Thursday, November 23, 2006

Let's Talk Political Turkey 

Below are some explanatory and thought-provoking commentaries on the Karen Carter/Bill Jefferson race. I'll reprint some selected quotes, but I encourage you to read the entire posts.

1. "All Louisiana Politics is Localer" by Jeffrey:

This turf battle between [Jefferson and Carter's] competing local machines grasping to remain in power amongst a rebuilding, scattered, and unpredictable electorate is the heart of what this race is about. Everything else is a superficial externality.

This might be the "heart" of the story, but I think the decisive factor in this election is the Jeff Parish vote, which could care less about the Progressive Dems and BOLD. Most N.O. whites lump all the alphabet soup groups together as well. Their vote (has already been determined) by Jefferson's "corruption/loss of influence" issues. (Anecdotal note: My friend Medium Jim was having lunch with a businessman and a lawyer yesterday, and both of them said they would move out of New Orleans if Dollar Bill was re-elected. It was the last straw.)

2. "LA-02: A primer for Non-New Orleaneans" by MFL:

It's very difficult for those of you outside of New Orleans to understand the dynamics in the run-off for the Congressional seat currently held by Dollar Bill, so I will try to sort it out for you a bit....

The deal down here is not about fighting "corruption" or "democratic values"... The real issues are:

*Which machine gets to sit at the trough and therefor control the flow of contracts and non-profit grants
*the undercurrent of racism. The wealthy white, therefor GOP, establishment, and who they support
*Westbank/Eastbank dynamics
*Jefferson parish v. Orleans parish

The GOP abandoned Nagin briefly after Katrina and leading up the spring '06 election and tried to put their eggs behind an unsuccessful candidate. But then decided that the worse nightmare would be having Mary Landrieu's brother as Mayor. So while they shipped Nagin off incognito to a fundraiser in Chicago and blanketed New Orleans with anti-landrieu garbage, they continue running anti-Nagin ads in the rest of the state as a showpiece for "see how incompetent democrats are." Hypocrites.


3. "Carter's advantages over Jefferson" by Chris Tidmore:

If the national trends in Tuesday's election called for change, the results bode ill for Congressman William Jefferson.

Hold on. What do "national trends" have to do with New Orleans?

Karen Carter presents a deadly adversary come December 2nd. Her claims of coalition building appear to have come to pass.

They have?

Despite his comments to the contrary, Congressman Jefferson has paid little attention to the political or district needs of the political class outside of Orleans. Before the storm, such devotion hardly seemed necessary, but thanks to the floodwaters and the desire to maintain a clear African-American majority in the 2nd district, these politicians have grown in importance just as their constituents have.

Karen Carter recognized this from an early point in the race. Courting support, she was careful not to put any of these Jefferson politicians in a difficult position, in other words forcing them to undermine previous commitments to Shepherd. The State Rep. reportedly only asked for backing in the runoff.

According to insiders, the gambit will soon pay off. Sources reveal that Jefferson Parish Council President John Young will be amongst the first to openly being to work for Karen Carter's election in the coming days.

Carter believes, and polling data seems to support her contention, that best method to best Jefferson is to build a coalition similar to the one that Joe Lieberman constructed in Connecticut. Cite her moderation and membership in the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Emphasizes her Republican as well as Democratic support. Base the campaign, much as Rahm Emmanuel did for national Dems, as an end to corruption.

And privately as well as publicly point out the obvious to insiders. Nancy Pelosi detests Bill Jefferson.

Ew. The MyDD folk aren't going to like that comparison to Joementum. And it remains to be seen if Carter's allegedly shrewd courting of Jefferson parish "insiders" will yield enough votes from the outsiders they represent.

But, in the end, I think the anti-Bill Jefferson vote will be more motivated than the anti-Carter vote, and I think that will effect turnout just enough to put Carter over 50%. The national and state press will then celebrate "the message of reform" New Orleans sent. And I won't rush to qualify and correct their storyline.
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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

It's not the bleat, it's the timidity 

Bob Somerby's pre-Thanksgiving post concisely encapsulates his idee fixe: that liberals do not forcefully counter false Republican "scripts". The latest example he analyzes is the childish way the president used the term "Democrat party" in the run-up to the midterm elections.

