Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Most Important Election in New Orleans History 

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Dumber than a sack of wet hair 

Bayou Buzz's Mike Bayham is such an extraordinary nimrod! I'd seen him before at one of Jeff Crouere's "Politics with a Punch" events and knew he wasn't an ideological soulmate, but... my goodness, his last two columns should be read side by side for pure comic entertainment.

Moldy City nails Bayham on his recent column which has been approvingly quoted and disseminated by the Ron Forman for Mayor campaign. First, Bayham slags on the Gambit Weekly for having liberal leanings, but neglects to mention that in his Bio he boasts about being published in the weekly.

Then, this non-New Orleans resident informs us he's supporting Peggy Wilson for mayor. Bayham rates her chances as follows in his column from 4/12/06:

"Can Ms. Wilson make a runoff? Possibly, if she runs strong in Algiers and Lakeview..."
OK. Well, that might be a "possibility" if Algiers and Lakeview went totally insane, en masse. If they all woke up and said, "yeah, let's all vote for a whack-job whose only solution for every problem is such a complete non-starter it doesn't pass the laugh test. (Her "Tax Free City" is not a plan so much as a GOP wet dream.)

Nonetheless Bayham offers his support for Peggy "crazy eyes" Wilson, and then, THE VERY NEXT WEEK he handicaps Rob Couhig's chances:

So why is voting for Rob Couhig, the most unapologetically aggressive candidate in the race for mayor, such a bad idea?
Because a vote for Couhig is in effect a wasted vote...
Since there is no chance of Couhig making a runoff

So, according to this political consultant, Peggy Wilson has a shot at the runoffs, but a vote for a surging Couhig candidacy is "wasted". That's some valuable, insightful stuff, there, from a guy who claims he has "some knowledge" of politics.

Seriously, the only thing "wasted" is any money ever paid to Bayham for his loony "analysis". Does he get a salary from Bayou Buzz? He should return it, with an apology for such stupid public clowning.

Rob Couhig has totally dominated Forman in every debate I've seen, and has earned his conservative support. But GOP mouthbreathers like Bayham finally perceived the obvious-- that Couhig is taking votes away from establishment conservative Forman-- and they don't like it. They especially don't like his temporary nonagression pact with Mitch Landrieu, because it weakens Forman's chances.

Aw, poor babies. A candidate who had the balls to run as a Republican in New Orleans ruined the chances for your DINO stealth candidate. Millions of conservative dollars down the drain. Someone call the Whaaambulance.

Mitch understood how this dynamic would play out weeks ago; he knows the game. And it's funny to see establishment conservatives flailing around, trying in vain to rally support for an uninspiring, limp, DINO candidate like Forman, whose campaign has been reduced to citing Bayham's idiotic column to try to drum up last minute votes.
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Pulitzer Prize Nominee "Dead Wrong" 

That's World Class New Orleans' view, which I share.

And I'll note that just because news outlets and every candidate (save Landrieu) handles "race" issues clumsily (or not at all) that does not mean there are no deep underlying problems that need addressing. But to the ultra-hip, ultra-colorblind Chris Rose, these are just pesky "phantoms" that plague us because we haven't adequately "tripped the light fantastic".
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Fourth Estate fails New Orleans 

I'm so displeased with the Gambit Weekly and the Pulitzer Prize winning Times Picayune, for not making any endorsements for assessor. They basically duck the issue, and advise lobbying our state legislators to enact reform.

Well, duh. In my view, that's a given.

For example, the T-P declined to endorse the IQ reform ticket because there are "too many unknowns".

That's not true. There are several "mortal lock" certainties about the assessor elections. 1) This is our best chance in decades to defeat the parochial, incumbent assessor dynasties that have crippled New Orleans with unfair practices for generations. 2) Re-electing these cronies absolutely sends the wrong message to the rest of the state and the rest of the country. Yet, some of these highly compensated "do-nothing" assessors may avoid a runoff because they are politically connected, and cater to the wealthy supporters funding their campaigns. (These supporters have the narrowest and greediest of motives). 3) Electing these incumbents is the worst possible choice the citizens of New Orleans could make. Therefore, both papers should have endorsed ANYBODY but the current officeholders. There is almost no chance that the new faces could be more corrupt than the old.

