Saturday, December 30, 2017

Hey look another election

I've got some year-end posts that will probably be up by, like, sometime next week.  But meanwhile, I've been busy on Twitter making a bracket.  Go vote. It's fun.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Mayoral elections have consequences

Apart from the pro-forma assumption that the election should have been about something besides what it was actually about, this N.O. Tribune year end editorial does a pretty good job of saying what the election was actually about.
Make no mistake, the people of this city have chosen Mayor-Elect Cantrell by a landslide. She has our full support, as well. That doesn’t mean that we like that NotForSaleNOLA has emerged as a key factor in this election, or that Jacobs has seemingly solidified her role in our city’s political, social and economic landscapes in general. And yes, we are still bothered by that—even more so since Jacobs’ brazen justification for inserting her two cents in this election and making it about something other than the caliber and quality of the candidates and their platforms. So why did she do it? Two reasons—because she wanted to and because she could. To read the recent Advocate article, in which Jacobs essentially gloats about her role in this election, is sickening.

Many of the folk that contributed to Jacob’s PAC don’t even live in Orleans Parish, including Jacobs, who may still own her Uptown address but has moved to Metairie as we understand it.

The real question is who decided that Leslie Jacobs and her cronies get to determine what is best for New Orleans and New Orleanians? Who gave them the right to determine who is worthy of our attention and our trust? With the influence and impact of NotForSaleNOLA, Jacobs and her friends have created a precedent that spells bad news. It can be easily replicated by those with the inclination and money to pour into PACs with little regard or integrity.

The only folks we are more upset with than Jacobs and her krewe for perpetrating their fraud are our very OWN people for allowing themselves to fall victim to it.

Here’s the reality. Despite what Jacobs might want the unassuming people of New Orleans to believe, we KNOW better. Exacting influence in this election was not about Desiree Charbonnet. It was not about the people surrounding and consulting Charbonnet. It was not even about Mayor-Elect Cantrell. Everything Leslie Jacobs did was all about and for Leslie Jacobs and her crowd
I think it's out of respect for the voters, but they're still being too nice to LaToya and the people around LaToya many of whom actually know what they're doing and have agency in this. In any case, they won.  Next year, as we deal with the consequences of that, it's important to stay clear on what those consequences are and who they favor. It's a shame that only the Tribune wrote about this as frankly as everyone who was paying attention should have. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

It hasn't stopped him yet

Sidney Torres is being discouraged from "investing" in New Orleans.
Torres is now raising holy hell about the Board of Zoning Adjustment's decision to uphold the zoning violations, which would prevent Torres from holding events at the church in the future. In a Facebook post announcing a temporary restraining order Torres has obtained that prevents the city from enforcing the zoning ordinance, Torres accuses city officials of political retribution, noting that he was critical of Mayor Mitch Landrieu after the city's floods in July and August.

"You are treated differently, shut down abruptly for political payback," Torres said. "This is why some business operators and investors raise an eyebrow before coming to New Orleans."
It's difficult to name a "business operator and investor" in this city who has benefited more by the special treatment he's been able to purchase from politicians over the years than Sidney.  If someone is out to get him they're doing an exceptionally bad job of it.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Shep is... out?

One of the first things we learned about LaToya Cantrell's mayoral campaign happened on the day of its official launch. During her speech, Cantrell appeared to call for the removal of all traffic cameras in the city.  But when questioned afterward, she and her spokespeople immediately walked that back to only the most recently installed cameras.

The apparent reversal drew even more questions and reporters prompting the candidate to.. reverse herself again.

Cantrell replied, "Based on the feedback from the community, it would only be those cameras that have been recently installed."

She went on to suggest she was skeptical of traffic cameras overall and reiterated her support for a study that would gauge all of their effectiveness. And, if they were found not to increase safety, Cantrell said she would do away with them altogether.

Cantrell spokesman David Winkler-Schmit on Wednesday offered a "further clarification" on the issue, bringing the candidate's position back to the full suspension she pledged in her speech Tuesday night.

The overall impression was that the campaign didn't know what its actual position was. This is a typical but also extremely bad indicator in politics. It suggests that the candidate doesn't actually care about issues in the pure sense that these are real problems affecting people's day to day lives. Rather she merely sees them as obstacles that need to be finessed in order to gain office. In other words, getting elected is an end to itself rather than an honest attempt to change things.

It looks now as though the Mayor-elect has brought this same moorless ethic with her into the transition.  How else does one explain the tone deaf inclusion of Derrick Shepherd in preliminary meetings with lawmakers and his sudden dismissal the second it became known to Cantrell's team that people might not like that.
However, Saturday's statement was the first time the Cantrell team directly answered a question about whether Shepherd might be in line for a role in the upcoming administration, a rumor that has been spreading in political circles over the past week.

Cantrell’s transition team was asked multiple times over several days about those rumors. The transition was also specifically asked to explain Shepherd’s presence at the meeting and was given multiple opportunities to say that he would not be playing a role in the administration.

In response to those questions, a spokesman for the transition would say only that no hiring decisions had yet been made. He did not directly address Shepherd’s presence at the meeting. Lawmakers, most of whom asked not to be named, have told The New Orleans Advocate that Shepherd was at the meeting and appeared to be there at Cantrell’s invitation.
We're not sure at this point the new administration-to-be cares about anything besides its own image. The fact that they're also so clumsy about managing this one thing they seem to care about is similarly discouraging if not more so.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Shep is... in?

All your favorites are back!
What could be a critically important relationship between the city's newly elected mayor and state lawmakers is off to a rocky start after Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell showed up at a meeting this week with one of the legislators' former colleagues: ex-con Derrick Shepherd.

Shepherd, a former state senator who served more than a year in federal prison after pleading guilty to money laundering, accompanied Cantrell to a meeting with New Orleans legislators designed to begin building relationships during the five-month transition before she is sworn in.
Now now let's not be to quick to judge. After all, despite his history as a money launderer and domestic abuser, Shep is an "ex" con. Which is why a lot of us were sympathetic to his attempts to get on the ballot for the state House in 2015. Ex offenders ought to have their basic civil rights restored once they've served their sentences. This is not to say, however, that they ought to be elected or appointed to political office. Only that they have a right to be denied those opportunities through the same process as anyone else.

In this case, then, it's up to LaToya to filter such a person out of her sphere of influence. Strange that she would not do that. Wasn't she supposed to be the candidate of draining the swamp and being all "Not For Sale" and whatnot? Wonder what happened.

Friday, December 22, 2017

What the tax cut means

Well they passed it. What now? For most of us, it means that, in February, we're going to get a little bump in our paychecks. Of course, there is a huge catch.
An average American family of four will get keep an extra $2,059 of their income, House Speaker Paul Ryan has said in a tweet pinned to his Twitter feed.

While that’s true in the first year, the tax cut diminishes over time and ultimately disappears altogether in 2025, when Republicans sunset almost all the individual tax relief provisions. According to a new analysis from the Tax Policy Center, even when the bill offers an across-the-board tax cut, in the first years of its implementation upper-middle- and upper-class Americans would receive most of the benefits. Nearly two-thirds of the benefits go to the richest fifth of Americans in 2018, as Vox’s Dylan Matthews explained.
So for the first few years you get a bit more money in your check.  Much of that will be immediately swallowed up by your ISP as they start to charge you more money for a shittier internet.  Also, of course, you will never be allowed to retire.

