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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

This will help John make up his mind

Pretty interesting that Jeff Landry is dropping out of the Governor's race now after spending the past few years obviously laying the groundwork to run. He's also publicly prodded other potential Republican candidates to make up their dang minds so he could run with a clear field. Jeff also ran up a bunch of trial balloon issues to see if anything would get him some traction ahead of time. Maybe he wasn't satisfied with the way any of that played out. For example, Landry was among the very few high profile politicians to publicly oppose Amendment 2 this year.  He can't have been happy with that result.

Anyway, from the looks of things, the door is wide open for John Kennedy now if he wants it. (he does) I keep hearing that even though David Vitter is out of public life he still does his fair share of  mentoring behind the scenes. I wonder if he helped to broker this.

Also this means the Democrats have an opportunity to run a hard charging anti-Landry campaign for Attorney General if they can manage to field a candidate.  Given the way they've more or less conceded the open seat races for Treasurer and Secretary of State recently, it's likely they aren't up for it, though.

If only we were better at means testing

You know what might make a problem like this go away?  See if you can guess.
Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's office found problems with the agency's infrequent use of wage data from the state labor department to determine eligibility.

The report says since Gov. John Bel Edwards expanded the state's Medicaid program in July 2016, the department has relied on Medicaid recipients to self-report changes in their paychecks in the 12-month period between the initial application for Medicaid and coverage renewal.

Auditors suggested more frequent checks using available state wage data should be used to ensure Medicaid recipients aren't earning more than allowed to qualify. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and other states do quarterly reviews to check eligibility against income data, the report says.

The report also found errors in the work done by health department caseworkers. In addition, auditors said the agency didn't double-check income information when federal officials determined people who applied for individual marketplace insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act were instead deemed eligible for the Medicaid expansion program. Those federal officials don't have access to state wage data, the report says.

"Without a sufficient process to determine recipient eligibility, LDH cannot ensure that Medicaid dollars are spent appropriately," Purpera wrote to legislative leaders in the audit.
Imagine if we could just give people health care without a convoluted process for determining whether or not they are eligible. What if... everybody was eligible?  That's crazy talk, though, right?
Universal social programs are based on the principle, as single-payer health care advocate Dr Quentin Young would later put it, of “Everybody in, nobody out.” The goal is to establish a sense of mutual accountability and mutual benefit across society. The method is to enshrine cooperation and solidarity in the institutions by which the state distributes public resources.
Oh hey speaking of crazy talk, Senator Kennedy also has some comments.




John knows that Medicaid operates through private health providers, right? I mean, apart from the contracting and means testing role of the health department, we're very much in the "private sector" already. 

Anyway none of that is his point.  His point is, John is still seriously considering running for Governor next year. We should have his decision in a week or so.

Already busted?

Leaving aside the larger issue of it being well past time to move away from fossil fuels altogether, I wonder what a 2019 election season in Louisiana will look like if the background context is falling oil prices?
The selling leading up to Wednesday was further exacerbated as traders unwound long oil - short natural gas trade, market participants said. As oil crashed from the high touched in October, natural gas futures NGc1 soared as much as 56 percent during that time to a 4-1/2 year high.

Moreover, financial firms hedging the risk incurred by selling put options to oil producers, generating added downward pressure when prices fall toward option strikes, Goldman Sachs said in a note.

Oil markets are being pressured from two sides: a surge in supply from OPEC, Russia, the Unites States and other producers; and increasing concerns about a global economic slowdown.

“This market is attempting to find a price bottom following an unprecedented 12 consecutive days of decline,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, said in a note.
Also, did you know, the US is the world's leading producer now?  

Gratuitous pictures of gumbo

Remember when we all used to just blog about food and cooking and stuff?  And when we did that, almost everything we made was, like, simple shit that everyone knows how to make anyway. (Like this. This one had food AND football in it. Remember when we used to blog about football all the time?)   It was so quaint.  Who would even want to read that now? 

I mean, sure, the weather is finally getting nice. And we know everybody is making a gumbo. But, geeze, shut up about it already. Nobody has time to deal with an article whose point is just, basically, "let's look at some gumbo now" Right?

Don't get me wrong. We definitely prepared for all of this on Saturday. As we all know, the moment the temperature drops below 60, everyone is required to complete their obligatory gumbo and present it at the Clerk Of Court's office for validation by close of business two weeks hence. We are happy to report that we are in compliance. Would you like to see?

Gumbo pot

This, unfortunately, is more than we can say for the Junior League-ish organization of Andersonville Georgia who compiled this book of "Receipts" we found in a junk shop last week.

Andersonville Skillet

There's a pretty nice smothered okra recipe in there. But I wouldn't pass it off as gumbo.

Georgia gumbo recipe has no roux\


Oh also, while we're on the topic of gratuitous and boring food news, congratulations to Chef James Cullen on taking charge of the kitchen at Upperline where he will not be frying any chicken.
Cullen has been known for his fried chicken, which is modeled on the version of the great chef Austin Leslie. Unfortunately, that won't be added to the Upperline menu, not even as a special. The kitchen, he said, is too small. He has, however, been making the fried chicken to feed his staff before the restaurant opens. So if you want to eat Cullen's fried chicken, you'll have to get a job at Upperline.
Luckily, Chef James, seen here catering an LSU tailgate in 2014, does have other talents.  I remember liking the greens a lot.

Tailgating

Cullen tailgate

The Upperline menu is, I guess, you'd call it "traditional" now although the tradition it pulls from is more along the lines of the mid-90s New Orleans bistro. They do have a gumbo, though. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Busy 12th Night

I don't really know how to feel about this.

Twelfth Night (Jan. 6) will see more parading action this year as the Funky Uptown Krewe gets on a streetcar to ride along St. Charles Avenue after the Phunny Phorty Phellows.

The krewe was founded by a group of friends who gathered at Avenue Pub for the Phunny Phorty Phellows parade. "We thought, 'Why can’t we do this?'” krewe spokesman Craig Mangum said.

They used the Phunny Phorty Phellows as inspiration.“We didn’t want to step on their toes,” said Mangum, “yet we thought we could add something different.”
Something different is always welcome. We actually got something different for Twelfth Night a few years back when the "Societé de Champs Elyseé" started riding the Rampart Streetcar. The crosstown "rivalry" implied by that adds something fun. I'm not sure a second group riding the St. Charles line does. We've made a ritual out of meeting the Phellows every year and there's something about the mystery of it; the quiet evening broken for just the most fleeting glimpse of a party; that serves as a perfect thematic opening to the season.

Phellows phreezing

It feels like a second group passing by might break the magic of it a little bit.  Or maybe not.  It's just Carnival nonsense in any case.

Did they consider maybe trying to do this on the Canal line, though?  Since we now have two Twelfth Night rides on two different streetcar lines, it seems like the natural way to expand the concept would be to get a third part of town involved.  Maybe have some kind of toast where they all converge downtown... Invite the mayor or something... I don't know... somebody besides me needs to sell this idea. 

