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Friday, January 20, 2017

The Day of Re-Greatening is upon us

Plan accordingly.



Here's a look at today's planned protests in New Orleans. At a glance, it looks like the first is for practitioners of smug performative virtue signaling while the second is for practitioners of self-righteous performative virtue signaling. I guess they're all my people in one stupid way or another so I'll have to get out and see for myself at some point.

Can't keep doing the same thing

Happy Mardi Gras, losers

As we prepare to welcome the time of the dark lord (pictured*) this weekend, it's time for the highly compensated political professionals who run the Democratic Party... and who failed miserably in 2016... to start figuring out how to do better.  There isn't a whole lot of cause for optimism.

The DNC apparatus runs on money.  Not that there's anything wrong with that in and of itself.  But the people who have been in charge of raising that money only know how to get it by cozying up to banks, and tech billionaires and multinational corporations which in turn become the source of the corruption which most people see as Exhibit A in the case of "Why Dems Lose Elections."  The problem is that the people in charge would very much like to remain in charge. But the party can't make the kind of transformation it needs to make unless they are relieved of duty. 

Okay so you've got your pitchfork and your torch and you are ready to go round up some #HillaryMen. The problem, then, is what next? Unless you replace the Democratic Party establishment, you can't repeal the Democratic Party establishment. The object is to find new ways of doing stuff or else the default machinery just keeps chugging right along. As with most things, this is easier said than done.

American Poli Sci 101 theory holds that the parties go through cycles of emphasis; that they can either choose to be the Presidential Party or the Congressional Party. It often works out this way... our constitutional structure all but invites it to, actually.. but I don't think it necessarily has to be like this. In any case, I would argue that the GOP has been the "stronger" party in terms of raw policy influence in recent decades even during the years when Democrats have held the White House.

This week, PBS Frontline ran a pretty okay four hour retrospective of the Obama years. I have quibbles with some of the points of emphasis and interpretations of events.  But it does a fair job of documenting the political (ugh) narrative of this Presidency. The film doesn't set out to make this point as explicitly as it should but the Obama years should serve as an object lesson in how to run an effective opposition. The pattern worked as follows:  1) Republicans stake out an unreasonable, obstructionist position. 2) Obama rushes to meet them halfway 3) This not only fails to satisfy them but they go on shouting and screaming that he won't meet them all the way because socialist/Muslim/Kenya.. yargle bargle and so on.  4) The press shakes its head at all the "polarization" because both sides. The Republicans more or less control the agenda in this fashion. This was all obvious and many of us identified it at the very beginning.

While that went on unchecked, Republicans used the perception of powerlessness as a rallying cry at election time to build strength in the Congress and in state houses across the country. Meanwhile the Democrats' sole focus on the Presidency only exacerbated their failures everywhere else. The party was built to raise money from big donors to run big Presidential campaigns every four years with money trickled out strategically to select "winnable" districts elsewhere. Over time such districts became fewer and fewer.

So it takes more than just winning Presidential elections in order to make a real difference.   Keith Ellison, currently bidding to chair the DNC, understands that. Or, at least, he says he does.
I think the reason that we've had those losses is because the DNC is viewed more as a presidential campaign apparatus rather than a program or an agency designed to get Democrats elected up and down the ballot all the time. The DNC really should be the instrument for the rank-and-file Democrat all over the country — in Idaho, in Chicago, in Minneapolis, in Florida. But we treat it like it's not the Democratic National Committee; we treat it like it's the Democratic Presidential National Committee. Because of that, we have not really had the outreach and the door knocking and the engagement year-round that we need to have. That's too bad. 

The thing is that before 2008, we had the 50-state strategy, and that is in fact still pretty popular among DNC members. As you notice, we did pretty well in 2006; we did pretty well in 2008. I think that's because we still had enough connectivity in place from that 50-state strategy, but as time wore on, the tremendous popularity of Barack Obama, his amazing rhetorical skills, his just unparalleled ability to explain things and to inspire people really is the fuel that we lived on. Because of that, we lost a lot.
Good luck to him. The so-called Hillary Wing is already circling the wagons
Third Way is joining a crowded field of Democratic organizations which are redefining themselves in reaction to the upending results of the November election and trying to map out a path forward. Many outside groups that backed Hillary Clinton during the campaign are now vying to become the nerve center of the anti-Trump opposition in Washington, D.C., ready to fight him on everything from Cabinet nominations to key legislative battles like the upcoming showdown over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

The liberal, non-profit Center for American Progress, led by Clinton loyalist Neera Tanden, has reorganized itself with the mission of resisting Trump’s legislative efforts. Clinton defender David Brock is also relaunching his super PAC, American Bridge, to act as a watchdog group monitoring Trump. And the super PAC that spent close to $200 million to support Clinton’s presidential bid, Priorities USA, is also rebranding itself as an opposition group to the president-elect, with the longer term goal of bringing voters back to the party.
Naturally, their "rebranding" strategy involves moving the party even further to the right. 
Part of the economic message the group is driving -- which is in line with its centrist ideology -- is to steer the Democratic Party away from being led into a populist lurch to the left by leaders like Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

“Populism is inherently anti-government,” Cowan said. “That works if you’re a right-wing conservative, like Donald Trump. That doesn’t work if you’re the party of government." He added: "You can’t meet right-wing populism effectively as a matter of politics or governing with big government liberal populism, or 1990s centrism. You have to do something entirely new for a new era.”
Did any of that make sense to you?  No, me neither. "Populism" = "anti-government" so you can't do "big government populism." This is what marketing ghouls who care nothing about people's actual problems sound like. They're definitely going to "do something entirely new for a new era," though, these same people who have been running things forever.

So far the "something new" is an amazingly new level of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand these wealthy bundlers are branding themselves as a #Resistance to an administration they have labeled illegitimate and traitorous. (I'm open to that rhetoric, by the way. But not on the unsubstantiated conspiracy grounds they are currently pushing.) On the other hand they are fighting tooth and nail to defend the very ideology the incoming right wing government is animated by. In other words, they are allowing their own cynical ambition to snuff out whatever meaningful "resistance" their slogan purports to offer.

The worst thing about all of this is it's very likely the conservatives are going to win and the Tandens and Brocks of the world will continue to run whatever is left of the Democratic Party machine as long as it pulls in enough money.  As far as they're concerned, that's Mission Accomplished. They're the pros. They can do this forever. The rest of us can't go on doing the same thing, though.  It's costing us too much.

So the outlook isn't good but the best advice I can offer Democrats, if they want any, is this. Protest everything (GOP is about to make that difficult for you), obstruct whatever you can (difficult with no control of any branch of government), and dump your corporate faction as soon as you can. That last bit might actually be the easiest one, all things considered.  Today is a good time to get started.

*Actually the monster in the photo is David Simon encountered on Mardi Gras Day 2016.  Turns out you never know who you're #Standing with at the parade.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Today at the monster pageant



Today's guest is Treasury nominee Steve Mnuchin
When OneWest foreclosure victims heard that Mnuchin was chosen to lead the Treasury Department, they were shocked. “When he was nominated, it was like the floor crashed underneath me,” said McCreary. “It brought back everything. His name was on my paperwork.”