For those conservatives who don't know, the correct term is "Democratic Party". Founded in 1792 by Thomas Jefferson, it's the oldest political party in the world. But partisan talking heads and Goopers prefer to use the term "Democrat party", because it polls better, and there's a subliminal association with "rats". Aren't they immensely clever? Yet, timid Dems let them get away with this snide "bleating"! Imagine if, during the Foley scandal, every liberal talking head referred to the opposition as the "Ray-pew-blikan party" (rhyming with "pubic"). Do you think conservatives would let us get away with that for even one second?

Last year, I chided Professor Sadow for his incorrect usage of "Democrat party", and he justified it with some pseudo-historical garbage that I found laughable. Then, months later, when he slipped up and used the correct term (Democratic party), I called him on it and he pretended that he wrote it on purpose as a "test" (read the comments in both posts). Simply Hacktacular!

Somerby is correct that this is childish and moronic, yet, liberals do themselves a huge disservice by not pointing out these insidious maneuvers. Bit by bit, these dumb GOP tactics solidify the unrefuted "scripts" which can determine the results of close elections. As Somerby notes, these scripts include:
Bill Clinton's haircut shut down LAX!
Al Gore said he invented the Internet!
When Reagan cut taxes, federal revenues rose!
Social Security will run out of money in the year 2040!

One of many other examples would be the unsupported claim that Perot was the decisive spoiler for Clinton and Carville's electoral victory in 1992 (#6 here). Why are smart liberals intent on parroting this right-wing talking point? Because it suits their petty short-term interests?

Not only must liberals contest these intentional GOP stupidities as they occur, they must form their own "narrative" (and repeat it ad nauseum if necessary). Needlenose's Swopa suggests how to do this here (dilligently read all the associated links for a good education on what is needed).

Politics is a game for high stakes. If you're going to play, it's ridiculous not to play to win.
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FBI subpoenas Office of Urban Affairs records 

Today's front page Times Picayune article speculates about what they might be looking for:

Before it was abolished earlier this year, the Office of Urban Affairs was in charge of overseeing grants to nonprofit agencies in the districts of black lawmakers. Critics commonly derided the grants -- and similar money doled out to rural districts -- as legislative "slush funds" that governors could use as an incentive to get reluctant legislators to vote their way.
It's unclear what the FBI is looking for. But earlier this year, James Bernazzani, the special agent in charge of the FBI's New Orleans field office, announced his intention to investigate two charities that were financed by the Office of Urban Affairs. Both of the groups -- Care Unlimited and Orleans Metropolitan Housing & Community Development -- have longtime ties to U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans.

The agencies attracted attention after former New Orleans City Councilwoman Renee Gill Pratt provided them with four vehicles that had been donated to the city after Hurricane Katrina.

Gill Pratt, who lost her re-election bid and was then hired by Care Unlimited -- a charity to which she had steered millions during a decade in the Legislature -- wound up behind the wheel of one of the cars. Mose Jefferson, her longtime companion and the congressman's brother, as well as a member of Orleans Metropolitan's board, also received a car. The cars were returned to the city after a public outcry.

Blanco used her line-item veto authority to zero out $450,000 that had been earmarked in this year's state budget for the two groups.

When the car allocations became public, Bernazzani said the FBI would look into the matter, but cautioned the public not to take that as a sign that crimes were committed.

"Being incredibly selfish is not a criminal act unto itself," he said then. "We have no preconceived notion of criminal activity. We're launching a probe designed to surface facts. We will follow those facts and wherever they go will dictate our action. In the event they surface criminal activity, we will present our findings to prosecutors."

How much more "incredible selfishness" might be uncovered in Jefferson's machine in coming weeks and months? Will the voting public risk re-electing an increasingly embattled legislator on the faint hope that promised "honorable explanations" will save the day? Aren't the stakes too high to take such a risk?

After Thanksgiving, let's send Rep. Jefferson home so he can fully concentrate on his federal legal woes. New Orleans deserves new representation.

More on Care Unlimited (and Dodge SUV's) here.
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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

(King) Missile-aneus links 

1. Iraqis are united in wanting us out of their country, but we will stay as long as Duhbya is president, because he knows how to build things: democracies, nations, cities, infrastructure... Iraqis obviously don't understand that freedom isn't free.

2. Indeed, we're in a precarious state.

3. Soon, my previous bearishness might not be so "reality-based". What should I do given the changing facts? Alter my working models and admit I was in error, or confidently cling to them no matter what? What if I was playing with other people's tax dollars (and lives) rather than just my own? What then? The only way I can lose is if I quit playing, right?

