Sunday, February 24, 2008

One definition of sanity

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, the definition of sanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results. Unfortunately, the mayor's latest outburst produced a slightly different result than usual. If the op-ed page of today's T/P is any indication, Nagin didn't just distract attention from other matters, it seems to have had an intimidating effect on local journalists.

To be sure, James Gill did write about Nagin's most recent tantrum rather than more important matters in today's column, but he pulled the few punches he bothered to throw. Gill got in his usual witticism or two, but he also repeated the Picayune's apology for a recent photo of the mayor holding a gun.

However, the truly puzzling aspect of Gill's column was that it seemed to be an attempt to offer an explanation for the mayor's statements. A questionable explanation at that:
The security question came up after Nagin complained about blogs on a website affiliated with, but not controlled by, the Times-Picayune.

The Web site posts articles from the paper and invites reader comments. Among readers taking advantage of that opportunity, Nagin said, are "some of the most vile, angry people that I've ever seen in this community."

He is absolutely correct. Some of those bloggers can put a racist spin on a weather report, although it seems a bit of a stretch to blame the newspaper for that.

It's not at all clear whether Nagin was referring to commenters at or New Orleans bloggers, many of whom are frequently critical of the mayor. I suppose that Gill may have inferred that Nagin must have been referring to comments on because none of the New Orleans bloggers can be said to make racist criticisms* of the mayor, but that's a strange inference for a writer of Gill's well known cynicism to draw. Politicians frequently question the motivations of their critics, and accusations of prejudice are easy way to call motivations into question. Gill is assuming that Nagin made a perfectly reasonable statement in an interview that left people questioning his very sanity.

So, what should Gill have written about? Before I answer that, I'll quote something that I wrote last May:
To my way of thinking, those reasons fall into two broad general categories. Excessive secrecy leads to even more waste of money, which leads to more uncompleted projects and other fiscal problems. Also, whatever rebuilding decisions are made, some people are going to disagree. Excessive secrecy can only lead to more rancor and bitterness on the part of residents who are unhappy with those decisions and help justify charges of conspiracies or crooked insider deals.

I made a similar point the following August, BTW. Bear that in mind as you read today's article on the plans for the new VA hospital and LSU Medical Center. I don't know if there's corruption involved, although I automatically suspect corruption whenever there's secrecy surrounding a government project that does not involve national security but does involve millions of dollars; maybe I'm just too cynical. However, some things are entirely predictable:
"I understand the VA is needed for New Orleans," Rogers said. "My biggest issue has just been with the way it's all happened, and the absolute lack of respect the city has shown in dealing with people in this situation. . . . The only things we hear from the mayor are his grandiose announcements in the paper."

City leaders said they did not want to convene a neighborhood meeting until they had definitive word that the VA plans to build in the Tulane-Gravier area.
The city did not find it premature, however, to sign a memorandum in November in which it agreed to acquire 34 acres between Galvez and Rocheblave for the VA hospital...

I'll also point out that so much secrecy isn't just unacceptable from the administration of a mayor who like to be called a "champion of transparency," it's also unlawful.

So, James Gill, if you're reading this, stop paying so much attention to the things that the mayor does say, and start writing about how little anybody in his "transparent" administration actually does say. If you're worried about the mayor's the mayor's threat to coldcock somebody, relax -- I got your back. Or, I would, if you actually wrote about that, and I'd probably have coverage from at least a dozen other residents.

*Well, since Gill's colleague, Jarvis DeBerry, once explained that it was racist for a white man to call a black woman a "bitch," he might argue that high-maintenance size queen is also racist.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

A strong legislative team

I almost did a spit take at one point listening to Lee Zurik's report on the mayor's schedule tonight. The report basically consisted of Clancy DuBos criticizing the mayor, and (Dillard political scientist) Gary Clark defending the mayor. At one point, Clark said:
“That becomes a question of style,” he said. “In the past we've had individuals who are mayors who came out of the Baton Rouge environment. This mayor's approach is if you put together a strong legislative team that may not be necessary.”

The problem with that defense is that Nagin doesn't even bother to communicate with his legislative team:
"I'm not sure where this came from," said state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, a Nagin legislative floor leader who said he learned of the casino initiative only hours before the mayor's announcement.

Also, I know that Zurik's report was on Nagin's 2007 work schedule, but when he mentioned both Dallas and Jamaica, I thought of 2005. The mayor first lit out for Dallas less than two weeks after Katrina, and first went south to Jamaica within about ninety days of Katrina. The second trip is why I give Nagin the lion's share of the blame for the NIMBY/FEMA trailer mess of December 2005, perhaps historians will explore that aspect of the story since journalists and bloggers missed it.

(He forgot) The Two Doctors

Last February I wrote about the fact that both Dr. John and Dr. Jeremiah Wright (that Jeremiah Wright) were outraged that the city spent money to plant Palm trees on Canal Street when it had so many more pressing needs. Though only Dr. Wright specifically mentioned the mayor, the only inference I could draw was that spending decisions were made with photo-ops or payoffs in mind.

Before the Picayune wimped out, I considered referring to that post in reference to the recent gun brouhaha. "If all you think about is photo-ops, don't complain about 'out of context' photos" or "live by the photo-op, die by the photo-op," or something along those lines. For the sake of argument, I would have used the less venal explanation for the mayor's spending decisions.

With that in mind, I'd suggest that the mayor add Dr. Wright (Dr. John didn't actually name the mayor) to his list of people to take to the parking lot, cold cock or shoot(?):
Paulsen: Will you ever pick up a gun again?

Nagin: In a different capacity, maybe

Watching the interview, that sounded like a joke about shooting somebody. Yes, a joke, but the mayor was complaining about an "out of context" photo that the Picayune showed of him playing with a gun.

Of course, I was joking about the mayor including Jeremiah Wright on his list, that would take away from the race card that the mayor was trying to play this afternoon. I don't want to overstate the race card, rich white conservatives play the oppressed card when they're trying to attack the media. I will say that identity politics usually make attacking the media more effective. Never mind, he was clearly "playing the race card" or "engaging in identity politics" and attacking the media.