Other victims offered similar remarks. “For someone who will be tasked with making sure that the economy is doing all it can for people like me, even when it seems the system is rigged against them, Steve Mnuchin is not that person,” said forum participant Cristina Clifford, who lost her condo in Whittier, California, after also being told by OneWest to fall behind on payments.
“I think the first thing is he belongs in a prison,” said Tara Inden.

The Mnuchin nomination can only be derailed through Republican opposition, which is relatively unlikely. But it has set off a new wave of activism nationwide.

Activists have been camped out at Goldman Sachs’s New York City headquarters since Tuesday, targeting Mnuchin’s former employer of 17 years. In an echo of a protest to save her home in 2011, OneWest customer Rose Mary Gudiel of La Puente, California, led a march in the rain to Mnuchin’s Bel-Air mansion on Wednesday night, placing furniture on his driveway before police dispersed roughly 60 activists. (Mnuchin famously scrubbed his address off the internet after the 2011 protest, saying his family was subjected to “public ire at the banking industry.” But the same organizers found his house again.)

“I put it in the middle of a resurgence of housing justice activism,” said Amy Schur of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. “Hard-hit communities are organizing across the country like they haven’t in years. Sometimes we might have kept eyes on the powers that be locally, but with the likes of Trump and this cabinet, we have to take this fight nationally as well.”
Every one of Trump's cabinet appointees merits its own "new wave of activism."  There's nothing in Washington... or in your state government, probably... backstopping any of this stuff. The only thing to do is demonstrate, march, be an annoying phone presence in the ears of congressional staffers. And keep doing that until this turns around. If it turns around. 

I think we just found a new tourism marketing slogan

Thanks, RTA.
However, residents at the meeting expressed concern because some felt the new structure's design lacked several things. One issue many at the meeting had, was that the terminal didn't have a covered walkway to get to and from the ferry.

"If it's bad weather, like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, the lines are so deep you know they're not going to stand out there," said Algiers resident and business-owner, Warren Munster.

"While it's aesthetically pleasing it's not very practical for the average citizen living here," said Algiers resident and business-owner, Wendy Portier. "While there are new ferry boats that look beautiful, there's no shelter to get from the terminal to the boat. I'm concerned about people getting wet and it's cold and rains a lot sometimes."
It's too long for a hashtag but maybe NOTMC can have that printed on some fliers or something. 

It will be bad

Very bad
The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.

Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.

The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition.
And there is nothing and no one there to stop any of it. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

They all go to Jimmie Woods' house

Guess we can move Karen Carter-Peterson out of the "could consider" category and put her squarely into the "might be considering" category of potential mayoral candidates.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is set to host a fundraiser for state senator and Louisiana Democratic Party chairwoman Karen Carter Peterson next week at the home of Jimmie Woods, whose company, Metro Service Group, holds one of New Orleans' major trash collection contracts.

Late last year, Edwards joined U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond in co-hosting another fundraiser at Woods' sprawling home by Bayou St. John, this one for one of Peterson's Senate colleagues, J.P. Morrell, who chairs the body's Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee.

What are they raising money for, exactly? Neither invitation said.
We're still a long way off from qualifying day so nobody has to commit to anything just yet.  Meanwhile, as Grace points out, you can raise a lot of money pretending to think about running for mayor even if you never actually jump in. 
By socking away some cash and promoting their big-time relationships, Peterson and Morrell are buying themselves time and positioning themselves to jump in too. Or not. It's starting to look as if the city's voters just won't know for a while.
If that's true, then we'll expect to see the list of maybes keep growing for a few more months at least... along with Jimmie Woods' catering bill. 

Fake it til you make it

Not exactly the case with regard to a guy who basically inherited everything he has. Still, as an "imposter syndrome" laden failson, Trump is sort of a man for his time, I guess.
But one thing I think that we have overlooked as we see Trump trying to delegitimize others is what I suspect is a feeling he has inside that nothing he’s ever achieved himself has ever been legitimate. This is a person who has never known whether anybody wants to be around him because he’s a person they want to be around or they want to be around his money. And since he’s promoted himself as this glamorous, incredibly wealthy person, that’s the draw he’s always given. So he doesn’t know if he has any legitimate relationships outside of his family, and that’s why he emphasizes family. … He’s always kind of gaming the system—not, in my view, winning on the merits. And even his election was with almost 3 million fewer votes than his opponent. So he has this deep fear that he is himself not a legitimate president, and I think that’s why he goes to such great lengths to delegitimize even the intelligence community, which is the president’s key resource in security, and he’s going to do this demeaning and delegitimizing behavior rather than accept what they have to tell him.
Once you come to terms with the concept that we are none of us special and all here more or less by accident, you can go two directions with this knowledge. You can recognize that there's no need to prove anything to anyone and our only true imperative is to look out for each other as best as we can. Nobody has to be a hero or anything. It can mean simply staying out of the way and doing as little damage as possible, if you like. It's up to you. No one is keeping score.

The other direction you can go is to take on a narcissistic mission to establish and demonstrate your own validity through continual pursuit of needlessly competitive assholery.   Guess which way Trump went.

Groundwork

The Trade Mart appeal was heard today.  A ruling could come any time within the next month. So, conceivably, we could know by Mardi Gras whether or not they can finally start making that Four Seasons... or if they have to start over... or if Stuart Fisher will ever get his ten dollars back.

The other day, contractors were spotted outside "preparing the soil" for the start of work. So it seems like they're pretty confident.  We'll see.

Triggers

The city has been aggressively adding airline service over the past year or so. So many, in fact, that it turns out they've met their quota.
"In 2016, the growth of the Louis Armstrong International Airport exceeded our
expectations yet again," Landrieu said. "With increased service via 17 airlines and 59 non-stop destinations, including 7 international destinations, we have hit the triggers
for additional expansion.”
That's interesting. It's good news.  But I'd like to know more about how that worked out. 

We're never going to fix this

Bren Hasae is head of Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. Today, in Baton Rouge, he presented the latest version of the state's coastal master plan to an oversight board. The talk, in recent years, tends to emphasize the "Protection" aspect of the agency's mission rather than "Restoration." As Haase told the committee as much once again.
“We’re never going to get back to the coastline we had in 1930s," Haase said in an interview after presenting the draft plan for the first time to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority board.

That’s provided $50 billion can be found, which it has not. About $15 billion to $18 billion is “plausibly” available from a variety of sources, including the federal government, settlements from the BP Deepwater Horizon incident and the state, Haase said. Probably $150 billion is needed, but that’s not as realistic as finding $50 billion, he added.
We're never going to restore the coastline. And even given what we think we can do, we still aren't committed to paying for it.

Meanwhile... 
Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 — trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.

The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases.
Is it a Chinese plot?  We know industrialization in China has contributed to global warming just as it has in the West. On the other hand, China's move this week to cancel over 100 coal plants is the latest indicator of its effort to slow that trend. Although, much like the CPRA, China's climate policy isn't anywhere near what we would call the "Restoration" phase.
That said, there are a whole bunch of important asterisks here. First, Beijing has only ordered the provinces to cancel the plants. The provincial governments still have to actually comply. (And we’ve seen some provinces defy Beijing on overcapacity cuts before.)

