Lazy Saturday Reads

4600535791_e2384409c1_bHappy Memorial Day Weekend!

This is the weekend when we reflect on the costs of war.  The holiday is rooted in our own civil war but it gives us a chance to think on those who have come and gone before us.  Memorial Day used to be the day my family would go on picnics to the family plots in all these little towns around Kansas and Missouri armed with every imaginable gardening tool.  I don’t think we were unique in that but I do think it might’ve been a regional thing to do.

I spent a good deal of yesterday in St. Louis Cemetery #1 standing by a shady palm tree near the crypt memorializing those who died in the Battle of New Orleans from the Orleans Battalion.  You’ll see that there were very few dead in this battle on the side of the Republic.

The cemetery dates back to the late 1700s.  It’s probably best known as the resting place of Marie Laveau and a crazy movie scene in Easy Rider.  I was actually there for a funeral for a favorite professor of a friend.  His family were some of the first French folks to settle here.  The process of adding new family members to a crypt is an interesting one.

13319982_10153758786958512_3404328470106535680_nThere were tours all around us yesterday.  So, the tourists got to hear the piper, the brass band music, and the burial service provided by a priest.  I’m always happy when a few of them get to see that the traditions here continue and that we all have to live around the folks who come to visit us.  They get to see that we’re actually a living, breathing city and not just a place of old buildings and bars.

While Marie Laveau is probably the most famous inhabitant of crypt space, I’d suggest you read up on Dr. John Montanee who is the father of New Orleans Voodoo. Dr. John actually taught Marie.

Sometimes when a person becomes legendary they cease to be human beings and instead become the legend themselves. Dr. Jean is remembered according to his legend, as a powerful gris gris man who was rich, got a lot of women and who was the teacher of Marie Laveaux. The whole context of the trauma of the Diaspora is left completely out of his-story, and this is not only unfortunate, but it is highly disrespectful. My belief is that his goal from the onset of becoming a slave would have been to reclaim his personal power and power within the community (whatever community he ended up in), and to do so using his strength and charisma. This internal fortitude was enough to achieve his eventual freedom from slavery; it is said that his West Indian master taught him to be an excellent cook and grew quite fond of him, and eventually gave him the gift of freedom. As a result, Dr. Jean left Cuba to be a cook on a ship and eventually ended up in New Orleans where these characteristics of strength, charisma and fortitude landed him as a gang leader of cotton rollers. Within that community, he began to be known for his apparent supernatural powers and fortune telling abilities. This set the tone for his eventual great success in New Orleans. All through the various narratives of his-story, we can see his ability to transcend the normal performance of a given task and exceed all expectations.

Dr. Jean was likely a man who liked to make grand entrances in an effort to make his presence known. But, he more than likely retreated from this showy demeanor to a very warm and gregarious human being. People probably liked him more than not and he likely had many friends, and at least as many acquaintances. He would have been someone who would have started a family as soon as possible and given the culture from which he came, would likely have had more than one wife and many children. Family would have been very important to him and he would have taken his role as provider very seriously – yet another mechanism to drive his entrepreneurial spirit.

In addition to being successful in his various jobs and as a provider, he would have taken his role as a leader of the Voudous quite seriously, as well. As gris gris is a religiomagical system originating in Senegal and practiced by the priests, it makes perfect sense that he would have brought knowledge of the tradition with him to New Orleans. Gris gris is one of the most unique characteristics of New Orleans Voudou and a tradition that persists to this day – his contribution to the New Orleans religion is unsurpassed. He expected to be noticed and he was, as his legacy lives on in the heart of the Mysteries and can be heard and felt in the beat of every drum.

So, there are a lot of folks buried along side the illustrious founding families in this and the many old cemeteries to be found in New img_2353Orleans.

I’m using all of this to lead up to some sad news.  JJ’s brother Denny lost his struggle last night after her eldest son received his high school diploma.  This is one of those days where milestones can be bittersweet.  We love you JJ and wish all the best as you and your family make these transitions.

So, here’s some suggested reads for today.

Here’s a follow up to my post on the collapse of Venezuela from the NYT:”Venezuela Drifts Into New Territory: Hunger, Blackouts and Government Shutdown.”

Venezuela’s government says the problems are the result of an “economic war” being waged by elites who are hoarding supplies, as well as the American government’s efforts to destabilize the country.

But most economists agree that Venezuela is suffering from years of economic mismanagement, including over-dependence on oil and price controls that led many businesses to stop making products.

Some Venezuelans are channeling their frustrations into demonstrations against the government. Mr. Maduro’s opponents, who now control the National Assembly, have been staging weekly protests in support of the recall referendum.

Last Wednesday, protesters clashed with police officers who fired tear gas at the demonstrations and were attacked with bottles and rocks.

“The economic situation of this country is collapse,” Pablo Parada, a law student, who was participating last week in a hunger strike in front of the O.A.S. office in Caracas. “There are people who go hungry now.”

Mr. Parada said the purpose of his hunger strike was to pressure the O.A.S. to push Venezuelan officials to allow the referendum to take place this year, the only way he felt the country could recover.
There is often little traffic in Caracas simply because so few people, either for lack of money or work, are going out.

On a recent day in the downtown government center, pedestrians milled about, but nearly every building — including several museums, the public registry office and a Social Security center — was empty, giving the appearance of a holiday.

Only the guards were at work.

“It’s in God’s hands now,” said one, Luis Ríos, echoing a common phrase heard here.

Here’s an interesting article in Slate on “White washing” in the Asian American Community and the “bamboo” ceiling in America. Easy_Rider We’ve discussed before  this via the whiter-than-white portrait of Bobby Jindal that once hung in his office.

But I have a somewhat different and darker thought: What if Asian Americans are underrepresented in media because non-Asians have yet to reconcile themselves to Asian overrepresentation in the uppermost echelons of U.S. society? Don’t see that many Asian Americans as CEOs or in other leadership roles? Just give it time. Whether you look in Silicon Valley, Wall Street, elite academia, or America’s burgeoning medical-industrial complex, you’ll find a disproportionately large and fast-growing number of Asian Americans. Earlier generations of Asians often found themselves stymied by the so-called “bamboo ceiling,” which largely reflects the fact that new arrivals in America tend not to have the social connections they need to reach the highest rungs of the organizational ladder.

Sanders continues to be a busybody loser.  This time he’s suggesting what Hillary should do for a running mate choice.

“If Hillary Clinton were to win and Hillary Clinton were to bring onboard a conservative or moderate-type Democrat, I think politically that would be a disaster,” Sanders said in an interview with The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur.

Uygur asked if Sanders had any suggestions for VP — specifically citing Sen. Elizabeth Warren(D-Mass.), whose name has been floating as a possible running mate for months.

Sanders said policy and a track record for fighting against Wall Street were the most important factors in a running mate.

I really have an intense, white-hot dislike of this man.

Here’s another one that’s a great read:  “Japanese American internment survivor hears troubling echoes in Trump rhetoric.”

Sugimoto, now 80, finds herself thinking a lot about those three years she spent in internment camps in Arkansas. The spirit of that deeply disturbing part of her childhood, an episode she believes has been all but forgotten within the narrative of American history, appears to be raising its ugly head once again.

“I think it’s dangerous the way he spouts off,” she said. “Not knowing any history, making no connections with what he says should be done today – it’s worrying and upsetting.”

She’s talking about Donald Trump, and his mass targeting of ethnic and religious groups. It’s not Japanese Americans this time: it’s the 11 million undocumented immigrants, mostly Hispanic, he has threatened to round up and deport. It is alsoMuslims, who he has vowed to ban from entering the country just by dint of their faith.

And, no that’s not a ghost up there, although I do profess to being one pale white woman.  That’s just whacky little me in funeral attire resplendent with some vintage stuff.

Have a good weekend!    Remember, this is an open thread so share links profusely!!!

Friday Reads: Late Edition

Good Afternoon!

download (2)I’m running really late today despite coffee and all the usual things I use to face the morning.  I seem to be in need of hibernation.  I’m not sure if it’s the ugly political situation or just the challenges of doing any little thing these days.  Have you noticed how businesses are basically set up to take your money efficiently and create hell for you under any other circumstance?  Calling them is to enter a hell realm.  Even when you do reach a person, there seems to be little they can do but offer sympathy and customer service surveys.  Why are businesses so damned rotten these days?  Is it because they are coddled while the rest of us have been basically dropped from the master plan?

I’m going to do a little sharing of local stuff juxtaposed on some national news because I’ve been noticing how difficult life is becoming for regular people.  Here in New Orleans, we’re chasing tourist dollars by destroying the culture that brings them here and basically driving off the workers that do the daily stuff of dealing with them.  I’m beginning to think that the entire plan of the Aspen Institute is to turn every major city into a seamless, architecturally bland, sea of guys sporting manbuns.  We seem to be selling our treasure to the highest out-of-town bidder who then remakes it into something totally new Portland or new Seattle or  new Brooklyn. Then, we all have to indulge boorish burbies in all the places we used to use to escape them.

Here’s a great example.  This nice old home used to be the equivalent of a hostel owned by a friend of mine. It was called the Mazant Guesthouse and was heavily used by Europeans because it had no A/C, a communal kitchen, and was extremely cheap.  The first thing the new owners did was try to tear down the backhouse.  Thankfully, the historic commission stopped them.  Now the entire property is just another reminder of the folks city government is trying to attract to all parts of the city including our personal, private backyards.   Asking price?  $1.65 million.  You could’ve bought entire blocks here for that just a few years ago.  So, you can imagine what that’s done to the rental market and what that’s doing to property tax valuations.

imageThis revitalization includes sanitizing the city’s really awful past as an outpost of the Confederacy and Lost Cause by removing statues that used to attract more pigeon shit than attention. We tear down a very historical Woolworth’s with an intact counter that was central to the Civil Rights Movement and no one mourns that at all.  We had an opportunity to put a great Civil Rights museum downtown for a real tourist experience.  But no, we spend time removing rather than preserving the sites to use them to elucidate the awful past.  We’d rather have a Dave and Buster’s than a National Jazz Park. 

