Thursday, March 31, 2016

Radical idea

Maybe law enforcement funding shouldn't depend on how much loot they can seize from suspects.
The Justice Department's equitable sharing program allowed state and local authorities to pursue asset forfeiture under federal, rather than state law. Federal forfeiture policies are more permissive than many state policies, allowing police to keep up to 80 percent of assets they seize.

Asset forfeiture is fast growing -- in 2014, for instance, federal authorities seized over $5 billion in assets. That's more than the amount of money lost in every single burglary that year.

Reformers had hoped that the suspension of the program back in December was a signal that the Justice Department was looking for ways to rein in the practice. But that no longer appears to be the case.
DOJ is bowing to pressure from law enforcement authorities whose funding depends specifically on them being goons. 
"This really was about funding, not a genuine concern about the abuses rampant in the equitable sharing system," said Scott Bullock, president of the Institute for Justice, in an interview. The institute is a civil liberties law firm that researches asset forfeiture and advocates on behalf of forfeiture defendants. It has reported extensively on what it calls the "profit motive" created by the equitable sharing program -- because police get to keep a share of the items they seize, they have an incentive to take more stuff.
There is simply no reasonable way to defend such practices. Here's what they do to people
Annette Shattuck says that since the charges have been dismissed, the Drug Task Force has returned some of her property. But much of it is damaged. Electronic items are missing power cords and remotes. Her and her husband's phones were smashed. They returned her husband's guns and the safe he stored it in, but they didn't return the key. Two of the kids' insurance cards are missing. Shattuck says her marriage and birth certificates haven't been returned, and since the Task Force does not itemize seized documents in its paperwork, it has no record of taking them in the first place.
This is just horrifying and unacceptable in a non-totalitarian system. But we're sliding in the wrong direction, especially when it comes to police powers and the structure of our criminal justice system.  Hell we can't even guarantee a right to defense anymore
Years of state budget cuts to the Louisiana Public Defender Board, coupled with an unstable local funding system reliant on New Orleans court fines and fees, have reduced the number of staff attorneys at the Orleans public defender's office from 78 in 2009 to 42 today. Young felony defenders like Anderson have found themselves juggling 300 or more cases at once, twice the number recommended by the American Bar Association.

Faced with such crushing caseloads, New Orleans' chief defender, Derwyn Bunton, announced in January that his office would refuse certain felony cases where defendants faced lengthy sentences. With a shortage of attorneys qualified to provide competent defense for those cases, Bunton said, the office would focus instead on lesser felonies. As a result, around 110 indigent people accused of crimes in New Orleans have had their cases wait-listed or refused in recent months. More than 60 of them still sit in jail awaiting a lawyer.
Notice also the flawed funding system based on fines and fees. Even the public defender's office relies on traffic ticket revenue in order to do its job. The guarantee of at least some semblance of justice is a basic underpinning of a free society. And we're allowing that to dwindle away over the  principle of usage fees. I'd love to say it's time to do something about this but, as we know, the state is out of money...

Bipartisan elitist theater

There isn't much else to say about the Carville and Matalin celebrity gawkfest at Loyola last night.  It's difficult to imagine what these two fame creatures could offer at this point in their careers besides the same old establishment-humping crap they've grown wealthy selling together for decades.  I didn't attend. Every single media person in New Orleans did, though, so it's not hard to find coverage.  Here is Gambit's write-up.

In case you needed confirmation that these are two of the world's worst humans, though, I refer you to Matalin's invocation of "All Lives Matter" in response to a question about Confederate monuments. Also Carville referred to a cynical synergistic marketing campaign between a restaurant and a snack food company as evidence of the existence of God.

One item of note was the first question of the evening which happened to come from Governor John Bel Edwards.  Gambit relays that here.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, seated in the audience with Loyola President the Rev. Kevin Wildes, got the first question, asking the couple, "What made Washington such a hard place to get things done, and do you think that may be heading to Baton Rouge?" Both Matalin and Carville said they didn't think D.C.-style gridlock would happen here, despite having a Democratic governor and a Republican-strong legislature. "We're in such a situation, both fiscally and environmentally, that we better hang together or we're going to hang separately," Carville said.
Please ignore Carville's boring and cliched answer. It's worth remarking that Edwards has made concern over this "Washington style gridlock" bogeyman a calling card of late. As we noted last week, Edwards likes to complain about this phenomenon but he never gets around to talking about its most probable source in the expansion of national PACs and lobbying organizations into the hyper-local level of campaign funding.

I suspect this is because Edwards is cultivating the mystery of "nationalized partisanship" as a strawman opponent while at the same time not making an enemy of the money power that actually fuels the political dynamic he has chosen to describe in those terms. So it makes sense that he showed up to toss this question to Carville/Matalin. Who better to help him perpetuate this distortion than the celebrity couple who have profited the most from it? 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Being John Milkovich

Please watch and enjoy the video.
State Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, made the case for teaching creationism in schools Tuesday night (March 29).

"Scientific research and developments and advances in the last 100 years -- particularly the last 15, 20, 10 years -- have validated the biblical story of creation," the freshman state senator said.

Milkovich, who is the vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said archeologists and scientists have verified the origin story of the Christian Bible. He said archeologists had found the remnants of Noah's ark recently. A study of rocks had verified that the earth was created in a week, Milkovich said.

When in doubt, we'll go kick the poors some more

I realize it's just a favorite passtime for Republicans.  Not gonna shake loose enough change to fix the budget that way, of course. But that's not the point. It's more just a thing they do for fun. It would be nice if the governor would tell them their little game is not very nice. Alas, he seems like he wants to play too.
Louisiana leaders are considering new work requirements for food stamps that would force unemployed, able-bodied adults without kids to seek workforce training or lose their benefits.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who took office Jan. 11, is drafting an executive order that would outline new policies, and state lawmakers are considering several bills this session that could put new conditions on how the state operates the federally-funded Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, with the goal of implementing the new work requirements.

Still going for the long con

This one nagging thing about the WTC redevelopment keeps popping up.
Investors who lost a bid to redevelop the World Trade Center building filed a lawsuit last week against the real estate consultants who advised city leaders in picking a Four Seasons hotel and condo proposal for the vacant tower.

Two Canal Street Investors argue in the lawsuit filed March 23 that the city's consultants made errors in analyzing five competing hotel proposals and skewed the offers in favor of the Four Seasons plan to manipulate the process.
This is an addition to a suit filed last year by the same plaintiff. It isn't likely to succeed. But it does have to potential to generate some sort of settlement before Four Seasons is allowed to proceed with the project.  And any settlement amount greater than  $10 will be a windfall for the con artist who bought Two Canal Investors just prior to the litigation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

On today's episode of John N Kennedy: America's Most Clueless Treasurer

This time our hero the Clueless Treasurer does not know how political campaigns are supposed to be treasuried. That's to put it charitably, anyway.  We could assume that Kennedy is deliberately trying to subvert campaign finance law. But he would never....
There’s just one problem: You can’t transfer your state campaign fund for a federal campaign. Kennedy’s $2.8 million is useless to his campaign for U.S. Senate. There are different limits and restrictions on donations, for example. Corporations can directly donate to state campaigns, but they cannot donate to federal campaigns. Plus, there is the whole issue of deceiving people for donations for a state campaign for Treasurer and then using their money for a federal campaign for U.S. Senate.

Treasurer Kennedy apparently believes he can find a way around the ethical and legal constraints that are currently tying up his state campaign war chest: Simply and illegally launder all $2.8 million of it to the SuperPAC his loyal, long-time staffer set up months ago, Make Louisiana Proud.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Lost cause is still lost

Gonna keep arguing over this until the neo-Confederates get tired of buying lawyering time. In the meantime, though, it's worth continuing to make the point.

They just wanted permission to read everyone's phone whenever

We all knew they could break in whenever they wanted to.
“The FBI says Apple has the ‘exclusive technical means’” to unlock the phone, Snowden said during a discussion at Common Cause’s Blueprint for Democracy conference.

