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Paradise plastic. Cheap and fantastic.



Updated: 2017-10-20T16:58:09.896-05:00

 



Comparing Presidents is sophistry

2017-10-20T16:12:37.996-05:00

George Bush was a very bad President.  This week, many liberal commentators are using him this week as some sort of comparative barometer of decency for a cynical political purpose. The cynical political purpose isn't even that valuable. They merely mean to say, in so many words, Trump is gross.  That seems obvious enough. We shouldn't have to make ridiculous compromises with the Bush legacy in order to say that.
In his speech on Thursday, Bush criticized the Trump administration's immigration policies, remarking, "We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America." But when Bush was in office, he deported thousands of Muslim immigrants after the 9/11 attacks. As Glenn Greenwald noted at the Intercept in 2015, the former president also "quickly and secretly implemented an illegal scheme of warrantless domestic eavesdropping aimed largely at Muslims."

Before Trump took office, there was concern that his administration would create a database of Muslims, which he repeatedly threatened to do (before denying he made those threats). But Bush did actually create such a database, called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), that, according to CNN, "disproportionately targeted Arabs and Muslims and was a point of contention between rights groups and the federal government for nearly a decade." (Barack Obama's administration ended the system, saying it had become outdated.)

Trump has created a commission to study "voter fraud" in an obvious effort to intimidate voters and drive turnout down—Bush did the same thing. Trump has appointed unqualified cronies to important posts—Bush nominated his White House counsel, who had never been a judge, to the Supreme Court. Trump's administration denies climate change is a problem—so did Bush's.

It's not just that Bush was bad too. (Bush was very very bad too!) The point is that the bad Presidencies of Bush and Trump (and yes I would throw Obama in with them) do not exist in isolation from one another. One shapes the world in which the other can exist. Bush is the context from which Trump derives. Trump is a monster. Bush was one of the monsters that begat this one.  One implicates the other. There's no honest way to do a favorable/unfavorable comparison.  But there are a lot of dishonest people out there.



It was twice as big

2017-10-20T11:44:08.410-05:00

Ho hum, nothing to see as usual.



Will the new hotels be unionized?

2017-10-20T11:41:22.795-05:00

I wonder which "vast new hotel development nearby" the Unite Here organizers were talking about here.
Lila Zucker, a bartender at Loews New Orleans Hotel, said her chronic health issues would prevent her from working without the $10 a month health insurance she's able to purchase through the hotel's union contract. Odell Brown, who works as a banquet steward at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, called for workers to receive a larger piece of the company's more than $10 billion in annual revenue. Gabby Bolden, a banquet server at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, mentioned rumors of a vast new hotel in development nearby.

"It is our business to make sure that [any new hotel] jobs are union jobs with decent wages and benefits," she said. "We all deserve a fair wage."
It says, "rumors" so I thought first of the so-called Trade District development expansion of the upriver Convention Center property. On our NOligarchs map (which needs some updating, btw) we were calling this area "Jaegertown" because Joe Jaeger and Darryl Berger appeared to have an inside track as developers there.   But just this month, we read that project has been "mothballed" for the time being. So what's the big thing in the works now?

There's Four Seasons moving into WTC (eventually) but that's much more than a "rumor" at this point. Heck, its projected revenue is already part of mayoral candidate Desiree Charbonnet's budget plans.  Speaking of which, I guess neither candidate made it out to the Unite Here rally. That's kind of a shame given that organizing hospitality is going to have to be a top priority for anyone committed to battling economic inequality in New Orleans under the next administration. (We're still not sure LaToya Cantrell even believes inequality is a problem.)  There were a couple of council candidates out there, though.
Bolden also urged elected officials to support local organizing efforts, but two City Council candidates who attended the rally already had pledged their support. James Gray, the incumbent District E councilman currently in a  Nov. 18 runoff election against opponent Cyndi Nguyen, donned a red UNITE HERE shirt and vowed to assist to the union in contract negotiations if he is re-elected.

Jay Banks, who faces Seth Bloom in a runoff for the District B City Council seat, also spoke, saying he would be "a friend" to unions if elected. "Making sure that families can work and afford to live is crucial to the survival of this city," he said.
Banks has also served on the Convention Center board so it's significant that he's aware of the need for stronger unions in hospitality.  Bloom is the only candidate on the citywide slate I've seen actually oppose a $15 minimum wage. So that's a pretty stark contrast. 



