Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Chairman" plus rant 

T-P:

Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who was one of the first national figures to call to congratulate U.S. Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, R- New Orleans, after his improbable victory over Democratic incumbent William Jefferson in December, appeared Monday at a New Orleans cocktail party and fundraiser for the 2nd District congressman.

Gross.

Cao, after speaking to students at Southern University at New Orleans on Monday morning, said that while he knew he was going to be seeing Gingrich later in the day, he did not realize it was a fundraiser.

"It is for him or for me?" Cao asked.

Witty!

Cao said he had only talked to Gingrich the one time...

Good. I don't know how long Representative Cao's "Good time Charlie" "Naive Wonderboy" political personae will serve him, but I'm actually still enjoying it. Many of my progressive nolablogger friends assume that the GOP is using Cao-- pulling his strings, and brainwashing him into a conservative true-believer. I could be wrong, but I don't think so. Whether Cao is "naively brilliiant" or "brilliantly naive", I'm fascinated by the way he (instinctively?) responds to questions. He is often creative and funny. He takes risks that few others in his party would attempt (i.e., joking about being a closet Democrat). Granted, Cao gets a "pass" from the GOP because of his district. Also, the Times Picayune positively adores the chap, so he has more freedom than your run-of-the-mill freshman Gooper. But still, I honestly think this guy is quite skillful. Deceptively so. The problem is, Cao's future in local politics is probably limited, but (should he lose re-election) the national GOP will open all kinds of doors for him as a talking head, spokesman... etc.. But if he pursues such a yucky professional path, then Cao will have to sharply curtail some of his more-progressive views as well as his sense of humor. He won't have the freedom to be himself when microphones are in his face, or he'll get hammered if he makes a mistake. When the time comes, I'm interested to see which path he will take.

T-P:

Former Congresswoman Lindy Boggs turned 93 on Friday. On Tuesday, members of the Louisiana congressional delegation, past and present, gathered in Sen. Mary Landrieu's basement hideaway in the Capitol to share a few laughs and offer congratulations.

"We haven't laughed this much together in a long time; this is really good," said Landrieu, the dean of the delegation.

It also was the first opportunity for Boggs to meet her latest successor representing the 2nd Congressional District, Anh "Joseph" Cao.

Sounds festive.

The gathering included all the members of the Louisiana Senate and House delegation, with the exception of Charles Boustany, whose father died Monday. Also present were some heavyweights from the past: former Democratic Sens. J. Bennett Johnston and John Breaux (though Breaux arrived too late for the group photo), and former Reps. Jim McCrery, R- Shreveport; Jimmy Hayes, R-Lafayette; and Billy Tauzin, R-Chackbay.

(That reminds me: when he's giving face to the national media and stumping for out of state campaign bucks, why does Gov. Jindal insist on using Tauzin's pre-Katrina quip that "half of Louisiana is under water, and half is under indictment"? On balance, it's unhelpful. Jindal must have said it again during his 60 Minutes interview, because they shoehorned it into their introductory piece which also featured the bizarre statement that Jindal is "trying to put the 'big un-easy' back on dry land". ) Anyway, back to Cao:

The presence of such formidable alumni was a reminder of the current delegation's relative lack of clout, a paucity of seniority that even Landrieu's inadvertent introduction of Cao to Boggs as "Chairman Cao" couldn't remedy.

Did Lindy Boggs get that "inadvertent" one-liner by reading YRHT? (As I previously noted, Dillyberto deserves the credit.)

Here's the deal. I'm assuming Cao isn't partisan. He (wisely) ran as a Repubican against Jefferson because he couldn't win as a Dem (too crowded) or as an Independent (no money). Despite many of his views and votes, I like the guy. I think he has political talent but no clear-cut political future. It will be interesting to see what he decides to do in 2 years. I'm happy to have supported him, and very glad he beat Dollar Bill. I'm terribly intrigued by Cao's "naive brilliance" (shtick?). However, I could be wrong be wrong about him. If, for example, Cao has a sustained working relationship with Greg Meffert, and/or he decides to become a GOP talking head hack, I'll have to retract most of my plaudits for Cao. Them's the breaks, I guess; especially when you often publicly support and endorse candidates who adopt "reality-based" campaign strategies, and therefore give themselves and their supporters a chance in hell of winning.

