Friday, November 17, 2006

You can't carry our Black & Gold sackcloths 

Jeffrey defends the Saints "Who Dat" cheer from plundering Bungles fans, and explains why it shouldn't be removed from its cultural moorings (and then "tweaked" for purposes of plausible deniability). Please read the whole post, though I am forced to reprint the exquisite payoff below:

While "who dat say" appears to permeate the culture associated with it, "who dey think" originates from an outside attempt to approximate that culture. In other words... it's what happens when white people try to talk black... and yes that implies all sorts of racial insensitivity and condescension which I'll not go into other than to say Bengals fans are major douchebags.

And I hate to "pile on" here, but I can't help but reprint a splendid quote from Lafcadio Hearn which many of my esteemed Nola blogger compatriots have cited. When Lafcadio Hearn moved to New Orleans in the 1870s, he wrote to a friend back in Cincinnati:

Times are not good here. The city is crumbling into ashes. It has been buried under a lava flood of taxes and frauds and maladministrations so that it has become only a study for archaeologists. Its condition is so bad that when I write about it, as I intend to do soon, nobody will believe I am telling the truth. But it is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes, than to own the whole state of Ohio.

Similarly, it is better for a New Orleanian to yell "Who dat?!" while wearing a modified Aaron Brooks/R. Bush jersey than it is for a Bungles fan to blurt "Who dey" in a sparkling clean Carson Daly outfit.
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Thursday, November 16, 2006

MyDD: Moral Ghostbusters 

MyDD is sending a correspondent to New Orleans to report on the Karen Carter/Bill Jefferson runoff (LA-02), and dig up some of that delicious "ground truth" we all know and love. In the announcement, Matt Stoller of MyDD states:

We're hiring Tim Tagaris from the Lamont campaign to head down to New Orleans and cover the LA-02 race for MyDD, somewhat as he did for Paul Hackett in OH-02 though with more of a journalistic focus and with a video camera. Corruption in the Democratic Party has its roots in local machines, and there's no more colorful or weird machine than that of William Jefferson, a DLC Congressman caught with $90k in cash in his freezer. A progressive Democrat, Karen Carter, is challenging him, and we've already endorsed her. But there are two other important themes that Tim is going to cover when he's down there. One is race, which is inescapable in Louisiana and in this election. The second is Katrina, which is also inescapable in this election.

So, Tagaris will come down to report on "corruption", "race" and "Katrina"... is that all? I must say, that's a pretty ambitious project, but I do welcome Tad and hope he can spread the word about conditions here and invite him to contact me or any other "pelican" on the blogroll if he needs some assistance while he's here.

Here's the real bone I have to pick with MyDD. You may recall some time ago, Hillhack wrote a MyDD post about Sen. Mary Landrieu's oil/gas revenue bill wherein he basically characterized her as a fiscal thief who was making preparations to switch parties. You can read the MyDD post and my responses in the comments here.

So, with that dubious background information, witness what happened when Landrieu campaigned for Lieberman prior to the elections. Matt Stoller of MyDD went ballistic:

Landrieu is probably the worst Democratic Senator in the caucus, with the possible exception of Max Baucus. She's an utter Bush sycophant, even going above and beyond the reddish tinge of Louisiana. If you're looking for a reason that New Orleans is still devastated today, you have to look to her utter failure of leadership in forcing Bush to do anything to deal with the situation. She's a moral ghost, someone who won't fight for her city or her state because she wants to be loved by insiders.

Read that highlighted sentence again. Stoller thinks the primary reason for LA's current devastation is because Landrieu didn't force Bush to "deal with the situation". He basically blames Landrieu for it. Granted, at the time, I wasn't happy when Mary was campaigning for Joe, either. (I've since come to rethink my analysis.) But I didn't become "unhinged" and blame the slagging recovery on her. In the comments to Matt Stoller's post, I responded by saying: "I suppose the Dems are responsible for not 'forcing' Bush to deal with Iraq, too? Right? Are they all 'moral ghosts', too?" Which I still think is a fairly good point.

Fast forward to yesterday's announcement about Tagaris. Matt Stoller again mentions the plight of "post-Katrina New Orleans"... but guess where he lays the blame this time?