Second, even under the new cap, Chinese coal capacity still has some room to expand going forward — which is why environmental groups like Greenpeace are calling on the government to go even further and cancel the rest of the dozens of new coal projects still in various stages of planning. 

Third, while any slowdown in Chinese coal demand is good news for climate change, it’s not great news for climate change. If the world wants to avoid drastic global warming — typically defined as 2°C or more — then it’s not enough for China’s CO2 emissions to simply plateau. They have to fall, very drastically. Doing that will require more than simply canceling any future coal plants. It will mean either retiring existing coal plants and replacing them with cleaner sources (as the United States is currently doing) or retrofitting the plants with carbon capture technology and burying their emissions underground.
 And that brings us back to the point.  Nothing anyone is doing right now has anything to do with "fixing" climate change.  Politics doesn't work that way.  The disaster is coming... actually is already here. All politics can do for us is determine who among us will bear the greatest costs of the disaster (and who might even benefit.)  As usual, the world's poorer classes are losing that fight to its ruling elite.

Don't expect that to change under a Trump Administration empowered by Trump's absurd (and inconsistent) proclamations to sound almost rational by comparison even while maintaining a policy of denialism.
Scott Pruitt, for his part, said that climate change is "subject to continuing debate and dialogue" (a meaningless truism that’s often used to stonewall any discussion of actual action). The most he would say about what he would do was: “I believe the EPA has a very important role to perform in regulating CO2." This is an accurate summary of what the law says, although given that Pruitt has sued to block every concrete step Obama’s EPA actually took to regulate CO2, it’s wildly unclear what he means by “regulating.” His track record thus far suggests he’ll do as little as humanly possible about climate change.

As my colleague David Roberts noted the other day, the term of art for this stance — which Tillerson, Zinke, and Pruitt all share — is “lukewarmism.” A lukewarmer is someone who won’t be so crass as to argue that climate change is a hoax, and doesn’t really want to fight over whether climate change is actually happening, but certainly has no intention of supporting serious emissions reductions anytime soon and will usually quibble endlessly about the extent and severity of global warming.
 At Pruitt's confirmation hearing today, Senatore Jim Inhoffe was playing his role in the farce.




Clearing the way for everyone else to "teach the controversy" so to speak. But the temperature keeps rising and the ocean is coming to get us. As long as the friends and backers of Trump, Pruitt, Tillerson et al can continue to maximize profits in the meantime, then those men will have done their job. 

Doesn't anybody want this grift?

The city says it is a step nearer to shaking some money out of FEMA to restore the Municipal Auditorium. After that the task will be identifying which developer will be handed the public money in order to put the building "back into commerce" as, probably, some sort of for profit operation. We expect this is what will happen, anyway. Mostly becasue of how defensively insistent they are that it will not.
As a result, Grant said the city will hire a consultant to perform a market analysis that can be used to form a redevelopment plan. The plan is to then hold a competitive bid process with a developer who could use the FEMA money to restore the venue in a way that would make it a viable venue for events.

Asked whether it's possible that a developer could use the building for a non-public use, Grant said the city would do anything it could to avoid a situation like that.

"We'd have to be convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt" that the building couldn't be put to public use again, Grant said. He added that people who used the building in the past "are absolutely adamant that it be for the public use."
Ok well we'll check back on this once they have the money. Let's just hope the auditor who wants to take our street repair funding back doesn't get involved.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Give us Barabbas

I don't mean to diminish this. Commuting Chelsea Manning's sentence is well and good and long overdue.  But from the President who led a vicious and unprecedented "war on whistleblowers," it doesn't make a lot of sense. There must be something else going on here but it's beyond my pay grade to parse out what it might be.

Maybe it's as simple as throwing a bone out so they don't have to pardon Snowden. The White House's statement today attempted to draw a pointed contrast between the two.
Asked about the two clemency applications on Friday, the White House spokesman, Joshua Earnest, discussed the “pretty stark difference” between Ms. Manning’s case for mercy with Mr. Snowden’s. While their offenses were similar, he said, there were “some important differences.”

“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” he said. “Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”
Ha ha, okay she said she's sorry.  That plus 7 years locked away in a dungeon and in and out of solitary confinement is all they wanted. A lot has been written about Manning's mental condidtion at the time of the leak. But putting aside questions of rationality, it's and act of remarkable bravery to have taken on something like this. Frankly, they should giver her Joe Biden's medal.

Notice also the other part of that statement reiterates and conflates Snowden's actions with the separate question of Russia's supposed "hacking" of the Presidential election.  It's a disturbing insinuation and is much more in line with the Obama Adminstration's dangerous and draconian hostility to government transparency, especially where it regards illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens.   After all, they wouldn't want anything getting out that might "undermine confidence in our democracy."

Update:  Like I said, this is beyond my pay grade.  Folks on the parallel internet point out the obvious, though. 

Wikileaks said its founder Julian Assange “will agree to U.S. extradition” if President Barack Obama commutes whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s jail sentence.

Gotta win that Bama game every once in a while

Coach O's number one job this year. Otherwise, the tanking could happen fast.
Southern Lab linebacker Chris Allen and Alabama commitment confirmed what Tiger fans suspected when he was asked Tuesday morning about why Louisiana football prospects are so drawn to play for the Crimson Tide.

"Mainly because, probably, every year ... they're beating LSU. And they're winning national championships," Allen said on the Culotta & The Fan show on 104.5/104.9 ESPN-FM in Baton Rouge.

The charter school con

There are multiple reasons people have gotten on board with "school reform" over the years. Most of them are bad. For many it is an end run around integration. For others it is an ideological experiment with "market princilples." For others, still, it is a desire to use public institutions as a vehicle for promoting and enforcing  their religious practices.   For Donald Trump's incoming Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos it is a little bit of all three.
DeVos is married to Amway scion Dick DeVos (whose father, Richard DeVos, is worth more than $5 billion, according to Forbes) and is seen as a controversial choice due to her track record of supporting vouchers for private, religious schools; right-wing Christian groups like the Foundation for Traditional Values, which has pushed to soften the separation of church and state; and organizations like Michigan's Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which has championed the privatization of the education system.
This week, Bobby Jindal praised Trump's choice of DeVos  calling her, "the breath of fresh air we needed."

Beyond the larger politics of it, the internal impetus behind the charter movement is economic.  Its implementation has meant a direct transfer of income away from teachers and toward administrators.
That's according to a report the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans released Tuesday (Jan. 17) that's sure to make waves.

New Orleans public schools now spend $1,358 more per student than a 17-district comparison group. But they spend $706 per student less on instruction, including teacher salaries and benefits

There are more administrators, and they typically earn higher salaries than they would have without the reforms," authors Christian Buerger and Doug Harris write.
New Orleanians apprehensive about the coming vicissitudes of Trump's America at least have the advantage of familiarity as they are already living a lot of it.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Stah-mi-nah

Every now and then we get the impression that Susan Guidry is done with politics. At one point there was talk that she wasn't interested in running for reelection. She did, though, and easily won her second term.  Maybe that contributed to my impression that she was done after this one was up but, well, here she is.
New Orleans City Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who is term-limited in her District A seat, is considering a run for one of the council’s two At-Large seats this fall, and two attorneys from Uptown and Lakeview are planning to run for the seat she will vacate.
Like all councilmembers, Guidry has made some bad decisions in office. But she is very far from the worst of this lot. She made a good effort to make the recent Short Term Rental deal less bad. Unfortunately her proposal to tie STRs to homestead exemptions failed, but it's something voters should remember if she runs citywide.

