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Friday, September 23, 2016

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Superdome and Arena

Last night a friend admitted to me they weren't really following the Saints anymore because the team hasn't been winning. I have no idea how to relate to that sort of lifestyle choice. I could understand it, I guess, if a person is not into the sporpsballs generally. But if you are a New Orleanian and you are a football fan, then giving up on the Saints just because the team isn't very good in a given season is a deliberate act of denial.

For one thing, if you're only watching the games because you expect your side to win them, you're setting yourself up for an awful lot of disappointment.  Football is an entertainment. There are many different types of outcomes and narratives to follow in any one game or season. The wins and losses certainly matter to the players and the coaches but that's because their jobs are on the line.  But we're in this for a longer haul and for different reasons.

Being a Saints fan isn't about demanding wins. It's nice when the team wins, of course. But really we are at these games for social reasons.  We are there to experience joy or cathartic frustration as a collective action. Football season is second only to Carnival in the opportunity it affords us to do this.  These are the exercises through which we establish solidarity with our community. They are how we give meaning to the notion that a place is home. Sometimes the team is bad. But that's never really the point.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

QOTD

Tyler Bridges wrote up Charles Boustany's connection to Ethan Brown's book for the Washington Post. In the part where Bridges interviews the DA, they hit upon what ought to be the new town motto for Jennings.
If you don’t get involved in illegal narcotics, Jennings is a wonderful place to raise a family,” said District Attorney Michael Cassidy, as he dug into a lunch of fried catfish and boudin, a local sausage served in a natural ­casing. “The ones living that ­high-risk lifestyle, their friends and family did not realize they were in danger.”
Also, in an earlier version of the story, boudin was described as being served in a "plastic" rather than "natural" casing. Wa-Po doesn't note the correction for some reason.  Nor do they address the question of whether you can put quinoa in it. 

"Third Fortune 500 Company"

Here's a report from NOLA.com on the salaries of New Orleans's leading non-profit CEOs.
A look at tax records for more than 230 nonprofits in New Orleans shows compensation for CEOs and other top-paid employees varies widely depending on the sector and size of the organization. In general, the larger the organization is and the more national in scope its peer group, the bigger its paychecks are.

At least 17 nonprofit executives in New Orleans make more than $300,000 a year, including three who were paid more than $500,000 for the year, according to a NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune analysis of the latest IRS filings available and Guidestar.org reports.
The report comes with a handy search tool in case you're looking for something that isn't in the slideshow.  Here are the top "earners."

New Orleans Non-Profiteers

What really jumps out at you here is the money thrown around by organizations in direct receipt of public money like Audubon or the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Also the Sugar Bowl seems to do pretty well thanks to its partnership with NOCVB and the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District where we find the great bulk of our hotel/motel tax revenue directed. Add to that the fact that the Sugar Bowl exists at all thanks to the unpaid labor of college athletes risking their health for these ghouls and you start to wonder how some people sleep at night. (On stacks of cash, yes, I know.)

And then there is the NOCVB itself. Look how modest they are. 
In emailed statements, board members for the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said CEO Stephen Perry and his team manage a giant economic engine that markets the city through three domestic travel offices and five overseas, amounting to, as businessman and board member Greg Rusovich put it, "what is virtually Louisiana's third Fortune 500 company."

The board reached Perry's $439,840 compensation in 2014 by looking at what his peers were paid in 10 competing U.S. cities. The board then took the average of the five lowest paid executives.
See? Perry's half a million dollars a year is actually "low" by their definition. And for all that great work he does non-profiting off of our low wage economy (Minus 2,400 hospitality jobs over the past twelve months!)  you have to admit we're getting a real bargain there.

The hilarious thing is NOLA.com spends hardly any space in this report talking about the public investment in building these individual fortunes. All we get, really, is this one paragraph about Perry's compensation.
Where the money comes from is also a concern. New Orleans' hotel tax is a key source of funding for the board. Steve Pettus, board treasurer and managing partner at Dickie Brennan & Co., said board rules specifically stipulate CEO pay must be funded by private sector dollars.
Money being fungible and all, though, this is pretty meaningless.What it means, in practice, is that once NOCVB has finished leveraging public money away from public service and into the pockets of hoteliers, marketers, developers, etc., they can pay the CEO out of the kickbacks they receive in donations.

Down payment

Looks like we're only going to be able to squeeze $500 million out of congress for flood relief before they rush off to recess again.

The short-term funding bill, formally known as a continuing resolution, has been identified as the fastest way to get flood money for the state before Congress recesses this month. Lawmakers won't return to D.C. until December, after this fall's elections. Gov. John Bel Edwards had requested a $2.8 billion package.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, said that the $500 million in the proposal is seen as a "down payment" on future flood relief that can be awarded in the December "lame duck" session.

"It's a great start," he said Thursday. "This obviously gets things going."

The flood relief package, which Senators will have for four days before votes are cast and then it heads to the House, would largely go toward meeting housing needs in the flood-ravaged areas. As it's currently written, the money would also go toward recovery for North Louisiana, which experienced mass floods in the spring.
They sound pretty proud of themselves as well as optimistic about getting the rest of the money after the fall break. Could they have done now, though? Probably
The Senate may break two weeks ahead of schedule, with lawmakers on Monday suggesting that an early recess is underway.

Friday could be the last day the Senate is in session until after the election, meaning senators have just one week to make progress on Zika, an environmental bill, and relief for Flint, Michigan, and flood-damaged Louisiana – not to mention pass a continuing resolution, known as the CR, that would keep the government funded before the fiscal year ends on September 30.

“Republicans took the longest summer recess in 60 years and are rushing for the exits again after three short weeks back at work,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid in a statement. “This Republican Senate has worked fewer days than any Senate in modern history.”
Oh well. Have a nice vacation, guys. See you after the re-greatening of America. 

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/congress/article102774302.html#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

John Bel explains things

So as we're sitting here watching what has become a regular occurrence of civic unrest  after yet another regular occurrence of police somewhere killing yet another unarmed or non-threatening person, let's check in with our Governor to see what he thinks.  It sure was interesting earlier today when we saw that he had said he doesn't think humans cause global warming. What other neat stuff came out of that radio interview?  
A caller identified as Anna from the governor's hometown of Amite, asked for his thoughts on the use of deadly force in law enforcement following high-profile cases across the country, including the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge.

Edwards said "there's no doubt" that there is a problem.

"Everybody can do better," he said, adding that he supports better law enforcement training as well as efforts to train people with how to deal with police officers – possibly as teens or children.
See? #AllTrainingMatters, I guess. Should we be training police not to wantonly murder people? Yeah, probably. But hey don't think for a second that the victims can't "do better" themselves! Basically John Bel is telling us we need to institutionalize "The Talk." The article doesn't say this but the governor actually suggested adding this kind of "training" to the driver's license test somehow. Random deadly force from police is just one of the hazards of the road. Drive defensively. 

Oh also, would it comfort you to believe that lethal force by police is not at an all time high? John Bel says you have "many reasons" to believe that if you want. 
"The shame of it is there are many reasons to believe the application of lethal force by police officers not at an all-time high," he said. "The difference is that today many of these things are caught on camera ... Because all of this is being captured on camera, the issue is at the front of everybody's – it's on TV, it's on the internet – you see it."
Again, the problem isn't so much that police can and frequently do murder people and get away with it.  The problem is actually that so many dang people know about it now.  If only someone could train them to handle this knowledge with a little more grace, we might finally learn to "do better."

