Thursday, June 30, 2016

The dawn of the Treppin' age

TPM is doing a feature series on the "privatization" movement. If you're like me, you might be so old you actually remember some of this stuff.  If not, well, see here. 
Writing in 1997, the Heritage Foundation’s Ron Utt (who had been Reagan’s “privatization czar”) praised Clinton for pursuing “the boldest privatization agenda put forth by any American president to date,” and noted that his proposals were “virtually all drawn from recommendations made in 1988 by President Reagan’s Commission on Privatization.” In 2006 Reason Foundation’s Robert Poole declared that “the Clinton administration’s privatization successes exceeded those of Reagan.”

In the first year of his administration Clinton assigned Vice President Gore to oversee a major initiative to “reinvent” government under the auspices of an intergovernmental task force, the National Performance Review (NPR). Clinton embraced the ideas popularized by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler, in their 1992 bestseller Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit Is Transforming the Public Sector, and later on by a follow-up book by Osborne and Peter Plastrik, Banishing Bureaucracy.

The Gore initiative was about making the federal government more effective, but the idea of privatization was also baked in from the start, as it was in Osborne and Gaebler’s work.
The Clinton years were dark times. (All the times are pretty dark.) The next Clinton age is going to be a real doozy.

But it's rude to say these things

Did you just spend a year traveling the county, mobilizing vigorous support speaking directly to the real problems of real people?
During my campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, I’ve visited 46 states. What I saw and heard on too many occasions were painful realities that the political and media establishment fail even to recognize.

In the last 15 years, nearly 60,000 factories in this country have closed, and more than 4.8 million well-paid manufacturing jobs have disappeared. Much of this is related to disastrous trade agreements that encourage corporations to move to low-wage countries.

Despite major increases in productivity, the median male worker in America today is making $726 dollars less than he did in 1973, while the median female worker is making $1,154 less than she did in 2007, after adjusting for inflation.

Nearly 47 million Americans live in poverty. An estimated 28 million have no health insurance, while many others are underinsured. Millions of people are struggling with outrageous levels of student debt. For perhaps the first time in modern history, our younger generation will probably have a lower standard of living than their parents. Frighteningly, millions of poorly educated Americans will have a shorter life span than the previous generation as they succumb to despair, drugs and alcohol.

Meanwhile, in our country the top one-tenth of 1 percent now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Fifty-eight percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent. Wall Street and billionaires, through their “super PACs,” are able to buy elections.

On my campaign, I’ve talked to workers unable to make it on $8 or $9 an hour; retirees struggling to purchase the medicine they need on $9,000 a year of Social Security; young people unable to afford college. I also visited the American citizens of Puerto Rico, where some 58 percent of the children live in poverty and only a little more than 40 percent of the adult population has a job or is seeking one.

Let’s be clear. The global economy is not working for the majority of people in our country and the world. This is an economic model developed by the economic elite to benefit the economic elite. We need real change.
Hey that's great. But you may have missed the real lesson. That lesson, as it always is, is that it's rude and "condescending" and apparently also selfish to articulate a vision of a politics that addresses any of this stuff. Thank God we have highly paid pundits on hand to slap you down for that.

You think you know...

There's a line somewhere in the Police Administrator manual about responding to all video evidence of abusive behavior with some version of, "#Actually that is entirely appropriate."
Col. Mike Edmonson, the State Police superintendent, said Tuesday that the trooper’s use of force was justified under the circumstances. He said the cellphone video showed that Hoffman was “belligerent” and was resisting arrest.
Anyone who watches the video is probably inclined to respond, well, no, he's not belligerent so much as he's just drunk and stupid.  Whatever the case, it's clearly the trooper who escalates the confrontation into an act of theatrical violence.  But, according to Edmonson, we aren't qualified to pass judgement on the things we see with our eyes.

This sort of thing also happens after mass shootings. Gun lobbyists and enthusiasts leap in to counter calls for tighter regulations with lectures about how #actually, aggrieved victims aren't technically qualified to discuss what is or isn't an "assault rifle."

Only gun lobbyists are qualified to talk about guns. Only police are qualifies to talk about police brutality. Only the coach is qualified to talk about the pass rush. And so on. 

For example, we may have observed, that the State Troopers seem to be spending most of their time in New Orleans writing brake tag tickets and beating people up in the French Quarter. But Mitch Landrieu absolutely loves having them here and keeps begging them to stay.  And he's the expert so we'd better listen to him.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Guess Kevin Houser wasn't the problem after all

Always fun when the Saints and Hollywood South get together to steal from Louisiana's public funds.
In the latest black eye for Louisiana’s troubled film subsidy program, the state’s inspector general released a report Wednesday that says a production company that made two programs about the New Orleans Saints bilked taxpayers out of at least $420,000 and possibly more than $1 million.

The inspector general’s report says Horizon Entertainment, which produced “The Sean Payton Show” and “Saintsational,” inflated its expenses associated with those programs by as much as $3.4 million. The Saints’ coach made regular appearances on the former, while the latter featured the team’s cheerleaders.

All told, the two programs received $2.6 million in tax credits, according to the report, nearly 40 percent of which might have been issued in excess.
Read the rest of the article because it's even more convoluted than that. The scandal was broken by WVUE-TV which happens to own the TV studio Horizon was renting(?) borrowing(?) to produce the shows. WVUE also happens to be owned by Tom Benson.  So the conflicted interests are more confused than the Saints' secondary last year.

Here's what's interesting.
One of the more troubling findings of the report was that Horizon “repeatedly engaged in circular transactions,” cutting checks from subsidiary companies and then returning the money to create the appearance that more money was being spent on the film projects.
One could also classify the TV station's relationship with Horizon as another such circular transaction. Horizon's lawyer says Benson expected a share in the company in lieu of rent on the stuido. The company lists rent as an expense billed back to the state in tax credits.  So really Benson was in on the scheme to rip off the state too.

Or maybe he was dragged into it unwittingly. His mental competence has been a point of controversy, after all. In any case something went wrong somewhere because eventually Benson's TV station went after Horizon. And now the Inspector General is after them too.  No one will go after Benson, though. No one ever does.

Budget season

Mayor's Meeting

We really haven't had enough time to sink into our post-legislative session depression yet and already it's time to talk budgets again!
NEW ORLEANS – Beginning Wednesday, July 7, 2016, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the New Orleans City Council will host a series of community meetings to discuss budget priorities as the City begins its 2017 budgeting for outcomes process. Other City officials attending will include deputy mayors, New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Superintendent Michael Harrison, New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD) Superintendent Tim McConnell and other department and agency leaders.
Actually, Wednesday is July 6. But we'll forgive them for being in a hurry. We're excited too. These meetings are fantastic entertainment. The mayor takes the deputy mayors and department heads on a barnstorming tour of the council districts. At each meeting, members of the public get in line to question.. well... yell at... the mayor about the city budget, ideally, but really whatever happens to be on their minds.  Once everyone is done unloading on him, he improvises a monologue that tries to address their major points. It's kind of like watching the Prime Minister's question time but more in the form of a celebrity roast if it were all part of a Parks and Rec episode.