We are committed to progressive change and to a progressive agenda. A post-Katrina New Orleans is the domestic symbol of the conservative movement. Not only did underinvestment in a poor and largely black city lead to a devastating disaster, but the promises of the Republican Congress and Bush, the promises they made in our names as American citizens, the promises to rebuild the city, these are promises that we have not kept. Tim is going to New Orleans to remind us of the compact we have as citizens, and as a country.

Oh, so now "Moral Ghost" Landrieu is no longer a primary "reason" for post-Katrina New Orleans' woes. No. NOW, after the election, it's all "the Republican Congress and Bush" who haven't kept their promises (... along with some Rousseauian rhetoric about a "citizens' compact" that reminds me of the "after all it was you and me" Rolling Stones lyric.) Mary's failure to force Bush to keep his promises is no longer on the radar. Funny, that.

I must ask MyDD's stalwart progressives: does Stoller still believe Landrieu is the primary reason for post-K conditions in New Orleans? Does paid correspondent Tim Tagaris (from the Lamont campaign) feel the same way? Does Hillhack still believe that oil revenues that will rebuild the Louisiana coast are a "straight up" raid on federal treasury receipts? Does Hillhack still believe that Landrieu might jump to the GOP, (or was it all a ruse like I said)? And finally: MyDD endorsed Karen Carter, and she is FOR increased revenue-sharing-- do they consider her a thief like Landrieu? (And how "progressive" do they really think Carter is?)

It would be nice to get answers to these smaller queries before Tad tackles the "ground truth" in New Orleans regarding corruption, race, and Katrina.
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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Help buy Greg a lap dance 

Some fellow Nola bloggers have decided to pitch in to buy Greg Peters a lap dance in order to enhance his recovery from upcoming heart surgery. I thought that was pretty cool, and encourage you to donate your folded dollars to this worthy cause.

Update: Whoops. It appears that Greg needs a LAPTOP, not a lapdance. My mistake. Nonetheless, I still encourage you to participate in this fundraiser, even though it's not as titillating as I would've liked. (But if Greg wants a lapdance [and he does, see page 4 here], I'll happily buy him one as soon as the doctors clear it. I hear that Deja Vu is running a 2 for 1 special on dances, but you have to choose one of their ugly girls.)
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Why "Armor All" when you can "Armor Some"? 

Levees, that is. Yesterday's T-P editorial warns:

The need to armor levees and floodwalls is an obvious lesson from Hurricane Katrina: every examination of the levee failures -- including the Army Corps of Engineers' -- recognized the role that scouring played in their demise.

In fact, the corps' Interagency Performance Task Force said that overtopping and erosion caused all but four of the 50 major breaches in the flood protection system.

Unfortunately, understanding doesn't guarantee action. The corps did armor some damaged areas after the storm, but it scaled back an initial request for armoring from $600 million to $170 million-- at the Bush administration's request. The larger amount would have armored most of the 360-mile levee system, but now there's only enough money to armor those areas deemed most vulnerable.

Three quick points:

1. We got lucky this hurricane season.

2. Levees are only as strong as their weakest link.

3. We've been promised that "The federal government is committed to building the best levee system known in the world."

Why is the Bush administration prompting the USACE to slash its funding request for armoring levees? Why do the Bushies want us to risk everything over the next few hurricane seasons so that they can save a few hundred million? If another hurricane storm surge scours and breaks an unarmored levee during, say, the presidential campaign season of 2008-- won't this budgetary decision seem... rather foolhardy?

For those who like pictures, Ashley has some good ones.
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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Great Gambit this week 

This week's Gambit Weekly is bursting with optimistic, exciting articles. Roger Wilson's plan to create a "Broadway South" along Canal Street is brilliant, and clearly the way to go, in my opinion. His basic idea is to use targeted tax credits and GO Zone incentives for the theater industry (like LA used to draw movie productions), and renovate the old theaters and make them available as satellite venues for Broadway to "preview" its shows. He wants to make Canal St. a "nighttime attraction featuring theater, music and the performing arts". Roger Wilson is a former candidate for City Council and one of the lead stars of Porky's (among other things). He declares: "I believe people yearn for culture. I believe it's a matter of 'if you build it, they will come'", and "Culture is the best teacher we have on the importance of learning to live together. That's why New Orleans culture is so important."