“Respectfully, that’s bullshit,” he said, over a video link from Moscow.
Of course it was bullshit. Today they broke in anyway because.. of course they could.
SAN FRANCISCO — The Justice Department said Monday that it had found a way to unlock an iPhone without help from Apple, allowing the agency to withdraw its legal effort to compel the company to assist in a mass-shooting investigation.

The decision to drop the case — which involved demanding Apple’s help to open the iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, a gunman in the December shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., that killed 14 people — ends a standoff between the government and the world’s most valuable public company. The case had become increasingly contentious as the company refused to help authorities, citing privacy issues.
They still don't have a clear legal prerogative to do even that.  They assume they do, though.  What they hoped to achieve through the lawsuit was explicit legal permission to just read everything they want to whenever they want to.  We know they do this anyway. But that's not enough. What they want is for us to love Big Brother.

Yay corporate governance

OK sure it's obviously a despicable law and should have  been vetoed by any human. But let's not get too excited to example of hold this up as a victory for democracy.
Under increasing pressure from major corporations that do business in Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal announced Monday he will veto a bill that critics say would have curtailed the rights of Georgia's LGBT community.
The money complained that a political thing might disrupt business. So the political thing was stopped. Is that how we want this to work?

Ex offenders are people too

Sometimes it's startling how reluctant we are to extend even a basic level of humane consideration .
The Housing Authority of New Orleans is seeking to extend a policy that tries to make it easier for people with limited rap sheets to obtain public housing.

The change would make the criminal background screening procedures HANO is proposing for for its its own units mandatory for the private entities that now manage a majority of HANO’s properties.

If the changed plans are approved by the authority’s board, it would be a victory for activists who clamored for that modification last week, saying that an older proposal didn’t do enough to afford ex-offenders an opportunity to be reunited with their families.
And this policy change really is about doing the bare minimum.
Currently, the agency bars applicants who have been convicted on illegal drug possession or alcohol-related charges at least twice in the three months before they submit their applications. But the authority now wants to flag all those who have “engaged in the behavior” within a year of their applications. The more generalized policy is too broad, advocates say.

“This policy grants HANO and private managers the ability to deny public housing to individuals engaging non-destructively in drugs and alcohol based on a discretionary and vague standard,” Voice of the Ex-Offender executive director Norris Henderson said. “We all know that Americans of all income levels use drugs and alcohol, and this should not be used to divide our families.”
The discriminatory nature of all of that should be obvious. But that's probably also the point.

They really can keep doing this forever

This is a nice little fantasy by Robert Reich which imagines the rise of a new populist party out of the ashes of the 2016 campaign.  It's hokey. It's written  in the past tense as though Reich is speaking to us from  The Future. But it's worth reading.  At least the what-happened this year analysis is probably correct.
Both Republican and Democratic political establishments breathed palpable sighs of relief, and congratulated themselves on remaining in control of the nation’s politics.

They attributed Trump’s rise to his fanning of bigotry and xenophobia, and Sanders’s popularity to his fueling of left-wing extremism.

They conveniently ignored the deeper anger in both camps about the arbitrariness and unfairness of the economy, and about a political system rigged in favor of the rich and privileged.

And they shut their eyes to the anti-establishment fury that had welled up among independents, young people, poor and middle-class Democrats, and white working-class Republicans.

So they went back to doing what they had been doing before. Establishment Republicans reverted to their old blather about the virtues of the “free market,” and establishment Democrats returned to their perennial call for “incremental reform.”

And Wall Street, big corporations, and a handful of billionaires resumed pulling the strings of both parties to make sure regulatory agencies didn’t have enough staff to enforce rules, and to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Establishment politicians also arranged to reduce taxes on big corporations and simultaneously increase federal subsidies to them, expand tax loopholes for the wealthy, and cut Social Security and Medicare to pay for it all.
Sounds about right.  After all the sturm and drang of this wacky year, we pretty much end up with business as usual.  Reich goes on to imagine this leading to some dramatic great awakening along the lines of Bernie Sanders' "political revolution." But that's not really how things happen.

What we'll get instead will be product re-launches of the two parties for 2020. The data will be analyzed, the brands will be recalibrated, but the substantive agenda will be unchanged.

In the meantime, according to Reich's vision, we will have had 4 more years of standard neoliberal governance.  This can pretty much go on forever.

Different kind of a green dot

Are the new FEMA flood maps good news?
Green will become the favorite color for thousands of New Orleans property owners when the new FEMA flood maps finally become official at the end of the month.

That’s because green is the code for areas that will move out of flood zones and into areas with no insurance requirements – and the new map shows it washing over large sections of the city.

The maps were released for comment in 2009, but the city appealed several times, claiming the airborne radar system used to determine elevations had made errors, and that FEMA had not considered improvements made to levees and drainage systems. It won both appeals, resulting in improvements to the maps.
If you own property it's probably good news.  If you don't own property or are thinking about buying property it's less clear. Theoretically it lowers the cost of a mortgage.  Which is nice if we're talking about a market driven mostly by single families purchasing primary residences. But I'm not so sure that's the case.

There's evidence to suggest that real estate in New Orleans is overheated by the presence of speculative investment in second homes and possible short term rental properties, not only by individuals seeking home loans, but also by companies with the capital to transact in cash.  In that context, the removal of mandated flood insurance as a concern may just spur more like investment and keep pushing prices up and up.

Plus, given what we know about subsidence, erosion, and rising sea levels, aren't these maps also.. you know.. probably wrong? I mean, I think I'll trust our new "state of the art" flood protection system for another 5 or 10 years. Probably not for the life of a 30 year mortgage, though.

Update: Just to add, that's probably the future of development in New Orleans.  More about short term investment than long term community building. It's how The Market squeezes out whatever remains of the value here before it all sinks into the sea.

GOP elite will be fine

Seems like a stretch for these wealthy elites who run everything to run around worrying about the "death" of the political party they own seeing as how they're still wealthy elites and are running everything. 

Probably the best thing for them to do is take a breath, let Trump be the nominee, watch him lose big and then begin the long "I-told-you-so" campaign.  Meanwhile the party still controls the congress and most of the state legislatures. Even without the White House, they're still in control of the agenda in most places. Plus they get to keep playing victim to Big Mean SocialismNaziLady Hillary for four more years. 

And we haven't even mentioned the fact that the Clinton Administration will be mostly friendly to them anyway. Nothing has to change for these people at all. Why are they even complaining?


Jesus Christ, complaining about the "tone" of substantive disagreement is on page one of the plutocratic douchebag's playbook.  How does anyone support this terrible person?

Getting the Rams back together

Laurinaitis a few weeks ago and now Fairley.
NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans Saints continue to play in the free-agency waters, despite not having much cap space to do so. Nevertheless, they’ve added another big defensive piece.

As expected, the Saints have signed defensive tackle Nick Fairley to a one-year deal, the team announced Monday morning. 
The spirit of Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will be strong with the Saints this year proving everything just goes in circles.  Here's how strong that spirit will be.

We hope your rules and wisdom choke you

The fact that "the rules" allow Cruz to come away with the most Louisiana delegates is no argument to sway or dissuade Trump's faction. Trump is playing a different sort of game here.
Trump complained about the "rotten political system" during a Sunday interview on ABC's "This Week."

"The Republican tabulation system is a broken system. It's not fair," he said.

"I won Louisiana and now I hear he's trying to steal delegates," Trump added, referring to Cruz. "What's going on in the Republican Party is a disgrace. I have so many more votes and so many more delegates."

