Saturday, May 17, 2008


Today, at Broadmoor Fest, assessor Nancy Marshall and other City Councilmembers will all take a turn in the dunking booth. Marshall is certainly being a good sport. In my opinion she's one of the last ones who deserve a dunking. Marshall's election, and her commitment to fairer assessments is a huge reason why assessments became fairer last year, and why millage rates dropped dramatically.

Also, as the T-P reported earlier this month:

[Assessor Nancy] Marshall used her salary to purchase 174 laptops for [Andrew H.] Wilson Charter School. Third- and fourth-grade students will get their laptops today. Marshall's salary will purchase 850 laptops by the end of her term in 2010, enough for every child at Wilson and another school.
Marshall was the only one of seven candidates on the IQ ("I Quit") ticket elected in 2006. The candidates opposed the seven-assessor system, promising to merge the offices and use their salaries to hire a professional to run the system. Marshall has hired three licensed assessors.

But the attorney general said she had to take a salary. So she's giving the money to charities. She donated some to New Orleans Symphony and the Wilson Charter School, she said.

Councilmembers Stacy Head, Arnie Fielkow and Shelley Midura will also be available for some dunkings.

But... can they swim?

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The other day, Lovely asks: "Do you think Big Brown will win the Freaknik?"

Me, shaking head, cringing: "Umm... gracious. Freaknik was the college party event in Atlanta. You're thinking of the Preakness. The Preakness is the horse race. And Big Brown is going to win it."

I resolve that my daughters, Pearlgirl and Pearlgirl Deuce, will enter adult life equipped with a general sports knowledge.


From Wikipedia: "In 1998 [native Louisianan] Kent Desormeaux rode Real Quiet to victory in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Desormeaux lost his bid to win the U.S. Triple Crown, and racing immortality, when Victory Gallop beat his horse by a nose in the final stride in the Belmont Stakes."

You can count on We Saw That to cover the race.

The WSJ reports:

[UPS] The Atlanta delivery giant has extended its exclusive sponsorship of the hottest colt in the sport, who happens to bear the century-old company's nickname. Big Brown's victory in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago only further convinced UPS that its sponsorship dollars were likely to be money well spent. The company has extended its agreement to be Big Brown's exclusive sponsor at the Preakness and at the Belmont Stakes on June 7.


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Friday, May 16, 2008

Abraham Bolden 

Raving Black Lunatic doesn't want to appear conspiratorial, but he's concerned about Obama's Secret Service protection, citing recent stories of bigoted emails, racial epithets and nooses in the Secret Service, and an apparent security lapse in Dallas[!], which the SS denied.

I don't know whether the current climate in the Secret Service is discriminatory or not. For the purposes of this post, though, let's assume racism isn't pervasive there and that the people who protect the President are the best of the best-- true proactive professionals.

And if that's the case now, it represents a big improvement over the way it was during JFK's term. Take the case of Abraham Bolden, the first African American Secret Service Agent to work Presidential detail:

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy appointed Bolden as part of the Secret Service White House detail. According to Jim Marrs (Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy), Bolden was personally selected by Kennedy "in an attempt to integrate the previously all-white Secret Service detail".

Bolden spent only three months working for Kennedy. He complained about the "separate housing facilities for black agents on southern trips". At a meeting with James J. Rowley, the head of the Secret Service, Bolden criticized the "general laxity and the heavy drinking among the agents who were assigned to protect the President". As a result of these complaints, Bolden was sent back to the Chicago office and assigned to routine anti-counterfeiting duties.

Bolden claimed that in October, 1963, the Chicago Secret Service office received a teletype from the Federal Bureau of Investigation warning that an attempt would be made to kill President John F. Kennedy by a four-man Cuban hit squad when he visited the city on 2nd November. Armed with high-powered rifles, the men from "a dissident Cuban group". According to investigative journalist Edwin Black, the Secret Service arrested two suspects, however, they were eventually released.

Abraham Bolden later discovered that this information was being kept from the Warren Commission. When he complained about this he was warned "to keep his mouth shut". Bolden decided to travel to Washington where he telephoned Warren Commission Counsel J. Lee Rankin. Bolden was arrested and taken back to Chicago where he was charged with discussing a bribe with two known counterfeiters. He was eventually found guilty of accepting a bribe and spent six years in prison. When he tried to draw attention to his case, he was placed in solitary confinement.

Sam DeStefano, one of the men who accused Bolden of this crime, was murdered in 1973. DeStefano was close to Sam Giancana, Charles Nicoletti and Richard Cain. It is believed that Cain murdered DeStefano. Soon afterwards, Cain himself was murdered.

