Saturday, June 06, 2009

Operation Louisiana Bloodbath

It occurs to me that my home state, Louisiana, is a lot like Iraq.

The government's pretty crooked, people are always squabbling, the "Sunnis" in the north hate the "Shiites" in the south . . . and everybody hates (for lack of a better Iraqi analogy) the "Christians" in New Orleans. And if the fishermen learn how to make car bombs out of roadside "fresh-shrimp trucks," we all in trouble, Cap.

Then the rednecks will start booby-trapping meat pies, and it'll be a bloodbath.

Anyway, Louisiana's version of Saddam Hussein -- Huey Long -- kept things in check for a while from the late 1920s through 1935, mainly through a masterful balance of bribing Louisianians with petrodollars and, when necessary, exercising brute political force.

If there had been wood chippers big enough back then, he probably would have put some prominent "anti-Longs" through one. Mulch one, instruct a thousand.

But then, in September 1935, one of the "anti-Longs" got off a lucky shot before being turned into Swiss cheese by Huey's version of the Republican Guard, and Louisiana's been going to hell ever since.

OH, SURE, various governors -- including Huey's little brother Uday Earl -- kept the peace, more or less, through keeping up the varying combinations of petrobribery and demagoguery. But that wasn't going to last forever.

At some point, your oil money ceases to exceed the amount you're paying out in bribes to the warring tribes, and then it's all she wrote.

Welcome to All She Wrote.

Oil revenue tanked. The Great Recession hit. And one day, Louisiana realized it had been spending all this money but folks were still poor, dumb and contentious, and the state was fresh out of grease for all those outstretched palms.

Budget cuts would have to be made. Civic leaders, newspapers and (GASP!) even legislators began to talk about ending Louisiana's program of Every Community College a University. Oxen, at some point, must be gored.

One of the early targets might be the "Sunni" enclave of Alexandria, which has its own ox, but nobody knows exactly why that is. And the newspaper there, the Town Talk, is
making ominous noises. From a Wednesday editorial:
The editors of a New Orleans newspaper looked long and hard at the state of higher education in Louisiana, the demand by the governor to "right-size" the bloated university landscape, and the need to help the state become a smarter, better place.

From within their city -- which wallows in a sea of tax dollars lapping at the doors of colleges and universities -- these thinkers ruminated and then pointed a crooked finger at how to fix higher education.

They, the editors of the Times-Picayune newspaper, wrote this: "Certainly a plan for downsizing is needed -- and the state ought to look at duplicate and underperforming programs. The Legislature foolishly upgraded Louisiana State University at Alexandria to four-year status in 2001, even though there was already a public university in nearby Natchitoches."

Forget for a moment how such wisdom is shaped -- by people who brag about a town built on government handouts and perpetual corruption, who are comfortable with poverty and murder rates that dwarf the national averages, and who are so numbed by dysfunction that they drop everything to march in drunken parades.

Forget about the river of education funding washing through the Big Easy, a city so detached from learning that the state had to commandeer the local school system because of its chronic failure, and where 44 percent -- nearly half -- of the adults can't read well enough to fill out simple forms.
"SO NUMBED by dysfunction that they drop everything to march in drunken parades"? Them's fightin' words.

I've been accused by aggrieved Louisianians of taking gratuitous shots at my home state. Shots, yes. Gratuitous, hardly.

But I never, ever in a million years would have written that. Especially if I lived in Alexandria, which isn't exactly the municipal version of one of Saddam's grand palaces. With an editorial like that, the Town Talk editors could have saved precious newsprint and simply written "Dear New Orleans; F*** you. And Baton Rouge, too. Die soon."

I imagine the warm fuzzies will spread from town to town as more hard-to-justify state colleges end up on various hard-times hit lists. And when the state finally succumbs to the budgetary inevitability and actually starts trying to save what it can and cull the rest. . . .

BUT I GUESS civil war is inevitable when you have jobs programs masquerading as state universities, and every town has one. Especially when the Sunnis already hate the Shiites, and everybody hates the Christians.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

bro...this was great...gotta re-post it. Mind adding me to your blogroll? I'm about to add you to mine.

Bayou Perspective