According to the Wall Street Journal, Republican in Louisiana expect the five unbound delegates that had been awarded to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to back Cruz now that the Florida senator is out of the race. Cruz's supporters have also secured key positions on convention committees, which could help the Texas senator at a contested convention, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Jason Doré, the executive director of the Louisiana Republican primary, told the Times-Picayune that the party is "really confident in the rules" and is prepared for a lawsuit from Trump.
The party "is really confident in the rules," as if Donald Trump gives a shit about that.  The whole Trump phenomenon is about telling the rules to shut up.  Trump voters have a sense that their power as citizens is being subverted by elites in private clubs. They don't all understand the precise mechanism that allows for this but, instinctively, they are correct. The rules really are bad and the system really is rigged.Trump feeds off of the disaffection that arises from these facts.

So "knowing the rules" and playing by them is kind of beside the point. The rules are bad. The Trump campaign is about defying them. Trump and his people are very wrong about a great many things but this is not one of them. Every time Trump is jobbed by the screwy system, he is only validated anew in the eyes of his supporters.  And "welp, you should have known the rules" is no way to combat that.

Fly swatted

From the looks of things the swells won't be using The Fly to pass money to each other after all.
According to a report by WWL-TV, the controversial project that would have built a soccer stadium at the Uptown 'Fly' near Audubon Park is dead for now, according to one of the project's main supporters.

John Payne, who designed the project, told WWL that the complex was “just too divisive an issue.”

Payne will return more than $4 million in donations to the project’s supporters, which include Drew Brees and Tom Benson, WWL reported.
This is the second public reversal for Ron Forman in recent years. His scheme to boost property taxes supporting his very profitable "nonprofit" zookeeping empire was shot down by voters in 2014. He's still got millions of dollars and all the powerful friends a guy could want, though, so don't feel too bad. 

Also, the Club of Oligarchs will be back sooner or later with another, probably worse, idea.  They usually get what they want. Thus, the entitled fits they throw on the rare occasions when they do not.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Toppling party postponed again

Chaos monument float
A float full of Lost Cause sympathizers from this year's Knights of Chaos parade

One thing we can say about the neo-confederates in New Orleans.  They sure can afford an awful lot of fancy lawyering.
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal issued an order Friday morning (March 25) that prevents the city of New Orleans from taking down Confederate monuments while a lawsuit challenging its ability to do so makes its way through court.
In all likelihood they're still going to lose. We're going to take the monuments down.  Pretty impressive that these dead-enders have been able to drag it out this long, though. But that's how entitlement works, I guess. 

On today's episode of John N Kennedy: America's Most Clueless State Treasurer

The most unhelpful man in Louisiana politics.
Put another way, there isn’t a single student in jeopardy of losing their TOPS scholarship or a single disabled child at risk of losing their NOW waiver because the state constructed a statue in front of a hospital. They come from two different pots of money, and it’s against the law to use one-time construction money- or capital money- to pay for recurring and operational expenses. “The government can afford to build practically anything,” a friend of mine who is an expert in the subject once explained, somewhat hyperbolically. “The problem is the government can barely afford to operate anything.” It’s a lesson Treasurer Kennedy should consider taking under advisement.
Remarkable that the multi-term state treasurer would be so clueless as to how the state is, you know, treasuried. Almost unbelievable, really.

There's a lot more to Lamar's article. It actually reads like a State of the State political memo.  I especially liked the part where he pivots attention to Republicans in the legislature. If there's any progress to be made in the next budgetary session, it's important to understand how dug in they've become. 
Republicans in the state legislature, on the other hand, have outsourced their jobs to national organizations like ALEC, lobbying groups like LABI, the Louisiana Family Forum, and LOGA, and signed pledges by people like Grover Norquist. These are not leaders who are serious about doing their jobs. They’re more worried about their rankings on some right-wing organization’s scorecard than doing the business of the people. And if the disarray we all witnessed during the Special Session is any indication, they suffer from institutional incompetence borne out of laziness and a misplaced sense of pride. But they have very little to be proud of. If anything, they should be ashamed.
But they're not ashamed. From they're point of view they're being responsive to their true constituency.

In a blog post yesterday, Stephanie Grace suggested Republicans attempting to raise money on the strength of their anti-tax positions should be wary of a recent UNO survey showing voters don't currently blame Governor Edwards for the budget crisis.  But the surveyed voters aren't who the Republicans are concerned about at the moment. The money they're trying to raise comes from the state and national interest groups Lamar catalogs above.

As for the governor's approval rating, well, as long as they keep backing him into a corner, he'll have to keep taking on responsibility for unpopular cuts like these.  And if that happens enough times, those survey numbers could look very different by the time everyone faces the voters again.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Thomas Frank on pretty much the problem with American politics right now:
One of the things about a meritocracy, and this is a line I repeat many times in the book, there’s no solidarity in a meritocracy. The guys at the top of the profession have very little sympathy for the people at the bottom. When one of their colleagues gets fired, they don’t go out on strike. They don’t do that. This comes from personal experience. When academic labor force is becoming adjunctified, Uber-ized, whatever you want to call it, there’s no real protest from on high, from the leaders of academia. Here and there, yes people are very sympathetic and they feel bad about it but there’s no organized counter-effort. There’s no solidarity in this group, but there is this amazing deference between the people at the top.
Frank is talking about what we at the Yellow Blog have been referring to as the "Yuppie Left" for over a decade.  They're pretty much Mitch Landrieu's core constituency and they're the people most responsible for the exploding inequality and gentrification of post-Katrina New Orleans.  Knock over all the affordable housing for all they care. Their property values are up.

That's on you, brah

It's a good time to be a Republican politician in Louisiana. Your party holds almost every statewide elected office,a majority of seats in the legislature, and full control of the House of Representatives.  So you matter. You get to do a lot of things.

The best part of it all is, you're not held accountable for anything that happens. You're not accountable the budget crisis many of you and your Republican governor created. You're not even accountable for the painful measures you are (sort of) helping to enact in response to that crisis. That's all the new governor's problem.
The party — blaming Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat — is asking party members to “join the fight” and make a $5 donation to the party.

Sent Monday, the fundraising email is brief — perhaps too brief to mention that one of the two major tax bills raising the $1 billion was sponsored by a Republican and that a majority of Republicans in both the House and the Senate voted for both measures.

One bill is raising the state sales tax by 1 cent for 27 months as of April 1, while the other is ending several dozen exemptions on sales taxes, also for 27 months.

“The state party opposes tax increases,” Jason Doré, the party’s executive director, said Wednesday when asked about the email. “That’s part of our national platform.”

The Republican-led Legislature approved both tax bills, and Edwards signed them into law.
So what about the role of the Republicans in passing the bills?

It’s all on John Bel Edwards,” Doré said.
Last week we pointed out this UNO opinion survey showing voters largely blame Jindal for the crisis. But Bobby Jindal is gone now and the Republicans are on to fighting the next battle. The more they can do to knock the new governor's approval rating down as soon as possible, the better off they are. And since no one is going to hold them accountable for anything in the meantime, they're free to have a go at that.  

Update: This afternoon the governor will announce $70 million in cuts he is forced to make because House Republicans failed to compromise on revenue packages that could have closed the current year budget shortfall during the recently concluded special session.  Nevertheless, for political purposes, they will be known as "John Bel Edwards's cuts."  That's all on him.

The green gumbo recipe

It's Holy Thursday. Some people like to make this gumbo. (Bottom half of post)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Clearly this means Sean Patyon's days here are numbered.
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Sean Payton thought he lost the physical copy of his new five-year deal with the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday morning. Maybe that's why he ran nearly 30 minutes late to his media obligation at the NFL owners meetings.

Another 30 minutes passed with Payton answering various questions about players, philosophies, etc. Then he looked down at his briefcase carrying his new deal through the 2020 season, worth in excess of $45 million via ESPN, and realized it sat snug and secure in his satchel.

"'Man, did I bring it with me or did I leave in the hotel somewhere?' Then I started getting nervous," Payton said.

He's agreed on a deal and will soon put ink to paper. It officially ends any discussion of Payton's future with the Saints.

What he said Wednesday seemed worth the wait. He's not going anywhere. Not for a while.
OR it means he'll be fired by December.  Always seems to work that way.  Cop is a few weeks from retirement and then BAM he's fired on his way to a third straight losing season. 

