliminate the exemptions on the existing four cents of sales taxes, which are known as “dirty pennies” because of the exemptions on them.
Ideally the extra "clean" penny would go away after lawmakers finally agree to a more sane tax structure that  either reinstates something like the Stelly plan or, at the very least, cuts back on the hundreds of millions of dollars in direct annual corporate welfare payouts via our dubious tax credit programs. Those are the dirtiest pennies of all.

Horning in on the racket

The city is getting closer to legalizing the practice of converting housing stock into de-facto hotels and formerly affordable neighborhoods into tourist-saturated sacrifice zones. Rent stressed residents have protested this trend for years now but it's becoming more and more clear that the city is on the side of the landlords.  So long as they get their cut, that is.
The New Orleans City Council has yet to weigh in on proposals to legalize short-term rentals citywide, but Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration already is working on a way to cash in on properties rented through Airbnb and similar sites.

As legislators in Baton Rouge hash out ways to cover a nearly $1 billion shortfall in this fiscal year’s state budget, they’ll also consider a bill that would extend existing taxes on hotel and motel rooms to the growing trend of short-term rentals as well as to small, traditional bed-and-breakfasts that are now exempt from those taxes.

The city-backed bill is among the measures in Gov. John Bel Edwards’ legislative package for the special session that is now underway.

Monday, February 22, 2016

How did we get here?

The fun is only just beginning in Baton Rouge. We're only a week into the legislative special session and already the Republicans are refusing to play nice
Time is short for coming up with a budget solution for Louisiana. The Legislature has just two weeks left in its special session to resolve the financial crisis. Both Edwards and Senate President John Alario said the House should have already started voting on tax bills, but there are no revenue bills that have broken loose from committee.

All tax and budget measures have to originate in the House, so the absence of votes by House members has stalled work in the Senate.

The governor said he thought at least the sales tax bill -- the most important tax revenue source needed to resolve the current budget crisis -- should have moved by now. Increasing the sales tax by a penny is seen as the most reliable way to raise money swiftly by the time the fiscal year ends on June 30.

"There really isn't any excuse" for not voting on any tax bills a week into the special session, Edwards said.
Remember back when Rep. Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans) decided to help throw the House speakership over to the GOP partisan cabal obstructing things now? Abramson promised us it would be okay because he was in an awesome position to "work closely with the Speaker to manage some of the important legislation for our region and critical policy-making."

So far, so bad with that. Rather than expediting matters, Republican control of the house has significantly gummed up the works as members stake out reality denying positions on both the causes of and solutions to the current quagmire. At least Cameron Henry took the weekend to think about some stuff.
But they haven't recommended a new or different plan. And a few Republicans are already saying they won't accept the tax increases Edwards proposed that would keep even more dramatic set of reductions from happening.

"I want to go on the record saying I won't vote on all the taxes" Rep. Steve Pylant, R-Winnsboro, said during a House Appropriations hearing earlier this week. He was one of three Republicans on the committee to threaten withholding votes on new taxes.

Yet Pylant and the other Republicans haven't brought forward a plan that's different from Edwards -- yet. Rep. Cameron Henry, the House Appropriations Committee chair, said members are working on an alternative set of cuts over the weekend.

The whole committee is working with staff on a master Excel spreadsheet to see what they can come up with to compete with what Edwards has proposed.

"Hopefully, by Monday or Tuesday, we will have an accurate list of everything members want to cut," Henry said.
So sometime today or tomorrow, we'll get to see whatever it is the Microsoft paperclip told them to do. 

But before we get there, and before we hear anything more about John Kennedy's"400 budget cuts" or Beryl Amedee's GoFundMe page, let's make sure we're all clear on just how it is we got here in the first place.  A good place to start with that is this NOLA.com primer by Julia O'Donoghue published last week. 
The origins of Louisiana's budget crisis are complicated and structural. The state simply isn't set up to collect enough revenue to cover its expenses, even during boom times.

But there are also short-term issues that have cropped up over the past few months, as oil prices have plummeted. One of the state's chief economists, Greg Albrecht, said this week that Louisiana has entered into its own economic downturn, even as the rest of the country's outlook is looking up.
So, you see, we're "bucking the trend" economically. And that's a problem but the larger point is that thing about Louisiana's chronic refusal to take proper advantage of its "boom times."  We've talked about this many times before.

