Friday, June 02, 2006

Air America interviews Loki from Humid City 

Intrepid New Orleans patriot Loki from Humid City got to talk for nearly an hour on Air America radio about how the city has responded since Katrina.

Except for some wildly over-the-top praise for YRHT, Loki perfectly captured how things are "progressing" here. I encourage you to listen to the interview, and am so glad that a talented local blogger got such an excellent opportunity.

Many thanks to Tony from Baizetown for the tip.
Update: More deserved recognition. Craig G. from Metblogs and Ashley M. get interviewed by the BBC.

Here's a previous BBC article citing some New Orleans bloggers.
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All in all you're just another brick in the wall 

Phase Two of the Send-A-Brick Project is going full steam ahead! In case you hadn't heard, the Send-A-Brick project encourages citizens to mail a brick (for $12 or so) to their Congressperson, thereby showing their support for a 2,000 mile "security wall" along America's southern border. Ten thousand bricks have already been sent to D.C., and the project has enjoyed widespread national media attention.

At their website, the group says:

"We are tired of open borders, uncontrolled immigration, terrorist infiltration, the spread of pandemic diseases, criminal alien gangs and all the other horrors that can arise due to our defenseless borders and unenforced immigration laws."

The group makes an excellent point about being fed up with "the spread of pandemic diseases". I am too!! If we'd only had a Great Wall along our southern border prior to WWI, then perhaps the deadly influenza pandemic (which originated on a farm in W. Kansas) could have been contained within the United States. Fifty million people died in countries outside the U.S. from the deadly influenza pandemic during WWI. But if we only had a brick wall along our southern border, perhaps Mexico would have been spared thousands of deaths from sick, diseased, American immigrants.

Two thousand mile security wall on our southern border? Si!

Cat 5 levees and "coastal border" restoration? No!

no dark sarcasm in this classroom
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Job Growth during the Bush "Boom" 

Nonfarm payrolls up by anemic 75,000 in May, and downward revisions were made to March and April.

I've been predicting that fewer jobs will be created during Bush's eight years than in Carter's four (10 million). Here's what I said last year:
But now, in the second term, they'll reap what they have sown. Perhaps, if a crisis of confidence doesn't occur, the American economy can avoid an outright contraction. But Bush's eight years will witness the creation of fewer net jobs than Carter's four years. "Debt" and "Risk" are about to become much less abstract for millions of people in the coming months.

And someone will pay a political price.
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Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Past and the Furious: Toledo vote drift 

RFK jr says the 2004 presidential election was stolen.

Update: The Editors are among the unimpressed.
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"Katrina is our testimony. Rebuilding is our faith in action." 

Mayor Nagin gave a pretty strong, inspiring speech today during his second inaugural. I heard it on the radio after I drove out to see the progress ACoE and Boh Brothers are making repairing the famous 17th Street Canal levee/floodwall.

Nagin was introduced by Rep. Maxine Waters as a "Hero" who emerged after Katrina. He thanked Bush and Blanco again, and basically said we're all in this together, and that he's certain great things are in store for our city. I could have done without some of Nagin's religious rhetoric, but he did make a few excellent general recommendations about "getting off our duffs", and, for example, helping the youth of our city. Nagin offered several good reasons to be optimistic about the city's future, and basically stated that New Orleans has a grand history of overcoming problems, and will continue to do so.

The final ten minutes of his speech were done "off the cuff"-- a potentially disasterous scenario. But luckily Nagin was in rare (good) form, and didn't say anything stupid. Unlike his infamous MLK day speech he actually quoted Martin King. He also admonished the press to print more good news about the daily "miracles" occurring in New Orleans.

Perhaps on a re-reading I might have a qualm or two about the speech, but my first impression was that it was pretty darn good, and even soaring at times. To be sure, I winced when Nagin claimed that Bush was keeping the promises he made in Jackson Square, and when he hinted that God was behind his election victory. [Interestingly, regarding his re-election, Nagin deflected credit by claiming he "wasn't that smart"-- which is true. But he's smart enough to employ political strategists like Jim Carvin, who are definitely "that smart"-- meaning: smart enough to pull off one of the most daring "sleight of hand" campaigns I've ever seen.]

Despite my commentary over the past few weeks about Nagin being perceived as an incompetent laughingstock, I don't personally subscribe to that view. I was a supporter of his very early on in 2002, and told all my friends about him. (Then they asked, "how great of a businessman do you have to be to run a monopoly?" and I didn't have a very good answer to that. But bringing in a non-Morial machine candidate was the most important thing to me at the time.) And the truth is, policy-wise, there were few big differences between Nagin and Landrieu, although I'd argue that there were more substantial differences than most assumed. So, strictly in terms of policy, I don't think a second term of Nagin will be that much different than a first term of Mitch Landrieu.