4. Chris Rose 11/7/06:

A friend of mine had been telling me: "If you want to experience a nice New Orleans moment, go to the Oak Street Cafe for breakfast. There's a piano player there and he plays for tips while you eat and it's a great scene."


So, before I went to the Oak Street Cafe, I went to the barber shop down the block because another friend had told me that if I wanted to experience a nice New Orleans moment, I should go to the old barbershop on Oak Street because the guy who cuts hair there has been there for something like 90 years and he's a character.

This is probably true. But let me also recommend Mr. Louis (8218 Maple). You'll end up paying about $2/minute, but it's well worth it. Mr. Louis effortlessly cuts and converses, and provides a therapeutic, restorative experience. He reminds me of the chiropractor Danny Aiello played in Jacob's Ladder (also named Louis). I like him. Ray Ward goes there as well, among many others.

In a recent T-P column (which I can't locate) about how pleasant Halloween was this year (in Uptown), Chris Rose says something like "living in a city where my children aren't safe isn't part of my 'philosophical wheelhouse'". Honestly and sincerely, I'd like to hear more about Rose's philosophical wheelhouse. He doesn't have to refer to 19th-century continental thinkers, but give me something... anything. Just a hint; one clue is all I ask. For a great example of what I mean, read this fine post by Mark as well as the linked posts by Metbloggers Jack and Craig. Now that's what I'm talking about.

And, truly, Halloween was a fun and friendly night for the oyster clan. Princess Pearlgirl and Lovely and I trucked up and down Octavia street with Ashley's costumed family. Ashley was an iron chef, and he spotted some pre-teen girls dressed as Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, and Dee Snider circa 1984. He took "Tommy's" drumsticks and gave them an expert twirl, and was thereafter referred to as "Cool Guy" by the girls. (I barely restrained myself from doing a Bobby Jindal impersonation, and "shouting at the devil".) Ashley passed out cigars and delighted homeowners returned the favor with cold beers to enhance our walk. It was a fun Halloween-- including our early-evening visit to Dr A and Adrastos' place. We had to find out "what they were doing".

5. James Gill's sleuthing has initiated widespread calls for "Legislative Auditor" Steve Theriot to resign. I join them. Let's have Patrick Fitzgerald or Eliot Spitzer choose a replacement from out of state.

6. Recently, I've seen respected liberals parrot right-wing talking points in order to diminish Carville and Clinton's electoral accomplishments in '92. That's a great maneuver. Carville says things we don't like, so let's repeat the unsupported claim that Perot was a "spoiler" in 1992. Is it any wonder why many young progressives were so amazed by the Dem takeover two weeks ago when the netroots assert non-facts which reinforce the belief that once-in-a-generation election dynamics are required for Dems to win?

Do you think it's coincidence or dumb luck that Carville managed two of the most impressive Democratic campaigns in the last twenty years (Wofford '91 and Clinton '92)? Those should be sacred examples for Dems who want to win, but apparently it's much easier to discount those lessons when they interfere with taking sides in some petty little internecine feud. Let's diminish Carville's instructive accomplishments in 1992 because he said something we didn't like in 2006. (H/T to commenter noneyobiznas at The Talent Show for the must read Howler link.)


7. There's a call from Moldy City for Rob "Unbelievable Transparency" Couhig to make a "principled resignation". Actually, I didn't know Couhig was still doing anything for Mayor Nagin. I thought he already moved on to talk radio.

8. There are too many lawyers, yet not enough good ones. Apparently, Britney paid for some good ones.

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Kramer plays the Katrina Kard 

An interesting thing about Michael Richards' tirade is that before the awful, repeated use of the "N-word", he says to the black hecklers:

Shut up! Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f-cking fork up your ass.

Now THAT line gets a fair number of laughs and applause from the crowd (and all too few gasps). Gotta love that wistful racial humor about fifty years ago. There's nothing quite like it. And who, precisely, is this "we"?

Then, during his uncomfortable, sputtering apology on the David Letterman show, Richards says

There's a great deal of disturbance in this country and how blacks feel about what happened in Katrina and, you know, many of the comics, many of performers are in Las Vegas and New Orleans trying to raise money for what happened there, and for this to happen, for me to be in a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, you know, I'm deeply, deeply sorry. And I'll get to the force field of this hostility, why it's there, why the rage is in any of us, why the trash takes place, whether or not it's between me and a couple of hecklers in the audience or between this country and another nation, the rage.