More recently, she did this which is a big deal
NEW ORLEANS -- After a tie vote in September, the City Council unanimously approved a bail reform ordinance Thursday during a city council meeting.

The ordinance would allow people who've been arrested for relatively minor, non-violent offenses to be released without posting bail on a promise to appear in court. The reform applies to municipal and traffic courts.

Introduced by Councilmember Susan Guidry in September, the ordinance was developed to address the concern among various legal and civil rights groups that the existing bail system for minor offenses unfairly punishes poor defendants.
With idiots like Leon Cannizzaro and Jeff Landry deliberately trying to ruin people's lives for the sake of their own political advancement, it might be good to that Guidry is thinking about sticking around.

Mary Landrieu loves pipelines

This week an "extremely large number" of protesters gathered at a public hearing in Baton Rouge to speak against Energy Transfer Partners' proposed Bayou Bridge pipeline across the Atchafalalya basin. This pipeline would form the ass end of ETP's infrastructure associated with the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline you may have heard about. 
The Bayou Bridge Pipeline would form the tail end of the now infamous Dakota Access route. The Dakota Access Pipeline would carry crude oil from the North Dakota oilfields to an oil tank farm in Illinois, where it would then be transported to Nederland, Texas. A newly completed pipeline connects Nederland to Lake Charles, Louisiana.

The Bayou Bridge Pipeline would carry 480,000 barrels of oil per day a final 162 miles across the state to refineries and ports, through eight watersheds and long stretches of fragile wetlands.

Climate change activists, indigenous residents, crawfishermen, rice farmers, health care professionals, conservationists, and Louisianans who live along the proposed route all showed up to protest the pipeline’s construction. The hearing lasted five and a half hours, as speaker after speaker weighed in on how the pipeline would affect them.
Speaking on behalf of the ETP was career oil stooge Mary Landrieu.  
The Bayou Bridge builders argue pipelines are the safest way to transport crude oil that would otherwise use less efficient trains or trucks to get to refineries. Former Democratic senator-turned-energy lobbyist Mary Landrieu was among the proponents of this argument at Thursday’s hearing.

I would be testifying for this pipeline [even] if I did not work for them,” she said, amid boos and jeers from the audience.

But past pipelines have proven to be less airtight than the industry claims.

A new report by the Bucket Brigade found that there were 144 oil and gas pipeline accidents in 2016. Many of these accidents were caused by corrosion or ruptures in the pipe, prompting the advocacy group to conclude the existing pipelines are in “deplorable condition.”
Even if she did not work for ETP Mary would have just gone there and talked about the pipeline. It's a personal passion of hers, apparently. 

All they care about is tax cuts for rich people

I've been reading a lot the past week about "moderate" Republicans  (among the moderates in that article, hilariously, are Bill Cassidy and Rob Portman) getting ready to rescue Obamacare... or at least "the good parts" of it... at the last minute. 

That's not gonna happen. Republicans only care about tax cuts for rich people.  Repealing Obamacare is, basically, a huge tax cut for rich people. Of course, they're going to repeal it. No need to worry about what comes next.

Friday, January 13, 2017

None of these guys has his own one word billboard yet

By that measure, at least, they've got a ways to go before they're ready to replace The Toya. If that is what they want. All three of them certainly sound interested in this article.
When City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell recently announced that she was mulling a run for mayor of New Orleans this fall, she also set in motion consideration of who might succeed her in the District B seat — and so far, the possible field includes former School Board member Seth Bloom, Zulu king Jay Banks and economic development expert Eric Anthony Johnson.
Read the rest of that if you want to see their opening pitches. Short version: Bloom thinks "tough on crime" talk isn't the best way to fight crime, Banks is worried about gentrification, Johnson spits out a word salad about "bringing community groups together to create a forward-thinking progress agenda blah blah blah zzzzzz." Oh and he says inequality is bad. So there.

Also Seth Bloom sent his constituents a "Happy New Year" post card this month. So we know he's thinking about us. We'll know more about all of this after Cantrell officially announces for Mayor.

Un-fix my streets

I know at least one federal auditor who is not interested in getting purged by Trump.
A draft audit by a federal inspector general recommends taking back most of the $2 billion for repairs to streets and underground pipes that the Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded to New Orleans in a global settlement for damage related to Hurricane Katrina.

The award was meant to pay for harm done to the city’s streets and other infrastructure by the flooding caused by 2005’s levee breaches. But the audit — first reported Friday by nola.com — says there’s little evidence that the poor condition of streets and pipes around the city is attributable to the floodwaters.

“We found strong documentary and other evidence that New Orleans’ sewer and water systems were in very poor condition before the hurricanes due to years of deferred maintenance,” the audit says in part. It does not allege any misspending by the city.
God forbid we spend one cent more helping cities rebuild their infrastructure than we have to.  At least not until we make sure the right people's friends have a piece of the graft
Trump wants to “invest” $1 trillion in fixing and building roads, bridges, water pipes, and other infrastructure. But by “invest” he means using massive tax breaks to convince private investors to spend the money.

As Michelle Chen at The Nation writes, “The goal isn’t fixing bridges so much as fixing the corporate tax codes to promote privatization and unregulated construction with virtually no public input.”

All he wanted was a little attention

When a bullying demagogue like Jeff Landry shows up in your town looking to take advantage of your local anxieties in order to further his own cynical political advancement, it's actually not difficult to shut him down. All you have to do is call his bullshit out for what it is once or twice.  That's what the mayor and the police chief did last week.
The conflict came to a head last week, when Police Superintendent Michael Harrison, in a pointed letter, invoked the city's home rule charter and bluntly warned Landry that he lacked the authority "to engage in active law enforcement in New Orleans."

"He's putting the lives of my police officers and the lives of state troopers at risk," Landrieu told The Advocate on Friday, referring to Landry. "He doesn't seem to understand that policing is a partnership."
If he persists in his stupidity after that, the best course is to ignore it and go about the regular business. We're used to seeing politicians with statewide ambitions use New Orleans as a straw man to beat on. That's mostly what Landry is up to anyway. There's not much anyone can do to stop him. But as long as no one humors the stunt he'll probably get tired of it after a few months and go away.

So now is the time to keep calm and not enable the... oh... goddammit.
The city's sheriff, its district attorney and the head of one of its two main police unions are siding with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry against New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in the debate over a small but controversial anti-crime task force.

All three men have written letters of support for the task force that Landry has dispatched into New Orleans in recent months to fight violent crime.
Oh well. Congratulations, Mr. Attorney General. You've successfully placed yourself as a gamepiece on one of the stupider checkerboards of city politics. Guess you can hang around a while. Have fun.

Happenings

These signs are posted all over town so maybe you've seen them.  Anyway, just passing it along.

