Monthly Archives: October 2006

DOLLAR BILL DAYS

Wed, 25 Oct 2006 17:41:32

Dollar Bill Jefferson is everywhere. He taught a civic class the other day at John McDonogh High School. That must have been a hoot. Did he lecture on shaking down fat cats or how to feather one’s own nest? Nah that’s too realistic a depiction of his political style for the kiddies. Btw Principal Donald Jackson *has* invited the other candidates to teach as well. I wonder if Troy Carter plans to teach how to commute to North Carolina?

There’s also a long article about the Klepto Congressman and his campaign in yesterday’s LA Times. Since they require registration I’ll post it in its entirety at the end of this entry. I’m increasingly optimistic that Jefferson may go down to defeat this year. Karen Carter has been on an endorsement roll of late: getting the nod from the State Democratic party was a boost to her fortunes and a blow to the incumbent. The Picayune’s Stephanie Grace and Gambit’s Clancy Dubos have both recently written insightful columns about the race.

Here’s my take on the current state of the campaign. It’s looking like a somewhat localized race with Derrick Shepherd and Troy Carter fighting it out on the West Bank and Dollar Bill and Karen Carter slugging it out on the East Bank. An 8 term incumbent should NOT have to run as a regional candidates it’s a sign of Dollar Bill’s weakness. Additionally Karen Carter is a scion of BOLD and hence is the only candidate to have a GOTV organization that can match Dollar Bill’s so-called Progressive Democrats.

Then there’s Joe Lavigne the leading Republican in the race. Lavigne’s people have been pipe dreaming since the Insurance Commish/Secretary of State special election. They hope that it’s an indication that Lavigne can win the Congressional seat. I’d like to know what they’re smoking y’all. Nobody in NOLA gave a damn about those races so Repubs did well in Orleans Parish. This is a Congressional seat in a black majority district that we’re talking about. Yes I think Lavigne will get enough votes to finish third or perhaps even make it into a runoff with Dollar Bill. BUT that’s Dollar Bill’s dream scenario: a white Republican is the only candidate he can beat head to head in a runoff. As much as I dislike Dollar Bill I won’t vote for a Republican either; especially not *this* year. If it’s a Lavigne/Jefferson runoff I’ll stay home.

So disgruntled Dems who don’t care for any of the candidates please think again. I’m voting for Karen Carter; she’s not my ideal candidate but life’s not perfect and she’s a helluva lot better than Dollar Bill. As to Joe Lavigne repeat after me: A Vote For Lavigne on November 7th Is A Vote For Dollar Bill.

Finally here’s the article from yesterday’s Los Angeles Times:

For Jefferson anger and applause

The congressman’s link to a bribery probe splits voters.

ANN M. SIMMONS Times Staff Writer

24-Oct 2006

NEW ORLEANS — After a recent candidates’ forum in the French Quarter a woman rushed up to Rep. William J. Jefferson and embraced him for several moments. “I’m praying for you ” the stranger said quietly her arms encircling the Democratic congressman’s neck. “You need to keep it going.”

Over the weekend as Jefferson finished a handshaking tour of a store in the Gentilly neighborhood onlooker Mary Scott called out: “Take care sweetie. You’re going to be all right.”

The eight-term congressman’s campaign outings are punctuated with expressions like these which he calls “uplift” after a year that found him surrounded by scandal and ousted from the Ways and Means Committee. The FBI raided his home and office and said it had a videotape of him taking a $100 000 bribe and that it had found $90 000 wrapped in foil in the freezer of his Washington home.

Jefferson has been implicated in a developing federal probe — the FBI has accused him of offering to bribe a Nigerian official and of accepting kickbacks to help a U.S. telecommunications company land deals in Africa.

Jefferson who has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime is adamant that he will survive. “A lot of people think they have the opportunity” to win Jefferson said as he wrapped up his Saturday walkabout. “I think they will find out they won’t.”

