Monday, April 30, 2018


Maybe this isn't the most Discourse-friendly observation to offer but Jeff Landry don't talk so good.
“It’s offensive to me that Bank of America and Citigroup think they can engage in public policy decisions. Is it American to just decide arbitrarily who we sell guns to and who we don’t? Why isn’t this ‘fassism’ at its best?” Attorney General Jeff Landry began his screed (and we presume he meant “fascism”).“’Fassism’ is when you take the industries of a country and you turn it into oppressive policies, and that’s what this is! Who made Bank of America and Citigroup the social police?
As we all know, Landry has been hard at work over the past few years trying to find ever brighter political spotlights to perform under.  His chops haven't quite caught up to his ambitions.  Watch this video of his baffling announcement last month of the decision not to prosecute the police officers who shot and killed Alton Sterling.  His statement is rambling and difficult to follow. Also he pronounces the word, voluminous "volume-us."

Maybe it's rude to say a man in charge of the state law enforcement apparatus who has just sanctioned murder for his own race-baiting political purposes is a sub-lingual buffoon. That is a question for our civility gatekeepers to resolve.  But I have to believe it is fair to say the office of Attorney General would do well to better hone its rhetorical skills.  Maybe there is an online course available.

Anyway, Landry should definitely work on this. Especially if he wants to be Governor, which most everybody says he does.  Although, Grace points out in this blurb that the work he is doing to consolidate power in the state GOP, "suggests he may be focused elsewhere."
In case it wasn’t obvious who his role model is, Landry has taken over the political action committee that Vitter once used to help give the Legislature a long-sought GOP Republican majority — and, not coincidentally, to position himself as the party’s leading power broker in the process. Landry’s also changing the group’s name, Hilburn wrote, from the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority to Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority. Just in case anyone missed the point.
On the other hand, Vitter did that and also ran for governor. So it's possible to walk and chew gum at the same time. Though, maybe Landry shouldn't chew anything while he's trying to talk. He's having enough trouble with just the words.

Of all the things that Mitch needs to be criticized for..

I'll never understand why people fixate on one of the few things he (sort of.. but not really) did right.
There are more messages flying above New Orleans Jazz Fest. But who's responsible for this year's?

A banner reading "Landrieu Legacy - Bought Cranes Instead of Fixing Drains'' was being pulled behind a small plane Sunday afternoon (April 29). Immediately behind it was a plane pulling a banner for the Hustler Club.
Also he's leaving next week. Also, too, the monuments are down. Why even bother with this anymore?  Also, too, as well, everybody knows you're supposed to hire a skywriter for this stuff.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

He's a weird dude

An Illinois native who moved to Louisiana as a child and grew up about 20 minutes from the Jambalaya Capital of the World, Gonzales, Cassidy told a national audience: “I’m not sure there was a roux within that jambalaya. And as everyone back home knows, first you make a roux, r-o-u-x. And that is upon which you base your jambalaya. I’m not sure I tasted a roux.”
Not entirely sure Bill Cassidy knows what food is. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Not so silent piling

Drainage project damaged my home

Earlier this month, Mitch Landrieu told the Sewerage and Water Board the city's entire drainage system is in need of an overhaul the cost of which could run into the billions of dollars.  Oh, also, he said coming up with that money is going to be very difficult.
Landrieu also warned that while both the city and the S&WB have been able to dip into FEMA money and other federal funds since Hurricane Katrina, the city alone will likely have to find the money it needs going forward.

"This board is going to have to shoulder the responsibility of the next major thing to help this city survive," Landrieu said.

"There is no way to do this, there is zero way to do this, without a new revenue stream that comes from the people of New Orleans," he said.
This week, outgoing District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry and her replacement Joe Giarrusso spoke at a public meeting about the challenges S&WB faces. One of those challenges is they don't seem to know how much revenue they're supposed to be collecting from people now.
One woman in the audience told Guidry that she seems to get no bills for several months in a row, then a single massive bill in a “lump sum.” Another resident said he receives his bill every month, but that “two months out of three” are an estimate, indicating that no one actually read his meter.

The high bills are the latest in a litany of failures by the agency that City Council members are continuing to learn about since its catastrophic collapse during the flooding rain last August, Guidry said. The billing software is riddled with bugs, and its implementation was “terrible,” she said. Meanwhile, turnover among agency employees is so high that she recently heard an estimate that they have 400 vacancies.

“Where this will end, goodness only knows,” Guidry said with a wry laugh. “It’s astounding. I think I’ve heard everything, and then I hear something else.”

Further, there seem to be problems now with the actual readings, Guidry said. The problem may be growing so large and so complex that a solution may not even be possible, she said.

“It does seem to me that there should be a lawsuit that comes out of this for all the people who paid too much. Some entrepreneurial attorney is going to figure it out,” Guidry said. “The Sewerage & Water Board has been in such bad shape lately that I’m afraid it’s just going to go bankrupt. I can’t sugar coat this. Everything that could be wrong is wrong.”
Well here is something else.  Just when you thought they needed to come up with a lot of money they don't have, it turns out they will have to come up with more money they don't have.
One homeowner said the drainage construction on Napoleon Avenue made his house "shake, shift and jump," according to a judge's ruling in Orleans Parish civil court. Another neighbor, whose house sits a few blocks from the construction on Jefferson Avenue, said jackhammers had "caused his kitchen cabinets to fall off of the wall."

They are among five homeowners now entitled to collect more than $500,000 collectively from the Sewerage & Water Board, based on a ruling handed down Wednesday (April 25) by Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Nakisha Ervin-Knott.

The ruling is from a lawsuit filed in 2015 against the Sewerage & Water Board by about 300 residents and business who claim the utility should compensate them for property damage resulting from the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, a massive regional drainage improvement undertaking that began in 1996.
The lawsuit succeeded at demonstrating to the judge that the damage sustained by homes along Napoleon Aveneue was due to excessive vibrations from the construction that the Corps and S&WB contractors did not take very seriously.
The homeowners' attorneys also argued that vibrations from work sites often breached the maximum intensity allowed under the Army Corps's contracts. However, "under-reporting" data made it complicated to pinpoint exactly how many times the vibration exceeded allowable limits, Ervin-Knott found, backed by testimony from homeowners that contractor personnel tasked with monitoring vibrations were at times not present on-site. On one occasion, a homeowner said she caught a vibration monitor sleeping on the job.
Back at the beginning of the Napoleon work, we were introduced to the "Silent Piler." It is a hydraulic machine that was supposed to minimize vibrations while driving metal sheet pilings into place.  I know these definitely got used. I managed to get some photos of them in action. They're pretty cool, actually.

Sheet pile driving

Apparently cool is different from actually quiet. Or maybe the pile driving wasn't the only source of the trouble. In any event, here is one more thing S&WB has to find "new revenue streams" to pay for. So yay.

Doing the people's business

Lance Harris is a people, after all.
A top Louisiana lawmaker is pushing proposals to benefit independent gas stations -- of which he owns several.

When state Rep. Lance Harris isn't running the Louisiana House Republican Caucus as its chairman, he's back at home in Alexandria running his various businesses. Harris and his wife own Leebo's Stores, Inc. -- a chain of nine gas stations in the Alexandria area.

So it raised some eyebrows in the Louisiana Capitol when two of the six bills Harris introduced in the 2018 legislative session seemed to directly benefit independent gas stations, just like the ones he personally owns. Opponents of the proposals claim one of them would raise fuel prices across the state, which Harris denies.
Actually, this is kind of quaint.  Harris appears to be doing the corruption on his own behalf instead of in obeisance to the larger Koch or ALEC agenda that typically dominates state legislatures these days. This is some throwback lone ranger stuff.
Harris' proposal touches on a federal program that provides incentives around ethanol and other biofuels which "big box" gas stations get to use. Opponents said it's not even clear that Louisiana could pass that type of legislation without running into problems with the federal government.