Governor Landry not actually Governor yet

John Bel Edwards said today that he would like to see all coastal parishes join a lawsuit against oil and gas companies but, even if they don't, the state plans to go ahead either way.  That doesn't sit well with Fake Governor Landry.
The governor said he thinks the oil and gas industry should pay for a portion of that master plan bill, given their role in coastal erosion. It is part of the motivation for having the state intervene in the existing parish lawsuits. If the state is not party to the legal action, then none of the damages that might be recovered could fund its restoration efforts.

Edwards has been promising to intervene in the coastal lawsuits since he launched his campaign to become governor in 2014. But he's hit a significant roadblock in opposition from the attorney general.

Landry -- who has strong ties to the oil and gas companies and has taken significant donations from that industry for political campaigns -- has blocked Edwards' choice of lawyers for the coastal lawsuits for now.

In a letter last week, Landry said the compensation that the private lawyers may get if the lawsuits are won -- millions of dollars -- could be illegal. He also said some of the attorneys Edwards wants to hire have a conflict of interest, because they are also involved in the parishes' litigation.

In his interview with the media, Edwards said the contract his team had extended was legal and not exorbitant. Though the attorneys stand to make millions of dollars if the lawsuit is won, the hourly rate -- $225 per hour -- is below the maximum allowed of $500 per hour, the governor said.

"He doesn't understand the contract or he is purposefully misrepresenting it," Edwards said.
The Governor's people and the Fake Governor's people are supposed to meet and talk about this later this month. But the way that story is written, it looks like John Bel is going ahead with his plans and his lawyers. Good for him.

Meanwhile, though, it's hard to praise the Governor for more than five minutes these days before he goes and does something annoying
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, isn't convinced human activity is contributing to global warming, a stance that puts him at odds with President Barack Obama, most other national figures in his own political party and the mainstream science community.

Edwards said twice on Wednesday (Sept. 21) that he agreed the globe was getting warmer, but he isn't convinced the phenomenon is "man-made". The governor's comments where made during his monthly call-in radio show broadcast across Louisiana.

Overwhelmingly, climate researchers and weather experts believe humans are contributing to global warming. Some studies show climate change has made extreme weather events, such as massive floods and hurricanes, more likely.
This is a pretty strikingly craven position to take. But it's exactly the kind of incoherence you might expect to encounter from a governor who knows his lawsuit is going to piss off the oil companies and is trying to compensate somehow.

Consider retiring

The bad news is the Saints are down yet one more cornerback for the remainder of the season. The good news is, it could have been a lot worse for him.
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said Monday that all news related to injured cornerback P.J. Williams's brain injury was "positive," but it turns out the team is taking a cautious approach with him.

Williams went on injured reserve Wednesday, according to a report from Sporting News. A source told NOLA.com Monday that Williams had a concussion and "will be fine," but it's now highly unlikely he plays again in 2016.

The second-year cornerback was unconscious on the field at MetLife Stadium in the first quarter of the Saints' loss to the New York Giants. Trainers tended to him for about 5 minutes before placing him on a backboard, driving him off in a cart and rushing him to a local hospital.
The less important bad news for the Saints is they are completely out of corners already.  Just a month or so ago, this looked like it might be the strongest position on the team. Delvin Breaux, Keenan Lewis, Damian Swann, and now PJ are gone. (They had already lost Kyle Wilson over the summer.) It should be fun watching Sterling Moore and a couple of rookies chase people around haphazardly for the next several weeks until Breaux is able to walk.

Meanwhile, PJ might consider retirement after a scare like that.  Last year, Swann suffered three of these and I'm still amazed that he came back. 

The old Murder in the Bayou bump

Boustany is making a move all of a sudden.
U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany has closed the gap on state Treasurer John Kennedy in Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, according to a telephone survey released Wednesday (Sept. 21) by longtime pollster Bernie Pinsonat.

The results show the Republican congressman from Lafayette riding popularity in his home district to a statistical tie with Kennedy, a fellow Republican who had maintained a double-digit lead in early polls conducted by candidates and some partisan groups.

Kennedy still leads the pack at 17 percent, followed by Boustany at 15 percent, within the poll's 4.4 percent margin of error.
The polls were always going to tighten, probably in this precise way.  Still, it's interesting that this comes right on the heels of Boustany making what most would consider some decidedly negative headlines
When you’re still trying to make a first impression on voters outside your congressional district, let’s just say that it’s not good thing when your name comes up in a new book about the suspicious deaths of eight prostitutes, released by a major publisher less than two months before Election Day.

It’s particularly not a good thing when that book is sensationally titled “Murder in the Bayou,” and it contains a chapter describing how a now-former aide ran the quaintly named hotel, the Boudreaux Inn in Jefferson Davis Parish, where the prostitution ring was centered. And when, by the way, author Ethan Brown quotes unnamed sources alleging that you were a “well-regarded client” of several prostitutes who were later killed, even as he acknowledges that there’s no reason to connect you to any of their deaths.
On the other hand, maybe just being in the news is good enough for Boustany.  Especially if it puts him in direct contrast with Kennedy who.. to put it mildly.. comes off a bit smarmy.  For example, here is Grace's accounting of the way Kennedy handled the news about Brown's book. 
Indeed, Kennedy’s campaign manager admitted to sending around a news report about the book’s contents, and Kennedy himself issued an artfully — and widely quoted — statement that denied spreading details even as it managed to do just that.

“I want to be very clear that my campaign played absolutely no role in creating this story alleging Congressman Boustany’s sexual relationships with prostitutes that were later murdered, his staff’s alleged involvement in running the bar and hotel where this illicit behavior took place, or publishing the book 'Murder in the Bayou' written by Ethan Brown and published by Simon and Schuster,” the statement said.
I guess that's good for a snicker. But it's probably not going to endear anyone to Kennedy. Which is a problem since he's not especially well liked as it is.  In fact, if I had to guess at what's happening with this race right now, it's that people are looking for reasons to vote against Kennedy if they can.* They certainly have no shortage of alternative candidates in that case.  Anyway, it would explain why a scandalous accusation against Boustany might actually damage Kennedy instead.

By the way, Ethan Brown will be at Octavia Books tonight talking about Murder In The Bayou if anyone wants to check that out.  The event starts around 6. 

*Note: According to the poll, Kennedy actually has a 62 percent approval rating. Which is pretty darn high. But how solid is it, really?  In recent years he's set himself up as The One Guy Who Hates Whoever Is Governor Right Now.  That works well at times but I think.. and this is just a gut feeling.. that people find him hard to like. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Stupid or lying or... ?

One important way in which I tend to read news and politics differently from a lot of my liberal fellow travelers is I almost never assume that the "other side" is over there on the other side because of simple stupidity or ignorance.  Like the great majority of Americans, I'm kind of stupid and not especially expert in any one thing. I figure most people are pretty much just like me. It follows, then, that if I have read about or have a basic understanding something, then whoever I'm talking to probably knows it as well or better than I do. So it's not incumbent on me to educate anyone.

In public affairs, there usually isn't one "right" answer that can satisfy everyone if only the "stupid other side" would be less stupid.  Political questions are not about finding the most inherently good policy but are instead about what policy choice will benefit whom. So those people on the other side, they're not stupid. They're just full of shit.

Take this peculiar City Council vote yesterday over bail reform, for instance.  
A meeting that started with skepticism about a measure to essentially eliminate bail for nonviolent crimes at New Orleans' Municipal Court boiled over Monday into ill-tempered spats among City Council members and recriminations between advocates seeking to end the practice and judges and bail bondsmen fighting to keep the status quo.