Publicly Jefferson has remained stoic and composed saying that he has lawyers to handle his legal matters while he concentrates on his job. But during the French Quarter forum the congressman repelled his opponents’ barbs insisting that none of them was squeaky clean. “I’m not going to sit here and pretend we have all these shining knights here ” Jefferson said. Later he told reporters “I can’t stand the hypocrisy.”

Jefferson’s seat was once considered one of the safest in the House but there are now 12 candidates vying to replace him as representative from the state’s 2nd Congressional District. “This will be the greatest test of his political career whether he survives or not ” said Jim Brandt president of the Public Affairs Research Council an independent think tank in Baton Rouge La.

Jefferson’s competitors in the Nov. 7 race include Republicans Democrats and a Libertarian. Four have prior name recognition and significant campaign donations: state Rep. Karen Carter former City Councilman Troy Carter state Sen. Derrick Shepherd and lawyer Joe Lavigne.

If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote the top two candidates will participate in a runoff on Dec. 9. Political pundits believe a runoff is inevitable and that Jefferson will probably be one of the candidates. “If he gets a white Republican ” he could win Ed Renwick associate professor of political science at New Orleans’ Loyola University said of Jefferson’s chances in a runoff. “But if he gets a black Democrat which he likely would he would be the underdog.”

Observers predict that Jefferson will probably be pitted against Karen Carter who has been endorsed by the state Democratic Party. Carter 36 is from a political family — her father Ken Carter was one of New Orleans’ first black property assessors — and argues that she “will restore credibility and respect to political service.”

“When the arrogance of power diminishes the right of people like you and me and citizens across this great region it is time for change ” she said at the French Quarter forum. If she succeeds in unseating Jefferson she would be Louisiana’s first African American congresswoman.

In a 60-second TV ad Jefferson dressed in a dark suit and red tie says the U.S. was “built on some fundamental rights: freedom of speech freedom of religion and the presumption of innocence afforded to every person unless proven guilty in a court of law.” The government he says has “yet to bring a single charge against me.”

He then lists the work he has done to help New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and adds that “now is not the time for an unproven person to go to Washington and to try to fight for our recovery.”

His supporters have circled the wagons around the man they say has always been there for them. “He did a lot to help people get back into the city after Katrina ” said Murray Carroll 71 as he waited for Jefferson to speak at the William J. Guste Senior Homes near downtown. “I’m not into all that negative stuff. I give him my support. He has a good record.”

“I know it isn’t true what they’re saying.” said Mary Williams 67. “He’s innocent until proven guilty. I find they’re picking on him.”

In Jefferson strongholds it is rare to hear a bad word about him. Jefferson has said his support would primarily come as it typically has from African Americans who made up at least 65% of his district before Katrina and from working class whites and organized labor.

“He has built up a strong political constituent home ” said Brandt the research analyst. “So it’s not surprising that he could still have a significant following in his district. The investigation has been slow. There is no indictment at this time much less a trial or his conviction. That is working to his advantage.”

But Susan Howell a political scientist at the University of New Orleans said the hurricane’s displacement of African Americans and the prospect that the electorate would probably “be whiter” than in the past could cost Jefferson. “The odds are against him winning because Karen Carter will likely capture the overwhelming white vote and the white vote will be a larger part of the electorate this time around ” said Howell.

Renwick the Loyola professor said that Jefferson would have to push hard to ensure that blacks who say they support him come out to vote. Overall voter turnout in the September state and local elections was around 11% pollsters said with just 6% of African American registered voters casting ballots.

Although many of Jefferson’s supporters say he has never let them down others say they won’t vote for him this time around. “I think this is yet another example of a politician betraying the trust ” said photographer David G. Spielman 56 who lives in the Uptown neighborhood where Jefferson also has a home. He has voted for the congressman but said he would “absolutely not” cast a ballot for him Nov. 7. “We need new blood Spielman said. “We need somebody with a clean set of hands.”

Last weekend Jefferson spent what has become a typical Saturday for him this time in the Gentilly neighborhood another of his strongholds. He stood on the median strip of a busy corner and waved to motorists before crossing to a once-bustling strip mall that was flooded by storm waters but where businesses are beginning to open.