However, in terms of national perception, I think the difference between endorsing Nagin and picking someone new was HUGE. Hopefully, overcoming that national perception won't be as difficult or as costly as I imagine.

My favorite Ray Nagin moment occurred in 2003 at the Miami airport. The plane was being boarded at the gate, and about to fly direct to Louis Armstrong Int'l. Ray Nagin's family were among the last to board and they made their way to seats in the very back of the plane. As soon as they entered, though, there was immediate recognition and applause. All the New Orleanians were cheering their mayor while he walked down the center aisle, smiling and blushing. It was an ovation that lasted several minutes until his family sat down. Everyone else on the flight wanted to know what the hell was going on.

"Who is he?" the lady sitting next to me whispered.

"He's the mayor of New Orleans" I proudly replied.
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Some months ago I won a bet with Jay Tea at Wizbang! and get to do one post at their high-traffic conservative blog. Any thoughts as to what I should write or promote? (Obviously, it will be about New Orleans in some form.)

But should I stir the political shite, or be (somewhat) likable? Should I write a treatise, or do something simple and/or funny? What say you?

I was thinking of just linking to Kalypso's video and then (after the jump) explaining how dreadful I think the GOP effort to re-elect Nagin was... but surely I could do other things.

What would have the most impact?

Update: Jay Tea rightly requested that I post a link with info on the generous terms of the bet.
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Four posts about volunteering 

1. 2 millionth/scout prime on Bush's call to help.

2. Wet Bank Guide on FEMA.

3. World Class on recovering the dead

4. World Class needs tools.
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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

News and Notes 

1. FBI says "Frozen Dollar" Bill Jefferson tried to "surreptitiously remove" documents while they searched his home in August of last year.

2. The Army Corps of Engineers invites the public for a "first-hand look at the repairs and improvements" to the N.O. hurricane protection system on June 1st (noon til 6pm). Officials will be available to answer questions at the following sites: 17th Street Canal at Hammond Hwy Bridge, IHNC Floodwall between Florida and N. Claiborne, and Orleans Ave Canal near Marconi and Thrasher.

3. Senator Mary Landrieu showed a sharp spike in her survey usa approval ratings over the past month, enjoying her highest approval levels in over a year (58-39).
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Aw, you shouldn't have! 

Today's my birthday, and I plan to celebrate by taking my daughter Pearlgirl to the Audubon Zoo. (If her sniffles abate.) You should celebrate too-- not because it's my b-day, but because it's the last day before hurricane season.

My 34th trip around the sun was certainly one I'll never forget.
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Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Why do I keep dwelling on the political dynamics of the recent mayoral campaign?

Because I think it's instructive to do so.

In this week's Gambit Weekly (will be online soon), editor Clancy Dubos makes the following statements in a political article titled "Da Winnas & Da Loozas" (my emphs):

Mitch Landrieu utterly failed to [give voters a compelling argument for change]... That screamed to white voters... Stay home! It doesn't matter! It also made it easier for conservative whites (particularly Republicans, encouraged by a carefully orchestrated campaign attributed to the White House) to vote for Nagin, which they did in significant numbers.


The White House clearly set out to stick a knife in Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu by helping Nagin against her little brother, but it remains to be seen whether the wound was fatal. In the end, the national GOP helped re-elect an African-American Democratic mayor who has promised to bring back all of the city's neighborhoods, most of which were filled with Democratic voters prior to Katrina. If they return, you can be sure they'll still vote for Mary for Senate.
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The Key Monk (an occasional YRHT sparring partner) alerts us to the surprising legacy of Saint Ironhead Heyward.

The Key Monk's sports commentary is some of the very best you'll find anywhere. Especially if you are a Yankees fan.
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Monday, May 29, 2006

From Informed Comment:

The Bush administration is in the midst of "imperial overstretch" on a grand scale. Taking on al-Qaeda and the Taliban, convincing Pakistan to change its policies, and reconstructing Afghanistan would have been a tough enough job. It might not have been possible even with the investment of enormous resources and personnel. Afghanistan is large and rugged and desperately poor. Bad characters are still hiding out in the region, who have proved that they can reach into the United States and hit the Pentagon itself.

