Friday, November 11, 2022

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

We've been waiting a long time to find out. We may have to wait a lot longer.  

Gov. John Bel Edwards has declined to testify Monday before a special legislative committee probing the 2019 death of Ronald Greene at the hands of Louisiana State Police troopers and an alleged coverup.

In a letter Thursday to the committee, Edwards’ executive counsel, Tina Vanichchagorn, cited short notice and scheduling conflicts that include an out-of-town event.

Technically the House now has the power to subpoena the Governor and compel him to testify.  They don't seem eager to break the seal on that, though.

Troy Henry's goal is full privatization

From the outside, this looks a lot like Henry's group is negotiating in bad faith with the explicit goal of getting complete control of the Jazzland property and avoid any accountability for their use of infrastructure created through a massive amount of public investment. 

Businessman Troy Henry, the public face of Bayou Phoenix, has claimed that NORA is demanding unreasonable approval power over tenants, contractors and other aspects of his future plans for the site. Henry, who reiterated those claims in a public meeting on Thursday, said Bayou Phoenix will never agree to those demands.

No deal is better than a bad deal. And having one hand on the steering wheel trying to drive with somebody else having another is a bad deal, and a disaster waiting to happen,” Henry said at a meeting of the Industrial Development Board.

In one regard, he's right. No deal really is better than a bad deal. It's just that the deal he is angling for is one in which he fully privatizes a public project and collects the profit with no accountability or oversight. That deal would be the bad deal. 

The current plan the Henry is bucking against would have the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) take over nominal ownership of the property from the Industrial Development Board (IDB) and act as a landlord leasing it to Henry's development company.

NORA’s executive director, Brenda Breaux, said at a city budget hearing on Thursday that Bayou Phoenix is asking for a lease that's below the fair-market rate. She said NORA can live with that, but “there has to be an exchange for what the public benefits are, to protect the public’s interest.”

“It's not that (NORA) is intending to approve every tenant or whomever goes on that site, but there are some safeguards that the general public, the 390,000 citizens of New Orleans, would like to see,” Breaux said.

But now it looks like Henry prefers to own the land outright. His strategy for getting it in that case would be to clam up these negotiations and deal directly with the IDB who may be more willing (maybe a little desperate, even, at this point) to sell. 

With prospects for a master lease looking dim, exasperated IDB members on Thursday refused to consider extending an agreement with City Hall that gives the administration the right to lead redevelopment efforts. The agreement expires at the end of November, after which the IDB would seemingly be able to do as it pleases.

That's not an ideal outcome.  We talked about this in greater detail last month on the CBC podcast. You can find that in this post. The land now formerly known as Six Flags/Jazzland was purchased and developed through a large public investment of federal and state dollars. The public, through its elected representatives, should maintain control of its destiny and it should be used for the maximum benefit of the public. IDB can't just dump it to Troy Henry so he can turn a profit doing whatever the heck he wants.  The city's economic development director Jeff Schwartz agrees. 

“If that site is not redeveloped through a solicitation process, whether the existing one or a future one, there’s no guarantee that someone who buys the property on the private market has to do anything with it,” Schwartz said. “They could sit on it for another 10 years. They could turn it into a gas station.

If that is allowed to happen simply because IDB is tired of dealing with this, it would be a monumental betrayal of the public trust.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Election Day

I'm traveling during the worst possible week. There was an LSU-Bama game I would have liked to be closer to home during. There was a Saints game on Monday night I could have had tickets to. Apparently there are also Hubigs pies again? Maybe? I'll find out when I get back, I guess. This is also very likely the last week that the website Twitter Dot Com will exist and, even though that technically follows us everywhere in our phones, it feels weird to be watching from unfamiliar places while that news breaks as well. 

I am going to miss having an easy way to do quick, words based, posts from the phone, though.  Because, even though that's what I'm doing right now, this site really isn't for that. My thumbs are already tired.  

And yet there is plenty to say about today's elections which we'll have to get to later. A tl;dr bit would say that the Democrats are about to reap what they've sewn through their failures to pass a more robust stimulus in general, and their failures to protect voting and labor organizing rights in particular.  Those would have been the best ways to build real power for real people.  But the Democrats, being Democrats, aren't sure that's what they really want to do. They're about to get wiped out because of this. I'm not sure the myopic and careerist party leadership will even see that as a setback, though. 

Locally, it's even worse. The stakes remain limited to the career advancement of minor functionaries in the New Orleans area and the state Dem party's maintenance of inconsequential sinecures within its shrinking sphere of influence. 

Meanwhile the city, the state, and the nation are sinking further into a depressing kind of neo-fascism or neo-feudalist techno dystopia. Whichever term you prefer is fine. Neither really describes it clearly.  But they do sort of evoke the mood of it. In any case, thanks to the complete failure of those who place themselves into positions of political "leadership" no one is able to do anything to stop it. 

When I get back home, (and when Twitter finally dies leaving me nothing but time to write here) I'll try going into more detail.  But while we do still have Twitter, I can link to some threads and put the phone down. 