What's the worst that could happen? That the IQ candidates (or whomever) don't perform their constitutional duty to reassess properties every four years? Well, THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT HAS OCCURRED FOR THE PAST SEVENTY YEARS!! At least we'd have some new faces, and an "image" of reform!!

So, there was almost no risk in making an endorsement for anybody but the incumbents (including Al Coman-- heir to the 6th district throne). Yet, after doing such exemplary work on this issue for the past five years, when it most mattered, the Times Picayune (and Gambit) copped out like little chickensh-ts.

It's quite possible that real bona fide endorsements in these races would have made a difference in the outcome. We'll have to wait and see. But the choice to not support reform-minded candidates (or anyone!) because they weren't completely perfect is a nauseating abdication of our media's civic duty, in my opinion.

I'm recommending the "IQ" ticket because they pledge to work themselves out of a job ASAP. That's good enough for me. The remaining "unknowns" about the IQ slate are much MUCH less troubling to me than what is "Known" about the incumbent assessors.

Whatever you do, send a message for reform when you vote for assessor tomorrow.

On a related note, what's with the gutless strategy of endorsing three City Council candidates for two at-large seats? Both the T-P and the Gambit endorsed Arnold Fielkow, Oliver Thomas and... Jackie Clarkson when only two positions were available. What the hell?! They don't have the heart not to endorse Jackie, so they say "here's our top three, you pick two"? Is that it?

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Thursday, April 20, 2006


Legislation that would ban most abortions in the state passed a Senate committee 7-0 Wednesday after the bill's author agreed to make [it] go into effect only if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Senate Bill 33 by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, cleared the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare after the provision was added. The bill would allow abortions only to save the life of the mother. But Sen. Diana Bajoie, D-New Orleans, said she wanted to "make it more pro-life" by not allowing any exceptions.

She did not offer the amendment but served notice she will on the Senate floor, where Nevers is expected to take up the bill next week. "I do have some concerns about this bill," Bajoie said. "It should be all or nothing. . . . Life is life."

We will criminalize saving the life of a mother (via abortion) because "Life is Life". That's New Orleans Democrat Diana Bajoie's position. It's also the platform of the Republican Party. "[The] unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed". And that view is based on... the Declaration of Independence, according to the GOP's platform (pdf pg 84).

In sum: Democrats like Diana Bajoie agree with the national Republican Party that an unborn "life" has the inalienable right to end a mother's "life", if such a tragedy were only preventable via abortion.

Because "Life is life". It so easily rolls off the tongue. "Life is life", so let God decide.

Adrastos has more about this bill, and the politics surrounding it.
Previous YRHT posts and links on abortion here.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Yes sir!! 

Last Friday I learned that Ashley "Venn" Morris commutes from New Orleans to Chicago. He teaches up there, so every week he flies from a city reeling from catastrophe, to perhaps the best mega-city in America. And then he flies back. Up and back, up and back. Every week.

One wonders: isn't that an expense, and a hassle? Why doesn't he just move his family to Chicagoland? Why would he stay here, now?

Because he wants to live in New Orleans.

(Also, who knew mimes could blog so well?)
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Lowballing for votes 

There is no shortage of mansions on St. Charles Avenue that proudly display Al Coman signs.

In case you didn't know, Al replaced his mother (now retired) who replaced her husband who replaced... (his father?) for 6th district assessor. I'm not sure how far back it goes with this family, but you get the basic idea. Not doing assessments in the 6th district has been a lifetime occupation for Coman's clan. This is some of the most beautiful and expensive real estate in New Orleans, and assessments are ridiculously low. Why? Because, simply, these rich mansion-owners don't want to pay their fair share to support things like public schools which their children don't attend anyway. They elect their buddies, who consistently avoid their constitutional obligation to re-assess properties every 4 years. How can they get away with this? Well, the assessors have excuses. "There's too many different properties to assess adequately... nobody can tell how old the piping is INSIDE the million dollar mansion, so we'll assume the worst... we're upgrading our computers... our office is underfunded... we have our own methodologies... blah blah blah." It's sickening little parochial games that have gone on for generations, primarily benefitting the wealthy few and primarily hurting 1) City Services 2) Schools 3) New Home Buyers 4) the reputation of New Orleans.

