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Monday, June 27, 2022

Double punishment

The economy is teetering precariously on the brink of recession now.  We'll just go ahead and mention that this is a deliberate policy goal. Hopefully I'll have time to say more about that later.  For now, it's worth noting that the policy choice is not only being made at the Fed where they're leaning hard on the monetary lever.  But it has also already been enacted on the fiscal side as well by a feckless President Biden and the Democratic controlled congress. 

In other words, the United States is currently undergoing a great deal of austerity. Indeed, President Biden has repeatedly bragged that the government will reduce deficits by about $1.5 trillion this fiscal year.

By itself, this austerity will have negative effects on the economy, including job loss and wage reductions, which is not at all good. But it should also substantially ease the pressure on Powell to hike so quickly. With fiscal policy pressing hard on the economic brakes, there is less reason for him to be doing the same thing, especially because the Fed can’t affect half the reasons inflation is happening except by making them worse. There is also no reason for President Biden to listen to advisers who reportedly want to counter the effects of canceling some student loan debt by restarting remaining student loan payments. Since we’ve had no payments on these loans for over two years, from a current policy baseline this would translate into even more austerity, in the form of a substantial tax hike on approximately 30 million people.

There’s also a looming health insurance price spike coming this fall, as subsidies for Affordable Care Act exchanges expire. When asked whether he was concerned about this severe inflationary action, Senator and Emperor for Life Joe Manchin (D-WV) responded, “you gotta start paying down debt” to fight inflation, and “there’s only so many dollars to go around” to … prevent inflation in health insurance rates. The Fed shouldn’t be aiding and abetting steel-trap logic like this by pushing very hard with its economic lever in the same direction to bring investment, hiring, consumer spending, and economic activity to a halt.

And, of course, after the Republicans take back control of Congress this fall (and assuming the Supreme Court continues its radical agenda of dismantling the state entirely) the prospects for doing anything besides accelerating the pace of this double punishment are slim to none. 

It seems like forever ago but we did say at the start of the Biden Administration that these were the stakes.  



How is all that going?

Friday, June 24, 2022

So what is it all about?

There isn't much to say about this that isn't already in the text of the dissent. So let's highlight a few things. (full opinion can be found here)

And no one should be confident that this majority is done with its work. The right Roe and Casey recognized does not stand alone. To the contrary, the Court has linked it for decades to other settled freedoms involving bodily integrity, familial relationships, and procreation. Most obviously, the right to terminate a pregnancy arose straight out of the right to purchase and use contraception. See Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479 (1965); Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U. S. 438 (1972). In turn, those rights led, more recently, to rights of same-sex intimacy and marriage. See Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U. S. 558 (2003); Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U. S. 644 (2015). They are all part of the same constitutional fabric, protecting autonomous decisionmaking over the most personal of life decisions. The majority (or to be more accurate, most of it) is eager to tell us today that nothing it does “cast[s] doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.” Ante, at 66; cf. ante, at 3 (THOMAS, J., concurring) (advocating the overruling of Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell). But how could that be? The lone rationale for what the majority does today is that the right to elect an abortion is not “deeply rooted in history”: Not until Roe, the majority argues, did people think abortion fell within the Constitution’s guarantee of liberty. Ante, at 32. The same could be said, though, of most of the rights the majority claims it is not tampering with. The majority could write just as long an opinion showing, for example, that until the mid-20th century, “there was no support in American law for a constitutional right to obtain [contraceptives].” Ante, at 15. So one of two things must be true. Either the majority does not really believe in its own reasoning. Or if it does, all rights that have no history stretching back to the mid19th century are insecure. Either the mass of the majority’s opinion is hypocrisy, or additional constitutional rights are under threat. It is one or the other.


We start with Roe and Casey, and with their deep connections to a broad swath of this Court’s precedents. To hear the majority tell the tale, Roe and Casey are aberrations: They came from nowhere, went nowhere—and so are easy to excise from this Nation’s constitutional law. That is not true. After describing the decisions themselves, we explain how they are rooted in—and themselves led to—other rights giving individuals control over their bodies and their most personal and intimate associations. The majority does not wish to talk about these matters for obvious reasons; to do so would both ground Roe and Casey in this Court’s precedents and reveal the broad implications of today’s decision. But the facts will not so handily disappear. Roe and Casey were from the beginning, and are even more now, embedded in core constitutional concepts of individual freedom, and of the equal rights of citizens to decide on the shape of their lives. Those legal concepts, one might even say, have gone far toward defining what it means to be an American. For in this Nation, we do not believe that a government controlling all private choices is compatible with a free people. So we do not (as the majority insists today) place everything within “the reach of majorities and [government] officials.” West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U. S. 624, 638 (1943). We believe in a Constitution that puts some issues off limits to majority rule. Even in the face of public opposition, we uphold the right of individuals—yes, including women—to make their own choices and chart their own futures. Or at least, we did once.


The majority would allow States to ban abortion from conception onward because it does not think forced childbirth at all implicates a woman’s rights to equality and freedom. Today’s Court, that is, does not think there is anything of constitutional significance attached to a woman’s control of her body and the path of her life. Roe and Casey thought that one-sided view misguided. In some sense, that is the difference in a nutshell between our precedents and the majority opinion. The constitutional regime we have lived in for the last 50 years recognized competing interests, and sought a balance between them. The constitutional regime we enter today erases the woman’s interest and recognizes only the State’s (or the Federal Government’s).


And one more thing to share just to drive home the point.



Okay and one more in case we want to know what Democrats are doing about it.



What's it all about, then? Well, it's about denying basic healthcare to millions of women and putting their lives in danger. It's about denying Americans' fundamental right to privacy insofar as it is understood by anyone born after the Fourteenth Amendment was passed. But one thing it can't possibly be about is holding the middle managers our broken political system entrusts with defending any of this responsible. Why would anyone think that? I mean, aren't the Republicans really the problem?

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Lock him up!

Looks like Clay didn't do so well in court this morning.

While he was on the witness stand, the judge zeroed in on Schexnayder, one of the state's most powerful leaders.

The most dramatic moments of the hearing took place when Dick asked the speaker why he should not be held legally accountable because he filed a bill that mirrors the current map the judge rejected, not one with a second majority-Black district that she ordered.

She noted that federal penalties for failing to follow a court order include imprisonment and fines.

Unfortunately, by now, we should all know that putting politicians in prison is too much to hope for.  Which is why I have no idea why anyone is even watching the January 6 hearings this week. I mean they couldn't even put Mitch Landrieu under house arrest.  What makes anyone think they would actually put Trump in jail?  It should be clear we're well beyond even the pretense that anyone in our elevated political class will be held accountable for anything anymore.  It's pretty much granite countertops for all from here on out. 

So Clay might as well go on bucking the judge's orders.  Otherwise, why spend all this money on lawyers you aren't going to use?