Enemy of the people

Yesterday in LGM's long running This Day In Labor History series, we found this post on the New Orleans General Strike of 1892.
On November 12, 1892, the New Orleans General Strike ended with a major victory for workers. One of the few true general strikes in American history, it demonstrated the potential power of workers, even in the face of race-baiting and military opposition in the Gilded Age.
I don't like copy/pasting too much of a post you should just go read. But some of the details are worth taking special note of.  For example, even though this episode is considered a win for labor, the fallout led to one of the first instances of the Sherman Anti-trust Act being turned against unions.   Also Governor Murphy Foster The First appears here as a racist strikebreaker a full century before Governor Murphy Foster The Second was elected to basically promote the same vibe.

Most remarkably, at least in this telling, is the failure of  the New Orleans Board of Trade to brake the strike with race-baiting tactics. This was not for lack of help pushing the narrative.
At the same time, the Board of Trade decided to racebait the strike. How dare white and black workers organize together!!!! Of the Triple Alliance unions, the Teamsters were primarily black and the Scalers and Packers mostly white. So to break the strike by race, the Board of Trade announced they would come to an agreement with the two white-dominated unions but not the Teamsters. Newspapers began running stories of black workers forming mobs and rampaging through the streets, of course threatening white women and other typical claims designed to whip up violence against African-Americans.
Because we are currently ruled by crypto-fascists, we have to contend with a lot of deliberate bad faith nonsense about "fake news" from blowhards like Donald Trump.  But the right wing has always bullied the press and largely gotten what it has wanted from it as a result.  The "liberal media" trope has been a favorite crutch for Republicans looking to work the refs for decades. Just because the popular idiom is slightly more crass these days doesn't mean the substance of the argument has moved very much.  The results are the same, anyway.  The more the right bullies the press, the more the press treats their bad faith arguments as a legitimate side of an unresolvable "balanced" debate.

That is, except for the occasions when we find the news media actually working in lockstep with the right in order to bully the powerless as the New Orleans newspapers did during these strikes. Among the many insults Trump deploys against the press in order to keep them in line has been "enemy of the people." And like Trump's many insults it isn't really true. Not in the way he means it anyway.

However, it is fair to say that the portion of the press employed by the large corporate entities who dominate the market to frame the political narrative day to day are deeply invested in defending the status quo.  Which is how we end up with an overpaid pundit class all too happy to mock the idea that housing might be an unaffordable burden for a working class person moving into the D.C. area.  For the same reasons, the storytellers of New Orleans in 1892 were all too happy to smear and disrupt a working class asking for a fairer share of what it produced.  Little has changed. The ruling class's scribes defend their own against the people they choose to define as an enemy.

It's something to keep in mind next year if, say, Louisiana's teachers are forced by an inattentive legislature or by their school boards' continuing deference to the privileges of oligarchs to decide they have to walk out in the middle of a statewide election. But that's a different day in labor history yet to come.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Well it is quite a lede

I guess it's not hard to understand why WWLTV went with the gold watches banquet at the top of this story about an auditor's report on Sewerage and Water Board.  But that really isn't the big systemic problem.  This is.
But the revelations about the lack of consistency and controls in contracting stretch far beyond the contracts for special events.

The agency lacks a contract management system, and even after seven weeks, did not provide all the contracts and backup documentation auditors requested for their analysis.

The audit revealed the S&WB does not have policies in place to sufficiently monitor the agency’s contracts. For example, policies that were developed to rein in change orders and contract amendments were never finalized and, therefore, not routinely or consistently followed to keep costs from ballooning.

Policies inconsistent with state bid laws also led to possible violations of the law regarding the length of time bids were advertised, according to the audit.
I mean, yeah, they need to use better judgement in terms of what kinds of employee appreciation gifts they hand out. But putting that stuff in as the highlight of the story tends to feed a trope where we blame line employees for the damage actually being done by the graft of  administrators, politicians and contractors. That's really where we find the fancy jewelry anyway.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The only 2018 election re-cap anybody recorded

Also, you know, the regular nonsense

"You cannot trust the legal process"

I'm an old dude now so this stuff is practically yesterday for me. But maybe not everybody remembers the ancient wayback past of practically yesterday. So, from time to time, it's useful to point out that, hey this shit happening right now actually happened before in the (very slight) hope that maybe it can be different this time.
In McAlevey’s book, she recounts that in her first days in West Palm Beach she worked on collecting affidavits from Floridians, mostly retirees, who believed their votes had not been correctly tallied. There were huge numbers of them, and they were furious. McAlevey asked her superiors,“So when can we actually mobilize them, put these wonderful angry senior citizens into the streets and on camera?”

The answer came back: never. She then learned that Jesse Jackson was coming to Florida to lead a rally, but organized labor would not be participating. Why? Because the Gore campaign wanted everyone to stand down. McAlevey quotes a higher up as telling her, “The Gore campaign has made the decision that this is not the image they want. They don’t want to protest. They don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want to seem like they don’t have faith in the legal system.”

This was Gore’s central mistake. “You cannot trust ‘the legal process,’” McAlevey explains today. In reality, there is no such thing as a fair legal process separate from and immune to outside political pressure.
But pointing this out and hoping for better also sets us up to ask, is our Democrats learning?  And the answer to that question might cause us old dudes to develop ulcers. 

Ooopsies

Far be it for me to come down too hard on people for, like, typos and stuff.  It's fine to make mistakes. I really just am interested in why these happened. 
The council must adopt a budget for 2019 by Dec. 1. The Landrieu administration normally presented its proposed budget in October, which gave the council nearly two months to deliberate. This year, the Cantrell administration submitted its proposal on Nov. 1 — the legal deadline.

The city’s website uploaded a new version of the proposal on Thursday, which city officials say corrects the mistakes of the prior iteration.

The changes aren’t minor. For example, in the first version of the budget, non-recurring revenue from 2017 was listed at $10 million. In the new version, the number was increased to about $50 million. In the first version, general fund revenues were predicted to increase 13.5% from 2018 to 2019. In the new version, that rise was reduced to 1.8%.

“What this did was put us behind the magic eight ball when looking at the year-over-year changes,” said Councilman Joseph Giarrusso.

In an email to the council, Cantrell’s top deputy, Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montano, said that only numbers from 2017 and 2018 were changed. The forecasts for 2019 were not affected, he said.
The email doesn't really clarify anything about how the errors happened. In the Q&A, Montano talks about "clerical errors" which sounds like staff made a boo boo. And, again, boo boos are fine. It's better if you can explain how they happened, though. What happened? Did somebody's cat walk all over the spreadsheet one night? Did we lose our concentration and hit the wrong button because "Baby Shark" was stuck in our head?  Tell us a story that humanizes the error and we will happily move on.  Also, as the article points out at the top of that block quote, maybe try and get the thing out on time so people can look this stuff over. Anyway, no big deal.  This time.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Budget Party Day One

It's been a few months now and I'm still not sure what to make of this Monatno guy.  I wasn't encouraged from what I had read of his time in Albuquerque where the first things that stood out were a penchant for downsizing and an interest in "predictive policing" algorithms. I was slightly more concerned when it looked like he was advocating stop and frisk cops as a revenue generating replacement for traffic cameras. But we really can't judge the CAO until we see what his budget proposal looks like. And that's what this month's city council hearings are all about.  So let's see what we've learned on day one.
The fissures between Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration and the New Orleans City Council became more evident as the two sides sparred over funding and revenues on Friday during the first hearing on next year’s budget.