Anti Trump Rally

Maybe you're not the protesty type. Maybe, like Bernie, you're already exasperated with your fellow "Anti-Trump" travelers. There are a lot of us. We're 51 percent of the US population. So it stands to reason we're not all gonna get along with each other.  But it might be worth getting out on Jan 20 anyway. Or not. Whatever you like.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Congratulations, San Diego

I mean that sincerely.  No city should stand for being abused by billionaire sports magnates in this way. It takes courage to stand up to them, even when you know they can gut you emotionally like this. But they don't deserve to wield that kind of power.
At the very least this allows us to finally dispense with the fiction that the NFL and its owners care about their fans, or about anything but profit. Sports Illustrated’s Jack Dickey nails it: These are land barons, and the only true currency in the NFL is property. The real money is not in attendance, or merchandise, or even in TV contracts—though there is plenty there. The real money is in obtaining a shiny new stadium, because of what that stadium does for the sale price of the team. The relocation may double the value of the Rams; Dean Spanos looked at that and said “me too.” From the second they buy an NFL franchise, owners are focused on one thing: selling it.
The difficulty with standing up to the bully is that the bully can and will hurt you. As fans and as citizens we imbue our cultural assets with a value incompatible with the cold logic of capitalism. Sports fandom is an act of participatory community. As a civic ritual it evokes a spirit of shared purpose and identity in a (mostly) constructive vein. It creates a platform for creative expression and elaborate riffing. It brings strangers together and makes them neighbors.

It is also a stupid diversion. But stupid diversions are among the richest of life's luxuries.  Our cultural assets need not be monetized in order for their true value be realized. In fact it is this very commodification of the civic spirit that drains it of its worth to the advantage of undeserving oligarchs.  We were just talking about this with regard to Carnival season, in fact.   We deserve better than such a fate.

We also deserve better than to have our pride and joy held hostage by real estate speculators. Good on the people of San Diego for not giving into Spanos's threats. Shame on him for hurting them in response.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Hotelier In Chief

Here's Trump's plan to solve the "emoluments" problem.  Unsurprisingly, there are issues.
The plan that Dillon, a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, laid out falls far short of what multiple legal experts say is necessary to comply with the Constitution. Even if Trump doesn’t keep the profits from foreign governments booking rooms at his hotels, those hotels will keep the largest share of every dollar, ruble or yen paid to them, to cover costs, taxes, fees, catering and any other overhead they deem necessary. In 2013, the average profit margin of a luxury hotel was between 6 and 15 percent, according to industry analysts.
So under Trump’s plan, his hotels will hold onto more than 85 cents of every dollar they collect from foreign governments that book overnight stays, events and meetings at Trump hotels. Of the remaining percentage, whatever Trump donates to the U.S. Treasury will be a tax-deductible contribution, just one more benefit to Trump’s bottom line.
Over the longer term, as more foreign governments choose to patronize Trump’s hotels over others, his hotels become more profitable, and the value of his business increases — benefiting Trump and his family.
On the other hand, we've learned in New Orleans that it's best just to give the "Tourism Leader" what he wants. America is a destination country, after all. Hoteliers are "job creators." 

How long before John Bel quits?

He says he's running for reelection but it's starting to sound like he doesn't want to do the job anymore.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday morning that state budget  problems mean it would be "very difficult" to win legislative approval for a $700 million tax and fee hike for roads and bridges.

The increase was recommended last  month by a task force named by the governor, and the issue is expected to be debated during the 2017 regular session.

Edwards, in an hour-long meeting with the editorial board of The Advocate, said while state transportation needs are tremendous ongoing state budget problems will make it hard for a major boost in road and bridge spending.

While the task force did not spell out a specific way to raise $700 million annually, it said state gas taxes are the most reliable way to generate dollars.

Any such increase would require the approval of two thirds of the House and Senate during a session that begins April 10.

"Is it going to be hard to raise the gas tax? Absolutely," Edwards told reporters and editors.
The task force's recommendations are already comically milquetoast.  It's a shame that Governor is already publicly backing away from even that benchmark.  If he really does want to keep the job, this isn't the way to do it.  The way to establish yourself when the other side already has the knives out for you anyway is to go in and have the fight with them. Edwards already tried playing "disappointed dad" last year. That hasn't won him any advantages.

Everybody loves the deep state

I would bore you by recapping the maddening rounds of bullshit I went with people on the Parallel Internet last night.  Suffice to say it's pretty amazing what all these enlightened believers in liberal democracy who swear up and down how much they hate "fake news" are willing to take at face value from "a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official" so long as it fits their immediate political objective.

As far as I can tell that immediate political objective isn't about actually opposing Trump. Instead it's more a desperation on the part of Democratic Party elites to avoid responsibility for their own failures combined with an even more desperate display of virtue signaling from the sort of people to whom "America has always been great" appealed most. Sure it's bad to them that Trump is going to privatize the VA and kill Medicare and do away with public education as we know it. But it's far more important to them that we all be told that Trump is "Not My President," that they as individuals do not see their norms and values reflected in the person who happens to have been elected President.  Politics for so many Americans... particularly of the social climbing liberal variety... is mostly about narcissistic bullshit like this.  "Look at me. I am on the good and smart team."

Anyway, I said I wouldn't bore you with the re-cap.  In short, liberal America is never going to be ready to deal with Trump until it is willing to grapple with some fundamental truths about itself and the corrupt degrading empire it functions within. One of these fundamental truths is that the CIA is actually, you know, bad. The consequences of allowing it to wreak havoc on the rest of the world have been dire enough. Let's not cheerily welcome it into our domestic battles as well.  Here's Greenwald making precisely this point.
The serious dangers posed by a Trump presidency are numerous and manifest. There are a wide array of legitimate and effective tactics for combatting those threats: from bipartisan congressional coalitions and constitutional legal challenges to citizen uprisings and sustained and aggressive civil disobedience. All of those strategies have periodically proven themselves effective in times of political crisis or authoritarian overreach.

But cheering for the CIA and its shadowy allies to unilaterally subvert the U.S. election and impose its own policy dictates on the elected president is both warped and self-destructive. Empowering the very entities that have produced the most shameful atrocities and systemic deceit over the last six decades is desperation of the worst kind. Demanding that evidence-free, anonymous assertions be instantly venerated as Truth — despite emanating from the very precincts designed to propagandize and lie — is an assault on journalism, democracy, and basic human rationality. And casually branding domestic adversaries who refuse to go along as traitors and disloyal foreign operatives is morally bankrupt and certain to backfire on those doing it.

Beyond all that, there is no bigger favor that Trump opponents can do for him than attacking him with such lowly, shabby, obvious shams, recruiting large media outlets to lead the way. When it comes time to expose actual Trump corruption and criminality, who is going to believe the people and institutions who have demonstrated they are willing to endorse any assertions no matter how factually baseless, who deploy any journalistic tactic no matter how unreliable and removed from basic means of ensuring accuracy?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

John Neely Kennedy is a weird dude

Did the technicians forget to change his tape after the election? He's still spouting this nonsense today during Jeff Sessions' confirmation hearing.
Kennedy managed to work in a line he frequently used during this fall's campaign against Democratic rival Foster Campbell in quizzing Sessions on his views of gun owner rights.

"In Louisiana, senator, we believe that love is the answer, but we also believe that we have the right under the Constitution to own a gun, just in case," Kennedy said. "Could you share with me your thoughts on the Second Amendment?"
Also worth noting...


