Friday, November 09, 2007

Jackie says no to bribes 

In an excessively friendly City Council candidate debate on WDSU hosted by Norman Robinson, Jackie Clarkson made some news at the very end when she said that, in the past, she had been offered bribes to make zoning changes, but refused to take them. She said she didn't report the offers because they were not made in a way that was concrete or provable. Councilmember Willard-Lewis said that people knew better than to offer her a bribe, and if they did, she would "absolutely not" take it. (Willard-Lewis won the debate, in my opinion.)

Look for a story about Clarkson's claim in tomorrow's Times Picayune, written by journalist Frank Donze.

This reminds me of a quote about Nagin from Sally Forman's book, Eye of the Storm. In it, Forman writes how Nagin told her he'd been offered a "brown bag lunch" (money in a bag), and refused to take it.

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Ron Paul's problem 

Jeffrey discusses the texture and composition of the ascendant Ron Paul campaign:

An independent Paul candidacy has the potential to exploit tenuous new faults in the current political alignment. These faults lie between a growing number of Americans who are utterly disgusted by the war and the total failure of both major parties to give voice to this revulsion. Ron Paul is a "libertarian". And as a libertarian he naturally draws racial reactionaries and bubbas and gun nuts and such from the right by selling an anti-all-government orthodoxy as a panacea against all the evils of the world. But he also draws heavily on the Yuppie-Left vote... you know... Gambit readers and such who style themselves quality white people and "independent thinkers" in a very juvenile sense but who are also very tired of the war.

It's true. Ron Paul has certainly collected a strange "witch's brew" of supporters. Two nights ago a liberal friend of mine (who happens to be jewish) handed me a Ron Paul business card which had been inserted under his windshield wiper, and told me how intrigued he was by Paul. I kind of smiled and chuckled a bit, knowing that there's a dark underbelly to Paul that hasn't been fully exposed. Times Picayune columnist James Gill offered no deep research in his glowing column about Paul in today's paper, where Gill uses words like "honorable" and "squeaky clean" to describe the candidate.

But if Paul is so "clean" and "honorable", why is he accepting, and not returning, campaign contributions from Nazi racists?

The answer is not merely that Paul's brand of extreme Libertarianism appeals to white nationalists who used to hang around with David Dukkke. No. In Paul's case, he used to actively court such nutjobs with a self-published newsletter, "The Ron Paul Political Report", that included racist content (among other things). The details are in this post at Kos. Here is a damning excerpt from Kos:

The only complete article from the Ron Paul Political Report on the Internet that I am aware of is a 1992 piece titled "LOS ANGELES RACIAL TERRORISM," on the subject of the so-called Rodney King riots in South Central Los Angeles in 1991. It is available to us today because it was posted to the talk.politics.misc newsgroup on July 30, 1993 by Dan Gannon, a notorious white supremacist and Holocaust denier, and archived by the Nizkor Project, an anti-revisionism organization that was active in cataloging hate speech on the early public Internet. You can read Nizkor's copy of the article here, and see a reposted version on Google Groups here. Some relevant passages from the article (emphasis mine):

Regardless of what the media tell us, most white Americans are not going to believe that they are at fault for what blacks have done to cities across America. The professional blacks may have cowed the elites, but good sense survives at the grass roots. Many more are going to have difficultly avoiding the belief that our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists -- and they can be identified by the color of their skin. This conclusion may not be entirely fair, but it is, for many, entirely unavoidable.

Indeed, it is shocking to consider the uniformity of opinion among blacks in this country. Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty, and the end of welfare and affirmative action.... Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the "criminal justice system," I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.

If similar in-depth studies were conducted in other major cities, who doubts that similar results would be produced? We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings, and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers.

Perhaps the L.A. experience should not be surprising. The riots, burning, looting, and murders are only a continuation of 30 years of racial politics.The looting in L.A. was the welfare state without the voting booth. The elite have sent one message to black America for 30 years: you are entitled to something for nothing. That's what blacks got on the streets of L.A. for three days in April. Only they didn't ask their Congressmen to arrange the transfer.

