Monday, March 31, 2008

Dumber than Nagin -- 3/30/08 edition

Couldn't finish this post last night, because Jeremy Nagin's letter wasn't yet online, and I wasn't totally sure that Dumbass Jr. didn't address the main issue in Gordon Russell's first article.

Today's dumber than Nagin award goes to...another Nagin. So, Jeremy Nagin writes a letter in repsonse to recent articles that he thought made his(?) company look bad. Despite being allowed ten paragraphs, Jeremy Nagin's letter consist of little more than a pro hominem defense that fails to address the key issue raised in Gordon Russell's first article:
Also, Loyola Law School professor Dane Ciolino, who specializes in ethics questions, said the arrangement would run afoul of state ethics laws if Nagin's stake in Stone Age is 25 percent or more. The ownership of the company is not a matter of public record.

It does, however, inform us that:
Our company is family-owned, and I am very blessed to have parents who believe in me and have invested a significant amount of our family net worth and taken on major debt to put this company in position for growth.

Jeremy, I don't know how to explain this to you, but that makes the Home Depot deal look more, not less, suspicious. Trust me on this one, it really does.

He also tells us that the firm is five years old, but as Schroeder points out, Jeremy and his brother were in high school five years ago. So that statistic is, at best, irrelevant.

Jeremy Nagin even offers the same defense that his father, the one that prompted the first "Dumber than Nagin" post:
We also made a pledge to my father never to seek city contracts.

Apparently, the Nagins thought that if they stayed away from city contracts, they couldn't break any laws. Frankly, I assumed that Stone Age would get ridiculously expensive contracts to redo the homes of certain business owners, but I seriously doubt we'd ever find out if that kind of thing were going on. Apparently, the Nagins were too stupid to keep it that simple.

On the other hand, maybe not so stupid. As Celcus commented on the previous "Dumber than" post:
I'm not convinced it isn't more due to an utter and complete lack of shame, sense of entitlement that would make Paris Hilton blush and a level of hubris so that he really doesn't give flying flip about what anyone thinks about anything he says.

And then, other than some bad press, has he ever faced any consequence as a result of anything he did?

I'm not a lawyer, byt I can't imagine Stone Age or the mayor getting more than a small fine for an ethics law violation. If the Home Depot deal doesn't lead the press, other politicians, and the general public to call mayor transparency a liar, he'll face no real consequence.

At first, it appeared that this might be the end of the mayor's reputation for integrity. The Picayune ran a reasonably critical editorial, Stephanie Grace wrote a somewhat harsher* op-ed, and Lolis Eric Elie wrote that the Home Depot Deal couldn't pass a smell test and we could no longer take it for granted that the mayor was not corrupt.

Unfortunately, in today's column, Elie apologized for calling the mayor corrupt. The thing is, Elie didn't call the mayor corrupt. He may have insinuated it, but the apology went further than the original column. I don't know if Elie felt pressure or if he's just unnecessarily circumspect, but last week's column was not over the top.

The city's is beginning to award contacts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet, a mayor who answers all critics by proclaiming himself a "champion of transparency" breaks state laws to maintain secrecy. Even if you assumed that corruption wasn't the reason for the secrecy, there's simply no way that much secrecy can surround the spending of public money without corruption seeping in. Elie doesn't owe the mayor an apology by any stretch of the imagination. I'd say that a couple of his colleagues may owe the city an apology.

*No criticism of Grace intended. Her column pointed out how bad the deal looked even making the best possible assumptions. She made some good points, but I'm afraid the story's going to die.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Told you so

Today's Picayune:
Constitutional amendments passed by voters in 2006 could thwart New Orleans' ability to transfer blighted properties to new owners who would likely repair the sites.
Habitat for Humanity wants to buy the Burgess family's two vacant lots and fill them with tidy houses, of the same sort it has built along Clouet Street and in nearby Musicians Village. The transaction, a seemingly elegant way to cure the long history of blight, has been waylaid by a set of arcane laws Louisiana voters approved in 2006 to protect private property rights.

Moldy City 9/28/06:
If it's not obvious, the point is that property rights are not under siege. They simply aren't; no matter what some people would have you think. The fact is, John Stossel was railing against eminent domain long before Kelo. I won't go into a long-winded account of Richard Epstein and the concept of "hidden takings" (you can read an admittedly biased account from the Nation), however, a well-financed effort to exploit concerns over property rights was underway long before Kelo.
That's a reactionary liberal's conspiracy theory-based reasoning for why you should not make a knee-jerk decision to vote for amendments 5 and 6. Gambit Weekly, the BGR, and the Times Picayune all give more respectable reasons why you should vote against the amendments:

The Bureau of Governmental Research, Council for a Better Louisiana and Public Affairs Research Council have raised valid concerns about the amendment's complexity and potential for the unintended consequence of prohibiting the redevelopment of storm-ravaged South Louisiana. Critics also argue that there is no evidence of abuse of eminent domain laws in Louisiana and that the amendment is unnecessary. With the potential for thousands of blighted properties to fester in greater New Orleans post-Katrina, an amendment that could limit the expropriation and restoration or replacement of badly damaged buildings is ill advised.

Never thought I'd say this, but Gambit, the Picayune and the BGR are all right on this issue.

Unfortunately, the link to a Nation article in the 2006 post no longer works. Those amendments could prove to be an even bigger problem for wetlands restoration efforts.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fortier Fest

Fortier Park Festival March 29, 2008

Silent auction
DJ (before Wolfman)

Food (including Terranova's sausage)


Live music - Walter "Wolfman" Washington

4 pm

Fortier Park Festival

Saturday, March 29th

Fortier Park is the triangle formed by the Grand Route St. John, Esplanade and Mystery St (across from the old Whole Foods site), I found a nice little video online last night but can't find it now. The signs in the neighborhood say 4:30 instead of 4, BTW. Since the signs were up in time for the Crescent City Classic and it's a tiny park, I'm afraid it might get too crowded for my taste. Still, I'll check it out.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mark Twain, or somebody, was right

original version
Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid corrupt than to open it and remove all doubt appear stupid (or belligerent).

Mark Twain? New Orleans media and bloggers

new version
Better About the same to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid corrupt than to open it and remove all doubt seem insensitive.

New Orleans blogs and the people who comment on them

First, let me say that I'm not trying to dictate what issues are and are not important. Bloggers have the right to discuss whatever interests them,but, as I'll explain, op-ed writers are a different matter. I happen to agree with E and Maitri about much of their criticism of the proposed trailer deadline -- a June 1 deadline is far too soon and squatting and illegal renting are issues that should be dealt with separately. But, looking at local blogs and reading the comments, there seems to be more outrage over Head's choice of words than her proposed ordinance.

