Monthly Archives: September 2006

THE MARK OF JAMES DAVID CAIN?

Wed, 27 Sep 2006 04:17:29

Headline hunting backwoods State Senator James David Cain is running for insurance commissioner against city slicker Jim Donelon. Cain is best known (to me at least) as the sponsor of the beat the flag burner bill. You heard me right Cain is not just anti-flag torching he wants to kick flag burner ass. Hmm I wonder if Cain is opposed to fire insurance for flag burners as well. It would be consistent. The real reason Cain is running is that he’s term limited out of his Senate seat and he needs a place to rest his redneck.

The Insurance Commissioner’s race has been entertaining but not very edifying The candidates have traded insults about ponzi schemes pensions parties but haven’t had much to say about the issues. It’s a pity: in the post-K environment this is an important job. One thing that Cain and Donelon agree on is that they hope to to join Robert Wooley as unindicted and unjailed commissioners which is a novelty for the Gret Stet after all. It’s been so petty that I expect the Cain camp to start mocking Mrs. Donelon’s nickname: Mopsy. Yes that’s right Mopsy. I’m above such things…

Since both Cain and Donelon are Democrats turned Repubs it’s not a very appealing choice for the likes of me. While the Earl LongDellasoups Morrison routine is sort of funny I’m rather tired of the whole statewide campaign as entertainment thing. If obliged to choose I suppose I’d pick Donelon BUT right now I’m leaning towards voting for Libertarian SBA Zaitoon who is running to transform the office into an appointed one. I don’t usually take the third party option but Cain and Donelon are acting like bozos and we’ve had clowns aplenty as insurance commissioner. It’s time to turn away from large shoes and small cars…

PROGRESS IN JACKSON SQUARE?

Tue, 26 Sep 2006 16:06:39

Jackson Square has been a mess post-K: cars parked everywhere people driving through going 35 MPH and corner boys selling drugs in plain view of General/President Jackson on his steed. (For the uninitiated Jackson Square is supposed to be a pedestrian mall.) It’s made me nostalgic for the days when the main problems in the Square were too many tarot card readers and hurling frat boys.

A few moments ago I beheld a beautiful sight: a tow truck arrived to remove an Audi that was parked smack dab in front of the Upper Pontalba Building. I don’t usually get verklempt over tow trucks but I did this time. If there is indeed a parking crackdown I hope that they’ll keep it up even when there’s not a Saints game on the horizon. If they want tourists to return Jackson Square needs to be returned to its pre-K status as the car free hub of the Quarter. Otherwise General/President Jackson might dismount and start kicking some ass…

MUGGED BY REALITY: INDIGENT DEFENDER DISPUTE FOLLOW-UP

Tue, 26 Sep 2006 04:32:31

Last night’s episode of “The Wire” turned my thoughts once more to the Orleans Parish Indigent Defender Program (IDP) mess. Retired police Major Bunny (Father Of Hamsterdam) Colvin took a job as a contact person for an academic study on kids and crime. The professor guy wanted to study 18-21 year olds until Bunny gave him a sample of how far gone they really are. It was the academy colliding with the real world and getting its ass kicked.

In what passes for the real world here in post-K Debrisville law professors are trying to recreate an idealized version of the IDP and keep getting mugged by reality. Professor Steve Singer failed to show up for a contempt hearing Friday but Judge Frank Marullo lifted the citation because what he’s really after is a *realistic* reform of the system. Judge Marullo has asked the 9 members of the new and allegedly improved IDP board to appear before him on October 25th. Here’s the money quote from the Picayune piece:

“If the philosophy is to crash the system to fix it that’s crazy ” Marullo said. “If you crash that system you’re destroying the city of New Orleans. You’re destroying one of the pillars of our system here that keeps everybody civilized.”

This is what happens when people take the “clean slate” notion literally. Repeat after me: there is NO clean slate. The academics who think they can bring Platonic perfection to the Orleans Parish criminal justice system need to rethink their absolutist agenda.  Back to Judge Marullo:

“All I’m interested in is that the system works ” Marullo said Friday. “There is an excuse for everything these days and its name is Katrina. I don’t even want to hear the word anymore. These people charged with some of the most heinous crimes they need representation. They are sitting behind bars and nobody is representing them right now. If they don’t have representation everybody loses. The whole community loses.”

