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Thursday, November 30, 2017

What if your best practices are actually the worst?

Leaving aside the general corruption, arrogance and preference for predatory capitalism that characterizes all of American politics at all levels, is there anything more annoying than the common reliance on groupthink driven circular rhetoric?  Few have mastered this idiom more thoroughly than Waning Mayor Mitch Landrieu.  Nobody condescends more confidently and less substantively than he does.
Landrieu first described his public safety initiative after a shooting on Bourbon Street in November 2016 left one dead and nine injured. Paid for with money from the city and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the plan focuses heavily on increasing surveillance, both by adding city-owned cameras and by accessing feeds from cameras owned by private individuals and businesses, though the latter policy still needs City Council approval.

Officials cut the ribbon on the central hub for monitoring all those feeds last week, and Landrieu responded to questions about the potential privacy implications.

"If you’re out in public, it is highly likely in this day and age you’re going to be filmed by some camera or somebody holding a phone," he said. "I just think that’s the new day and age that we’re in, and people should conduct themselves accordingly.
You may have concerns about abuse of state power, threats to privacy, civil liberties, etc. Maybe some of those concerns are legitimate. Maybe some aren't as bad as you might think at first. There's a lot to discuss. Maybe you thought politics was the process by which you raised this discussion.  But that's not how it works.

Politics is, in fact, the process by which elite class individuals like Mitch Landrieu instruct you on the things you have to get used to now. We call these, "best practices."  A best practice, loosely defined, is the lowest common denominator derived from the set of things everybody is already doing.  A best practice is self-legitimizing. If it happens to be a horror, it is your responsibility to adjust. We call that resilience.

Maybe the Independent Police Monitor disagrees but it hardly matters. At least they tried.
In a public letter issued Wednesday, the Office of Independent Police Monitor also questioned whether the $40 million plan, which the mayor first unveiled almost a year ago, will have a substantial impact on crime.

“As with any law enforcement data system housing private information about citizens, there is a potential for mismanagement, poor information security, public record law compliance challenges and user abuse,” the letter warned.

It added that while surveillance capabilities are being beefed up, the plan does not "earmark resources or personnel to monitor the implementation of the plan.”
The IPM's letter didn't just raise these questions, it also examined some of these "best practices" in other cites where similar surveillance systems are installed.  It cites evidence of abuse in Great Britain where, unfortunately, only Benny Hill was available to operate the cameras.
A review of 592 hours of government-run CCTV monitoring system footage in London found that 10% of surveillance of women lasted more than one minute, and 15% of surveillance of women for shorter periods was voyeuristic. In 2007, a police supervisor in Worcester, England was suspended after improperly manipulating surveillance cameras to focus in on women’s breasts and buttocks.
It also lists instances of stalking, assault, and evidence tampering by police using surveillance systems in New York, California, and Ohio.  It points out the racism inherent in the way the systems are deployed. Here is a congressional study referenced in the letter which found that even the cameras themselves are racist.
According to a 2017 study from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, other technologies implied by the plan but not explicitly mentioned, such as facial recognition cameras, have been shown to disproportionately misidentify black people as suspects.
There are other issues raised. How long will data be retained? Is it available to third parties? Does it make sense to spend public money on this stuff when there are other budgetary priorities? Most importantly, there's no clear evidence the cameras reduce crime. The letter also cites multiple studies to make this point.
A 2008 study by the University of Southern California (“USC”) found that Los Angeles’ camera network made no statistically-significant impact on reducing violent crime, property crime, or quality of life crime, such as prostitution or public drunkenness. Similarly, a 2009 study by the University of California at Berkeley found that San Francisco’s cameras made no statistically significant impact on reducing violent crime, drug crime, or quality of life crime, while only making some impact on reducing property crime. A 2005 review of 13 studies in England found no statistically-significant impact on reducing violent crime, and a statistically-significant reduction in property crime in only two of the thirteen locations studied, one of which was a parking lot. A 2008 review by USC of 44 studies in the United States and abroad concluded that none of the domestic studies found a statistically-significant impact on reducing crime, and that any impact found in foreign studies was limited to property crime.
So the "best practices" are actually quite problematic and behaviors aren't changing despite the fact that everybody is on camera now.  "People should conduct themselves accordingly," says Mitch to all that. But, even if we accept this as a desirable outcome, it still isn't happening no matter how many times he asserts that it should.

Waxing Mayor Cantrell just finished up a campaign where she hammered hard on the theme of "listening" to people.  Will she be more likely to take legitimate complaints about surveillance seriously? She isn't starting from a very encouraging position. 
Landrieu said his administration is working with the City Council to write legislation that would require bars to install surveillance cameras that will feed into the center.

Landrieu mentioned the possibility of consequences if businesses don't allow the city security cameras to be placed outside on public streets. He said the cameras are in businesses best interests.

"This is public safety and it really matters both inside and outside. Of course as soon as something happens outside an establishment they call the police, they want them there," Landrieu said. "I can't imagine them not cooperating. It would just make a lot of sense for them to do that and we'll work on what the consequences … in unison with the City Council."

“It’s better and better than I ever imagined,” Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell said of the center and its capabilities. “This is the right step in the right direction at the right time.
Oh dear.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Second time this month

It's getting to where a person is less inclined to trust the local oysters. Even if one was already pretty wary.
State wildlife agents cited 16 men for allegedly harvesting oysters in a polluted area in Terrebonne Parish.

According to the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, agents spotted six boats dredging oysters from a polluted area in the Sister Lake area, about 10 miles west of Cocodrie, on Nov. 24.

Nine of the suspects were residents of Houma, two were from Montegut, two were from Gray, and one each was from Bourg, Theroit and San Leon, Texas. The suspects' ages ranged from 22 to 61. It didn't appear that all the boats were working together, 
Of course one can be wary and yet this all went into last week's dressing.



The tax bill is soo bad

It's comically bad. There's no way to overstate how bad it is. I know there's a lot going on just now but take a minute and read through it again. It's a freaking disaster. And it's picking up momentum.

Why is it a "dress code"?

Cam Newton refers to his personal style sense... meaning just the clothes that he owns... as a "dress code." 
When the New Orleans Saints defeated the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte in Week 3, Cam Jordan had a little fun in the post-game locker room, poking fun at some of Cam Newton's interesting clothing choices.

"Anytime he tried to scoot out, we showed up on his high heels. Not that he wears high heels -- I don’t think so yet, right?" Jordan asked reporters after the game. "I mean, he’s gone with the grandma hat and the onesie. The Coachella onesie?"

Now that the Saints and Panthers are on track for a mammoth matchup Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Newton was reminded of Jordan's comments Wednesday and shot back.

"I didn’t know he was a fan of my dress code," Newton said, according to the Charlotte Observer. "Obviously he’s been paying attention. Nevertheless, that’s flattering to me. If he sends me his address, I can send him some sauce.

"I've seen the way (Jordan) dresses too, so – not that this is a fashion show or anything."
The Cam and Cam Catwalk show, maybe. Anyway, Katzenstein followed up by getting one more quote from Jordan here.