Several items came to my attention today that show the master plan is to transform us into the destination of the manbun crowd  and that is having all kinds of unintended consequences.  The example sits right next door to me.  Two guys from NJ charge $180 a night for one side of a double that’s been redone to look like a badly decorated boutique hotel inside and barely maintains a semblance of its historical past outside.  It used to be home to two families.  Some NJ guy bought the family home across the street and it’s the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen now. It was an arts and crafts double but now it looks like some weird, awkward Cape Code monstrosity and it’s selling for way over $.5 million. Both homes were stripped of their historic architecture during renovation. My guess is some out of town rich people will Air BNB the arts & crafts double too which is currently illegal and against zoning laws. It used to be a rental when I moved here but was a single family dwelling until it sold.  A barber who worked down in the quarter lived there.  Regular folks that are renters aren’t here any more.  But, don’t take my word for it.  New Orleans now ranks second as the worst market for renters in the nation. 

New Orleans is gaining notoriety among America’s mid-sized cities as a place where renters must devote an increasing share of their income to housing expenses.

Make Room, a campaign by nonprofit affordable housing developer Enterprise Community Partners, extracted Census data to rank the top “10 worst metro areas for cash-strapped renters.” New Orleans was No. 2.

According to Harvard’s data, 35 percent of renters in the New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner statistical area devote 50 percent or more of their income to rent and utilities, only slightly less than top-ranked Miami where the rate was 35.7 percent.

The Make Room initiative was launched in May 2015 to push for policy changes and additional resources for cities where the lack of affordable housing is acute. Angela Boyd, the campaign’s managing director, said the effort seeks, in part, to debunk misconceptions that affordable housing is an issue only for coastal cities and targets renters in need of subsidies or government assistance.

“Some people think affordable housing is for the homeless or residents of public housing, but it also takes into account moderate income (renters),” Boyd said. “These are people who are probably already your neighbors.”

I wonder how all those restaurants are going to find help when there are no more places for their employees to rent in the city at the wages they can pay?   While the city is hassling over statues and renting its lampposts to hang fetus fetish propaganda, there’s vladimir-putin-man-bun-funny-meme-hairvery little discussion of things that are really wrong here.  We may be good at attracting celebrities to film stuff and buy houses, but we’re absolutely forgetting the majority of our population in the rush to be cool for pennies on the tax dollar.

On Wednesday night, Douglas Brown allegedly jumped over the counter of a New Orleans Subway after ordering a sandwich, according to the Times-Picayune, but was foiled in his attempt to nab the cash register drawer because it was tethered into place. Instead, he grabbed a bunch of cash and ran. He was detained 25 minutes later.

 It’s unclear who will represent Brown. Yesterday, the Orleans Public Defenders refused to take his case. The underfunded office, which says it represents nearly 85-percent of all defendants in the parish but has a budget just half the size of the district attorney, simply can’t handle any more.

“Our workload has now reached unmanageable levels resulting in a constitutional crisis,” Chief Defender Derwyn Bunton said in a December statement, giving one month’s notice that they would start refusing some clients charged with felonies carrying long sentences. “As Chief Defender, I can no longer ethically assign cases to attorneys with excessive caseloads or those that lack the requisite experience and training to represent the most serious offenses.”

This week, Bunton’s office made good on that pledge and began refusing clients. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana last night filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against Bunton and Louisiana State Public Defender James Dixon on behalf of plaintiffs who were assigned public defenders but then placed on a waiting list.

“So long as you’re on the public defender waiting list in New Orleans, you’re helpless. Your legal defense erodes along with your constitutional rights,” said Brandon Buskey, Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, in a statement. “With every hour without an attorney, you may forever lose invaluable opportunities to prove your innocence. You also may be forced into a crippling choice between waiting months for counsel or doing bail and plea negotiations yourself. The damage to your case can be irreparable.”

Mayor Mitch Landrieu maintains that while the city has increased its funding of the office that they have “barely kept pace with state funding cuts,” the Times-Picayune reports. The defenders contend that “the additional local funding is enough to stave off mandatory furloughs, but not enough to provide representation in serious felony cases that is constitutional or ethical.” Bunton and Dixon could not be reached for comment.

abraham-lincoln-man-bun-hairstyle-funnyThe total focus on re-imagining New Orleans  appears to include putting street cars everywhere and making sure no road goes unfixed endlessly as long as it is  uptown.  I’m not sure it includes a vision of much else.  We seem to be highly focused on accommodating a certain segment of American society to the exclusion of a nearly everything else.   From what I can see, we’re really not “winning” in any sense but Charlie Sheen’s or whatever it is Mayor Landrieu has in mind.  He did come to us as the LT. Governor whose sole job is to fixate on tourism.  Maybe that’s the issue he just can’t move beyond.  I really don’t know. But, as far as I can tell, the development we’ve been getting recently is really killing exactly what we’ve been good at doing for a very long time.

Does resilience mean dumping your core competencies and the things that make you unique for the latest trendiness?

What happens when a city because a laboratory for hair brained schemes like charter schools and whatever you call this urban development trend that seems to be making us some blander version of ourselves?  One of our issues has been the lack of health care for so many people.  I’m hoping that the state’s move to now accept the Medicaid Expansion will help these kinds of statistics.  Meanwhile, we can only look at the skeleton of Big Charity Hospital which was once the hallmark of a civilized nation.

Indeed, Place Matters for Health in Orleans Parish, a report prepared by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the Orleans Parish Place Matters Team, in conjunction with the Center on Human Needs, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Virginia Network for Geospatial Health Research, noted that “Life expectancy in the poorest zip code in the city is 54.5 years, or 25.5-years lower than life expectancy in the zip code with the least amount of poverty in the city, where it is 80.”

I’m beginning to think the entire “sharing” economy is basic piracy.  I came across this at AJ and was appalled that folks would do this on both supply and demand side of AIR BnB.  I swear this corporation is just an international crime syndicate that makes money off of illegal and destructive activities.

Airbnb may be the next high-profile target of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, following media reports this week that the online accommodation service includes listings from settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories that are advertised as being in Israel.

Anyone staying in an Airbnb-listed settlement property “facilitates the commission of the crime of establishing settlements and therefore aids and abets the crime,” said John Dugard, professor of international law, and a former Special Rapporteur to the UN on Palestine.

“The same applies to making money from property built on illegal settlements.” Airbnb takes a commission on property rentals, and so is profiting from Israel’s colonisation of Palestine.

Hosts who list properties via the company are required to provide accurate locations. As such, stating that settlements are located in Israel – when they are in fact illegal under international law because they are built on occupied territory – is a violation of the company’s terms.

I would like to think that just because you can make money off of something doesn’t mean that you should do it, the government should allow it, or there should be legal businesses encouraging it.  But then, it seems state and local governments are also doing anything to quit providing services to citizens while heavily subsidizing private businesses for whatever reason.  At what point do we decide that businesses and rich people should pony up their fair share of the bill of living in a civilized country,state and city of laws, institutions and regular people?

The city of Flint, Mich., is in the midst of a water crisis several years in the making. The city opted out of Detroit’s water supply and began drawing water from the Flint River in April 2014, part of a cost-saving move. Eighteen months later, in the fall of 2015, researchers discovered that the proportion of children with above-average lead levels in their blood had doubled.

The city reconnected to Detroit’s water system in October, but the damage was done. Water from the Flint River was found to be highly corrosive to the lead pipes still used in some parts of the city. Even though Flint River water no longer flows through the city’s pipes, it’s unclear how long those pipes will continue to leach unsafe levels of lead into the tap water supply. Experts currently say the water is safe for bathing, but not drinking.

A group of Virginia Tech researchers who sampled the water in 271 Flint homes last summer found some contained lead levels high enough to meet the EPA’s definition of “toxic waste.”

Economic theory states that we should tax nuisance activities heavily to both discourage them and to collect funds for the damages they inflict on the citizens around them.  (Think any kind of pollution.) Subsidies are to be given to those manbunwashingtonsquareactivities that won’t occur–even though they are highly beneficial to society–because they won’t provide profits to private businesses. (Think public transportation and education.)  It’s a really basic and simply theory that’s been proven useful time and time again. There are some things we really do want to tax the hell out of because we want less of it and we want to recover the damage it creates. Many rules and regulations exist to protect current property owners and stakeholders.   Here’s a brief little lesson on Pigouvian Taxes and subsidies that’s worth a watch that gives you a good idea of the costs and benefits.   I’m not sure why the entire concept has gone out of style.  Perhaps it’s because the Aspen Institute doesn’t find it trendy enough. Although my gut says it’s likely because lobbyists and political donors prefer to be enabled rather than held accountable.

Anyway, what I think I can say is that we’re making it difficult (e.g. taxing) for the wrong people to exist in society and we’re subsidizing the folks that are just making things worse.  I believe this is why there’s such disgruntlement at working, poor, and middle class income levels.

The question now, is how do we really change this?  When are we going to stop selling our society to any bidder for any sleazoid reason in the name development?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads

CNgK0x3UwAIE22-Good Morning from the land of resplendent PTSD triggers!

August is my least favorite month.  I basically try to slog through it.  I can’t recall anything good EVER happening in August.  This year is no different.

They say criminals always return to the scene of their crimes.  Today, Dubya Bush returned to New Orleans to “commemorate” Katrina. But, it’s a brief hit and run before he heads off to Mississippi.  That should remind every one that what they asked Louisiana to do before getting help was not what they required of Mississippi where Haley “white council” Barbour reigned. Mass Murderer Heckuva Job Brownie needs to be reminded of this fact still.  This sentence from the ABC link pretty much says it all.

Bush largely took a hands-off approach, frequently saying that rebuilding was best left to locals.

All over our country, Republican government officials are refusing to do their jobs in a hissy fit of  selfishness and ideology.  I mean really, if you don’t like government, maybe you shouldn’t be an elected government official or a government worker.  We generally call them public servants for a damned good reason.

Kim Davis is doing everything she can to avoid doing her job. Now the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk is petitioning the Supreme Court to allow her to not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Davis was slapped down just yesterday by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said that she or anyone in her office must issue marriage licenses to all couples regardless of gender.

Davis’ office just this morning again refused a same-sex couple the right to marry. Her office has until Monday to comply with the federal courts’ rulings.

Davis is represented by the founder of a certified anti-gay hate group, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel.

“Davis will appeal one more rung up the ladder, to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who can intervene in 6th Circuit cases, Staver said,” according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

“It is disappointing, certainly for our client, because the ramifications of the ruling is that there are no religious freedom rights for individuals if you can say a case is just against the office,” Staver told the newspaper. “The problem with that is, individuals who hold public office don’t forfeit their constitutional rights.”