After a Criminal Justice Committee meeting that lasted more than three hours, the measure failed to garner enough support from council members to be formally sent on to the full City Council. However, Councilwoman Susan Guidry, the sponsor of the proposed ordinance, said she planned to bring a revised version back in the future.
Here is the problem Guidry's ordinance is attempting to address.  The jail is a profit center for people whose business depends on collecting ransom for minor offenses. Inevitably this penalizes those who can't afford to pay the ransom.  A recent Vera Institute study showed fourteen percent of the jail population at the time of the survey were there simply because they couldn't afford to be out.
Out of the 451 people in jail who were assessed for risk and given a risk score, 216—or 48 percent—were found to present a low or low-moderate risk. Those 216 people represented 14 percent of the entire jail population.

These low and low-moderate risk arrestees were held in jail because a judge decided they had to pay a financial bond to get out. One-hundred and eighteen of them were held on a $25,000 bail or less, an unaffordable sum to many: New Orleans’s poverty rate is almost twice the national average. Eighty-five percent of people who go through the criminal justice system are too poor to hire a lawyer.

That isn't hard to understand. Guidry made the point again, though, just to be certain everyone heard it.
"We're talking about misdemeanor charges that are nonviolent, and the only people who get stuck in jail before their first appearance are the ones who can't come up with those few hundred dollars," Guidry said. "Are we saying poor people are by their nature more dangerous?"
Which is why, if you take the actions and statements of the councilpersons at face value, you have to conclude that all of them except for CM Guidry, are unbelievably stupid. You might think Jason Williams was so stupid he didn't know what the ordinance said.
Williams said he had concerns the plan would not provide enough scrutiny for those accused of domestic violence, although the ordinance requires they be held until a judge has time to evaluate them, and it could still allow for some kind of bond.

More broadly, he argued that if the city wants to reduce the number of people languishing in jail, it should stop arresting people, rather than changing how bail is treated.

"The real issue here is arresting people who we as a community don't believe should be arrested or detained at all," Williams said, specifically questioning whether the Police Department is abiding by council policies aimed at making sure they are not targeting black residents for arrest.
He certainly has a point about the police department although the two problems are hardly mutually exclusive. He knows this, though. He's just full of shit.

You might also think Stacy Head is so stupid she doesn't understand what a nonviolent crime like those addressed by the ordinance actually is.
Head, who usually is an ally of Guidry, seemed skeptical of the proposal, repeatedly suggesting that something is needed to keep people who are "raping and pillaging" the community in jail. But she later said Guidry's plan could work with some changes to narrow its scope.
She just wanted to say "raping and pillaging" a lot, probably.  Notice, though, that Head ended up supporting the ordinance anyway.  Why? Well we're getting to that. First, take a look at Sheriff Gusman and his pastor friends.  
The financial issue is also a key part of the thrust behind the ordinance, as Guidry and others on the council have sought for years to whittle down the jail population. Sheriff Marlin Gusman has fought against those plans, and a group of pastors who have previously backed him were among those opposing the ordinance Monday.

You might think a lot of these pastors would be sympathetic to the bail reform. It's likely the problem Guidry describes is affecting members of their own flocks in disproportionate numbers. Are they just stupid? Nah.. more likely they're more sensitive to parishioners with money to donate. 

This is from another argument between the Vera Institute and some of these pastors over a pre-trial services program with a similar aim as Guidry's bail reform. 
Stuart was followed at the microphone by the Rev. Tom Watson, the senior pastor at Watson Memorial Teaching Ministries, who complained that Vera got its role screening accused criminals for pre-trial release without competitive bidding.

“That’s unfair and unjust,” Watson said. “I call them carpetbaggers. We have a lot of people who could go to the jails (and screen the defendants) for a lot less.”

A second pastor, the Rev. Joseph Merrill, of New Kingdom Missionary Baptist Church, said it was “nonsense” to have “folks from New York come to try to solve our problem.”

Merrill was followed by bail bondsman Matt Dennis, owner of dennisbonding.com, who said the Vera program “is turning the offender into a victim.” He added, “They’re trying to drive us out of business.”

The pre-trial program represents a financial threat to the bondsmen because the defendants get released without having to post bond.

The back-and-forth comments prompted a response from only one City Council member, Susan Guidry.

Guidry, who chairs the council’s criminal justice committee, said Vera had come to New Orleans in 2007 at the council’s request and was involved in discussions for two years before this year’s program began. She said the Justice Department chose Vera, which is why the program had not been put to through competitive bidding process. “It would be a very big mistake for us to pull the people who have been with the program for two years,” Guidry said. “It’s been a success.”

The Rev. Antoine Barriere, senior pastor at Household of Faith Family Worship Church International, had earlier endorsed Vera’s work before the council, saying the project “was going in the right direction.”

Afterward, in an interview, Barriere said the opposition to Vera surprised him since the critics had just surfaced.

“Now they come in and divide everyone,” Barriere said. “Somebody is connected to somebody who is getting bail bond money.”
Simply put, there's a lot of money in the sleazy business of leveraging the criminal justice system to extract profits from the vulnerable.  Those councilmembers who voted to maintain that system aren't stupid. They're benefiting from it.  Similarly, those who voted to shut it down.. including the reluctant Head despite her "rape and pillage" crowing... aren't benefiting and are jealous of those who are.

None of these actors is stupid. They're all acting rationally.  But none of them is doing anything simply because it's the objectively moral policy choice.

They get it from their racist parents

Atrios on "The Kids Today" who are still racist
We like to think our society is in general getting a bit less racist. I think that's probably true, and that it's probably true that The Kids Today are a bit less racist than my generation was (when I was a kid explicitly racist jokes were really not taboo, though by the time I hit college they probably were). Still there's plenty of racism, and The Kids Today have plenty of racists, too. I'm not talking about the kids being idiots stuff, like halloween blackface*, I'm talking about real solid racism. I know where all the racism came from when I was a kid. It was, you know, normal. I'm not quite sure where they get it from today.
That's easy, though.  They get it from the racist parents who raised them to also be racists in a still very racist environment. I think cosmetically, we present as slightly less racist today than say 30 years ago. But that's only the result of a lot of hard work and political pressure brought to bear on institutions. (And it's real progress. Don't get me wrong. I'm just saying it shouldn't be taken as evidence that we've defeated racism by any stretch.)

Anyway, the kids are still quite racist.  And it's because, contrary to popular belief, millennials didn't suddenly arrive from Mars one day.  They were raised here. By people like us.

Congratulations, St. Tammany Parish residents

You aren't going to be fracked by Helis Oil.  That's great. But let's take a look at what it was that saved you, exactly. 

Was it the vehement organized citizen opposition?  No, that didn't work.

Was it Bobby Jindal's state Department of Natural Resources? Don't make me laugh.

Was it the lawsuit brought to stop DNR issuing a permit? Nope.


Was it a federal environmental impact review by the Corps of Engineers? No, they let it slide too.

So what was it?  At the end of the day, the only thing that Northshore residents have to thank for saving their aquifer from possible contamination is the unprofitable barrenness of their own land.
ST. TAMMANY PARISH -- Helis Oil and Gas sent out a news release Tuesday saying that "following a lengthy review of the geologic, engineering and other data from its exploratory well in rural St. Tammany Parish, Helis Oil & Gas has concluded that it will not proceed with further operations."

The move would bring to an end the controversial project on the Northshore that met with a lot of citizen opposition.

Helis overcame that opposition to get the approval to move forward on the project, however, a few months in, the results were not what the company was hoping to achieve.