The article also describes Stephen Perry's love for the idea (he's president of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau):

Perry adds that Broadway South also presents a way to "re-brand" New Orleans. He points to the growth of other cities that have succeeded in branding themselves as live entertainment centers -- Austin, Texas, Nashville and Memphis, Tenn., and even San Diego among them.

"In 2002, when the Super Bowl was coming, San Diego had just redone the Gas Lamp District. These places are artificial replicas of what New Orleans is at heart. You can't manufacture history and patina. We have it," he says. "The French Quarter is still a great place, but it's at a critical point in terms of direction. Decisions will be made in the next two years about the French Quarter as America's most historic mixed-use neighborhood. ... We could have one of the most viable entertainment communities in the country overnight."

Damn straight! Let Mississippi have its casino row. We'll invest in culture and theater and music. Read the whole article here.

(Also, if you still want to read more about darker, current political "dramas", check out this excellent Vanity Fair piece that Michael directed me to.)

I was also interested in this Gambit article on a proposal to make New Orleans a "hub" for a small low cost Louisiana airline modeled on Jetblue. I'd been tracking this proposal since before Katrina, but I couldn't figure out what the sticking points are/were. It "sounds" like a nice plan but the state is very hesitant to underwrite an airline start-up. That's probably wise, but I still like the idea of N.O. being a hub. I mean, can you imagine what kind of "buzz" a small airline could get if they served delicious Louisiana food instead of the salted cardboard you get on most flights? Poboys, gumbo, shrimp remoulade... yummy!

Finally, Clancy Dubos' list of gubmint reform accomplishments is a great reminder of how far we've come in the past year. Sure, we should've done more, but by New Orleans standards we are moving at light speed. Re-electing Nagin was a big misstep, imo, and re-electing William Jefferson would be an even worse message to send. We can't keep sabotaging ourselves like that. But we are moving in the right direction, and hopefully we will continue press onward and upward, as Clancy urges.

Along those lines, I would fully support Clancy's recommendation to make the new Inspector General's office a permanent fixture of city government. I propose we "draft" Pat Fitzgerald for the office, and let him go wherever the facts take him. Rescind Nagin's expensive garbage contract to pay for Fitz and his staff. If someone cries "racism" or "why didn't you do this when whitey was in office?", tell them "this may not be 'fair' but it is necessary". Then, after finishing with the city, get Fitz to audit all state government contracts, as well. After about four years, he could proudly proclaim to the rest of the country that Louisiana has been thoroughly "disinfected" with investigative sunshine, and is now a model of transparency and fair play. Wouldn't that be a worthwhile investment?
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Is that my flooded house in a truck commercial? 

I'm intrigued by the Chevy truck commercials that are annoying Norbizness, Ashley and everyone else who watches T.V.. The initial series started off with startling montages that included Rosa Parks, MLK, peace marches and Katrina devastation. Charged imagery, to be sure. Did Chevy intentionally aim for "controversy" at the outset of their new ad campaign, before running second and third versions that were much more benign? Were they trying to stir stuff up like Ford did in this commercial? I'll have to assume so.

I'll also have to assume that John Mellencamp didn't design the ads himself. And I assume the song ("Our Country") is based loosely on the principles outlined in this "Open letter to America" that John and his wife Elaine wrote in 2003. Not so bad, I'd say. And check out the actual lyrics of the song.

One of the verses reads:

There's room enough here
For science to live
And there's room enough here
For religion to forgive
And try to understand
The other people of this world
This is our country
From the east coast
To the west coast
Down the Dixie Highway
Back home
This is our country
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Monday, November 13, 2006

King of Kooks descends into self-parody 

I'm beginning to think C.B. Forgotston can't help himself. Apparently EVERY Louisiana business that closes, moves or downsizes does so because of excessive taxes and red tape.

Last week I quoted a CityBusiness article about New Orleans' Oreck Corporation building a new manufacturing plant in Tennessee. In the article, President Tom Oreck said the "primary motive" for the decision to move was to "eliminate the vulnerability of a Gulf Coast location". Mr. Oreck also stated that "Additional investment, new business investment or existing business investment requires an unwavering commitment to excellence of infrastructure." Levees, education and crime were three of the "infrastructure issues" he specifically cited.