Jeffrey gives thecold cock list at the yellow blog. As you may have inferred, I'm inclined to disagree with the consensus opinion that the mayor is deranged. Attacking the media is a perfectly sane tactic. The mayor might have employed the tactic in a seemingly deranged manner, but seeming deranged worked wonders for him once before. Anyone who's ever worked for a quick temper artist knows that there's a certain level of premeditation to that kind of display. That doesn't mean it won't prove to be stupid, but I doubt it.

Coming soon, do I have more reason to cold cock Nagin, or does Nagin have more reason to cold cock me? I'd like to do that post tonight, but it's been a long, hard week. Just ignore the wording of that last sentence.

One last thought, since Nagin's anger was partly at Lee Zurik's FOIA request, I suppose that another link to this City Business report is in order.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It’s a terrific New American Century, right?

I read the paper in the waiting room of oral surgeon's office this afternoon. Bill Kristol and a root canal might seem like a dreadful combination, but, in fact, the unintented humor a Bill Kristol column can be quite the mood elevator.

Today's* column begins with a strained literary allusion that's even more of a George Will parody than George Will columns have been for at least fifteen years. You might think that imitating one famous pundit would be enough for one column, but today's assertion was so absurd that the George Will style literary digression was just the warm-up. To make his main point required a shameless David the Likable imitation:
Republicans tend to think of themselves as the governing party — with some of the arrogance and narrowness that implies, but also with a sense of real-world responsibility. Many Democrats, on the other hand, no longer even try to imagine what action and responsibility are like. They do, however, enjoy the support of many refined people who snigger at the sometimes inept and ungraceful ways of the Republicans. (And, if I may say so, the quality of thought of the Democrats’ academic and media supporters — a permanent and, as it were, pensioned opposition — seems to me to have deteriorated as Orwell would have predicted.)

In typical David Brooks style, Kristol admits to some minor fault common to Republicans in an attempt to seem fair and open-minded. Of course, that minor admission is followed by the assertion that we're better off putting our faith in Republicans to govern the country responsibly. He even throws in David Brooks style insinuations about Democrats as elitists; "refined people who snigger," "academic and media supporters."

Well, since Kristol wants us to believe that Republicans know how to govern responsibly, I'll repeat Stephen Colbert's question:
How’s the New American Century?

*In today's Picayune, yesterday's NYT.
Cross-posted at Katrinacrat

Monday, February 18, 2008


Which brings us to the second reason why hiring an experienced construction manager is a good idea: capacity. The city doesn't have it, and a big firm such as MWH does. The company also has a lot more expertise than the city, and it has all-important experience in dealing with FEMA.

Good thinking there Clancy. Real good thinking:
The fiscal report also claims that city officials used "illegal contracting methodology" in inking agreements worth more than $92 million with two national firms, the Shaw Group and Montgomery Watson Harza. It says the deal with Montgomery Watson tied profits to costs, an arrangement that violates federal rules because it provides no incentive to keep costs low.

The report also claims both contracts were awarded without competition, which boosted the risk of "unreasonable prices," and that the city failed to monitor contractor performance. The Shaw contract, for home inspections and environmental mitigation, was written after the storm. Montgomery Watson already had a contract with the city that was amended to include storm-drain cleaning and construction management.

MWH's qualifications aside, it seems somewhat trusting to hire the biggest contractor on the biggest repair job facing the city to oversee all of the city's repair jobs, as a matter of general principle. I think the Picayune also wrote an editorial praising the move, but I couldn't find it online. The S&WB is a separate entity from the City of New Orleans, so its contracts might be handled separately, but it's still a lot of faith in one company.

Thanks Jeffrey, for reminding me of that DuBos column.

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Nagin's lamest excuse yet

A front page article of the latest City Business begins:
N.O. erects info barrier for citizens, City Council
Mayor’s public records request policy violates state open records law

City officials are violating state public records law with a policy requiring citizens to make all public records request in writing.

City Council members, residents and the media are regularly barred from public information on city activities or the turnaround time takes far longer than the prescribed three days.

The Public Records Act of Louisiana mandates city officials must turn over public documents, with few exceptions, within 72 hours. If city officials can’t comply in 72 hours, they need to respond in writing and explain why they can’t furnish the documents within the same time frame.

Mayor C. Ray Nagin’s office referred all questions to the New Orleans city attorney, who defends the protective public records policy.

“This has been an existing policy that can be verified as far back as 1994, when Avis Russell was appointed city attorney,” said City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields in an e-mailed statement.

I seem to recall something about a return to the politics of the past if we elected Nagin's opponent in the last election.

At any rate, New Orleans City Business says on its front page what the Picayune occasionally says in Saturday editorials, quoting Matt Mcbride:
McBride, through his work with the PRC, often reviews demolition contracts. The public records issue is one example of the city’s frequent withholding of public information, he said.

“What we’ve also found is they don’t follow requests for Housing Conservation District Review Committee agendas,” McBride said. “They routinely don’t send it. And a contract should not be hard to find, particularly if it’s for multimillion dollars.”

In a related note, I misstated my case in an earlier post. Editor b's friend (see the first comment) is correct that the Times Picayune has run editorial criticizing the mayor on weekdays. The hardest hitting ones that I could locate can be found here, here and here. Amazingly, the Picayune was able to editorialize about garbage collection contracts without mentioning secrecy or campaign contributions.

However, I should have written that the T/P's editorials about secrecy bordering on dishonesty have all been hidden on Saturday. Criticism of the mayor on individual issues is all well and good, but the mayor's utter contempt for the very transparency that he claims to "champion" is the background issue behind all the other issues. It's understandable that the editors of the Picayune are reluctant to question Nagin's integrity, but they only need to ask what he's hiding and let readers draw their conclusions.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

On second thought

The Cord Meyer/Robert Novack; Jonas Savimbi/Warren Riley analogy was a lame attempt to be clever. Even though Novak's praise for Warren Riley did remind me of a 25-30 year old Cord Meyer piece, it was a pointless distraction. The only thing worth discussing is why Novak would write a column on the turnaround that Cerasoli has supposedly helped to effect, before Cerasoli has even finished hiring his staff. As I said, it couldn't be a shortage of material during an election season. But it could be an effort to influence the election debate.