"If the bill were to pass, there would be lawsuits," said Paul Rainwater, a lobbyist representing Growth Energy, a national group of ethanol and other biofuel producers. "No other state is even considering this type of law."
Now, if we really wanted to open up a conversation about supposedly "renewable" biofuels and agribusiness, that could actually get kind of complicated.  But Harris doesn't care so much about that as he does his own gas stations. 

Anyway, how's that budget coming along?

Is Mitch Running For President Dot Com


Never trade up (Okay sometimes trade up)

It is time to put away all of your arguments about the draft being a crapshoot and that it is always smarter to take more chances than to presume you know for certain one guy is going to be worth everything.  Those are correct arguments, of course, but who cares. This is our guy.
Davenport was born, raised and blossomed in San Antonio, but a strong portion of the defensive end was influenced heavily by the city of New Orleans.

His family is from New Orleans East. His father, Ron, played at Kennedy. His grandfather, Artis, was the track and field coach at Southern University of New Orleans and is now enshrined in the school's Hall of Fame. Frank Wilson, his coach at UTSA and one of the men by his side at the draft in Dallas on Thursday, was raised in the same part of New Orleans as the rest of Davenport's family.

The first jersey Davenport ever wore was Reggie Bush's Saints jersey.
Family is from New Orleans and he "blossomed" in San Antonio.  This guy is basically an honorary Benson. I'd argue that Davenport is Tom Himself reincarnated but the math doesn't quite work out.

Speaking of the math, that Reggie Bush jersey story is kind of jarring. Things that seem like they just happened yesterday turn out to have not.  On the day I took this photo, for example, Marcus Davenport probably didn't even have that jersey yet.  He was nine years old.

Superdome and Arena

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Innovation Accomplished

It was only two years ago that Advance hired entrepreneurial creative destruction guru Tim Williamson to innovate the hell out of the NOLA.com newsroom. They were very excited to have him. It seemed important.
"It was important that the next president of NOLA Media Group be a proven innovator with a strong media background, proven business acumen and deep roots in New Orleans," said Mathews. "Tim is all of those things and more. He is the perfect person to lead our company into the future."
And, you know, why wouldn't they be excited? Williamson's resume: Newman, Tulane, Bear Stearns, Cox Communications, Idea Village put him in the perfect position to know and empathize with the upper class, clubby people who make all the decisions that matter in New Orleans. It was important that they had a well placed advocate in the local media for a change, right?

Well he must be pretty darn efficient because that job is done.
Less than two years after taking the helm of The Times-Picayune, former Idea Village founder Tim Williamson is stepping down.

In an email to the staff Thursday, Williamson, who became president of the NOLA Media Group in August 2016, said, “I know this seems very sudden. But it’s something I’ve been thinking about as I’ve watched this team grow and hit its stride."

An article posted on nola.com said Williamson will not be replaced. Instead, the NOLA Media Group’s vice president of content, Mark Lorando, and vice president and chief revenue officer, Alisha Owens, will handle the day-to-day operation of news and sales. David Francis will remain executive vice president.
Can't wait to see where Tim goes next.

But Sean said all the quarterbacks are bad

It's early on Draft Day and people need to talk about things
The Saints own the 27th overall pick in this year’s draft, but they may have a higher pick before the night is over.

New Orleans has made multiple calls about making “a big leap up” in the first round, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

Typically if a team is looking to make a big leap up in the first round, that team is looking to draft a quarterback. So the Saints may think they can make a move for the heir apparent to Drew Brees.

Who would it be? It’s probably not realistic to think New Orleans could move up high enough to get Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold. Josh Allen, Josh Rosen or Lamar Jackson might be available with a pick somewhere in the range that the Saints could go up and get.
Rapaport tends to make things up, especially when it comes to the Saints, so that might be what this is.  It also might just be that this is the morning when everybody calls everybody to gauge asking prices on potential trades anyway so, technically, it is very likely true to say the Saints are doing that.

Anyway, the only compelling reason to believe the Saints might move up to take a quarterback is the fact that Sean Payton has spent the last week negging all of them in the media.  So the possibility is at least worth considering.  I'm as terrible at reading tea leaves as any sports pundit (except maybe Fletcher Mackel) so take this for what it's worth.  But if they're gonna go up and get a guy it will most likely be Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield.  And even then, I think they won't move unless the guy they're after slides to like the 20th pick. Mayfield could be the first overall pick so maybe just keep an eye on Jackson. (Caveat: Jackson did lose to LSU in a bowl game so just keep that in mind as well.)

Assuming they don't trade up, though, what happens at pick 27?  Well, for weeks and weeks, people were writing about Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki.  And then they stopped writing about him and started writing about South Caroline tight end Hayden Hurst.  In this morning's Advocate, the beat writers guessing at the Saints' first round pick don't mention either one. Joel Erickson does put South Dakota's Dallas Goedert on his short list but he isn't his top choice.  It would be unusual, even for the Saints who could definitely use one, to take a tight end in the first round and I think everyone kind of knows that.

Another interesting thing about the way the draft chatter has shifted has been the way focus has moved away from defense. That might have something to do with free agency. Kurt Coleman and Demario Davis make the needs somewhat less obvious. Clearly, the Saints would like to pick up a pass rusher but hey who wouldn't? At 27, they probably aren't going to find what they're looking for.  (Arden Key will still be hanging around in the fourth round or later anyway.)  I do like what Erickson and Underhill have to say about there never being enough cornerbacks.  They both zero in on Iowa's Josh Jackson who seems to be the hot topic today at NOLA.com as well. Eight interceptions in 2017 is hard to ignore.

Still, I think, as I often tend to think, that the most glaring need on this roster is offensive line depth. The starters are very good all the way across but how many games did the starting unit play together last season? (I'm sure this is something we can look up. I am too lazy to do it.) With Senio Kelemete gone, I'm not sure they have the flexibilty to handle even one injury let alone two or more at one time.   Rest assured, Terron Armstead is going to miss 4 to 6 games in any given year. Max Unger is 32 years old. They brought Jermon Bushrod back from the dead in case they need to prop something up over where Armstead is supposed to be standing.  That should not make anybody feel too confident.

So let's draft an offensive lineman.  In that Advocate blurb I keep mentioning because it was in today's paper, Joel Erickson says he likes Arkansas G/C Frank Ragnow. That's fine. Potentially that gives you more flexibility and depth at three positions if we assume they want to keep sliding Andrus Peat out to tackle when necessary.   But I went shopping for tackles as well and I found this
Chukwuma Okorafor (pronounced chuck-WOO-muh oh-KOR-uh-for) and his family immigrated from Botswana to the United States in 2010, so he got a late start on learning football. Despite eventually getting recruited by football's biggest powers, he stayed in Michigan to play for Head Coach P.J. Fleck at WMU. Okorafor played as a reserve in 12 games in 2014, then started every game at right tackle as a sophomore. He switched to left tackle for his junior year after the departure of Willie Beavers for the NFL, earning first-team All-MAC honors for his efforts, using his wide body and length to protect the quarterback and blast holes for running back. Okorafor received numerous All-American accolades and a first-team all-conference nod for his play as a senior in 12 starts at the left tackle spot.
Here we have a guy whose family immigrated to the US, who "got a late start" learning football, and who played at a mid level MAC school.  That checks a lot of boxes on the generic Saints draft prospect profile. Also his name is Okorafor which is very close to being Okafor which is something the New Orleans already has on the defense and on the basketball team.  Also, when I mentioned all of this on Twitter, everybody immediately started calling him Mr. Okra and now I'm more convinced than ever this is our guy.