But Right Wing Watch notes Staver is incorrect.

“While Staver claims that the clerk’s ‘constitutional rights’ are being violated when she is required to perform her job duties, the appeals court points out that this is not a case of individual free speech: ‘[W]here a public employee’s speech is made pursuant to his duties, ‘the relevant speaker [is] the government entity, not the individual.'”

She’s free to believe whatever nonsense she wants to believe on her own time and dime. She needs to comply, quit, or go to jail for breaking the law.  PERIOD.  Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to Elena Kagan 11889544_10104938262818755_752017656403690933_nripping her a new one.
Hillary Clinton, however, tells it like it is.   “On women’s health, Clinton compares Republicans to ‘terrorist groups'”

Republican presidential candidates are striking back Friday after Hillary Clinton compared some of them who hold conservative views on abortion and women’s reproductive rights to “terrorist groups.”

During a riff Thursday where Clinton name checked Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Clinton said Republicans are “dead wrong for 21st century America.”

“Now, extreme views about women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world, but it’s a little hard to take from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States,” Clinton said at a speech in Cleveland. “Yet they espouse out of date, out of touch policies. They are dead wrong for 21st century America. We are going forward, we are not going back.”

Meanwhile, Ben Carson has women reduced to vessels with “contents”.  This is yet another Republican attack on woman’s autonomy and moral personhood.  How did this guy pass an anatomy course?

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is dismissing the notion that there is a “war on women,” saying the real war is on “what’s inside of women.”

“They tell you that there’s a war on women,” Carson said at a rally in Little Rock, Ark., on Thursday.

“There is no war on women — there may be a war on what’s inside of women, but there is no war on women in this country,” he continued, referring to abortion.

Democrats have accused Republicans of waging a war on women, citing efforts to limit abortion rights or access to birth control. But Republicans have pushed back on that language.
Carson said such rhetoric is only being used to divide people.

“All of those people who are trying to drive wedges between us, they are the enemy, they are not our friends, and we must learn to recognize them, and not allow them to manipulate us,” he said.

Carson’s comments come as the GOP contender’s anti-abortion-rights stance has come under fire after it was revealed that the retired neurosurgeon had co-authored a paper in which research was done on tissue acquired from fetuses aborted at nine and 17 weeks’ gestation.

“I have never actually worked with fetal tissue,” he told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly earlier this month.

Carson also took flak when he said that RU-486, which has been dubbed the “chemical abortion pill” by some anti-abortion-rights groups, should be administered to women in cases of rape and incest.

However, some have speculated that Carson mistakenly referenced RU-486, which is administered five to seven weeks into a pregnancy, when he really meant to refer to emergency contraception known as the morning-after pill.

11903917_10204884915748318_8848208859962185406_nThe man is not an ob/gyn.  He needs to stfu.

Anyway, I’m making this short today.  I have a blanket fort to defend for a few more days and we’re running low on our supplies of red wine and pet treats.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?




Monday Reads: The Adulting Blues

adultingGood Morning!

Well, today’s the kind’ve day that makes me want to hide under the covers and have my mother do all my laundry and cooking. Well, actually my Dad used to do all the cooking but you know what I mean.  It’s been like that for at least a few days as my car’s battery gave out in a very inconvenient location on Thursday night and my bills are bigger than my latest paycheck.  A lot of my ennui and accompanying stress has to do with the uberhype of the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina which for a lot of us is an ongoing process of things becoming more undone than they were before.  

Then, there’s just the constant barrage of news–none of which is particularly good–which includes ISIS destroying an ancient wonder. You know what an armchair archaeology buff I am. It’s just so easy to deal with dead civilizations rather than live ones. Trump continues to belittle any one in his path, and every one in the Republican primary is unleashing misogyny and racism. I’m going to focus on the racism today because I think both BB and JJ have given the current misogyny binge complete justice.

My friend Peter has actually written exactly what I’m feeling on this dreadful week where they’re actually pulling out parades and doing “resilience tours” to hype the city and its survival.  Like I said, we may have survived Katrina, but I still have my doubts about our surviving the hipsters, the gentrification, and our elected overseers who have forced us to privatize things that weren’t working before but now are worse and to capitalize on things that turn us into a Disaster Minstrel Show. Again, this is not my writing but Peter’s but I could’ve written it word for word except I obviously don’t have his wife!

I am dreading the influx of disaster tourists who will surely be showing up in town this week. Some of them will be sincerely motivated and others will be of the “I volunteered once with Habitat for Humanity after Katrina so I know what it was like” variety. No, you don’t. You don’t know what it’s like to be barred from your home for 6 weeks and have to sneak in like Dr. A and I did. You don’t know what it’s like to have a bad case of survivor’s guilt because you didn’t fare as badly as other people in town. You don’t know what it’s like to have to re-tell your “Katrina story” over and over again. You don’t know what it’s like to be having dinner and have do-gooders burst in to save your pets because you didn’t, or couldn’t, wash the marks off your front door. Actually, neither do I but it happened to some friends of mine. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase putting on the dog…

The aftermath of the storm was a very painful period in the lives of New Orleanians. We’ve lived it day-in and day-out for 10 years at varying levels of intensity. That’s why I’m not enthusiastic about rehashing those days regardless of whether it’s done by resilience tour types or the krewe of “we’ve gone to hell in a designer handbag.” I wish they’d all piss off and leave me alone. I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Yes. I feel that way. Piss off and leave me alone.  Unfortunately, my neighborhood has turned into the mini-Quarter and I can’t even walk the dog around the block or have a beer without either bumping into seven bridesmaids giggling, six film crews taping, and five fucking Air BnB parasites.

This headline from WAPO actually made me scream:  A ‘resilience lab’.  They’ve obviously bought into the Mayor’s hype. This is the paragraph that’s described my reality.  Every day I walk out of my house and feel like screaming “WTF  are you doing here? Why don’t you go back to the hell realm you came from instead of bringing it here to me?”  No east coast newspaper article on New Orleans is complete these days without telling people that the place to be is my freaking neighborhood, the Bywater. I have fewer and fewer neighbors all the time. My neighborhood has been completely overrun with people hoping to redefine and cash in on cool.

He smiled at first. It looked so charming, all those people driving slowly down Burgundy Street through the Faubourg Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods, pointing cameras.

Then it dawned on Keith Weldon Medley: These folks weren’t tourists or architecture buffs. They were shoppers. And on their shopping list was almost everything that could be had in these neighborhoods, a collection of Creole cottages, shotgun doubles, warehouses and small manufacturers at a humpback bend of the Mississippi River.

In the evolution of post-Katrina New Orleans, few phenomena have been more striking than the dramatic demographic shift of places such as Bywater from majority black to majority white. One census block group in Bywater dropped from 51 percent African American before Katrina to just 17 percent afterward; the largest went from 63 percent to 32, according to a Washington Post analysis of U.S. census data.

“You saw all these white people. Obviously they were displacing black people who were here before,” said Medley, a historian who lives in the house where he grew up in the Marigny.

My daily mantra is “I see fucking stupid White People.”

So, I really don’t intend for this to be my Katrina post. I’ve been there and done that.   Let me post a few more things that are pissing me off today.

There’s an obvious asset bubble bubbling away here so the market’s correcting and the Fed is going to start bringing up interest rates. This blog has an interesting take on what’s going on which is particularly relevant to my field of research as a currency bloc and international economist.

Global stock markets are in a 2008ish kind of crash today and I really don’t much time to write this, but I just want to share my take on it.

To me this is fundamentally about the in-optimal currency union between the US and China. From 1995 until 2005 the Chinese renminbi was more or less completely pegged to the US dollar and then from 2005 until recently the People’s Bank of China implemented a gradual managed appreciation of RMB against the dollar.

This was going well as long as supply side factors – the opening of the Chinese economy and the catching up process – helped Chinese growth.

Hence, China went through one long continues positive supply shock that lasted from the mid-1990s and until 2006 when Chinese trend growth started to slow. With a pegged exchange rate a positive supply causes areal appreciation of the currency. However, as RMB has been (quasi)pegged to the dollar this appreciation had to happen through domestic monetary easing and higher inflation and higher nominal GDP growth. This process was accelerated when China joined WTO in 2001.

As a consequence of the dollar peg and the long, gradual positive supply shock Chinese nominal GDP growth accelerated dramatically from 2000 until 2008.

However, underlying something was happening – Chinese trend growth was slowing due to negative supply side headwinds primarily less catch-up potential and the beginning impact of negative labour force growth and the financial markets have long ago realized that Chinese potential growth is going to slow rather dramatically in the coming decades.

As a consequence the potential for real appreciation of the renminbi is much smaller. In fact there might be good arguments for real depreciation as Chinese growth is fast falling below trend growth, while trend itself is slowing.

The market has rebounded but the financial markets are obviously still shaky. China is the world’s largest economy now so anything house after katrinathat happens there is bound to ripple around the world.

The global whiplash underscored investors’ shaken confidence in China’s slowing economy and central bank. The world’s second-largest economy is now reeling over what China’s state media is calling “Black Monday,” during which its markets just recorded their biggest one-day nosedive in eight years.

But the mid-morning bounce off deep trading lows led some analysts to question whether financial markets had already finished their fall. Tech giant Apple, which begun the morning down 13 percent and dipping below $100, was trading 2 percent higher by the afternoon, at about $107.

The dismal opening marked a worrying continuation of last week’s free fall. The Dow’s blue-chip index plunged more than 500 points on Friday, capping its worst week since 2011 and entering what Wall Street calls a correction, having tumbled 10 percent from its May peak.

The sell-off bruised every industry, wiping out gains in rapid order after a year of mostly steady trading. Some of America’s biggest companies shed tens of billions of dollars in market value in only a few days, and the markets’ early gains have yet to restore those losses.

S&P 500 companies lost more than $1 trillion in market value last week, and the Dow and other indices are on track to record their dreariest month since February 2009.

On Friday, China reported its worst manufacturing results since the global financial crisis, following shortly after Beijing earlier this month surprised investors by announcing it would devalue the nation’s currency.

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite index has fallen by nearly 40 percent since June, after soaring more than 140 percent last year. Markets in Europe also plummeted, and Asian shares on Monday hit a three-year low.

