Friday, March 31, 2017

Pay for your poison

Watch neoliberalism work, y'all
The warning letters arrived in Flint mailboxes in early March. Their demand, of almost unfathomable audacity, is delivered in red capital letters, underlined for emphasis: pay for your poison or else.
Snyder’s government, which was largely responsible for the water disaster, announced in February that it would stop giving Flint residents subsidies for their water. Mayor Karen Weaver then decided to resume the practice of shutting off the water for people with unpaid bills. 

Coercive water shut-offs are controversial in the U.S. under normal circumstances, castigated by the United Nations as a violation of human rights. In Flint, which charged people some of the highest water rates in the country for killer gunk, the threats have been greeted with a mix of astonishment and told-you-so resignation. 

“The people in Flint should not have to pay for water for at least a decade,” Hanna-Attisha said.

Thousands of residents have been refusing to pay for a year or more. Some say they will continue the protest even though parents without running water are regularly investigated by child protection authorities.
You may recall a few years back Mitch Landrieu pushed for and succeeded in implementing a water shut off policy for residents who failed to pay the sanitation fee attached to their water bills. The last time anyone asked, however, this enforcement tool had not yet been put to use.  But at least we're keeping up with the trendiest Best Practices, which is really the important part.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Work is just work

This article does a pretty good job of talking about the problem of life in the 'trep age.  The root of it is the ego-driven bullshit that bubbles up from people when they are expected to "compete" to demonstrate their own virtue or worth.  But it's precisely this scam that allows employers to take advantage of people. It's also a ready excuse for individuals to be dismissive or cruel to one another.. even in the name of "doing good." The way to combat this, I think, is to stop running around expecting to derive self-worth from your job.

This doesn't mean you should fester forever in a job that makes you hate yourself.  If you find you are working in a kitten abattoir, for example, or worse, a French Quarter hotel, do what you can to get out of that as soon as you can.  But generally speaking, if you allow your job to bleed into the package of things that define you as a human being, you're setting yourself up to be manipulated. Like this:
One of the central problems with THINX is its low pay and substandard benefits. Former workers recount Agrawal calling them “ungrateful” and “selfish” when they asked for pay raises commensurate with additional responsibilities. Agrawal’s language may seem extreme, but it isn’t surprising given “do-good” capitalism’s obsession with “purpose” and “doing what you love.”

In the universe of benevolent capitalism, workers are assumed to be motivated more by mission and purpose than by their paycheck. But under capitalism, ethical or otherwise, work is what you have to do to survive. Even in the most inspiring workplace, work is still just that: work.

When capitalists like Agrawal ignore this reality and insist on reframing “work” as “purpose,” they are using their mission as a tool to extract labor-on-the-cheap. Workers may even feel guilty about asking for more money, because doing so makes it seem like they are showing up for the paycheck, rather than the cause.

But inspiration doesn’t pay the bills.

In New Orleans, home of "Entrepreneur Week," we like to celebrate this kind of exploitative nonsense basically every day. Our entire non-profit sector is dedicated to shit like this.   But, in practice, all that serves to do is glorify an enrich a narrow circle of grifters and oligarchs. For the great majority of us it's malevolent gibberish.

Jobs suck. They aren't supposed to define you or make you happy. By that same token, you aren't there to serve the greater glory of your employer. Fuckabuncha work. You don't owe your job any piece of yourself or your soul. You only owe the work and time you've agreed to be compensated for. Do that and then get the hell out of there and go live your life.

Memory holed

We are going to defeat climate change by unlearning about it.
Over the past two months though, I’ve been navigating a different type of uncharted territory: the deleting of what little data we have by the Trump administration.

At first, the distress flare of lost data came as a surge of defunct links on 21 January. The US National Strategy for the Arctic, the Implementation Plan for the Strategy, and the report on our progress all gone within a matter of minutes. As I watched more and more links turned red, I frantically combed the internet for archived versions of our country’s most important polar policies.

I had no idea then that this disappearing act had just begun.

Since January, the surge has transformed into a slow, incessant march of deleting datasets, webpages and policies about the Arctic. I now come to expect a weekly email request to replace invalid citations, hoping that someone had the foresight to download statistics about Arctic permafrost thaw or renewable energy in advance of the purge.

Slightly less reliable than walking

RTA. Where tourism is everything and workers who serve tourists are shit.
Peter Barrett, a restaurant worker, said late-night bus rides from his workplace to his home in New Orleans East often last three hours, dropping him off as late as 3 a.m. if his shift ends around midnight. He and other workers said transit times began to drag when one bus recently started covering three nighttime routes to New Orleans East, tripling the load for that one bus.

Sometimes, Barrett said, he hops off the bus early and walks the rest of the way. That might get him home quicker, Barrett said, but walking late at night while wearing a work uniform and carrying cash can be risky. Even the bus stop wait can prove daunting, he said.
Barrett and a group of hospitality workers were addressing an RTA board meeting with their complaints. As one might expect, they weren't received well.
With the meeting's public comment portion seemingly still a long way off, retired restaurant worker Gavrielle Gemma stood up and interrupted one person mid-speech at the podium. She was flanked by other workers who held banners from their seats.

"You knew that we were coming today to address the board," Gemma said. "So you're refusing to set aside time before restaurant workers have to go to work to address the concerns of the restaurant workers in this city, who hold up the whole city's economy and are not being served by the RTA."

She urged the board to give the workers 10 or 15 minutes to present their concerns to the board before some of them had to leave. Sharonda Williams, the board's chairwoman, chided Gemma for "disrupting a public meeting" and said the board "will get to you in due course."
But when RTA says they'll "get to you in due course," that usually means you're gonna be waiting a while. So it's hard to see how that would be much comfort.  Anyway it's not like they  care.  As we noted the other day, tourists outnumbered residents in New Orleans last year by about 25 to 1. So we're pretty much doomed to take a back seat.  Or expect to walk.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Killing the internet as we knew it

Will the last free thinking person to be chased off the internet please turn out the lights?  From now on, everything you do, say... or even ask about.. is watched, collected, sold, and definitely used against you one way or another.
“Today’s vote means that Americans will never be safe online from having their most personal details stealthily scrutinized and sold to the highest bidder,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “Donald Trump, by giving away our data to the country’s leading phone and cable giants, is further undermining American democracy.”

Monday, March 27, 2017

Lost causers

Yeah they do have a bit of a problem letting this go.
A Shreveport lawmaker has again filed a bill that would prevent New Orleans from taking down statues of three Confederate officials and one to an uprising by a white supremacist militia.

This is the second time state Rep. Thomas Carmody, a Republican, has pursued legislation that would prevent the city from taking down the monuments to Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the White League militia that attempted to overthrow the state's reconstruction-era government.
They're not likely to succeed. But that's hardly the point, especially for people like Carmody for whom any ineffectual lashing out at New Orleans is a no-lose proposition, politically.

And yeah, both the Advocate and the Times-Pica-dot-com have made certain to put "Shreveport lawmaker..." in their headlines.  But I would caution against the NOLA chauvinism this sort of thing is likely to inspire.  As the T-P story does manage to point out, the hard core support for these monuments comes from the local, white, nonprofit community.
According to WVUE Fox 8, the nonprofit that brought the unsuccessful legal challenges held a fundraiser Sunday evening and told supporters that the legislation was the last chance they had to block the removal.

"It's far from over," said Pierre McGraw, the chairman of the Monumental Task Committee. "We have a real good opportunity in the legislature this time around that's coming up soon and hopefully we'll get some intervention at the state level

$750 million in public money

The pro sports leagues are beyond shame.