Secondly, I know that questionable deals involving Nagin are old news, at least to bloggers, but so are Nagin's stupid statements. Nagin's stupid statements still seem to elicit more response than his refusal to come clean about his business dealings. This actually has more to with the local press than local bloggers, but I will note that there does already seem to be almost as many posts about Head's comments one day after a newspaper article as about Nagin's out of character silence five days after a newspaper story . I was glad to see the Picayune run an editorial, and Stephanie Grace write a column about the Stone Age/Home Depot deal, but gutless Gill has been silent on the subject. Gill is happy to write about the mayor's misstatements and temper tantrums, but he still refuses to question the mayor's integrity. Even when he writes about the safe subject of the mayor's image problems, Gill pulls his punches. His column about last year's speech in Washington comes to mind. Hard to believe that was the best Gill could up with; how could Gill have missed the fact that the mayor decried a government conspiracy to rid New Orleans of poor black residents and urged his listeners to take advantage of the opportunity in the same speech? Nobody else seemed to notice either, I really should have spelled it out; I didn't bother to spell it out.

Third, I'll repeat what I said at YRHT:
I don't know how serious the ethics law violation is; things like that usually only get a fine. But it's certainly worth keeping up the pressure. I've only been able to find a few bloggers that have even mentioned it. Come on, even if you've got nothing to add, the more people discuss it on the radio or on blogs, the less timid the press will be out pushing it. At least, I assume that the T/P, Gambit and TV stations look for cover when they know they're going to hear the bias charge.

Finally, I'll point out that the local blogosphere's new Leona Helmsley seems to have cared more about poor Central City residents than the mayor:
Head said Nagin also played a role in scrapping a "community benefits agreement" that Head initially supported but that Home Depot opposed. The document would have required the retailer to make specific commitments to hire members of the surrounding community and pay them at a certain scale, among other pledges.

Head said "the administration pressured me to forgo negotiations" on that deal because Home Depot had pronounced it a "deal killer."
(Stone Age/Home Depot link)

Of course, she doesn't seem to have put much of a fight, but what's it say about the mayor?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dumber than Nagin

Since I'm beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, Adrastos has been right, and I've been wrong, on just one topic of occasional disagreement, I've decided to introduce a new series to the blog -- Dumber than Nagin.

I hate to give the inaugural "Dumber than Nagin" award to somebody who's still in high school, but today's award goes to 4.0 student Kenneth Page of Columbia, S.C. I'm not saying that Page did anything wrong, he may really not like banks, but, when you post a picture like this on your MySpace (or Facebook) page, people will ask questions about the recent upswing in Clemson's recruiting. I'm sure it was all a joke on Page's part. I'm even more certain that the investigations that are sure to come will reveal nothing about any of Page's fellow recruits.

Back to Nagin, I've never said that he was intelligent, just that he possessed the minimal intelligence level necessary to take advantage of people and situations; Adrastos has taken a somewhat dimmer view of the mayor's cognitive capabilities. I suppose my position is that one needn't be intelligent to be shrewd or cunning. Also, just as it's become fashionable to talk of types of intelligence, I've come to believe in types of stupidity -- the fact has somebody has a great talent for sticking his foot in his mouth doesn't make it a safe bet that he'll trip over his own two feet.

A quote from yesterday's Picayune makes me wonder if the mayor tripped over his own two feet:
"It's unfortunate that we have to continue to get to this point where minor things are being blown out of proportion," he said. "My sons have followed every rule. I told them going into the business that they couldn't do any city contracts or anything close to a city contract, and the store in question is not one of the stores they're doing business with. So, you know, it's just typical, unfortunately, of what I have to go through."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Waiting for answers from McCain's internet enablers

Liberals and conservatives alike have complained about the "free ride" or "free pass" that John McCain has received from the media on flip-flops and untruthful statements. If you're wondering what conservatives I'm talking about, The National Review Online complained about McCain's Free Pass On Flip-Flops on January 1 -- the earliest entry among the first ten google hits for either "mccain free pass" or "mccain free ride". However, a little more searching reveals a 2001 NRO piece that begins:
For too long, McCain has been given a free pass by the media

Media Matters criticisms of the media's treatment would be much more effective with a few more reminders that conservatives were voicing the same complaint until a few weeks ago.

However, there's one way in which McCain's getting as much of a free ride from the SCLI (so-called liberal internet) as from the SCLM. No matter who started the negative campaigning between Clinton and Obama (Obama fans have never explained the discovery that "fairy tale" was a racist term to my satisfaction), there's no reason to assume that the McCain campaign, or the RNC, or conservative 527's aren't putting out dirt of their own.

So what's up with liberal bloggers like Ezra Klein or Atrios? On March 14, Klein wrote:
The sense around town seems to be that the odd emergence of this old video of Wright was part of a Clinton oppo dump, and that's likely correct.

Several readers, me among them*, made comments calling upon Klein to explain why he blamed Clinton or retract his statement. Two weeks later, he still hasn't explained that statement.

Last night, Atrios gave some half-assed "deep thought" (I assume that some kind of hip, cool internet irony was intended by Atrios' title) while linking to this Marc Ambinder post:
The Clinton campaign is distributing an article in the American Spectator (!) about Obama foreign policy adviser Merrill McPeak and his penchant for.. well, the article accuses him of being an anti-Semite and a drunk.

Again, several readers, myself included, left comments, on both posts, demanding an explanation for the assumption that Clinton was behind the attacks. Again no response.

It's a serious question, why would anybody assume that no Republican groups are putting out negative material? So what's the plan, spend the next two months blaming the Clinton campaign for anything negative about McCain that appears in the press or any anonymous phone call or flyer that attacks McCain? I'd almost love to be a paid Republican campaign strategist right now. It won't be the daddy party and the mommy party, it will be the daddy party and the cry-baby party.

The above is directed less at the Obama campaign (and Clinton campaign) than at bloggers like Ezra Klein, Marc Ambinder and Atrios. So if any of you dipshits are reading this, back up your statements or withdraw them.

Update: Forgot to mention what prompted to write about the presidential election instead of Stone Age and other local matters. I was stupid enough to turn on CNN at bedtime:
According to a new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, Hillary Clinton's positive rating has fallen to 37 percent, the lowest that poll has recorded since her early days in the Senate in 2001, and her negatives a hefty 48 percent. Senator Obama's numbers have also gotten worse, but by not nearly as much.

