Thursday, May 11, 2006
The feedback was very strong, and I appreciate it greatly. Thanks to everyone who contributed, and feel free to keep the discussion going in the comments.
However, I must say that no one really wanted to make the argument that former Mayor Moon Landrieu bears an inordinate amount of blame for the decline of New Orleans since the 1960's. No one made the argument that he was significantly more corrupt than those who preceeded or followed him. No one pointed to a policy of his (other than desegregation) which led to families and businesses relocating out of the city.
Yet, one of the arguments made against Mayoral candidate Mitch Landrieu, makes use of the linkage between his father and "the decline of New Orleans". Beyond being an unrepentant desegregationist, I don't see why Moon should bear inordinate blame for New Orleans' decline. Sure he participated in it, but who didn't? Couldn't one make a stronger case against New Orleans' "social and financial conservatives", as acclaimed historian John Barry did?
A post-Katrina analysis from the Sic Semper Tyrannis 2006 blog echoed Barry's (persuasive) description of Louisiana conservatism, broadly conceived. Here are the key graphs:
New Orleans, and Louisiana as a whole, are rather unique in that they are important to the entire nation (as the largest-by-volume port in the United States and largest refiner of crude) yet receive very little direct tax revenue from that fact. New Orleans is prohibited from taxing the goods flowing through its port (interstate commerce, y'know), just as Louisiana is prohibited from taxing the oil flowing in the pipelines to those refineries and the gasoline flowing out of the pipelines from those refineries. While they can raise some tax revenue from property taxes on the infrastructure itself (pipelines, refineries, etc.), Louisiana is in the unenviable position of being a key linchpin of the U.S. economy, yet not itself able to gain much advantage from that fact. Mechanization has made this worse. It now only takes a few thousand workers to run the entire Port of New Orleans thus they don't even get much payroll advantage out of it. Similarly, today's refineries are so computerized that you might have a dozen people total running a billion-dollar refinery. (Usually there's more people than that out there -- there's always light bulbs to replace, instruments to calibrate, chemical nozzles to replace to keep the cooling towers Ph-balanced, etc. etc. -- but definitely not a big payroll). And the companies themselves conveniently headquarter themselves in states that have no income tax, so Louisiana cannot even tax their income.This seems largely correct. But current politics dictate that Moon Landrieu should be linked with the "decline of New Orleans", and therefore his son shouldn't become mayor, because he is hopelessly contaminated with this "politics of the past".
The answer is economic diversification. But Louisiana is a very conservative state, conservative in the old meaning of the word -- they do not embrace change swiftly nor easily, one reason why New Orleans had such an old-world charm (they just never bothered changing). As late as the late 1980's, Louisiana was trying to attract heavy industry (such as, e.g., the GM pickup truck plant in Shreveport) at the same time that the U.S. economy as a whole was discarding industrial jobs in favor of services and intellectual property based jobs. A state which embraces change only reluctantly was in a poor position to, e.g., respond to the computer and semiconductor revolutions of the 1980's and 1990's by attracting semiconductor and computer companies to Louisiana, and indeed did rather poorly at doing so (and what few were attracted ended up at the bottom of Lake George, since they came here for New Orleans).
The end result is that Louisiana simply does not have the resources to rebuild from this natural disaster, and is reliant upon the "charity" of those who are reliant upon its ports and oil and gas industry.
I disagree with this simplistic formula. I think, at best, it's empty. But this is an important election and specious political arguments abound.
However, in my next post, I will argue why-- even if you take into account all of Mitch Landrieu's alleged faults, and all of Ray Nagin's virtues-- the choice for mayor of New Orleans is clear as day. As clear as an azure sky of deepest summer.
You can rely on me.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Unless Mitch has had some sort of "come to Jesus" experience, and he may have, he's still a member of the clan that started the downfall of New Orleans.
I don't trust him but hey it's your city and the rest of Louisiana has very little say so in the politics of New Orleans.
I know the popularity is with Mitch, but I agree with Roux. New Orleans didn't end up where it was all of a sudden on the day Katrina hit - it took 2 decades to get there.
The Landrieu's are part and parcel of the failed equation.
I've been hearing a lot of statements along these lines. Mitch is the son of Moon, and Moon was responsible in large part for the decline of New Orleans. (Therefore, we shouldn't vote for him.)
