It seems that everyone who lives in New Orleans whether born and raised or just landed here last week has an opinion on the controversy swirling around what should be done (if anything) with the city’s confederate monuments. In the last six months, the city has become racially charged on subject of whether or not several monuments to the confederacy should be removed. Named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Lee Circle had long been a thorn in the sides of black New Orleanians and Mayor Mitch Landrieu seized the opportunity during the #BlackLivesMatter campaign sweeping the country to recommend that it and the others be removed.
Around the same time the issue began fomenting in City Hall meetings and on talk radio shows, the local brass band scene began bumping a catchy tune after famed New Orleans trombonist Glen David Andrews dropped in on TBC Brass Band’s regular Wednesday night gig at Celebration Hall. The band had been toying with the groove for some months when Andrews jumped up, grabbed the mic and began improvising lyrics, luring the crowd to join in on call and response:
Wild Magnolia! Wild Magnolia!
Big Chief Bo Dollis! Big Chief Bo Dollis!
The club went wild for the song, buckjumping and singing this new ode to one of the city’s most beloved Mardi Gras Indian Chiefs. TBC knew immediately they had another hit on their hands. They began playing the song at second lines with a plan to formally release it Mardi Gras week. But along the way, the song picked up another lyric that took it deeper from cultural to political waters. Last November at the 2015 Gumbo Fest in Armstrong Park, Andrews joined TBC on stage to sing the song and was inspired to add another line (7:55 minute mark):
“We gonna name Lee Circle… after Allen Toussaint!”
(read the rest below the jump!)
Politically, the Ray Nagin Era ended on Feb. 6, 2010, with the election of current Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Although Nagin officially had three months left in office at that time, he proved no more capable during his lame duck tenure than he did during his feckless second term, when pretty much everything he touched turned fecal. That includes his ham-fisted attempts to enrich himself when he should have been leading the effort to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
While Nagin’s political arc ended in 2010, his pathetic personal saga drags on. On Wednesday (July 9), U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan sentenced the former mayor to 10 years in federal prison. A jury found Nagin guilty of 20 counts of corruption — including bribery, money laundering, wire fraud and tax evasion — in February. His wife Seletha has filed for bankruptcy in an attempt to hold on to the family home in Texas.
That’s quite a fall from grace for the guy who rode into office atop a wave of personal and political popularity in 2002. Nagin, who still maintains his innocence despite reams of evidence against him, faces an equally ignominious comedown when he reports to prison on Sept. 8.
Many expressed combinations of shock, disappointment and anger at the sentence that Berrigan imposed. The federal sentencing guidelines, which are not binding, suggested a prison term of more than 15-and-a-half years to 19-plus years.
Before imposing the sentence, Berrigan chided Nagin for abandoning his integrity, but she also made it clear that she intended to depart downward from the guidelines. She did, by more than a third.
Still, as veteran criminal lawyers Joe Raspanti and Donald “Chick” Foret noted, 10 years is a long time.
Ray Nagin got a fair sentence. Anything more would have been overkill. He committed a paltry crime for a paltry... http://t.co/vBrdQ9eYuX— norman robinson (@normanrobinson1) July 9, 2014
Nagin guidelines came in at 15-20 years, so 10 year sentence is a big break for the former mayor.— Mike Perlstein (@MikePerlstein) July 9, 2014
Judge Berrigan said sentence should send a msg, but 10 yrs sends msg that he got lucky when he drew her as judge.— Clancy DuBos (@clancygambit) July 9, 2014
Also, Berrigan said sentence shd keep Nagin from running again. EWE got 10 yrs, like Nagin, and he's running now.— Clancy DuBos (@clancygambit) July 9, 2014
I'm ok with Nagin's 10-year sentence for graft. But the judge should have added extra time to punish him for "Katrina's Secrets" book.— erster (@erster) July 9, 2014
New Pierre the Pelican designed the way it's designed so Jay Leno can fit inside the costume. pic.twitter.com/sSsq4xOZE2
— Danny Monteverde (@DCMonteverde) February 13, 2014
Pierre the Pelican underwent reconstructive beak surgery to host The Tonight Show, the New Orleans Arena was Christened Smoothie King Center in time for the 2014 NBA All-Star weekend, Nike rolled out "gumbo" shoes, dachsunds replaced horses in races, and Krewe du Vieux revealed true colors — oh, and Ray Nagin may be wearing zebra stripes. That and more in this week's makeover edition of Y@ Speak.
Hours after a visibly humbled Ray Nagin took his post-conviction perp walk from the federal courthouse, I had the privilege of sitting down with the guy who actually uncovered the steaming pile of dung that became the case of United States of America v. C. Ray Nagin.
His name is Jason Berry. No, not that Jason Berry (the novelist and op-ed contributor). This is Jason Berry the blogger.
That’s right, a blogger broke open this scandal, on a blog called American Zombie (www.theamericanzombie.com). TV and newspaper reporters have crowed about their “scoops” on this story, but the truth is no one had it before Berry. His work continues on other investigative fronts, but he took time out to chat with me about the Nagin verdict.
Did you feel an element of schadenfreude when the verdict came down? If not, what was your initial reaction?
No. I honestly didn’t feel vindicated in any way. In fact, I felt a little aggravated because I couldn’t wrap my head around the efforts of the defense. I suppose it’s my Catholic upbringing that seeks redemption for even a narcissist like Ray Nagin. There were so many things that could have been addressed in this trial but weren’t. I felt like it was a McDefense instead of the Brigtsen’s five-course meal that it should have been. Having said that, I don’t think there is any way to argue with credit card statements, checks, and bank statements, which leads me to wonder why Nagin had [defense attorney Robert] Jenkins take the case to trial in the first place. I do think Nagin’s prosecution and conviction are important for our city, though, and overall I’m relieved it actually happened.
You were onto this scandal long before anyone else in the media, yet you got very little credit for that. How did that make you feel as you watched the trial?
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. I sat through about 70 percent of the trial and I watched other journalists being praised by the prosecution for at least a few stories I know I broke, namely the granite deal between Stone Age and Cornerstone, the HSOA subsidiary, and the existence of the credit card Meffert was using under Netmethods’ name. Perhaps I’m taking it too personally, but I think there was an effort to diminish my role by both the prosecution and other journalistic entities. From the prosecution side I understand that the last word they wanted coming up in this trial was “blogger” in the wake of the commenting scandal, but on the journalistic side it’s tough to read commentary that dismisses and diminishes the work on the blog. Yes, much of my work was sourced anonymously, but this is not uncommon in journalistic endeavors, and ultimately the accuracy of the work should speak for itself. I’m a big defender of anonymity, but I suppose that’s another argument altogether.
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