It's no secret that the economic and fiscal fortunes of the state are tied to those of the petrochemical industry. It's also no secret that the fortunes of the petrochemical industry are especially prone to a regular boom and bust cycles.  One would hope that, by now, we would have learned to better manage things in a way that helps us take full advantage of the good times investing windfalls in infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and socking some away for when the inevitable bust comes along.

This is not how we do things. 

Instead, we prefer to shovel revenue out the window as quickly (or more quickly, even) than it comes in.  Most of this happens in the form of special tax exemptions and other "incentive" expenditures written into the tax code. According to the legislative auditor, FY 2015 is likely to end up with almost half a billion dollars more in pay outs than revenues.  Not only do we spend more money than we raise, we don't even spend that money on ourselves. We simply give it away.

In 2014, The Advocate published an excellent series on Louisiana's tax incentive programs finding the annual cost had risen over a billion dollars. Just to focus on one example, here's a separate look from this past December at the amount of money the state gave away to oil and gas firms during the height of the recent fracking boom.
Under the credit’s rules, energy producers are refunded the severance taxes on horizontal oil or gas wells for the first two years of production or until the well has paid for itself, whichever comes first. On average, drilling a horizontal well costs about $9 million.

The legislative audit noted that no other state with significant horizontal-drilling operations offered a full refund of so-called severance taxes — though some offer reduced rates.

As the use of the break exploded, so, too, did the state’s cost — from $3 million in 2005 to a high of $272 million in 2012. It cost $166 million in 2014 as drilling slowed, the report said.
Oil and gas exploration already imposes heavy costs on the state in terms of the environmental and health hazards that come with it. As taxpayers we should demand maximum remuneration for enduring this injury.  Instead, under Bobby Jindal's leadership,  we heavily subsidized it.

Why would we do such a thing? Clancy DuBos thinks he can point to at least one reason.
More likely, in my opinion, the real “paperwork” behind Team Jindal’s corporate handouts is the former governor’s campaign finance reports. If history is any guide, there’s likely to be a high correlation between the former governor’s campaign finance reports and a list of companies that received tax incentives. At a minimum, Jindal committed malfeasance by consistently telling lawmakers and the public that his budgets for the past seven years were “balanced.” They were not.
So how did we get here? In short, we've taken what should have been a fiscal windfall generated by hurricane recovery and a booming oil industry and squandered the whole of it on a political kickback scheme meant to elect Bobby Jindal President.  Look how well that's worked out for everyone.

Saturday, February 20, 2016


South Carolina:
John and Teresa Wilkinson, however, said they’ve been with Donald Trump from the start.

“Trump may be a fraud — we don’t know yet — but at least he speaks his mind,” said John Wilkinson, a 66-year-old human-resources consultant.

“As far as I’m concerned, they could run a dog and I would have voted for him before any of these other assholes,” he said.

Electionball Day!

In Nevada, the polls are super tight. So the Democratic caucus result there is anybody's guess. And likely it will continue to be for weeks afterward.

In the hours before Saturday’s Democratic caucuses, supporters of US Senator Bernie Sanders circulated messages asking each other to record caucus proceedings whenever possible. The Nevada Democratic Party also sent a letter to the campaigns, urging them not to spread misinformation about how the caucuses and delegate allocation works.

Also on Friday, the Nevada Secretary of State, Barbara Cegavske, expressed “concern” over Republicans who may attempt to participate in the Democratic caucuses by changing party affiliation. In theory, a Republican can register and caucus as a Democrat on Saturday, and the state’s system would not update before the person could participate GOP caucuses on Tuesday.

“It is a concern that a registered voter in Nevada might participate in both caucuses,” she said in a statement, adding dual caucus participants “may be subject” to a ban from participating in the next presidential nominating contest.

Finally, in the rare case of a tied caucus, Nevada Democrats have directed organizers to determine a winner by high-card draw.
Meanwhile, in South Carolina, the Christopher Guest movie that is the Republican Primary continues to delight audiences
Two grown men running for president met in a storage closet last night.
The meeting, called by Ted Cruz in an attempt to mend fences with Ben Carson ahead of the South Carolina primary, was held on Thursday night before the Conservative Review convention. The two huddled in the unusual venue for nearly 20 to 25 minutes, as Carson’s Secret Service detail stood outside, according to a Republican operative who witnessed the strange scene.