Here is the DSA guide for this cycle.  And here is the Antigravity guide

This is a thread where I read and added some notes on the guides.  And this is a thread where I punched out a couple of predictions even though I should not do those. Nobody actually knows what will happen in the future and it's important to remember that when one wants to recover one's hope.  

We'll work on that when we get home too, I guess.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Seasonal rituals

I think I'm getting more superstitious in my old age. Or at least I'm making more of an effort to keep to the rituals. Or maybe I'm just set in my ways.  What I'm saying is that, as the year goes along, I'm trying to make sure I do the things. 

For example, we've been in the habit of seeing the skeletons sing at Ghost Manor every year. So it was time to do that again and there we were.  

Halloween is first and foremost a children's holiday even if the grown ups don't always see it that way. It's about processing fear and even the idea of death by allowing it to stimulate our sense of wonder and imagination. Heck we might even call it a social #Resilience exercise.  

But that doesn't mean there aren't also true horrors waiting around the corner

The City Council is taking up Entergy New Orleans’ request to raise customer bills because of the $170 million in costs the utility racked up during Hurricane Ida.

Utility committee members voted Wednesday to consider the proposal, originally made in June, which along with another request to replenish a depleted storm reserve fund would raise bills by $4.40 per month for the average customer.

At-large Council member JP Morrell, the committee chair, said it was only the beginning of a process with a deadline of August 2023.
The rate hikes might be months away but, in the meantime Entergy plans to resume shutting service off to residents behind on their bills this week. Although if you call them, maybe they can work something out. 

Entergy New Orleans customers seeking payment assistance may call (800) 368-3749 to sign up for a 4-month deferred payment plan. Customer service agents are also available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to discuss additional payment assistance, including levelized billing.

But then maybe you've seen this horror flick before and don't necessarily trust where this plot might take you. Maybe you'd like to try something different than just walking down that dark alley alone where the monster picks off victims one by one.  Maybe there's more safety in numbers. 

That is the idea behind this proposed debt strike

A debt strike works to get Entergy’s attention by hitting them where it hurts: their bottom line! By acting together and disrupting Entergy’s cash flow, they risk becoming less profitable. Entergy’s biggest fear is a cascading effect that could erase millions in profits from C-suite executives, hedge fund managers, and others that make a dollar off of our struggles to pay.

Entergy’s stocks are built off of our high bills and their continual disinvestment in our infrastructure. Without collective action, there are no collective gains. It’s time we stand up and fight back together with a debt strike.

Right now the goal is to get 10,000 people to pledge to participate before moving forward.  Remember that's how many signatures the mayoral recall campaign claims to have now.  (I seriously doubt they have even that many but they have enough that they feel like they can say that.) So it's not impossible to at least come close enough to that number to claim it.

In the meantime, we're just trying to ward off the evil spirits the old fashioned way. Ironically, a lot of the time, this is the only way you can light your home around here.  No doubt they'll figure out a way to bill me for it.

Entergy O'Lantern 


In other news of the occult-adjacent, we caught the beginning of the Anne Rice memorial second line today in the Garden District. 

Rice, the author of the 1976 blockbuster “Interview with the Vampire,” several sequels, and dozens of other novels, died in December at her home in Rancho Mirage, California, where she’d lived for the past few years. Her remains were subsequently flown back to New Orleans, her hometown, where she was buried with a private ceremony at Lake Lawn cemetery.

Leaders of the Vampire Lestat Fan Club, named for Rice’s iconic antihero, decided that the day before Halloween was the perfect time to mark her passing, New Orleans style. They conceived a traditional, group-participation, funeral parade that would begin at the Garden District Bookstore, where Rice once famously arrived for a book signing in a coffin.
Here they are turning on to Washington Avenue.


And that's pretty much what that looked like. The parade made a quick cycle to Rice's old house on First Street and then back again.  All told we only missed the third quarter of the Saints game to see it. 

I did feel obligated to check it out, though. After all I'd just re-watched Interview With The Vampire (1994) and re-read Interview With The Vampire © 1976  last week in order to prepare for this discussion on the latest CBC episode.  All in all I'd say we did our part this year. Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

The people's park vs Troy Henry

The Six Flags saga is once again in the news. You might say, it's been something of a roller coaster ride.

One year after Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced Bayou Phoenix had won the right redevelop the former Six Flags amusement park site in New Orleans East, lease negotiations to give the group control over the site appear to be on shaky ground.

Actually the ground at the Six Flags site is the least shaky element in all of this.  At least that's one thing we learned watching the 2021 documentary Closed For Storm for the latest episode of CBC last week.  At least one person interviewed in the film says the park's foundation is structurally sound on strong piers and can be built on again.  (Of course this person may have been Tonya Pope so... grain of salt. But it seems correct.)

On the podcast, we specifically talked about why the park is of public interest and why the many attempts at redevelopment have necessarily been part of a public process. Not only does it affect the people who live in the surrounding area, not only does it matter to the well being of the city in general, but also because the initial investment... the one that built the strong foundation on those study piers... was massive amounts of public money.

