Friday, November 04, 2005

 
A lot of people wonder why Louisiana's elected officials are not "on the same page." It's comments like these from Rep. McCrery that make me wonder if he has even met those in his own congressional delegation. From the indispensable T-P:


For people hoping Congress will offer tax rebates to entice hurricane evacuees to return to New Orleans, Capitol Hill has a message: Don't hold your breath.
...
Rep. Jim McCrery, R-Shreveport, said personal tax relief legislation was discussed but rejected. Individuals are already allowed to deduct storm losses on their federal income taxes, which could generate refunds for some people along the Gulf Coast. A $6.1 billion bill passed last month also will let taxpayers tap money from IRA and 401(k) investments without paying a penalty. But the current legislation has a different focus.

"We have put in the bill the things we think would give us the best bang for the buck and that are reasonable from a policy standpoint," McCrery said. "Two things are necessary for people to come back: housing and jobs. We address both in this bill."

McCrery said fiscally conservative Republicans in the House might view individual relief, such as a tax holiday, "excessive from a policy standpoint." He said he agrees with that.

"I've got 434 other people in the House to deal with and 100 in the Senate who aren't from New Orleans," he said. "We have to convince them that this is a wise, judicious use of taxpayer dollars."

A couple of points should be made here.

100 Senators are not from New Orleans? Wow. What an interesting belief. I guess the daughter of former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu somehow wouldn't qualify. And what about my main man Vitty-cent? He was born in New Orleans and lives in Metairie, and has been known to party in Storyville. Where's the love for him? [Although, Vitty couldn't have been more out-of-touch with his birthplace when he said 8/30/05: "I don't want to alarm everybody that, you know, New Orleans is filling up like a bowl. That's just not happening."]

This might seem like nit-picking, but New Orleans does have two Senators working for it in the Senate: Landrieu and Vitter. Remember, they were the ones who asked for $250 billion to rebuild New Orleans, thereby initiating the Great Awakening of Fiscal Prudence among our GOP congress. This is the same congress who increased nondefense discretionary spending more than any congress since Lyndon "guns & butter" Johnson. Libertarian Nick Gillespie summarized it concisely:

George W. Bush has boosted total inflation-adjusted discretionary spending in his first term by 35.1 percent. To put that in context, chew on this: LBJ--the Texas legend who created the Great Society and, for all intents and purposes, the Vietnam War--only boosted discretionary spending 33.4 percent.

So: we will continue to pay through the nose to secure and re-build Iraq (as long as some of the billions in graft funnel down to KBR). But to save the Gulf Coast, suddenly victims in Louisiana and Mississippi must pass "tests" in order to receive needed funds for (above all) its coastal infrastructure. The same congress who wildly "misunderestimated" the cost of their Medicare bill, and who delayed the vote while they strongarmed the real fiscal conservatives, now seek to audit the reconstruction in New Orleans.

The Medicare fiasco is just one of many examples, but let's peer into it. The Bush Administration sold Congress on a Medicare bill whose 10-year estimated costs have soared from $394 billion to $534 billion to now $724 billion for the period 2006 to 2015. (Part of this is increase is due to the deceptive backloading of costs.)

Some have proposed that we delay implementation of this entitlement. Pushing it back for only one year would save around $40 billion; which is plenty of money to build a world class Cat 5 levee/floodwall system for South Louisiana, and rebuild the protective wetlands of LA and MS. In fact, there'd still be $8-10 billion left over for enterprise zones, biz tax subsidies, and other Jack Kempian wet dreams. Hell, for all I care, you can build a skyscraper in the center of downtown and name it the Cheneyburton Tower of Free Enterprise-- little else matters to me as long as congress can approve enough money for levee construction and wetland restoration. Businesses and residents simply will not return to New Orleans if they don't have confidence that these things will be restored. And crushing insurance rates will offset any tax incentives currently under consideration.

We desperately need federal help to protect us and restore our wetlands. If the United States can do it for the Shia of Southern Iraq they sure as hell can do it for New Orleans and the devastated Gulfsouth. Call it the "Leave No City Behind" bill.

Rep. McCrery stated: "Two things are necessary for people to come back: housing and jobs."

That's wrongfully incomplete. Housing and jobs will not "come back" if the area is uninsurable. All else is secondary to significant federal commitments to rebuild floodwalls, levees and wetlands... even New Orleans' critical housing/labor shortage. This is the precondition for all of the pretty images President Bush described in his nighttime speech in Jackson Square. Yet, curiously, he and his party are "skeptical" of Cat 5 levees and wetlands restoration.