Carson, whose campaign has spent the weeks after Iowa blasting Cruz for lying to voters in the Hawkeye State, agreed to meet him for five minutes, according to a source close to Carson’s campaign, to try to put to bed the issue of his dirty campaign tricks in Iowa, during which Cruz’s campaign told caucus-goers that Carson had dropped out of the race.

Carson’s campaign confirmed the meeting—which was was supposed to be short and off-the-record—and blamed the Cruz campaign for leaking the fact that it occurred in an attempt to rectify his public image.
 Also, this is South Carolina so naturally these this sort of thing is going to happen
Just hours before Republican voters were expected to head to the polls in South Carolina, Courageous Conservative Political Action Committee, a pro-Cruz group, was robo-calling voters and warning them that Donald Trump was an advocate for gay rights and would force "people to bake cakes and photograph gay weddings," BuzzFeed reported Friday night.
Not to mention, this sort of thing.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Friday spread an apparent hoax about Muslims being executed with bullets “dipped in pig’s blood.”

The real estate mogul told supporters at a rally in Charleston, S.C., about US General John Pershing executing dozens of Muslim prisoners in the Philippines in the early 20th century.

“He took 50 bullets and he dipped them in pig’s blood,” Trump said. “And he had his men load his rifles and he lined up the fifty people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said, ‘You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years there wasn’t a problem.”

The story appears to a false, according to Snopes.com.
And those are the two guys who seem to leading nationally.

Meanwhile, Louisiana is about to join the fun. Both party primaries are scheduled for March 5 which means Early Voting opens today. You can find your Early Voting locations at the Sec. of State's website.

Update: Meant to include Oyster's latest on the Republican primary.  
Donald Trump has dominated the Republican race for the presidency for eight months straight. He's on the brink of winning the South Carolina primary after a debate where he frolicked in the taboo. 9/11 occurred on Dubya's watch. Planned Parenthood provides some 'wonderful' services. The Iraq War was a disaster. However factual, these are verboten topics in GOPworld. To flout the party line on any of them would spell doom for a traditional candidate.

Yet Trump— who enjoyed a big lead in the polls and had every conventional reason to take it easy during the debate— went out of his way to trample on GOP articles of faith.* And he did so looking very orange and angry. Yet it appears his apostasy won't hurt him. Why? How?
Go read the rest.  

Friday, February 19, 2016

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Andy Kopplin's vision for UNO

Running it like a business
As state legislators grapple with a $2 billion budget gap for the next fiscal year, Kopplin said the school’s next leader will need to be creative about raising revenue. One possibility, he suggested, is reaching out to large businesses and corporations and developing partnerships that could support research at the lakefront school.
It’s the only tool in the neoliberal box. There's never any social, political, or academic challenge we can't meet with a little determined public-private partnering and commercialization.

Can't wait to see UNO start pumping out the latest research on "super natural cows". 
Crystal Brown, a communications representative from the University of Maryland, explained that the chocolate milk study was funded through the Maryland Industrial Partnerships program, a collaboration between the university and "commercial entities for economic development across the state of Maryland." The idea behind the program is to foster job creation through industry and university collaborations, according to Brown.

As it turns out, the maker of Fifth Quarter Fresh chocolate milk — which comes from a dairy cooperative in Hagerstown, Maryland — funded 10 percent of the study, and the university funded the rest.

So here we have a milk manufacturer working in partnership with the University of Maryland to fund a sloppy study, and the university then blasts the results, persuading schools and the press that this milk works wonders on students' brains.
The last UNO president was tasked with overseeing the dismantling of the public institution.  It only makes sense that the next guy's job will involve selling off the parts.

The Abramson Budget

As the news about the state fiscal crisis becomes more and more awesome each day, let us not lose sight of the fact that one Democratic State Representative promised he would personally take care of everything for us if 1) We let the Republicans control the house and 2) We let him be the one guy they were nice to.