That is, unless Matt Ryan's cousin is available in which case the Saints may consider going that way.  They've had cousins of Falcons QBs on the team before and it's worked out pretty okay.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Where are they now

LaToya might hire Warren Riley to be her Homeland Security dude. That is probably going to get some attention.  Compared to naming Neil Abramson as her legislative lead and Derrick Shepherd as her.. um.. caterer or something, it's really not that big of a deal. Still, it has already triggered a bit of an amusing slap fight with another terrible person. 
“In the four years (Riley) was police chief, he never even bothered to read the Danziger Bridge report and to assess how something like that occurred and was covered up by the Police Department,” said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the watchdog Metropolitan Crime Commission. “Warren Riley was the chief of police during the Danziger cover-up, and now, we’re bringing him back for an encore?”

Told of Goyeneche's comments, Riley retorted, "I don't see why he's still the head of the Crime Commission. I have zero respect for Rafael Goyeneche."
Ha ha that's awesome.  Anyway, if Riley does get hired, it won't be his job to not read reports anymore. Instead he'll be in charge of shortening parade routes and operating the surveillance cameras and ratting people out to ICE and stuff. He's probably qualified for that.

Okay but do they eat buckmoths?

Just when the regular assortment of Louisiana plagues (termites, caterpillars, nutria, snails, hogs.. do palmetto bugs even count?) was beginning to feel tiresome, nature.. or I guess... Audubon... found a way
The invasive Cuban treefrog, whose secretions can burn skin and eyes, and which can outcompete native Louisiana treefrogs, has established a breeding colony in Audubon Zoo and The Fly that is not likely to be eradicated and could spread to the state's coastal wetlands with potentially devastating impact, according to researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and the zoo.
Great. Something else that can fall out of a tree and sting you. Thanks, Ron Forman. 
The zoo had imported palm trees and other plant materials from Florida that year for its Asian exhibit, elephant exhibit and gator run area, "and we surmised they might have come in with the landscape material shipments," said Joel Hamilton, vice president and general curator for the zoo, and a co-author of the paper. "But we don't know for sure."
All that's left to do now is figure out how to get them in the cookbook. 

A great country

Congratulations to the Nation of... wait, that isn't right... the Country of Islam?
In arguing in favor of President Donald Trump’s travel ban on citizens from several Muslim majority countries, United States Solicitor General Noel Francisco slipped up and described Islam as a “country.”
Also, it looks like the court considered that a winning argument. People wonder why I can't take credentialed professionals who are in charge of important things seriously.  This is the reason.

I feel you, George, I really do

Sometimes there is just so much to do at one time that nothing gets done at all.  Or, at least, the thing you are supposed to be doing never happens.
George R.R. Martin is confirming what Game of Thrones fans have increasingly suspected: The long-awaited sixth book in his A Song of Ice and Fire saga, The Winds of Winter, will not be out in 2018
In Martin's defense, those books pretty much stopped being interesting at all after the third one.  And since the thing that makes them noteworthy, and the source of their appeal, is their meta-commentary on the facile solipsism of the fantasy genre itself, there's no need to finish them.  That HBO forked over millions of dollars for the right to run with that should be enough for the guy.

Anyway, we all know what happens when we try to say too many things about too many things at once while too much stuff keeps happening. I can relate a little bit, at least.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Countdown to shutdown

Can't get the budget out of the presumed special session on time if you can't get the special session to start.  Barras is already dragging his feet
House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, wouldn't commit to ending the Louisiana Legislature's regular session early so lawmakers can move into a special session in which they might try to renew or pass new taxes and deal with some of Louisiana's projected budget shortfall that would cut health care services all over the state.
Imagine that. 

Send more rich people

LOL Pres
Many of the downtown residential developments are expensive. An increase in well-paying jobs is seemingly necessary to fill those pricey units.

What you can get is migration, even without job growth. Those people that can afford to will come to this great land that we have in the downtown environment, with all the restaurants and entertainment, and the walkability. This area will do well.

The more fundamental question is, how does the (rest of the) city and metropolitan area do?
Well, there goes your YIMBY plan.  We really were all about moving the poors out of the way for the sake of replacing them with "migration, even without job growth."  In other words, these are luxury second homes where once there was affordable housing. 

"Woo hoo"

Why do we not get an attribution for this quote?
The Starbucks proposed for a shopping center on South Claiborne Avenue in Central City got an extremely enthusiastic approval from the New Orleans City Council last week, allowing it to press forward quickly with its construction plans.

The Starbucks will be a separate building within the shopping center that takes up the 2800 block of South Claiborne, but will require the demolition of a small section of the structure to make room for it, plans submitted to the city show.

The project also required specific City Council approval for its drive-through, which was granted quicker than it takes to get a cup of coffee Thursday.

“This is a project I’ve been working on for a long time,” said City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell.

The project received a “woo hoo” within the Council chambers as the motion to approve it passed unanimously.
It must have just echoed out from the walls. Also LaToya has been "working on it a long time" so I'd love to hear about what kind of tax break they're getting.  Not that it's too big a deal. I mean if you're gonna put a bunch of suburban box stores and drive through fast food somewhere, South Claiborne is just about the most appropriate place for it in the city.  And, I mean, sure, if you're gonna open a Starbucks, it's probably a good idea to have a drive-through anyway. It's not safe to just go in there and hang out.

The excitement is curious, though.  It's just a coffee shop. It's not like it's Trump Tower or anything.

"Mental health directives"

Can't imagine what this is in reference to. The guy always seemed so stable.
Santa Monica prosecutor Autumn Rindels said in an email that Scurlock entered the plea to a charge known as lewd and dissolute conduct in public. He was ordered to serve one year of summary probation and "ordered to follow all mental health directives, including mental health counseling and taking all prescribed medication," Rindels said in an email.

Rindels did not elaborate on the mental health order, but said there was "not an official mental health determination associated with this case." Scurlock could been sentenced up to a year in jail.
At least it's not official. That would be way up on Tom Benson's level. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Funny dreams

It's hard to decide if the Republicans in the legislature are sleepwalking or if they are just playing possum with their eyes open. Either way they do seem to  be treating the budget process like some sort of dream. How else does one justify a billion dollars plus worth of cuts to health care unless one doesn't believe any of this is real?
Both Harris and Appropriations Chair Cameron Henry said the state didn’t have enough money to fund promised services. Both said they would back “revenue-raising measures,” i.e. taxes, in a special session expected to be called in mid-May.

But this exercise was part of a process to give lawmakers a much firmer grasp on how much would be needed, both Henry and Harris insisted.

The size of the fiscal cliff has shrunk since the first special session. "The number is getting smaller and smaller," Henry said.

“This is what a responsible budget looks like — dealing with the actual figures, the actual money that's available to the state today,” Harris said after the vote. “While not perfect — there is still a lot of work to do — we passed a budget, and it’s on its way to the Senate to finish work on the budget using the funds that we have today.”

What happens in the state Senate is still up in the air. Senators could rearrange the funding and cut different programs. Or they could stall and wait for a special session.
See we're not actually voting on a budget here. We're just voting on a hypothetical idea of what a budget looks like. The actual budget will get done in the Senate or in the Special Session we kept screaming that we didn't want. Anyway somebody else will do it. This is a dream. In here we can do anything we want.