If they break faith with a stricken South Louisiana, and leave it unprotected in this era of superstorms, I think the term Tom Benson Republicans should be popularized .
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I like those frothy "edges" of the multiverse 

Singularity claims to be "just another reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse." Well, that is quite an understatement in my view. Kelley B consistently presents stimulating texts, and today's entry is one of his best.

What's it about, you ask? Oh, you know. The same ole same old... William F. Buckley discloses that he was a CIA asset, and defends Valerie Plame. (According to GOP talking points, Plame merely had a "deskjob".) Buckley solemnly intones "[T]he sacredness of the law against betraying a clandestine soldier of the republic cannot be slighted."

Then Kelley's post goes on to cover Harry Reid's recent maneuvering (I'm a fan of Reid-- he's working 5 moves ahead of most others).

And finally, we're pointed back to the falsified intelligence surrounding the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which allowed LBJ to slide the country into the Vietnam War. Here's a taste from the NYT article:


The N.S.A. historian, Robert J. Hanyok, found a pattern of translation mistakes that went uncorrected, altered intercept times and selective citation of intelligence that persuaded him that midlevel agency officers had deliberately skewed the evidence.
...
Mr. Hanyok's findings were published nearly five years ago in a classified in-house journal, and starting in 2002 he and other government historians argued that it should be made public. But their effort was rebuffed by higher-level agency policymakers, who by the next year were fearful that it might prompt uncomfortable comparisons with the flawed intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq, according to an intelligence official familiar with some internal discussions of the matter.



"Uncomfortable comparisons" about the lies false intelligence leading up to war? Heaven Forfend! I'd hate for someone to be discomfited by the truth.

As Kelley notes, this is no surprise to those who understand that that war was (also) premised on lies. He mocks the New York Times' reaction to this old news with concluding comments that I'll let you read for yourself if you so desire.

Here's a permalink to the NYT story.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

 
Another great article from the T-P. This one details the House of Representatives' investigation into the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

The chairman of a House committee investigating the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina complained Wednesday that requested communications involving the office of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, the Defense Department and Army Corps of Engineers haven't been provided.
Thanks for expediting things, Dubya, Dick, Rummy and Corps.

During a hearing Wednesday, committee members also expressed frustration that procurement officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Army Corps of Engineers couldn't answer their questions.

Members wanted to know why local companies and workers aren't getting more Katrina-related contacts and whether any contractors had been penalized for failing to carry out work in a timely fashion.

Thanks for having answers DHS, FEMA and Corps.

Some [Representatives] questioned whether the government was paying too much -- such as a reported $2,500 per house for putting tarps on damaged roofs.

"Something doesn't seem to be right here," said Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, who said he heard that the job often requires less than two hours work.

But [Former LA Democratic Party Chairman] Jim Bernhard, chairman and chief executive officer of The Shaw Group, which was hired to install the "blue roofs," said much more is involved than just tacking down the plastic. It involves sizing the covering for each home, and installing wood beams and other materials to secure the temporary roof, he said.

Umm. Yeah right, Jim. Let me just submit that I'm highly skeptical that a lot of wood beams have been "installed" throughout New Orleans. I see blue tarps tacked down, and maybe a few wood planks laying on top so they won't blow away during a stiff breeze.

Anyway:

Others on the committee praised Bernhard and his company, especially for pumping out water from New Orleans in 17 days, less than half the time projected by the corps under its most optimistic assessment.
Now that was definitely a welcome surprise, and deserves huge praise. Shaw Group and Boh Brothers construction should be given as many contracts as they can handle during the rebuilding of South Louisiana.

Rep. Charles Pickering, R-Miss. said the "excellent track record" of The Shaw Group in providing mobile homes and removing floodwater shows the advantage of hiring local firms to do the work, because they'll bring "more passion, more energy and more commitment" than an out-of-state company just out for the profit.

He criticized FEMA and the corps for continuing to rely mostly on businesses with no ties to the hurricane-affected communities.

My man Chip! As you know, after watching him on C-Span, I'm becoming a fan of Rep. Chip Pickering (R-MS). Like Charlie Melancon (D-LA), Chip sees the predation going on, and he doesn't like it.
The Shaw Group, which reported that its original contracts for Katrina-related work amounted to $100 million, said in a regulatory filing Wednesday that the final tally could reach as high as $500 million, according to Bloomberg News Service.

