Sunday, May 28, 2006

More Than Ever, Time to Question the CW

Before I decided that it wasn't directed at me personally, something that I read on another blog made my blood boil:

Let me say it as politely as I can: anyone who attempts to link convicted felon Edwards and future-jailbird Jefferson with our mayor doesn't have a flippin' clue. Ray runs the city like his chosen hairstyle: clean and bright. Any editorial or blog that uses the word "corrupt" against Ray is not worthy even of the electrons needed to display on my monitor

Before getting into the particulars of why I think that Nagin is quite possibly as corrupt as any of his predecessors, let me explain why I believe that it's important to watch the mayor like a hawk. Billions of dollars in federal money will be flowing through the city, you can bet that federal officials will be watching that money very carefully--if only to be able to blame any waste and corruption on the local guys. Since we now know , that the terms of the city's very generous loan package, weren't quite so generous after all, it's a safe assumption that the city will need to go back to congress for more help in a few years. If you think that taking a Chinese monkey attitude toward any questionable contract decisions that Nagin makes will keep the Tom Tancredo types from noticing, you make Pollyanna look like Diogenes.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't care that much if a candidate ran a shifty, even dishonest campaign, but remember Nagin was re-elected as "mayor integrity." In addition to telling a bald-faced lie about the amount of money that he raised in Chicago, he even benefited from illegal third party spending from a supporter who has business dealings with the city.

That alone would be enough to make me question Nagin's reputation for integrity, but there's more, much more, one might even say, a damn sight more. If you're ever going to take the time to read, follow the links, and think about a single post that I write, please make it this one. Then ask yourself who you gonna believe, everybody or your own lying common sense. If that's a little too strong, I certainly think that it's fair to say that, since the entire nation is watching, the mayor needs to, at the very least, pay more attention to the appearance of impropriety.

BTW before returning to more timely matters, I will indulge in one post about the fact that mayor's freedom from the concerns of being re-elected is a mixed blessing at best, and one about the media's election and immediate post-election coverage. Despite the endorsements, the local media (I hate to sound like a Bob Somerby imitator here) couldn't see past its agreed on script. It was (from the T/P's candidate profiles):

Ray Nagin: Maverick can now run on his record
Mitch Landrieu: Political son is insider's insider

What's more attractive, a maverick or an insider? At any rate, some of the city's conservative analysts abandoned all pretense of objectivity*, while Jarvis DeBerry should be ashamed of himself for this blatantly dishonest bit of analysis. He actually used GNOR campaigning on Nagin's behalf as an example of how cleverly the horribly outgunned Nagin conducted his campaign. I suppose that it's possible that DeBerry wasn't being deliberately dishonest, it's pretty easy to fool yourself when you think that you're being clever.

*Steve Sabludowsky wondered whether Forman supporters would sheepishly (his word choice) vote for Landrieu because of Forman's endorsement, while his colleague Jeff Crouere repeatedly reminded BayouBias readers that Bush's appearance with Nagin was meant as an endorsement.

My post was NOT directed at you or any local blogger. Obviously, I do read your blog. I like it and I've got a link to it in my sidebar. What has been making my blood boil is the callous, flip-em-the-finger attitude of out-of-towners who really know absolutely nothing about New Orleans. On the other hand, I have a world of respect for anybody who expresses an informed opinion, even if I disagree with the opinion. It is the uninformed twits I was writing about. Perhaps I should have been more specific in my comments.

I was aware of some of what you point out here. I'm not too crazy about The Times Picayune as a source--they do spin the news quite a bit. I can tell you I have first-hand knowlege of deals and projects that were set up or manipulated by prior mayors for their own personal profit. I have not experienced that with this mayor. That's all I have to go on.

Keep blogging, we need more like you!


My initial impulse was to take it personally, since, to my knowledge, I made the strongest assertion of any local blogger or editorial writer that the mayor is quite likely as corrupt as any of his predecessors. At the very least, he allows his subordinates to engage in some highly questionable and potentially embarrassing (for the city) contract practices, read the Charles Rice links. However, I did say "until I decided that it wasn't directed at me personally." I'm aware that blog posts and comments can be like office and even personal emails, where feuds sometimes erupt or feelings get hurt over comments that are misinterpreted over misunderstandings about tone. For reasons I've explained, but will elaborate on, I think that everyone should drop the assumption (if only for prophylactic reasons) that all of Nagin's contract decisions are honestly arrived at. I didn't say this in a comment because I was afraid that a comment would be too terse and might be taken personally--especially since once before, we both wrote out the word period in comments. I thought that in a post, it would be clear that I was commenting on not just the assumption, but the actual belief that Nagin is incorruptible--without personally directing it at you, or anyone outside of government or the media. Rereading the post, I should have made it clearer. I didn't take or intend personal offense.

Before the election, I thought that Nagin's image as a lion of reform was vastly overstated; from how quickly he dropped his early investigations, I thought that he was a paper tiger at best.

During the election, when he made insinuations about his opponent's honesty and fundraising, I thought it only proper to look into his. Clearly, he skirted the edge of the law about campaign finance reporting and apparently told a bald-faced lie about the amount of money that he raised in Chicago--to create a false image of himself and his opponent. That might be normal hardball politics, but it hardly gives confidence that his character is beyond reproach. Throw in the matter of former CAO Charles Rice and it apears that Nagin is more than willing to turn a blind eye toward misconduct or questionable conduct on the part of his close associates. When I consider the mutually beneficial nature of the relationship between Billboard Ben and honest Ray, I can't help but suspect that the lyin sumbitch is just as dishonest as any of his predecessors but smart enough to hide (his donut egg) in plain sight.

BTW, the matter of Billboard Ben is the only case where I know anything more than what's easily available online or has recently been printed in the T/P (what I said about plain sight). In the past, I had some drinking buddies who were S&WB employees. They told me that the original Gambit cover article (from the Morial era) was, if anything, understated. BB's behavior prompted a new rule that board members were not to have any more one-on-one contacts or dealings with employees. Like rules governing campaign contributions, BB routinely ignores that rule. My friends who worked for the S&WB were of course curious when our reform mayor failed to replace BB when his term expired. Not enough to call him a crook, but enough to wonder how much stomach for actual reform the mayor had.
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