Six months after the Danziger Bridge trial's first hearing, our intrepid District Attorney suddenly wants the presiding judge to recuse himself, because of known "potential conflicts of interest" that hadn't bothered D.A. Eddie Jordan until now.
Six weeks after the Legislature began its regular session, OUR intrepid Mayor led a bus caravan of dozens of protestors to the Capitol steps to (rightly) complain about the Road Home fiasco, and to (belatedly) call on state officials
...to use the $3 billion state surplus on the state’s storm recovery and to reduce skyrocketing insurance costs, find solutions to the current health-care crisis in New Orleans and the region, repair schools and dedicate funds to local governments to repair municipal infrastructure.
This comes after the House already approved the state's fiscal 2008 budget and sent it to the Senate.
--- Oh, and get this: Rob Couhig is frustrated and ready to tee off on the Mayor's office. Heaven forfend! In yesterday's paper, Stephanie Grace writes about how my main homey (and legendary Nagin enabler) Rob Couhig is on the board of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, which is being severely hamstrung by the Mayor's office in all kinds of ways. In fact, the whole board is (pardon my french) "pissed" at the current impasse. In her column, which is not online yet, Stephanie Grace writes:
Such is the mood of the board that Nagin once promised would play a "huge" role in the city's rebirth, a group stacked by the mayor himself with can-do types who can't.
* Can't hire people without knowing when the board will be able to get its hands on $1.2 million that the city has allotted but not delivered.
* Can't take possession of more blighted properties because it can't pay for insurance and upkeep.
* Can't sign on to projects such as a proposal to redevelop areas near UNO's lakefront campus-- because the city has not invested NORA with the necessary legal authority.
Last year, in arguably the most important Mayoral election in the city's history, Rob Couhig endorsed Ray Nagin over Mitch Landrieu because he agreed with more of Nagin's philosophy, and believed Nagin "understood business", and was an "improvisor". Simply put, Couhig believed Nagin would be a better leader for New Orleans' recovery. So now, a year later, New Orleans is once again the Murder Capital of the U.S., and Nagin is either complaining, fundraising or travelling. And during a recent NORA meeting the normally optimistic Rob Couhig became so frustrated with Nagin's office that he put his "head in his hands", and said he's already teed off and that "enough is enough".
It's interesting that Couhig doesn't vent his frustration at Nagin in his blog. The last entry is over two months old, but in it Couhig sees fit to attack Mitch Landrieu, calling him the "Prince of Vacillation" because Mitch freezes "at the very time bold leadership is required". In that post, Couhig even trots out the clanking "suit of armor" imagery which he used in his mayoral campaign commercials.
Oh. Well now. Let's take a look at what the frozen "Prince of Vacillation" has been doing while da Mayor has been travelling and fundraising and complaining and not controlling crime and hampering the Redevelopment Authority:
Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu walked into the meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee flanked by an artist, a musician, a master chef and a bevy of economic development enthusiasts. It was an unlikely group to be cavorting around the State Capitol together, but its members have one thing in common during the ongoing regular session — a set of far-reaching tax breaks designed to address what New Orleans Democrat Landrieu refers to as the “cultural economy.” ... Landrieu’s legislative package consists of three parts that are expected to pass, and possibly even be expanded. It includes a program with local oversight to create “cultural product districts” and rehabilitate historic structures; tax credits for a wide variety of artists to live and work in Louisiana; and incentives to encourage food research and culinary arts.
While Nagin complains and Couhig has his head in his hands, Mitch Landrieu is pitching a legislative package of "far reaching tax breaks" for the state's "cultural economy". But Couhig conservatives won't be fooled. They understand that Landrieu has a sister and a father, and has funny hair and wears makeup. They know that by virtue of his last name alone, Mitch will always be the "greatest evil" in any election. Rob Couhig and others helped them understand that a year ago. So they strategically voted for the incompetent laughingstock Nagin, and sabotaged their city while it was trying to to recover from disaster.
If we want a city that resembles the one of memory and desire, perhaps it is best if we are left to ourselves to build it. Give me enough people like [Harry] Shearer, like the New Orleans bloggers... and I believe we can do it... If we must go it alone, this will certainly be a smaller city, and some will leave ruined and broken by the effort. Whether we are recalled as heroes or fools only history will tell, but I think I know the measure of those who have chosen to come home and try. There is no finer place to be an American today than in their company.