"Helis has determined that the prospect lacks appropriate commercial viability so the company will not pursue the project any further. Helis intends to permanently abandon the well and secure the site in accordance with regulatory requirements and its leases," said Greg Beuerman, spokesperson for Helis Oil & Gas.
The lesson is, whatever you do, first make sure you are not commercially viable.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

The co-opting of media criticism

Some of what Taibbi writes here can come off as sounding like a cranky old media guy blaming the readership. Which is funny given that he's accusing his targets in this article of "snobbery." Here, for example, he accuses critics of assuming other readers have "weaker minds than theirs."
The people complaining about "false balance" usually seem confident in having discovered the truth of things for themselves, despite the media's supposed incompetence. They're quite sure of whom to vote for and why. Their complaints are really about the impact that "false balance" coverage might have on other, lesser humans, with weaker minds than theirs. Which is not just snobbish, but laughably snobbish. So, shut up.
But then in the very next paragraph, he turns around and blames stupid readers for low quality coverage. 
One of the main reasons the news media has been dumbed down over the years is because audiences have consistently rejected smart, responsible journalism in favor of clickbait stupidities like "Five Things You Didn't Know About John McCain's Penis" and "Woman Strips Naked in Front of Police Officers. You Won't Believe What Happened Next." The Bachelor and Toddlers and Tiaras crush Frontline. And people wonder why Donald Trump gets a lot of coverage? 

On the other hand, when he isn't trying to have that question both ways, he has a point. After about a decade and a half of critics hammering away at the cautious "he said, she said" style in mainstream political coverage, the notion has become weaponized by political operators.

I would say "false equivalence" is still a real problem in political coverage. But what we're seeing this year is that long valid complaint co-opted by partisan Democrats in a disingenuous effort to "work the refs" on important stories. They sound a lot like Republicans used to sound back when they created the myth of the "liberal media" to use as a cudgel against any and all coverage they didn't approve of.

2016 is the first election cycle that truly sophisticated use of social media has come into play.  We've moved from a time when candidates merely had websites or were on Twitter/Facebook to where their consultants and staffers actually know how to speak the language and manipulate the message in those realms. The fake complaints against "false equivalence" are one way that's been manifest.  There are others, but this is a big one.

Two interesting facts about the New Orleans Saints' season thus far

This is the part where I promise myself to write more about the games when I have some time. 

Anyway, in the meantime, behold your record setting, boundary-breaking, reality defying 2016 New Orleans Saints.

Week One:




Week Two:




Not even three games into the season and already you are seeing things you have not seen before.  Wonders abound.

Two interesting facts about the NYC bombing case over the weekend

One: The act of "domestic terrorism" seems to have been inspired by a small business owning family becoming frustrated by the meddling power of the neighborhood association brought down up on them through City Hall.
Mr. Bollwage, speaking at a news conference on Monday morning, described how the Rahami family had issues with the city in the past, mainly surrounding the operation of their family restaurant, First American Fried Chicken.

Mr. Rahami’s father, Muhammad, opened the restaurant about a decade ago and employed his sons, the mayor said.

It was open 24 hours a day, but neighbors complained about rowdy crowds that would gather at the place, often after midnight.

Dean McDermott, who lives near the restaurant in Elizabeth, said he found patrons loitering in his yard and urinating in his driveway.

Responding to the complaints, the City Council passed an ordinance that would force the restaurant to close late at night, the mayor said.
Two: The case seems to have been cracked (and further violence prevented) thanks to the intercession of some local street criminals
The day Ahmad Khan Rahami allegedly planted two bombs in Chelsea  — one of which detonated on West 23rd Street — two thieves accidentally helped to disable his second pressure cooker bomb left inside a rolling suitcase on West 27th Street, sources said.

The young men, who sources described as being well-dressed, opened the bag and took the bomb out, sources said, before placing the explosive into a garbage bag and walking away with the rolling suitcase.

In doing so, investigators believe they inadvertently disabled the explosive, sources said. That allowed investigators to examine the cellphone attached to the bomb intact and discover that it was connected to the family of Rahami.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

America has always been surreal

This is an important article by Rick Perlstein. It's a response to readers of his work who may be missing the point.  
It’s unquestionably true that what is happening now in our politics is surreal, dangerous, violent, disorienting, and terrifyingly conflictual. The feeling that 2016 has been a break from politics past cannot be denied. I certainly don’t deny it—in fact, when I began embarking on my own writing about the Trump phenomenon, I felt like I had to reconsider everything I thought I knew about conservatism and the Republican Party in order to responsibly handle the job. Please note that well, all of you writing me all those just like, just like, just like messages.

But what I want my readers to grasp most deeply is that all of American history is more surreal, more dangerous, more disorienting, and more terrifyingly conflictual than we typically want to believe. Focus on all the parts in my books where I dwell on the pundits, political leaders, and other gatekeepers of polite opinion and their willful insistence that America is fundamentally a society of consensus. Recall that they’re never more insistent on the point than when signs of chaos are all around them: Walter Lippmann was pronouncing his “united and at peace with itself” celebration not long after Bull Connor’s fire hoses and police dogs ushered in the most violent phase yet of the civil rights revolution.
One of the stranger elements of Election 2016 has to do with the collective historical amnesia of even the self-professed political history buffs.  They seem to want to argue that the thoroughly unprecedented Trump has us on the edge of an "apocalypse" deliberately failing to acknowledge the latent threads and forces in American society that allow a Trump to happen.  At the same time, they're just as quick to read Perlstein.. or at least tune in to a CNN nostalgia documentary... and proclaim, "Whoah this is just like 1968!" or whatever.

But where have these people been in the meantime? What cognitive dissonance allows comfortable liberals to have some basic knowledge of their turbulent history but also behave as though that history somehow stopped happening at some point? (Probably around the time they closed on their houses.. but that's another talk.) 

Of course Donald Trump is his own unique iteration of the surreal and the dangerous in American politics. But American politics has always been surreal and dangerous, pretty fucked up, generally. A central theme of Perlstein's most recent book about the rise of Ronald Reagan is the veer away from an opportunity to honestly examine the fucked-uppedness and into an active denialism of it. Today we call this "American Exceptionalism" and it's extremely popular with Democrats now.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Why we're going to lose on short term rentals

Neighbors in neighborhoods

After months.. no.. actually.. years and years of watching this play out on a national and worldwide scale, I can tell you right now that we're inevitably going to lose the fight over short term rentals and affordable housing in New Orleans.

Why? Because, first and foremost, although much has been written, only a very small segment of the population has done much reading on the subject.  This means that every single time the issue comes up, we begin again as though there is zero context available.  This is how I can wake up on a morning like today and see professional reporters tweeting plumb-ignorant bullshit like this.




"Fighting the future" Goddammit, we've been through this so many times, I'm exhausted.  I'm not even going to link the many many articles written about how "the future" in other world tourist destinations is now about reclaiming the city from the plague.  Just fucking google it. You can even scroll back through my stupid blog if you want.  I'm just an idiot who reads the news. If I know this stuff by now, y'all should fucking know it by now. But every day it seems we start from scratch.  I'm tired of it.

But that's politics. Ninety percent of the time it's about elites profiting from our ignorance and/or failure to organize.  In New Orleans, especially, the default conventional wisdom is that poor people kind of deserve to be evicted anyway.  It's only in recent years, though, that this notion been able to ride the national wave of a gentrification-friendly zeitgeist. Poverty, "blight," crime, the typical social and economic ills of the city no longer need to be addressed directly by our civic leaders. It's much easier, instead, to just move them out of the way where hopefully the tourists won't see. And now that we can turn every neighborhood worth visiting into a tourist-only zone, the chances are all they'll ever see is each other.

And so for the final phase, here comes a heaping pile of corporate ad money
Airbnb is trying to burnish its image in the run-up to an expected October vote by the New Orleans City Council on short-term rentals with a series of ads featuring homeowners who take advantage of the service.