I wonder how that's gonna go?
The age-old warning “be careful what you ask for” rings true today for the new chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, state Rep. Neil Abramson, a Democratic legislator from New Orleans. Abramson’s attempted run for speaker of the House derailed the governor’s selection for speaker. Abramson was rewarded by new House Speaker Taylor Barras with the chairmanship. Now, Abramson is likely to be considered one of the most powerful men in the Capitol for the next three weeks. Let’s see if he can handle the pressure to work with the governor and the Legislature to minimize the current fiscal crisis.

With Louisiana facing a deficit of nearly $900 million in a state budget that runs until June 30, and a $2 billion deficit for the next fiscal year, Abramson is tasked to provide the leadership and direction to move revenue-raising bills through his committee. After the presentation by the governor clearly identifying the problem, the balls are in Abramson’s court. All legislation that will raise new revenue must pass through the Ways and Means Committee. Given the tight time frame and the high stakes, Abramson has an opportunity to demonstrate his finesse as a legislator by bringing his committee together and balancing special interests to focus on short- and long-term solutions.
It's all on you, Neil. You broke it, you bought it.  

The kids today

They're just, you know, the kids of all the assholes who were here in the first place. So they're gonna argue and disagree about the same things.
The fact remains that progressives in every generation are as embattled by their own internal divides as they are by cross-generational strife. Cornel West and David Duke are both Baby Boomers. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Quentin Tarantino would likely find little common ground in a discussion about racial appropriation, but both are members of Generation X. And if Millennial Twitter activists are emblematic of a specific generational condition, then so are the trolls they battle.

Appraising a generational profile is not as simple as cherry-picking the members with whom one agrees, and writing off the rest as sellouts or traitors. The punkish appeal to generational politics falls far short of substantive rebellion against capitalism. Being a Millennial doesn’t inherently incline one toward revolutionary politics, anymore than being a Boomer or a member of Generation X makes one a reactionary.
The very fact that we think and write about politics within the false construct of generational stereotypes is itself a testament to the triumph of capitalism... as specifically of marketing... over just about everything. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Is this one of John Kennedy's "400 budget cuts"?


Bobby Jindal's insanely stupid deal with Tom Benson.
Legislators on the House Appropriations Committee lost some of their spirit for their New Orleans Saints this week when they learned the state is paying owner Tom Benson almost $2 million more than the market value of 323,000 square feet of space the state leases in Benson Tower, including an entire floor that’s unoccupied.

The News-Star reports many freshmen lawmakers learned about the cost for the first time this week as they grapple with budget cuts that could cripple higher education and health care.

“It was shocking to me,” said state Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, who also owns a home in Shreveport. “To have 24,000 square feet that’s unoccupied? I don’t know of anybody in DeSoto or Caddo or Sabine parishes who has a house that big. It makes no sense.”
But hey like any good solid trickle-down plan, it all comes back in the form of philanthropy money gifted to Ron Forman's con-profit and its continued appropriation of public space for privatized uses. 
The Carrollton Boosters, a nonprofit children’s sports group, intends to build a $4 million sports complex there, thanks to an agreement with the Audubon Commission, the public arm of the Audubon Nature Institute, and to donations from Tom and Gayle Benson, Drew Brees’ family and Louisiana-based companies like Tabasco and Iberia Bank.

The proposed development, which has been referred to in city documents as the Benson & Brees Soccer Complex, would accommodate soccer, football, kickball and lacrosse. It would include new restrooms, a concession stand, a new playground and $250,000 in landscaping, according to Audubon officials.

Audubon board and staff members, as well as supporters of the boosters club, have heralded the project as a way to expand sports opportunities for New Orleans children, providing a much-needed field for a growing organization that has served local children for more than 75 years.

Since the proposed development became public, however, it has ignited protests from residents who denounce the project as turning over public land to a private, though nonprofit, organization, and who say too little of the green space by the river will be left for those who just want to meander by the river or picnic on the grass.
Is anyone going to point out, also, that Forman sits on the LSED board which, technically, oversees Benson's lease?  How is this "donation" in any way appropriate? 