CEO President

This is what happens when you "run the gubmint like a bidness."  The boss doesn't really have any idea what the company does.  He has people to tell him what's good and what's bad.
Even as he thrust himself and the trappings of his office into selling the health-care bill, Trump peppered his aides again and again with the same concern, usually after watching cable news reports chronicling the setbacks, according to two of his advisers: “Is this really a good bill?”
We've seen this a bunch of times before.  Not sure how many Reagans, Nagins, and GW Bushes we need to burn through before people figure it out. 

Update: Here's Adrastos with a more elaborated look at this

The tax plan rollout

Today was the day the Governor was supposed to detail his (somewhat) surprising proposal to replace the state tax on corporate income with a tax on gross receipts. They're pushing that back a few days now.  That's probably happening, at least in part, to get the legislators time to catch up.  You know there's a problem when even the literate ones are having trouble getting information.
Edwards' interest in gross receipts caught legislators and state budget experts off guard, particularly since it surfaced a couple of weeks ago, only a month before the legislative session is scheduled to start on April 10. By contrast, the income tax plan had been discussed in detail for about a year by the Edwards administration before it was scratched.

"I know very little about it," said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, arguably the most influential member of the state legislature and one of the governor's strongest political allies, about gross receipts in an interview Friday afternoon.

"I haven't had a chance to review the ins and outs of it," said House Speaker Pro Tempore Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, who carried much of the governor's tax package last year in a separate interview Friday. "It seems there are a lot of questions."  

"Even the people talking about it contradict each other and don't understand it. They haven't had enough time to digest it yet," said Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, the chairman of the Senate committee that oversees tax bills. 
My thought when I first read about the gross receipts plan was that they were doing an end run around corporate tax exemptions by wiping them all out in one fell swoop. Theoretically this would give everybody a chance to spend the session doing favors to friends by writing them back in to the new code.  Hopefully the end result would also be slightly more revenue but there's no guarantee that it would be. 

It's good to have a hobby

OK now we're getting somewhere!
A would-be developer with his eye on the Six Flags site in New Orleans East is planning to step aside from that effort to launch a mayoral bid.

Frank Scurlock announced his candidacy last week in front of Armstrong Park as street performers danced in the background.

Scurlock is one of three bidders who have been seeking the right to redevelop the former Six Flags site, with plans to turn it back into an amusement park. The Industrial Development Board has been skeptical of all three proposals.
In addition to his multiple failed bids at the Six Flags site (including one that involved a "Noah's Ark" themed attraction) Scurlock is also known for his inherited wealth derived from his father’s invention of the "bounce house" and more recently for his bizarre skywriting stunts during Jazzfest.

During one round of Six Flags bidding, an IDB member called the proposals, including Scurlock's, "an insult to the people of New Orleans." Maybe a mayoral campaign is a way to make up for that by way of entertaining us. Or maybe it's more of the same.  In any case, it's hard to figure that there'd be room for both Scurlock and Sidney Torres in the same field. Maybe that's why the bounce house king is trying to get the.. um... jump on Sidney by getting in early.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Did you have a happy 'trep week?

The "recovery" period is over.
For the first time since Hurricane Katrina, more people moved from New Orleans to other areas of the United States last year than came to the city from other communities, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Thursday.

While New Orleans continues to grow slowly thanks to births and international migration, the reversal of in-country migration is a milestone for a city that has added thousands of new residents from areas across the country during its long recovery from the 2005 flood.

If the estimates are correct, and 2016 does not prove to be an aberration, the new figures may also be a turning point in the continued growth of the city.
It's fine, though.  No need to add any more residents at all, really.  As long as we can "fight blight" by rehabbing empty houses into STRs where nobody actually lives, it makes for smoother governance, anyway.  That Census estimate has New Orleans at roughly 390,000 or so residents. By comparison, there were 10.5 million tourists here last year.  They so greatly outnumber us that we might as well not even be here at all.  A predominantly tourist population is easier to deal with. It isn't going to bother you about better services, schools, transit, etc. Crime might still be a problem. But if you keep a close eye on the places where visitors are likely to hang out you're probably OK there too.

In general terms the "New" New Orleans is smaller, whiter, more expensive, more dominated by tourism than ever. It's what the city's elites always wanted before the flood. The "recovery" has been an exercise in wish fulfillment for them. And now the mission is accomplished.  All that's left to do are the congratulations.

The mayor had plenty of those to hand out during this most recent "Entrepreneur Week." This is an annual event created by Idea Village which is now an interlocking directorate with NOLA.com consisting of the same crowd of boosters and tech bros who once upon a time foisted Ray Nagin upon us.  They're just as happy now with Mitch, though, who is himself always too happy to promote the con that all our city's social inequities can be solved, not with politics, but with apps.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Twitter account provided snippets of his address to open the Civic Innovation Summit Tuesday. "#NOLA is the definition of a resilient city. Catastrophic events provide an opportunity -- out of necessity -- to transform a community," he said. "All of the progress we've made continues to be threatened until we all move forward together."

The Landrieu administration last week launched the Digital Equity Challenge to come up with ways to connect New Orleanians who are underserved -- including low-income, minority, elderly and disabled residents -- to technology. The city is seeking proposals for the best ideas for solving the technology gap. "Connecting New Orleans' low-income residents to technology is an important step to connecting all our residents to new opportunities," Mayor Landrieu said in announcing the effort.
It's this sort of nonsense that delivers the Potemkin village we've built here. All the houses are actually hotel rooms. All the streets are movie sets. The oligarchic landowners are the wealthiest in the state. Meanwhile, the standard of living for most of its residents is poor and steadily declining. The tourism industry that feeds the fortunes of the ruling class runs on the desperation and cutthroat competition among those who create its "cultural" product and those who provide the support services that help deliver it.

Here's a look at what "entrepreneurship" means for  musicians scraping by from gig-to-gig on Frenchmen Street, for example.
Musicians are responsible for the crowds and the drink sales on Frenchmen Street. In an environment where each club has live music from 4 PM until closing time (which may be 4 AM), bands encourage the traffic. The musicians who keep the city’s culture and tourism operating year-round deserve to be paid fairly. Yet the standard pay for bands at Frenchmen Street venues with no cover is 20% of the bar plus tips during a three- to four-hour time slot. This amounts to a starvation wage, as bars pay out as little as $200 total for four- to eight-piece bands. It is common for musicians to walk away from a three-hour, no-cover gig with less than $50, including tips. Musicians must be compensated not only for the time they are performing but also for the countless hours of training and preparation that are required to play well. Music is skilled labor, and demands a high wage. With rising housing and living costs, musicians are left struggling to make a living while spending has rapidly increased at Frenchmen Street venues over the last decade.
Here also is a quick commentary on the "gig economy" writ large. Despite the speeches and presentations and editorials coming out of Entrepreneur Week, the more salient point about the app and 'trep craze is the work environment it fosters for most people just trying to make it.
Fiverr, which had raised a hundred and ten million dollars in venture capital by November, 2015, has more about the “In Doers We Trust” campaign on its Web site. In one video, a peppy female voice-over urges “doers” to “always be available,” to think about beating “the trust-fund kids,” and to pitch themselves to everyone they see, including their dentist. A Fiverr press release about “In Doers We Trust” states, “The campaign positions Fiverr to seize today’s emerging zeitgeist of entrepreneurial flexibility, rapid experimentation, and doing more with less. It pushes against bureaucratic overthinking, analysis-paralysis, and excessive whiteboarding.” This is the jargon through which the essentially cannibalistic nature of the gig economy is dressed up as an aesthetic. No one wants to eat coffee for lunch or go on a bender of sleep deprivation—or answer a call from a client while having sex, as recommended in the video. It’s a stretch to feel cheerful at all about the Fiverr marketplace, perusing the thousands of listings of people who will record any song, make any happy-birthday video, or design any book cover for five dollars. I’d guess that plenty of the people who advertise services on Fiverr would accept some “whiteboarding” in exchange for employer-sponsored health insurance.