“I know your brother ” one woman shouted as Jefferson wandered the aisles of a supermarket. “I’m on your side ” another said.

At the nearby Palms Barber Shop Jefferson took a seat alongside several other men and got a trim. The barber shaped and smoothed the graying edges around Jefferson’s bald patch. When the congressman tried to greet the women seated under hair dryers in the adjoining beauty salon one customer gave him a piece of her mind. “Don’t just come see me when it’s election time ” Phyllis Jenkins a 38-year-old accounting student at Southern University at New Orleans told him. “Help me come home. Show me that you’re serious. Show me what you’re going to do.”

At the senior homes Jefferson told of a man he met on the campaign trail who asked the congressman to pray for him. Jefferson did not grasp the significance of the stranger’s request. The next Sunday at church Jefferson opened the Bible to Job 42:10. “When Job prayed for his friend he was himself released from his problem ” Jefferson said. “That was his message. I pray for this man every night even though I don’t know his name. This is what God is telling me. It’s all about service to the people. It’s not about me.”

The audience cheered and added a chorus of “ah yes” and “that’s right.”

ASHLEY MORRIS HAS A PARTY/LOKI HAS HAIR

Tue, 24 Oct 2006 20:00

The NOLA bloggers are sociable people. It was one more Saturday night with the bloggers; Bob Weir was nowhere to be found. Dr. A and I went to Casa Morris for Ashley’s birthday party. Professor Morris not only writes like a dream and swears like demon he makes a mean daiquiri. The things were strong enough to bitch slap yo brain. Just the way I like them. Among the local bloggers present were Oyster Ray Lisa Minor Wisdom Becky Loki Maitri and Trotsky. Trotsky? Who the hell is Trotsky? That’s for me to know and you to guess.

Unfortunately Dr. A was too busy drinking berry daiquiris and admiring the Morris’ pink kitchen appliances to take any pictures. In fact I had a chat with young Katarina Morris about all the pink in the kitchen. She likes it; me too. I asked her if she’d ever heard of Pink Floyd. She hadn’t but she knew who Drew (They Call Me The) Brees is. No surprise there.

After eating birthday cake we departed Chez Morris and went to hang out with George (Loki) Williams and finally meet his kitty tribe. Actually we went to visit the humid kitties and George was merely our facilitator. (Jeez now I sound like da Bingla.) George is not only a feline fiend he’s a one man juke box of sorts. He broke out the tunes and played all sorts of swell stuff. I believe that Loki has a new cause; to make me cool again. It could be an uphill struggle; it’s hard to be cool and a curmudgeon at the same time. I revel in my crankiness. It’s part of my charm such as it is.

NEWSFLASH: Loki has hair. When we last saw him he had that head stubble look  Dr. A was pleased with the change. She believes in hair and has a whole lotta locks herself. But George who will be marrying the lovely Alexis very soon may shave his punkinhead again before tying the proverbial knot. Dr. A is opposed but Loki is a force of nature so he’ll make like Lindsey Buckingham and go his own way. I’m not sure however   if the convict look and a kilt go together very well. Well maybe on death row: they’ve all kilt here. <rim shot/groan> On that note I’ll close; much to everyone’s relief…

UPDATE: Very sad news via Maitri. Loki’s father died unexpectedly last night. If you’d like to express your condolences please post a comment at this entry at Humid City.

WALKING THE PRESERVATION BEAT

Fri, 13 Oct 2006 04:59:59

In Wednesday’s Picayune there was a rosy report about changes at NORA (New Orleans Redevelopment Authority) and how it’s going to save the city by dealing with blighted properties. Picayune man Frank Donze swallowed whole the assertions made by the Nagin Administration that NORA’s authority has been dramatically expanded, which is, to say the least, an exaggeration. NORA has long had the authority to deal more aggressively with blight but it has been an underused, underfunded and ignored agency. The presence of authority in its name is the oxymoron’s oxymoron. Btw, C Ray entered office pledging to fully fund NORA; yet another unkept promise. I hope he means it this time around.

