Thursday, August 30, 2007

Apropos of nothing in particular

Remember that Nagin commercial where he questioned why so many people were donating money to Landrieu? Well, if you meet any of these people...
People or businesses that have given money to the New Orleans mayor since his re-election

$5,000: Cahaba Disaster Recovery LLC, Charles A. Ramey DBA Whole Sale Salvage, Delta Testing and Inspection, Courtney Devall, Disaster Recovery Specialists LLC, DRC Emergency Services LLC, ECCPAC, Edward Lewis Revocable Trust, Elgin Sweeping Services Inc., Equipment Leasing LLC, Cary S. Goss, Heston LLC, Traci Hickingbottom, Gowri S. Kailas, Keith B. Key Enterprises LLC, Ronald M. Lamarque, Randall Technologies Inc., RVE LLC, Synthetic Mats Inc.

$4,000: Premier Concrete Products Inc.

$2,500: Acadian Ambulance Employee PAC, ACS State & Local Solutions Inc., All South Consulting Engineers, AME Services, Richard Bachmann, Baker Ready Mix LLC, Barowka & Bonura Engineers & Consultants, Brown Cunningham Gannuch, Walter Baudier, Burk Kleinpeter Inc., Berry Services Inc., Russell Burgdahl, Business Resource Consultants, Cannon Cochran Management Services, CBI Insurance & Care Management, CDM, Sylvia Dale Cochran, Compliance Envirosystems, Courtenay Hunter & Fontana, Covington Sales & Service Inc., Cox Communications, Digital Engineering & Imaging, Durr Heavy Construction LLC, Dwyer & Cambre APLC, Eustis Engineering Co Inc., Tim Favrot Jr., First American Title, Garry L. Lewis, Global Parking Systems, Godfrey firm, Gotech Inc., Halpern & Martin LLC, Hamp's Construction LLC, Harvey Electric Inc., Imre Hegedus, Helis Oil & Gas Co LLC, William Hickman, Imagine Software LLC, Julien Engineering & Consulting, Charles Kennedy, Krebs LaSalle Lemieux, Lake Forest Plaza, Lambert Engineers LLC, Legend Consulting Group LTD, Brenda G. Lewis, Liberty Bank & Trust Co., Linfield Hunter & Junius Inc., Lucky Dogs Airport LLC, Magnolia Holdings Inc., Mainland Asset Services LLC, Hugh McClain, Metro Disposal Inc., Meyer & Associates Inc., Montgomery Watson Harza, Moses Engineers, Murray Architects Inc., Nolmar Corporation, NY Associates, Omni Pinnacle LLC, Ozanne Construction Company Inc., PDM&A, Premier Automotive Management LLC, Preservation Partners, Professional Engineering Consultant Group, R P Fontcuberta, R. M. Development, Rahman & Associates Inc., Richard LambertConsultants, Greg Rigamer, Royal Engineers & Consultants, Rudy Smith Services Inc., Scheurmann & Jones, Schrenk & Peterson, Sewerage & Water Equipment Company, William Shane, Sizeler Architectural Group LLC, Southern Star Construction, Southern Strategy Group of Louisiana LLC, David B. St. Etienne, Frank Stewart, Stuart Consulting Group, Sunex Holding Co. LLC, Swanson & Associates, The Barnett Group of New Orleans, The Shops and Garage at Canal Place LLC, Three Fold Consultants LLC, Unified Recovery Group LLC, United Healthcare Corp., Urban Systems Associates Inc., David Voelker, Frank H. Walk, Yeates & Yeates Architects LLC, Lynell D. Zelenka, ZLN Holding LLC

$2,000: Peter A. Austen, Bell Investment Group & Consulting, Dr. Lorraine H. Brown, Bryson Constructors, The BWW Family Limited Partnership, Richard J. Fleder, H.C.O. Inc., Hartman Engineering Inc., Cleosie Kirkland, Herbert E. Long Jr., Republic Beverage Company, Edgar G. Rios, Dennis M. Ryan, Samuel Switzenbaum

$1,500: ENPAC Louisiana, Robert J. Isakson, Materials Management Group Inc., Keith D. Rosbury

$1,250: ATS Chester Engineers, Dr. John Calhoun, Carlton Charles, Rod Hill, Paula L. Maher, Emmit N. Richardson, Richardson Funeral Home of Jefferson.

