In philosophy, empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge arises from sense experience.

Looking through the most recently released e-mails out of Mayor Ray Nagin’s office, it is interesting that he feels the need to define his post-Katrina role: “I am leading this city to full recovery.” In the e-mail to a constituent, he goes on to mock efforts of bloggers, reporters and council staff to fact check a shoddily prepared spreadsheet from his administration. That was the spreadsheet that eventually launched a thousand laughs when Nagin referred to another list – not the one provided in response to a public-records request – as the list that counts.  So according to Nagin’s law, we were all working with the bad data he provided.

All of this hubris was a response to a citizen inquiring about an investigation into the New Orleans Affordable Homewownership program. The investigation, which shut down an agency, led to a federal probe and captivated the city for a few months in the summer of 2007. Yet somehow the mayor managed to reduce it to a caper.

He later admonishes the recipient of the e-mail to “check the empirical data,” which is an interesting choice of words since the NOAH story began with me checking the empirical evidence by visiting the houses theoretically serviced by the program in question.

It would seem a modest assumption to believe that your mayor is in fact leading the city. And I think we are all of the belief that he was leading us, it’s just that many felt he was leading us astray.

Feeling like I was trying out for the school play, I was interested to see what e-mails made the cut and whether I got a mention. Combing through the most recent e-mails was quick work; there weren’t many, and most were mundane.

I did show up near the end of the pdf by name this time, not innuendo.

I have to admit that Nagin nailed me, saying I was “liberal with the truth” and that he never reads my work because of it.  Which means he hasn’t even deployed his own empirical methodology.

Just 18 more days.

Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use. With television reporter Lee Zurik she exposed widespread misuse of city recovery funds and led...