I noted these things and then chided: "I can hardly wait to hear Forgotston's analysis of this development. Please, don't shoot the messenger!"

As you may know, C.B. Forgotston has the same answer for nearly all of LA's business woes. Cut taxes and red tape, cut taxes and red tape... But cutting taxes and red tape will not provide the flood protection that will make this area insurable. Those are not sufficient solutions in themselves. Lasting flood protection will require a massive commitment (both state and federal) to restore our levees and wetlands. Quite simply, my position is this: reducing taxes and red tape are secondary concerns if an area is prohibitively expensive to insure.

Indeed, Tom Oreck said that he moved his plant primarily because of poor flood protection. Yet Forgotston ignores Oreck's call for improved infrastructure, and says we need to cut taxes and red tape. Then he applauds Tom Oreck for "telling it like it is".

Huh? Seriously, isn't this the sort of argument a political hack would make? Repeatedly using bad examples to support one's simplistic, unchanging solution for all of Louisiana's economic woes...

I daresay if a meteor destroys a small business in Louisiana, Forgotston will link to the story and say, "See, we really need to cut taxes and red tape."

More YRHT criticisms of recent hacktacular Forgotston posts here and here.
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Political notes 

Looks like my earlier criticism of Sen. Mary Landrieu's campaigning for Sen Joe Lieberman was somewhat myopic. If she saw that Joe was going to win, it made sense to support someone who might become a decisive "key vote" in a narrow Democratic Senate takeover. Supporting Joe makes her look more "moderate", and perhaps Joe will return the favor when it comes to pro-Louisiana legislation. If she had campaigned for Lamont, she wouldn't have gained any "juice", and probably would have further alienated St. Joe from the party. All the netroots who loathe Joe should ask themselves: "Would you prefer that he caucus with the Dems, or would you prefer that he switches parties and gives control of the Senate back to the GOP?"

Politically, the smart move for Mary was to campaign for Lieberman. Low risk; potentially big payoff. As a recent T-P article notes, she is a vulnerable target in 2008, and needs all the help she can get:

Tulane University political scientist Brian Brox said he doesn't think Landrieu will face too much pressure in 2007 and 2008 because her party's leaders have already signaled that they want to do everything possible to help with her 2008 re-election bid. In a post-Katrina landscape she is likely to find a voting base that is more Republican and conservative than during her first two Senate campaigns in 1996 and 2002.

"Democrats want to hold on to their majority... for more than two years, so I don't think they are going to put her in a difficult position if they can help it," Brox said.

Dems must face the fact that if they want to maintain their sliver majority in the Senate, they'll need Lieberman and Landrieu.

2. House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi apparently is a "chocoholic". She reportedly keeps "bowls" of chocolate on her desk. Coincidentally, she has designated the Chocolate City as "hallowed ground" and has indicated that more needs to be done to rebuild the catastrophe stricken Gulf Coast. Yesterday's T-P article outlines the budget challenges facing Pelosi and her nuanced take on Landrieu's oil royalty revenue bill:

[Democrats] will be severely constrained by the burden of a $248 billion budget deficit in 2006 as well as by a self-imposed vow to offset any new government spending with like-sized cuts somewhere else in the federal budget. Will they have enough money or political will to push for Category 5 hurricane protection for South Louisiana, a decades-long undertaking estimated to cost tens of billions of dollars? It remains to be seen.

Surprisingly, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, R-Calif., the presumptive House Speaker, left open the possibility of passing pro-drilling legislation pushed by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., that would cut Louisiana in for oil and gas royalty revenue that could be used to bolster hurricane protection.

Pelosi, who Republicans said would block such a bill, told CNBC last week that "some kind of bill like that might gain support just so long as it wasn't used as a model to do offshore drilling all over the country and in a way that is very close to shore."

Pelosi has made so many legislative promises for the new Congress' first "100 hours" that I can't keep track of them all. However, House Dems did commit to introduce bills that would 1) streamline the insurance-claims process for Katrina victims 2) make more affordable housing available 3) restore coastal wetlands and give states a larger share of oil/gas royalties. Let's hope these are promptly introduced and passed, whether it's because Pelosi likes Chocolate, or because they want to get Mary Landrieu re-elected, or because Democrats believe Katrina contributed to their takeover of the House.