Reality check

There are limits to what the Sanders campaign can actually accomplish at least as far as winning primaries is concerned. And we're going to see those limits on March 5.
New Public Policy Polling surveys of the 12 states that will hold Democratic primaries for President between March 1st and 8th, conducted on behalf of American Family Voices, find Hillary Clinton leading the way in 10 of 12, with double digit leads in 9 of them.
This doesn't mean the Bernie campaign hasn't been a success, however. It has articulated concerns about the fundamental corruption in our politics and the growing inequality in our economic system. This is a rot that can't be ignored by candidates for office anymore if our democracy is going to survive. The Democrats very much wanted to ignore these issues in 2016.  Maybe the brief upheaval Bernie brought to the table will serve as some sort of wake up call for them. I'm rather pessimistic on that point, though.

If anything the condescending and dismissive tone exhibited by mainstream Democrats toward anyone rude enough to advocate for Bernie's agenda demonstrates just how cynical and elitist the core of that party's establishment has become.  The one shining achievement of the Sanders campaign can be seen in the way it has thrown the sick hypocricies of the apparatchicks into sharp relief.
Before any progress can happen, the party will either have to undergo a comprehensive reorientation or die away altogether.  Neither of those things will happen in 2016 but either can and must be made to happen through continued organization. Hopefully the imminent demise of the Bernie campaign will prove to be a beginning of something more impactful.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Monumental task

My favorite building in the entire city has been singled out for special recognition and I'm not sure that's a good thing.
The Superdome, a 40-year-old landmark on the New Orleans skyline, has been named to the National Register of Historic Places despite an objection by the state, which owns the stadium and is concerned the designation might slow down future projects.

The 76,000-seat home of the Saints, known as the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since 2011, was launched in August 1975 with an open house attended by 45,000 people. It has since served as the host site for seven Super Bowls, the Sugar Bowl games, college football championship games, Final Four men's and women's college basketball championship games, and more.
Ok neat. Wait. What does that mean, exactly?
The Superdome's owner, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, opposed the new designation during the selection process last year. In a letter to the review committee, Ron Forman, the district's chairman, said additional requirements imposed by being a historical place could slow maintenance and capital projects on the building.

"While we are greatly honored for the consideration, we believe that a National Register of Historic Places designation could potentially adversely impact our ongoing obligation to ensure that the Superdome is maintained as a world-class multipurpose venue," Forman wrote.
Well, alright, Ron Forman is against it so that's probably good. But what if, maybe he has a point?  Does this mean we will now have to go through some extra layer of legal mumbo jumbo just to get them to take Bronze Tom down?  Because if so, then I think I'm against it.  The article says the designation is "honorary" but this language still gives me pause.
The Superdome's listing in the National Register doesn't block any future attempt to demolish it. For the publicly owned building, the listing is mostly honorary. The register provides an incentive to preserve buildings by giving private developers access to federal historic tax credits.

The Superdome cost $134 million to build in the 1970s. It is the largest single-span dome in the country. After Hurricane Katrina, the dome underwent $200 million of repairs and upgrades in a project led by New Orleans firm Trahan Architects.
If that means that, in order to take the Benson statue down, we're gonna have to go ahead and demolish the whole building just to get at it then I'm definitely against that. Also note the availability of "federal historic tax credits" which sounds an awful lot like more corporate welfare for a contractor like Centerplate or whoever the Bensons or the NFL choose to gift with some make-work job.

Why is this a good thing, again? 

The Bushes still do not know how "the internets" work

This is over a decade ago now so maybe some people need the reference

Anyway, today on The Internets, this story made the rounds.
Bush's campaign never bothered to register JebBush.com and has been using Jeb2016.com instead. For the first several months of the campaign, that didn't hurt the campaign; as of late September, JebBush.com was benevolently blank, according to the internet archive site the Wayback Machine.

But sometime last fall, someone appears to have noticed an opportunity, and arranged for the Australian company that owns the domain name to redirect visitors to DonaldJTrump.com. (The Trump campaign denies involvement, for what it's worth.)
Which, okay, it's been a while since this prank happened but it's still rather shocking to think the Jeb! campaign would not have made an effort to acquire "JebBush.com" by now.  But then again, here's what the Jeb! campaign was up to today.

Jeb Bush’s caption on a tweeted photo of a handgun inscribed with his name was simple: “America.”

