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Paradise plastic. Cheap and fantastic.

Updated: 2016-10-22T15:13:09.724-05:00


Any of these guys could lose


In case you missed this week's Senate debate, here is that. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">I wrote an itty bit about the Senate race on Tuesday and I'm sure there will be more before election day. (We also got into it a little on the last Hunkerdowncast.) But here are just a couple of quick notes on the debate to keep things short.First, we already knew this was a lame field. But it took seeing (some of) the candidates interacting on stage together to show just how weak each is in his or her own way.  Holding aside each candidate's fundamentals in terms of geographic or ideological base, name recognition, etc. and just looking at them as campaigners, they're all pretty bad to downright terrible. All things being equal, any of them could lose to any other. Anyway, here's the quick and dirty.1) Caroline Fayard, as she has for much of the campaign, looked unready. Her responses sounded, not only like she was reciting a script, but also like she was nervously rushing to get through it. The saving grace there is that anything she says is wholly devoid of substance anyway. Her position on the state's lawsuit against the oil and gas industry continues to be weak tea. When she wasn't mumbling around about the futility of legal action, Fayard said she plans to assemble "a coalition of the willing" to fight coastal loss. That she would describe a project by invoking George W. Bush's phrase used to sell his Iraq invasion to doesn't instill much confidence. We don't know which staffer wrote that for her. We hope whoever it is is paid well.2) Foster Campbell is, of this bunch, the candidate who comes nearest to getting the key issues right. He's the only candidate who backs the coastal lawsuit. In fact, he's the only one willing to fully accept the science on climate change being caused by human activity. (Although, we'd love to hear him try to say the word, anthropogenic out loud.)But there's a reason Campbell has never been a successful statewide candidate.  He's a crappy campaigner who can't fend off even the most obvious attacks.  During the direct question part of the debate, sandwich magnate John Flemming attacked Campbell with a standard "guns and fetuses" type question tying Campbell (perhaps unfairly) to national Democrats' positions on abortion and gun control.  Foster could only boast of owning 36 shotguns in response leaving voters to determine whether they think that's a pointless dodge or a disturbing image.3) Charles Boustany is boring.  This may work for him as much as it does against him.  For one thing, it helps him present as the least amateurish among the rough edged doofuses populating this very weak field. Because of this he can talk convincingly about his ability to "get results" without anyone remarking on the fact that those "results" mean the regular package of deregulation and favors for oil and chemical companies or trade and immigration policy that favors employers who rely on virtual slave labor.  It also might work to minimize the damage done by his having been linked to a salacious murder and prostitution scandal in Jeff Davis Parish. Voters may have difficulty processing that association if they aren't convinced the candidate has much of a pulse to begin with.4) John Fleming is trying to corner the Generic Tea Party market. But that's not easy for him to do if he can't bribe Rob Maness out of the race OR draw enough support to keep freaking David Duke from qualifying to appear in debates. By the way, has Fleming considered trying to buy Duke out?  We're pretty sure he will take the money.5) John Neely Kennedy is the smarmiest, phoniest, most despicable person, not only on that debate stage, but possibly in the entire state of Louisiana. He's a textbook example of what happens when a social incompetent tries to do politics. This is the only person we know of capable of inserting himself into the Boustany prostitution scandal and looking like the grosser person in the process. He is Louis[...]

The "very reasonable request" wasn't enough


Nobody could have predicted that.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has increased the amount of money he thinks the state needs for federal flood relief — from $2.8 billion to $4 billion.

In a letter to President Barack Obama on Friday, Edwards said that the total impact of the catastrophic flood that swept across South Louisiana in August, killing 13 people and leaving thousands of homes damaged or destroyed, is becoming clearer as officials assess the damages.
Except, we did predict it with just a little back of the napkin math that could still mean they aren't asking for enough. The best I could guess was they'd need between $3 and $6.4 billion to fund the recovery plan... which we also sketched out for them here.

So close to finding out what's in Stuart Fisher's vault


Somebody call Geraldo. We're going in.
The developer who won the right to redevelop the World Trade Center appears to be within striking distance of resolving a lawsuit brought by a Florida developer that has held up the project since March 2015.

Orleans District Court Judge Tiffany Chase on Thursday (Oct. 20) set a trial for the lawsuit to begin on Nov. 21, which was considered a victory for Cambridge, Mass.-based Carpenter and Co. and New Orleans-based Woodward Interests. The two companies are planning a $360 million, 350-room Four Seasons with 76 hotel-serviced condos, and have been trying for months to get a trial date set to avoid further delays in the case.