Lamar Waldron claims in his book, Ultimate Sacrifice, that according to a Central Intelligence Agency memo, mobsters in Chicago were involved in framing Bolden on the bribery charges.

Unfortunately, Bolden witnessed "ugly racial taunts" during his time at the SS, as well as other intimidations, including a noose hung above his desk.

Last year, CNN did a report about Bolden, which includes an interview with Lamar Waldron. Waldron's groundbreaking book, Ultimate Sacrifice, has done more to clear Bolden's name than anything else in recent years.

Here's an excerpt from a letter Waldron wrote to Rep. Chris Shays about Bolden:

It seems bizarre that a single November 1963 newspaper article contains quotes from a Secret Service report about the Tampa suspect, when the report itself no long exists--at least from the Secret Service. The FPCC document destruction referred to in the ARRB Final Report is also relevant, since a key suspect in the Tampa attempt was linked to the Tampa FPCC.

Ensuring that material in the files of other agencies related to the Tampa attempt or the Secret Service document destruction is not reclassified is very important, not just for history but for the case of former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden. Agent Bolden tried to be a whistleblower, and was going to Washington, where he could have told Warren Commission staff about Secret Service laxity, an earlier plot to assassinate JFK in Chicago on November 2, 1963 (3 weeks before Dallas), and the Tampa attempt.

Instead, Bolden was arrested the day he arrived in Washington. Bolden had been an upstanding agent, but he was eventually convicted and sentenced to six years in prison even though his main accuser later admitted committing perjury against him, and Bolden's judge told the jury he thought Bolden was guilty. Bolden has been trying to clear his name ever since his release from prison. We present evidence in the book showing that Bolden was framed by Chicago Mafia associates of Santo Trafficante, including a CIA asset named Richard Cain whom CIA files show had infiltrated AMWORLD for the Mafia.

I've been plugging Lamar Waldron's Ultimate Sacrifice book for a couple years now. I recommend it, as it goes into great depth about some of the terms and incidents mentioned above. It's mind-bending. You can read the introduction here. Between that and Mafia Kingfish by John Davis, there's a whole lot to chew on.

If you're a skeptic about JFK assassination conspiracies (and you should be), I find it helpful to start with the ballistics evidence in the RFK assassination case, which overwhelmingly supports a conspiracy, in my opinion. Then, go back and work through the JFK stuff, and don't neglect Oswald's New Orleans connections. As Waldron's Ultimate Sacrifice documents, there were reports of assassination plans to hit Kennedy in several places during his unofficial campaign stops in the Fall of '63: first Chicago, then Tampa, then Dallas. Bolden was foiled as he tried to raise awareness about this.

I believe it very likely that Abraham Bolden was wrongfully imprisoned because he was pursuing a truth about the Crime of the Century. Lamar Waldron deserves a lot of credit for raising recent awareness about Bolden, and doggedly trying to clear his name.

Abraham Bolden is now in his seventies, and he recently wrote a book about the injustice done to him. It's titled The Echo from Dealey Plaza.

My only tangential experience with the Secret Service occurred when a 19-year old friend opened a small record store in Florida and named it "Secret Service". He was promptly paid a confiscatory visit by some Mr. Anderson types, and arrested. Afterwards, my friend renamed the store Criminal Records, and moved it to Atlanta where it has flourished for umpteen years now. (In fact, I had saved some of his original, unconfiscated "Secret Service" business cards until they were lost in the Federal Flood.)

Then there's Huck's recent yuk yuck.

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The change angry renters deserve 

WSJ: looks a bit like a digital ransom note, with irregular fonts, exclamation points and big red arrows -- all emphasizing prudent renters' outrage over a proposed government bailout for irresponsible homeowners.

"It seems like America's renters may NEVER be able to afford a home," laments. The Web site urges like-minded tenants to let Congress feel their fury by signing an online petition. "We are millions of renters standing up for our rights!"

Angry they may be, but the people behind are certainly not renters. Though it purports to be a spontaneous uprising, is actually a product of an inside-the-Beltway conservative advocacy organization led by Dick Armey, the former House majority leader, and publishing magnate Steve Forbes, a fellow Republican. It's a fake grass-roots effort -- what politicos call an AstroTurf campaign -- that provides a window into the sleight-of-hand ways of Washington.

Ah yes, Dick Armey and Steve Forbes, those perpetual friends of the renting class. I just hope none of my nolablogger colleagues were swept up in this effort to "let the [sacred] free market sort it out" because that would...