They're fun but mostly harmless.  I've been going to these for a few years now and so far I've only seen one arrest.  It's also never been entirely clear what effect these events actually have on the budgeting priorities, if any.  For the sake of optics, they do get credit in recent years for at least holding the meetings before the mayor's budget proposal is published.

We do have a pretty good preview of the mayor's talking points in the form of his recently delivered State of the City address.  For example, the first meeting is in District A next Wednesday which means we can expect a lot of #FixMyStreets people to show up. So get ready to hear Mitch recite this bit over and over.
We’ve done more street work in the last six years than has ever been done in that time frame - 267 street projects completed, 122 miles of streets have been paved, and over 270,000 potholes have been filled.

And because of our hard work with FEMA, there is more to come, so brace yourselves.

After literally hundreds of meetings and conference calls, we have negotiated a historic, $2 billion lump sum settlement with FEMA for interior streets. For years to come, this funding will pay for continuous and robust work on water and sewer lines and street repairs.

So that means more construction. And I am sorry for the inconvenience, but it is the price we have to pay for the progress we demand.
Anyway, mark your calendars now.  Just don't show up anywhere on "Wednesday, July 7" unless you're caught in one of those space-time sinkholes that have been showing up all over town since Louisiana discovered gravity waves.

Update: FixMyStreets is already grumbling that they haven't been taken seriously enough.  Should be fun next week.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Always be privatizing

Nobody wants to privatize the Public Belt Railroad. 

Well... except for one party in particular.
Several board members, including board President Pro Tem David Schulingkamp and Kyle Wedberg, said that at this point, they are against moving toward selling the rail.

“I don’t know that anyone has presented in the initial valuation any logic on the sale that is compelling, and I don’t know that it’s even possible,” Wedberg said.

The board gave the study a 60-day timetable to be completed but with the potential of a sale being removed as one of the four outcomes being considered.

However, Ryan Berni, a longtime top aide to Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said after the meeting that the study would proceed with the four options. The city plans to foot the bill, which may cost up to $50,000.
Last time anyone checked in, the possible buyer was....
Questions about the railroad’s future have swirled for more than a year. Previously, Thomas Coleman, the former CEO of International Matex Tank Terminals, announced his interest in buying the Public Belt. Coleman is the father of Dathel Georges, who owns The Advocate along with her husband, John Georges.

Free Dollar Bill

Let's get in the wayback machine and revisit the Bill Jefferson follies for a moment.  Today we're going all the way back to 2009 when some of us, learning the specific nature of the charges against ol' Dollar Bill, started to ask what's the big deal.  Or at least, we wanted to know how exactly this was different from the day to day legalized bribery that happens in Washington.
If a Congressman can be convicted for soliciting bribes even if the so-called bribery payments are unrelated to the Congressman's official duties, then doesn't that mean every former Congressperson/Senator who goes to work for a lobbying firm selling his or her influence and connections is guilty of the same thing? If so, how soon can we indict John Breaux, Billy Tauzin.... pretty much all of K Street?
Those other guys continue to enjoy status as respected (and wealthy) former statesmen.  Mary Landrieu has since joined them in the pantheon of (legal, of course) influence peddlers. Bill Jefferson is still in jail.

But this week, a new Supreme Court ruling suggests that maybe he doesn't have to be
Both had those dramatic details that make a corruption case scintillating to the media and the public. For (former Virginia Governor Bob) McDonnell, it was a Rolex watch and a Ferrari ride. For Jefferson, it was the $90,000 the FBI found in his freezer.

But the true parallels lie in what McDonnell and Jefferson were doing that attracted the scrutiny of federal prosecutors. Neither McDonnell nor Jefferson was writing legislation or changing laws or issuing orders in exchange for gifts or money.

They were peddling their influence.

The court ruled in the McDonnell case that selling an "official act" can be illegal. But, according to the opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, it "must involve a formal exercise of governmental power that is similar in nature to a lawsuit before a court, a determination before an agency, or a hearing before a committee."

That would seem to narrow the definition most people have of what constitutes public corruption and bribery and raise doubts about whether Jefferson's efforts to broker deals for a company were, in fact, an "official act."
They experts interviewed for the article suggest that the McDonnell decision is sufficiently narrow to keep Jefferson in prison. But the principle in play here seems even murkier than it did in 2009. If the Court isn't going to put McDonnell much less Breaux or Landrieu in jail, why are Bill Jefferson and Ray Nagin, even, there right now?

Deal is getting worse all the time

Pray they don't alter it any further.
In order to calm advocates for affordable housing who feared that Airbnb was exacerbating San Francisco’s housing crunch by turning affordable apartments into permanent short-term rentals, akin to hostels, the company agreed in 2014 to put a 90-day cap on short-term rentals for entire homes. It also agreed to require all short-term rental hosts to register with the city. That is the law that took effect in February.

But now only 20 percent of the about 7,000 San Francisco residents who rent out their apartments for less than 30 days have registered with the city, said David Campos, a member of the board of supervisors and a long time opponent of Airbnb who was co-author of the recently passed enforcement law.

“Airbnb is challenging a very modest law,” Mr. Campos said. “In so doing, Airbnb is proving that it wants to play by its own rules, that it believes that it is entitled to something no business has, absolute freedom to operate free of responsibility and oversight. It’s their way or the highway.”
We're about to have a big fight about this in front of City Council at.. some point this year.  No doubt much will be said and written about Airbnb's "reasonable" efforts to compromise or whatever. There will be considerably less said or written about how little their promises actually mean. 

National Resilience Czar

This year might be Mitch's chance to hit the big time.

Landrieu plans to attend the Philadelphia convention where Clinton will claim the nomination next month. And in a measure of his commitment to the cause, his rising national stature, and perhaps even his own post-mayoral career plans, he expects to hit the road on her behalf this fall as well.

Noting that he already traveled to Virginia and South Carolina to drum up primary votes, Landrieu said he’s ready and eager to get his general election assignment.

“If asked, I’ll go. Even if I’m not asked, I’ll go,” he told the Advocate’s editorial board. “I am very interested in her being the next president of the United States. And more interested in Donald Trump never getting close to the White House.”
In Mitch's New Orleans we solve crime with apps, revitalize neighborhoods by replacing affordable housing with hotels, and spend the rest of our time in Aspen catching up on the new trends in public/private partnering away social services to for-profit 'treps.

In other words, it's exactly the sort of resume Hillary will be looking for in the bright future to come.