I still remember the first time I read those words. I can't hardly describe it. I felt a special sort of pride and inspiration, combined with a healthy splash of "aw shucks" embarrassment.
Anyway, after reading "Little Miracles"-- Mark's beautiful, poetic post from Wednesday-- I can comfortably say that the privilege and the pleasure is all mine to be in his company.
After savoring such a beautiful piece of writing, I think: "Well, I must be in the right place if he's here."
Thirty years ago, when asked whether "homosexual relations" should be legal, 43% of Americans agreed that it should. By May of 2003 that number had climbed to 60%-- though it fell back down to 50% throughout the 2004 election season and into 2005 (I wonder why?). But then, last year, the number jumped up to 56%, and this year it reached 59%, similar to the 2003 high point.
Call me liberal, but that's progress.
In one of his first posts at Time's "Swampland" political blog, rural Democrat Mudcat Saunders describes the progress in racial attitudes being made in the South:
Although we are not at the “top of the mountain” that Dr. King talked about, we are moving. I know few Southern white people who don’t have a great black friend and visa versus. There is little, if any, tolerance for racist groups anymore. In the South, where most of us have a huge affection for the Almighty, we’re beginning to see racial wedges as what they are... dividing God’s children. Believe it or not, the overwhelming majority of actual voters (and I didn’t say all) deplore racism. ... On race, I say it’s time to hit the Republicans straight on. When they use race-baiting to divide God’s children, let’s call them on it.
Call me liberal, but that's-- wait a second. Before I get ahead of myself let's review that passage more closely. According to Mudcat, Southern whites mostly have "great" black friends, are intolerant of racist groups, love the Almighty, and yet are just "beginning to see racial wedges as what they are"? (emphasis mine). Why are we only "beginning" to see these racial wedges for what they are? Why do we let pols use "wedges" to divide us from our "great" black friends who are (also) God's children? What stories do we have to tell ourselves to rationalize our votes for these seperators? (Hint: They usually can be found after one utters the phrase "I'm not a racist, but....")
Then, Mudcat implores Dems to call out Republicans when they race bait. (I assume he believes that Dems should also call out fellow Dems who race bait, as well.)
Ok. That's the set up for this post. Here's the finish.
Veteran conservative radio talk show host Keith Rush, 75, has been elected to the Republican State Central Committee, the governing arm of the state Republican Party. Rush was nominated by fellow broadcaster and Kenner Mayor Ed Muniz and longtime party activist Vincent Bruno for a seat that covers a district in Metairie. Rush was unopposed and was installed Saturday during the committee's quarterly meeting.
In his email, the Flaming Liberal added more background about Keith Rush and Vincent Bruno:
Keith Rush... was a “featured” guest speaker for David Duke, the cross burning, Nazi uniform wearing, Jew hating, white power shouting, KKK Imperial Wizard, at “Duke Fest” at the old City Park Driving Range in New Orleans on July 4, 1991... Keith Rush was in David Duke’s inner circle of political supporters and now the Republican Party welcomes this vile “piece of vermin” to a high ranking position in the Republican Party! And Vincent Bruno was the “spiritual” advisor (no joke) to David Duke and Bruno holds “two” current positions in the Louisiana Republican Party!!!!!!
Then, in a follow-up email, the Flaming Liberal pointed me to a story from the Pre-Election Edition of a "Political Newsletter" (11/13/2003 Vol 3, No 20) by Christpher Tidmore about another Duke supporter who is still making political waves. (Tidmore, btw, is a journalist who is now a Republican candidate for state rep in district 82-- which Steve Scalise must vacate due to term limits. Tidmore has YRHT's endorsement, for whatever that's worth.).
Will Duke's Minions Back an Indian?... One of the great questions of this year’s election will be settled when the polls close Saturday evening. Will David Duke's supporters vote for a candidate with brown skin? Bobby Jindal is not an African-American, but his visage poses such an obvious likeness that pundits have speculated he could never win the so-called "Bubba" vote. It became a cliché until the primary to conclude that the white rural electorate, which provided the backbone of ex-KKK Grand Wizard’s support in his many races, would never go to the polls for a candidate with Jindal’s appearance.