The news sent its stock price rising.
Well, I've been telling ya!
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Gone: another 100 square miles of marshland 

The Times-Picayune deserves enormous credit for their work since Katrina. Today's issue is especially good. The below excerpts are from an article titled "Coast lost 64,000 acres to storms; Habited areas now at even more risk".


Hurricanes Katrina and Rita shredded or sank at least 100 square miles of marshland along Louisiana's fragile coastline, federal scientists announced Wednesday, further exposing the region to powerful storms rolling off the Gulf of Mexico and destroying some of the most productive marine habitat in the country.
...
Marshes blunt the force of strong tropical storms and moderate hurricanes by reducing wave power and sucking energy from cyclones that feed off warm open waters. They also serve as spawning and nursery grounds for shrimp, crabs, redfish and other species highly valued by recreational and commercial fishers.

More than 1,900 square miles of Louisiana's coastal marshlands disappeared during the past century. Culprits include canals dug for energy exploration, the settling of land over tapped-out oil and gas reserves, and the building of Mississippi River levees that blocked new land from forming out of river sediments.

Since the early 1990s, when wetlands loss finally gained serious political attention, state and federal agencies spent $264 million on restoration projects through the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, often referred to as the Breaux Act after its sponsor, former U.S. Sen. John Breaux, D-La.

That money pales next to estimates of $14 billion needed to fully restore the coast. Efforts to persuade Congress to pick up most of that cost have languished for the past several years. A compromise plan offered last year promised $1.9 billion for the effort, but that money, too, remains stalled in the Senate.
...
Katrina "shows this is real and we're living on borrowed time," [Mark Davis with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana] said. "Every day that goes by without a commitment to restore the coast is a day that another family or business decides they are not coming back."
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If only Louisiana could be as functional as FEMA's Michael Brown 

CNN:

"In the midst of the overwhelming damage caused by the hurricane and enormous problems faced by FEMA, Mr. Brown found time to exchange e-mails about superfluous topics," including "problems finding a dog-sitter," according to Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Louisiana, who posted the e-mails on his Web site.
...
In an e-mail he sent the morning of the hurricane to Cindy Taylor, FEMA's deputy director of public affairs, Brown wrote, "Can I quit now? Can I come home?" A few days later, Brown wrote to an acquaintance, "I'm trapped now, please rescue me."


Indeed. It's Mikey Brown who's "trapped" in Baton Rouge, and needs "rescue". I'm sure the two dozen people in my Broadmoor neighborhood who perished in Katrina's aftermath would sympathize with Brown's desperate plight. Let's see what else he had to say:

On August 29, the day of the storm, Brown exchanged e-mails about his attire with Taylor, Melancon said. She told him, "You look fabulous," and Brown replied, "I got it at Nordstroms. ... Are you proud of me?"

An hour later, Brown added: "If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire, you'll really vomit. I am a fashion god," according to the congressman.



Times Picayune:

A House committee investigating the government's response to Hurricane Katrina released a new series of embarrassing e-mails to and from former Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown in which he seems slow to react to urgent calls for help for thousands stuck in New Orleans but takes time to answer compliments from a colleague about his "fabulous" appearance during a TV interview.
...
In one e-mail response to an Aug. 31 message from a FEMA representative in New Orleans that the "situation is past critical," with hotels "kicking people out, thousands gathering in the streets with no food or water and hundreds still being rescued from homes," Brown responded:

"Thanks for the update. Anything specific I need to do or tweak?"

In an e-mail Aug. 29, the day the hurricane slammed into Louisiana and Mississippi, Brown accepts compliments from a FEMA colleague that "you look fabulous and I'm not talking the makeup" during a TV interview.

"I got it at Nordstrom's," Brown responded, referring to a clothing store. "E-mail (FEMA spokeswoman LeaAnne) McBride and make sure she knows! Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home?"

In another e-mail Sept. 4, a FEMA official tells Brown:

"Please roll up the sleeves of your shirt . . . all shirts. Even the president rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow. In this crisis and on TV you need to look more hard-working. ROLL UP THE SLEEVES!"



What a costume catastrophe!
In other e-mails, Brown discusses strategy with aides on how to deal with stories being worked on by several news organizations that he had been fired from the Arabian Horse Association, where he worked before his FEMA service.

He also seeks help in an e-mail finding a dog sitter in his Washington, D.C., area home.

On behalf of Louisiana, let me thank the President and Congress for elevating this criminally incompetent mouthbreather to direct FEMA. Here at YRHT, Brownie will perpetually dangle from a political gibbet.
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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Q: "What do we do?" A: "We die." 