[Note: resist the urge to stray off topic here. City and School Board corruption and waste are separate issues. I'm against those things, too. High taxation is another issue. I'm for fair assessments and lowering millages. Stick to the issue. Resist the urge to justify one problem (underassessments) by citing other problems (like School Board waste).]

Yes, it will be more expensive to live here in the short term if houses are fairly assessed. But do you want to fix the city or not? Do you want to show the rest of the country that we support consolidating offices and not playing favorites? Might that not help our efforts to attract federal funds? How many more times do you want the rest of the state to hit us over the head with the "7 assessors" complaint? And for what purpose? For the middle and lower classes to subsidize the rich?

Think about it.

Here's a list of selected properties on St. Charles Avenue along with their post-Katrina assessments, which you can find here. (The area didn't flood and went relatively undamaged.) Originally, I was going to post photos of the houses, but that seemed excessive, so I decided not to include them. The numbers tell the real story, anyway, as the approximate fair market value for these homes range from roughly one to two million dollars or more. And prices have gone up 50 to 100% in the past seven years.

Keep that in mind while reviewing the following list, which displays the St. Charles address #, purchase price (and date), and finally the assessed value of a group of homes in one small stretch of St Charles Avenue. Notice how the assessments are below the original purchase price of these homes. And current fair market values for six of these seven houses are over double the original purchase amount. None of the owners would sell their places for even 150% of their assessed values, I can guarantee you.

St. Chas Address #: Purchase Price (date)--- Assessed Value

5824: $1.2 million (4/99)--- $1.01 million

5725: $1.1 million (11/02)--- $880,000

5508: $457,500 (1/86)--- $428,800

5603: $785,000 (8/98)--- $750,000

5931: $750,000 (11/79)--- $857,900

6126: $695, 000 (8/98)--- $691,800

6153: $ 700,000 (1/92)--- $658,300

If someone went by the assessor's numbers, they'd think values were flat or declining during one of the hottest housing markets anyone's ever seen. So, digest that information for now, and I'll have more later.

Meanwhile, why not check out your street?

Update: Jeffrey generously offers a superior title to liven up this post. And we do love a good title.
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Lovely, I know you'll relish this link 

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It was encouraging to see Assessor Al Coman freshen his campaign signs with a more accurate slogan, just days before the election.

I snapped this picture (at Nashville and St. Charles) because some of the "amended" signs have already been taken down.

An amateurish tactic? Yes. But I got a kick out of it when I saw these signs all around Uptown this morning. [Just to be clear, this isn't my handiwork or anyone I know.]

Also, there was a half page ad in the Times-Pic with Vitter endorsing the "IQ" ticket. Nancy Marshall is Coman's opponent in the hideously underassessed 6th district. (Much more to come on Coman in a bit). A recent T-P article had some quotes from Marshall which I'll reprint below.

When potential voters ask lawyer Nancy Marshall for an example of what her main opponent in the assessors' race is doing wrong, she doesn't have to look any farther than her own back yard.

Though she and her husband carry a $450,000 mortgage on their Uptown home, a fact readily available to 6th District Assessor Albert Coman, the property on Lowerline Street was valued at just $338,300 last year.

Furthermore, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Coman chopped the value even further: to $212,800, even though the property didn't flood and sustained no more than $25,000 worth of wind damage, all of which was covered by Marshall's insurance company. Marshall said the house is worth $650,000.

"That is a perfect example of some very lousy appraising," said Marshall, one of seven candidates running on the so-called "I Quit" ticket, whose platform calls for creating a uniform assessment system and reducing the number of assessors in New Orleans from seven to one.

A $650,000 house in Uptown assessed at $212,800. All too typical. (I have some more examples coming shortly.)

Have you been to the IQ website recently? It has been "freshened" as well, with better features and graphics and 60% more patriotism and... music! My goodness, yes, the music. I just hope it sounds grand and momentous enough. Take a listen-- it should be the soundtrack to a movie, but I can't think of the right one.