The immediate reaction on Twitter was: Boom! A steady stream of tweets, many mocking Bush’s, followed. Bush’s post also had more than 5,000 retweets less than an hour after he posted it.
If there is a stupider person that Jeb! to have ever run for President (including the rest of this year's GOP field) I don't know who that is.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Unemployment Truthers

Perfect example of how Republicans take a real problem, the official unemployment rate does not give us a true measure of how well most workers are actually doing, and turn it into a stupid conspiracy theory meant to distract from rather than address the problem.
Among Donald Trump’s stump sound bites is that the national unemployment rate is far, far higher than the official rate of 4.9 percent. He is not alone in making such claims. Both former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who dropped out of the presidential race last year, and retired surgeon Ben Carson have repeated this claim during this election cycle. Its origin dates back to the 2012 election when many Republicans believed that Barack Obama had ordered the Bureau of Labor Statistics to report a much lower unemployment rate in October, just before the election, than seemed plausible. It also feeds into a growing distrust for government statistical data that parallels a denial of scientific facts such as climate change.

The reason  the stupid conspiracy theory has power, though,  is because the "official" unemployment rate does not take into account the number of "discouraged" workers currently not actively seeking employment or the number of underemployed workers forced to take jobs below at lower pay rates or for fewer hours than actually meet their needs.

The truth is a lot of people out there don't feel like they are making it.  So when BLS turns out what are supposed to be improving unemployment numbers, we should expect a natural disconnect.  And when supposed liberals like Hillary Clinton trumpet those numbers as evidence of an improving economy they only demonstrate which side of that disconnect they are on.

Which, in turn, opens the door for people like Donald Trump to sell them a stupid conspiracy theory.  A crazy lie that at least speaks to the voters' real pain is going to be more effective than a sophisticated half-truth that dismisses it.

Bundy Ranch Bywater

It's always Portlandia over in the downriver destination neighborhoods.
Squatters espousing allegiance to an esoteric black nationalist movement have staked a claim to a Bywater house up for sale and remain there more than a week after neighbors complained to police about the apparent trespassing.

The newcomers have posted signs claiming the property now belongs to the Washitah Mu'ur Nation. The Washitah, more commonly spelled Washitaw, are an obscure group that claim to be descended from the original inhabitants of the New World, who, according to the the group, were black Africans.

Fredrick Hines, whose name is on the tax rolls for the property and whom neighbors say is the true owner, called police after he found out a group of young people had moved into his investment property and changed the locks. Hines said he showed police the deed, which has his name on it, but they wouldn't remove the people living in the house.
Or maybe it's more like the occupied ranger station. Either way it's somewhere in Oregon,  I think we're all agreed.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has drawn parallels between the Washitaws' strange legal claims and those of the "sovereign citizen" movement, noting a similar anti-government bent. The group probably only has a few hundred hardcore members, according to the center, but many more dabble in its "cocktail of New Age vocabulary" and "pseudo-historical and -archeological gobbledygook."
Hippies or libertarian gun nuts, who the hell even knows the difference anymore. It's all pretty much the same delusion in the hipper realms anyway. Besides, aren't all these people supposed to be into the "sharing economy" anyway?  Or does that only come into play when housing stock is "shared" to the benefit of landlords operating outside of the law rather than tenants who do so?

One last look at Carnival parade season

Usually I write more about what's going on with Carnival season as it happens. This year there didn't seem to be enough time after the first weekend for whatever reason. Fortunately we managed to make up for some of that over the weekend on the fake radio show where we recorded about three hours of Mardi Gras stories and broke it out into three episodes.(Part A Part B Part C) The show notes alone should make up for the lack of Carnival blogging, at least to some degree.  But since we have the space here, I'll go ahead and add a few notes.

Parades: I saw every Uptown parade this year except for Mid-City and Okeanos. I even ranked them on a list.  As we talked about this, it started to feel like more of an exercise in dickishness than it was intended to be. A Mardi Gras parade, like any excuse to go stand around and drink in the street is a fun thing by default.  So the parades at the bottom of the list are still things that a person will enjoy having seen. Let's see if we can say at least one nice thing about each of the bottom five.

