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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.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

The resilience economy

Not sure what the big deal is here.
Coastal towns would enjoy an economic boon from a massive oil spill in the Great Australian Bight, BP claimed in newly revealed documents from a 2016 drilling bid.

The oil giant said any cleanup operation following a huge spill would bring a “welcome boost to local economies.” The claim was uncovered via a freedom of information request by the U.K.-based Climate Home News website.
It's true, though, right? At least that's what New Orleans's political and business leaders have been telling us for years. As Ray Nagin once famously said, "There's big money in disasters."  Ray was always an idea man, though.  It wasn't until the following administration that we really professionalized the notion of resilience as an economic development opportunity

BP, Ray, Mitch, et al are really the optimists here. Sure, climate change is going to destroy cities, threaten food supplies, and endanger millions. But we chose to allow that to happen a long time ago. The challenge now is for global corporations,  political elites,  and well placed entrepreneurs to go to work figuring out how to profit by it.  That's just what leaders do.

Neil's briefing book

It may be that LaToya has too much to do right now to be too involved in the legislative session. None of the articles citing her "defensive" strategy with regard to the city's agenda in Baton Rouge this year say that explicitly. But the implication is that she's choosing not to focus too much on it. She definitely still wants to boot your car, though.
For the most part, Cantrell has avoided getting deeply involved in Baton Rouge this year. She has, however, worked with state Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, on modifications to his bid to change the Sewerage & Water Board’s governing board, and separately she asked him to withdraw a bill that would have made it harder for the city to boot residents’ cars.
Cantrell made a lot of noise during the campaign about taking down traffic cameras. I don't think anyone has asked her about that lately. The cameras are definitely still causing problems.  The boot bill isn't exactly the same thing. But it's worth noting that the new mayor is already taking a more favorable stance toward fee generation through petty enforcement.

Also it's worth noting that she isn't taking her cues from JP.  Instead, she has repeatedly singled out Neil Abramson as her legislative lead. She reiterated this in a recent interview with Gambit, in fact. 
Who will be your point people in the state Legislature?

Right now, I'm looking to Rep. Neil Abramson, who has been very helpful in this transition period. He loaned me his legislative aide, who has created a briefing book for me with every piece of legislation that has an impact on Orleans Parish. But it's the entire delegation, both on the House and Senate side. I lean very heavily on Sen. Karen Carter Peterson as well on the Senate side.
Wonder what's in that briefing book.  Does it say anything about sales taxes?
The phone conference was abruptly ended by Cantrell’s staff during follow-up questions by FOX 8 News about whether Cantrell had a position on whether the soon-to-expire 5th penny of the state sales tax should be extended.

"Well, I think if we're going to look at the, I know the caucus is looking at that closely about that penny. You know, we have to remain focused on how we can seal the gap of that piece and burdens on people, so I think right now it is still an open issue that we'll work through, and of course that's one of the things on my plate to discuss in detail in governor,” said Cantrell before the additional questions on the issue.
After the call ended, reporters were told the Mayor-Elect had to be taken down for rebooting.  If you want to know more about about how closely they are going to look at that penny once they remain focused, you are just going to have to wait until the gap of that piece is sealed.

Anyway, I thought Neil's big thing was to push all the budgetary stuff off onto a constitutional convention. Maybe that's where the glitch happened.

UpdateYeah so they re-booted LaToya.  This answer about the, well, the booting issue makes a little more sense.
New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell said Friday (April 6) she won't oppose City Councilman Jared Brossett's efforts to protect drivers from having their vehicles booted if they have fewer than three unpaid parking tickets.

Her comments came during a briefing with reporters about legislative priorities. During the conference call, Cantrell initially said she opposes a bill state Sen. J.P. Morrell introduced in Baton Rouge that would ban local government from booting vehicles that have fewer than three unpaid parking tickets. His bill is a reaction to Mayor Mitch Landrieu's policy of booting cars after a single parking ticket goes unpaid.

Cantrell said she opposes Morrell's bill because local governments should be able to set their own policy for unpaid fines. She didn't address the fact that Morrell's bill is, in effect, a local bill because he amended it at the urging of other legislators to only apply to New Orleans.
The issue of state preemption was a topic of discussion at this "5 4 Mayors" forum at Loyola this week.  I was there and it was pretty interesting. Might have more to say about it later.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Bit of a backlog

Many things happen at once around these here parts.  Never gonna get to all of it. 


We did this on purpose

Gentrification is a deliberate policy choice.
In “Rigging the Real Estate Market: Segregation, Inequality and Disaster Risk,” a team of academics and fair housing advocates go through the history of laws and legal rulings that prevented black residents from buying homes or living in white neighborhoods to make the case that segregation was a deliberate policy choice that continues to have ramifications.