We're gonna build a big beautiful Facebook wall and your personal privacy will pay for it

It's like Uber but for Trump-style fascism.. except it's techy so that makes it okay and popular.
The information will be optional, for now, but the proposed change published by the US Federal Register states that “collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide Department of Homeland Security (DHS) greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

The proposal is currently under consultation, with US government taking comments until 22 August.

The change forms part of the plan by the US DHS to scrutinise social media activity of visa applicants and those wishing to enter the country, following the San Bernardino killings in California, in which social media profiles formed part of the investigations along with an iPhone 5C.

Every public good must be commoditized

It's the only way a third party tech giant can squeeze some profit out of the services you thought we paid for with public funds.
Sidewalk also wants to redefine public transport. Flow Transit would integrate information and payment for almost every form of transport into Google Maps. Choose a destination and the app will estimate a journey price and duration using everything from buses and taxis to Uber, Lyft, car-share services like Zipcar and even bike-shares.

“This idea makes sense in general,” says Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab at MIT. “It is important however, that such a platform be open to multiple players.” While Sidewalk did not rule out other partners, its documents focused on Google apps. One said, “During the demo period, the [city’s] data platform includes… data exchange with one party - starting with Google.”

For the demo, Sidewalk wants 90,000 low-income transit users, who might currently be given discounted or free bus passes, to be able to spend those subsidies on ride-share services instead.

Pozdnoukhnov worries that this would threaten traditional bus services: “The problem is that this money will end up with Uber rather than the transit agencies, undermining their existence. The only public systems that will survive will be light rail and subways.”

Columbus would receive 1% of the revenue from the app, earning about $2.25m annually according to Sidewalk. Sidewalk did not disclose its cut. Google owns about 5% of Uber.

Hillary's gentrification student loan credit

A better idea would be across the board loan forgiveness and (gasp!) free college tuition. But that's only if you truly want to encourage true entrepreneurship where people are free to follow their dreams without living in crushing fear or debt.  But that's not what Hillary people are about.  Instead they want to know how they can target policy in ways that help bankers maximize asset values
Though many pieces of the agenda are policy prescriptions Clinton has announced in the past, including a plan to bring broadband access to every American home by 2020, the tech platform includes newer proposals as well. Her plan would, for instance, allow would-be entrepreneurs to defer their student loans interest free for up to three years as they launch their businesses. Business owners who locate in “distressed communities” or start a social enterprise also could ask the government to forgive as much as $17,500 in loans after five years in business.
In other words, go into cities. Find the neighborhoods where there are too many poor people. Open a juice bar or a Jazz Market or something. Make the rent too damn high.  And we'll subsidize you for that. What we won't do is actually help people directly. Not if they don't want to grow up and be 'treps like us, anyway. That would be immoral.. or whatever.

Last week tonight

Ok actually it's just the fake radio show. Which we recorded last week but are finally getting around to releasing today. Because reasons. It's good though. There's a legislative session wrap-up centering on Neil Abramson who is a person who has been in the news a bit. There's some stuff about the State of The City address, some stuff about the Saints, Donald Trump, advice on tipping, advice on living a happy life in general, cooking pointers, other things as well. It's basically just another one of these. Only a week after it was supposed to be posted. So there.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Somebody's gonna be happy come November

Does it matter whether Hillary or Trump becomes President? (Sort of. Also Trump will not become President even though a lot of Hillary people are pretending there is a big scary threat of that happening.) It sure doesn't matter to some people.
The prospective Ryan-Schumer deal doesn’t have many details. But it would change the law so that profits earned by U.S. multinationals overseas, including the $2.4 trillion overseas now, would be taxed whether or not they were brought back to the U.S. — while also radically reducing the tax rate on those overseas profits. This would essentially make the 2004 tax holiday permanent. That’s why Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has called such plans “a giant wet kiss for the tax dodgers.”
Trump’s official tax plan would do exactly the same thing. His ally, billionaire corporate raider Carl Icahn, has pledged to fund a Super PAC with $150 million to make it happen.

In the short run, both Trump’s plan and the Ryan-Schumer framework would provide a burst of tax revenue from the money collected on the $2.4 trillion currently overseas. In the long run they would significantly reduce U.S. taxes on multinationals. They would also, if they instituted lower tax rates for overseas profits than for those earned in the U.S., provide an even greater incentive for big corporations to use accounting shenanigans to appear to “earn” profits in other countries.

But how do we know this is what Clinton was talking about?

According to her platform, she will pay for increased infrastructure spending via some unspecified “business tax reform.” Despite promises back in December that she “will have more to say on her vision” about business tax reform, she’s been curiously silent.

However, when she met with the New York Daily News editorial board in April, she explained that the source of the infrastructure money “may be repatriation.”

Then there’s her statement this week that her infrastructure bank would “will bring private sector dollars off the sidelines and put them to work here.” That phrase — bringing corporate money “off the sidelines” — is a favorite of both Democratic and Republican elites to describe slashing the tax rate on overseas profits. For instance, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., used it in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, as did economists writing for the New America Foundation, a liberal think tank.

That’s why Clinton can honestly predict that she will “break through the dysfunction in Washington” and “work with both parties.” Both parties want to deliver a massive tax cut to their huge corporate patrons.

i Zombie

RIP to my phone. It died suddenly over the weekend in a sudden and acute case of planned obsolescence. Luckily we live in the era of Big Data where we share all of our cherished memories directly to "the cloud" such as that time last month when I almost stepped on a caterpillar.

Mid May Caterpillar

Or that time I tried to make homemade King Cake beer

King Cake beer

These bits are preserved for all posterity now. What's lost, of course, are the things I actually got productive use out of.. such as three years' worth of storytime booklists and fake band names for the Hunkerdowncast Jivewire. So, you know... dammit.

Of course the odds are somebody somewhere probably can still get at that information if they look hard enough. 
Thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden, we know that NSA spies think of smartphone users as “zombies” who pay for their own surveillance. Hence, in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations, corporate leaders in Silicon Valley have focused intently on linking technical innovation with cybersecurity. It’s an approach that aligns the average user’s desire for better privacy with the business interests of large tech companies.

The basic narrative is fairly straightforward: To protect oneself against prying eyes, simply get the latest mobile gadget. Ostensibly, even the FBI will be hard-pressed to access its data. But how, exactly, is the public supposed to believe that clandestine agreements between intelligence directors and CEOs are strictly a thing of the past?

Glenn Greenwald asserts that market incentives will take care of this problem. In a recent interview, he explained that “consumers are now demanding that privacy be safeguarded and refusing to use companies that won’t do that.”

Can market forces really save us? Those who recall what happened in 2008 have their doubts.
Yeah, I have doubts too. For instance, the "latest gadget" I just had a Verizon salescreep push on me is so full of bullcrap games and carrier bloatware that I'm not sure it isn't surreptitiously taking my blood pressure and reporting it to the Obamacare Risk Managment Panopticon right now.  But that's what capitalism has decided is the price of convenience and who are we to judge, right?