Reading the entire article will show that I have not taken these quotes out of context, though the article is definitely not for everyone: it's a 3700-word racist tirade that is frankly stomach-turning in its depiction of African-Americans as violent, unevolved savages and even rapists. Without a doubt, it was articles like this one that prompted the Heritage Front, a Toronto-based neo-Nazi organization, to include the Ron Paul Political Report in its list of "Racialist Addresses and Phone Numbers."

The Paul supporters can't defend this stuff, so they either say Paul didn't write it, and/or that he's not responsible for the content in the eight page newsletters that he published.

If Paul wants to run with the big boys and girls, he needs to face the music about his past. If Hillary catches hell for not releasing all of her records, Paul should catch hell for not releasing copies of the extremist newsletters he published. And if the media wants Kucinich to defend his account of a UFO sighting, Paul should have to defend his analysis of the L.A. riots.

Yes, it's nice to see a physician move to Tejas and refuse to modify their West Pennsylvanian accent, and then get into politics. And it's nice when someone denounces the war from a Constitutional perspective, and shows backbone when defending his principles, and creativity in his campaign. But Paul has some serious skeletons in his closet, and he should be pressed to account for them. Also, his supporters and potential supporters should be made aware of these skeletons.

Jeffrey helpfully directs us to this recent link-filled post at Orcinus, which merits close attention and clicking. (As for Jeffrey's 1968/2008 presidential campaign parallel... it's not a bad exercise, but in the main I think Jeffrey's "overfitting" the data too muchly.)
Update: Stormfront endorses Ron Paul.

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Robot tanks! 

And most of the time, the robot tank guns don't malfunction and kill a lot of friendlies.

So we can all rest assured. Most of the time.

I bet our "dangerous" Mayor can't wait until there are police versions of these things, so that our surveillance society can monitor remote controlled tanks "awe-shocking" the bad guys... in real time.

We need to "get tough" on crime, see, and if that necessitates unmanned tanks dodging streetcars on St. Charles... then so be it. It's the price we pay to live in a secure society.

The Uptown neighborhood of Hurtsville (among other well-heeled neighborhoods) is about to vote again to keep property taxes raised so that private security companies can ensure that the violent criminal element stays inside their "triangles of death". Perhaps one day, it will be more cost effective to have remote controlled mini-tanks prowling our treasured oak-lined avenues.

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GNO Revolutionaries 

Louisiana Weekly editor Edmund Lewis asks:

Now that the Greater New Orleans area's small band of revolutionaries have secured the resignation of Orleans Parish D.A. Eddie Jordan and the political defeat of Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti, where else are they going to find elected officials who have made a mockery of their time in public office, City Hall or the White House?

That's not an accidental turn of phrase, there. Chiefly, I think it refers to the business interests linked to Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans which worked with Nagin to remove D.A. Jordan, and provide him a golden parachute. However, it might also include groups like the Greater New Orleans Republicans and all their fellow travelers-- such as the Couhig Conservatives and the conservative elected officials from Jefferson Parish, and those educated strategic voters who just knew that re-electing Nagin and Dollar Bill Jefferson was the "lesser evil". So, let's explore this possible GNOR reference, shall we?

Surely we can't expect the Greater New Orleans Republicans to focus their efforts on mockeries like Nagin, especially after they endorsed him for Mayor last year. No, former Republican Nagin was their useful idiot.

Why? Well, you've got to understand that if Nagin had lost to the competent Mitch Landrieu, then Landrieu would've forced President Bush's HUD dept to rebuild the New Orleans projects in 12 months and 100,000 blacks would've moved back to the city, and Landrieu would've rounded them up on election day to vote for Democrat Foster Campbell, and golden boy Jindal would've been defeated by the dreaded "New Orleans vote" ... or so goes one pathetic theory. GNOR promoted other wild theories, too, about why Landrieu would've been worse than Nagin. Last year, current GNOR chairman and RSCC member Mike Bayham enumerated some of those theories "reasons" as to why Nagin was preferable to Landrieu. That was mere gloss, though. The animating concern of the Greater New Orleans revolutionaries was keeping New Orleans politically "down" so that nothing could possibly interfere with Jindal's coronation as Governor. As New Orleans suffered from the biggest disaster in U.S. history, the GNOR was focused on removing any political obstacle for their golden boy; and if that meant New Orleans had to re-elect an incompetent laughingstock, so be it.