Warning, rant below:

I get some flack about Cao from my nolablogger friends-- friends who often vote for third-party candidates. Now, I don't have a problem with third party candidates-- I would actually love to see more Libs, Greens and Independents in office. But, to get there, third party candidates need to be 1) talented and 2) have a campaign strategy TO WIN. Like I said in this YRHT crucifixion of Nader, "It's easy to be ideologically pure when you have no intention of getting more than 2% of the vote." And if you really think that there's not a dime's worth of difference between any Demopublican and any Republicrat-- fine! Vote for your 2 percenters. But for those of us who can discern small but important differences between candidates and between major parties, and who think these small but important differences are worth fighting for, and who think voting for a third party candidate who doesn't care about winning is at best wasteful and at worst a spoiler vote against our preferred establishment candidate... please understand that we have not necessarilly been co-opted by the Dem/GOP machine. We understand that, too often, we are voting on the basis of small differences. These decisions often result in us having to take lumps from the third-party purists whenever "our" candidate compromises or sells out... etc. Conversely, third-party purists never have to take their lumps after the results are tabulated (unless their candidate was a "spoiler") because their pols always lose.

Here are two local examples (I'm not gonna call out the nolabloggers who supported these guys-- y'all can pipe up in the comments if you want. And, admittedly, the "establishment" candidates in these races were far from ideal, but they did have a plan to win):

Malik Rahim, ran for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Green Party stalwarts endorsed him. One quick question: how did convicted armed robber Malik Rahim plan to win? What was his winning political strategy to beat the "corrupt Jefferson machine? Riddle me that. (And no b.s. about him at least being a "spoiler" for Jefferson unless you take into account the Libertarian votes.)

Malcolm Suber ran for City Council in 2007. He was endorsed by the Nation. Today, T-P columnist James Gill summarized Suber's long-held belief that... well, just read:

Most of what they are saying about Stacy Head is scurrilous or irrational, but she cannot look you in the face and deny the fundamental charge against her.

Head, as alleged, is white. And that is unacceptable, according to Malcolm Suber, who is leading a campaign to recall her. This is "a majority black district, and we think it should have black representation," he said.

Suber went on to call Head a racist. While you couldn't quite cite that as an example of the pot calling the kettle black, Suber's sense of irony is clearly a little defective.

Those who supported Suber don't have to explain this dreck, because he didn't win. He didn't even come close to winning, so those Suber votes are long forgotten. But many of those same nolabloggers who supported Suber don't subscribe to his views on race. Many of these same nolabloggers in fact supported Obama (or at least were pleased that he was elected over McCain) in this "majority white" district called the United States of America. But will they have to endure punishment every time their candidate (Suber) says something offensive? No.

You don't have to assess candidates through a political plausibility prism, like I do. Vote for whomever you want. But I think it wouldn't hurt some of my more sophisticated nolablogger friends who often support 3rd party candidates to include plausibility in their decision-making process once in a while. If a candidate is not willing to work hard to find ways to earn as many votes as he or she can, what does that say about the candidate? Suggestions: If you're not in the news, make some. If you can't raise a lot of money, then raise a lot of volunteers. Seize every opportunity to confront and knock the establishment candidates off-balance. Leverage creativity and humor, find and own the hidden issue or scandal... Channel your convictions into statements about issues and policies that will resonate with voters' emotions. Above all: Listen! Work your tail off, and maybe, maybe, you might generate a timely wave that will shock the experts.

My basic point is this: forget the Republicrat stranglehold on politics; until 3rd parties nominate talented candidates* with winning strategies, their own worst enemies are themselves. Sure, even if you get a talented candidate with a winning strategy, it will take more work and creativity and timing to be successful than it would a major-party candidate. The odds are still against you. But, in times and areas with widespread pain and discontent, the opportunities to "surprise" are there. Politics can be more fluid and surprising than people suspect, especially if you leverage innovation and creativity, and outwork and out-think your opponents. You can come to my door as an incredible third party longshot, but if you show me talent and a realistic plan to win-- which probably entails both incredible political risk and difficult political compromises**-- I'm all ears. In fact, I'd be quite excited to meet such a candidate. Few things stimulate my political senses like potential election-day surprises and upsets.

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* When I say "candidates", I mean candidates. I'm talking indefatigable campaigning machines-- not egomaniacs who like soapboxes, or people who have "done good work" but go through the political motions and expect a miracle on election day.

** Yes purists, getting 51% of the vote entails compromise.
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Update: Props to Tim for writing a mea culpa about his support of Suber. Again, Suber is just a local example who was in the news recently. The rant is not about Suber or Tim, specifically, it's just an expression of frustration about how there's often little after-the-fact accountability on the part of our green/indy/3rd party friends, once the elections are over and we're "stuck" with the lesser evil.

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Developing... 

I know these cryptic hints and insinuations about potential scandals are frustrating. It's frustrating on several levels.

But please rest assured that if current investigations don't eventuate into something, the "atomic" political/criminal stuff I've hinted at will be released. Probably on a blog; probably not this one. But definitely this one if no one else can or will do it!