They will not, if Kenny Knight, has anything to do with it. The senior aide to and friend of the imprisoned Duke has recommended to the former Klan’s leaders supporters that they stay home on election day.
"We have nobody we can support," Knight said in an interview with the Weekly. "We don’t like her [Kathleen Blanco], we can’t vote for him."
Without specifically stating the obvious, Knight indicated that racism was certainly a factor in the decision by Duke’s NOFEAR group [National Organization For European-American Rights] to advise its membership to stay away from the ballot box.
Call me a liberal, but can we really celebrate racial "progress" in the Southern state of Louisiana when racist candidates claim the majority of the white vote-- as well as the majority of the GOP vote-- in statewide elections with sky high voter turnout (as David Duke did here in the nineties)? Can we really celebrate progress when GOP Governors pay $150k to Duke for his supporter list in 1995, or when a GOP Senate Candidate's Campaign Manager (Tony Perkins) pays Duke $82,500 for the list in 1996? Can we really celebrate progress when in 1999discredited NAZI racists like Duke are still winning entire parishes (Tangipahoa) against right wing GOP conservatives like David Vitter and David Treen? Can we really celebrate progress when the former director of the Louisiana Republican Party (a normally reasonable chap) declares on a radio show in 2002 that he is against "forced integration"? Can we really celebrate progress when Duke's racist organization simply "can't" vote for a candidate with dark skin, and is still strong enough-- in 2003!-- to significantly depress rural turnout in a close gubernatorial election? Can we really celebrate progress when former David Duke supporters like Keith Rush are elected to the governing arm of the state Republican party?
scenic Swedish town of 60,000 people, which last year took in twice as many Iraqi refugees as the entire United States, almost all of them Christians fleeing the religious cleansing taking place next to Iraq’s anti-American insurgency and sectarian strife.
Grandmere Mimi notes that
The US went to Iraq to "spread freedom and democracy" and one of the consequences is the destruction or displacement of ancient Christian communities. But how can this be? I have heard so often that the US is a Christian country.
According to a survey done by the University of Michigan, in the late 1990s, weekly attendance at religious services in the US stood at 44%, while in Sweden the number is 4%. Yet, which country seems to be living the Christian Gospel message? Why its the Swedes, who have so often been held up as examples of a godless way of life by the ultra-right religious groups in the US.
Grandmere Mimi says that "attention must be paid", and I totally agree. If I were making the same point, I'd probably resort to saltier rhetoric. Something like: "I wish all the 'Christians' in America who support the Iraq war and ignore the plight of these Iraqis would kindly get bent".
Let's take a look at how it's going. Here's a report on yesterday's news from Iraq:
Iraq’s political leaders have failed to reach agreements on nearly every law that the Americans have demanded as benchmarks, despite heavy pressure from Congress, the White House and top military commanders. With only three months until progress reports are due in Washington, the deadlock has reached a point where many Iraqi and American officials now question whether any substantive laws will pass before the end of the year.
Kurds have blocked a vote in Parliament on a new oil law. Shiite clerics have stymied an American-backed plan for reintegrating former Baathists into government. Sunnis are demanding that a constitutional review include more power for the next president.
Iraq’s parliament today voted 113 to 55 to “oust its speaker, Mahmoud Mashhadani, a day after one of his bodyguards allegedly roughed up another lawmaker, legislators said.”
...Last year, Mashhadani described the U.S. occupation of Iraq as “butcher’s work.” He also stated, “I personally think whoever kills an American soldier in defense of his country would have a statue built for him in that country.”
Well, at least it's good that this guy was removed, right? Not so fast my friend!Newshoggers quoted a Wapo article that stated "There was speculation Monday that the replacement will not come from Mashhadani's small Dialogue Front party, but rather from the more prominent Iraqi Islamic Party". The Newshoggers uncovered that, among other things, the Iraqi Islamic Party platform views Saddam Hussein "a national hero".
