Saturday, April 29, 2006

Thanks Houston! 

Analysts comment on Houston's decision to pick Mario Williams instead of Reggie Bush:

"Boy, did the Texans blow it."

"When you are as a team as bad as the Texans have been, you need to make solid football decisions, and eschewing a playmaker such as Bush, who will have an immediate impact on the league, in favor of a guy still in his gestation period is a dubious call at best."

"If the Houston Texans weren't going to draft the best player on the board, then they should have drafted for need. And ... Williams is not what they need most."

"Getting Bush at No. 2 is like hitting a grand slam in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series."

"Bush is a dynamic presence, the likes of which come along only once per decade. You simply can't pass up a chance to select such a player. Well, you can, and the Texans did."


3rd Battle
World Class
Not Right About Anything
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Friday, April 28, 2006

Bay Buchanan is tired of "Katrina" 

The Gulf Coast empathizes with Bay's profound sense of Katrina fatigue, and apologizes for any "worry lines" that formed on her handsome face due to her extended concern for our overlong plight.

Perhaps Bay should read this soothing Suspect Device post . In fact, we all should (don't skip the links).
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Thursday, April 27, 2006

"FEMA is in shambles and beyond repair, and... should be abolished," 

So recommends the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Bush gets some rather unvarnished criticism, as well


The Senate report [titled "Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared"] is the only bipartisan national inquiry into the storm, which killed 1,330 people, displaced 1 million families, swamped 80 percent of New Orleans and led to a $100 billion federal response...

[The Bush administration was] faulted for bungling the storm response by neglecting warnings, failing to grasp Katrina's destructiveness, doing too little or taking the wrong steps before the Aug. 29 landfall. The report also found design flaws in New Orleans levees and failures by city and state leaders.
Yesterday, the ranking Democrat on [the] committee, Joseph I. Lieberman added a written statement excoriating Bush and his aides for being "surprisingly detached" before and just after the storm and for not cooperating with Senate investigators, who he said should have subpoenaed the White House.

"The President failed to provide critical leadership when it was most needed, and that contributed to a grossly ineffective federal response to Hurricane Katrina," Lieberman said.

Remember the "Katrina Kids", who sung in praise to Bush and FEMA at the White House on Easter? Well, Scout Prime has posted a funny and timely "rebuttal" that appeared on Bill Maher's show. Go watch the clip and have a laugh, if you haven't already seen it.
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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Worthwhile reading 

I tried to select the money quote from each link. Check'em out if you haven't already:

1) "...the Islamic world's governments like to talk a big game about Israel, but don't actually give a rat's ass about the issue and never have.

They'll do anything to help the Palestinian cause unless it involves spending money, risking the stability of their own regimes, or deploying their military assets. Now we're supposed to believe that, suddenly, the Mullahs are willing to guarantee their own destruction in order to turn the holy city of Jerusalem into a radioactive wasteland. That's absurd."

2) "But readers, go ahead and emit a dark laugh as Bush discusses those hydrogen cars! All during Campaign 2000, Bush ridiculed Gore's statement in Earth in the Balance about the phase-out of internal combustion. And your vacuous "press corps" stood by and watched..."

3) "Moral of the story: superpowers that have to import 10 million barrels of oil a day can't indulge in Wilsonian foreign policies, or even maintain the pretense of indulging in Wilsonian foreign policies-- at least, not for long. Addicts can't afford to be idealists. Just ask any of the other junkies."

4) "Imagine that. A state wanting to stop a catastrophe before it happens. And the federal government [doesn't] want to give it the funds to do so. Sound familiar?"

5) "Audits by the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Homeland Security indicate that as many as 900,000 of the 2.5 million people who got cash assistance from FEMA did so under duplicate or invalid Social Security numbers or false names and addresses."

"The agency didn't try to match names with Social Security numbers when people called a toll-free registration number -- a serious shortcoming that dishonest people were able to exploit with ease."
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Run squirrels! 

Dillyberto proclaims:

[The] right pick is D'Brick. We will protect Drew and Deuce with the Fergie who's not on Weight Watchers.

Not to be confused with the Ferdi that is not on Weight Watchers.
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Monday, April 24, 2006

Cool Shirts for Summer 

... Blake knows how to create a great web site (and a great phrase).
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I'm proud of the I.Q. ticket's success in the assessor's elections on Saturday.

