Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Morial spews a flood of lies

"Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.' "

What Mary McCarthy famously said of the leftist writer Lillian Hellman might well be said of the speech former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial gave Tuesday at the National Press Club. While we were researching the chapter (Chapter Seven: Scene of the Crime) on urban corruption in DONKEY CONS, we were astonished at the open and blatant nature of corruption in the Big Easy. Yea, verily, compared to Morial's New Orleans, Marion Barry's DC was a model of wise, honest and frugal government.

A researcher will discover that writers strain for adjectives powerful enough to describe how crooked the government of New Orleans really is -- its corruption is "endemic" (45,900 Google hits) or "notorious" (198,000 hits) -- and yet, one imagines, no word is sufficiently strong to describe the wholesale criminality of the city's government during the eight-year reign of Marc Morial. As we note briefly in the book:

In one case, a thirty-seven-page indictment alleged that Morial cronies skimmed money from an $81 million city contract; an ex-cop was charged with pocketing $800,000; and two city officials were accused of receiving $100,000 each. Meanwhile, Morial’s uncle was accused of skimming more than $500,000 from the city transit authority, and Morial’s aunt was convicted on federal charges of paying kickbacks to a school official.
For someone who's never visited New Orleans, this was puzzling. Why? Why was this particular city under this particular mayor so blindingly corrupt? And then, a few hours ago, I caught a C-SPAN rerun of Morial's Press Club speech and discovered why: The man is a world-class liar.

Bill Clinton's best lies -- and he was one of the greatest liars in human history -- were the fumbling efforts of a rank amateur compared to the bold, smooth, shameless lies told Tuesday by Marc Morial. As soon as he began speaking about the situation in New Orleans after Katrina, I was shocked at the profound dishonesty of the man.

Not content with his own lies, Morial even enlists others to lie for him. To hear the brief biographical introduction of Morial at the Press Club, you might have thought he was Rudy Giuliani -- a two-fisted crime-fighter, etc. Certainly there was not the slightest indication that, under Morial's regime, New Orleans cops were nearly as criminal as the perps they were supposed to be chasing, and by the time he left office, as Nichole Gelinas explains:
"In 2003, New Orleans’s murder rate was nearly eight times the national average. ... In 2002 and 2003, New Orleans had the highest per capita city homicide rate in the United States, with 59 people killed per year per 100,000 citizens."
No transcript of Morial's speech is available (not for free, anyway, and I'd never pay for such a pack of lies), but it might be summarized thus: Everything that went wrong before, during and after Katrina can be blamed on (a) Republicans, or (b) white racism -- to the extent, at least, that Morial sees these two factors as separate categories.

Keep in mind, Morial was mayor of New Orleans for eight years, from 1994 to 2002, and his father "Dutch" Morial had also been mayor (1978-86), so that, for the 24 years from 1978 to 2002, there was just an eight-year interregnum between the father-and-son Morial regimes.

New Orleans has always sent Democratic representatives to Congress, Democrats retain control of Louisiana's legislature and governship, and Louisiana remains nearly the only Deep South state where Democrats are still regularly elected to statewide office, including Sen. Mary Landrieu, who owed her 1996 election (by a statewide 6,000-vote margin) to the 100,000-vote margin Morial delivered in New Orleans. Rich Lowery of National Review explains how that happened:

One teller at a bank in Coushatta, La., reports that a woman cashed a $50 check from the Democratic party on November 5 and explained that it was given "to me to haul my kind of people to vote." Two other $50 checks from the party showed up the next day. ...

Were $50 checks handed out to "volunteers" on election day? "That's not uncommon, that's not illegal," Morial says. "I call that true red-white-and-blue American politics."

So, Democrats have run Louisiana and New Orleans since time immemorial, a control maintained by a "notoriously" corrupt political machine that doesn't even blink at accusations of vote-buying, and somehow everything that went wrong during Katrina -- and every recovery problem that has occurred in the past five month -- is the fault of those evil racist Republicans?

Not once during Morial's dishonest speech to the Press Club was there any acknowledgement of individual choice or of market economics. The private sector as a force in either the poverty of some New Orleans resident or the slow pace of recovery? None existent. It needs to be pointed out that most black residents of pre-Katrina New Orleans did not live below the poverty line, as Gelinas notes:

In 2002, it had 6,696 families on cash welfare, or 3.6 percent, compared with New York City’s 98,000 families, or 3.2 percent. In 2000, 7.8 percent of New Orleans households received Supplemental Security Income, compared with 7.5 percent in New York. ... [T]he city’s unemployment rate was 5.2 percent during 2004, lower than New York’s 7.1 percent.