Council members sharply criticized Cantrell’s inaugural spending plan, arguing it should have included more money for catch basin cleaning and questioning whether a proposal make traffic tickets more expensive bucked a trend locally and nationwide to move away from heft penalties for minor offenses.
Uh oh. That sounds like Montano's budget is going to prioritize writing more parking tickets over cleaning out storm drains. That can't possibly be right. In addition to being a retrograde and regressive means of using law enforcement power to extort money out of poor people, it's also incredibly  politically insensitive. 

Councilmembers were, rightfully skeptical. Their questions elicited strange responses, though. 
Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño said it’s possible the administration could shift more money to Public Works in the middle of next year, but that before he provides more money to the department he wants a more thorough review of its costs.

"I think a lot of these problems came from just throwing money at it and hope that it gets done," Montaño said.

"But money is a resource you need to solve a problem," Giarrusso said.
I'm starting to think Montano has a fundamental disagreement with councilmembers about what's going on here.  Giarrusso assumes the budget process is about allocating resources in ways that best meet the needs of the citizenry.  Montano derides that basic governmental function as "throwing money at" those needs.

This has all the look of that old "run government like a business" canard we thought we had finally thrown off when Ray Nagin's "business-oriented" administration proved out to be teeming with grifters. But here we are again.  Montano hasn't said this explicitly, but he sure sounds like he wants to spend money only when its purpose is to make money back. Councilmembers are correct to question these priorities.
Several council members said it was particularly tone deaf for the administration to leave the catch basin funding flat even as the department beefed up the number of parking enforcement officers who ticket illegally parked vehicles.

“It’s sending a bizarre message out there because I think the priority to the public has always been on the catch basin side,” Councilwoman Helena Moreno said.
Tone deaf.  It hasn't even been a year but that phrase does come up a lot in reference to the way this administration conducts itself.  I wonder how often we're going to use extortion as well. 
Another revenue plan announced at the meeting raised more eyebrows.

The budget projects the city will bring in $500,000 more from traffic tickets next year. That money would come from instructing New Orleans Police Department officers to issue tickets under state law, rather than the city ordinances that have lower fines.
So on Day One of the budget process we're already starting to confirm some of our worst concerns about the Cantrell governing philosophy.  Her CAO is hesitant to fund essential services and eager to use police powers to squeeze the maximum amount of money out of the citizen customer.  But, hey, it's only the beginning. Maybe things will look better when we start talking about crime cameras  

When you get old

I, for one, very much enjoyed the Dez Bryant era.
Newly signed wide receiver Dez Bryant suffered what the New Orleans Saints fear may be a serious injury at practice Friday, according to an NFL.com report.

Per the report, Bryant had to be helped off the practice field Friday (Nov. 9) and is receiving an MRI on what the team is fearing could be a torn Achilles tendon. An ESPN report stated the injury occurred on the final play of practice.
Bryant is an 8 year veteran who just turned 30. That doesn't seem very old but remember Saints all time leading receiver Marques Colston retired at age 32 after 10 seasons, the last of which was only half as productive as each of the previous nine.  It's expecting a lot for a high performance athlete whose skills involve sprinting, jumping, planting and turning as quickly and violently as possible, to maintain a peak level very much beyond the point when his body's flexibility and resilience starts to go.  And, when it goes, that usually manifests as a greater frequency of injuries like this.

I'm an old dude now but I still run regularly.  I can remember a time when, if I had sprained or pulled something in my foot, the best way to recover would just be to keep running on it until it fixed itself. I have to be a lot more careful now. A twinge in the heel can blow up into a fully sprained calf that will keep me off of the leg altogether for weeks at a time.  I can mitigate that a bit by stretching more and by being more deliberate with my stride. Also I find that it's a lot less wear and tear if I keep my weight down.  Which is why this seems significant.




In any case, it gets harder when you get older. I can still do the things I have to do them more carefully and less aggressively.  A professional athlete really doesn't have that option.

Law of conservation of Jeffs

When you have to dump one horrible booster of racist cops and voter suppression but still need an Attorney General, it only makes sense that you would want one just like him as a replacement.  Ideally you would get one with the same name so you don't have to learn a new thing.
Could Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry be in the running to replace Jeff Sessions, who resigned from his post as U.S. attorney general earlier this week?

Speculation swirled on Thursday -- two days after Sessions submitted his resignation at the president's request -- that Landry may have made it onto the White House's short list of candidates to take the reins as attorney general. At least some close to Landry, who is is president of the National Attorney General Association and on the executive committee of the Republican Attorney General Association, believe he's under consideration, according to multiple sources.
The other choices are Kris Kobach (probably the scariest vote suppression specialist of all) , Chris Christie (famous screamer at teachers)  and, of course, Rudy! so qualitatively speaking, it really doesn't matter which one Trump picks. 

If he does take our Jeff  (please!) though, then that has serious repercussions for next year's Governor's election. Speaking of which, John Kennedy says he's going to make a decision "in the next couple of weeks."  Suddenly having Landry out of the picture would make that easier on him.

"Discounted"

Eyes rolled all the way back.
The 2019 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will expand to eight days at the Fair Grounds, kicking off on Thursday, April 25. The extra day was added to the opening weekend to celebrate Jazz Fest's 50th anniversary.

Both weekends of the festival will now run Thursday through Sunday: April 25-28 and May 2-5.

The new day is designated "Locals Thursdays." Anyone with a valid Louisiana ID will be able to purchase two discounted tickets for $50 apiece at the Fair Grounds gate.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Does Cameron Meredith exist?

It's impossible to know. The Saints keep trying to hide their major offseason acquisition behind stuff.
Dez Bryant is returning to the NFL -- with the New Orleans Saints.

After working out for the team Tuesday, the free-agent Bryant agreed to a one-year deal with New Orleans, which sits atop the NFC South and is arguably the best team in the league at 7-1, the Saints announced Wednesday.

The interest in Bryant, 30, comes at a time when New Orleans is struggling to get production out of its receivers not named Michael Thomas. Ted Ginn Jr. is on injured reserve with a knee injury, and Cam Meredith, who was signed this offseason, hasn't played more than 26 percent of the snaps the last three weeks. He has nine catches for 114 yards with one touchdown.
Our best guess is Meredith isn't all the way back from the injury that kept him out all of last year and made him something of a gamble for the Saints to sign in the first place. (Meredith missed practice today, in fact.)   Now they've had to go and take another gamble on another injured and possibly washed up receiver just to cover up for that. Oh Dez is also fat.