We're all a little worried, frankly. Despite their 8-3 record, the closest thing the Saints have to what you might call a "quality win" this year is that Week 3 game at Carolina. Now that's coming back around. And the Panthers are healthier now than they were then while the Saints are less so.   It's been fun watching the Saints get hot during their recent stretch. But I'm not convinced this goes much further from here on out.

Kicking you off the internet

It's actually been less of a swift kick and more of a gradual lowering of everybody down off the internet. Kind of like coastal erosion, maybe. Anyway, like I've been saying for years, this was always going to happen. Because it's always been happening.
The internet’s singular power, in its early gold-rush days, was its flexibility. People could imagine a dazzling array of new uses for the network, and as quick as that, they could build and deploy them — a site that sold you books, a site that cataloged the world’s information, an application that let you “borrow” other people’s music, a social network that could connect you to anyone.

You didn’t need permission for any of this stuff; some of these innovations ruined traditional industries, some fundamentally altered society, and many were legally dubious. But the internet meant you could just put it up, and if it worked, the rest of the world would quickly adopt it.

But if flexibility was the early internet’s promise, it was soon imperiled. In 2003, Tim Wu, a law professor now at Columbia Law School (he’s also a contributor to The New York Times), saw signs of impending corporate control over the growing internet. Broadband companies that were investing great sums to roll out faster and faster internet service to Americans were becoming wary of running an anything-goes network.

Some of the new uses of the internet threatened their bottom line. People were using online services as an alternative to paying for cable TV or long-distance phone service. They were connecting devices like Wi-Fi routers, which allowed them to share their connections with multiple devices. At the time, there were persistent reports of broadband companies seeking to block or otherwise frustrate these new services; in a few years, some broadband providers would begin blocking new services outright.
It's been fun. 

Magic downturn

If we don't need a "trigger" because the magic tax cuts will bring us super awesome growth, then why are they so worried about it?
It’s not clear what exactly GOP leaders promised Corker, who declined to share specifics with reporters. He said the amendment will be included in an updated version of the bill that is likely to be released publicly on Thursday.

But the constellation of groups funded by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers – including Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners – came out strongly against any trigger last night. They were joined by Grover Norquist from Americans for Tax Reform, the Wall Street Journal editorial board and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

They argue that a trigger, if it occurred, would likely increase taxes during an economic downturn, which they fear would cause stagnation. They also complain that it would inject even more uncertainty into the tax system, which would make it harder for businesses to plan their long-term investments.
But these are the people who keep telling us a "downturn" is impossible once the tax cuts are passed. Here's John Kennedy being all adamant about that while making a big goofy John Kennedy face.




If they're so confident, why are they also so worried?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Maybe John will be stupid enough to save the day

So what's going on here is Bob Corker wants to write in some emergency backstop "triggers" to the Senate version of the tax bill. You know, just in case the tax cuts for billionaires don't magically pay for themselves for the first time in the history of this long running scam idea.
Corker, an outspoken critic of the administration who recently announced he is not running for re-election, is not the only Republican pushing for this “backstop.”

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) also called for the measure in a press conference Monday.
“What if we don’t get 0.4 percent growth?” he asked, citing the number touted by GOP leadership as resulting directly from tax cuts. “Do we have realistic numbers and is there a backstop in the process just in case we don’t? We should build in the ‘What if?’ What if this doesn’t work? What changes might be needed in the tax code in the days ahead to be able to adjust in what scenario?”

Both Lankford and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) have pointed to the fiscal disaster in Kansas that resulted from a slew of massive tax cuts as a cautionary tale that should not be repeated on the federal level.
If we take Corker (and maybe one or two of these other guys) at his word, then that might mean failure to include at least some of these "triggers" could end up sinking the bill entirely.  And yet looking around the Finance Committee we find plenty of Senators stupid enough to blow it off. Like this guy here. 
Still, most GOP lawmakers insist, without citing their sources, that the tax bill won’t increase the deficit at all, let alone by more than $1 trillion.

“It will pay for itself,” declared Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA). “I would not vote for this bill if I thought it was going to increase the deficit.”

“Now, it might in the short term,” Kennedy allowed. “But in the medium term and the long term, I think it will pay for itself.”
In the "medium term" John might be out and running for Governor anyway so what does he care. But in the short term, if he's dumb enough to make Corker mad, maybe he's making this thing that much more difficult to pass.

Or maybe this is all wishful thinking.  In the long term, all any of these guys care about is giving big tax cuts to rich people. What are the chances that they fail at that again?
 

Fiscal cliffs

Lemmings

Anybody who has been watching the Louisiana budget process these past couple of years kind of knows this drill by now.
Due to the upper chamber’s arcane rules, Republicans can’t get their tax cuts out of the Senate — without Democratic help — unless their bill adds $0 to the deficit in the second decade after it’s passed. As of yesterday afternoon, Mitch McConnell’s tax plan appeared to put roughly $2 trillion on the national credit card between 2028 and 2038. And still, several members of his caucus were complaining that the bill did not cut taxes nearly enough.

So, it was difficult to see how Republicans could possibly solve their math problem without creating a fatal, political one. But last night, Orrin Hatch took a hatchet to his party’s tax legislation, and ended up achieving the seemingly impossible: The Utah senator found a way to keep the plan’s giant corporate tax cuts permanent, make its middle-class tax cuts more generous (in the near term), and cut the overall cost of tax package to $0 in 2028.

Hatch’s trick: Phase out (virtually) every tax cut that doesn’t benefit corporations in 2026, while also throwing 13 million people off of health insurance. The upshot of this is that, next year, almost no middle-income families lose out from the bill, and most upper-middle-class households come out ahead.

But, when the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2026, the middle-class tax cuts turn into a pumpkin — and President Trump’s tax plan becomes a giveaway to corporations funded by raising taxes on virtually everyone in the United States.
And that's so long from now there will be plenty of time for somebody (not this particular Congress, though) to "fix" it.  And when the time comes, the argument will be all about how we have a "spending problem, not a revenue problem."  Therefore some pragmatic Democrats will have no choice but to scrap Social Security.  If the lemmings read the book, they would know that lemmings don't actually jump off cliffs.  Neither do Republicans.  Instead, like the infamous Disney filmmakers here, they just run everyone else over the side and profit from the result. 

Maybe they proved "Too Big To Fail" isn't real

FNBC failed. From the looks of things the people most hurt by this are grifters and real estate vampires.
First NBC's absence from the market has already created ripple effects.

"I know people that were either right at the beginning of projects, or just about to break ground on projects, that got really stalled and really stuck by this," said Will Bradshaw, co-founder of a New Orleans-based real estate firm, Green Coast Enterprises.

Among other projects, Bradshaw is involved in turning the old Tulane Industrial Laundry building in Mid-City into a mixed-use development with commercial space and a dozen apartments, an effort that faced delays after its tax credit financing through First NBC fell apart with the bank's collapse.

Likewise, New Orleans actor Wendell Pierce voiced frustration that his effort to build affordable homes in Pontchartrain Park languished because his financing fizzled.