We also talked about Troy Henry's background as a corporate leech and privatizing ideologue. And well, danged if that isn't the issue now.

Henry said he is still moving forward with pre-development work on the assumption that the project will move forward, but he would not say whether he believes NORA would eventually soften its stance.

"We are hoping they come back with something a little more amenable," Henry said. "But look, there are some fundamental things that we will not waver on. And if we can't control our own project, it's not our project."

But it isn't his project. This is a property and a facility that spiritually belongs to the people and in financial terms was literally built by the people. The people and their elected representatives should retain control over its destiny and benefit from its use.  Troy doesn't get to bully us into granting him the right to private profits from public investment without oversight. But that's what he's about now. It's what he's always been about.

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

When all you have is a hammer

There sure is a lot of violence in New Orleans lately. What could possibly be causing it? Nobody seems to know

HousingNOLA Executive Director Andreanicia Morris told WDSU, "The first two failing grades were a warning of things to come when you look at what's happening with inflation, housing is at the core of the crisis."

The report says the city of New Orleans has seen the median rent price rise to $1,082 while the median income for the city decreased by almost $4,000 since 2019.

HousingNOLA also said that 30% of homeowners pay more than 30% of their income toward housing.

"More than half the people who live here can't afford to actually live here," Morris said. 

Must be some kind of "cultural" issue. Maybe there's a bad video game or something. Someone should really look into it, though. Because maybe if we knew what the problem was, we would know how to address it. Or at the very least we would know how not to go about exacerbating it

A deputy constable and a property manager were shot Wednesday while serving an eviction notice at an apartment complex in the West Lake Forest area of New Orleans, authorities said.

So until someone can come up with a reason this sort of thing happens, we won't be able to come up with an effective policy response to keep it from happening in the future. Until then, I guess we'll just keep going with what we know. 

Police had received an anonymous tip that the suspect in the shooting that injured a deputy constable and a property manager in the Lake Forest area of New Orleans was in Mid-City, Officer Reese Harper confirmed. After shutting down several blocks of Canal Street and locking down multiple nearby schools, authorities detained the suspect after a brief standoff. Nobody was injured in the apprehension.

A massive police presence snarled traffic as police searched behind a house in the 3200 block of Iberville Street and used a megaphone to try and convince a man to come out of a backyard with his hands raised.

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

How many more Delawares?

How many Delawares do we have left to give to the Gulf of Mexico? This question is raised in  a recent T-P story highlighting the very-nearly-approved status of the long awaited Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion Project.  "Decades in the making," says this article and that's certainly true.  "Game changing," it says also. Well, maybe it would have been if this and five or six other projects like it had begun decades ago.  But now it is much more likely too little too late. The coast has been neglected for too long and the seas are now rising too quickly. Eventually we are going to run out of Delawares.

Louisiana has lost land roughly equivalent to the size of Delaware since the 1930s. It could lose two more Delawares in the next half-century if no action is taken to stop it.

The catastrophe is no longer a pending event contingent on actions we can take anymore. It is already here. We see it all the time. We hardly even need to be told about it anymore, but we do love to read about it anyway. Here is a story from July of this year telling us one of our favorite tales.  The Louisiana coast, according to a new study from the US Geological Survey, is DOOMED. 

As the state's saltwater wetlands migrate inland due to sea level rise fueled by global warming, they will cause a loss of freshwater wetlands at a rate that is likely to be the highest in the nation, the study shows.

The study also raises serious concerns about the consequences of not keeping worldwide temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100, which could result in global water heights of as much as 8.2 feet. In Louisiana, with subsidence, the water heights could be as much as 10 feet above present levels.

That worst-case sea level rise scenario would result in saltwater intrusion causing the collapse of thousands of miles of existing saltwater and freshwater wetlands, again exacerbated by human-caused barriers to their migration inland. 

2100 is not that very far into the future. 

2050 is even nearer.

It’s no surprise that Louisiana, where the seas are swelling and land is sinking, faces a daunting loss of property in the years to come. The Climate Central analysis estimated that more than 25,000 properties, totaling nearly 2.5 million acres in the state, could fall wholly below tidal boundary lines by 2050 — a number that far exceeds any other place in the nation. That would amount to 8.7 percent of Louisiana’s total land area, the report found.

Insurers have already decided what all of this means. They've decided it's time to cut and run

Louisiana Citizens Insurance Corp., the state’s insurer of last resort, wants to raise its already-high prices by more than half, following a dramatic increase in demand for coverage after eight private insurers collapsed [update: it is nine now]and nearly a dozen others exited the state.

The organization has asked the Louisiana Department of Insurance for a 63% rate increase for personal property coverage, which would hit its more than 102,000 homeowners policies, records show. If approved, the rate increase could generate as much as $158 million that officials say is needed to cover their risk.

The last rate increase Louisiana Citizens received, by comparison, was 4.8% for new and renewing policyholders. It went into effect June 1.