Robert Novak channels Cord Meyer, visits a thirld world city

A recent Robert Novak* column was reminiscent of a Cold War era Cord Meyer column in which we were told what third world leader the U.S. needed to back in order to thwart Soviet ambitions and bring peace, stability and democracy to the horn of Africa, or East Africa or Central America. You'll never believe who the Jonas Savimbi role goes to in Novak's New Orleans:
In a city whose good-time image belies high murder rates and violent crime that existed even before Katrina, the new local district attorney, Keva Landrum-Johnson, and police chief Warren Riley are bringing reform to a law enforcement system notorious for putting arrested criminals back on the street

To be fair, Novak lavishes the bulk of his praise on Inspector General Robert Cerasoli, who certainly seems to be the right man for the job. He should, however, do a better job of checking his facts before making public statements:
He wondered why crime was much more rampant in New Orleans than in Atlanta, a larger city with a smaller police force.

It's possible that Novak incorrectly paraphrases Cerasoli, but the second part of the statement is factually incorrect and the first part is misleading. Metropolitan Atlanta has had a larger population than Metropolitan New Orleans for decades, but the city of Atlanta didn't overtake New Orleans in population until the 1995 census estimate, it's never a greater population in a ten year census count.

That's a minor quibble, the main question is why Novak rushes to praise the turnaround that Cerasoli has helped to bring about before we've had a chance to accurately gauge Cerasoli's performance. Cerasoli took office last Summer, but he didn't receive the funding for his staff until this year's budget took effect, so why the rush? I suppose it's possible that Novak's short on material in an election year, but i find it far more likely that he wants to defuse Katrina reconstruction as an election issue.

To that end, Novak comes up with laughable statements like:
But civic leaders I met agreed that law enforcement, criminal justice, education and health care all are better than they were before Katrina.

He sets the bar about as low as you could possibly set it, and he still gets it wrong. Health care?

More importantly, he repeats a misleading statement that we've all become disgusted with:
Louisiana politicians grumble that the flow of around $120 billion from Washington has been insufficient and mourn for some 180,000 New Orleanians who have left the area

Once again, that figure overstates the amount of aid by over $20B in flood insurance payments right off the bat. The federal government was obligated to make. And, Novak implies, though he doesn't state, that the money has all gone to the New Orleans area. That's money that's been allocated for the five Gulf Coast states for relief from three hurricanes. If I'm not mistaken, it actually goes beyond gulf states to reimburse inland states for costs associated with Katrina evacuees. I don't have the time to list the myriad other ways in which the aid figure overstates the case, but I will point out that it even includes "Go Zone" tax credits for developers in places like Tuscaloosa. I was under the impression that conservatives like Novak maintained that "tax relief" doesn't cost the treasury money. It's funny that they include tax credits in their tally of Katrina aid.

Update: Scratch the opening paragraph.

* H/T Suspect Device.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Who is Clover Davis?

Nagin's political finance report lists several expenditures totaling almost $25,000 to Clover Davis & Associates for "consulting & office management." The odd thing is, I couldn't find any listing for either "Clover Davis" or "Davis, Clover" on the state's corporate database. However, a google search reveals that in July 2006 she helped coordinate the Nagin campaign "sunset 'thank you' cruise on the Silicon Bayou. She was apparently acting as an employee of the Nagin campaign at that time. A month later, she seemed to be working for the city in an official capacity. Shortly thereafter, Nagin was paying her firm consulting fees.

BTW, I'm really glad that WWL posted that report with the expenditures, because that kind of information is a pain in the ass to find at the Board of Ethics website. As it is, I couldn't find Nagin's 2006 campaign expenditures to determine whether Davis was paid by the city and the Nagin campaign at the time.

Myers-Briggs on steroids

The Birkman Method is like a Myers-Briggs on steroids.*

Frank Donze seems to have made a minor error in his otherwise excellent report Thursday:
Nagin also paid $6,290 to the Carrison Inc. political consulting firm of Camden, S.C.

In fact, Carrison Inc. is a management consulting firm that, well:
After 20 years in the management-consulting business, Perry Carrison has successfully designed a variety of interactive, inter-personal programs that assist senior and mid-level managers with leadership skills and team building in the workplace.

"Life is a series of classrooms," says Carrison, "there are lessons to be learned in all relationships. The key is finding out what those lessons might be."

That's definitely the Carrison Inc. listed on the mayor's campaign finance report because (click bio on the previous link):
As guided by Perry Carrison, each client strives for profound goals: know myself, my talents and challenges – then lead like no one else. From The World Bank to the Discovery Channel to FreddieMac to the Mayor of New Orleans, Carrison has listened until each leader was sure of his or her voice.

My point isn't to nit-pick about Donze's reporting, nor is it to make fun of the mayor for spending campaign money to be sure of his voice. As amusing as that thought might be, I agree** with my fellow bloggers that making fun of the mayor is a distraction.

I bring this up because Carrison's client list includes the City of New Orleans. If that's a misprint and Carrison means to list "Ray Nagin" or the "Ray Nagin campaign" as a client, the above is unimportant. But if the city is spending public money to help the mayor's over-paid aides find their voices, it's worth talking about.

*link Under programs then Birkman Method, individual pages on the site all have the same link.

**"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."

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Spent too much time on blog-related matters last weekend, so I really can't put the time and effort into this that I'd like.

Since the Mayor's Communication Director complains about a lack of context in a recent Times Picayune item, I thought it would be appropriate to add some context to some other recent reporting. As you read, or hear, reports about the mayor's recent fund raising, try to remember the mayor's campaign commercials in which he insinuated that businesses that contributed to his opponent must have been motivated by a desire for city contracts.

I've already discussed Lee Zurik's report on the mayor's fund raising activities, Frank Donze followed with a report in today's Picayune. Individually, each made a stronger connection between the mayor's fund raising and city contracts than anything we'd seen before. Together, they make an unmistakable impression.