But that's just the stuff that's going to happen to you. And, in the dawning century, unless your name is Wyatt Koch or some such, what happens to you probably doesn't matter all that much.  What really matters now is what happens to the Republicans who voted for this thing.  And, in that case, I have some bad news.  I think they're gonna be just fine.

One of the key political difficulties the Democrats had with regard to Obamacare was the slow roll out of benefits. Key provisions of the law were scheduled to phase in over a period of years. And the overall aim of reducing insurance premiums for average people, always a dubious prospect, was itself not expected to take effect until years down the road.  All of this meant that the tangible benefits of the law wouldn't be immediately evident to most voters in time for it to affect the midterms.

The tax cut bill works in exactly the opposite way.  In a few short months, it will look for a moment as if everybody got a tax break. Now, we know that's not really what's happening. But for the period of time that concerns the 2018 midterms any counterargument to "We just made your paycheck bigger!" will be a tough sell at best.

Democrats who are hoping to turn anger at the rightfully unpopular tax law into wins next fall will have to be wary of this.  It may not go the way they think it's going to.

"Fresh start"

I never picked a side in the race to select the next Inspector General. I did offer several times to do the job myself but I am afraid my salary demands may have been a bit too high.

I do find it interesting,  however, that the board chose the candidate who does NOT have a history of siding with the independent police monitor,  who does NOT have a record of asking troublesome questions of even his superiors and who admits that, as a newcomer to the city, he will have to undergo a "learning curve" with regard to the local political landscape. But they say having a "fresh start" is important to them so I guess this will do that.
“I think given where we are coming from, we need a fresh start,” said Elizabeth Livingston de Calderon. The office has “an opportunity for changeover, and I would like to see that happen for us here.”

Harper acknowledged that he faces a “learning curve,” being an outsider in an often insular city, but he pledged to work with members of the community to produce results.

“My prime directive is, I can’t do this alone,” he said. “It’s to identify problems and fix them. It’s to restore, and to earn the trust and respect of this community, and make a difference.”
LOL "prime directive." Ok, nerd. Also looking to "restore and earn trust" is the Ethics Review Board itself. They can't wait to get a fresh start with the new guy seeing as how the old one was really starting to nag some of them.
Separately Wednesday, the Ethics Review Board took pains to cast itself as above reproach, in light of claims from Quatrevaux this past week that Miller, a lawyer who is the board’s chairman, had improperly represented the Sewerage & Water Board, an agency the IG’s office oversees, while serving on the ethics panel. Miller was critical of a report Quatrevaux released this year strongly attacking the S&WB.
Miller chairs a board that oversees the IG who oversees a different public board who happens to be his client. There's a hell of an ethicsy problem for our new guy to chew on.  I hope that leaning curve isn't too much for him.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The one billion dollar turnip

They're trying to come up with a framework under which a zombie FNBC can turn a billion hypothetical dollars worth of tax credits into an actual means of paying back creditors. The catch, though, is the dead bank still has to be successfully zombiefied.
Additionally, federal estimates suggest that First NBC's operating losses for 2017 are expected to exceed $700 million, a staggering figure that can ultimately be carried forward for accounting purposes to offset future tax liabilities.

First, the company would have to emerge from bankruptcy and likely move to acquire profitable businesses in order to use the tax benefits.

When it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May, the company's petition listed fewer than 50 creditors owed an estimated $65 million total. At the time, the company claimed assets worth just $6 million.

Under the terms of the settlement, First NBC Bank Holding Co. can pursue the nearly $1 billion in combined tax assets without facing a legal challenge by the FDIC.
Maybe if they bought, like, a bitcoin or something that would put it right.

We've always done it that way

The subpoenas have always been fake. Cannizzaro's real innovation was slightly better formatting, it seems.
In defending the notices, Assistant District Attorney Chris Bowman said earlier this year that they had been used for decades before Cannizzaro took office.

Harry Connick, who served from 1973 to 2003, said in an interview that was true, calling it an “accepted practice by predecessors.”

Connick, who was Herman’s boss when she was a prosecutor, said he didn’t know how frequently the documents were used. In the case reviewed by The Lens, prosecutors sent 10 notices telling witnesses to come in for questioning.

Connick stressed the differences between the documents from his time and the ones used under Cannizzaro. He said he doesn’t believe the notices his prosecutors sent truly resembled court orders.

“The only thing that I can see is that Karen Herman added a note that said ‘subpoena,’” he said after reviewing the documents. “That’s not what those things were.”

The DA subpoenas from Connick’s era were similar to those used until this year by North Shore DA Warren Montgomery’s office and looked like genuine subpoenas in use at the time. They said “CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT” at the top and declared, “YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED to appear before the District Attorney in the Criminal District Court for the Parish of Orleans … to testify to the truth according to your knowledge.”

Montgomery stopped sending them because they looked too much like genuine subpoenas and could mislead people.
In other words, it's a thing they all did as a matter of course until someone finally objected. Decades later. There are so many ways in which entitlements like this exist as a matter of course forever until people start to notice. Typically the play, then, is to blame it all on the one bad actor who happens to get called out at the time. In this case, that's Cannizzaro. But, really, the abuse extends far beyond just him. Odds are it will continue in some form after he's gone.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Depends on which witch you're hunting

I don't have any doubt that LaToya Cantrell's attorney is correct in saying Jeff Landry is subpoenaing her personal banking records out of blind spite.  But I am interested in the fact that it is specifically this subpoena they are insisting needs to be quashed.
Cantrell is seeking only to quash one of the subpoenas, which seeks her personal banking records. Gibbens has described Landry's pursuit of those records as "nothing more than an intrusive and harassing witch-hunt by a political opponent."
Again, I think they're right about Landry. He's a prick and he's just in this thing because it's advantageous to him to be seen harrying the (sort of) Mayor Of New Orleans at this time. For Jeff Landry, LaToya really is the only "witch" being hunted.

But what if there's some actual voodoo hiding in those records regardless.  Because included in Cantrell's personal records are delinquent taxes related to a home loan financed by First NBC. And, as we have leanred this year, FNBC was the preferred money club of the city's political elite for a while. But then the bank's strategy of converting post-Katrina rebuilding tax credits into pet projects for club members collapsed onto itself and ended the party.

While it was up and running, though, the money club would have worked best when it could ensure political favor for projects it was financing. Which is why it would want to do favors for people in politics.  And so it's of interest when the personal financial records of  a prominent politician with ties to FNBC show up in a court procedeing.

Anyway, you see where this is going. Jeff Landry is making this about LaToya's city credit card usage. And while that isn't exactly nothing, he's really hunting the wrong witch. There's actually a whole coven out there. And Cantrell's high powered lawyer is working to shut down the line of inquiry that could lead to it.

It's that time

It's a few days before Christmas and we all know what that means.  Super Krewe Royalty announcements! This year the assemblage of has-been musicians, D-list celebs, and mid-level character actors begins with the Krewe of Bacchus who is proud to announce their 2018 King will be That One Guy From That Thing.
The krewe of Bacchus will mark its 50th anniversary in 2018 by welcoming Academy Award-winning actor J.K. Simmons, known for a string of successful film and TV roles including in the current film Justice League, as its celebrity monarch, the krewe announced Tuesday.
Simmons won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as a ruthless jazz instructor in the 2014 movie Whiplash. He won a Golden Globe award for the role and the film was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar as well.
He portrays Commisisioner James Gordon, Batman's ally in the current box office hit, and will soon appear in the movie Father Figures. He is also slated to star in the new espionage drama, Counterpart, premiering January 21 on Starz.
Actually, as Bacchuses go, that's not half bad.  Endymion got an early jump on this stuff in September by saying they'll have Rod Stewart  and Jason Derulo to at least play their party.  But we're still waiting to hear about the grand marshal.  I wonder if Matt Lauer is available.