I did get a kick out of Donze’s thrill over the new show horse NORA board appointed by Nagin. Sarcasm alert: Scott Cowen will obviously be deeply involved in NORA’s activities. I’m sure that Jim Singleton will do an excellent job representing political hacks and his protege, Oliver the Actor. Rob Couhig was probably appointed to keep his developer pals in the loop so they can swoop down and claim seized property and add to the city’s supply of luxury condos. Btw, who the hell is going to live in a luxury condo at the site of the soon to be demolished Winn-Dixie across from St. Louis Number One and the Iberville Housing Project? That’s just what the Quarter and Treme need: pricey condos instead of a grocery store. I expect that the project won’t be long for this world either in spite of all the money the feds have spent on it. Wasting money is what the federal govmint does best, after all.

Back to NORA, let’s hope that the new-n-improved NORA won’t allow the sort of demolition by neglect that occurred at 1139 St. Philip Street in Treme. This classic demo-by-neg culminated in a fire that dealt the coup de grace to this historic building last Saturday. The tragedy of this episode is that all sorts of people wanted to renovate and thereby save the building. But legal maneuvering, politics and NORA’s ineptitude aided and abetted the demo-by-neg. Morial/Nagin crony (yes, chirren, Satan and “Mr. Clean” have many mutual cronies) Roy Rodney helped put the kibosh on one particularly promising potential purchase. (I love the smell of alliteration in the morning, y’all.) I’ll let NOLA preservation diva Meg Lousteau have the last word on this sorry affair:

“So this extraordinary building, which could have been sold and renovated many times over given the immense buyer interest, will be reduced to a pile of rubble,” Lousteau said. “NORA is directly responsible for this shameful outcome. They have had the power for years to put it back into commerce, but instead perpetuated its blight until this sad event. I don’t think there’s any better illustration of the utter failure of NORA to carry out its mission of removing blight.”

Now let’s talk about demolition by boom boom. (Yes, I know most small scale demos aren’t done by explosives but demolition by boom boom has flair or is that flare?) There have been reports of unauthorized demolitions throughout Debrisville post-K.  It’s even happening in neighborhoods designated as historic districts as reported recently by the intrepid  Editor B. The City commission charged with reviewing demolitions should change its name from HCDRC to the Blow Stuff Up Commission or BSUC. Post-K the HCDRC hasn’t met a demolition it doesn’t love. Wearing my neighborhood leader hat, I’ve opposed a series of demolitions and they’ve all been approved. KAPOW. KABLOOEY. BOOM.

Finally, for anyone who’s interested in learning more about the wanton post-K destruction of our architectural heritage, check out Karen Gadbois’ swell web site, Squandered Heritage.

UPDATE:  I neglected yesterday to link to an excellent piece from the Third Battle Of New Orleans. Also, Bayou St. John David has added his distinctive voice to the chorus, such as it is.

IT’S TIME FOR DOLLAR BILL’S OPPONENTS TO CELEBRATE

Fri, 06 Oct 2006 05:00:05

You’re probably asking yourself why the unrelated Carters and the Marrero Shepherd should break out the champagne: Has Dollar Bill been indicted? Has more money been found in another Jeffersonian freezer? Has Dollar Bill been caught sending lewd IMs to Denny Hastert? No the cause for celebration is that C Ray has endorsed Dollar Bill. And C Ray’s endorsement has been the kiss of death in past races. Remember District Attorney James Gray or Governors Randy Ewing and Piyush Jindal or Sheriff Warren Riley? No and neither does anyone else: they all lost.

Here’s hoping that C Ray’s run of losers continues. I’m not even going to comment on the hypocrisy of the so-called reform Mayor supporting the Klepto Congressman. Res ipsa loquitur: the thing speaks for itself. Damn now I sound like Morris Bart and I really don’t feel like chasing any ambulances tonight…

Late night hat tip Jeffrey the cookie monster.