I don't want to be overly critical of either report (I was impressed with both), but even taken together, the two reports understate the case. For example, Donze informs us that "more than 10 percent of the money Nagin raised last year came from the city's three major trash haulers," and Zurik informed us that Jimmie Woods, of Metro Disposal, is part owner of other businesses with city contracts. However, neither mentioned that SDT's major sub-contractor and its parent company (link) are both Nagin donors.

As hard-hitting as this is:
More than a third of Nagin's contributions last year came from architects and engineers who do business with the city. All told, 33 such firms and individuals donated $74,500 to Nagin's war chest, with most giving $2,500.

In addition, Nagin raked in $8,750 from insurance brokers who share in commissions from city insurance contracts. The group includes the firms Fulton Johnson Newman & Pittman and Swanson & Associates, as well as brokers Felton Walter and Charles Kennedy.

Meanwhile, individuals and companies sharing in a city contract to collect delinquent property taxes and hold annual tax sales contributed a total of $6,000.

I still believe that Donze understates the case, but it would have been impossible for Donze to describe each donor individually*.

Still, take away firms and individuals who do business with the city, and you won't find many donors left that aren't from the Kansas City area (I'm assuming that the Kansas and Missouri towns that I'm unfamiliar with are in the KC area). This brings me to my one objection to Donze's report:
The campaign finance report also cleared up lingering questions about a fund raiser Nagin held last summer in Kansas City, Mo. Nagin has dodged questions about the out-of-town event, which brought in about $9,900, according to the filing.

It might have cleared up some questions, but it raised more. Even if none of the KC donors gave much, the number is intriguing. I assume that most attended the mayor's KC fund raiser, but there's still the question of why Nagin had a fund raiser in Kansas City in the first place.

Offhand, I can only think of three connections between New Orleans and Kansas City. Hank Stram died a few years ago and I doubt that Anthony Amato hosted the fundraiser. That leaves me wondering how many of the KC fundraiser attendees were MWH subcontractors.

Before you dismiss the MWH connection out of hand, note that Donze reports:
The report by CHANGE Inc. showed that two Kansas City companies helped stage the fundraiser. Black & Veatch Corp., which has done work for the Sewerage & Water Board, supplied food and beverage services worth about $2,600, while Walton Construction Co. provided entertainment worth $800, according to the report.

The filing also showed that CHANGE Inc. gave a $1,000 campaign contribution to Kansas City mayoral candidate Alvin Brooks.

CHANGE Inc. listed a $2,500 contribution in 2007 from Montgomery Watson Harza, the engineering management firm that received a $6 million contract last month from the Nagin administration to coordinate the work of architects, engineers and building contractors hired by the city to fix flood-damaged public buildings and parks.

I would add that Nagin's report contains a contribution from "Friends of Terry Riley for City Council." Did you click that last link?

Update: Of course, Donze mentioned the more obvious connection between N.O. and K.C., Black & Veatch is headquartered in K.C. and does do work for the S.&W.B. MWH does much more, however.

*interesting connection.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

We needed the wide angle shot

Maitri, Schroeder, Adrastos and the editors of the Picayune are all going to be really embarrassed. Never mind, I give up, I can't come with anything as funny as this:
The mayor's full statement:

"The photo selected to depict the public safety press conference on yesterday by the Times Picayune grossly misrepresented the Mayor of the City of New Orleans, the Superintendent of Police and the men and women of the police department. The press conference held by the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) was designed to display to the public the department's new crime fighting and life saving equipment. Further, the announcement acknowledged the entities that have worked in cooperation with the city to make this new equipment a reality-the State of La Delegation authorized over $6million in the last legislative session for the purchase of new equipment as well as to acknowledge other organizations that donated equipment to this recovering police force.

Yesterday's announcement was a lift to the morale of this heroic police department that lost much of it's resources in Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that resulted from the levee breaches. Mayor Nagin was and continues to be on the frontlines working to secure resources for this agency, as well as the other agencies within city government that are struggling to rebuild.

Unfortunately, photos of the command unit that will be stationed across from the NBA headquarters for this week's NBA All Star Game were not selected for publication, unfortunately photos of the smart boards and computer equipment that will allow officers to have real time data and analysis while in the field were not selected to educate, inform and reassure the publics confidence. Instead a photo, taken out of context, was selected by our own local media and now showcased across the nation as a mockery of all this city's recovery efforts. This is the real tragedy.

Ceeon D. Quiett
Communication Director
Office of the Mayor
C. Ray Nagin"

FWIW:My entry into's caption contest:
Comedy turned into tragedy as an irresponsible and ungrateful news media mocked the mayor's hard and effort.

It didn't seem to show up in the comments for some reason. Never mind, I expected the most recent comments to be at the bottom, I see that the Picayune puts them at the top.

It's always a good month

to talk about LSU football:
LSU recently announced that it will start the 2008 football season at home against Appalachian State, much to the dismay of many Tiger fans who can’t fathom playing against an I-AA school.

Before you accuse LSU of padding its schedule, remember Appalachian St. beat Michigan at Michigan last year.

As Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated put it:
Shortly before last season's BCS bowls, I was having a conversation with an athletic director at one of the nation's football powers when he mentioned he still had a game to fill on his 2008 non-conference schedule. At such a late stage, he said, he would likely have to resort to a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) opponent.
While he didn't explicitly say so, I could tell from his response he wanted nothing to do with the three-time defending Division I-AA national champions, and who could blame him? Appalachian State's stunning 34-32 upset of then fifth-ranked Michigan in last year's season opener showed not only how dangerous the Mountaineers can be but also what a gigantic stigma losing to such a team creates.
Give credit to LSU for going where so many others would not. Over the past few months, Appalachian State associate athletic director Jay Sutton got turned down by one BCS-conference school after another in his quest for a big-conference opponent (the Boone, N.C., school has faced at least one upper-division foe every year since 1982). "We'd come back with, 'However much you're paying, we'll take less,' " said Sutton. "That didn't work either."