The wave of hurricanes that began in 2020 triggered a chain of events that’s putting more pressure on Louisiana’s troubled insurance marketplace. Several insurers, crippled by a staggering number of claims, have gone out of business or pulled out of the state. They’ve left behind desperate consumers who are now flocking to Louisiana Citizens in numbers not seen in years.

The solution, just about everybody in politics seems to agree, is "resilience."

But what does resilience mean, exactly? It may sound like it has something to do with preserving vulnerable communities and infrastructure but it does not.  In the context of the cascading disasters of the 21st Century, "resilience" is a shell game of shifting risks. Its rhetorical purpose is to move the burden of mitigating and responding to the growing hazards of environmental damage and climate change away from the institutions responsible and onto the individual victims of that damage. "Resilience" is a politician's call for the powerless to bear the cost of crimes committed by the powerful.

It's a grift that can work in several ways. Last year, Entergy provided us with one example. At the time we had been told the private utility giant had agreed to front the money to build Sewerage and Water Board a new power station intended to finally obviate its reliance on the famous antiquated turbine system that powers the city's drainage pumps.*  But later in the year, they backed out of that agreement claiming that emergency response to Hurricane Ida had eaten too far into their cash.  So, naturally, the city then stepped in and used American Rescue Plan funds originally intended for COVID relief to pay for the station.  

*(note: even the initial promise here was suspicious at the time but since they broke it anyway that's a bit of a moot point now)

But 2021 actually turned out to be a great year for Entergy cash-wise. They had so much floating around that they barely knew what to do with it. They paid out $1.5 billion to shareholders. Entergy CEO Leo Denault received $17 million in compensation that year.  It is only to protect these pay-outs that the city was manipulated into spending COVID relief funds making up for Entergy's broken commitment. In other words, we ended up paying for the resilience of the company's profits by foregoing investment in the resilience of our own people. 

This isn't an unusual event. It's actually very much in line with emerging global economic strategy. Economist Daniela Gabor reported from the COP26 international climate summit last year that policymakers are financializing the climate response by blending public resources (like federal COVID relief to cities, for example) with "bankable projects" (such as Entergy's operations) that create returns for investors.  It turns out the global strategy is to shift the costs and risks associated with the ravages of climate change downward onto the many subjects of capitalism in order to protect the profits of its masters.

This is the Wall Street Consensus mantra: the state and development aid, including multilateral development banks, should escort the trillions managed by private finance into climate or the Sustainable Development Goals asset classes. The state derisks or “blends” by using public resources (official aid or local fiscal revenues) to align the risk-return profile of those assets (“bankable projects”) with investor preferences or mandates. Transforming climate or nature into asset classes necessitates the commodification and financialization of public goods and social infrastructure, beyond water, electricity and transportation, and including housing, education, healthcare; these have to generate cash flows that pay institutional investors. The consensus understands the state as a derisking agent: its fiscal arm enters public-private partnerships to render them bankable by transferring some of the risks to the balance sheet of the sovereign, while its monetary arm protects investors from liquidity and exchange rate risk.

And so there is a whole class of financial speculation based on this.

It's called Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) investment. So-called "woke capital.

Increasingly, big investors and fund managers are positioning themselves as ethical intermediaries at the center of a new movement for “impact investing” — investments that claim to prioritize environmental, social, and governance concerns. BlackRock, Invesco, Aberdeen, and Vanguard — all of whom who have signed on to the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment — promise that they can help align people’s money with their values.

“Socially responsible investing” has been around for decades, but it’s taken off recently. Sustainable assets under management are now estimated to be around $30 trillion. So-called green bonds — fixed income instruments used to fund green projects such as wind farms or low-impact housing — have proliferated. Even entire countries — Belgium, France, Poland, Indonesia — are issuing them.

Meanwhile, companies like Vanguard have set up new “green” exchange-traded funds that exclude oil and gas companies and nuclear power. Although funds that avoid “sin stocks” (adult entertainment, alcohol, tobacco, weapons, gambling) are an old idea, their pivot toward supposed green investments has proven extremely popular, fueling an expansion worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

How, you might ask, do investors and money managers determine if a company is really green? Back in the ’90s, the small number of investors interested in “corporate social responsibility” used metrics provided by the Global Reporting Initiative. These days CSR (corporate social responsibility) has been replaced with ESG (environmental, social, and governance) numbers that include data on emissions, labor practices, diversity, board independence, and supply chain information — the vast majority of which is self-reported by companies.

Maybe you can sense the turn that article (titled "Green Investing is a Sham") is about to take.  The point we'd like to make, though, is that it is also a  "resilience" strategy for finance. Former Blackrock investment strategist Tariq Fancy published a series of essays called “Secret Diary of a Sustainable Investor”  Here is what he says ESG investment is about.