Whoever it is, I hope you weren't planning to catch them on Canal Street this year. They're going to be a whole lot easier to miss.
Plans are underway to eliminate the Canal Street loop for Mardi Gras 2018.

The traditional Uptown parade route allows the parades to turn left on Canal Street and loop around to the French Quarter side before making a turn to Tchoupitoulas Street.

The city said the change will increase safety.

"I will be disappointed. I would love for the parades to continue to loop around,” Elfreda Brooks, who works downtown, said. "People that work in the evening would be able to see it if it would circle back around, so if it would end early you wouldn't get that advantage."

One parade organizer in New Orleans addressed his krewe's updated route.

"We will come down St. Charles to Canal. Instead of taking a left and going down and making a U-turn and come back, we will take a right, stay on the same side of Canal Street and just go down to Tchoupitoulas like we normally did, take a right and end on Tchoupitoulas and Poydras," said Jake Romano, the president of the Krewe of Pygmalion, about the change.
Going up the street and back for a few blocks is just too unsafe all of a sudden. Who knew?

The Last #LALegi

Don't look now but we're only two months away from the next special session of the Louisiana Legislature (probably.) This would be the sixth installment of the Special Session franchise under JBE's governorship. The drama in this episode derives, as usual, from the approach of the dreaded "fiscal cliff." 
Nearly a year after a task force made several suggestions for stabilizing Louisiana's state budget, Gov. John Bel Edwards is urging the Legislature to return to those recommendations to solve the looming $1 billion "fiscal cliff" the state faces.

"The Legislature has yet to address the long-term structural tax reform that we need to implement," Edwards said Monday during a luncheon in Baton Rouge. "If we don't fix the cliff, no one is going to want to put their name on the cuts that are necessary."

One wonders how much longer they can drag this tired plotline out. I'm sure they would have considered selling the whole #LaLege cinematic universe to Disney but the "Hollywood South" thing is problematic, budgetarily speaking.

On the other hand, so is Louisiana's industrial tax exemption regime where, the Advocate reported last weekend, global corporations are routinely subsidized by the state even as they continually cut jobs.
Experts say it’s foolhardy to pay manufacturers to embark on projects that result in long-term job losses — even if it’s good for the company.

"It's one of the great mysteries of public policy: Why subsidize capital improvements for the manufacturing industry?" said Michael Hicks, director for the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University in Indiana. "You're spending a lot of money to attract jobs that won't actually come, or you're actually increasing the rate at which firms are likely to buy or substitute machinery for people."

The loss of jobs in manufacturing is hardly unique to Louisiana: Jobs in that sector are down nationwide, thanks to technological improvements and access to cheaper labor overseas. But given those trends, Hicks wonders why Louisiana and other states continue to lavish these businesses with tax breaks.

"Incentivizing a sector that is shrinking in employment doesn't make sense," he said.
Why would we keep doing this, then?  Well, in part it has to do with systemic political inertia.  The industrial tax incentives are structured in such a way that they primarily hit local parish and municipal budgets first and the state budget indirectly.  So legislators don't necessarily have to deal with them head on.  Instead, they argue over the consequences in the form of payments to  revenue starved local governments for schools, police, etc.  for which, of course, there is never enough money.

Say, for example, the city of New Orleans were to land Michael Bagneris's hypothetical "nuts and bolts" factory. No doubt there'd be a big press conference. Probably a brass band  would play and there would be some Mardi Gras Indians running around or something.  We'd all be told to rejoice that a "job creator" came to town because of "incentives" like the industrial tax exemption.  For the next ten years, the factory would pay little or no property tax depriving the city of revenue.    Meanwhile, the #FixMyStreets people still want their potholes filled, S&WB has to hire 300 people to run the pumps, NOPD wants another raise, etc.  But there's no help from Baton Rouge because, well, there's this fiscal cliff coming and... well, everybody is just gonna have to do "more with less."

Everybody but the Nuts and Bolts company, of course. They do quite well collecting their subsidy which isn't even tied to an actual jobs created quota or anything.  So there's nothing to stop them scaling back operations or downsizing/outsourcing jobs as the Nuts and Bolts business changes over time. There's also nothing to stop them closing or moving away once the deal runs its course. All the while the city, and indirectly, the state, are left with no tangible benefit.

Part two of the Advocate's report looks at how this precise scenario is currently playing out in Cameron Parish.  It's estimated that the Parish is missing out on as much as $700 million a year in revenue that should be generated by a massive boom in energy and chemical plant construction.
Even as Cameron Parish misses out on $700 million a year, its Police Jury is scraping by on a budget of about 1 percent of that sum: $8 million a year. Cameron Parish’s public school system, which is awash in red ink, makes do with just $22 million annually. In total, the parish collects about $38 million a year in property taxes, about 5 percent of what it gives away in exemptions.

Cameron and Calcasieu are among five Louisiana parishes -- the others are St. Charles, St. John and Iberville, all along the Mississippi River -- that in a typical recent year have exempted more property tax to industry than they have collected overall.
Just a few years ago a Wall Street Journal article that got passed around a lot described the supposed Louisiana industrial boom as "Qatar on the bayou." Oddly, this was intended as praise.. as was the article's gee whiz description of the fancy "Nazi" technology.
It is expensive, elaborate and dirty work. Sasol plans to reduce, or "crack," the gas into ethylene, a raw chemical used in plastics, paints and food packaging. It also plans to convert the gas into high-quality diesel and other fuels, using a process once advanced by Nazi scientists to power Panzer tanks. The state of Louisiana is even kicking in $2 billion of incentives to make it happen.
Not to worry, says perpetual industry shill Loren Scott. Surely this corporate tax giveaway will pay for itself.  That's how these always work, right?
"As an economist, I can only say,‘'Wow. Holy Cow,'" said Loren Scott, a Louisiana economist who has studied the state for 40 years. "We typically measured expansion in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars. Something like that makes your eyes bug out." He expects, for instance, that once 10-year tax-abatement deals expire, schools boards will "find themselves with a bonanza."
The bonanza is always just a decade away. Nevermind how many fiscal cliffs we need to plunge over before we get there. In the meantime, we'll just keep shelling out tax exemptions in exchange for, well, more job cuts. Makes about as much sense.  (Advocate graphic below)

On what one supposes must be the bright side, Sasol has just announced it is still building the Nazi inspired "cracker" but ditching an accompanying gas-to-liquids plant. And maybe that's for the best given the amount of money it saves. The Industrial Tax Exemption would have cost as much as $2 billion.
The state package that lured Sasol's GTL plant included $115 million for land acquisition and infrastructure costs.

It also included a rarely used rebate program designed to lure new industries and technologies. Under the Competitive Projects Payroll Incentive, Sasol could have gotten a payroll rebate of up to 15 percent for each GTL job, for up to 10 years, according to Louisiana's economic development department. Sasol expected the GTL project to create 750 jobs with an average annual salary of $88,000. Based on those numbers, the rebate would have amounted to about $9.9 million a year over 10 years.

Separately from those incentives, the Industrial Tax Exemption, a state-granted break on local property taxes, would have been worth an estimated $1.7 billion to $2 billion to Sasol had the GTL project gone forward.
Don't worry, though. The "cliff" is still real so we're definitely going to watch this movie again.  Will the coming session present us with creative new ways to confront the problem? Or will they fall into the same formulaic devices they relied on last year?
State lawmakers in 2016 agreed to temporarily increase the sales tax and roll back some credits and exemptions to plug the budget shortfall – at the time described as a "bridge" to a more comprehensive plan to be approved before the hike expires in July.