Instead of doing the job, Bush ran off to Iraq almost immediately. Even as our brave troops were being killed at Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in spring of 2002, Centcom commander Tommy Franks was telling a visiting Senator Bob Graham that the US "was no longer engaged in a war in Afghanistan" or words to that effect, and that military and intelligence personnel were being deployed to Iraq.
Bush's Iraq imbroglio, or "Bush's Furnace," as history might well call his trillion-dollar purchase, has sucked up money and resources on a vast scale and left US personnel in Central and South Asia to struggle along on the cheap.

But don't you dare criticize those Bastards in Suits...
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State GOP gamesmanship uber alles! 

My intrepid colleague, Schroeder, has an excellent post showing the various anti-Landrieu propaganda used by The Greater New Orleans Republicans to re-elect Mayor Ray Nagin. Click his link to review the photos and come back at your leisure.

Ok. So, who are these Greater New Orleans Republicans?

Well, Ashley informs us that the GNOR PAC's address is in Rogers, Arkansas. (Arkansas: the naturally New Orleans state!) Entergy spokesperson Morgan Stewart is both the acting President of the GNOR PAC as well as the contact person for the Greater New Orleans Republicans Fund (a 527 organization that coordinates with GNOR PAC).

After Katrina, when Entergy was begging for a federal bailout, Morgan Stewart boasted of his company's "great relationship" with Senator Mary Landrieu (and Vitter), which Entergy has enjoyed for "a long time".

The 2006 "Chairman" (how un-pc!) for GNOR is Ms. Audra Shay. My first encounter with the hacktacular Audra Shay was through Brian Welsh, my pal from the Wes Clark days. (Brian and I co-managed the Clark campaign in Louisiana). A couple summers ago, I had the extreme pleasure of watching Welsh totally dismantle Ms. Shay in a televised one-on-one debate hosted by (former GNOR treasurer) Jeff Crouere. Oh my goodness, it wasn't even close! Shay only had her RNC talking points for each issue, and wasn't prepared for Welsh, who can eviscerate such shallow arguments in his sleep. I still smile thinking about that rhetorical slaughter. Afterwards, poor Ms. Shay looked shellshocked and remarked how glad she was that "it was over". Too bad my Tivo was lost in the flood.

The GNOR VP of Finance is a Mr. John Shay. I do not know if he is any relation to Chairman Audra Shay, but I would bet that he's her husband. The GNOR Director is Mike Bayham, whose political analysis at Bayou Buzz is hysterically bad-- just awful.

Here's a few select quotes from his recent commentary on the New Orleans elections:

4/12 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.

4/20 This election is too important for Republicans to be duped by a liberal journalist into "writing Couhig's name in the snow" to the benefit of the Landrieu clan.

If you want something different in City Hall, then you want Ron Forman.

5/19 Back in March I contemplated writing a column to be titled "The Inevitability of Mayor Mitch." I felt then, and to some degree now, that the scion of the city's last white mayor was unbeatable...

Keep the above information in the back of your mind while we go over some GNOR campaign propaganda. Remember how I'd been searching for a strong, conservative Republican argument in favor of Nagin? Well, the GNOR publicly endorsed Nagin and provided the following Ten Good Reasons why you should vote for Nagin. I will list them, highlighted, and offer some commentary after each item:

Here are 10 good reasons why you should join us in voting for Ray Nagin.

1. Marc Morial's LIFE organization is supporting Landrieu.

This is the GNOR's number one "good" reason to vote FOR Nagin? A guilt by association dig?My goodness, Nagin's supporters include "Frozen dollar" Bill Jefferson, Cleo "public service does not mean perfect service" Fields, and BOLD's Jim Singleton... but I suppose LIFE represents the "politics of the past" whereas those others are stalwart voices of reform.

2. Nagin has consistently been pro-business in contrast to the Landrieu record in the legislature.
Was the city's Chocolate City speech good for business? Is re-electing someone perceived as an incompetent laughingstock good for business?

If Landrieu was so anti-business, why did he get the endorsement of New Orleans' business newspaper? Why did over 40 of the city's top business leaders publicly endorse him, if Nagin was the "business" candidate?

3. Elements of the national Democratic operation are engaged in supporting Landrieu's effort.

Prove it. That was a false claim started by Drudge, widely promoted on blogs, and then retracted.

4. Nagin had the guts to break party ranks to support a Republican for governor, Bobby Jindal.

I do think GNOR views this as a very important reason to vote for Nagin. This is the heart of the matter for this crew: how Nagin's election will effect their statewide chances. Sadly, Jindal lacked the "guts" to return the favor by endorsing Nagin...