By the way, GNOR chairman (and St. Bernard councilman) Mike Bayham recently lost his bid for the 103rd State House seat representing Da Parish. He missed a runoff by a mere 87 votes. Aw shucks.

Previously, I claimed that Bayham was dumber than a sack of wet hair. And, on certain topics, he is. However, I'll also say that Bayham is an affable, responsive chap with a good sense of humor. Still, after his group's hideous, "strategic" endorsement of Nagin, I find comfort in the possibility that 87 voters in Chalmette cost Bayham the runoff spot by inventing some crazy-ass, "strategic", triple bank shot, partisan rationale for voting against him, and for a clearly inferior candidate.

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Following the money 

Ruth Ulrich is the callscreener/producer of Moon Griffin's radio show. She also has a jewelry design "business", and once handled a "wardrobe emergency" for country singers Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Pretty swell, huh? She's also a member of the Republican State Central Committee (like Keith Rush). And, bless her heart, she's running for the District 5 Board of Elementary and Secondary Education seat. In fact, she made it to the runoff against Democratic candidate Keith Guice.

From WST, we find a still shot from one of Ulrich's recent tv commercials which aired before Halloween:

That's... uhmm... quite menacing. Hopefully the entire commercial appeared less dark than that individual graphic, but, alas, the ad has been pulled from Youtube, so I guess we'll never know.

What qualifies this scary candidate to be on BESE? I have no idea. But she's a contender. Why? Money, vague rhetoric about "choice" and "change", and endorsements from Senator Vitter and Treasurer John N. Kennedy.

So, one wonders, where does this scary, unqualified candidate get her funding? From outside her district, and from outside her state. The News Star (NE LA's "top news source") reports:

Campaign finance reports submitted to the Louisiana Ethics Commission show that prior to the Oct. 20 election, 91 percent of Ulrich's support came from outside of the district. Thirty-nine percent of Guice's contributions are from outside the district.
Ulrich reported approximately $32,050 in campaign contributions prior to the Oct. 20 election.

Five of Ulrich's 14 total contributions came from four groups — All Children Matter, The Republican Party of Louisiana, NorthPAC and SouthPAC — both political action committees for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. Each group contributed $5,000, the maximum contribution allowed. Five of the remaining nine contributions came from individuals outside of BESE District 5.
Besides the $5,000 monetary contribution, Phillip Stutts, general consultant for All Children Matter, said the group also has contributed in the form of independent expenditures to Ulrich's campaign.

Independent expenditures can include radio and television advertising and direct mail. Independent expenditures may not be coordinated with the candidate's campaign activities.

Stutts would not say what independent expenditures the group had contributed to Ulrich. He also declined to comment on the amount spent on those expenditures. Stutts said that the group had spent $600,000 in independent expenditures statewide.

Stutts said the group chose to support Ulrich because of her stance on education reform, particularly school choice and her backing of future Gov. Bobby Jindal in his reform efforts.

Keith Guice reported approximately $23,555 from a total of 71 contributions. Nine of Guice's contributions came from outside the district.