Former senior indigent defender Dwight Doskey wrote an impassioned op-ed piece for Friday’s Picayune. Doskey is being held hostage by the dispute between the purist reformers and the judges. The Louisiana Supremes refused to allow Doskey to withdraw from representing 20 capital defendants which violates their own guidelines for the number of capital cases any one attorney can handle. Additionally Doskey lost his house to the flood and no longer lives in Orleans Parish as required by the law. Also Doskey is NOT being paid to handle these cases. It’s a farce y’all. Here’s how Doskey closed his article:

“The Supreme Court’s vote is not an expression on the legal merits of my argument. It is simply a statement that it either does not have the time or the inclination to intervene at this time. But when will it?

I realize that the judges want the system to work. Most would prefer not to dictate how the public defender system should operate and there are legal arguments to the effect that judges do not have the power to so dictate.

But this is a broken system. The defendants in my 20 death penalty cases will receive ineffective representation and therefore even if they are convicted they will be granted new trials years from now — when witnesses have vanished. (In the meantime I will be in bankruptcy.)

Without a functioning system of public defenders victims lose defendants lose the citizens lose. Public outcry is the only way to force our elected Supreme Court to participate in reforming a sadly depleted system.

Wednesday morning I was appointed to yet another capital case. This one is a quadruple murder.

Start yelling now.”

Where’s Howard Beale when you need him? 

 IMAGINE ALL THE YACHTSMEN

Thu, 21 Sep 2006 03:42:02

It’s NOLA blog echo chamber time time time time. Actually some of the other bloggers *have* been all over this story: Oyster has been piratical in his analysis and Schroeder has been pianistic. The big shout out however goes to my favorite American Zombie Dambala. He broke the Greg Meffert/Imagine Software/Yacht story weeks before the Picayune. Dambala has been very gracious and complimentary about Gordon Russell’s work on this story. And Gordon *is* one of the best reporters at the TP so the praise is merited. Here are links to Mr. R’s Sunday and Wednesday stories.

For those of you who aren’t part of the NOLA blog echo chamber chamber chamber chamber here’s a brief description of what’s going on. Greg Meffert recently resigned as NOLA CTO chief cook and bottle washer. In short he was C Ray’s right hand man and chief clone. Meffert went around standard city contracting processes to give Imagine his former company most of NOLA’s technogeek business. Meffert’s successor as CTO is former Imagine partner Mark Kurt. It’s a relationship as incestuous as a Mormon polygamy cult or an Appalachian jug band.

The spiciest part of the current controversy revolves around the ownership of a yacht the Silicon Bayou; as in microchip not implant get your minds out of the gutter  folks. Meffert claims that he owns the yacht despite all the evidence to the contrary. It appears as if Imagine Software is the real owner. Why does this matter? If Imagine owns the yacht a city contractor has been doin’ favors for the man who claims to be purer than Caesar’s wife man: Clarence Ray Nagin man. I love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning. Meffert steadfastly maintains that he owns the yacht but my gut tells me that he’s covering for C Ray. It’s what  C Ray’s krewe of clones does…

Finally the title of this post was inspired by Mistah John Lennon’s song “Imagine.” It has been a mystery to me why this song has endured: it has some of the worst lyrics John ever wrote. It sounds as if it was run through the Yoko meat grinder y’all. Anytime I hear Yoko rag on Macca’s lyrics I think what about “Imagine” or “Oh Yoko?” Me I woulda called the last one “Oh no Yoko.”

Elvis Costello wrote a song called “The Other Side Of Summer” that contained this cool parody: “Was it a millionaire who said imagine no possessions?” And like me Declan is a Lennon fan but a bad lyric is a bad lyric is a bad lyric is a bad lyric. Damn I wish I could shut off that fricking echo chamber effect effect effect effect…

DEBRISVILLE RATS: A MODEST PROPOSAL

Wed, 20 Sep 2006 16:06:17

The lead story on WWL’s Six O’Clock news last night was about a rat infestation at the Iberville Housing Project. The folks who have moved back in are positive it’s because there are so many empty units with full fridges and pantries. HANO asserts that all the fridges are empty and squeaky clean. Yeah right. Rodent removers have allegedly been hired but may not show up for weeks.