GOMESA Went missing

2017-10-19T17:49:54.691-05:00

Okay nevermind the title. We'll workshop it.  Here's what's happening.
An unexpected shortfall in Louisiana’s share of offshore oil and gas royalties could force the state to delay or cancel coastal restoration projects scheduled to start as soon as 2019, according to the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Officials said Wednesday that the state’s share of revenue next year from the federal Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA, will be about half of what they had expected.

Until recently, Louisiana anticipated a payout of about $175 million, the maximum allowed under the royalty-sharing agreement. The first major payment was to come in the spring.

Of that, $140 million would have gone to the coastal restoration authority. Now, the agency expects to receive just $60 million to $70 million.
That's... a lot less than expected. What's expected is nowhere near the tens of billions of dollars that are needed just to somewhat satisfactorily mitigate the catastrophic land loss we're already certain to experience in the coming decades.  Also, Trump wants to scrap the GOMESA fund in his budget plan.  This comes after we had to beat back a different plan by the Obama Administration to reallocate the money as well.  Good thing we've got nothing but time here, right?



Standing offers

2017-10-19T13:15:07.485-05:00

I would just like to remind everyone I am willing to accept the post of Inpector General or one of the 10 other Inspectors General whose jobs will mostly be about investigating one another once those positions become available. I'm pretty confident there's money to be made in a job like that if you know how to play the angles.

Also I am available to manage or advise a campaign for anybody running in the next local election cycle who wants to win.  I will tell you exactly how for one million dollars. Oh and don't worry I don't think this gig will interfere with my duties as Inspector General. In fact I can think of some ways these roles could prove complementary. 



Amazon is not coming here

2017-10-19T10:53:26.074-05:00

New Orleans is not going to win the big national corporate welfare sweepstakes to lure one of the country's most notorious labor abusers to build a headquarters here. This is probably a good thing. It means local poor people won't be subsidizing whatever package of "tax incentives" are required to bring in the "quality tech jobs" that won't go to them anyway.  The local booster crowd needs to find a new obsession.

This does NOT mean they should get any ideas about handing whole neighborhoods over to tech conglomerates so that they can turn them into EPCOTs. Somebody already thought of that.



So far behind that nobody actually lives here

2017-10-18T17:54:52.517-05:00

A lot of cities suffer from this kind of local inferiority complex combined with cluelessness (to put it charitably) among the political leadership.  New Orleans is an especially bad example.
Researcher Jeffrey Goodman has looked into short-term rental ordinances across the U.S. He says when it comes to city regulation, there are typically three waves. First, there’s the original ordinance on the books, usually from the 1950s, that doesn’t work to accommodate any short-term rental arrangement, because it doesn’t include any enforcement mechanism. Next, cities usually try to work with the rental platforms.

“They were like ‘we’re hip, we’re cool,’” says Goodman of what he has observed of city governments’ attitude toward working with the companies in recent years. “And they worked with these companies not realizing that it’s regulatory capture. Not realizing that having the companies have a lot of influence in writing their own ordinance led to bad outcomes, and a lot of cities felt played.”

The third wave, according to Goodman, is currently unfolding in places like Anaheim and San Francisco, with cities requiring more of the companies and the latter responding with litigation.
New Orleans officials like to brag about their "first of a kind" short term rental regulations.  In truth, they're really just behind the curve again. What happens when we get to the "third wave" described above?  That will depend on who is running things at that time and what their attitude might be.



Primary post-mortems

2017-10-18T16:16:54.403-05:00

Posting here has been kind of slow because I'm writing up a bunch of stuff about the primary results. The short version is the mayor's race is over and the reason for that is the Charbonnet campaign blew it big time on many fronts. What I'm writing are a series of posts that examine several of those fronts in detail.

To understand why it's over, one need only  take a look at The Lens's precinct maps. Specifically, look at all of these Cantrell precincts (in green) in the Lower Ninth and in East New Orleans that Charbonnet needed to carry in order to have any shot in the runoff.


I'm going to write more about why it went this way later. But just know, for now, Charbonnet isn't going to dig out of that hole.  Cantrell is looking at something like 60% of the vote in the runoff now.

There's a lot more to say about all of this. In the meantime here is a starter question to think about.  This week, Cantrell's backers (and some ostensibly neutral observers) are heralding her "progressive" and even "populist" campaign.  Why is it none among them seems to have noticed this one quote from election night picked up on only (as far as I can tell) by me and conservative TP columnist Tim Morris
Cantrell, meanwhile, will be trying to assure her doubters that she is not the radical community organizer of their nightmares and that her experience representing City Council District B has prepared her to become mayor.