$1,200: Barbara M. Eads

$1,000: Donald G. Bahouth, Bobby's Electric Inc., Castleark Inc., Coral Capital LLC, Randy Ewing, Stewart G. Fuzzell, Gootee Construction Inc., Robert Griffin, Illinois Governmental Consulting LLC, Infinity Engineering Consultants, James C. Kennedy, Donald Lambert, Diana Monroe Lewis, Materials Management Group Inc., William Nungesser, Premier Concrete Products Inc., Rebowe & Company, William F. Rinaldi, James Robbins, John Santopadre, Scott Smith, Mark Stafford

$750: Ronald Kaufman, Darrel Saizan & Associates Inc.

$500: Tom Bauer, Fred's Golf Pro Shop, Fulton Johnson Newman and Pittman Insurance, Laine Glisson, Eustis J. Guillemet, H & H Executive Management Inc., Integra Financial Services LLC, Catherine Packer, Wilbur T. Peer, Charles H. Prieur III, Edward Robinson, Arthur Silverman, William Mark Simmons, Aubry T. Temple, Benjamin Thompson

$300: Gus Fritchie

$250: Levon S. Boyagian, John Chavanne, Norvin Pellerin

$200: Eric Smith

$100: Bryan Chevrolet, Constance Harris

$15: David Tisdale

Greg Rigamer? The only intended insinuation is about his impartiality and objectivity when newspapers and TV stations question him about recovery issues.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Our Postmodernist Mayor

The notion of finding objective truth is just so pre-Katrina:
Forman asked the mayor to tread more lightly. "Screw them," he said, according to the book. "I'm going to continue to tell the truth as I see it."

Should have known he was a Foucaultian.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It needs to be an issue

By all accounts, Ray's description of events is unfair to the panelists. Also, rumor has it that Carter won't be running, but the questions raised should be asked of Willard-Lewis, who is running.

It's been nearly two weeks since Thomas resigned his citywide position after pleading guilty to federal charges of accepting bribes. By Friday, no one had announced plans to run, though several hopefuls were reportedly contemplating the race.

City Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election to her District E seat, has reportedly decided to run, associates said. District C Councilman James Carter, another rumored candidate, has been mum about his plans.
Yesterday's Picayune

Eleven years after the idea was endorsed by voters, the New Orleans City Council voted 7-0 Thursday to create an inspector general's office to seek out waste, fraud, corruption and inefficiency in the government of a city long fabled for easy morals and flexible ethics.
The council's only divided vote on the issue came on an amendment by Councilman James Carter to have the council, rather than the five-member advisory committee, do a three-month review of the new office's "guidelines and procedures."

Midura said that would compromise the office's immunity from politics, but Carter said it would help allay the fears of those who think the office would "discriminate against certain people."

His amendment passed 4-3, with Hedge-Morrell, Willard-Lewis and Oliver Thomas joining Carter, and Fielkow and Head joining Midura.*
Nov. 3, 2006 Times Picayune

I couldn't make it to yesterday's Rising Tide conference, but I read this at Ray's:
Dangerblond asks "what can we as citizens do about corruption, other than vote?" Panelists stare blankly and then go back to making political predictions about who will run for what. I mean, I think that's the crux of the issue and the point of the whole conference: taking action. But when asked about citizen action, the only response anybody has is "that's hard, let's talk about something else".

So let's see, we're having a special election to fill Oliver Thomas' city council seat because Oliver Thomas turned out to be corrupt. James Carter and Cynthia Willard-Lewis are widely reported to be interested in running for Thomas' old seat. When the inspector general's office was created, James Carter and Cynthia Willard-Lewis sucessfully altered the bill to make the man who investigates corruption in city government answerable to the city council.

It's only a small part of the answer to the question posed at yesterday's conference, but an obvious starting point is to not allow the council to put off questions about how much funding and authority the inspector general's office will have until after the election. Next year's budget won't be voted on until after the election, but any candidate for at at-large seat can be forced to commit to a position, not just on funding but also authority. If the charter allows it, an effort should be made to re-write the law to make the office independent of the council. It as racially divisive before, but it would be a lot riskier for a council member or council candidate to try to exploit that now.

A post that I did about Carter's move to weaken the IG's office wasn't particularly interesting. But some of the comments were, Adrastos seems to have been dead on about Thomas. I can't remember what made us both think that an anonymous comment was Dambala, or if a comment was altered or deleted.