Anyway the story was chock-full-o-images of scurrying rats in need of exterminating. It occurred to me that there’s gotta be a way to whack the rats and raise some money to boot. Then a lightbulb appeared above my head which made me feel like Bugs Bunny. The idea was inspired by seeing Sean Penn in town this weekend. In Woody Allen’s “Sweet and Lowdown ” Penn played a nut job virtuoso jazz guitarist whose idea of a good time was to visit the dump in whatever burg he was playing and shoot rats.  Sean keeps telling everyone how eager he is to help New Orleans so why not have a Celebrity Rat Shooting event at the Iberville Project. People could pledge X amount per rat whacked. It’s a natural. Penn’s “All The King’s Men” co-star James Gandolfini has extensive experience killing rats on “The Sopranos ” after all. I’m not sure that I can visualize “one of our finest actors” shooting rats in da bricks but people would pay money to see Jude Law try.

Just imagine the thrill of watching celebrities kill rodents to raise money. It’s a winner I tell ya. Brian Williams and Anderson Cooper will be back here faster than you can say ratatouille or Dr. Raoult Ratard. Btw Dr. Ratard is the state epidemiologist. I am not making that name up. I’ve been wating for months to have an excuse to slap his name into a post. My life is complete.

I realize that this is not an entirely original idea: Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee’s deputies went nutria hunting a few years ago BUT they didn’t use it as a fund raising device. Anyone have any suggestions as to who would be a good celebrity rat shooter? Maybe Bob Geldof of Boomtown Rats and Live Aid fame would cross the pond to take pot shots at the Iberville rats. I hesitate to suggest Vice President Duce: he’d probably shoot an innocent bystander. But the possibilities are as endless as this post.

TALES OF THE STORM: MICHEL

Tue, 19 Sep 2006 15:39:01

Michel was our handyman for 5 years. Actually he was Dr. A’s factotum and I was her sidekick as far as Michel was concerned. That was fine by me. Dr. A met Michel the week we moved into our house on Constance Street. A shite tree at the house now owned by the Morons had fallen down and nearly hit our house. The drunk who then owned the building had dragged the dead tree to the curb but failed to have the limbs cut down so they sat on the sidewalk for days. My trashophobic wife swung into action. A man on a bicycle stopped and said: “I’m a handyman lady. I can help you with that mess.” It was Michel.

Michel was the handyman’s handyman. He could garden fix nearly anything and do it for a fair price. Michel was also likable likable likable. There was just something about him that drew people to him. He’d often show up with a crew of helpers: Sweet Andre and his girlfriend Georgeanne. Andre his cousin liked to introduce himself by saying “My name is Andre like the champagne.” Sweet was his primary sub-contractor and still cuts our grass. His nickname is not an ironic one; like Michel he’s as sweet as pie. He prefers to be called Edwin but we can’t help calling him by the affectionate nickname Michel gave him.

Michel wasn’t always as reliable as we would have liked but he’d show up smiling and apologetic and tell us about his latest misadventure. We always forgave him because his explanations were so entertaining. Besides when he worked for us he gave it everything he had. I got exhausted watching him.

Dr. A thought that Michel should have gone on “Survivor.” Every time they’d have a citified African-American guy who couldn’t swim or was afraid of birds she’d say: “They should get Michel. He can operate a boat fish build things and take care of himself.” I don’t think he would have been good at the backstabbing part of the game though: it wasn’t in his nature.

Alas Michel was a heavy smoker. Dr. A gave him her standard spiel about smoking and he’d nod and keep puffing away. In May 2005 Michel was diagnosed with lung cancer after about 6 months of vague symptoms. It was a bad case too. He turned to Dr. A to advise him. He went through the standard therapy torture of chemo radiation but his decline continued unabated. Dr. A even tried to help get him into a clinical trial. Michel still came over to do our yard but his boys did most of the work. Michel was always skinny but he started to look like a toothpick with legs. It was a bad sign.

Then Hurricane Katrina struck. Dr. A was worried about Michel and he was one of the people we kept calling and calling and calling. It was futile: the area code 504 cell phone servers were down when we needed them the most. This lack of contact added to everyone’s sense of frustration and isolation: if you didn’t have a landline contact number or an email address you were SOL.