About midway through the first redistricting session in February, the Illuminator reported that GOP leadership contracted with a private law firm for “redistricting advice” at taxpayers’ expense, which the contract now places at $60,000 per month. Few details have been made public about the work BakerHostetler is doing for lawmakers, and only a few select GOP legislative leaders have been given access to their counsel.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Always be pumping forward

S&WB really needs to take that backward pumping option off of the machine

A crucial oversight by Sewerage & Water Board workers at a Gentilly pump station worsened nearby street flooding on Friday, when intense rains pounded New Orleans at rates far beyond what the drainage system can quickly handle.

As operators attempted to fire up the five pumps at Drainage Pump Station No. 4 along the London Avenue Canal, they neglected to open a sluice gate that ensures water flows in the right direction, according to an S&WB after-action report. Failure to open the gate forced three of the pumps to trip offline, and they remained out of service for more than two hours.
Looks like they are trying to do that, anyway. 
S&WB Executive Director Ghassan Korban said he did not know how the gate was overlooked, but added that “there was no questionable behavior” on the part of employees.

“They were running like crazy trying to do so much stuff at the same time,” Korban said in an interview Wednesday morning after an S&WB meeting. “There are checklists, there are procedures, and something was overlooked. Obviously the checklists are designed to prevent that from happening. Nonetheless, it did happen.”
But it's hard to stick to the procedures and checklists and stuff when things are "running like crazy." For example, what if it is raining?  Anyway, they gotta put some tape over the reverse button or something.  It's not like this is the first time this has happened

And then what happens?

 The Louisiana Legislature is the Bad Place

The Senate initially opted not to accelerate debate on bills by Fields and Hewitt, the latter of which mirrors the current map.

"I have a bad taste in my mouth on how we just started this short session," said Sen. Gerald Boudreaux, D-Lafayette. "I think we are in a bad place."

After a plea from Cortez, the Senate voted to send both bills to the Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee, which Hewitt chairs.

On Friday at 10 a.m. the House & Governmental Affairs Committee will hear four bills, including measures to create a second majority-Black congressional district by Duplessis and one by Schexnayder that mirrors the current outline.

They've got six days to either do what the court ordered them to do and make a fairer map that better represents the electorate or.. not do that and see what happens.  It's hard to imagine they're very worried about what might happen.

Thursday, June 09, 2022

What did John Bel know and when did he know it?

Maybe the feds will find out.  

Top U.S. Justice Department officials from Louisiana and Washington, D.C. are scheduled to appear at an 11 a.m. news conference in Baton Rouge today to announce “the opening of a civil rights investigation.”

A news release did not specify the nature of the investigation, only that it involves Louisiana. Speculation in legal circles surrounded a possible federal pattern-or-practice probe into Louisiana State Police. All three U.S. attorneys from Louisiana are scheduled to appear, along with Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the DOJ's civil rights division.

The Legislative Black Caucus and other critics for months have clamored for a wide-ranging federal probe into constitutional policing at the state’s premier law enforcement agency, after grim details of the fatal May 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene and allegations of a coverup became public last year. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

The easy way

There are many questions I would ask of the bullies and authoritarian egomaniacs making embarrassing displays of their susceptibility to propaganda and fetish for "respect" this week.  But I think the first thing to ask is, what was the death toll?  How many people were killed or even injured by these TikToks and Instagram videos right wing online trolls and local TV stations are making sure everyone sees this week?  I don't see any injury reported to anything other than the egos of officialdom. 

Such stunt shows are nothing new to New Orleans or other urban centers in America, having grown into a social media-fueled craze that has left cities groping for answers. What made Sunday’s incidents different, Ferguson said, was the “total disrespect” patrons showed to police.

Ferguson said Mayor LaToya Cantrell was out of town Monday, but in a statement, Cantrell described the stunt shows as "reckless criminal behavior."

"These brazen actions have accelerated to a complete disregard and blatant disrespect for law enforcement. This ends now!" the statement read. "My administration stands with the New Orleans Police Department as they seek to increase criminal penalties associated with this type of behavior, and as they relentlessly pursue all perpetrators who place the public at risk."

What is the public being placed "at risk of"?  More to the point, where does it say the public owes "respect" of any sort to the police? If the events of the past week in Texas alone show us anything, it is that none of us owes police anything but scorn.  Heck, even the viral videos going around show police putting people at risk by plowing into spectators with their vehicles.  The "attack" on the car Chief Ferguson has been complaining about in the media is a direct result of this provocation.   

And hey look it worked!  The instant reaction triggered by a little viral copaganda is already paying off.

With the vast majority of police officer job candidates in New Orleans dropping out of the hiring process at an early stage, the City Council is poised to increase the budget for an outside non-profit’s recruiting effort.

New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation leaders told the council at a budget hearing Tuesday that the bump, from $500,000 per year to $900,000, could help them increase the share of applicants who make the cut and halt the police force's rapid decline in size.

There is no crisis the powers that be can manufacture in this city that can't be met with an immediate transfer of public dollars to one private non-profit or another.

Last week we were told the city can only afford to operate 5 of its 15 public swimming pools this summer.  But thank god there is money to pay a private foundation to do "police recruiting." That seems more useful.  After all, what do lifeguards even do?  Save people from drowning? Maintain a safe environment so that kids can have some healthy recreation instead of getting run over by NOPD provocateurs in the streets?  How can that possibly compare to what police do?  What do police do? 

Alex Pareene offered a theory this week. He says they do what is easiest. 

But even judged by their own cruel standards the police are extraordinarily lazy and incompetent. A study summarized by sociologist Brendan Beck in Slate earlier this year made a convincing case that more officers were associated mainly with more misdemeanor arrests. That is, the unimportant shit. It is nice to imagine that additional police spending will go to an army of Columbos solving the trickiest crimes. We are currently doing this experiment, with the real police, in real life, and it is proving that they are spending the money on throwing the belongings of homeless people into dumpsters.

It is easier to arrest a child for stealing chips than it is to apprehend an armed adult shooter. It is easier for several dozen police officers to arrest two unarmed people than it is for a cop to stop any single armed person. It is easier for hundreds of cops to kettle a largely unarmed left-wing protest than it is for an entire department to stop any armed right-wingers from entering a government building. It’s easier to clear homeless encampments than it is to investigate sexual assault. It’s easier to coerce confessions than it is to solve crimes. It’s easier to try to pull a guy over than it is to offer any sort of help when he crashes his car. It’s easier to arrest a mango vendor in the subway than to stop someone from bringing a gun into the subway. It’s easier to arrest a fifth grader than it is to save one’s life.

But it's not enough to say that police only do what is easiest. Of course they do that. Who can blame them, or anyone, for taking the easiest path to accomplishing whatever it is they are charged with? The overriding question is still about function.  Contrary to popular illusion, police do not prevent crime. Their actual task is to "serve and protect" the brutal regime of state enforced poverty and austerity we suffer under for the benefit of the rich. Police are the muscle that punishes us for resisting that regime. Why not spend $900,000 recruiting lifeguards instead?  At least they do something positive.

Politicians and media who derive their own corrupt wealth and status from obeisance to the regime have no moral standing to advise on this at all. These bullies who serve at the pleasure of the wealth class are angrily demanding you "respect" their police. You don't need to do that. Let them worry about it themselves.  The mayor and council, who can't agree on a whole lot lately, are now arguing over who loves cops the most correctly. 