Anyway, this is the most important assessor election EVAH!!

Be part of history this Saturday.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Wilson favors Maestri the most 

There was another mayoral debate/forum tonight. In it, the candidates were asked to name their favorite New Orleans mayor from the 20th century. Most picked either Chep Morrison, Sidney Barthelemy or Moon Landrieu.

Peggy Wilson picked Robert Maestri, perhaps the most corrupt mayor in the history of the city. In terms of improperly handing out city contracts, Maestri was patronage politics at its worst. He was the money behind Long, and ran the formidable Old Regulars until a young Chep Morrison-- in shocking fashion-- broke up "the most corrupt machine for all time to come".

Now, Maestri had excellent financial sense, but someone like Wilson who is so anti-corruption cannot rail against Marc Morial while favoring Maestri (over Morrison, even!). No way, no how.

So either Wilson is confused, or ignorant about New Orleans history... or both.
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Louisiana Weekly endorses Mitch 

"There is only one candidate who can bring Black and White together --Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu."

(Via Schroeder)
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Mayoral Race 

In my previous post on the mayoral debate I cited a revealing exchange when the candidates were asked about how (in America in 2006) bodies could still be in houses 7 months after a storm.

Here is an even more revealing debate segment concerning the issue of race. It's truly shocking how some (conservative) candidates chose to answer Matthews' very direct question. Some pols are comfortable talking about race, and some plainly aren't, so they pretend racial problems don't exist anymore. Some believe racism, (as well as more subtle unconscious provincialisms) were vanquished long ago, except for the horrible legacy of dependence created by liberal programs formed in the 1960's. That's where the REAL racism occurs nowadays. In short, some believe we've progressed a great deal since a majority of whites voted for David Duke in his run for Louisiana Governor AND Senator. After all, that was way back in the nineties-- like over a decade ago-- and those were mainly protest votes against Edwin Edwards' corruption, anyway. Now, in post-racist Louisiana the only color white voters see is Love. And even if Big Daddy and Tony Perkins paid big money for Duke's list of supporters, well, that was before everyone united as one when Bush spoke into the bullhorn after 9/11... and on... and on...

In addition to all that nonsense, keep the following truths in mind while you read the transcript below: 1) there will always be urban poor, 2) no city will ever be 100% evacuated for a storm, and 3) most of the post Katrina flooding in New Orleans was due to faulty levees.

So, here is a very revealing sequence that occurs between the 16 and 20 minute marks of the debate telecast. (My highlights, edits and emphases. Note that this is a rushed transcript that may not be perfectly accurate).

Chris Matthews: [Post Katrina Video of distressed, predominantly black crowds at the Convention Center is on the screen] ... If those faces had been white, would the reaction from the people of America have been different?

Ron Forman: No, I don't believe so. I believe the reaction of the people in the country saw a city that failed twenty years before the hurricane. We are not educating our kids.... [discusses how poverty is due to a failure of government leadership].

Norman Robinson: Well, did they see the face of poverty representing one particular group? And did that make a difference?

Forman: I think, I think no it did not make a difference...

Matthews: Do you all want to leave that lie? That if the faces had been white there would have been a different, stronger reaction to this... ?

Mitch Landrieu: I think America looked itself in the mirror and did not like what it saw. It ignored the issues of race and poverty for years and years and years and all of a sudden they found out there were people that were living in dangerous circumstances and they felt helpless because the greatest country in the world couldn't help them.

I do think the reaction was slower. I think the issue of race is a very difficult issue, I do think white and African-Americans got hurt equally in this storm. But I think there is a curious twist to this, and it is the most difficult issue that we're facing in the city, it's a reason why we have got to come together, as one people get beyond the issue of race and think about getting people back in their homes.

Ray Nagin: ... I saw a change in the response as the images started going out across this country. And I talked to the president, I talked to the governor and I couldn't get them to act. And you know when I got them to really move? (Besides going off on the radio.) When I started talking about people in hotels, that were now being displaced and people from all over this country that were moving into the Convention Center. [Ed comment: the people in the hotels were mostly white.]