CNN's Bill Schneider joins us from Washington to walk us through the data -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, voters in general, and Democrats in particular, seem to be blaming Senator Clinton for the negative tone of the campaign. Obama, as you indicated, has much more positive ratings. His ratings have not changed very much.

One in five Obama supporters say that they will vote for McCain if Clinton is the Democratic nominee. That's a lot of people. But what's even more -- there you are -- 28 percent say they would vote for McCain. But now look what happens if Obama's the nominee. What happens -- what would Clinton supporters do?

Well, this is -- no, this is Obama supporters. Nineteen percent would vote for McCain if Clinton is the nominee. Twenty-eight percent of Obama supporters say they would vote for McCain if Clinton is the nominee.

Schneider flubbed the report, and I have doubts about the poll numbers, but it was entirely predictable.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

La Cité, c'est Nagin

That should be, "the ($148,857) city attorney is Nagin's personal attorney," but I have no idea how to write that in French; and it wouldn't sound like Louis XIV, anyway.

I will remind readers that, last April, I expressed the opinion that people were missing the truly offensive passage in a Nagin speech:
We have
programs where you can buy adjudicated
and blighted properties for
half their appraised value and you
hire your own appraiser.
I’ve asked the city attorney if I can
participate in this program
she’s keeps saying no Mr. Mayor.

What was he getting at with the part about hiring your own appraiser? And why the F*** did he run for re-election if he's mainly interested in the business opportunities that reconstruction offers? The second question was intended to be rhetorical, but the first question is entirely serious
I thought that I had said something about him using the city attorney as his personal attorney, but, apparently, I didn't.

No matter; from a Gordon Russell article about a deal between Home Depot and Stone Age LLC. in today's Picayune:
In April 2007, when Stone Age registered as a home-improvement business with the state Licensing Board for Contractors, Jeremy Nagin was listed as president of the firm. Jarin Nagin and the mayor were listed as vice presidents.

Seletha Nagin signed as a witness, and the document was notarized by City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields.

Moses-Fields probably notarized the document on her own time, just as she probably answered Nagin's questions on her own time.

Read the whole article and form your own opinion on the ethical implications of the deal. On the one hand. Russell points out that Stacy Head recommended that Home Depot be allowed to purchase city property for a price lower than its appraised value. However,
Head said Nagin also played a role in scrapping a "community benefits agreement" that Head initially supported but that Home Depot opposed. The document would have required the retailer to make specific commitments to hire members of the surrounding community and pay them at a certain scale, among other pledges.

Head said "the administration pressured me to forgo negotiations" on that deal because Home Depot had pronounced it a "deal killer."

Apparently, the mayor doesn't care whether businesses hire local workers, he just doesn't want them to hire Mexicans.

On the question of ownership, I'll point out that Seletha Nagin does not appear anywhere on the company's corporate filing with the state.

I'll close with a suggestion for the morning news anchors at WVUE, ask the mayor about something that he said last year:
Stone Age LLC was incorporated in January 2005, but the degree to which the mayor and his sons are involved in the enterprise is a mystery.

Asked for comment on the venture, Nagin replied by e-mail Friday that the questions were "out of bounds."

He said he would have no comment "on my personal investments that are totally outside of any city responsibilities."

But try not to get cold cocked.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Billboard Ben's letter

I'll limit myself to comments on a couple of points in the Ben Edward's letter to the editor that I mentioned in the last post.
One of the most outstanding programs in the state for businesses owned by women and the disadvantaged.

I will say this for the good pastor, I couldn't find MCCI on either of the S&WB's DBE lists -- the board has one for construction and one for Goods & Services/Professional Services. However, Exceptional Temporaries, which figured prominently in this Gambit Weekly article, appears on both -- under its new name of ETI. Both firms figure in this T/P article.

I'd also point out that slightly over half of the firms on the construction list are located outside of New Orleans; a cursory glance showed that the figure would be much lower for the other list, probably only about a quarter. I approve of programs to encourage businesses owned by minorities and women, even if it sometimes means disregarding low bid requirements. We might debate to what degree the benefits of promoting disadvantaged businesses outweighs the public's right to the best price, but the federal government also has such programs. However, there would be widespread outrage if the federal government extended participation in those programs to include companies headquarter in other countries. So how does our cash-strapped city justify giving preferential treatment, including disregarding low-bid requirements, to companies located outside of the city? It's not a rhetorical question.
The correct decision not to privatize the board's operations, yielding savings and avoiding a management and staffing catastrophe post-Katrina.

Nobody's suggesting a reorganization that would put the S&WB directly under the mayor's control. Anyway, BB has a mixed record on privatization. He did vote against it five years ago, but as the Gambit article indicates, he was originally a privatization advocate. By the time privatization attempts were finally abandoned, public opinion had turned soundly against it. But I guess if we didn't have people like Billboard Ben to protect us, we wouldn't have listened to groups like The Urban Conservancy or the BGR:
BGR has maintained that the S&WB should pursue privatization
only if the procurement process and contract are designed to
maximize cost reductions and other benefits to the public.
Unfortunately, the S&WB’s process and proposed contract still
suffer from serious flaws that will prevent the ratepayers of
New Orleans from reaping the maximum benefits of
privatization. Accordingly, BGR opposes the proposed
privatization in its current form and will remain opposed to it
until the many serious problems with the process and contract
are addressed.

Or learned anything from Atlanta's widely publicized fiasco. Thank you for saving us, BB.
As a wise man once said, if it isn't broke, don't fix it.

Despite the efforts of board members to blame all of the systems problems on Katrina, that won't hold water:
The water system, even before Hurricane Katrina, was suffering from years of deferred maintenance and needed hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs. The cost to replace the pipe network, much of which is almost 100 years old, has been estimated at $3.2 billion.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Interesting Coincidence

Three days after a front page article about the vast sums the city hopes to spend rebuilding the library, the Picayune publishes a letter from Billboard Ben Edwards.

I apologize for doing this the lazy way, but it's late and I have a busy weekend. So, to explain why it's an interesting coincidence, I'll just post some recent comments from the yellow blog:
"S & J Consulting, LLC. is exploring the development of the city square bounded by Poydras Street, Loyola Avenue,Perdido Street and Rampart Street in the City of New Orleans. It is anticipated that S & J Consulting, LLC. will participate as a development partner with other developers to be determined to acquire all parcels located within the square and develop said parcels."