Mayor LaToya Cantrell has proposed offering $5,000 bonuses for every five years of service. Council member Lesli Harris wants to offer annual 2% pay increases for officers.
I'm sure they'll work it out. In the meantime, they can still bask in their having come together to deliver nearly half a million dollars to a foundation. It's by far the easiest mission to accomplish.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Your next US Senator from the state of Georgia

This is it. This is all American politics is capable of producing

"Fox & Friends" co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Walker where he stands on gun control measures such as universal background checks or raising the age to buy assault weapons from 18 to 21. 

"Well, you know, it's always been an issue, because as I said earlier on, they wanna score political points ... People see that it's a person wielding that weapon, you know, Cain killed Abel," Walker said. "And that's the problem that we have. And I said, what we need to do is look into how we can stop those things.

"You talk about doing a disinformation," Walker continued, "what about getting a department that can look at young men that's looking at women, that's looking at their social media? What about doing that, looking into things like that, and we can stop that that way?"

Walker also mentioned "putting money into other departments rather than the department that's wanting to take away your rights," but did not specify any agency.

Earlier this week, Walker struggled to answer a question on gun control from a CNN reporter, only going as far to say, "What I like to do is see it and everything and stuff."

This is all, of course, in response to the latest of the mass shootings that have recurred with greater frequency over multiple decades now.  It's so routine now that it's not even worth raising the question of what is to be done about it.  We already know the answer is nothing. Whatever passes for a policy response can only involve a slight acceleration of the already gushing flow of money directed into police and surveillance.  

Public policy doesn't emerge through democratic process at all anymore. Democracy isn't operating in any meaningful sense. A couple of days ago, John Ganz published an essay where he suggests society itself is barely operating. 

We seem to be in the slow and torturous process of dissolving ourselves as a civil and political society. Laws cannot be changed or passed. No one wants the responsibility of governance. The answer is always “it can’t be done.” But it was done to us. The laws actually were made worse.

I highlight the last bit. It matters that the dismantling has been done on purpose. That there is an ideology at work in this nihilism. It's the desired result of decades of libertarian and neoliberal political program. Ganz identifies that in the essay as well.  

Now each man can be his own commando force, an army of one, each man is the sovereign that can decide on the exception when the laws of society no longer apply, when he can suddenly resort to violence. No one can tell him otherwise: he has a gun. There’s no “legitimate” or “illegitimate,” just force. The only solution on offer is to further distribute sovereignty: make more men their own armed-to-the-teeth statelet to be a check the other guy. The idea is hopefully that will create stasis—if not exactly peace— through mutual fear. Every man his own nuclear-armed power.

The gun fetish is just one manifestation.  But it's far more endemic that just that. The hellworld ideology of distributed sovereignties existing in mutual fear  is also evident anywhere we find "entrepreurial mindset" propaganda. It's what explains the rise of crypto currency and NFT speculation. It's why the dominant mode of oure political response to the pandemic was based in "individual responsibility." It's the animating worldview behind the charter school movement which we now see metastasizing into a full scale retreat from even the idea that public education should be a thing.

What is to be done, or what can be done is difficult to know now. If people had any belief in each other maybe there would be an opportunity to organize a way to change.  If we still had democracy maybe there would be a lever there that organized people could grab onto. But all the evidence now tells us, what the appearance of figures like Senator Herschel Walker tells us, is that no such opportunities exist. It's all just oligarchy made legitimate through nihilism now. And it looks very much like it's on autopilot. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

No point besides being mean

Yes this is just another version of what we were saying yesterday.

 

From the Lens story on this.  

Timothy David Ray, a spokesperson for the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, which would be responsible for the 17-year-olds locked up in the adult jail — the Orleans Justice Center — should the law take effect, said Sheriff Susan Hutson was also opposed.

“Sheriff Hutson does not support SB418,” Ray said. “She stands with our community on this issue and they have been steadfast in their position that our children need social and family services rather than merely locking them up in an adult jail. The OJC is not equipped nor staffed to constitutionally house juveniles, but the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center is more appropriate – they have the right services and dedicated professionals and child advocates fighting to change lives.”
If Hutson is really committed to this, one thing she could do is defy this law should it be passed and continue holding 17 year olds separate from the adult population.  But since we already have discovered Jason Williams isn't exactly true to his word with regard to how minors should be treated, it's difficult to predict how Hutson will behave. 

Meanwhile, the mayor sure has been quiet lately.

A spokesperson for New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell did not respond to a request for comment on the bill before the publication of this story.
But she is already on the record in favor of maximum carceral cruelty. 

She has stoutly resisted more recent pressure from advocacy groups urging that police release nonviolent suspects from custody. “You’re worried about criminals catching coronavirus? Tell them to stop breaking the damn law,” snaps Cantrell, a streetwise woman known for her salty tongue.

All we know how to do is be mean to people.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Just being mean on purpose

The majority of your legislators are just mean people who are motivated entirely by a politics of being mean

All but one of the Republican members present on a House committee voted Tuesday to end the “Raise the Age” law that keep 17-year-old arrestees from being imprisoned with adult convicts.

On a 6-5 vote, the House Committee for the Administration of Criminal Justice advanced for a full House vote Senate Bill 418, which the state Senate already has passed. “Raise the Age” law was approved with great fanfare allowing Louisiana to join 47 states that put most 17-year-old offenders in the juvenile justice system.

Article goes on to report that Rep. Marcus Bryant pointed out that this means throwing minors who have merely been arrested into cells with adults who have been convicted of serious crimes.  That may sound bad to normal people, but it is absolutely a thing these jerks are doing on purpose. 

Similarly,

For the second consecutive year the Louisiana Legislature on Monday approved and sent to the governor a bill that would bar transgender athletes from competing in girls and women's sports.

The Senate voted 32-6 to go along with minor changes made in the House last week after the Senate endorsed it in April 19.

There was no debate Monday.

The House approved the measure last week 72-21.

The proposal, by Senate President Pro Tem Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, is Senate Bill 44.

John Bel vetoed that same bill last year calling it "a solution in search of a problem that does not exist in Louisiana."  There were no transgender students attempting to participate in girls' sports teams at the time.  I don't know if there are any such cases this year. Regardless, our legislators are determined to be mean to them. And that's really the "problem" they are trying to "solve."  They need an excuse to be mean and this gives them one. 

There are material reasons this sort of politics gains ascendancy. But the immediate goal of this politics is to be mean.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Give it another fifteen years, I guess

Joseph Bouie's very mild attempt at giving the Orleans Parish School Board a little bit more of a direct legislative instruction to do its ostensible job overseeing public schools in New Orleans has failed. 

Senate Bill 404 by state Sen. Joe Bouie, D-New Orleans, would have amended Act 91 — the law that returned the charter schools in the Recovery School District to the Orleans Parish School Board — to give the School Board the power to decide what freedoms charter operators should have. As it stands, decisions such as faculty and staff hires, what students learn and how they learn it are all left to individual charter operators. 

Despite its death, the bill and surrounding debate lay bare the tensions that still exist between pro-charter groups and those who see the system as an experiment that worsens inequalities in public education. 

