Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Lying Monkey

...the administrations of Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Mayor Ray Nagin have been pure as the driven snow by historical standards.

Since Katrina made landfall, if not since the 2002 election of our reform-minded mayor, James Gill has been the wisest monkey in the local press corps. Now, he's made the leap from ignoring the obvious to lying about it.

That might seem like an overreaction to one sentence in a column that wasn't even about Nagin, but Gill didn't write "scandal-free," he wrote "pure as the driven snow." Anyway, what historical standards is he talking about? The Landrieu administration? Barthelemy? Let's make it easy and compare Ray Nagin and Marc Morial.

At this point in Morial's second term, there were charges of serious, possibly criminal, wrongdoing, as well as blatant cronyism and sweetheart political deals involving padded contracts for politically connected firms with ties to big donors like Jimmie Woods and Benjamin Edwards. In Nagin's second term, there are charges of serious, possibly criminal, wrongdoing, as well as blatant cronyism and sweetheart political deals involving padded contracts for politically connected firms with ties to big donors like Jimmie Woods and Benjamin Edwards.

I don't believe that any Morial officials were indicted while he was in office, if so, they were very low-level. The main difference was the attitude of the local media, and nobody provides a better example than James Gill. Gill did write two columns about Yachtgate, but he certainly would have written something much stronger than "Some Like it* Tepid" (column can be found at the end of this post) had Meffert worked for anyone other than Nagin. Does anybody truly believe that Gill would have been so quick to conclude that a scandal involving any other administration was all a matter of ego and jealousy? Gill also criticized the high cost of the new garbage collection contracts; however, he didn't mention the political donations, to Nagin or CHANGE Inc.**, of the companies involved. That's odd, because he did think that campaign contributions were significant when he wrote about judges on a plane.

I could go on with more detail and more links but the important question should already be obvious: why does James Gill have such tender feelings for the Nagin Administration?

Another Question:

If the following:
But DRC's officials are raising questions about Omni's selection.

"I'm shocked to learn that we were the low bidder and were not awarded this contract," Bob Isakson, head of DRC, said recently when told about the city's choice. "I'm certain our qualifications were more than sufficient."

It's unclear when Charles Rice began working for Omni. He and Omni's owner, Ronald Reine, both said their relationship sprang up after the firm received a city contract as Katrina approached New Orleans. When asked for a copy of Charles Rice's contract, however, Reine said through a spokeswoman that he could not locate it.

had been written about the former CAO of the Marc Morial administration, or the Aaron Broussard administration, or the Kathleen Adminstration, or the CAO of any administration other than that of C. Ray Nagin, does any long-time Picayune reader believe that James gill would have failed to write a column about it?

To be fair, I did read somewhere that the owner of Omni Pinnacle claimed to have not been paid by the city or the ACoE, or somehow got stiiffed on the deal, and OMNI pinnacle actually donated money to the Landrieu campaign, after donating money to Nagin's re-election fund during his first term. However, Omni Pinnacle is once again giving money to the mayor. At any rate, the story about debris removal contracts came out months before the election.

*In this case, "it" would be political commentary.


I heard someone recently comment that any politician who spends more on getting elected than the job pays must be a crook. Either that, or they are independently wealthy and pure as the driven snow.

We know that even in the best of circumstances it takes years before white-collar crimes get investigated, heard by a grand jury and go to trial. I'm afraid this mayor is going to continue to disappoint us for many years to come.


Gill is so continually frustrating. It's because he's often the most clever of the T-P pundits that this kind of mendacity is so inexcusable.
I, too, nearly heaved at that phrase, and became totally distracted from the topic at hand.
I wonder how much the public perception of Nagin's integrity has changed since the election. I think that enough doubt might be starting to arise that he couldn't get away with the same innuendos, but not enough doubt to give the city council the upper hand should it ever fully develop a backbone; or enough doubt to give the council a backbone.

At any rate, that line by James Gill shows how little journalistic opinion has changed -- at least on the opinion pages. I guess that "by historical standards" might indicate some slight improvement at the T/P, but Gambit has stopped questioning the integrity of the Nagin administration, or any administration officials, altogether. To put it another way, over the past year, the local blogosphere has started questioning the mayor's integrity, the largest circulation local weekly has stopped questioning it at all.

Because there's been such a shift in blogger opinion over the last fifteenth months, I don't think most local bloggers realize how much "missionary work" stills needs to be done with people who don't pay that much attention to politics. That's assuming you believe that bloggers can have any effect on the cliched "water cooler conversations" and change public opinion that way.

I do believe that there's at least the chance that bloggers can change "water cooler" conversations and i even started to do a post that used a silly football metaphor in which I compared continuing to focus exclusively on the unproven allegations about the technology office was like continuing to throw deep. Keep throwing deep but also be aware of the ground game -- the cronyism that was apparent in the first term. Frankly. I think it's easier to understand anyway. Nagin might have been unaware that Rice steered fat city contracts to his friends and his brother, and he may have forced him out once he became aware of Rice's conduct, but Veronica White gave Rice's new company a fat city contract. He may have been embarrassed by the actions of his "Billy Carter" brother-in-law, but Cedric Smith's PR firm got a big contact from the Nagin campaign. Also, employees of Smith's firm have been active in the Justice for Jefferson committee.