In other words, I'm not going to leave y'all hanging, months or years from now, wondering: "What was up with all that 'Manhattan' stuff, anyway? I thought you had insights into a Manhattan project, but all you gave us was a Manhattan transfer."

No, I wouldn't do you like that.

Keep reading the Zombie. Looks like developments are afoot.

And please read E's "E-Maelstrom" post if you haven't already done so. It's an outstanding compilation of information and analysis. I like the conclusion most of all:

What is increasingly clear is that there is [something] else behind the swift action by federal investigators in regard to the release of Council emails, something else that... is only tangentially related to this one procedural miscue by the administration.
...
Rather... the council email release controversy is a convenient pretext to fast track an ongoing and incredibly grave longer-term investigation into the overall politicization and corruption of the Mayor's Office of Technology.

I think that's dead on. Don't get sidetracked by the personalities involved in the E-maelstrom. I know it's hard to believe, but some things are bigger than Veronica White and Stacy Head.

Congratulations also to E on his excellent call-in to Spud's Monday Tuesday show on WWL 870am regarding the LSU/VA Medical complex. He totally pwned Spud's guest, who was trying to explain why plans for separate medical buildings can kinda sorta be synergistic (if you squint real hard) but not in the way they were originally sold. (That is: hundreds of millions in savings!)

I personally think the quest to refurbish Charity is quixotic. And even if I was convinced that a new complex was an overall bad idea, which I'm not, I'd pick another hill to make my stand. A new building, on top of an historic neighborhood, seems to me like a fait accompli-- but E regularly does his best to make me think otherwise, and I salute him for it.

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Enjoy every green beer 

Joejoejoe sent me a link to Warren Zevon's performance of "The Lakes of Ponchartrain", which topped the charts nearly two centuries ago. According to Wikipedia, "The Lakes of Pontchartrain is an American ballad about an impoverished immigrant from Ireland who is given shelter by a beautiful Louisiana Creole woman. He falls in love with her and asks her to marry him, but she is already promised to a sailor and declines the offer." I never knew! Here, I'll try to embed it.



Happy Birthday to my youngest daughter Veevee (aka Pearlgirl Deuce). Her birthday is on St. Patrick's Day, and she is fully recovered and flourishing after last month's procedure.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

What are the Feds investigating? 

Stephanie Grace:

Two of [Mayor Nagin's] department heads went rogue, and his initial reaction was to shrug it off. Hey, the public has a right to public records, he said, without mentioning his personal reluctance to fill such requests.

This isn't just yet another embarrassment for the mayor. It's apparently serious enough for the feds to have seized White's computers, although it's not exactly clear what they might be investigating.

Damn skippy it's "serious enough". If half of what I heard is true, and the feds pursue it (instead of an easier, lesser charge), this will be jaw-dropping.

Moldy City shares a column by La Grace written four years ago that reminds us that the pre-Katrina Nagin was not so great, or so different than the post-K Nagin.

Clancy Dubos:

Actually, the fact that there was a grand jury subpoena issued so quickly tells me that this grand jury has been looking at City Hall for a while. I have no idea what the grand jury is looking at — federal agents and attorneys are not allowed to discuss ongoing criminal investigators in the press — but it seems clear that the grand jury was not impaneled just last week. I suspect it has been meeting for a while to look at one or more city scandals. It’s also possible, as the T-P suggests, that it subpoenaed White’s computer records in order to protect the secrecy of an ongoing investigation.

Dambala largely agrees.

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"More Trickle Down, Yeah Right!" 

YRHT is happy to publish David C. Bellinger's response to a T-P letter to the editor by Jon Gegenheimer, Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court.
===

March 13, 2009


“More Trickle Down, Yeah Right!”


Ref: “No Concession to Socialism,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, March 3, 2009 - http://blog.nola.com/letterstotheeditor/2009/03/no_concession_to_socialism.html


After years of an economic experiment that adjusted the income tax code to benefit higher income taxpayers, the rate of unemployment has skyrocketed from a 2000 low of 3.9% to the current 8.1%.


Casualties of a horribly flawed fiscal policy and a disastrous employment market need help now--not more promises of help is on the way by implementing tax credits skewed to business. A study released in 2003, - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39911-2003Mar27.html - which was conducted by the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office--headed by a former economic advisor to G. W. Bush, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, and presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s chief economic advisor--found that the Bush budget, of course, including the much ballyhooed conservative tax cuts, would either raise, or more likely, lower economic activity by less than one percentage point over a ten-year period.


Moreover, the CBO found that for the nation to grow its way out of deficits by cutting taxes was a fairytale. And the study was conducted using dynamic scoring, the favored method of conservatives.