In the ads, residents who list their properties with the service talk about how the extra money brought in by renting out rooms in their homes has helped them make ends meet.
I know this isn't the primary concern in the local debate. But at some point we are going to have to talk about how damaging it is to celebrate the fact that people have to rent out rooms in their homes "to make ends meet." The fundamental problem is still that housing is not affordable.  Incomes aren't covering the costs of basic needs. And so people (some people.. those who have the capacity and flexibility of lifestyle to allow it) are forced to "side-hustle" up the difference. This isn't a triumph of entrepreneurship and "personal responsibility." It is a market failure and one that companies like Airbnb exacerbate rather than solve.

Anyway, like I said, that's not even the center of the public controversy right now.  The fate of so-called "whole home rentals" is.  And guess what about that.
(The ads) do not touch on the most controversial aspect of the debate over short-term rentals in the city: renting of entire homes in residential neighborhoods throughout most or all of the year, not just for a few weeks a year or else renting of a few rooms in otherwise occupied homes. 
Not that it matters. All that matters is that Airbnb has dropped a truckload of money onto the perpetual blank slate of context-free "debate." They have gone and bought themselves a valid position in the political arena. And so all that's left now is for our everyone to agree that "there has to be compromise."  Our wise councilpersons will figure that out for us, I'm sure.

Cram session

The Orleans Parish School Board is very close to being late with its homework.  Today they're getting together for a cram session to discuss, take public comment on, and approve their budget on the last day before it is due.  
Orleans' budget is -- surprise -- a little more complicated than that of your average school district as a result of the city's bifurcated public education system. All but six of the city's 83 public schools are independently run charters, and the Louisiana Recovery School District oversees about two-thirds.
An additional complication is expected to be settled in court. During the spring, the board approved a new formula that more equitably shares funding between schools that serve special needs students and those that tend to exclude them via selective admissions processes.  
The unanimous vote paves the way for Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. to implement a controversial formula that essentially strips money from gifted and talented students, and pads budgets catering to more pupils with special needs.

More than 90 percent of the city’s public schools view the formula as a victory in the way of fair funding. A select few, however, have adamantly opposed the shift, as schools with high numbers of “gifted and talented” students bear the brunt of the change.

Two of those schools, Lusher Charter School and Lake Forest Charter Elementary School, have filed lawsuits in light of the plan, which would siphon nearly $1,400 per gifted elementary student per year from their budgets.

Before the vote, an attorney for those schools, James Brown, promised “expensive, divisive, federal court litigation” should the board give Lewis authority to disperse dollars as he sees fit. The “essential legal flaw” of the plan, he said, is that it gives the superintendent too much power over funding for a system comprised primarily of independent charters.
The charter operators made good on their threat to sue for their right to operate a discriminatory semi-private school system with public funds.  Essential to their argument was their assertion that the school board's new plan would take money away from their gifted and talented programs. As it turns out, though, that may not be exactly where the money was going.
For months, Lusher Charter School, one of the top-ranked public schools in the state, has been waging a court battle to hold onto the extra funding it gets for pupils designated as gifted and talented, claiming that money is necessary to provide the enriched curriculum required for those students by state law.

But a group of current and former Lusher employees and parents claims the Uptown New Orleans school has been pocketing the money for years without providing the types of services that gifted students are supposed to receive.

The critics also claim Lusher officials have misled middle school parents and state officials about so-called "individualized education plans" for gifted students that schools must submit to the state.

Those plans are not public records. However, two such plans obtained by a reporter were signed by teachers designated by Lusher to teach gifted children despite lacking a gifted certification.
There's some indication that we may finally be coming to grips with the fact that the national education "reform" movement has always been a grift. But that's happening slowly because, well, there's still money to be made and political careers to fund before we finally learn enough to graduate from this level.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

How not to maximize recovery funding

Just prior to the Labor Day weekend, Governor Edwards submitted a request to the President and Congress for supplemental flood relief aid.  
Edwards asks that Congress this month approve $2 billion in federal aid for Louisiana for housing, economic development and infrastructure. He says it's a "very reasonable request," adding to other federal programs assisting in Louisiana's flood recovery.
This week the Governor is in Washington pushing his plan in meetings with congressional leaders and Obama Administration officials.  (UPDATE: Already successful in receiving a greater federal cost share of disaster response) I wonder, though, if  he should be aiming a little higher than "very reasonable" in his initial ask.   Much has already been written about the extreme difficulty of Louisiana's shitty congressional delegation getting much sympathy out of the shitty Congress this year.  When you know going in that you're going to see a large chunk of what you're asking for compromised away in the process, it's a good idea to ask for more than you will actually need. Ideally we would start by asking for way too much and then let them whittle it down to "reasonable."

(UPPERDATE: And here we see the President has already whittled out a mysterious $200 million for whatever reason.  So we're going the wrong direction.)

Instead it looks like the Governor may have opened negotiations asking for less than will actually be needed. For one thing, we still don't have a solid estimate of the damage. This article says, "at least $8.7 billion."  But it also says the number of homes documented as damaged "could double" from 55,000 to 110,000.  Does "at least $8.7 billion" then mean AS MUCH as $17 billion?  I have to suppose that can't be what they mean. But it is a logical interpretation of what is written.

Anyway when you've got so many uninsured properties in the mix (80 percent of the documented damaged homes now) you have to expect you'll need extra help.  Last week, again with incomplete and unclear numbers available, we tried to sketch out an estimate of how much a new "Road Home" style program where homeowners are compensated for the difference between the cost of repairs vs the amount paid out by insurance might cost.  Our high end guess at that time was $6.4 billion. That was based on an average grant in the amount of $70,000 going to 63% of 145,000 homeowners.

Let's adjust that math to fit the estimates printed along with the Governor's request.  That's 80% of something between 55,000 and 110,000 damaged homes at an average of $70,000 per grant. That comes out to roughly $3 billion at the low end and as much as $6.2 billion at the high end.   Again, these are very rough guesses but if they're even remotely in the ballpark they suggest that the Governor is asking for maybe a billion dollars or possibly many billions less than what flood victims will actually need.

Governor Edwards is a mild mannered guy. But there are situations where "reasonable" doesn't necessarily cut it.  We've got some experience with disaster recovery in New Orleans. Maybe we can offer some advice.  For starters, has Edwards even read former New Orleans Sanitation Director Veronica White's book?


Does that say, "How to Ask For a Reasonable Amount Of FEMA Funding After a Natural Disaster"? No it does not say that. We're setting our sights on a Maximized recovery here.  And since it doesn't look like Ed Blakely is coming through that door any time soon, I suppose it falls to us to give the John Bel a few pointers.  What follows, then, is a brief sketch of our five point recovery plan for South Louisiana based on our decade's long experience.

One:  Mitch Landrieu told us the key to rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina was that we not just build everything back the way it was, but instead, build "the city we've always wanted to be."   So here is how you do that. First, look around and see if you have any land that might be made for valuable for development if you can move the poor people living there off of it.  Next, move those poor people out of the way.  Like Pres says, they're a "drag on the economy. We've talked many times about how this strategy took off in New Orleans. Make it work for you too.

B: Do you have any public services laying around that might be ripe for a little "public-private partnering" or other such cutting edge innovation? Take a look at your schools. Farming out public education to semi-privatized management has been a pet cause of the best and brightest policy wonks for decades now.  It's made careers for people in politics and people just out of politics.  Most importantly, it has focused attention on communities willing to turn their disasters into "blank slate" opportunities.  This is the kind of thing that gets your mayor invited to Aspen, which, as we know, is at least halfway to getting yourself a bonafide recovery.

III: Say brah, do you like apps? If you're really trying to take your grifting innovation recovery to the next level, you've got to get you some tech savvy entrepreneurs to come in and disrupt your whole situation for you. We can see you've already got a head start on this. Still looking for ways to hack it into high gear, though?  Well what about your....