*From the same article:
Even so, the ordinance was extensively rewritten Thursday with approval of a six-page amendment incorporating dozens of last-minute changes sought by Mayor Ray Nagin's administration.

Among other things, the changes eliminated a plan to finance the office by imposing a 0.25 percent fee on all contracts awarded by the city or other local agencies worth $10,000 or more. Thus, a company getting a $1 million contract would have had to pay $2,500 to the inspector general's office. The idea was borrowed from the inspector general's office for Miami-Dade County, Fla., whose director testified twice before the council this year.

Instead, the local office will be financed from the city's general fund.

Nagin OK expected

Kenya Smith, Nagin's executive assistant for intergovernmental relations, said after the vote that he expects Nagin to sign the revised ordinance. Although Nagin included no money for the inspector general's office in the 2007 budget he submitted Wednesday to the council, Smith said he expects money for it will be added by the council.

Like the Aviation Board

From today's Picayune
Mayfield echoes that sentiment, saying that the library board has become "just like the RTA or the Aviation Board. . . . Our board has had to make a lot of crucial, day-to-day decisions, unheard of in a publicly appointed board."

That was my point a year ago. Billboard Ben is still on the water board, Nagin re-appointed friend, campaign manager and business partner David White to the aviation board, but he wanted "fresh blood" in charge of a board that will be overseeing construction projects that might cost as much as $70 million.

I'm not questioning Mayfield's integrity at all. Just pointing out that that the mayor told the council, in effect, that, now that library board would be in charge of millions in construction contracts, he thought that a jazz musician with a hectic travel schedule would be a better choice to lead it than a law school professor. Of course, with transparent spending policies in place, it doesn't really matter who's on the board. Why else would the council have approved the choice?

The continued presence of Billboard Ben on the S&WB and David White on the aviation board makes it entirely appropriate to question Nagin's desire to bring "fresh blood" to the library board just before a major rebuilding project.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Deja Vu All Over Again*

Money set aside to honor Katrina remains
Some on N.O. panel irked by fast action

Despite several members' unhappiness with the way the issue was presented, the New Orleans City Council voted 6-0 Thursday to provide $1 million in city money for a memorial honoring unclaimed victims of Hurricane Katrina.


Midura said she resented the way Nagin promised city money for the project without consulting the council, and Hedge-Morrell and President Arnie Fielkow agreed with her that the council should have been given more information and that the request should not have been presented on an emergency basis, leaving no time for review through the council's normal channels.
August 24, 2007

Council appoints board members
The yacht harbor is in Midura's district, and she has been critical of the way the board has run it. As chairwoman of the council's Governmental Affairs Committee, which reviews mayoral appointments of private citizens to boards and commissions, she tried for months to change Nagin's mind about some of his appointments.

Nagin refused to yield, and the dispute broke into the open at the council's Aug. 9 meeting, when Kenya Smith, one of Nagin's top aides, accused Midura of blocking action for months on a long list of nominations.

She denied the charge, saying she was ready to approve about half the nominees then and had received most of the other names only a few days earlier, leaving little time to review their qualifications before the committee met.

After a lengthy executive session, the council deferred action on all the nominations and Midura said the committee would consider the remaining names at a meeting Aug. 13.

The committee voted to approve all the names, including the Municipal Yacht Harbor nominations, which Midura decided to stop fighting after concluding that Nagin had the votes to get them confirmed and there was no sense prolonging the fight.
August 20, 2007

No clue? Council votes anyway

But rarely has the ignorance been quite as blatant as when the council this week considered an ordinance to "establish the NOBC Paragon Economy Fund." Although council members admitted they didn't have a clue what that fund would be or do, they passed the measure 7-0.

When the ordinance came up for a vote late in Thursday's long and exhausting meeting, Councilwoman Shelley Midura said she didn't know what the fund was and asked for an explanation.

Council President Oliver Thomas offered to explain to Midura the purpose of the NOBC, or New Orleans Building Corp., a public-benefit corporation created to find ways to enhance revenue from little-used city properties.

Midura replied that the explanation didn't tell her what the Paragon Economy Fund was.