Given the opportunity to take up the issue during this year's legislative session, the Legislature, driven mostly by House Republican leadership's push for more spending cuts, didn't adopt any major proposals, prompting the need for a special session before the temporary measures expire in June.

"We have to get it done this time," Edwards, a Democrat, said.
 Or they could just keep setting up the next sequel.  Isn't that how this works now?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

John Kennedy says things

He's definitely having a little media moment this past week or so.

Specifically speaking, these are the people who could be "very pleased" by the bill's economic impact.
When the U.S. Senate takes up the final tax bill this week, more than a quarter of all GOP senators will be voting on a bill that includes a special provision that could give them a new tax cut through their real estate shell companies, according to federal records reviewed by International Business Times.

The provision was not in the original bill passed by the Senate on Dec. 1. It was embedded in the final bill by Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who is among the lawmakers that stand to personally benefit from the provision.

In response to Democratic lawmakers who have slammed the provision as a lobbyist-sculpted giveaway to the rich, Republican Majority Whip John Cornyn promoted on Twitter a column by Ryan Ellis, a registered bank lobbyist who has been working to influence the tax legislation and who has defended the provision.

In all, 14 Republican senators (see list below) hold financial interests in 26 income-generating real-estate partnerships — worth as much as $105 million in total. Those holdings together produced between $2.4 million and $14.1 million in rent and interest income in 2016, according to federal records.
Yes, John is on the list of 14. 

Standing offer still stands

I'm still happy to advise anyone looking to run against Steve Scalise next year.  As an example, here is an idea. Just keep asking him why he hates LSU so much.
The U.S. Senate is expected to sign off on the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" as early as Tuesday evening, following a near party-line vote in the House earlier in the day. Due to a procedural issue raised when it reached the Senate, the legislation will likely need one more vote in the House slated for Wednesday morning, before it's sent to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Tucked inside the bill is language that would eliminate a deduction for college sports fans who donate to their schools as part of priority systems tied to season ticket sales.

LSU officials say that potentially as mch as $50 million for the university's heralded athletic programs could be lost through the change.

"It could be disastrous — for not just us, but every athletic department in the country," LSU athletic director Joe Alleva recently told The Advocate.

Louisiana Reps. Steve Scalise, Garret Graves, Mike Johnson, Ralph Abraham and Clay Higgins, all Republicans, voted in favor of the legislation. Cedric Richmond, the lone Democrat in the Louisiana delegation, voted against it.
This and many other fantastic winning ideas are available to any candidate willing to give me one million dollars. 

I did this with the power of my awesome tweets

Not really but...

Unfortunately, people take things too literally these days.
Thousands of New Orleans Saints fans have signed an online petition to see an old favorite run onto the field Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

Reggie Bush.

The former Saints running back declared his retirement from professional football last weekend, saying he hoped for a return to New Orleans so he can make it official at the place where his career started.
It's really better as conceptual art, though, guys.  Nice try. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Things John Kennedy says

It's probably not a great idea to keep track of these. We're all well aware of John's quoteable-for-sake-of-being-quoted clown act and that we are validating it every time we tweet out the latest goofy thing he says. On the other hand, there are days when we regret not having a readily accessible catalog.  Still, it's probably too late to get started on that. There's too much backlog.

Anyway here is the new one.
Kennedy told WWL-TV Monday that he did not know that (Trump judicial nominee Matthew) Petersen was so inexperienced for the position.

“Just because you’ve seen “My Cousin Vinny” doesn’t qualify you to be a federal judge,” Kennedy said. “And he has no litigation experience. And my job on the judiciary committee is to catch him. I would strongly suggest he not give up his day job.”
This actually isn't quite so off the wall as some of the colorful things John says. It's on topic and, at least on its face, something we can all nod to.  And maybe that's the problem because what he is suggesting here is that we should all be reassured that our government's "checks and balances" are all in perfect operating order and producing good outcomes for us. 
Kennedy said that Trump called him Saturday to talk about the nominee. He said Trump did not personally interview Petersen and the nominations were chosen by his staff.

“He has told me, ‘Kennedy, when some of my guys send someone who is not qualified, you do your job,’” Kennedy said Monday.
You see, Trump really wants John Kennedy to tell him when he's wrong about stuff.  That sounds right, doesn't it?

Saturday, December 16, 2017

On the ground reporting

The literal stupidity of our age of stupid literal-ism is literally stupid.
The company moved into the high-rise building amid much fanfare in December 2012 under the leadership of then-publisher Ricky Mathews, who had been chosen by Advance Media, owners of The Times-Picayune, to bring the paper into what was called the "digital transition." At the time, Mathews told The Wall Street Journal, "The owners wanted us to be in a space that could make a statement," and in a public meeting with New Orleans' tech community, he boasted the offices would have a "Google-Nike kind of vibe." (While NOLA.com employees enjoyed the prime view, some complained about the lack of mobility that came with the location, and cellphone service on the 32nd floor has been spotty at best since day one.)

"It's a beautiful space with the best views in the city," NMG president Tim Williamson told Gambit, "but I think that it was a little disconnected from the community. There's a better way to foster collaboration, and I really want to make a better opportunity to connect to the community. I think a media company should be connected at ground level."
Because the new space is on a lower floor, they are more "connected to the community."  Similarly, Donald Trump thinks "transparency" in border wall construction means you can actually see through it.  Besides, I thought this was the media company who knew about all the communications technology and stuff. Of all people, they should know how to contact the community from a distance.

Their new office space is 1/3 the size of the old one. They say they aren't firing anybody though who can say what good their word is now? For all we know, it's a promise to not literally set anyone on fire. Anyway, this isn't the most encouraging thing.
The size of the new newsroom has some NOLA.com employees concerned that another downsizing may be on the horizon in 2018 — as did a letter last month from Advance Local CEO Randy Siegel, which said, in part, "We will respond better and more nimbly to needs in the markets. We’ll look for more and different ways to generate revenue, as well as operational efficiencies."

How to kill your city

Mitch Landrieu and Cedric Richmond wrote an op-ed together but, for some stupid reason, refused to sign it, "Cedric Mitchmond."   They're opposing the Trump tax bill which is primed for final passage and is also terrible. Here is, I guess, the heart of their statement.
But the writers of the Republican tax bill don't just have it out for families living in cities and towns. This bill amounts to a full-fledged assault on those cities and towns themselves. By calling for the elimination of key bonds and tax credits, Congress seems to be insisting that local governments support important economic and social priorities entirely on their own, even as some communities continue to recover from the economic crisis or other crises like this summer's major storms.

For years, cities have used federal bonds to support projects they know will be effective. They frequently use Private Activity Bonds to fund critical infrastructure like health care facilities, airports, and affordable housing. Tax credit bonds help them renovate schools. One particularly helpful federal program allows cities to repay their debt in advance, which saves taxpayers millions every year. All of those provisions have found their way to Congress' chopping block.
All of this is true. It's also true that many of the tax credits Mitch and Ced lament here are abused by local governments in ways that also constitute an "assault" on lower and middle class city dwellers to the benefit of Mitch and Ced's rich friends.  But, on balance, they are correct. Their slow bleed method of killing cities is somewhat less cruel (or at least less brazen) than Trump's and the Republicans' is.  Congrats. 