In an interview this week, Bouie said he senses momentum building among residents and families for a change to the public school system, despite the bill's failure. 

“It was a hard sell legislatively, but the community’s response is getting stronger and stronger,” Bouie said. “All that support was really the result of the last 15 years, and what our communities know as the state-sponsored educational experiment.

Not sure we've got another 15 years to "build momentum."   The very idea that all children have a right to public education is fading. It's not clear there how much longer there will even be a school system here.  

Applications to enroll in NOLA Public Schools district charter schools — including new students and those seeking transfers — dropped by nearly 30 percent between the 2019-2020 school year and the 2021-2022 school year, according to a report presented to the Orleans Public School Board on Thursday. While some of that can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the upcoming school year has seen a slight recovery, officials and experts believe the overall trend will be downward in the coming years, following a slow-down in the city’s population growth over the past decade, and a more recent decline in the past few years. 

School board members heard the report on declining enrollment at their Thursday night meeting, part of a process NOLA Public Schools officials have called “right-sizing” the district, which could include more closures and consolidations of city charter schools.

It's easy to say that enrollment is declining because nobody actually lives here anymore.  

Declining public school enrollment comes as the city has experienced slower population growth over the past several years. 

After New Orleans’ massive post-Katrina loss of residents, the population grew quickly in the early part of the last decade. Yearly Census estimates put the city at well over 390,000 residents, up from 343,000 in the 2010 Census. But that growth slowed as the city approached the 2020 Census. And New Orleans’ official 2020 Census count was about 384,000, 

Reid noted that a slower rate of people moving to New Orleans and lower birth rates have come as the city has become significantly less affordable for families, noting that housing prices have “increased incredibly” in the last five years.

But, then, it's just as important to understand the denial of core public services, such as a functioning school system, is a key contributor to that phenomenon.  No doubt the "right sizing" of the district will provide opportunities to sell off property to real estate investors. So we can build more nice things for rich people. Where nobody actually lives.  

Been watching them play this game for.. well, for over 15 years now. We know how it goes.

Friday, May 20, 2022

That thing where all the investigations cancel each other out

Oh boy, we've reached the going around and confiscating everyone's computer phase of the game. 

New Orleans Inspector General Ed Michel’s office has seized the computer of a city IT worker involved in the “smart city” contracting process, an indication that the canceled project has spawned an investigation from the city’s top watchdog.

The IG seizure of a city computer assigned to Christopher Wolff occurred on Wednesday, according to Wolff's attorney and City Council President Helena Moreno.

Wolff’s lawyer, Michael Kennedy, told Moreno’s office that the seizure would complicate his ability to comply with an subpoena request from the City Council for reams of documents related to the smart city project.

Thinking back to the Hard Rock aftermath, recall that there were at least three or four independent investigations into the Safety and Permits department operated by the feds, by the City Council, by the Inspector General, and I don't remember who Ken Polite was working for at the time but he was there too.  Anyway it seemed at times that the various probes hired by various entities with different interests may have worked at cross purposes a little bit.  

That might be what's about to happen with the "Smart Cities" mess. We can't give you any evidence because somebody else already came and took it, etc. 

Also it's worth remembering what happened the last time city officials had to turn over digital evidence during an investigation of a tech corruption scandal. 

After a public solicitation, Nagin hired the Louisiana Technology Council to conduct a forensic search. He fired the group in July after its president, Mark Lewis, and a colleague held a news conference to say they failed to find any of the information. They also said they suspected a tech-savvy person had intentionally removed the mayor's e-mail inbox from the server months earlier.

Nagin then hired SunBlock to resume searching for the missing data. He also asked the new firm to review and report on LTC's efforts.

In its report, SunBlock dismisses LTC's claim that Nagin's files were deliberately erased, saying LTC misinterpreted a technical analysis used to detect whether data were deleted.

I guess we're about to find out how far the science of email deletion/undeletion has advanced over the course of the last decade. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Just mashing buttons

Logistical supply of goods and services is not a magical thing that just happens. Americans' extremely limited understanding of economics and markets (it's all done by some invisible hand of God or something!) is one reason why people can't get their heads around what "inflation" is. It's also what gums up the works politically such that the only possible policy response is for the democratically unaccountable bankers at the Federal Reserve to just mash a button.  What does the button do, though?  David Dayen says it pretty well. 
In fact, the rationing doesn’t stop with formula and vaccines; it’s our formal economic policy. Federal Reserve interest rate hikes to stop inflation are designed to “tamp down demand,” a euphemism for throwing people out of work in the hopes that millions will lack enough money to buy things. The current strategy is to ration our way through inflation, despite the fact that interest rates can’t end lockdowns in China or halt the war in Ukraine, the primary current drivers of the price squeeze.

What this comes back to is that public policy has relied—absurdly—on belief in an automatic process of capitalism, where shortages not only shouldn’t but cannot happen. When that internalized promise is not kept, people get really damn angry about it, and they should. They should know that it’s the result of decades of bad policy: monopolization, centralization of production, lax regulatory response. Until we recognize this deficiency and start re-engineering policy to ensure the general welfare, that anger will reap a whirlwind in November and beyond.

An angry "whirlwind" whipped up through a public deliberately kept ignorant by an aloof ruling class indifferent to its suffering is not going to be a good time for anybody.  But don't worry. They've got another button to mash on if that starts to get out of hand.  It's the one that buys more cops

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday urged states and cities to use unspent money from last year’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief package to fund crime prevention programs and hire police officers.

The president stressed the need for more funding of public safety programs at a White House event with mayors and law enforcement officials.

“To every governor, every mayor, every county official, the need is clear, my message is clear: Spend this money now; use these funds we made available to you; prioritize public safety,” Biden said. “Do it quickly before the summer, when crime rates typically surge.”

COVID numbers are already going up, the supply of masks and vaccines is running low, and the Democrats just decided it was more important to spend $40 billion on a war in Europe. Now, as the Fed prepares to deliberately induce a recession, the President wants to spend money already allocated for COVID relief on a war at home. It's going to be an interesting summer. 

Friday, May 13, 2022

They're still thinking about it

This site was never a great store of content anyway but if anyone is wondering why it's been especially sparse lately, it's because I just am using the phone to do short posts (sometimes) until the laptop is fixed. But most of the time if I have my phone in my hand and a link to share, I just end up tweeting it out. I know this is riveting. 

But I do like to use this blog to make notes when I can so can remember stuff later. It's much better for that purpose than Twitter, which can be kind of a black hole.   For example, I am right now using it to post this story from yesterday's T-P about the continuing victimization of people by the Road Home program some 16 years later. 

In 2008, the state of Louisiana offered Matthews $30,000 through the federally funded Road Home program to elevate her house to reduce the risk of future flooding. But her home was still unlivable, and she desperately needed the cash for repairs. To her relief, she said, a Road Home representative told her she could use the elevation grant to instead pay for repairs. So she did.

Now, more than a decade later, the state wanted the money back.

Only the latest reminder of the cruel stupidity of the regime people live under here. Poor people pay the costs of corruption. Every time.