But step back and savor that "good reason" for a few seconds. If we wanted to measure "guts", shouldn't we review Nagin's performance during a catastrophe? But the aftermath of Katrina-- THE DEFINING ISSUE for this city-- goes unmentioned in this list of "good" reasons.

5. Ray Nagin is not a machine politician and received no organizational backing when he ran first in the 2002 primary, the first time this has happened since Chep Morrison won.

I'll agree that that was a good reason to vote for Nagin-- in 2002. I'll also note that in one of the recent mayoral election forums, candidates were asked to pick their favorite N.O. mayor from the 20th century. Nagin chose Sidney Barthelemy. Mitch Landrieu picked Chep Morrison (along with his father, Moon).

Here's a piece of information for our Republican friends: believe it or not, the Morial machine is shattered beyond repair. I know how well those nightmares about blacks on buses (being paid to go from poll to poll) animates you, but I'm sorry to say it just doesn't hold anymore. If Morial's machine were even a shadow of its former self, LIFE would have delivered more votes for Landrieu.

6. There is a clear conflict of interest in having a mayor whose sister is a US Senator, as the policies supported or opposed by the mayor would take into consideration the impact on his sister's politics.

Clearly, Floridians should have heeded this familial "conflict of interest" argument in November 2000.

7. That Mitch Landrieu's sister has complicated our efforts to receive greater assistance from Washington by her constant partisan attacks on President Bush.

If anyone, ANYONE thinks that this administration responds to anything but hardball, please let me know. The GNOR endorsed Rob Couhig in the mayoral primaries, a candidate who thought that we didn't need greater assistance from Washington. So the GNOR endorsed the "up by the bootstraps" candidate in the primaries, and then blames a candidate's sister for complicating "our" efforts to "receive greater assistance" from the most anti-Louisiana president in living memory. Hilarious! Who is this "our", anyway!? If these hacks were consistent, they'd be praising Mary Landrieu for "complicating" efforts to spend more tax dollars on (piddly) issues like Cat 5 flood protection and fair oil/gas royalty payments.

8. As of right now, four members of the Landrieu family hold public office: Madeline Landrieu, a judge; Phyllis Landrieu, president of the NO School Board; Mary Landrieu, US Senator; and Mitch Landrieu, Lieutenant Governor. Is it a wise move for one family to control two of the four most powerful positions in politics (Governor, Mayor of New Orleans and the two US Senator positions)?

I love it when Bush supporters warn others about those dreaded "powerful political families". A Bush has been president or vice president 18 of the last 26 years... and counting. [plus Jeb! and P!]

9. The election of Mitch Landrieu as Mayor would allow Governor Blanco to appoint what is likely to be the Democratic Party's 2007 candidate for governor (there's no chance Kathleen is running again).

"No chance"? That's news. Blanco recently announced plans to run for re-election, so I suppose there is at least a chance (not that these idiotic hacks would care if they're wrong). There's no indication that Blanco's not running, and the GNOR has nothing to substantiate this claim. But, no matter. It's all about gamesmanship surrounding State Politics. Asserting an unsubstantiated claim about who the Governor might appoint for Lieutenant... THAT'S one of the top ten reasons to vote for Ray Nagin. According to the hacktacular GNOR that's a "good reason" why New Orleans-- a city fighting for its life-- should vote FOR Nagin.

10. The voters have a choice: four more years of Nagin now with the chance to elect someone new in 2010 or a minimum of eight years of Landrieu machine politics in City Hall.

Again: this unsubstantiated speculation blatantly contradicts all the conservative hysteria about Mitch Landrieu running for mayor with "one eye on the governor's mansion". As always, partisan hacks want to have it both ways. Don't vote for Mitch: he'll be mayor for 8 years! Don't vote for Mitch: he only wants to run for Governor!

So out of 10 "good reasons" to support Nagin none of them were about competence, crime, housing, levee protection, Nagin's national perception, schools, or infrastructure. Out of 10 good reasons to vote FOR Nagin, three reasons involve Mitch's family (6,7,8), two reasons relate to GOP State party strategy (4, 9) , three reasons are totally unsubstantiated speculation (3,9, 10), and one is a lame "guilt-by association" dig (1)*. Nagin being good for business was the only real reason offered, and that claim is highly debatable. Again: Nothing about Katrina, nothing about Chocolate City, nothing about seizing citizen's guns, nothing about escalating crime, nothing about flooded cars, nothing about his pro-gambling proposals, nothing about Nagin being perceived nationally as an incompetent joke.... No, no. Our beloved GNOR doesn't think these issues should factor into the most important mayoral vote in New Orleans' history. For their conservative readers they only offer "good reasons" supported by lies, unfounded speculation, guilt by association, and state party strategy. Let history show that the GNOR (and its ilk) offered New Orleans voters total nonsense in its first election after Hurricane Katrina.