Anyway, I'm off to FOIA my booklists. There's no way I can reconstruct them from memory. In fact, I barely remember anything that happens anymore. Which is why I still try and write it all down on this blog. Which, technically, belongs to Google.

This has been "The Circle of Life" but for Big Data. 

Everybody's got a bomb, we could all die any day

Happy Monday
I know of no person who understands the science and politics of modern weaponry better than William J. Perry, the US Secretary of Defense from 1994 to 1997. When a man of such unquestioned experience and intelligence issues the stark nuclear warning that is central to his recent memoir, we should take heed. Perry is forthright when he says: “Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger.”1 He also tells us that the nuclear danger is “growing greater every year” and that even a single nuclear detonation “could destroy our way of life.”

Who is getting whacked?

Tyler Bridges writes that it may be time for the governor to mete out some punishment.
Several legislators said privately that Edwards needs to make an example of at least one prominent opponent.

One veteran legislator remembered how Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Speaker Joe Salter punished state Rep. Troy Hebert in 2004 by sacking him as a committee chairman after he voted against a key tax measure sought by Blanco.

“It’s like what you have to do sometimes with a mule that won’t go into the barn,” the legislator said. “You have to whack him in the head to get his attention.”
Candidates for wracking in Bridges' article include both House Speaker Taylor Barras and, of course, our friend Neil.
The governor also could whack an $11 million request in state construction money from another high-profile nemesis, state Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, who chairs the House tax committee that killed several of the governor’s revenue-raising measures. The $11 million would go for an Audubon Zoo exhibit to be held in 2020.
Although in both cases, this may be precisely what each of them wants. Particularly so for Abramson who has made it a point this year to demonstrate his independence from the governor and will certainly argue that his constituents are being unfairly punished.

But then none of this may happen. During his late night press conference the governor snapped at reporters (including Bridges) as they asked questions about the political fallout from the session. "How is that helpful?" Edwards snarled at one such question.

So it remains to be seen whether Edwards has the temperament for exacting punishment when legislators behave badly. session ended Stephanie Grace compared the governor's face to that of an ineffectual "disappointed dad."  If he plans to continue giving the reactionary children in the house free rein, we'll probably see more of that in the future,

Saturday, June 25, 2016


People freak out too easily.  
LONDON — Britain’s startling decision to pull out of the European Union set off a cascade of aftershocks on Friday, costing Prime Minister David Cameron his job, plunging the financial markets into turmoil and leaving the country’s future in doubt.
As for me, I tend to bet against any looming "catastrophe" conventional wisdom says is coming. The real horrors in this world happen in slow motion.  The grind of poverty and inequality, climate change, coastal erosion, gentrification, mass incarceration, aggressively racist policing,  the day to day political corruption that allows all of the above to function. This is where the real damage is done.

Events like the Brexit referendum are just clumsy reactions; slips in the fault where more insidious fundamental pressures have buckled it. In a way, they're even hopeful in that they make plain the otherwise obscured abuses wrought by the system. They present opportunities to, if not remedy, at least better understand the problem. Hey look, an oil rig exploded. Maybe we should be more serious about safety enforcement.  Of course, more often than not, these tragic events don't actually result in positive reform which makes them all the more tragic. But they do provide little opportunities for hope... if you believe in that sort of thing. 

The Brexit referendum, at the very least, demonstrates that the political system is not entirely nullified by the money power. On a certain level it's gratifying to see democracy still (sort of) exists, even when it does stupid things. I say "sort of" there because, frankly, I'm not convinced democracy really does hold the advantage here. I'm quite willing to take bets at this point that the result is eventually negated one way or another.
London (CNN)From Brexit to #Regrexit -- an online petition demanding a second referendum on Britain's decision to leave the EU is nearing 1.5 million signatures.

By Saturday morning, 1,489,743 people had signed the petition on the official UK Parliament website. That number takes it well over the 100,000-signature threshold needed to force a debate on the issue by members of Parliament.
Which, in itself, would also be a hopeful tragedy insofar as it would demonstrate the blatant hostility toward democracy prevalent among the international capitalist class. 
Citigroup's chief global political analyst, Tina Fordham, and Chief Economist Willem Buiter have offered their outlooks on the global state of affairs at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos. They did not paint a sunny picture.

Fordham portrayed a world that was seeing rising interstate conflict, increased terrorism, political systems under strain from the refugee crisis, and of course the growing appeal of populist politicians (on the right and left) in Europe and the U.S, or what what Fordham dubs Vox Populi risk.
Not that any positive change is likely to come of that either. But it's always useful to see these people just come out and say what they really are.

What isn't useful, though, is the idiot supposition being promoted by sandbox pundits in the US that a win for Leave somehow portends a win for Donald Trump in November. But this is nonsense for several obvious reasons that can best be summed up as Britain and the US are very different countries.  
American presidential elections are largely decided by a diverse and upscale electorate, anchored in America’s cities and suburbs. These communities more closely resemble London than Lincolnshire. Minorities made up more than a quarter of the electorate in the last presidential campaign.

And while Britain decided to leave the European Union through a popular vote, the White House race will be determined by the Electoral College, which is tilted toward the Democrats. Some large states with significant nonwhite populations have been out of reach for Republican candidates for much of the last three decades; California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Pennsylvania have voted for every Democratic nominee since 1992. Mr. Obama also won Florida twice, and Mrs. Clinton has a lead there now in part because Mr. Trump is unpopular with Hispanics.

Together those six states offer 166 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
Mr. Trump is at an even greater disadvantage than other recent Republican presidential nominees because of his dismal standing with nonwhite, college-educated and female voters. Unless he can reverse the deeply negative views such voters have of him, he is unlikely to capture the voter-rich communities around Philadelphia, Denver, Miami and Washington that are crucial to winning the White House.

Joe Trippi, a Democratic political strategist who was a consultant for former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, said he expected the Brexit vote to embolden American conservatives. But their excitement, Mr. Trippi said, would be largely “a false read” of the results.
“There are some very similar things — a polarized electorate, nativism, nationalism were clearly big factors, and Trump exemplifies them here,” Mr. Trippi said.

“But there is a difference in the multiculturalism and diversity of the United States, versus nowhere near the same factors in the U.K.”
To which I might like to add, you know... duh.. as well as, see also this
One major comparative advantage for Brexit is that none of the prominent assholes on its side were actually on the ballot. People who would never dream of voting for Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson in a national election could vote Brexit. Implicitly voting against Cameron didn’t require voting for someone you hate as much or more. If the question on the ballot in November was “do you want Hillary Clinton to be president?” I would be pretty worried. But it’s not. If Trump is going to win, he’s going to need a plurality of voters to affirmatively vote for him, although he’s a very well-known and widely despised figure heading a nationally unpopular party while barely running a presidential campaign at all.
Because everything that happens in the world somehow has to be all about the US, and because everything that happens in US politics has to be all about Trump, then every time anything happens, we are required to say that it must mean something for Trump. 