All I got to say to the 50,000+ "prudent" Angry Renters out there: now is your time! *

I know y'all prudently saved your money over the past few years, building a large down payment fund, knowing that the housing/credit bubble would eventually pop. Not once did I ever hear y'all complain about the inflated bubble making prices unaffordable, because you were shrewdly biding your time, knowing the bubble would eventually pop. Well done. And y'all knew that these easy, securitized, no-doc loans based on b.s. assessments would blow up, so you carefully tended to your credit scores and bided your time, and waited to "pounce" after the bubble burst.

So what are you waiting for? "Buy buy buy!"*

"But prices are still too high, oyster."

"Then knock 30% off."


"Knock off 30%. There's a housing sale right now. Prices are soft, owners are desperate. Wheel and deal. Dicker. Make no offer above 70% of asking price. Savor the pain in the homeowners' eyes as they reluctantly accept your lowball offer-- then hit em up for a few thousand more for problems uncovered during the housing inspection. Ha Ha!"

"But isn't that kind of ruthless?"

"No, you're not being an asshole, you're providing essential liquidity for the (sacred) free housing market, and you're helping it 'bottom'. Isn't that what is advocating, ultimately?"

"I'm still not sure I have enough for a down payment."

"Get creative. See if the seller would consider doing some owner financing."

"But that seems like a lot of work. My sister in law is a real estate agent, and she said that..."

"Don't listen to her. 95% of agents are totally worthless, anyway. Surely you did your due diligence and interviewed numerous agents before committing to one. Right?"

"Uh. Not exactly. But my co-worker knows a mortgage broker, and he says that..."

"Jeebus, they're even worse! Did you learn nothing over the past 5 years?"

"I dunno. Anyway, it doesn't matter. I want to stay in my neighborhood, and everything here is too expensive."

"Here's a foreclosure property that's available in your neighborhood. It's a double. Live in one side and rent out the other."

"But it's ugly, and I don't want to buy a foreclosure, or be a landlord."

"Oh. So, you say you want to buy a home, but you're going to continue renting throughout a time of insanely easy credit and low rates, AND THEN throughout a time of falling house prices and low rates? When do you actually plan on buying? When prices look stagnant and interest rates high?"

"I don't know. I'll buy when everyone else gets more sensible and decides to reward prudent folks like myself, rather than bailout the greedhead banks and speculators. In the meantime I can vent at"

"Good luck with that."

* This satirical dialogue is not a recommendation to buy, hold or sell anything.

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Quotes of the weak 

“Look at him... the hairline, the ears— he looks just like Curious George.”

-- "Hard working" Mike Norman of Marietta, GA, explaining why he's peddling shirts showing Curious George peeling a banana, with “Obama in ‘08″ underneath. Non-racist Obama shirts available here.

"I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be as -- to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."

-- President Bush

"I am not a monster. I could have killed them all."

-- Austrian electrician Josef Fritzl, who confessed to imprisoning his daughter in a basement for 24 years and fathering seven children with her.

Trust what the Ramones say about basements.

(Ashley and I cherished video segments like that one, because they helped make the kids tv channel a little more endurable for adults.)


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Thursday, May 15, 2008

The slogan McCain deserves 

I don't think it's a big deal that the Republicans' new slogan, "The Change You Deserve" is the same one used to market an antidepressant drug. ("Deserve"? That's a helluva Republican word there, guys. And "change"-- from what? The wreckage that resulted from sustained Republican governance?)

In fact, I think McCain should follow the Repulbicans' example and copy a nifty slogan from a recent corporate ad campaign. How about something from a firm that does insurance and asset management? I got it:

John McCain: he's so Old Mutual

Keep saying it. It might grow on you.

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Nothing "major" 

Not sure why, but the Reduct Box provides former Ins. Commish Jim Brown with another "platform" (pun intended) to express his views on the benefits of offshore oil drilling, and the low risk of spills. (Update: Brown's essay also appeared on Bayou Buzz, Daily Kingfish, Jim Brown's blog, Louisiana Conservative, and Central LA Politics. Again, I don't know why.)

Suspect Device ably corrects the record, and notes that Brown's piece "lifts great unattributed swaths from... a low-level right-wing hack".

What troubles me is that, with sky high gas prices angering motorists, I keep hearing echoes of these same hacktacular talking points. For example, Newsweek's Robert Samuelson recently wrote:

There were 4,000 platforms operating in the Gulf of Mexico when hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit. Despite extensive damage, there were no major spills, says Robbie Diamond of Securing America's Future Energy, an advocacy group.