Thomas, one of three council members who serve on the board of the Building Corp., admitted he wasn't familiar with the fund, but he noted that the ordinance was supported by Mayor Ray Nagin's administration.
November 4, 2006

*I was thinking of Yogi Berra, but if you're so inclined.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Still smelling a rat

In a recent post, I wonder whether there was a connection between the Siege of Bienville and Nagin's unexplained proposal to move the VA hospital. The connection does seem tenuous, but this is interesting:
It's not clear how many of the nine arrangements spelled out in the document came to fruition. Some clearly did not, such as a plan to buy the shuttered City Hall annex at 2400 Canal St. from the city, and a plan to redevelop some property across Loyola Avenue from the civil court complex.

Is it possible that Gordon Russell got that wrong? Russell's a top notch reporter, but the article was about a counter letter.

At any rate, that January article is worth re-reading for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it reveals that Morial administration officials had been the subject of wire taps as far back as 2001. If it took that long for sentences to be handed out, don't expect Nagin to go down anytime soon -- even if the FBI is interested.

Also, it's a reminder of of the insistence of Times Picayune writers on referring to Roy Rodney as a close Morial ally. As Adrastos and I pointed out at the time, Rodney's ties to Nagin are at least as strong as ties to Morial. Of course, Barre was also a business partner of Nagin's. Hell, Nagin and David White were once Nagin supporters*.
Correction: the last line should read, "Nagin and White were once Morial supporters."

*If you don't want to read the lengthy article, skip down to about fifth-to-last paragraph.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Just a Thought

On Web site blogs and talk radio shows, Thomas was lambasted all week for betraying the public trust.
Frank Donze

I won't have time to do a post on the really important campaign,
It's still important, IMO, because I think we're going to see what amounts to a second campaign over the mayor's emergency powers and control over the city's share of the reconstruction money.

a campaign in which the mayor continues to steamroll the little opposition that he does occasionally face, tonight. But, I will point out that that the people at the Picayune do notice what bloggers write. So, for that matter, does Gambit weekly*. At the very least, it's an excuse to introduce an unpleasant or controversial subject. That's why I think of it as a lost opportunity whenever I see a Nagin critic link to Dambala's posts about the technology office without mention the secrecy or earlier examples of cronyism. Still, an earlier post was overstated; bloggers don't have much power over public opinion.

However, if you view the last fifteen months as an extended campaign (the analogy would be to the campaign for a party nomination) to control reconstruction policy and spending, the sad fact is that we've** been getting our clocks cleaned and that's what has me so angry. The mayor has taken his lumps on crime and his tendency to stick his foot in his mouth, but he's won every single struggle over power or finances. Of course the mayor, and every other elected official, should feel heat over the city's crime problem, but that pressure gets divided at least three ways before race confuses the issue. Criticisms of the mayor for his stupid statements are a waste of time -- been there, done that, the shit doesn't stick. Make fun of the buffoon all you want, but the fact is, the buffoon's calling all the shots.

*That Gambit article ran eleven months ago. People love to talk about the Picayune's brief moment of glory after Katrina, I think that Gambit had a brief moment of glory after the last election. It briefly acted like a true alternative weekly trying to shine a spotlight on the shady dealings at City Hall that the major daily chose to ignore. But even before that column, Gambit showed signs that it was ready to go back to selling advertising.

**By "we" I mean anybody who would like to see at least some limits placed on the mayor's ability to bankrupt and generally fuck up the city

Friday, August 17, 2007

Katrina Revisited

Tonight on Bill Moyers Journal:
Mike Tidwell and Melissa Harris-Lacewell on Katrina's Aftermath
August 17, 2007

As the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, Bill Moyers gets two views on what the disaster and its aftermath says about American culture and values with Princeton's Melissa Harris-Lacewell and author and environmental activist Mike Tidwell.

"What are we going to do in terms of who we are for making resiliency in the face of disaster possible? Because the human experience is going to be that we're going to face a variety of negative, disastrous experiences." -- Melissa Harris-Lacewell

Most PBS stations air the show at 9:00PM Friday (Eastern Time), so it's probably too late if you're reading this from some other city. However, in New Orleans, WYES airs the show at 1 in the morning, then again at 3 o'clock Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Oliver Thomas and Parking


A politician being corrupt isn't like a woman being pregnant, but a federal probe is as likely to get the "little bit" corrupt politicians as it is to get the the "rotten to the core" ones. I have no idea where Thomas belongs on the spectrum; I always assumed that he had at least tolerated it, but I also thought that he could be counted on to put the city first in most matters. Some of the commenters at YRHT make him sound a lot worse than I suspected, others seem totally shocked.