(4): Culture and "authenticity."  Are you famous for quaint folkways that people with disposable income find entertaining on a self-satisfying pseudo-intellectual level? Yes? Great, you can sell that shit by the truckload! Put it all out there. See if David Simon wants to dramatize the struggles of the unique people St. Amant for premium cable. Do you have music and food festivals that "only the locals" know about? Make sure you rebuild your home in an Airbnb friendly aesthetic because you're gonna have some customers. How about a Disney-friendly gumbo recipe? Yes, definitely do that

v: Resilience. What is it? Who knows! You want it, though. Take as much as they offer.

Lagniappe: Do you happen to have a guy who can block punts?  Some people think that helps too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

GNOF Circle

So here's a little scoop via The Lens this afternoon.  An LLC registered to Phyllis Taylor bought the Circle Bar.  Phyllis, as many of you know, is the filthy wealthy widow of oilman Pat Taylor whose name famously accrues to the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students or T.O.P.S. scholarship. Phyllis is also a primary benefactor of the Greater New Orleans Foundation and its nearly completed shimmering new headquarters on the opposite side of Lee Circle from the bar.

Can't say for certain what the plans are, but the smart money is on RIP, Circle Bar at the very least.  As far as the building is concerned, they shouldn't have too much trouble getting a demolition permit since every New Orleans oligarch who is anybody is in the GNOF club. Oh also Andy Kopplin runs it now so, yeah.

Still waiting on somebody to do something about that monument, though...


UPDATEGambit has spoken to the Circle Bar ownership. 
The Lee Circle building that houses the long-running dive bar and music venue Circle Bar has been sold. But bar owner Dave Clements says it's not going anywhere just yet.  "We’ll be there for the next five to seven years" remaining on the bar's lease, Clements told Gambit.

Oil and gas executive and philanthropist Phyllis M. Taylor bought the building at 1032 St. Charles Ave. for $1.6 million, according to real estate transfers acquired by The Lens. Taylor's purchasing entity 1032 St. Charles Ave. LLC was registered with the Louisiana Secretary of State in June.

Clements said he had 10 days in which to match the $1.6 million offer. "I was a little panicked ... but she couldn't have been nicer," he said. "So far she’s indicated she’ll honor the remaining years of the lease ... As far as that, no future plans."
 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fake radio show: Football preview edition

This one is too long. But that's what happens when you try and fuck with the space-time continuum like we did in this episode. Sorry. We did try and mark it out by time signature in the show notes. Hopefully that helps. Anyway if you want to know why I haven't had time to blog much this week despite the fact that a lot has happened and it's almost Saints season. It's because I've been editing this monster.

Friday, September 09, 2016

QOTD

Matt Taibbi on the most recent atrocity committed by Mathew Yglesias.
It's kind of not our job in the media to worry about how officials might conduct politically embarrassing conversations without the press finding out. If that's what Matt stays up at night worrying about, he might need a more news-appropriate hobby, like alcoholism.
This election has been eye opening in many ways. I've lost a tremendous amount of respect for friends and acquaintances this year watching them twist and compromise basic principles falling all over themselves to praise the shitty Democratic nominee. At least Yglesias (who, I never had much respect for in the first place) has the excuse of being a careerist hack.  I'm not sure what explains the behavior of people with nothing to gain. 

Governor Edwards's Blue Lives Matter Law

Remember when the Governor signed this monstrosity everyone praised his political savvy.  Check out our law-and-order son of a Sheriff Democrat.  Certainly no racist gun nuts can vote against him now.  That sort of thing.

Meanwhile, as the sycophants tally up imaginary political points, the terrible law does actual damage in the real world.
The New Orleans Police Department was wrong to book a man who cussed at officers with an anti-police hate crime, the department's communications director Tyler Gamble said in a Thursday afternoon email.  Raul Delatoba, 34, used racist and sexist epithets to address the police he encountered early Monday morning, and initially the police decided that Delatoba's disrespect rose to the level of a felony.

But Gamble wrote in his email, "After reviewing the initial facts of the case, it is clear that the responding officer incorrectly applied the law relative to a hate crime in this incident."  Gamble said the district attorney's office will have to make the final decision regarding what charges Delatoba will face, if any. "In the meantime," he wrote, "we are in the process of training all officers and supervisors on the updated law to ensure it is applied properly moving forward."

It's hard to imagine the "Blue Lives Matter" law being "applied properly" because the "Blue Lives Matter" law was unnecessary legislation that Gov. John Bel Edwards never should have signed.  There were already enhanced penalties for hurting law enforcement officers.  So what does the law do except give police permission to newly interpret obnoxious behavior as felonies?

The law is bad on its face, and no amount of training of officers and supervisors is likely to redeem it.
If the Governor signs a piece of shit law because it's politically expedient, then I'm sure he won't mind us appending his name to the law whenever it's mentioned.  

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Vitter's shadow

Some of the more compelling sport to be had during last year's governor's race was watching how many Republicans were willing to be seen at David Vitter campaign events. The supposition at the time was that a Governor Vitter would be in position back one of them as the successor to the Senate seat he would vacate. Turns out Vitter is leaving anyway. But not exactly by the way he had hoped. 

At the time, though, the Senatorial aspirant most conspicuously present at Vitter events was usually Charles Boustany
In the book, Murder in the Bayou — which will be released by Simon & Schuster’s Scribner imprint next week — investigative journalist Ethan Brown cites three anonymous sources claiming Republican Rep. Charles Boustany was a “client” of some of the murdered sex workers known as the “Jeff Davis 8.” The book also reveals that the motel where some of the victims did their sex work was run by Martin Guillory, a field representative for Boustany who goes by the nickname “Big G.”

Boustany, who is now running for U.S. Senate in Louisiana, denied the allegations to the author through a spokesman. Guillory, who ran the Boudreaux Inn from the late 1990s through the end of 2004, told the author he’d met “one or two” of the sex workers, as well as Frankie Richard, their pimp. But Guillory said he was unaware of any criminal activity taking place at the motel.

Between 2005 and 2009, the bodies of eight women were discovered in the canals and swamps surrounding the small town of Jennings in Louisiana’s Jefferson Davis Parish. The victims, whose murders remain unsolved, became known in the national media as the “Jeff Davis 8.”

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The plan is for nobody to actually live here

Well let's all mark our calendars. City Council is taking up the short term rental regulations on October 6.  
The City Council has scheduled a vote on short-term rental zoning changes for Oct. 6, in what's likely to be a marathon debate over the future of properties rented on websites such as Airbnb.

After hearing hours of testimony about proposed zoning changes for short-term rentals, the Planning Commission decided to retain a short-term rental ban for whole-home rentals, but allow people who live in a residence to rent out rooms on a short-term basis. The proposal would also allow whole-home short-term rentals in commercially zoned areas such as downtown.

But the Planning Commission vote was just a recommendation -- the Council has final say on whether it wants to change the zoning code. And if it does, there are questions about whether the city has the resources to enforce violators, or allow illegal short-term rentals to continue operating, as they are now.
The Planning Commission's decision to maintain its original limits on "whole home" rentals was looked on as something of a victory for STR skeptics at the time. But the catch to that is in the zoning. Pat explains this a bit in a recent column.  
Not only will short-term rentals be unlimited in Commercial zones, they will also be unlimited in something called “mixed-use” zoning. That’s a type of zoning that can include both commercial and residential uses. Unless you’re familiar with the CZO and zoning maps, you may not realize that in historic, core neighborhoods of New Orleans – the neighborhoods currently dealing with the highest number of short-term rentals – wide swaths of neighborhoods are considered “mixed-use.” That’s especially true if a property is located near a main street like Canal, Carrollton, Tulane, or Broad.