Economist gadfly and miserable human being Larry Summers is pearl clutching about the rate hikes.  He seems to be on a search to be relevant again but on a very wrong path. This article alone ought to make you very glad that he’s not the Fed Chairman since he seems completely oblivious to the asset bubbles that I see in assets around the country including houses once again.

Like most major central banks the Fed has put its price stability objective into practice by adopting a 2 per cent inflation target. The biggest risk is that inflation will be lower than this — a risk that would be exacerbated by tightening policy. More than half the components of the consumer price index have declined in the past six months — the first time this has happened in more than a decade. CPI inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food prices and difficult-to-measure housing, is less than 1 per cent. Market-based measures of expectations suggest that, over the next 10 years, inflation will be well under 2 per cent. If the currencies of China and other emerging markets depreciate further, US inflation will be even more subdued.

Tightening policy will adversely affect employment levels because higher interest rates make holding on to cash more attractive than investing it. Higher interest rates will also increase the value of the dollar, making US producers less competitive and pressuring the economies of our trading partners.

Please check out housing and stock prices Lala and then try again.

Republicans continue to show they have no idea about the reality of black people in this country. Trump attacked Martin O’Malley for sensitivity to the Black Lives Matter Campaign.

Appearing on Fox News over the weekend, Donald Trump admitted to being completely ignorant about the Black Lives Matter movement. “I know nothing about it,” the billionaire real estate developer said.

Of course, his lack of knowledge didn’t prevent him from harshly criticizing the effort. Trump said that he’s “seeing lot of bad stuff about it right now.” He said Martin O’Malley, a contender for the Democratic nomination, was a “disgusting little weak pathetic baby” for apologizing to Black Lives Matter activists earlier this year.

katrina_five_18Huckabee played the MLK card and completely confused King’s Son.

Martin Luther King III, the son of the late civil rights leader, said he was “perplexed” by GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee’s comments last week suggesting that his father would be “appalled” by the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I think dad would be very proud of young people standing up to promote truth, justice and equality,” King said during an interview on SiriusXM radio. “I was perplexed by the comments, but people attempt to use dad for everything.”

King’s comments come in response to a CNN interview last week in which the former Arkansas governor spoke out against the Black Lives Matter movement, saying racism is “more of a sin problem than a skin problem.”

If you look at the picture of flooded New Orleans and the view over the flooded lower ninth ward towards city, you’ll see a cluster of white tallish buildings sitting right on the river in the middle of that photo.  Just a hair to the right is where my house still stands and where I’m there right now with a pillow pulled over my head trying to block out the world of adults.  I don’t want to be one of them at the moment.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Vacation All You Ever Wanted … (Just don’t come here!!!) Day!

I’m still drinking my coffee and looking towards another few days of horrible heat.  Audubon Park tied a 100 year old record yesterday of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We keep getting a few more days each year of more temps above 90.   Today, it’s also pouring so there was a distinct steamy jungle feel to the outdoors.   I’m just glad my electricity and A/C are holding up at the moment.

I’ve been finding some really interesting reads this week about the number of “tourist” cities that are fed up with tourists.  I wanted to mention the horrid heat to you because some crazy young man staying at the illegal air BnB next door has been trolling about with a black and white “Where’s Waldo” thick knit cap.  He and a bunch of other tourists now roam my streets at night like it was Bourbon.  Needless to say, it’s odd to see so many folks acting like that in what used to be like any other neighborhood full of small, working class homes. It is rapidly turning into tourist trap.

The Danes have a good idea.They’ve designated “quiet” zones. I get tour buses and bike tours and segway tours roaring by the house all the time. I know it seems odd that a bike tour would be loud, but then you’ve never heard a guide trying to shout stuff at people.

Barcelona, a city of 1.6 million that receives over seven million people a year, represents the turn toward regulation. Taxis and tour buses have taken over entire neighborhoods, while souvenir shops and bars have displaced pharmacies and greengrocers.

The city’s mayor, Ada Colau, 41, who was elected in May, announced a one-year ban on new tourist accommodation citing the swarms of students who have all but taken over the Ciutat Vella, or Old City, of Barcelona. Last August, hundreds of residents erupted in spontaneous protest after images of three Italian tourists wandering naked in the neighborhood of La Barceloneta were circulated online. Her greatest worry, Ms. Colau says, is Barcelona’s turning into Venice.

In Asia, alarm has centered on Chinese tourists; there are more of them than from any other nation. China began loosening severe travel restrictions only about 25 years ago, and the rapid rise of the middle class has sent curious — but often naïve, rude or even destructive — visitors throughout Southeast Asia.

In Thailand a Chinese tourist was recently caught on video ringing and kicking sacred bells at a Buddhist temple as if he was in a game arcade.

There have been reports of Chinese tourists littering beaches and even defecating in public. One tourist even opened the door of an airplane, as it prepared for takeoff, reportedly to get fresh air. The Chinese government responded by promising to set up a tourist black list to ban notorious known offenders from traveling overseas for up to two years.

We even get a mention in this NYT article.  I feel like my neighborhood has turned into a whore pimped by money hungry state and city officials.see-america-wpa-travel-poster

Battles like these have even reached the tourism-friendly United States.

A decade after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, city officials have eyed tourism as the best path for a revival. But homeowners in the French Quarter complain that the city fails to properly enforce zoning and noise regulations, inviting the party crowd into their streets. Last year, residents of Charleston unsuccessfully sued to block the South Carolina ports authority from opening up the port to more and larger cruise ships.

Tensions are bound to get worse. Notwithstanding worry about carbon emissions, more of the world’s peoples are crossing borders for leisure than ever before. Now tourism accounts for one in 11 jobs worldwide.

In 2012 the global tourism industry counted a record one billion trips abroad, and many more tourists travel within their home countries. Travel contributes $7.6 trillion to the global economy, nearly half the entire economic output of the United States.

One reason tourism is hard to regulate is its positive associations, not only with pastime and leisure but also with cultural prestige. People are proud of the vistas, landmarks and monuments that their homelands are best known for. So efforts to regulate tourism aren’t always popular.

I lived in the Quarter for five years across the street from Gallier House–a historic home–on Royal Street.  The block is full of homes with iron-laced balconies and features prominently in postcard and ads for the beauty of French Quarter Architecture.  My front door alcove was also frequently used as a urinal by young white college male students who should freaking know better during sporting events weekends and Mardi Gras.  For some reason, many people who visit here act as though we have no rules.  They mark up our grave yards, leave litter every where, and basically act boorish. I’m fine dealing with them when I’m down town which is a Tourist Mecca.  But, I’ve had it with them overrunning my neighborhood like ants at a picnic.  You can get away from them in the Quarter by retreating to your courtyard.  I’ve got them walking around all sides of my house at all hours of the night and day.  Many times they’re dragging bicycles and most times they talk very loudly.  I’m just glad I no longer have small children in the house.

vintage-travel-poster-london-englandBarcelona is evidently one city that’s really fed up.  I feel their pain.

First there were mutterings, then there were street protests, but now Barcelona is showing signs of “tourist phobia”, the city’s guides are warning.

As many as nine million visitors are expected in Barcelona this year, crammed into a few small areas of a city of 1.6 million inhabitants, more than five times the number who visited 20 years ago. With the weak euro attracting ever more tourists, and as many as 2.5 million visitors disembarking from cruise ships a year, residents are feeling besieged.

“People push us, give us dirty looks and make nasty remarks when we’re showing tourists around,” said Mari Pau Alonso, president of Barcelona’s Association of Professional Tourist Guides.

Even Jordi Clos, head of the city’s hoteliers’ association, which wants to see visitor numbers rise to 10 million, says there is an “urgent need” to make citizens more sympathetic to tourists, given the “sense of being overwhelmed” that people have experienced in recent years.

“If we don’t want to end up like Venice, we will have to put some kind of limit in Barcelona,” said Ada Colau, the city’s new mayor, shortly after she was elected in May. She is proposing a moratorium on new hotels and licences for apartments rented to tourists.

A survey for the Exceltur tourist group revealed that there are now twice as many beds available in tourist apartments – some 138,000 – as there are in hotels.

Tourist flats offer a more attractive and economic deal to visitors, and their owners can expect rents at least 125% higher than they would receive from long-term tenants. While many are let through large online organisations, such as Airbnb, others are offered by homeowners trying to make ends meet during Spain’s prolonged recession.

Venice is evidently no exception either.

All over the world our global heritage is under assault by disrespectful tourist hordes.  From Vietnam to Venice the goose that lays the golden egg of profit for the travel mYY7PORkqysbZxM-kBcxkhgindustry is slowly being bled to death.

But in Venice the fight back has begun. The citizens of La Serenissima, possibly the world’s most iconic tourism destination, are finally revolting against tourists.

In August the city of Venice, says the Venice Times, “will receive a real mass tourism ‘assault’. Visitors will sit on the steps of the century-old buildings and bridges, eating, trashing and not showing the respect these buildings deserve.”

“Walking on the small narrow streets without left and right side order, like in other cities, making the traffic impossible to stand, offering a truly claustrophobic experience.”

There are those who are not afraid to say that something MUST be done. Ilaria Borletti Buitoni former president of the Fai, an Italian Environment Fund believes that there must be some type of tourist access control in Venice. “I know that I will draw negative comments by saying this, but Venice is an open-air museum and the city is dying. The mass of tourists in the city is expected to increase to unbearable amounts in the coming years. The idea of establishing an admission ticket to the city for its maintenance should be considered. It will protect the city and improve the quality of tourism.”

According to a recent survey by the local newspaper La Nuova, 66% of its readers agree that there must be some type of restriction to Venice and only 12% believe that there should be no restriction since the city belongs to the World.

If you’re interested in the state of marriage in the US, look no further than our nation’s capitol where cheating our your spouse appears to be a national past time.  New Orleans made the top 10 cities for cheaters too!

The District once again lives up to its TV drama-concocted reputation.

The city topped a list ranking the country’s most adulterous cities for the third year in a row. The dubious title comes courtesy of, a dating Web site for married people looking for extramarital affairs, which culled through its membership data to determine which cities have the most members per capita.

Ashley Madison claims to have more than 59,000 people registered on the site with a D.C. Zip code. (Note: This does include people who register for the site while visiting D.C. using a city Zip code.)

And the neighborhood with the most cheaters? Capitol Hill, the land of politicians, staffers and lobbyists.

