Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Not That Crowded

I had to wonder whether James Gill wrote the editorial in Monday's Picayune. James Gill's columns tend to fall flat when he tries to be "cute" clever rather than acerbic, and Monday's editorial certainly fizzled. James Gill loves to make fun of the mayor's gaffes, even if he needs to manufacture them, but he still refuses to question the integrity of the Nagin administration. Somehow, nobody in the Nagin Administration made Mondays "naughty list."

I suppose the most likely explanation is that Santa told James, or Jarvis, or somebody at the Picayune, that there was unlimited space in his hoosegow, but unlimited space didn't include room for anybody involved with the recent sanitation deals.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Now I get it

Interviews with more than 100 drug dealers and users in New Orleans and Katrina turned up stories like: white crystal meth cookers instructing black crack dealers on how to cook up the drug on their kitchen stoves; an explosion in heroin use and availability that has resulted in the drug being consumed in all manner of strange and fascinating ways from heroin-laced gumbo sold for $10 a cup...

Explains the popularity of those gumbo parties that Chris Rose got so excited about.

Happy Holidays

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Denial and Stupidity

In 1994, two sociologists went to Red Hook, Brooklyn, to solve a mystery. Red Hook abutted the East River, and along the waterfront sat shipping companies and warehouses — all in need of low-skilled labor. Next door sat a housing project teeming with exactly that. But the locals — primarily African Americans — didn't get hired. Instead, the jobs went to workers from outside the neighborhood, often Caribbean immigrants. Employers, wrote The New Yorker's Malcolm Gladwell in summarizing the sociologists' findings, "had developed an elaborate mechanism for distinguishing between those who they felt were 'good' blacks and those they felt were 'bad' blacks." Were the employers racist? Yes and no. They clearly held anti-black stereotypes. And they discriminated against those who conformed to them, even by association. But they discriminated in favor of blacks who defied those stereotypes. A man named Bruce Llewellyn described the phenomenon this way: "White people love to believe they're fair."
Peter Beinart

Step Sixteen. Fire all the public school teachers, teacher aides, cafeteria workers and bus drivers and de-certify the teachers union--the largest in the state. This will primarily hurt middle class African Americans and make them look for jobs elsewhere.
Bill Quigley

Bill Quigley is still an idiot, but don't pretend that it isn't about race and class. Personally, I'm inclined to agree with Beth and Stevo in the comments at the yellow blog, but work beckons.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Working around a bad boss?

What follows is somewhat disjointed due to time constraints

I was disgusted when I used a similar title for a post once before. I'm not disgusted now, but I'm not sure if Fielkow's thinking what I'm thinking. When I read Lolis Eric Elie's series on Veronica White and recycling this past October, I got the impression that the city had plans for "very lucrative" recycling contracts, probably to be awarded to "home-grown" businessmen. I wonder if Arnold Fielkow and some other council members got the same impression.

If so, the council couldn't really challenge the mayor based on a hunch, so they played this exactly right. However, I do think a golden moment is slipping away. The secretiveness and outright dishonesty that led to the bloated sanitation contracts seem to be fading from public memory. Oddly enough, the mayor's dishonesty about his own voting habits is helping to protect his reputation for integrity. Nagin might be upset about the recent media questioning, but he shouldn't be. Much better, from the mayor's point-of-view, that reporters ask how his voting habits than ask about why the "champion of transparency" kept the details of the garbage collection contracts secret for so long. Even though the mayor was caught in a blatant lie, he's not being portrayed as a corrupt politician who gives rich contracts to cronies then makes up numbers and makes up facts to hide the truth; he's just coming across as our loose cannon mayor who blurts things out without thinking. I suspect that it even gives some people the impression that he's too stupid to be a crook.

BTW, on the garbage contracts, I couldn't help but notice something at NorthWest Carrollton, I'm almost positive that SWDI and Waste Management mailed their letters dropping out the bidding for the sanitation contracts a month before we saw any reporting on the mayor's plans for "Disneyland-like" garbage collection.

Finally, a reminder quote to go with last Wednesday's collection:
Given the extravagant performance of justice by U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and the local division of the FBI, it seems safe at this juncture to say that Mayor Ray Nagin has clean hands.
Jason Berry

That quote is only three months old. I've said it before, but I don't think that New Orleans bloggers, and blog readers, realize that most people in the city really don't think of the mayor as corrupt and dishonest.

I didn't think of any NOLA blogger(s)

One of my pet peeves has long been a certain strain of defeatism. Understandably we all feel defeated at times, but there's a certain kind of defeatist out there on the internets, people who spend most of their time chastising others for thinking it's possible to have any influence and attacking the "stupidity" of those who even bother to try. Maybe those people are right. Maybe there never is anything to be done. But if that's the case, get a new goddamn hobby. It's rather odd to spend all your time following political news and blogs if the only reason to do it is to provide justification for your view that All Is Lost. Just go out and have some fun instead.