Hope it works out.

"Obvious gross misunderstanding"

I don't know if I could count the number of times I've expressed skepticism over the efficacy of "inclusionary zoning" rules as a remedy for the affordable housing crisis.  Typically, when these policies are implemented, the formula doesn't set aside nearly enough units to meet the need. And more often than not, they actually serve as a kind of token for rationalizing.. or even subsidizing.. more luxury housing for rich people. Worst of all they're an easy out for decision makers looking to claim they have done something about housing and an excuse for stopping there.

Having said all of that, we have to recognize the unique corner the City Planning Commission finds itself painted into this week. The legislature and the governor have given them what amounts to a "use it or lose it" ultimatum.
In August, the New Orleans City Council tasked the CPC staff with studying three types of “inclusionary zoning” policies as part of the creation of a so-called “smart housing mix,” revisiting the results of a 2017 study that recommended the city adopt similar rules.

Those recommendations were shelved. This year, Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a measure that would prevent municipalities from instituting their own inclusionary zoning requirements, only on the condition that New Orleans decide whether it wants them, otherwise he’ll plan to sign similar legislation next year.
Even so, the commissioners are reluctant to act. Last month Mitch Landrieu's good buddy Walter Isaacson wondered out loud if housing problem would just go away on its own thanks to "market forces."  Now it's one thing for us to be suspicious that this one policy choice is itself not much better than laissez faire trickle down approach. It's something else entirely for the Planning Commissison to actually prefer trickle down as the ideal. So circumstances have conspired such that housing advocates are left with no choice but to fight tooth and nail to keep this marginal tool on the table.
Housing NOLA executive director Andreanecia Morris tells Gambit that even with the report’s recognition of the housing problem, and the years-long argument for mandated affordable housing creation, advocates face an uphill battle with a commision with an “obvious, gross misunderstanding of the circumstances as well as the need of a solution that could be brought to bear.”

“Will we exhibit the courage necessary to take up the challenge from the governor to bring this much needed program into reality?” Morris asks. “And will we consistently enforce it?”
Morris is being nice, there. We would characterize Isaacson's position as having been born more out of hostility than "misunderstanding."  Either way, CPC is going to take up the "smart housing mix" report on November 13.  Probably will be off in some broom closet or something at City Hall. The Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance has more information here.

On to 2019

Do you feel the "modesty"? It is practically electric.




Great slogan so long as you don't care what kind of wage people can actually survive on.  Let them eat modesty, I guess.

We killed the magic microbes

Congratulations on your purchase of 770,000 gallons of Corexit.  We know you have many choices in the market for poisons to dump into the ocean for no particular purpose. But we are glad you have chosen us.  No, sorry, there are no refunds.
University of Miami-led study indicates that the massive amounts of dispersants BP applied directly at the spewing wellhead – about a mile below the Gulf of Mexico’s surface – failed to curb the oil’s spread, and may have increased the disaster’s ecological damage.

The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig released more than 200 million gallons of crude oil, making it the largest oil spill in U.S. history. About 770,000 gallons of the dispersant Corexit was applied at the wellhead. Another 1 million gallons was sprayed over the massive slick on the water’s surface. Dispersants loosen the tension between oil and water, allowing the oil to break up into smaller droplets. It was hoped that dispersants would lessen the disaster’s impact.
Yeah sorry about that. Maybe those features will work in the next version. But hey let's see what you did get.
The study is one of several in recent months that have questioned whether dispersant should be used at all. Other research cited in the UM study noted that dispersant appears to fight nature’s ability to clean-up after oil spills. A study by the University of Georgia indicates that dispersant kills or inhibits the growth of oil-eating microbes, including naturally-occurring bacteria that rapidly consume oil that dispersants only break apart.
Oohhhh man, remember the "magic microbes"? They really were celebrated as heroes back during the Summer of Spill and afterward when everyone was trying to tell us how no all that bad the whole thing was.   And that whole time we were out there murdering the little guys. What a bummer.

Oh wait. Also....

Dispersant has also been linked to illnesses in humans and several types of marine life. The Gulf’s deep sea coral were found to suffer more from a dispersant-oil mix than oil alone.
I'm sure there is a punch line somewhere about a Trump Administration directive to ease off of holding oil producers accountable for this sort of damage but I'm too depressed to look it up right now.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Who's in charge?

When you're constantly shifting the management companies in charge of each individual school building, the most unexpected and avoidable difficulties tend to surface.
Officials at a New Orleans school that is doubling as a polling location are refusing to open the school's parking lot to accommodate voters with disabilities.

The polling site, the former McDonogh No. 28 Elementary School on Esplanade Avenue, had opened its parking lot to those voters for years, long before the current charter school operator, Foundation Preparatory Charter School, moved in this summer.

But the new charter operator did not make the same accommodation for residents voting in the Nov. 6 congressional midterms, said Orleans Parish Clerk of Criminal Court and Chief Elections Officer Arthur Morrell. The school's handicapped accessible ramp is located inside its parking lot. 

Bill, why?

What a weird dude.

Speaker Richmond?

CNN Exit poll says maybe let's not give the gavel back to Nancy.
The Democratic Party has slightly higher favorability than the Republican Party in preliminary data from CNN's national exit poll. About half of voters said they had a positive view of the Democratic Party, while the Republican Party is upside down, with slightly more than 40% saying they had a positive view of the Republicans.
 
The downside for Democrats is an extremely low favorable rating for Nancy Pelosi, the woman who would like to again be Speaker of the House if Democrats win control of the House of Representatives. Only about three-in-10 voters had a positive view of Pelosi and more than half had an unfavorable view. In fact, more voters had an unfavorable view of Pelosi than had an unfavorable view of President Trump, according to preliminary results.
He's downplaying it this week, but you can see the possibilities here for Cedric Richmond
Richmond said he would consider running for a leadership post should the House flip to Democratic control. But any position he might seek will depend on the moves of his colleagues, particularly his longtime friend Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn, of South Carolina.

Clyburn has said he would likely run for speaker of the House if former Speaker U.S. Rep Nancy Pelosi declines to do so. For his part, Richmond said he would support Clyburn if he were to make a bid for the gavel.

Richmond said he would defer to Clyburn before running for several available spots. Any position in the Democratic leadership, however, would help Louisiana's relatively junior delegation punch above their weight. Richmond would also be in line to lead a subgroup of the House Judiciary or House Homeland Security committees on which he now serves, he said.
Okay so probably Cedric isn't going to be Speaker. But he's clearly going to be in a top leadership position. Theoretically this is "good" for us down here in his district.  At least it would be if there were more money on the table for local government in Washington right now.  But the current mood there is still predisposed toward austerity and privatization.  And that isn't likely to change just because the Democrats hold a slim majority in the House.  It's better for us than the current situation. But not great.