The dating Web site says 10.4 percent of Capitol Hill residents are registered on the Web site. Tenleytown and Takoma Park finished second and third, respectively. With the exception of Capitol Hill, all of the top 10 D.C. neighborhoods are in the Northwest portion of the city, with the majority of the neighborhoods in affluent upper Northwest.

5169752406_4e4f31ca2eMore statues of Confederate Generals are coming down in parks around the American South.  The notorious Nathan Bedford Forrest’s statue and the memorial housing his remains is on its way to the auction block if the city of Memphis has its way. Forrest is best known for being the founder of the KKK.  He was a slave trader prior to secession.

What people see when they look up at the towering statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in a park near downtown Memphis usually depends on their deepest beliefs, their memories, their loyalties and maybe even their DNA.

Many see a Memphis slave trader, the original grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and a war criminal who led a gruesome Confederate massacre of surrendered black and white Union troops at nearby Fort Pillow in 1864.

Others see a gallant but misunderstood Civil War general, a military genius and a hero who made a speech calling for racial reconciliation in 1875. And some passers-by have little or no idea who the guy on the horse is, and do not much care.

But this month, the Memphis City Council voted unanimously to begin an intricate process of removing the brass statue from the park — along with the remains of Forrest and his wife, encased since 1905 in its marble base. This effort joins a national wave of casting off Confederate icons since the massacre last month at a church in Charleston, S.C.

Efforts to take down public flags or monuments associated with the Confederacy are being renewed in communities like New Orleans; Tampa, Fla.; Austin, Tex.; and Stone Mountain, Ga. Yale and the University of California, Berkeley, are among educational institutions being pushed to rename campus buildings honoring people connected to slavery and the Confederacy.

But because of Forrest’s notoriety, Memphis’s harsh racial history and the fact that advocates want to disinter bodies, not just take down a flag or monument, the issue has particular resonance.

I continue to watch friends, neighbors and relatives go back and forth on this subject.  I seem to be someplace in the middle.  I don’t see any reason why lone statues can’t come down and be placed in museum. 548d170824ce87a1be1d13c205d6ce62However, I’m a preservationist and having seen some sites of some of the worst our history has to offer, I mostly look at the National Historic Landmark criteria for insight on if the site should be disturbed or not.  The site of the Battle of Little Big Horn has a monument to Custer that was installed there when he was considered a hero.  It still serves as a memorial to the 7th Calvary along with the Native Sioux and Cheyenne who fought there. When I visited the site some time in the late 60s or early 70s the statue still stands but the story and the role of Custer in history is quite different.   The Trail of Tears Historic Trail tells the story of the genocide and displacement of indigenous peoples in the American South.  Andrew Jackson does not come off as the hero of The Battle of New Orleans there. 

Same with our travels during the same period to Spanish Missions in California.  The Franciscan priests basically ran concentration camps for indigenous peoples where most died in some form of slavery.  I dare any of you not to want to burn the entire sites to the ground after reading what sort’ve heinous acts went on there.  But, these sites exist to remind us what happened and to hopefully ensure we don’t rewrite history.

BTW, one of the Fathers who set up the California Missions is about to be Canonized by this current Pope.

Anthony Morales, Chief Redblood of the Gabrielino Tongva Band of Mission Indians, said he was “stunned” and “angry” by the move, and is hoping the pontiff will reverse his decision.

“On all the 21 missions along the coast here our people were enslaved, they were beaten, they were tortured, our women were raped. It was forced labor and a forced religion,” Morales said. “There’s nothing saintly about the… atrocities on our culture, on our people.”

Father Serra himself justified the beating of Native Americans, writing in 1780: “That spiritual fathers should punish their sons, the Indians, with blows appears to be as old as the conquest of the Americas; so general in fact that the saints do not seem to be any exception to the rule.”

be62cc488a16276dccf1d658dc5b1821Here’ a pretty apt description of the atrocities committed by the Franciscans under the California Mission System. 

The formation of the Mission Indians began with the Spanish policy of congregación: the forced resettlement of Indian populations in nucleated settlements. The formation of large communities facilitated the conversion to Catholicism of the Indians. Many priests felt that it was a burden to have to visit the many small dispersed Indian communities. It was also easier for royal officials to collect tribute and organize labor drafts in the new larger communities.

The missionaries, with the help of well-armed soldiers, congregated Indians into fairly large communities which were organized along the lines of those in the core areas of Spanish America. Here Indian converts were to be indoctrinated in Catholicism and taught European-style agriculture, leatherworking, textile production, and other skills deemed useful by the Spaniards. By using Indian labor to produce surplus grain supplies for the Spanish military garrisons, the Franciscan missionaries were able to view Indians as both potential converts and labor.

The Franciscan missions were basically slave plantations which required the Indian people to work for the Spanish under cruel conditions. Indians did not come freely to the missions and once there, they were held against their will. Many attempted to escape, and the soldiers stationed at the mission would attempt to recapture them. Escape attempts are severely punished by the Franciscans.

The Franciscans, backed by a small number of soldiers stationed at the missions, imposed a rigid system of coerced and disciplined labor, enforced by the use of corporal punishment and other forms of control. This punishment including public flogging, and the use of the stocks and shackles. While the public use of corporal punishment humiliated and physically injured the individuals being punished, and it did not necessarily alter or control the behavior that the Franciscans found objectionable.

One early visitor to the missions remarked about the Indians that “I have never seen one laugh.” Most of the Indians died in the new mission environment.

The Spanish sought to Christianize the Indians by enslaving them. The Spanish intent was to expropriate not only Indian lands and resources, but Indian labor as well. Part of their goal was to obliterate all features of Native American culture and society and to create a replica of Spain in California in which land-owning Spanish would be served by an Indian peasant class.

From the viewpoint of the Spanish, Indians were a form of labor which could be exploited. The success of the Spanish colonies in the Americas were based on this exploitation. In order to maximize the profits of their colonial enterprise, the Spaniards created institutions that siphoned off surplus agriculture products and provided labor for major building projects. One of these Spanish institutions was repartimiento.

Repartimiento was the Spanish policy which gave the Spanish colonists the right to use native labor for religious education. Repartimiento functioned as a part of the Spanish mission system in all parts of the Americas, including California. Under this system, labor quotas and the conscription of people to serve on labor gangs were organized through the villages served by the missions (or, from an Indian viewpoint, the villages which served the missions).

51FSUacpEOL._SY300_Does this Pope really think this work is the act of Saints?  Anyway, our history is full of the actions of a lot of bad men.  I think it doesn’t take much imagination to see most of them were of European descent and Christian and men.

One last link before I go. If any one you know tries to say the Civil War was about “state’s rights” please send them directly to this site.   It’s the Civil War Trust and that link goes to the Writs of Secession where you get to read exactly what the war was about.  This is from the introductory paragraph of the secession declaration of the state of Georgia. Read the ones from Mississippi and Texas if you think it’s an oddity.

The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic. This hostile policy of our confederates has been pursued with every circumstance of aggravation which could arouse the passions and excite the hatred of our people, and has placed the two sections of the Union for many years past in the condition of virtual civil war.

So, while we’re tearing down the statues of Confederate Generals who fought for slavery, we need to seriously look at folks like Andrew Jackson who fought for the US policy of genocide against Native Americans.  Then, the Pope needs to hear the real story of the Spanish Missions.

So, I bet you never thought you’d see a post like this!!  But, here’s some travel advice from my neighbor Dr. Bob! 

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?be-nice-or-leave

Friday Reads: Air BnB wrecking neighborhoods all over the country including mine

airbnb1Good Morning!

I’ve written about gentrification and the impact on inner city neighborhoods like mine.  Today, I’d like to introduce you to a real nightmare ruining my neighborhood and other neighborhoods all over the country.

I’m going to approach it from several vantage points.  First, as a person who is living the firsthand nightmare of being surrounded by illegal, unlicensed short term rentals that bring party happy tourists into quiet neighborhoods.  Second, as a person who has watched many friends get booted from their rental properties because their apartments are worth more as short term illegal rentals for tourists.  Studies in cities like New York City and San Francisco show the impact of illegal and unlicensed AirBnB short term rentals on homelessness and increasing the unavailability of long term rentals in cities already facing issues by not having enough affordable housing.  It’s not pretty.  Get ready for an increase in homeless in a town or city near year.

The art installation you see on the left comes from the creative minds of two women in my neighborhood.  I was pleased to see this come so quickly after I’ve started emailing and calling my city councilwoman about what’s been going on all around me.

Over Memorial Day weekend, a Coney Island-style stand-in popped up on a porch on Royal Street in Bywater. The art piece featured two Bywater caricatures on a satirical billboard: “Welcome to the Bywater, where the vacation never ends!” Artist Caroline Thomas, who paints Mardi Gras floats for Royal Artists, created the piece and posted photos on Facebook. The spread went viral. Meanwhile, dozens of people — including many out-of-town visitors — posed for photos, gawked at and talked about the piece outside her home.

And her neighborhood is full of those visitors. Most of her block offers a room (or entire home) on Airbnb, she says. She counted 140 Airbnbs within her neighborhood, compared to just a handful of apartments for rent listed on sites like Craigslist.

“We noticed over the past six months a definite shift in the neighborhood,” she says. “Big packs of tourists where you see 20 people going down the street with rolling suitcases and you’re like, ‘What’s happening?’ … We walk outside and people are taking constant photos of our house. At first it was charming, then you start to feel like an animal in a zoo.”

She may feel like an animal in a zoo but I feel more like a hostage in my own home.  I have an endless parade of strangers at all hours of the day and night within inches of my bedroom. It’s hard to park in front of my house. I frequently hear noises that you’d expect from a frat house that’s known for wild parties.  People from New Jersey–who basically never even live here or come here any more–are buying houses on my street and renting them out for around $200 a night.  Take $200 x 30 and you’ll have a monthly income for a small apartment in Tokyo.  However, Tokyo has a lot of well paying jobs. New Orleans does not and long term rentals–while rising to east coast levels–are way too high for New Orleans incomes. I’m losing neighbors and gaining party-throwing crime bait.

Here’s Caroline’s original story from her facebook page.