During his lying speech Tuesday, Morial condemned the state legislature for refusing to approve a "satellite voting" scheme for New Orleans evacuees, which prompted a walkout of the legislature's black caucus Monday:

House Bill 14 would have let New Orleans evacuees vote for a new mayor, City Council and other offices in satellite locations in Baton Rouge and nine other Louisiana major metropolitan areas. Early balloting would have taken place
from April 10 to April 15. HB14 needed 53 votes for passage but received only 46.

“It was an embarrassing display of racism clouded behind some arguments that didn’t make any sense at all,” Rep. Jailia Jefferson-Bullock, D-New Orleans, sponsor of the legislation, said after the bill’s demise.

Was the Louisiana Legislature -- controlled by a Democratic majority -- displaying "racism"? No, they were quite obviously concerned about creating such an easy opportunity for vote fraud. (Apparently, there are still some honest Democrats in Louisiana.)

The "arguments that didn't make any sense at all" to Rep. Jefferson-Bullock are blindingly obvious to anyone with any knowledge of how vote fraud occurs. I'm not vote-fraud expert like John Fund but -- having just finished co-writing a book on the history of corruption in the Democratic Party -- I'm no rookie, either. So let me sketch out the problem:

Many thousands of Katrina refugee will never go back to New Orleans. They aren't "evacuees," they've escaped! They've re-settled in some other community -- perhaps with relatives -- and have no desire to return to the screwed-up mess that is New Orleans, as many of them made clear just as soon as they got out:

MONA LISA WRIGHT, NEW ORLEANS EVACUEE: I'm going to be looking at hospitals, looking at places to find a nice area for my home, and be able to get back and forth, going shopping, getting household stuff. ...

ESTELLE LEWIS, NEW ORLEANS EVACUEE: That's my goal, to make Houston my home. Live here and get an apartment which I haven't gotten because I don't have the money to get it. ...

WRIGHT: I like that. I like the atmosphere. I like the people. They're nice and kind. I think this is where my new life is going to start right here in Texas.

Yet, if Jefferson-Bullock had her way, these "evacuees" would remain on the registration rolls and be eligible to vote for anywhere in Louisiana. And because they would be complete strangers to the poll workers at these "satellite" voting places, how would election officials determine which voters were real and which ones were bogus? (There is a reason, after all, that Americans vote in neighborhood precincts.)

Corrupt elections produce corrupt governments. And corrupt governments -- such as Morial's -- tend over time to corrupt the citizenry. The view consistently expressed by Morial in his Press Club speech was that only government can ever do anything for the people; the people can never be expected to do anything for themselves. A citizenry so morally decadent as to believe such a monstrous lie deserve to be governed by dishonest demagogues like Marc Morial. Are we surprised, then, that Katrina relief efforts have been hampered by widespread fraud?

"[T]he Justice Department said yesterday that federal prosecutors have filed
fraud, theft and other charges against 212 persons accused of scams related to
Gulf Coast hurricanes. Forty persons have pleaded guilty so far, the latest
report by the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force said. Many defendants were
accused of trying to obtain emergency aid, typically a $2,000 debit card, issued
to hurricane victims by FEMA and the American Red Cross.

Are we surprised to hear of shameless abuse of taxpayer-funded relief in a FEMA investigation report?

"Waste and fraud marked the federal government's assistance programs for Hurricane Katrina victims, with 10,000 mobile homes going unused and scattered cases of evacuees spending emergency money on nude dancing in Houston, tattoos, casino gambling and a diamond engagement ring, according to an audit released Monday.
"About 5,000 of the 11,000 people who got $2,000 debit cards from the Federal Emergency Management Agency incorrectly got additional $2,000 credits after applying by telephone or the Internet, according to government findings.
"But losses from misspent debit funds -- the list of purchases also included alcoholic beverages, so-called adult erotica, condoms and a $1,300 pistol -- were peanuts compared to the amount of money FEMA wasted on contracts and housing payments, according to a report by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, Richard Skinner.

No, we are not surprised at all. The profoundly corrupting lies that support the Welfare State -- something for nothing! you can't help yourself! let government take care of you! -- destroy the moral character of citizens. Immoral voters elect immoral politicians who implement immoral policies, and somehow we are supposed to be shocked and scandalized to learn that votes have been stolen and taxpayer dollars embezzled or wasted.

Every word that Morial spoke Tuesday, he spoke from the corrupt and corrupting perspective of the Welfare State. And every word was a lie -- including "and" and "the."