In a stunning upset, Nancy "IQ" Marshall took the 6th district outright, beating Al Coman, whose family had run that office for seventy years. IQ candidates were able to force runoffs in two other districts, (1 & 4) and ran competitively in district 2. (No thanks to the Times Picayune or the Gambit, who both declined to make an endorsement.) Obviously these results are far from a clean sweep, but you gotta remember how entrenched and connected these assessors are. For example, the Mauberret, Heaton and Coman/Degan families alone have occupied their assessors offices for a combined 242 years!! That's longer than the United States has been in existence.

So it was a very tall order for a two month old group to completely sweep away families that have been in office for over a quarter-millennium. I'm very impressed that an Uptown-based reform organization used its clout to encourage the 6th district to vote against its own pocketbook in order to improve the city as a whole. Bravo! Press on!

As regular readers know, this was something of a pet issue of mine because it represented New Orleans parochial politics at its worst. The assessors showcased it all: nepotism, cronyism, favoritism, waste, power, machine politics, greed, corruption... everything. Last summer I saw that a reform candidacy might succeed in district 6, and was preparing to make a run as a maverick upstart against an entrenched family who had controlled the office for generations. Then Katrina hit, elections were delayed, and calls for political reform intensified. Unfortunately, the assessor's legislative allies blocked attempts to change the system. Just days before I was going to declare my candidacy, I read about an "I.Q reform ticket": a unified, citywide effort at reforming the office via the ballot box. So I decided to support the I.Q team instead of running.

(It was a good decision. I had some stressful weeks in January and February that really took their toll on me. Frankly, I would have been too exhausted to campaign, and would have lost my voice within the first week.)
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Iraqis get satellite voting, Louisianans don't * 

In a remarkably assumptive post, Good Gubmint Gadfly C.B. Forgotston decries the lack of turnout in Saturday's election, and the support for the "status quo". He says the big winner was "apathy", and says that the only unanswered question is why so few people voted. He writes:

We will hear that because the voters were disenfranchised because of the lack of satellite polling places around the country wherever one of more refugees hangs his hat. We will hear that we were able to provide polling places for Iraqi citizens living in the U.S., but not New Orleans citizens living in the U.S. The great flaw in that argument is that the Iraqis wanted to vote and drove hundreds of miles in some cases to cast their vote.

Despite the fact that some New Orleanians did travel hundreds of miles to cast a vote, there are two big flaws in Forgotston's reasoning. First, the turnout for New Orleanians may not be as low as he assumes. Many citizens may have permanently relocated away from the city, skewing the numbers, as this dapoblog post explains. Secondly, the apathy of most voters is not a reason to disenfranchise others. If Iraqis get satellite voting stations, I don't see why displaced Americans can't have them EVEN IF the turnout is retroactively viewed as "too low" by some pundits. Hell, the turnout was "too low" by my standards in sunny, beautiful, unflooded Uptown: does Forgotston feel voting machines should be witheld from these neighborhoods as well?

And if you're not from the area, don't even think of suggesting how Absentee ballots are a good alternative. Mail service has been ridiculously unreliable since the storm. I received X-mas cards in February; then, last month I received a bundle of mail sent to me in November. Only recently has it improved, but it's by no means perfect. I don't know how displaced voters could be expected to trust it.

Secretary of State Al Ater deserves praise for running a very smooth election under extremely challenging conditions. He caught a lot of flack for having to postpone the elections, but after seeing firsthand how the 2004 elections were botched (twice) in New Orleans-- before Katrina and FEMA-- i think he made the right decision. No doubt more people should have voted, but that's always the case in any election. Why taxpayers funded Iraqi satellite voting stations in America, but could not do so for New Orleanian catastrophe victims is beyond me. I didn't hear conservatives asking why Iraqis couldn't vote absentee ballot, for example.

But only after the fact does Forgotston tell us that low turnout justified voting stations for Iraqis but not for New Orleanians.

I wonder if Forgotston or any conservative has ever praised the responsible, unapathetic citizenship of "the 1200 Xavier students who stood in line for 6+ hours to vote (in 2004)-- and persisted EVEN AFTER all the state's races had been called, some casting their ballot after 1am"? (check bottom of post for link) But that sort of commitment doesn't deserve a satellite voting station after a catastrophe, because RETROACTIVELY the displaced turnout APPEARS to be too low.

Make sense?