So yeah, that problem “whole-house” short-term rental you’re thinking might finally be shut down because it is in a remodeled home? Depends on what the property is zoned. If you’re in Mid-City, it is a coin flip whether or not CPC is going to be just fine with making that illegal hotel by your house a permitted use that will never go away. Better check those maps and the fine print in the law. At least you’ll know how much leverage your neighbors will be negotiating with when the short-term rental company offers the city some cash to get their own waiver.
The Advocate was on this in July when they produced this very scary map  of just how widespread the "whole home" problem could potentially be under the proposed regulations.

At a recent even hosted by the Louisiana Landmarks Society, economist Jay Brinkmann talked about inflationary pressure of short term rentals on housing costs
Because investors are buying properties knowing they can rent them out for a profitable income — in some cases gleaning a return of up to 10 percent annually — it means prices have been going up faster than the local economy can support, based on local incomes needed to support the prices.

This, in turn, means property taxes are going up, all the while creating a false sense of security about the housing market, Brinkmann said.

In his lecture, he compared the real estate market in New Orleans to that in 2008, when markets were dominated by investors in Florida and other states who fled after the cash flow dried up, thereby causing a sharp decline in property value.

Now, the same thing could happen in the Crescent City, he said, as areas change with the influx of short-term rental clientele, which alters the fabric of the neighborhood. Ultimately, he said, the resale value of homes could eventually be driven down, unless homeowners could find a short-term rental operator to buy it.

“We’ve seen that happen,” he added. “That’s the kind of risk I think we’re needlessly injecting into the neighborhoods here.”
STRs drive up property values by shifting housing stock over to the tourism market.  Housing prices become decoupled from the local wage economy such that nobody can afford to actually live here.  The only way, then, to maintain the inflated property values is to keep selling houses to people who plan to operate them as hotels. Brinkmann suggests that sort of bubble will collapse on its own at some point. I rather doubt it. Not as long as we keep choosing to inflate it.

Will the council and the mayor give a shit? Probably not.  Well, probably they won't give a shit about you, anyway.
In the meantime, Brinkmann said, because rising property taxes is good for the city and the mayor’s office, particularly as the year’s new budget is being formulated, City Council is under “tremendous pressure” to vote in favor of short-term rentals as a whole.

That pressure, Brinkmann said, could explain the “disconnect” he sees between lack of enforcement of short-term rentals seen already, and zealous enforcement of other housing-related laws, including those enacted to protect actual buildings within historic districts.

“Is city enforcement focused more on structures than people?” Brinkmann asked. “The attention paid to structures as opposed to attention paid to integrity of neighborhoods strikes me as a little incongruous.”
Should make for a fun meeting.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

What is even happening

Just your typical first week jitters. You know, that thing where the Saints suddenly decide that half the people who made the team didn't actually make the team. 

Courtland Finnegan out. Sterling Moore in.

Kai Forbath out. Some guy named Wil Lutz in.

Zombie Jahri Evans maybe in?

We saw this last year when the team made a sudden burst of moves just prior to the first game.
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — The New Orleans Saints have cut veteran running back Tim Hightower and veteran offensive lineman Mike McGlynn while placing rookie linebacker Davis Tull on injured reserve.

New Orleans also has activated receiver Seantavius Jones, fullback Toben Opurum and defensive back Don Jones from its practice squad.
Not that any of that mattered much. Hightower came back and ended up playing a lot last year. The  Joneses and Opurum contributed nothing.  The Saints also added Obum Gwachum at the last second last year. He has yet to do much of anything although he is still with the team at least. So maybe this is all just routine now and nothing to worry about.  On the other hand, last year we thought it an indication that the team had pretty much decided to phone 2015 in.  And that turned out to be pretty accurate. 

QOTD

Not Quite Undead Billy Cannon would not be amused.
Williams, who's the fifth-leading rusher in LSU history, gaining 2,987 yards from 1986 to 1990, didn't hold back.

"I bleed Purple and Gold, LSU is my life, man," Williams said. "At the end of the day, Les Miles and Cammy-Cam (offensive coordinator Cam Cameron) need to be run out of Baton Rouge, like them ol' Frankenstein movies with torches and all that. Everybody in Baton Rouge ought to light a torch.

"We sat there and watched this last year. After the third play of the (Wisconsin) game, I knew it was the same thing. It's not fair to all those kids out there. If Billy Cannon were dead right now, he'd be rolling in his grave. I feel like I'm watching the '56-'57 football team that was running like a 1920 offense."

Sounds like Harvey Williams has been watching too many horror movies.  But, man, did the knives ever come out for Les Miles quickly this year.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Late Labor Day links

In Jacobin, New Jersey City University professor of education Lois Weiner argues that it's time for the labor movement to move beyond hoping only for "a seat at the table" with an increasingly neoliberal Democratic Party. 
Yes, we must protect what the working class and unions have earned through generations of struggle and sacrifice — gains, it should be noted, that have been seriously compromised by the Democrats’ acquiescence to the corporate “common sense” of a social order that benefits the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us. But if we want to safeguard remaining protections — to say nothing of winning improvements — we’re undercutting ourselves by backing Clinton, a candidate who has sold out “on welfare, crime, race, labor, trade, drugs, and media.”

At the very least, if labor is going to try to rally votes for Clinton, it needs to do so with a program aimed at creating a progressive movement that will fight Clinton on her agenda. Put the choice as Adolph Reed has: defeating Trump is essential and that means voting for a candidate who is a “lying neoliberal war-monger.” Yet organized labor’s strategy with endorsing Clinton has been the exact opposite.
From Deasdspin, here is  Jack Moore on a recent NLRB ruling against an effort by Northwestern football players to organize. 
Here we are in 2015, and the NLRB has failed to recognize the labor rights of a group of football players, largely black men and men of color, who have dared to suggest the time and effort they put in should be considered work. By suggesting that the stability of college athletic labor relations is more important than the rights of players to organize, the NLRB has implicitly endorsed the current state of affairs, one where players are not only restricted from the billions of profits their work creates, but where some of these players go to bed hungry. All because their work doesn’t count as real labor.
From Slate, this is an investigation by Maria Hengeveld of the contrast between Nike's sweatshop operations in Southeast Asia and its hypocritical PR campaign claiming that the company is really all about "women's empowerment." The Nike ad campaign is called "Girl Effect" and is based on a notion popular among international development charities and related NGOs that investment in developing economies has a greater multiplier effect when directed primarily at women. The theory itself is compelling but, in Nike's hands, it becomes immediately and obviously problematic.
Over four weeks in January, I interviewed 18 women, 23 to 55 years old, who currently or recently produced, labeled, and packaged Nike shoes and apparel at five different factories within 30 miles of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. These plants are listed on Nike’s site as employing more than 61,000 female line workers, and Nike sends inspectors to the sites to monitor working conditions and compliance with the company’s Code of Conduct. Nike wouldn’t put me in touch with employees of its contract factories, so I contacted an underground workers’ rights organization and an independent researcher who specializes in women’s issues. The women they introduced me to live in squalid conditions near the factories, where they mostly share single rooms with two to five family members. Joined by translators, I visited their homes, met some of their daughters and families, listened to their stories, and collected documents including company policies and pay slips.