After a week in Shreveport we moved to my cousin’s house near Dallas. Dr. A kept trying to get Michel; one day she got an answer. It was the first time she’d gotten through to anyone from home on their cell phone. It turned out to be a bittersweet moment. The phone was answered by Michel’s girlfriend Georgeanne. She too was in Dallas at a relative’s house. Michel’s mother Miss Evelyn who is in her mid-Seventies but looks twenty years younger was with her. We learned that Michel was still alive but fading fast. He’d landed in an hospice in North Dallas.

We fought the crosstown Dallas traffic and found the hospice. Dr. A was relieved to see that it was a clean and well-maintained facility. We had to do some fast talking to find Michel’s room. It was made trickier by the fact that his real first name was Michael. We told them that he had been evacuated from New Orleans and had lung cancer. One of the staff said: “Oh you must mean that incredibly nice black fellow who came in a few days ago.” When we got to his room we found Michel dead. He was still warm. We had just missed him.

When Georgeanne and Miss Evelyn arrived they told us their Katrina story. On Sunday 8/28 Miss Evelyn was able to get Michel from her house on Perrier Street to Touro Infirmary. The docs and nurses let Georgeanne Miss Evelyn and two of her grandchildren stay in the room with Michel and ride out the storm there.

They remained at Touro for several days until “help” arrived. It was a mixed blessing for Michel’s family: he was evacuated but they were on their own. They wouldn’t let his mama or girlfriend come with him. Michel was at Armstrong Airport for 2 days before being moved to Dallas.

Georgeanne and Miss Evelyn walked downtown in the general direction of the Superdome; trying to get to the Hyatt Hotel where they’d heard that there were busses to take them to safety. They waded through waist deep water and saw dead bodies floating on Tulane Avenue. Miss Evelyn did her damnedest to prevent her grandkids from seeing the corpses.  Dr. A and I cringed when we heard the story but Miss Evelyn told it matter of factly without any histrionics.

When Georgeanne and Miss Evelyn finally got to the Hyatt they were told that there was no place for them on the busses but a policeman saw Miss Evelyn looking bedraggled but dignified. The cop broke through the line and got Miss Evelyn and Georgeanne on the next bus. Miss Evelyn was again matter of fact: “I always did like the po-leese and now I like them a mite better.”

They wound up in Reunion Arena in Dallas before moving in with family in North Dallas. Miss Evelyn informed us that the food had been good at the arena but she didn’t have a pair of shoes that fit: she’d lost hers in the walk downtown.  She told us how lucky she felt to be alive and safe. Their luck had just run out with Michel’s death.

We had a tearful reunion but mostly talked about Michel’s sweet and calm nature. He took after his mama in that way: Miss Evelyn was almost ethereal in her calm but was passionate about returning home. It was still unclear at that point how bad things would be in New Orleans so we pondered the fate of our flooded city. Georgeanne was sure of one thing: “New Orleans isn’t buildings. New Orleans is the people.”

Yeah you right dawlin’

DOLLAR BILL & THE DOZENS: CONGRESSIONAL RACE UPDATE

Mon, 18 Sep 2006 20:31:35

Thus far the campaign for Louisiana’s Second Congressional District has been a real snoozer. I *wish* that the dozen candidates who have filed against Dollar Bill were really giving him the dozens but so far they’ve been flying below radar. None of the supposed major candidates Karen Carter Troy Carter Derrick Shepherd Joe Lavigne or Regina Bartholomew has done much to distinguish themselves. Karen Carter has picked up some major endorsements: Oliver Thomas and Cynthia Hedgehog-Morrell to name a few. Joe Lavigne got into trouble with some local Repubs with his ads blasting President Beavis but he’s a non-factor in the long run anyway: the chances that the Second District will send a white Republican to Congress are slim and none. I’m listing Lavigne as a “major candidate” as a courtesy: I’ve met him at two events and he seems to be a nice guy. He’s also the only Republican on the ballot so he should be able to fall out of bed and get 10% of the vote in a primary. Thud.

There are two polls out as of now. The first one sounds reliable. Jeff Crouere at Bayou Buzz has reported on a poll conducted by Verne Kennedy. It confirms that Dollar Bill is in trouble: he’s running first but with only 25%; truly horrible numbers for an eight term incumbent. Karen Carter is at 14% Lavigne at 13% and Shepherd at 9%. Shepherd seems to be running as the West Bank regional candidate: he’s been endorsed by Councilman James Carter and his predecessor Jackie Clarkson.