Also it's important for the Hillary faction of the Democratic Party that we build up Trump into a very scary existential threat. In truth, he is an inept buffoon who is in well over his head and losing the general election badly. But in order to properly manufacture a Legend Of Hillary The Dragonslayer, Democrats have to pretend there's an actual dragon out there. There isn't. There's just that one idiot who can't win. And Brexit, whether it eventually happens or not, doesn't change that in the slightest.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Are we having fun now or what?

Should be an exciting day tomorrow!
LONDON — Britain has voted to leave the European Union, a historic decision sure to reshape the nation’s place in the world, rattle the Continent and rock political establishments throughout the West.

With all but a handful of the country’s cities and towns reporting Friday morning, the Leave campaign held a 52 percent to 48 percent lead. The BBC called the race for the Leave campaign shortly before 4:45 a.m., with 13.1 million votes having been counted in favor of leaving and 12.2 million in favor of remaining.

The value of the British pound plummeted as financial markets absorbed the news.
Hey, if you've been wanting to take a trip to the UK, it might be a good idea to go while it's cheap. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Y'all, #Brexit ain't gonna happen

And, of course, it probably shouldn't.  I say probably only because there are compelling reasons to want ostensible democracies like the UK to defy the international elite cartels who set rules that apply to people who do not elect them. But, more realistically, the immediate result of a Leave vote is likely to be a more strongly far-right government in the UK and the possibility of redirecting that momentum in [???] decades. So, yeah, if I were a Brit I'd probably hold my nose and vote stay. I'd feel really shitty about it, though. (Actual Brit James Gill feels differently, by the way.)

In any case, it's always fun to watch election returns. Brexit results should be coming in any minute now. (Ok not for a few more hours but still)

They don't actually care about funding things

The House anti-tax reactionaries called the Governor's bluff one last time. He's finally giving up.
Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, gave up efforts to try to raise any more revenue for the state budget Thursday morning (June 23), meaning the Legislature will leave this special session raising less than half of the $600 million Edwards initially requested.

Louisiana's budget issues need to be resolved by Thursday at midnight, when the second special session comes to a close.

Alario and Edwards staff said there weren't enough votes in the Louisiana House of Representatives to pass any more tax changes. The Senate leadership and the governor had been pushing to get a reduction in an income tax break through the Legislature over the past week.
Clearly the reactionaries don't care if things get funded. That left it to the Governor to figure out a way to make them care.  His idea was, well if we propose TOPS cuts in the budget, then surely they'll work in good faith with us to come together and find more money.  But this was never going to work because 1) No one here is acting in good faith. 2) The reactionaries pay no political price whatsoever if TOPS isn't funded. Their next move is to go back to voters and complain about how the Governor is trying to take their scholarship money from them.  They will relish the chance to do this, in fact.

It's been clear all year long the reactionaries were going to stay dug in. They dug in over cleaning pennies in the first special session. They dug in over the capital outlay budget during the regular session. They dug in over the income tax measures during this final (?) session. If the Governor, at any time, held a card they actually cared about, things may have gone differently.  The Governor thought TOPS would be that card. It wasn't.

Here's a good example of when not to vote for a lesser evil

All of the finalists in the Zephyrs' ill-advised name change operation are stupid.
They are the New Orleans Baby Cakes, Crawfish, King Cakes, Night Owls, Po’boys, Red Eyes and Tailgators. They were picked from among 2,539 submitted last month on line by the public. A least one is the result of a combination of nicknames by Brandiose, the San Diego-based firm in charge of the rebranding the Zephyrs.
By far the dumbest name in that whole paragraph is "Brandiose" but let's not worry about that right now. First there is the task of sorting through this rubbish and figuring out what to salvage.

Disappointed fans, like general election voters, are likely to pick out the least offensive monstrosity and hold their nose over it. Crawfish, King Cakes, and Po'Boys are the very bad front-runners. If you'd asked a class of fourth graders to come up with some avatars of local culture, this is what you'd get. Technically appropriate but not very imaginative.  But they're stupid in a bland and inoffensive way that a lot of people might be in the mood to settle for at this point.  We should demand better.

Tailgators almost sounds good enough to have been a first ballot reject in a closed brainstorming session somewhere. Night Owls sounds like something someone in the brainstorming session should have been fired for. What even is a "Red Eye," though?  The San Diego based marketing team claims it's a reference to crawfish. In which case, we would very much like to know 1) Who uses this term for them ever? 2) Isn't "Crawfish" already one of the options?

Which leaves us only with "Baby Cakes."  What is that? Clearly Brandiose has no idea.
Brandiose owners Jason Klein and Casey White visited New Orleans on May 10-11. They met with Zephyrs officials and toured the New Orleans area speaking with season ticket-holders, corporate and community leaders, then local historians. Klein and White then came up with the nicknames from those submitted.

Baby Cakes was derived from a combination of king cakes, which as we know contain a plastic baby, and area people referring to each other as “baby,” which Klein and White noted during their tour.
Nobody would derive Baby Cakes from the fact of king cake babies. That's just something they made up. Similarly, their discovering the "baby" vernacular in the course of their two day cultural leanrings for make benefit glorious nation of branding tour is clearly bullshit. They really have no idea what they're doing.

At the same time, though, Baby Cakes is so weird, so out there, so blatantly unconnected to anything, that it's actually the one name this process most deserves. Rather than fumble through the rest of these lame ideas looking for a lesser evil, Zephyrs fans should just go the whole nine yards and vote Baby Cakes in protest.  Short of staging a massive sit-in to save the name Zephyrs, this is probably the best way forward now.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Not just Mayfield

Yes this one in particular is pretty egregious. But whenever a new chapter of this saga comes out it's worth remembering there's a whole culture of ostensibly do-gooder clubby non-profits networked throughout the upper crust of New Orleans. And every one of them exists to serve the social and financial interests of the club members before whatever philanthropic cause it claims to support. 

Every now and then one gets caught gifting in a stupid and therefore easily identifiable way. But, really, they all do it. When they're doing it less stupidly they're invariably celebrated for it.

They don't actually care if things get funded

By accusing them of magical thinking, the TP editorial board is giving House conservatives too much credit.
Instead of approving enough new revenue to fill Louisiana's budget deficit or making difficult spending cuts, the House of Representatives has resorted to wishful thinking. Members approved a budget Monday (June 20) that funds the TOPS scholarship program at 70 percent — but they split it into two pieces: 100 percent for the fall semester and only 40 percent for the spring semester. How are families supposed to plan for that?