How blacks feel?! "Force field"?

Related: Of course, for perspective, there's always Iraq.
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Monday, November 20, 2006

"Blessed" to have the best crime strategy in town. 

1.) The News Star reports:

After a week of lobbying, Louisiana's congressional delegation is more optimistic about enacting an offshore-oil revenue-sharing bill that would pump millions into coastal restoration and hurricane protection.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, said the delegation is unified and working together and will meet for a strategy session prior to Dec. 4.

"It really looks good," Alexander said. "I think we've been blessed in one way. We have been able to heighten the interest of the nation because of the hurricanes, the high gas prices and the fact that China is drilling in international waters off the coast of Cuba."

Alexander says we're "blessed in one way" then lists three things, including: hurricanes that devastated our wetlands, communists who want to drill off our coast, and the high gas prices that function as a "tax". In his mind, it's a blessing to suffer a catastrophe and have a nation decide to pay for partial protection against the next one. Hallelujah! It's a pity our "blessings" couldn't have been more Old Testament in nature. Perhaps if (after the flood) locusts swarmed, and frogs rained, and everyone trapped in N.O developed disgusting boils... perhaps then those "blessings" could've drawn MORE national media attention to our flood control needs (as if hundreds dead and thousands displaced aren't enough).

I think Rep. Alexander is going to have a rough two years. And being flat-out dumb won't help things, either. Maybe Democratic rising star Jacques Roy will be "drafted" to seek a quick "promotion" into the U.S. House in '08. Now that would be a "Blessing" in my book.

2.) The Gambit Weekly reports:

NOPD's top brass gave the City Council an impressive presentation of its budgetary needs for 2007-- but without long-awaited crime statistics. "Our crime strategy is second to none in this city," Police Chief Warren Riley said.

Did Nagin's police chief just brag about how he has the best "crime strategy" in New Orleans? That's reassuring. With no apologies to Spiro Agnew*, allow me to appropriate one of his buffooneries and confidently tell you that "For all its faults, New Orleans is still the safest city in the parish".

* Do me a favor. When Adrastos gets too prideful about the land of his ancestors, casually remind him that Agnew was a Greek-American.
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Devils in the details 

Oh boy.

The DP contends that calling Rep. Bobby Jindal by his legal Punjabi name (rather than the nickname he took from the Brady Bunch) is akin to making an "ethnic reference". Interesting. I'm sure that's exactly what Jindal's team wants right now: a big-ass discussion of Bobby's real first name, why he changed it, what its use implies, how it's pronounced, whether it's still official... etc. I'm sure state Dems would be secretly delighted if Chad Rogers' DP "News Flash" helps this to become the opening "issue" of the Governor's race.

Remember, there's still party primaries to get through.

Political party press releases are supposed to be irritating propoganda, but also semi-factual (unlike, say, this). Very rarely, they'll disclose something worthy of further focus or investigation. But unless there's something blatantly counterfactual, it's almost never a good idea to promote or publicize an opponent's press release.

By the way, a Press Release isn't a blog entry. It should be somewhat professional. It should be proofread, and there's no reason to use the first person. I mean, this excerpt is painful to read:

Someone would have to been living under a rock not to notice that Jindal has been criss-crossing the state over the last several months during his "supposed" re-election campaign. Funny, I didn't think the voters in DeRidder or Monroe could vote in the 1st District? Never the less, Jindal kept at it as he so smugly rested on the assurances his re-election was in the bag.


This uncreatively-named website reminds us that Bobby was physically attacked by a demon during a bout of "spiritual warfare". (Perhaps it was an "evil" teenage demon from Houston.)
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New Orleans Black has an online poll for the Karen Carter/William Jefferson race. After voting for Carter, I was presented with the results (so far): Jefferson 97%, Carter 2%.

I know it's only an online poll, but...

Da po blog has more election analysis. I'm starting to get that queasy feeling I had a couple days before the mayoral election, and a week prior to Senator Vitter's election.
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Tim Tagaris from MyDD is a class act, and all the Nola bloggers who hung out with him Saturday afternoon were favorably impressed. Tim's a sharp political professional and I'm sure we learned more from him than he did from us, though it was supposed to be the other way around. Big thanks to MyDD for sending him to report on the Carter/Jefferson race. (In one of his recent posts, Tim has a link to a video interview of me talking about the "political landscape" of this race, which I do in a painfully halted, bland way.)
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