Can someone ask Surge Supporters like Rep. Bobby Jindal why they think this effort will succeed, and why they think it's prudent to pour more American blood and treasure into this godforesaken enterprise? On April 26th, I called Jindal's office to get an explanation on his "nay" vote on the "Iraq Accountability Act 2007" (H.R. 1591), and his unknowledgeable staffers took my name and address and said Rep. Jindal would send me a letter addressing my concerns. Six weeks later, I've received nothing. When was the last time Jindal even publicly uttered the word "Iraq", much less explained where he stands on it?
I want to know: regarding the Surge, is Jindal "Goose" to McCain's "Maverick"? Does Jindal still think it's too soon to start holding the Iraqi parliament accountable for political progress? Does he think we can still "pull off" Bush's panglossian nationbuilding effort in Iraq? Does he still think the surge strategy he supported is a positive "sea change" that will lead America to victory?
Is Jindal avoiding the Iraq issue, or is he raising his purple finger in the air to see how far the political winds have changed direction? How can we tell what he thinks, if he won't make any public comments or reply to inquiries made to his office?
One of Iraq’s most sacred Shiite shrines, the Imam al-Askari mosque in Samarra, was attacked and severely damaged again today, just over a year after a previous attack on the site unleashed a tide of sectarian bloodletting across the country. ... Attacks on Shiite holy sites by suspected Sunni insurgents have increased in Iraq in the last two months.
In a bid to open up badly needed low-income housing, a local developer is converting the former Madison Square apartment complex in Harvey into condominiums and partnering with nonprofits and government agencies to offer buyers credit counseling as well as $25,000 grants.
Stewart Juneau, doing business as Le Triomphe Property Group LLC, said that when he saw the number of "desperate families public servants, firefighters and police officers without affordable housing" in the metro area, he knew that redeveloping the complex he has owned since the 1980s with an orientation toward low-income buyers was the right thing to do.
"We could easily have converted these apartments and charged twice as much as we are making them available for," said Juneau, who believes a shortage of affordable housing is hampering the area's post-Hurricane Katrina recovery. "But doing good is good business."
The condos will range in price from $65,000 for a one-bedroom to $85,000 for a three-bedroom, he said. Though grants will be available to buyers of the condominiums, the developers behind the project will not be collecting tax credits or governmental subsidies. The complex consists of 20 acres and 79 buildings.
Now that's more like it. If you're gonna do a condo conversion, this is what the New Orleans area needs right now. Juneau's redevelopment will actually benefit the economy by addressing the affordable housing crisis, as opposed to the ill-considered condo developments near my apartment building that offer 2 bedroom units for $200k+ each. (It appears only a few if any of those units have been sold so far, whereas $85k 3bd condos will get snapped up like hotcakes.)
There are a ton of multifamily properties in New Orleans. Converting them into affordable condominium units would help alleviate the area's housing and labor shortage, while also promoting long-term home ownership. But that might mean some property owners have to do the "right thing" rather than the shortsighted "greedy thing".
Mominem received a Road Home "Gold Award" letter, but because it is "flawed, incomplete and grossly inaccurate" they must delay their golden "benefit" because the Road Home's determination was short by over $50,000. (Blanco's Road Home program recently ran out of money.)
Mr. Clio is taking out a loan because "Our compromised healthcare system is proving incapable of meeting the healthcare needs of one of my kids".
After fighting with insurance companies for over a year, Lisa hires a contractor to fix her house, and he promptly screws her over to the tune of many thousands of bucks.
On Anderson Cooper 360 last night there was a report on the crime problem in New Orleans, which was attributed to a total "lack of leadership", as well as the disinclination of witnesses to testify at trial. Cooper told a nationwide audience last night that there were "162 murders last year, only three convictions" in our tourist-dependent city. But that's okay, because Ray Nagin "understands business" and is an "improvisor" and isn't named Landrieu. (H/T to Scout at First Draft for the link.)
--- Update: Via Jeffrey, we learn that Dambala got in a car wreck, broke some bones, and then learnt that a friend was (apparently) killed in the Marigny. Prayers and thoughts go out to the bereaved.
Let me say a bit more about what I mean by "dumb" in the previous post. I'm not saying that the Couhig Conservatives and Jefferson Parish are solely (or even primarily) to blame for the post-K re-elections of Mayor Nagin and Rep. Jefferson. Clearly Orleans parish voters deserve a ton of blame, and the runoff candidates, Landrieu and Carter, deserve some blame as well.