Update: Hmmm maybe Payton signed that contract one mental competency appeal too soon.

Did they fix it yet?

Corporate state tax collections continue to run in the red, according to the latest figures from the Department of Revenue.

Louisiana had paid out $218 million more to corporations in tax rebates than it had collected in corporate income and franchise taxes through February, up from minus $210 million thru January, the agency told The Advocate on Tuesday.

At this point a year ago, the state had collected $102 million more than it had paid out in corporate taxes, figures show.

The situation this year is “definitely worse,” Greg Albrecht, the state’s chief economist, said in an interview when asked about the latest number.
Are they likely to fix it any time soon?

“It’s evidence that some businesses are taking advantage of loopholes and the lax system we have on corporate taxation,” said Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, who sponsored a bill passed during the special session that trims some sales tax breaks that businesses get.
Seems like it's more widespread than just "some" and "loopholes" but I guess that's a start. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Just to see what they can get away with

Cameron Henry wants to try and override some vetoes.
Edwards removed or reduced five midyear budget cuts the Legislature passed in a special session through House Bill 122. In an interview Monday (March 21), House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, said he might ask the House to vote to reinstate some of the cuts.

Henry has the power to bring up the vetoes for consideration as the author of the legislation. But any House votes to override the governor would largely be symbolic if the Senate won't go along with them.

And would the Senate be willing to go along with veto overrides?

"No," said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, in an interview Monday.
Henry knows there's practically zero chance of getting any override to happen. But the House leadership is still testing boundaries so don't look for practical concerns to hold them back.


Why do neighborhood activists, even in cases when they've won, always feel obligated to surrender the principle that under other circumstances, they wouldn't object to being run out of town by gentrification?
Julie Jones, president of Neighbors First for Bywater, a neighborhood group that formed three years ago after splintering from the Bywater Neighborhood Association, said the group is opposed to allowing the developer to build four times what's allowed by zoning, and there are ongoing concerns about noise.

Jones said she has heard from people upset that the Bywater Neighborhood Association decided to support the hostel. "We do not think that this hostel is right for the place they're putting it in Bywater -- nothing against hostels either," Jones said.
What is wrong with just flat out saying, hey, we don't want our neighborhood to become a playground for wealthy vacationers where nobody actually lives?  Is that so out of bounds?  If you allow for the possibility that some sort of development (just not this one in particular) could do that to you, you've lost the whole point entirely.  


Cornel West:
Cornel West: You know, I never really thought I was that smart. Because there was so many other folk in school that I was deeply impressed by. But I'll say this, though, that I've never really been impressed by smartness.

James Brown: Really?

Cornel West: Not really.

James Brown: Because?

Cornel West: I'll say let the phones be smart. I want to be wise. I want the courage to love. I want the courage to sacrifice. I want the courage to be nonconformist in the face of injustice. Adolf Hitler was smart. I'm not impressed by that, you see.
Damn right. Technocrats are the worst.  I can't think of anyone else who has put that better.  Maybe this guy.

How now, Brown's Cow

Brown's cow

So this came out of the blue.
NEW ORLEANS (WWL-TV) -- After 100 years in Central City, Brown’s Dairy will close its milk processing plant on Baronne Street, resulting in the loss of 185 jobs as the dairy relocates its local operations to Hammond.

The dairy, which was founded in New Orleans in 1904 and known for many years as Brown’s Velvet, is now owned by Dean Foods, based in Dallas.

A spokesman for Dean Foods on Tuesday confirmed that the Baronne Street milk processing facility will close.
The plant closure also practically closes the book on the long deindustrialization of Uptown New Orleans save for the heavily mechanized port facility. The kinds of operations which once supported a large working class no longer exist there.

It also opens up a large pacel of land to redevelopment.  The only question now is which oligarch sweeps in with a bid for "The Churn Lofts at Brown’s Dairy" condo/poshtel project first.

Wizard President

How does Hillary end the "awful legacy" of Republican obstructionism, exactly?  Is he saying we don't have to worry about electing a Democratic congress after all? I thought the Clinton people were all about telling us that it just isn't very practical to expect the President to accomplish a whole lot of stuff in this environment.

All politics is national

"Washington style gridlock" has come to Louisiana.
At the end of the special legislative session earlier this month, Gov. John Bel Edwards said he worried that Louisiana could soon face the same partisan gridlock that has ground the nation’s capital to a halt.

The latest installment of the Louisiana Survey may back up his fears.

Based on the LSU Public Policy Research Lab’s latest findings, the perceived gap between Democrat and Republican ideological views is growing in Louisiana and fewer than half of voters believe leaders should work across the aisle toward compromise.

With a Democrat as governor and GOP-controlled chambers of the state Legislature, research director Michael Henderson said the survey’s findings seem to indicate that Louisiana could be barreling toward a “nightmare scenario” of gridlock, a la Washington, D.C.

“We often operate with this myth that state politics are a separate sphere from national politics,” Henderson said. “That’s just not so.”
Okay, well, beyond the implication that "ideology" in politics is somehow bad, this article doesn't even attempt to explain what may be causing local political disputes to be defined on more national terms. It's not a spontaneously generated phenomenon. It's a direct result of the growing influence of national Super-PACs and lobbying groups on local elections, not only in Louisiana, but all across the country. 
WASHINGTON — The influence of billionaires in the post-Citizens United era is in no way limited to the 2016 presidential and congressional elections. 

While the super-wealthy dominate those races, local and state elections in 2015 are also attracting big money from Forbes-listed billionaires and local wealthy interests that’s funneled through super PACs.

Not all states, cities and municipalities hold elections on even-numbered years. On Nov. 3, voters in Kentucky and Mississippi will hold gubernatorial and legislative elections, and voters in New Jersey and Virginia will vote on legislative candidates. Louisiana held its pre-runoff election for governor and many other down-ballot races on Oct. 24, and will hold a runoff on Nov. 21. Many other cities and municipalities have held or will hold elections this year, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Nashville and Dallas, among many others.
The "nationalization" of state politics was evident during the 2015 governor's election as well as the 2014 Senate race where ads relentlessly linked John Bel Edwards and Mary Landrieu to President Obama. Longtime observers of state politics may have found it a bit jarring.  But this is bound to be the new normal at the state level.. and even on down as far as the school board, potentially
WASHINGTON — The campaign fliers landed in mailboxes last September and October, urging voters in Elizabeth, N.J., to toss out several members of the school board.

The source of the glossy mailers: the Committee for Economic Growth and Social Justice, an innocuously named super PAC registered in Washington to accept and spend unlimited amounts of campaign cash to influence politics — in this case, who would win three unpaid positions on a board that runs a 25,000-student school district.
Nationalized local politics is here.  It's advent has been obvious for some time.  The pattern is easy to discern. For example, in January 2014, the Koch funded Americans For Prosperity opened a Louisiana chapter.  By November of that year most of Bill Cassidy's ads were attacks on President Obama featuring his opponent Mary Landrieu as a minor afterthought. Clancy DuBos picked up on it right away.
Back in the 1930s, a young Tip O’Neill declared, “All politics is local,” and for generations that was an ironclad rule in American politics. No longer. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case freed corporations, unions and billionaires to spend limitless amounts of money on political campaigns. This year, they did just that.

Nowadays, all politics is national.

Anyone who follows local, state or national politics knows that money often dictates who wins and who loses. We’ve all heard the old saw that money is the mother’s milk of politics. If that’s true, what’s so different about this election?

Two things: the sources and the amounts of money that are now available.
Now I might argue that there are reasons a nationalized politics might not be such a bad thing.  It may be useful, for example, for voters to think more concretely about the ways their local school board elections relate to national questions about the nature of public education. It might be helpful for voters to think about how their city councilperson's stance on short term rentals confronts not just the state of one's own neighborhood but also the reach of global capitalist enterprises like AirBnB

At the same time, it's important to understand that the kind of nationalized campaigns we're seeing, fueled as they are by money, tend to represent the goals of the money power. Which is one reason that, while the causes of the new politics are obvious, it benefits our ostensibly populist politicians to pretend not to understand them.