“It’s important to understand that segregation, racial residential segregation, is not the product of individual whims, but that it was socially engineered by government and it has real consequences in terms of access to opportunity, wealth and environmental health risks,” said Stacy Seicshnaydre, the report’s lead author.
Is there, like, a German term for what it feels like when the thing you've been shouting about for years and years is taken up and explained by some people with legitimate authority?  It's kind of like what the Take Em Down activists went through when they woke up to discover Mitch got rid of the monuments all by himself.  Mitchstatueumkippen?

Anyway, last year the local press spent an inordinate amount of time asking if the monument removal would be the thing Mitch is ultimately most remembered for.  It's not even in the top 10. Here is Mitch's legacy.
“The rebuilding of post-Katrina New Orleans could have reversed residential patterns of racial segregation, given the sheer magnitude of the destruction and the billions in recovery dollars that followed,” according to the report. “Unfortunately, many policy decisions made during the recovery repeated or amplified existing patterns of separation and inequality."
Four years ago, as Landrieu began his second term as mayor, I took a long look at the direction he appeared to be taking the city and suggested that it was in fact a very different direction from what his own rhetoric pretended.  In his speech that day, Mitch told us this was his goal for his second term.
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?
Well there are fewer days now and it doesn't look like we made it there.  Were we ever really trying?

Why aren't we asking for our million dollars?

I thought the city spent two years and multiple stops and starts in the process in order to give the WTC deal to somebody who had their shit together.  That's what they said when they cancelled the deal with the original winning bid, anyway.  They also said the Four Seasons deal maximized revenue potential over the long term (due to some imaginary trickle-down bullshit, of course, but that's not important right now.)   During the recent mayoral campaign, all the candidates giddily cheered the idea that the city was soon to be swimming in new revenue from the project which they were going to use to solve all of our problems.

So, look, here is a million dollars we are just gonna leave on the table.  
The latest version of the building lease for the development team Woodward Interests and Carpenter & Co. included a Friday (March 30) deadline to begin construction. Although the date has passed, Cindy Connick, CEO of New Orleans Building Corp., the landlord for city-owned properties, said the city hasn't given notice to the developers that they missed the deadline. Doing so would require a $1 million payment from Woodward-Carpenter within 30 days to extend the deadline.
I don't get it.  A year ago, the mayor and his political allies were taking out full page ads and planting editorials in the papers about the importance of moving faster.  Why are they so lax about deadlines now?

Leave it to the Louisiana Legislature to make their own Reefer Madness jokes

We all saw this coming the minute they took up the debate.




Yeah, it's fake news.  What isn't, anymore, though?

Last year wasn't "above average" enough for you?

Does Puerto Rico even have water yet?
Colorado State University forecasters expect a "slightly above-average" Atlantic hurricane season in 2018, according to a report released Thursday (April 5). The report predicts the 2018 season, which begins June 1 and lasts until Nov. 30, will see a total of 14 named storms, seven of which are expected to be hurricanes. \
Last year, they said it would be "above normal."  Is that different?  I hope that's different. 

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

So many things happening at once

It's too much this week and last. I don't even know where to begin. Especially when Drew Brees turns out to be the mark for a change in something that sounds like the kind of scam Drew Brees would ordinarily be promoting.  Chew on that for a while. I

Monday, April 02, 2018

Congrats to Tom on all the things he achieved including becoming dead, I guess

They sure did like Tom 


The Tom Benson state funeral, Mitch's big book tour, um.. the new Zelda game and other stuff is discussed here. Last week was weird which is why this is up late and why there's been light posting here generally. Bear with us.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

America has always been anti-science

Tom Wheeler was head of the FCC under Obama.  Before that he was, naturally, a telecom lobbyist.  Here he is aggressively suppressing the research linking cell phone radiation to cancer.
Why, after such acrimony, Carlo was allowed to make one last appearance before the CTIA board is a mystery. Whatever the reason, Carlo flew to New Orleans in February 2000 for the wireless industry’s annual conference, where he submitted the WTR’s final report to the CTIA board. According to Carlo, Wheeler made sure that none of the hundreds of journalists covering the event could get anywhere near him.