Busy weekend, followed by computer problems. Hope to have more tonight.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Quote of the strong:
I got everything that I asked for passed with this budget.
Ray Nagin

Quote of the weak*:
The situation with Ray Nagin, I had said that I would not honor him any more by dealing with him as an elected official; so I don't feel as though I'm violating that. We're dealing with what to do with him now that he has proven to be the hypocrite-in-chief...
Rob Couhig

Quote about the not nearly as weak as most seem to think:
New Orleans will receive the bulk of the money – nearly $300 million
Mayor Nagin said he hopes the city receives the money within the next 90 days.

Apparently, Couhig has decided that it's beneath his dignity to talk about Ray Nagin (he'd much rather scoff at global warming and talk up the success of the "surge" in Iraq), but he made an exception yesterday because Gen. Russell Honoree was scheduled to appeared on Jim Brown's show later that morning. That was all it took for Rob and Bo to engage in a little fantasy:
I think Rob may have hit on the one thing that actually rid us of the Mayor once and for all. Much like the way Ray had “the talk” with then DA Eddie Jordan. We feel that General Honore’ may be the only person suited to have “the talk” with Nagin.

So, Couhig made a one time exception to his decision not to discuss the mayor. What did he discuss? Nagin's trip to Jamaica and the hypocrisy of failure to vote. Nothing about the hypocrisy of his claims to be the "champion of transparency." Nothing about the garbage contracts, or any fat contracts to campaign donors. In other words, Couhig feels no need to help clean up the mess he helped create, or slow down the train wreck he helped set in motion.

I don't think that Cerasoli will have his office operating at peak efficiency in ninety days. But, considering how much of the garbage controversy comes down to what was in the original RFP's, it would seem like an opportunity to demand some real transparency.

*With apologies to oyster. No transcript of the Couhig quote, can be heard on the above link -- 12/11/07 7a-8a.

Might Wanna Watch TV

Unless it's a rerun of something I've already, I'm not prepared to call any cable news show "must-see TV." However, Harper's reports that Dan Abrams will examine the Don Siegelman case in some depth Thursday night (8:00 PM CST). I hadn't paid any attention to the case until I came across this Washington Spectator article a few months ago. Even accounting for the Spectator's obvious partisanship, it's pretty shocking. As an admittedly uninformed layman, I don't how Fuller's refusal to recuse himself is even remotely defensible. More at The Raw Story, Part I, Part 2.

Cross-posted at Katrinacrat.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Nagin's Law

The Bullshit excuse is worse than the fuckup.

Unfortunately, in real life, cover-ups often work, or keep the heat off until nobody cares, and the uproar over Nagin's bullshit often distracts attention from more important fuckups, or worse. Also, what I said about James Gill and invitations applies to Stephanie Grace and our buck naked "Champion of Transparency."

Saturday, December 08, 2007

What, me absent?

“Absent is one thing I would never use to describe myself. (As a matter of fact,) I am working so many hours (and the pace is so quick) I'm not sure how long I can keep this up.”
Cee Ray Nagin

The part about the pace being quick can be heard on the A/V link but didn't make the transcript.

Update: What, me worry?

That was on the six o'clock Eyewitness News. On the ten o'clock Eyewitness, Nagin said that weren't many locals left among the homeless population at Duncan Plaza. Get this, most of them are people who have here for work and now the work's dried up. That makes it so much better. No link available yet.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


This may be a bold claim, but Nagin appears to be getting weirder. A few weeks ago, he inveighed against voter apathy, telling a TV station, "It was kind of offensive to me, because here I am busting my butt every day and all I'm asking citizens to do is to plug into the democratic process." He was practically inviting the press to check his own voting record.
James Gill

Why would the mayor have expected anybody to accept that invitation? The mayor made an issue of his opponent's campaign fund-raising when he ran for re-election, and the press didn't consider that an invitation. Maybe it couldn't during an election, but it didn't six months later when two huge garbage collection contracts went to two big Nagin campaign donors. The press didn't accept that invitation until the federal government forced the issue. Even then, I thought the press barely scratched the surface:
when Michelle Krupa mentions campaign contributions by Metro Disposal, she should also mention Jimmie Woods' other companies, AMID Landfill and AMID/Metro Partnership, as well as Durr Construction -- Metro's partner in AMID.

She also omitted any mention of Alvin Richard's donations to Change, inc.. At any rate, that particular "invitation" shouldn't be limited to garbage contracts. While others were getting angry over the destruction of apartments with small kitchens (and only one bath), I couldn't help but notice a couple of other things about this article.*

In addition to the campaign contribution "invitation," there's also:
"All I can say is that the allegations that he, that the senator is making regarding an investigation about the mayor, aren't true," she said. She said Nagin "has a proven track record, from his first term until now, of being a champion of transparency."