Why do I concentrate most of my analytical focus on the Couhig Conservatives and Jefferson Parish factions, then? Because these voters generally consider themselves to be an educated electorate, who make up their own minds about a candidate. They largely consider themselves "good government" types. They are not part of the so-called "New Orleans vote" (read: black, reflexively Democratic). They were not part of the Jefferson machine, or the Nagin coalition until Sheriff Harry Lee or Rob Couhig (and the GNOR) told them to vote AGAINST the liberal alternative. Because, apparently in times of crisis, a liberal is always worse than the "devil you know", however incompetent or ineffective that "devil" might be.
But because the Couhig Conservatives and Jefferson Parish voters are so "educated" and "intelligent", they have to create stories about why they voted to re-elect Nagin or Jefferson. They couldn't just say that Sheriff Lee or Citizen Couhig told them to-- oh no-- they needed reasons about why they cast their intelligent vote for an incompetent laughingstock who can't control crime, or for a crook who is committed to staying in office during his trial. And the reasons are so very strategic.
This would be called "letting the perfect become the enemy of the good". Diane knew that removing Jefferson from office would have been good, but it would also diminish the miniscule chance that her version of a "true conservative" would get elected in a majority-black, majority Democrat, urban Congressional district. So Diane knew what to do: elect the worst candidate! Way to go Diane! Here's her basic reasoning: Let's elect the crook! It's important because we must increase the chances that a "true conservative" knight in shining armor will one day be elected to save Louisiana's 2nd District.
Karen Carter was a horrendous candidate. She supported gay marriage, late term abortions, Hillary's healthcare plan and economically was to the left of Stalin. ... I live in uptown New Orleans. I voted for Bill Jefferson today for several reasons. Pelosi would have welcomed Carter with open arms. It would have been one more vote for the far left socilaist agenda.
Jefferson being indicted in office will be a great boon to the GOP. And I am not the only conservative who thinks so.
Furthermore, I love denying the white liberals in this city any power whatsoever.
Way to Go big easy! After a crippling disaster, you knew your job was to defeat the far left "Stalinists" in order to irritate Speaker Pelosi and help the GOP and deprive white liberals of "any power whatsoever". You and your fellow conservatives focused on the most important issues in the election and helped carry the day for Dollar Bill. You guys are so money. You're not just money, you're cold money.
Mission Accomplished! What could possibly go wrong now?
3. Over the past year, I've detailed the Couhig Conservatives' "reasons" for voting for Nagin over Landrieu ad nauseum. However, I never did fully explore the delicate, subtle argument set forth by Paul from Wizbang:
This might surprise many of you, but many prominent white Republicans are taking heart medication and supporting Ray Nagin. ... Simply put, the Landrieu's need 100,000 poor black people suffering in the poverty to further their own political gains...
So what do you think the FIRST thing Mitch is going to do if elected? Rebuild the housing projects! ... But everyone who follows politics in New Orleans also knows that they're coming back if Mitch wins. Nagin might be a racist idiot, but Landrieu will destroy the city.
When I pointed out that the Housing Authority of New Orleans, which oversees the projects, was totally controlled by Bush's HUD-- not the New Orleans mayor-- Paul called me naive and stupid. He also declared that "if you delete from Aug, 27th till the Choclate city speech and he's the best mayor we've had in decades".
To justify his case for Nagin, Paul invented the fiction that Landrieu, not Nagin, would "rebuild the projects" (which Bush's HUD controls). Then he contorts his eyes to imagine how impressive Nagin would be with 5 critical months "deleted" from his tenure.
As it turned out, after being re-elected, Nagin became best buddies with liberal Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters and Jesse Jackson. Regarding public housing, here's the latest:
HANO on Wednesday said it has 2,000 public housing units available in New Orleans, yet only about 1,400 are occupied, due to complications that evacuated families are experiencing, such being trapped in their leases in Texas and elsewhere.
By year's end, the number of units will reach 3,000, the agency said. Before Katrina, New Orleans had 5,100 families living in traditional complexes such as the St. Bernard in the 7th Ward, which remains shuttered since the storm.
City leaders glad-handed Jackson and Donald Babers, the federal official appointed to lead HANO after Katrina.