Also there are other issues with Cedric.  I'd love to expound on this but I'm going to be geeking out on election returns for the next few hours. So, instead, let's see what the DSA election guide had to say about our guy.
Cedric Richmond is concerned that the Democratic Party might be moving too far to the left. Shortly after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory over establishment Democrat Joe Crowley in New York this spring, Richmond told the New York Times he worries that while figures like Cortez and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are “fighting for [their] principles on what direction the party should go, we don’t really have anybody doing it on behalf of moderates and other Democrats. It has become a one-sided conversation.”  We here in the midst of the leftist insurrection think Cedric is exaggerating our influence just a tiny bit. But we are pleased to see him take notice. What we’ve noticed is Richmond has put in more than his share of “doing it on behalf of moderates.”

Richmond has resisted calls to abolish ICE telling us, “The men and women of ICE are federal employees who do their jobs admirably.”  He also said the Baton Rouge police crackdown on Black Lives Matter protesters after the 2016 murder of Alton Sterling was “very reasonable.” Richmond’s own response to that incident, in fact, was a “bi-partisan solution” to help police buy more surplus military equipment. He has not signed on as a sponsor to John Conyers’ Medicare For All bill and has instead chosen to support a hybrid “consumer” driven buy-in scheme that preserves the private for-profit health care system.  Richmond has also gone out of his way to defend Scalise from criticism, which suggests to us his commitment is to solidarity with the political elite classes he circulates in rather than with the poor and working class people of the district he represents.

Interestingly, in the wake of Ocasio-Cortez’s win, Richmond also garnered comparisons to Crowley as the sort of conservative Democratic machine politician who might one day be vulnerable to grass-roots leftist opposition. Such an opposition campaign doesn’t exist this year. In the meantime, the best we can hope for is for Richmond to continue to be aware of the possibility and lend a more attentive ear to leftist concerns as he moves up the seniority ladder in the House.
So.. not great. But certainly more.. um.. persuadable than a Speaker Scalise would have been.  That's the hope, anyway. 

If you see something say something

My sleeply little polling place was pretty active this morning.  For whatever dumb reason I forgot to check and see what number I was. But there were four or five folks in line when I left. That's pretty heavy for our precinct. 

To be clear, a lineup at the polls isn't a great sight on election day.  I noticed some comments earlier that cable news commentators were characterizing long waits as a sign of a healthy participatory democratic process.  That's nonsense.  A heavy turnout is good. A convoluted jam up at the polling location is a failure. 

Maybe this is counter to our state's conventional image but Louisiana's elections are... comparatively speaking... among the more smoothly run operations in the country.  This doesn't mean there aren't problems.  A good standard to shoot for is no one has to wait more than 10 minutes at any polling location.  We don't always meet that. 

On the other hand, our supposedly outdated voting machines don't often crash the way these did in New York today.  Or like this in Atlanta.  Thankfully, they are not as vulnerable to "humidity" as North Carolina's seem to be.  We also are lucky in that we do not (yet) find anyone in Louisiana dealing with intimidation tactics like the threat of military exercises or confounding episodes such as the sudden overnight foreclosure of the building housing a polling place. 

If you do see anything like that today, please repot it. As it stands right now, election watchers are so bored, the most serious problem they can find is a shortage of stickers

Return of the Serval

A specter was haunting Metairie this morning.
Jefferson Parish Animal Control officers have captured an exotic cat that escaped his owner’s home and wounded a pet chicken in a Metairie backyard.

Cezar was found hiding in a bush at a residence near York Street and Kent Avenue in Metairie Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 6), according to animal shelter Director Robin Beaulieu and Tanya Faia, the attorney representing the cat’s owner. The cat had an injured paw, Beaulieu said.

“Cezar and his owner are on their way to his vet’s (office) where he will receive the proper medical treatment,” Faia said.

Animal control officers deployed to the neighborhood Tuesday morning after receiving word that the cat, an African serval, had attacked and wounded a chicken in the backyard of Kaila Miller Cureau. Cureau discovered her Silkie breed chicken, Rainbow, in Cezar’s mouth around 4 a.m. Monday.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Cezar, Rainbow, and their families now. This report suggests that they're going to be ok.  It isn't yet clear on whether or not the African serval is a legal exotic pet in Louisiana.  I can't remember if that question was ever answered the last time a loose serval was found wandering around Uptown in 2009. But at least I remembered that it happened.

One reason for that is I tried out a lame joke about it during the Saints season that year. But it didn't really connect because the Saints never lined up in the wildcat ("wild serval") formation they were seen practicing in camp. Also because I think everyone had forgotten about the serval by then anyway.  Oh and it was a dumb joke. But that's not what is important right now.

What is important is that the portents may be speaking to us through these events. The only other appearance of a loose serval anyone can remember happened in a year when the Saints were on their way to the Superbowl. Here is a second sighting today and look where the team is at this point.
New Orleans (7-1) could be 8-0, too, had the Saints not allowed themselves to get dissected by Ryan-of-all-people-Fitzpatrick and the now 3-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1. But everyone except the ’72 Dolphins loses sometime in the NFL.

Were the Saints better, or was it just the Rams’ time to tumble in a hostile hornet's nest on the road? Well, as they say, history is written by the winners. And the Saints are winning and winning and winning, seven straight W’s despite facing the teeth of a defending division champion’s schedule. In their past four games that have knocked off a quartet of playoff contenders: the Redskins, Ravens (OK, maybe not the Ravens), Vikings and now the Rams.

The entire season, as Saints quarterback Drew Brees aptly said, is a gauntlet. But it is turning into a season that more and more is bending to the Saints’ skill and confidence. “We believe in ourselves,” running back Mark Ingram said. “We believe we can overcome anything. This is a great team.”
Rabalais pooh poohs the Ravens there but that was a big win for the Saints. On the road, against a top defense, Sean Payton and Drew Brees finally defeated their 32nd NFL franchise together.  Beyond just the Rams win, the Saints' success over that stretch of the schedule should have everyone's attention right now.  Also the mysterious serval has appeared again.  Do not take these things lightly. 

Oh no it is election day

Here is a morning  Q&A for you.

Where do I vote?

Find your polling place at the Sec of State's website. 

Are you sure that is right?

Maybe! Some polling locations have moved. Take a look.

What do I do if I see some funny business going on?

Tell The Lens about it.

Who do I vote for?

Ha ha wrong question, rookie. Never ever vote FOR any of these clowns. It is helpful to know who to vote against, though.  For more information on that I recommend the always helpful Harm Reduction guide published by Antigravity Magazine. Also this year the New Orleans DSA published a voting guide that may be of some use as well.

Who is going to win?

In Louisiana there isn't a lot of drama in that regard. The local clerk of court races are interesting though and will be tight.  But that is a whole 'nother post. Nationally I think the Democrats are going to underperform but the odds are they will still just barely manage to take the House back. Of the high profile elections everyone is talking about I think Stacey Abrams has the best chance to win in the Georgia Governor's race. I would love to see Betomania pay off in Texas but I don't think that is happening.  At least, I didn't think so before I saw the reports that Ted Cruz's ship might be on the way to take him back to his home planet.

Okay but is there anything on this ballot I can really get behind?