All Children Matter, huh? And precisely who is behind this pro school voucher 527 organization that is funding Ulrich? Why, it's Dick and Betsy DeVos. As you might know, Dick DeVos inherited the Amway (Quixtar) empire from his father, just as Betsy (Prince) inherited her wealth from her father, Edgar Prince. The late Edgar Prince heavily funded James Dobson's Focus on the Family, and (CNP member) Tony Perkins' Family Research Council. Betsy's brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwater USA. Dick Devos, Dick's parents and Betsy DeVos' father were all big supporters of the radical Christian Reconstructionist/Dominionist movement. Which leads us directly to the Council For National Policy. Many members of the CNP are Christian Reconstructionists. The CNP was heavily funded by Amway heir Dick Devos, Dick's father, and Dick's father in law, Edgar Prince. Here's what Talk2Action said about the CNP and Christian Reconstructionism:

The thrust of the so-called religious leaders of the CNP is toward a movement called Christian Reconstructionism, which claims that our contemporary society is "unBiblical" and should be ruled by theocratic church authority. Also known as Dominionists, these proponents assert that democracy is "heretical," as are the issues of working people and organized labor; civil rights and social justice issues, as well as empowerment of the disenfranchised. They would replace the Constitution with a form of rule based on Old Testament law. As extreme and bizarre as that sounds, many powerful, politicized religious broadcasters are secretly part of this movement and coordinate political action with others through the CNP. Among those associated with this movement is D. James Kennedy, whose generous funding from the DeVos family allows him to deliver scathing lectures against the gays and lesbians, against civil liberties and for "reclaiming America" to a rightwing version of godliness.

This is the most influential coalition that Dick DeVos is part of. He came in through his father, who is a governor of the CNP. His late father-in-law, Edgar Prince, was the single largest donor to the Council.

Recall former CNP president Woody Jenkins' speech about his heartfelt belief that education must return to the home. Now recall that Gov-elect Bobby Jindal's Chief of Staff is homeschooled sharpshooter Timmy Teepell, and Teepell is a member of the CNP.

What do these connections prove? Nothing, right now. But understand that the out of state organizations recruiting and funding GOP candidates like Ulrich are funded by wealthy radical right donors who see public schools (and teachers and science and liberalism) as a major obstacle between them and the establishment of a Christian Nation.

Do these troubling connections mean that vouchers and charter schools are, in themselves, bad ideas? No. They should be debated on their own merits. However, many of the top proponents of these ideas see them leading towards a very radical redefinition of society and government as we know it.

Governor-elect Jindal gets to appoint three members to BESE, which sets state education policy. It will be very interesting to see what sort of people are selected, and whether or not they have ties to the aforementioned organizations and people.

By the way, Ulrich's runoff opponent is Keith Guice. Mr. Guice's experience in education includes 43 years as a teacher, coach, counselor, principal, supervisor, superintendent, and director of programs for at risk youth. But, to the radical right, that sort of hands on "experience" is cause for extreme suspicion and coordinated opposition.

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Good morning! 

What is this disgusting white creature on my patio table?

While it made me lose my appetite for breakfast, I couldn't help thinking that I should sample its trail of oozing secretions, in case they might be "spicy" and imbue me with amazing powers.


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Quotes of the weak 

"The more I talk with liberals, the more I understand why they are so insistent that evolution is fact. You see, the more I talk with them, the more I realize that their brains aren’t much bigger than a monkey’s.
"Liberals... have become so engulfed in their fantasy world where evolution has blessed them with the best brains therefor they are always correct, and those that dare think are to be belittled. All things liberal are considered truth and facts are to be ignored.
"Their strategy isn’t to be be smarter than us, to out wit us, or to win out in the arena of ideas. No, their strategy is to repeat the same thing over and over and over again until the rest of us just gets worn out. We don’t lose debates because we don’t have the right argument, we lose because we quit."

-- Avman at Louisiana Conservative. Whatever you do, don't quit, Avman. Don't quit.

"It’s an outlet for senior citizens. They’d probably just be sitting home waiting to contract some terminal disease."

-- Boomtown Casino director of player development and community relations Charlie Frederick, in answer to the query "What kind of role has Boomtown played in the recovery?"

"I maintain my commitment to explore every possible option locally and at the state level to maintain the public safety of our city."

-- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who has steadfastly refused to explore the "option" of replacing his failed Chief of Police.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The other professional franchise in N.O.... 