At the root of this is the American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system. The contrast between the gig economy’s rhetoric (everyone is always connecting, having fun, and killing it!) and the conditions that allow it to exist (a lack of dependable employment that pays a living wage) makes this kink in our thinking especially clear. Human-interest stories about the beauty of some person standing up to the punishments of late capitalism are regular features in the news, too. I’ve come to detest the local-news set piece about the man who walks ten or eleven or twelve miles to work—a story that’s been filed from Oxford, Alabama; from Detroit, Michigan; from Plano, Texas. The story is always written as a tearjerker, with praise for the person’s uncomplaining attitude; a car is usually donated to the subject in the end. Never mentioned or even implied is the shamefulness of a job that doesn’t permit a worker to afford his own commute.
As always, the fundamental problem is the imbalance of political power between capital and labor. Or between the owners and the chronically underemployed now euphemistically encouraged to think of themselves as "entrepreneurs." NOLA.com and Mitch Landrieu and his app aren't going to do anything to correct that.  But they are quite good at dazzling and distracting audiences from it.  And that's what this week has been all about.

Gotta go make some judges

There are only two races in Orleans Parish today. They are for judgeships in Civil District Court and on the Fourth Circuit Court Of Appeals. I think I was like the third person to vote in my precinct this morning. I'll be surprised if turnout gets to 15%. So your vote matters today if you make it out there. 

"Don't be afraid to run the same play over and over"

I know Spring practice is all hype. But I think we're gonna like Matt Canada.
The best advice Canada’s received? That came from Joe Novak, the former longtime Northern Illinois head coach who gave Canada his first big-time offensive coordinator job in 2003.

“Don’t be afraid to run the same play over and over,” he told Canada.

Canada then flashes a play on the screen from one of his past offenses. It’s a reverse. It goes for a 70-yard touchdown.

He flashes another play, the very next play after that touchdown. It’s a reverse, out of a different formation, that goes for 70 more.

See, he says, simple.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Nadine Ramsey should try taking the ferry to work

She doesn't seem very clear on who the infrastructure she's voting to build is actually for. Maybe if she actually had to rely on it for her daily commute she would see this better.
City Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey on Thursday (March 24) made no apologies for supporting a plan to demolish the Canal Street ferry terminal, a decision some of her constituents say will make it more difficult for them to get to work. But it was clear that she was playing defense after one key opponent said neighborhood groups tried and failed to get Ramsey to oppose the plan for its lack of a pedestrian connection.

"I've heard comments that this is being built for tourists. That's crap," Ramsey said Thursday ahead of the City Council's vote on demolition. "Any conversation or any comment that includes any indication that I am not protecting my district or protecting Algiers can kindly leave because I know the work I've done for Algiers for my district and that I'll continue to do."
Maybe she should have checked with the Mayor first. 
(Kristin Gisleson) Palmer said that many of the comments about the terminal being built for tourists are rooted in concern over remarks Mayor Mitch Landrieu made during a private meeting with stakeholders on Monday. The mayor was asked why funding was weighted so heavily in favor of a $5 million terminal building with no funds included for a pedestrian bridge.

"He clearly stated that this is for the 8 million tourists that are going down there every year," Palmer said. The mayor's office did not immediately respond to a request seeking confirmation of the comment.

But the perception of a tourist-focused terminal located next to a proposed Four Seasons hotel did seem to carry weight with at least one City Council member. Councilwoman Susan Guidry said she agreed with opponents who raised the concerns about the $5 million building, saying, "it had to be a conscious decision not to have those elements for the sake of having a very beautiful building."

"That's not right," Guidry said. "I just think we need to put these things on the table. That was just not right to design it that way and that is obviously a design to suit the desires of very big companies ... and to look good for tourists. That just needs to be said."
Of course Guidry can say these things because she's retiring now and doesn't have to answer to any "very big companies" anymore. Ramsey is in a different position. 

Show em what they've won

I mean, show us all what we've won besides a reprieve for our pretty shitty but not as shitty as their health care system.. at least for another year.  What we've probably won in addition to that is the head of Paul Ryan.
Mr. Trump has told four people close to him that he regrets going along with Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s plan to push a health care overhaul before unveiling a tax cut proposal more politically palatable to Republicans.

He said ruefully this week that he should have done tax reform first when it became clear that the quick-hit health care victory he had hoped for was not going to materialize on Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the act’s passage, when the legislation was scheduled for a vote.
Ideally Trump would have ignored Ryan's "pleading" for permission to pull the bill today. A failed vote might have been enough for the GOP caucus to eat him alive.  But either way, the prognosis isn't good.

Anyway they have to try again at some point. This is one of their single biggest promises for the better part of a decade now.  Otherwise the plan for Republican Congresspersons would be to run against Obamacare again in 2018. Which is a thing they can do, of course, especially if they or some of their state legislatures find one or two piecemeal ways to shitty it up over the next several months. 

Resilient Cities

As we've been saying for a while that the main thrust of urban development the past ten or fifteen years has mostly been about building nice things for rich people.
The fastest growth was in those lower-density suburbs. Those counties grew by 1.3 percent in 2016, the fastest rate since 2008, when the housing bust put an end to rapid homebuilding in these areas. In the South and West, growth in large-metro lower-density suburbs topped 2 percent in 2016, led by counties such as Kendall and Comal north of San Antonio; Hays near Austin; and Forsyth, north of Atlanta.3

Those figures run counter to the “urban revival” narrative that has been widely discussed in recent years. That revival is real, but it has mostly been for rich, educated people in particular hyperurban neighborhoods rather than a broad-based return to city living. To be sure, college-educated millennials — at least those without school-age kids — took to the city, and better-paying jobs have shifted there, too. But other groups — older adults, families with kids in school, and people of all ages with lower incomes — either can’t afford or don’t want an urban address.
Remember when Pres Kabacoff told us we needed to push out the poors because they are a "drag on the city's economy"?  This is what he was talking about.  Rich people are better at being "resilient." 


Thank the Lord for our Free Market economic system where we foster competition among states to dole out the largest taxpayer financed subsidy to international industrial behemoths so that they might spoil our wetlands and pollute our atmosphere.
The school board in a south Texas community competing with two Louisiana sites has approved an estimated $1.2 billion in tax breaks to entice Exxon Mobil Corp. and its Saudi partner to build a $9.3 billion petrochemical plant within its district along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Earlier this year, Exxon Mobil officials said Ascension and St. James parishes are in the running for the petrochemical complex, though company officials have said the Portland, Texas, site is the front-runner and another Texas site is also under consideration.
Thus the invisible hand of the market maximizes everyone's utility. 

They are probably gonna pass it

There was a moment during the long debate over what would become the Affordable Care Act when the Democrats had caved in so badly, when they had so shittied up an already shitty, insurance based, approach to health care reform, that some of us suggested it was time for Obama to draw a line in the sand. Make them start over. Demand a public option or threaten to walk away.

But we were unreasonable crazy liberuls and Obama never was the sort to pick a fight over anything anyway so that wasn't going to happen. Trump has a different approach.
Washington (CNN) To make a deal, you have to know when it's time to walk.

President Donald Trump ripped that classic move from his boardroom playbook Thursday night, seeking to splinter the resistance of House Republicans refusing to pass the health care bill that has left his new administration in limbo.

After days of trying to charm members of Congress, Trump gave them an ultimatum: If they don't vote yes Friday, he will move on and saddle them with the shame of failing to repeal Obamacare, a cherished GOP goal.