"I'm not talking now about taking from the rich and giving to the poor and all that kind of crap," Cantrell said in a telling moment of her victory speech. "What I'm talking about is creating balance so everyone feels like they're winners. We all can win. It is not a zero sum game as we have been made to believe. We will not be pitting neighborhoods against one another, we will be building up neighborhoods."
I'll come back to that as well as ton of other stuff later. But I'd love to hear Cantrell voters, in particular, describe what they think it means.



It happens all the time

2017-10-17T08:23:59.950-05:00

We really only hear about the big ones. But even those are pretty low key compared to the big one.
An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last week may be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 blowout at BP Plc’s Macondo well that sank the Deepwater Horizon rig.

The Delta House floating production facility about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Venice, Louisiana, released 7,950 to 9,350 barrels of oil from early Wednesday to Thursday morning, according to closely held operator LLOG Exploration Co. That would make it the largest spill in more than seven years, data from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement show, even though it’s a fraction of the millions of barrels ejected in the 2010 incident.
Sounds serious, right? It barely registered in this news cycle. (In part thanks to an different oil rig exploding in Lake Pontchartrain, by the way.) But really it's all just business as usual.
Even a few thousand gallons of spilled oil is consequential. Even more consequential are more than 30,000 of those so-called small spills each year. Which is probably the bare minimum spill estimate, says Manthos of SkyTruth. Really, it's hard to know if this figure is complete, and even harder to calculate the volume of oil being leaked. Some new oil equipment is smart enough to know when, and measure how much, it leaks. But those sensors can malfunction. Plus most oil infrastructure is way older. Most of the time oil companies, activists, and the US Coast Guard are all doing some version of educated guessing.
Basically, oil is always spilling or leaking into the gulf. Every now and then we get to hear about it.



Paranoia

2017-10-16T19:45:12.958-05:00

Who watches the watchers of the watchers and why?
Adding to the palace intrigue already engulfing his office, retiring New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux on Monday fired a top deputy who authored a report that said the office was plagued with the same kind of corruption it was created to root out.

Quatrevaux called the report by Howard Schwartz biased and aimed at impugning a potential rival of Schwartz's. The IG terminated Schwartz, the assistant IG for investigations, just days before he was due to take over the office on an interim basis.

However, Schwartz's firing won't change that, according to Ethics Review Board Chairman Allen Miller, who earlier this month tapped Schwartz to replace Quatrevaux temporarily when the inspector general retires on Thursday.

Schwartz is also a candidate to succeed Quatrevaux permanently, a decision that will be made by the Ethics Review Board, which oversees the inspector general's work.
Or to put it another way, anybody who tells your they're just here to get the politics out of politics is probably also politically motivated. Why do we even have an IG's office other than for the purpose of keeping up appearances?



It's actually worse if you impeach him

2017-10-16T12:02:55.356-05:00

This is a separate question from whether or not he ought to be impeached. There's plenty reason to believe any of the many threads of corruption that constantly spool outward from Trump will lead us to that. We're not quite there yet but it's not hard to see. Of course, it will never happen with a GOP Congress but that's a third question already and we really just started this with a notion to consider one.  That question is, after Trump is removed, will it be worse?  Yes it probably will.
A staff member from Trump’s campaign recalls him mocking Pence’s religiosity. He said that, when people met with Trump after stopping by Pence’s office, Trump would ask them, “Did Mike make you pray?” Two sources also recalled Trump needling Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality. During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. “You see?” Trump asked Pence. “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.” When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”



Congratulations Mayor Cantrell

2017-10-15T08:29:02.346-05:00

More on this later because today is a Saints game and I gotta go to the Dome. But just for handicappers out there check out Grace this morning.
There was some expectation that Charbonnet, whose family has deep roots downtown, would dominate those precincts, and that Cantrell would perform best Uptown, where she represents City Council District B. Cantrell did indeed own the precincts above Canal Street, with the exception of some largely white areas that Bagneris won. But she also showed surprising strength in what was supposed to be Charbonnet's home base, where she won a quite a few precincts outright. That's got to be a concern to the Charbonnet camp.
Grace goes on to say a few things there I think are either misleading or flat out wrong but, like I said, we'll come back to that. The above paragraph is the story.  This thing is over. You might as well stop the fight here.