... is undefeated, and currently boasts the best record in the NBA (4-0). The Hornets also boast the league's assist/gm leader and are going for their third straight road win. Last night, the streaky team thrilled fans with record-breaking performances by Stojakovic, who set the team record for 3 pointers, and by budding superstar CP3, who set the team record for most assists.

On Friday, the New Orleans Hornets will host the San Antonio Spurs (the reigning NBA Champions). Hopefully, the Arena will sell out-- though that's not a given. I believe that the Hornets will be an excellent sports product regularly on display here in New Orleans, where basketball fans enjoy the most affordable ticket prices in the entire league.

I'm not an apologist for the current ownership-- after all, George Shinn's most ferocious critic is my hook-up for Saints tix-- but in the interest of quasi-fairness, I'll liberally copy some statements owner Shinn recently made to CityBusiness which, if true, are not entirely mooktacular.

“We have a lease that will keep us here for five years,” Shinn said. “What I envision in my mind is I see us succeeding. I see us making it. We’re willing to work it out and stay even longer.”
Returning wasn’t an easy business decision to make. OKC fans filled the seats and created a lot of excitement and profit. But the bottom line was outweighed by other Shinn concerns.

Returning [from Oklahoma City after Katrina] wasn’t an easy business decision to make. OKC fans filled the seats and created a lot of excitement and profit. But the bottom line was outweighed by other Shinn concerns.

“At this stage in my life there’s a whole lot more important things to me than making money" [Shinn] said. "New Orleans is suffering. My wife and me prayed about this thing. ... If it fails, it fails. But I don’t think it’s going to fail. We’ll give it a shot. We followed our own intuition, our own feelings and faith. [Coming back] was the right thing to do.”
Not everyone wanted to return, Shinn said. He fired former team president Paul Mott for lobbying a little too vigorously to stay in Oklahoma City.

“I had a lot of people working for me that were hell bent on keeping the team in Oklahoma City,” Shinn said. “One was the president at the time. I just got to the point I had to fire him. I told him, ‘You’re not going to make this decision. I am. You’re going to have to quit pestering me.’ He kept badgering me and telling me I was stupid. Finally it was time for us to part.”

Despite the ownership commitment, too many empty seats at the New Orleans Arena will make it tough to keep the team here beyond 2011.

“It is a business but it’s not a nonprofit business,” Shinn said. “We have to make revenue to survive. The salaries you have to pay professional athletes are just crazy.”
The Hornets do mean big business.

“What it means economically to retain the Hornets is twofold,” said attorney Bill Hines, a key player in the city’s drive to land the franchise when it left Charlotte, N.C., in 2002. “One is the actual ... amount of income that having an NBA franchise generates within the city in terms of vendors, restaurant, direct impact items on the economy that are very similar to the Saints situation.”

Hines also said the Hornets and the NBA have become international currency in terms of entry into foreign markets. He told a story about a delegation from the Port of New Orleans on a business trip to China.

“The first thing the Chinese delegation said was ‘Hornets, Hornets, you have the Hornets.’ They, of course, are into the whole Yao Ming thing,” Hines said. “If we do this right, then this is the huge opportunity to really develop business out of this.”

A fast start with a lot of home victories would help endear the Hornets to their estranged fan base.

Let's hope so. Even if Shinn leaves the door wide open for a future move in 5 years, is that any better than Benson? I think that this scrappy, dangerous Hornets team is worthy of our city's full support, and our support will increase their chances of staying long-term.

Unlike the Saints this year, the Hornets must truly "earn" their way into the playoffs, because they play in the NBA's toughest division. They need all the help they can get. And you can see them live for less than the price of a Bloody Mary at a Saints game.

Full disclosure: Perhaps I'm naively unaware of his dark side, but I'm a fan of Bill Hines. Feel free to disabuse me in the comments.


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Who coined "Federal Flood"? 

John from The Dalles, Oregon writes a letter to the T-P praising the return of the green streetcars to Canal St.. Check out his choice of language, though:

As a frequent visitor to New Orleans, I am thrilled to note the progress made since the federal flood.