Florida State, North Carolina and Georgia Tech all declined, according to Sutton. The Tar Heels, perhaps wary of losing to an in-state opponent, opted instead to play another regular FCS playoff participant, McNeese State. Florida State and Clemson -- both of which are playing two lower-division foes next season -- opted for less-threatening teams from Appalachian State's conference, Western Carolina and The Citadel.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The McCain Doctrine

Obama gave a good speech tonight, but I have to wonder where the Democrats have been for the last year:
The McCain Doctrine

In a potentially brilliant political move on ABC News' This Week, John Edwards (D) said he opposed a U.S. troop increase in Iraq -- or "surge" -- and referred to the proposal as the "McCain doctrine," after the strategy's biggest proponent, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Expect the phrase to be picked up by other 2008 presidential candidates soon.
January 2, 2007

I thought that I mentioned it in this blog at the time, but, alas, I can only find it an email that I sent to a friend last January:
How strongly do you dislike Clinton and Obama? I don't like winners being picked before the primaries, esp if your party doesn't have a sitting Prez or Veep running. I don't know why the machinery of both parties doesn't realize than it hasn't proven very successful. The Dems have picked Mondale and Kerry* that way. The last time the Repubs picked their candidate in advance they had to steal the general election. But I don't have any specific objections to either Clinton or Obama. I vaguely dislike Hillary and don't like being told that somebody has star quality. Right now, any Dem that joined Edwards in calling escalation the McCain Doctrine would go way up in my book. It's too late for it to catch on, but anybody who helped tarnish St. McCain's image, even in a way that gave Edwards credit, would look good to me.

Odd, I had forgotten that it was already shaping up as either Obama or Clinton against McCain way back then. Of course, McCain didn't stay on top the whole time, but it's looking like we'll see a one seed against a two seed.

At any rate, the year's been wasted in that respect. I just hope the Democrats continue to do everything possible to remind voters of McCain's flip-flops and to tie him to Bush. With that in mind, if the Democrats don't put this picture on every piece of campaign literature this Summer and Fall, they deserve to lose. If we don't see as much of that picture as we saw of Dukassis in a tank, I'll compare the Democratic party to a football team that needs to fire both its coaching staff and its front office.

For an example of why Obama's preferable to either Clinton or McCain, just click.

*I'm aware that it's debatable whether Kerry was the anointed candidate before the primaries, the quote is from an email. I try to do a google search are some type of fact check on things that I post, but emails to friends are a little different. I'm also aware that Gary Hart made a serious bid in 1984, but Mondale had the unions and most of the party bigwigs lined up by the end of 1983.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Roy Rodney Connection

I'm aware that I might be getting into Law of Fives territory and I'm also aware that New Orleans is a small enough city that there never are too many degrees of separation between any two individuals, but with so much public succor involved, any possible connection should be explored.

In its corporate filing, Succor, Inc. lists its mailing address as 1524 N. Claiborne. Succor also played a role in last year's Cutting Edge Music Business Conference:
Included this year with the help of MusicCares and Succor, Inc., a safe harbor room for those recovering from substance abuse

I don't know if Succor was paid for that service, but Cutting Edge seems to receive state funding. Cutting Edge also gives its mailing address as 1524 N. Claiborne. The conference is also produced by the Music Business Institute. The registered agent for the Music Business Institute is Roy Rodney.

Like I said law of fives, but like I also said, a lot of public succor. $300,000 from the state, $20,000 (proposed) from the city, and $250,000 from the state:
State of Louisiana Assistance
The Organization has been awarded an appropriation from the State of Louisiana to be used to defray
the expenses of establishing and maintaining health and education initiatives which is the
Organization's only program.
For the year ended December 31, 2006, the following appropriation is reflected in the financial
Contract Period July 1. 2006 through June 30. 2007
Succor, Inc. received a appropriation in the amount of $250,000. The entire contribution
was recorded as income in 2006.
Concentration of Support
The Organization receives a substantial amount of its support from the State of Louisiana. A significant
reduction in the level of this support, if this were to occur, may have an effect on the Organization's
programs and activities. Approximately 80.7% of the Organizations support for the year ended December 31, 2006, came from the Governor's Office of Urban Affairs.

I think it's worth exploring any possible connection to a Morial crony, or (shush) a Nagin Crony.

Always on Saturday


The Picayune stopped short of calling the mayor a lying sack of sh** yesterday, but Saturday's editorial was a welcome step in the right direction:
To add to the insult, the Nagin administration shut down the program months ago without telling residents it was doing so.

This is outrageous behavior. Unfortunately, the poor communication is typical for this administration.

It is especially galling that Mayor Ray Nagin continued to tout the Good Neighbor effort publicly after it had been quietly shut down.


But that doesn't excuse the fact that New Orleanians were misled. Mayor Nagin ought to apologize, and he ought to make sure that residents get the truth from City Hall.

I found the concluding sentence (quoted above) somewhat timid, but that's not my main point. A pattern has become undeniable. When the editorial writers at the Picayune decide to criticize the mayor, the editorial is invariably printed on Saturday. Since the Sunday paper has the highest readership, we can safely assume that Sunday editorials command the most attention. I have no idea how Saturday readership compares to weekday readership, but I do know that weekday editorials get discussed on weekday talk radio shows; so there is at least one way in which Saturday editorials get less attention than weekday editorials. So once again, I'm left wondering why the editorials that criticize the mayor are always published on Saturday. In the past I've compared it to the mumblings under the breath of the coward who feels the need to say something but is afraid to say it very loudly. I suppose that it could be a different person making the editorial decisions on Saturdays or just a coincidence. Any thoughts?

Update: Editor B's comment prompted me to look through recent Picayune editorials. There have indeed been some editorials that criticized the mayor on weekdays, two or three were even fairly hard-hitting. FWIW, I didn't find any on Sunday. However, those editorials were about specific spending decisions and they centered on wasted money rather than on what led to bad spending decisions. For example, I came across two editorials about the sanitation contracts that failed to mention either secrecy or campaign contributions. The "champion of transparency" had clearly begun negotiating the new contracts by May 2006, but the price of "Disneyland-like" service wasn't revealed until late September 2006, by which time Waste Management had decided to pull out. The editorials that have discussed the mayor's very credibility have all appeared on Saturdays, which effectively means that they won't get discussed on weekday talk radio or, I would guess, in workplace lunchrooms. I'll add to this with quotes from editorials as soon as time permits.