Maybe that's stupid. Maybe it isn't.  And I  could always be wrong,  but I think the Republicans will find the votes to pass their repeal.  Even if I am wrong and they don't do it today, there is nothing stopping them from doing it eventually.

Thus far the only roadblock in the House is a group of conservatives who, amazingly, do not believe the current bill is cruel enough yet. That's not really going to be an obstacle in the long run. It's a dispute without any real disagreement. Maybe if there were some sort of opposition actually asserting a more progressive vision, Medicare For All, for example, then there would be a sufficient counterweight on which to anchor an actual fight. But the Democrats are too cowardly to propose such a thing.

There's no serious resistance to the Republicans' desire to take health care away from Americans and replace it with tax cuts for the rich. That is, after all, what this whole thing is about in the first place. It's what the shitty bill the House couldn't pass yesterday does. And it's what the even shittier renegotiated version they'll supposedly vote on today does as well.  All of which is to say there is no fundamental disagreement among Republicans here. They're probably going to pass this.

The Senate debate will be slower and more difficult for them but,  again, I would caution against the pretense advanced by some, like Stephanie Grace here, that there are reasonable people among this extremely right wing collection of Republican Senators. Grace seems to think Bill Cassidy is going to save the day somehow. But, really, this is just the Overton Window are work. In a room full of yahoos, the yahoo who appears to be the least aggressive,  now defines the "centrist" position which serves to normalize the dangerous behavior of all of them.

Also Bill Cassidy is full of shit.
When Louisiana resident Andrea Mongler wrote to her senator, Bill Cassidy, in support of the Affordable Care Act, she wasn’t surprised to get an email back detailing the law’s faults. Cassidy, a Republican who is also a physician, has been a vocal critic.

“Obamacare” he wrote in January, “does not lower costs or improve quality, but rather it raises taxes and allows a presidentially handpicked ‘Health Choices Commissioner’ to determine what coverage and treatments are available to you.”

There’s one problem with Cassidy’s ominous-sounding assertion: It’s false.

The Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, includes no “Health Choices Commissioner.” Another bill introduced in Congress in 2009 did include such a position, but the bill died — and besides, the job as outlined in that legislation didn’t have the powers Cassidy ascribed to it.
In all likelihood the House is going to pass the repeal today. If not, then all they will have done is called Trump’s bluff and eventually everyone will come back to the table and they will do this thing they all very loudly say they want to do. And when they do, the Senate may not provide the backstop many people seem to think it will. But, as always, it doesn't hurt to call their offices.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Changing landscapes

Pretty soon you won't be able to recognize Tulane Avenue anymore.  That was bound to happen once the medical center was complete and I don't mean to say it's altogether good or bad.  In a lot of cases, it's just a matter of replacing one ugly thing with another ugly thing.  Here, for example, they're replacing an ugly motel with an ugly office building.
Despite opposition from a few neighbors and the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, the demolition of the former Le Petit Motel has been approved.

The New Orleans Neighborhood Conservation District Advisory Committee approved a request to demolish the former auto motel on 2836 Tulane Ave at its regular meeting Monday. The committee previously deferred the vote so developers could bring the plan to the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization for input.

Two people spoke in opposition of the demolition, including Erin Holmes of the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans. Holmes said the former hotel has architectural merit given it’s mid-century design and expressed concern about a large development on the Tulane corridor.
"Mid-century design."  I mean, OK, I guess. If you're really into preserving cheap kitsch for its own sake, that might have some value.  Here's the motel as it looked in October when I happened to be in the neighborhood.

Le Petit Motel

Maybe they'll keep the little piper when they knock it down.  You could probably sell that to whoever opens a trendy bar or something in the new building.

It isn't that hard to figure

Is this really a "classic Catch 22?"
It's a classic Catch-22: Tear it down and run the risk that a half-finished design, with only half its construction funding secured, never gets built. Leave it up and risk delaying a signature wish of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and public transit officials to revitalize New Orleans' central locus in time for its tricentennial.

Not to be lost in the debate are the commuters and tourists who rely on the ferry service to shuttle them back and forth to Algiers.
I'm don't see how this is so much a puzzle. It should be pretty easy to set some priorities here. Ideally we would first (1) Determine whether the plan serves the public's transit needs. Next, (2) make sure the funding is in place. And then, later, much later (700), worry about the mayor's stupid vanity timeline.

Of course, in reality, those aren't the only factors being considered.  Primarily, decisionmakers here are concerned with tourism and real estate concerns.  I doubt the other stuff figures in much if at all.

"Button allergy"

Sidney Torres's AMA had a few LOLs.

When does the book come out?

This FBI agent's allegations about corruption and cronyism permeating the Louisiana criminal justice system from top to bottom are worth taking seriously.  His suggested remedy, on the other hand,  which would involve agents or cops going over the heads of prosecutors to facilitate indictments, probably isn't.  In any case, one does wonder why he would consciously take this step given what he understands about the consequences.
"This letter will anger many powerful people, prosecutors, former prosecutors, defense attorneys, politicians and FBI management," Zummer wrote. "If I am wrong, then urge the Justice Department to prove it. Open up the files and let the American people see for themselves."

"I love fighting corruption in Louisiana," he added. "This is where I belong, but this letter most likely means my time is over here and possibly in the FBI."

Zummer portrayed the letter as a last resort, saying the FBI had gone to extraordinary lengths to silence him.  

"Although this is not the normal procedure to handle this sort of legal issue, the FBI's conduct has left me no choice," the agent wrote. "The victims, witnesses and investigative team should know, and they deserve to have the public know, why this plea agreement (with Morel) was made."
Unless he's got a book deal in the works.  That's got to be it, right?

Secretary of Honeydo

This is fine. It's not like Tillerson actually does anything, given the way the Trump Administration is structured.
I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job,” Tillerson told IJR’s Erin McPike, the lone reporter to accompany the secretary of state on his trip to Asia, who noted that the secretary does not appear to harbor regrets about accepting the job. “My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”

Neigborhoods without neighbors

Sunday, we experienced an unusual harmonic convergence. The Uptown Mardi Gras Indian "Super Sunday" event fell on exactly the same day as the Feast of St. Joseph when the Indians typically come out again after dark. There was a time I would have been pretty excited for that.  But nowadays, things are different. NOLA.com's Chris Granger touched on it a bit here.
Covering Super Sunday as a photographer has become increasingly challenging. With the Indians' immense popularity, crowds swarm the area with smartphones and iPad cameras, elbowing each other for a close up of the Indians' feathers and finery.
I know what he's talking about. I go out to Second and Dryades every Mardi Gras morning and it can get kind of cramped with photographers.

Lots of cameras

Bo Dollis Jr

Not that that's a huge problem in and of itself. We live in a time when almost everybody has some sort of camera on them practically all of the time and people like to document things they are seeing. That's fine. Still, there's something weird about it and people should be aware of how it looks.  Here's a pack of photographers chasing after a second line tribute to Uncle Lionel Batiste during Jazzfest a few years ago.

Photo frenzy

Again, the issue here isn't really that everybody likes to photograph things.  And it's not just that the crowds at Super Sunday are getting heavier, although they certainly are.  It's more about the way these neighborhood celebrations have become prime attractions for a destructive sort of "authenticity tourism."

We're used to there being a lot of activity in our area during second lines and stuff. But Sunday was different. This was out of state plates taking up all of the parking on the block indicating the short term rentals were full. This was sitting out on the stoop watching Uber drivers headed the wrong direction on one way streets. As I was carrying a sack of clothes into the laundromat, I had to step around a pack of visitors coming out of the Airbnb across from us. They were discussing, and I swear I am not making this up, which Treme character was their favorite.   Next year I'm going to make a Bingo card to track this sort of thing. It's only likely to get worse.