The return of the traditional green streetcars to Canal Street is a milestone that truly reflects the rhythmic soul of the city and provides a salve to the areas that have not yet healed....

Who coined the term "Federal Flood", anyway? I believe I first saw it last year at ye olde G Bitch Spot. But, then, I'm a little slow sometimes.

Karen notes another praiseworthy letter to Da Paper.

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Surprisingly this doesn't involve Senator Vitter 

Jason performs a "public service", and points us to an interesting post about sex, diapers and whoring in D.C.. (NSFW, depending on where you work.)

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Iraq Parsons project: still shitty 

Michael has an update about perhaps the most symbolic nation-building failure in Iraq.

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"Gone Forever... (Tomorrow)" 

From yesterday's T-P:

A bank account has been opened to accept contributions for the family of Joseph Lynn, the 13-year-old boy who fatally shot himself at his River Ridge school.
Lynn, described as a "happy go lucky" boy known as Big Joe, died this morning at Ochsner Medical Center, about 24 hours after he shot himself in the head at the school.

"We are in complete shock," [acting headmaster J.T.] Curtis said Monday. "No one really saw any indication of a young man who was having difficulties."
Curtis said the boy's mother asked that the school release Lynn's name so that the public could pray for the youth. [Lynn died 24 hours after shooting himself.]

[Curtis] described Lynn as a friendly, outgoing "happy-go-lucky" student who played on the school's eighth-grade football team.
But Lynn apparently did broadcast his intentions -- online at least. On his page, the display name was "I WANNA KILL MYSELF. I DON'T DISERVE LIFE" (sic). A message to friends Sunday at 6:17 p.m. said, "R.I.P. JOE LYNN. GONE FOREVER 11/5/07 (TOMORROW)."

Normally, public schools would send grieving students home after an event like this occurs. At John Curtis Christian School, the students went into the chapel and spent hours praying for Lynn, who was hospitalized and hadn't succumbed to his wounds yet.

I don't have a problem with that, just reporting the differences. But I was sort of surprised to learn that the public needed to know the kid's name before we could pray for him.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tipping points 

New Orleans Citybusiness reports about the latest "tipping point"-- Nagin's city infrastructure bonds are now barely investment grade, and are being sold. According to a radio interview with CityBusiness editor Terry McConnell, the mayor's "courageous" decision to fire 3,000 city employees after the flood was wise and necessary so that these bond ratings could get upgraded and then sold.

New Orleans sold $75 million in bonds for its hurricane recovery plan.

Standard & Poor’s rated the city bonds below investment-grade status. Moody’s and Fitch Ratings each gave the city investment grade ratings.

Merrill Lynch & Co. offered the lowest amount of interest payable on the borrowing. Peter Kessenich, a financial adviser to the Board of Liquidation, City Debt, expects the money to be available to the city by mid-December.

Mayor C. Ray Nagin hailed it as another step in the city’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

“I truly believe we’re at a tipping point,” Nagin said.

The money is the first drawdown of $260 million in bonds approved by voters in November 2004 for infrastructure projects.

New Orleanian Ethan Brown agrees that we are at a tipping point. But, as his article in the Guardian indicates, we might be tipping backwards over crime rather than forwards over the Mayor's shiny optimism.

[W]hen Richard Pennington was sworn in as top cop in New Orleans in 1994, he made eradicating police corruption a top priority. Mr Pennington also emphasised community policing and insisted that the New Orleans police department (NOPD) focus on high crime areas (or "hotspots"). The so-called Pennington Plan was astonishingly effective in bringing down the murder rate in New Orleans. By the late 1990s, New Orleans not only finally began experiencing the significant crime declines that had been occurring in major metropolises like Los Angeles and New York City, it also had the largest decrease in crime among 50 major US cities.