Bourbon Main Street USA

It's really the heart of Dizneylandrieu.  Right down to the hyper-surveillance of everyone and everything.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu is working on plans for new permanent security measures along Bourbon Street, an effort to prevent a repeat of two shooting incidents that each claimed one life and wounded nine on the city's most famous entertainment strip in the past few years. The idea also is to head off a potential terrorist attack.

Ideas floated by the mayor in discussions with other officials include more centralized surveillance and more restrictions on vehicular traffic.

A preliminary version of the proposal carries a $30 million price tag and calls for closing portions of Bourbon Street to vehicles during most hours; setting up a $12.6 million command center to monitor a network of cameras; installing new lighting; and taking measures that would allow officers to respond in force to emergencies more quickly, according to excerpts of a draft proposal and interviews with people involved in the discussions.

The city may also step up enforcement of laws preventing performers and artists from blocking sidewalks or business entrances and prohibiting vendors from operating without permits.
As is ever the case with security theater, none of this actually does anything to prevent the types of incidents it proposes to prevent.  Instead this is about keeping up appearances.  
“When bad things happen on Bourbon Street, it garners worldwide attention,” said Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, who represents the French Quarter. “Everyone was in agreement that we needed to make some huge changes. I think this is certainly a very good start.”
What's important is that we look like we're spending money to help people (tourists, primarily) "feel safe" as The Toya put it recently.  And, of course, we'll take every advantage of the new excuse to harass street artists and performers.  Clamping down on that stuff has been a longtime dream of "tourism leaders." And the city is always happy to step up citations. So here is an opportunity.

But be careful, says this strip club owner. The last thing you want to do is encourage people to exercise their right to free expression.
At least one business owner who has been privy to the recent discussions is keen on some of the ideas. Plans for a centralized command center that would monitor activity via cameras, more lighting and other infrastructure improvements were welcomed by Robert Watters, owner of Rick’s Cabaret and a past president of the French Quarter Business Association.

Giving Watters pause, however, is the plan to block all vehicular traffic along several blocks of Bourbon. “I think it’s something that needs to be investigated very carefully,” he said.

Notably, he said, making the street a pedestrian mall could give rise to street performers, religious protesters and others wishing to exercise their First Amendment rights. “And if you don’t really have a firm plan for how you are going to handle that, you could create some chaos,” he said.

Gabbo is coming

One word. So mysterious. What could it possibly mean? Everyone is talking about it.
That's where Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell comes in. If you haven't seen it already, there's a huge billboard next to Interstate 10 between Carrollton Avenue and Jefferson Davis Parkway with her first name: No last name name, big block letters, and no indication she's running for mayor or any other office. And perhaps most notable of all, there's no indication who paid for it, which is required under state campaign laws.
Maybe it's just and ad for something we don't understand yet called "The Toya."  This is the same billboard that hosted a big ABV (Anybody But Vitter) ad during the most recent Governor's election.  At least that one complied with the campaign disclosure laws.

Anybody But Vitter


It was clearly labeled "Paid For By GumboPAC."  The style is similar, though. Maybe somebody associated with that knows what's up with this.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Welcome to Kern World

Last week, Cousin Pat wrapped up a series of informative posts diving deep into the murky waters of zoning and land use. (Part 1 Part 2 Part 3)  If you're interested in knowing why this stuff is so important, here's what he has to say about that.
Now, if you ask me about this process, I would tell you there’s a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. My biggest problem isn’t in a “corrupt” system, it is in an obscure system where citizens and voters and taxpayers never really know what is going on in their community until it is too late to say anything about it. I personally find that incredibly undemocratic, and I believe processes like that tear at the fabric of strong communities. While that sort of thing is all technically above board, it breaks the public trust through omission and obfuscation, and citizens throw up their hands and take a fatalistic, disengaged attitude toward their own city government. Sound like any place you know?
I only differ with him here in that I'm fine with calling something "corrupt" if this is what it looks like. Deliberately obscure systems that steer policy choices toward the benefit of an exclusive circle of insiders meets that threshold for me. In any case, the only remedy is finding ways to facilitate greater transparency and participation.  That isn't easy, of course.  Mostly what happens is developers and oligarchs get whatever favors they ask for.

We're just now finding out what Barry Kern and Joe Jaeger are asking for with regard to their recent investments.  Imagine, for example, the Times-Picayune building as the new American Can Company.  It's beginning to look like Kern might.
The group of local investors who bought the former Times-Picayune building last year are requesting mixed-use zoning from the New Orleans City Council — suggesting yet another major redevelopment in the works along the Pontchartrain Expressway.

The 9-acre property at 3800 Howard Avenue housed The Times-Picayune from the late 1960s until printing moved out of state in 2016. It was sold in September to a development group called 3800 Howard Investors LLC, which included developer Joe Jaeger, Barry Kern of Mardi Gras World, and Arnold Kirschman who recently redeveloped the 4500 block of Freret Street, according to a report in the New Orleans Advocate at the time.

The group does not specify its intentions for the property in its application, but says that mixed-use zoning will help pave the way for the future project.

“This site is currently zoned BIP Business Industrial Park District, though it is unlikely that offices or a business will be the new use here,” according to a letter submitted with the application. “The owner has therefore proposed changing the property’s zoning to MU-2 High Intensity Mixed-Use District, which would allow for the site’s full redevelopment.”
According to Uptown Messenger, the CPC staff is recommending against this change saying, among other things, that the requested designation is  “too intense for this physically isolated site, given the limited surrounding infrastructure, and the fact that the site is not easily accessible for vehicles or pedestrians.” That seems reasonable enough.  But when Kern's group bought the building, they clearly understood that those circumstances could change.
Jaeger's group also includes float builder Barry Kern, president of Mardi Gras World, developer Arnold Kirschman, whose family operated furniture stores in the metro area for nearly a century, and Michael White, a businessman.

"They have no specific plans or projected uses," Aamodt said. "They just want to participate in the growing New Orleans economy, and feel like the neighborhoods surrounding that location continue to get better."
They're so high on the location, in fact, that they've also purchased a warehouse not too very far from there. (Although getting from one building to the other is a bit convoluted because... well... CPC is correct about the area, basically.)  Anyway, they want to make that into an "indoor trampoline facility" which is apparently a thing you can have.
Kern is planning “an indoor trampoline facility” inside a 51,000-square-foot warehouse at 3035 Earhart Boulevard, just off South Claiborne Avenue, according to the application he filed with the city.

“This facility would be the first of its kind in the city of New Orleans, and would represent a great addition to the family friendly entertainment options the city has to offer,” Kern wrote. “This request would not greatly alter the fabric of the zoning district, but, if granted, it would expand the options for families looking for a safe, supervised place for their children to play.”
Anyway, Kern's group obviously has plans for the area. And Kern and Jaeger being who they are probably means that whatever plans they have are probably going to be permitted with or without CPC's approval. Because that is how this works in case you haven't been paying attention.

This also means we get to add KernWorld to our ever-expanding NOLigarchs map.  It isn't fully developed yet. And it's also probably a lesser dependency of Jaegerton for now. But, well, we know where it is, rougly.