Free Ray

2017-10-14T09:45:41.065-05:00

I'm sure there are many people who are worried about the implications of the McDonnell case for the future. And I'm sure those people have some good points to make about that. But all things being equal, Nagin has probably suffered enough already. There are plenty of public officials who have done worse and been punished less severely for it.Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has asked a federal judge to throw out his corruption conviction, citing a recent Supreme Court decision making it more difficult to convict public officials of bribery.Acting as his own attorney, Nagin filed a motion Wednesday "to vacate, set aside or correct" his 10-year sentence for bribery, "honest-services" wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering and filing false tax returns.Nagin argues that his case is identical to corruption cases recently overturned by U.S. Supreme Court concerning former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and by a federal appeals court concerning former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.Nagin's case was reassigned Thursday to U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo. The judge who presided over Nagin's trial retired last year.One thing we could stress about Nagin's case, though, is it's important to remember how he came into office in the first place. Once upon a time, Ray Nagin was sold to voters as an innovative entrepreneur who was going to run city government like a business.  A vote for Ray was a vote against the "corrupt machine."Of course, in New Orleans politics, "corrupt machine" is a term applied to traditionally black political organizations. There are plenty of powerful and corrupt white operators in town but they're usually described as "business leaders." It's a convenient shorthand for signaling to racially motivated voters even when there is no actual white person among the major candidates. This terminology persists in campaign 2017 coverage.The lesson of Ray Nagin should have been that one need not be part of the "corrupt machine," to engage in corrupt practices. But the "business leaders" have since revised the story to the point where nobody is able to agree as to which side owned Nagin in the first place. And, of course, since nobody remembers anything that happens, we'll have to go around like this again and again.On the other hand this year's business leader reform candidate may have an easier time of things.  If the McDonnell decision can vacate Nagin's conviction, it may prevent the next Nagin from even being prosecuted. Given the arbitrary nature of the justice system as it is, that may not be a bad thing altogether. Although, one can imagine that current and future public officials might feel emboldened by this and, well, all sorts of things.The Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans has declared an "extreme emergency" to hasten the repairs of an unusual electricity-generating turbine that's been in disrepair for more than a decade.Without so-called Turbine 4, the agency can't produce enough electricity to power the city's aging drainage system during heavy thunderstorms, S&WB deputy superintendent Bruce Adams wrote Sunday (Oct. 8) in a letter calling for the emergency.The declaration gives the agency's executive staff free rein to buy any parts and equipment and hire any outside specialists to finish a repair job that ballooned to $24 million and has stretched on for more than five years.  [...]



How much money is Ron Forman's con-profit stealing this time?

2017-10-13T12:45:00.295-05:00

Do we even ask that sort of question anymore? Or is it just a matter of course that the oligarchs always get a cut?
Another point of confusion over how far along designs are for the bridge depended on the involvement of the Audubon Nature Institute, which Berni said "will be in charge of construction" of the bridge and will "take part in the design process." The mayor's office's announcement last week revealed the new bridge would be built on property owned by Audubon and connecting with the nonprofit's Aquarium of the Americas. Berni said Wednesday that the city is currently working out a cooperative endeavor agreement with Audubon to make use of the property for the bridge.
Meanwhile, they're having trouble explaining to councilmembers why the pedestrian bridge costs so much.  One thing they are sure they don't want to spend any money on, though, is giving homeless people a place to get out of the rain. Even if that means, you don't get one either.
Pressed by Guidry, Berni further hinted that aside from added costs, one impetus for keeping the bridge roofless might be to discourage homeless people from being there.

"Yeah, I think that's probably one reason," Berni said. "But I'm sure there are many others, including cost."



Can we please finish the War On Halloween first?

2017-10-13T10:36:44.156-05:00

No discipline in this administration. Just going to keep blundering into wars at full speed.
Trump, nine months into his presidency, has found it harder to get things done than the ease with which he made promises on the campaign trail, making speeches to adoring audiences like Friday's in Washington key to boosting the President's morale. And the audience at the Values Voter Summit, an annual socially conservative conference, didn't fail to deliver.
 
"We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values," Trump said to applause, before slamming people who don't say "Merry Christmas."
 