For Mr. Jon Gegenheimer, Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court, to suggest more tax credits for business as a possible solution to the unemployment crisis and lend support to Gov. Jindal’s denial of $98 million enlarged unemployment benefits to workers in Louisiana victimized by voodoo economics and, further, demean workers by accusing them of being disinclined to work and remain unproductive by holding out their hands to the taxpayers is unconscionable and unimaginably cruel.


Putting money in the hands of the unemployed will hopefully prompt a business recovery by creating a demand for goods and services. Thus creating an incentive for businesses to hire. And $98 million will still put a good amount of bread on the table of the unemployed.


Let’s be less heartless and give “trickle-up” economics a chance, “please.”


David C. Bellinger can be contacted at (404) 762-8779 or at davidc53@juno.com


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No concession to socialism

(Letter to the editor)


March 03, 2009 2:30AM


Gov. Bobby Jindal's rejection of $98 million of enlarged unemployment benefits in President Barack Obama's "economic-stimulus" package has caused hand-wringing among liberals. The $98 million is merely 2.5 percent of the $3.9 billion tendered.


So, the governor instead has accepted (tentatively) $3.8 billion from the beneficient feds. Why all the fuss?


The displeasure is not about the state's "losing" $98 million, supposedly meant to ease the burden on Louisiana's unemployed. It's about ideology and principle. Mr. Jindal won't concede to socialism, and the liberals can't stand it.


The governor says no to expanding unemployment benefits because that strategy would expand unemployment itself by encouraging those disinclined to work to remain unproductive and to hold out their hands to the taxpayers.


I wonder if President Obama, et al. would agree to reshape their offer to dedicate the $98 million as tax credits to small businesses, which could use the savings from that legitimate stimulative strategy to grow their enterprises, expand the work force and reduce unemployment.


Jon Gegenheimer

Clerk of Court

Gretna

http://blog.nola.com/letterstotheeditor/2009/03/no_concession_to_socialism.html




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{Note to editor: Information contained in my reply was taken from the article below.}

“DYNAMIC DEFICITS”

FOR YEARS, tax-cut aficionados have argued that the green-eyeshade crowd underestimates the benefits of tax cuts by measuring only the costs. They say the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office should include in its analyses extra revenue that would be generated by economic growth stimulated by, yes, the tax cuts.


Now the CBO has tried it their way -- and the administration's contention that the country will magically "grow its way" out of deficits as it cuts taxes still turns out to be more or less a fairy tale. The CBO, headed by new director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who arrived straight from the White House Council of Economic Advisers, analyzed President Bush's tax and spending proposals using various models to forecast the overall effect on the economy. The report -- the CBO's first foray into dynamic analysis -- showed "small" supply-side effects, "either positive or negative," from Mr. Bush's budget. Its models indicated that the proposals would raise -- or, in most scenarios, lower -- economic growth by less than a percentage point on average in the next 10 years.


This is significant, because the administration has suggested that the tax package would pay for itself, at least in part, by spurring productivity. The proponents of dynamic scoring argue that the standard, "static" analysis -- by ignoring the boost to the economy -- overstates the true cost of the cuts. The Heritage Foundation, for example, figures that greater economic growth would recoup about 56 percent of the cost of the administration's $726 billion "jobs and growth" package.


A few weeks back, using its conventional approach, the CBO projected that the president's budget would add $2.7 trillion to the deficit through 2013. Now it has offered seven dynamic scenarios, and four showed deficits even bigger than that -- as high as $3 trillion under one approach. Three others showed smaller deficits, but the smallest was $2.3 trillion, and those models all assumed that taxes would have to be raised permanently in 2014 by more than $200 billion in order to finance the preceding 10 years of higher deficits. As Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Tex.) put it, "This analysis is bad news for the free lunch philosophy." Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.), a proponent of dynamic scoring, pronounced himself "somewhat surprised and humbled that your model doesn't give us better news than we had hoped for."


Proponents of big tax cuts and dynamic scoring now argue that the CBO should have looked at the tax package in isolation. They say other aspects of the budget -- increased spending and tax measures designed for social purposes, such as health care credits -- reduce the positive effect of the tax cuts. But it would be odd for the CBO to consider some parts of the president's proposal and ignore others. More fundamentally, the impact of tax cuts depends in part on how they are financed. Given that the president isn't suggesting cutting spending to pay for the cuts, it seems only fair to take into account the economic drag of higher deficits.


Meanwhile, the Treasury Department is preparing to release a study showing that 30 percent to 40 percent of the cost of the tax package would be recouped by higher economic growth. And a new House rule requires Congress's Joint Tax Committee to dynamically score tax cuts. The CBO's analysis will be far from the last word on dynamic scoring, but it's a useful -- and chastening -- start.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39911-2003Mar27.html


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