Here's an extended excerpt from a T-P story on Katrina's impact on the elections:

The official who directed the Democrats' successful campaign to win back a majority in the House of Representatives says that the Bush administration's botched early response to Hurricane Katrina played a "very big role" in his party's victory.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that Katrina was on the minds of voters, even though few candidates used the hurricane as an issue in ads.

It came up, he said, in individual conversations on the campaign trail because "in many ways it revealed a White House that was both out of touch on the issue of competence that was a selling point for this White House."

Emanuel said the nation watched the suffering in New Orleans, with people waiting for days on rooftops or stuck in the Superdome and the Convention Center, without functioning bathrooms or adequate supplies of food and water and thought to themselves "that's just not how we treat fellow Americans."

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said many people "internalized" what they saw on their TV screens when Katrina hit and that the "shock factor" of seeing their government perform so poorly carried over to the election more than 14 months after Katrina made landfall.

Election experts agreed with Landrieu and Emanuel, although they suggested that it wasn't Katrina alone, but the combination with the continuing difficulties in Iraq that led some voters to question the competency of the Bush administration and to a lesser degree the GOP-led Congress.

"The public perception of incompetence by the Bush team in Iraq and New Orleans was an important factor in the election," said Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution.

Wow. I wonder who was one of the first to recognize the potent linkage between South Louisiana's woes (even pre-Katrina!) and the Iraq fiasco? Let's pick through YRHT's "comparable" archives and find a money quote, shall we?

July 28, 2004:

the connection of the coastal erosion issue to funding for Iraq goes back to me (in this case). My belief is that every issue that can be connected to Iraq in some way, should.

Before the human drama of New Orleans after Katrina, there was the environmental drama of the lost wetlands. This environmental drama played a role in creating the human drama that Americans "internalized" last year, which led to their electoral dissatisfaction last Tuesday. Indeed, two years ago I complained:

The gret stet has lost nearly 2000 square miles of protective coastal marshlands (not a misprint) since 1932-- so what's another 1000? Sure we can invest $14 billion now to confront this federal issue, or pay, scientists estimate, a cool $100 billion later. The Bush administration, who proposed giving $100 million to Iraq for its wetlands programs, has continuously shut out Louisiana until this election year where it coughed up a paltry $8 million for our urgent coastal needs.

So, no, it wasn't Schiavo and Katrina that framed the recent elections. It was Iraq and Katrina. And, your faithful bivalve must humbly submit that YRHT was flogging this potent political connection well before it became a horrible, tragic, disillusioning television event.
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A contrast and a comparison 

1. Prior to having any exit poll data, Kevin Drum asserted that the "Republican Meltdown" might be partially due to

Terri Schiavo and Katrina.... I think it was the combination of these two things within a couple of months of each other that really hurt Republicans last year, not either one alone. The contrast was deadly: the Republican Party (and George Bush) showed that they were capable of generating a tremendous amount of action very quickly when the issue was something important to the most extreme elements of the Christian right, but were palpably bored and indifferent when the issue was the destruction of an American city. It's hard to think of any two successive issues painting a clearer and less flattering picture of just what's wrong with the Republican Party leadership these days.

I disagree that it was the contrast between these two things that hurt Republicans in the midterm elections... Katrina was enough, on its own. Also, I don't think many people explicitly linked the two issues. Don't get me wrong-- it's a terrific "coupling" and a terrific linkage, but I didn't see anyone ever fully exploit it. Hell, I didn't even think of it until Kevin brought it up, and this blog practically subsists on those sorts of contrasts.

Remember, this GOP House and Senate shattered "the record for laziest Congress" set by the famous "Do Nothing" leges in 1948. That's right: they worked the fewest days of any Congress in U.S. history. Yet, in their meager schedule of events, they made time for an emergency session about the Terri Schiavo case, and argued about it for 10 days. The President even cut short his Crawford vacation to fly back to D.C. so he could sign the bill at 1:11am. Now that's what I call responsive leadership! I wonder what President Bush was doing at 1:11am on those nights after the levees failed? Was he similarly engaged?