"You look at any development or any business that was with First NBC — it's a transition period of what Whitney wants to do or doesn't want to do, or other private investors," Pierce said in a recent interview. "It's still sorting itself out in so many businesses around the city and the region."

Other projects also faced setbacks, including a $15 million effort to redevelop the former Holy Cross School building in the Lower 9th Ward and plans to transform the former St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church and School in Marigny into a 71-room hotel and event space.
Not sure what the downside is here. 

They might actually pass it

What a damn disaster.
A House Republican lawmaker acknowledged on Tuesday that he’s facing pressure from donors to ensure the GOP tax-reform proposal gets done.

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) had been describing the flurry of lobbying from special interests seeking to protect favored tax provisions when a reporter asked if donors are happy with the tax-reform proposal.

“My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’ ” Collins replied.

Monday, November 27, 2017

So much winning

Today Jay Banks won a recount of the District B council votes requested by Seth Bloom. This comes a week after Banks won the recount of early and absentee votes performed last Tuesday. And, of course, all of it comes after Banks won the election on November 18.  Will Bloom make him have to win a fourth time in court?  Maybe.

Update: Or maybe not. This says Bloom conceded finally. Let's assume that's gonna stick.

The company store

The Amazon Sweepstakes was always going to get out of control. And yet, we regret we must still inform you that the Amazon Sweepstakes is out of control.
The e-commerce giant said last month that it had attracted 238 offers from cities that want to be the location for Amazon’s second headquarters. The company says it will spend $5bn (£3.8bn) on the new base, known as “HQ2”, which will employ 50,000 people.

Several of the cities’ bids have been published, revealing the lengths that authorities are willing to go to lay out the red carpet for big businesses.

Chicago and the state authorities of Illinois have jointly offered to hand Amazon more than $2bn in tax breaks, including $1.32bn of its workers’ income taxes. The scheme, known as a personal income tax diversion, would mean Amazon workers pay full income taxes, but instead of the state getting the money to use for schools, roads and other public services, Amazon would keep it.

A 2012 report by the Good Jobs First non-profit organisation said such practices mean that “workers are, in effect, paying taxes to their boss”.
Has New Orleans's proposal to Amazon been published? All I can find is Mitch's cover letter where he talks up our nearly all-charter school system.  Odd that the "data-driven" mayor would leave out the latest performance ratings for some reason.  Maybe it's because he's coming around to the absurdity of the grading system. Probably it's something else, though. We'd love to see what the city has actually offered.  No doubt it's well in line with the proto-fascist "best practices" Chicago and others have put in play where everyone who works for the state sponsored billion dollar company also pays directly for that privilege.

You can find similar characteristics in the much ballyhooed deal with DXC where the state and city guarantee a package of tax incentives (including a "payroll rebate") to a company bringing (possibly) 300 jobs to town next year as part of what looks more or less like a stock-fluffing stunt/downsizing strategy.  Everyone was very proud of that.

This includes Mayor-elect Cantrell, naturally.  During the final televised debate, she made certain to claim that she, "definitely had a hand in making (the DXC deal) happen." She didn't offer any specifics about her role, though.  She did spend a lot of time on the campaign trail talking about how she wanted to "depoliticize" the process by which these "incentives" are doled out. This means she prefers to remove even the possibility of public oversight from the disbursement of public money to private interests. On December 13, LaToya will address the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting at the Hyatt.  No doubt she'll have some fascinating insights to offer on all of this.

Happy Cyber Monday!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

"This city doesn't want you"

NOLA.com debriefs with Bunny Charbonnet on his sister's ill fated campaign for mayor.  There's a lot of interesting stuff in there. For instance, he talks about trying to talk her out of running at the beginning. The way he describes that is he says he told her, "This city doesn't want you."  It's not exactly clear what he means there but I think maybe this part later on serves as a pretty good elaboration.

What did this election teach you about how the fabric of the city has changed?

I think there's a confluence of people who have moved here from elsewhere, who believe they understand this city because they've gone to six restaurants and 12 festivals. But they don't understand the genesis of those festivals. New Orleanians understand the very core. They understand why Louis Armstrong sang Mack The Knife when no one would pick up the song. He understood the violence. He understood we are a packing town.

And that's OK. Because we need these new people here. But we need them to get to know us better. And I find that I learned -- I was indifferent to Uptown New Orleans, to the whole Mardi Gras culture and the business community. Not that I disliked them, I just had an indifference. I never understood them because I never tried. But I learned more about them than I cared to know (in this election). There is an interest in winning unlike no other area of town. They just play by a different set of rules and more resources.
Yes, I've got a lot more to say about this. It's been a busy holiday week. But think about this for now. Which city didn't want Desi?

Friday, November 24, 2017

"Pushed or poked"

Basically what this story says is lawyers don't handle low level confrontation the way most humans do. Also they take themselves extremely seriously.
Accounts vary as to the intensity of the confrontation between Strasser and Assistant U.S. Attorney Myles Ranier. But Strasser, a former federal prosecutor who was representing accused 39'ers gang member Damian Barnes, either pushed or poked Ranier in the chest.

Few people actually witnessed the incident because it occurred during a break in the trial, when the judge and most of the lawyers involved were out of the courtroom. Deputy U.S. marshals quickly came over to settle things down.

This much is clear: No one was hurt. But the dust-up was significant enough that it got the attention of then-U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite Jr. and was mentioned in a written document.

“Given that this is a personnel matter, I will decline to comment specifically as to these troubling allegations,” Polite said Tuesday. “With that said, the top priority of any good leader should be to protect, not harm, those under his supervision.”
Oh no! Somebody was "pushed or poked." This was a serious murder and racketeering case.  There were very long prison sentences on the line for the defendants.  God forbid anybody get heated enough to "poke" someone over it.   

So many judges

I'll say this for Republicans.  They tend not to waste power when they have it.
In a paper that deserves credit for its transparency (it features a section titled “Undoing President Barack Obama’s Judicial Legacy”), Calabresi proposes to pack the federal courts with a “minimum” of 260 — and possibly as many as 447 — newly created judicial positions. Under this plan, the 228-year-old federal judiciary would increase — in a single year — by 30 to 50 percent.

Never mind that Republicans saw no urgency in filling judicial vacancies while Obama was president. Never mind that they ignored pleas from conservative Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to fill positions in courts facing “judicial emergencies.” Now, conservatives want a 30 to 50 percent increase in the number of federal judgeships. And they have a clear idea of who should fill this massive number of new posts: “President Trump and the Republican Senate will need to fill all of these new judgeships in 2018, before the next session of Congress.”
People like to point out that Trump has "no major legislative achievement" to show for his first year in office.  That's fine. But there are more ways that one to do a lot of damage when you have what is still technically a unified government. You don't necessarily have to pass a law in order to kill Obamacare, for example.  The worst damage is probably being done at the E.P.A. The next worst will be whatever the sum of these financial deregualtions eventually looks like. There are others.  Net Neutrality is another major disaster.  Close to home, we're going to suffer if they kill NFIP. And if they succeed in completely transforming the judiciary, they will ensure that the damage will last.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"Better than I ever imagined"

Remember back in January when Mitch got the convention center to pay for a bunch of "anti-crime" stuff in the Quarter?  There were a number of controversial points to that plan. Among these were restricted access to Bourbon Street, a 3 AM closing time for bars, and a requirement that all bars equip themselves with cameras feeding into NOPD's panopticon.