* (Sorta like wetlands restoration.)
Update: More on the election process and turnout from Jeff Crouere.
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An estimated 100,000 Katrina Kids will develop PTSD 

This must read article, via SD and First Draft, details the psychic suffering inflicted on the children of the region. It will make you wince.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: It's impossible to Leave No Child Behind if you leave a city and a region behind.

How's Pearlgirl, you ask? Well, she turned two at the end of March, and is in general a happy kid, who has begun developing alarmingly specific wardrobe preferences. She has had trouble sleeping during the past seven months, due to all the moving around, but otherwise she's doing alright. Thank goodness we're settled in now and she didn't experience any of the trauma described in the article.

Pearlgirl is the in-house auditor for all the flowers in our gardens.

Update: Yes, that is some cypress mulch in the corner of the picture. I admit it. We spread a couple sacks prior to reading this post over at Schroeder's on cypress mulch and coastal restoration. Uggh! I still feel bad about that.
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Monica Blows 

More intense than either Katrina or Rita at their peak, Australian cyclone Monica is hitting Northern Australia, and reminds us we are in an era of superstorms.

Our prayers go out to everyone who is affected, and I earnestly hope that our country offers quick aid to our friends down under.

I also hope that such catastrophic storms make it clear to our Congress and President that our region needs Category Five levee protection, and wetlands restoration. They should join Senate Minority leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who has already committed to Cat 5 levee protection for Louisiana.

Hat tip to The Flaming Liberal
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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Unscripted Political Analysis 

[Note: this is a long local politics post]

Mayor Ray Nagin's performance was the Big surprise of election night.

Driving around the city yesterday, stopping at polling places from the Lower 9 to Carrollton, I saw absolutely no indication that Ray Ray would pull in such a high percentage. I'd have bet the farm against him getting over 35%. Given all the frustrations post-Katrina, Nagin's ability to haul in thirty-eight percent was astounding. In his victory speech when he expressed his hope that the 20,000 yet-to-be counted absentee ballots might put him over fifty percent, I took him seriously. He captured some invisible momentum on election night, and nearly anything in his favor seemed possible. He surpassed most expectations four years ago, and he did so again last night. This was the first time I personally underestimated how Nagin would do, and I will not make that mistake again when handicapping the runoff. Mitch Landrieu will not "coast" to victory against Nagin, as I previously thought. I agree much more with Jeffrey's analysis than I do Al Scramuzza's over at 3rd Battle. Al thinks Mitch will romp, Jeffrey thinks he's in dire straits. One thing is for sure: all of Mitch's cash on hand and political skill will be needed for what shapes up to be a close one.

I want to explore a simple fact with my New Orleans political junkies: Mitch Landrieu received more votes than Ron Forman and Rob Couhig combined. It's true. Yet, it appears that distinguished political scientists have been blinded by Forman's campaign spin. Today the local paper prints an unchallenged political "analysis" from election-day fixture Ed Renwick, the director of Loyola University's Institute of Politics. Here's a quote from our Pulitzer-prize winning T-P:

In the end, [Republican candidate Rob] Couhig's frankness appeared to win him much of the Republican and conservative Democratic base that Forman, a Republican for much of his adult life, had counted on to make the second round.

"Certainly, one of the reasons that Forman lost is that Couhig did better than expected," Renwick said. "There is probably a significant overlap in those who voted for Couhig and those who would have voted for Forman. They were both hoping to draw from more conservative white voters."

Overlap shmoverlap. The final results show that it didn't matter, even if every single Couhig vote went directly to Forman:

Landrieu: 31,499
Forman: 18,734
Couhig: 10,287

31,499 - (18,734 + 10,287) = 2,478

With all due respect to the ultra sober, low-key Dr. Renwick, I submit that Couhig was certainly NOT one of the reasons Forman lost. Couhig merely highlighted Forman's supreme LIMPNESS as a political candidate, and "took away" six or eight thousand meaningless votes (at the utmost). So, without Couhig in the race, Ron Forman might have placed a strong third instead of a distant third-- big freakin' whoop!

Ron Forman-- the 2 million dollar candidate-- was totally forgettable during the debates, and apparently hired people who thought BIG newspaper ads and BIG signs on St. Charles Ave were the keys to earning votes.