That's from the infamous counter letter, it's also right in the middle of the proposed Jazz Park area. A jazz musician is too involved in too many big money deals for my taste. Remember, the mayor put him in charge of the library board just in time for rebuilding. No, I don't think Mayfield's corrupt, but if I were featherbedding the library system's rebuilding, I'd rather bet on a jazz musician acting as a figurehead than a law professor. Just in case he got any ideas about paying attention to the rebuilding contracts, a really clever mayor might spend $400,000 of city money to keep him traveling.

Somebody sent me a copy of that counter letter, but as a pdf attachment to an email. Is there an easy way to post it? I could print it and scan it I guess, if I had a scanner.
bayoustjohndavid | Homepage | 03.05.08 - 9:47 pm | #

"featherbedding the library system's rebuilding..."

Bwa-ha-ha! Bwa-ha-ha! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!

Seriously, though, we are going to have to fight for every penny we need. No one is going to be piggybacking on us.

If you look back at the original plans for the Jazz Park, you'll see there was NO mention of rebuilding or renovating the Main Library, right on the other side of Duncan Plaza.
Kirsten | Homepage | 03.06.08 - 2:57 pm | #

That's exactly right. In fact, the plan quite conspicuously excluded the library building making the drawing resemble a pie with a piece cut out. (Don't know if that was an "exploding pie" or not)
jeffrey | 03.06.08 - 3:04 pm | #

laugh all you, but he leaves Billboard Ben at the S&WB even though his term has expired. He reappoints David White to the aviation board, those boards traditionally control tons of patronage. Traditionally, the library board hasn't, so nobody expected (to have any reason to suspect) anything other than bad manners and ingratitude (were involved) when Nagin decided the library board needed "refreshing." However, he decided it needed to be refreshed just in time for:

"That was an early guess," Biava said, "based on FEMA funding 90 percent. But FEMA's estimates of the damage vary drastically from the city's estimate, so it's hard to say. The city estimated $21 million in damages, and FEMA's estimate was $7 million. If that is the case, we have a much bigger goal if we are going to build better. How much is better going to cost?"

In his presentation to the City Council last week, Mayfield estimated a $70 million figure.

"It's a moving target number," Mitchell said, citing "a possible $50 million, $60 million or $70 million rebuild. We won't know until we get the master plan under control. . . . I think most of us are familiar with how much the price of construction has gone up, so we can't put a definite number on it."

Maybe I'm too cynical, but I haven't seen Nagin act on his desire to refresh the municipal boards anywhere else.
bayoustjohndavid | Homepage | 03.06.08 - 4:33 pm | #

Also, I know that if more people asked the questions that I've asked, it would look like Mayfield's integrity was being questioned. I certainly wouldn't want that, but every time, every single time, the mayor's words contradict his actions or his words contradict each other, he should be called on it. That's especially true where money is involved, and there will be big contracts awarded in the rebuilding of the library system.

Plus, nobody wants to question the integrity of a popular entertainer, but that shouldn't deter people from asking questions about projects that he's lent his name to. I'm afraid it might cause people to be more cautious in their questioning that they might otherwise be.
bayoustjohndavid | Homepage | 03.06.08 - 10:05 pm | #

As Tuesday's paper indicated a lot more than $70M involved, the mayor should be pressed on the inconsistency between word and action. Again, it's not a matter of questioning Mayfield's integrity. Who would be more likely to notice any irregularities in contracting practices, a law professor or a musician who travels a lot? Also, the Nagin administration did spend $400,000 to increase his travel schedule.

Of course, the inconsistency between the mayor's words and actions about municipal boards wouldn't be a matter of such concern if it weren't for another inconsistency. The mayor claims to be a champion of transparency, but as the city's daily and at least two of its three of it weekly newspapers have pointed out, the Nagin administration has been characterized by anything but transparency.

More on Billboard Ben's letter later, but you do have to admire the chutzpah of the closing line:
As a wise man once said, if it isn't broke, don't fix it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Calm down kids.

3/20/08 Expanded: new rant at the end.

No need to be so hard on Gambit, the city still has that needed alternative.

FWIW, I just wanted to commit myself to a return to local matters. Also, I don't want to do a hatchet piece, but I'm inclined to agree with Nathan Chapman:
“I’m not an attorney so I can’t say what’s legally a conflict of interest or not,” Chapman said. “But I think if you took any person on the street and showed them the properties that Sean owns and how immediately adjacent to it there’s major development proposed under Reinventing the Crescent, I just think 100 people out of 100 would have a problem with that. So it just puts a cloud over the whole process.”

I might not go that far, but I will say that we've paid too little attention to the entire process. I'll return to the subject in another post.

As well as books

In another matter, I'll provide the snark that one of my colleagues probably couldn't. I guess we all agree that main purpose of a public library system is to promote tourism:
Later projects will include libraries with jazz and culinary themes. These buildings, which will be designed for music and cooking demonstrations as well as books, are intended "to aggressively and adamantly depict what New Orleans is about," said Mayfield, a jazz trumpeter.

The article also mentions what seems to be a new position. I really could be wrong on this one, but I don't recall NOPL having a chief operating officer before Katrina. That would be typical of city government, inflating titles at the top while cutting staff at the bottom. Since they've obviously brought in consultants and increased the city librarian's salary, the obvious justification (rebuilding) would be somewhat dubious.

Addition: The entire NOPL report is insane:
Plans for the city's library system are spelled out in "Speaking Volumes for the Future," which was prepared by Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle Ltd., library architects and interior designers, along with Library Planning Associates Inc. and E. Eean McNaughton Architects.
Not all the libraries will survive. The heavily damaged Norman Mayer branch in Gentilly and the Nora Navra branch on St. Bernard Avenue should be replaced, the report recommends, and the Nix branch on South Carrollton will be closed in 2016 -- but not demolished -- because of the difficulty of renovating the brick building to meet current library standards.

The Milton Latter and Rosa Keller branches, which were established in buildings that had been homes, will be phased out because they "don't work as libraries," Mayfield said.

But, he said, the library system will hold on to them as sites for meetings, cultural events and parties.

They must chant "coming back bigger and better" every morning and eat exploding pie for lunch every day. I have to wonder how much they pay these consultants to look at spread sheets, or do whatever it is that consultants do, without actually ever talking to residents and library patrons -- closing down Latter will never fly. More importantly, even if the $650M fund-raising goal can be reached,
The $650 million goal for all these initiatives isn't out of reach, said Mayfield, adding that donations have been received from such sources as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation and the Pritzker Foundation.

at some point it becomes money that won't be there for other projects. Those are the same names that I've heard in association with the proposed jazz park, City Park and school initiatives.