After some public outcry, the mayor's people walked back the 3AM thing. And they said they weren't interested in doing the interior cameras. But it turns out, today, they're still working on getting that to happen.
Landrieu said his administration is working with the City Council to write legislation that would require bars to install surveillance cameras that will feed into the center.

It’s better and better than I ever imagined,” said Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell. “This is the right step in the right direction at the right time.”
Nice of LaToya to throw in her two cents there. Just so we know what side she's on.  Not that we had much doubt from the beginning.
The department won’t specify where the cameras will be located, but said they would be stationed first in high-traffic areas and crime hot spots.

“Crime is out of control, shootings are up,” said Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. “We need to be proactive in terms of catching criminals and deterring crime.”

Cantrell stresses that the readers are not for profiling or harassing people on the street, but for tracking vehicles used in crimes.

“It has nothing to do with profiling at all,” she said. “It doesn’t show you who’s in the vehicle, what they’re wearing, their skin color. It’s totally focused on that license plate as well as the make and model of the car.”

Cantrell said it will be a tool in the crime-fighting arsenal that the city so badly needs.

“My constituents are saying that crime is their number one issue. They not only want to feel safe, they want to be safe.”
LaToya is exactly the sort of bullying simple thinker who shouldn't be anywhere near police powers. But even our supposed liberals are pretty fascist these days so it's no surprise we elected her mayor. Anyway the surveillance state is "better than she could have imagined."

Meanwhile, speaking of keeping the public under constant uncomfortable surveillance, this came out during today's press conference.




Well that's different.  Just a few days ago, she was a definite "Y" on dumping the cameras altogether. Wonder what happened.

LaToya and traffic cameras has been a long and interesting saga.  It's pretty funny that she spent so much time talking about her vast "experience" in city government when it turns out her experience as a camera opponent only began when the campaign kicked off. Also, even at that point, nobody on the campaign, including the candidate seemed to know what their actual position was. 
On Tuesday evening (July 18), Cantrell delivered a wide-ranging speech on her platform as one of 18 mayoral candidates. Here's what the City Councilwoman said in that speech.
"We don't know if traffic cameras are making our streets safer," Cantrell said. "As your mayor, I will suspend the use of the cameras until it can be proven that they actually work as intended."

But then, The Advocate reported that Cantrell said after the speech she only wanted to suspend part of the traffic camera program. Mayor Mitch Landrieu expanded enforcement by 50 cameras earlier this year.

The significance of that statement apparently hadn't become apparent to her campaign, however, because spokesman David Winkler-Schmit on Wednesday morning spoke to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune about how the program's suspension could affect the budget. Tickets issued through traffic cameras are projected to generate about $24 million for the city this year.

During the debates she was adamant in saying the city's estimate of $24 million in traffic camera revenue is wrong.  Is she going to "evaluate" that again now too?  When she does that, will she take into account the contributions of camera contractor American Traffic Solutions to her campaign?  If she does that would be incredibly disappointing.  I mean, Boysie Bollinger and Leslie Jacobs put together a whole PAC to warn us that the other candidate was the corrupt one.  You don't think they were being less than up front with us about that, do you?  Why would they do that?

Kicking you off the internet

When we look back at where the most lasting damage was done by the Trump Presidency it's going to be everything going on at the EPA and this.

Federal regulators unveiled a plan Tuesday that would give Internet providers broad powers to determine what websites and online services their customers can see and use, and at what cost.

The move sets the stage for a crucial vote next month at the Federal Communications Commission that could reshape the entire digital ecosystem. The FCC’s Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, has made undoing the government's net neutrality rules one of his top priorities, and Tuesday's move hands a win to broadband companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.

Pai is taking aim at regulations that were approved two years ago under a Democratic presidency and that sought to make sure all Internet content, whether from big or small companies, would be treated equally by Internet providers.

It was always going to happen sooner or later.   The internet is simply following the same pattern of previous mass media toward more centralized and less democratic control. It's what capitalism does.  You'll see some false moralizing from #Resistance types for a while but they'll never overturn this. Eventually we all belong to Verizon.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Election Day

Election Day

Get on out there and capture the magic. Here are some tips for those placing wagers on things.

Cantrell 62% Charbonnet 38%  Spread could actually go higher so watch for that

Banks 50% plus just a little itty bit over Bloom The Cantrell wave in the turnout would ordinarily favor Bloom but a lot of people also seem to hate him so.. it will be close

Gray 54% Nguyen 46% Tthis is just based on the primary numbers plus some educated guesses but if it goes differently don't come yell at me

Schroder 60% Edwards 40% The Democrats could have gotten their shit together and actually try to elect a Treasurer. They didn't.


More to say later in the day.  Have fun. 



Friday, November 17, 2017

Preview of the 2019 Governor's race

Jeff Landry or John Kennedy (probably both will be running):  "New Orleans is a Sanctuary City! It is coddling teh illegals!"

John Bel: "No, it isn't!  Jeff Sessions gave them a certificate. See? We all hate the illegals the same amount."

Jeff and John:  "Jeff Sessions is clearly in jail by now, though"

They lie

This is a lie. Paul Rainwater is lying.
While the meeting covered a range of problems that continue to plague the agency, workers who filled the council chamber were particularly incensed by a plan to hire a company to bring in workers for some engineering and other technical positions that have remained unfilled.

Rainwater said the company chosen would bring in about 14 workers for up to a year, though the terms of the bid would allow for nearly 40 people to be brought on for up to three years.

That, many workers and residents argued, was an attempt to sneak in a private company to run the public utility.

“It sounds like privatization,” Angelina Elder said.

Rainwater said explicitly the workers to be hired are not an attempt at privatization but rather are needed to fill highly technical positions.

“This (bid) is not for privatization of the system, I want to say that loud and clear,” Rainwater said.

But council members said they were not convinced those positions cannot be filled with local, permanent workers.

“My question is, are we absolutely sure there’s no one here that can fill those 14 jobs?” Councilman James Gray said. “I have trouble believing there’s no one here that can fill those 14 jobs.” 
Actually there are something like 300 vacancies which they have made no honest effort to fill. There are various reasons for this. Some of them have to do with gatekeeping and patronage. Some of them have to do with plans to eventually privatize the system or at least move it out of Civil Service as this bill by J.P. Morrell would have done
Senate Bill 247 has languished in the Local and Municipal Affairs Committee since Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, proposed it in April. The lack of action signaled the bill was effectively dead on arrival.

The proposal would have ended civil service participation for employees hired after Dec. 31, 2017. It was a first step in a grander strategy to rewrite the public utility's employment benefits and protections. Grant had also indicated he wanted to phase out the board's pension program in favor of a portable 401(k) retirement benefit that he said would appeal to the next generation of workers.