At least the probe could demonstrate that there was much more continuity between the Morial and Nagin administrations than most people realize -- the probe seems to involve contracts that were awarded under the Nagin administration. I started the Nagin Files in March to help demonstrate the pervasiveness of corruption in the Nagin administration, but I haven't kept up with it. The site is just old news stories about the Nagin administration, found through LexisNexis and reprinted in their entirety to avoid selective editing.

Though I don't seem to have posted anything about the parking lots mentioned in today's article, I did post four articles that mention Standard Parking, which was mentioned in the Thomas story:
The Nagin administration signed a management deal for a 50-50 partnership between Standard Parking, a national firm that has operated parking lots in New Orleans for 25 years, and Parking Solutions LLC, whose principals include Keith Pittman, a former aide to Thomas.

Only two mentioned Standard by name, link link, but two more are about related matters.

Update: It appears that the investigation has nothing to do with the parking contracts signed after Nagin took office. I'm starting to wonder if Nagin really is the Whitey Bulger/Frank Costello of New Orleans political corruption. Not really, but he sure looked smug today, and only one partner in S & J Consulting has been indicted in the federal probe.

The most obvious example of the continuity that I mentioned is, of course Roy Rodney (of S & J Consulting):
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.

That was written before the 2002 election. Jimmie Woods of Metro Disposal, AMID Landfill and all of the other principals in the landfill deal that was mentioned early in the investigation also have strong connections to both mayors, but that part of the investigation seems to have gone nowhere.

Too many of the same donors,crooked politicians turned newspaper publishers and politically connected businessmen/ministers who serve both God and Mammon and use their influence to sway city contracts who once supported Morial now support Nagin to possibly believe that one's a crook and one's a reformer. But then again, it seems that Barre is a criminal and Rodney isn't.

I don't want to imply some kind of nefarious deal, the Whitey Bulger comparison was entirely fanciful -- this is, after all, Moldy City, not We Saw That (not that there's anything wrong with seeing that). But the feds don't seem to be investigating the deals and the people that would lead to Nagin.

Predictably, the story has made the NYT and WAPO.


As of April, the city had identified 592 health-threat properties, with 352 set for demolition and 240 slated to be gutted. City Hall has ignored requests for a list of corresponding addresses and could not immediately provide updated statistics Thursday.

As the above links make clear, we currently have a city administration that claims to put a priority on transparency and accountability but refuses to answers the most basic questions abouts its plans or actions. Not only does the Nagin administration take office promising to bring accountability and "transparency" or "openness and accessibility" to city government, the administration, and its supporters, constantly proclaim that those goals have been successfully realized. Yet when it comes to actually sharing information, the Nagin administration is easily the most secretive in memory. Claiming to be transparent seems to be like claiming to be a reformer, say it often enough and people will believe it. The Nagin administrations has trumpeted its own transparency and openness for five years, but has refused to answer questions that it didn't like. This failure to answer questions has been dutifully reported in individual news stories (usually around paragraph 10), but the pattern has been ignored.

In the past, I had criticized this secrecy on the grounds that it would lead to more corruption on the one hand, and justifiable bitterness and conspiracy charges from those who are unhappy with rebuilding decisions on the other. I also thought that calling the Nagin administration on it secretiveness would throw the mayor's squeaky clean image into question, but that would be an added bonus.

With 20/20 hindsight, it seems obvious that a city government that makes a mockery of transparency and openness at the top will be uncommunicative at the bottom. I can't demonstrate a logical A then B connection, but it sure seems logical that if there's a refusal to share information at the top, there won't be any urgency:
On Thursday, I called City Hall to get answers and was bounced from one office to another. Tearing down a guy's house didn't seem like any big deal to some of the people with whom I spoke.

about sharing information further down the ladder. Maybe it's just my pet obsession, but it's fair to question whether the demolition list would have been handled differently by an administration that really did place an emphasis on accessibility and accountability. I'm certain that the coverage of the matter would have been different if Nagin administration secrecy had been more of an issue in the past. A week after WDSU reports on the wrongful destruction of a ninth ward home, the Picayune's fair and balanced report on the subject, not only got the facts wrong, it failed to mention the overall lack of responsiveness on the part of city government. Stephanie Grace wrote a much more critical column in today's paper, but it also failed to make a connection.