The reasons it's going to get worse:

1) National publications for wealthy readers are still producing travel pieces about our "authenticity" product.

2) Nobody can afford to actually live in our "authenticity" themed neighborhoods anymore.
  • 81% of Airbnb’s U.S. revenue – $4.6 billion – comes from whole-unit rentals (those rentals where the owner is not present during the time of the rental), rising from 78% in the prior year.

  • Each of the 13 cities studied saw an increase in the total number of listings by multi-unit hosts. In Nashville, Seattle, Oahu, and New Orleans, the growth of the number of units managed by multi-unit operators more than doubled -- and Nashville saw an increase of more than 160%.

  • The markets with the highest share of total revenue derived from multi-unit hosts are Miami (57.9%), Oahu (53.5%), and New Orleans (42.3%).

3) This is only going to exacerbate the already intolerable situation with housing costs in New Orleans.
At the start of March, New Orleans is still ranked No. 15 for the city with the most expensive rent in the United States.

According to Zumper’s National Rent Index, the average price of one bedroom apartments in New Orleans is $1,142, and two bedroom units are an average $1,353. In considering March of 2016, rent has increased 15 percent from last year.

To understand the role of STRs here, take a look at this study of Airbnb's effects in New York. The authors examine the loss of available housing to STRs as well as a pronounced Airbnb "rent gap."
Here the relevant metrics are less about housing units and more about money—revenue flows through the urban housing market. As Neil Smith explained nearly forty years ago, gentrification is “a back to the city movement by capital, not people”.

The existence of a rent gap means that, systematically across a neighbourhood, landowners can earn more money from some different use of their property than from the existing use, which creates an incentive to reinvestment and hence gentrification. As I discussed above, we normally think of rent gaps leading to new capital investment—renovations and redevelopments—but in the case of Airbnb this generally won’t be necessary. Property owners will just switch their units from residential leases to short-term rentals. So if there has been an Airbnb-induced rent gap, we shouldn’t expect to see big new capital expenditures; instead we should expect to see routine housing revenue flows (which are mostly composed of rent and mortgage payments) diverted into Airbnb.
In terms of gentrification, Airbnb is perfect for New Orleans in that it is an anti-personnel weapon.  It (mostly) leaves the scenery in place but clears out all the troublesome residents. This way the appearance of what was once a vibrant neighborhood is retained for the benefit of the temporary occupants to whom it is sold.

I know I say this a lot but the STRs are completely taking over in Central City. It's made the scene during Mardi Gras a little more uncomfortable every year.  Its effect is even worse during events like Super Sunday and the time around Jazzfest when the "authenticity" quotient is high.  This month the city's registration program began officially and The Lens has begun mapping applicants. As of Monday, they've counted 294. But given, the 4,500 listings tracked by InsideAirbnb, we know there's a lot of space left to fill.

Unfortunately space is running out for those of us just trying to live in the city. Incidentally that includes the individuals who create and maintain the now hopelessly commodified cultural events and folkways that made our spaces attractive to authenticity tourists in the first place. It isn't hard to imagine a point when these celebrations lose their meaning entirely.  If the traditional parade grounds of Indian gangs and Second Line organizations are no longer the places those people actually live, what is the point of even staging these events?  What is a neighborhood parade without a neighborhood? What is a neighborhood without neighbors?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Why this and why now?

Everybody here is wondering why there's so much momentum behind this particular highway project.  The best the people at this meeting can come up with is some vague combination of "corruption," "bureaucracy" and inertia.
Louisiana is also dealing with one of the largest budget deficits in state history, and many are perplexed as to why the Louisiana Department of Transportation is focusing on an expensive plan that is not only opposed by the community, but offers limited commercial value.

So the question remains, who benefits from the roadway's construction? Calhoun said he doesn't know, but wouldn't be surprised if "this is just more of Bobby Jindal's people getting money," referencing the rampant corruption in Louisiana politics. But he also suggested that perhaps this is just an infrastructure project that has floated around the state's bureaucracy for so long that it's attained a weight of its own, being pushed by nobody in particular, but advancing nonetheless. "I don't even think our elected officials have been told the real deal on this," he said. "They're trying to promote it just to promote it."

Ultimately, what many Ninth Ward residents say is most frustrating is that they feel ignored. Those attending the public meeting said they believe the state is withholding information and that even if they were fully informed, there isn't anything they can do to stop the project. Many saw the meeting as only a fa├žade of public outreach, meant to check a bureaucratic box rather than truly hear and integrate community concerns.
But I think there must be something else in play.  I've got some ideas as to what it may be but I'd rather ask around before speculating. 


Have we talked lately about how much we love Stuart Fisher?  The dude will not stop.

The firm that has asked Louisiana’s highest court to consider its suit challenging the World Trade Center building’s redevelopment in New Orleans has filed for bankruptcy in a Florida court, a move that could let it dodge much of its more than $6 million in debts.

The company's owner sees the bankruptcy and related court proceedings as a Plan B, should the Louisiana Supreme Court refuse to take up the World Trade Center case.

“The best thing I can do is to bring it (to Florida) and see if I can get a fair shake,” said Stuart “Neil” Fisher, owner of Two Canal Street Investors Inc. “If I’m wrong, I lose. If I’m right, (the WTC project) would probably go for a rebid.”
It's a little disappointing to see Fisher has abandoned the tack of challenging the constitutionality of a state law passed last year at the mayor's urging specifically to shut down this lawsuit. It's a bad law.  Maybe we can come back to that at some point in the future. But for now, it's remarkable that despite everything the mayor and his allies have done to push this project forward through Fisher's obstructions... nevertheless he has persisted.

He can't just be doing this for sport, though, right?  For a while it looked like he was angling for a buyout. Fisher famously bought Two Canal Street Investors Inc for $10 after its bid had already failed.  If he were looking to flip it over into a quick profit, he should have completed that deal by now.  If that's the play, it's well past time to call in Sidney Torres and film a Very Special Episode of The Deed 

But I'm starting to wonder if something else is up.  Fisher says his goal is just to force the thing back up for rebid.  Who would benefit from that?

Congratulations, Ruptured Achilles Guy

Very sorry. We do not do fake girlfriend jokes on this website. Fake girlfriends are a serious matter that afflicts untold numbers of Americans today.

KHON2 in Honolulu, Hawaii, first reported Monday evening the news of Te'o agreeing to terms with the Saints.

The 26-year-old Te'o, a native of Hawaii, entered the league in 2013 out of Notre Dame as a second-round pick (38th overall) of the then-San Diego Chargers, where he played four seasons.

Te'o's arrival reunites him with Saints linebackers coach Mike Nolan, who served in the same capacity on the Chargers coaching staff in 2015.

Under Nolan, the 6-1, 241-pound Te'o enjoyed his best statistical season, starting 12 games and producing a career-high 82 tackles (62 solo). He added a 1/2 sack, an interception, a forced fumble and two passes defensed in 2015.

Te'o, who suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in Week 3 of the 2016 season, has appeared in 38 career games (34 starts) over four seasons and totaled 233 tackles (160 solo), 1 1/2 sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble and nine passes defensed in that span.
About that torn Achilles, here is a 2009 study of pro football players who have incurred that particularly nasty injury.  It finds that 32 percent of them never play again. The news is especially bad for linebackers.
There was a 95%, 87%, and 64% postinjury reduction in power ratings for linebackers, cornerbacks, and defensive tackles over a 3-year period. On average, players experienced a greater than 50% reduction in their power ratings following such an injury.
So, you know, welcome aboard!

Monday, March 20, 2017

What is Mitch running for?