Grant and Morrell had argued that removing the bureaucratic hurdles of the civil service system and giving employees more flexibility in their retirement benefits would help the S&WB attract younger, specialized talent.
J.P. changed his mind and killed it after Cedric and Mitch decided they were losing the argument for the time being. Instead they moved to contract out the management function. But that is an end-run toward the same purpose. That and cutting in the various consulting firms who are already profiting from the general process of demolition by neglect.
On Aug. 14, nine days after the flooding, Donald Case from the S&WB’s machine shop texted then-General Superintendent Joe Becker on the progress in fixing broken turbines.

“CH has pulled in a lot of staff to make sure the contractors don't put the screws to us... how do we know that CH isn't putting the screws to us?” he asked, apparently never getting a response.

Four days later, Bruce Adams, now the highest ranking official left at the S&WB, sent another text to Becker, pressing the issue further.

“Has it occurred to you that CH2 might be so anxious to junk these turbines to protect their liability?” Adams texted on Aug. 18, implying that the agency’s four old turbines were suffering repeated failures by design, to force the S&WB to scrap the refurbishment effort altogether.

“Absolutely,” responded Becker, who was later forced to resign over the S&WB’s response to the flooding. “I‘m not sure they have thought that far through. I am sure they see a t4 (Turbine No. 4) disaster turning into our t4 savior. I don‘t see much that we can do about it. Do you want to be the one that slows down this train?”

If you watched last night's final mayoral debate, you didn't see either candidate directly address this issue.  They each answered "no" to a yes or no question about privatization. But that's easy for anyone to do. Charbonnet talked about the need to fill the vacancies. LaToya said the employees need a "raise."  Neither gave a clear indication as to how they would achieve that. Each has received donations from CH2M just like the current mayor has.  A former CH2M engineer is serving as the interim director of operations.

Do we expect anything to change when the next administration takes over?  Jacques Morial has suggested folding S&WB into a city department. LaToya Cantrell, who is going to win tomorrow based partially on her penchant for seeming to take two or three different positions on any issue in the space of one breath, said last night that she would maybe think about this later. But now there is no time. There's plenty time to contract everything out, though. Wonder what's going to happen.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

What did they agree to?

Mitch Landrieu and Chief Michael Harrison had a meeting with Attorney General (for now) Jeff Sessions today about New Orleans's status as a so-called "Sanctuary City." Cedric Richmond was supposed to be there. But something happened that we aren't clear about.
The stage was set Wednesday for continued discord when the mayor's office issued a statement saying there was a dispute over who Sessions and Kennedy would allow to take part in the next morning's meeting. The mayor wanted Congressman Cedric Richmond, NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison and City Attorney Rebecca Dietz to join him in the discussion. Sessions' office had said Richmond could not attend, and either Harrison or Dietz -- not both -- could join.

According to the mayor's communications, Richmond could not reschedule a conflicting event and did not take part, but Harrison and Dietz joined the mayor.
Both versions of why Cedric wasn't there come from the mayor's office. I guess they can both be true. But it's unclear what happened.  Also unclear, what exactly was agreed to at this meeting. 
"We are pleased that the attorney general and Senator Kennedy have come around to agreeing with the point we have made all along -- New Orleans is not a 'sanctuary city' and the NOPD's policies have maintained consistent compliance ..." Landrieu said in a statement.

Asked for comment after the meeting, Sessions' office issued a statement saying New Orleans "has committed to sharing information with federal law enforcement authorities ..."
One way to interpret this is Mitch and Harrison agreed to rat out to ICE any undocumented immigrants they detain. Another way to see it is Sessions agreed that the terms of the NOPD consent decree dictated their current policy anyway so there is really no way to say they aren't in compliance with the law.
Landrieu and NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison have repeatedly contended the department's policies adhere to the letter of the law. Harrison has also argued that going any further would risk alienating immigrants in the city, discouraging victims from reporting crimes and making witnesses more reluctant to come forward.

The policy is required by a sweeping federal court consent decree that oversees the police department. The consent decree was negotiated with the Justice Department, but during President Barack Obama's administration.

A federal Justice Department spokesman, Devin O'Malley, indicated that as of Thursday, the agency no longer considers NOPD's policies at odds with federal law.
But it could also be both. They city could be perfectly willing to inform on immigrants to the feds without actually holding them.  That, both sides agreed, is Marlin Gusman's job. Which is a convenient thing for all of them to say because Gusman wasn't there.
Sessions, according to Kennedy, requested the city notify federal immigration agents at least 48 hours before releasing any arrested undocumented immigrants from jail, and also asked that agents be allowed to interview inmates while in custody.

Both those requests appeared to apply to the Orleans Parish jail, a facility run by the independent Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, which is covered by a separate federal consent decree. Sheriff Marlin Gusman was not included in Thursday's meeting.
And, as the story here strongly implies, Gusman's policy may also be in compliance with the dictates of a consent decree. But that isn't explicitly clear.  Anyway this may or may not get Sessions off the city's back. It probably won't satisfy John Kennedy and Jeff Landry, though.  Not with a Governor's election looming in 2019. Which is a lot closer than you might think.

Parties and sleepovers

Not sure how this settlement, if these are the terms, actually changes anything.
Asked Wednesday (Nov. 15) why he decided not to continue to pursue the lawsuit, Wolfe replied, "Getting old." He also said he will abide by the city's request to keep the property off short-term rental websites, saying he will use it "for our business as well as having parties and sleepovers."
A "sleepover" is different from an STR, how? It's not listed on Airbnb, maybe?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Okay but what if I just want to mute the crime?

This seems like a fantastic idea
NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Police Department introduced a new system Wednesday that allows residents to report certain crimes online.

Now, residents can reports crimes like property damage, lost property, thefts, and additions to existing cases without having to call or wait for a police officer to make a report. There is also an option to download police reports for free.
Overreacting to everyday annoyances has never been easier. Soon we will have all the data on everyone's neighborhood lawn maintenance disputes in one convenient place. Can they sell that to creditors, maybe? Should solve some budgetary problems that way.  What about partnering with NextDoor? The platform for this already exists over there.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

QOTD

Rob Maness who apparently hosts a radio show
But his tone changed abruptly when the caller, who identified himself as "Flaming Liberal," said that even Cruz had asked Moore to step down. "If you're to the right of Ted Cruz, you're an extremist," he said.

"Whoa, you just called me an extremist, brother," said Maness, a retired Air Force colonel who went on to outline his military background, including top-secret clearances.

"I've done everything this country has ever asked me to do. How dare you call me an extremist," he said. "I'm the most investigated, stable man that the country could have ever given the keys to nuclear weapons to, so you can blow me! You can blow me and get out of here if you're gonna talk like that and call me an extremist."
Could we have given him the keys to a nuclear weapon? How did we pass up the chance to do that?

Probably they should fire some more team doctors

The Sewerage & Water Board's Turbine 3, much like Delvin Breaux,  has suffered a "setback" and will now miss the remainder of the season.
At a special City Council meeting held last Tuesday, no additional questions were asked about what was going on with the turbine, but employees told WWL-TV that the machinery suffered far more than just a tripped breaker. Sources say the turbine is still out of commission and the repairs will be extensive.
Justice and Beyond is hosting a townhall event on S&WB tonight at 5:30  at Christian Unity Baptist Church (1700 Conti Street).