"They don't use the word Christmas because it is not politically correct," Trump said, complaining that department stores will use red and Christmas decorations but say "Happy New Year." "We're saying Merry Christmas again."
Congratulations on finally getting us back to the Bush years. Not only culturally but strategically as well. And, yes, yes, of course Obama mostly stayed the Imperial course foreign policywise. But we're getting back now to overt neocon bluster here. Maybe this is what MAGA was always about.  



Real quick cheat code to the mayor's race

2017-10-13T12:59:34.327-05:00

In one corner, you have the following.

Sidney Torres
Frank Stewart
Anne Milling
Neil  Abramson
Leslie Jacobs
Boysie Bollinger
Lane Grigsby
Jay Lapeyre


In the other corner, you have what the wealthy white plutocrats listed above and their allies in local media  refer to as a "corrupt machine" because that is how you dogwhistle in New Orleans politics.  Like we've been saying all along, this is 2002 all over again. I think the result is likely to be similar as well.

Meanwhile, here's the show we recorded this week. It expands on the above points. Sorry it's so long but there was a special guest and a lot of stuff to talk about.  We cover the election in the first hour (just after the hurricane talk) and included in that coverage is a minor scandal we're pretty sure is an exclusive.

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We'll write more before the polls close tomorrow. Here are a few items we've posted previously that might be worth review.

In August we looked at the controversies over Bagneris's and Charbonnet's respective donors and what that means in the bigger picture. 

Last week we took notes on the WDSU debate and hashed out the four "major" candidates' positions and strategy.

Also here is the AntiGravity No Nonsense Guide which I always find helpful.

Oh and last week's podcast had some stuff on Torres's involvement.



Trump is "normal"

2017-10-11T17:06:37.584-05:00

That is to say, the Trump phenomenon our friends in the professional political establishment prefer to view as some sort of aberration is actually nothing of the sort. Instead it's just the latest waypoint in a long running American trudge to the far right that shows no signs of slowing.
Several leaders of key activist groups held a news conference Wednesday to denounce Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his leadership team, accusing them of ignoring grass-roots conservatives and hitting them for the GOP’s failure to repeal Obamacare.

“This pattern of failure from McConnell’s gang of five leadership team while loathing and attacking their own base, the most loyal bloc of voters that has elected them and all of their caucus members, can no longer be tolerated,” said Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has supported conservative challengers take on GOP incumbents.
There is always room on the right to outflank even the most reactionary Republicans. The signatories to this attack on McConnell know. They've only been at this forever
First there’s Richard Viguerie, basically the inventor of right wing direct mail fundraising. In many ways Viguerie invented clickbait and fake news decades before the Internet. He’s 84.

Then there’s Brent Bozell. Bozell has lived his entire life in the sinecure right wing activism world, which some very unnice people are ungenerous enough to call the world of ‘wingnut welfare’. He founded the Media Research Center in 1987 – full-time yakking about ‘liberal media bias’. His father was L. Brent Bozell, Jr., partner with Bill Buckley is launching much of what we know as movement conservatism today. Among many other things he ghosted Barry Goldwater’s ‘Conscience of a Conservative’, a bible of young conservatives in the early 60s which helped launch his 1964 presidential run.

To the extent that Trump is something ‘new’ in the GOP firmament, these folks are as old as it gets. The other three all predate Trump and in key cases predate the Tea Party. Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots is the ‘newest’ person on the list.
It's a little weird that Marshall goes on almost to discount the significance of this even as he recognizes it. 
There’s no new anything. Trump is the candidate of the most unreconstructed elements of movement conservatism. In many ways, the folks modern conservatives don’t want to associate with publicly anymore.
Not sure what he means by "modern conservatives."  If he thinks they're anything apart from the movement that spent the last several decades getting us to Trump, he's wrong about that. Also I would argue there's nothing to stop them continuing on in this direction indefinitely.



It has barely rained

2017-10-11T18:31:45.283-05:00

(image)

Mackel followed up on that with a question to the mayor about enforcement in the event that some businesses remained open or hosted any sort of "hurricane party."  Mitch, visibly aggravated, warned that anybody out on the streets when the wind picks up "might catch a stop sign to the head."  

It's about 7:30 right now, Nate has made a "first landfall" in Plaquemines Parish. The wind is barely blowing in New Orleans and the National Weather Service has dropped the hurricane warning for Orleans Parish. WWLTV just reported from Bourbon Street where there are plenty people milling about after curfew.  Good for them. But, um, can we come out too yet?