This is misleading. Eight million gallons of oil spilled out from Louisiana facilities after the storm. (The Exxon Valdez spill totaled 11 million.) And while there weren't any "major" oil spills in the Gulf-- the Coast Guard defines a major spill as 100,000+ gallons-- according to this summary of the May 2006 offshore damage assessment from the U.S. Minerals Management Service :

113 platforms were totally destroyed, and - more importantly - 457 pipelines damaged, 101 of those major lines with 10" or larger diameter. At least 741,000 gallons were spilled from 124 reported sources...

But all we hear now is that there were no "major" oil spills after Katrina. No one mentions that 124 "minor" post-Katrina spills added up to the equivalent of 7 MAJOR spills.

Ignoring the risks and hazards of oil drilling to further a political argument about energy is not doing Louisiana any favors. We suffered an environmental catastrophe after Katrina and Rita, due in part to the oil spills that occurred during the storms. The "Gret Stet" has accepted the environmental risks associated with oil drilling, and its eroding coast is paying the price. As our state funnels much of our oil tax "windfall" back into repairing our coast, we do a disservice to ourselves if we gloss over the environmental risks associated with oil drilling, transport and processing.

Skytruth has extensive satellite images of massive 100+ mile oil slicks emanating from Gulf oil platforms after Katrina. Nothing "major", though.

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Olbermann's Special Comment 

thx Amorphous Funk

Update: We Could Be Famous has some additional photos showing Bush's "solidarity" with those who lost loved ones in the Iraq War.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Speaking for me only" 

Big Tent Democrat doesn't understand formal logic. In a dramatic, "I-am-the-cyclops-in-the-land-of-the-blind" post from last week, Big Tent writes:

The Problem remains unresolved and a deep concern for November. Discussing that concern is a mortal sin according to the Left blogs. I for one will not play the ostrich. I will consider the problem and ways Obama can solve it.

Atrios writes:

What the Clinton campaign is doing is saying that Obama has electability problems, and using their support from white voters as evidence of that. That's a wee bit problematic, and not just because it doesn't follow logically any more than the other electability arguments such as Obama can't win the election because he can't win the primary in big states.
Why is it problematic? Why does it not follow logically?

Because it doesn't! The conclusion does not logically follow from the premise.

1.) Candidate O has an electability problem in Primary X against Candidate H

2.) Therefore, Candidate O will have an electability problem in General Election Z against candidate M

These require different assumptions about different people in different situations. Political situations, no less.

And even if we pretend that it did follow "logically", it wouldn't necessarily matter in the absurd world of political campaigns. But it helps to understand what a logical argument is before you can understand the limitations of logic.

I keep telling y'all, focus on foreseeable political dynamics, not static polls or demographic numbers. These past few weeks were the low point for the Obama campaign. But every (large) presidential campaign has moments where everyone is convinced that the candidate is doomed. You just pray to hell those moments come as early as possible (and don't return). Conversely, every big time presidential campaign has good moments where seemingly everyone is convinced they will win.

For example, in early 1995 I was at a small social gathering of Republicans and I damn near got laughed out of the room when I said Bill Clinton had a good shot at being re-elected. Sure, they were a biased group, but a lot of people felt that way. Talk to those Goops now, though, and they act like Clinton was obviously the huge favorite all along.

By the way, the latest poll shows McCain beating Hillary and Obama by an identical margin among working class white voters. Perhaps Big Tent Dem will find a way to fit this into his over-arching analysis of THE PROBLEM or THE SOLUTION, but I really could care less.

Eleven months ago, when I was growing very comfortable in my assumption that Obama would be the nominee, I didn't look at polls, I looked the political climate. I looked at media narratives, and how Obama was developing his political "angles" (of attack) against his competitors. I looked at the money he was raising and the strategic depth of his top campaign people. Perhaps most important of all, I looked for solid clues that he was going to run to win-- not run to "hopefully win and if not Vice President is alright with me". That's why I got so excited by that revealing exchange in the December debate: Obama showed that he was not going to run like Edwards. He was in it to win, had a plan to win (Iowa), and accepted the additional risks that occur when you run such a campaign.

Here's a thought about "electability": could some Hillary supporter please explain why Democrats should put their electoral fate in the hands of strategic idiots like Mark Penn rather than winners like David Axelrod? Is there a single bigger reason that Hillary is hopelessly behind in the all-important "delegate math" right now than Mark Penn? Wasn't his strategy the real "PROBLEM"? And yet I never see the Hillary supporters making a case as to why Democrats should trust this guy (or trust a candidate who selected this guy) with their general election prospects (especially since the media narrative bias against Hillary gives her absolutely no room for error, but that's another story dynamic). For the life of me I don't understand what Bill or Hillary see in Penn.