I live in Uptown. Did a single supporter from the $2 million dollar Forman campaign bother to knock on my door and tell me about Ron Forman, and ask for my vote? Hell no! Not a one. And if Forman's political braintrust thought such grunt-work was a waste of time in my neighborhood, I can only imagine how quickly they dismissed canvassing efforts in OTHER neighborhoods. [I realize canvassing isn't a high-yield activity. But the aim isn't to "convert" voters, but to impact undecideds and bolster turnout and volunteerism among one's supporters. And if your candidate stinks on TV and needs more name rec, you'd better get people on the ground to spread the word in person].

That's why I have little sympathy for a campaign that spends $200+ per vote (roughly), and then cries about how it's "a waste" to support an impressive insurgent candidate like Couhig who spends $30 per vote. Screw them!! These are the same folks who witnessed Ray Nagin's rise four years ago, when he shot up from six percent in the polls to win the primary with 29%. But Forman's crew argued (by citing this inane piece of commentary) that polls showed that a vote for Couhig is a "wasted" vote. No, you know what's a "waste"? It's spending $2.1 million on a lackluster campaign effort in a stricken city that needs every cent it can get.

If you're excited about a candidate, and they have momentum going into election day, why would you vote for someone else based on "polls"? Polls can be wildly inaccurate. Yet, that's exactly what Forman's campaign wanted Couhig supporters to do.

Just to be clear, I'm attacking the high-priced strategists advising Forman, not him personally. I have a problem with them, because these cynical strategists directed an expensive, WEAK campaign, and seem to assert that the energetic Couhig siphoned away their votes. And then local professors of politics ignore the actual election results and endorse the claim that Forman lost because of Couhig. No, wrong. That crapola must be corrected at every turn, before it solidifies into conventional wisdom. Forman did not lose because Couhig "took away" some votes. That is one "certainty". Another (near) certainty is that Forman was extremely underserved by his expensive political team. (But, naturally, after a stinging defeat they'll deflect all blame and say they did the best they could, and that they were boxed in by Mitch and Nagin and "demographics", and that their candidate had charisma-issues... yadda yadda. It's never their fault... Btw, who managed Forman's campaign, anyway? Blanco's peeps? or Foster's? Please lemme know in the comments, with some dirt, if you have it.)

I thought Ron Forman's wife Sally made a very revealing comment on TV last night. Mrs Forman used to be Nagin's communications director, and she was very impressive in her interview during WWL's election coverage. She came across as genuine and personable, and kept smiling even while reporters were showing her precinct results that kept getting worse and worse for Ron. Sally maintained her composure during a very tough, public moment, and I was struck at how well she came across on TV compared with how poorly Ron does. Then WWL's Dave McNamara asked her whether she had given her husband any advice.

Sally Forman [smiling, animated]: "No, Dave! I gave him NONE. They wouldn't let me. I wanted to."

That speaks volumes. "They" wouldn't let an effective communications director give her struggling husband some pointers about communicating on TV. Obviously, "they" had that totally covered. (Cough.) And no doubt they'll blame their loss on factors beyond their control, like conservatives who stupidly "wasted" their vote on Couhig, instead of falling in line behind the Big money, like they were supposed to.

I was surprised that the second tier candidates did not pull in more votes.

I mean, could Peggy Wilson be more unloved by the electorate? Hardly. Still, I cannot tell you how much it pleases me that District B candidate Quentin "No B.S." Brown received almost as many votes (654) as mayoral candidate Wilson (772). Even though Peggy enjoyed nationwide television exposure during a debate on MSNBC, she received less votes than the eminently mockable Kimberly "Dizz Knee Land" Butler.


And yet, the same Bayou Buzz columnist which the Forman campaign and the Dead Pelican linked to, rated Wilson's chances as such:

Can Ms. Wilson make a runoff? Possibly, if she runs strong in Algiers and Lakeview, though she will no doubt be hampered by Couhig splitting her vote base.

There's that damn Couhig again, "splitting" everyone else's votes! My does he get around. When he's not swiping Forman's votes, he's busy draining all of Wilson's vast support in Algiers and Lakeview. Couhig is probably why ole Peggers didn't make the runoff. Yeah.

I realize I'm starting to sound like Somerby here, challenging brainless "media scripts". But I can't help it. Here at YRHT, I mostly try to vent my frustrations in a manner that isn't altogether politically unproductive. Maybe you'll agree. Unfortunately, other false "scripts" have emerged that need countering, so more posts like this are on the way.

As always, I encourage further contributions or subtractions to my political analysis in the comments section.
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