Of course it must tell us something that this horror show budget is the sort of thing the House radicals dream about.
More than 46,000 people who are elderly and disabled are expected to lose their nursing home slots and 24-hour home health care services in a little over two months if the House budget plan becomes law. The popular TOPS college scholarship would only be funded at 80 percent for the 2018-2019 school year.
Why would anyone want to live in that nightmare? If this is the dream budget, why not dream big? We're trying to pass a budget now with the knowledge that we will have to come back and fund it later, so let's shop for the things we actually need. That way, when we want to claw back some of the money we waste on things like enterprise zones we can say with some confidence that we're going to put that into hospitals.

The nice thing about a dream budget is that it gives everybody a chance to say what they really believe in without any of those nagging pragmatic political consequences to worry about, right?
The House budget passed with just two votes to spare in the Republican-controlled chamber. The vote fell mostly along political party lines. Only one Democrat, New Orleans Rep. Neil Abramson, voted for the budget with the Republicans. Eight Republicans voted with Democrats against the proposal. The three independents in the House split on the spending plan, with two voting against the budget and one voting for it.
Neil has got some funny funny dreams.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Growing pains

This is what a housing crisis looks like to people who no longer have to worry about housing.
“I’m very aware of the growing pains of Bywater,” Ramsey said. “[But] Bywater historically is a mixed-use neighborhood. ... It hasn’t ever been a quiet sleepy suburb.”

Though she said she’s “not completely enamored with idea of a hotel there” and can “certainly understand some of the complaints,” Ramsey said the provisos would better fit the project into the Master Plan and address residents’ concerns. But the more than 40 people at the meeting who opposed the project grew frustrated with Ramsey’s description of opponents — Ramsey challenged that residents concerned about gentrification and displacement have only “recently moved in themselves” and called residents’ advocacy against the project “disinformation campaigns by people with ulterior motives.”
Nadine has spent a career in politics taking money from developers and real estate vampires but wants to tell us something about "ulterior motives." Anyway, there are several disinformation misdirects going on here. All of it comes from Nadine.

Nadine purposefully ignores the role of class in the way she defines gentrification.  She complains about the supposed hypocrisy of "recent arrivals" while completely missing the point. Recent arrivals don't forcibly displace people. Money does that.  Pointing out that there are recent arrivals on both sides of the Sun Yard fight tells us nothing.  Looking at who those recent arrivals are tells us everything.  The hotel developers are in the real estate business, except in a carefully branded small business, organic, family, whatever.. way.
Solms, 36, and Pignataro, 38, co-own a small family business focused on historic preservation, including renovating several apartment buildings in Philadelphia.

She envisions the local property as "just a small boutique hotel" — a nice place to stay, swim and relax, "nothing exclusionary, high-end, just very friendly and fun."

Solms also has spent more than a decade operating an organic agriculture business in Jamaica. Pignataro has a background in real estate.
There are recent arrivals among the opponents as well. But one of these situations is not like the other. Can you spot the difference?
My partner and I are former tenants of 3030 St. Claude and were displaced from our home to make way for this development.

We are low-income working people. Our home on St. Claude was affordable and convenient, in a wonderful community with great neighbors. When the developers refused to renew our lease, Morgan noted that this was the second time in two years that he had been displaced from the area to make way for upscale development. (The earlier eviction was from his apartment on North Rampart near Spain Street. Morgan’s landlord had decided to empty and renovate the building, then cash out for a hefty profit.)
If the housing remains available and affordable, then people can afford to live there. If it is converted to condos and hotels and STR pseudo-hotels, then they can't. This doesn't necessarily have to do with where the individuals involved come from. It is true that a lot of the money that causes displacement of poorer locals and transplants alike comes from out-of-town land speculators and the tourism industry. But that is a level of analysis Ramsey refuses to apply. In her mind, it's all just a natural process of "growing pains."  Which is an easy thing to discount when you aren't the party who is actually feeling the pain.

Ramsey also raises the specter of "NIMBYism" among the Sun Yard's opponents. I think that "growing pains" comment was actually meant to rebuff the quality-of-life type complaints from neighbors like noise and whatnot. She might have a point if that were the sole objection. Noise is a contentious issue all over town. Often we find noise complaints used as another tool of gentrification, in fact, as wealthier "recent arrivals" lobby to shut down corner bars and music venues.  But not all noise complaints serve the same purpose. As always, the relevant question is for whom, against whom, and we have a tendency to ignore that question when it suits.

I have a pretty high tolerance for noise. Which is why I don't want to live in a "quiet sleepy suburb" either. I like being around people. I live in a neighborhood where a lot of stuff happens. It gets pretty intense there during Mardi Gras. A few second lines pass by my door every year. Those are the big ones. There's also a lot of little stuff.  I'm a block off a major thoroughfare so there is lots of vehicular and foot traffic.  There are a couple of neighborhood bars in walking distance.  I'm caddy corner to a laundromat that sometimes hosts extracurricular activities. Yesterday, for example, there was a "4/20" party there featuring a few hours with a live band.  None of that stuff bothers me. It's the general noise of the neighborhood being itself.   The loud late night parties on the balcony at the short term rental across the street, though, make a more hostile sound. It carries the threat of being kicked out of my apartment one day.

I'm no "recent arrival."  I was born and raised in New Orleans. I've lived in my current location for almost 19 years.  My presence there hasn't displaced anybody.  Similarly, the recent arrival service industry workers and immigrant families who live in my building aren't displacing me.  But, as more and more of the property in the surrounding blocks is flipped from affordable housing over to condos and vacation rentals, it's that money that is threatening to displace all of us.

Nadine says this is all just growing pains, though. She has one more council meeting to go before her tenure is up. 
Following some debate after initially requesting a vote in favor of the project during the Council’s April 19 meeting, District C Councilmember Nadine Ramsey — whose district encompasses Bywater — pushed to defer voting on the plan until May 3, the last meeting of the current City Council before the administration’s inauguration on May 7. (It’ll be one of Ramsey’s last votes in office — voters elected former District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer to replace Ramsey in 2017 elections.)
It's entirely possible that the next council takes the same attitude that Ramsey has.  But let's worry about those recent arrivals after they've already moved in.

Friday, April 20, 2018

This week in state preemption

City council passed an ordinance yesterday that will keep the city from booting your car until you've racked up three unpaid tickets. That's nice of them to do.  We could all stand to see the city be a little less brutal in its regressive approach to revenue generation by nickel-and-diming everyday citizens.  The new mayor sounds less inclined to that sort of thing than the outgoing one is. It was a popular campaign plank of hers, anyway. We'll see how long that holds up after she takes office. I am highly skeptical. For now, though, it's a step in a better direction. 

But the key thing to note here is that this decision was made at the municipal level only after State Senator JP Morrell was convinced to pull a bill that would have imposed the same policy change from Baton Rouge. State preemption of local issues is another matter of concern for the new mayor. Asking to have this booting ordinance happen in the council and not the legislature is one small way of asserting this principle.

They're also interested in keeping local zoning regulations local but that's going less well.
A Louisiana House committee on Wednesday (April 18) voted to approve a ban that would forbid local governments from requiring developers to include affordable housing in new developments. The bill was staunchly opposed by New Orleans City Council members, affordable housing advocates and Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

The committee's lopsided vote -- it passed by a margin of 11-4 -- could eventually be seen as a major defeat for Landrieu, the City Council and Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell. Opponents of the bill had hoped to kill the bill before it reached the full House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass easily.
There had been some speculation that the committee where this was assigned would have been more friendly to the city.  Turns out, this wasn't the case.  Now it's almost certain to pass the full House.  Although, maybe LaToya's point man in the legislature can do something. What's he got to say? 
Abramson, a New Orleans Democrat, who has been designated by Cantrell to help steer legislation on behalf of the city, didn't return a message seeking comment about what he could do to assist Cantrell's cause on the House floor. Asked to outline how Cantrell has directed Abramson to handle the bill in the House, a transition spokesman, Mason Harrison, said, "We are presently working with Rep. Abramson, other members of the Orleans Parish delegation, the mayor's intergovernmental relations team and the city's lobbying team to determine next steps."
Oh okay.  Let's hope the next steps don't involve just going along with whatever the Republicans want again. That's how Neil voted on the budget this week.  But, to be fair, that was only a matter of slashing something like 2 billion dollars worth of health care services nobody will miss.  This other fight over a largely symbolic and ineffective zoning tool, though, maybe he can help with that.  He'll let us know, I guess.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Campaign 2019

Pretty simple to see what it's going to look like right now.  
The Louisiana House Appropriations Committee approved a state budget Monday (April 17) that fully funded the TOPS college scholarship, but would eliminate several critical health care services for thousands of people and jeopardizes medical schools and residency programs in the state, according to officials.