Without a federal commitment to Category Five levees and world-class flood protection, displaced businesses will not return to Southern Louisiana and insurance costs will quickly become prohibitive. Cutting taxes and red-tape will be meaningless without these essential infrastructure investments.

Yet, according to John Maginnis, Washington Republicans say the budget is too tight when it comes to the future of the "gret stet".

Securing top-level levee protection poses frustrations.... Last week, a delegation of the Louisiana Recovery Authority presented the state's priorities to senior White House officials. According to member Sean Reilly, the president's advisors agreed to support more money for business bridge loans, Medicaid reimbursements and tax incentives for businesses and individuals.

But the Louisiana team hit a wall--a large earthen wall--on its top priority of rebuilding the southeast Louisiana hurricane protection levee system to withstand a Category 5 storm. The Bush team would not commit beyond the Category 3 level.
...
A top tier levee system from New Orleans to Morgan City would take years and $20 billion to build, far more than the Bush administration and conservatives in Congress are prepared to go.
But to tell homeowners and business investors pondering their future in New Orleans that the levees will protect them from almost all storms might not inspire the confidence it takes to bring the area all the way back.

Reilly says the recovery authority will "keep pounding" on the Category 5 issue, but that might start to feel like one's head against the wall of Washington's intransigence.

These so-called conservatives didn't fret when a $500 billion dollar Medicare bill ballooned (immediately) to $750 plus billion. But now they want to deny Louisiana $20 billion for levees.

These so-called conservatives hardly peeped as expenses in Iraq grew into the hundreds of billions with no end in sight. By February U.S. taxpayers will have spent another $20 billion towards nation-building in Iraq. But allocating that same amount for a devastated Louisiana is suddenly too expensive.

American lives were sacrificed so that Iraqi Shia can enjoy their restored wetlands; but, when a thousand Americans die in the aftermath of Katrina, that's not enough incentive for Washington Republicans to adequately protect South Louisiana.

The president and the so-called conservatives in Congress have broken faith with our state. Previously, these reckless spendthrifts made Lyndon Johnson look like Calvin Coolidge. Twenty billion was nothing to them; a rounding error. But now it's everything to us, and they won't pay it. Our survival depends on Cat 5 levees, but Bushco suddenly can't commit to essential protections for South Louisiana.

A filthier batch of dog vulvae you'll never see.



---
*
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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

George W. Bush is the most anti-Louisiana President in modern history 

I invite anyone to dispute the above claim.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- In a sign that the White House is disinclined to view Louisiana's wetlands as vital for protection against hurricanes, the Bush administration is proposing to give the state only a fraction of the money scientists say is needed to rebuild coastal buffers.

A $250 million proposed appropriation was the first indication of the White House's attitude toward Louisiana's coastal land loss since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the state. Congress has not acted on the White House's proposal and may change it.

That sum, which was included in a new $17.1 billion emergency spending proposal for the Gulf Coast, is being viewed by Louisiana officials as too little and a halfhearted gesture to fix Louisiana's sinking and eroding coast.
...
President Bush has consistently disappointed Louisiana officials who have since early in his administration has sought federal help with a $14 billion plan to shore up Louisiana's sinking and eroding coast.

The Louisiana coast has lost about 1,900 square miles of marsh and swamp since the 1930s due to a host of reasons -- among them levee building by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, oil and natural gas drilling and natural causes.

Louisiana officials and coastal groups had hoped that the devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita would open the eyes of the nation to the loss of Louisiana's coastal wetlands -- the largest in the nation.
...
Scientists say marshlands are a buffer against storms and knock some of the steam out of storm surge. Estimates say that about 2.7 miles of marsh shave about 1 foot off of surge heights.

The loss of marshland-- including over 30 square miles caused by Katrina-- has brought the Gulf of Mexico closer to New Orleans and made hurricane-driven storm surge that much worse.

Flooding from hurricanes in New Orleans was almost unheard of before a major hurricane in 1915, said Craig Colten, a professor of geography and anthropology at Louisiana State University.

Since then, scientists say, the loss of wetlands and the gradual buildup of New Orleans in low-lying areas set the stage for Katrina's devastating floods.

Money for the coast was not included in previous emergency packages and Bush had been largely mum on the loss of wetlands during his recent visits to Louisiana.

"Either they don't get it or they just don't care," said Mark Davis, the executive director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, the chief lobbying group for Louisiana's coast. "The administration's proposal is miles off from what is needed."

The answer, Mark Davis, is that they just don't care.