Of course, being the cycnic that I am, I suspect that the idea is to award the contracts now and let the next mayor worry about finding the money to finish the projects.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


John McCain was in Iraq on Monday. But his senior policy adviser, Doug Holtz-Eakin, released a statement:

Senator McCain has complete confidence in Chairman Bernanke and the actions of the Federal Reserve, and is committed to ensuring the economy continues to grow -- because no government program or policy is a substitute for a good job. John McCain understands the federal government's responsibility to ensure the stability of the US financial system, and is equally committed to protecting the pocketbooks of hardworking American families.

(h/t Suburban Guerilla)

Federal Open Market Committee (on Tuesday):
Recent information indicates that the outlook for economic activity has weakened further. Growth in consumer spending has slowed and labor markets have softened. Financial markets remain under considerable stress, and the tightening of credit conditions and the deepening of the housing contraction are likely to weigh on economic growth over the next few quarters.

Inflation has been elevated, and some indicators of inflation expectations have risen. The Committee expects inflation to moderate in coming quarters, reflecting a projected leveling-out of energy and other commodity prices and an easing of pressures on resource utilization. Still, uncertainty about the inflation outlook has increased. It will be necessary to continue to monitor inflation developments carefully.
(H/T The Big Picture)

And for all this, nature is never spent;

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is fast losing the few shreds of credibility it has left. The Bush administration has always shown more zeal in protecting business interests than the environment. But the agency's current administrator, Stephen Johnson, a veteran EPA toxicologist who was promoted to the top slot in 2005, has done so with reckless disregard for law, science or the agency's own rules — or, it seems, the anguished protests of his own subordinates.

Ozone Rules Weakened at Bush's Behest

The Environmental Protection Agency weakened one part of its new limits on smog-forming ozone after an unusual last-minute intervention by President Bush, according to documents released by the EPA.

EPA officials initially tried to set a lower seasonal limit on ozone to protect wildlife, parks and farmland, as required under the law. While their proposal was less restrictive than what the EPA's scientific advisers had proposed, Bush overruled EPA officials and on Tuesday ordered the agency to increase the limit, according to the documents.

"It is unprecedented and an unlawful act of political interference for the president personally to override a decision that the Clean Air Act leaves exclusively to EPA's expert scientific judgment," said John Walke, clean-air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The president's order prompted a scramble by administration officials to rewrite the regulations to avoid a conflict with past EPA statements on the harm caused by ozone.

Solicitor General Paul D. Clement warned administration officials late Tuesday night that the rules contradicted the EPA's past submissions to the Supreme Court, according to sources familiar with the conversation. As a consequence, administration lawyers hustled to craft new legal justifications for the weakened standard.

The big surprise was Mr. Johnson’s proposal to rewrite the Clean Air Act to allow regulators to take costs into account when setting air quality standards. Since this would permanently devalue the role of science while strengthening the hand of industry, the proposal has no chance of success in a Democratic Congress.


Mr. Johnson’s proposal would cut to the very heart of the Clean Air Act. As written in 1970, the act imposes one overriding obligation on the E.P.A. administrator: to establish air quality standards “requisite to protect the public health” with “an adequate margin of safety.” Economic considerations — costs and benefits — can be taken into account in figuring out a reasonable timetable for achieving the standards. But only science can shape the standards themselves.

I couldn't find the particular post, but in a recent exchange at Jeffrey's, I wondered how anybody could continue to compare the Democrats and Republicans to Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Well?

Monday, March 17, 2008

I Watch The McLaughlin Group

And if you watch Washington Week in Review (or unInformed Sources), I laugh at your snide thoughts. Few shows of that sort are particularly informative, at least McLaughlin provides a reasonably entertaining look into the current Washington zeitgeist. After watching last Friday's show, all I can say is, I told you so:
MS. CROWLEY: But the Ferraro blowup points to something else, which is that it is also true that Barack Obama has been protected from the criticism that would normally come at a presidential candidate --

MR. PAGE: This is protection?

MS. CROWLEY: -- because people are afraid of being attacked the way Geraldine Ferraro was attacked.

MR. PAGE: I think that's overblown. I think that is overblown.

MR. BUCHANAN: And let me add to that, John.

MR. PAGE: That's what I call -- that's not playing white guilt. That's playing white rage, because a lot of angry whites out there say, "Well, I can't even talk straight about race without being beat up."


MR. BUCHANAN: What's coming, John, is blow-back. And I'll tell you what the blow-back --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Blow-back against --

MR. BUCHANAN: Against Barack Obama for this.

I watch the show fairly regularly, and that's the first time that I can recall Monica Crowley directing her fire at Obama. Until now, she had used her speaking time to attack Clinton, although she did label those "normal criticisms" directed at Obama "ruthless" rather than "racist." Also, I don't think that Clarence Page has any idea what percentage of white Americans would say that they've been unfairly accused of racism at some point in their lives. I wouldn't speculate on either the percentage that would say that, or the percentage who would be correct. The second point is irrelevant as this an election, not a classroom discussion. Unfortunately, dismissing such people as "angry whites" is a sure fire way to ratchet up the angry white vote. There's no excuse for some of Ferraro's statements, although it's absurd to assert that she used an interview with a backwater newspaper as a forum to blow a "dog-whistle." However, we've also heard racist in connection to the term "fairy tale," Obama's admitted drug use and a non-existent job offer*. If Obama gets the nomination, the really racist innuendos will start to kick in around Labor Day, but the cry of racism will have been worked to death before the Democratic Convention -- Buchanan will see his "blow-back."

If you ask me, Will Bunch and Keith Olbermann might as well be on the RNC payroll.

BTW, there is another reason why I watch McLaughlin; every so often, McLaughlin will say something that makes me imagine the possibly tortured conscience of a former priest turned Republican Party insider. It doesn't happen often, but you have to wonder when you hear things like:
Most underrated: Corruption in America. We've seen it on the corporate level, Enron, and on the political level, Abramoff. But this is the tip of the iceberg. Sadly, corruption in America is ingrained in almost every aspect of our lives.

Unfortunately, the link no longer works**; the quote was from a late December airing.