It probably doesn't need much help since everybody is endorsing it, but Amendment 2 would get rid of our stupid racist non-unanimous jury law so you should vote for that.

Is there a song that might help me get fired up, though?

Yes

Monday, November 05, 2018

Sophisticating up the corruption

After all these years of trying to do the new fancy kinds of grifting with all the apps and things, we still find the old standards are the favorites.  
Lewis and Aiken took turns explaining the problems at the small charter school. The school has been plagued by financial mismanagement, Aiken said, noting that the school’s bank statements were addressed to the Carondelet Street church where the board president, the Rev. Charles Southall, serves as pastor. Meanwhile, Southall’s home address in Baton Rouge is the one that Harney listed with the state agency that distributes per-pupil funding to schools, another potential violation.

She also noted the school improperly withheld tens of thousands of dollars in employee retirement contributions for weeks or months and did not fully document credit card expenses.
That's a good old fashioned public school being ripped off by some politically connected preachers right there.  That's the way we used to do things in this city. The quasi-privatization charter hell is just window dressing, really.

It's also got our favorite bank.

In an audit that examined the 2016-17 school year, auditors randomly checked purchases on one credit card statement. They said they couldn’t find receipts to back up two of the three purchases that month.

They also noted that Harney’s accounting handbook had no policy on how to handle credit cards.

In response, school officials sent an undated policy to the district in January. “The school credit card is utilized at the discretion of the Board President,” it said.

The new policy requires charges to be approved by the chief financial officer — the same administrator facing ethics charges.

Monthly statements show the card was issued by First NBC Bank and had a $20,000 credit limit.

“We discontinued doing credit cards in” — Southall paused. “When did the bank close? 2016. At the end of that, that was the end of it.”

First NBC Bank was declared insolvent in April 2017. Weeks earlier, Ashton Ryan Jr., the bank’s president CEO — and a Harney board member —  stepped down from the financial institution.

He remained on the charter board and later asked his name to be removed from financial documents.

Post-vacation hangover

Ole Smoky Distillery

Been driving back and forth across the country (which is too big for my liking, frankly) the past few days checking in on every tourist trap, karaoke bar, and Krystal burger between here and Gatlinburg, Tennessee (Slogan: We're The Other Branson.) It's always nice to take a trip like this to remind oneself of just how many hyper-evangelical paranoid Trump voters there really are out there.  I was already pessimistic about tomorrow's elections before we went on this trip. I'm more pessimistic now. 

Anyway, I'm recovering from a very long drive yesterday so more on that later.  In the meantime, it's nice to know somebody finally answered Joe Horn's call after 15 years.  Verizon service really can be shitty inside the Dome sometimes.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

When what never happens happens

We spent last Saturday in Baton Rouge participating (I guess) in the homecoming festivities on the LSU campus.  By that I mean we did some tailgating and watched a football game from high up in the Tiger Stadium terrace while the first somewhat legitimate cold front of the year was blowing through. Which is to say we got rained on. That's supposed to happen never.

Anyway here is the classic view of your state capital skyline. There's the Capitol building in the center. That's where all the laws are passed. To the right is the oil refinery where most of those laws are conceived. In the foreground, of course, is the football stadium where everyone's attention is focused while all that goes on.

Baton Rouge skyline


It was a good day stumbling around campus. Here is the Tiger band passing in front of the Pentagon dorms on its march to the stadium.

Drums

Tiger eye drum

And here is the Valley Shook tailgate tent from where we bummed a bunch of pulled pork, smoked chicken, mac and cheese, grits, and.... look there was a lot of stuff and I was too busy to take any nice pictures of it.

Valley Shook tailgate


Which is fine because Zach promotes his own work well enough already.




Finally, here is the sign that asks visitors to help preserve Louisiana's cultural heritage by staying off of the Indian Mounds. Naturally, the children climbing the mound in this picture had taken one of these signs down and were using it as a sled.

Please protect our.... Oh




LSU's football team is pretty good this year. Not great but pretty good. This doesn't necessarily mean they've been overachieving.  It's fine to put them Number 4 in the country (UPDATE: now number 3 in the playoff ranking) for now but let's not expect them to finish there. There isn't one thing they do dramatically better than anyone else in the country.  There's no breakaway threat on the offense. The defense doesn't have a dominant, unblockable pass rusher.  They do have a fairly outstanding middle linebacker but that guy isn't available to start this week against Alabama despite the Governor's efforts.

Anyway, like we were saying, there's not any one dominant trait about this LSU team that frightens people. Instead their success this season has been in their ability to do a little bit of everything pretty well. They don't make mistakes. They don't commit turnovers. They don't miss a lot of tackles. This is going to sound nuts but I think the most apt way you could describe LSU this year is as.. extremely well coached? Not a lot of people outside of Louisiana want to hear that. But Ed Orgeron is officially on the Coach Of The Year watch list now. And if the team the writers had picked to finish 5th or 6th in their division ends up a one or two loss team come bowl season, then that's going to be really hard to argue against.

Of course, we all know what that means if they finish with one loss. It means, as Scott Rabalais puts it, they would have defeated the black hole.
Saturday, just about every college football fan not present is going to wish he or she could experience a night like this in Death Valley, and just about everyone not wearing Alabama crimson is going to pull for LSU. Pulling for the Tigers to upset the status quo, knock off the big dog, aggravate the stuffing out of Saban. Maybe make him throw his headset until it breaks.

An LSU win, as improbable as it may seem, could save this college football season from the black hole that is Alabama.
Is it reasonable to expect this pretty good.. but not great... LSU team is capable of that? Probably not.  But there is also a powerful tendency toward magical thinking with regard to what sorts of things are and are never possible in Tiger Stadium.  And who are we, who sat there ourselves on a rain soaked Saturday evening only last week, to deny the fun of that to anyone?

Mary Shelley's Ron Forman's Monster

It is my greatest regret of the year that I didn't have time to finish typing up an overlong post to preview this Saints' season.  It ended up, like so many of these big ideas I never have time to develop anymore, getting thrown up at the last minute as a bare bones twitter thread.  This is a thing that happens a lot and I'm starting to think I need a word to describe it.  FailTweets isn't really adequate since every tweet is a kind of failure in the first place.

Anyway I said the Saints would win 10 games. That's still looking like a good bet.  But I didn't get to tell the story I wanted to tell in the unfinished post. I'm keeping the draft because I think it's an important story which may come up again later. It is a story about Valerio. That tragic hero of this summer's incident at Audubon already has my vote for New Orleanian of 2018 for a number of reasons I'll be happy to go into when the time comes. The point, for now, is I think about him a lot.

Valerio pumpkin

I posted that photo of my little gourd tribute to our boy and his fallen animal comrades to social sites last night.  It didn't take long for people to recognize the image.  Its creator certainly got it anyway.




But, while there was obviously some humor intended in the reference, I noticed some reactions from people who inferred a gratuitous or even exploitative vibe there.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  There is a natural humor in Valerio's story, for sure. But humor is closely related to tragedy, subversion, and catharsis. All of these are part of the story.  They are also elements of horror which is why this is a Halloween story.