House members apparently are hoping that money will rain down from the heavens by January to make up the difference.
Actually they aren't hoping for anything.  As far was they're concerned, failure to find revenue and fund things is a win. They get to back to their constituents and brag about how they prevented all those big bad tax increases on upper income brackets. Whatever pain results from the budget cuts this necessitates ends up being the governor's fault, politically speaking. So, yeah. Good times for them.  


The problem with crazy campaign ads like Elbert Guillory's Coconuts thing here is the cynicism has sucked the joy out of them.  Sure, there's always been a degree of calculation in offbeat political advertising. But what we're seeing here is a different level of manufactured intentional post-modern schlock.

Guillory's ad isn't a happy accident of charming "Special Man" type eccentricity. Instead, it is the product of well paid mainstream communications professionals acting well within the scope of their current best practices. Remember earlier in the Presidential primary when Buzzfeed was producing these quirky viral videos of Republican candidates? Pretty likely the purpose of that exercise was getting some creative interns a chance to test the viral political ad as a form while also padding out their own resumes in the field. Being WeirdTM is really just plain old formulaic marketing now.

While colorful characters have long been a part of our politics, the Palin-Trump age has shown us that outrageous behavior for its own sake is actually a potent brand.  Anyone managing Elbert Guillory's campaign will know this. So get ready for more affectedly bizarre ads. The PR puke funnel is bound to have plenty more where that came from.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Standard practice

Debtors' prison is actually more common than you might think.
A new book, “A Pound of Flesh,” by Alexes Harris of the University of Washington, notes that these modern debtors’ prisons now exist across America. Harris writes that in Rhode Island in 2007, 18 people were incarcerated a day, on average, for failure to pay court debt, while in Ferguson, Mo., the average household paid $272 in fines in 2012, and the average adult had 1.6 arrest warrants issued that year.

“Impoverished defendants have nothing to give,” Harris says, and the result is a system that disproportionately punishes the poor and minorities, leaving them with an overhang of debt from which they can never escape.
The unusual thing is when someone puts a stop to one.  Or at least tries to.
When poor defendants guilty of minor crimes enter Bogalusa Judge Robert Black's courtroom, they are often met with no quarter, according to a federal lawsuit that accuses Black of running an illegal "modern-day debtors' prison."

It's pay the fine or immediately begin jail time, with little room to negotiate for those who can't afford to pay.

The Southern Poverty Law Center sued Black Tuesday (June 21) in federal court in New Orleans in an attempt to halt that policy, which its lawyers called unconstitutional. They're representing four impoverished defendants worried they'll run afoul of Black at their upcoming hearings.

"Our clients are terrified that they're going to go to jail," SPLC attorney Micah West said.
No guarantee that they actually will succeed, of course. The TP article goes on to point out this is the hot trend in Louisiana just as it is everywhere. 
The case against Black reflects a disturbing trend across Louisiana where small-town courts finance their operations on fees that inherently hit those who can't pay the hardest. The American Civil Liberties Union studied 12 parishes and two cities for a 45-day period in 2014, finding evidence that many places, including New Orleans, arrested and jailed people for unpaid fines.  

What will Gusman do all day?

He says this means he gets to delegate things now. Seems dubious.
At a news conference Tuesday, Gusman insisted that he would remain at the helm, even as he welcomed the addition of a compliance director who will be tasked with implementing a series of jail reforms known as a federal consent decree.

“This is not unlike delegating authority that I do for a lot of the people I work with,” the sheriff said. He added that the compliance budget “must address” deputy pay raises, a flash point in the long-running dispute between City Hall and the Sheriff’s Office.

“This is about us having a direct pipeline to the court. This gives us an opportunity to cut through the challenges, the obstructions, the gamesmanship that’s been going on.”

The settlement makes clear, however, that the compliance director “will be answerable only to the court.”

“The compliance director shall seek advice and/or approval from the sheriff regarding all decisions that materially impact compliance with the consent (decree) unless doing so would cause unreasonable delay, and otherwise regularly inform the sheriff regarding jail operations,” the document says.
The punchline comes next week sometime when we find out the new Compliance Director is actually Ed Blakely. 

Home stretch

Coming down to the last days of the special session. Suffice to say the legislature has done a poor job of finding the money necessary to make this year's budget not terrible.
With no major tax bills left to consider in the special session, the Louisiana House has  agreed to raise $284 million for the coming budget year, or less than half of what Gov. John Bel Edwards says is needed to address the state's shortfall.

Edwards had wanted to raise an $600 million. The Senate had a more modest goal of $450 million in new revenue. But the House doesn't appear likely to put any more revenue on the table before the session ends Thursday (June 23) at midnight.
It's actually even worse than that as increasingly crappy revenue projections keep moving the goalpost.  There's plenty of blame to go around here but mainly the problem has been in the House where the conservative majority has seen fit to obstruct all but the most ineffectual revenue measures and leave everyone to fight over which "hard choices" to make.  For their part, the House has boldly taken it up on themselves to put those choices off until spring 
The Louisiana House of Representatives voted to fund the TOPS college scholarship program at 70 percent next year in the budget bill it passed Monday (June 20).

But that financial shortfall wouldn't be spread evenly across both semesters. The House budget proposal calls for TOPS to be fully funded in the fall semester and any financial shortfall that occurs to be absorbed in the spring semester.

That means students would receive a scholarship covering full tuition for the fall semester, but TOPS would drop to 40 percent in the spring.
The income tax bills they rejected left an awful lot of money on the table. If they actually cared about funding things, they might not have trashed them.

Monday, June 20, 2016

So when does Special Session 3 begin?

This one has been a near complete dud.
Senate Bill 10 initially would have made large manufacturers and chemical plants choose between two tax breaks. It was changed to keep the tax breaks in place for both companies, though restrict the amount the state would give the company if the inventory tax credit earned exceeded its total tax bill.

The bill was initially supposed to produce $68 million in the budget cycle. Now it is expected to be about $60 million, according to Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, who sponsored the legislation.

Once the bill was changed, several business groups -- including the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce, paper mills, and Dow Chemical -- removed their opposition. After the amendment, the House tax committee also agreed to pass the legislation with no objections on Monday morning.
Oh wait. Check that.

Another downward revision almost every hour.  Right on schedule with every new gimmick lawmakers come up with to protect special privileges for their cronies and wealthy donors.  Combine this foolishness with this week's failure to pass even the most mildly progressive income tax reform and you start to think that maybe the problem is these guys don't actually care if anything gets funded
The drama over House Bill 38, sponsored by state Rep. Malinda White, D-Bogalusa, played out against still more bad news: the discovery of an extra $200 million shortfall, on top of the $600 million hole that Gov. John Bel Edwards has been pleading for lawmakers to close. With just a couple of days left before the session must end, it’s looking like the Legislature won’t even cobble together half that much.