Robinson: Time's Up. Thank You...

Peggy Wilson: The good news is, is when we saw those people in front of the Convention Center all of a sudden corruption isn't funny anymore, the poor school system was not funny anymore...

Ron Couhig: We all wish the response had been better.... It wasn't about race. It was a catastrophic thing. I disagree with Mitch and Ray. It wasn't about race. It disturbs me a great deal that whenever they get a chance to use racial pandering they do.

Matthews: Who's "they"?

Couhig: The Mayor in particular...

Robinson: [Who else?]

Couhig: And Mitch has a tendency to do the same.

Virginia Boulet:... We also don't need to be criticizing President Bush or Governor Blanco, Ray [looks at Ray Nagin]....

I could unpack this exchange for hours, and what it reveals about people's thinking (or lack thereof) about race. Matthews' question comes across much clearer on video, but, as his follow up makes plain, he is asking: do you think the exact same national reaction/response would have occurred if there were thousands of white folks trapped for days on end without food, water, medicine... etc.

Deep down, everyone knows the answer to that, whether they want to admit it or not.

And don't give me any of this "Are you saying Bush doesn't care about black people because, ya know, Condi Rice is black. Are you saying Bush deliberately played guitar and napped and ate cake while happily ignoring stranded black people? Are you saying the American public didn't care, because there was a lot of contributions made after all that televised moaning and wailing."

No. Sorry. Like Landrieu correctly observed, the so-called issue of "race" is complex. Not everything fits neatly into simple categories of "Klan" or "Colorblind". One thing I will bet my child's eyes on, though: there would have been a quicker response to alleviate the suffering if those crowds were white. Heaven and Earth would have been moved. Period.

Can I prove that assertion? Well, not exactly. But let's perform a little thought experiment.

Can you name one of the thousand New Orleanians still missing from Katrina-- just one name is all I need. You can choose any young, attractive, missing black woman; perhaps one whose life includes interesting, mysterious details... whatever floats your boat. Perhaps she is alive, perhaps dead. Perhaps she assumed a new identity and travelled to a Carribean island. All I need is one name; I'll use the first one off the top of your head-- the missing Katrina victim whose story is most compelling to you, the one you've followed closely over the last seven months. You know... HER. That interesting missing black woman from New Orleans who disappeared after the floods. The one for whom you spend all that mental energy speculating and hypothesizing. The one they discuss on all those talk shows. Yes, her. You can picture her face. I want her name. From you. Right now.

Ok, good. Thank you kindly. Now hold on to that name for a couple more 'graphs.

See: the national reaction would have been the same no matter what color the faces at the Convention Center were. That's the lie that most of our mayoral candidates affirmed in front of a national TV audience last night. Candidates from New Orleans said that race was not a factor in the Katrina aftermath. Only Mitch and Nagin had the nerve to directly confront this bald, obvious lie, rather than insult black New Orleanians with willful ignorance. And then Couhig has the gall to pile on, and claim that Nagin and Landrieu engaged in "racial pandering". That's outrageous! Couhig asserts that race was a total non-factor in the response, and that those who disagree with such a laughable claim must be doing so in order to "pander" to black voters. No, Rob, the real pandering is to pretend we're in a hunky dory colorblind society because it's too uncomfortable a topic for whites to wholeheartedly address. That's where I see the "pandering".

For the record, Ron Forman also limply denied that race played a role, and Wilson and Boulet skirted the issue, while Watson ineffectively redirected the question to talk about race relations prior to Katrina. Other than Mitch's masterful response (and Nagin's) weren't you similarly disappointed in how the candidates tackled this important, but thorny issue?

Alright, now do me a favor and plug your missing New Orleanian's name into a Google Search and note how many results come up. Then compare it, to, say, Natalee Holloway. (She's a white girl, btw.)

Wow, 3 million results for Natalee. Amazing!

Maybe that wasn't fair. Who keeps track of individual names after a man-made catastrophe, anyway? Let's instead search for a more general term, like levee failure. Hey, look at that, almost half as many results as Natalee!! That's progress.