The first half of this article is about the Landrieu administration's support for the newly hired RTA chairman despite questions about his use of public funds in prior appointments.  The second half is a blurb about the mayor's frequent outspokenness on national issues. The article only cites three instances from this month.
But his tendency to do this has steadily increased over the past year or so.There are members of Congress who don't issue statements this regularly on what's happening in Washington. But at least no one is in any doubt on where Landrieu, whose term as mayor ends in a little over a year, stands on national issues.

What's he up to?

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Krewe Of Chad's Day

St Patrick's Parade 2006

Last Saturday afternoon we were sitting out on the porch watching the vaguely Irish themed revelers coming back from the Irish Channel Parade. The current route doesn't come as close to us as the old one but it's enough to make for festive people watching. One such festive individual stumbled up to us and offering high fives. 

His tux and kilt indicated he had been marching that day. His salutation, "I'm fucked up" confirmed it. He said he was trying to get back to Constance and Josephine where his car was apparently parked. We pointed him off in the wrong direction, though, because 1) helping him drive in that state probably would have made us accomplices to something and 2) he had already wandered pretty far from there in the first place so maybe we could keep that going. 

In any case, St. Patrick's Day in New Orleans is basically the Feast Of St. Krewe Of Chad. Be safe out there if you're participating.

Enjoy your tax-free balconies

The city has agreed to hold off on the "air tax" for a while. At least until "we can figure out what is going on" or until something else captures people's attention.
New Orleans will hold off on charging property owners for balconies, galleries, steps and other architectural features that hang over city sidewalks, administration officials said Friday.

The fight over whether property owners have to pay for the "air rights" for portions of their building that are above city property began in late 2015, when Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration began aggressively enforcing a policy that had been on the books for decades.

All of a sudden, property owners who went to the city to pull permits were forced to agree to sign agreements that in some cases promised to pay thousands of dollars a year to lease those features, even ones that dated back centuries or predated the city streets themselves.

The issue has been particularly acute in the French Quarter, though properties citywide have been affected.
I dunno... speaking as someone who does not and is not likely to own this kind of fancy property, I can't say I'm all that worried about those who can afford to pay such a tax.  On the other hand, if you are looking for a policy likely to make the city's architecture less attractive, this is probably a good one for that. 

Congratulations to Mike Yenni

They're gonna have him to kick around some more.
With 20 days left before the April 6 deadline, the group pushing to oust Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni over a sexting scandal has conceded it won’t have anywhere near the number of necessary signatures to force a recall election.

Recall Yenni leader Robert Evans III said Friday morning that even after spending $120,000, collecting the roughly 90,000 signatures required "cannot be achieved before the deadline."
If only there had been more jokes about this during Mardi Gras  the recall effort might have reached enough people.



Bernie Sanders, the most popular politician in America, on why the Democrats are missing their opportunity to meaningfully oppose Trump.
Sanders himself put it this way in his usual blunt style in an interview with New York Magazine this week when asked about whether the Democrats can adapt to the political reality said “there are some people in the Democratic Party who want to maintain the status quo. They would rather go down with the Titanic so long as they have first-class seats.”

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Wating for the pivot

Garret Graves is taking a "wait and see" posture with regard to Trump's devastating... er... um... "transformational" cuts to Louisiana coastal research funds.
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, who was previously chairman of the state's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, said he's still taking a wait and see attitude on Trump's budget, at least until details of the budget are delivered to Congress in May.

"I do think it's important to look back at the history of presidential budgets, where you often see the shifting of the deckchairs, you don't see a lot of fundamental changes of form," Graves said. "But as the president talked about extensively on the campaign trail, he wanted to do something transformational. I embrace transformational change and some disruption because that absolutely needs to happen and I came here to take part in that." 

This is what they've always wanted

There is an increased stirring among allegedly respectable conservatives to separate themselves from the president* and his more manic supporters in the Congress and out in the country. To hell with them. Like Haman, they're dancing on a gallows they spent years devising. This budget represents the diamond-hard reality behind all those lofty pronouncements from oil-sodden think tanks, all those learned disquisitions in little, startlingly advertising-free magazines, all those earnest young graduates of prestige universities who dedicated their intellects to putting an educated gloss on greed and ignorance, and ideological camouflage on retrograde policies that should have died with Calvin Coolidge—or perhaps Louis XVI.

This is it, right here, this budget. This is the beau ideal of movement conservative governance. This is the logical, dystopian end of Reaganism, and Gingrichism, and Tea Partyism, and all the other Isms that movement conservatism has inflicted upon the political commonwealth.
Any discussion of this budget that begins with the supposition that Congressional Republicans can't or won't vote for it is dead wrong.  This is the stuff of their very DNA. It's everything modern conservatives have run on since the beginnings of their "movement."  They will pass this. It is what they've always wanted. 

Karen Carvin

This is one of the most respected political consulting firms in New Orleans.
Fur is flying in the race for a seat on the Civil District Court bench in Orleans Parish, with the release this week of scathing mailers and TV ads from candidate Rachael Johnson, daughter of Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson.

The ads target both of her opponents — attorneys Suzanne "Suzy" Montero and Marie Williams — in the race for a seat left open when Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods moved last year to the appeals court bench.

Williams is the subject of a pair of political fliers, one of them distributed by Johnson's campaign, that feature her mug shot from an arrest in September in New Orleans on an attachment from Jefferson Parish.

Williams called the fliers an unscrupulous attack that falsely paints her as a criminal over a brief arrest from her failure to appear in 2015 at a hearing related to her bitter divorce.

No one has taken credit for the first flier, which appeared late last week on doorsteps in Algiers. It shows her mug shot under the fictitious masthead of the "New Orleans Times." The headline reads: "Marie Williams Arrested!"

Karen Carvin, a Johnson campaign consultant, said that flier didn't come from anyone in Johnson's campaign, but that once the details of Williams' booking were verified, the campaign sent out its own version of the attack mailer this week.
I got one of the anti-Montero fliers in the mail yesterday. It's kind of funny in that it says, "Lien on me" which goes with the musical theme of the TV spots 
Meanwhile, Johnson has launched a series of ads attacking Montero over a $15,000 tax lien that the IRS filed against her in 2011. The ads include a campaign mailer and a pair of TV spots set to a pair of classic tunes: the Everly Brothers' "Wake Up Little Susie" and Eddie Cantor's "If You Knew Susie."
Both attacks are clever. But also kinda dumb and not especially relevant. If only our elections could actually be about things...

Mary Landrieu is garbage

Clearly the electoral woes of the Democratic party can be cured by following the lead of former senators Begich, Hagan, Lincoln, and Landrieu, all of whom couldn't win re-election. Of course, DC lobbyists Begich, Hagan, Lincoln, and Landrieu might not be all that concerned with the electoral fortunes of the Democratic party
Every cowardly piece of shit Important Person in Louisiana politics and media will praise her wisdom, though. 

Tomorrow he will talk about the monorail

Today's presentations at IDB from the perpetual Six Flags bidders didn't go well.
Three offers to buy the decaying Six Flags park in New Orleans East failed to win favor from a review committee of the Industrial Development Board on Thursday (March 16), leaving the future of the 227-acre property murky again.

A three-member committee of the Industrial Development Board, which owns the shuttered park, decided not to recommend any of the three buyout offers, pointing to concerns about accepting a deal without knowing whether the buyer has the financial backing to quickly clean up and redevelop the park.

"We're anxious to see something happen with Six Flags, but we're not anxious to see it wind up for an unknown period with blight," said board president Alan Philipson.
I'm sorry, I've lost track. This is like the third or fourth go-round for the IDB in this process. It might help matters along if the same people didn't keep showing up to bid time after time.  But no such luck.  Here is Frank Scurlock's latest pitch. It has a little bit of everything. 
During the meeting Thursday, Scurlock unveiled his team's new plans for the property, holding up a poster wrapped in brown paper. "In this sealed package is the future of that property," Scurlock said. He peeled away the wrapping paper to reveal an aerial map of the Six Flags park marked with areas for a water park, theme park, zip line area, a resort hotel and a Hurricane Katrina museum. Scurlock suggested he'll have more to present at the board meeting Friday.