Louisiana recently saw revenue projections for state government climb $346 million, thanks mostly to an increase in personal income taxes that resulted from new federal tax laws. The appropriations committee chose to put most of that new money -- about $233 million -- toward the TOPS program, which covers tuition for about 50,000 college students each year.

John Bel closed all of your hospitals! Meanwhile, your friendly neighborhood Republican legislator saved TOPS for you. But John Bel wants to take your TOPS away.  Vote for (Jeff/John/Ralph/Steve) and we can stop him.

None of this is technically true. But it's what they're setting up. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Well that does it, the Saints are definitely trading up for a quarterback

Sorry I missed Sean Payton negging all of the prospects yesterday. 
Payton told The MMQB he'd be "a little bit uneasy" if he were picking one of the quarterbacks from the group that includes (in no particular order ) Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield.
Okay, Sean.  I mean, drafting anybody is an uneasy proposition.  This thing is pretty much just dumb luck anyway.  This sounds like Payton wants to take a quarterback.  Except not Darnold, probably

Maybe they need to rethink the Zuckerberg method of school admissions

One-App is a killer app.
Under the OneApp, which was launched in 2011 to give families an easier way to apply to the city’s numerous autonomous charter schools, parents rank their top choices among dozens of public and some private schools on a single application that has one deadline.

A computer then attempts to match them to their selections. This year, nearly 17,000 families submitted applications, up from 15,000 families last year.

As a result, only 67 percent of families received either their first, second or third school choice. That’s the lowest match rate in seven years; the system usually has matched around 75 percent of families to one of their top three choices.
Are there any Russian charter schools operating in New Orleans?  It was bad enough that we had that Gulenist one.  We do know that foreign operatives love to hack our algorithms. I'd hate to find out that One App turns out to be what got Trump elected.

Anyway I am pretty sure I see what the problem is here.

On the other hand, the school officials in charge of the process, commonly known as the OneApp, said the low match rate was simply the result of high demand for the city's most well-regarded schools.

"In New Orleans, students are assigned to schools through a process that ensures every student has a fair shot at any open seat at any school citywide,” said Kunjan Narechania, head of the state Recovery School District, which manages the OneApp.

“Every year, the number of students seeking seats at our most sought-after schools far exceeds the number of available seats.
Maybe if we didn't waste so much time on this bizarre shell game that divides the school system among balkanized "competing" companies in order to provide parents with the illusion of choice, we could get the actual mission of providing universal free public education. Ideally, all of the seats in all of the schools would be worth seeking after.  But we'd rather play with our app so here we are.

How'd he do?

NOLA dot com wants its readers to grade Mitch. Your input will determine whether or not he gets to be President so choose carefully.  Just after his second inauguration, I wrote one of the longer posts I've ever put up here trying to get a bead on Mitch's tenure and what criteria we should use to judge his second term.  Maybe that will help.

The tl;dr there, though, is I decided we should probably judge him according to how well he lived up to his own words that day.
Our mission is to create a City of peace where everyone can thrive and no one is left behind. Four years from now may seem a long way away, but time flies.  Those 1460 days will pass in a second. And what will we accomplish in our short time together?  What will we have done to open the circle of opportunity and prosperity to all?
How did he do with that?

Monday, April 16, 2018

Hospitals vs TOPS spittle

This is the week when the House is going to sort of try to pass a budget.  I still think the Republicans are going to drag this out all the way through to a government shutdown this summer in order to embarrass the Governor as much as possible.  But, in the meantime, we might as well go through the motions of having our little debates. I see they're already playing the hits.
The state still faces about a $650 million "fiscal cliff" when temporary tax measures expire June 30, but House Appropriations members have about $346 million more to put toward priorities than Gov. John Bel Edwards had in his executive budget recommendation that he was legally required to unveil in January with nearly $1 billion in proposed cuts.

House Appropriations voted 18-5 in favor of taking the bulk of that additional money -- $246 million -- to fund TOPS and Go Grants scholarships.

The final vote to send HB1 onto the House floor was 17-6. Floor debate is scheduled Thursday.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Un-Borkable Wendy

Last week, New Orleans's world famous very woke racism expert Mitch Landrieu lent his approval to President Trump's nomination of Wendy Vitter to a federal judgeship. 
Landrieu's support came in the form of a letter sent March 1 to Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee. The Democratic mayor wrote that he has "had the great pleasure to know and work with Wendy for many years" and added he "can personally attest to her strong moral character."
We have to wonder there if, by "strong moral character," Mitch was referring to Vitter's disturbingly extreme positions on abortion expressed at several public events. Here she is leading a panel where a pro-life activist claimed that abortion causes breast cancer and that birth control pills can cause you to be murdered. Here she is telling the Clarion Herald that Planned Parenthood "kills over 150,000 females a year."  Vitter came under criticism during her confirmation hearing for leaving this as well as speeches she gave at a Tea Party rally and at an anti-Planned Parenthood protest off of her disclosure form.

She also caused a stir for refusing to answer this question.
At her Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, Wendy Vitter was plainly asked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “Do you believe that Brown v. Board of Education was correctly decided?” Her initial response raised an immediate red flag: “I don’t mean to be coy,” she began, before continuing: “I think I get into a difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions—which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with. Again, my personal, political, or religious views I would set aside. That is Supreme Court precedent. It is binding. If I were honored to be confirmed I would be bound by it and of course I would uphold it.” Asked again by a befuddled Blumenthal whether she supported the ruling, Vitter replied: “Again, I would respectfully not comment on what could be my bosses ruling—the Supreme Court—I would be bound by it, and if I start commenting on ‘I agree with this case’ or ‘don’t agree with this case’ I think we get into a slippery slope.”
What's going on here?  Could it be the former attorney for the Archdiocese of New Orleans has a certain affinity for the more or less de-facto segregated school system it operates?  Maybe.  But, according to the American Bar Association, that's really none of our business.
The American Bar Association's Model Code of Judicial Conduct advises that a candidate for judge "shall not, with respect to cases, controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court, make pledges, promises or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of the office" and "should emphasize in any public statement the candidate's duty to uphold the law regardless of his or her personal views."
Vitter is following a script adhered to by (most especially by conservative) judicial nominees ever since the stuffing of President Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork in 1987 over published opinions of his that leaned heavily toward the radical right. The key to getting confirmed now is to say nothing. In other words, the key to getting confirmed is to undermine the entire purpose of the confirmation process.

The notion that these judges are there "to uphold the law regardless of personal views" is an unexamined absurdity that devalues our commitment to democracy. The law is political. This is the sole source of its legitimacy.  Our laws are written and executed by elected representatives. They should be interpreted and arbitrated by individuals with accountability to the people as well. This is why Louisiana is among the states that elect most of their judges.  The federal appointment process is less pure. But the advise and consent role of the Senate is supposed to provide at least some assurance that the judiciary is subject to the will of the citizenry and not the other way around.  Nominees who refuse to talk about issues on which they are likely to rule are displaying contempt for the Senate's oversight role.