So the next question to ponder is this: Just how much of an appetite do those same legislators have for making further deep cuts to higher education and health care?
The answer to Grace's question is simple. They don't care as long as their friends get their favors. Close all the hospitals if you want. In the long run it's the Governor who pays the political price. After all it's his budget, right?   And then, in a few years, when this "fiscal cliff" we're in the process of creating finally hits we're right back where we started. That will be seen as the Governor's fault too.

So it's probably in John Bel's interest to figure out how to make these legislators behave. Otherwise, he might want to rethink his long term plans.

Still the sheriff

It looks like Marlin Gusman isn't going to have to give up his jail after all.
Sheriff Marlin Gusman has struck a deal that apparently will stave off a federal takeover of the Orleans Justice Center, finding common ground with the U.S. Justice Department and inmates who filed a class-action lawsuit over conditions at the city’s jail.

Terms of the compromise were not immediately made public, but the details are expected to be revealed in federal court Tuesday morning, according to sources familiar with the matter.
We've said it before but Gusman is a savvy and stubborn guy and not an easy politician to tangle with. Not for the mayor, not for his rivals, not for the US Justice Department. In other words he is one seriously resilient dude. Quite Nolier of him. 

Beyond parody

Couldn't make this up if you tried.
NEW ORLEANS – On Tuesday, June 21, 2016, Mayor Mitch Landrieu will deliver the 2016 State of the City Address.

The speech is open to the public. Those who are not able to attend are encouraged to follow @mayorlandrieu on Twitter for live tweeting of the event using the hashtag #NOLASOTC.

WHO:              Mayor Mitch Landrieu

WHEN:            Tuesday, June 21, 2016                        9 a.m.
                        Doors open at 8 a.m.
                        Media will be permitted to set-up at 7:30 a.m.
                        Media RSVP to communications@nola.gov by 4 p.m. Friday, June 17,                                  2016

WHERE:         The Refresh Project Rooftop
                       300 N. Broad. St.
                        New Orleans, LA 70119
Just to translate that, the Refresh Project Rooftop at 300 N. Broad means the mayor will speak to us from atop the roof of a Whole Foods.  Some of you might remember that Whole Foods was built a few years ago when the giant corporation famous for overcharging yuppies for groceries was given "Fresh Food Retailer" funds.

Ostensibly, Fresh Food Retailer Funds are supposed to alleviate so-called "food deserts" by subsidizing more grocery stores in under-served neighborhoods. In other words, it's exactly the sort of trickle-down bank shot corporate welfare scheme neoliberals like Mitch Landrieu absolutely adore.
This supply-side solution of building supermarkets does not fix the underlying social ills that cause food deserts. The HHFI assumes that certain demographics are unhealthy because of the environments they live in — long commutes in rural areas, few parks or recreational outlets in urban ones, and, of course, no supermarkets in either. But does proximity to supermarkets correspond with low BMI because access to its foods diminishes obesity? Or, on the contrary, do people with higher incomes demand supermarkets in their neighborhoods? Food writer Julie Guthman argues that if the latter is the case, then a new grocery store in a low-income neighborhood could actually lead to gentrification, and therefore have adverse effects on the population it was seeking to help.
In fact, Whole Foods is well aware of this. Thus its national strategy of collecting these grants as it targets "up and coming" urban neighborhoods in which to open new stores just before they gentrify.

Anyway, we all look forward to hearing the mayor's speech tomorrow. I wonder what the theme will be.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Managed retreat

Not gonna restore or really even "save" what's left of the coast. We've actually been in retreat mode for quite some time.
The 50-year, $50 billion master plan envisions building back the estuaries and wetlands along Louisiana’s coast through sediment diversions and marsh creation, as well as paying for levees and other projects. That $50 billion price tag also is likely to increase with the new 2017 master plan, Bradberry said, in part reflecting changing conditions along the coast like the more dire forecasts for sea level rise.

“I’m encouraged the state is already, with the 2017 plan, having a realistic discussion of what the possibilities are,” Muth said. “We have to be prepared for some pretty disturbing news about what is possible.”

That’s not to say pursuing coastal restoration and protection work is pointless. Preserving the marshes at the coast is critical, as they provide important defenses when storms come in, absorbing surge and reducing flooding.

“We still can get the system building land while, at the same time, facing the fact that some of what we have now will disappear,” Muth said. “We have to figure out what we can do so we can be here in 50 years.”
So, ok, they're only sort of coming around to admitting how little they can actually do. From a macro perspective,  though,  it helps if you understand that policy has always been guided by the desire to preserve profit rather than habitat. Eventually it's all going underwater.  In the meantime we'll protect assets for as long as there is still money to wring from them. People are pretty much on their own. Just as they always have been.

So much session

We may not be well governed but we certainly are much governed this year. Clancy DuBos suggests there may be even more extra special governance to come.
Louisiana lawmakers have until midnight Thursday, June 23, to conclude the second special session of 2016. They have been meeting more or less continuously since Feb. 14, and by now they’re pretty much tired of looking at each other.

But their work is far from done, according to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who summoned them into both special sessions and is said to be considering yet another — yes, a third — if this one doesn’t meet his expectations.
Probably won't happen that way. But fun to think about!

Anyway I'm not sure about Clancy's casting of JBE as Henry V there. Yeah he's a military guy and all but it's not quite right. 

Of course the temptation is to turn every political drama into Julius Caesar. I don't know if Edwards is enough of a populist or as true to the poor to qualify as Caesar but we could probably stretch it to fit if we try. I guess that would make Jay Dardenne Mark Antony.. or maybe that's JP Morrell.  I don't know. Like I said, it's a flimsy premise. I'm just trying to get us to the party where Neil Abramson and Cameron Henry are Brutus and Cassius because that's what makes this whole thing go.

Keep on frackin'

Don't you just love these heartwarming stories where ordinary citizens come together and organize to protect their community from predatory industry... and lose?
The Louisiana Supreme Court has refused to consider an appeal by St. Tammany Parish and a citizens group challenging a state decision to award a permit to a company that wants to drill near Lakeshore High School, spokesmen said.

By a 4-3 vote, the court refused to hear the appeal, allowing a decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals to stand. Justices Greg Guidry, Jeannette Theriot Knoll and Marcus Clark dissented. The appeals panel ruled earlier this year that the parish’s zoning ordinances had to be considered, but not followed, by the state when considering the permit application.

The decision effectively ends a nearly two year legal challenge against Helis Oil & Gas’ plans to drill an oil well in a wooded tract northeast of Mandeville. The case pitted the parish against the state’s Commissioner of Conservation, who issued a permit to Helis to drill. The group Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, which has opposed the well, joined the suit on the side of the parish. Helis also joined on the side of the Commissioner of Conservation.
Most of the time they lose, actually.  Now Helis can look forward to taking advantage of state tax exemptions for drilling and fracking since we already know the legislature will fail to eliminate those.  

Friday, June 17, 2016

Who did this?