The lawsuit has halted what had been steady progress for the city to complete a redevelopment deal after choosing Carpenter and Woodward from a competitive bid process. There had been questions from the start over whether Two Canal Street Investors could obtain financing; the lawsuit was filed questioning the selection process.

But the winning developers could have a chance to resolve the lawsuit before the trial date. Chase also set a hearing for Nov. 7 to determine whether the plaintiff, Two Canal Street Investors, still has legal standing to continue litigating at trial. In a series of bizarre developments that played out in court on Thursday, Chase allowed the Two Canal Street Investors' attorneys to withdraw from the case, and reviewed documents that raised questions about whether the company even exists and the person behind it.
Are we really about to find out who Two Canal Street Investors actually is? We've been waiting for so long, I thought we'd never get here.  What if it's nobody.
The questions came up after the resignation earlier this month of Stuart "Neil" Fisher, a Florida real estate investor, who had been the face of Two Canal Street Investors. But Chase was told Thursday that a new, mysterious overseas investor has taken over for Fisher.
Holy shit what if it's Putin! Guess we'll check back on November 7. One day before Election Day. Surely this is just a coincidence. 

Update: Was in a hurry when I posted this so I forgot to mention one thing.  A clear sign that everyone thinks this is finally the endgame to the lawsuit is the mayor's decision to account for it in his budget proposal.
The city is also expecting increased revenue from several other sources. Property tax collections came in about $4.4 million higher than originally expected in 2016. About $2 million is expected from permits and fees once the World Trade Center Redevelopment begins. And about $1 million is expected from sales taxes at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome due to a change in state law this year.
Could also be BS just like the rest of the budget. But it at least reflects confidence on their part. 

Ridiculously miniscule


The election "rigging" is not going well.
Louisiana’s chief election officer, Secretary of State Tom Schedler, says voters don’t have to worry about a “rigged election,” and charges his party’s presidential standard bearer, Donald Trump, with “overplaying the fraud card.”

Trump repeatedly has warned of rampant voter fraud that could throw the Nov. 8 election to Hillary Clinton.

“I’m telling you, November 8 (Election Day), we better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged. And I hope the Republicans are watching closely, or it is going to be taken away from us,” Trump warned as early as August and has been focusing on that warning in the last week.

Schedler disagrees that voters need to be watching out for fraud when they vote.

“For (every) 10 complaints, we maybe get one thing of some substance, and usually it is something ridiculously minuscule,” Schedler said.

They don't care about you


The politics of climate change and coastal loss is never about pulling together to solve a common problem. It is about every faction fighting to be the one that absorbs the least of the cost.  In South Louisiana this means a political class owned by oil companies looks to protect those oil companies at the expense of everyone else they ostensibly represent.
A paradox hung over Wednesday’s legislative hearing. The parishes most at risk of slowly disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico – particularly Lafourche and Terrebonne – are the most vociferous opponents of suing the oil and gas companies, because their local economies depend on the industry.
Politics is not about magically divining a perfect consensus that benefits everyone. Politics is abiut conflict. The winners impose their version of "consensus" on the lossrs. And most of the time the surest way to be a winner is to start with money.

In New Orleans, for example,  there's no such thing as a "reasonable compromise" on the short term rental question. There is only a well financed faction of landlords trying to impose its version of consensus on the rest of us.  Our mayor and Council members will pretend they're there to facilitate reasonable compromise but that is not actually their function. Politicians are not leaders or founts of venerable wisdom.  They are tools by which political factions attack one another. Sometimes... on very rare occasions.... the tools can be manipulated by direct democracy but that takes time, energy, and organization.  Most of the time difference they just respond to money.

Mitch Landrieu does not care about renters


Nothing new since yesterday. Just reiterating.
"I was encouraged at first," said Carol Gniady, executive director of the Louisiana Landmarks Society and a Marigny resident.

But on Tuesday, Gniady learned of proposed ordinance changes that showed officials are considering allowing people to rent out entire homes for as many as 120 days each year.

Although the mayor's administration billed the changes as a compromise, Gniady said the proposal was in many ways what opponents of whole home rentals had always feared. Under the proposal, owners of whole homes could be rented out every day of every weekend, leaving them empty on weekdays and without the possibility of renting or selling to people who want to live in the neighborhood for the long term.

"I feel the city is selling us out -- they're selling us out for the tourist industry so that they have a place to come and party, disrupting the quality of neighborhoods," Gniady said. "It's just really sad that the city is at this point where they're willing to cater to visitors over the needs of residents."
They care about their friends and relatives. They don't give a shit about you. They prove it every day. 