New Camera Day

Might be a good time to get out and check the school zone signs again to see if they're flashing. Also time the yellows lights. Wouldn't want anyone to get caught unaware. Or maybe we would.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration, which announced this fall that the city would be expanding its traffic camera program in 2017, has released a list of 32 public and private schools where cameras will be helping to catch speeders and other traffic law violators in the new year.

Landrieu is pitching the expansion, which will nearly double the number of locations where speeders and red-light runners can be cited by cameras, as a safety measure, though it is also expected to help generate about $5 million a year in new revenue for the city.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

The most popular health care policy option is...

The one we are the furthest away from at present
Well over half of Americans want to replace Obamacare with a single-payer system. That figure, amazingly, includes 41 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents — even though the wording of the question specifies that the program would be "federally funded." (Mind you, more than half of Republicans oppose the idea.)
Maybe if the Democrats had nominated the candidate who didn't say this would "never ever ever" be possible things would be different.

Naah. It's probably Putin's fault. 

Ambition makes you look pretty ugly

Louisiana Attorney General... um... Governor... er... US Attorney General Jeff Landry is here to undo the NOPD consent decree.
For Landry, the incident is proof that his agents can make a mark in cases where NOPD officers are hamstrung by what he called a "hug-a-thug" federal consent decree. He said NOPD policy would have prevented officers from embarking on the pursuit. "It places virtual handcuffs on the NOPD," he said of the department's sweeping reform agreement with the U.S. Justice Department. "That is not going to take violent criminals off the street. It has a plethora of problems."
Is he clear on just what the consent decree is supposed to have "hamstrung" NOPD from doing
The reforms aim to transform a culture mired in excessive force, unconstitutional searches and seizures and discriminatory policing, according to a copy [pdf] of the decree posted online. The NOPD has long been plagued by allegations of corruption and brutality, which resurfaced after the storm.

FRONTLINE has been investigating six cases of questionable post-Katrina police shootings for more than two years with our partners at ProPublica and the Times-Picayune. Federal investigations were opened in all six cases; 10 officers were convicted or pleaded guilty in the shootings of six unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge and ensuing cover-up, and three more were convicted for shooting civilian Henry Glover, burning a car containing his body and covering up the incident. (One of the convictions was overturned and the two remaining officers have filed appeals.) Another officer was convicted for shooting civilian Danny Brumfield outside the convention center where evacuees gathered in the storm’s aftermath.
Maybe these are the thugs he wants to hug. 

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Have a Convivial Carnival!

There they go. Don't blink.



And there went the sum of the action that was our annual ritual trudge out to wave at the Phunny Phorty Phellows regardless of weather conditions. Friday night those conditions were cold and rainy so we didn't spend quite as much time standing around drinking beer on the neutral ground as we might normally have.  But that's fine. Twelfth Night is really more of a moment of observance than it is a full-on celebration anyway.

On the other hand, that might be changing a little. Public Twelfth Night activities have expanded in recent years. That's pretty cool.  Did you know the Joan of Arc parade is already nine years old? This year the weather postponed them a day so we're celebrating a two-day Feast of the Epiphany this year.

And that's not all.  Here is Doug MacCash (I know, I know. That's who they sent.) covering the Not So Secret Society Of Champs-Elysees' inaugural ride on the Rampart streetcar.
Yet another new Mardi Gras custom may have been born Friday (January 6) in the chilly Crescent City, as a rolling Twelfth Night party rumbled along the tracks of the recently opened St. Claude Avenue/Rampart Street/Loyola Avenue streetcar line. The nascent krewe known as La societe pas si secrete des Champs-Elysees, or The Not So Secret Society of Elysian Fields, or simply The Society of Champs-Elysees, chartered a car in order to welcome in the 2017 Mardi Gras season with Champagne, king cake, conviviality, and a touch of chaos.

The evening began at Kajun's Pub, with fireworks and fanfare to greet guests and krewe royalty, including rhythm and blues maestro Al "Carnival Time" Johnson and activist Kathleen Barrow.  Despite a relatively stiff rain, the forty-member costumed rabble rambled to a red streetcar that waited two blocks away and climber aboard. With a lurch and a round of cheers, a new element was added to the growing downtown do-it-yourself Mardi Gras scene that has mushroomed since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The Society of Elysian Fields is similar to the venerable Phunny Phorty Phellows krewe that has ceremoniously ridden a St. Charles Avenue streetcar on Twelfth Night since 1982, though perhaps a tad more bohemian. In fact, rattling along with the costumed Not So Secret Society passengers was like finding oneself in the belly of a Bob Dylan song ... in the best way.
I'm sure the Champs-Elysees event was fun.  I thought I had read earlier that the group had planned a series of stops along the way that would have engaged more onlookers with something closer to the rolling street party feel one gets at an actual parade. The weather probably tamped that down a bit, though. That's a shame. But, still, congratulations them for doing a thing.

Anyway, if MacCash means to contrast the supposedly "more bohemian" nature of the Champ-Elysees with the supposedly more stuffy PPP, why does he write about it like a 19th Century society fop describing a romp at the estate of some lesser lord? Or, to put it another way, why does he write it up exactly the way Nell Nolan describes a deb party?
The beautiful clubrooms of the Pickwick Club were filled with distaff loveliness and festive formality when Mr. Pickwick hosted his 66th annual Debutante Presentation. Guests mingled from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. with the presentation punctuating the conviviality at 8 p.m. Two hours later, breakfast was served. And then the lively dancing commenced to the music of the Jimmy Maxwell Orchestra.
One thing's for sure This is to going to be one hell of a "convivial" Carnival.

Or maybe it won't be.  Hostilities are already beginning to rise in some quarters. For example, just as we thought we had finally gotten past the bad feelings engendered by interminable policing of premature king cake consumption, along comes the Worst King Cake Ever Created to rile everyone back up.
Food Network's Semi-Homemade host Sandra Lee is infamous for her "Kwanzaa cake" (Anthony Bourdain once called it "a war crime on television") and white chocolate polenta (which is exactly what it sounds like, plus thyme) , but what she calls a "Mardi Gras king cake" may be just as bad. It calls for one package of Pillsbury breadstick dough and a container of pre-made frosting — no cinnamon, no spices, no filling, no fun.
On the other hand, this may be an indication that the year over year search for the most absurdly elaborate king cake has finally imploded.  Sandra Lee is just here to blow it all up because nothing matters now.

Another indicator that the conviviality has yet to set in fully, the Krewe of Chewbacchus is still setting people off. Jarvis DeBerry explains in a recent column.
In January 2016 there was a second-line in the French Quarter for British pop star David Bowie, and in Treme in April those mourning Prince's death paraded there.

But neither of those second-lines was as controversial as the Krewe of Chewbacchus' announcement last week that it would lead a second-line for Carrie Fisher, the actress who played Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise.   If you didn't know before that New Orleans is in a period of civil war, you know it now. People on each side are self-important and therefore needlessly antagonistic.