Again, GOP hacks (and others) framed this all-important election around Mitch Landrieu. The following are the sorts of "arguments" used to persuade enough conservatives to vote for Nagin over Landrieu.

Mitch wore "full makeup" while saving people from the floodwaters!

Mitch Landrieu spent too much money renovating his office!

Mitch Landrieu comes from a political family we just know is corrupt but (even if a reward is offered) we can't specify how.

Mitch hasn't experienced a $100 billion lesson in failure like Nagin.

Mitch has the DNC working for him!!

Mitch won't be mayor long/Mitch will be mayor too long!

Mitch will rebuild the projects and destroy the city! (even though the utterly nonpartisan HUD controls the Housing Authority of N.O.).

Mitch has hairplugs!

So, hearty thanks to the Arkansas-incorporated Greater New Orleans Republicans for being the stupidest hacks on Earth, and for duping New Orleanian conservatives into believing that re-electing an incompetent, national embarrassment was the right choice for hurricane-stricken New Orleans.

For more, read this excellent post from the Weathers Report.
* Obviously some of these "good reasons" do double duty.
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Sunday, May 28, 2006

When Perception becomes Reality 

From today's WaPo (my emphs):

The FBI is focusing on at least eight different suspected bribery schemes as part of its corruption probe of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), according to a federal affidavit and sources familiar with the investigation.

T-P columnist Stephanie Grace on Dollar Bill Jefferson (D-LA):

You all but predicted that an indictment is looming, yet you vowed to stay in office to fight the allegations for as long as it takes, even if it takes years. You asked us, your constituents, for understanding and patience, and you apologized for the "the predicament we are now enduring together."

But I'm here to say that it's not my predicament. I live in post-Katrina New Orleans, which means that, like the rest of your district, I've got predicaments of my own.

So, sorry, Congressman, but this one's all on you.

Damn skippy, it is on him.

I'll just note that the Ray Nagin campaign went out of their way to promote (and embellish) Jefferson's endorsement for their candidate. They also profusely thanked Cleo Fields for his support.

All this, after a campaign of insinuation against Mitch Landrieu's family, and his "politics of the past".

More later.

One more thing. As for Stephanie Grace, in her latest column titled "Outsiders Baffled By Nagin's Appeal" she writes:

Whenever I've left town in the months since Katrina, wherever I've traveled, people have asked the same question: "What on earth is with your mayor?"
In short, having taken full measure of the man, more than half the voters in this city decided they're willing to trust him with their future.

Before they scoff, people who don't live here might try to walk a mile in those voters' shoes.

I too have faced similar questions about Nagin since Katrina. More than one Floridian asked me, quite seriously: "Is your mayor on drugs?" And while it's pretty to think that folks outside New Orleans should suspend judgments about Nagin before "walking a mile" in our shoes.... well, it's a lead pipe cinch that outsiders will never ever ever EVER take the time to actually do that. Sure, Nagin is more complicated than people assume. But that's utterly beside the point. His media caricature has been seared into the nation's consciousness after Katrina and the Chocolate City speech. And Nagin is in large part responsible for his hopelessly-encumbered public personae. To many on the outside, he's an incompetent laughingstock-- whom New Orleans chose to re-elect.

You think the nation has Katrina fatigue now? What about Nagin fatigue? Just wait until Nagin is on national TV this summer when New Orleans slides into the cone of an approaching hurricane. (Which seems likely.) How do you think the average viewer is going to react when they see Nagin acting too relaxed or going off script and saying something stupid? Also, the media will be waiting to pounce on Nagin for any little thing that goes wrong during an evacuation. Unless all things run perfectly, every single decision Nagin makes during hurricane season will be heavily scrutinized and second-guessed. No journalist will cut him any slack. And god forbid New Orleans is hit again and we need federal help. Do you think Suzie Taxpayer is going to be more or less sympathetic when she sees Ray "Chocolate City" Nagin on her TV for the second summer in a row? What do you think her immediate reaction will be?

Not again.

Since we're relying on outsiders' tax dollars to rebuild after a catastrophe, wouldn't it have been infinitely preferable to have elected someone-- almost anyone-- OTHER than Nagin?! Choosing to re-elect the guy who supposedly "understands business" probably cost this town billions of dollars in goodwill.
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