But by the early 2000s, crime began rising in New Orleans again.
In recent years, the Orleans Parish district attorney's office has released hundreds of suspects under Article 701 of the Louisiana code of criminal procedure, which states that suspects cannot be held for longer than 60 days on felony arrest without an indictment. Reasons given for the lack of charges filed in 701 cases range from incomplete police reports to overburdened assistant district attorney's who were simply not able to file an indictment before the 60-day period expired. Unsurprisingly, the city's drug business began getting the message that felony crimes-even murder-would most likely end in a 701 release.

Pre-Katrina, there were a few hundred 701 releases per year. But after the storm, the trickle of 701 releases became a flood. In 2006 alone, there were nearly 3,000 such releases, a five- or six-fold increase over pre-flood levels.
701-related laxity has become so common that New Orleans street hustlers have dubbed doing 60 days in jail for a killing a "misdemeanour murder." This was no exaggeration: in addition to the thousands of suspects being released under Article 701, the Orleans Parish district attorney's office secured just one conviction in the 162 murders committed in 2006.
As the year comes to a bloody close, it seems that New Orleans is nearing the tipping point where it may become so violent that it is no longer livable at all. Certainly, the current murder rate is so high and the city's population so low (around 250,000, well below pre- Katrina population of about 500,000) that a significant chunk of the city is already simply being killed off.

Incredibly, the killing fields of New Orleans do not appear to rank high as a concern among state and local officials. The mayor, Ray Nagin, has been silent in the face of the sort of mass killing that occurred and often dismissive of it. This summer, he told a group of reporters that the murder rate "keeps the New Orleans brand out there."
So, New Orleans speeds along to the sort of wholesale destruction than even Katrina could not have wrought without anyone in major leadership positions stepping up to stop the bloodletting. "The trouble is," University of New Orleans criminologist Peter Scharf told me recently, "there is no willing to stand up and say 'This is fucking nuts.'"

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Won't miss the Queen Bee 

Eleven months after our state received the "Katrina Cottage" grant money, and ten months after Governor "Queen Bee" Blanco asked the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency to implement the grant, and nine months after no cottages have been constructed, and a day after the Times Picayune criticized her for inaction and lack of results... the Queen Bee issues a "strongly worded letter" to the LHFA to cut the red tape and start building cottages. Here are some quotes from the letter, interspersed with my thoughts:

There are no words to express my frustration with your implementation of this program.

Try to find some.

To say the program is mired in bureaucracy would be an understatment.

Then let's use harsher terminology.

The LHFA is strangling this project in red tape.... your inability to deliver the first cottage is unconscionable.

That's better! Now show some firm leadership.

You will begin construction on the first set of cottages before the end of November. There will be no ceremonial groundbreaking. You will commence construction posthaste...

That's really great stuff that should have been said many months ago. But the Queen Bee didn't, and now all these embarrassing delays (over a contract involving the Shaw Group) comforts all the Bushies and all the Louisiana haters who think we are too stupid and corrupt to self-govern. "It's no use, they'll just waste it... look at Mississippi...etc".

The Katrina Cottages were a program championed by the nolablogosphere early on, and Blanco's administration screwed it up.

As yesterday's T-P editorial noted:

11 months after the state landed $75 million, not a single [Katrina] cottage has gone up -- and that's a disgrace.

Mississippi, which got $281 million for cottages, has delivered more than 200 of them and identified hundreds of additional recipients.

Mississippi received a disproportionate amount of the money compared to its hurricane damage, and FEMA officials have stubbornly refused to reconsider that unfairness. But enraged Louisiana officials have been put in a tough position as Gov. Kathleen Blanco's administration and the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency continue to prove unable to get the cottages on the ground.
"We got shorted one more time, got cheated out of opportunities one more time," an irate Gov. Blanco said last year, after federal officials announced how little money the state would get for the cottages. And she was right. But Louisianians who need the cottages must feel the same way now, as they watch state government get ensnared in its own bureaucracy -- much as happened with the Road Home program.

I am hopeful that Governor Jindal will be a huge improvement over Blanco in terms of cutting red tape and dealing with sluggish state bureacracies.

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"Looks good to me" 

Via E at We Could be Famous, (aka: we could have famous sisters).