My roommate Chascarillo Meow and I have been struggling with a lot of anger over our neighborhood (the Bywater) and decided to work it out with some art. We’ve slowly come to realize that the entire neighborhood is being overrun by Airbnb, to the point where it’s near impossible to find long term leases (140 Airbnb listings versus 18 apartments up on craigslist). Every house around us is running an Airbnb hustle, and specifically the one to the left of us: the woman that owns it has multiple properties in the neighborhood, she doesn’t live on premise, heck, she isn’t in town half the time, she’s packing as many as 10 people into each side of the shotgun, and it’s back to back rentals. It’s bachelorette weekends and birthday getaways every day of the week over there. I used to live on a quiet block and now it’s packs of bros heading to Booty’s for craft cocktails. I walk outside and people are taking selfies in front of my house. Markey’s and the Country Club (though both very considerate establishments) are completely overrun with tourists, and no long function as the neighborhood establishments they once were.

I know this is touchy subject, because everyone knows someone who’s using Airbnb to supplement their income, but take a second to think about what you’re doing to your city. All 140 of those properties (excluding a few, I’m sure, that are just offering up something like a couch or are only renting it out a few times a year) could be filled with locals. People that pay taxes and care about potholes and our police and whether Pres Kabacoff is going to build high rise apartments along our riverfront. And people displaced from the Bywater will start filling up poorer, more vulnerable neighborhoods in the city, and those people in turn will be displaced. Pre-Katrina, people were spending 19% of their income on rent. Now it’s 41%. And when people like the lady next door are charging $250/ night how can locals compete? Her price for renting it out for a month? $5,000. That’s Tokyo prices.

Here is my letter to my city councilwoman that I sent on May 14th.

Hi! I live at (address redacted for obvious reasons) and am at my wit’s end dealing with the short term air bnb next to me at (house numbers redacted). The owners live in NJ and are never here. The property manager appears to live in San Francisco. It is like living next to a frat house. I live next to a legitimate b&b with owners in resident and it’s like night and day. Also, I can tell you that I’ve lost 4 friends whose landlords evicted them to do the same set up. We are totally losing our neighborhood to these things. The same people have just bought a property across the street and are planning to do the same thing. I don’t have time to list all the issues I have had but just ask yourself if you would want complete strangers walking within inches of your bedroom window at all hours of the day and night. One time it was with about 20 bicycles.


american_splendor-gentrification Yes I said 20 bicycles at all hours of the night and day rolling within inches of my bedroom window.  Most of these folks  act like my street is an extension of Bourbon Street.  They also seem to be unaware that they’ve introduced incredible levels of muggings in my neighborhood because most of them aren’t very streetwise and don’t know how to deal with an inner city neighborhood like mine. We may be gentrifying but we are a long way from being a quiet little burb. These folks are like walking crime bait.  There are laws surrounding these things but the city doesn’t have the resources to enforce them.

I also live next to one of the few licensed B&B’s in the neighborhood with resident owners.  They pay their taxes, their fees, and they follow the rules.  Their business is being hurt by the black market short term rentals that have spread like wildfire the last year or so. My neighborhood is not zoned for multiple commercial ventures. However, this is what’s happening now.  

My neighbors used to be the folks that worked in the quarter like musicians and artists, writers, barbers, waiters and just hard working people.  If they are like me and own their house, they’re still here and live in fear of the potential increase in property taxes and service fees that will have to come with supporting all this activity that is totally out of place in a neighborhood. Plus, property values are sky rocketing. If they are renting, they better hope their landlord isn’t struck by the greedbug because they will be booted and will join a huge number of people having to find apartments in a city where there are fewer and fewer options all the time.

This is not unique to New Orleans.  All you have to do is start searching and you will see how New York, San Francisco, and even small cities and towns are dealing with this.  Here’s a blog relating issues that Air Bnb’s are causing in LA.

However, Airbnb has become politically controversial in high-priced, regulation-obsessed cities like Los Angeles and New York. Hotels and hotel unions quite understandably see Airbnb as competition in the short-term lodging industry, and wish to regulate it intensively (if not to destroy it). One common anti-Airbnb argument** is that Airbnb, by making short-term lodging more affordable, actually reduces the supply of traditional apartments—that is, apartments leased for a month or more at a time). The argument runs as follows: units that are on Airbnb for a few days at a time would, in the absence of Airbnb, be rented out as traditional apartments. Thus, Airbnb reduces the housing supply and raises rents.

This argument rests on an essentially unprovable claim: that Airbnb units would otherwise be rented out as traditional apartments. More importantly, the argument proves too much. If Airbnb hosts reduce the supply of apartments by not using their houses and spare rooms as traditional apartments, why isn’t this equally true of hotels who are not using their rooms as apartments, or homeowners who are not renting out every spare room? And if homeowners and hotels are reducing the rental housing supply, why shoudn’t they be forced to rent out their units as traditional apartments?

Finally, the argument rests on the assumption that Airbnb includes a significant share of the rental housing market. For example, LAANE (a union-affiliated policy organization based in Los Angeles) recently issued a report claiming that Airbnb takes ,7316 units off the Los Angeles rental market, which “is equivalent to seven years of affordable housing construction inLos Angeles.” But since Los Angeles produces very little “affordable housing” (whatever that term means) this statistic proves nothing.

A better way of understanding Airbnb’s impact, if any, on rents is to compare it to the total number of housing units in Los Angeles. There are just over 1.2 million housing units in the city of Los Angeles; thus, Airbnb units are roughly 0.6 percent of the housing market. There are about 700,000 rental units in Los Angeles—so even if every single Airbnb unit would otherwise be part of the rental market, Airbnb units would comprise only 1 percent of the rental market. (I very much doubt that this is the case, if only because since some Airbnb units are in privately owned homes and not every part-time Airbnb landlord wants a permanent roommate). Thus, it seems to me that even if every single Airbnb unit would be used as traditional apartments in the absence of Airbnb, its impact on regional housing markets would be small.

That analysis does not stand up to study. Here’s an article in The Examiner about the impact in San Francisco. Its Mission neighborhood is particularly hard hit.10035223

San Francisco is once again debating how best to regulate short-term rental websites like Airbnb, after a law legalizing the practice went into effect less than four months ago.City planners have since said the law is unenforceable and needs to change, a position supported by Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors.But just how to strengthen the law remains a point of contention, as does the question of what impact short-term rentals are having on San Francisco’s housing stock.Today, a report will be released by Budget Analyst Harvey Rose that provides new analysis of the impact of short-term rentals on The City, drawing comparisons between longer-term hosts and evictions and estimating that in some neighborhoods Airbnb units could comprise as much as 40 percent of potential rentals.

Between 925 and 1,960 units citywide have been removed from the housing market by hosts renting out entire units on Airbnb for more than 58 days, the report estimates. While this total comprises a small fraction of San Francisco’s 244,012 rental units, it does represent up to 23.2 percent of the total citywide vacant units, which are estimated at 8,438, the report says.Airbnb is not the only short-term rental website with listings in San Francisco — VRBO, for example, is the second-most popular — but the report only analyzed Airbnb because data for other companies was unavailable. The report notes that “rentals for private and shared rooms would reduce the available rental stock even further.”The data was not provided by Airbnb, but rather compiled through online research.The impact in San Francisco varies by neighborhood, with the greatest impacts in the Mission, Haight-Ashbury/Western Addition, Castro-Eureka Valley and Potrero Hill-South Beach.In the Haight, for example, nearly 32 percent of the vacant rental housing units were listed on Airbnb, some 122 total. In the Mission, 29 percent of potential rentals, or 199, were listed on the website. Another estimate says the Mission percentage could be as high as 40 percent and as high as 43 percent in the Haight.“Airbnb has made a lot of claims that they are not impacting our housing stock. This demonstrates that they clearly are,” Campos said during an interview with The San Francisco Examiner. “And that in some neighborhoods like the Mission the impact is so significant that it’s definitely pushing people out.”The report draws a comparison between the number of evictions in neighborhoods with the most hosts, though notes there is no way to draw a direct connection. In the Mission, for example, there were 315 hosts last year and 323 evictions.“There seems to be a connection,” Campos said. “We won’t know for sure until we actually get Airbnb to give us the information.”The report draws a distinction between commercial hosts, those booked in excess of 58 days, and casual hosts, and bases its analysis on 6,113 Airbnb listings identified in December, of which nearly 4,200 were casual hosts. The impact on the housing stock is based on commercial hosts, which the report defines as those not supplementing living expenses but treating short-term rentals as a steady source of income.Those debating the regulations talk about striking the right balance, such as with the cap on the number of allowable stays per year. Current law states there can only be 90 days for unhosted stays but unlimited days when a host is present. That is being proposed to change to 120 days for all types of stays by the Planning Commission. Campos is pushing for a 60-day cap. A proposed short-term rental measure for the November ballot proposes a 75-day cap.The report said that if the existing regulations were enforced, the current listings of 6,113 would decrease to 5,557. With the 120-day cap, they would decline to 5,706. A 60-day cap would lower them to 4,471.

carolita-johnson-it-ll-have-to-be-your-place-i-airbnb-d-myself-out-of-my-apartment-tonigh-new-yorker-cartoonHere’s an Alternet article on Air BnB’s “Parasitic Impact on New York City”.  It’s an article on a New Yorker who has done a study on the impact on affordable housing.

Airbnb has permeated New York City’s housing market and its impact has been parasitic. Since its creation, the apartment-rental startup has been praised as a shining example of collaborative consumption, but like many aspects of the “sharing economy,” there’s a dark underbelly to its success. Some of the most disturbing details can be gleaned from the new website, Inside Airbnb. The site, and its interactive NYC map, are the work of activist Murray Cox. I caught up with Cox to discuss his findings and the emerging fight against Airbnb.

Michael Arria: What inspired you to create the website?

Murray Cox: There were a few things that inspired and motivated me to create the Inside Airbnb website. Firstly, I noticed the marketing campaigns that Airbnb ran in the New York City subways last year stating that “Airbnb was great for New York.”

At the same time it was widely reported that many Airbnb hosts were operating illegal hotels and that neither the hosts nor Airbnb were collecting taxes. There was an active and public debate in Albany about the laws, and a legal battle to get Airbnb to release data on how their rental platform was being used.

I get suspicious when a company engages in a public relations campaign while laws are being debated by elected officials, or in the courts. It seemed that Airbnb was being completely unaccountable to the community, yet asking for the laws to be changed for their benefit.