The "Katrina museum" is a new one on me.  A few weeks ago he said there would be a monorail too. Maybe that's what will wow the board and turn this whole thing around. 

Everybody gets paid along the way

Today the Aviation Board voted to expand the scope of the new terminal at MSY.
The latest estimate for the new North Terminal puts the total cost at $993 million. The price tag includes about $136 million to expand the terminal to 35 gates. That figure that has risen by nearly a quarter since its initial design phase last fall in order to add more space and make it more efficient, including additional ramp space for airplane movement and baggage facilities.
This pushes the completion date into 2019 so they're not gonna make it in time for the big Tricentennial now.  But that's the price of progress, right?

So back in January, we noticed that this expansion became possible after the city announced it had "hit its triggers" in terms of additional airlines and flights over a relatively short period.
"In 2016, the growth of the Louis Armstrong International Airport exceeded our
expectations yet again," Landrieu said. "With increased service via 17 airlines and 59 non-stop destinations, including 7 international destinations, we have hit the triggers
for additional expansion.”
How did they do that, we wondered.  What sorts of things does the city do for the airlines in order to ensure these triggers are met? Nobody was really saying anything about that.  At least not in the local press, anyway.  But if you go look at the cities we were out-competing like Pittsburgh, for example...

It used to be that airports provided a fairly standard waiver of landing fees and marketing help to entice airlines. But now they and their partners are offering much more, as the competition for new routes intensifies.

That’s especially true in mid-sized markets like Pittsburgh, where a nonstop flight to a sought-after destination like London is seen not only as a way to cut travel times but as a driver for economic development.

“The secret’s out. Local airport service is one of the pillars of economic growth. Everybody knows that and everyone out there is trying to improve air service,” said Blair Pomeroy, a longtime aviation strategy consultant who has worked for airlines in the past.

While incentives always have been part of the efforts to attract coveted service, what has changed is the willingness by cities or airports to offer cash subsidies or risk sharing schemes to minimize the carrier’s financial exposure, Mr. Pomeroy said.

“Now it’s part of the game. You want a new flight to a big city, you’re going to have to come up with launch incentives, marketing, and risk sharing,” he said.
In other words it's kind of like fighting over a major league sports franchise. Ownership is going to locate wherever they're sucking down the most public money.  As it turns out in this case, New Orleans was offering British Airways just a little bit more. 
In addition to Wow and Condor, the airport authority has offered cash incentives to British Airways to start coveted nonstop service to London from Pittsburgh International, CEO Christina Cassotis said.

She would not divulge the amount but described it as “substantial.”

The airport lost out last month when British Airways awarded a London nonstop to New Orleans, with the city’s tourism bureau chipping in $1.4 million a year for three years to help with the flight.

Mr. Pomeroy believes New Orleans offered more than the county airport authority to attract the flight. But Ms. Cassotis said money was not the reason Pittsburgh didn’t get the route.
One supposes this means NOTMC coughed up the $1.4 million.  NOTMC is one of those agencies that takes in gobs and gobs of public hotel/motel tax money that could be funding city services and turns it into a bonanza for "tourism leaders" and their friends and benefactors. Count the airlines among that number too. 

No more streetcars to nowhere

The Trump budget proposal is terrifying
WASHINGTON — President Trump will send a budget to Congress on Thursday that sharply reorders the nation’s priorities by spending billions of dollars on defending the southern border and bolstering the Pentagon while severely cutting funds for foreign aid, poverty programs and the environment.
Trump proposes to cut EPA by 31%, Health and Human Services by 18%, eliminate entirely the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and end public broadcasting. Those are just the highlights.  If nothing else the cuts would mean massive layoffs under a Presidency that has promised 4-6 percent or greater economic growth.  Adding this fiscal anti-stimulus to the similarly depressing monetary policy announced by the Fed this week makes this projection seem even more unlikely.

Locally the budget proposals would hit especially hard. Louisiana's flagging battle against the rigors of climate change and coastal erosion will not be helped by cuts to NOAA. The Community Development Block Grant program which basically paid for the post-Katrina rebuilding of New Orleans is set to be eliminated.
Trump has proposed cutting the $3 billion community development block grant program entirely. New Orleans initiatives to build affordable housing, mitigate homelessness, fight blight, and subsidize summer employment and recreation activities could all take a hit. The city spent $11.3 million last year through the block grant program. The Trump budget also calls for the elimination of the HOME Partnerships program, which helps with affordable rental housing and homeownership for low-income families. New Orleans spent $2 million last year through that program.
There's more in there that is going to cause severe pain in New Orleans and in cities across the country.  But this is just another consequence of the Democrats' having failed to make a convincing argument against Trump that connected with every day American voters.  Take, for example, New Orleans' experience with the TIGER grants.
Trump wants to eliminate the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program, a signature of the Obama administration and a resource for New Orleans Regional Transit Authority in recent years. The TIGER program helped pay for the Loyola Avenue streetcar project and has appropriated additional funding to redo the Canal Street ferry terminal. The budget also eliminates similar grant funding through the Federal Transit Administration to shift construction costs to local governments.
Now TIGER is a great program. Investment in public transit is one of the best things we can do with federal money. But when the neoliberals in charge of putting these funds to use decide to use them on toys for tourists or real estate development gimmicks  like our new streetcar lines and the new ferry terminal, you can start to see how the voters might not be too enthusiastic about defending your corrupt party. Even when the wolves are at the door for all of us.

Where did they go eat?

This article is completely unhelpful.
The New Orleans Saints welcomed cornerback Malcolm Butler to town Wednesday evening as they try to determine what they'd be willing to spend to add him to the defense.

After Butler arrived, he went to dinner with some members of the team, according to a source, though it's unclear exactly who dined with the 27-year-old cover man.

According to an ESPN report, the vibe at dinner was good, and Butler seemed comfortable.
That's great that the vibe was good and all. But where did they eat?  We don't even know from this who was there. If the team was taking him out, then it was probably Emeril's. The Saints always take people to Emeril's for whatever reason.  If it was just a players' thing then it could have been anywhere. (Probably not Jimmy John's but who knows.) Anyway, everyone knows Saints fans are at least as interested in what was for dinner as they are in what the team might be up to. This needs to be revised.

By the way, Menckles and I got a chance to try Altamura last week. This is a relatively new restaurant that opened in the Magnolia Mansion last year. The idea is to do "Northeastern-inspired" Italian-American, as in not the "Creole-Italian" style you find all over New Orleans at places like Vincent's or Irene's or Venezia or in a lot of people's grandma's houses. Instead the model is New Jersey, as the proprietors told Gambit,  
Jack Petronella and executive chef Coleman Jernigan have been working on the plan for the Northeastern-inspired Italian restaurant for the better part of three years, since the duo opened their Prytania Street coffee shop together in 2013.

The restaurant’s menu is largely inspired by Petronella’s childhood in New Jersey.

“I’m so excited about what we’re doing here,” Petronella said. “We did not reinvent the wheel, but this was about bringing the Northeastern feel that's in every Italian restaurant on every corner in New Jersey and New York.”
So we were curious.  But I don't think the sort of place they evoke when they say that aspires to be quite as fancy Altamura does. Certainly it can't be as pricey. The design is described as "retro-chic" but, to us, the medium-bright lighting, plain white tablecloths, and sterile decor just felt like a hotel restaurant. This place is located at the corner of Jackson and Prytania so the crowd was extremely uptown Garden District types. Older couples and a table full of fancy ladies.  Lots and lots of unnecessary jackets and pearls everywhere.