Louisiana has sued about 3,500 people — about one in every nine people who received an elevation grant — for failing to use the grants to raise their homes after hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck in 2005.

The real problem, however, wasn’t that people ignored the rules, according to an investigation by The Advocate | The Times-Picayune, WWL-TV and ProPublica. It’s that the state Office of Community Development and a contractor it hired in 2006, ICF Emergency Management Services, mismanaged the program. For more than a decade since, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has insisted that the state recoup the money from people who are noncompliant.

 Y'all remember ICF, right? Only Katrina kids know.  Jarvis DeBerry wrote this seven years ago

Who's really to blame for homeowners getting more money than they ought to have received: ICF or the state of Louisiana itself? In some cases it may be ICF. In other cases it may the state. But none of that matters to homeowners caught between these two warring parties. If they've been mailed letters suggesting that they acted fraudulently when they didn't do anything wrong, then they should be provided documentation that clears everything up, a letter that gives them permission to never have to think about Road Home again.

Yeah, well, turns out that in 2022 they still gotta think about it.  

Also here's one more thing from that story to think about as we approach another hurricane season.  The costs of each disaster, and its associated mishandled response is only getting worse. 

 

Welcome, again, to the shitty part of the year.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Aggressive

Out of state investment firm becomes absentee landlord to local apartment building.  You won't believe what happens next

Passco Companies, of Irvine, California, said it bought the 330-unit complex and its 500-space parking lot — which is now known as Canal 1535 — primarily because of its proximity to the burgeoning biomedical district in that part of the city.

"We found it to be a great market for job growth and migration with all the education and healthcare employers moving in," said Stacy Stemens, a senior vice president at Passco. "That's who's renting there and the rents are aggressive."

Units in the nine-story building average just over 900 square feet and rents have shot up amid a nationwide shortage of rental properties.

Stemens said that as leases turn over, rents that were about $1,500 to $3,500 a month are now averaging between $2,500 and $5,500 for the one- and two-bedroom units. In the New Orleans area, rents have increased by 8% in the six months ending in April, contributing to what fair-housing advocates say is an escalating affordable-housing crisis.

Well it has been a roller coaster ride

The city's agreement with Troy Henry's development company to turn Six Flags into.. well... first into some warehouses and then maybe some other things later is, get this, behind schedule.

City officials said Tuesday that talks with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, which redevelops derelict properties, to take ownership have taken longer than expected. The Industrial Development Board has owned and maintained the site since 2009, but wants to dispose of it to save on maintenance costs exceeding $200,000 annually.

Seems like a straightforward sort of transfer between these governmental (or quasi-governmental) bodies.  But nothing is ever straightforward around here. What is going on?  Well, you know, real estate stuff, apparently. 
In a brief interview, Schwartz said agreements between the administration and the two development agencies are in final drafts, and said discussions are over “typical real estate terms.” He declined to go into detail.
No idea why they can't tell us more.  But just know that it's all very normal.

NORA Executive Director Brenda Breaux agreed the negotiations are over routine matters, but declined to provide details. 

 “These are normal agreements that require us to sit down and work with one another, and I’m expecting to be able to work through this,” Breaux said, adding that lease negotiations with Bayou Phoenix cannot proceed until the ownership agreement is complete.

Although maybe "normal" isn't the most reassuring state of affairs at this point. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Billy Nungesser: Climate pessimist

Plenty of interesting points in this story.  A lot of people in it are mad at Billy. Congressman Garret Graves is mad.  The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority's Chip Kline is mad. State rep Jerome Zeringue is mad.  I don't really know but it's likely he is exaggerating the impact the Barataria diversion will have on fisheries.  But he's also probably not entirely wrong.  There will be negative impacts. The fact that the CPRA plans for the state to spend millions of dollars mitigating those impacts is itself an acknowledgement of that.  

Frankly, Graves and Kline and Zeringue come off pretty arrogant here. They call Billy a "clown." They smugly accuse him of consulting "palm readers in Jackson Square" and making up "his own facts" that contradict what "scientists and engineers have verified."  But that line only makes sense if we assume Billy is arguing with them over the science.  Instead, this looks more like he is performing a political analysis.  And in that light, he actually has some valid points. For example,

Nungesser relayed many of these complaints to supporters at a meeting at the Covington Country Club late last month. In an impassioned speech, Nungesser said he thinks the diversions were conceived because former Gov. Bobby Jindal thought the innovative projects would help him run for president. Graves was Jindal’s CPRA head at the time.

He told the Covington audience that he got a “standing ovation” in Houma after he “called out Chip Kline,” according to a recording.

“Chip Kline texted me and called me a clown,” Nungesser said. “But I’m a clown that ain’t on the take.”

Okay well we won't go so far as to assume that Billy ain't also "on the take." It's just a possibility that has come up far too often.  We should not even dispute too heavily the notion that he is something of a "clown." But we have no doubt he's correct in suspecting his opponents have unsavory ulterior motives also. And we shouldn't discount his criticism out of hand.  

Besides, there is a certain internal logic to Billy's take on the future of the coast. He's always been pretty cynical in his approach to that. But that doesn't mean he's wrong. I mean, regardless of whether the Barataria plan happens I sure wouldn't bet against this prediction.

 Nungesser, in an interview, said he’s “tired of walking on eggshells about” the plan. He said the money doesn’t belong to Kline: “He’s not Jesus Christ.”

“I don’t care if I get elected to anything ever again. This is the biggest fraud ever pulled over our eyes,” Nungesser said. “There’s nothing to say this diversion will have any impact for 50 years. In 50 years we’re going to be having the Grand Isle fishing rodeo in Baton Rouge.”

Monday, May 09, 2022

Teachers aren't going to break the budget

There's a certain logic to what the so-called "fiscal hawks" are arguing. We do not want to repeat the Jindal era cycle of de-funding critical public services through tax breaks for rich people and shell games like school vouchers and medicare privatization while covering up for it by dropping "one time money" into places that will eventually need recurring revenue to avoid more drastic cuts. Even now, while the state is flush with federal COVID relief, we're still just a few years away from the next "fiscal cliff" as temporary sales taxes start to roll off the books.  

None of this should mean that teachers have to suffer for it, however. But for some reason, they're still the first thing that comes to mind when lawmakers want to talk about being cautious with the budget. 

Geymann’s amendment to House Bill 1, the state’s operating budget, is written in an English that can only be described as “technical.” It basically blocks using extra money expected to be “recognized” by the REC on Monday to add another $500 to proposed pay raises for educators or any other expenses that will become part of the annual operating budget and have to be paid in the future. Geymann said the additional funds needed to increase teacher pay raises from $1,500 to $2,000 can and should be found in the recurring revenue stream.

It's ok to give the teachers their raise and find the money in the budget later.  Nobody ever said corporate tax exemptions need to keep happening, for example.  Although the legislators don't seem as worried about those.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Ok but what are you going to do?

No doubt the *impending ruling* whenever it becomes official, will set off a round of statements from political organizations and elected people everywhere. No doubt they will all (okay well the statements issued by the ostensible "good guys" anyway) express concern, promise to "keep fighting" in vague language, and direct their audience where to send money. 