After the legislative special session ended this month, Governor Edwards put on a sad for the press over the advent of "Washington style politics" in Louisiana. Dramatically, the governor vowed to "fight against it with every fiber of my being." But because he did not name the PACs as the cause of his supposed enemy, we have to wonder if he is serious about fighting it.  After all, if the governor actually admits he knows who funds the "Washington style politics" he hates so much, how can continue to collect their money himself?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Bluffing Gusman

Something tells me the Sheriff can continue to rely on the steadfast support of these seemingly disgruntled ministers when the time comes to run again.
Some of the pastors spoke critically of the sheriff, including Leonard Lucas of Light City Church, who said he supported Gusman during each of his campaigns. Lucas apologized for not speaking out sooner and for “ignoring the cries” of those behind bars in New Orleans.

“Marlin is our friend, but he treats us like he is our enemy,” Lucas said in an interview. “Our people are suffering, and we need some help. Marlin is not the man to help us. He’s proven to not be the leader we voted in.”

One of the pastors present refused to identify himself or comment on his attendance at the news conference.

How seriously are we supposed to take the SCOTUS nomination?

If the Republicans have the capacity to block the Merrick Garland nomination then they should do so if they really believe it is in their interest to. It might not be. But maybe it is. Maybe they'll all be fortunate enough to approve President Trump's nominee next year. Surely they are rubbing their hands in anticipation of that prospect.

Or maybe their position is as pointless as it seems and they'll have to either cave or face the possibility of Hillary nominating someone less to their liking. Even in this more likely scenario, it's conceivable that individual Senators still stand to gain politically in the eyes of their home state constituents by defying Obama one last time. Not all of them, though. For example, Mark Kirk here is getting nervous.
In a further blow to Senate Majority Mitch McConnell's efforts to hold a hardline on not even considering the confirmation of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) has gone from breaking ranks with McConnell to calling him and other GOP senators out on it.

During an interview on Illinois radio show "The Big John Howell Show," the host told Kirk that the Senate should consider the nominee and hold a vote on Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court.

"Right," Kirk replied. "Just man up and cast a vote."

"The tough thing about these Senatorial jobs is you get yes or no votes," Kirk continued. “Your whole job is to either say yes or no, and explain why."
Kirk's problems probably aren't the same as most of his colleagues, though.  He's up for reelection this year in what's expected to be a close race in Illinois. Running against Obama there isn't the golden strategy it might still be for Republicans elsewhere.

Either way they can do whatever they want limited only by what they have the votes to get away with. The pearl clutching over the "incivility" of it all is just stupid. The point of engaging in politics has nothing to do with achieving civility. It has everything  to do with winning stuff for your side.

Along those lines, I'm never clear on why Obama and the Democrats behave the way they do.  The Garland nomination itself is a Peak Obama move. It's conceived mostly as a play to catch some Republicans in a minor semantic bluff. They said they would not support Obama's nominee. Obama nominates a guy they actually like just to be a troll. In the best case, the Republicans, true to their word, do not support the nominee. In the worst case, they approve the guy they like anyway.  Seems like someone needs to rerun their cost/benefit analysis.

Most likely, the Republicans will end up being as bullheaded as they say they are so no harm, no foul. But in an election year when mainstream Democrats are preaching relentlessly their gospel of The Supreme Court Is The Only Issue Worth Caring About At All, it's strange that the President would this all important matter for the sake of petty gamesmanship.

Build the dang fence

We need to do something to stem the tide of out of control Jefferson Parish Sheriff's deputies from pouring over the border into New Orleans and committing these acts of heinous violence.
Should Jefferson Parish deputies have opened fire at an escapee at the new hospital in New Orleans? Investigators aim to answer that question.

Police say a Jefferson Parish inmate being treated for heroine ingestion escaped from University Medical Center in New Orleans and was arrested after trying to get inside a woman's car.

New Orleans police spokesman Tyler Gamble says Jefferson Parish deputies shot at 26-year-old Domonique Battle as they chased him down a stairwell and down the street outside University Hospital. But they didn't hit anyone.
This is the second such incident in as many months.
An officer-involved shooting that began as a car chase on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish and ended on the East Bank of Orleans Parish has led to a war of words between officials in the New Orleans Police Department and those who support the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office in the wake of the deadly shooting that claimed the life of 22-year-old Eric Harris and spawned a U.S. Department of Justice investigation.

Nola.com reported that NOPD Public Integrity Bureau chief Arlinda Westbrook angered law enforcement officials when she told members of the Harris family on March 8 that NOPD officers “would have been arrested on the spot” if they — and not JPSO deputies — had been responsible for the shots that claimed the life of Eric Harris.

Westbrook made the controversial comments at a community forum exactly a month after the Feb. 8 shooting of Eric Harris in Central City.

Her remarks incensed Donovan Liccari, president of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, who the following day called her comments “reckless, inflammatory and unnecessary” and said should resign.
Liccari may be "incensed" about those remarks but we have to wonder if they go far enough.  Clearly there is a problem with these JPSO animals coming over into our parish unchecked. Maybe we need to build some sort of big beautiful wall to slow the onslaught. We may even get them to pay for it.  After all, once upon a time, it was their idea in the first place
Mr. Lee prompted outrage by suggesting that his deputies could randomly question young black men in high-crime areas. He later abandoned the plan but made no apologies for it.

Earlier in his career, he put up barricades between mostly black New Orleans and mostly white Jefferson Parish. Later, after a rash of robberies in white neighborhoods, he ordered his deputies to arbitrarily stop "young blacks in rinky-dink cars" driving in white neighborhoods. Both times, he quickly backed off.

Jay Batt, call your office

I think this means it's ok to be on Team Trump again.
Former House Appropriations Cmte Chairman Bob Livingston, who nearly became House speaker during the Bill Clinton impeachment trial in 1998, tells reporters he decided last wk to back Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.
Late last year, Trump announced that Batt was his campaign chair in Louisiana. He and his family immediately disavowed. It might be safe to come out now.

Bobby Jindal will be ok

Sure, "The Whiz Kid is gone." But that image never really should have been in the first place. It only came into being because an accommodating press allowed the obviously phony Jindal the space he needed to create it. Give him a few years of think tanking or op-ed writing or TV guesting or whatever the hell and there will be time for a triumphant come back themed on "lessons learned" or just plain old being tan, rested, and ready.   But don't worry about Bobby in the meantime. He'll be fine.

Caesar renders unto Jesus.. or at least unto his agent

Bus Stop Relocated

For those of you blessed to have missed Tyler Perry's nationally televised Passion play through the streets of downtown New Orleans last night, Gambit is happy to provide an eyewitness account.  I think this paragraph captures it.
Trisha Yearwood nailed her closing number, a moving cover of Lifehouse's "Hangin' on Another Day," and the audience rejoiced (politely) as Yolanda Adams and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band struck up "When the Saints Go Marchin' In," but in the end this was a made-for-television event, designed to sell advertising slots to Walmart and God's Not Dead 2. The rough edges were sanded clean the moment the procession dissipated into the night somewhere along Decatur, as tourists returned to their hotels and residents to their homes.
For a few hours, a production team superimposed its own alternate reality on our familiar public space before disappearing into the quiet again.  It's very much like a Carnival parade, really. Which is one reason the #KreweOfJesus tag was pretty clever last night. Little disruptions like this are different from a parade in one key regard, though. They aren't staged for the benefit of the public whose facilities they commandeer.

We're pretty well used to such scenes at this point. Several times per year now some film production, or megacorporate sporting event or some such takes over a block or two of the available parking, or restricts access to streets and parks and sidewalks. Sometimes it goes on for weeks at a time. And it's  not only happening downtown but probably in your neighborhood too.