To my way of thinking, it's just one more reason why the Nagin administration's secrecy and general lack of openness must be addressed if the recovery is going to go well. Obviously, there are more important issues to be addressed, insurance and flood protection come to mind, but anyone who comments on New Orleans should consider it a priority to call bullshit on Nagin administration claims of "transparency and accountability" or "openness and accessibility."

That said, I see several things that should have been expressed differently in a recent post. First and foremost, the main anger was meant to be aimed at the media for allowing Nagin to claim transparency while practicing secrecy. Although I do believe that bloggers, and anybody else who participates in public forums, could give it a nudge, that is where the angry sentiments should have been more explicitly directed.

Also, the last sentence was intended to make it clear that the "what do they think they're accomplishing?" thought was one that I only think occasionally. I don't think it gave that impression at all, and it's thought I should kept to myself. It's absurd to expect other people to share your priorities.

Finally, I didn't intend to single anybody out for criticism. I merely went down a link list and did a topic search on a few blogs that I read regularly. I really couldn't say why I clicked some names on the list and not others. I apologize if I gave anybody the impression that I was criticizing him or her personally.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Six Has a Funny Side

WDSU just had Charles Rice on to discuss the indictment of Oliver Thomas on charges dealing with an illegal parking scheme. Charles Rice wasn't on to discuss technical aspects of parking contracts, he was on to discuss the political implications of the news.

If Rice has any idea what he's talking about, it could get ugly. He mentioned James Carter as a likely candidate. But I seem to remember Adrastos saying that Rice tended to a worthless analyst.

Six on Jindal's Side

On last night's Six on Your Side Live, Norman Robinson asked Bobby Jindal to respond to attack ads that his opponents have been running that criticize his christian faith (no video available yet, but I'll monitor the site). Who's writing his questions, Roger Villere? If Robinson had asked Jindal about internet attacks on his faith, it would have been blatant spin, but technically honest. After all, belief in demonic possession does seem to be part of Jindal's Christian faith. But Robinson should wait until the Democrats actually start running those ads before he asks about the ads that his opponents "have been running." It may have been "are running," I didn't record the segment.

cross-posted at Katrinacrat.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Poorly-worded, angry post written late at night*

Or maybe it's just another "told you so" post from BSJD:
Excessive secrecy can only lead to more rancor and bitterness on the part who are unhappy with those decisions and help justify charges of conspiracies or crooked insider deals.


Jeffrey's not the only person who's angry over the city's administration of its imminent danger list. I'm disgusted that it received more extensive coverage from the WSJ than the T/P (Dangerblond has the complete article).

Still, I can't help but wonder if the city would have handled the list differently if Nagin had been called on the hallowness of his claims to have brought transparency and accountability to city government. The Picayune did run one editorial, but it was pretty toothless. More importantly, it appeared on the bottom of the page on a Saturday, guaranteeing that it would go unnoticed. The Picayune showed all the courage of a coward who screws up the bravery to mutter an epithet under his breath. Sunday and weekday editorials tend to be discussed on the weekday radio talk shows, but even bloggers don't notice bottom of the page Saturday editorials -- especially editorials that take two weeks to month to get online (it never appeared on the link to the last two week's editorials, I found it online about a month after publication).

If there's no malintent involved, it's fair to wonder if failure to challenge administration claims of accessibility, accountability and transparency have led the Nagin administration to believe its own PR. Real pressure to be more accessible and transparent might have done some good, it certainly couldn't have hurt. If something really nefarious is going on, well...The real question is, what does anyone expect from an administration that constantly proclaims its transparency, yet consistently fails to share information? Why shouldn't we expect a lot more of this sort of thing? I'm disgusted that there's been no real effort to hold the mayor to his promises of transparency and accountability.

Trying not to be amused

I hate to say it, but when I first saw this, I thought it was pretty funny:

Action, Accountability, Corruption, Determination and Responsibility – all very dynamic sentiments

I decided to see how much attention local bloggers had paid to the Nagin administration practice of stonewalling with demands for written FOIA requests. Apparently, not much. Not much at all. The results were the same whether I searched for "freedom of information act" or "FOIA." For accountability Nagin, results were somewhat better. I know that blog searches give unreliable results (I discounted the negative search results at Ashley's because I don't trust technorati searches), but local bloggers really have not made much effort to influence perceptions in this area. I'll return to that point, but I did try to drop a tactful hint before I went on vacation -- acting like movie critics telling your readers to see the latest Dambala vs. Meffert flick at Zombie Theater isn't enough.