Sidestepping the question by pretending the courts exist in cloistered isolation from politics is plainly bullshit. Every judicial appointment is a political matter.  Mitch McConnell understands this. He's made it his highest priority to embed as many right wing judges as he can manage to stuff in there before he or Trump or both are removed from power.
But here you have an opportunity, particularly if you get highly intelligent, relatively young people into lifetime positions, you can have a long-term impact on the country. So that’s what we’re in the process of doing, and if you believe as most of us do, that we’d like to see America right of center, this is the most consequential year since I’ve been year, and I’ve been here a long time. Supreme Court, deregulation, 12 circuit court judges, comprehensive tax reform. So if you’re a right-of-center person, 2017 was an incredibly successful year, and in my view the linchpin of it, the thing that will last the longest, is the courts.
Wendy Vitter's nomination is part of McConnell's explicitly stated strategy to orient the federal judiciary along right wing ideological lines for a generation. Her disingenuous "Bork-proof" strategy of speaking no evil should be apparent enough to everyone.  It doesn't seem to bother Mitch Landrieu, though. No wonder he's become such a hot property among Democrats lately. They do enjoy getting whipped by McConnell. Might as well keep that going.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The bully state

Honey, wake the kids. You don't want to miss this. Clancy DuBos is actually saying some pretty smart things. And he's saying them about the prospect of a Louisiana Constitutional Convention, which is especially remarkable because Clancy has pushed pretty hard for that in the past even though it isn't really such a great idea.  But here he explains precisely why it's not likely to accomplish anything.
Truth is, Louisiana has a constitutional convention every time our Legislature convenes. Legislators can propose constitutional amendments every year, and many of them do, but none has ever proposed a global fix to Louisiana’s fiscal train wreck. Instead, our lawmakers have proposed — and we, their constituents, have approved — a hodgepodge of fiscal amendments since our constitution was adopted in 1974.

Last month Sue Lincoln wrote about the convention scheme at the Bayou Brief.  I even spent some time on it. But Clancy only needs one paragraph to say the most important point.  If lawmakers really wanted to fix the budget, then they would do that. The problem is mustering the "political will" as Clancy puts it.  What that means, in practice, is actually taking power back from the reactionaries. I suspect Clancy is envisioning a typical reach-across-the-aisle effort to "get things done" or whatever, though. Which is really the sort of thinking that got us into this mess in the first place. But nevermind that right now. Our boy is on a roll.
What began as a much-needed rewrite of Louisiana’s unwieldy 1921 constitution (one of the longest and most-amended in the nation) resulted in a streamlined version of the Huey Long model of state government. The 1974 constitution was more concise than its predecessor, but it did not change what is fundamentally wrong with Louisiana government: We concentrate power (and money) at the state level and stifle local governments’ ability to serve people where they actually live and work
This is not just a Louisiana problem either.  Conservatives have been using state governments as power choke points for decades.  There's a very good recent book about this by Nancy McLean called Democracy In Chains.  McLean traces the roots of the modern neoliberal project to James Buchanan and his founding of what is known as the "Public Choice" school of economics. Buchanan first became involved in politics in shaping reactions to post-Brown desegregation efforts. His project ended up becoming the founding strategy for a half-century's worth of right wing movements.

Here is an interview with McLean where she talks about the role of the state governments in Buchanan's scheme.
The Republican Party leadership bases its pitch to voters on a set of anodyne phrases. “We are the party of freedom, and liberty, and small government.” And that sounds good. Who is against freedom? Who wants super-intrusive government? But when you actually look at what they’re doing, they are freeing corporations to do whatever they want to their workers, the environment, retirees, and so forth and so on. When they say they’re for limited government that isn’t really true.

If you look closely, what they’re doing is limiting the branches of government that are the most responsive to voters: local government and federal government. But they are for extreme power for state governments, which they find much easier to control. We are seeing this happen all around the country where these Koch-funded state policy network organizations and the American Legislative Exchange Council are working hand-in-glove to push what is called “preemption.” They use the power over state governments to prevent localities from doing things like raising wages, enacting anti-discrimination ordinances, even passing plastic bag ordinances! It’s just a huge power grab.
At last week's Loyola event featuring four of the six living Mayors Of New Orleans, this preemption issue came under heavy criticism.  Mitch, in fact, seems to think it's going to get worse before it gets better. He's probably right about that.

Here is an example from this year's legislative session.  Danny Martiny (R-Metairie) has just passed a bill through the Senate that will preempt municipalities from enacting their own "inclusionary zoning" ordinances. The City Council is, understandably, upset.
The New Orleans City Council is urging lawmakers in Baton Rouge to oppose legislation that would stop local governments from requiring private developers to include affordable housing in their residential projects -- a practice known as inclusionary zoning.

Council members are united against the bill state Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, has sponsored. All but Stacy Head, who was absent, were made authors of a resolution making their opposition official last week.

"This should be a decision for New Orleanians, made by New Orleanians, in front of New Orleanians and not up at the state," Councilman Jason Williams said during the council's April 5 meeting
I'm not a big fan of inclusionary zoning  Most often than not, it serves as a sop to developers of luxury housing enabling access to tax subsidies and exemptions from various other rules. The meager amount of "affordable" (often even the definition of this is labored)  housing built in exchange is insufficient to the need.   Nevertheless, it's absurd that the state would act to block the city from administering its own zoning rules. Martiny frames this basic local governmental function as a privilege the city has somehow forfeited.
In the year since a similar bill was defeated in a House of Representatives committee by a single vote, the City Council has been unable to approve a blanket inclusionary zoning policy. In fact, it has not  even voted on such a proposal. Martiny noted that weakness when the Senate approved his bill Monday, with a 26-11 vote.

"Because the bill failed (in 2017), they then had another year to deal with it," Martiny said. Had the council acted, he added, it "probably would've given them at least a little leverage to have been grandfathered" under any bill that came back before the Legislature.
Yeah, see, it's your fault I keep smacking you with your own arm.  Why are you hitting yourself? None of this makes any sense. All that's happened is the Home Builders Association wants to be shielded from a policy the city might impose on it. So they've turned to the State Legislature where they can exert more influence. The end run subverts the locally elected authority and tilts the balance of power away from direct democracy. It's a common play and an historically successful one at that.

In any case, the root of the problem here lies in a sophisticated, national political strategy, not some isolated quirk of the legal system.  As such it's something that is much better addressed through, "finding the political will" to build a contravening strategy than it is by drawing up a whole new constitution.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Taylor Circle

Save All Monuments
An all-monuments-matter type household tells us how they feel during Carnival 2016  

Ever since the Confederate statues came down last year, a parlor game has blossomed on our city's op-ed pages and at public meetings and candidates' forums and whatnot over the question of what to do next with the space they occupied.  Why bother to do anything?  We just wanted the Jim Crow monuments taken down.  It's perfectly fine to just strip the name Lee off of the circle (return it to Tivoli or whatever) and just leave it alone after that. There's no pressing reason a person should be commemorated there at all.

On the other hand, if we do re-name the circle, the way to do that would be to give it a name that directly speaks back at the propaganda we have removed.  The Confederate monuments were themselves a political statement made by the white supremacists in power at the time of their erection.  If we choose to continue using that public space to express our political purpose, we should do so in a way that rebuts the original statement.