YRHT Flashback: oyster predicts a two term Obama presidency before he made his celebrated 2004 speech at the Democratic convention in Boston on 7/27/04.

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MWH demanding "onerous" legal requirements? 

In response to this post on the city's reconstruction projects and their deal with MWH, a trusted YRHT source told me the following:

In short, the citywide reconstruction planning is being held up by MWH's requirement that the architectural firms assume some inordinate amount of liability for their plans. While it's common practice, from what I'm told, for the A&E (architectural & engineering) firms to assume liability, apparently this is some new onerous burden that NOT ONE A&E firm wants to take on... there is now a requirement for the first 17 [Reconstruction Czar Ed] Blakely projects to have these terms. Some A&E firms have even withdrawn their bids rather than deal with it. I've also learned that there are countless *wholly private* projects that are funded and waiting on safety and permits. It appears that there has been movement there, however, as evidenced by all the sudden bank branch construction around town.

Also, tonight YRHT learned of another very disturbing potentiality: it seems that some big time philanthropic benefactors who are currently funding reconstruction projects in New Orleans are extremely frustrated by the way the city's bureaucracy has impeded progress, and are considering pulling their money out.

Mayor Nagin has declared 2008 to be the "tipping point"-- but in which direction?

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Chris Paul will get bayou 

"It's good to be home. New Orleans feels like home. This is the Hornets, you know. This is where we're supposed to be." -- Head Coach "Lord" Byron Scott, from NBA TV's New Orleans: On the Rise program

"We're taking on our city's personality. We're taking it personal, and we're giving these fans something to cheer about." -- Hornets Center Tyson Chandler, New Orleans: On the Rise

Tonight is the most important game in Hornets' franchise history, as they try to regain control of their playoff series against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs.

Game 5 will be played in the New Orleans Arena, where Chris Paul happens.

That shot is so sick. Since the playoffs began, sales of Hornets gear and Chris Paul jerseys have spiked, due to Paul's spectacular plays before a nationwide audience.

The Head Pelican has a cool game preview, where she discusses Tim Duncan's fear of sharks. Also, Duncan apparently likes the World of Warcraft video game, which is popular among (aspiring) politicians in Texas.

Early in my youth, when I was young, just a little boy, wanting to have fun... I took my sister to a metal show in Orlando featuring Nuclear Assault, Savatage, and Testament. A metalhead acquaintance of mine was there and he was excited. He liked to use the word "sick".

"Are you ready to get sick tonight? This is going to be so sick. Have you heard Testament's new album? It is beyond sick. So sick. When they come out, you're not going to believe how sick the mosh pit gets."

Actually, he wasn't far off because during the Testament set some joker standing by the emergency exit ripped the fire extinguisher down, and sprayed the mosh pit. In the jam-packed, roiling concert hall, the extinguisher's foam and smoke was extremely pungent and it removed the oxygen from the air. I pulled my DK shirt over my mouth and nose to breathe. The band kept playing, and security hauled the dude off... but it was pretty sick (and slippery).

Side notes:

The lead singer of Testament would spit straight up into the air and catch the loog in his mouth when someone in his band-- usually the drummer-- would make a mistake. (He did a lot of spitting that night.)

Also, Jim Russells Records curently has a wide selection of Savatage cds in stock, none of which I recommend.

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Meet Brad's Back 

Levee tattoos on Pitt's lower back?


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Nuclear power doesn't pay 

In a WSJ article on nuclear power plant construction that doesn't even mention escalating radioactive waste disposal costs, we learn a few things:

A new generation of nuclear power plants is on the drawing boards in the U.S., but the projected cost is causing some sticker shock: $5 billion to $12 billion a plant, double to quadruple earlier rough estimates.
Nuclear plants haven't been built in meaningful numbers in the U.S. since the 1980s. Part of the cost escalation is bad luck. Plants are being proposed in a period of skyrocketing costs for commodities such as cement, steel and copper; amid a growing shortage of skilled labor; and against the backdrop of a shrunken supplier network for the industry.
Now, 104 nuclear reactors are operating in the U.S. Most are highly profitable but that was not the case until fairly recently. For the 75 units built between 1966 and 1986, the average cost was $3 billion or triple early estimates, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Many plants operate profitably now because they were sold to current operators for less than their actual cost.