The second poll is being touted by Joe Lavigne on his web site: it’s based on the dubious proposition that he’ll get into a run-off with Dollar Bill. The “poll” shows Dollar Bill with 31% and Lavigne at 29% with the rest undecided. It’s good for a chuckle snort snigger or cackle and that’s all. If Joe Lavingne makes a run-off against Dollar Bill I’ll eat a piece of pickled herring. That’s how confident I am that it won’t happen.

The bad news for those of us who want change is that Dollar Bill’s legal problems remain on hold because of litigation involving the search of his Congressional Office. TPM Muckraker’s Paul Kiel reported last week that Jefferson is unlikely to be indicted before Election Day:

That’s not due to weakness in the Justice Department’s case — documents from the investigation show that the government has a wealth of evidence based on surveillance an FBI informant’s taping of conversations and the testimony of two men who’ve pled guilty to bribing Jefferson. Prosecutors are reportedly very close to an indictment. Rather the case is bogged down in litigation resulting from the FBI’s raid of Jefferson’s congressional office.

 Sources close to the case tell Roll Call‘s John Bresnahan that the DoJ is unlikely to indict Jefferson without the documents seized from his office. They’re still waiting to get those. A judge ruled in July that Jefferson must see them first; he gets a chance to contest certain materials being handed over based on his constitutional privilege. At issue is whether the docs qualify as legislative materials under the Speech or Debate Clause. The whole process is likely to go on through October meaning Jefferson won’t be forced to campaign under federal indictment.”

I’m beginning to wonder if Dollar Bill decided to refuse to turn over the documents from his office in order to force the Justice Department’s hand. Dollar Bill is as crafty as he is crooked so it’s not a stretch to believe that he anticipated how much shit would hit the fan after a search. It also allows him to campaign as a martyr at the hands of Bush’s DoJ and FBI. It’s not a bad campaign strategy but it’s a lousy legal strategy where he’ll be tried: Northern Virginia land of civil servants and retired military officers.

Now that a pre-election indictment is out I think that Dollar Bill will be able to ooze back into office unless his opponents stop sparring and start punching in earnest. I hope that I’m wrong but the real race is probably for second place. It should be very interesting whatever happens.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES PART TWO

Sat, 16 Sep 2006 15:54:36 

The other day I discussed the new regime at the Orleans Parish Indigent Defender Program (IDP.) I expressed some reservations about the academics who have swooped down on the system to save it from the ancien regime. Another shoe has dropped. But before I riff on current events allow me to digress; as if you had any choice. Many moons ago when I was a Tulane Law 1L” I had Gary Roberts for Civil Procedure. The very first thing Roberts wrote on the board was this: Rule #1-Never piss off the judge. He went on to tell us that even if the judge was a jerk and an idiot we had to act as if they knew what the hell they were doing. Why? They’re mini-dictators in their courtrooms and while you can walk up to the edge of insubordination you have to know when to stop. You should stand up for your client but do NOT disrespect and/or insult the judge in the process. Why? Your client will be the one who suffers in the end. Repeat after me: Never piss off the judge.

Back to Professor Steve Singer the new big cheese at the IDP. He’s violated rule #1 by pissing off Judge Frank Marullo. He’s been asked to show why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for failing to appoint lawyers in 3 capital cases. Why has Singer moved so slowly? Because all the experienced capital case lawyers have either quit the IDP or have been reassigned due to Singer’s changes. Of course the contempt threat is more of a wake up call than anything else but it’s what happens when you lip off like this to the Picayune:

“[Singer] cited a recent review by the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance that found the system was “court-based rather than client-based ” meaning attorneys were more focused on the needs of judges than defendants.”

That may well be true but trash talking the judges is only going to piss them off Mr. Singer. Judges *like* the system to revolve around their needs. If you want to change that you have to do it quietly rather than bragging about it to the local rag. Also if you’re going to make sweeping changes make sure that you can try cases while the system is in transition.

So newbies at the IDP please repeat after me: Never piss off the judge. 