Valerio's story is a story about doomed resistance. It is about the hubris of our attempt to tame the natural world.  It is about the thin, uncomfortable line that exists between order and chaos; particularly when that order is built on suppressed injustices. It is a tragedy born of righteous defiance gone awry.  There are themes present which hint at the inescapable consequences of colonialism, of the despoiling commodification of nature, and of the capitalist exploitation that drives it all. To contemplate the tragic horror of Valerio and his (I hesitate to use the word victims. Really they are all victims) we are forced to question our own role in its creation. The scariest monster stories aren't really about monsters.

Well, Happy Halloween. Here are some pictures I took this year at the St. Charles Avenue Skeleton House and later at the Magazine Street "Ghost Manor" Clever stuff but I didn't see any jaguar pumpkins.

Mourning Call

Boo Brees

Ghost Manor pumpkins

On to 2019

Yeah so the midterms aren't over yet but it's never too early to start watching the next election(s).  At least, that's what the money people do.  And, as we all know, those are the people who determine how these things turn out so let's watch that, I guess.
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy hasn’t yet said that he’ll be a candidate for governor next fall, but some of his fellow Republicans aren’t waiting to line up for him — or against.

First Lane Grigsby, a Baton Rouge businessman and big-time Republican donor, let it be known that he’s not impressed with Kennedy’s brief tenure in Washington. Grigsby told The Advocate’s Mark Ballard that he thinks Louisiana’s junior senator, in office less than two years, isn’t ready for the Governor’s Mansion.

“Louisiana needs leadership, not another politician looking for another lily pad,” said Grigsby, who is backing the only announced Republican challenger to Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, fellow contractor Eddie Rispone. “(Kennedy) hasn’t done much yet but appear on Fox News.”
Man, losing the Grigsby primary to Eddie Rispone is a slap in the face, alright. But Kennedy is still signaling he could run.  
Publicly Kennedy has said how much he likes his Senate job. “But, it’s hard to stomach what is happening to Louisiana right now,” Kennedy said in prepared statement. “Private sector job growth is among the lowest in the country. Too many of our kids can’t read their diplomas.”

Armed with an internal poll showing that he could beat Edwards, Kennedy is making the rounds of funders to say he agrees with them that Edwards’ policies are bad for Louisiana’s economic future, then adding that Rispone is largely unknown and can’t beat the Democrat.
Meanwhile rivals like Jeff Landry and his allies have been trying to "clear the field" of formidable candidates and it's looking now like Grigsby is on their side.  So it's with that in mind that we should consider the persistence of the "Kennedy might not run" rumors that float about the subtext of a lot of these stories lately. Is that line coming from Kennedy? Or is it coming from someone trying to discourage him?

Update: It says here that John is going to make up his mind by December 1 so mark your calendars.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The sky is falling, though

This is from a Secretary of State canidates' forum held last night at the LSU journalism school.  State Rep. Rick Edmonds is not the only candidate playing to right wing paranoia about "voter fraud" but he is being the loudest and ugliest about it.
State Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, staked out a position as the most conservative candidate on the panel, particularly when it came to election-related issues. In his closing statement, Edmonds said that “elections are being threatened all over the nation.” He said that thousands of “illegals” -- the way he described undocumented immigrants -- were participating in elections in Texas and California even though they are ineligible to vote.

There has not been any proof of widespread voter fraud in any major American election recently -- and Edmonds offered no proof that people are voting in Texas, California -- or any other state -- who shouldn’t be. His statement prompted some indirect criticism from Free. “I understand that there are alarmists everywhere. It makes me very sad that they try to scare people into thinking that the sky is falling,” she said directly after Edmonds finished speaking.
So that's not good.  I did want to drop in here to correct Democratic candidate Renee Fontenot-Free about one thing, there.  The sky may very well be falling. There are serious threats to the integrity of our elections out there. But they aren't coming from the sources Edmonds fantasizes about.  Instead they are coming from Edmonds himself and people like him all over the country.  Free would do well to take the threat more seriously.

Today is the last day to do early voting

The early voting seems to be more and more popular with the kids. I'm too lazy to do it so I will always be jealous of you guys who have been going every day this week. The early voting period ends today at 6 pm.  See the Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters site for more information on how all that stuff works. 

Anyway, I know I've been promising to say some stuff about what's on the ballot (apart from the random blurb here and there.) But I was waiting to see some of the better voter guides come out before I decided if there was anything to add.  Here, today, is the New Orleans DSA guide.  It's pretty okay. They don't specifically endorse anybody so I like that. 

More later from me, maybe.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Foot shoulders

That is a Charles Rice Special.
In October 2017, two weeks before a key council utility committee meeting, Rice sent a text message to Yolanda Pollard, communications manager for Entergy, asking how many people Hawthorn would be able to get for the meeting. Pollard said Hawthorn had secured “50 people and 10 speakers.”

“If Hawthorn can get more people I will pay,” Rice responded. He followed up a few minutes later, saying he didn’t care about the cost. “This is war and we need all the foot shoulders [soldiers] we can muster.”

Hours later, Pollard said that Hawthorn would send 75 people and 10 public speakers, all wearing pro-plant t-shirts. The cost would increase from $23,000 to $29,000.

“Deal,” Rice responded.
Also, on a previous episode of "A Charles Rice Special"....

Being PJ

Ever have one of those days when it feels like everyone in the worlds is watching every single thing you do and it all makes them very very disappointed? So disappointed, in fact, that even when it is you who does the one or two good things that make all the difference for everyone, hardly anybody notices.
This time, the defense made the play. Or actually two.

First, Alex Anzalone and P.J. Williams combined for a tackle that caused a momentum-shifting fumble in the second quarter.

Then Williams returned an interception for a touchdown that all but sealed the redemptive 30-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
That's our boy PJ Williams last night. PJ Twitter (still trending as we type this morning) has been a wild ride.  But as happy as the ending may seem, let us also recognize that even congratulations come with qualifications.


And in the moment of even our greatest triumph over adversity, the universe is bigger than merely ourselves and the struggles of one Williams can seem trivial compared to those of the next. 

Marcus Williams walked out of the visitors' locker room at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday clutching a football.

It was the game ball, presented to him after the Saints' 30-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

It was Williams' return to the place where his missed tackle on a Stefon Diggs catch ended New Orleans' season last year in the playoffs. But for Williams, this game wasn't about redemption.

This game was about his grandfather, Richard Glennon Boyd, who died of cancer on Tuesday. Boyd was 79.

"I know he's proud," Williams said. "He told me he was proud of me before he left and I know he's still looking down on me and watching over my shoulder."

Saturday, October 27, 2018

What is John Bel doing in Israel?

The Governor took off with a host of state officials and press in tow for the middle east this week to attend meetings with government and business leaders there. The meat of their trip would appear to be centered on "cybersecurity."
Edwards says the trip stems from his position as co-chairman of the National Governors Association’s Resource Center for State Cybersecurity. The NGA’s cybersecurity conference will be held in the Shreveport area in May 2019.