The reason I had given up on rededicating the circle at all is most of the ideas I've seen bandied about fail to address the definitive conflict that makes the space significant in the first place. Some attempt to sanitize it with tourist-friendly symbols drawn from entertainment. Some would replace monuments to the exploitative capitalism of the 19th Century with monuments to the exploitative capitalism of the 20th and 21st.  One idea that might have been acceptable was the suggestion that we acknowledge resistance to Jim Crow and rename the circle after Homer Plessy. But Plessy is already being honored in a location more appropriate to his historic act of protest.

Perhaps the worst argument I've read has been this suggestion by Arthur Hardy to create a "Mardi Gras Circle."  Hardy's stated intention to "bring us all together," is, like many of the other lame ideas,  an inappropriate attempt at sanitizing the space.  But his idea is actually even worse than that given that his subject is freighted with much of the same social and racial conflict as the Lee Monument itself.  This isn't a knock against Mardi Gras. Far it be it for us to speak against that. But re-naming Lee Circle "Mardi Gras Circle" as Hardy suggests and for the reasons he gives, degrades the social and historical significance of the circle and of the holiday.

It's fair enough for Hardy to say that the celebration of Carnival "brings people together." But that is a superficial assertion. Mardi Gras brings us together, yes. But as it does that it also heightens and  illuminates our contradictions. It's actually the underlying social and political discord that makes the communal experience of Mardi Gras such a powerful act of civic catharsis. And, sure, that's a bit more than most people are consciously grappling with while screaming at the Nyx "Dancing Queen" float for a bedazzled purse.  But any reflective treatment of the pageant, say in the form of a monument, that does not evoke this idea does not do the subject justice.  Except Hardy isn't interested in a symbol of social conflict. He's interested in something that has a benign "healing effect." In trying to do this with a Mardi Gras Circle, he confounds his own purpose.

It's a bad purpose anyway.  Twisting our own uncomfortable history into myths intended to please the powerful is how we got into this mess in the first place.  Case in point, Hardy's supporting argument is so far off base it necessitates paying reverent homage to a white supremacist organization.
As New Orleans celebrates its tricentennial, it is worth noting that Mardi Gras has been an essential part of the city’s history for more than half these 300 years. Street masking and private balls occurred in the late-1700s. In 1857, the Mistick Krewe of Comus presented the first organized Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans.
Of course it was the very members of the "Mistick Krewe" and associated Old Line Carnival organizations who established the revanchist Jim Crow government in the first place.  These clubs comprised (and in fact still comprise) the cream of the city's elite business and political class. After the fall of the Confederacy, they turned their street parades (these "bringing people together" activities Hardy is on about) into acts of un-subtle racist protest against the Reconstruction government.
During Reconstruction, New Orleans’ white elites used the pomp and ceremony of Mardi Gras to reassert symbolic and political control after the Confederacy’s defeat. The Louisiana Constitution of 1868 ushered in desegregated schools and public transportation, recognized the citizenship of African Americans, and granted the right to vote and hold office to African-American men without property requirements. Local white men perceived this new racial equality as a threat and were eager to recapture their former power.

Carnival krewes took their political arguments to the streets and manipulated their festive displays to provide evidence of the illegitimacy and incongruity of black citizenship.

The Crescent City Democratic Club, later renamed the Crescent City White League, whose stated goal was to prevent the “Africanization” of New Orleans and Louisiana, formed the city’s second krewe in 1870. The Twelfth Night Revelers regularly caricatured African-American lawmakers as bumbling crows or backward strongmen.

Comus presented its infamous “the Missing Links to Darwin’s Origin of Species” and “the Aryan Race” themes in 1873 and 1877, respectively. The former theme culminated with an anthropomorphic crowned gorilla standing in contrast against a white Comus, suggesting the innate inferiority of black men holding civic office. In like fashion, the Knights of Momus displayed comical yet grotesque representations of mixed-race people among equally grotesque animal hybrids in its 1873 parade themed “the Coming Races.”

Mardi Gras had become a mode by which former slaveholders and Confederate sympathizers could maintain symbolic power and communicate ideas of white supremacy, social Darwinism and the “Lost Cause” even under the city’s interracial Republican government.
After Reconstruction, it was these organizations who raised the funds and political will to create and install the monuments.
Two decades after occupying Union soldiers had made camp at New Orleans' Tivoli Circle, a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was dedicated at the site. Among the guests at the ceremony on Feb. 22, 1884, were former Confederate President Jefferson Davis, former Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard and Lee's two daughters.

Four days later, Mildred and Mary Lee attended the Comus ball.
By looking past all of this, Hardy suggests it is no longer of any relevance.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  To begin with, Comus and his acolytes continue to exert massive influence on the city's social and political hierarchy.  For proof of this, one need only observe attendees at the annually televised Rex Ball and compare those names with those that appear on campaign finance reports, or the boards of our local "philanthropic organizations" and the corrupt financial institutions that connect them.

Furthermore, the Krewes continue to militate in favor of their "Lost Cause" propaganda to this very day. Comus and Momus no longer parade in an ongoing protest against a thirty year old anti-discrimination ordinance. But their membership does through associated successor organizations.  Over the three years (yes it took that long) of debate over the monuments, Chaos and D'Etat repeatedly ran floats "satirizing" the movement to take them down.

Hardy breezes past all of this context regarding the Old Line Krewes vis a vis Confederate monuments.  Worse than that, he implicitly takes their side of the anti-discrimination dispute which he characterizes as an "attack" on the celebration itself.
Even when the celebration itself was under attack in the early 1990s when reaction to an anti-discrimination ordinance caused temporary battle lines to be drawn, it was Mardi Gras parades that brought the community back together. I’m betting that Mardi Gras Circle will have the same healing effect as we move past the recent controversies over statues and monuments.
Also, lol at that bit about the battle lines being "temporary."  The Krewes still haven't let it go.

Nor have they let go of their beloved Confederate monuments. And they appear to have the sympathetic ear of the incoming mayor on this matter. Last week she told Gambit she's willing to let the krewes "people who care about"  the Confederate monuments display them in a cemetery because, in her words, "Reverence, you know, matters."

That an African American mayor of New Orleans in 2018 is still obligated (and willing) to kiss the rings of the white supremacist Carnival royalty like this is stunning. That Hardy would write their own self-victimization white resentment bullshit into his version of the narrative tells us enough to distrust his proposal.  Our city's most famous Mardi Gras historian is a.. nearly literal, I guess.. court historian. That's not a huge surprise, of course. The niche media career he's carved out for himself depends on a willingness to tell us a top-down version of history.  Nobody rises very far in our little town without flattering a few oligarchs.

Luckily, a letter to the T-P this week provides us with what might be a solution.  
With all the public hullabaloo about Lee Circle, there have been many suggestions about renaming it. While most of those suggestions seem good, I believe I have a better one. Dorothy Mae Taylor was a longtime civil rights advocate before she was elected as the first African-American woman on the New Orleans City Council in 1986.

Taylor became famous (and some would say infamous) when she proposed an ordinance in 1991 to desegregate the gentlemen's luncheon clubs that had been the public face of the Mardi Gras krewes.

Here is a way to address every elephant in the room.  Hardy wants the circle's name to reflect the fact that Carnival parades pass there every year. This certainly does that.  Better, it does so in a more honest and meaningful way than Hardy's bland obfuscation of history would. More generally, we said we would like the re-christening of the space to directly speak back at history in a way that better reflects the best of our present values.  Well, Taylor Circle would do that too.

The only question now becomes, how would we pay for it?  I don't suppose Frank Stewart wants to chip in, does he?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Also they will be required to stand on one foot and sing the national anthem backwards

The latest in the set of prison anti-reforms to move through the legislature goes out of its way to make sure we keep old people in jail. This bill insists that candidates for parole jump through a number of irrelevant hoops simply for the purpose of having this all be harder than it needs to be.
Under the bill, people would only be able to qualify for geriatric parole if they also completed 100 hours of pre-release training, earned an equivalent of a high school diploma, got through substance abuse treatment if necessary and not had a disciplinary offense at the prison in the 12 months prior to coming to the parole board.
Other bills aimed at gutting last year's moderate criminal justice reforms are moving as well.