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Josh Marshall: commendably fair or incredibly biased?

Read the following passage from TPM:
First of all, some have criticized Greg Sargent's reporting. But let me make this crystal clear. I personally signed off on the post and I wrote the front page headline myself.

Some have said that Clinton's letter to NBC wasn't written clearly or that she was saying that suspensions and apologies were not enough, that what was needed was a broader reevaluation on the network's part of its attitude to women and Hillary Clinton in particular.

Simply read the key passage ...

Nothing justifies the kind of debasing language that David Shuster used and no temporary suspension or half-hearted apology is sufficient.

I would urge you to look at the pattern of behavior on your network that seems to repeatedly lead to this sort of degrading language.

Some readers seem to believe that Clinton is saying that it's not about suspensions or apologies. It's about MSNBC's need to reevaluate its pattern of behavior.

But there's a fatal flaw with this strained interpretation. Look at the actual words. If that's the case, why does she qualify 'suspension' with the adjective 'temporary'? That tells the tale right there. The alternative to a temporary suspension is a permanent one, which is clear English we call 'firing'.

I give the Clinton campaign the respect of knowing that they're no slouches with the written word. And the words in this letter were clearly chosen with great care. The point of that passage was that merely suspending Shuster was insufficient -- that he needs to be fired. That's what they meant. And I have little doubt that Shuster and the MSNBC execs understood the meaning the moment they read it. I think it would be wrong to shy away from making that clear.

Greg Sargent's report can be found here.

All I can say to that is, WTF? Whet the F***ing F***? A single word -- "temporary" -- is fraught with dire implication, but the entire sentence that follows is meaningless? What does Marshall use to support his thesis? He falls back on the tired canard that "the Clintons" calculate every thing they say and do. It's funny how disciplined "the Clintons" are, except when they're not.

Marshall says "read the key passage," yet he ignores the clear meaning of the second half of the "key passage." I'd give Marshall credit for being fair enough to include the entire passage, but he didn't even seem to consider the meaning of the second sentence. Clinton was clearly calling for an end to a pattern of behavior that's been obvious for years. The Clinton campaign may have also been calling for Shuster's dismissal, but that clearly wasn't the primary objective. Of course, to believe that Clinton was calling for Shuster's dismissal, you'd have to believe that the incredibly disciplined (except when they're not) "Clintons" were totally unaware of the backlash that Shuster's dismissal would produce.

I'll offer my counter to Marshall's thesis. Marshall and Greg Sargent are brilliant and talented writers, but they're also partisan hacks. I give Marshall and Sargent of knowing that they're no slouches with the written word. They're also aware of the ability of the internet to influence the Sunday morning talk show debate. And I have little doubt that Marshall and Sargent understood that they were giving Clinton-haters in the MSM an opportunity to put her on the defensive. I think it would be wrong to shy away from making that clear.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Sucker, Inc.

You probably assumed that, since the Gill Pratt scandal, the city council had enacted new rules governing the disbursement of city funds to private organizations. To be sure, the first effort to pass such rules was deferred, but you probably assumed that the matter was revisited and resolved later. After all, if the city council weren't the very model of fiscal probity, Fielkow would have never broken out of his Fielgood mode and chewed out Midura for daring to suggest otherwise, right? Guess again Succor sucker:*
NO ASSISTANCE FOR SUCCOR: One of interim Councilman Michael Darnell's last acts in office before Jackie Clarkson replaced him in late November was to introduce a resolution giving $20,000 to a group called Succor Inc.

The money would have come from the $225,000 that Harrah's New Orleans Casino gives the council each year for distribution to community organizations and worthy causes, all to be determined by the council members.

Darnell said he thought Succor would be a worthy recipient, but he agreed to leave a final decision up to his elected successor.

Clarkson this week killed the proposed grant. She said she hadn't been able to learn much about the organization and thought that, in any case, $20,000 was too much to give to one group. She said she will propose dividing the $20,000 among several groups.

Without knowing anything about Succor, Inc., one can't help but wonder about the position taken by the old council members and the District C reformer that there was no need for recipients of city government grants to fill out a questionnaire because the city council already required information from grant recipients. Apparently, the city council doesn't require much information.

Of course, an item like that can't help but provoke a google search from a person like me. There's not a whole of information available on Succor, inc. I see from C.B. Forgotston that some state legislator proposed a $300,000 grant for the organization. That makes an item in an independent auditor's report (pdf or html) all the more interesting:
Nature of Activities
Succor, Inc. (the Organization) is a non-profit corporation organized to foster, protect and promote the
public welfare, character and spiritual development by making donations for the public benefit and by
engaging in charitable, educational and civic endeavors, by bringing about programs of an educational
and economic value, and by cultivating the practice of volunteerism among its members.
The Organization is supported primarily through government cooperative endeavor agreements and
does not engage in fundraising activities.

I find it amazing that an operation that relies on government funding can fly so far under the radar.

I don't know if I want to put names to the other questionable items that I found because I don't believe that succor, Inc, actually received the $300,000 grant. As a general rule, I don't like to post the names of private citizens, unless I see that they're politically active and recipients of large government contracts. However, it's interesting that the registered agent for Succor seems to be an entertainment lawyer who owns the building that Succor pays rent on (with money that it raises primarily through government cooperative endeavor agreements). The lawyer in question also seems to have some other business arrangements with Succor though his other business enterprises and some kind of working relationship with a disbarred attorney; there may even be a tenuous Roy Rodney connection. My email contact is right above the archives, if anybody is interested in the info that I don't want to post just yet.

Addition: I seem to have left the obvious question of what state legislator(s) proposed the $300,000 grant for Succor, Inc.

*It seems that the most interesting items in the Saturday "New Orleans Politics" column are often at, or near, the bottom of the column.

Somewhat embarassed

I really should have put a little more thought (or just a little thought at all) into a paragraph that appeared in this post:
Not surprisingly, last night's WWL report, and my post on it, led me to check the Secretary of State's website to see if Nagin had filed a new campaign finance report. I couldn't find it; I seemed to have a much easier time finding that sort of thing before Jay Dardenne took over and revamped the website. I know that there are more important things to judge a secretary of state on, but I am curious as to whether anybody else has experienced the same thing.