What really need to hear, though, is what local office holders and power brokers intend to do with the power they currently have. It can't just be about self-promotion, if they really do care about this. (Or if they care about anything at all, which they very well may not.)  

Anyway, the point is there are things they can do.  These are just a few ideas.









There's also a rally planned in Jackson Square Saturday at 5 pm. Go on down and yell at some Jazzfest tourists about it if that helps.  But when you see your mayors, bosses, legislators and councilmembers, don't just let them "empathize." Ask them what they are going to actually do about it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Nothing sadder than a grounded PILOT

RIP Drive Shack. Latest victim of the pandemic? That's what these photos NOLA.com just published seemed to indicate.  There's no accompanying story yet but the captions read as follows.

The Drive Shack golf-entertainment project that was to have gone up on the old Times-Picayune site on Howard Avenue appears to be dead. Drive Shack said in a recent filing that it doesn’t plan to continue with the project to build a venue there and is reviewing options, including disposing of the lease with land owner Joe Jaeger.

This lot was once the Times-Picayune building on Howard Avenue. It was sold to a group led by Joe Jaeger, Arnold Kirschman, and Barry Kern who proposed to re-develop it as a golf arcade tourist attraction. The city struck a sweetheart financing deal (commonly known as a Payment In Lieu of Taxes or PILOT) with them to make it happen. 

Drive Shack customers will pay an additional 2% sales tax on money spent at the complex, part of an agreement reached between the company and the city, and approved by the New Orleans City Council in late 2018. The city will get a quarter of the new tax dollars in order to fund street improvements around the Drive Shack site. Drive Shack will get the remainder. Drive Shack also secured a 12-year freeze on its property taxes in lieu of paying the city nearly $260,000 annually.

The new tax will split 50-50 if the city is successful in connecting Howard Avenue to downtown, an improvement that would make it easier for tourists to access the site. The tax remains in place through 2039 or until Drive Shack is fully reimbursed for its construction costs.

Cantrell described the facility as a “tremendous investment” in the city, noting it would generate tax revenue in addition to bringing jobs.

It is very important for the community to understand that we did create an economic development district right here, so that a portion of the revenue that’s generated is reinvested in this same community,” Cantrell said, adding the Broad Street corridor remains “ripe for this type of investment.”

It's important for us to understand that they did this.  Ok. Anyway it never got built.  Ultimately, the pandemic probably was the most important factor in the project's failure, but there were several complicated stops and starts along the way here.  First, the Convention Center flirted with the idea of granting a rival golf arcade company access to its open riverfront property.  That, understandably, pissed off Jaeger who responded by pulling out of a plan to develop a hotel in partnership with the Convention Center.  Things only get more tangled from there. The riverfront property is now slated to (likely... probably... maybe) become a visually unappealing but nonetheless trendy planned development called "River District." That appears to feature no golf in any form. Which means neither golf scheme made it off the drawing board. Probably for the best. 

Anyway, so there's this empty plot on Howard Avenue now... 

Update: Okay the article is up now.  It still gives the impression that the Drive Shack deal is dead. It's just not as definite about that yet.

Drive Shack declined to comment further. But Joe Jaeger, who led the consortium that bought the 3800 Howard Avenue site in 2016 for $3.5 million, said that he is scheduled to meet with Drive Shack representatives in the next few weeks to discuss possible alternatives to a Drive Shack venue.

Jaeger said the company continues to make payments on its lease but has not yet indicated what its preferred alternative might be.

Meanwhile the TopGolf project may not be as dead as we thought after all. 

Michael Sawaya, president of the Convention Center, and others in the development team have said that they remain open to a deal with Topgolf as part of the entertainment district project.

Lou Lauricella, head of one of the two companies leading the project -- known as "The River District" -- declined to comment specifically on Topgolf. He said "the River District team has been in early stage leasing negotiations with a number of companies for the planned mixed use development. There are many exciting possibilities on the table, which we look forward to announcing soon."

many exciting possibilities 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Continuing with the quality work up there

There's so little to say about the Legislature at this point. We know who they are and what they're about.

The Republican majority in the House Labor committee voted Thursday – four times – against establishing a minimum wage and setting the rate above $7.25 per hour.

They keep complaining about a "labor shortage."  I don't actually think that is real and I plan to talk about that in a different post soon. But if it were real, if the bellyaching bosses who own and operate this state really were in desperate need of help but unable to find anyone willing to work, I wonder what could be the reason.



Facing stiff opposition from Louisiana’s business and oil and gas industry lobbies, a state senator on Wednesday shelved a bid to enshrine in the state constitution local government’s newly won authority over the state’s most generous corporate tax incentive.  

This week we also learned that Folgers is suing to keep hold of tax money it has owed the city of New Orleans after having had its ITEP denied.
In its suit, Folgers, which is owned by The J.M. Smucker Co., does not contest that it will owe taxes going forward. However, the company argues there is a conflict in the procedures outlined in the state law allowing assessors to adjust prior years’ assessments and requirements laid out by the state Constitution and says because of that, the bills for years’ past should be thrown out.
Of course, if this Legislature refuses to make local discretion permanent and future Governor Jeff Landry changes the rules, then companies like Folgers will again be off the hook. 

So, once again, brilliant work up there.  Can't wait to find out what else they've been up to... oh. Oh no

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Going with the feels

 Incredible work by these highly literate lawmakers

With the committee's action to advance SB418 without anyone objecting, the legislation now heads to the full Senate. If repealing the "Raise the Age" is approved in the upper chamber, the measure then would head for consideration by the House.

Murders increased 30% nationally, 35% in Louisiana in 2020. But Louisiana has had highest murder rate for 32 straight years, testified Jeff Asher a data analyst for AH Datalytics that does work for New Orleans law enforcement agencies. The statistics show large increases for violent crimes in red and blue states, big cities, small towns, and suburbs. The rates of murders started increasing in early 2020, accelerated in May 2020, and have stayed elevated since.

Those under the age of 18 account for 4.4% of all murder offenders in Louisiana in 2020 – down from 5% since 2018.

Asher said the data shows no evidence that the implementation of "Raise the Age" contributed to the statewide increase in murder or gun violence.

“You’re saying that for every 100 murders committed in this country roughly five are done by juveniles,” Talbot said. “These statistics don’t make me feel better. Tony Clayton makes me feel better.”

Monday, April 25, 2022

Galaxy brain meme

Ag commissioner Mike Strain says 

Crop production could suffer if rising global temperatures are not addressed sooner rather than later, Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said Monday. 