*On that point, I can only ask, are you f***ing kidding me? To remove race and gender from the equation, imagine a nomination contest between Dodd and Edwards. If one responded to a question about a combined ticket by saying that he'd love to have the as his running mate, and the other responded that it was too early to discuss the matter, which do you think would get the better media reaction?

**new link.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A: Because WDSU airs the Today Show in the morning

Q: Why did Nagin move his twice-monthly morning interviews from WWL to WVUE?

Also in this morning's "New Orleans Politics" column, Frank Donze reverts to taking dictation:
The messages, in which high-ranking Nagin aides referred to Butler as "Kimbo" and other, more vulgar names, surfaced around the same time Nagin pressured her to resign in early 2003. (It later emerged that "Kimbo" was a misspelling of "KimBu," a contraction of her name.)

I've said it before, sometimes Donze does excellent reporting, sometimes he just types out the party line. I sincerely hope that I don't need to explain what was wrong with that last item.

I assume that I won't need to elaborate on this:
"I came into this job hoping to improve the city and diversify the economy and ride off into the sunset," Nagin said during a meeting with the newspaper's staff.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Forgot Something

The Picayune ran an editorial on ethanol and the dead zone today:
The link between the dead zone and the ethanol boom has been shown in several studies, including a report published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That study says expanding corn-based ethanol production will make it "practically impossible" to reduce nitrogen flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. The ethanol goal set by Congress could increase nitrogren runoff into the Gulf by 10 percent to 18 percent, the researchers said.

If you'd like some more information on the subject, this article is a good start.

Anyway, I realized that I had forgotten to update my Dan Abrams post with the missing quotes:
And contrary to Clinton‘s claims that the bill retarded the development of clean, renewable energy, the spokesperson for the Renewable Fuels Association said, “It obviously wasn‘t a step backward. It created a meaningful market for renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. All right. So, bottom line here, Laura, did the Clinton camp hope that they were just going to get away with punch and no one‘s going to call them on it?
Well, the problem is, it‘s not a sound biting. I mean it‘s only on this show we go through the fact checking that you get to actually say, “All right. You know what? I know the energy bill isn‘t going to be the big issue.” But you know what? We‘re going to fact check her...

Dan needs to fact checking his fact checking. I hate to be too hard on him because Abrams at least tries to be impartial, but he only does a one hour show. If he's going to cite a statement from a group that he's probably never heard of, he should at least look the group up. I'm also astounded that somebody who works in the news business can't spot astroturf a mile off. If the name of a group practically screams "good guys for good things" and you've never heard of the group before and the group has a very focused set of policy recommendations (e.g. ethanol and biodiesel as opposed to a wider variety of alternative fuels), a little googling might be in order.

In this case, you'd find that the RFA's leadership contains executives from both ADM and VeraSun. I don't think that The Renewable Fuels Association sounds enough like a grass roots organization to qualify as "astroturf," but the same warning signs were obvious.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Déjà vu

Hillary Clinton is starting to remind me of Kathleen Blanco. In both cases I find myself compelled to defend somebody, not because I approved of the job performance of the one or the campaign of the other, but because both have been the subjects of overstated or dishonest attacks that I take exception to Of course, we'd have been much better off with a Governor Clinton than a Governor Blanco.

I'd call it a "fairy tale"

Worse yet, after what President Clinton said during the South Carolina primary, comparing the Obama and Jesse Jackson campaigns, a disturbing but only border line remark, after what some in the black community have perceived as a racial undertone to the 3:00 a.m. ad, a disturbing but only borderline interpretation, and after the moments hesitation in her own answer on “60 Minutes” about Obama‘s religion, a disturbing but only borderline vagueness—
Keith Olbermann

Less than one second. That's how long it took Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to answer, "Of course not," to Steve Kroft's question on 60 Minutes about whether she thought Sen. Barack Obama was a Muslim.
Media Matters

More on this tomorrow, and then a return to local matters -- I promise. However, I've noticed that the boys at MSNBC have taken to peddling the tale that Bill Clinton introduced race into election in South Carolina. First off, I'd argue that it was a knee-jerk reaction, that may or may not have been correct, to label Bill Clinton's statement about Jesse Jackson "race-baiting." However, it's selective amnesia to pretend that race was introduced into the election at that point. Had Obama supporters not already demonstrated an unscrupulous eagerness to accuse the Clinton campaign of race-baiting, the reaction to Bill Clinton's South Carolina statements wouldn't have been so predictable.

Though I think the last link (from the New Republic) overstates the case, I've got a feeling that it gives a glimpse of what we'll see in a viral email if Obama gets the nomination:
Meanwhile, the press generally ignored a report, confirmed by all involved, that Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., had warned one of Clinton's unshakable black supporters, Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, that he'd better line up behind Obama. Jackson, once again playing the role of the Obama campaign's "race man" enforcer, posed a leading question: "Do you want to go down in history as the one to prevent a black from winning the White House?" Black congressmen were threatened to fall or line or face primary challenges. "So you wake up without the carpet under your feet. You might find some young primary challenger placing you in a difficult position," Jackson said.

Actually, the TNR writer makes the matter sound far worse than the AP report cited, but I'd rather see it discussed now than in September.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How stupid can you get?

Is Orlando Patterson trying to elect John McCain? Not only is the column inane on its own merits, it's not going to get Obama any more votes.

Come on Dan, ethanol? The Renewable Fuels Association?

I should wait until the transcript's available but I just found myself screaming, "I'll blow you Dan, if this google search doesn't turn out exactly how I expect," at the TV just now. Dan Abrams just ruled Clinton's criticism of Obama's support of the 2005 energy bill a cheapshot because the Renewable Fuels Association supported the bill. Specifically, the group praised the bill for including funding for renewable fuels like biodiesel and ethanol. So I googled The Renewable Fuels Association, no representatives from environmental groups or anybody with any interest in solar power or wind energy -- just ethanol and biodiesel. Well, somebody from ADM is part of the leadership.

The above isn't a criticism of Obama, but of Abrams. When the transcript's available, I'll supply the part where Abrams compliments himself for having the only show that bothers to fact check that sort of thing.

Updated here.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Liberals on Bumiller

The conservative reaction to the McCain/Bumiller incident has been predictable:
Maybe McCain seems angry because he can’t stand sniveling reporters who spend their life trying to spin bullshit propaganda out of thin air in support of their own petty political agendas.

If Bumiller does have some kind of liberal agenda, it's news to most liberals.

The Daily Howler:
In the early 1960s, the sort of silly caddy journalism was performed for the handsome young JFK. Today, Bumiller caddies for Bush.