President Bush, Speech at Jackson Square, 9/15/06:

Within the Gulf region are some of the most beautiful and historic places in America. As all of us saw on television, there's also some deep, persistent poverty in this region, as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality.
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Meat is Academic Murder 


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Katrina Kids sing in praise of Bush, FEMA and Congress 

Did the Prez accompany them on guitar?
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Monday, April 17, 2006

Quick thoughts on the nationally-televised New Orleans Mayoral Debate 

First off, thanks to MSNBC for the broadcast. This was truly a great service to displaced New Orleanians, even though Chris Matthews clenched his jaw and looked miserable every time Norman Robinson (the local co-host) was speaking.

Rob Couhig did a damn good job for the majority of the debate. Seriously. He spoke well, answered the questions, and was aggressive without going overboard. The high point for him was when he brought up looting-- that's good red meat for the faithful. Obviously he and Mitch Landrieu had a pact for when the candidates questioned each other. Mitch tossed him a softball, and Couhig in turn struck at Forman, and compared him disfavorably to Mitch. Nagin correctly recognized this "tag team" collaboration, but did himself no favors by complaining throughout the segment, and then, worse, he backed off when host Robinson asked him to clarify. Towards the end, when Couhig started claiming his campaign commercial was the greatest in the history of the universe, he started looking less, um... mayoral.

I thought Reverend Tom Watson had a big Big BIG opportunity to truly distinguish himself in this forum, and say some memorable and inspirational things to thousands of displaced New Orleanians. I viewed thisdebate as his big chance to perhaps, in one evening, double, triple or quintiple his vote totals by showing himself to be an excellent alternative to Nagin. He could have been the star of the show, compared to a sedated Nagin and a play-it-safe Landrieu. Unfortunately Watson failed to take advantage of this tremendous political opportunity. (I'm not saying he could have made the runoff, but he could have done "surprisingly well" on election day, possibly breaking into double digits with a winning debate performance. Then his endorsement might carry weight in a close runoff, and he would be well positioned for a future campaign.)

To his great credit, Tweety Matthews asked the candidates whether they approved or disapproved of President Bush's performance. Virginia Boulet appeared taken aback by the query, and took far too long to submit her disapproval. I hate to say it, but Boulet's not ready for prime time. "Democrat" Ron Forman limply approved of President Bush-- what more does a voter need to know? Mitch and Nagin knew what to say, and so did Couhig and Peggy Wilson. It put the candidates on the spot, and boxed them in, politically. It's always very interesting to see how they react in situations like that.

Mitch Landrieu's ability to rattle off talking points like a machine gun very much suited the format. He didn't take chances or make mistakes. Even though his support is a mile wide and an inch deep, he'll make the runoff with Nagin, and coast to victory (I believe). To his discredit, Norman Robinson aired the false allegation that Mitch had taken television cameras with him to film him saving people from floodwaters in Katrina's aftermath. Mitch calmly dispelled the nasty rumor without getting agitated. He's got my vote.

Mayor Nagin would do well not to act as if he were heavily sedated. Composure is important in a televised debate, but, Nagin acts as if he doesn't have to re-earn every New Orleanian's vote this time around. In a post-Katrina environ, that breezy/relaxed/devil-may-care attitude is mind-boggling. (You are associated with an historic governmental failure, Ray!! Wake up!!) Nagin has no base, and his incoherent strategy boils down to this: "Vote for me; I'm black, I'm "Your Mayor", and I stayed in the city during Katrina. Moving forward, I'd like Rob Couhig to be on my team. " WTF? That's supposed to garner votes from folks in, say, this situation?!?

Norman Robinson's most serious question was also Nagin's greatest missed opportunity. A visibly emotional Robinson asked how it was possible that seven months after Katrina, dead bodies are still being discovered in people's houses. Unbelievably, almost every candidate decided to treat this as an evacuation planning or a housing issue. Sure, there were a few perfunctory expressions of sorrow, but then housing was discussed. Housing.

A seven-month old corpse in one's home is not a housing issue!!!