Davis Rogan, the musician and radio personality who became a character on the HBO show "Treme," wrote online that the Carrie Fisher parade was the one time he wished somebody would shoot up a second-line. Rogan later apologized on Facebook:  "In a discussion about cultural appropriation, I made a thoughtless and vastly inappropriate joke," he wrote. "It wasn't funny, even in context, and taken as an out-of-context screenshot, it looks horrific... I want to make it absolutely clear that I bear the Krewe of Chewbacchus no ill will whatsoever. I do not condone violence. I abhor violence, and I am sickened by violence at second lines. I apologize to everyone who was offended."
There's a lot of stupidity to litigate in this story and DeBerry does a good job of it.  He doesn't mention, though, that as asinine as Rogan's comments were, no sensible person should have interpreted them as an actual threat and informed the police of them which is what the Chewbacchus people did. So nobody is without blame here.

Still, one thing I wouldn't do is blame a Carnival club themed after Star Wars (and other sci-fi) fandom for paying tribute when one of its inspirations passes.  Maybe there are good reasons to ask why so many celebrity deaths seem to merit second line parades in New Orleans lately. Or maybe not. I don't really know.  But if we are gonna go down that road, the Carrie Fisher parade probably isn't the place to jump off from.  Besides, Jarvis DeBerry points out in his column that there are far more examples of questionable parading going on around conventions and corporate events. If you're really upset about the supposed cultural appropriation at work, it's probably best to start with those.

The NolierThanThou culture wars are tiresome. Like all culture war politics they tend to obscure the fact that the actual irritant at work here is class.  It's not really this simple but, roughly, we'd do better to stop arguing over cultural appropriation and think more about cultural commodification. This means we need to stop nit-picking each others' subjective style choices and start asking what it is that actually threatens our ability to enjoy our own.  There are infinite ways in which people experience and express joy. All of them have validity even those that don't happen to be your favorite. What obscures that, though, is the conversion of  folkways by which people express their joy into luxury goods.

What we once considered the simple pleasures of life in New Orleans; the food, the music, the so-called "street culture" of parties and parades became products packaged and sold for the enjoyment of tourists.  This isn't unusual and, to a degree it's fine. But we passed a point where the commodification has also meant exclusion. Central City is a popular parading ground for Mardi Gras Indians and second-lining organizations.  This makes it an ideal neighborhood to sell on Airbnb to tourists looking to #FollowTheirNOLA to an authentic experience. Sooner or later nobody actually lives in Central City anymore. Remember what the Native Americans of Grand Bayou said about being forced to leave their homes? "If you leave, you become someone else. You are no longer the same person. No longer the same people." 

The context of all of this is things that were once cheap or free but of great value culturally are being claimed by capitalism. And people are being deprived of their homes and their culture in the process. That's the source of the anxiety.  But we respond to our anxiety over that by attacking each other's aesthetic sensibilities rather than those who are monetizing ours. The problem isn't "hipsters."  The problem is the developers, hoteliers, and landlords getting rich off of your culture and turning it into something a hipster can conspicuously consume.

But none of this has anything to do with our capacity to experience and enjoy as much of the diversity of Carnival as we care to. These are public events that invite participation and elaboration regardless of how and by whom they are staged. I mean, most of us weren't born into the right family of corporate defense lawyers so we're never getting invited to the Rex ball. But a lot of us do like going to see the Rex parade. We're not all 'treppish transplanted comic book geeks either but Chewbacchus is a cool event too. There's a lot to see and do in the next month and a half. Do as much or as little as you wanna. As long as you can still afford to actually live here, you might as well actually live, right?

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Safest to just avoid the Quarter

For years I disagreed with the trope that real New Orleanians will advise visitors to avoid the quarter. I've probably spent more time in the bars there than I have in any other part of town. It helps to have worked down there, I guess. But I'm sure I'm not an exception.  Locals hang out in the Quarter. There's nothing wrong with that.

Or, at least, there wasn't until we started policing it with all these oddball semi-private and/or political goon squads the latest of which serves at the command of the Attorney General.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry on Thursday (Jan. 4) touted the work of a special task force in his office that made 11 arrests in New Orleans in the last quarter of 2016 - in messages to news organizations and on social media that highlighted violent crime in the city.

The move, and Landry's other recent messages about New Orleans crime, elicited a sharp response from the New Orleans Police Department accusing the attorney general of playing politics and vowing that the department would not be used as a "prop in political agendas."

Many political observers believe Landry may run for governor in 2019. Landry, in announcing the arrests, insisted the task force's work was about public safety and "not about politics."
Nine of the six arrests made by the "Violent Crime Task Force" were for marijuana possession.  Heckuva job.  On any given night, visitors can find themselves accosted by Aspiring Governor Landry's campaign props. That doesn't sound very safe. Maybe people should avoid the area. 

Hey Joe, you gotta go

The untouchable Joe Vitt has been touched.
NEW ORLEANS -- The Saints fired several assistant coaches, including former interim head coach Joe Vitt Thursday.

The Saints fired Joe Vitt, Bill Johnson, Greg McMahon, Stan Kwan and James Willis according to WWL-TV reporter Lyons Yellin.
Joe Vitt will always be remembered in New Orleans for two things; his entertaining press conferences during his brief 2012 stint as interim head coach and the strange fact that he kept hanging around on the staff through successive defensive overhauls.  Maybe the statute of limitations finally ran out on whatever dirt Vitt had on the Vicodin thing.  

The Year of Evictions

2017 and thereafter promises to be fun in New Orleans.
New Orleans' subsidized housing market is likely to see similar evictions in the coming years as federal grant programs expire and property owners begin flipping previously "affordable" units to market rate and luxury apartments. Breonne DeDecker with Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative told WWL-TV that "what's happening at the American Can we're going to see play out over and over again in coming next 10 to 15 years here in New Orleans."

About 1,200 subsidies are set to expire by 2021, and nearly 4,900 will expire by 2031. These expirations will effect more than 100 New Orleans housing developments, including apartment complexes in the CBD and more in Mid-City. Mid-City is soon to get another large-scale apartment development with the construction of a 382-unit apartment complex set just behind the American Can building on the Lafitte Greenway. That development will have a dozen affordably priced units as part of a "density bonus" allowing developers to build bigger than allowed under the area's zoning as long as they open units to lower-income residents. District B City Councilmember LaToya Cantrell proposed instead that developers instead chip $644,000 into a housing assistance fund to provide up to $46,000 to help with a down payment on a house for low-income families in the area; many housing advocates say that undermines the goal of creating more affordable units, particularly as mortgages still would be well out of range for most lower-income families.
LaToya Cantrell's ineffectual response there is telling.  She's gearing up to run for mayor this year and that means keeping the landlords happy. Cantrell's base support combines young 'treps, real estate developers, and Get-Off-My-Lawn neighborhood association types.  Yeah there are some contradictory faults in that coalition, but most of them agree on Cantrell.  It makes her an early and obvious frontrunner. But it also frequently requires her to turn a blind eye to the city's most vulnerable.

LaToya once told us 2015 would be "The Year Of Enforcement"


A few years later we see Cantrell has led the way in ramping up its enforcement apparatus against people who commit minor traffic violations, homeless people, and.. I guess... anyone who wants to shelter homeless people too close our nice things.  Meanwhile the crime (assuming LaToya meant violent crime) and the short term rentals and such, we're still pretty permissive of. 

So as long as we're living in the Year Of Enforcement for the poors but not for the rich, we're going to also be living the Year Of Evictions now and on into the future.