Bigger brain Mike Strain says

“Climate change is real,” Strain told the Press Club of Baton Rouge. “We’ve benefited in the last 100 years by slightly increasing the temperature, (leading to) increased production. But now we’re on the other side where the increases in temperature will decrease production in plants and in animals. So we must be cognizant of that.”
Cosmic brain Mike says

 At the same time, Strain called for increased domestic production of oil and natural gas to offset higher energy commodity prices before food prices spike to unaffordable levels.

it all makes sense now

Just don't be boring

What I was actually trying to tell Ralph here is that the post-Payton era can involve the Saints winning a lot of games or losing a lot of games. That's not anything anyone has any control over. Professional football teams are evenly matched for the most part. Most games are decided by very few points and hinge on minor freak incidents.  Seasons are determined according to which teams sustain the fewest injuries. The universe decides these outcomes and nobody has any valid reason to complain or assign blame for any of it.  Your team's record can be good or bad or somewhere in the middle and you can live with that.  What you do not want your team to be, though, is boring.

Do whatever you want in the draft but do something interesting. I don't want to hear about nerd stuff like 40 times or vertical leaps or RAS scores.  Figuring out which complicated human being will have a successful career in any job is never going to be science based on clear cut "measurables."  So it's important to understand that the raft of nerd stuff promulgated by football executives and media is really just there to entertain nerds.  But nerd stuff doesn't entertain everybody.  Which is why we need other metrics.  Payton would occasionally do things like draft a player because he thought his dad had a cool jacket. Not everybody thought that worked out for the best, but it wasn't really a mistake either. Anyway it was different.  

Dennis Allen doesn't strike us as the kind of guy who does interesting things.  But if we could ask for anything it is just try not to bore us. If that means making everybody mad by trading all the way up into the top 5 just to take a tackle then so be it. If it means going after this angle, then do that

Fine, you want my draft prediction for the Saints' first round? As NOLA Twitter legend Skooks reminded me, the Saints already have a player named Taco Charlton, so drafting a corner named Sauce Gardner and a receiver named Jameison Williams feels like it'd be completing the cool food named player triple play.

Just don't be boring. That's all we can hope for. 

RIP the Richmond Presidency



"Enter the private sector" is pretty funny. He's just been in the White House for two years sending out resumes and taking bids.  Finally got the right package of offers.  It's no $44 billion deal or anything, I'm sure. But I can't wait to find out what he got. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

"Perfection is not the goal"

It's looking like the NOPD is closer to being released from the decade-long federal consent decree intended to clean up systemic abuse and corruption. Leaving aside the question of whether or not any police department that isn't characterized by systemic abuse and corruption can even be called a police department at all, let's just ask the judge how they're doing

At Wednesday's hearing, Morgan noted some of the department’s recent troubles, calling the allegations of double-dipping “quite concerning,” and recruiting struggles “troubling.” But she applauded what she described as a dramatic transformation that other police agencies now aim to emulate.

“The NOPD is a far cry from the NOPD of 2013. While not perfect, the NOPD is most definitely a changed department,” said Morgan, an appointee of President Barack Obama.

Perfection is not the goal of the consent decree. Full and effective compliance is. The NOPD continues to make great strides toward that goal.”

Sooo... there's all kinds of problems. They've been skirting the rules intended to keep them from doing random stop and search.  They've been violating the city ban on facial recognition surveillance software.  They've been found engaging in widespread payroll fraud. You know.. problems.  But "perfection is not the goal" here. Let's be real.  Really you gotta hand it to them for not putting that kind of pressure on themselves. 

Anyway, it seems like the most critical metric, political momentum, is moving away from continuing the consent decree and so it's probably going away soon.  Once it's gone, will anyone notice the difference?  Hard to say

A longtime New Orleans police officer was arrested early Wednesday after federal agents and the department’s Public Integrity Bureau searched his home in New Orleans East and found more than 100 guns and a stash of crack cocaine.

Reginald Allen Koeller III, 38, is an 18-year veteran of the force and most recently worked as a patrol officer in the 4th District, police said. He was booked with possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and the illegal carrying of a weapon while in possession of the drug.

I mean as long as they can keep recruiting young enthusiastic officers with a passion for the field, it should be fine. 

As a junior at McDonogh 35 College Preparatory High School, Koeller joined the NOPD Explorers program, which introduced young people to various facets of law enforcement careers, according to a story published in the Times-Picayune in 2008. He exhibited unusual passion for the field and later sailed through the police academy.

Magic moments

If you can't put a price on magic, why is it something you are able to go to court over?

“For me, it was not simply a question of breach of contract,” Bagneris testified. “It was also a matter of disrespect. We felt disrespected.”

The perks, and the status those perks afforded – such as watching performances from onstage – are nice, too, he said: “You can’t put a price tag on those kinds of magic moments. That’s the irreparable harm.”

Is that what this is about? Magic moments and feeling disrespected?  Or is it something else? 

But in an appeal filed Friday with Louisiana’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeal, the foundation’s attorneys argue that Sheppard erred in granting the injunction. The foundation requested expedited consideration from the 4th Circuit, given that the 2022 Jazz Fest opens April 29. No hearing date has been set on the appeal.

If Sheppard’s preliminary injunction remains in place, the foundation must provide Mercadel and Bagneris with 70 free Jazz Fest tickets and the opportunity to purchase 100 more at half price. They’d also each receive a free parking spot on the festival grounds; four laminated badges that grant access to viewing areas on the sides of the festival’s three main stages; six “silkie” stick-on passes for access to guest viewing areas near the main stages; four wristbands for access to a private lounge on the festival grounds; and the privilege to buy Jazz Fest posters at a discount.

Bagneris can't use all of those tickets himself to go look at the "magic." More likely what he's worried about here is somebody might lose some money. Anyone with a connection to recipients of these perks and a little bit of entrepreneurial pluck could certainly make something out of a wad of free and discounted tickets. The "irreparable harm" the injunction is meant to prevent likely stems from the threatened interruption of this commerce. 

If the injunction stays in place, Bagneris and Mercadel would apparently be the only recipients of those packages anymore. The perks rules, even for current board members, have been scaled back somewhat. But it's worth considering just how much of this is in circulation given the number of "Past Presidents" and board members receiving perks which, even under the new rules, carry substantial value.

The benefits received by current members of the board are now capped at $9,000 in total value and are reported to the Internal Revenue Service. Each laminate badge is reportedly valued at $1,950, so a board member who accepted all four available laminates could then accept only another 15 or so regular admission tickets, which have a gate price of $90 apiece.
Fifteen free tickets valued at $90 a piece plus the badges is still quite a haul. But 70 tickets with the option to buy 100 more at a discount is a big business worth suing over. Looks like this ruling came in just in time to save that business. 


On Wednesday, Louisiana’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. It reversed Civil District Judge Nicole Sheppard’s April 13 decision, which had granted Demetric Mercadel and Michael Bagneris the preliminary injunction they sought against the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation Inc.
 
Mercadel and Bagneris, the 4th Circuit judges said, “failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that they would suffer irreparable injury if they did not receive injunctive relief." They “have not demonstrated anything more than inconvenience.”

Maybe the state supreme court could still weigh in. But they'd only have a week to do that before Jazzfest opens. If there are any pending deals for vacation packages hinging on this, the suspense is building.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Fire and loss prevention department

 Oh no, Billy!

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser's Plaquemines Parish home was burglarized Thursday, according to the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office.