When Carlo arrived, he was met by two seriously muscled men in plain clothes; the larger of the two let drop that he had recently left the Secret Service. The security men steered Carlo into a holding room, where they insisted he remain until his presentation. When summoned, Carlo found roughly 70 of the industry’s top executives waiting for him in silence. Carlo had spoken a mere 10 minutes when Wheeler abruptly stood, extended a hand, and said, “Thank you, George.” The two muscle men then ushered the scientist to a curbside taxi and waited until it pulled away.
Anyway it's probably a good thing.  Now that bacteria are evolving "super" drug resistance, now is probably a good time to just go ahead and irradiate everything. 
The Internet of Things will require augmenting today’s 4G technology with 5G, thus “massively increasing” the general population’s exposure to radiation, according to a petition signed by 236 scientists worldwide who have published more than 2,000 peer-reviewed studies and represent “a significant portion of the credentialed scientists in the radiation research field,” according to Joel Moskowitz, the director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California, Berkeley, who helped circulate the petition. Nevertheless, like cell phones, 5G technology is on the verge of being introduced without pre-market safety testing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Magical Mitch-tery Tour

I know, I know. Mitch is running all over the country promoting his book, picking up bogus awards, sitting on panels, spewing his neo-liberal bullshit about combating poverty through austerity policy or whatever.  He's picking up support from the usual network of corrupt glad-handers and other people who make a living writing tired excuses for our rotting plutocracy.  There are lot of things I could say about these people but I just find it all exhausting.

The short version, though, is anyone promoting as some kind of "anti-Trump" the guy whose housing policies are driving the poor out of the city, whose solution to any and every service problem is privatization, and who is trying to install cameras on every street corner, bar and restaurant  is either stupid or lying.

Most of them are lying, of course. Because that is how they make their money.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Why won't John Bel fight for $15?

We already know what the votes are going to be when we ask for a minimum wage increase too meager to be of any benefit to anyone anyway.
State lawmakers have for a third year in a row rejected an attempt to increase the minimum wage in Louisiana.

The Senate, in a 17-21 vote Tuesday evening, rejected Senate Bill 162, which would have gradually increased the minimum wage in Louisiana to $8.50 in 2020. It's currently set at the federal rate of $7.25 an hour.

"What I'm asking for today is a very modest increase -- $1.25 over two years," said Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, in presenting his bill. "We are all Louisianans, and there is not a single one of us in this chamber -- not one -- that doesn't have people in our district that would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage."
Why not at least put forward a bill that guarantees a living wage so at least the voters can see that you are actually advocating on their behalf. The reactionaries are going to vote against it anyway.  Make them vote against something people might really want.  It's better politics and better policy.

They also voted against equal pay bills today.
The state Senate also has again rejected legislation meant to address pay disparities between men and women.

The Senate voted 18-20 against Senate Bill 117, which would require any company that contracts with the state to comply with the Equal Pay Law that currently applies to state workers.

The chamber then quickly voted down a separate bill also aimed at equitable pay that would have protected employees from being fired just because they discuss pay. That vote was 15-23.
That's bad. But it's probably not as hopeless as the minimum wage situation is.  The political momentum for equal pay legislation is on the come in part because every time a vote like this happens, it's clear that the No votes are denying people an obvious good. It's going to be easier to pass this eventually because these are the kinds of losses you can campaign on.

"Look what we are trying to do for you if you vote a few more of us in" is a better ad if the thing you're offering is basic fairness than it is if you are offering a token $1.25.

Criminal justice reform, we hardly knew ya?

This is the Louisiana version of Obamacare repeal. Certain Republicans who either depend heavily on law enforcement support and/or happen to be running for Governor are going to agitate against last year's very mild criminal justice reforms for as long as they can.  Ideally, it will be a long time so that 1) the reforms can remain in place and 2) the demagogues can keep making hay out of that fact.



Also the reforms save the state money. And we do hear a lot about how Louisiana has a "spending problem." So frustrating the repeal effort is also a good way to keep the Fiscal Hawks who tend to be all for it from harming their own cause.  It's a real #BothSides compromise.

Monday, March 26, 2018

They finally fixed the pumps

Just in time to decommission them.
Now all the pumps at the mouths of the outfall canals in New Orleans use stainless steel, corps spokesman Ricky Boyett said.

That came just in time for the corrosion-resistant replacements to be irrelevant, as the temporary pumping stations will be shut down and disassembled when the permanent ones start up.

The permanent stations, which employ bigger, sturdier pumps, will be operated by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East. That agency is in charge of the rest of the complex network of levees, floodwalls, floodgates and other structures protecting the metro area.
The annual maintenance cost for the permanent pumps is estimated between $4 and $5 million. (Assuming they really are rust-proof this time.) It's not clear to me exactly how that's going to be funded now.  In an unrelated but similar matter, the West Bank Authority has a millage proposal on the April 28 ballot in Jefferson Parish to help it take care of the infrastructure over there.