As a commenter pointed out, campaign finance reports are filed with the State Board of Ethics, not the Secretary of State's office. The Secretary's of State's office merely provides a link to the Board of Ethics. I have noticed what I mentioned, but obviously Jay Dardenne's office would have responsibility for the problem, if it's even a problem. I didn't give it much thought because, when I first noticed it, I assumed it a case of inadequate sample size -- a couple of easy searches before the 2006 mayoral elections, a couple of frustrating searches recently. I never considered it worth mentioning in part because of the sampling consideration, but also because I assumed that nobody outside of the blogosphere would judge a state agency by the number of mouse clicks that it takes a blogger to find material for a post. Seeing information on WWLTV on Friday night that I failed to find online Friday afternoon led to a brain fart that I should have kept to myself. I apologize for the criticism of Jay Dardenne's office.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Of course,

The most interesting thing about tonight's report on the mayor's fund raising was undoubtedly:
While New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin publicly danced around questions about his political future, he spent a considerable amount of money polling and researching a possible gubernatorial run, according to documents obtained by Eyewitness News.

Campaign records for all of 2007, which were filed with Louisiana's ethics board, show Nagin paid Dr. Silas Less (sic), a political consultant, almost $60,000 last year.

“That's a lot of money to spend on polling,” said Dr. Ed Renwick, Eyewitness News political analyst. “I need a client like that. That's not too common.”

Eyewitness News contacted Lee on Friday. He said he conducted statewide polls and research for Nagin, who was interested in the governor's election.
And in keeping with Eyewitness News’ full disclosure policy, it should be noted that Greg Rigamer, who conducts data analysis work for WWL-TV, which includes analysis of election returns, gave $2,500 to the Nagin campaign fund last year.

Yep, he paid sixty grand to find out that he couldn't be elected governor. It seems that the mayor is as thrifty with his campaign funds as he is with the city's recovery funds. Don't be fooled by the typo in the transcript, Zurik clearly said Silas Lee in the report. You may recall that Lee was also paid $13,500 by the Nagin campaign during the 2006 election.

Susan Howell, Jeff Crouere (former treasurer of the Nagin-backing GNOR), Stephen Sabludowsky, Greg Rigamer and Silas Lee, yet, the mayor claims to have run against the media. Make that claimed, the city website does seem to have changed this statement :
Most recently, Mayor Nagin again defied the odds by defeating twenty-two other candidates and the media to win a second term.

In 2006 Mayor Nagin ran a successful local race that had a state wide and national scope that defied the odds by garnering diverse citizen support from republican and democratic voters to win re-election to a second term to lead one of America’s greatest cities.

From mythology to understatement -- about the Republican support. Go figure.

Lee Zurik Gets it

Most of it, anyway.

I suspect that Lee Zurik's report about the mayor's fund raising efforts on WWLTV tonight was the related to the report that I mentioned in my last post -- if it's not obvious why, I'll explain shortly. From tonight's report:
SDT, through two limited liability corporations, gave a total of $10,000, Richard’s Disposal sent $2,500 and Amid Metro Partnership, who's member, Jimmie Woods, is President of Metro Disposal, which shares the sanitation contract, gave $2,500.

In the year and a half since the garbage collection controversy began, that's the first time that I'm aware of any reporter mentioning companies that are related to Metro Disposal contributing to the mayor's campaign finances. I once jokingly referred to Zurik as a rookie (I was the amateur in that post), but it's refreshing to see that he either has the work ethic to do his homework or the basic intelligence to make the connection between "Metro Disposal" and "Amid Metro Partnership" (or the exceptional good sense to read this blog).

However, I believe he missed one thing. In addition to the two LLC's mentioned above, SDT's prime subcontractor (see my previous post) can also be found on the new donor list. It's listed twice, don't know if that's a typo or two different contributions by related companies.

Not surprisingly, last night's WWL report, and my post on it, led me to check the Secretary of State's website to see if Nagin had filed a new campaign finance report. I couldn't find it; I seemed to have a much easier time finding that sort of thing before Jay Dardenne took over and revamped the website. I know that there are more important things to judge a secretary of state on, but I am curious as to whether anybody else has experienced the same thing.

BTW, SDT's contributions to the mayor's war chest were made in April, long before Sydney Torres seems to have decided that he got snookered. I wonder if his company will appear on next year's report. I'm not passing judgment on that one, the only one of the companies with an undeniable record of insider dealings with the city is Metro Disposal.

Correction: There was a poorly thought out paragraph in above post; please see the first comment or this post.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Area Businessmen

At the same time they're awaiting sentencing from a federal judge, two New Orleans area businessmen continue to collect on lucrative contracts with Armstrong International Airport; and the airport hasn't said specifically what it plans to do about it
The contracts for Moliere show a joint venture as well, between Molere's AME Services and Romelli Janitorial Services, worth more than $3.5 million a year.

The airport also contracts directly with AME and Moliere for general floor covering and resident inspection services. The airport said Moliere's initial 1999 contract lasted four years. In June 2004, the airport board approved a month-to-month extension that has been extended ever since.

Allow me to rephrase something that I brought up two weeks ago. Until the loss of local housing caused by the federal flood made a residency rule for city workers untenable, the city required all city employees to be city residents. It certainly seems fair to ask if it was deemed advantageous to only spend city payroll money on city residents, why wasn't it also considered advantageous to only give preferential treatment in the awarding of city contracts to truly local firms? Yet, it seems that a Norco firm was able to benefit from the city's DBE program. I'm sure that AME benefited from lower overhead in Norco, but I would have been terminated from city employment (pre-Katrina) had I attempted to benefit from lower rent and utility bills outside of the city. Considering the relative sizes of the pay check that I received from the city and the contracts that AME had with the city, that hardly seems fair.