It's been fun

It's been fun

Inferior proto-Kamara is ready to retire.

“I’m done,” Bush said on NFL Network. “I’m done. I said it. It’s not breaking news. I’ve been saying it. I said it all season, I said, ‘Listen, if I don’t play this year, I’m going to retire.’ Because I’m not going to spend a whole year off, come back, 33 years old, trying to get back in the league. Listen, once you get to a certain age as a running back, they just start to slowly weed you out.”

Bush entered the NFL with the Saints as the second overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, and although he later spent two years with the Dolphins, two with the Lions, one with the 49ers and one with the Bills, he still considers himself a Saint.

“The Saints know I’m coming home at some point,” Bush said. “I’m going to come home to retire as a Saint. But yeah, man, I’m done. For sure. I’m done.”

For a million watt celebrity-athlete from USC, Reggie sure did have an average career.  As a Saint, he ranks 12th all time in rushing (right between Wayne Wilson and Archie Manning.) Of course that's not the whole picture. Reggie contributed most to the offense as Payton's "Joker" back which found him motioning out of the backfield, lining up in weird places, fumbling very stupid end-arounds that cost the team games and murdered people's grandmas. Also he caught passes sometimes which is why he ranks 21st  on the team all time in receiving yardage.

Maybe that's not exactly fair. For example, among Saints running backs Bush is only behind Pierre Thomas and Dalton Hilliard in receiving yards.  He's also fourth all time in punt return yardage including 4 touchdowns which is more than anybody.  Two of those touchdowns happened in the same Monday Night game against Minnesota (he nearly got a third one that night!) which, despite the fact that the Saints lost, is still one of the most amazing football games I've ever seen.

Also this was enjoyable.

Still, despite all the pomp that came with him, the Saints have managed to fill Bush's multi-purpose role with more productive players twice since he left. This doesn't mean he wasn't a significant presence in New Orleans, it's just that his career never was quite what we were expected to believe it would be.  Anyway it's more than enough for people to applaud when they trot him out at halftime to wave at everybody next year sometime.

Best wishes on your retirement, Reggie. Here's to a speedy recovery.


Thank God the "Not For Sale" side won

Otherwise, we might start to worry that this unfortunate privatization business might not be behind us. 
On Thursday, a selection committee of Sewerage and Water Board officials nixed the firm that sent in the lone proposal, Metairie-based ECM Consultants Inc., because it fell short of the 25-year minimum experience requirement. ECM, records show, first registered with the secretary of state's office in 1995 - leaving it three years short.

As such, committee members - on motion from interim superintendent Bruce Adams - unanimously vetoed the proposal and decided to kick the contract solicitation back to the agency's board of directors, though one member remarked that she was "incredibly impressed" by the proposal.

Ordinarily, we'd want to keep an eye on this. S&WB leadership is very much in flux at the moment and just because they said no to ECM's "staff augmentation" proposal this week doesn't mean they are opposed in principle. And a lot of things can change five months from now when the new mayor takes over.  Thankfully for us, though, the good guys won the election and the new mayor can't possibly be seen as someone who might owe ECM any favors or anything like that. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

The standing offers still stand

I'm just here to remind everybody that I am still available to serve as the next Inspector General or as one of the people who gets to investigate whoever is Inspector General or.. if need be.. a tertiary investigator of the investigators which is also a thing that happens sometimes.  It says here they are down to 4 candidates, which doesn't seem like enough.  My resume must have gotten lost somewhere. Did they look under Leon's big document backload?

Meanwhile, this is happening very soon.
The special election to fill state Rep. Helena Moreno’s seat in the state legislature has been set for March — with qualifying less than a month away in January — and the newly-elected member of the City Council says she will resign from the legislature as soon as her replacement is elected so that the seat does not go unfilled during the busy upcoming legislative session.
The primary is set for March 24. Qualifying is January 3-5. That is practically tomorrow! Who wants this seat? Do you live in District 93?  Let me know ASAP. I will tell you how to win it for one million dollars. 

Also in 2018, every US House seat is up for grabs again.  Today we read that Paul Ryan is feeling a little intimidated by Iron Stache considering retirement.  And you know what that means.
Either way, the convergence of these realizations—Ryan wanting to retire after 2018, and a possible threat to his speakership even sooner—has sparked a flurry of activity in the offices of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the two most likely successors to Ryan.
Sooo... who is ready to run against Steve Scalise? It's a congressional race so you don't even have to live in the district! All the talk now is about emboldened Democrats challenging every seat in every state. Now is the time to do this.  My fee is one million if you call now. If you wait until I win somebody that State House seat, though, I can't promise it won't go up.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Will the last person to get kicked off the internet please turn off the lights?

Here is how stupid this whole thing is.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai appeared Wednesday in a video promoting his impending net neutrality repeal, dancing with a woman who has a history of promoting the so-called "Pizzagate" conspiracy.

The Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which proliferated during the final days of the 2016 presidential race, posits without evidence that high-ranking Democrats were involved in a nonexistent pedophile ring based out of a Washington, D.C. pizzeria. In December 2016, a man motivated by the conspiracy theory fired a gun in the business.

The video, produced by conservative outlet The Daily Caller, features Pai insisting that the FCC's impending, highly criticized repeal of net neutrality will not affect what users can do online.

In one clip, Pai is seen dancing alongside Martina Markota, a video producer for The Daily Caller.
People are confident this will be overturned in the courts. But Trump is packing the courts with conservative troglodytes. People are confident the next Democratic administration will reverse this but, let's face it, the telecoms own them too. By the time the opportunity comes along, everyone will have their noses in enough troughs to hem and haw it all away.

This is a huge loss. If you think the world we live in now is isolating and demoralizing, just wait til you see what it's like without an open internet.  I'm an old now so I remember that time and am not excited to go back there. 

I'm sure it will look very nice

The illustrations of the new Canal Street ferry terminal seem to suggest it will look nice.
Here is what the new terminal won't do, though.  As has been the case for a few years now, it won't serve actual commuters anymore. That purpose was greatly deemphasized with the conversion to pedestrian-only boats. It also won't run 24 hours as West Bank commuters who work late in the French Quarter have been asking for years to no avail.  It won't be free for anyone in either direction. The fares were hiked up when RTA/Veolia took over operation from the state.  So, really, what we're talking about here is a boat ride that gets tourists across to special events in the Point from time to time. Still, it will look nice.

Also the bridge still won't have a roof. (Because Ryan Berni says he doesn't want to coddle the homeless.) It will have a $2 million video art board that promotes the Aquarium.  Most importantly we finally learned what that "iconic structure" Mitch promised us so long ago was going to be.  Turns out it's.. well.. it's the ferry terminal.
All these developments, Landrieu said in Friday's news release, should make for a "completely new riverfront experience in 2018, the 300th anniversary of our city's founding."

Likewise, O'Reilly said Tuesday that the terminal design squares with the holistic view of a more open riverfront.

We’re providing what we like to say is a very iconic structure, as the foot of Canal Street deserves," he said. "It’s been a long time since that area had an update.”
Anyway tl;dr, RTA is once again spending money on doing everything except actually serving its ridership.  They're also passing some money around, of course, which is usually the point.  Here is a deep-divey thread on all that from Danil

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The important thing is that they get the PILOT

What does the city get in return?  Nobody knows, really.  
The developer of a 208-unit apartment complex in the Lower Garden District near the Pontchartrain Expressway will receive a tax break to build workforce housing. The Annunciation development is coming up on the site of a former Schwegmann's grocery store, between Melpomene and Thalia streets.