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Karen G. has covered the floods in Mexico 

... and she has links you should click.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

"Very clever" 

From the TP's story on the City Council's reaction to Mayor Nagin's idiotic proposal to increase property tax millages:

"I'm going to use the words 'very clever,'" said Councilwoman Shelley Midura, lead author of the legislation that established the inspector general's office, which is charged with rooting out waste, fraud and corruption in city government. "Very clever of you to put all those things into that extra millage -- that 2 mills that you want."

Standing at a podium in front of the council, a smiling Nagin told Midura, "I'm not trying to be clever."

Without missing a beat, Midura replied: "We're going to be just as clever figuring a way out."

There's usually a ferocious comeuppance waiting for smiling guys who think they are "very clever" with other people's money.

Keep that possibility in mind as we review some very interesting observations about "cleverness" that were recently made by former Bush economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey, who was fired because he had the audacity to estimate that the Iraq War might cost upwards of $200 billion. (If only.)

Ed Steer provides this firsthand report about Lindsey's recent speech, delivered at the New Orleans Investment Conference:

When he started his speech, Lindsey asked whether the cameras mounted in the speaker's hall were TV cameras. Once he was assured that they weren't, away he went. I made notes but I'm going to do some paraphrasing here and touch only the high points.

The first thing Lindsey said was that he was a card-carrying member of "the Brotherhood of International Central Bankers," and once a member, always a member ... all for one, and one for all.

He commented that the Fed had turned the humble American home from a place to live into a financial asset that had become a cash cow for homeowners who were using it like an ATM machine. Now we've all heard that before, but coming from him, it was candor I wasn't expecting. He went on to say that once the Fed people noticed how bad the quality of loans was becoming, they were reluctant "to tinker with a boom," so they sat on their hands.

Lindsey's charts went into the collateralized debt obligation problem, the asset-backed commercial paper, mortgage-backed securities .. the lot. He said that it will "force banks et al. to mark these products to market (over time) instead of their current practice of marking to model ... or to myth." He wasn't the least bit worried about how the hedge funds would manage because, as he said, they were very good at looking after themselves.

He appeared delighted that Wall Street had been able to unload hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of (now toxic) CDOs on the rest of the world, saying that "we Americans were very clever" in doing this.

He showed graphs of the real estate market including the number of months of supply and said that now that the real estate credit cycle had ended, few would be able to refinance mortgages that had had teaser rates, and that housing prices were going to go into a steep decline.

In answer to a question from the audience about the obviously bogus Consumer Price Index numbers, Lindsey said that it was a government statistic and that, speaking as a businessman himself, anyone in business should definitely not rely on it.

His comments on interest rates were to the effect that by mid-2008, the Fed Funds rate would be 3.5 percent.

There was much more to the speech than this, but it was all along the same lines of "yep, we created this economic, financial, and monetary monster, here's the road map of how we did it, and the results. Now it's up to the citizens of the United States and the rest of the world's financial community to live with the consequences."

His comments were eerily similar to those made back in the early 1970s by then-Treasury Secretary John Connolly when he said (to European central bankers, I believe), "It may be our currency but it's your problem." Going further back in time, Marie Antoinette said, shortly before being relieved of her head, "Let them eat cake."

And then Lindsey got even weirder, according to Ed Steer's report. If you're still reading this far, you should probably go over and read Ed's entire post. Also, note that gold is soaring and Citigroup's CEO is resigning. At best, we're marking the end of the beginning of the reckoning. You can't expect to keep a "guns and butter" economy humming along on a credit bubble, and then cleanly dump that bubble on the foreigners without a recession, or inflation, or both... or worse.

Commentary at Cryptogon reminds us that others can be "very clever" too, and that counter-responses by aggrieved parties to unwelcome American "cleverness" might be rather untidy.

Cryptogon has a scintillating first-hand account of such fearsome tactics.

Comeuppances are coming, greedheads. So, whether your corruption is "sophisticated" or quite obvious, you might want to wipe that smile off your faces.

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