Edwards says Louisiana can learn from Israel’s work and research on cybersecurity.
Previously Edwards declared October to be "Cybersecurity Awareness Month"
saying also that we should all be very afraid during this time.
"There are more threats out there than you can imagine," Edwards said during a proclamation-signing ceremony on Thursday. "If you think about it too much, you almost can't even sleep at night."
The problem a lot of us are having, though, is we can't be properly freaked out if they won't tell us what it is we are supposed to freak out about.  Edwards refused to identify any of these specific threats that were keeping him up at night.  There was a guy there from something called the "Cyber Innovation Center" who said only that "Our adversaries are extremely capable," and "The threats are real."

Who knows what they mean by that?  From the looks of things the "threat" they've been most concerned with this year has been environmental activists mildly annoying the progess of construction on the Bayou Bridge pipeline. 

We do know Edwards and his entourage are hoping to come back from Israel with all sorts of new ideas about stuff to throw money at just in case that helps. That probably has something to do with explaining the anti-BDS order the Governor signed in May.  Wouldn't want anybody's scruples over supporting a terror state get in the way of contractors doing business.  That would really keep some people up at night.

Are we absolutely certain this wasn't Kenneth Landrieu?

Those cereal box badges are everywhere.
The unidentified man approached the lawn-care workers and identified himself as a police officer, showing a badge described as a silver star featuring a pelican. He then began questioning the workers about their employer, their places of origin and whether they had any marijuana or cocaine in their possession, the NOPD said.

The robber next called both men over to their work truck and began patting them down and frisking them. He then reached into their pockets and took their wallets, police said.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Do we even know how to Mardi Gras anymore

One of the nice things about Chewbacchus getting huge in recent years was the way it drew some of the crowd off of the Uptown route on the first Saturday night. Those of us who have spent the past decade or so arguing for a more diverse Carnival schedule with parades in different neighborhoods felt vindicated by this, admittedly anecdotal, evidence in our favor.

Well now the cops have had enough of all that.
The popular Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus Carnival parade will roll on Saturday, Feb. 9 in 2019, two weeks earlier than its usual slot on the Mardi Gras parade calendar. Brooke Ethridge, the co-captain of the science fiction-oriented parade, said that she was made aware of the change during a routine check-in with City Hall.

Ethridge said that a city representative informed the krewe that some parades would be moved to earlier dates in order for the New Orleans Police Department to provide the best security.
So weird that with all their fancy new predictive policing and stuff they still aren't able to handle some people walking down the street on a pre-published route for a few hours. 

What do police even do?

This was never really true but there are some old fashioned folks still among us who prefer to think the police should investigate crimes when they happen and otherwise stay out of the way.  Maybe help some old ladies cross streets every now and then.  I guess it's still okay to do the wobble at Mardi Gras. Maybe let's try to get away from that if we can, though.

Again, it's never really worked that way.  American police forces have always existed primarily to protect rich people's property. This has meant everything from tracking down runaway slaves to quashing working class labor and political organizing efforts. Chiefly the police exist to enforce order, most often by means or threat of violence.

There's a quote most often ascribed to Huey Long on the question of whether or not we'd ever have fascism in America. Huey is believed to have said,  "Of course we’ll have it. We’ll have it under the guise of anti-fascism.”  Today we have as violent and sophisticated a police surveillance state as we've ever had. We've allowed it to grow under the guise of "anti-violence."
The city had been using the software since 2012. But in March, former mayor Mitch Landrieu declined to extend the Palantir agreement for a fourth time. And current Mayor LaToya Cantrell said she would not revive it.

Cantrell has kept that promise, but documents obtained by The Lens show that her administration is in the beginning stages of developing a new tool for identifying likely victims and perpetrators of gun violence, partnering with the same criminologist whose research formed the foundation of the Palantir software.

The tool is being developed by the New Orleans Gun Violence Reduction Council, which Cantrell created in May.

In an August op-ed published by NOLA.com, Cantrell said that the council’s central task is “to come up with a plan to execute the violence reduction recommendations produced by my transition team.”
See we have to train cameras on you 24/7 and plug everything we know about you, your friends, your shopping habits, grades, work life, etc. into our algorithm that predicts the future in order to protect you.  This isn't about keeping you in line. This stuff is for your own good, don't you know? Here please enjoy a relaxing session in our meditation room. It's right here behind the metal detector.
Steps from the walk-through metal detector inside New Orleans City Hall are a few beige recliners in a small, softly lit room, where an attached office allows social workers, ministers and other faith-based volunteers to lend an ear to the public and connect people to the city’s spectrum of care.

On Oct. 25, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, city officials and area faith leaders cut the ribbon for a “meditation room,” what Cantrell says is a “safe space for our people to come, to reflect, even to seek counsel if they need it.”
Don't be afraid. We want you feel supported and safe and... wait a minute... looks like we're going off script a little bit.
Another council member, Nathalie Simon, suggested increasing law enforcement resources and capacity for deterrence. “If we solve more crimes, less likely to feel like you can get away with it,” the meeting notes say. Simon is a special council at Laitram, a Harahan-based manufacturing firm.

Even in the absence of an official role in the program, it’s unclear if there’s anything that would prevent the NOPD from accessing the data and identities produced by the new program for its investigations.
Alright we just want to keep you in line, okay?  Does that mean the police have their eyes and ears on everything you do or say? Maybe. "It's unclear if there's anything that would prevent" that.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Programmed and managed

The primary story here is that there are apparently new rumors about where the mayor might be thinking about moving City Hall to.  But we can't get much clarity on what those are.  We can know that such plans might involve Duncan Plaza, though, because they are affecting the timeline for renovations there.
Recalling a recent conversation he had with Mayor LaToya Cantrell, (Downtown Development District Director Kurt) Weigle said he was told the city may need Duncan Plaza's land to move or expand City Hall.

"Generally speaking, we understand the mayor is looking at all options to improve or move City Hall and until a final decision is made, there could be some role for Duncan Plaza to play in that," Weigle said. The plan is for Duncan Plaza to be under construction next year, but he added that he's not sure of the timeline the city is on to make a decision on City Hall.
The Duncan Plaza redesign has been in the works for a few years now.  We keep hearing about how "outdated" the current look is but I've never understood what that means.  The article lists ways to improve the drainage and lighting that sound pretty good.  But, fundamentally, a park is still a park. It's an open public space where people are free to come and go and enjoy.  Weigle seems to have different ideas about that, though.
Weigle said the district sees the reimagined Duncan Plaza becoming a highly active space, hosting frequent exercise classes and events.

"Parks that are highly programmed and highly managed become successful," Weigle said.
In other words,  it will be "programmed" in the sense that a lot of things happen for which the city and DDD can collect fees. As for "managed" one can't help but read into that a deliberate attempt to keep the homeless and other undesirables out which has been a major obsession for city government for some time now.