Instead of property taxes, Ohio-based Edwards Communities will make a direct annual payment to the city for 12 years for the property in the 1300 block of Annunciation Street. The Industrial Development Board approved the incentive Tuesday (Dec. 12) known as a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT.
It says "workforce housing." But that can mean anything or even nothing depending on what the developer decides. Note, they don't seem to be required to do anything.
Mike Sherman, an attorney for the developer, said Edwards would set aside 10 apartments as rent-restricted, although it wasn't a requirement for the project to receive the incentive or design approval from the city. The Annunciation was envisioned as a workforce housing development, targeting renters who make from 80 percent to 120 percent of the area's median income, Sherman said. According to the most recent federal government calculations, the median household income for the New Orleans metropolitan statistical area was $48,343 in 2015.
If they live up to this non-mandated pledge, all we'll see is 10 "rent-restricted" units. Again, that could mean anything or nothing. We are asked to "envision" rents based on 80 to 120 percent of $48,000. (The median income in Orleans Parish itself is closer to $35,000.) If we assume the standard 30% of household income definition of cost-burdensome rent, then that means these 10 apartments could cost anything from $960 to $1440 a month. Nothing on that spectrum strikes me as especially affordable.  Maybe when I get one of those sweet DXC jobs things will be different, but for now, it's pretty tight. Not that any of this matters. The important thing was they wanted to give somebody a tax break so they did.

Still, I'm sure we'll hear about  how this as another example of how LaToya's New Orleans gives "incentives" to the "landlord community" to help neighborhoods "find balance."  They really are doing all they can do.

Many people would prefer not to be kicked off the internet

It's not as though the Trump FCC gives a shit, but some of these people write to them anyway.
To see who will be affected, simply walk into any New York City library branch. See the students who literally cannot do their homework without our computers. See the parents and caregivers who are learning English and applying for jobs online to improve their circumstances. See the higher education students, independent researchers, and scholars who need our databases and online collections to further scholarship. Imagine how frustrated they will be, how demoralized, that they can no longer access what they need.


The Louisiana ACLU has some things to say about Mitch Landrieu's plan to install surveillance cameras in every bar, restaurant, and corner store in the city.
The New Orleans City Council recently proposed an ordinance, No. 32-107, that would put the city's already-intrusive surveillance apparatus on steroids, subjecting New Orleanians to near-constant monitoring of their daily lives.

While presented as an innocuous measure to reduce crime, this heavy-handed government surveillance mandate would impose exorbitant costs, violate the constitutional right to privacy, undermine trust with the community and have a chilling effect on our public spaces - without reducing crime or making the city safer.
 See also, this
The Trump administration is spying on us. It’s wrong, un-American, and unconstitutional.

Under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the National Security Agency operates at least two spying programs, PRISM and Upstream, which threaten our privacy and violate our Fourth Amendment rights.

Section 702 will expire in 2017, so Congress has to decide soon whether to reauthorize or replace it. We have a real chance at winning important reform to put constitutional limits back on government surveillance.
But how can we effectively push back against the fascistic Trump Administration's surveillance operations if our mayor and mayor elect endorse the same sort of policy?  I am of the belief that, all politics being local, we ought to start with the fascists on our own block and then go from there. We failed so badly at this this year in New Orleans... but that's another post.

The New Orleans DSA chapter has some things to say about Trump's tax plan.
This is the many-times-debunked "trickle-down economics" at its absolute worst. Kennedy professes to care about fiscal responsibility on the part of the individual citizen. What part of increasing the deficit by a trillion dollars is fiscally responsible? U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy claims to care about providing health care to the working poor. But the repeal of the individual mandate will raise premiums and increase uninsured rates drastically. This tax scam cuts almost $400 million in Medicare in Louisiana next year alone.

This will cost lives. Any appeal they invoke to ideology is a sham: this is a giveaway to the rich and corporations. Our senators are appeasing their donors off the backs of the poor. Not only that, but the bill was passed in the middle of night with illegible handwritten notes scribbled in the margins. Those are not the signs of a healthy democracy. That is a sign of extreme disregard for the voices of the people. Stand up for your constituents, senators, and use your seats in the Senate to stop the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
So now Bill Cassidy is all freaked out about the commies under his bed or something.  Meanwhile, the bill itself looks like it's on its way out of conference. So if anybody has any more ideas on how to scare Cassidy, now would be the time. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Torah Torah Torres

Sidney should just go the full nine and have Late Capitalism declared a religion.  It's where the world has been headed for quite a while now anyway. The trep who gets the early jump on the grift is automatically Pope or something.
After last year’s renovations, The Monastery was given a permit to operate as a religious facility. Justin Schmidt, Torres’ attorney, told the board that at the time he and Safety and Permits Director Jared Munster had agreed that they wouldn’t debate what constitutes a religion.

The initial discussions seemed to envision the site being used mainly for religious-related events such as weddings and associated receptions.

But Munster said the actual events — which included a multi-day vampire-themed party and other balls and galas — have gone far beyond what had been represented. And advertising that paints the site as perfect for corporate events and conferences of up to 1,500 people further showed a lack of religious leanings, he said.


Everybody knows the correct way to build a better city is to make nice things for rich people and then watch them sprinkle their magic everywhere.  Why do you people hate development so much? Check your privilege and let us work.
“Do I wish that was a more diverse neighborhood reflective of the city and society as a whole? Absolutely,” said Golden, director of the Boston Planning and Development Agency. “But we’ve been using our limited tools to nurture economic development over there for the last 20 years to make sure those benefits are felt in lots of direct and indirect ways throughout the city.”

He noted that while the $18 billion in public investment has not created a racially inclusive waterfront, it has brought jobs, tax payments, and other benefits to “a huge swath of Bostonians.”
If you don't let us do the red lining and the publicly subsidized gentrification, none of these job creators will be able to trickle down on you.  That's how this works. Did you not read the Trump tax plan?  Just ask LaToya. She knows
Charbonnet later accused Cantrell of supporting incentives for Magnolia Marketplace, a new shopping center on South Claiborne Avenue, so that the developer — who Charbonnet said was a “political friend” of Cantrell’s — could keep the extra cent of sales tax imposed on the site. Charbonnet said that tax, which she said is now the highest sales tax in the country, is hurting poor residents in the area.

Cantrell defended the project, saying it was needed to attract national retail stores to an area of town that had seen disinvestment after Hurricane Katrina and that it is on track to pay off the incentive early. She also denied knowing who Charbonnet was referring to as her “political friend” and pushed back against the idea that the extra tax — which covers only the shopping center itself — is falling on low-income residents nearby.

“The facts are this. Maybe you don’t understand the need for national retail throughout the city of New Orleans,” Cantrell said. “The people that are patronizing it, the customers, are from throughout the city.”
I wonder if they took LaToya and the Mayorlings on a tour of Seaport when they were at the Kennedy School orientation last month.  The little strip mall with the TJ Max is fun and all but those people really know what to do with the big bucks.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The NFL is a failing empire

I was all set to write a thing about myopic Saints fans whining about #TheRefs after the Falcons game.  The gist would have been this. I don't understand why football fans deliberately pour so much unhealthy resentment into this thing they ostensibly do for fun.   Referees, like the athletes they're charged with regulating, are humans. They do unpredictable things.  Sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they make egregious mistakes. Sometimes they just out and out suck.  It's suboptimal when they do not suck in our team's favor.  But it's no less entertaining. Or, at least, it shouldn't be.