I was also inspired by work I did over the summer with DIVAS for Social Justice at the Weeksville Heritage Center. We taught young children from the neighborhood about gentrification using STEAM subjects. My contribution was to use statistics and maps to allow the students to understand some of the forces that shaped and is now changing their community. That experience, and seeing the reaction from the public to various exhibitions of the student’s work made me realize that data-driven storytelling about the world around us and important issues is very powerful.

MA: Did your findings confirm your suspicions? Did they surprise you?

MC: I started off just looking for data on Airbnb in my neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in central Brooklyn. I knew of a few people in my community that rent out entire apartments in their multi-family homes via Airbnb, and based on other data I had seen, I suspected that this might be widespread.

Once I saw the data for my neighborhood, it both confirmed my suspicions and surprised me. At least 1,224 Airbnb listings were on the Airbnb website for Bedford-Stuyvesant, with 633 (51.7%) of those being for an “entire home/apartment.” Looking at the calendars and reviews for the entire homes/apartments, I found that more than 90% of them were available for more than 60 days out of the year, and on average received a review from a guest once a month.

This directly refuted Airbnb’s claims that “87 percent of Airbnb hosts share the home in which they live.” And more importantly, 633 is a large number of apartments being taken off the long-term housing market in a neighborhood with historic records of homelessness, displacement and reduced housing affordability.

In addition, 43.5% of the listings in Bedford-Stuyvesant were by hosts with more than one listing, sometimes multiple entire apartments or multiple rooms in an apartment building. This is not a story of “sharing” or of a “sharing economy.”

Once I collected and analyzed the data for Airbnb in Bedford-Stuyvesant, I decided to collect data for the entire city, and saw that the same story was repeated throughout the city. I then went about building a site that made it easy for anyone, even without a statistical background, to see the true story.

Here’s further evidence of the impact of Air BnB on NYC. Basically, it’s made already unaffordable and unavailable housing even more unaffordable and unavailable.

Here’s another article at Slate featuring a view point of some one who has rented their house out in Marfa, Texas.

When I first began listing my one-bedroom adobe house in Marfa, Texas, on Airbnb, the service seemed like a godsend. When I took a weekend trip, I’d host tourists from Austin; their rental fees would more than cover the cost of a few tanks of gas and a nice dinner. The rewards weren’t just financial: The people who stayed in my house felt more like houseguests than clients. After a visitor left, I’d find a handwritten thank-you note on the kitchen table, leftover snacks in the fridge, and once, a charming pencil drawing of my cat scratching his ear. And since the hotel options in town are limited, plenty of visitors were happy to pay below-market prices for an authentic Marfa experience, housecats and all.

This utopian vision of regular people helping each other out (and making a little money along the way) is a cornerstone of Airbnb’s PR strategy: “It’s like the United Nations at every kitchen table. It’s very powerful,” Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky told attendees at a hospitality conference last year. “For us to win, no one has to lose.”

But that’s a more contentious claim than it might seem. Recent years have shown there are plenty of profits to be made in the short-term-rental world—and big profits tend to produce both winners and losers. Airbnb’s top 40 hosts in New York City have grossed more than $35 million combined. It didn’t take long for the original hosts of the so-called sharing economy to find themselves competing with enterprising property owners. “There are entrepreneurs out there who see that there’s a huge difference between the cost of a hotel room and what you can get on Airbnb, and they take advantage of it,” says Neal Gorenflo, co-founder of the nonprofit Shareable. “Basically, there’s a dramatic difference in the price of the same commodity that’s normally in two separate markets. People who have the means realize they can exploit that difference.” In a recent blog post, Gorenflo calls this “the dark side of the sharing economy.”

It’s easy to see why many landlords would be tempted: They stand to make much more renting apartments to short-term guests at higher rates than they would if they signed up tenants for yearlong leases. In many cities (although not in Marfa), laws protect tenants somewhat, but property owners are finding creative workarounds. In San Francisco a man is suing his landlord for unjust eviction, claiming that he was kicked out of the rent-controlled apartment where he’d lived for nearly a decade, allegedly so his landlord could list it on Airbnb.

“We have a dwindling stock of rent-controlled units in San Francisco,” says Steven Jones, editor-in-chief of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. “Any of those precious few units going to visiting tourists rather than permanent residents certainly adds to the housing crisis here.”

I bump into Air BnB trippers every where.  They usually sit out on the stoops eventually next door or they wind up on the bar stools in any number of our local bars. You just walk around and see all these strangers sitting on stoops where your friends used to live and you think, well there went another one.

These Air BnB idiots are easy to spot. That’s undoubtedly why the muggings are going up along with the rents that people around here can’t afford.  I ask them why they chose an illegal rental over an actual licensed B&B or hotel.  First, they all don’t know they’re basically breaking the law and staying at an illegal hotel. It all looks innocent to them and they think they’re actually helping bring money into our neighborhoods.  Their answer is always that it’s cheaper than the hotels or the B&Bs.  I tell them it’s because the hotel taxes are what pays for our police, our schools, our roads, and a lot of the things that need fixing here in New Orleans.  I explain they are enabling people to make money while avoiding paying for the wear and tear on the city that all of you cause including the crime you’ve brought here.  So, crime bait, you really thinking you’re spending enough money here in the city to make up for the fact that what you’re paying for in nightly “rent” is going up to New Jersey?

C’mon.  They’re in these places because they can get them on the cheap compared to the legitimate places.  You really think they’re also spending lots of money in the city? But, like Caroline says, why should they care about affordable housing and neighborhoods when they have brunch?

Then, I tell them, I hear you walk on the floors.  I heard you arguing last night. I almost called the police because I thought some one was getting hurt.  Oh?  You were just “playing cards”.  Really?   Did you know you held a conversation outside my bedroom window and that I gig until early morning? Did any of you think that dragging 20 bicycles past my bedroom window might wake me up or bother me? Do you think that I might not like going to the grocery store loaded down with sacks and coming back to find I can’t park anywhere near my home?

Oh, great, you’re spending some money here.  That makes up for it all.  In your case, more of your money is going to New Jersey than New Orleans. Now you want to think about it next time you do this to some one else?  Would you really like to live surrounded by Air BnB tripsters coming and going loudly all the time while you’re trying to work, sleep or just relax? You just wanted to save money and be part of a neighborhood the New York Times keeps calling hip.  Let me tell you about the families that actually use to live in that place when I first moved here. They ain’t here no more.  But, hey, you’ve got your brunch!

Somebody may be making a killing off of all of this otherwise the New Jersey carpetbaggers wouldn’t have bought the double across the street that used to be home to a nice black family and doing a repeat. It’s certainly not the folks that are having to look for apartments in other parts of the city with rents that are now displacing the working poor.  It’s certainly not benefiting me although my house price is going up. I’m more afraid that I’ll have to sell because if the property taxes catch up to the market value, I’m fucked.

95438294_2fd841b9f7_oLet me point you to another New Yorker with something succinct to say:  Airbnb Will Probably Get You Evicted and Priced Out of the City.

Renting your place on Airbnb might help you pay your rent, but it’s making New York City — and San Francisco, Montreal, Berlin and other popular destinations — even less affordable than they already are.

The young and mobile love Airbnb. It’s a step up from crashing on a friend or a stranger’s couch without shelling a month’s rent on a three-day stay at a hotel. It’s also a great way to make up for rent that’s “wasted” on an empty apartment.

‘In an attempt to make an extra buck, you may be slowly screwing yourself out of the market.’For those of us trying to survive in some of the most expensive cities in the world — where everyone wants to live, but fewer and fewer people can afford to — it might even be what allows us to be able to pay the rent.

But wait until you are looking for your next place to live, and see the going rates for rentals in the city.

If you look at the economics of it, Airbnb is ruining your life. Or, at least, your chances at a lasting life in the city. In an attempt to make an extra buck, you may be slowly screwing yourself out of the market.

It’s making New Orleans totally unaffordable and it’s turning the historical neighborhoods with their unique cultures and traditions into mini-Bourbon Streets.  It’s time for City Government to Make THIS GO AWAY.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Fat Tuesday Reads

Revelers toss confetti at float of Momus, patron god of Mardi Gras, in New Orleans in 1960.

Revelers toss confetti at float of Momus, patron god of Mardi Gras, in New Orleans in 1960.

Good Morning!!

Today is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in French, the last day to celebrate before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday fall on different days every year, depending on the date of Easter Sunday. It begins 46 days before Easter (Sundays aren’t counted). Lent in the Catholic Church was meant to be symbolic of the 40 days and 40 nights Jesus spent fasting in the desert while enduring temptations from the Devil. Traditionally Christians gave up meat during lent and spent time in prayer and meditation. As kids, we gave up candy or chose some activity to perform during the Lenten season.

So how is the date of Easter determined each year? You guessed it, it depends on the date of the Vernal Equinox–one more example of how Christians absorbed Pagan holidays into their calendar. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is the culmination of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, beginning on The Epiphany, January 6–the day of the supposed arrival of Three Kings (or Wise Men) bearing gifts of frankincense and myrrh for the newborn child. This year Easter falls on April 5.

From IB Times:

The time between Epiphany and Mardi Gras is commonly referred to as Carnival, during which parades take place in Catholic strongholds like Brazil, Venice, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobago, and New Orleans.

Like many Catholic holidays, Mardi Gras bears resemblances to ancient pagan rituals, particularly Saturnalia and Lupercalia. The former honored the god Saturn, an agricultural deity, and was marked by gift-giving, revelry and gambling. The latter was conducted in mid-February to honor Faunus, the god of fertility, which involved feasting, drinking and debauched behavior.

When Rome was Christianized, the Catholic Church adapted popular pagan holidays into the new faith. Mardi Gras season became a time to celebrate before the 40 days of Lent marked by prayer, repentance and atonement. As Christianity spread throughout Europe and the New World, so did Mardi Gras traditions. The pre-Lenten festivals continue to be marked by drinking, dancing and feasting on fatty foods containing meat, eggs, milk and cheese – ingredients that are restricted during Lent.

Shrove Tuesday falls on the same day as Fat Tuesday. It is the day before Ash Wednesday when Christians are reminded they will soon enter a season of penance. “Shrove” comes from the word “shrive,” which means to confess. In the Middle Ages, Catholics began marking Shrove Tuesday as a time to confess their sins before Lent.

Rasberry pakzi

Rasberry pakzi

In places where many Polish immigrants settled in the U.S. Fat Tuesday is celebrated as “Pakzi Day.” From Michigan Live, Fat Tuesday means paczki: One generation prepares the next for the biggest day of the year at Davison Home Bakery.