Gabbo details

Here's what Governor Edwards and an assembly of VIPs told us yesteray afternoon about the DXC subsidy
About $25 million of the state's estimated $120 million in economic incentives for DXC is being targeted at the local higher education system. The money will go toward grants over five years for faculty, curriculum and other instructional resources linked to DXC.

The state also offered the company $18.7 million in performance-based grants payable over five years, a $2.2 million parking assistance grant and a $1.5 million demolition grant.

DXC will also take part in Louisiana Economic Development's FastStart program, which assists new or relocating companies in ramping up their work force.

The company is also expected to use Louisiana's Quality Jobs Program, which provides up to a 6 percent cash rebate on 80 percent of gross payroll for new direct jobs for up to 10 years. Starting July 1, 2018, the rebate will be available for 100 percent of gross annual payroll. The program also offers a rebate on capital expenditures or a 1.5 percent project facility expense rebate on the total capital investment, excluding tax-exempted items.
That's at the bottom so you have to read all the way past John Bel's and Mitch's and Michael Hecht's bullshit to get to it. None of them has the courage or the basic moral decency.. not that it requires much.. to say what is actually happening.

What is actually happening is the state of Louisiana is using taxpayer money to subsidize the profit-taking operations of a downsizing and outsourcing vector formed from the remnant bits of two other tech companies. DXC was formed this year out of a merger of parts of CSC and HP. Their strategy since that time has involved a series of big "cost-cutting" announcements designed to keep investors interested. These are mostly about slashing pensions, cutting staff, and "consolidating" real estate holdings. They're in New Orleans as part of that strategy.  
DXC, created earlier this year by the combination of CSC and Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Enterprise Service business, has been working to reduce its expenses since the merger.

On a conference call, DXC executives said cost-cutting efforts are proceeding according to plan, including workforce reductions, reducing real estate and facility expenses, and implementing "supply chain efficiencies and consolidations."
"We continue to achieve key merger integration milestones," president and CEO Mike Lawrie said. "We're executing our synergy plan, and we're on track to meet our targets of $1 billion of year-one cost savings, as well as a billion and a half [dollars] of run-rate cost savings exiting the year."

Lawrie said the company cut its costs by $110 million in the quarter, including reducing its workforce by about 4 percent.
The move to New Orleans demonstrates to shareholders an effort is being made to reduce labor costs
But in an earnings call to investors on Nov. 7, DXC chairman president and CEO John Michael Lawrie suggested the company would be opening new facilities in U.S markets where labor costs are lower.
This is accomplished in part because a tech company can afford to pay lower wages here, and in part because of the "incentive package" including a cash payroll rebate from the state.  Also, and this is important, they don't even have to actually ramp all the way up to "2,000 jobs" in New Orleans in order to meet their strategic goals.  All they really have to do is show the shareholders that they are executing a "synergy plan."

In other words, it means as much or more to DXC to announce that they are making this move than it does that they actually make it. It remains to be seen just how committed the company is to bringing "2,000 tech jobs" here. Next year they plan to hire 300.
DXC plans to fill 300 jobs — largely information technology and business positions — in 2018, then ramp up to 2,000 jobs over five years. Its local payroll is expected to exceed $133 million by 2025.
But, really, there's no need for them to go all the way there. The case of IBM's Baton Rouge Client Innovation Center isn't precisely analogous. But it is close enough to note that just because a company is willing to take advantage of your subsidy, this doesn't mean it's going to deliver everything you expect in return.

The DXC case, though, looks especially suspicious. The one thing that might be okay about it is it activates grant funding that can go toward STEM fields at local universities. But even that shouldn't be so tightly tied to corporate "partnership." But really, the primary beneficiaries are DXC and the boost its stockholders. The secondary beneficiaries are our preening political idiots who take credit for "2000 tech jobs" in the face of practically zero critical thinking from our docile and booster-heavy media. The tertiary beneficiaries are probably real estate vampires in New Orleans.


Meanwhile, most New Orleanians, who are not in tech, and aren't going to "learn to code" all of a sudden, are left behind by a high profile economic development effort that basically ignores them. This is materially important but also symbolically important. It sends a signal as to which kinds of citizens the political leadership actually considers a priority. And, of course, our tax burden continues to fall heavily on poor people who disproportionately pay more than anyone through sales taxes, regressive fees, etc. The state is turning around and handing that money to DXC in subsidies. So you get an upward wealth redistribution effect on top of everything else.

In a Guardian op-ed this week about the so-called "Paradise Papers" story, Occupy Wall Street organizer Micah White  reminds us of the importance of thinking globally.
The fundamental lesson of the Panama and Paradise Papers is twofold. First, the people everywhere, regardless of whether they live in Russia or America, are being oppressed by the same minuscule social circle of wealthy elites who unduly control our governments, corporations, universities and culture.

We now know without a doubt – thanks to the incontrovertible evidence provided by the Panama and Paradise Papers – that there is a global plutocracy who employ the same handful of companies to hide their money and share more in common with each other than with the citizens of their countries. This sets the stage for a global social movement.

Second, and most importantly, these leaks indicate that our earth has bifurcated into two separate and unequal worlds: one inhabited by 200,000 ultra high-net-worth individuals and the other by the 7 billion left behind.
It is only when we see the larger context that we understand where we fit into this picture. In this  case the state and city are being used as pawns in, at best, an international downsizing strategy. At worst, they're being used as pawns in a stock primping strategy. Either way, it's at least in part dependent on questionable uses of public money.  And yet we're going spend the rest of the week watching every elected official (and candidate) pat themselves on the back for it mostly to cheering applause.  Be sure and congratulate them when you see them. They worked really hard on this.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Gabbo is coming

What is it? Who is it? What does it want from us? Will it please just tell us what to do?
Gov. John Bel Edwards is set to make a major economic development announcement Monday (Nov. 13) afternoon, according to a press release, which called the upcoming news "one of the most significant economic development announcements in Louisiana history."

The press release was light on details, noting only the time and location of the announcement: 2 p.m. outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
No, I don't think it's Amazon. That is, unless it's one of Amazon's hellish, labor exploitative distribution centers. But even that isn't likely.  Probably something oil and gas related. Either that or  a monorail. There's always room for monorails.

Update: Show them what they've won!
Daily Report has confirmed that the major economic development announcement Gov. John Bel Edwards will make in New Orleans this afternoon involves Virginia-based DXC Technology, which will set up operations in the Crescent City and eventually create 2,000 permanent high tech jobs.
2,000 jobs is nice. Probably not much immediate help for local New Orleanians in that number. Some. If you happen to be in the "high tech" field. Are you?  Oh well. It's okay, they'll bring in some people. 

See, DXC's strategy here is all about finding "low cost" labor in "lower-cost facilities."
But in an earnings call to investors on Nov. 7, DXC chairman president and CEO John Michael Lawrie suggested the company would be opening new facilities in U.S markets where labor costs are lower.