POST-SCRIPT: I know what you’re thinking: what about Judge Elloie? Judge Elloie deserves public condemnation for his bonding policies. BUT if I were trying a case in his courtroom Rule #1 would still be in effect. Why? Your client’s fate is in his hands and a lawyer’s duty is to the client and not their own opinions. Case closed. 

SCARRED FOR LIFE

Fri, 15 Sep 2006 18:39:04

Before I became a widely derided pundit I used to write a lot about my dumbass white trash next door neighbors: Mr. and Mrs. Moron. Dr. A and I sometimes believe that they were put next door to us as punishment for some obscure infraction. They’re the sort of people who when confronted with options will pick the stupidest possible course. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they were the ones who put  the major appliance in a pothole near Chris Rose’s house.

Anyway today I looked out my kitchen window and beheld a fearsome and awesomely stupid sight: It was Mr. Moron stripped to the waist leaning over a table saw his paunch way too close to the blade. This was a terrifying sight for so many reasons. First Mr. Moron is to be charitable butt ugly. I’d call him simian but that would be an insult to apes everywhere. Second the image of the saw slitting his ample gut entered my head. The last thing I want to see is Moron bits flying about the neighborhood. Mercifully Mr. Moron retreated from the table saw before the slasher film in my head became a reality.

The image however of Mr. Moron’s hairy belly dangling over the saw is seared on my memory. I am scarred for life. On the other hand it gave me an amusing blog entry so it’s no big whoop. I feel better already…

SPIN CITY VERSION 2.1

Thu, 14 Sep 2006 04:59:59

I have a rather vile cold today so I’m going to skim the surface of C Ray’s 103 Day “plan” press opportunity. Skimming the surface is what the buffed-n-bald one does after all. One thing C Ray is good at is hijacking other people’s work and taking credit for it: he must have learned that in the corporate world. Yesterday he claimed that C Ray’s Wrecking Service was responsible for towing away abandoned and/or flooded cars. The state however took the lead on that front after the Naginites repeatedly dropped the ball and/or shot themselves in the foot. You pick the image: they do a lot of both.

I was also amused by the notion that the planning process has been a continuum rather than a messy series of false starts backtracking and backsliding. The Mayor’s chart makes it look as if the BNOB was never intended to formulate a plan and was merely a prelude to the Binglerized (my new favorite word) so-called Unified New Orleans Planning process. As my main man Bayou St. John David said earlier that’s bullshit. But the entire Nagin enterprise is built on BS and wishful thinking. I guess that’s the why the streets smell so funky and I do NOT mean that in the Art Neville or James Brown sense of the word funk…

Speaking of stinky streets and trash, born again Naginite Rob Couhig claims that trash collection has “returned to something like normal.” Oh yeah? Maybe on Planet Nagin but those of us who live on Planet Debrisville have gone from twice weekly trash pickup and weekly recycling collection to one weekly garbage pickup and NO recycling. And we’re still paying for the pre-K level of service.

I’m also struck by how thin the Naginite bench is: he has 3 count ’em 3 former opponents advising him and Virginia (Big Box) Boulet and Rev. Tom the Rebuker are as hapless as Couhig. Every time Virginia Boulet talks about bringing big box stores to Debrisville a voice in my head asks: Where? Big Box Boulet keeps her own counsel which means that such businesses will never come to Orleans Parish or more likely they’ll try and stick them in historic and unflooded neighborhoods Uptown or in the Marigny.

 Also C Ray is finally considering appointing a recovery co-ordinator which is something that should have been done last winter. Being a Republican at heart C Ray plans to hire consultants to run a search process which will delay things further. It fits his philosophy which is to kick the can down the road and hope that the FEMA fairy sprinkles money dust on Debrisville.

Here’s C Ray’s message in a nutshell: I’m responsible for all the good stuff and someone else is to blame for the bad stuff.

For other views on C Ray’s recent activities check out David at Moldy City; G Bitch and a surprisingly negative editorial in the Picayune. I guess publisher Ashton Phelps has been hobnobbing with non-NOLA nobs lately or somthing…

UPDATE: Maitri had an encounter with the Bald One at One Shell Square.

UPDATE TOO: That sly dog Markus is channeling Shakepeare’s Henry V in explaining how and why Nagin fails to inspire us. And Schroeder batters deep fries and serves up C Ray on a platter.