Sherman Mack's HB195 extending parole from 3 to 5 years  has passed the House.

Mack's HB168 limiting good time served credits has also passed the House.

Mack is carrying quite a few of these. (He is close with DAs.) Here is a a bill that jacks up restitution and fees imposed on convicts. It is also out of the House already.  Three bill with similar effects by Dan Claitor, Ronnie Johns, and Ryan Gatti are under consideration in the Senate this week.

Last year, Louisiana's habitual offender law which had been a favorite tool used by Orleans DA Leon Cannizzaro to bully people, was made slightly less onerous.  This year a bill by Tony Bacala would restore the old law as it applies to those already convicted ensuring they serve the extra long sentences the reform was meant to eliminate.

Suffice to say, our meager effort at being an ever so slightly less cruel state last year is already backsliding. Beyond that, though, I'm curious about the effect of all this on the budget. One selling point that helped boost last year's reforms had to do with the money they were going to save us.  This year, in fact, lawmakers are already squabbling over the best use of that presumed dividend. These rollbacks, though, are going to eat into it as well.  If anyone has an estimate as to how badly, I haven't seen it yet.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What happens in the "longer term"

BGR doesn't really say. They do know, that in the meantime they aren't interested in returning S&WB to anything resembling direct city council control. They'd rather preserve the current mix of mayoral cronies, and people approved (for some never explained reason) by university presidents. "In the longer term," they want to do something else.
"In the longer term, stronger City Council oversight and regulation may not be sufficient to address the multitude of organizational and technical problems plaguing the S&WB," the report states. "However, it is a better interim approach than changing the board's composition until policymakers can determine the best long-term solutions to the S&WB's problems."
What happens in the longer term? Dunno. I guess that will be up to Troy Henry. 

Does that keep it off the record, then?

LaToya is gonna let Landry look at her personal finances.
NEW ORLEANS -- Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell and has reached an agreement with the state Attorney General’s office that will let investigators review her bank records.

In a joint motion filed Tuesday, both sides said the AG’s office will drop a subpoena for the records since Cantrell will allow investigators to review the documents at the office of Billy Gibbens, her attorney.
That's disappointing.  The only reason we've been interested in this investigation at all was the potential to uncover more about Cantrell's relationship with the FNBC Money Club.  Jeff Landry is only interested in promoting himself, though. So really none of this is helpful.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Congratulations, Judge Vitter

President Mitch has seconded your nomination so...
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has crossed party lines to back Wendy Vitter, a Republican nominee for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
That's our Mitch being very serious and bi-partisan and whatnot. Maybe he really is thinking about running in 2020.   Democrats can only imagine one way to the Presidency. Invariably it involves throwing their more progressive constituencies under the bus.
Vitter, general counsel to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans and wife of former U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is in line to be a judge for the 13-parish Eastern District of Louisiana. She has won praise for a number of lawyers who have worked for and against her, and jeers from reproductive rights groups.

"Not only has she vigorously opposed women's access to contraception and the constitutional right to abortion in her personal capacity, Vitter has used her position of prominence in Louisiana to spread falsehoods not based on science about basic medical care that American women rely on," said 18 social policy organizations in a letter posted Thursday by People for the American Way. "No such individual should be given the privilege of a lifetime seat on the federal bench."

"The only experience she has in federal courts is a two-day trial that took place 25 years ago, wrote one of those groups, Planned Parenthood Action, in a post Tuesday.

"Ms. Vitter has taken extreme and irresponsible positions on women's health and reproductive freedom, and she attempted to hide some of these views by failing to disclose them to the Senate," The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national organizations, wrote Friday.
Also you gotta like the way that NOLA.com article goes on tsk tsk at these objections as an "ideological crusade."   As we know, the absolutely worst thing any public official can do is allow one's sense of morality to inform one's public policy choices. That is, unless one happens to be a  Republican in which case one is encouraged to crusade away. 

I guess Tom Benson was no longer available

When Tom died, the DuBoses figured they were running low on people to sell out to. (Oh who are we kidding, Clancy sold out a long time ago)  Luckily John Georges exists.
Gambit, New Orleans’ signature weekly news and entertainment paper, has been purchased by the parent company of The New Orleans Advocate.

Advocate owners John and Dathel Georges purchased the weekly from Margo and Clancy DuBos, native New Orleanians who have owned Gambit since 1991. Terms were not disclosed.

John Georges said the purchase was in line with his vision of preserving iconic Louisiana brands and creating a locally owned media company dedicated to traditional journalistic values, in print and online. Besides The Advocate, which they purchased in 2013, the Georges own the St. Tammany Farmer and weekly newspapers in Zachary and East and West Feliciana parishes. The Advocate is the state’s largest newspaper.
Anyway, in addition to this...

... It is comforting to know that the Alt-Weekly home of "40 under 40" and music/nightlife listings and the College Student's Guide to New Orleans and various other signifiers of  youth-oriented liberal type content will be owned by the sometime politician who is upset about  the "Dangerous People On The Internet" who criticize him.  

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Tiger Swan is definitely operating in Louisiana

Last summer, the private security firm infamous for harassing and spying on DAPL protesters last year in North Dakota  was denied a license to operate in Louisiana.  But you really don't have to be very clever to get around the rules here.
Not only is TigerSwan appealing the Louisiana denial, but a deposition given to the security board suggests the firm — operated by military special operations veterans of the war on terror — may have set up a front company in order to get around the licensing mess. TigerSwan did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment.

The same month that the board denied TigerSwan’s license application, a person named Lisa Smith rented office space in Lafayette, Louisiana. She registered her new company, LTSA, with the secretary of state’s office and submitted an application for a license with the private security board.
It's not like a private para-military security contractor has too much to worry about in Louisiana, anyway.  It's easy enough when your client already has the Governor on the payroll and that Governor is taking steps to expedite the entry of firms like yours into his state.  It helps also when the state legislature works quickly to provide a pretext for treating that client's opponents as criminals. 
House Bill 727 was introduced Monday. Louisiana law specifically prohibits trespassing at various sites known as critical infrastructure. Power plants, oil refineries, chemical plants, water treatment facilities, natural gas terminals and the like are already considered critical infrastructure. The new law would add pipelines and construction areas for critical infrastructure sites.

The bill also lays out penalties for people who damage such sites — one to 15 years in prison with a $10,000 fine or six to 20 years plus a $25,000 fine if the damage could threaten human life or disrupt site operations. Blowtorches, explosives and possibly firearms all could be used to damage pipelines, according to various sources.

Finally, it criminalizes “conspiracy” to commit trespass with up to a year behind bars. Conspiracy to commit damage would be punishable by one to 20 years and fines of up to $250,000, depending on whether the judge thinks the conspiracy would have threatened life or operations.

Major Thibault's Thought Crime against Pipelines bill passed unanimously out of committee last week and is scheduled for floor debate in the House on Thursday.   

Overall the environment for private policing of political opponents is growing richer in Louisiana, as it is elsewhere. The state Republican Party just named the owner of New Orleans Private Patrol as its new Chairman. Everyone in New Orleans knows about Sidney Torres's rising star and the outsized influence he and his PAC was able to exert on the recent municipal election.   And, of course, there is the current mayor and his fascination with cameras and "predictive policing" technology.  One thing I thought would have come up during the recent Palantir flap was Mitch's use of a private security firm to spy on monument supporters and opponents alike last year.  But somehow that's already under the rug.