Although they may be unfamiliar with Nike’s global campaign, the goal of the women I spoke with sounds a lot like the Girl Effect—to raise themselves and their families out of poverty. Each of the 18 women, however, reported pay so low they could not even meet the basic needs of their families, let alone save money or contribute to their communities. (Four had been laid off less than three months before we met, after their factory building burnt down; they spoke only about their wages and child care, cautious of giving critiques that might jeopardize their chances of getting hired back.) They told me that they would need to earn between three to four times their current salaries to offer their families a basic level of economic security. The average monthly wage for manufacturing in Vietnam was $200 in 2015. Their stories highlighted something the Girl Effect campaign is silent about: the importance of a living wage.

I also found evidence that Nike’s contract factories breach basic Girl Effect tenets of freedom from exploitation and harassment, security, safety, and Nike’s own Code of Conduct, put in place to prohibit, among other things, harassment, abuse, and nonconsensual overtime. Women who worked in different factories told remarkably similar stories of being subjected to arbitrary punishments—such as financial penalties and threats of dismissal for making manufacturing mistakes, not working quickly enough, or coming in late, along with intimidation and ongoing humiliation by managers.

Finally, although the Girl Effect champions the importance of women protecting and empowering their own children, the women in Vietnam explained to me why their low wages make it impossible for them to ensure their children’s safety. The 10 mothers with young children whom I spoke with either send their children to unlicensed child care services they consider underqualified or dangerous or they leave them with family in home villages they are able to visit only once or twice a year.
This is no longer an argument for raising women out of poverty but a ready-made "woke" sounding excuse for exploiting their labor.  And Nike isn't alone in deploying the language of gender empowerment for cynical purposes. Consider also the Clinton Global Initiative's promotion of "microfinance" described in this Harper's piece by Thomas Frank.
These ideas made up the core of the Hillary Doctrine. Melanne Verveer, her ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, declared in 2011 that “financial inclusion is a top priority for the U.S. government” and announced her terrible chagrin that “three billion people in the world remain unbanked; the majority of them are women.” Hillary’s under­secretary for democracy and global affairs, Maria Otero, came to State from one of the biggest American micro­lending institutions, ACCION International. Now, in her official government capacity, she expressed her joy at how microfinance had evolved “from subsidized microloans to a focus on self-sufficiency, to an emphasis on savings, to a full suite of financial products delivered by commercial regulated banks”—and how all this had “affirmed the capacity of the poor to become economic actors in their own right.” Hillary herself proudly recalls in her memoirs how the State Department rebuilt Afghanistan by handing out “more than 100,000 small personal loans” to the women of that country.

These are fine, sterling sentiments. They suffer, however, from one big problem: microlending doesn’t work. As strategies for ending poverty go, micro­lending appears to be among the worst that has ever been tried, just one step up from doing nothing at all to help the poor. In a carefully researched 2010 book called Why Doesn’t Micro­finance Work? the development consultant Milford Bateman debunks virtually every aspect of the microloan gospel. Microlending doesn’t empower women, Bateman writes—instead, it makes them into debtors. It encourages people to take up small, futile enterprises that have no chance of growing or employing others. Sometimes micro­borrowers don’t even start businesses at all; they just spend the loan on whatever. Even worse: the expert studies that originally sparked the micro­lending boom turn out, upon reexamination, to have been badly flawed.

Nearly every country where microlending has been an important development strategy for the past few decades, Bateman writes, is now a disaster zone of indebtedness and economic backwardness. When he tells us that “the increasing dominance of the microfinance model in developing countries is causally associated with their progressive deindustrialization and infantilization,” he is being polite. The terrible implication of the facts he has uncovered is that microlending achieves the opposite of development. Even Soviet-style Communism, with its frequently mocked Five Year Plans, worked better than this strategy does, as Bateman shows in a tragic look at microloan-saturated Bosnia.

No matter. The liberal class is unlikely to abandon its romance with micro­finance, for yet another reason: it is profitable. Lending to the poor, as every subprime-mortgage originator knows, can be a lucrative business. Mixed with international feminist self-righteousness, it is also a bulletproof business, immune to criticism. Naturally the international goodness community discovered that empowering poor women by lending to them at usurious interest rates was a fine thing all around.
Last week when Hillary wing Democrats screamed their heads off in indignation that anyone would impugn the Clinton Global Initiative and all the good it does for poor people around the world, this is what they were talking about. 

Finally, I very much enjoyed this article from NOLA.com on the history of people selling and eating sandwiches in New Orleans. But I couldn't help but see it as maybe a bit of an attempt on the part of the T-P editors to diminish the connection between the  "Po-Boy" and the labor movement.  

History has it that the po-boy was invented by the Martin brothers, Benny and Clovis, to feed striking streetcar drivers in New Orleans in 1929.
According to an account on the website of the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival, Benny Martin once said: "We fed those men free of charge until the strike ended. Whenever we saw one of the striking men coming, one of us would say, 'Here comes another poor boy.'"

It is true that the Martin brothers wrote a letter, addressed to the striking drivers and printed in at least one local newspaper, in which they promised to feed the men. "Our meal is free to any members of Division I94," they wrote, omitting any description of what that meal might be.

But history is often not neat. The explanation for how things came to be can change over time. What is accepted as gospel in one generation may bear little resemblance to what was previously believed. Sometimes what sticks is the best story. This is how legends are made.
The article goes on to describe the shocking fact that meats and seafoods were placed between slices of French bread and consumed prior to 1929.  But there's nothing in it that leads us to the definite conclusion that the appellation "poor boy" was a common name for this type of sandwich prior the Martins' famous act of solidarity with the striking transit workers. Nice touch finding the ad for the "Comus Soda Fountain" though. 

"Not necessarily blocked"

Y'all have to know what kind of football season this is going to be.  It's not going to be one of those big beautiful Trumpwalls of catharsis seasons where our heroes accomplish great things and leave us with joyful memories of triumph to talk about for years and years. If that's what you're expecting this year, you're only setting yourself up to be disappointed.

What's worse, if you're too let down you'll be too angry to appreciate what this football season actually is going to be about.  This is going to be a season of rake gags.



We're going to watch our heroes stumble over the same obstacle over and over until the repetition is what actually makes it funny. Here is how the rake gag works.  First, the audience is made to watch Drew Brees sacked violently or Brandon Harris throw a game-sinking pick.  Then, as the shock of of that sets in, they are made to watch it again. And then again and again until it becomes tiresome. After that, the gag continues until it somehow becomes funny again. It's a bit of a comedy cliche but, as those go, it's a pretty good one.

Sometimes it helps if we add an element to keep it fresh, though. So here is little Les Miles, age 5, avatar of human frailty, here to help us add a touch of emo to our gallows humor.

just gonna fidget with my 
sharpie


Miles credited Harris with getting out of the way, but the play ended in an interception that killed the last chance at winning the game.

"He dodged extremely well," Miles said. "He was getting sacked, pivoted out of the grasp of the defender and didn't make the throw he wanted to make. There was some difficulty getting plays in that we need some work on. It's more than a quarterback. It's a team issue."
The dodging was pretty good. LSU's team, much like the Saints, have a bit of an offensive line problem.  On Saturday, they used three different tackles to no good effect.  Even when Harris was completing passes, he never looked especially comfortable.  But that's going to be an obvious and recurring theme throughout the season.  Maybe it will get funny on its own. But until it does, at least we have deflated Les here to deadpan the descriptions.
"I really have to see the film," Miles said for the third time in his post-game interview. "It seems to me there were some guys that were not necessarily blocked. I know some guys had a heck of a day, blocked extremely well. We'll have to see how it goes.

"We didn't move the football like we are capable. At times we threw the ball well. At times we turned it over."
Some guys were not necessarily blocked. This is going to be a great season. You just have to understand now the specific way it's going to be great. Some teams will not necessarily win much. But we'll figure out how to make it fun.

But we'd better do that quickly because some especially bitter folks are already looking to make if very not fun if they can.