Anyway, the Lens article about the new pumps is worth a look.  It recaps about a decade of McBride's work criticizing the Corps.  For a lot of us, it's quite the trip down memory lane.  I was especially glad to see them bring up the Jeb connection to MWI
MWI is owned by J. David Eller and his sons. Eller was once a business partner of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in a venture called Bush-El that marketed MWI pumps. And Eller has donated about $128,000 to politicians, the vast majority of it to the Republican Party, since 1996, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

MWI has run into trouble before. The U.S. Justice Department sued the company in 2002, accusing it of fraudulently helping Nigeria obtain $74 million in taxpayer-backed loans for overpriced and unnecessary water-pump equipment.
The Bushes really set the tone for the neo-liberal rebuild of New Orleans early on.  People with short memories like to pretend we only entered the kleptocratic phase of our crumbling empire the day Putin followed them on Twitter or whatever.  But, really, this is the normal story of our entire lifetimes.  And, on most days, you don't have to go very far past your own flooded street to see it.

Why did Jeff Sessions like us so much?

Back in November, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (wow.. not fired yet!) had a private meeting with Mitch in order to resolve some public back and forth (involving Jeff Landry and John Kennedy as well) over New Orleans's status as a so-called "Sanctuary City."

In some ways the meeting raised more questions than it answered. Cedric Richmond was either too busy to be there or Sessions didn't want him there. Sessions and Kennedy implied that the city agreed to notify ICE when undocumented immigrants were arrested and to allow ICE to interview arrestees.  But he mayor's spokespeople denied having agreed to that.  They both seemed to agree that the city was in compliance with... whatever Sessions was asking of them. 
"We are pleased that the attorney general and Senator Kennedy have come around to agreeing with the point we have made all along -- New Orleans is not a 'sanctuary city' and the NOPD's policies have maintained consistent compliance ..." Landrieu said in a statement.

Asked for comment after the meeting, Sessions' office issued a statement saying New Orleans "has committed to sharing information with federal law enforcement authorities ..."

But it was never clear exactly how.  Maybe they showed him Palantir
Law enforcement agents routinely use bank, telephone, and internet records for investigations, but the extent to which ICE uses social media is not well known.

One of the agents involved in the hunt responded that they could combine the data with “IP address information back from T-Mobile.” Another agent chimed in to say that the agency had sent the phone company an expedited summons for information.

“I am going to see if our Palantir guy is here to dump the Western Union info in there since I know there is a way to triangulate the area he’s sending money from and narrow down time of day etc,” responded Jen Miller, an ICE agent on the email thread.

Palantir is a controversial data analytics firm co-founded by billionaire investor Peter Thiel. The company, which does business with the military and major intelligence agencies, has contracted with ICE since 2014. As journalist Spencer

Woodman reported last year, the company developed a special system for ICE to access a vast “ecosystem” of data to facilitate immigration officials in both discovering targets and then creating and administering cases against them.
At the time no news organization in New Orleans seemed to know anything about Palantir. Otherwise we imagine they probably would have asked about it, since it's clearly relevant.  But this year, when the city's usage of Palantir finally became a point of public controversy thanks to a national news story, our local papers screamed loudly at us that it was "never a secret." So who can say, really?

Anyway NOPD certainly definitely is not using it or anything like it anymore so it's not worth asking about now, probably.

Well at least that's over

Now we can all get on with our lives.  How many mock drafting days left until Christmas?

Basically, Stacy called them whores

When I wrote about the strip club thing last week, I left this bit out because I wasn't 100 percent sure I heard her correctly.  But, yes, it turns out  Stacy Head did indeed imply that the strippers who showed up to testify against her attempt to put them out of a job were prostituting themselves.
City Councilwoman Stacy Head, who failed last week to persuade her colleagues to put a limit on the number of Bourbon Street strip clubs, is rarely shy about expressing her opinions on the council dais.

So it might have come as no surprise Thursday when she chided some of the two dozen dancers who spoke out against the proposed cap on the clubs for accepting a financial incentive from their employers in exchange for their opposition.

Head said two clubs under the Larry Flynt brand, Hustler and Barely Legal, offered to waive 10 so-called “house fees” for any dancer who showed up to oppose the cap. Dancers must pay such a fee to the clubs each time they perform on stage.

“That’s selling yourselves out,” she said.
You see this sort of thing pretty often. It's a common trope among conservative plutocrat types seeking to deligitimize popular opposition.  This is why we are told the March For Our Lives this weekend was secretly organized by "Soros" or some nefarious actor.  The other night I saw a lady on Twitter accuse Airbnb critics of shilling for  "the hotel industry." In New Orleans we hear often from the Stacy Heads of the world that council chambers have been packed with "paid protesters" over any number of issues.  It's a small glimpse at the contempt with which the politcal insiders and City Hall regulars regard anyone outside of their own social class. 

Stacy is an accute and often cartoonish example of this.  Last week, she suggested that policymakers should consider homeless New Orleanians as though they are of lesser "value" than other residents.  Clearly she has similar notions about the Bourbon Street dancers.  But while Head is particulary nasty, it's worth noting these attitudes are spread more widely than that. I dare say they hold a majority among our political class many of whom would be advised to reflect on their own actions before accusing others of "selling themselves out."