It would be at least some small comfort to know that these entities were paying us back for the privilege. But, no, of course it doesn't work that way. We pay them. We pay them very well, in fact. Here's The Advocate's special report from 2014 on the film tax credit.
Last year, 107 such projects qualified for help from Louisiana taxpayers, at an upfront cost to the state budget of about $250 million. Stephen Moret, Jindal’s secretary of Economic Development, says he thinks that figure could double within a few years.

The program, the richest of its kind in the country, covers between 30 and 35 percent of in-state production costs, including eight-figure actor salaries, as long as a film’s local costs top $300,000. The subsidy is so large that it completely changes the economics of filmmaking. And its size has probably contributed to the program’s history of corruption as well, tempting some dishonest film producers into padding their expenses so they can recoup more money.
At last glance the state is facing a budget shortfall for next year of something like $750 million.  When the next special session convenes, it might be a good idea to take another look at massive giveaways like the Hollywood South program. It won't be easy.  Even the modest limits imposed on the boondoggle last year faced strenuous opposition from industry lobbyists and the legislators they own. We'd like to hope that the dire fiscal situation would scare some sense into some folks, but there's little evidence so far that this is happening.

In the meantime, our streets, parks, and tax dollars are purposed toward the production of religious-commercial products like Tyler Perry's Parade of Jesus Featuring Creed. According to its tax credit application, The Passion's estimated budget is around $11 million. We're still waiting to find out how much of that the state will absorb.

When we find out, though, will someone please alert John Kennedy? He needs something worthwhile to complain about.

Update: Apparently there's been some discussion in Baton Rouge on this very topic today.
Morrell said votes to remove exemptions and end tax credits could occur in a special session later this year if the governor issues a call or during the regular session in 2017. Legislators can't deal with tax issues in even-numbered years during a regular session.

Legislators have for years put in place various tax credits and exemptions from the sales tax to create incentives for people doing business in the state or to provide favored groups a shelter from the state's sales tax, which on average, is among the highest in the country.

But critics have long complained that it's not clear whether the tax credits provided to business are worth what they cost the state. And some of the tax credits are regarded as more corporate welfare than economic development efforts.
Nothing until the special session at the earliest. And even then, probably nothing. 
It's not likely to get any easier for Legislators. The generous film tax credit program, which has been among the most controversial incentive programs, is likely to prompt intense pressure from the film industry to keep the tax credit in place.
Get used to paying the extra sales tax.  It's all your legislators have the courage to ask anyone for. 

Upperdate: Answer is about  $3 million.
Exactly how much “The Passion” will receive in credits won’t be determined until late this year, after the company submits its receipts and the state has a chance to audit them.

The audit is a new requirement this year under laws aimed at trimming costs to the state and ensuring productions actually spend the money they claim.

Under the program, productions receive credits worth 30 percent of the amount they spend in Louisiana and 40 percent of the amount they spend on payroll, including what they spend on performers who are in the state only for filming. Companies can sell those credits or claim them at slightly reduced value from the Louisiana Department of Revenue if their tax liabilities are less than the amount of credits they receive.
Somebody really ought to alert the Treasurer to this mess. He seems eager to help. But he could use some help understanding how.

Seven years

St. Joseph's Night

Menckles and I are celebrating 7 years today. Okay, actually we celebrated Saturday night but that's a normal thing for people marking events that happen to fall on Mondays.  We also sort of technically consider this our tenth year since it was May 2006 when we got her to (for whatever reason) move all the way down here.  Maybe we'll have to have another party in a month or so.

Anyway, Saturday was pretty special.  You'll be happy to know that Cafe Degas is still pretty good. We checked on that for you.  We took a drive-by look at the China Lights in City Park. When we got home we went out for a walk around the neighborhood.  It was nice of all these Mardi Gras Indians to show up.

St. Joseph's Night

Sunday, March 20, 2016

State's rights vs City's rights

The City of New Orleans's legislative agenda for this session is all about who is a allowed to do what with whose permission. There's a bill that says motorists won't necessarily  have to call police to investigate every single traffic accident anymore. There's another slightly worrisome one that will allow civillains to work police barricades in the CBD during special events.  But since we're already experimenting with fake police doing actual police patrols downtown, that does seem kind of mild.

Other bills have to do with what the city itself is allowed to do on its own. The most important of these have to do with whether or not it can set its own minimum wage. Current state law does not permit municipal minimum wage laws. Another bill seeks to interfere with the city’s "sanctuary city" policing policy on immigration status.

There are other less serious but still significant checks on local governance proposed. One might halt municipal attempts at removing Confederate monuments. Another would prevent local laws banning plastic shopping bags. The article quotes Sen. Conrad Appel who suggests the state needs to step in cases where local government has gone, "beyond the pale."

Which is strange because Appel also has a bill pending that would in certain cases set a city's elected officials practically above the law.
The acrimony of the legal battle over back pay hangs over a separate bill, however. As the fight reached its climax last year, Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese said the decades-old lawsuit firefighters were pursuing against the city had gone on long enough. He held the city in contempt and ordered that Landrieu be placed under house arrest on weekends if payments didn’t start.

Landrieu never ended up in house confinement due to a last-second stay from the state Supreme Court. And this year, state Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, has filed a measure that would prevent a state court from punishing public officials for failing to appropriate money for such claims.

Louis Robein, an attorney for the firefighters, argued that would take away a tool that could be used to force the city to pay off legal judgments it owes, something state courts cannot do otherwise.

“The way this is structured, these types of judgments would essentially not be enforceable through the power of contempt,” Robein said.
Apparently unaccountably dealing in bad faith with retirees over a period of decades is not "beyond the pale." Once they come after our plastic bags, though, something has to be done.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

How high's the water?

About $70 million and possibly rising.
Louisiana's current-year budget gap is back, forcing larger cuts than lawmakers thought would be necessary when they ended a special session a week ago.

Legislators thought they were about $30 million short of closing a $950 million deficit in the budget cycle that ends June 30. But information released Wednesday (March 16) shows the deficit is more than double that number, around $70 million.

Last-minute changes to tax bills and the lawmakers' failure to pass at least one piece of legislation caused the gap to widen. Gov. John Bel Edwards also vetoed at least $4.4 million worth of cuts that the Legislature had counted on.
It's "around $70 million" meaning we don't actually know how deep the deficit is.  If you see it in the road, you are advised not to try and drive through it.  Unfortunately the governor has little choice but to plow right right on in.
While Edwards was hoping to raise taxes enough to avoid more midyear cuts to higher education and health care services, the current hole will make that unlikely. The governor's budget chief Jay Dardenne said additional reductions to public universities and health services will probably be unavoidable.

"Unfortunately, there were some members of the Legislature who blocked our progress and refused to offer any alternatives to my plan," Edwards said in a written statement released Wednesday. "Refusing to vote for solutions of any kind is not 'tackling the deficit.'"

The Legislature has given Edwards the final say over where the additional cuts are made over the next three months. Dardenne said he hopes to release a list of the new reductions Monday.
So we're looking at somewhere around $70 million in cuts mostly to health care and higher ed which, thanks to the stubbornness of the Republicans in the house, the governor will have to make himself. At the conclusion of the special session, Edwards delivered an especially cranky press conference about this.  It's not hard to see why.

In this week's Gambit we were treated to an historic edition of Clancy DuBos's habitual "Winnahzzz and Da Looozahz and Da Vics N Da Natlys and Yer Mom en' ems and Such" legislative scorecard.  It turns out (and this is a rather stunning fact if you really sit and think about it) for the first time ever, all involved were deemed among Da Loooozaaahzzzzz.

Clancy is wrong about some of this. LABI, for instance, is really more of a winner in that it successfully defended a large portion of its members tax privileges even under heavy pressure to "share the burden." In fact, they were so successful that they defied even the imperative to balance the budget in order to get their way. John Kennedy is probably a "winner" as well since he doesn't care about anything other than getting attention for his Senate candidacy. Mission accomplished there. Similar can be said of the House Republicans who took the opportunity to assert their political independence regardless of the consequences.