This is really shitty. Don't do this shit
Officials are investigating after over a half a dozen trees were poisoned with herbicide in New Orleans' Central Business District.

The New Orleans Advocate reports someone drilled holes in the trunks of eight pistachio trees and poured in herbicide.

The city confirmed the poisoning Thursday, and although it's unclear when the poisonings occurred, some residents say they noticed the holes last week.
 Guess we'll be monitoring the Finebaum show to see if the culprit turns up.


It's gonna get worse before it gets better. (If it gets better.)
Louisiana’s nonfarm employment fell by 19,600 jobs for the 12 months ending in May, as the state lost ground in seven of 11 economic sectors, with the biggest hit once again to the oil and gas industry.

The 1 percent decline dropped Louisiana to 1,979,800 jobs in May, according to preliminary numbers released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was the 10th consecutive month the state posted a year-to-year drop in the number of jobs.

Over the same 12-month period, the U.S. added 38,000 jobs.

The state’s mining and logging sector, which includes oil and gas jobs, plunged by 8,600 jobs, or 18 percent. After 17 consecutive months of year-to-year drops, there are now 40,100 people working in the sector statewide.

Oil prices have fallen to less than $50 per barrel level, deterring drilling activity.

Other hard-hit job sectors in the state were manufacturing, which lost 8,100 jobs over the year; business and personal services, 4,200 jobs; and government, 2,900 jobs.
Also see how we're "bucking the trend" which is always nice. Anyway, I hear Shell isn't done cutting jobs yet either.

Furthermore even the jobs we do "create" in our part of the state, don't provide the sort of support most people need. Here's a Brookings/Data Center report on something called "Opportunity Clusters" in the metro New Orleans region. But that's not important. What's important are the jobs data included in the report. This scary chart, for example, shows us that the greatest number of jobs created in metro New Orleans since 2010 are pretty crappy jobs that pay below our (itself low) average annual wage.

Our jobs are crap

And, of course, we already know the cost of living keeps going up and up. The same report shows that 41 percent of New Orleans families are struggling to make ends meet.

During press gaggle this week about health care, the mayor told reporters we are an "ascending city"

Not sure if he means that in terms of living standards or elevation. In either case, it's the opposite of true.


Always fun when someone finds an excuse to drag this quote up again.
By October 2006, more than a year after the initial announcement, Trump Jr. revealed that a sharp spike in the cost of labor and materials after the storm -- which doubled the estimated cost of the project, to $400 million -- meant the project was to be scaled back a bit. It would still be the tallest building in the city, though. So it had that going for it.

In March 2007, the project cleared its last regulatory hurdle before the City Council. A summer groundbreaking was expected. "This is Trump," Councilwoman Stacy Head told her colleagues in asking for approval. "Woo-hoo."

Hey what's this button do?

Charles Boustany: Louisiana's first Facebook Live candidate.
U.S. Senate candidates who were criticized by the staffers of fellow Republican candidate Charles Boustany in an unintentionally broadcast Facebook Live stream fired back Wednesday with one raising ethical questions.

“It is very disappointing that Congressman Boustany would break congressional ethics rules by mixing his taxpayer-funded office with his political operation. Congressman Boustany has a lot of explaining to do,” said Matt Beynon, spokesman for the Senate campaign of U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden.

It is unclear where the conversation took place and who exactly was involved. The flub has hit the national media.
Unfortunately for us, the bit of gossip the broadcast treats us to isn't especially juicy. Some smack talking about Kennedy and Fleming, mostly. But still it's good to know the congressman has his Geek Appeal team up and running. 

Update: Oh look here's Grace also unimpressed
So call the whole episode an amusing diversion, and a bit of a window into how campaign strategists think. But between the high budget drama in Baton Rouge and the over-the-top presidential contest, it’s going to take something a lot more dramatic to get people to start focusing on this race.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

It's a tech 'trep's world

We're all just living in it. That is, if we can actually afford to live in it. Some of us may have already been priced out by some sort of "sharing" app. If not, don't worry. They'll get to you sooner or later. When they do, though, don't expect much sympathy from the media. Turns out they run that too.
Idea Village founder and CEO Tim Williamson, a nationally respected business leader whose determination to expand economic and leadership opportunities for New Orleanians sparked an entrepreneurial renaissance in his hometown, has been named President of NOLA Media Group.

Williamson replaces Ricky Mathews, who previously announced his intention to transition out of his role as NOLA Media Group president and help lead new initiatives with Advance Local, a group of affiliated websites and newspapers of which NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune are members.
It's a week for old favorites in the world of "volunteer entrepreneurism."  Yesterday it was Irvin Mayfield and Jim Bernazzani. Today it's Williamson. The guys should really get the band back together and play a number.  If only so many of them weren't in jail. Pour some out for Greg Meffert and Ray Nagin. Once upon a time Williamson and Meffert kind of made their careers locally by being in the circle of businessmen that produced Mayor Nagin.
It Helps to Know the Mayor
"We started out lucky, says Williamson. "I call it the MN [Mayor Nagin] factor. Ray Nagin, a former vice president and general manager for Cox Communications in Southeast Louisiana, who had never held political office, defeated New Orleans police chief Richard Pennington in the mayor's race in early 2002.

"He's entrepreneurial, says Williamson. "He understood business; he understood what we were talking about. There was finally a sense of possibility that we could actually create a world-class entrepreneurial community.

"What's critical to this is vision, continues Williamson. "The mayor stated that his vision is to make New Orleans the entrepreneurial capital of the world.
 But Williamson's neoliberal capitalist bona fides extend beyond mere cronyism.
Williamson, 51, is an Isidore Newman High School (1983) and Tulane University (1987) alum. He began his career as an investment banker on the East Coast, including a stint as Vice President of Investments at Bear Stearns in Boston. In 1996 he became regional general manager at Cox Interactive Media, responsible for building Internet markets in Austin, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Pittsburgh and his native New Orleans.
Cox cable, Bear Stearns, Tulane, Newman. You could add "Legion of Doom: founding member" to that resume and it wouldn't be the worst thing on there. This is pretty much a made man we're talking about. Which is why one wonders if he's really this dense or more likely just dishonest when he cites historian Lawrence Powell in this video in calling New Orleans  "The place where capitalism was founded. The original silicon valley."  This is true, of course. It conveniently glosses over all the slavery, though.

We've actually mentioned this before in the context of the Confederate monuments controversy. But the book to read is Edward Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. Baptist focuses on banking and credit "innovations" pioneered by the entrepreneurs (like Vincent Nolte in the passage below) trading humans and cotton futures at Maspero's during this founding of capitalism Williamson enthuses about.

Anyway, the inheritors of this proud legacy are pretty much running the town now so there's no point in objecting anymore.  Maybe if they manage to bump us up to three "Entrepreneur Week" features per month, they'll finally find the Golden App that solves everyone's problems. Probably not, though. The track record isn't very good.