The Rude Pundit:
Take, for instance, this from Elisabeth "Oh, Sweet Jesus, If I Can't Blow Him In Person, I'll Do It In Print" Bumiller's New York Times article about Bush's feckless visit to Argentina: "[T]he always-on-time, early-rising Mr. Bush found himself so much at the mercy of Argentina's late, leisurely scheduling that on Friday he sat down to a dinner with Western Hemisphere leaders at 10:15 p.m., already past his bedtime, and did not get back to his hotel room until nearly 12:40 a.m.

The Tattered Coat:
It never fails: I notice a headline in the New York Times that seems strikingly pro-Bush, one that appears to accept at face-value whatever dreck Karl Rove has decreed will be fed to the news media. The article that follows presents Bush, and those around him, in the best-possible light. It treats him as a celebrity, and reports, in the kind of breathless asides that usually appear in gossip columns, King George’s slightest whims and preferences.

After a while, I have begun to notice something–all of these articles have one line in common:

by Elisabeth Bumiller

So, don't believe the BS about Bumiller being a liberal New York Times reporter out to get McCain. Also, don't jump to the conclusion that the press love affair is over. It might be, but I doubt it.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Clowning Keith Olbermann

Keith Olbermann began Wednesday's Countdown by criticizing Clinton:
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: And after negative campaigning earned her that reprieve, itself a subset of the 12 weeks until the caucus in Puerto Rico, how many of that dozen will be dirty?

He continued with much more Clinton bashing, including more crying about how terribly negative the "phone call" commercial was (it was pretty tame), but ended by calling O'Reilly the "worst person in the world" for saying that MSNBC has been biased in favor of Obama.

I still, barely still, prefer Obama to Clinton, but Olbermann should just start dressing like Emmett Kelly or something.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Shoot 'em all

With the exception of Dan Abrams, the conduct of every "analyst" at MSNBC has been appalling this primary season. When I'm in a contrary, "the media can't tell me who to vote for" mood, the conduct of MSNBC is almost enough to turn me into a Clinton supporter. Chris Matthews just informed us that it was Hillary Clinton who twisted the meaning of John Kerry's joke about getting stuck in Iraq into an insult of the troops, referring to it as a Nixonian tactic to force Kerry out of the race. Howard Fineman concurred, adding that her "Sixty Minutes" interview was "Machiavellian*." And I've lost all respect for Keith Olbermann, but I'll finish later.

Finished version:

Frankly, Keith Olbermann often makes me cringe when he talks about conservatives. When I hear somebody go out of his way to be judgmental, I don't think, "Wow, listen to him speak truth to power. He really has the courage of his convictions," even if I agree with most of he says. But in this election, he's played by the Clinton rules every bit as much as any of MSNBC colleagues. He's not the warped misogynist that Chris Matthews is, but he's equally unfair in his criticisms of "the Clintons" -- a pet phrase of both Olbermann and Matthews.

I won't bother searching MSNBC transcripts for examples, instead, I'll challenge anybody to explain the January 29th edition of Countdown. If anyone can justify Olbermann's criticism of Bill Clinton for mentioning Jesse Jackson instead of John Edwards, I'll plead guilty to being the judgmental one.

First off, it was just plain stupid for Bill Clinton to downplay the importance of South Carolina by saying that Jesse Jackson won it twice. It's understandable that one's initial reaction would be that Clinton was trying to equate Jackson and Obama. Even if you knew that Jesse Jackson and John Edwards were the only two Democrats to win the South Carolina primary without winning the nomination, you could argue that Clinton was engaging in race baiting rather than spin. However, only a fool or a knave, would suggest that Clinton should have downplayed the significance of South Carolina by reminding voters that even John Edwards carried South Carolina. At least, I've never heard anybody suggest that the best way to win elections is to alienate supporters of the third place finisher. But how did Olbermann begin the Jan. 29th Countdown?
If that wasn't marginalizing Senator Obama or there wasn't a racial undertone to it, why did Mr. Clinton invoke Jesse Jackson, instead of another, perhaps more obvious choice?

I was going to ask, rhetorically, if anybody really believes that the Cornell-educated Olbermann is a fool, but maybe he is. After making it clear, on Jan. 29th, that he thought it totally out-of-bounds for Bill Clinton to mention Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama in the same conservation, who does Olbermann bring on to discuss Obama on Feb. 25th? Jesse Jackson.

I no longer respect Keith Olbermann.

Also of note:
More than any other maneuver, this one has brought Clinton into disrepute with important portions of the Democratic Party. A review of what actually happened shows that the charges that the Clintons played the "race card" were not simply false; they were deliberately manufactured by the Obama camp and trumpeted by a credulous and/or compliant press corps in order to strip away her once formidable majority among black voters and to outrage affluent, college-educated white liberals as well as college students. The Clinton campaign, in fact, has not racialized the campaign, and never had any reason to do so. Rather the Obama campaign and its supporters, well-prepared to play the "race-baiter card" before the primaries began, launched it with a vengeance when Obama ran into dire straits after his losses in New Hampshire and Nevada--and thereby created a campaign myth that has turned into an incontrovertible truth among political pundits, reporters, and various Obama supporters. This development is the latest sad commentary on the malign power of the press, hyping its own favorites and tearing down those it dislikes, to create pseudo-scandals of the sort that hounded Al Gore during the 2000 campaign. It is also a commentary on how race can make American politics go haywire. Above all, it is a commentary on the cutthroat, fraudulent politics that lie at the foundation of Obama's supposedly uplifting campaign.

I agree with the sentence that I've put in bold, but question the italicized sentence. Though the quoted passage sounds similar to some thoughts that I've expressed recently, I don't believe that Obama manipulated the press corps -- the "Clinton rules" were in effect long before this election began. However, it is interesting that the TNR piece quoted above was published on the same day as this YRHT post. I think Oyster was a little too sanguine.

*My personal view, hardly mine alone, is that the transcript reads that way, but the tape doesn't play that way.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

I'm really sick of this shit

Fox 8 just reported that a close friend of former mayor Marc Morial was indicted on some charge, I was tuned into whether there would be any mention of Rodney's association with Ray Nagin to pay attention to the charges. Of course, there was no mention of any such association.

Sure enough, the Picayune's website reports:
Morial associate charged with failure to file tax return

The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Roy Rodney, a friend and close associate of former Mayor Marc Morial, was charged Monday with a misdemeanor count of failing to file income tax returns, federal officials said.