Number 22 Oshun: Actually, we covered this already.
2016 Oshun, as it turns out, was a perfectly nice parade. The modest floats looked good. The riders seemed to be having a good time. I don't even remember what the theme of this parade was but it doesn't seem like that should matter very much.  What mattered was that it started to feel and look like Carnival season again.
In fact, when the list made its first appearance, Oshun was pretty high up.  It just happens to be a basic template sort of parade which is fine but it also means the more elaborate groups are going to pass it up by default. For what it was, though, it was perfectly fine.

Number 23 Carrollton:  For the life of me I can't remember why this placed so low. They did everything well. I especially liked that in a parade themed after the seasons of the year, they would have found a way to include Duck and Rabbit.

Duck Season

Rabbit Season

Number 24 Choctaw: Okay well I think we all know what the problem was here.

Grand Marshall Billy Nungesser

Billy Nungesser

But in the interest of having said something nice, Choctaw is a West Bank parade and the people of the West Bank deserve to have their Carnival parades back.  Warts and all.

Number 25 Alla: Well, there was the problem with a day parade having to roll mostly after dark without any lighting on the floats.  And then there was the "American Icons" theme that haphazardly strung together Louis Armstrong, JFK, and The Army.

Louis Armstrong

John F Kennedy

US Army

As Varg said on the show, though, Alla used to be Big Time over in West Bankland. It's probably a great parade in its natural setting.

Number 26 Freret: Again, we covered this already in a previous post. Most of their floats were at least half empty.

Freret's half empty floats

On the plus side, Councilman At-Large Jason Williams seemed to be having a good time.

Jason Williams

Which brings us back to the point. Even the worst parades are good.

But what about the best parades?  Here's a brief look at each of the top five from the list.

Number 5 Tucks:


Even for a Carnival parade, Tucks is always uniquely loose. From the marching clubs that announce its arrival  to the T-P streamers it sprays all over the avenue, the parade's brand is all irreverence and disorder. This can sometimes work to its detriment but not this year. Tucks's presentation was as tight as I've ever seen it. And its theme of taking pointed jabs at various local neighborhoods was hilarious.

Here, for example, is the CBD, or Bensonville, as we sometimes know it.


Or Magazine Street, where the yuppies run wild

Magazine St

Or the Warehouse District where The Rent Is Too Damn High

Warehouse District

Number 4 Orpheus:


Orpheus is gorgeous. It became a major point of contention on our show, though, for reasons we've covered already. So read that and listen to the podcast.

Number 3 Hermes:

Hermes Messenger of Dreams

Always some of the best float design of the year. Hermes isn't huge but it seemed like, pound for pound, they were throwing more aggressively than the "Superkrewe" Nyx had been.  Hermes usually does some sort of a literary theme. Sometimes they're a bit overly obscure with it.  This year they were "The Tempest" so it was accessible as well as beautiful to watch.

William Shkespeare's The Tempest

Full Fathom Five

The Tempest

Number 2 Muses: For all the attention it gets and the high expectations that come with it, Muses still manages to live up to all of it.

Muses Balloon

Their sense of humor was as good as ever.  The floats were themed after different types of candy but with references to current events and pop culture built in.

Donald Trump's Atomic Fired Ball

Fired Ball

Irvin Mayfield's Heavenly Cash

Heavenly Cash

Tom Benson's Gummie Heirs

Gummie Heirs

Muses even made some news of their own as celebrity Grand Marshall Solange accidentally threw her wedding ring from the shoe float.

Solange in the Shoe

The ring is still missing. If found it must be destroyed in the bridge fires of Bonnet Carre.

Muses also showed us something new this year with this float full of Mardi Gras Indian Queens.

Indian Queens

Finally, when it's running well, Muses is one of the most artfully staged parades holding the bulk of its marching clubs, dance teams, art bikes, and other little surprises until the back third of the parade. This makes things start to feel more interactive as the night goes on. Nobody else does it quite this well.

Number 1 Thoth: Thoth is the best parade. It just is.

From the float St Charles

We'd also like to thank NOPD for keeping everyone safe from our beer cooler by warning us not to step too far away from it.  We'd also like to thank the officer on our block for letting us know that Druids was throwing Jello shots and that we should try and catch some.

Everything else is in the shows or in the notes to the shows all of which can be found here, here, and here. God willing, we'll see it all again next year.