Also amusing

On his seven o'clock show this morning, Rob Couhig sounded pretty angry at Nagin, but he couldn't quite bring himself to renounce his endorsement of him -- given the choice that he had. He did say that Nagin has not kept the promise that he made to him to focus on health care, higher education and housing. Well, if Nagin broke the promise that he made to Couhig to get his endorsement, Couhig should say something about it. However, at the 100 day presentation, Couhig put his own name behind Nagin's promise of transparency and accountability. I've yet to say Couhig say anything about that broken promise, and one could argue that Couhig's silence lends credibility Nagin's claims of accessibility, accountability and transparency.. If Rob Couhig is reading this, I would urge him to be man enough to take responsibility for a Nagin lie that his silence helps to perpetuate. He should definitely say something along the lines of, "In May of 2006, I promised the people of this city transparency in local government. I made the promise in good faith, as I believed the mayor and I were in agreement on this. Apparently the mayor misled me."

Trying to be tactful

All bloggers have different ideas about what they want to do with their blogs, and the following certainly isn't aimed at bloggers like Karen or Ray who use their blogs as an adjunct to civic activism or to organize reconstruction related activities; they have my utmost respect. The same applies to the few "citizen journalists," like Dambala or Matt McBride, who have the ability to do actual reporting. This applies to the vast majority of "citizen journalists" who are more or less in the op-ed business. Aside from stroking their own egos, such bloggers should occasionally ask themselves what their trying to accomplish with their blogs.

Around the time that I started blogging, Bob Somerby offered some suggestions for liberal bloggers that every blogger should consider -- they're valid regardless of ideology. I'd add a couple that I think are especially valid in a one newspaper town. We can ask questions that are going largely unasked and point out facts that are being largely ignored. Also, in a one newspaper town, the fact checking role of bloggers is vital, who else is going to point it out when the local media answers questions incorrectly or incompletely? If enough bloggers did the first, citizen journalists would occasionally become citizen assignment editors. If one Houma-based blogger can get the Picayune to ask whether Mitch Landrieu was wearing make-up, over 100 New Orleans bloggers should be able to get the Picayune to ask why Nagin is more secretive about his rebuilding policies than chickenhawk presidents tend to be about their foreign policies. Yes, there was one editorial, but with enough pressure, the Picayune might have placed the editorial where it would have been read. If you prefer to be less adversarial, if enough people asked those questions, the Picayune would have known that somebody would have had its back when the inevitable bias charges flew.

I understand that many local bloggers would rather concentrate on federal responsibility for the city's situation; that's certainly valid. Though I personally feel that local bloggers have a better chance of affecting local perceptions, I'd probably do more of that if I had more time, and there weren't so many other bloggers doing it. Although I think that "we are not O.K." posts don't usually accomplish anything (for reasons explained, poorly, here and for other reasons that require little or no explanation), but such posts are certainly valid. However, there are times --not just days, but weeks -- when the local bloggersphere doesn't show much interest in any of the above. Look at some of the posts that get the most comments on local blogs and then read those comments (this was especially true prior to the Vitter scandal), now ask yourself what a web surfing cab driver from Detroit would think of the great New Orleans blogging community. Honestly, aren't there times when it would look like little more than a clique of salonists out to impress each other with their pop culture references? Certainly, at least, at times.

Addition: The post that I should have written, with just enough of the above to act as a prod -- assuming I could could have written that correctly. Only cranks (I can think of worse words) feel the need to go on at length about the things they find annoying. Again, no criticism of any individual bloggers was intended. And I corrected a spelling error from the original.

Further Addition: That really was written too hastily. I don't know how I omitted all mention of the New Orleans bloggers are so wonderful posts, or lengthy passages within posts, that are really what I sometimes find amusing and sometimes find infuriating. It's not being diplomatic to bring it up now, but any reader of local blogs knows what I'm talking about. The sentences that I deleted with the intention of rewriting, didn't get rewritten. I don't expect everybody to be serious all the time, but if you happen across posts (or paragraphs within posts) about great New Orleans bloggers (that read like a speaker feeding applause lines to an audience) during a week when all the long comment threads in the local blogosphere are little more than clever banter, the effect can be unintentionally humorous.

Still it's doubly embarrassing because that's the second time that I made the mistake about writing about something that I find mildly annoying (see the preceding paragraph) and something that I'm truly angry about (the failure of anybody to call the Nagin administration on its refusal to share information) in the same post. Both times I gave the impression that what I found annoying is what I was truly angry about. Of course, it's not generally a good idea to express your annoyance about everything that you find annoying, unless you like looking like a jerk.