J.P. Morrell writes in to the Advocate
The compromise being proposed by STR proponents is no compromise at all. This new language seeks to expand the Temporary STR permit to 120 days a year (instead of 30) and omits the Homestead Exemption requirement. It’s a disingenuous effort by STR supporters to circumvent the City Planning Commission and the public process. Essentially, it allows Whole Home STRs with less regulation.

To be clear, the ordinance without this new, so called compromise language accomplishes what many individuals sought, the ability to rent part of your home to pay your mortgage. The omission of the Homestead Exemption requirement allows our housing market to be overrun by out of state investors snatching up housing stock.

Consider this: AirBNB began in San Francisco years ago as new, wondrous, disruptive industry that was supposed to add to that city’s diversity and innovation. AirBNB’s has run roughshod over all rules, laws and efforts to protect San Francisco residents. Housing stock is short, rents are high, and it is now a city overrun with tourists rather than residents. San Francisco has battled, repeatedly, to put the genie back in the bottle and failed. Even now, AirBNB sues to block, or ignores, any attempt to make them accountable for their actions.

For once, as a city and state, let’s not ignore the history or facts. We in New Orleans should learn from San Francisco’s mistakes. Giving STRs the keys to our city, and our neighborhoods, will lead to the rest of us being evicted.

Gumbo season



So shut up about kale already. It works fine in the gumbo.  Meanwhile the gumbo cooking hasn't helped the fall weather roll in quite the way we'd like. But we'll keep trying.

The Joe Callahan Era


Welcome to the future 

"Why'd it take you this long?"


It was getting to be pretty depressing watching Hillary and the Democrats embrace and congratulate every craven Republican who suddenly abandoned Trump just as he finally started to crash and burn. These Republicans are thoroughly undeserving of praise, many of them having supported, passed, and signed horrifying legal actions against women in the form of health care restrictions, limits on the availability of abortion, forced ultrasounds, etc.

By and large Democrats were letting them get away with this because it was a cheap way to make their Presidential candidate look more "bipartisan" or whatever. That was stupid.  Here is a clip of the President in Ohio today doing better.

But but but... it's just risotto recipes


I'm looking forward to the end of the 2016 campaign.  It was fun during the primaries when the Democrats were actually arguing over the outsized  influence of the corporate oligarchy and the Republicans were staging a bizarre revolt against the rotten money power that controls their party. As we stagger to the finish, though, that's all well behind us.  The Democrats have fully embraced the oligarchs and what's left of the Republican Party is no longer in revolt so much as just plain revolting.Another annoyance about this stage of the campaign is the near total absence of substance coming from either major candidate or their surrogates.  Of course when one side nominates a lecherous quasi-fascist reality TV star, that's almost understandable.  But that isn't the only source of the inanity.  It's clear now (as it should have been for several months) that Hillary Clinton is going to be President. One would think that the focus of discussion now would be on the kind of President she will be.  One would be wrong about that.With the election reduced to fait-accompli status, it might be a good idea for the party assured of victory to start to work setting the governing agenda.  Let's talk now about what we'd like to see President Clinton accomplish in order to attach the popular mandate of the landslide election to our priorities. For some reason Hillary partisans aren't interested in doing this. In fact, they are doing everything they can to forestall that kind of talk.  Even now, as they've beaten the American voter into submission, the Hillary people aren't in the mood to take a victory lap.  Instead, they are still playing defense. Sloppily. Take the recent Wikileaks releases of hacked emails, for example. It's understandable that the campaign itself considers them a distraction or embarrassment. But what about those Democrats who aren't employed directly by the campaign or the DNC? Or what about just the average voter? There's some stuff in there that most of us might find worth talking about. In her speeches to Goldman Sachs, Hillary basically said that bankers are the best people to regulate bankers and that if you aren't getting rich in America, you must be some kind of loser. At the Goldman Sachs Builders and Innovators Summit, Clinton responded to a question from chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, who quipped that you “go to Washington” to “make a small fortune.” Clinton agreed with the comment and complained about ethics rules that require officials to divest from certain assets before entering government. “There is such a bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives,” Clinton said.She also admits her own position on Syrian intervention is going cost a lot of civilian lives.  In her remarks to Goldman Sachs, Clinton pointed to the Syrian government’s air defense systems, and noted that destroying them would take the lives of many Syrian civilians.“They’re getting more sophisticated thanks to Russian imports. To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas.  So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk—you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians,” she said. “So all of a sudden this intervention that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take a lot of civilians.”That's actually an example of the "private Hillary" being better than "public Hillary." It might bode well for what comes after the election.  On the other hand, we're in a shooting war in Yemen now, apparently. So... well, we'll see.  Anyway, none of us are much surprised to learn also how much Hillary loves [...]