Meanwhile, ESG 1.0 pollutes our airwaves, masquerading as the business community’s best and most honest answer to society’s challenges. One of the most ridiculous premises on which this rests is the bizarre conflation between fighting climate change and fighting climate risks. This is important: fighting climate risks in financial portfolios is not the same thing as fighting climate change itself. A friend of mine who lives in Miami was buying a house recently and seemed happy that my previous work was so heavily focused on climate risks, including extreme weather events that affect Miami. I felt bad breaking it to him: “Carlos, we’re not trying to save Miami from getting wrecked by climate change. We’re trying to get our money out before it hits.”

New Orleans is not going to be saved from climate change either. Instead it will be squeezed more and more tightly by tourism and real estate until the last profits are wrung out of whatever exploited and beaten down population can remain.. until they can't anymore.

"Resilience," then, is a long process of forcing you to adjust to increasing precarity. Some examples from this year: Over the summer, a judge ruled that insurance companies don't have to cover your evacuation expenses.  You have to be resilient. FEMA says changes to its flood insurance program are intended to price out something like one million people. Only those "resilient" enough to hack it in the coastal regions that have been their home can afford to remain. No one will help them move out of harm's way, of course.  Individuals bear the brunt of things like the rising costs of mortgages, insurance, and energy bills in New Orleans. We take on more of the risk of just trying to live here.

Here's a Times-Pic article from July 4 of this year where the reporter talks to people about what that feels like. I want to emphasize the allocative effect of these markets on who can and cannot weather the storm, so to speak. The spike in rates is specifically bad for individuals "who must rely on loans" to buy a home. 

“I just had a client get a $10,000 quote on homeowners insurance,” said (realtor Bryan) Jourdain. Before his client made an offer on the target house, Jourdain met with the existing owners and learned that they were paying $2,800 annually for coverage.

“I knew the buyer would have to pay more, but I guessed that the premium might be around $5,000,” he said. “$10,000 is ludicrous.”

For buyers who can afford such surprises, the jumps in cost probably won’t come between them and a new home. But for first-time buyers like Latiker and others who must rely on loans to close deals, such unexpected cost hikes can be deal killers.

On the other hand, for large investment firms that pay cash to turn houses into hotels... or more to the point, who seek to quickly flip properties as assets based on their potential profits as such... The cost of the transaction is not much changed. 

By leaving climate unmitigated, and by leaving the social costs to be borne by individuals experiencing "market forces" rather than as a community facing collective destruction, we have chosen, as a matter of policy, to sacrifice New Orleans as we know it to corporate profit "Resilience" it turns out, is a luxury good.

Anyway, we talked about this and more in episode 2 of CBC after having watched the straight-to-DVD classic "Hurricane Season" staring Forrest Whitaker.  It's a bit long but it's here if you're interested.

Friday, September 30, 2022

And now the shocking conclusion

Great big publicly funded corporate downsizing and stock priming scam that any idiot could have told you was going to be a scam turns out to indeed have been a scam

But now, DXC appears to be scaling back those ambitions. Records show that as of last year, the Virginia-based company had hired just 300 local workers. The company is only occupying three of the 10 floors it leased in the granite Poydras Street skyscraper that bears its name, and is actively seeking to sublet four of those floors.

And last month, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne signed a May agreement between Louisiana Economic Development and DXC that ended an $18.6 million incentive package because of DXC's repeated failure to meet job creation and payroll benchmarks.

The terminated agreement and DXC's lackluster hiring underscore the challenges New Orleans leaders have faced in recent years trying to lure major employers to the city and then keep them here.

"This was going to be a really big thing," said Peter Ricchiuti, a business professor at Tulane University, of the DXC deal. "When you get a big company like this, it spins off other tech entrepreneurs. Even just having a smaller footprint, giving back office space, is not encouraging."

It was never "going to be a really big thing." It was a scam from the beginning and anybody who was not being paid to believe otherwise could see it from the beginning.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

The Advocate uses its manufactured crime panic narrative to aid Starbucks' war on workers

Much of this is copy/paste of a long tweet thread. But it, like most long tweet threads, seems like something that should have been blogged. So I'm blogging it.

Yesterday, the Advocate presented a long story about the closure of one of the two Starbuckses on Canal Street. The story touched off a bit of a row on Twitter over several points. The story's writer, business reporter Anthony McCauley got involved in some of the back and forth. I don't like to fight with reporters on Twitter. McCauley is actually one of the more thorough and informative on staff at the TP/Advocate. Generally, I think most of them are just trying to do a job.  The problem with most New Orleans commercial media (particularly at the Advocate and at our local TV stations) extends beyond the individual reporters. Rather, all of these companies are beset with an institutional right wing anti-worker bias that has worsened as the pandemic crisis has heightened irreconcilable economic tensions between labor and ownership. I don't think most reporters have a lot of control over that. But they do shape what the public sees of their work and this article is a prime example of that.