Remember, this is the administration who-- without any prodding-- requested $100 million to fix Iraq's wetlands. For years Louisiana has begged and pleaded for wetlands restoration funds, and they recieved chickenfeed. Then Katrina hits Southern Louisiana with the second highest storm surge ever recorded, brutally flooding Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes. And then hurricane Rita's outer bands flood much of Terrebone parish... and what is the response? Bush offers up about 2% of the needed monies to rebuild our protective wetlands. Two percent!?!

Immediately after a major catastrophe, two percent is the response we get. What a freaking disgrace.

If this is indicative of the federal commitment to saving South Louisiana, we are utterly doomed.



Louisiana's coast before and after Katrina. Many thanks to Michael at 2 millionth (as well as the NYT) for the photos.
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Crony Crony, ride the pony... c'mon! 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Donald Powell, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, has been assigned to oversee the federal government's disaster recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast.

Powell, a wealthy contributor to President Bush's presidential campaign, will be in charge of the long-term plans to rebuild the states hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the late summer.

Schweet! A Texas banker is going to "oversee" the recovery effort in New Orleans! Powell's qualifications include being a Bush pioneer fundraiser and a former university regent at Texas A & M. (Governor Dubya appointed him to that post in the 90's).

Here's an interesting story about his tenure there:

Powell blocked a 1996 plan for the technical-oriented school to start a humanities center. "We want to ensure that research dollars aren't used to persuade or encourage questioning certain events or our perspective of history," Powell said. Powell supported the regents' decision to make the George Bush School of Government, where he sat on the advisory board, independent of A&M's liberal arts program. Some faculty members protested the decision, arguing that removing the school from broader academic oversight might turn it into a retirement home for ex-politicians.


Apparently there was a danger of "Bush" being repeatedly mentioned in the same sentence with the word "liberal (arts)". Can't have that.

This article has some quotes from a speech Powell gave at Mississippi State. I'll intersperse the story with some snark at choice points:

Powell has claimed that a breakdown in public integrity throughout many bedrock American institutions has caused the free enterprise system that made the United States a world leader to be "on trial" and "under question" today.

"Free enterprise." Yes. So far the rebuilding effort has been a case-study in free-enterprise and entrepreneurship.

Scandals in business, media, education, and government "have unsettled the very nature of this nation's soul," he observed.

This is coming from someone who hired Tyco's spokesperson to the FDIC while the company's grotesque frauds were being reported.

Powell said "making money, making profit, is not evil, because without it there is not much public good that you and I can enjoy. It's the abuse of money and the love of money that we need to distinguish.

"It's very important," he added, "that you defend the capitalistic way of life and also the rule of law."

I'm sure Powell is just the guy to ensure that no one loves or abuses money too much, and that our capitalistic way of life isn't besmirched by predatory greedheads who aren't terribly concerned about the public good.

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Monday, October 31, 2005

What can Brown do for you? 

Boo.




I heard Brownie likes his steaks well done. It may take a little longer, but it is sooo worth it. Thank you, America, for continuing to pay him for doing a "heckuva" job.
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"New Orleans possesses... the only authentic indigenous urban culture on the continent" 

Stolen from Da Paper, here's one of the strongest defenses of New Orleans I've ever read:

New Orleans, seedbed of a nation's culture
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Michael Sartisky



In the face of growing expressions of reluctance from some quarters nationally to restore New Orleans, let it be understood that as New Orleans goes, so goes the cultural soul of America.

For just as New Orleans was overrun by storm surge because its buffering coastal wetlands had been allowed to erode through years of neglect, so too will American culture sink into terminal banality and homogeneity if it abandons its root city.

I do not assert this out of a simple parochial chauvinism. We are not deaf and blind to the rich cultures that abound throughout this land. I say it as a challenge to the nation's character -- to help New Orleans make itself whole.

True, New Orleans did not always shine as an idiosyncratic cultural mecca. Early on, it beckoned few.

In the early 18th century, prisoners in the Bastille were offered freedom if they consented to go live in the new colony of Louisiana. They rioted in refusal.

After all, Louisiana boasted a mortality rate of nearly 80 percent, dwarfing even that of the harsh New England winters that decimated the pilgrims.

And yet, culturally speaking, today New Orleans is the most genuine, vibrant and unique of all American cities.

In a Wal-Mart nation, it is the French market, coffee shop, snowball stand, po-boy shop, Lucky Dog cart, mule-driven taffy cart and, most of all, the local club and dance hall.

With our unprecedented melange of nations, ethnicities, religions and hues, we foreshadowed America's own polyglot evolution as a nation.