The governor needs to stop being "reasonable"


The state needs to just go ahead with its lawsuit against the oil and gas industry.  The opposition is dug in and is never going to meet us halfway. In this Lens Op-Ed Anne Rolfes describes the oil lobby's recalcitrance in comparison to what she terms Governor Edwards's "reasonable" though ineffectual hope for a negotiated settlement. Edwards would rather not sue. Time and again he has said his preference is for oil companies to meet him at the table and negotiate a settlement. This is a reasonable path, but instead the industry cries war. The oil and gas group casts the governor as a villain who has set greedy lawyers upon them.  Any mention of why our coastline is destroyed conveniently omits causation. “Save the coast,” is the vacuous cry that the oil industry has heartily promoted.Refusing to honestly address the problems oil and gas extraction has caused is a recurring theme. Ask the industry to reduce pollution and it will roll out an opinion piece, like the one in which the Louisiana Mid Continent Oil and Gas Association depicts itself as an industry hogtied by regulation and law.In fact, the opposite is true. The laws that regulate pollution are not enforced. When the inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency, the regulator of on-shore facilities,  reviewed enforcement of environmental laws throughout the nation, he found enforcement in Louisiana to be the worst. One of the reasons is cited on page 16: “a culture in which the state agency is expected to protect industry.”The state's only recourse at this point is to press on with legal action against the oil and gas industry. The case has enough merit, anyway. Last week, John Barry wrote in the Advocate that "the industry has no actual defense."  This has become laughable. The very existence of coastal Louisiana is at stake, Governor John Bel Edwards wants the oil and gas industry to restore the part of the coast it destroyed, and the industry responds by attacking the attorneys he wants to hire.Of course that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The industry has no actual defense, so it needs to distract. Let’s look at the issue point by point, starting with causes of the problem.The industry’s minions blame levees for land-loss, and levees do cause damage. But industry has, too — and in some areas of the state industry is the biggest cause. Don't take my word for it.Ask oil industry scientists. In 1972 a study by pipeline companies concluded that every mile of pipeline causes the loss of 54 acres of land, and industry has dredged thousands and thousands of miles of pipelines and canals. In 1989, a study by the Louisiana Mid-continent Oil and Gas Association, the trade association for major oil companies, examined the area of the state with the worst land-loss and concluded that "the overwhelming cause" of that land loss was industry operations. In 2001 the U.S. Geological Survey oversaw a study including industry scientists which concluded 36 percent of land loss was caused by industry. And many scientists believe industry caused a much higher percentage of the land loss.Of course, if your strategy is to dig in and distract, it helps to have political players on your side. It helps when the Attorney General is willing to intervene in the process on your behalf. It helps when local parish officials are so cowed by oil money that they refuse to lend their voice to the cause. And it helps tremendously when a Democratic Senate candidate refuses to back the effort. Caroline Fayard, also a Democrat, noted that she is an attorney but said that she doesn’t think suing the oil and gas companies was the solution to restoring lost land.Lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming, she said, and provide [...]

Voter suppression


Today was the last day to register for new voters looking to participate in November's elections in Louisiana. The Presidential race still isn't expected to be close here. (Which may explain why the major Republican Senate candidates, state GOP insiders, and Steve Scalise are all standing by Donald Trump even now.) But there are state and local elections to consider as well. 

So there's ample incentive to register. Unfortunately the Secretary of State's office is doing everything it can to discourage that.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler plans to give each voter a sticker of the famous “Blue Dog” saying "I voted."

Schedler and the family of George Rodrigue, the New Iberia artist of the "Blue Dog" paintings, unveiled the art for the sticker Monday at the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

“The 'Blue Dog' has become synonymous with Louisiana,” Schedler said.

Among the many Rodrigue works that include the iconic pooch is a painting President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, commissioned by the Democratic Party during their term in 1990s. Rodrigue's first "Blue Dog" was as part of a collection of ghost stories.

The Secretary of State’s Office printed about 4 million stickers, which should be enough for everyone who votes early, starting on October 25, or casts their ballot on November 8. The stickers cost $21,000 to print.

Louisiana had about 2.97 million registered voters at the end of September. Registration for the upcoming election closes Tuesday at 11:59 p.m.