"I don't care what anybody says today -- this is progress," said Mayor Ray Nagin, who joined City Council members, developers and federal housing officials at the 9th Ward site. "We are coming back to the momentum that we had prior to Katrina. Now housing -- affordable housing -- is back in this city."
Nagin said that HUD is on the right track with improving public housing, and helping rebuild New Orleans.
I wonder what Paul would say if Mitch Landrieu had been elected and he became best buddies with Rep Maxine Waters and Jesse Jackson, and then some of the lesser-damaged projects were opened. I'm sure it would be some version of "Landrieu's destroying the city"! When Nagin does what they feared Landrieu would do, strategic New Orleans conservatives don't go apoplectic.
I think the above three examples reveal the mindset of a significant slice of the electorate. They aren't just stray individuals. It's a faction that considers itself to be smart-- yet, after a disaster, this faction repeatedly found convoluted "reasons" to sabotage their city and state by electing the worst possible candidate. (Except, I guess in their minds the "liberal" is by definition always the worst possible candidate.)
--- C.B. Forgotston has said that Louisiana is not more corrupt than other states, but that it is more tolerant of corruption than other states.
But that is only partially correct. There is a large segment of voters who are too tolerant of corruption, but there is also a segment of voters (liberal and conservative) who want positive reform and accountable government. However, when a significant slice of the reform-minded voters invent reasons to vote for the corrupt or incompetent candidate rather than the liberal alternative... that's tantamount to a deadly sabotage, considering how high the stakes are right now.
But at least the GOP and GNOR are happy. And the Landrieu and Pelosi haters are happy. (As well as all the New Orleans haters throughout the country.)
After reading my Wednesday column on the [Rep. William] Jefferson affair, one caller reminded me that some voters may have cast their ballots for Jefferson not only knowing, but hoping that Jefferson would be indicted.
A Jefferson victory and subsequent indictment would probably mean a new election to fill the congressman's seat. In that event, perhaps other candidates might emerge who would prove more palatable than the field that ran against Jefferson last year.
It seems a subtle, cynical analysis.
Not to me. It seems really, really dumb. This was arguably one of the most important elections in our city's history, and we voted for a man widely viewed as a criminal. This came after re-electing Mayor Nagin, the incompetent laughingstock who had promised to rebuild New Orleans' reputation as a murder capital. We desperately need federal help to rebuild our wetlands and levees, to ensure our very survival, and some people decided the time was right to quest for convoluted reasons to re-elect incompetents and crooks. Thanks a buttload.
That is just dumb. And many "educated" conservatives convinced themselves that-- after a major disaster-- voting for Nagin and Jefferson was better than... voting for a liberal like Mitch Landrieu or Karen Carter. (See, Mitch is related to his father, and he has weird hair and wears makeup. And Carter, well, she's just a "junior Hillary".)
So, at one of the most crucial junctures in the city's history, these conservatives (among others) decided to punish New Orleans with 4 more embarrassing years of Nagin and umpteen months of Jefferson (in court!), rather than hold their noses and elect a liberal.
Yeah, they got "strategic", and told themselves stories to justify voting for (or not voting against) the worst possible candidate. That's not a "subtle" or "cynical" move-- it's more of a mental masturbation that a stupid person does to feel smart, at least temporarily. And a large group of people engaged in this mental masturbation, aided by really really smart conservative fluffers like Rob Couhig.
So, one could say that the re-election of Nagin and Jefferson was a bukkake of political stupidity.
--- And who exactly are the "more palatable" candidates that might emerge after Jefferson is found guilty after a long public trial that utterly extinguishes his effectiveness as a legislator? Who? Derrick Shepherd? Is that the conservative "favorite son" you're waiting for, Jefferson Parish? You did all this grand electoral strateegery in hopes that Derrick Shepherd will win this time? Is that the idea? Boy, I gotta say: that's effing brilliant, you strategic brightstars. Yeah, the selfless Derrick Shepherd is so worth waiting for. He's worth embarrassing the entire state with Jefferson for another 2 years. See, Shepherd's NOT AT ALL like Jefferson. Noooo. Jefferson built a machine, and enriched his family and friends, whereas Derrick Shepherd... well, he must be much different, right?