So, it takes 20 to 40 years for nuclear power plants to be highly "profitable" (not truly counting long term waste disposal costs) and in many cases the original owner has to lose his ass to make the numbers work. What's not to love?

Update: The Cunning Realist informs us that we can vacation in Chernobyl.


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Monday, May 12, 2008

Teepell "punishes" Rep. Karen Carter 

I'll identify the source of this emailed release at a later time, if they permit:

St. Rep/Speaker Pro Tem Karen Carter Peterson will hold a press conference TODAY, May 12, 4 p.m. on steps of State Capitol Building in Baton Rouge to respond to radio ads running on urban stations in Orleans Parish by, a support group of Governor Bobby Jindal and his Chief of State Timmy Teepel.

The ads were supposedly ordered by Teepel to "punish" the Speaker Pro Tem for opposing the Administration's voucher bill, which is apparently in trouble on the house floor. The bill may be heard later this week, having passed by one vote out of the House Education committee.

Karen Carter is ironically considered the chief architect of Louisiana's successful charter school movement, which now enrolls more than half of Orleans Parish public students since the 2005 hurricanes. She has also received national awards for her educational reform efforts, as outline on her website

Congressman Bill Jefferson viciously attacked Karen Carter for her stance for public education "choice" when she challenged his re-election in 2006. Now the Jindal Administration is attacking her for a position she has never hid, i.e. that she opposed vouchers for public education.

This is our scoop. Let's see what reporters uncover...

Update: As Daniel Z. noted in the comments, this release was from Krewe of Truth, who has the text of a follow up AP story here. According to the AP article, All Children Matter is taking credit for the ad:

In Baton Rouge today, [Rep. Karen] Peterson blasted the ad as a personal attack. She says she believes the Jindal administration supports the ad. Jindal's spokeswoman, Melissa Sellers, said chief of staff Timmy Teepell and other administration officials were not aware of the ad.

Peterson also took specific aim at Believe in Louisiana, a private group headed by publisher Rolfe McCollister that supports the Jindal agenda.

YRHT discussed the conservatives behind All Children Matter here.

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Melissa Sellers 

In a small article titled "Amateur Hour" in this week's Gambit Weekly (pg 22, not online yet):

When [Bobby] Jindal arrived at this newspaper's office on Oct. 4 for an interview with our editorial board, [Melissa] Sellers, who was his campaign press aide, attempted to sit in on the interview.

That's a definite "no-no" at any paper worth its salt. But when Sellers was told she had to leave, she "went into a near panic, insisting that she had to be present for the interview". According to Clancy Dubos, Sellers was "obviously shaken" and repeatedly protested the arrangement. Jindal had to tell her "It's okay" several times.

Then it got really weird:

instead of taking a seat in the foyer of our offices (as other campaign workers do), [Sellers] hovered in the hallway outside the conference room and pressed her ear to a window, trying to eavesdrop on the interview. When [the] office administrator asked her to take a seat, she moved to an adjacent conference room-- where she again was spotted with her ear to the wall, trying to hear what was being said in the interview.

Shortly thereafter, Jindal appointed Melissa Sellers to be his press secretary.

This strikes me as a small but extremely revealing episode. For Jindal's handler to get all huffy puffy about him being alone with the Gambit Weekly(!), who had celebrated Jindal's "Geek Appeal" a month earlier, is doubly bothersome. First of all, why was Sellers paranoid in such a friendly venue? Does she actually consider the Gambit to be hostile territory? And why did Sellers' expect to sit in? Had she done so at other endorsement interviews? Was she stressing over the possibility that the Gambit would do its job and ask Jindal some challenging questions to see how his mind works? And what would she have done if they had? Pipe up? Cut the interview short and whisk him out of the room? How would that have appeared?

I must say that I've been in the same position several times*, and it's not a stress-free wait. It's definitely nerve-wracking to sit in a waiting room while your candidate gets grilled behind closed doors. However, I managed to pass the time sitting like an adult, reading or working, rather than snooping around like a paranoid maniac.

I don't know what is most disturbing, Sellers' lack of professionalism and poise or Jindal's belief that she is the right person to be his press secretary.

Melissa Sellers isn't a total "amateur" either. Surely she learned to be poised under pressure when she managed Miss Latina USA, or when she was an intern for Bush/Cheney 2000, or John Cornyn for Senate. Surely she learned a thing or two about endorsement interview protocol when she managed Kris Gillespie's campaign for a Texas House seat. [Kris Gillespie is a fundagelical homophobic Republican woman who lost the campaign that Sellers managed, but then went on ABC's "Wife Swap" show and lived ten days with a lesbian household. Displaying a sublime version of "Christian" bigotry, Gillespie told the lesbian couple that they were depraved, and that she was worried that they were going to molest their daughter.]