*But there is an important point in there somewhere. T.C. from "Disgusted, Trying not to be Amused. However, I will try to be tactful."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Two Long Shot Campaigns

A hypothetical candidacy in which an also-ran could personally benefit from a losing campaign:
State Sen. Cleo Fields knew he had almost no chance of winning when he ran for governor in 1995, but he still made the runoff. Fields' campaign made him the most important black political voice in Louisiana for almost a decade. His star faded when the FBI caught him on video taking $20,000 from Edwin Edwards and stuffing it down his trousers,

A declared candidacy in which an also-ran's country could benefit from his losing campaign:
John Edwards trails in third place. But his policy ideas are shaping the Democratic presidential race
The combination of bold goals and mainstream means is evident in two other Edwards plans: health care and energy reform. And it is why his campaign, regardless of its electoral fortunes, is shaping the Democratic race. Unable to dismiss his proposals as crazy radicalism, the other candidates have to be both bolder and more detailed than they would like.
But even if the man himself does not make it, the Democrats' presidential platform will be shaped by Mr Edwards's plans.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Catch-Up Questions

Updated with Transcript

But first, one current question: what do "fact checks" have to do with judgement calls? I'll have to see if MSNBC posts an online transcript tomorrow, but I couldn't believe something that I heard in the post-debate "fact check." The "fact-checker," David Shuster, actually said that it was a "stretch" for Hillary Clinton to say that Bush doesn't care about New Orleans*. Shuster also corrected Biden for saying that Bush had ruined the country, he even read the dictionary definition of "ruin." -- Hmm, I better consult my dictionary for this fact check -- He also conducted a similar non-fact check on Edwards. MSNBC may have hit an all-time low in the area post-debate "fact checking." In the past, I expected the fact checkers to make factual errors themselves, but to be so unclear on the concept... Actually, Chris Matthews didn't refer to the segment as a "fact check," but a check on the candidates' "truthfulness."

Has Oyster seen the most recent Boasso ad? Or does Boasso read YRHT?

What's the difference? Keith Hudson writes:
Letter writer Ann McNeal said I called those speaking against Mr. Jordan "racist." Which is far from the truth, but that's typical of the white community to engage in false propaganda. Any white person who wants to engage in a forum with me about the criminal justice system in New Orleans is invited.

Speaking out on one topic is not genuine concern, but just the voice of another white person exercising his right to persecute another black man.

Not a racist, just another white person persecuting a black man.

I wonder Jarvis DeBerry thought of Hudson's opening:
First of all, let me say that if I offended anybody with my comments to the City Council in support of District Attorney Eddie Jordan, at this orchestrated persecution, guess what? That's was my intent!

We as black people are sick-n-tired of whites not imagining what it's like to live in a crime-ridden neighborhood. We are sick-n-tired of being represented by someone who doesn't live in our neighborhood.

DeBerry thinks that race wouldn't have been an issue if Midura hadn't made it one. Dishonest, through and through.

Don't know how stale this joke is by now, came in an email while I was on vacation.
Breaking News: Michael Vick/Aaron Brooks Dog Fighting Case

Breaking News from Richmond , VA :

Asst. United States Attorney Michael Gill announced that Michael Vick's cousin, Aaron Brooks, will not face indictment in the Bad Newz Kennel dog fighting scandal. According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Mr. Brooks' pitbulls failed to show any fighting spirit, did not indicate any will to win, fought only off their back foot, and wouldn't stop smiling when they bit the wrong dog.

Old or not, it was a little lame the first time I read it.

*It's too far past my bedtime for an angry diatribe.

There were a few instances in this forum tonight where Democrats gave some untruthful descriptions of the Bush administration and the impact of administration policies on the nation. Watch.


CLINTON: Well, the first thing I would do would put somebody in charge to actually cared about the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We know how badly this president has ruined the country.


SHUSTER: The use of the word ruin is pretty amazing, Chris, because you think “ruin” is defined as irreparable damage, and for Joe Biden to say the nation is irreparably damaged, is ruined permanently, that is a bit of a stretch. And also you can have arguments about whether it is right policy as far as rebuilding New Orleans and what they‘re doing, but to say that the Bush administration does not care about New Orleans, that‘s a leap.

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