There's a necessary catharsis in the revelation that humans, particularly humans invested with petty authority, have no idea what they're actually doing.  The triumph of absurdity over authority is probably the most compelling theme in sports. That it doesn't always work out in your team's favor doesn't make it any less interesting. Sometimes two teams' week of intense preparation gets thrown out the window because they suddenly have to play in a blizzard. Sometimes there's a butt fumble.  Sometimes a Hall Of Fame Quarterback throws an idiotic interception in the endzone with the game on the line.  Sometimes a dude just throws a flag into the stands and walks out. I would argue that it's these moments and not the rare, fleeting moments of triumph that we actually pay to see. What seem like are little failures are actually reasons for hope.  The world is cruel and unjust.  It's encouraging to remember that even its most crushingly brutal systems can be upended by chance.

Having said all of that, we were reminded this weekend that the world is not only cruel and unjust but also corrupt. It's fitting, then, that the failing empire note we began this football season with should assert itself so brazenly into the narrative.
A pair of stories came to light Sunday that likely will make people in New Orleans look at the NFL sideways.

The league used a former Atlanta Falcons player on the officiating crew for the Saints game Thursday against the Falcons, and it hired a key member of the so-called bounty scandal to work for the league office.
The former Falcon ref isn't the big deal here. But it is funny and adds spice to the larger farce that is the Cerullo hiring.  It's a clear abuse of power by the league office where the personal grudges against Sean Payton obviously continue to fester.
Meanwhile, Fox’s Jay Glazer reported Sunday morning that the NFL has hired former Saints employee Mike Cerullo as a director of football administration.

Cerullo, who was a defensive assistant for the Saints, was the whistleblower who provided the evidence needed for the league to start its bounty investigation against the Saints in 2011. The team said he held a grudge against the organization for being fired.

Cerullo has since worked as Princeton's director of football operations before being hired by the league. The league office said he has no input on disciplinary matters.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton responded to the news on Twitter.

“Troubling report by @JayGlazer regarding league hiring of fired @Saints employee,” Payton wrote. “Unbelievable.”
It's still probably not worth going apoplectic about the quality of the officiating. Sometimes it's bad and failure to be perfect is what this game is all about, really.  But it's now, at least, credible to stipulate that it the officiating is, not only poor, but also... "rigged" isn't the word.. weighted(?) against the Saints a little bit.  Previously I would have thought that was stupid. So, you know, new things are happening. That's fun.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Hotel Edmonson

Trip Advisor: The amenities are pretty ok. But for such an exclusive establishment,  we expected a bit more. The gym and the pool are pretty nice but lack the "wow" factor of something like,  say, the lazy river over on the LSU campus. On the other hand, we were really impressed with the service.
Among the allegations Edmonson faces is that, unlike previous superintendents, he moved his family into the State Police compound and lived there rent-free for nine years — a benefit that the state apparently did not report to the Internal Revenue Service.

State auditors recently found that the Edmonsons lived off inmate labor, making use of trusties who cooked, cleaned and even walked the family dog at the colonel's residence. The questionable use of state resources included the construction of a shoe closet for Edmonson's wife.
All in all we would probably book again. You can't beat the rates anywhere. Next time we'll look into one of these excursion packages.
Other regular guests included Senior Trooper Thurman D. Miller and Lt. Derrell Williams, both of whom were disciplined this year for taking a circuitous "side trip" to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon as they drove across the country to attend a law enforcement conference in California.
While the base rates are gratis, you might still want to bring a credit card along for incidentals.  We can help you find one with a favorable payment schedule.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Time capsule

This was recorded a week ago which seems like a lifetime. I mean, that's two whole Saints games ago now. But there's some good stuff. Trump tax cuts, local election aftermath, a review of the Discovery of Voyager show at the Music Box. Other stuff, of course. Anyway, enjoy. Or don't.

Friday, December 08, 2017


Huey Long's Share Our Wealth radio address 1934
But the Scripture says, ladies and gentlemen, that no country can survive, or for a country to survive it is necessary that we keep the wealth scattered among the people, that nothing should keep the wealth scattered among the people, that nothing should be held permanently by any one person, and that 50 years seems to be the year of jubilee in which all property would be scattered about and returned to the sources from which it originally came, and every seventh year debt should be remitted.

Those two things the Almighty said to be necessary—I should say He knew to be necessary, or else He would not have so prescribed that the property would be kept among the general run of the people, and that everyone would continue to share in it; so that no one man would get half of it and hand it down to a son, who takes half of what was left, and that son hand it down to another one, who would take half of what was left, until, like a snowball going downhill, all of the snow was off of the ground except what the snowball had.
The disastrous Republican tax plan being hammered out in Congress now will either repeal or greatly reduce the estate tax.  Here is how that would affect the snowball.
Mother Jones spoke with Americans for Tax Fairness, an advocacy group focused on progressive tax reform, about how these changes to the estate tax will benefit the ultra-wealthy, specifically the top 15 richest Americans, as ranked and reported by Forbes. If the exemptions are doubled, each estate would save $4.4 million for a couple, or $2.2 million for a single person. And if the tax is repealed, that’s where things get interesting: According to numbers crunched by Americans for Tax Fairness, in that scenario, the people who inherit money from this tiny group of people could potentially save more than a whopping $300 billion combined. And the families of GOP-megadonors Charles and David Koch could collectively save nearly $39 billion, while the heirs of Republican kingmaker and moneyman Sheldon Adelson could be looking at $14 billion.
Aaanyway. Here are some photos of a big kitty in the snow today to cheer everyone up. 

Sean Payton and Drew Brees should just retire

One could argue that Sean Payton personally lost the game last night.
ATLANTA -- The New Orleans Saints could have had one last chance to tie or win Thursday's game against the Atlanta Falcons, but a penalty on coach Sean Payton ended any hope the team had.

After the Saints defense stopped the Falcons on second down, with linebacker Michael Mauti forcing a fumble by Devonta Freeman but one Atlanta recovered, Payton tried to call the team's third and final timeout to stop the clock with about 1 minutes, 5 seconds remaining. But, the nearest official apparently didn't give Payton the timeout immediately, which led the coach to run onto the field and yell at the official.

The screaming resulted an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Saints' bench and gave the Falcons a first down that allowed them to run out the rest of the clock and seal a 20-17 victory.

"I called a timeout and then (the official) asked me again and I said, 'I've already called a timeout,'" Payton said after the game. "I probably said it with a little more oomph or vigor than I was supposed to, but I'd had enough. I got to be smarter than that."
Had Payton managed to restrain himself, the Saints could have ended up with the ball and about 20 seconds left to do something desperate. So maybe it's a bit far fetched to say he lost the game there. On the other hand, he did decide to throw the ball on 2nd and 10 down by three and in easy field goal range with timeouts left. It probably wasn't his idea to throw an interception at that point. But if it was, then it was a bad one.

But rather than worry about whether the loss last night was more the coach's or the quarterback's fault, I have a more interesting question.  Why does either of them still do this?  They've each played a long time and made all the money they'll ever need. They won a Superbowl together so there's not a compelling football reason to keep at it. Brees is 76 years old and yet he continues to subject his body to obscene physical punishment in full knowledge of the danger he is in.
Given all the injuries, it wasn't surprising quarterback Drew Brees didn't hold back when asked about playing after a short week of preparation.

"It's 100 percent a product of playing on Thursday night," Brees said. "You understand what guy's bodies go through in a game, and then to turn around four days later and play a game?