Schiavo and Katrina provide a great contrast, but I don't think it influenced the midterm elections because the pundits and the pols never used that "coupling" as a talking point.

(Oh yeah, that reminds me. Here's a big heaping pile of "Muck Foo" to retiring Sen Majority Leader Bill Frist, who "heard we needed help here" after Katrina, and flew into New Orleans airport and did TV interview after interview with his stethoscope around his neck and then flew back to TN that same afternoon. I will miss him like gangrene. )

2. I'll post this second "coupling" sans comment.


Rep Jim McCrery came close to leaving Congress in 2004, when Republicans were solidly in control of the House, prompting a call from President Bush pleading with him to stay. Now as a member of the minority party, some believe he will step down. Asked about it recently, McCrery didn't dismiss the possibility.

New Republic:

But there's more to the story of why Foley stood for re-election this year. Yesterday, a source close to Foley explained... that in early 2006 the congressman had all but decided to retire from the House and set up shop on K Street. "Mark's a friend of mine," says this source. "He told me, 'I'm thinking about getting out of it and becoming a lobbyist.'"

But when Foley's friend saw the congressman again this spring, something had changed. To the source's surprise, Foley told him he would indeed be standing for re-election. What happened? Karl Rove intervened.

According to the source, Foley said he was being pressured by "the White House and Rove gang," who insisted that Foley run. If he didn't, Foley was told, it might impact his lobbying career.

"He said, 'The White House made it very clear I have to run,'" explains Foley's friend, adding that Foley told him that the White House promised that if Foley served for two more years it would "enhance his success" as a lobbyist. "I said, 'I thought you wanted out of this?' And he said, 'I do, but they're scared of losing the House and the thought of two years of congressional hearings, so I have two more years of duty.'"
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Our hero's going through a bit of a rough patch... 

Wish him well, will you?

No one else is going to provide you comics like these.
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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Karen Carter versus Dollar Bill 

Adrastos has a fine post about how Dollar Bill Jefferson might be able to win the runoff. I was pessimistic about his chances, but then I heard about Derrick Shepherd endorsing Jefferson and it made my stomach churn in angst. Shepherd hasn't *officially* endorsed Jefferson, but I read where he said that he would support the candidate who shares his commitment to "veterans and senior citizens..." and that means he's endorsing Jefferson. What an asshole. I mean, really. Shepherd wants Jefferson to win so he can run again when Jefferson is indicted and has to resign. He doesn't have the district's interests at heart, merely his own ambitions.

I agree with Bayou St. John David's analysis in the comment thread at Adrastos. Even with Shepherd's endorsement it is very hard to see who will be motivated to vote either FOR Dollar Bill or AGAINST Kim Carter. Will Shep be able to turn out his "Marrero machine" on Jefferson's behalf? I don't think so. And yet, Carter's support is very thin and she has won most of the newspaper endorsements, including the N.O. Tribune's, by default.

I don't think "race" will be a big factor, and I don't see how Dollar Bill will be able to get the turnout he needs in Jeff Parish to win. But Shep's endorsement and assistance will make this election much closer than it should be, and carries a helluva lot more weight than Mayor Nagin's endorsement. Thank goodness Joe Lavigne isn't a self-centered opportunist like Shepherd (and Rob Couhig). He won't campaign for Jefferson in order to punish Carter and the Democratic party at the region's expense. Also, Lavigne doesn't have the same loyal following as Couhig did in the mayoral contest, and white East Bank conservatives do not hate Karen Carter like they do Mitch Landrieu, which are some additional reasons why Bill Jefferson won't be able to "play the edges against the middle" like Nagin did. But Jefferson does have one edge (sorta) and Carter only has a weak claim on the middle. But I'm certain that "Lavigne Conservatives" will vote in droves for Carter. And enough "Harry Lee Best Bankers" will hold their noses for Carter and/or stay home, so that they won't be the spoiler for Carter like Couhig Conservatives were the spoiler for Mitch Landrieu.

So, previously, I thought Karen Carter would win by about 55-45%. Now I think she'll only win in a squeaker. Uggh.
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