Among other things, it's a hideous indication of the national failure that is the Katrina response. Nagin seemed to understand this at first, and talked about it in human terms, but then, bizarrely, he took responsibility for this failure. My God, man, when the host asks an emotional question about human tragedy, and every other candidate talks mostly about housing-- you bloody well pounce on that opportunity! Speak directly to the audience from your heart. Empathize, share the disbelief, and rage against FEMA for curtailing funding for search and recovery efforts. Compare how Katrina victims were treated compared to 9/11 victims... do anything but associate yourself with the problem (even if you are partially to blame).

Lastly and leastly: if you think a federal gubmint that won't even pay for Category 4 levees will suddenly decide to lend the city $30 billion to become "tax-free"... well, then, Peggy Wilson's "your girl".

Update: Oh, and a big thumbs-down to MSNBC's intro montage that included a snippet of Utah Senator Bennett repeating a big lie.
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Subsidized Corn and Polluted Shrimp Bisque 

Here's what struck me while reading the front page story from the Times-Picayune on how fertilizer runoff from farms in the Midwest creates an oxygen-starved "dead zone" in the Gulf, near the mouth of the Mississippi:

The dead zone overlaps an area known as the Fertile Fisheries Crescent -- the core of the Gulf's $800 million fishing industry...
The dead zone forms after fertilizers and other pollutants flowing out of the 31-state Mississippi River basin spark massive algal blooms, in the same way they accelerate the growth of cotton, corn and other crops. As the algae die, they suck almost all the oxygen from the water, forcing fish to relocate or perish.
The Environmental Working Group report says the vast majority of that pollution comes from heavily agricultural counties that make up just 15 percent of the Mississippi basin. The report said $30 billion was spent on crop subsidies in those counties from 1997 to 2002.

Thirty billion in "subsidies" for upriver, low-population farming counties. That's how much we pay those hardy, self-sufficient midwesterners not to grow corn. And when they do grow it, they pollute the river that empties into the seafood-rich Gulf. But the federal budget is far "too tight" to build levees to protect the fishermen in Plaquemines parish (who must navigate around a man-made "dead zone" the size of Connecticut). Taxpayers generously underwrite the polluters, and blame the polluted for being too expensive to save in the aftermath of Katastrophe.

I'll never get over how South Louisiana has gotten so thoroughly rooked in recent times.
Update: Michael's superior post on this issue features a graphical display you won't wanna miss.
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Iran, Iran so far away 

But I couldn't get away (from my past).

... er, sorry.

I missed this Washington Post article about our favorite heroes of non-proliferation: Cheneyburton, RedRumsfeld and CryWolfowitz. It seems they were for Iran having nukuler technology before they were against it.

Lacking direct evidence, Bush administration officials argue that Iran's nuclear program must be a cover for bomb-making. Vice President Cheney recently said, "They're already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. Nobody can figure why they need nuclear as well to generate energy."

Yet Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and outgoing Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz held key national security posts when the Ford administration made the opposite argument 30 years ago.

Ford's team endorsed Iranian plans to build a massive nuclear energy industry, but also worked hard to complete a multibillion-dollar deal that would have given Tehran control of large quantities of plutonium and enriched uranium -- the two pathways to a nuclear bomb. Either can be shaped into the core of a nuclear warhead, and obtaining one or the other is generally considered the most significant obstacle to would-be weapons builders.
After balking initially, President Gerald R. Ford signed a directive in 1976 offering Tehran the chance to buy and operate a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. The deal was for a complete "nuclear fuel cycle" -- reactors powered by and regenerating fissile materials on a self-sustaining basis.

That is precisely the ability the current administration is trying to prevent Iran from acquiring today.
The Ford administration -- in which Cheney succeeded Rumsfeld as chief of staff and Wolfowitz was responsible for nonproliferation issues at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency -- continued intense efforts to supply Iran with U.S. nuclear technology until President Jimmy Carter succeeded Ford in 1977.

That history is absent from major Bush administration speeches, public statements and news conferences on Iran.

Since Special Forces are probably already on the ground over in Persia, these things are merely academic footnotes, now.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Chariots de Fleur 

When Lee runs I feel God's pleasure.
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