DAVISON, MI — Lydia Herron is a bit nervous. And excited.

After about five months of working at Davison Home Bakery, she’s preparing for the biggest day of the year: Fat Tuesday.

“They tell me it’s going to be pretty insane,” she said, standing in the bakery the morning of Monday, Feb. 16, wearing a white baker’s apron.

Fat Tuesday is the day before the Christian tradition of Lent, when practitioners give up something for 40 days and 40 nights. Sweets are a common thing to give up, and for many, Fat Tuesday is one last chance to splurge. And the favorite way to splurge on Fat Tuesday?


Paczki are like doughnuts, if you’re the kind of person who thinks there just aren’t enough calories in cream- or jelly-filled doughnuts as it is.

Diane Henson, a baker at Davison Home Bakery, has been making paczki since 1972. The morning of Feb. 16, she and baker Mitch French had already made 200 dozen, having been there since 9 p.m. the night before. They plan on having 600 dozen baked by the time Fat Tuesday rolls around.

She said to make paczki,they use their doughnut batter but add more sugar, butter, and eggs.

Of course the biggest celebration of Mardi Gras is in New Orleans. Here’s a schedule of activities for today that includes links to watch video of the parade. I’m sure Dakinikat can also fill us in on what’s happening down there.

Time Magazine has an interesting article about how Mardi Gras was liberated from being a celebration only for the rich and influential people in New Orleans.

A float in the Krewe of Proteus passes down Napoleon Avenue during their Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015.

A float in the Krewe of Proteus passes down Napoleon Avenue during their Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015.

These days, Mardi Gras in New Orleans — which falls on Feb. 17 this year — is a party for all. But, not that long ago, Mardi Gras celebrations were more exclusive affairs.

As TIME reported in the Feb. 9, 1948, issue, balls and “krewes” were for the city’s elites only, and that situation lasted for decades after the first Mardi Gras parade was held in the 1850s. In the 20th century, however, the celebration expanded:

For half a century, New Orleans’ fantastic Mardi Gras balls were strictly for the upper crust. Nobody without money, blue blood, or both gained membership in the secret men’s clubs or “krewes” which staged them. Before 1900 there were only five clubs: Comus, Momus, Twelfth Night, Rex and Proteus. They culled guest lists with pernickety care, asked only the fairest of debutantes to serve as carnival queens. But times changed. The socially ambitious began forming their own krewes.

In 1928 New Orleans had 16 Mardi Gras balls. In 1946 there were 36. This year, a record-breaking total of 49 are being held. Last week, with Carnival Day (Shrove Tuesday) fast approaching, New Orleans’ social whirl had assumed the proportions of a maelstrom.

By the 1940s, there were krewe options galore. “Italian krewes, Irish krewes, German krewes… krewes for college men, businessmen, professional men,” TIME wrote. “To the horror of New Orleans’ old guard, there are even krewes for women.”

But that didn’t mean Mardi Gras was an all-inclusive celebration. The krewes may have multiplied, but they were still separated along racial and gender lines.

As recently as 1991, the relative exclusivity of the Mardi Gras krewes was a source of controversy in New Orleans. That December, the city council voted to require the krewes to integrate by 1994, or else lose the right to hold parades. (The krewes are private clubs, but the city controls the streets.)

Read more history at the link. The photo at the top of this post is from Time in 1960.

In winter weather news . . .

The latest winter storm hit the South hard yesterday. NBC News reportsIce Storm Coats South from Oklahoma to Carolinas, Heads to Northeast.

A band of snow and ice sliced across the South on Monday from Oklahoma to the Carolinas, cutting off power for more than a quarter of a million customers and threatening to paralyze major cities on its way to the Northeast.

For once, Boston wasn’t the center of the winter weather. Instead, New England-like snow fell on parts of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia: 17 inches near Coleman, Kentucky; 15 inches in Logan, West Virginia; 14½ inches near Oceana, West Virginia; and 12 inches in Dickenson County, Virginia.

 At 3:45 a.m. ET, The Weather Channel reported that 26 million Americans were under winter storm warnings — with three million in Tennessee and South Carolina under an ice storm warning.

Ice coated power lines in Georgia where 174,000 customers were without power early Tuesday.

I sure hope JJ, RalphB, and Mouse are doing OK. Beata too–my sister reports that southern Indiana has been hit hard for the past couple of days.

At least 55,000 customers were without power in Tennessee, the state Emergency Management Agency said late Monday. It also declared a state of emergency late Monday.

Trees and power lines came down in Arkansas, where Entergy Corp. said about 17,000 customers were without power, and in Mississippi, where the state Emergency Operations Center said 10,000 customers were in the dark.

Power failures were affecting nearly 62,000 early Tuesday in South Carolina and an additional 19,000 in North Carolina.

The hardest hit areas, according to NBC today:

About 22 million people across parts of the South and the Mid-Atlantic are under winter storm warnings as a band of ice and snow continues its assault. More than 330,000 people across 13 states and Washington, D.C., are without power, according to The Weather Channel. Parts of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia got the brunt of the snow Monday, including more than a foot in several areas. Now, as the system starts to pull away, forecasters say D.C. could see about 8 inches of snow, New York could get 3 inches and parts of New Jersey, 7 inches.

Take care, Janicen, Delphyne and Joanelle. For once, it wasn’t Boston in the eye of the storm. A man came to my door last night and offered to shovel my car out and clear off my sidewalk for $40, and I took him up on it. I don’t know if I can actually get out. He didn’t shovel down to the pavement, but at least I don’t have to deal with that wall the plows left at the end of my driveway. I’ll go out and look at it later on.

More news links

Judge Andrew S. Hanen

Judge Andrew S. Hanen

NYT, Obama Immigration Policy Halted by Federal Judge in Texas.  Sigh . . .

The White House responded with a statement explaining why the policy is constitutional.

The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws—which is exactly what the President did when he announced commonsense policies to help fix our broken immigration system. Those policies are consistent with the laws passed by Congress and decisions of the Supreme Court, as well as five decades of precedent by presidents of both parties who have used their authority to set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws.

The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts, and the district court in Washington, D.C. have determined that the President’s actions are well within his legal authority. Top law enforcement officials, along with state and local leaders across the country, have emphasized that these policies will also benefit the economy and help keep communities safe. The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision.

IB Times, via Raw Story, Who is the Texas judge obstructing Obama’s immigration plan?

CNN, Poll: Most disapprove of Obama handling of ISIS.

Frankly, I doubt that “most” Americans have the slightest idea of what is going on with “ISIS” or a clue about how Obama his “handling” the “threat.”

Karoli at Crooks and Liars, The Islamophobia Fear Factory And The Billionaires Who Pay For It.

NBC News, The Chapel Hill shooter, Craig Hicks, has been indicted for murder.

Outspoken atheists Penn Gillette, Neill Degrasse Tyson,  Bill Maher,  Lawrence Krauss, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins,    Ricky Gervais, Aayan Hirsi Ali

Outspoken atheists Penn Gillette, Neill Degrasse Tyson, Bill Maher, Lawrence Krauss, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Ricky Gervais, Aayan Hirsi Ali

And speaking of Islamophobia, what’s with the supposedly intellectual “movement atheists” who are so obsessed with Islam? Amanda Marcotte, an atheist herself, writes: Time for atheists to take a hard look at ourselves.

One of the reasons that I was attracted to movement atheism was I believed that, by rejecting the gods-and-masters idea, it was inoculated against that knee-jerk tribalism that characterizes so many religions. Without a supernatural cover story for why we’re the chosen people/the righteous/the holy ones, I thought, we would have to rationally accept that we are nothing special. I thought it was protection against the special pleading you often see from people who are wed to conservative movements and institutions and identities. That hope of mine is being sorely tested in the light of Craig Hicks shooting, execution-style, his three Muslim neighbors that witnesses say he had an ongoing bug up his ass about. Hicks was an outspoken and aggressive New Atheist sort, but that’s all we really know about him, alongside his apparent gun-loving tendencies.

Yes, yes, I know we don’t know if it was over religion or a parking space, but it’s clear as hell that many in the atheist world are hoping—dare I say praying—that there’s some kind of exonerating evidence to show that he barely even noticed the headscarfs on the heads of two of his victims. To which I say, why? If we are, as we purport to be, rational people who are above the knee-jerk tribalism of our religious brethren, then we should be open, without any defensiveness, to an open and honest discussion about how the rhetoric of some of the big names in atheism—Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Bill Maher—treads past the ordinary criticisms of faith and turns into ugly and demonstrably silly arguments about how Islam is somehow uniquely poisonous as a religion. While claiming to oppose Christianity, these men have allowed themselves to be useful idiots for the cause of the Christian right, giving them an “even the atheists agree!” cover for their desire to stoke religious animosity and drumming up support for even more unnecessary wars in the Middle East.

Read the rest at the link.

Furthermore, what about the misogyny among these (mostly) male atheist obsessives? Here’s an earlier post by Marcotte: Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris?

At first blush, it would seem that an atheist movement would be exactly the sort of thing that would attract many women. After all, much of the oppression of women—from forced veiling to restricting abortion rights—is a direct result of religion. Unsurprisingly, then, feminism has a long tradition of outspoken atheists and religious skeptics within its ranks.Suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton preferred “rational ideas based on scientific facts” to “religious superstition.” Major feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir argued that belief in God exists in part to “repress any impulse toward revolt in the downtrodden female.” Modern feminist writer Katha Pollitt received the “Emperor Has No Clothes” award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2001, where she said that religion is dangerous because “it connects with very terrible social energies that have lain in civilization for a very long time.”

But despite the natural and cozy fit of atheism and feminism, the much-ballyhooed “New Atheism” that was supposed to be a more aggressive, political form of atheism has instead been surprisingly male-dominated. The reason has, in recent years, become quite apparent: Many of the most prominent leaders of the New Atheism are quick to express deeply sexist ideas. Despite their supposed love of science and rationality, many of them are nearly as quick as their religious counterparts to abandon reason in order to justify regressive views about women.

Atheism needs some new spokespeople. These guys are nearly as ugly and nasty as their fundamentalist christian counterparts. I nominate Dakinikat.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please share your links and storm updates in the comment thread, and have a great Fat Tuesday!!