For six years we've been hearing about the mayor bringing transparency to city government, yet the press hasn't bothered to examine his actual record on transparency. Well, there was one editorial, but that was the bottom of the editorial page on a Saturday. The top of the page seems to be reserved for football teams.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to see Gill turn his famous sarcasm and wit on the mayor. But I don't expect the mayor to be on the defensive about not voting, or going to Jamaica, any longer than he was any of the times that he stuck his foot in his mouth. Maybe he should have expected the press to accept that "invitation."

updated: Just noticed that I originally typed, "the press considered that an invitation" -- undercutting my entire argument.

*Just to be clear, I do think the demolition is the bigger issue.

Optimism Run Amok

This Saints fan is actually worried about whether it would be better to play Tampa Bay or Seattle in the first round, but he is right that Minnesota is the only contender for the second wild card spot that's playing well. I guess the second wild card team will be about as deserving as the BCS champion, maybe we should set up an alternate poll and dispute it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Aid to the Gulf Coast doesn't hurt people in the Midwest

Yesterday's Times Picayune article about the Gulf of Mexico's dead zone differs little from from a Picayune article that appeared earlier this year, or one that some of us noticed last year. Or a National Geographic from the year before that, much time do you have on your hands? The problem's been around for as long as I can remember, so I don't suppose that there was anything especially noteworthy about the latest article.

However, it reminded me that I've meant to link to a few articles in Environmental Science & Technology for a few weeks now. I never paid attention to the magazine until I saw the following on the cover:
The Mississippi: an "orphan" river

I'm a little surprised at how little attention the National Research Council report on the need for better federal oversight of the Mississippi has received.

I also want to link to two articles about ethanol but should acknowledge that I have a conflict of interest as I'm heavily invested* in other alternative energy sources. So, the read the two articles, if you're interested.

*100 shares of Fuel Cell Energy and 100 shares of Evergreen Solar -- yep, I'm a real alternative energy mogul. What can I say, my liver wouldn't let me blow a FEMA check on booze and my ego wouldn't let me spend it on prostitutes. Just kidding, the federal flood cost me more than I received in aid from FEMA. The purchase was from my scant savings, but I do believe that federal funding for alternative energy should go to almost anything other than ethanol.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Brief College Football Post

On ESPN this morning, the panelists considered Ohio State a lock to play in the BCS Championship. When discussing the two-loss teams that could make a case to be the second team, USC's injuries were given as an excuse for its two losses, LSU's weren't. USC's starting QB missed the Stanford game, well LSU's QB played hurt in the Kentucky game and at least five players were injured in that game. LSU was at least as injury-plagued as USC and its players should also be much healthier in a month, just like USC's. The panelists did seem to think that LSU's losses were triple-overtime losses was worth mentioning. They also didn't like the fact that Georgia didn't even earn the right to play in the SEC championship. Take away Tennessee's overtime win against South Carolina and Georgia's in the SEC Championship. I don't like the amount of attention that tends to get paid to teams missing conference championships -- when they miss them based on a tie-breaker.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It could have been November 30

With the expiration on Sept. 30 of an agreement among federal and local officials that provided for the collection of demolition debris across the city, residents, nonprofits and contractors have found themselves facing the tedious and expensive task of having to cart their own refuse to a landfill.

In other words, the garbage collection controversy might have just as easily erupted after the city council election and the budget hearings. Prior to the contract controversy and the city council election, full funding for the IG's office was far from a done deal. Despite this inaccurate report, Willard-Lewis supported a "fully and appropriately" funded IG's office before the election and the controversy sealed the deal. Contrary to what some people think, an IG's office with enough funding to concentrate on "prevention" may well save the city major headaches (possibly, only possibly, bankruptcy) down the road.

This brings up a point that I've made before, but I'll try to make it more politely this time. It might not be almost possible for bloggers and other residents to get the Picayune, and the local media, to cover stories that it has no interest in covering. It would probably be possible, but it would involve a tremendous effort, probably involving letters-to-the-editor or calls to talk radio. However, newspapers frequently use bloggers as an excuse to highlight stories that fear of controversy would otherwise cause them to ignore or bury in the back pages. I think that the garbage controversy belongs in the latter category -- almost everything that I posted about it was printed in the paper, just several paragraphs deep in Metro section articles. Well, the campaign contributions were only listed as part of normal campaign finance reports and much of it involved looking up old articles online or getting information from other websites, but I think that the Picayune wanted to pay more attention to the contracts but was afraid to put anything that controversial on the front page. I suspect that the "crisis" created by the breakdown of the agreement between the federal government and the city gave it the excuse that it needed. Do we really want to keep waiting for the federal government (to stop doing things)?

If you think that the purpose of blogging is merely to be able to look clever and say "I told you so," I certainly have as much right as anybody to say, "I told you so," about both the garbage contracts in particular and the Nagin adminstration more generally speaking. Before Dambala started his blog, I often felt like the lone kid saying the emperor had no clothes. While newspaper editors, op-ed writer, talk show hosts and other bloggers were having fainting spells over the mayor's tendency to stick his foot in his mouth, I was pointing out the blatant cronyism. I guess even broken clocks are right twice.

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