One complaint from readers about yesterday's article was that it did not sufficiently interrogate the company's dubious assertion that the closure was caused by "security concerns."  Instead it gathered statements from business ownership and real estate aligned figures whose biases and interests would appear to confirm the Starbucks point of view such as the Louisiana Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Development District, and haberdasher David Rubenstein. Readers pushed back on this point.  Was this really a "high incident store" to use Starbucks's terminology? What does that phrase even mean? Is there any data explaining it? As a result, the article has been updated. It now says we don't actually know what any of that is based on. Starbucks isn't telling us.

After publication of an earlier version of this story, Jefferies said that Starbucks did, in fact, keep an incident log at the store but the company declined to share any data on the number or types of threats faced by staff. But he said the decision to shutter the location was taken after consulting with staff, managers and "local leaders".

"This is certainly, unfortunately, a high incident store," he said.

Another issue raised by readers was the greater context of Starbucks's ongoing national campaign against organizing efforts by its workers.  Among the company's union busting tactics has been sudden and unexplained closures of stores all over the country so it's natural to wonder how the Canal Street closure might fit in. Starbucks's Maple Street location voted to unionize earlier this year.

Starbucks's reaction to union activity has been shockingly aggressive. There is even speculation that the company's strategy is to push the legal limits so far that we could eventually see the whole National Labor Relations Act scrapped by the right wing Supreme Court.  Here is an In These Times article describing  the sort of confusion and intimidation Starbucks has subjected its workforce to in order to discourage unionization.

That response fits a pattern of new initiatives Starbucks has rolled out in the wake of the organizing wave, which includes benefits that the company says it cannot guarantee for its unionized workforce. In May, the coffee chain announced wage increases for workers, but said that it was prevented from assuring raises in stores that were in the process of unionizing or that had successfully done so. Last month, Starbucks also hedged on offering abortion access benefits, including out-of-state travel expenses, to workers in unionized stores, citing contact negotiations.

SBWU has demanded that these benefits be extended to all employees, including those at unionized stores. Starbucks is permitted by law to offer these benefits to workers at unionized stores,” the union wrote. Our bargaining committees will demand that these modest improvements be given immediately to all the partners.”

See also this recent Chapo interview with three Starbucks workers who talk about their experience organizing and the constant bad faith and retaliation the company has subjected them to. Given this context we should automatically assume any action taken by the company, such as a store closure, and the reasons the company cites, are probably happening in bad faith or should at least be heavily scrutinized. As you can see from the ITT article, concerns over safety have been a point of contention between workers and management in Starbucks stores nationally.

It is reasonable to assume, given that Starbucks in fact says in the T-P article that the New Orleans store closure is among several they are deciding to do across the country for the same reason, that this move is related to their ongoing labor issues.

New Orleans is not the first nor the only city to see Starbucks closures because of security concerns. Shortly after the letter to staff was written in July, the company said it would be closing 16 stores for security reasons: a half-dozen each in the greater Los Angeles and Seattle areas; two in Portland, Oregon; and one in both Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Management does this sort of thing all the time and Starbucks is no exception. They make moves to intimidate workers, to confuse them, to divide them if possible, and to gaslight them with ham-handed draconian solutions to valid complaints.  Workers feel unsafe and ask for support. Instead the company just haphazardly messes with schedules, or transfers staff or closes a bunch of stores to show that they can. It's pure intimidation and it's very typical behavior

Meanwhile the T-P/Advocate's initial approach to this situation was to ignore the unionization angle entirely even though it may in fact be the central issue. In response to online criticism, they have grudgingly added it to the story today. However, in doing so, they've also attempted to reduce the matter to a mere question of whether or not the Canal Street store has a pending NLRB petition filed.  Surely we can see that the answer to this question does not change the overarching context. At the very least, we understand that most organizing activity happens prior to and outside of the NLRB process. Do we understand that? Maybe the paper doesn't want us to.

Ultimately, the problem here is the TP-Advocate aspires to function as a company newspaper in a company town. This week, for example, its "Virtual Panel On The New Orleans Economy" featured this lineup. 

The panel, sponsored by AARP, will feature Anne Teague Landis, CEO of Landis Construction Co.; James Ammons, Chancellor of Southern University of New Orleans; Lynette While-Colin, Senior Vice President of small business growth at the New Orleans Business Alliance; and David Piscola, General Manager of the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel.

When the paper doesn't think a discussion about "the economy" deserves even a single voice representing labor or advocating for the poor in any sense, it follows that its reporting will default away from those perspectives as well. 

Which is how stories that are really about the economic hardship and sense of precarity visited on the city's most vulnerable populations as a result of the bosses having won the pandemic, are so easily converted by commercial media into crime panic sensationalism. Because from the point of view of those who hold power in New Orleans and seek to extract profit from it (and to the media institutions in their employ) the way to address these traumas is to remove and/or suppress their victims with a more brutal police state. Please see, again, this month's Antigravity for much more on that. Note, as well, this week the Wall Street Journal has jumped in to make New Orleans the latest exhibit in a national media crime panic narrative. I'm sure we'll hear more about that this weekend.

Just as I'm sure we'll be subjected to another round of dishonest and deranged reactionary filth from the Advocate editorial page.  But that's what we've come to expect there.  As readers who still rely on the paper to cover the public affairs of our city, we are most injured when that hostility infects and diminishes the quality of the reporting as well.  