You're probably thinking that the residency rule has been lifted for city employment and the city has more important things to focus on than fine-tuning the rules governing inclusion on its DBE list. You'd be right on the first point, but not on the second point. Sixteen months ago, the mayor issued an executive order mandating increased DBE participation in the city's rebuilding as a way of nurturing local businesses:
From now on, companies that seek subsidies or tax waivers from New Orleans city agencies will be required to work with local and minority-owned businesses under an executive order signed by Mayor Ray Nagin last month.

"Any community in America that is thriving and growing has small businesses that are doing well," Nagin said.

To be fair, one of the first firms to benefit from the mayor's new policy was a New Orleans business, but I do wonder by what definition it qualifies as a small business:
In an unusual facet of the downtown bids, documents show that SDT and Ramelli chose the same subcontractor -- Empire Janitorial Sales & Services, a subsidiary of Nolmar Corp. of New Orleans -- to handle a major portion of work under the deal.

Nolmar, founded by businessman Nolan Marshall, came under fire several years ago from the Orleans Parish School Board for what school officials said was its shoddy performance as part of a joint venture with ServiceMaster.

In 2003, a year after Nagin took office, the company was part of a team that became the sole construction management firm for the New Orleans Aviation Board after the board fired a second firm with strong ties to former Mayor Marc Morial.

For all three city sanitation contracts, the city has required the prime contractors to create a 50 percent partnership with disadvantaged business enterprises; Empire/Nolmar is a qualified DBE

If the only thing that the Norco business and the New Orleans business had in common was that they were both minority owned, I would have had second thoughts about this post. However, they do seem to have something else in common. You guessed it, AME and Nolmar not only contributed to Nagin during his mayoral campaign, both companies have given money to the mayor since his re-election as well.

I should add, that I know absolutely nothing about Nolmar Corp., but during the last election, everybody in the city saw the Nagin commercials that asked why businesses were giving money to his opponent. With that in mind, I consider any business that has city contracts and that has donated to the mayor since his re-election to be questionable. Perhaps I should say "question-worthy," it's not my intention to imply anything.

For more on AME, you might remember this post at Dambala's.

Update: The odd thing is, I really know nothing about Nolmar and it wasn't even in my consciousness when I started the above post. It just turned up when I looked up everything -- school board, airport, campaign contributions -- I had saved on AME.

It also distracted me from my original point about the credit Nagin got in his first term for supposedly cleaning up the Aviation Board. Some clean-up, he even reappointed his campaign manager to the board. I also know nothing about Sean Hunter, the man that Nagin's board named as Director of Aviation, but he also seems to have a Morial appointment -- an appointment of morial's board, rather. Not a big deal, but "cleaning up" the Aviation Board ranked up there with the dog-and-pony show at the Taxicab Bureau in terms of making the mayor's reputation as a reformer. Same businesses, same people, some clean-up.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Poetry reading at Tulane

If you can make it:
Barack in New Orleans

Join Barack Obama in New Orleans on Thursday, February 7th. The event will be free and open to the public.
February 7, 2008
Tulane University
Fogelman Arena
Freret St and McAlister Dr
New Orleans, LA

Doors Open: 7:45 A.M
Programs Begins: 9:45 A.M.

The event is open to the public, but an RSVP is strongly encouraged. Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For security reasons, do not bring bags. No signs or banners permitted.

Update: For anybody who didn't see the preceding post, the title is a swipe at Obama, but at the blogger at the Huffington Post who apparently got carried away with his own "poetry." It odes me wonder, if Obama and McCain are the Democratic and Republican candidates, will we be seeing poetry slams rather than debates this Fall?

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Title of a recent post at TPM Cafe:
Why It Should Be Obama vs. McCain

Concluding paragraph:
So let poet confront poet; let the mythical crosscurrents converge; let distinctions between them blur in the mythmaking. And, for now, at least, let the ranters, ravers, and know-it-alls who have given us so much grief look as foolish as they truly are.

Not that the preceding paragraphs were much more coherent.

While I'm on the subject of national blogs, did any of the big boys link to Kristol's appearance on The Colbert Report during the recent kerfuffle over Kristol's appointment to the NYT's editorial page? It seemed obvious, but I didn't see anybody do it

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Three ways of looking at McCain

"Look, ask Jack Abramoff, who's in prison today — a guy who was a corrupt lobbyist — and his friends if I haven't cut spending," McCain said

By the time McCain took control of the investigation started by Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who retired from the Senate in 2005, investigators knew that Ralph Reed had taken large amounts of Indian casino money in more than one state. What Reed and Abramoff did to one small tribe in Texas justified bringing Reed before the committee and putting him under oath, as was done with Abramoff. Perhaps Reed was never called because he was too powerful to confront, or because he was still considered a prospect for elected office. But he got a walk, and the Tigua tribe in El Paso never got a full accounting of what Reed and Abramoff had done to them.
While John McCain is running for president on his success in pursuing Jack Abramoff, some reporter will inevitably ask him why he failed to pursue big funders who were considered too powerful to challenge.

Don't expect to hear Ralph Reed raise that question as a news analyst for "the most trusted name in news."
The Washington Spectator

The political slant of the Spectator is pretty obvious, but when I came across the quoted article, I decided to do a little googling. It seems to me that three possible conclusions can be drawn:

Pro-McCain -- He went after the truth and let the chips fall.

Anti-McCain, right wing version -- He grandstanded at the expense of his own party and/or was the tool of his liberal buddies.

Anti-McCain, left wing version -- some Republicans blamed the messenger at the time, but the cat was out of the bag and McCain actually engaged in damage control while grandstanding for a presidential run.

Draw your own conclusion. For your convenience, two links that are sympathetic to McCain. Two links that aren't.

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A simple question

Why is this show still on the air?

I had all the Endymion I could take, and a little channel surfing prompted a simple question. Anybody got a simple answer?

Addition, also found while channel surfing on a Saturday night:

TNA wrestling has a woman wrestler, Roxxi Laveaux, who's billed as being a vodoo queen from Congo Square in New Orleans. She's also accompanied by a couple of rednecks who call thmselves the Voodoo Kin Mafia. Don't know if I'd go so far as to call her hot, but she's pretty cute, at least she doesn't have the artificial enhancements of most women wrestlers. Alas, she isn't really from New Orleans.

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