Lawrie told investors the company was “rethinking how you bring people in … and it’s about a whole different approach to where we set up our locations. I’ve said before we are looking at creating some lower-cost facilities in the United States and moving some of our workload there.”
What this means is they're looking to locate in places where the cost of living compares favorably with national tech hubs such that workers will take less in wages to relocate and still come out ahead. You might need to get out of their way, though.  In any case, congratulations on being fodder for the  big workforce and real estate cost reduction efficiency finding synergy plan.
On a conference call, DXC executives said cost-cutting efforts are proceeding according to plan, including workforce reductions, reducing real estate and facility expenses, and implementing "supply chain efficiencies and consolidations."
"We continue to achieve key merger integration milestones," president and CEO Mike Lawrie said. "We're executing our synergy plan, and we're on track to meet our targets of $1 billion of year-one cost savings, as well as a billion and a half [dollars] of run-rate cost savings exiting the year."

Meanwhile, we still don't know how much of your ever-increasing sales taxes will go to the "incentive" package that subsidizes all of this. Guess that's what the big press conference is all about.

By the way, the headline writers are already took the bait provided by the Governor's PR department last night calling this "one of the most significant economic development announcements in Louisiana history."  This clearly does not come close to meeting that expectation.  Today we're seeing the qualifying correction.  I wonder if anyone will notice.
The business expansion represents "the most permanent jobs for a single LED (Louisiana Economic Development) project in state history," said the source, who was not authorized to speak on the record.
 Maybe this is specifically LED's biggest whale. That's not saying a whole lot though.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Down here in the content mines

Been a little quiet this week on the blog. That's partially because the fake radio show can be a pain in the neck to book, record and edit. Maybe it's worth it. I don't know.



Meanwhile, I've promised more on the election which I plan to get to. Also the Saints are having an interesting year and I think it's time to review some items there. Anyway. Plenty time left. We'll get to it.

Inside the Money Club

The FDIC report on the First NBC collapse is out. The Advocate doesn't report anything especially juicy although they point out that it does confirm key elements of their prior reporting on the story.

If you've been following along, you will have already understood that the central issue here is Ashton Ryan and his friends were passing out free money to each other.
While focusing much of its criticism on First NBC's founder and CEO, Ashton Ryan Jr., the report also deplores a lack of oversight by the bank's board as well as by federal and state regulators.

Based on years of confidential bank examination reports, which rarely become public, the FDIC report also notes an unusual transaction that smacks of a conflict: a $2 million loan to Ryan from a First NBC customer who had recently obtained a $9 million unsecured loan from the bank.

Ryan, a former partner at a Big Five accounting firm, founded First NBC in 2006. It drew a local who's who of backers and grew at a remarkable pace into a nearly $5 billion institution. But the report suggests that the bank's trajectory was lifted partly by its willingness to pay high interest rates for deposits, which were in turn used to make loans that were bigger than many larger banks in the area were willing to take on.

This doesn't go too far into explaining that often the source of the free money was a scheme to shuffle around questionable investments in post katrina disaster recovery grants and tax credits. The larger story we've been reading all year is how the bank became a conduit for turning those funds into windfalls for important people in the political, entrepreneurial, and cultural non-profit circles who own and operate New Orleans nowadays.

It does quote some lawyers pointing out that it's going to be difficult to prove "criminal intent" in all of this. Because, as with most white collar crime, you probably don't have to worry as long as you've been stealing on behalf of the right people.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Bringing in the experts

About a month ago, an entity known as the "LSU Real Estate and Facilities Foundation" announced its intention to start up the next round of the What Do We Do With Charity Hospital game.  To show how very serious they are, they announced also they would spend an undisclosed amount of money on a "land use study" to be conducted by the Urban Land Institute.

The Institute's services begin with an assemblage of out of national real estate consultants and investors with little to no understanding of the historical political or cultural context of the building and neighborhood. Because that is how true expertise is gained. The team of experts spent a full five days in New Orleans  including one full day of "interviewing stakeholders" before making some announcements at a press event today. They learned some interesting facts!




 The panel also had some things to teach us about the importance of good branding and also the importance of getting people "to the table."
"Consistency is important in branding," said John Walsh, the Texas real estate consultant leading the presentation said.

The group of 10 volunteers spent five days in town — and a day interviewing local stakeholders — at LSU's behest, and former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy said getting representatives from LSU and Tulane University, among other institutions, to the table is crucial.


They still don't know what to do with the building but, being the land use experts, they do have some ideas to share about how wealthy developers would best like to have public money and resources gifted to them. They would very much like it if we created a TIF district for them, for example. Or yet another PILOT. Or any of the fascinating ideas listed here. 




I, myself, am intrigued by "Other Economic Development Incentives."  We truly are limited only by our own imaginations. Anyone who has paid any attention to the mayor's race knows how excited LaToya Cantrell is about finding new "incentives" for developers so strap in. 

And remember, the ULI group is only here to tell us how best to help the rich get richer. They won't presume to tell us what should happen to the building in the process.  So remember to dream big.



Going monorail

Desi vs LaToya is running out of steam. We're already familiar enough with the depressing or disingenuous answers each will recite given a topic by now. I suppose if we get a chance to see the video of this latest forum, there will be some vague novelty we can pick out. But going by Gambit's description, the candidates stayed on script.

Well, okay there was one thing.  Apparently there is some law of nature which states that any time two or more talking heads discuss economic development in New Orleans East, at least one of them is eventually going to talk about something in the monorail category.
Other ideas from the candidates included light rail transit and development at the Grand Theater site in New Orleans East (Cantrell); and a $15 wage for City Hall employees and funding for the Orleans Public Defender's office to work on expungements (Charbonnet). An audience of more than 200 people clapped enthusiastically and gave out the occasional whoop of support.
Like I said, I'm probably going to have to watch this. What did she mean? Does the train go to the Grand Theater site? From where? Maybe it could just take visitors on a ride around the property to offer views of the murals which, admittedly, are pretty nice.  Maybe this could work.

Grand Theater

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Sounds like a challenge

That Wa-Po piece on Hugo Holland is yielding some good things.
A New Orleans attorney on Thursday asked state officials to open a "payroll fraud" investigation into Hugo A. Holland, one of the most influential prosecutors in Louisiana, accusing the outspoken death penalty proponent of breaking the law by working full-time in multiple judicial districts.
Holland doesn't seem like the kind of person who is going to be intimidated or humbled in any way by that. So this should be fun to watch. 
Holland denied the allegations in an email, insisting the position of assistant district attorney is considered part-time under Louisiana law. He told The Advocate in an interview earlier this year that he holds commissions from 18 Louisiana district attorneys, often flying around the state in a four-seat RV-10 to prosecute high-profile cases in largely rural parishes.

"An individual may hold as many part-time appointed positions as he or she desires," Holland wrote. "I can be a commissioned ADA in all 42 jurisdictions if I so desire and if the DA's in those jurisdictions approve."

He also said that it was "horses--t to claim I am a paid lobbyist," adding, "I simply don't fit the definition."

"I defy any of these ass----s to produce a shred of evidence that I have 'double billed' or 'double dipped,'" Holland said. 
Maybe none of the "ass----s" will take him up on the dare. On the other hand, maybe they don't like being called out like that. 