In fact there may not be any consequences for them.  Politically speaking, the forthcoming list of cuts will "belong" more to the governor than to the legislature.  Accomplishing that was more important to the House leadership during the special session than resolving the shortfall. Here's why. A UNO opinion survey released this week shows that voters tend to blame the crisis on the legislature (and former governor Jindal) rather than on the new governor.

who is to blame

That's natural for a  newly elected governor still on his ostensible honeymoon with voters.  It's also just as natural for the opposition party to focus on knocking him down a peg as quickly as possible. Taylor Barras and friends are hoping that when Edwards announces the next round of cuts this week, they will have moved the needle against him a bit. And having gotten this task out of the way, they can afford to be more reasonable during the next special session.
BATON ROUGE — Louisiana House Speaker Taylor Barras said Tuesday he believes more taxes will be needed during an inevitable second special session to address the state's gaping budget hole, but he was less specific about targets for new revenue he would support.

"Another $800 million in cuts seems a little steep for me," Barras, R-New Iberia, told Gannett Louisiana, referring to the estimated shortfall for next year.
Barras could have made this admission much earlier and saved us all a lot of headaches.  But that would have been beside the point. Quite the contrary, the objective this first time out was to create headaches for the governor. By this measure, can we not say the Republicans have snatched a small victory from the jaws of Looozahhness? Maybe we should ask Clancy to reconsider.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Just in time for the weekend

You can watch Informed Sources and Steppin Out on Friday evening OR you can download the fake radio show where we talk about Tuesday's primaries, the legislative session, the Saints' offseason, and much much more.  Included among the much more is a discussion about WTIX vs WWOZ you shouldn't want to miss.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


I know it's been slow going at the ole yellow blog this month.  Things will pick up soon. For better or worse..


Your beneficent New Orleans City Council declares, on this Holy Feast Day of St. Patrick, that they are pretty much okay with your use of recreational green herbs. Sort of.
An ordinance that would punish marijuana possession in New Orleans with a fine rather than jail time got some tweaks Thursday from the New Orleans City Council, which plans to vote on the amended proposal in two weeks.

The changes to the proposed law, which has been pushed by Councilwoman Susan Guidry, would still allow police to treat pot possession as essentially a minor citation punishable by a fine of between $40 and $100. By contrast, penalties under state law start with a fine of up to $300 and 15 days in jail and can range as high as eight years in prison.

Officers could choose whether to enforce the state law or the local ordinance.
Meaning they're cool with it as long as you're still prepared to pay $100 or possibly even still go to jail depending on whether or not a specific police officer happens to like you. So definitely let's expect a few discrimination lawsuits to come our way between now and whenever the state legislature decides to do the rational thing.  Which is to say, expect a lot of lawsuits. over a long period of time. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Drew Brees welcomes you to Entrepreneur Week 2016

You really don't want to miss this fantastic opportunity.
The weekend's biggest applause was reserved for AdvoCare's national spokesman: Drew Brees. When the quarterback emerged, the audience -- composed largely of new members -- screamed, roiling with the fervor of the recently converted. As electronic music thumped and images of spinning trophies flashed on a pair of giant screens, Brees, wearing a plaid suit jacket and an AdvoCare medal, strode toward the stage, high-fiving strangers. A regiment of his fellow endorsers, including Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, trailed him. Brees tossed a couple of tiny footballs into the crowd and beamed, covering his eyes as he scanned the crowd.

"You should all be excited," he said. "Because of you, we're gonna make AdvoCare a household name!"
So what is AdvoCare? It's a well.. 
This pitch -- the promise that if you sign up for AdvoCare, you can reap "rewarding" financial results -- draws tens of thousands of new distributors every year. But an Outside the Lines/ESPN The Magazine investigation has found that few of those salespeople will ever achieve that vision. In reality, only a tiny fraction of AdvoCare members earn anything close to a modest income, even as they're pressured by higher-ranking distributors to keep buying inventory. "They plant the seed that you're gonna make money -- life-changing money," says Gabriel Chavez, who joined in 2010.

And while the company claims its primary objective is selling products, many of its distributors tell a different story. ESPN interviewed more than 30 current and former salespeople, the vast majority of whom said their focus, and the focus of their superiors, was on recruiting other distributors. These new members, many of whom are drawn to the business' strong religious culture or convinced of its credibility by its ties to the sports world, infuse the company with new funds -- money that ultimately flows up to the powerful people who walk the stage at Success School.
Oh okay it's a pyramid scheme. But it's a pyramid scheme with a promotional event that is called "Success School" so that seems a lot more legitimate. But that's probably not what sold Drew Brees on it.  If we know anything about him by now, we can guess that what really hooked him was the fact that this pyramid scheme is also a cult. 
Chavez, who lives in Sierra Vista, Arizona, sat in the crowd when Brees spoke three years ago. He had been reluctant to fly to Texas for the event, which cost $119, but he says his superiors pushed him to make the trek. "They told me, 'Put it on your credit card. If your family doesn't support you, go anyways,'" he says. Friends and family members who raise questions about AdvoCare are labeled "dream killers" by other salespeople, according to several distributors.
Still not as bad as Jimmy John's but maybe as bad as that crossfit thing Drew was selling last year. All of this does make you wonder what poor old Kevin "Uncle Rico" Houser might have to say.

In any case, it sure does throw Brees's support for that Audubon/Carrollton Boosters soccer field scam at The Fly into a certain sort of light.  A lot of 'dream killers" have been asking questions about that one.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Noooo we want our toppling party

When we take the monuments down, we want to do it in a big way with fireworks and marching bands and dancing and drinking and much much rejoicing. Why do they want to deny us that?
While Monday’s pre-bid conference — a voluntary opportunity for firms to get questions about the project answered by city officials — included standard discussions of the details of the removal, it was also clear that the fight over the statues weighed on the minds of those bidding.

One potential bidder asked if it was OK to do the work in the middle of the night or early in the morning, times when protests or other opposition would be unlikely. That could be arranged, said officials who stressed that the city would be providing security whenever was necessary.
Why do you want the terrorists to win?

Bucking the trend

Louisiana's economy is structured in such a way, that we almost have to rout for disasters and/or energy crises to happen. Otherwise it's a dismal state of affairs.
Louisiana's unemployment rate ticked up in January, with jobless numbers rising because more people joined the labor force than found jobs.

The jobless rate rose to 5.9 percent from 5.8 percent in December, but stayed below the 6.9 percent rate of January 2015.

A separate survey showed payrolls rose slightly in January from December, but are more than 15,000 below year-ago levels, warning Louisiana's economy may be shrinking. Mining employment has fallen by 12,000 over the year.

The unemployment rate was eighth-worst among states, remaining above the nation's 4.9 percent rate.
Might want to think about changing that. Perpetual Entrepreneur Week doesn't seem to be working.

Nobody actually lives here

Oh well, what can you do?
Whether or not Airbnb is the cause, locals say neighborhoods are changing. Rick Mathieu, a longtime resident of Treme, said his neighborhood is nearly empty of families. Pointing to a house, he said a woman who lives in San Francisco "bought it and made it into a money-making thing." But he defended her right, as a property owner, "to do anything you want."

Jamie Ruth, who sells art and runs a tattoo parlor on St. Claude Avenue, a rundown corridor that's become a hipster hangout since Katrina, says Airbnb is good for business, but can hurt neighborhoods.

"I get a lot of walk-ins staying in Airbnbs," she said. But she called it "obnoxious" for people to buy homes and turn them into tourist rentals. "It really messes with the neighborhood," she said, "and also drives up the rent for people who actually live here."
We're so conditioned to think that we have no voice in what the world around us should look like or who should be served by public policy. Whatever fits the landlords' purpose must automatically be best. The rest of us don't matter and should adjust accordingly.