TRUST ME, I’M NOT MORIAL

Thu, 05 Oct 2006 18:05:44

C Ray’s unofficial motto is” “Trust me I’m not Morial.” I guess that’s why he thinks that city contracts and finances are his business and not the public’s. He’s not Morial ergo he can be trusted. The latest financial hinkiness involves the city’s new trash contract. This morning’s front pager in the Picayune informed us that City Hall has declined to provide any details of the contract.  Then of course the Mayor claimed otherwise on the WWL Morning News but so far none of the details have either been released to the press or posted on the City’s web site. So much for transparency. I’m not an expert on city finances so for much more on the way that Nagin Administration is playing hide the financial ball get thee to Moldy City.

I’m also skeptical about the new semi-automated trash collection system. Sanitation Director Veronica White has neither sought public input nor explained exactly how the system will work. There was a good op-ed piece in the Picayune by Robyn Blanpied which expresses some of the same concerns raised by Mark at the Wet Bank Guide last week.

I wish that City Hall would stop expecting the public to be mind readers and explain how they’re spending our tax money. Perhaps the new collection program will work out BUT this administration tends to wing it and not think things through. Asking the public to trust them is not enough: trust must be earned and Nagin’s track record does not inspire trust in this corner of Debrisville. The devil is always in the details and C Ray is not a detail man. He does however have his own personal SATAN and I think you know who I’m talkin’ about…

THE TROUBLE WITH MARY

Mon, 02 Oct 2006 14:47:09

There was an excellent post yesterday by G Bitch wherein she lamented the lack of decent choices for voters in the Gret Stet. It left me pondering Senator Mary Landrieu’s vote *for* the so-called compromise on the torture bill. If you look more carefully at the details Senators McCain Warner and Graham won one concession from the White House (the language modifying the Geneva Conventions) and caved on the rest. Over the years I’ve understood some of Landrieu’s more retrograde votes because this *is* a conservative state BUT this one is impossible to swallow. What’s conservative about torture? Nazis torture Communists torture and now Americans do it and brag about it. It’s as pathetic as it is disgusting.

This vote was a no-brainer to me: Americans regardless of ideology or party should be AGAINST torture. It’s wrong plain and simple and on a practical level it doesn’t work. People will lie like rugs under torture to end the pain. That’s probably why the Bushies like torture: they’re into lying. They’ve elevated it into a perverse art form after all.

I also take this personally. A friend of my family is a retired Greek naval officer who was involved in an attempt to overthrow the Military Junta that ran Greece from 1967-1974. He was tortured and imprisoned for nearly a year. Eventually he was released and post-Junta became an Admiral but he was literally scarred for life both mentally and physically.

Back to Senator Landrieu who is an adept practitioner of the devious Clintonian art of triangulation. A week or so before the torture vote she delivered a scathing attack on the Bush administration:

“America is not tired of fighting terrorism; America is tired of the wrongheaded and boneheaded leadership of the Republican Party that has sent $6.5 billion a month to Iraq while the front line was Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. … Americans are tired of the boneheaded Republican leadership that alienates our allies when we need them most. I am certainly not going to sit here as a Democrat and let the Republican leadership come to the floor and talk about ‘Democrats are not making us safe.’ They’re the ones in charge and Osama bin Laden is still loose.”

Fine words but she immediately went into the tank and supported the torture vote. It’s what triangulation is all about. Landrieu’s Democratic colleague Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska justiffied his role as one of the Torture Twleve by stating that he was following John McCain’s lead. It’s a poor excuse and doesn’t bode well for the future: McCain is the front runner for the 2008 Republican Nomination. Democrats need to get over their weird infatuation with McCain. Yes he’s a good and decent man BUT he’s wrong on the issues and has been one of the strongest supporters of the Iraq War and Bush’s endless misbegotten war on terrorism. Are Democrats so far gone that they regard a right winger who’s a nice guy as being someone worthy of following? Let’s hope not. Of course Democrats are busy sampling Presidential candidate flavors of the month instead of comprehending that the next President will have to clean up W’s mess. Someone put in a 911 call to Al Gore…

Now that I’ve vented I know that I’ll have to hold my nose and vote for Landrieu in 2008. Her replacement would be someone much worse: someone like David Vitter who gulps down the wingnut Kool Aid instead of sipping it with a pinky extended in coded disapproval.  “