The end of the Trump Presidency

Atrios made a useful observation yesterday.  Tax reform is the last big ticket on the Republican agenda and, to them, it is far and away the most important.  Protecting and exacerbating the concentration of wealth is their bedrock cause. Once they get their big tax cut, the whole Trump adventure will have been worth it for them.

More to the point, it will also be over. With nothing left to play for, it's probable that we'll see a lot of Republicans quickly lose interest in protecting Trump as his legal problems worsen. They won't need him for anything important anymore so why bother.

Another possibility is the tax cut goes down in flames like the Obamacare repeal before it. That's less likely since the Congress is taking it more seriously this time around.  But it could happen. In which case,  it will be on to the midterms with no big legislative win to brag on.  Either way, the Trump Presidency.. or at least the worst days of it.. might be just about over.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Riders always come last

RTA (and Ron Forman's con-profit) have begrudgingly agreed to build a pedestrian bridge to the new Algiers Ferry terminal. They weren't going to do this initially but only agreed to do so after repeated pleas from riders who would very much not like to be run over or made unnecessarily late by trains on their way to work. 

Even after agreeing to build the bridge, though, the decision-makers absolutely refused to cover it.  This was because 1) they hate hate hate homeless people and 2) that's about it.
Pressed by Guidry, Berni further hinted that aside from added costs, one impetus for keeping the bridge roofless might be to discourage homeless people from being there.

"Yeah, I think that's probably one reason," Berni said. "But I'm sure there are many others, including cost."
"Cost" couldn't have been too big a factor there. We know this now because they're thinking about buying all this fancy stuff
Since late July, records show the firm designing the bridge, Manning Architects, has sent city and transit officials several preliminary budget drafts detailing costs. A first draft of that budget, dated July 20, pegged total estimated costs for the bridge at just under $5 million, up from officials' initial estimate of $2.6 million to $3 million in March.

Eight days later on July 28, the bridge's draft budget swelled to between $7.8 million and $8.3 million, largely due to the appearance of a new line item called "Add LED." That item - which later budget drafts revised to "Add Video Board" - would cost between $1.5 million and $2 million.

Manning's preliminary budget has also included three "contingency" costs, fluctuating in draft iterations from around $400,000 on July 20 to above $1.2 million on July 28 then back down to about $750,000 in the budget's most recent Sept. 27 draft.

It's unclear what exactly the "Video Board" line item represents, or if it would make it into the final budget cut. Officials say that budget, as well as the bridge's final design, would be set only after a cooperative endeavor agreement is signed by RTA, the city and the Audubon Nature Institute, which owns land next to its aquarium where the bridge is expected to be built.
In recent years, commuters who had depended on the ferries have endured fare hikes, limited hours, and limited functionality as the car-carrying boats were replaced with pedestrian-only service. They've had to jump up and down just to get this bridge included in the terminal design.  But Audubon can always get whatever they want just by adding a line item in the plan somewhere. Just another reminder of who the city leaders believe they're actually providing services for.

The New Orleans model

Post-Katrina New Orleans has so much to be proud of.  We were the laboratory of innovation where 21st Century disaster capitalism was born.* Our model is being replicated all over now.
The guerrilla campaign to open schools is running headlong into a separate effort from the top, to use the storm to accomplish the long-standing goal of privatizing Puerto Rico’s public schools, using New Orleans post-Katrina as a model. Last month, Puerto Rico’s Public-Private Partnerships Authority director spoke optimistically about leveraging federal money with companies interested in privatizing public infrastructure.   

Puerto Rico’s Education Secretary Julia Keleher has already called New Orleans’s school reform efforts a “point of reference” — tweeting last week that Puerto Ricans “should not underestimate the damage or the opportunity to create new, better schools.” She repeated these sentiments on Monday, saying that the aftermath of Maria provides a “real opportunity to press the reset button.”
Congratulations, Puerto Rico. You're officially the latest in a line of proud "blank slates" now. Good luck. 



*Domestically, anyway.  A lot of groundbreaking work was done in Iraq too.

Just say No-pioid

Jeff Landry has this fascinating idea that a major national health crisis has come about because medicine isn't expensive enough.
Since Louisiana expanded Medicaid, 441,000 more people in the state have enrolled and are receiving health care coverage. The Louisiana Department of Health says Medicaid expansion has helped more than 13,000 people receive substance abuse treatment.

Prior to the expansion, Landry said, Medicaid covered about 500,000 prescriptions compared to the roughly 900,000 prescriptions covered today.

“We already know that we’re having an epidemic, so when we put a program in place that about doubles the amount of free prescriptions available to people, think about that. That’s literally like putting drugs on the street for free,” Landry said.
One supposes we shouldn't have to justify this with a response.  Grace does anyway.  Meanwhile, Landry will be happy to accept your leftover pain pills if you want to bring them to him. Surely this makes more sense than treating people for addiction.  
 

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The next phase on Freret

Some interesting comments here from the owner of Freret St. Po-Boy and Donut Shop.  This was one of the first restaurants to open there during the post-Katrina "Freret renaissance." The city used CDGB money and a Main Streets grant to promote development there. It's a longer story than I want to write here but just know that the scene on Freret was created by policy choices and not just the random magic of entrepreneurship. In any case, this entrepreneurial venture is closing now.
Business on Freret was complicated in part by a street project that dragged on for years beyond its original scope, but also by the pressure of a changing neighborhood. Major pre-Katrina businesses, like Freret Garden Center, also sold their land and gave way to newer construction, such as the building that houses the national Halal Guys and Blaze Pizza chains, and even parking became more hard to find as free spaces were converted to paid.

“A lot of the regulars, I didn’t even see them anymore,” said Freret Po-Boy owner Myra Bercy in a telephone interview on Tuesday morning. “I guess some of them moved out of the neighborhood.”

Bercy said she struggled in recent years to make her rent payments, and they continued to go up. By January, her rent would have been nearly double what she originally paid when the business opened, so she closed for good the last week of October.

“The combination of all of that put me in a position where I was not making enough to stay in business,” Bercy said.
The landlord says, yes, the rent was always supposed to go up. That was the point of all this.  And by necessity, that means the small mom and pop businesses with neighborhood customer bases are going to be replaced by national chains with deep pockets oriented toward Tulane students and, very likely, Airbnbers. Again, all of this is by design. It's deliberate policy choice.  It's presented as "laissez-faire" but that isn't really accurate.   
Bercy said she is unsure whether she will try to open another restaurant elsewhere, as closing the business left her in debt. In the meantime, she said, she believes the city should think of ways to continue supporting longtime small business owners as the economy of New Orleans begins to change.

The city needs to do something about this, I feel,” Bercy said. “In New Orleans we have a lassiz faire way of doing business, where it makes a little easier for the biz owners dealing with landlord-tenant situation. 

“When people come from out of state, they don’t have the same respect for our culture,” she continued. “To a lot of people, the things I did might have meant a lot. But to them, it doesn’t really mean anything. We were just small time.”
The city has already made its choice, though.