Surely a political operative would learn such things over the course of time, unless they worked in a scripted political universe (read: Bushworld) that rewarded blind loyalty over competence.


Worse yet, Ricky at Timshel is smitten over Sellers. He describes her as "Smart, attractive and well paid". I don't know. One and a half out of three isn't so bad, is it?

Two months ago, the LSU Reveille called on Jindal to fire Melissa Sellers if she didn't start returning phone messages. It won't be the last such plea, especially since Sellers has become "Public Enemy No. 1 to many reporters at media outlets big and small".

You're not a conservative Texas Bushie in 2002, Melissa. That apex of political power is gone. You'll need to adapt, and control your emotions and confront political risks like a professional. Sustained hubris always blows up, and people fall back to earth-- even Texans. The Ancient Greeks understood that, and some of them were gay.

And Ricky, my blog brother, please take a pass on this one. I know you like Sellers, but you should consider her a no fly zone. You don't want that much drama, I promise you.

* For example, during May of 2005, I broke several traffic laws getting a State Senate candidate across town to the endorsement interview at the Times Picayune. There, she discussed her plans to improve passenger rail transportation for emergency evacuations, play hardball with Saints owner Tom Benson, and raise the minimum wage in New Orleans. The T-P was very skeptical of the minimum wage idea, and stumped her when they asked her to name another Southern state that had raised the minimum wage above the federal limit. (None had.) Then they asked her the ultimate trick question: which Louisiana politician do you most admire?

So, my candidate didn't receive the T-P endorsement. Instead the paper endorsed Derrick Shepherd, who, years later, they're able to "see through".

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Bush, Burma and humanitarian aid 

Mark Couvillon of New Orleans wrote a letter to the Times Picayune:

I find it amazing that the Bush administration is furious with the junta in Burma for refusing to allow the United States to send more aid to cyclone victims due to political differences between our country and theirs.

Is this not the same Bush administration that refused Cuba's offer to send 1,600 doctors and 26 tons of medicine to the victims of Hurricane Katrina due to politics?

Is this not the same State Department that, due to political differences, refused 1 million barrels of oil and $5 million in aid from Venezuela, along with mobile hospitals, clean water and fuel for the victims of Katrina?

I agree with President Bush that in times of massive human suffering politics should be put aside for the good of humanity.

So what happened?

Update: Iced Coffee and a Bagel posts a graphic on this.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Assessing Nagin 

First, some selections from the T-P's front page article assessing Mayor Nagin at the midpoint of his second term:

Having dubbed 2008 the "tipping point" for New Orleans' recovery, Nagin and his administration seem to be slogging through high political weeds, buoyed by splashes of good news -- most associated with marquee tourism events -- but not yet delivering on recovery director Ed Blakely's promise of "cranes on the skyline."

While strong views about Nagin's performance can be found on any street corner, there was mostly silence when more than a dozen political, community and business leaders were asked to assess Nagin at midterm. Most said they feared losing city financing, or Nagin's political support, for pet projects if they spoke with candor. Some said they simply had nothing nice to offer.

Way to hold your tongues, "leaders" of New Orleans! The T-P gave you a platform to tell it like it is, and you were either too scared to say anything, or were unwilling to say something that wasn't "nice". Unbelievable. And precisely who were these stalwart spirits, anyway-- these dozen "political, community and business leaders" who weren't willing to offer their assessment of Nagin to the public?

But it's Nagin's penchant for making grand announcements... and then foundering on follow-through that has fueled public frustration. More than 60 percent of respondents to a 2007 poll gave Nagin an unfavorable rating.
For many residents, the executive branch's handling of the most basic functions of government has fallen far short of expectations, spurring a loss of confidence at a time when quality-of-life concerns have hindered repopulation.

You got that right, coach.

In the article Nagin says the city's progress is a "mixed bag". It's a "tough thing" to assess.

Well, perhaps I can be of service. It so happens that I have a handy dandy publication from the City of New Orleans that I picked up at my local drug store. It's a "Recovery Projects Information Report", and it lists the status of many construction projects for damaged City buildings and community centers. That's all it does, really. The publication lists each construction project's name, location, scope and current status (as of April 2008). Neat, huh? Here's a link to the online mapped version.