I'm never quite sure what to do about the ubiquitous resignation; this sense that the current policy is the best policy. But the current policy isn't just something that happens on its own. It comes about through a series of deliberate choices. There's no obligation to blithely accept those choices. People need to demand to participate in making them.

The Derrick Shepherd bill

The legislature is going through a lot of trouble to keep Shep from running again.
Multiple bills have been filed that would put restrictions on convicted felons who want to run for office.

The state law that barred felons from seeking public office for 15 years after their sentences ended has been thrown out on a technical issue, following a challenge from a former state legislator who served two years in prison on public corruption charges.

Re-establishing that law will require a constitutional amendment and a vote of the people.
Shepherd successfully challenged the current law baring felons from office via a technical complaint having to do with the way it was passed.  But, really, voters should have the option of voting for or against whichever candidate regardless of that person's past.  If you don't want a convicted felon in office, don't vote for the convicted felon. It's that simple. 

Experienced, knows how to get things done

Which candidate?
But in spite of persistent carping that Mr. Sanders is nothing but a quixotic crusader — during their first debate, Hillary Clinton cracked, “I’m a progressive, but I’m a progressive who likes to get things done” — he has often been an effective, albeit modest, legislator.

Over one 12-year stretch in the House, he passed more amendments by roll call vote than any other member of Congress. In the Senate, he secured money for dairy farmers and community health centers, blocked banks from hiring foreign workers and reined in the Federal Reserve, all through measures attached to larger bills.

“It has been a very successful strategy,” said Warren Gunnels, Mr. Sanders’s longtime policy adviser.

Go back to bed, America

Funny how so many media professionals whose jobs sorta, in a way, depend on the conceit that people care about politics also seem to agree that it's mostly none of your business.
The breathless coverage was reminiscent of the media’s palpable anxiety during the unrest in Ferguson and Baltimore. It’s a sense that things aren’t going according to plan, the sense that politics belongs in a split-screen on TV, not out in the streets.
Actually it's not quite so much a mystery. Mainstream press conceptualizes politics as less a participatory civic event and more of a consumer product.

"Keep shopping!"

There's no crying in budgetball

On the final day of the 2016 Special Session To Save The World Or At Least The Budget, the Louisiana Legislature tried to play beat the clock. The clock won.
Frazzled and tearing up, Alario publicly apologized on the Senate floor for trying to jam through too many pieces of legislation in the final minutes of a 25-day session.

"I want to apologize to you for what happened here tonight," Alario said into the microphone as the Legislature's 6 p.m. adjournment deadline passed. "That's not the way to conduct the people's business."

Alario isn't just any legislator. He is the longest-serving member of the statehouse and widely considered the most effective. He's in his second term as Senate president after serving two terms as House speaker.

And it wasn't just a last-day emotional release; he appeared frustrated for much of the session. In earlier interviews, he said he had never encountered such difficulty trying to negotiate a deal as he had with House Republicans this year.

"It's starting to look almost like a bit of Washington style, where people are taking sides and not willing to compromise," Alario said Wednesday. "That's not what Democracy ought to be about." 
Actually, "beat the clock" is wrong. They weren't playing against the clock. They were playing against each other.  Who won that is a little more difficult to say given how limited the boundaries were. The immediacy of the current year shortfall combined with the recalcitrance of the Republicans in the House limited revenue raising options to the most regressive of means. Only sales taxes were up for discussion.  The fight, then, really came down to a matter of who pays them.
Exemptions were a key issue of conflict in negotiations between legislators because businesses and industry in particular benefit from not having to pay sales taxes on a variety of materials and manufacturing and construction equipment.

Business lobbyists, with considerable political sway, fought to keep these exemptions in place, which is why the final hours of the session came down to a debate between hiking the sales tax beyond just a penny increase or wiping clean more exemptions to raise more money.
This argument between the LABI faction and what I guess we can call the Governor's side became so stupid and petty that the summary of the bill  as reported out of conference appeared to indicate that an additional .25 of a penny had been added at the last minute.
It was Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, who first raised the issue as time ticked down. Many legislators harbor a deep dislike of conference reports, especially those passed in the waning minutes of a session, because the reports are the perfect vehicle for sneaking in items of dubious value.

Because of this, and perhaps due to a growing distrust between the House and the Senate that unfolded over the special session, some senators were wondering whether they had been hoodwinked.

"There's a conference report that has an increase of 1.25, not 1 -- are you sure?" Peterson said.

"Double check that," said state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans.

"I have two texts from people. We trusted what was said and what was presented," Peterson said. "If that's not what was in the bill, I'm hoping -- I pray to God -- this place will be blown up. If the House is listening, don't pass House Bill 62. Vote no on House Bill 62."

There was a pause as Morrell and others double-checked the bill. Upon finding the 1.25 percent increase as listed in the digest, Morrell moved to reconsider the vote on the sales tax bill -- a legislative maneuver that had the potential to erase the vote of the Senate on the bill.
Everyone is calling that a "typo." But it's entirely possible someone was just trolling at that point. It's not like the LABI Republicans were taking their charge to plug the budget hole all that seriously in the first place. Otherwise they probably wouldn't have, you know,  failed at that..
Tax bills were rushed through in such frenzy in the final minutes of the special legislative session that the governor, lawmakers and their financial advisers were still trying Thursday to sift through the implications.

This year’s budget could be out of balance anywhere from $30 million to more than $50 million. But that figure remained unclear as the Legislature’s fiscal analysts tallied up estimates of how much the sales tax increases passed in the session’s closing minutes would raise.

“It’s hard for us to get a real fix on what the shortfall will be,” Senate Finance Chairman Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, said even as he asked lawmakers to support the final budget rebalancing bill Wednesday evening
In the wake of this fiasco, there are lists being passed around of the Republican legislators who voted NO to everything.  Here's one I made myself because I think it gets to the heart of the problem.  This is everybody who voted yes to raising the one penny sales tax but then no to the bill that struck out the various special privileges and exemptions.  Think of this as the Maximum Regressivity Caucus. Or, if you like, The Dirty Penny Club.

Dirty penny club

With these guys running around loose, maybe the session was doomed to fail no matter what.  But we did try to warn people that the strategy employed by the Governor's faction could get problematic.

Believe it or not, the seeming chaos on the last day of the session wasn't an accident.  It was the end both sides not only saw coming but were playing for the entire time. The thinking on the Governor's part was he could just sit back and let the Republicans spend the whole session complaining until, in the final hours, whatever half finished work there was would go to some back room where Wise Old Man John Alario would fix everything. Clancy DuBos called it "Come to Papa."
As the clock ticks down to the final hours, all eyes will be on Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, the dean of the Legislature. Alario knows this process better than anyone. He is the master of the conference committee and a deft hand at forging compromise.

As the House anguishes over every detail of every tax measure and every spending bill, Alario sits patiently in the Senate, knowing he may be called upon to sort things out. I can almost hear him whispering to his House counterparts, “Come to Papa.”
As we said at the time, though, this was a risky way to play things given that the Republicans (with help from New Orleans Democrat Neil Abramson) had prevented the Governor from installing a friendly Speaker of the House back in January. This should have signaled then and there that the LABI faction might not go quietly to Papa when the time came.  As it happened, the scene ended up with Papa in tears.

Hopefully next time the strategy will be more aggressive. There will, of course, be a next time. Thanks to the failure, there will certainly have to be second special session to finish this fiscal work in June. But for now, as the regular session begins, Alario is ready to hug it all out
Lawmakers have to contend with such a large shortfall because they couldn't agree on a strategy for closing the budget gap before the special session ended. The protracted standoff in the Legislature over the spending cuts and taxes during the special session frayed some relationships. Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, even accused House leaders of "playing games," though he said he is ready to put the disagreements behind him.

"Let's give each other a hug and move on," he said.
Maybe if they squeeze each other hard enough, a few more clean pennies will fall out before the year ends.