"Look at the injury studies. They're off the charts. Is this smart, as it pertains to guys' health and safety? No, absolutely not."
The NFL is a grueling bloodsport. It appropriates vast sums of public money into the hands of billionaires while grinding human bones, joints and brains into powder.  Brees is aware that he and so many others are fodder for this exploitation. He's among the lucky minority to make it through the abattoir with his financial security and (maybe) his health intact.  Why doesn't he just quit while he's ahead?

Payton doesn't face the same physical hazards but he does have a ridiculously stressful and demanding job. Especially so for someone who, again, has made a ton of money and attained the highest achievement possible.  Maybe he just enjoys the aggravation of a boss who persecutes subordinates when they question obvious incompetence.  
The NFL will evaluate New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton's conduct toward the referees in Thursday night's loss to the Atlanta Falcons, according to multiple reports.

It doesn't seem healthy, though.  Why do they keep doing these unhealthy jobs?

Thursday, December 07, 2017

S&WB/Veolia thread

Not everybody uses Twitter. But anyone can look at it when the occasion arises. Here is a thread for you.

Big gun

LaToya hired a lawyer.
An attorney for New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell is fighting a bid by Attorney General Jeff Landry's office to recuse all 12 judges of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court from its investigation into her credit-card activity as a councilwoman.

Cantrell has hired a legal heavy hitter, attorney Billy Gibbens, a former federal prosecutor who has defended several high-profile criminal defendants and government targets.
Which is fine. I mean, the state Attorney General is going after her in what is, for him, an obvious attempt to score political points around Louisiana by harassing the Mayor-Elect of  New Orleans over corruption allegations.  Landry is basically already running for Governor and this stunt certainly doesn't figure to hurt his chances. Grace points out in this column that by jumping the gun on a concurrent legislative auditor's investigation, Landry might actually screw it all up. That would be unfortunate and amusing in equal parts.

At the same time, somebody should probably be looking into the entitled ways in which the city's political leadership throws around public money. Like we said during the campaign, it's unfortunate the way the credit card story was reduced to a cheap political attack. But that doesn't mean it's not worth pursuing. There's a tight circle of developers, non-profit socialites, and financiers who presume to run things in New Orleans. This looks like a story that might tie into that.

Anyway, the money club faction is riding pretty high having just installed Cantrell as the next mayor.  So we're pretty okay with watching them squirm now.  It would be nice if Landry would butt out of the process, but I guess we can't have everything.
But here's the thing.  Cantrell hired a big time lawyer.
Cantrell is only the latest big name on Gibbens' client list. That roster also has included Darren Sharper, the former Saints safety and admitted serial rapist; Robert Durst, the New York real estate heir and reality TV celebrity murder suspect; and local trash magnate Fred Heebe.

Led by Gibbens, Heebe's aggressive counter-attack while in the crosshairs of the FBI included exposing the notorious online posting scandal inside former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office.
It could be that's overkill.  Even if she doesn't think there's anything to the investigation, the stakes are pretty high when you are the Mayor-Elect so it's a good idea not to take anything for granted.  On the other hand, that's a big gun hire. Maybe there's something else to it. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017


I'll take the under if we're betting on this. But that's not important. In the case of a possible light dusting, there are, as always, two pertinent questions. 1) Can the pumps handle it?  2)  When do we shut down the city and give everyone the day off?

Kicking each other (and you) off the internet

I dunno. Maybe content should be universally accessible across platforms and networks instead of subject to artificial proprietary fragmentation benefiting one or another oligopolic megaliths.
The latest standoff between Google and Amazon was ridiculed by a trade association of high-speed internet providers. The group, USTelecom, has been trying to persuade skeptics that internet providers will preserve equal access to all digital services, even if the Federal Communications Commission adopts a proposal to rescind current "net neutrality" regulations .

Internet providers are committed to "protections like no content blocking or throttling," said USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter. "Seems like some of the biggest internet companies can't say the same. Ironic, isn't it?"

 Or maybe this is the best of all possible worlds. Who is to say?

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Why is the news fake?

Yeah yeah, the President is a totalitarian ogre who thrives on de-legitimatizing the authority of the press and the very possibility of objective facts.  And, yeah yeah, that's not exactly a new part of the right wing playbook with copious examples accumulated over the course of the past century.    Yeah yeah, David Brock created a bunch of Upworthy style propaganda websites that took advantage of Facebook algorithms in order to promote the Clinton campaign. There's a lot of bad political info out there.

But if you really want to know why "fake news" has traction as an epithet, it's because a lot of the news is, in fact, fake.
Interviews with more than two dozen marketers, journalists, and others familiar with similar pay-for-play offers revealed a dubious corner of online publishing in which publicists, ranging from individuals like Satyam to medium-sized “digital marketing firms” that blur traditional lines between advertising and public relations, quietly pay off journalists to promote their clients in articles that make no mention of the financial arrangement.People involved with the payoffs are extremely reluctant to discuss them, but four contributing writers to prominent publications including Mashable, Inc, Business Insider, and Entrepreneur told me they have personally accepted payments in exchange for weaving promotional references to brands into their work on those sites. Two of the writers acknowledged they have taken part in the scheme for years, on behalf of many brands
Maybe the "traditional lines between advertising and PR" would be less blurry if media companies were invested in keeping them un-blurred.  One good way to do that would be to pay writers. Instead, they offer "opportunities" to freelancers looking to build a "personal brand."  
The Fast Company writer also defended the practice by arguing that it’s enabled by editors who are hungry for cheap or unpaid blog content. Many high-volume sites, including the Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and Forbes, maintain networks of unpaid contributors who publish large amounts of material. Forbes, for instance, marks articles by contributors with a small disclaimer, but the Columbia Journalism Review has pointed out that those dubiously sourced articles are often cited as though they were normal stories written by Forbes staff. In reality, the editorial process that leads to those articles being published is opaque — a Forbes spokesperson declined to answer questions about how many contributors the site has, whether they’re ever paid, or whether an editor reviews their work before publication. One former Forbes contributor, Josh Steimle, has even offered a “masterclass” on how to get published on the site, an accomplishment he described as “rewarding for both my personal brand and my digital marketing agency.”

For writers willing to accept payments in exchange for coverage, that’s an opportunity.
So everybody climbs all over each other in a competition for piecework or even unpaid piecework in the hope that can be monetized somehow. And it turns out the way to monetize a "personal brand" is to sell out one's.. person..  to advertisers. It's a practice that debases not only the exploited labor but also the "brands" of the capitalist media companies who enable and profit by it.  Eventually nobody believes the news is real anymore. Why would they?

But that's the gig economy.  Our hyper-individualized society forces us to "brand" our private selves, our hobbies, our free time, and, yes, homes, into saleable (the euphemism is shareable) products. Sometimes these opportunities converge. Such as when an STR marketer sends an automated pitch to your blog based on keywords.
Hi Jeffrey,

I hope this message finds you well.

While researching about travel, my team noticed the Airbnb mention you have on Library Chronicles. My name is Andrea and I’m part of the Creative Team at AllTheRooms, a vacation rental search engine. Our aim is to make travelers’ lives easier.

You are welcome to link www.alltherooms.com to your page as well. AllTheRooms shows results from every major booking site on the Internet, including Airbnb, Couchsurfing, Hostelworld, Expedia, Booking.com, and any other major booking site on the Internet. We believe it would be a great addition to your article.

If you have any questions about AllTheRooms, we would be happy to answer them.

Thank you,

Andrea & the Creative Team
They didn't offer one million dollars so I never got back to them.