The food was OK. The best thing was probably the spiedini mozzarella, which is fried bread and cheese soaked through with anchovy olive oil and capers. I ordered clams casino because nobody serves clams anything in New Orleans for the most part. There was a lobster ravioli that we thought was fine and a veal parm that she didn't like at all. (Too thick a cut. Soft breading that "tastes too much like fried fish.") I don't want to complain too much. It's just that I've paid less for better Italian.

Anyway, I'm sure Malcolm Butler could afford it, although I hope the Saints didn't try and land him by bringing him there.

Will the Republicans pass the Obamacare repeal: A handy guide

1) Does the Obamacare repeal bring with it a massive tax cut for the wealthiest of Americans?

2) Yes it does.

3) Then the Republicans will pass it.

All the other stuff about unhappy Tea Partiers or differences with Trump is... not entirely bullshit... but basically irrelevant. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Also wasn't Trump promising like 4% growth or something?

Not sure how that happens now. Tax cuts for rich people, though. It's the only thing there's ever any consensus about.

Solicited by whom?

The odds were never very high that Ken Polite would run for mayor. But apparently somebody asked him to.
Polite acknowledged that he'd been solicited for a political run, but denied putting much stock in the idea.

"I tried to be as candid as possible with people about my lack of interest in doing anything like that," he said.

Polite told WWL-TV -- which first reported this week that he wouldn't seek the mayor's office -- that he hasn't ruled out a future in politics. But he said he wouldn't want to launch a campaign for office without the money to remain independent, a virtue that Torres has trumpeted in his own public flirtations with a mayoral bid.
That bit about wanting to "remain independent" is interesting too.  Who was pushing Polite to run? And what did this person or group of people want in return that made him uncomfortable?

Never gonna get that "Seal Of Death" to work

This is from the introduction to Matt Taibbi's book on the 2016 election. He's talking about something a colleague of his has termed the "Seal Of Death" which is the traditional exercise by which the press exploits a gotcha moment (The Dean Scream is the prime example he cites) to ritualistically murder a public figure it has judged outside the acceptable bounds of The Discourse. 
In the case of Dean, TV stations around the country played the “scream” tape a whopping 633 times in the first four days after Iowa, according to the AP. They were like piranhas skeletonizing a waterfowl. It was viral media be­fore YouTube. As Dean’s campaign manager, Joe Trippi, later put it, “The establishment wanted to stop us and they did.”

Trippi’s comment implied that reporters were part of that establishment, which was a pretty damning criticism. But it was true. And people noticed.

It’s impossible to overemphasize the toxicity of this dy­namic. Politicians and political journalists were volunteer­ing to be trapped in an endless conversation with one another about which candidates, and by extension which ideas, were and were not suitable for consumption by the American people.
Trump was different, though.  Taibbi writes that, despite multiple opportunities for the media to apply the Seal Of Death to him during the campaign, it never stuck.
America’s population of otherwise Smart People was stunned. How could the electorate not care that a billionaire admitted to not paying taxes? Why was no one troubled by the threat of a child rape lawsuit? How was the “pussy” thing not fatal? What about the mountain of extant lawsuits— 75 open cases, according to some reports— for offenses ranging from simple nonpayment for services to sex discrimination? Why did no one care? Incredibly, the popular explanation floated inside the nY- Washington- LA corridor was that this was the media’s fault, that reporters were “not calling trump out” while simultaneously overfocusing on issues like Hillary clinton’s emails. But this explanation itself was a continuation of the same original misread of the public. Here was this massive new revolutionary movement rising out of the population, and the first instinct of the establishment was to turn  other members of the establishment for an explanation of why this was being allowed to happen. As in, where’s the Seal of Death? Why haven’t you vaporized this guy yet?
Several months after the revolution, the defeated establishment faction still doesn't grasp the problem.  They're still out looking for the one magic fact that will bring down Trump.  This is why MSNBC has deteriorated into McCarthyesque obsession with rooting out perceived Russian sympathizers.  It's also why Rachel Maddow was keen to run with a "scoop" (likely leaked by the White House) that Trump paid $38 million in taxes a decade ago. But none of this stuff, not the details of Trump's possible relationships with foreign agents, nor his many obvious conflicts of interest arising from his business dealings, nor whatever might eventually come to light via his tax returns is ever going to matter and here is why. None of it has anything to do with politics.

Here's something else Taibbi observes about 2016 election coverage.  He's trying to explain that Trump benefited from an insane amount of "free media" which is true. But far more interesting is that the reason for that reveals a key blind spot of the establishment punditry.
This part of Trump’s rise really was the media’s fault.

Trump was a legitimate news story. He had to be cov­ered. He was leading a historic revolt against his own party, after all. But so was Bernie Sanders, who got nearly as many votes as Trump in the primaries. Yet Trump received some­thing on the order of 23 times more television coverage than the Vermont senator.

Long segments of Trump’s speeches were broadcast un­interrupted, which seldom if ever happened with Sanders, even on traditionally left-leaning cable networks. If we in the media asked ourselves why that was the case, we came up with some damning answers.

It wasn’t just that Trump was outrageous and sensa­tional and lurid, while Sanders dryly pushed substance over salesmanship. Nor was it just the car-wreck element to Trump’s performances that kept audiences glued to the screen, wondering what crazy thing he might say next.

It was also the content. Trump sold hate, violence, xeno­phobia, racism, and ignorance, which oddly enough had long been permissible zones of exploration for American television entertainment. And the news media was becom­ing more and more indistinguishable from entertainment media.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders talked about poverty and inequality, which are now and always have been taboo. On a level that is understood by news directors in their guts if not their minds, hate is sexy and sells, while the politics of Ber­nie Sanders were provocative in the wrong ways.

A news director who made the decision to run a Sanders speech in its entirety would worry about being accused of making a “political statement.” Meanwhile, running Trump all day long would be understood as just business, just giv­ing viewers what they want. Editorially the press denounced him, but it never turned the cameras off.
In other words, the political press establishment refuses to allow political coverage to be about actual politics.  Whether or not the tax return story can be termed a "nothingburger" by anyone is really kind of beside the point.  Maybe.. probably.. there's all sorts of things to examine in Trump's financial records, should we ever see the rest of them. But none of that is what will determine his future in office.

Or, at least, there are no revelations to be unearthed that will in and of themselves lead directly to an impeachment. Given what we know about how impeachment works, there's probably enough already anyway whenever the Congress might want to run with it.  The question, really, is what might make them want to do that?
A simmering rebellion of conservative populists loyal to President Donald Trump is further endangering the GOP health-care push, with a chorus of influential voices suspicious of the proposal warning the president to abandon it.

From headlines at Breitbart to chatter on Fox News Channel and right-wing talk radio, as well as among friends who have Trump's ear, the message has been blunt: The plan is being advanced by congressional Republican leaders is deeply flawed - and, at worst, a political trap.

Trump's allies worry that he is jeopardizing his presidency by promoting the bill spearheaded by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wis., arguing that it would fracture Trump's coalition of working- and middle-class voters, many of them older and subsisting on federal aid.
Things have gotten so weird now that the only thing standing in the way of Congressional Republicans depriving 24 million people of health care is... Donald Trump.  I don't buy the speculation that the House GOP is conflicted about this at all. Repeal of Obamacare means a big tax break for rich people. That's all they care about.  If Trump helps them deliver that, then there is no problem.  If he becomes an obstacle, though, well then we'll see if they can apply their own "Seal Of Death." But if establishment Republicans are suffering from the same lack of judgement as the establishment press, it might actually end up being their funeral and not Trump's.