Monday, September 12, 2022

Cop Season

 Keeping with the wildlife theme, when is it not cop season in the Quarter?  

If the Audubon Society were to produce a field guide to Louisiana law enforcement, it would likely point to the Quarter and vicinity as a prime spot for sightings, a kind of Avery Island of cops. In addition to NOPD officers on foot, on bicycles, on horseback, on Harleys, and in sedans and SUVs, alert visitors can spot khaki-clad deputies from the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, members of the Louisiana State Police in their distinctive hats, and representatives of the Federal Protective Service patrolling buildings like the U.S. Custom House on Canal Street. The Orleans Levee District Police and the Harbor Police are often out and about in one of the city’s few above-sea-level districts, and the retro all-caps italic insignia of the City’s Grounds Patrol isn’t an unfamiliar sight. A particularly eagle-eyed observer might see the occasional state fire marshal or deputy court constable—perhaps a bit more scarce after one such official was suspended for allegedly failing to respond to an eyewitness report of an ongoing rape, in a case that made national news—along with private security guards in a variety of uniforms. If there’s a French Quarter problem that can be solved by the application of police, it’s hard to believe it hasn’t already been thoroughly addressed.

That's a new Antigravity article about, not just the unchecked advance of over-policing and surveillance, but specifically about the shamelessness of the local media establishment in whipping up support for this program.  Relentless sensationalist fearmongering over crime by the local press all summer in concert with a lobbying campaign put on by the so-called "NOLA Coalition" of pretty much every business tyrant, real estate vampire, tourism boss and non-profit grifter in town has already generated a political response.

Juiced by an astroturfed stunt ostensibly aimed at recalling the mayor, the combined pressure of the oligarchs aligned in formation has caused the City Council to overturn a partial ban on surveillance technology.  This week the council will follow up on this by spending $700,000 for new cameras and license plate readers in the French Quarter which is already more blanketed by such devices than any other neighborhood in the city.  The crime panic lobby also appears to have spurred the mayor into a desperate proposal to just throw $80 million directly at a police department with no structural purpose besides "retention bonuses."

The pay package – which includes $30,000 bonuses for recruits who make a starting salary of $42,411– represents a massive injection of funding over the next three years into a force with a $215 million annual budget that already dwarfs other city agencies. And while it would be largely covered by federal pandemic relief funds, the package could run smack into competing priorities at the City Council, which must approve the plan. Some council members who have pushed for actions such as adding civilians to the force are skeptical that throwing money at cops will be enough to keep them on the job.

Cantrell is proposing that the city spend its American Rescue Plan allocation, money intended for cities to use in protecting its most vulnerable residents from the ongoing ravages of the pandemic, on perks and cash giveaways to the police instead.  The mayor's plan offers free health care, not to the poor and working class of New Orleans hit hardest by the pandemic, but to the police. The mayor's plan offers student loan relief, not to New Orleanians struggling with debts and rising costs of living in an economy on the verge of recession, but to the police. The mayor's plan offers rental assistance, not to New Orleanians facing evictions and being priced out of the city by tourism and real estate speculation, but to the police.  It's the most obscene and insulting thing imaginable to divert funds intended to help people victimized and immiserated by the pandemic to the police whose very function is to surveil, arrest, and suppress those same victims as deteriorating conditions drive them into further marginalization.  And yet, in this article, Cantrell says she believes this monstrous act to be the "best use" of the one-time COVID relief money.

Just as shocking here we have  this from Cantrell's CAO Gilbert Montano.

Under the city’s plan, all of the proposed $80 million package save $5 million would be covered by American Rescue Plan Act funds, according to Montaño. The federal stimulus act has sent $388 million to the city treasury, although most of that has already been committed to making up for lost tax revenue and other priorities.

“We’re once again looking at this as an investment. Without a safe habitable city, what good is a strong fund balance?" said Montaño.

Recall that this was the very same question displaced New Orleans workers, residents facing eviction, and citizens suffering diminished city services asked of Montaño last year. What good is a strong fund balance when people are left hungry and homeless and precarious by a global disaster? But he refused to budge for any of them opting instead to hold the relief money in reserve to cover imaginary budget deficits his spreadsheets projected five years into the future

Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño on Monday resisted calls from the council to hold mid-year budget hearings on the funds and urged that the vast majority of the money be held back, with the first major round of spending not coming until next year. And even then, Montaño urged council members to take the long view and parcel out spending through 2025, when some projections say New Orleans will finally emerge from its pandemic-induced deficits.
And now here we are a year later, a year poorer, a year more desperate, and we're watching Gilbert Montaño and LaToya Cantrell hand the federal lifeline intended to relieve the poor and desperate over to the police instead.  Ordinarily, you'd think a city council might be eager to step in and oppose such a blatantly evil policy proposal offered up by a politically damaged administration. But they won't.  Which should tell you, among other things, that the organized campaign to subject the mayor to these political pressures is having its intended effect.