The report groups each construction project's status under one of nine different "project lifecycle" phases. I'll briefly go through these phases, using the City's language to describe them:

1. Planning-- project needs definition, funding, input or approval

2. Contracting-- a design consultant is selected, assigned to a project and put under contract with the city

3. Project Scope-- The design consultant investigates the site and available and available information and prepares the scope for the project

4. Preliminary Design-- the design consultant outlines the design criteria for the project, and starts construction drawings and a preliminary cost estimate. Design is 30% complete.

Ok, let's just stop right there for a second and note the small amount of real "progress" represented by steps 1 and 2. Then note the difference in real progress between step 2 (selecting a design consultant) and step 3 (having the design consultant "investigate the site and prepare the scope"-- not the design itself-- for the project).

Examples of construction projects include "removing and repairing the architectural, mechanical and electrical components" at the Gert Town pool, or "reparing existing roofing, finishes, electrical and HVAC" at the Copelin-Byrd Center on Caffin Ave.

Alright, here are the other 5 project "phase definitions":

5. Design Development-- design 60% complete

6. Construction documents-- design package is complete, ready to start bidding.

7. Bid, Award, and Contracting-- request bids, evaluate, select a Contractor

8. Construction-- construction begins

9. Complete-- work is complete

Now that we have our definitions in place, what does the Recovery Report tell us about the status of the city's many various construction projects?

Of 134 construction projects specified for City, Community, Fire, Justice and Police buildings, 115 are still in the Planning or Contracting phases (#1 and #2). Another 8 are in the Preliminary Design phase (#4).

Granted, the report has a separate category for "Roof Projects" (which are not included in the above tally). The Roof Projects section indicates that more progress is being made on repairs to the roofs of fire stations, libraries... etc. These are the projects that Mayor Nagin and Recovery Czar Ed Blakely point to when asked about the status of the city's recovery. Still, the report indicates that only 14 of 34 "roof projects" are in the construction or completion phases.

So, who are all these design consultants currently being selected? Where are they from, and when will they begin to work on the "scope" of these construction projects? I suppose the MWH logo on the back of the City's "Recovery Projects Information Report" is a good clue. In January, Nagin hired MWH to "manage and expedite" $1 billion worth in city construction projects. Some pundits applauded this as a"smart move" while others were more justifiably skeptical of the arrangement.

MWH's motto is "building a better world". We'll try to track how well they "expedite" the planned construction of this "part of the world".

Further reading on Kansas City's experience with MWH here. Nagin had a curious campaign fundraiser in Kansas City in 2007. Nagin's contribution report for 2007 is here.

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Simple answers to simple questions 

The front page headline of the Sunday Times Picayune asks:

Can Nagin Get Things Done?

No, no, no. A thousand times No.

This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.

Moldy City has a more extended take on the article by Michelle Krupa and Frank Donze.


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Hardy boy has a future in politics 

The Flaming Liberal sent me a link to this story from Money, and I'm going to reprint the whole damn thing because it's just that good:

A 13 year old from Texas who stole his Dad's credit card and ordered two hookers from an escort agency, has today been convicted of fraud and given a three year community order.

Ralph Hardy, a 13 year old from Newark, Texas confessed to ordering an extra credit card from his father's existing credit card company, and took his friends on a $30,000 spending spree, culminating in playing "Halo" on an Xbox with a couple of hookers in a Texas motel.

The credit card company involved said it was regular practice to send extra credit cards out as long as all security questions are answered.

The escort girls who were released without charge, told the arresting officers something was up when the kids said they would rather play Xbox than get down to business.

Police said they were alerted to the motel by a concerned delivery clerk, whom after delivering supplies of Dr Pepper, Fritos and Oreos had been asked by the kids where they could score some chicks and were willing to pay. They explained they had just made a big score at a "World of Warcraft" tournament and wanted to get some relaxation. On noting the boys age the delivery clerk informed the authorities.

When police arrived at the motel they found $3,000 in cash, numerous electronic gadgets, an Xbox video console with numerous games, and the two local escort girls.

Ralph had reportedly told police that his father wouldn't mind, as it was his birthday last week and he had forgot to get him a present. The father, a lawyer said he had been too busy, but would take him on a surprise trip to Disneyland instead.

Asked why he ordered two escorts, Ralph said he thought it was the thing to do when you win a "World of Warcraft" tournament. They told the suspicious working girls they were people of restricted growth working with a traveling circus, and as State law does not allow those with disabilities to be discriminated against they had no right to refuse them.

The $1,000 a night girls sensing something up played "Halo" on the Xbox with the kids, instead of selling their sexual services.

Ralph's ambition is to one day become a politician.

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