No mention of Nagin. That's an AP report, so I'll withhold judgment until I see what's in print tomorrow. But you can't blame the AP reporter for not knowing that Nagin and Rodney are good buddies, it never gets mentioned by the local media.

For the record, 2002 Louisiana Weekly column:
In fact, a rumor campaign to that effect circulated around the city. Even the entry of Rodney's business partner Ray Nagin into the race did little to quell the idea that the Morial insider planned to team up with Carter. Political insiders immediately took to the story because of its allure. It seemed to hearken to a move by Morial's political organization L.I.F.E. (Louisiana Independent Federation of Electors) to back Carter. With the news that fellow Morial alum Middleberg had jumped on board made the story even more believable.

There was just one problem. The rumor was not true. For the most part, the L.I.F.E. members have sat out of this contest. Some back Pennington. Most are waiting for the runoff before they publicly make their stand. However, their leaders are desperate not to show a division in the ranks.

When this newspaper contacted Mr. Rodney and asked the simple question: who he was supporting and was the candidate Troy Carter, as the rumors alleged, it was his secretary who returned the telephone call in Rodney's place and said definitively that the attorney did not support Carter. So, this reporter responded, "Who is he supporting?"

The secretary said, "I can't tell you that."

"You can't tell me that? Why not?"

"I just can't?" she concluded, and implied that comment would be the last that Rodney would release to the press.

As strong as a political position as L.I.F.E. continues to hold in the Crescent City, there is an attitude held by many of the candidates this season that a strong connection to the Mayor is the political kiss of death, considering the reform attitude that prevails in the city today. One can observe this displayed in the lengths that the Pennington camp goes to separate itself from Mayor Morial and show the Chief's independence.

One source says that Rodney does indeed support his friend and business partner Ray Nagin, but one can never tell in the somewhat Byzantine atmosphere that has descended upon this year's fractured election.

A glowing 2006 bio:
In 1997, the New Orleans Brass skated into the East Coast Hockey League. The four African Americans who owned the original majority stake in the brass were led by Ray Nagin and also included Roy Rodney, managing partner of New Orleans-based law firm Rodney, Bordenave, Boykin, Bennette & Boyle; David White, owner of several McDonald’s franchises; and Standford Barre, a local entrepreneur who owns a number of businesses in New Orleans.

Roy Rodney also played a prominent in an ad campaign that helped sink Paulette Irona 2002 mayoral campaign, as documented at Some Come Running and also, again, the Louisiana Weekly:
Reward From Peggy...

Waving negative flyers targeted to white and black audiences from a mystery group called New Alliance Business Political Action Committee, former Councilwoman Peggy Wilson has offered a $5,000 reward for information tying the flyers to a specific candidate.

The fliers attacked Senator Paulette Irons in recent days and an effort led by attorney Stewart Smith to find the identity of the individuals hit a snag the week prior to the election when Judge Joe DiRosa refused to order the identities of the individuals released stating that only the state ethics board had that power.

Information reveals however that Morial-friend and Ray Nagin-supporter Roy Rodney prepared, filed, and created five Limited Liability Corporations for the New Orleans Mayor's Race. One of these was an organization called Louisiana Teamwork, LLC headed by a lady named Gail Masters.

Louisiana Teamwork paid for a series of commercials attacking Sen. Irons, the first airing on January 14. The ads were placed by Ray Reggie's Media Firm, which is also did the buying for the Richard Pennington Campaign, and were produced by the same firm that did all of Nagin's advertisements.

Smith investigated Louisiana Teamwork and discovered that the organization had never filed with the Secretary of State's office. LA Teamwork did file then, but never registered as a political action committee.

To avoid releasing their contributor lists, Teamwork began to purchase commercials in the name of a new organization - New Alliance Business PAC. Under Louisiana Law, someone has to take responsibility for the purchase of political ads, but the disclosure forms for New Alliance state that their contributions only came from Louisiana Teamwork, a perfect cover.

Sorry, too busy to edit it all down, but it's not fucking rocket science.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Talented Mr. Walsh

If the tone of the following seems overly snide, it's because the bills in question were filed in 2006 & 2007 (the article doesn't say what month), but the story was reported in 2008 -- an election year.

Compare two front page stories by Bill Walsh of the Picayune's Washington Bureau*. In October 2005, he wrote about the inability of local firms to win Katrina reconstruction contracts from the federal government. In the entire article -- the linked version seems shorter than I remember the original running -- there wasn't a single question about the political connections or campaign contributions of the out-of-state firms that landed the contracts. Not a single question, no mention whatsoever in that front page story, but this story by an AP reporter appeared on page A5 ten days later.

In today's paper, Bill Walsh writes about Mary Landrieu's filing of a private bill on behalf of a constituent with immigration problems and gives the impression that crooked dealings are involved:
Unlike many immigrants, Hurley had political connections. His brother-in-law, Lafayette attorney James "Kirk" Piccione, is a Landrieu supporter, having given $4,250 to her campaigns over the years including a $1,000 contribution six weeks after the first bill was filed, according to a review of the data by the Center for Responsible Politics.

Landrieu must have intervened because, "over the years" Hurley's brother-in-law contributed &4,250 to Landrieu campaigns. That's less than the legal maximum for one year and Republican Orrin Hatch had previously intervened on Hurley's behalf.

Give this man a Pulitzer.

BTW: It might seem like I'm employing a double standard toward Landrieu and Nagin, but there's a huge difference between helping a private citizen with an immigration problem and awarding multi-million dollar contracts. Also, Ray Nagin implied that his opponent would improperly steer government contracts toward his campaign contributors, I took that as an invitation.

*I've observed before that Washington Bureau reporters all have email addresses ending in, while other T/P reporters are emailed at, which makes me wonder whether Washington Bureau reporters work directly for Newhouse.

Common Birthday

Lou Reed and john Irving both celebrated their sixty-sixth birthdays today. John Irving is most famous for The World According to Garp, with the transsexual character Roberta Muldoon and if you're not familiar with Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side, you must be Allan Katz. At any rate, the Transgender Day of Remembrance is in November and well worth commemorating:
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.

But maybe we could make March 2, "Transgender in Art and Literature Day". Sure, Lou Reed's prostitutes aren't exactly role models, but Roberta Muldoon is as decent a human being as you find in modern literature. At least as portrayed by John Lithgow, I've never actually read the book.

Happy Birthday, John Irving and Lou Reed.

Doo, doo doo, doo doo, doo doo doo...

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