The criminals took sports memorabilia and rare coinsWDSU reported. Nungesser said he was in the process of moving during the break-in

The Highway 23 home, located in Point Celeste, was also damaged by a small kitchen fire that occurred during the burglary, according to the Sheriff's Office. 

"We're still investigating, but at this time, it's believed that the fire was unintentional," said Lt. Chaun Domingue, spokesman for the Sheriff's Office.

That sounds bad. I feel bad for Billy. I hope they didn't get his socks. But because of certain circumstances and Billy's status as a person of some prominence, we do have to ask if there's something beyond just simple burglary going on here. We do know, for example, that this wouldn't be the first time something strange happened to collectibles under Billy's supervision. In 2017, he was involved in "some pretty strange crap" along those lines. 

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser has been using a Lower Pontalba Building apartment and space in other state museum buildings in the French Quarter for his personal benefit and has engaged in a pattern of political interference with the agency's operations, the Louisiana State Museum's interim director said Monday while resigning in protest.

Nungesser’s interference includes attempting to override museum officials and board members who objected to plans to loan U.S. Sen. John Kennedy artworks for his office in Washington, D.C., and threatening to sell museum works of art on eBay to raise funds, said Tim Chester, a museum consultant who took the interim position in October.

“I have never encountered anything like this in the 40 years I’ve worked in the field, ever,” Chester said. “I’ve seen some pretty strange crap come down in museums, but this one takes the cake.”

We also know that, intentional or otherwise, this would not be the first time a Louisiana politician or political operative suddenly found their home and/or car to have been set on fire. Let's look at a few relatively recent examples. 

In 2009, a political gadfly/consultant type named Brian Welsh was involved in a stunt of a campaign promoting Stormy Daniels as a challenger to then Republican Senator David Vitter. Then his car burned up.  Welsh went on the news to air his suspicions that Vitter's henchmen had it out for him.  A lot of people were skeptical of this. (I was skeptical.) The fire department was also skeptical

“It was a fire. The car didn’t explode,” said Public Information Officer Jonathan Pajeaud. An arson investigation is underway and foul play hasn’t been ruled out. But, Pajeaud said, Welsh told firefighters he’d recently gotten electrical work done on his 1996 Audi, and investigators are also looking into that as a possible cause.

Welsh told a local TV news station that police told him they’d never seen anything like it.

But, Pajeaud said, “Car fires here are very common.”

He added that investigators, on average, have a preliminary report in about two weeks. Pajeaud said that, for now, the investigation is being handled solely by the fire department and not by police. The police department has not responded to our questions.

Welsh persisted, however, posting surveillance videos that appear to show someone tampering with his car just before the fire happened. Still, nothing ever came of the investigation.  "Car fires here are very common," after all.

In 2014, Mario Zervignon was consulting for a Public Service Commission campaign challenging Eric Skrmetta when this happened.  

An apparent firebombing ignited a pair of early morning blazes Thursday in Uptown New Orleans, incinerating three vehicles and scorching a house in a startling scene that resembled a war zone. Federal law enforcement officials said they were investigating whether Mario Zervigon, a well-known political fundraiser, had been specifically targeted in the attack.

Flames engulfed Zervigon’s vehicles and quickly spread to his home at the corner of Prytania and Constantinople streets. Eight people escaped the home’s three apartments uninjured, but three cats were believed to have perished in the fire, said Katy Patterson, Zervigon’s wife, who made it out safely with Zervigon and the couple’s two young children.

If the Zervignon case was ever solved, I don't remember seeing it. Maybe someone can clear that up. Casual googling doesn't get me very far today.  The usual pattern with these things is they happen, they look suspicious, we talk about them in the news, and then everyone forgets about them until the next one happens.  Every now and then they solve one, though. In fact, that 2014 story also references a prior incident from 1997 that resulted in a guilty plea.  

Firebombings, while exceedingly rare, are not unprecedented in New Orleans. Thursday’s incident recalled a series of intentional fires beginning in 1997 that targeted Stuart Smith, a vocal opponent of loud music in the French Quarter. Bar owner George Mellen Jr. pleaded guilty in 1999 to hiring an arsonist to toss Molotov cocktails at Smith’s home and vehicle on several occasions.

Here is more detail on that one in case anyone is interested.  There are a lot of old favs in this story.  None of them (including Stuart Smith, even though he was the victim of the attack) comes off looking particularly good.

Smith, a lifelong New Orleans resident who moved to the French Quarter in 1997, blamed the decline on the city's refusal to enforce noise and zoning ordinances.

But city officials said their hands are tied.

"Every time we come up with a resolution, we're sued by one side or another," said Councilman Troy Carter.

Mayor Marc Morial, who had all performers cleared out of Jackson Square when he was married there, has been otherwise reluctant to get involved. "A lot of what the complaining is about really has to do with the comeback of the entire city," Morial said. "The Quarter is not a suburban neighborhood."

The stance by Smith and his allies has at times drawn an aggressive response.

When Smith tried to stop the city from issuing a music license to an outdoor bar around the corner from his 5,000-square-foot home, Molotov cocktails scorched his Mercedes-Benz and rained down on his roof and into his courtyard. His home was not badly damaged.

The bar's owner, George Mellen Jr., and an associate, Richard Jones, pleaded guilty to conspiring to plant firebombs.

Unlike Mellen and Jones, the New Orleans Police officers who murdered Henry Glover and burned his body in a car after Hurricane Katrina did not plead guilty. Their convictions were overturned and they were eventually set free.

In 2015 a vehicle was set on fire near the site of a Planned Parenthood facility under construction.  It was investigated as a suspected arson.  Not sure if anything came of that either. 

Then, in 2016, this happened

A Lamborghini found burned to the ground Tuesday belonged to the owner of a Baton Rouge company that last week pulled out of a New Orleans contract to remove Confederate monuments after he had received death threats.

David Mahler’s Lamborghini, worth in excess of $200,000, was parked in the H&O Investments parking lot at 17425 Opportunity Ave., in Baton Rouge when flames were spotted from the air, said Roy Maughan Jr., Mahler’s attorney.

Immediately, we were told, we'd never really know what happened. 

It’s likely investigators will never know how the fire started, though, as the evidence was destroyed in the fire, Tarleton said. He said the department has not ruled anything out.

All that was left of the car was the seat frames, the tires and a heap of melted debris.

Accidental car fires are not unusual, often caused by mechanical issues, he said.

These things just happen all the time. It's pretty amazing when you think about it.  At least we won't go bored puzzling over the stream of unsolvable enigmas we're presented. 

Did anyone ever figure this one out, by the way?

NEW ORLEANS — Someone set two vehicles on fire in a Lakeview neighborhood last week in an explosive moment caught on camera. 

The man fires what appears to be a flare at one of the cars, soaked in gasoline, blowing it and another nearby vehicle up.

According to neighbors, it happened around 2:15 a.m. on July 29. 

That's a strange story, right?  Because of the long history of these, I thought it worth noting at the time that it was really close to qualifying week for the 2019 state legislative and executive elections. But nothing else surfaced in the news to connect back to it.  It did have me looking sideways at some of the fishy goings on in the state house races. But there's no evidence any of it is related. Anyway, it's likely we'll never know.