To carry the metaphor a bit further, questioning Nagin's secrecy would be the equivalent of the short passing game. This isn't a private citizen refusing to have his car searched, this isn't a president dealing with national security issues, this is mayor awarding private contracts potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars. I was glad to see Adrastos bring this up recently, I wish more people (bloggers, letter-to-the editor writers, cab drivers in ... the French Quarter?) would bring this up.

The metaphor might not be totally apt, but when I see a post link to the latest Meffert story, and only link to the latest Meffert story, I feel like screaming, "why do you keep throwing deep?"
I think it's pretty obvious that the T-P and the Gambit have decided it's time to return to business as usual.

I don't think either Ashton Phelps or Clancy Dubos was ever or ever will be concerned with overturning the elite power structure in New Orleans that serves their societal niches or their advertising budgets so well.

Now that we're two years removed from the flood and Clancy still gets to run the Yuppie Weekly and Phelps still gets to go to the Rex Ball, things are pretty much on target for a full recovery as far as those folks are concerned.

But this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. What continues to surprise me, however, is the extent to which a small segment of folks writing internet commentary for one another actually believe their opinion has anything to do with what the major media will report.

The T-P, Gambit, and local TV and talk radio are the major gatekeepers and movers of public opinion. This will remain true as long as the majority of the citizenry remains only casually interested in the news.... and this will definitely remain true for as long as is forseeable.
Well, Jeffrey, have you got any suggestions -- other than cultivating your own (internet) garden? There most be some way for real people without any connection to corporate sponsored astroturf organizations to get viral emails going. I'm not being totally facetious, I actually thought about piecing something together from my sites and Dambala's and mailing it to the conservative friends that send me those anti-welfare emails. If enough people got such a mail, it would get on talk radio. I'd just be worried about what would actually make it to radio.

There is one problem with your facile cynicism, I get the strong impression that Ashton and Clancy had realized that they been fooled by C. Ray before the flood and were ready to start unloading on him. I could be reading too much into a few articles and editorials that I've found through google and lexisnexis. Pre-Katrina, I cared more about national than local politics and during the two years prior to the flood, the only period of relative normality in personal life coincided with the 2004 presidentil election, so didn't pay enough attention to Nagin to be more than vaguely disappointed. Still, I suspect that questions about his integrity would have started to appear in print before the 2006 election and there'd be open cynicism about his honesty by now had it not been for Katrina. I'd like think that it's concerns about endangering the recovery and/or exacerbating racial tensions that cause Gambit and the T/P to neglect their journalistic duties. I can't say that for certain because finding an editorial online doesn't tell if it was wimpily placed on the bottom of the page on a Saturday or placed where it might it be seen. If I'm right, all it would take is enough people talking for the local press to give up on the wise monkey act.
One more thing, Jeffrey. People got mad when I asked if a web surfer would ever the impression were an ineffectual clique that wrote for each other and concluded that, at times, somebody might. I don't want put words in your mouth, but it sounds like you're describing an ineffectual clique:

"a small segment of folks writing internet commentary for one another"

Careful there.
I don't find the argument that the papers are holding their fire on Nagin because they are afraid of "endangering the recovery" very convincing.

That would mean that they are still clinging to the idea that Nagin can provide some kind of symbolic "leadership" if we just don't question his integrity. Now they may allow this notion to be inferred from their opinion pages at times... but I don't think they're quite stupid enough to believe something as hokey as that. Okay maybe Clancy is that stupid.

But it's more likely that both institutions are interested in establishing some form of normalcy within which they sell ad space. And that is most likely to happen if people shut up, pay their taxes, and get ready for football season.

(Not that I think there's anything wrong with football... but there is a definite bread and circus aspect to the way the T-P reports on it to say the least)

As for the "small segment" remark, I believe in my response to the post of yours you reference, I recommended something more along the lines of lowering the expectations as to how much influence the local bloggers have on the media than actually changing anything about the blogging itself.

The folks writing on the internet are just people saying what they think. There's nothing wrong with that, I just don't expect that it really influences anyone.

Yeah.. I'm kind of a cynical bastard. I think this is because I'm so "Gen-X" which, according to Clancy Dubos, makes me a Jindal voter for some twisted reason.
Actually, i was thinking that they're afraid of endangering the flow of recovery money if Nagin looks like a crook. I can understand the fear, but I think that there's more danger of Nagin wrecking the recovery by misspending the money that we do have. Also, corruption almost always favors the big buildings and parking lots crowd.

If there's not proof that failing to do what you should do under ordinary circumstances is that right thing to do in an extraordinary circumstance, you should do what would normally be the right thing. In the case of the local press, that would be thorough and honest reporting. Not that they did that before.

I've got no problem with situationist ethics, but only in very rare situations.
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