With your help I'd like to examine and explore this contention, and flesh it out a bit. What was Moon's uniquely special sin, if any? I don't know, I've only lived here the last ten years. I'm not steeped in the oral histories of the era, so please tell me your view in the comments. As for me, I'm puzzled by claims that assert New Orleans' "decline" occurred recently. In terms of per capita wealth, the city "peaked" in the 1850's; it was the highest of any American city. In terms of population, New Orleans peaked sometime in the 1960's, and has declined ever since. In one of the debates, mayoral candidate Rob Couhig linked Moon Landrieu to this decline but failed to elaborate. What's the general theory here? Where did it all go wrong, for those whose views parallel roux's and polimom's? Precisely why does Moon Landrieu deserve an inordinate amount of blame? Or does he?
Like I said, I'm puzzled by these claims. Previously, I've cited John Barry's "social and financial conservatism" argument with approval. He says that after the Great Flood of 1927 rich New Orleans families became too insular and risk-averse. That's one view. What's yours?
Ultimately, I'm optimistic about the future. But I also want to clearly understand the past.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Mayor Nagin is a joke. And the GOP wants to reelect him, because then the joke will be on New Orleans, and that helps their ambitions for the rest of the state. They don't care if taxpayers throughout the country will react with incredulity, before dismissing the future of New Orleans as "hopeless". The Republicans merely want Nagin to defeat Landrieu, before turning around and using him as a statewide political whipping post for 2006, and then, finally, he'll be Jindal's New Orleans point-man in '07. Aren't stealth Republicans useful?
But the stakes are too high for these two-faced political games. So that's why I'm asking troublesome questions like the following: will Bobby Jindal join William Jefferson and Cleo Fields in supporting Nagin? According to the Gambit Weekly's Scuttlebutt section, his office continues to avoid the endorsement issue... why? Either make one or say you won't make one. Jindal has constituents in New Orleans, why does he keep ducking this issue?
Conservatives will counter that Mitch Landrieu would somehow be worse than Nagin. These Bush voters (quite comically) charge that Landrieu comes from a "political family".
Oh. Yes. Careful. Better watch out for those political families.
Instead of dwelling on Mitch's record in office, conservatives prefer to link him to his sister, Senator Mary Landrieu, and to his father, former N.O. mayor Moon Landrieu. This is supposed to show that Mitch is beholden to the old-style New Orleans "politics of the past". Columnist Stephanie Grace beautifully challenges this assertion in today's Times Picayune:
It's become the single most recognizable buzzphrase of Mayor Ray Nagin's re-election campaign: Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, the mayor keeps saying, represents the "politics of the past."
So what, exactly, does he mean by that? Ask him directly and you don't exactly get a straight response.
[M]any associates of Morial are in the Landrieu camp -- as is the DA. And Jordan was indeed found by a jury to have fired white employees en masse and replaced them with African-American workers when he took office. Yes, the contracting excesses of the Morial years have spurred two major rounds of indictments (though Morial has not been accused of wrongdoing).
Now let's take a look at Nagin's supporters. As Landrieu pointed out, they include state Sen. Cleo Fields, famously caught on surveillance tapes stuffing his pocket with a wad of cash handed to him by convicted ex-Gov. Edwin Edwards, but not charged by the then-U.S. attorney, the self-same Eddie Jordan.
Then there's Jordan's longtime political sponsor, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, whose aide oversaw the illegal firings on Jordan's behalf -- and who also happens to be the target of a major federal bribery investigation. And don't forget state Rep. Ken Odinet, who fought tooth and nail against the biggest post-Katrina reform, consolidation of the region's many levee boards.
So it looks like there's lots of "politics of the past" to go around.
The question is, does it matter?
What it boils down to is this: Can a mayor draw on the energy and experience of the roguish political powerbrokers around here without sinking into the political slime under the weight of their baggage?
Ironically, Nagin's own example suggests that the answer is yes. Don't forget that he himself had close ties to some of Morial's associates -- Roy Rodney and the now-indicted Stan "Pampy" Barre were among his partners in the defunct New Orleans Brass hockey team.
There's nothing in Landrieu's record to indicate he's any more a Morialista than Nagin is a captive of Bill Jefferson or Cleo Fields. Which means the mayor's favorite anti-Landrieu canard is more than a bit of a stretch.