New Orleans was French colonists and refugees from San Domingue; Acadians cast into diaspora by the British; Spanish administrators and soldiers; enslaved Africans and free people of color.

There were indigenous tribes such as the Houma, Tunica and Coushatta; Sephardic Jews; Sicilian and Lebanese vendors; and Irish laborers who dug drainage canals in pestilential swamps because the immigrants were more expendable than costly slaves.

We were both multicultural and culturally sophisticated -- offering French opera and chamber groups, masked balls and bordellos, barrelhouse pianos and ragtime -- before most American cities had a barbershop quartet.

New Orleans was, is and will be -- even more so if we perish -- the shrine and seedbed of American culture.

Our patron saints are Scott Joplin, Buddy Bolden, Jellyroll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima, Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Irma Thomas, the Neville Brothers, Ellis and Wynton Marsalis, and Kermit Ruffins. Few American writers attained any stature who did not sup on the open oyster of New Orleans, whether Walt Whitman, George Washington Cable, Kate Chopin, Lafcadio Hearn, O. Henry, Tennessee Williams, Lillian Hellman, Ernest Gaines, Walker Percy, Anne Rice, Richard Ford or William Faulkner.

But do not mistake New Orleans for some antiquarian artifact, a quaint anachronism frozen in time. New Orleans is a seething pool of assimilation and syncretism, of reinvention and recreation. It is a navigation between grace and dysfunction.

Situated precariously on the edge of the American continent, New Orleans' marginalization gives us a special vantage on the mainstream of American culture, a certain slant of light that sees nuance and possibility better than normality.

The danger we pose to ourselves is that in our rush for normalcy we achieve it. The adjacent suburbs and even our Central Business District -- which abandoned their historical roots in flight to modernity -- should stand as fair warning. After all, the architecture of our suburban ring and the canyons of Houstonized high-rises were not forced upon us by people from New Jersey.

What New York has in its plenitude and wealth and Los Angeles pretends to have, New Orleans possesses in fact: the only authentic indigenous urban culture on the continent, the defining soul of a nation sorely in need of one.

. . . .

Michael Sartisky is executive director and resident of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. He lives in New Orleans.
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The scariest post I could write-- sadly, it's all-too-true 

Last Wednesday, during the "Town Hall" meeting at the Sheraton, Mayor Nagin was somehow able to increase the level of confusion and disinformation in regards to rebuilding the city. Afterwards, I went to the bar at one of the best RestAurants in the city for a few Bourbon-and-Sevens. Sitting on my left were a few building supply moguls from Texas. They were displaying that trademark subtlety and decorum for which their state is known. Directly on my right were some highly respected reporters discussing the Town Hall meeting.

Some snippets from the Texans:

"Do you have any Cristal? No?!!? Well whatever's most expensive then, and keep the bottles comin'...
...
"I try to keep about $250k in my bank account... I have so much money I don't know what to do with it. It's not about the money, it's about the challenge of it.
...
"What are you paying for sheetrock? Yeah, me too. That's the chinese stuff, right? How much are you paying per [roofing] square?....Those Louisianans didn't think we'd let them rebuild their own state did they! (BIG LAUGHTER)....

"Right now, New Orleans is scared. They don't know what's going to happen, and they're just standing there, waiting for something...."

A snippet from the Reporters:

"Same old New Orleans politics... same old New Orleans."

"Yeah."

Like I said, I was literally between these concurrent conversations. The low-key, dispirited reporters were shaking their heads in disbelief, and the ebullient Texan moguls were loudly celebrating with $800 dollar bottles of champagne.

My Bourbon and Sevens were strong, but not nearly strong enough.


(Teaser P.S.: That evening I engaged both groups in discussion, with surprising results; but sadly I can't provide more details at this time. )
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"The Country's Most Haunted City" 

From the Houma Courier:
Larry Montz, one of the country's leading parapsychologists, spent six years studying Louisiana's supernatural phenomenon in the early- to mid-1990s, including several local homes haunted by dead relatives.

The New Orleans native's conclusion: The state's long, troubled and colorful history of pirates and disease, murder and war has made it a playground for the paranormal.
...
"There's just been so much turmoil down there that hauntings are prevalent and the people in Louisiana have grown up through the years with these wild ghost stories," said Montz, who founded the International Society for Paranormal Research in 1972. "When friends and relatives die, many times they will come back and visit before they really go."

If that's correct, I suspect there will be a lot of new spirits haunting New Orleans this Halloween.
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