Friday, September 09, 2022

Gator Season

We very much regret to inform that Jeff Landry does indeed still want to be Governor.

The Landry gator hunt is one of the biggest and grossest political bribery and money laundering festivals in Louisiana. It's also a violation of, at least the spirit, of Wildlife and Fisheries hunting permit rules and campaign finance rules at the same time.  Pretty good preview of what we're in for over the course of the Governor Landry administration.

Friday, September 02, 2022

Why do we have to start blogging again?

Because I read this story today about a federal infrastructure grant being awarded to an amalgamation of local non-profit vampires with a nebulous proposal to do "green hydrogen" adjacent economic development projects and it took me twenty minutes to sift through my Twitter feed for a thread back in December where I first read about the grant process so I could link it all together.  That's fine if I happen to remember that I'd once tweeted about it. But the blog is tagged and categorized and more easily searchable and really the place where I should be taking most of my notes so they aren't memory holed down the tweeter tube. 

Anyway, I'm sure some of what is getting funded here will be worthwhile. I'm sure also some of it will be bullshit that siphons money away through the regular NOLA non-profit cabal and the "private partners" assembled to receive it. Michael Hecht is here to talk it up, which can't be a good sign. 

“With clean hydrogen, we can remain an energy state — but become an energy state of the future that has less impact on the environment,” said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc., a regional economic development agency told The Associated Press. “When money and morality come together, you get stuff done.”

"Money and morality."  Yeah this is definitely something to bookmark.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

There will be blog

Yeah yeah yeah, here comes the occasional bit about how I've been tweeting too much and blogging too little and all memory is being lost in the sands of windswept digital chaos and I need to do more deliberate writing for archival purposes, etc. etc.  But, seriously, I'm getting back to posting here soon.  Really.

Meanwhile, the Hunkerdowncast has its first official spin-off piece of media, so there's that. Basically we're gonna watch some New Orleans themed/shot/set movies and talk about them.  Here's the first one. 



Oh speaking of blogging again, I did write this bit for the above mentioned show. Might as well just post it.

 Last month the mayor of New Orleans and several city councilmembers decided we are all ready for our close-ups and voted to rescind a very recently passed ban on use of certain surveillance technologies such as facial recognition software by the New Orleans police department.

There is no evidence that these tools do anything to reduce violent crime. They have been shown, however, to reinforce the existing biases of the criminal punishment system against poor and marginalized people, and to cast a wide dragnet over a city where everyone is effectively treated as a suspect.  Of particular concern was the potential for police to violate the privacy of consenting sexual partners and to use it to enforce a newly activated state prohibition against abortion.  

City Council had already passed a resolution explicitly instructing city law enforcement not to enforce the so-called state “trigger laws” that went into effect when the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturned the constitutional right to abortion established by Roe vs Wade. The resolution calls for no city funds to be used to catalog or report abortion cases.  

However, when the new surveillance ordinance failed to include language prohibiting NOPD from using surveillance tools against abortion seekers or against consenting sexual partners, council had to scramble to amend the law again a week later.

Meanwhile Mayor Cantrell embarked on a public campaign against the NOPD federal consent decree monitoring program put in place in 2013 after a Department of Justice report found that NOPD officers routinely engaged in “patterns of misconduct that violate the Constitution and federal law.”  One prominent case at the time being the 5 NOPD officers charged with murdering and burning the body of Henry Glover in the days following Hurricane Katrina (put a pin in that one).

At a press conference, Cantrell asserted that the consent decree had put officers “in handcuffs” and that she was "concerned about our officers' ability to protect themselves”  However, in interviews, many NOPD officers who exited the force report that they have not been driven away by mandates for unbiased constitutional police practices but rather by an capricious, political and punitive NOPD management style responsible for flagging morale. Federal Judge Susie Morgan, the person responsible for administering the decree, slapped back at Cantrell during a subsequent hearing saying that comments by the mayor, “Suggesting that officers want the consent decree to end so they can return to policing the way they did before 2013 is wrong, and dangerous.”

Called back before the City Council to address this and other matters, Police Chief Shaun Ferguson then let slip that  NOPD policy does in fact recomend collecting information on abortion seekers after all.  It was at this same hearing that District C councilmember  Freddie King asked the chief if there was something he could get the police to do about homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk  because it makes "everyone's quality of life a little undesirable." This coming on the heels of CM Oliver Thomas having run a pair of panhandlers off of Crowder Boulevard to the thrill of his Instagram followers.

All of this is to say that  the mayor of New Orleans (who was in DC this week continuing to lobby against the consent decree) along with a faction of the City Council now appear more determined than ever to turn their cameras and other instruments of state surveillance against the city’s most vulnerable populations for the benefit of the rich and powerful.

But what if I told you that there was another way for the rich and powerful to clean up the streets of our unhappy little corner of the planet while also boosting the city’s high dollar tourist trade at the same time?  Therein lies the premise of this week’s film.

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.