Heh, heh. I forgot C. Ray did bidness with "Pampy".
Stay tuned for more unpacking of conservative support for Nagin along with various "Landrieu family" canards in the next post.
Monday, May 08, 2006
(2) The Iraq War : National Guard hurricane preparedness ::
(a) opening up glue factory : continuing operation of the Pony Express;
(b) the Internet : beige-collar productivity;
(c) legalization of slot machines in Arkansas : stability of John Daly's family finances;
* And shamelessly "enhanced" with a self-serving YRHT link. I guess it's not enough to mock a far superior blogger with a lame post-title, and then lazily copy his comedic work rather than invent my own. No, I got to inject a self-reference into the lifted material, as well.
(But at least I was never thrown out of the Liberty Lunch by a midget bouncer. During times of self-loathing, I can always console myself with that.)
For those who may not know, Bobby Jindal is Louisiana's rising political star. He's a young, whiz-kid Republican congressman with Gubernatorial ambitions-- (Jindal narrowly lost to Kathleen Blanco in 2003). He's always smiling and positive, and has the great talent of pulling invisible "good news" out of enormously disappointing decisions made by the Bush administration. Stuff along the lines of: "Yes, the president has kicked this state repeatedly... but the good news is that he didn't have time to put on his steel toed boots, so it could have been a lot worse."
Anyhow, Jindal, who (unlike Blanco) actually campaigned in black New Orleans neighborhoods during his run for governor, received Mayor Nagin's endorsement. At the time, that was big news. No one knew yet how worthless Nagin's endorsements were going to be. So, plenty of stories were written about how a Democratic mayor was spending his political capital to endorse a Republican. The polls showed that it was a close race, and that significant black support in New Orleans could be the deciding factor for Jindal. But alas, Blanco started hitting Jindal hard, and Jindal respond weakly, and Blanco won by fifty thousand votes or so.
So, who will Bobby Jindal endorse for Mayor? Will he support Nagin, like Nagin supported him? Or, will Jindal stab Nagin in the back and support Mitch Landrieu (yeah right)? Or will he be a little wusscakes and try to avoid the issue, and let his big daddy Foster work behind the scenes? That's what the Scuttlebutt article (not online yet) asserts:
[S]everal sources say former Gov. Mike Foster, who gave Jindal his political start, has been working behind the scenes to drum up Republican support-- and money-- for Nagin as part of an organized GOP move to weaken the state's Democratic infrastructure, which would help Jindal in his expected bid for governor next year.
So the Republican party has joined William Jefferson and Cleo Fields in their support for Ray Nagin (albeit covertly). But Jindal, their golden boy, doesn't have the testicular fortitude to make an endorsement because... he's scared that won't play very well in the rest of the state when he runs for guv. How will he explain supporting a mayor who illegally took people's guns away? As Adrastos has noted, Republican PACs are slamming Nagin in the rest of the state while the party is supporting him covertly. Nagin knows this, and most Republicans know it too. You can be damn sure that Karl Rove approves of it as well (he calls Nagin fom time to time during campaigns.)
The Weekly Standard says the goal for the GOP in Louisiana is to take the state House and then the Governor's mansion in 2007. If that means they have to manipulate Nagin like a puppet, (funding him and bashing him at the same time) so be it. It's not about New Orleans, for them-- it's about state politics. Beating Landrieu is all they care about, even though reelecting Nagin would be a public relations disaster for the city (at best). And as a willing participant in this maneuver, Bobby Jindal gutlessly refuses to endorse someone who went out of his way to support him in '03 (or at least explain why he won't). Why can't Jindal tell his New Orleanian constituents where he stands on the most important mayoral election in New Orleans' history? Who does he think would best lead the city?
The above Weekly Standard article, penned by Fred "permanent realignment" Barnes, describes Jindal (and Vitter) as "the most determined and vigorous politicians in Louisiana-- and surely the smartest".
With all due respect to Jindal and Vitter (do either of them believe in evolution, btw?) don't underestimate the smarts of YRHT favorite, State Treasurer John Kennedy. Even though he has a Ross Perot twang, the dude reads Kierkegaard. And is proud to say so.
For the record, Blanco has said her endorsement (presumably for Mitch) is forthcoming and Senator David Vitter does not make endorsements (except the IQ ticket).